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Selected Political Correspondence

January 2001

1-02-00

Scott wrote:

> Let me bring up a topic that I have brought up
> before, but you never responded to.

If I had a dime for every important point of mine that others have
failed to respond to, I'd have a lot of spare change in my pocket.

> The topic is the rate of profit. Now your approach is to have
> the working class unite in the struggle for shorter hours. This
> would make labor scarcer and drive up the price, leaving capit-
> alists with a smaller piece of surplus value. This decreases their
> rate of profit. Capitalists are already faced with a declining rate
> of profit, as explained by Engels in Vol 3 of capital. When the
> rate of profit becomes too low, capitalists merely close their
> doors and wait for profitable conditions before
> recommencing production.

This sounds like an excuse for us doing nothing about our
exploitation (except to revolt, which we won't). Marx understood
that shorter hours would cut into profits and surplus values, but
he wasn't afraid to advocate shorter hours. You must want a revo-
lution badly enough to cloud your understanding of history and
economics. You should dump the part of your ideology that in-
stills fear of diminishing capitalist profits, because the capitalists
want us to paralyze ourselves with precisely that fear. Why
should we take the side of the capitalists on that issue?

> If you are successful in your endeavor,
> you will only succeed in driving capitalists
> out of business, and workers out of jobs.

Capitalists would like nothing better than for us to fail to adopt
sharing work through shorter hours because of our fears of driving
them out of the marketplace. All of the reasons you give for paralyzing
ourselves with fear of the shorter hour solution plays right into the hands
of the exploiters. More socialist scare tactics. I got plenty of this in the
ASLP: 'If you don't revolt, you'll get industrial feudalism.'

If anyone should never have been able to get into business in
the first place, they were the early capitalists, who received very
few surplus values compared to today. There's a historical trend
of workers receiving a smaller and smaller proportion of what
they produce, and bosses receiving proportionally more and
more, which is what most other activists worry about. Few worry
about the declining rate of profit, which is a strange thing indeed
for alleged champions of the working class to worry about. Did
everything that Marx wrote in Capital teach you to worry about
declining rates of profit?

A hundred years before Marx's Capital, workers took home 80%
of what they produced. In Capital, Marx often used the example of
a 12 hour day. He often counted necessary labor as 6 hours, and
surplus labor as 6 hours, for a 50-50 share. Today, in agriculture,
wages represent less than 10% of agricultural production, and
there's little reason to believe that the situation isn't the same in
other lines of work as well. Increasing productivity fuels the
growing gap between rich and poor. An analysis of the growing
proportion of surplus values also shows that we can easily afford
to scale back labor time without driving bosses out of business.

The alternative to sharing work by means of shorter hours is
keeping them the same, or, in line with current trends in the
USA, going to even longer hours. See the graph comparing
labor time in various countries at:

http://www.clev.frb.org/research/com/090196.htm

It shows that the trend in other countries is for labor time to
generally decrease, while the USA's average labor time bucks
that trend by going up. Productivity increases abet a greater rate
of burn-up of natural resources, less time for workers to spend
with their families and civic functions, no let-up in competition
for scarce jobs, no likelihood of workers' control, and other evil
effects. These will be maintained if we continue to fear that a dip
in the rate of profit will cause bosses to close up shop. Our fear
condemns us to choose revolution in despair over lesser meth-
ods being unable to do anything except abet exploitation.

If you can at all imagine technological advances causing unemploy-
ment, then just how should workers prepare for 100% unemployment?
By continuing to fight for the last of the long-hour opportunities to make
the rich richer than their wildest dreams? Or, by sharing what little work
that has yet to be taken over by technology?

> Socialism on the other hand could be a real solution.

You should spell out the programmatic link between establishing
common property and solving the unemployment problem. My
guess is that no programmatic link exists, which is probably why
this query of mine continues to go unsatisfactorily answered.

Many in this forum have expressed a desire for shorter hours.
Since so many want it, then the main difference I see between
us is that I want shorter hours before 'the revolution', while
others regard shorter hours as arriving after 'the revolution'.

This discrepancy of views is why I have tried over and over to
prove that there won't be a revolution in our democracies. The
purpose of revolutions in the past was to bring democracy to
where it didn't exist before, which task is being completed in
an ever-expanding portion of the world. If I could successfully
prove that, then we could all advocate shorter hours now, and
become useful to our fellow workers.

Ken Ellis

 

1-04-01

Ben quoted me:

>> <snip>
>> If we vote less than the bosses, then it would appear
>> that voting would have to be LESS important to us.>>
>
> Elections are decided by the working class.

I thought that elections were decided by those who vote, not by a class.

> The bosses of who we speak are too tiny a minority
> to have much electoral significance under a system
> of limited universal suffrage.

In spite of the bosses' alleged insignificance, we often manage
to elect their representatives and implement their policies.

> This is why their management of the right to vote
> can be seen as one of their most successful tricks
> in keeping their economic, social and political
> domination of society.

'Management of the right to vote'? Is that a euphemism for
'systematic denial'? I don't personally know any citizens over
the age of 18 who have been denied the right to vote. But, then
again, I don't live in Florida, where many people complained
about harassment and blockades at polling places on election day.

> Voting is certainly important to the bosses
> in a bourgeois republic - but it isn't how they
> themselves vote so much as how many of
> the working class they can get to rubber
> stamp their various brands of politics.
> I do not see that this is the same as a
> commitment to the democratic ideal

Certainly none of the dirty tricks in Florida and elsewhere can be
regarded as examples of a 'commitment to the democratic ideal',
but such shenanigans have to be the exceptions that prove the
rule. When it comes to voting for capitalist politics, however,
there is hardly a choice, except when socialist parties make
it onto the ballot, but the USA rarely votes for them.

> - thus I still maintain that Democracy is not as
> important to the bosses as it is to people like us.

What you seem to be saying is that the bosses have totally
corrupted the democratic process, and that we workers would
behave differently if we were in power, correct? If so, then I don't
think so, because I don't see any great division of intent and morality
between workers and bosses. Yours seems to be a them vs. us argument
designed to rally class hatred. There's a bit of that in the works of M+E.
Rallying class hatred is one way to abet a revolution, but revolution will
hardly succeed in democracies, so its quest will just end up wasting time
and energy. We should instead lean in the direction of conserving energy.

Class hatred is the very opposite of what's needed. Instead of
being divisive and rallying hatred of bosses, we should rally
love for our own class by fighting for work-sharing policies.

> To clarify this a bit - Democracy is not as important for
> ruling class material INTERESTS as it is for objective
> working class INTERESTS. Since the workers are the
> majority class in modern capitalism our interests must
> necessarily go hand in glove with the democratic method
> (majority decision making). The ruling class as a minority
> group merely has to put up with limited democracy and
> must always live in fear of the majority getting "out of
> hand" and using their numerical superiority and social
> power to pursue their own class interests (ie.
> abolishing class divided society).

In the USA, the balance between lower and upper class interests
is often represented by the relative successes of the Democratic
and Republican parties. I know lots of workers who identify with
either party, but few identify with radical parties. If one major party
has a momentary success, then it thinks it has a mandate to push
through its policies, as did the Republicans with their 'revolution'
in 1994. Dems love to tax and spend, but people can only take
so much of that, and Reps love to give away the store to the upper
classes, but people can only stand for so much of that before they
rebel and vote the other way next time. And so we go back and forth
between 'liberal' and 'conservative' policies. Political woe to whoever
steps just a wee bit too far away from this balance. Socialism, represent-
ing the interests of neither bosses nor workers, but rather the interests
of a class of alienated middle class elements, doesn't fare very well.

There's more than one way to abolish class divided society. We
can unsuccessfully and contentiously try to do it all at once by
abolishing private property, or we can gradually make ourselves
as free of labor as our bosses by reducing labor time, as made
possible by productivity improvements.

> That many workers have been cut out of the voting
> process or have turned their backs on the whole
> rotten show does not prove that democracy is less
> important to workers. If working class power and
> socialism were higher up the political agenda we
> would see much higher turnouts I believe.

That's a pretty big 'if'.

>> <<I wonder why you don't do the Marxist thing of
>> advocating workers use their existing democracies
>> to the fullest extent.>>
>
> If there are just three or four shades of the same
> crap on a ballot paper and we know them all to
> represent capitalist interests would it not be
> unforgivable of the WSM to advocate workers
> wasting their time and vote on them?

I'd forgive the WSM for that, because I don't think that what's
on the ballot is all a waste. Occasionally, some of us in the USA
have important issues to vote on, like medical marijuana. I favor
all important issues being on the ballot, including socialism. We
in the USA have lots of rules about 'ballot clutter' to overcome.
Those rules tend to unfairly outlaw alternatives, making the
proponents of alternatives work like the dickens to qualify their
issues and parties for the ballot. Socialism should always be on
the ballot so that people can freely choose. Maybe when we
move to Internet voting society will be better able to afford
to practice the politics of inclusion and make the ballot
more inclusive of every group's issues. Speed that day.

> This is reminiscent of the Leninist SWP attitude
> of "always taking sides" - voting for Capital's Left
> parties and telling workers to vote for them despite
> knowing full well that this is a vote for capitalist
> interests. No way. We have to put our
> own class interests on the agenda.

'No way' implies a rejection of politics and voting as a totally
bourgeois affair, but, if that were so, then Marx would not have
been so interested in winning reforms in the interests of the
working class.

<snip old conversation>

> Eh?!? The state is the executive council of the
> ruling class. Its not there to protect us.

But the state IS here to protect us. If it were not, then imagine for
a moment that the state were set up to only protect the bosses.
Then we would have to defend ourselves from our bosses not
only at the workplace, but from their political machine as well,
which would be counter-productive by prematurely grinding us
into dust. The average Joe wouldn't feel as free as he does, we'd
be all starving or living in dire poverty, and we'd be at the verge
of revolting. The absolute monarchy of olde, on the other hand,
WAS the executive committee of the ruling class in the real sense,
for it truly had little to nothing to offer to workers. Democracies,
because they protect workers, are the reason why workers are
willing to die to create and defend them. Dated chatter about the
'executive committee of the ruling class', as if modern democracies
were of absolutely no use to workers, reproduces as much
alienation toward democracies as workers regularly
experienced in their absolute monarchies of yore.

> How are the bosses going to make us work
> at all without recourse to the state?

It's the money that keeps the vast bulk of us going to work, not
the punishment of the state. People have learned over the years
that, if they work steadily at a decent job, they can own their own
homes, cars, boats, send their kids to college, put a little away for
retirement, afford a vacation, etc. That's the standard of living for
the upper half of my neighborhood.

Here also is a bit of a contradiction between 'the state forces us
to work' vs. the attitude promulgated by Tony: 'work is good', and
'normal people want to work'. If the WSM didn't regard work so
positively, then you wouldn't be suggesting that 'work is compatible
with socialism'. So, which is it? Or, as George Walford alleged in 1984,
does the WSM keep conflicting positions in stock so that it can
automatically resource the winning position for every argument?

> When the state has gone class society
> must by definition have also gone.

According to M+E, the disappearance of class divisions is the
prerequisite to the disappearance of the state. First things first.
According to me, work is inseparable from a division of labor,
which division creates and recreates class divisions as well, so
I say that work must disappear before class divisions can
disappear, and both of those must disappear before the state
can disappear. I wonder why nobody challenges that, and
instead ignore it.

> This is exactly how we can abolish not only the
> 12 hour working day, but any day spent getting
> exploited by a capitalist class. Abolishing the state
> is part of the strategy for achieving the "workless,
> classless, propertyless, moneyless and stateless
> society" that we both seem to agree on as our goal.

I'm surprised to see you include 'workless' with the others. Most
participants claim that work will be contemporaneous with socialist,
classless, stateless, moneyless and propertyless society, so, do you
disagree with what most others in the party think?

> Only we in the WSM see it as an immediate
> goal rather than something "somewhere over the
> rainbow" that will happen inevitably (it WON'T).

It makes a difference in which order work, classes, property,
money and the state will fall. At present, we can look at the
institutions of property, money, and the state, and observe that
these institutions are rock-solid fixtures that don't seem to be
losing importance. On the other hand, we can look at human
labor and see that it truly is disappearing as technological
advances threaten to make most jobs redundant. They are even
experimenting with a burger-flipping robotic arm. Workplaces
change drastically from one generation to another.

If the bosses are helping us to abolish work, then, as our
prodigious labor helps them do that by creating even more
labor-saving technology, let us also help ourselves by sharing
what little work that remains to be done. After human labor
is abolished, and if we manage to share work all along the
way in the best possible scenario, then class distinctions will
simultaneously disappear. After work and class distinctions
disappear, property will no longer redound to the benefit of its
owners, so ownership will begin to disappear. At the same time,
the abolition of class distinctions will signify the end of the
necessity for an oppressive state, and we will embark upon
the era of the administration of things.

<snip uncontested dialogue>

> <snip> Resistance is seen to have been largely
> crushed. This has not prevented further massive
> attacks on civil liberties in this country though.

That's a lot of truth to that. I recently read some devastating
information on how British libel laws help quash freedom of speech.

<snip uncontested dialogue and repetition>

> Capitalist politicians who represent capitalist interests
> will happily vote through measures which will damage
> their interests and lead to the supposed "end of work"?
> Do we need to dose them all up on LSD first?

We already have a law on the books that somewhat limits
capitalist greed and competition between workers. We just
need to give the Fair Labor Standards Act some better teeth by
amending its weak 'time and a half after 40' to read 'double time
after 35'. Then we would see some better work-sharing, whose
sterling results would point us in the right direction.

No one should worry about Western democracies being
inflexible executive committees of the ruling class. That rule
certainly applied to absolute monarchies, but the negation of
monarchies brought real usefulness to their modern replacements.
If Marx had advocated that workers smash democracies as well as
monarchies, then the difference between Marx and Lenin would have
been moot, but Marx advocated workers USE their democracies, so
how can workers use democracies unless they promote legislation in
their class interests? If Marx thought that they didn't have a chance to
do that, then he never would have advocated workers struggle for the
8 hour day in the most industrialized countries, which also happened
to be democracies. Funny how reformism complements advanced
capitalist democracies, while overthrow complements backward
monarchies. Am I doomed to be the only one to take that
observation into account?

>> <<If the USA can pass legislation forcing oil
>> companies to clean up their diesel fuel, we can
>> pass legislation to drive down hours of labor>>
>
> The USA and other major capitalist players will
> not pass legislation to cut down greenhouse gas
> emissions (see "Trading Loopholes at the Hague" in
> December's "Socialist Standard", which can be found
> on the WSM website). Similarly, any moves (however
> popular) against petrochemical interests haven't got
> a cat in hell's chance of going through.

The petrochemical industry is already surrounded by a mass
of home-grown health and safety regulations, just like every other
major industry. Countries may not be able to agree on very many
international standards, but at least they keep trying, and what
few we have now is probably more than we used to have.

> Cleaning up diesel fuel is slightly less of a big
> deal to the capitalist class as a whole than these
> issues, let alone the liberation of the working
> class from long hours and unemployment.

Certainly the bosses oppose double time after 35 hours,
but if we were interested enough in sharing work to push an
amendment through Congress, then the government would have
no choice but to enforce it, leaving bosses no choice but to comply,
just the way it is with practically every other law. Bosses wouldn't
like it very much, while the lowest classes would definitely benefit.

>> <<I don't want bosses to become workers like
>> us. It's 19th-century ridiculous to think that their
>> labor would at all be necessary in the 21st. I want
>> workers to become as free of labor as their bosses,
>> which is what the 'militant driving down of the
>> hours of labor' is all about.>>
>
> Not the point I tried to make. I was just saying
> that any capitalist must resort to whatever
> measures will keep them profitable. If their
> companies aren't profitable they run the risk of
> going bust and dropping into the working class.

Shorter hours wouldn't kill their profits entirely. Profits would
just slow down a little. Certainly some weaker businesses could
fail, but the survivors would continue to provide the needed
commodities and services. We shouldn't become so paralyzed
with fear of reducing the bosses' profits that we fail to act in our
working class interests. Is your fear of reducing profits also
based upon not knowing the difference between 'workers
receiving the full product of their labor' and 'workers
receiving the full value of their labor power'?

> Abolition of the wages system means just that - no
> bosses and no workers - everyone free of the wage
> labour system.

I share the same goal. I just don't think we could
get to our mutual goal overnight.

Ken Ellis

 

1-05-01

[Hey, Shaun, are you there?]

Jimmy wrote:

> <snip> Some how I do not think that I can
> change your view since you are wedded to Fair
> Labour and Standards Act, and subsequent further
> legislation to regulate the hours of labour with the
> view that from this we will arrive at socialism, or
> as you describe it as a workless, propertyless,
> classless etc. society. I do not think so.

See what you can dig up for a reason for us not getting to the
upper stage of communism by means of militantly driving down
hours of labor. Suppose too many people oppose getting to the
upper stage of communism by trying to deal directly with power
and property. Wouldn't it be strategic and forward-thinking to
have a plausible fall-back plan? Why isn't my plan at least as
plausible as yours?

>> This [widening gap between rich and poor] has
>> less to do with capitalism and more to do with
>> the increasing productivity of labor, competition
>> for scarce jobs, and a lack of organization of the
>> working class. There may not be much we can do
>> directly about capitalism, but we could organize
>> to eliminate competition over scarce jobs.
>
> The widening of the gap between the rich and
> the poor, contrary to what you may claim, Ken,
> has everything to do with capitalism, it cannot be
> otherwise, because the capitalist mode of production
> is the economic base on which the whole of society
> is organised, or depending on your point
> of view, disorganised.

Well, I'd have to admit that the widening gap has EVERYTHING
to do with capitalism in the sense that nearly EVERYTHING social
is part of the capitalist system, but, because there's nothing we can
directly do about capitalism, then we should try to affect things we
have a chance to affect, such as enacting a policy of full participation.
Because capitalism is based upon private property, and because modern
democracies protect private property, we can't abolish capitalism or private
property without replacing existing democracies. But, as long as the
economy and politics still work so well for so many people living
in democracies, the requisite mass involvement for revolution will
go wanting. As the replacement of human labor by technology
continues, and as robots replace burger-flippers and other low-
skilled jobs, real pressure will be placed upon us to change our
selfish ways, and either work-sharing will result, or mass suffering
like we have never seen. I actually saw a robotic burger-flipper
in a technology newsletter recently.

>> Some people can't handle the temptation of over-
>> using credit, so consequently go into debt. Wages
>> often represent less than the value of labor power,
>> so workers then dig themselves into a hole of debt
>> which they later can't get themselves out of because
>> of high interest rates. Do we need a revolution because
>> of this? Or, can we fix the low wages and lousy social
>> values that drive people into debt?
>
> If you really understand your Marx then you would
> know that wages always represent less than the value
> of what they produce, if it were otherwise, then the
> capitalist would not realise his profit.

There's a difference between workers getting the full value of
what they produce vs. getting the full value of their labor power.
The value of labor power is the sum of the products and services
required to produce and reproduce labor power. If workers require
$500 per week in order to keep them coming back and forth to work
day after day, and yet some receive only $400 (perhaps because of a
glut of labor on the market), then they would be receiving less than
the value of their labor power, and would labor in a state of poverty.
In this case, it is entirely likely that bosses would enjoy high profits.

If, on the other hand, the labor market were tight, and workers
were lucky enough to get $600 per week, then workers could be
said to be receiving more than the value of their labor power, and
might be able to put a little aside, live high, gamble, take time off,
raise a happy family, etc. In this case, it is entirely likely that their
bosses' profits would be lower. In any case, profits would likely still
be made, for workers CAN receive the value of their labor power
(and even more) while still returning a tidy profit to their bosses.

If, on the other hand, workers were to receive the full value of
what they produced, profits would be non-existent, so the doors of
that operation would soon close. So, I hope that you now understand
the difference between the unsustainable 'workers getting the full value
of what they produce' vs. the rather pedestrian 'workers getting the full
value of labor power'. Back in my old ASLP, they drilled these economic
lessons into us pretty thoroughly. There was a saying in radical circles: "If
you want to learn economics, go to the SLP; but, if you want to learn politics,
then go anywhere EXCEPT to the SLP." Our absurd political perspectives
resulted from our Bakuninist 'abstention from politics' policy that more
befitted Bakunin's era of intransigent monarchies than our present era.

> And yes we do need a revolution, because this
> division between Labour and Capital is the basis of
> the Class Struggle. I thought you would have known that.

Your telling me that is comparable to me trying to tell you what
you already know, such as: 'voting is the basis of democracy', and
then rubbing it in by saying: "I thought you would have known that." :-)

You might have been able to show that the class struggle
justifies a revolution if you had also been able to show that the
class struggle is malignant, and is incapable of being resolved by
any other method. Unfortunately for the revolution, capitalism is
rapidly abolishing its willing partner in crime by abolishing the
working class, showing that the class struggle between capital
and labor isn't as malignant as revolutionaries would like it to be.

>> <snip> labor today is 40 times
>> more productive than 200 years ago, which is
>> also reflected in the fact that 80% of the people
>> were once required to feed 100%, while today it
>> takes less than 2%, another ratio of 40 to one. One
>> has only to extrapolate along this trend in order to
>> see that work will be abolished in another 30-50
>> years. It has nothing to do with crystal ball gazing.
>> Just because the future hasn't happened yet
>> doesn't mean that the future won't happen
>
> Yes, the productivity has improved over the years,
> but I disagree about work being abolished in 30-50
> years. If you look up work in the dictionary you will
> see it defined simply as the expenditure of energy, so
> I think we should differentiate work from employment,
> because when people talk about work then they more than
> not mean employment. Work, then as an expenditure of
> energy is as natural to human beings as breathing therefore,
> after the socialist revolution, members of socialist society
> will expend their energy, work, to produce and distribute
> the wealth of the Socialist Mode of Production to satisfy
> the needs and aspirations of themselves and their fellows.
> Employment will have been abolished and replaced by
> free and socially cooperative work.

You seem to regard present-day employment the same as
'oppression under bosses', but 'future work without bosses'
as tolerable and good. Hmmmm...

Suppose activists continue not to contemplate the upcoming
disappearance of work, and allow automation to occur willy-nilly,
and then someday all of these previously low-skill jobs are gone
forever, and millions of people are left to starve, so are ready to
revolt. Of course the bosses will keep feeding them bread and
circuses in order to keep them from revolting, but it could turn out
to be a rather Brave New World existence with a small clique at
the levers of real power. Our obligation to ourselves is to see that
the remaining work is so equitably shared on a minute to minute
basis, that when the pace of automation really takes off, we stay
one step ahead of the lay-offs. Anticipating our needs will also
give us something constructive to think about and do. I don't
think too many people are going to mind being replaced by
technology as long as it won't mean our own extinction.

>> Yes, we are occasionally willing to go to war, but
>> Saddam was invading Kuwait. No Western power
>> was about to stand around with their hands in their
>> pockets under those circumstances. The West
>> wouldn't have invaded if Saddam hadn't made his
>> move. After the Vietnam War debacle, we'd better
>> have damned good reasons to commit American lives.
>
> Socialists are never willing to go to war,

Engels was injured in the German revolutions of 1848-9 in the
quest to create a German Red Republic, and many other Reds over
the years have been similarly injured or killed in the universal quest
for democracy, like the Spanish Civil War. Marx's scenario for his
era was for socialists to be on the forefront of monarchy-smashing
democratic movements in order to help further develop the resulting
fledgling democracies into the universal proletarian dictatorship.
Socialists have a long tradition of advocating violence to get
what they want. Lenin advocated developing capitalist wars
of aggression into revolutionary civil wars.

> we have no quarrel with fellow workers where ever
> they happen to be. When the American, British, etc.
> states went to war against Saddam for invading
> Kuwait under the guise of defending democracy
> was just the excuse they were looking for, because
> Saddam was threatening the Gulf OIL supplies and
> the Americans and their allies were not having any
> of that. Incidentally Kuwait was anything but a
> democracy, not then and not now either.

The West could do business with Kuwait, which is why they thought
it important to defend Kuwait's relative autonomy, no matter what
their form of state. Under no circumstances, therefore, could the
West allow Kuwait to fall under the control of Saddam.

> Of course in the prosecution of capitalist wars it is
> the workers who do the killing and are killed, not the
> capitalists themselves, in whose interest the wars are
> declared, wars are certainly not in the workers' interest.
> They swallow the patriotic humbug, join up do their,
> as they see it, their duty, and after it is all over they, if
> suffer any consequences, e. g., Gulf War Syndrome,
> they are abandoned to their own devices by a
> disinterested, and ungrateful capitalist state. In
> spite of all this they will do it all over again,
> when, to quote the song, will they ever learn.?

Socialists can refuse to join war efforts, but their tiny minority
status keeps their abstention from mattering much.

>> If socialists are going to insist upon trying to
>> get to the upper stage of communism by going
>> for state power and common property, then
>> socialists may have to learn the hard way
>> that it can't be done in Western democracies.
>
> When socialists are in the majority, then we
> will be taking political control of the machinery
> of government to establish the common ownership
> of the means of production and distribution thereby
> creating a world socialist society.

That's a pretty big 'When'. Socialists will never become the
majority at their present rate of stasis, the reason for which being
that socialist ideology is obsolete. Marx could only be vague
about the program of socialism for democracies, a big bugaboo
socialist sticking point. If only the world could return to
domination by absolute monarchies, then monarchy-
smashing socialists would have a fighting chance.

> That however, is some time in the future,
> and in the mean time we Socialists irrespective
> of your opposition, will just have to continue
> with our work to convince a majority of class
> conscious workers and to prepare for the day.

Socialism won't fail in the long run. It just won't come about in
the short run by us going after power and property. Socialism will
arrive because capitalism will cease to exist as we know it, after
machines replace all human labor. In the meantime, I surely wish
socialists would look at their program objectively in order to see
just how much is stacked up against it. I hate to witness socialists
trying to do the impossible, wasting all of that energy.

Ken Ellis

 

1-06-01

Bob wrote:

> Your observations on voting for socialism in the
> recent US elections are interesting. You say people
> do not vote for socialism because they do not want
> it, but could it be that like you the majority are
> confused about what socialism is?

There are so many kinds of socialism in the marketplace
of ideas that I couldn't blame people for being at least a little
confused. It does take a lot of time to sort things out accurately,
but, who has the time? Not very many think it worth while to delve
deeply into radical ideologies. Curiosity drove me into the arms
of the socialist movement some 30-odd years ago, while nearly
everyone else I knew was striving to succeed in the everyday
world. I was attracted to a sectarian party, but I was so
interested, green and naive that I could have cared less
about what ASLP critics might have had to say. It took
years of involvement before developing the desire to
be not just a socialist, but a discriminating socialist.

Those who join one group or another often fall into the trap:
'the socialism of my group is the only true socialism that ever was.'
My old ASLP said so, and I don't know of any other group that
doesn't say the same thing about their versions. How many
people suspect something fishy might be going on, so go
back in history to determine what socialism meant to Marx?
Unfortunately, most socialists bend their scholarship to the
service of their sects, and the uglier aspects of sectarian life
emulate the uglier aspects of life in the larger world.

> You continually bring arguments to oppose the case
> for socialism, but the information you supply does
> not support the continuation of capitalism.

That's true. I think that capitalism is as doomed as feudalism
and slavery, so capitalism won't need to be killed off by direct
human intervention. It just needs a little intelligent steering
toward its grave. Capitalism is abolishing itself as automation
gradually replaces human labor. The media is presently rife
with reports on the coming robotic revolution, not the socialist
revolution. Someday, the bosses will no longer need human
labor to exploit, ending capitalism as we've known it for
centuries. Speed that day.

> For example, you say:
>
> Subject: Jimmy on wealth and work.
>> "We have been on such a binge of productivity
>> increases for so many years that people have studied
>> history to determine that labor today is 40 times more
>> productive than 200 years ago, which is also reflected
>> in the fact that 80% of the people were once required to
>> feed 100%, while today it takes less than 2%, another
>> ratio of 40 to one. One has only to extrapolate along
>> this trend in order to see that work will be abolished
>> in another 30-50 years. It has nothing to do with crystal
>> ball gazing. Just because the future hasn't happened yet
>> doesn't mean that the future won't happen."
>
> You point out that it is possible to produce all
> that we need in human society with fewer and
> fewer people contributing,

This is true, and 'fewer and fewer people contributing' would be
the case if hours of labor were to remain the same. Instead of us
downsizing to fewer workers, the point of work-sharing programs
is to create the conditions for FULL participation in the economy,
not to enable FEWER AND FEWER people to produce what people
are willing to buy. Full participation for M+E was the primary goal
to which socialism was to be subordinate. M+E were humanitarians
in that respect, while some modern socialists appear to be neurotically
fixated upon power and property as they twist the truth to maintain their
false notions. M+E were sincere, truthful and honest revolutionaries,
which is why I never apologize for quoting them at length, while some
of today's revolutionaries exhibit bad character as they persistently
distort history as they try to justify socialism for modern democracies.

> but at the same time, you ask why
> people would want to give up their homes to
> other people. Well I ask you why would they need
> to? As you point out, when the means of production
> are capable of supplying enough for all, why would
> people want to take over someone else's home!

As someone pointed out earlier, people wouldn't give up LIVING
in their houses in a socialist society, they apparently would only give
up OWNERSHIP of them, and domestic life would proceed unhindered.

> Subject: Tony on voting.
>> "I can't think of many home-owners who would be
>> willing to give up their homes to the common good,
>> but, as you say, the vote for socialism means a very
>> big change in attitude. It certainly would boost
>> socialist spirits to see attitudes changing
>> in their direction."
>
> You are trying to justify the existence
> of capitalism in all sorts of ways

Capitalism doesn't need anyone to try to justify its existence,
because there's nothing valid with which to immediately replace
it. There simply is no contest, no threat. Capitalism in the meantime
is busy with its own smoldering self-destruction, a process that will
be complete when there will no longer be ways for people to go out
and earn their livings. We should do the martial arts thing and tune
into capitalism's fatal weakness and help it along to its self-destruction
in an efficient and socially responsible manner. People's inability (or
stubborn refusal to) help capitalism destroy itself responsibly proves
that they are consciously rejecting some of the ideological resources
available to them.

> and yet the information you provide shows
> that is a barrier to progress as you see it.

On the other hand, capitalism is a great engine of progress that
even M+E recognized as such, but which some misguided activists
would like to abolish prematurely, before capitalism has had a complete
opportunity to abolish itself by abolishing human labor, and thereby
abolishing human exploitation. I follow in the footsteps of another
liberation capitalist and work-sharing activist by the name of A.O.
Dahlberg, who wrote during the Depression of the 1930's. Capitalism
could be an agent of liberation if we could just manage it intelligently.
We will, for there is no other choice.

> The need for people to be employed in order to
> subsist remains as long as capitalism exists.

This is correct, but don't forget that your party thinks that
work is necessary under socialism as well. If necessary, and
if socialism would be so generous as to allow for the tools of
production to evolve in the socialist era, what would your party
call the era after which human labor would no longer be required?
Would you still call it socialism? Or a socialism of a higher order?

> But as you indicate, on one hand capitalism needs
> fewer workers with increased automation and the use
> of robots, but capitalism needs workers as consumers
> of commodities.

That's true again IF we don't shorten hours of labor, but why
didn't you write: 'capitalism needs less and less HUMAN LABOR'
instead of 'capitalism needs fewer workers'? Our goal (as was the goal
of M+E) should be 'full participation', a goal to which every 'ism should
be subordinate - capitalism, socialism, or whateverism. If we can't advocate
full participation, then I would hate to be the alleged revolutionary who
would dare to advocate mere 'partial participation' in a crowded room,
or 'diminishing participation', both of which are inevitable without
shorter hours. Does your party have anything to say about
full participation, in or out of socialism?

> Where will the increasing numbers of workers
> displaced by robots find the means of subsistence
> in order to be consumers of the robot produced
> commodities? When you provide the answer
> to this contradiction I will be much more
> interested in what you have to say.

If activists merely take a back seat and allow workers to be
displaced by robots one-by-one without raising a squawk,
displaced workers would then have to go on the dole, or be
left to their own devices, such as self-employment, crime, drug-
running, etc. If activists instead insist upon full participation for
as long as wage labor continues to exist, then workers would
have no trouble earning their means of subsistence, and workers
would have no trouble learning to share the products of whatever
entity creates the means of subsistence after there's no longer a
way to earn them.

Frightening thought, isn't it? Knowing our present insecurities
as we do, imagine someday feeling SO secure in the company of
even strangers, and not even having to consider the possibility of
them 'making a grab for the goodies' for themselves so as to lord
it over everyone else. What a revolution in consciousness to be
able to kiss such suspicions and fears good-bye forever! It would
be like the difference between capitalism and socialism. We could
begin to build such a future today if people were willing to let go
of their ideological foolishness. Each member should ask another:
Are you willing to begin to dissolve the bases of our ideological
foolishness? I can understand members being too afraid to ask that
of one another, for who wants to rock a stable boat? Inflexibility and
rigidity can make a platform very stable, but will the platform be flexible
enough to meet the challenge of changing times, and a workless future?

For a glowing report on the success of the 35-hour week in France, visit:

http://www.timesizing.com/1gtscase.htm

> You cannot see past the market as a regulator for
> production, but there is so much rubbish and waste
> produced by the market that it is increasingly
> wasteful of natural and human resources.

The reason for the rubbish and waste is that we don't have
worker and activist control of the economy. We don't have
control of our workplaces because we are insecure in our jobs,
and we know that an exercise of moral sentiment to the detriment
of the bosses' agendas could easily result in our termination as
individual workers. We are therefore forced by our competition
among ourselves to fight for the last of the long-hour
opportunities to do wrong to one another and to the planet, and,
in the process, to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams.
Maybe these are the miserable and alienating conditions that
entice people to become revolutionaries, but the revolutionary
solution is as useless as someone observing his dwelling catch
on fire, but, instead of calling the fire department and turning his
garden hose on the fire, he absent-mindedly digs a hole in the
back yard. Revolutionaries have to be able to AFFORD to turn
a blind eye to what goes on around them, thinking perhaps that
they will be able to rebuild over the ashes of the old. 'Let Rome
burn! No skin off my teeth. When all is lost, they'll come running
to us for ideas.' At least that's the way it was in my old ASLP,
though they wouldn't have admitted as much in so many words.

> You also allow your obvious nationalism to cloud
> your judgment, the message I take from your posts
> is - what is good for General Motors is good for
> America. Especially recently when you suggested
> that what happened with voting in Florida was
> mildly fraudulent".

I wonder what my accusation of mild fraud in Florida elections
has to do with "what is good for GM is good for America." I also
wonder how my 'obvious nationalism' is or was manifested.

> Isn't that a bit like saying
> someone is mildly pregnant?

Well, I would agree that fraud is fraud, and I would agree that
fraud is, was, and always will be fraud. But, suppose someone
says that the revolution will immediately yield classless,
stateless, etc.less society. Right there you have an iffy statement,
but everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Next, suppose the
same person says that their belief is firmly based upon the
writings of Marx. There, one would have recourse to the library,
and one could come back and say that 'the revolution would
instead immediately yield proletarian dictatorship.' Suppose then
the same person were to insist upon the validity of their theories,
and were to try to back them up by alleging that 'the proletarian
dictatorship was a dictatorship over the peasants, and for that
reason only applied to backward countries.' After boning up on
Marx's worker-peasant alliance, a skeptic would not be remiss in
suspecting fraud. If the person were to persist, and were to try to
prove their 'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry' thesis by
quoting from Marx, Engels and Lenin, and if those quotes could
easily be proven to have been taken completely out of context,
then it would seem as though the fraud had been MULTIPLIED
in severity, would it not? That was the sense in which I meant for
the particular instances of fraud in the Florida election to be
considered 'mild'. Had the fraud been severe enough, the courts
could have been forced by popular demand to do something
other than rubber-stamp the Bush 'victory'. Therefore, in my
book, fraud can have degrees associated with it, as opposed
to pregnancy, which is widely regarded as absolute. Even
pregnancy with twins would not count as 'twice as pregnant',
at least not in my book.

> Having a constitution regardless of its content
> is no guarantee that peoples rights can be preserved
> in the US or elsewhere as long as might is right.

It's true again that 'might still does equal right' to a great extent,
and atrocities still occur, but improved communications makes
it harder for people to get away with murder, as the Pinochet
experience is proving. Not long before this era, such dictators
might have gotten away with murder with fewer problems.

> I must ask you Ken, - if as you point out people
> are so disinterested in socialism, and so few vote
> for it when given the opportunity, and there is no
> threat to the status quo from socialists, why do
> you continue to write at such lengths to the WSM?

Because I have more time than money, so I can 'afford' this
experiment in communication. It's also a good place to develop
our arguments. The forum has many intelligent people to
correspond with, some of whom may someday decide to
support shorter hours 'before the revolution'. As the esteemed
leader of my first socialist discussion group often repeated,
"Hope beats eternal in the human breast." :-)

> Would your time not be better spent explaining
> to those people like you, who are in favour of
> capitalism, that it can be run better?

I would find it difficult to justify FAVORING an 'ism that is headed
for self-destruction. Instead, I favor intelligent policies that will move
us in the direction of shared worklessness. With the correct political
direction and involvement, the bugaboos known as: work, class distinctions,
the state, property and money will disappear at their own paces.

> The future is socialism, but when people are as
> confused as you about how capitalism works,
> we obviously still have a long way to go.

The theory appears to be: People who understand how capitalism
works become socialists, while those who don't understand how
capitalism works remain capitalists. The problem with that theory is
that I recently showed in a couple of recent messages that socialists
need to bone up on the differences between 'workers receiving the
full values they produce' vs. 'workers receiving the full value of their
labor power'. I often wonder just how much socialists understand
socialism or capitalism.

Ken Ellis

 

1-07-01

Tony quoted me:

>> one county in Washington state published its
>> entire results, and listed about a dozen parties,
>> at least 2 of which were noticably socialist
>
> Oh really, was that apparent by your familiarity
> with their party case or the word "socialist" in
> their name? Would you mind giving me those
> names? I'd like to actually research them.

Though I forgot exactly where, I think that those results can be
found by searching:

http://garnet.berkeley.edu:3333/indpolitics/.pf/.1994pf.html or
http://www.mamma.com/Mamma?p1=1&timeout=4&query=3rd+
party+election+results&x=67&y=14&qtype=0

More recently, I used the northern light search engine, whose
'power search' feature enables restricting information sources to
press reports, official gov't info, etc., whatever you choose, which
makes it very good for research purposes. Right off the top, I got
some relevant New York State results at:

http://www.co.monroe.ny.us/elections/1998results1.html

In Monroe County, a SWP candidate got 202 votes for governor
out of approximately 200,000 votes cast, which is a tenth of one
percent, which is similar to the results reported last time for that
county in Washington State. Though gratified at finding at least
some local results, I'm disappointed at not yet being able to find
a national summary of 3rd party results. Has anyone else had
better luck?

>> it was such a tight race that people came out
>> to vote like not for a long time.
>
> Check your facts, Ken. 51 % voter turn out. Bush
> was elected with less than 25% of the popular vote,
> which leads into...

Maybe I was misled by some enthusiastic local or state results.
Where I live, the polls were quite a bit busier than usual, but a lot
of people didn't vote because they regarded the Bush-Gore contest
as contemptuously as a race between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

<snip>

>> I think that the low performance of overt
>> socialist and communist parties in the last
>> election speaks for itself.
>
> Well put, Ken. People must not like apples because
> of the low performance of oranges in the last election.
> I'm so glad you don't confuse us with those impostors.

Just because many activists are politically-minded doesn't make
them impostors. If lucky enough to get elected, at least people
would have a chance to get to know them a little better. But, if
your party doesn't use politics and democracy as often as possible,
then how are people going to know if your socialist message has
substance? Then again, if your party were to change its tune and
advocate useful reforms, it might acquire a positive track record
and become effective, but then your newfound success would be
the best argument against smashing the system. Doomed to fail
if you're not constantly politically active, and damned by anarchists
if you are active. It may be easy to side with political abstentionists,
but abstentionism doesn't win many political battles.

>> The government does not intimidate people
>> out of wanting to establish common property.
>
> Oh boy Ken...evidence!
http://flow.mediavac.com/ramgen/sinkers/2000/BeckerA16.rm

I received a download merely by addressing that web site,
but the download wouldn't open because my iMac doesn't
have the right translators installed. What's the download
about? If important, maybe you could quote it.

>> If people did want it, they would vote for it, but
>> they don't vote for it, proving that they don't want it.
>
> Come one and all to see the Amazing Kenellis,
> who will befuddle and mystify you with amazing
> assumptions and logical loop-de-loops that would
> bring a white supremacist to tears. Yes, folks we've
> got fun and fallacies for you and the whole family!

My prose not being intended to please white supremacists,
perhaps you could be so kind as to inform me of precisely
which elements would allegedly please them? Perhaps then
I could avoid using such language in the future.

Elections are popularity contests to a certain extent, and .2%
election results tend to show that the socialist label may not be
very popular in Monroe County, New York State. What the
average Joe understands about socialism is prejudicial against
embracing socialism of any stripe, no matter how pure some
socialists might regard their programs.

<snip>

>> The very thought of work grates on my nerves,
>> and then, worse than that, the thought of working
>> for nothing! Even less appetizing.
>
> The reason for this can be one of the following:
> 1. you are a lazy, selfish, greedy, heartless
> bastard who has no love for his fellow man,

Am I supposed to prove my love for my fellow man by working
for peanuts, and enjoying it so much that I crave more? No thanks.

> OR 2. you perceive work exactly the same way most
> capitalists do, as a four-letter word that is to be avoided
> at all costs, just they way they want you to. Not surprising,
> since you love capitalism so much.

I suspect a contradiction here. I don't understand why capitalists
would want a worker like me to hate work. If capitalists supposedly
hate work so much, then it would be in their interests to get workers
to LOVE work so much that they would be willing to do it for peanuts.

Or, maybe I have an alleged purely capitalistic aversion to work,
and luckily can get others to do my detested work for me. Maybe
I can even afford to pay others to create surplus values for me as
well. Maybe the cow did jump over the moon.

Observe the classism at work here: workers love work, and
the bosses hate work, so bosses get workers to do it by paying
them peanuts to do it, and let them compete among themselves
to do the thing they love most. So much for the allegedly normal
people of this scenario. If not lucky enough to be a capitalist,
perhaps the only other people who hate work are preverts. ;-)

Do you think that the popular song 'Take this job and shove it'
expresses love for work? I happen to identify with much of the
title's sentiment, and if a lot of other people didn't identify with
it as well, the song wouldn't have become as popular as it did.

Tony indicates that work should be an exciting and valuable
experience for the lower classes, and that workers should be
happy in their work, which sentiment complements the socialist
scenario of 'work during the era of classless, stateless, etc.less
society'. It feeds the notion that workers somehow need work for
their psyches, much in the way Marx, in his Critique of Gotha
Program, described work during the upper stage of communism:
".. after labour has become not only a means of life, but life's
prime want" .. Give me a break, Citizen Marx. Wonderful words
from a guy who avoided remunerative work for his whole life. I'm
personally glad that he was able to avoid remunerative work to the
extent that he did, and instead had the time to give us masterpieces
like 'Capital'.

I know people who own their own businesses, work hard, and
get satisfaction from their incomes, but can't remember talking to
a wage-laborer who got enough job satisfaction to recommend
their jobs to very many others. I began to form my generally
negative estimate of work when I was 9 years old, the same year
I was instructed to manually transfer a huge pile of gravel into
the cellar of a house my father was building. I wasn't paid
to do it, which probably soured that experience even more.

>> The 5th amendment to our Constitution prevents private
>> property from being taken for public use without just
>> compensation. When it comes to throwing out that
>> principle and establishing common property, socialists
>> should be able to figure out that people's present interests
>> in property obviate the achievement of perfectly common property
>
> Another classic circular argument. You should
> patent them and sell them to the Republicans. Do
> people love private property because of a 200+ year
> old law, or is there a 200+ year old law protecting
> private property because of people's love for it?

Obviously, the answer has to be: there's a 200+ year old law
protecting private property because people in the West have
loved private property for at least that long. But, don't worry, it's
just a stage we're going through. We'll get over our infatuation
with private property as soon as ownership no longer redounds
to anyone's benefit. Ownership will fade away without the help
of impatient socialists who want us to get rid of it all at once.

Did you notice, BTW, the flak that Wesley received over creating
parallel branches of the SP? Maybe the SP thinks it has a patent
on socialism, and that Wesley is trying to infringe upon it. Would
kickback royalties on WSPS membership dues satisfy the SP? :-)

>> The only question after that would be: where to draw the
>> line on the size of the small businesses whose property
>> would be removed. If you want some kind of socialism
>> anytime soon, you would have to learn to deal with the
>> necessity to join alliances and compromise.
>
> My goodness Ken. You clearly have no idea as to the
> basic principles of our movement. You are so used
> to the present way of doing things that you simply
> cannot think outside them. Real socialism is not a
> top-down edict to unwilling victims.

What does compromise and alliance have to do with
a 'top-down edict to unwilling victims'?

> It [Real socialism] comes when the people
> as a majority want it. You know, that whole
> silly democracy thing. No freaking
> compromises or removals necessary!

Well, OK, I was just wondering how uncompromising you are,
so now I know. But, I wouldn't want to witness people head
down a path of certain failure without warning them.

>> I can't help it if so few people are willing to
>> change the whole shebang in a day. I was once
>> willing to do it, but I learned the hard way,
>
> So then stop supporting the whole shebang.

Unfortunately for the cause of socialism: democracy, private
property and apple pie hang together more coherently than does
socialist ideology, which seems much better fitted for a world
composed of intransigent, absolute monarchies. The present
democratic capitalist shebang just needs a few little reforms
to fix what's wrong with it.

> And keep your defeatist-dog-smacked-with-a-newspaper
> outlook to yourself, the kids can hear.

Don't you want the kids to hear what's good for them?

Ken Ellis

 

1-11-01

Per Fagereng wrote:

> Why does the job market overwork some and keep others unemployed?

Because we have yet to adopt programs to equitably share what little work that
has yet to be taken over by technology. Double time after 35 would be much
better than time and a half after 40. But, is there much of a movement to take
such a sensible step forward? Not yet.

Ken Ellis

 

1-11-01

InterOcean inquired:

> Let me ask people on this list how they propose to solve the problems caused
> by multinational megamonopolies and their lackey governments and other
> institutions, such as IMF, World Bank, WTO with no finger pointing.
> In fact, how do we get to the first step of realistic analysis?

Allow me to suggest that in each country we fight to replace out-dated laws
such as 'time and a half after 40' with something better, such as 'double time
after 35'. I know it's political, and I know that some people will object, but
I can't think of anything better. It also doesn't seem to point any fingers,
nor does it demonize bosses, capitalists, governments, the system, etc.

"One year after the introduction of the 35-hour working week in France, the
unemployment rate in the country is dropping, economic growth is steady,
and the workforce seems happy." See:

http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/jbl13700.htm#france

If we drive down hours of labor as technological advances permit, we will
someday achieve a workless society. What better goal that includes all of
us could we have?

Ken Ellis

 

1-11-01

Michael D. wrote:

> Is this sort of tired, gutless, reformist liberalism
> the direction this list is headed? Well, good luck
> in the U.S. trying to pass such legislation in a
> political system entirely controlled by corporate
> cash.
> Whoops! Did I "demonize" in that last comment?
> Please forgive me!!
> Michael D.

I don't think that anything said there could be described as demonization,
but, goodness gracious, such hostility. Excuse me if I stumbled upon a
bastion of revolutionism, if that's the only logical alternative to reforms.
If so, then perhaps it could be explained why we need revolutions in
democracies when the purpose of revolution in the first place was
to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before.

The ball is in your court.

Ken Ellis

 

1-11-01

Debordagoria asked:

> And just who, aside from chamber of commerce ideologues,
> claims that we are living in "democracies"?

Millions of people took advantage of their democratic rights and voted in the
last big election, a reported 51% turnout. You may be surprised to discover
how little support you will be able to round up to assist you in abolishing
what we have and changing to some other system. I checked some 3rd party
results in recent elections (which are miserably difficult to find on the Internet),
and a socialist candidate in a county in Washington state got .2%, and a SWP
candidate in Monroe County, New York, also got a measly .2%. The system we
have may be alienating and rotten enough to radicalize a few people (like me as
well, 30 years ago) but not enough people will be found to make drastic changes.
As a result of that frustration, some might sulk and moan for the rest of their lives,
while others might resign themselves to learning to use what we have.

If you ever get attached to a revolutionary party (like I did in the 1970's),
and if you ask why the party is doing so miserably if all of its propaganda is
as perfect as they claim it is, and if you begin to ask even tougher questions,
you will either make yourself persona non grata, or you may uncover as
profound a pack of lies as I did in my party. The full story of that is at
my web site. Check it out the lies if you get the time.

Do you think Marx and Engels were radicals? They were, but they also advocated
that the workers of the USA and England use their democracies, while those of
Europe smash their absolute monarchies and replace them with democracies. M+E
also supported the efforts of American and English workers to win the 8 hour day
reform. You could learn a lot from an independent study of Marx and Engels, and
if you were to be so brave as to push this particular information in the faces of
your own party comrades, the state of denial you would probably run into might
be so profound as to cause you to wish that you had never started down that path.

Feel free to question anything you see here. I'm always glad to correspond,
even if I may not always be able to answer right away.

Ken Ellis

"One year after the introduction of the 35-hour working week in France, the
unemployment rate in the country is dropping, economic growth is steady,
and the workforce seems happy." For more on that, see:

http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/jbl13700.htm#france

 

1-12-01

Dear Danyeke,

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, and for your advice. You
are a most level-headed administrator. I've run into plenty of hostility in my 8
months of trying to converse on the Internet, so I'm getting used to it. Maybe
hostility should deter me more than it does, but the record shows that I just
plod along, patiently explaining my case, and hopefully providing a few
educational tidbits along the way. This new milieu is an experiment in
communications, and it is a big source of enjoyment for me, even when the
results are not as gratifying as your encouraging words. So, let us bravely
pursue our humanitarian goals, and enjoy whatever comes of this experiment.

For a better world,

Ken Ellis

> Just a brief note (sent privately to you) since you're new on the CLAWS
> list, Ken....
>
> Michael has a history on this list of making this kind of hostile-sounding
> and sarcastic post every now and then. Don't take it personally; your words
> just happened to be the latest target, it seems. :) Although I think he could
> use a lesson or two in showing tolerance of differing political views (and
> I have told him this before, as gently as I can), he seems quite passionate
> about what he believes, and that can be a good thing, I think.
>
> Anyway...welcome to the list. I, for one, am enjoying your contributions
> to the discussions.
>
> -Danyeke, CLAWS founder and list administrator

 

1-12-01

Good work, InterOcean, on those nicely documented reports of election abuses.
Obviously, our democratic processes are flawed. But, you have yet to suggest
'what to do' about our flawed democracy. I wonder why you didn't use all of
that good data to conclude something like: 'We don't have much of a democracy,
so we should replace what we have.' You also did not say, "I think that system
'xxx' would be much better than our flawed system."

In the absence of a suggestion for something better to replace what we have,
I can only continue to suggest that we use the tools of our admittedly flawed
democratic republic to amend our out-dated time and a half after 40 with
something more militant, such as double time after 35.

Ken Ellis

"One year after the introduction of the 35-hour working week in France, the
unemployment rate in the country is dropping, economic growth is steady,
and the workforce seems happy." See:

http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/jbl13700.htm#france

 

1-12-01

Michael wrote:

> I actually like and respect that this is an extraordinarily polite,
> flame-free list, but even a good thing can be taken too far. Sometimes
> the emperor has no clothes, and a little honest, irritated sarcasm is called
> for. However, I may be alone in this view, and I have no wish to be the
> "house jerk" here, so I will endeavor not to offend...I will even refrain
> from telling off that burned out former commie who thinks this is a
> democratic society because half the voting age (eligible) population turned
> out to choose between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee in November. Michael

The subject line is 'what to do', along which line I offered a reasonable
suggestion. Maybe Michael would rather change the subject to something
like: 'how to offend reformers', or 'how to abuse people into becoming
revolutionaries'. Maybe he wants me to cringe and plead: 'I'll do anything
if you just don't call me those awful names anymore.'

I was hoping that we could weigh suggestions as to 'what to do', and hopefully
work our way toward clarity. After all, we do wish to make this a better world,
and if making our personal worlds satisfactory might require an extraordinary
amount of personal effort, then I hope that it isn't outside the bounds of
humanitarianism for us to want to make EVERYONE's world more
satisfactory by reducing everyone's work load.

Ken Ellis

"One year after the introduction of the 35-hour working week in France, the
unemployment rate in the country is dropping, economic growth is steady,
and the workforce seems happy." See:

http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/jbl13700.htm#france

 

1-12-01

In a recent post, Psychonaut advocated:

> "[T]he party seeking working class emancipation must
> be hostile to every other party. The World Socialist Party
> of the United States, therefore, enters the field of political
> action determined to wage war against all other political
> parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist..."

This is sad indeed. The words 'hostile' and 'war' tell a story about
rallying hatred. But, hostility and war are not what we need to win
the war for full participation in the economy and in politics. Much
better to rally love for our class by urging that workers receive a
more complete share of what little work that has yet to be taken
over by machinery. For example, we should fight to scrap time
and a half after 40 in favor of double time after 35.

In a world in which it is important for organizations to take strong
stands against the politics of hatred, I hope that the WSM will
consider dropping its counterproductive 'principle'.

Ken Ellis

 

1-13-01

[Hey, Shaun, when are you going to release my short piece
about a DoP principle?]

[In that message you've taken one person's extreme interpretations of the
words hostile and war and run with it, suggesting that the WSM rallies hatred.
What the hell, released it is. - Shaun]

Bob wrote:

> Hi Ken,
> I wish you would criticise what we actually say about
> capitalism or socialism, and not what you think we should
> have said, based on your experiences with the ASLP. First of all,
> and most importantly, WSM members are completely leaderless
> organisations. They are totally democratic organisations,

If your democracy is so 'total', then why was Toby
critical of WSM democracy?

> <snip> When people are prepared to organise
> their society in the interests of the majority, we
> think it would be a good idea if they understood
> why they are currently prevented from doing that.

If you think 'organizing in the interests of the majority' includes
'establishing common property', maybe the reason we haven't done
that yet is that it really isn't in the interests of the majority. No one
I know in my home town wants to change property relations.

> <snip>
>
> Karl Marx spent the greater part of his life explaining the
> nature of capitalism, he was not saying what socialism would
> be like, by - "writing recipes for the cookshops of the future".

Then why do Adam, Robin, Paddy and others explain what life
would be like in a socialist society? Are they trying to attract
people to 'castles in the sky'?

> We do not see Marx's works as a sacred text,
> to be taken as right for all time. The young Marx
> recognised that he knew little of what made societies
> tick, but his investigations of the history of economics
> led him to the discovery of the materialist conception
> of history, the labour theory of value and the theory
> of class struggle.

But, Marx acknowledged that others before him had already
discovered the class struggle and the labor theory of value. See Marx's
1852 letter to Weydemeyer explaining what he did that WAS new.

> He also recognised that the most
> powerful weapon workers had was the vote,
> - "If they used it for the right purpose."

Are you quoting Marx? From where? What is 'the right purpose'?

>> "The theory appears to be: People who understand how
>> capitalism works become socialists, while those who
>> don't understand how capitalism works remain capitalists."
>
> Workers who understand how capitalism works can
> see that they are not just being exploited by individual
> employers, but workers as a class are exploited by the
> capitalist system and it no longer makes sense for the
> future of society. Whether you are a capitalist or a
> worker there is too much to lose in continuing to
> operate in the current chaotic manner.

Are you saying that 'capitalists agree with workers that capitalism
needs to be replaced'? If so, then I disagree, because I think that
the bosses enjoy things the way they are, what with all of their
political power and money. Workers are not yet organized to
stop over-enriching bosses by curtailing the long, hard hours
they often work. A little hard work can be good for the body,
but we tend to wear out when we work both hard and long.

> <snip class analysis>
>
> You seem to think that technology will solve capitalism's
> contradictions, the ability to produce so much and the
> failure to provide for so many.

Technology alone is still pretty dumb stuff, so it doesn't yet care
if bosses use technology to dump unorganized workers on the
streets. Technology's effects on workers would hopefully get us
to think in the direction of France's 35 hour week, which would
get us on the road to solving our unemployment problems.

"One year after the introduction of the 35-hour working week
in France, the unemployment rate in the country is dropping,
economic growth is steady, and the workforce seems happy." See:

http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/jbl13700.htm#france

> How will people who have been conditioned
> to be consumers for capitalism and believe in it,
> bring about the cooperative classless society, when
> they are taught to be acquisitive buyers of whatever
> the marketeers need to dupe them into buying?

Real pressures will soon be placed upon workers to either
share work in order to continue the good life, or else suffer.
We'll hang together and share the work.

> According to you, more and more people will be employed
> for less and less time,

What's with this 'more and more people'? Are you expecting a
population explosion? Hours of labor will hopefully fall at a far
faster rate than what 'more and more people' will arrive on the scene.

> and employers will continue to pay them
> a living wage until the employers decide,
> we don't need workers.

The employers will decide? Maybe if participation in the economy
declines a lot further. If, on the other hand, we can politically determine
to win and maintain fuller participation in the economy, the chances will
be that we will also enjoy increasingly fuller participation in political
life as well, and we won't have to suffer from 'bosses suddenly one
day deciding that they don't need workers any more', which is a
pretty alienating and one-sided scenario.

> But they are all living in a society based on buying
> and selling, and since no one is employed and according
> to you, no one wants to give up the idea of property, what
> will they sell, and what will they use to buy it with?

Buying and selling are certainly a large part of modern life, but
I wonder about the extent to which our lives could be irrevocably
BASED upon buying and selling. If it were so, then I wonder how
it would be possible for us to advance BEYOND buying and selling.
If we couldn't advance BEYOND buying and selling, then we also
could not advance to socialism, which would defeat your ideology.
Therefore, our society is not based upon buying and selling.

During prehistoric times, people had no more of a concept
of buying and selling than did other great apes and intelligent
beings until surplus goods were produced. History demonstrates
that buying and selling are not part of 'human nature', which
means that we will someday be able to move beyond our
present fascination with buying and selling.

> Shorter hours will be worked in future, but Capitalism
> will continue to put the wealth of the few ahead of the
> needs of the rest.

If hours can become so short that we eventually move to an all-
volunteer labor force, capitalism will end as we have known it. Our
mere determination to share work in a fair manner will also make
our lives a lot less of a hell on earth. To someday regard work
and wealth from a more holistic perspective (less is more) will
require a political commitment to sharing work. It won't come easy,
as is witnessed by the fact that even the most advanced elements of
society - socialists - would rather gain power to establish common
property than help the working class share what little work that
has yet to be taken over by computers and technology.

> Why struggle for crumbs Ken, when we can run the whole
> bakehouse for everyone and do it sooner?

Easier said than done. One step at a time.

Ken Ellis

 

1-14-01

Bill quoted me:

>> In the USA, a common scenario is for leaders like
>> mayors and governors to get elected, and then appoint
>> their own staffs, who are usually loyal to their elected
>> leaders. If they are part of what's called Civil Service,
>> then they don't lose their jobs when someone new gets
>> elected. In such a system, it's really hard to describe
>> the administration as coming from a special body.
>
> Not really, the administrators are not subject to
> popular mandate themselves, and are responsible
> only to their elector (the mayor, etc.) further, that
> Mayor is elected with no specific mandate, i.e.
> they are elected to rule as they choose,

Certainly politicians have a certain amount of leeway, but 'rule
as they choose'? Popular opinion just forced one New Hampshire
politician to resign because of his statements about 'killing cops',
but, usually, during a campaign, if voters detect any hint that a
candidate would rule autocratically or contradictory to stated
intent, not very many would vote for them. Candidates are rather
careful to spell out their programs before they get elected, and woe
be to the ones who go back on their promises after getting into
office. In the USA, we also have recall elections every once in a
while, and I've seen people use it on local and state levels. In an
absolute monarchy or a dictatorship, people run scared. In a
democracy, elected officials run scared, and officiate with the
consent of the governed. There simply has to be a good reason
or two why we don't willy-nilly overthrow our democracies. If
democracies didn't work so well, then maybe we would overthrow
them, and replace them with new democracies. This we do to a
certain extent anyway every few years, when it's time to replace
some of our worn-out politicians with new ones.

> and we can only vote for them in as much
> as choosing between the ways of ruling the
> candidates offer (as opposed to a delegative
> system in which the 'mayor' would only be
> able to act as instructed). given this prerogative
> of representation to act as it sees fit, i think its
> fair to describe it as a special body.

I forgot who spoke of the state as 'a special body standing above
the people', and all of my beloved indexes seem to have failed
me on this one. Regardless of the 'special' properties of some
government institutions, there's got to be a good reason or two
why we don't smash our democracies.

>> Leaders want to please people so that they can
>> be re-elected, so don't want their appointed execs
>> to behave too dictatorially, because of the poor
>> reflection it would make on the elected reps. Chores
>> and conduct of office are usually prescribed by law.
>
> But policies aren't.

Yes, but policies are the things on which candidates are elected
or rejected. Voters won't elect people whom they suspect would
declare martial law the day after they take office. If electees mess
up their chores and prescribed conduct, or even their policies,
they can be recalled or forced to resign.

> Neither does the mayor have to do as instructed,
> merely pleasing people and being the best of
> a bad bunch isn't exactly popular control.

That's true, but let's not forget that, because of the unfortunate
fact of the division of labor, and the fact that most people have
long boring jobs to go to, only a chosen few get to administer our
common affairs, and thus we leave it to politicians to administer
the state. After human labor has been abolished, and even when
the work week becomes shorter, we will have more time to help
administer our common concerns, and we will.

> Nor is being able to make decisions without the
> permission of the electorate (such as handing out
> contracts). That hands power to the administrator.

Electing someone to office gives them a certain amount of
freedom to administer the duties of office as they see fit, which
certainly bestows a certain amount of power. If politicians didn't
have a certain amount of discretion, then political affairs might
not be as interesting as they are. Woe be to the ones who
mishandle their responsibility and betray the interests of the
voters. At present, the Secretary of State of Florida is being
raked over the coals by a civil rights commission for the
way she handled the Nov. 7 election.

>> Freddie made a good point in his 1875 letter to
>> Bebel. He seemed to be heading in the direction of
>> advocating that elected bodies become executive and
>> legislative at the same time, as in the Paris Commune,
>> whose governmental processes were to be very
>> transparent to the general population.
>
> Yes, but further, we can see some of this in the
> way health and safety legislation works. Over here
> the Health and Safety Executive is responsible for
> administering H&S law, although it puts *enforcing*
> the law 7th in its list of priorities. The difference being
> that the workers in the workplaces would obviously
> administer that law slightly differently.

I agree that the workers would do it differently, which is yet
another sign that we live in an imperfect world. But, I wonder if
it will ever be imperfect enough to inspire the requisite number
of us to put a socialist party in power. Not much sign of that yet,
whereas France's 35 hour week, and the positive results thereof,
show at least some motion in the direction I'd like us to proceed.
After 22+ years of embracing socialism and watching it crumble
around me, it's good to be part of a movement that's progressing.

>> This H&S Exec sounds like it was bureaucratically
>> appointed, but, somewhere along the line, I suspect
>> that the boss of the H&S Exec has to answer to one
>> or more elected officials who usually want their
>> appointed officials to be responsive to the people.
>
> But the HSE boss has to be more responsive to their
> elector, the politician that appoints them.

Is that enough of a difference to enable the HES boss to
tyrannize enough people so that tens of thousands of 'sans
coulottes' rally in the street below his office window? That
would be such an embarrassment to Tony Blair that I'm
sure he wouldn't stand for it.

> The vague desire to serve 'the people' is an abstraction,
> they could concretely know what the populace wanted
> if the populace had the specific power to instruct them
> formally and bindingly (ref. Marx 'Conspectus on
> Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy').

The mandat imperatif was adopted by the Paris Commune, but I
don't remember M+E getting over-enthused about it. It certainly
is an effective democratic tool, but, with all of the freedoms of the
press we presently enjoy, the imperative mandate may not be
necessary to the operation of modern democracies.

>> In the USA, the government does all of its own
>> enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act that
>> prescribes time and a half after 40, and gross
>> violators are hauled into court and are dealt with,
>> often by slapping them on the wrist. People tend to
>> trust their government to deal with matters like this
>> quite a bit. They don't have much of a choice, for there
>> is no formal provision for unions to do much more
>> than make complaints, and hope and lobby for the
>> government to do something real about enforcement.
>
> 'Gross violators' and by no means all violators, only
> the ones that get caught. Plus the slap on the wrist is
> doubtless slighter than workers themselves might wish
> to administer. As for the rest, you're right, all we can do
> is lobby, we have no control over working time laws,
> and until we do you can't maintain that its democracy.

Our democracies may not be perfect, but workers don't seem
very interested in replacing them with anything new, and their
lack of interest can be a real problem for people with
revolutionary solutions to promote.

Ken Ellis

 

1-14-01

Robin opined:

> Urging workers to bang their heads against a brick wall -
> that is to say, the constraints thrown up by capitalism on
> what workers can achieve in capitalism through militant
> struggle - actually does not help the development of a
> revolutionary consciousness; it hinders it.

Revolutionary consciousness is hindered because mass
struggles in democracies can only lead to more reforms,
not to a revolution, unless a dictator were to abolish the
democracy. The purpose of revolutions in the past was to
bring democracy to where it didn't exist before, so people can
forget about revolutionizing very much. Once a democracy is
established, activists should fight for full participation in the
economy, towards which goal M+E regarded taking away the
property of the rich to be a mere tool. But, taking away the
property of the rich would have been a valid revolutionary tool
ONLY in the context of Marx's universal proletarian dictatorship,
which dictatorship would have given workers the physical force
necessary to divorce the rich from their property. Because we
don't have a universal proletarian dictatorship to work within,
dreaming about taking away the property of the rich, and/or
establishing common property, becomes a waste of time.

There's nothing to stop activists from making the workers as free
from labor as their bosses by us militantly driving down the hours of
labor proportional to robotization and technological progress. When
the work week gets absurdly short, and when volunteers perform
what little work that will remain, capitalism as we've known it will
disappear. But somehow this doesn't seem to be good enough for
people who have to have things their way, or no way at all.

Ken Ellis

 

1-15-01

InterOcean wrote:

> I thought, and it looks I might have been right, that you'll come to the
> above conclusion without extraterrestial guidance. I'm glad you listen
> to reason but in the same time, a bit surprised how fast you shift your
> opinion-- about democracy, in this case.

I've known for a long time how alienating life in our modern societies can be,
democratic or dictatorial. I share a lot of critical sentiments toward what goes
on here and there, but have yet to hear about something valid with which to
replace our democracies. So, like Marx himself advocated, let's learn to put
our democracies to good use. It may not be an easy task, but creating things
of value often requires considerable effort.

> As for solutions, each of us will have to work that out for ourselves.
> Not an easy task by any means, and in the present climate I doubt
> that either of us' version could work.

You appear to recognize that an alternative to what we have is a difficult
thing to agree upon, and that many groups advocating social change have
separate theories of their own as to how to deal with our common problems.
You seem to understand as well that groups with different plans and solutions
cooperate little, and that they sometimes behave like little businesses competing
for shares of followers. In such a milieu, it's little wonder that they can't agree upon
how to replace democracies. Some would replace the state with a workers state,
while others would replace the state with a classless, stateless administration
of things. Please note that it is impossible to do both things at the same time,
indicating that these 2 groups will never cooperate to create a revolution.

The poor performance of radical groups certainly doesn't detract from the
performance of democracies. Most of the groups I've been acquainted with offer
less freedom of internal discussion than do the very democracies they claim to
want to replace. That fact helps me appreciate our democracies even more.

> As Michael said: Well, good luck in the U.S. trying to pass
> such legislation in a political system entirely controlled by
> corporate cash. And the village idiot, I might add.

I can appreciate the difficulties, having read a book entitled 'Work Without
End', telling the Depression-Era story of how a labor-sponsored 30 hour bill
passed the American Senate, looked like a shoe-in for the House of Reps, but
was poisoned and weakened by FDR's brain trust. 5 years later, it evolved into
the Fair Labor Standards Act, which phased in 'time and a half after 40' by
1940. So, we already have such a law on the books. It just needs a little
amendment or 2 to make it more effective.

> It might be possible, of course, that you have a perfect liberal reformist
> plan that can be used for the immediate introduction to 35 all over the
> world, or at least in English speaking countries. In that case luck is
> already on your side and I beg you to let us on the details, please.

I don't have much of a plan or an organization. One interesting web site
dedicated to the idea can be found at http://www.timesizing.com/ All that it
would take for us to get double time after 35 is for the idea to catch on, and
for people to dedicate a certain amount of time and energy to it. Besides
that, people will have to become convinced that such a reform is feasible,
while revolution is not. I was a revolutionary for 22 years, and though it
took me only 4 years to figure out that my first party was selling a pack of
lies, it took 18 more years to finish my analysis by writing a book about my
experiences. Writing the book helped me to get all of my varied thoughts in
order while I thoroughly refuted the lies of my first party. By so doing, I
finally figured out that the purpose of revolution was to bring democracy to
where it didn't exist before, and that Marx advocated workers in democracies
pursue reforms, and that Marx himself knew that the precondition for freedom
was a shorter work day and week (which can be found in the 3rd volume of
Capital). It only makes sense that the more time we spend working for the
bosses, the less freedom we have for ourselves. The less time we work for
them, the more freedom we have. A revolution in itself wouldn't mean a whole
hell of a lot less work for the day after. We'd still have to work on the day
after the revolution. I like to think, like Marx, that the bosses are digging the
grave for the capitalist system by replacing human labor with machines. We
should be like martial artists and tune into this weakness of capitalism and
make labor saving technology work to the advantage of increased leisure
instead of to the advantage of profits. A militant reduction of hours of labor
is the best way to hasten the destruction of capitalism, and to protect the
environment by preventing over-production and over-consumption, at the
same time eliminating unemployment without using wasteful make-work.

> By the way, in France weekly working hours might have gone down to 35, but
> basic benefits have been also cut and eligibility restricted while corporate welfare
> is also on the rise. Not to mention that 35 hours is a far cry from abolition!

It's true that 35 is a far cry from abolition, but, before we can run, we must
first learn to walk. In the USA, it would be one hell of a victory to break
free of the chains of the notion of the 40 hour week. If we can do that, then
any other number of hours would be less sacred than 40, and we wouldn't have
much ideological trouble amending to lower figures. We will have to proceed
one step at a time, and the whole thing could be over by as soon as 2030.
A lot of people alive today, perhaps most, will live to see the end of work.
Though 35 is a far cry from abolition, the end of work by 2030 will be an
awfully big leap for the human race.

> Do you need the details? And France is not the US or AU or Britain.
> Remember '68? Or the election of '74 when the communist Georges
> Marchais just missed out? Or when in '82 Mitterand tried to "nationalise
> the banks? Besides, 35 hours won't change the social structure and will
> not increase leisure time significantly.

Though 35 hours won't change the social structure and will not increase
leisure time significantly, at least it's a step in the right direction, while
revolution without a real plan behind it is only a pipe dream.

> Are you working these days?

Sorry to say that my poor decrepit body won't let me work anymore. My doctors
can't even figure out what's wrong. Western medicine has yet to do me much good,
so I'm glad to be at least semi-functional with the help of alternative meds.

Ken Ellis

 

1-15-01

Ben quoted me:

>> <<I thought that elections were decided by those who
>> vote, not by a class>>
>
> But as the majority class (90%+) in any capitalist
> society so the majority of voters must be working class.

The number 90 is plausible, but I wonder how many voters vote
their class interests, or even think about class interests when they
vote. In the USA, many a poor bloke has values that include a
strong defense, plenty of military spending, free exercise of
their rights to private property, low government interference in
business, laissez-faire and other such policies the blokes might
think will provide them with good jobs at high wages. Many vote
Republican, even though Democratic Party policies might better
protect them with health care reforms and such. With so many
workers voting for the upper crust party, that's why there's a
50-50 balance between upper and lower class interests, and
between Republicans and Democrats.

> I'd be very interested to hear more about the Florida
> situation. This [harassment and blockades at polling
> places on election day] isn't the sort of stuff we get
> told about US elections in British news.

As a result of irregularities in our election, I heard that some
people around the world were beginning to sneer at Florida
elections with the same contempt as world citizens regard
elections in banana republics. For more information about
Florida voter fraud, check out the following sites: The first one
on the list seems to be somewhat of a 'people's choice' .... enjoy

http://www.bushneverwonflorida.com/

http://www.countercoup.org

http://harelbarzilai.org/ed/countercoup/)

http://www.trustthepeople.com

http://egroups.com/group/trustthepeople

http://www.egroups.com/group/cleanvote

http://geocities.com/countercoup/reports.html

http://www.consortiumnews.com

http://www.herald.com/content/archive/news/elect2000/decision/104268.htm

http://www.michaelmoore.com

http://www.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/12/04/voter_file/index.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20001210/aponline180743_000.html

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/supremecourt/00-949_dec12.fdf

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/00pdf/00-949.pdf

http://headlines.igc.apc.org:8080/arnheadlines/978810229/index_html

".. the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People was among the groups announcing they had filed a lawsuit
in a federal court here alleging "institutional racism," for the alleged
disenfranchisement of many of Florida's minority voters."

>> <<Socialism, representing the interests of neither
>> bosses nor workers, but rather the interests of a class
>> of alienated middle class elements, doesn't fare very well>>
>
> For pity's sake!!! Anyone else want to take this point
> up?!? Liberation from wage slavery is a "middle class"
> idea!?! This is one bit of anti-socialist sloganeering
> that I have genuinely not come across before.

The connection between 'taking state power so as to establish
common property' and 'liberation from wage slavery' is mighty
slim. To the poor who might be more inclined to revolt (than the
ones who are earning good money in glamorous high-tech
industries), wage slavery means long hours for little money, or
not enough work to make a living. Liberation to them equals the
opposite - short hours at high wages for everyone who wants to
work. The program of socialism, being what it is, equals what it
equals, but does not equal short hours at high wages. This is
one reason why socialism eludes the lowest classes who would
probably enjoy short hours at high wages, so are not sure why
they must first establish common property before they can arrive
at short hours. Why MUST they establish common property
before they can enjoy a shorter work week? They didn't need
socialism in France to get a 35 hour week.

> <<But the state IS here to protect us>>
>
> Yes, with its friendly tanks, missiles, guns and police!

The friendly missiles are not pointed at you or me. Ordinary
people engaging in civil and legal behavior rarely have reason
to fear the police.

> The state will "protect" us from many abuses at work if
> those abuses would harm capitalism and profit making.

Lots and lots of rules, regulations and laws protect workers from
employer abuses, and few of those rules increase profits, which
is why we often observe capital fleeing to 3rd world countries
where wages are lower, protections are fewer, and profits are
consequently higher.

In our developed democracies, the bosses wouldn't want to
do much about the rules as long as the rules disadvantage them
equally (which is what laws are for), unless they'd rather that we
all go back in time to live in the total hell of the early days of the
industrial revolution; but, what happiness would the extra profits
buy if the world became an armed and dangerous camp as a result?

> Time and time again though it does not. Why? Why
> are deaths and injuries in the workplace still seen as
> perfectly acceptable in every country on Earth?

Deaths and injuries are decreasingly acceptable in the West.
No company wants to be associated with death and destruction
in any way, because it's bad for sales. Also, companies hate class
action suits. All it took to ground the whole Concorde fleet was
for just one of them to crash.

> Could it possibly have anything to do
> with the class-divided nature of society?

It does, but corporate-caused accidents and deaths are as small
a justification for drastically changing what we have as anything
I can think of. Tobacco industry settlements would have been
unthinkable in the 1950s, while our Firestone/Bridgestone tire
settlements, etc., are costing businesses and industries $billions,
and driving some into bankruptcy or failure. I'm still waiting for
pharmaceuticals to get their come uppance, but I might have to
wait quite a while longer.

No matter where we go on earth, accidents happen. People die
on ski slopes, but few ski resorts get shut down as a result.
Think of all of the transportation deaths - plane, train, auto,
bicycle, etc., accidents, and yet not too many people talk about
shutting down the means of transportation. Negligence is what's
addressed in many accidents, not to mention fatigue from long
work hours. Consequently, we are not very likely to abolish
bourgeois property or the state just because they make some
people rich, and others poor. People have lived with poverty
and hunger for aeons, and many just accept it in a biblical
fashion as inevitable and unchangeable. That will change.

> WORK AND EMPLOYMENT
>
> <<If the WSM didn't regard work so positively, then you
> wouldn't be suggesting that 'work is compatible with socialism'>>
>
> Work - "the application of mental or physical effort
> to a purpose; the use of energy"
>
> Employment - "the act of employing or the state of being employed"
>
> Employ - "use the services of (a person) in return
> for payment; keep (a person) in one's service"
>
> (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 8th Edition)
>
> As I don't think you are advocating that nobody will
> have to walk around, cook food, read books or form
> relationships in a world free of the wages system I
> can't see the point here at all.

But, I DO think that we will be free of the wages system in
another 30-50 years, and I've been saying as much for months.
Capitalism is doomed, and we just have to guide it to a decent
burial, and not leave it to rot under a hot sun. phewww.

> I DO want to "work" in the sense of doing enjoyable
> and positive things with people I like.

That's fine. Keep up the good 'work'. But, most people I know
understand 'work' as a 4 letter word, and generally regard it with
the same contempt as they regard employment; while cooking,
sports, recreation, water skiing, etc., are understood as leisure
time activities, during which time the word 'work' is usually
avoided like a plague, because many people understand
what a wet blanket such a 4 letter word can throw
on otherwise enjoyable times.

> I do NOT want to have to continue selling
> my labour power, doing socially pointless
> work for an employer and getting ripped off.

Are you saying that work during socialism will be as pleasant
as a rose garden? Will refuse collectors really enjoy their 'jobs'?
How about sewer cleaners, steeplejacks, and other such laborers?
If crummy jobs like that will still continue the day after the
revolution, I doubt if you will be able to coax such laborers
to help the revolution. Unless maybe you could promise them
a 20 hour week for the day after as well. Such considerations
demonstrate the absurdity of work during the era of classless,
stateless, moneyless and propertyless society. Work implies a
division of labor, unless brain surgeons would be forced to work
in the fields for a certain portion of the year (but who would force
the brain surgeons to toil in the fields (?), except for a state, since
there would otherwise be no money to entice them). Work and its
associated division of labor create and recreate class divisions. We
will not be able to get rid of the state for as long as a division of labor
and class divisions will still exist, so work will be incompatible with the
era of classless, stateless, moneyless, and propertyless society. The
theory of 'work during socialism' is consistent with Marx's Critique
of the Gotha Program, but it's too bad Marx's revolutionary program
became totally obsolete after WW1, when Europe failed to support
the Russian revolution by revolting in sympathy.

>> <<At the same time, the abolition of class distinctions
>> will signify the end of the necessity for an oppressive state>>
>
> Sorry - I thought the state was here to protect us. Now it is oppressive?

Very good. I'm glad that you are paying attention. The answer?
The state is more oppressive to bosses than it is to workers,
because it surrounds bosses with zillions of rules, regulations
and hoops to jump through. Remove the state, and bosses
would be free to exploit labor like during the worst of the
Industrial revolution, which is why the abolition of the state
appeals more to bosses than it does to workers, especially
when you consider the number of Libertarians.

>> <<If Marx had advocated that workers smash democracies as
>> well as monarchies, then the difference between Marx and
>> Lenin would have been moot>>
>
> He didn't and we don't.

I'm glad to hear that, but why can't you do the Marxist thing of
advocating workers use their democracies for more than just a
one-time overthrow of capitalist supremacy?

>> <<The petrochemical industry is already surrounded by
>> a mass of home-grown health and safety regulations, just
>> like every other major industry. Countries may not be able
>> to agree on very many international standards, but at least
>> they keep trying, and what few we have now is probably
>> more than we used to have>>
>
> Why the continued rise in pollution and why the
> continuing carnage of deaths and injuries at work?

If pollution had paralleled the growth of population in Western
democracies, we would have been smoked out by now. The
environmental movement is now much stronger than it ever has
been, the rules surrounding emissions, trash and toxics are so
much stricter, and the bosses can get away with far less than
they used to. The environment is on the mind of the average
person like it never has been in history. 40 years ago, few
would have considered cleaning up my old home town, but
we now have several clean-ups going on at the same time,
in addition to much stricter disposal rules.

> Why didn't "regulations" prevent disasters like Bhopal?

That's because Bhopal is in India, where they don't enforce
regulations very strictly.

>> <<Is your fear of reducing profits also based upon not
>> knowing the difference between 'workers receiving the
>> full product of their labor' and 'workers receiving the
>> full value of their labor power'?>>
>
> I feel no fear or any other emotion on this one!

How about satisfaction over knowing the difference?

Ken Ellis

 

1-16-01

Danyeke wrote:

> And since we're on the topic of books...has anyone read "Work Without
> End: Abandoning Shorter Hours for the Right to Work" by Benjamin
> Kline Hunnicutt? He is a professor of Leisure Studies (fancy that--isn't
> that wonderful?) at the University of Iowa. The book gives historical
> background and lots of information on labor policy, focusing on the shorter
> workweek movement in the US. I just found a used copy of the book this
> week, and although I haven't delved into it yet, it looks really interesting.

I've read "Work Without End". In fact, the book is so good that I read it over
the air on Free Radio Berkeley a few years ago while living in California. It
took a few shows to do that, but it was worth the effort, particularly for a
lesson that few people know about: Labor sponsored a bill called the Black-
Connery 30 hour Bill during the Depression. The Bill was so good that it
passed the Senate, and looked like a shoe-in for the House of Reps before
FDR's brain trust ordered it killed, because they didn't want Americans to
enjoy leisure, and would rather have had us remain enslaved for long hours.
5 years later, the Bill re-emerged heavily modified and was enacted as the
Fair Labor Standards Act that phased in 'time and a half after 40' by 1940.
Having that law on the books proves that there's nothing to stop us from
amending that law to read 'double time after 35', if we can create a big
enough movement to do it.

Two good web sites for people to explore: The first is Prof. Hunnicutt's,
author of "Work Without End":

http://www.uiowa.edu/~hlss/specialfac/hunnicutt.htm

The second belongs to a colleague of the Professor's, and has a lot of up-to-date info:

http://www.timesizing.com/

May I ask what kind of stuff does Danyeke work on in her AI field,
though I would understand if it can't be discussed in any kind of detail.

Ken Ellis

 

1-17-01

Adam wrote:

> Perhaps Scott (and, for that matter, Ken, though I hate to
> rouse a sleeping dog) could confirm whether or not this
> would be a general attitude amongst SLPers--that they
> love their country and don't mind their kids having to
> swear allegiance to the American rag every morning.

Woof, woof. The sleeping dog is awake. Thanks for the bone to chew on. Yum.

I remember National Secretary Karp at the ASLP 1976 National
Convention complaining that some ASLP perspectives (as expressed
or amplified by some members) amounted to 'national chauvinism'.

My first SLP discussion group leader (an intellectual whom
I deeply admired, Henning Blomen) wasn't afraid to teach his
audience that 'Marx said that the revolution would have to occur
simultaneously in the most advanced countries', thus negating at
least some of the 'socialism in one country' sentiment that ran
rampant through the rest of the party.

Arnold Petersen, National Secretary from 1913-68, probably did
more to boost the 'socialism in the USA' myth than any other SLP
notable, what with his fraudulent 'dictatorship of the proletariat over
the peasantry', and with his attempts to make the USA appear devoid
of middle class and peasant elements. He contrasted that phony picture
with the other phony picture he painted of Russia as an allegedly uniform
peasant economy, and used those 2 phony pictures to conclude that 'the
USA doesn't need a proletarian dictatorship over its insignificant middle
classes and peasantry', whereas 'Russia's enormous middle class and petty
bourgeois elements that its tiny proletariat would have to rule over justified
its proletarian dictatorship', totally ignoring the fact that much of the bottom
half of peasants trekked miles to sell their labor power to richer peasants.

Petersen wanted American technological supremacy to be worshipped
as the surest guarantee of an effortless and violence-free transition to the
upper stage of communism. He did everything he could to make the USA
and Russia appear as polar opposites in the field of economics (in spite of
their many similarities), so as to justify peaceful change here and violent
change there, but never once did A.P. regard their political differences
(monarchy vs. democracy) as significant. Marx, on the other hand,
regarded democracies as the negation of monarchies, and regarded
such a political difference crucial to the question of a peaceful vs.
violent transition to the political supremacy of the working class in
the state. The ASLP perpetrates fraud cleverly disguised as Marxism.

As for Marxist or socialist psychologists, Erich Fromm was an
early inspiration for me, as well as 'Wretched of the Earth' author
Dr. Franz Fanon.

Ken Ellis

 

1-18-01

Debordagoria quoted me:

>> I share a lot of critical sentiments toward what goes on here and there,
>> but have yet to hear about something valid with which to replace our
>> democracies. So, like Marx himself advocated, let's learn to put our
>> democracies to good use.
>
> To put the matter this way is to accept the terminology (and thus the
> ideology) of those fighting to preserve the status quo, and thus to give
> away the game at the very start.

I advocate shorter hours for all workers, hence a political movement. I also
advocate militantly driving down hours of labor in order to put everyone to
work who wants to (at a reduced workload), and in order to prevent both
overconsumption and overproduction. While the mainstream media and politicians
look to economic growth as a way to keep people working, how can you accuse
what I advocate as an example of a status quo approach? Unless you regard any
approach that relies upon the use of existing institutions as a status quo approach.

> To use the loaded term "democracies" to refer
> to the inhumane, inegalitarian, exploitative system
> of political economy that we are trying to change

I hope that you didn't fail to notice my recent post to InterOcean in which I
agreed with many of his criticisms of democracy, but which doesn't prevent
me from wanting to get my hands dirty by trying to improve the workings
of our democracies.

> is to imply (as George W. might) that those who oppose the present
> form of social organization are somehow non-democratic, even
> authoritarian (Bolsheviks!!), unAmerican, when the truth of course
> is the opposite: the Powers That Be are the enemies of true democracy

You failed to outline the structure of your 'true democracy', so I don't know
how to differentiate it from the democracies we have. I think someday you may
come to find that democracy is democracy, and it is the negation of monarchies
and dictatorships. It would not be wise to think like Lenin that people would
be willing to replace one democracy with another, for history already proved
him wrong on that. Rather, we are content to wait for election time to roll
around to do incremental changes.

> (as opposed to the fake, formal, capitalist "democracy" that Mr. Ellis
> seems to admire so). "Let's learn to put our democracies to good use"
> seems like a strangely reactionary way to say "Let's fight the system
> wherever and whenever we can."

Fighting the system 'wherever and whenever we can' is a slogan that can
be used to justify all kinds of actions that could even turn out to be quite
violent. Not even Marx advocated violent solutions in democracies. In
democracies, the pen is mightier than the sword, whereas the opposite
can easily be true in dictatorships and absolute monarchies.

> Perhaps Mr. Ellis is fleeing something from
> his "radical", sectarian past;

My whole history of involvement with the American anarcho-syndicalist SLP
is available at my website for anyone to read. There anyone can observe that I
never rose any higher than shipping clerk, so was hardly in a position to betray
the interests of the working class the way the intellectuals were poised to do
through their propaganda. What other suspicions about me that Michael might
have in mind, perhaps he would be kind enough to share with us, and I would be
glad to answer. My life is an open book, mostly following the orders of others,
and making myself persona non grata when I didn't, but at least having the
satisfaction of acting on my own moral compunctions and doing the right thing.

> but it is shameful to invoke Karl Marx
> in defense of such ideological cowardice.

Michael should read Marx's "Critique of the Gotha Program", written at the
peak of his wisdom, where he spoke of the democratic republic as the form of
state in which the battle between worker and boss would be fought to a finish,
so why overthrow the platform for the final battle?

Somewhere else, Marx spoke of democracy as the negation of monarchy.
Monarchies were to be negated by overthrowing and replacing them with new
democracies, in which Marx expected working class parties to quickly become
dominant, and unite with similar working class governments into a universal
proletarian dictatorship. In the "Minutes of the General Council of the First
International", Marx claimed that 'Middle class republics have become
impossible on the continent of Europe', meaning that a newly created
democracy would not go long before workers' parties quickly become
dominant therein, such being the mood of the late-mid-1800's in Europe.

In his 1891 "Critique of the Erfurt Program", Engels referred to the
democratic republic as 'the specific form of the proletarian dictatorship.'
And he was adamant enough to label that as 'a certainty'.

In the only major way in which I found Lenin differing from Marx and Engels,
Lenin advocated workers overthrow their democratic republics and directly replace
them with communist worker states. Lenin was desperate, however. After the Russian
Revolution, Lenin knew that the only way in which a true world-wide proletarian
dictatorship could be built was by workers of Europe and America replacing
their democracies and monarchies with workers' states. When it later became
certain that it wouldn't happen, that ended the possibility of Marx's revolutionary
scenario from EVER being realized, dependent as Marx's scenario was upon the
simultaneous overthrow of the several monarchies of Europe, which have long
since become full-fledged democracies.

All of this documentation is available in my book at my web site. An issue
more relevant to our times is that: many modern socialist leaders (upon whom
so many newcomers to the socialist movement are dependent for guidance and
inspiration) are as aware of these bits of Marxism as I am, but fail to inform
their followers, and instead prefer that their followers wallow in the ignorance
of their revolutionary fervor. In a world in which it is difficult for would-be
revolutionary leaders to find easy ways to make a living, misleading bands of
deceived followers surely beats pushing a broom or a mop in some factory on
the graveyard shift, so, in a way, I can't really blame them too much for making
sectarian businesses out of Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, De Leonism, Bakuninism,
etc. But, it also doesn't mean that people like myself who have admittedly been fooled
by these sectarian business people wouldn't want to throw a monkey wrench into their
businesses by exposing them for the frauds that they are, and hopefully steering the
enthusiasm of concerned radicals onto a feasible and responsible track of meaningful
reform that Marx himself endorsed when he said in the 3rd volume of Capital that the
precondition for freedom was a shorter working day. Marx and I differ in that he
thought that the shorter hour agenda would be best pursued under the aegis of
the universal proletarian dictatorship, whereas I regard our democracies as
useful enough to get to a shorter work week without any need for violence,
revolution, or the supremacy of a workers' party in the state. In other words,
there is little more than obstinateness, ignorance and ideologies holding
people back from realizing a social goal of greater leisure for everyone.

So, you have the choice of being like the real Marx and advocating shorter
hours, or you can be like the phony Marx whom the businessmen, Leninists
and some anarchists would like you to believe would 'smash useless bourgeois
democracies'. Now that you have heard my argument, you should either prove me
wrong, or else become part of the solution of helping rally people to a program of
useful and meaningful reform in the service of shorter hours and more leisure for
all, for an end to overconsumption and overproduction, and for greater protection
of the environment. It usually takes time for someone to make a thorough turnabout
in perspectives, so it wouldn't surprise me if you remain skeptical for quite some time.
I hope that you will have the integrity to use your concern for the welfare for the planet
to guide every thought and word. While it is very easy for misguided individuals to
form up in organizations of like-minded individuals and do very little of positive value,
it is also possible for individuals to search their souls for signs of doubt, and use
their doubts to fuel scholarship in the search for intellectual clarity.

Ken Ellis

 

1-18-01

I suggest that we give ourselves something to smile about by playing a little
prediction game. :-)

We all know that shorter hours are on their way, barring a big catastrophe to
send us back to the stone age, so let's see where we would put the length of
the work-week in 2005, 2010, 2015, 2020, 2025, and so on, however long
you think it will take to replace all wage labor with volunteers in the
industrialized countries.

Here's my guess:

2005 - 40
2010 - 40
2015 - 30
2020 - 20
2025 - 10
2030 - 0

OK, now don't let my contribution influence you, or let anyone else's
contributions influence you. Just write it down the way you personally predict
it will happen, and then in 2030, whoever was closest to the actual figures wins
an all-expense paid trip to Mars. Ready? Vogue la galere! [And let it rip!]

Ken Ellis

 

1-19-01

Dear Magda,

Just a personal note to wish you the best of everything. I'm sorry to see
you leave the forum, but I think your departure was inevitable.

I received similarly harsh treatment when I was in the American Socialist
Labor Party. I was all starry-eyed and enthusiastic about socialism at first.
The ASLP told me that it was the true party of socialism, and I was hooked.

Later, I discovered that there are many different kinds of socialism, so I
made it a point to find out why there was so little agreement between the
various parties. I discovered that my party's program was based upon
distortions of what Marx and Engels wrote, which was very disappointing.

I also discovered that Marxism really is obsolete for the lack of monarchies
to overthrow, and that top party leaders also understand that Marxism is
obsolete, but are only maintaining an illusion in order to attract people who
want to make radical changes to their societies. The parties only have room
for 'yes' men and women. Anyone who is skeptical, or otherwise fails to follow
the party line, is made to feel unwelcome. Parties like the WSM and ASLP don't
need nice people, only the ones who follow orders, and yet they claim to be the
enemies of authority.

It does not surprise me that Simon W. did what he did to you. Simon and I
once had a dialogue, but he wouldn't dialogue on principle, and mostly called me
ugly names. He still makes nasty remarks about me, months after our last dialogue.

I'm afraid that socialism is not for you, me, or anyone except people who want
to make businesses out of their small parties. They have no use for people who
honestly want to make a better world. You might find more satisfaction by
joining a local group that believes in doing positive things for people.

Though few in the WSM respect what I have to say, I am now in a different
discussion group that is evenly divided for and against me, so it is a welcome
change from the WSM. You can visit their web site at:
http://www.whywork.org/mailman/listinfo/claws-discuss

Their mail list is private. If you want to apply, you would have to say a few
words about who you are, and what your goals are. If you apply, I would be
glad to put in a few good words for you. The moderator likes what I have to
say, and I'm sure that she would welcome you to their forum as well.

Whatever happens, I know that you are a very good person. I wish you the very best.

In friendship,

Ken Ellis

 

1-20-01

Michael wrote:

> And capitalism is hardly a negation of dictatorship:
> it is the dictatorship of Capital (as Marx showed).

This reply betrays confusion. Capitalism could never be a negation of
dictatorship in the first place. You are mixing apples and oranges. Capitalism
is an economic system, not a type of state, even though the association of
capitalism with democracy is well-founded in history. As an economic system,
capitalism operates under a civil code. Capitalism is all 'contract law' to regulate
the billions of 'quid pro quo' transactions that occur every day all over the globe.
Capitalism can also function just as easily under dictatorship as under democracy.
If capitalist economics ever had anything to do with dictatorship, then we would
likely find ourselves operating under chattel slavery, not 'wage slavery', which
term is little more than a popular contradiction in terms, like 'military intelligence'.
Where there is slavery, there is no wage, and where there is a wage, there is no
slavery in the proper sense of the word, even though it may sometimes feel that
way when workers compete for scarce jobs, bosses offer few dollars in return,
but the threat of unemployment and even worse hardships force desperate
workers to accept those few dollars.

>> ...we are content to wait for election time to roll around to do
>> incremental changes. ...Fighting the system 'wherever and whenever
>> we can' is a slogan that can be used to justify all kinds of actions that
>> could even turn out to be quite violent.
>
> I think this speaks (volumes) for itself.

Does this mean that you advocate a violent solution? If you do, then I can
guess why you don't come out and admit it, or try to recruit us. If you are
unwilling to give the details of the proposal in this forum, then right there
you can detect a drawback to such a solution. Without a full and open
discussion, knowledge of such a plan would be limited to a small circle
of closely trusted friends, but, what could such a small group accomplish?
Acts of violence cannot be counted upon to win the hearts and minds of
the masses, as proven by so many other attempts over the ages.

The nice part about political solutions such as shorter hours and greater
leisure for everyone (by law), is that we can shout it from the rooftops to
the whole world, and, even if those who side with the upper classes disagree
with us, we would be as easily tolerated by them and the state as any other
group seeking civil and political solutions.

Ken Ellis

 

1-20-00

Chris quoted me:

>> So, you have the choice of being like the real Marx
>> and advocating shorter hours, or you can be like the
>> phony Marx whom the businessmen, Leninists and
>> some anarchists would like you to believe would
>> 'smash useless bourgeois democracies'.
>
> I read the first chapter of your book a few days ago, where you describe
> your rise through the SLP to the rank of mailing clerk, and your deepening
> doubts. But I get the impression (correct me if I'm wrong) that even if you're
> no longer part of that outfit, you still think in the terms used by Marx.

It's true that I left the SLP for good in 1977. Much of the left uses a
terminology tempered by the aspects of Marxism about which there is
fairly wide agreement, such as class struggle, exploitation of labor, the
extraction of surplus values, the overthrow of the state, the roles of parties
in politics, unions, etc. Nearly everyone who will ever be involved with social
justice causes will bump into the occasional socialist who will try to sway people
to the socialist cause, saying something like: 'It's fine for us to feed the hungry,
but the ultimate solution will be socialism.' This could cause some people who
are unfamiliar with the ideology to become defensive, or may even create a little
self-doubt in others. If you have the choice between learning more instead of less,
it's always better to learn more. While a superficial knowledge of socialism can
lead you far astray into all kinds of weirdness, a deeper knowledge of socialism
can make you more useful than dangerous. The story at my web site hopefully
has enough lessons to save newcomers to socialism a lot of grief. By learning
from my mistakes, and by not doing as I did, people could become more confident
in their beliefs and inoculate themselves against purveyors of dogmatic absurdities.

> Do we really have to bother with Marx any more? To me he appears to have
> been one of the most influential thinkers of the century before last, but he's
> history now, and to go on referring back to him seems equivalent to invoking
> Aquinas or Aristotle.

You are right. We can go merrily along without Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, and
so many other revolutionary leaders. If we set ourselves reasonable goals and
pledge to work within the confines of democratic processes, then the words
of the great revolutionary leaders are like so many trickles of water over the
dam, and as irrelevant as a newspaper from the last century. Great for history
buffs, but few others.

> One day, years ago, after reading lots of nonsensical books of economics
> that told me that, in effect, my life consisted of leisure which I gave up to
> get a real income of goods and services or something, it occurred to me
> that perhaps Marx saw it the way I do - that the purpose of the economy
> is to free us from work. I struggled through the first 6 chapters of Capital
> with a sinking heart, slowly realizing that, nope, Marx didn't think that way
> at all. I've taken no further interest in him since.

I don't blame you. I sometimes wonder if Marx didn't understand the full
importance of what he wrote best about - surplus values - because he was
distracted by the pressing tasks of his very different era in which the big
issue for the middle and lower classes consisted of winning the battle for
democracy by overthrowing old monarchies and replacing them with
democracies. Hence, Marx didn't really come up with an outstanding
program for the most advanced capitalist countries of his day, England
and the USA, so ended up merely endorsing what workers in democracies
had already started doing for themselves, viz., fighting for shorter hours
and higher wages. But, even then, his endorsement of shorter hours wasn't
whole-hearted, for he seemed more interested in workers fighting for political
supremacy in order to take away the property of the rich. But, even then, there
are indications that socialism to him was subservient to 'full participation in
the economy'. So, Marx is such a mixed bag that it is easy enough for people
to get lost in the minutiae and build sectarian movements based upon the
seemingly conflicting aspects of what he had to say.

> I think that Marx is just an albatross round everyone's necks these days.
> I think Darwin is another albatross, and a far worse one because the horrible
> way he thought is still endemic in Western culture, and very deeply rooted in
> ways that Marx has never been (and never will be). And on my site I spend
> quite a lot of time trying to kill off Darwin. Perhaps I should try to kill
> off Marx as well...
>
> I'm tired of these dead philosophers whose dead hands still grasp us
> from their graves, to stifle our imagination with their implacable and rigid
> (because dead) systems. It took one hundred years from Newton's death for
> anyone to dare to develop and modify his work, so gigantic was his shadow.
> That was one hundred years too long.

I feel your pain. In a 1890 letter to Schmidt, Engels wrote: "The history
of science is the history of the gradual clearing away of this nonsense or
rather of its replacement by fresh but less absurd nonsense." The Marxist
revolutionary scenario was certainly a threat right up until it became certain
that Europe would not revolt in sympathy with the Russian revolution, but
Marxism now certainly deserves a decent burial due to its irrelevance for
the era of viable democracies.

BTW: I really loved The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when I was a school kid.
Thanks for reminding me of it.

Ken Ellis

 

1-20-01

Robin asked Maarten:

> My point is this: how can the bourgeosie which, by
> definition, can only exist as an exploiting class, coexist
> with a proletariat that it exploits yet is nevertheless is
> "suppressed" by? Come on, give me a straight answer.

Simple: go back and read the Communist Manifesto, where M+E
talked about the proletariat winning the battle for democracy and
using their new political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all
capital from the bourgeoisie, and put the property under
the control of the proletariat organized as ruling class.

Notice that the expropriation isn't done all in one day, and that it
involves expropriation 'by degrees'. In other words, gradually.
First, workers defeat the reaction, become the new ruling class,
and they establish the universal proletarian dictatorship in the
most advanced capitalist countries. Without successfully
completing this step, the rest of Marx's scenario would have
been all moonshine, which is what it turned out to be after the
mass of monarchies to be overthrown gradually became dem-
ocratic with a lot less violence than was anticipated, depriving
socialists and workers from sufficient opportunities to smash
monarchies and establish the universal proletarian dictatorship.
Socialists were out-foxed by the bourgeoisie and monarchists
allying and converting absolute monarchies into constitutional
monarchies. Marx complained by branding the bourgeoisie of
Germany 'cowards' who refused to fight for a democratic republic
(which M+E would have converted into a red republic).

Theoretically, if a monarchy was to be overthrown, which was
the usual case in 1848, then the lower classes were to become
superior to the forces protecting the monarchy, and the victorious
workers and socialists would emerge from the battle with arms
intact, and, if enough monarchies could be overthrown at the
same time, then the separate new democracies would have
combined under socialist guidance into the universal proletarian
dictatorship. There was a place for leadership under Marx's plan.

A proletarian dictatorship meant that there had to have been a
class for the proletariat to rule over. Proletarian rule without a
capitalist class is inconceivable. If all that could be found was
workers, 'proletarian rule' would be redundant. 'Wresting by
degrees' implies that at least part of the capitalist class was to
retain its identity as a class for the proletariat to rule over.
Capitalists foolish or ideological enough to resist proletarian
rule were to be expropriated immediately to put an end to their
foolishness in a hurry. Smarter ones willing to put up with the
curtailed profits resulting from the newly imposed income tax
would be allowed to produce as usual. This means that these
patriotic capitalists would pay wages in exchange for the
labor of their workers.

So, the steps were: world-wide revolution, proletarian political
supremacy, some capitalists immediately expropriated, while
allowing others to continue production, their profits curtailed
by an income tax. The proletarian state would continue to
gobble up businesses and factories one by one, both with
and without compensation, and the capitalist class would
gradually lose its capital and its character as a class. Class
distinctions would fade away along with the need for a state,
and society would eventually consign the state to the museum
of antiquities, alongside of the spinning wheel and bronze axe.

Sorry if this doesn't conform to the WSM theory of the state, but
I'm not the anarchist who twisted your perspectives. Robin may
have as much trouble with proletarian rule as did Arnold Petersen
of the ASLP, but A.P. had no trouble with the concept of bourgeois
rule. Funny thing is, neither does the bourgeoisie have any trouble
with the concept of bourgeois rule, but they would certainly have
trouble with the concept of proletarian rule. Funny how anarchist
concerns sometimes coincide with bourgeois concerns. The declining
rate of profit seems to be just as much a worry for some socialists.

> The idea of a "proletarian state" is a complete contradiction
> in terms - it is an absurdity!! Because a proletariat is not
> and cannot be, by definition, a ruling class.

That was the ASLP's and Arnold Petersen's perspective as well,
but it is totally without justification in Marxism. As pointed out
by the history, there certainly was justification in Marxism for
elevating the proletariat to ruling class, and it is stated precisely
so in the Communist Manifesto. But, asking people who have
been poisoned by anarchist ideology to acquire lessons from
the works of M+E is asking a bit much, I have found. Like
asking dogs to love cats, and vice-versa. Too many aeons
of conflict tend to permanently prejudice the soul.

> Its ascension to power must and can only amount
> to the complete disappearance of itself as an exploited
> class (and hence also of an exploiting class).

Expropriation of capital 'by degrees' illustrates a process that
would be obviously slower than what Robin would approve.

> Otherwise you are saying that this same proletariat is
> prepared to oversee the process of exploitation of the
> proletariat on behalf of the bourgeoise.
> Are you for real?

That's not what it means. The brutality of the exploitation was to
have been immediately ameliorated by proletarian policy in their state.
The length of the working day would have been immediately shortened,
both to ease the burden of labor, and to end unemployment forever. A
good portion of the people in this forum believe that shorter hours
would be nice to implement after the revolution, and Marx regarded
such a measure to be a precondition for freedom. Proletarian state
power was to guarantee the success of all measures passed in the
interests of the working class.

> it is an incontrovertible fact that nowhere did Marx say that
> socialism was a transition between capitalism and communism.
> If you have evidence to the contrary I would like to see it.

It appears as though you are trying to use the fact that Marx
didn't do the Leninist thing of using the word socialism to describe
proletarian dictatorship, and communism to describe classless, stateless,
etc.less society to blanket deny the existence of a transition period in
Marxist theory. But, enough people are aware that Marx wrote about 2
stages of communism in his Critique of the Gotha Program, and that
he wrote about the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to
classless, stateless society. So, no matter how you slice it, there WAS
to be a transition of proletarian political rule between what we now have
and classless, stateless, etc.less society. If you can't do the Leninist thing
of calling the proletarian dictatorship 'socialism', then you should say that,
instead of making it appear as though you are trying to deny the obvious
transition period of proletarian political rule as a full-fledged historical era.

> Lenin - "the workers are only capabale of developing
> a trade union consciousness

One would think that this was a device that Lenin invented, and
that M+E had never lamented 'the political nullity of the English
working class' for decades. The English and American workers
had a long history of wanting and fighting for high wages and
short hours, and little to no history of wanting to take away the
property of the rich, nor of creating a big workers' party to vie
for state power. Socialists should get used to workers' rejection
of the notion of mucking about with the institution of private
property, especially in the most bourgeois country of the
world, as M+E thought of the USA.

An interesting thing is that Bakuninists (as in my old ASLP) can't
stand to hear that M+E wanted to build a universal proletarian
dictatorship, nor a workers' state. They can't start with what's
obvious and work with it and honestly say why they disagree
with it. Instead, the ASLP could not allow itself to admit what
the Marxist theory of the state really was, so they time and again
portrayed the Marxist theory of the state as equaling the Social-
Democratic theory of the state, or, in other words, state capitalism,
and then they critiqued state capitalism instead of Marxism.

Part of the fraud perpetrated by long-time ASLP National Secretary
Arnold Petersen was to accuse M+E of advocating little more than state
capitalism. A.P. critiqued the state capitalism theory, and then he posited
his Bakuninist SIU theory to 'correct the deficiencies' of the Social-Demo-
cratic theory (mislabeled as the Marxist theory). You can probably imagine
how distasteful this revelation can be to those who are trying to find HONEST
and reasonable methods of arriving at social justice, while the ASLP rebuffs all
efforts to introduce a little honesty into its modus operandi, and heavy-handedly
censors any 'dangerous' accusations like mine.

Ken Ellis

 

1-21-01

EM quoted me:

>> << The nice part about political solutions such as shorter hours and
>> greater leisure for everyone (by law), is that we can shout it from the
>> rooftops to the whole world, and, even if those who side with the upper
>> classes disagree with us, we would be as easily tolerated by them and
>> the state as any other group seeking civil and political solutions. >>
>
> I think the smart people or most people in charge (bosses) are already doing
> this. They have the freedom to come & go as they like----golf during the middle
> of the day---leave early. The worker bees are the ones chained to the desk.

It's true that they have it made in that regard. Our task in the early years of this
century is to liberate ourselves from wage-slavery by militantly reducing hours
of labor as made possible by technological advances, and to eventually become
as free of labor as our bosses. It's not only logical, but I think it's inevitable as
machines overtake and surpass human intelligence within 20 years or so, prov-
ided we don't suffer an ecological or other catastrophe before then. Fears of an
ecological disaster caused by overproduction and overconsumption could also
be allayed by shortening labor time. That would be the best way to cure our
addiction to all sorts of wasteful excesses.

> Where does education come into play? I hear that all the time
> "education" is the key. The key to what? A higher paying job with
> more responsibilities that perhaps someone doesn't want? It's just
> a different sort of prison in my book.

You got that right. When I was a kid, I didn't get any homework until I was
in the 9th grade. Now they send 1st graders home with work to do, which is
a total absurdity, considering the fact that all human chores could be phased
out within 20-30 years. In the same way, it was nonsensical for the USA to
phase in higher and higher retirement ages (from 65 to 70) instead of low-
ering it like the more sensible Norwegians. We are so addicted to work
that it clouds our vision. The more work we do, the less clearly we see.

Ken Ellis

 

1-21-01

Gina asked:

> anyway, how is the legislation coming along, ken? has anyone
> offered expertise on how to go about proposing a bill?

Um, I cannot tell a lie. My little exercise turned out to be little more than
an experiment to see what people wanted in terms of swt reform. I wish I
could pursue some reforms, but I think that reforms would best be pursued
by a real party. Is it time for us to be a real party yet? I'm up for that.

Before joining this mail list, I was amazed at the difficulty with which I had
finding the SWT website, making me wonder if it has the requisite Meta text
in its web page header, though I am not the expert to expound very long on
that. Does Robert or Phil know more about that?

Here again is the list of reforms, as last amended on December 27:

1: double time instead of time and a half

2: 3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2

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

4: replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay

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.

Ken Ellis

 

1-21-01

I certainly agree with what Chuck wrote about the loads of homework forced
upon school kids, and the meaninglessness of rote memorizing. I still have
painful memories of having to mindlessly memorize multitudes of
meaningless facts during my elementary school 'education'.

Chuck also wrote:

> I still don't think America will make many big steps in reducing
> leisure, but just create more rewards and benefits for working
> longer hours, or staying in mandatory schooling longer.
>
> Yeah, we may create more leisure in the future but I think there will be
> longer hours offered with rewards that will tempt us, and I think many
> will give in to that and continue to work long hours.

The human race has grown accustomed to eons of hard work, so will have a
difficult time adjusting to a workless future. The reason why businesses hire
people is to extract useful mental or physical work. But, human labor has its
weaknesses. First of all, human labor can be efficient for only part of the
day, whereas machines care not if it's night or day, and will gladly keep on
running forever, or until it's ready to melt. So, strike one against humans.

Second, human labor demands not only that it have adequate time for rest and
recreation, but it also demands compensation! Insult to injury. Compare that
cheek to machinery, which cares naught but to be fed raw materials 24 hours
a day, plus a little oil to ease its creaking joints once in a while.

Third, human labor demands not only compensation, but it also demands
benefits! If that doesn't take the cake! Humans need dental and medical plans
(which doesn't prevent them from using copious amounts of sick leave), they
would like cafeterias with good food, they lobby for recreation facilities on
site, child care, vacations, holidays off, IRA's and retirement plans, etc. And,
if humans don't like the deal that is offered, they have the nerve to form into a
union. The greed of human labor knows no bounds! Compare that to machinery,
which needs none of those items, has no children, needs no expensive dentists
or M.D.'s, can tolerate toxic environments better than humans, etc.

In other words, human labor should be abolished! Which, precisely enough, the
bosses have been planning to do for a couple of centuries, and will complete the
task as soon as they can make the machines smart enough to run by themselves.
That event is coming soon to a theater near you. The only thing human labor
has had going for it in the meantime is that it is sometimes slightly smarter
than the average clump of sod [don't get too excited by my excursions into
hyperbole :-) ], and human smarts occasionally outweighs its quirkiness.

That will end! IBM announced that it will have a supercomputer as smart
as a human by 2010. Its only drawback will be that it will cover the area of 2
basketball courts. But, given the rate of miniaturization, that same amount of
smarts ought to fit into a teacup by 2020. After that, the rate of robotization
will really take off, not that robots won't be improving in the meantime. But,
within the next 20-30 years, bosses will have their final revenge on the
working class. So they may think.

We workers may have something to say about this process, for we do not want
for it to be as alienating and foreboding as what it could be made out to be. We
have our humanitarian notions about one another, and the future employment
crisis will be a good test of the depth of our humanitarianism.

The depth of our humanitarianism will determine whether we create a movement
that will be political and militant enough to see to it that what little work that will
remain for humans to do will be equitably shared for as long as people will have
to get up in the morning to earn a living. In other words, as machines get really
smart, and bosses begin to lay us off wholesale, we will have to inject the human
element into the process to see that the elimination of human labor gets done in
such a way that no human gets hurt, and that everyone is taken care of equally.

Oh, sure, some social-democrats might have a tax and spend notion of job
creation that they will want to apply to the upcoming situation, but that scenario
has its drawbacks. Lay off 10,000 workers who are no longer needed to produce
widgets, and the S-D's would tax you and me in order to finance some jobs
cleaning up city streets. Oh, wait, we can't have that, for the French have already
invented robotized street sweepers, so maybe we'll just put those workers on the
dole. So, while Joe works at his job 8 hours a day, his brother Harry is sitting
in front of the TV with not enough money to do much else, but plenty of time
to babysit for Joe's kids or grandmother. Not the best of all possible scenarios
for the working class, for it doesn't address the competition in the labor market
that lowers Joe's wages, and enables the bosses and government to run a
wasteful and alienating economy.

This is why a shorter hour program would be superior to taxing and spending,
for we could drive down the hours of labor enough to put everyone to work who
wants to, we could arrange our shifts so that Joe is with his kids while his wife
Mary is at work, and vice-versa, and Harry could have his own job and spend
more time in the pool hall or at the beach, or wherever he wants, and not have
to do something that he'd rather not do. This way, we share the grief of having
to go to work, we learn to share work so well that we prepare ourselves to share
the produce of whatever entity creates the necessities of life after there's no longer
a way for us to go out and earn them. That would be a breakthrough in human
relations, for sure.

Ken Ellis

 

1-21-01

Dear Mr. Miller, if I may quote and comment:

> I have been notified that you have subscribed to the SLP-Houston e-group
> of which I am the moderator.

Friendly greetings, Carl. Scott W. informed the WSM of the existence
of your forum the other day, so I thought I would check it out.

> It is no secret concerning your differences
> of opinion with the SLP.

It looks like my reputation preceded me. I was surprised to hear that the SLP
doesn't take such a hard stance against reform any more, so I thought I would
take a look to see what's going on. No harm in that, I hope.

> I would be interested to know what your reasons are for
> subscribing to the list if you care to make those reasons known.

Probably the same reasons that anyone else might have, such as 'discuss the
issues'. But, I have no interest in creating any fresh issues. I might be able
to provide a little historical perspective on already pending issues.

> I sincerely hope that you will not use the list
> to air your list of grievances against the SLP.

If people were interested in my alleged list of grievances, they could read my
book. I'm not interested in much more than a good discussion of pressing issues.

> I did not start this list to be a debate society concerning who's program is better
> or any of the other myriad of differences between the left parties out there.

I carry no water for any other party. Since my lapsed membership in the SLP
in the 70's, I became a delegate to the founding convention of the newly founded
(1996) Labor Party for a couple of years, but gave that up when I moved to the
East Coast at the end of 97. I'm presently not a member of any party. If the
Greens had a branch in New Bedford, I might attend an occasional meeting,
but not much has gone on around here since De Leon gave his "What means
this Strike" speech a century ago.

> The central purpose is to attract those who are interested in the SLP,
> whether as potential members or sympathizers.

I can understand your forum being primarily a recruiting tool. The purpose of
the WSM forum has never been any different. They have some pretty good
ideology against censorship, so I've pretty much had carte blanche to make
mistakes. I've learned some lessons in etiquette while there, and have learned
to make good points while restraining my tongue. I could be equally discrete
in your forum.

> Although we have had some debate in the area of doctrine and tactics,
> it is not the central focus of this group.

I wouldn't mind being out of the lime light. I'm so busy on other forums
that it might be a while before I felt like adding my 2 cents.

> I hope that you will comment on these matters. Thanks in advance,

I hope that these comments won't rule out my presence in your forum.

Ken Ellis

 

1-21-01

[Tell us, Shaun, do you get a certain amount of personal gratification
from delaying my posts for so long? Do you think that the delays
are fitting punishment for my opposition to WSM perspectives?]

[I was away from the computer for a day. There's a delay
because your posts are not auto-approved. Should they be?]

Bob wrote:

> Hi Ken,
> I repeat,
>>> I wish you would criticise what we actually say about
>>> capitalism or socialism, and not what you think we should
>>> have said, based on your experiences with the ASLP.

It would help if you had provided us with an example,
which is why I didn't comment the first time.

> I am sure that you are not doing it deliberately Ken but you
> really should consider what we say, not what you think we say.

I could make the same accusation about you and some other
participants. 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?

> Toby responded to your questioning the WSM on being
> democratic, he said they were, and he said that because 51%
> of people vote for something does not mean that it is right.
> Well I happen to agree with Toby, it does not make it right,
> but it makes it democratic. People learn from mistakes, and
> if they are wrong then they will have an opportunity to put
> it right in the future.

You omitted the fact that people have to ADMIT their mistakes
before they can correct them.

> <snip property>
>
> Marx wrote about capitalism and expected it to be replaced
> with a society were people would "give according to their
> ability and receive according to their needs".

Speaking of Marx, 'receiving according to needs' is contemporary
with Marx's upper stage of communism, which he didn't expect to
arrive in his time. Once again, you are forgetting about Marx's
transitional stage of proletarian dictatorship, when people were
to be compensated according to their work, and not according to
their needs. Marx anticipated the establishment of a world-wide
proletarian dictatorship in his day, and was disappointed when
it didn't happen at the time of the Commune.

> He based his expectations on the knowledge that we can all
> produce morethan enough to meet our individual needs, and
> collectivelyand cooperatively, an abundance for all.

You make it sound so effortless, but people today still work
absurdly long hours. And they do it not because all of the work
is necessary, but because a lot of people don't know what to do
about the predicament they're in.

> Anyone can speculate on what their future society will be
> like. For some it will be freedom from work or for those
> who enjoy work, from employment and the freedom to
> work at different things. That is no more castles in the
> air than the reality, that fewer people are needed to
> produce the needs of society. We are agreed on this
> at least. What we disagree on is how to bring it about.

We can't agree on how to bring about the new society, but guess
what? I also disagree that 'fewer people are needed to produce
the needs of society'. I think that the 'fewer people' scenario is
bourgeois, because the bosses will be assured of high profits if
workers are laid off as quickly as technology allows, whereas
fewer hours are what's needed so that Marx's goal of full
participation in the economy can be realized and maintained.
No matter how many times I try to correct you on this point, you
always return to speak of 'employing fewer people as technology
replaces human labor' instead of 'employing people for fewer
hours'. I wonder if you purposely contradict me, or if you really
don't understand the point of adopting shorter hours to share
work among EVERYONE who could use some work to get by.

> I want to bring it about through the democratic process and
> through promoting the need for a cooperative caring society.
> You want to bring it about by reducing the work week.

Work week reductions are more concrete and to the point than
your 'democratic process' and 'cooperative caring society'.

> <snip> I worked a thirty four hour week for eleven years
> at the local Polytechnic, (Technical College) and I enjoyed
> the twelve weeks holiday I had each year, but it didn't solve
> my unemployment problem, because I was made redundant
> along with a lot of other tutors around the country. I found
> some part time work, 30 hours a week, that was better than
> 34 hours, but the pay was about forty percent of what I had
> previously. So I now work full time 38 hours a week and
> because although I prefer to work 30 hours a week, I also
> prefer to eat and have a roof over my head. And that Ken
> is the problem most workers my age face, currently more
> than half the people over fifty five in the work force in
> NZ are unemployed.

Like so many other countries in the world, your country also
allows people to compete for scarce long-hour jobs, forcing
desperate workers to accept lousy wages and working con-
ditions and poverty-stricken retirements unless they work
at particularly good jobs with good retirement packages.

> I am fifty-eight years old, I should retire at 60, it was the law
> up until five years ago, but the NZ equivalent of the Republican
> party changed the law, so now I have to work until I am 65.

The USA is playing the same stupid trick on American workers,
who for decades were able to count on retiring at 65. People our
age in the USA will have to work until 67 in order to get full
retirement benefits, and they're going to try to phase in a future
upper limit of 70. What dreamers. Norway did the smart thing
by recently LOWERING its retirement age. Let's all move to
the land of the midnight sun.

> I was looking forward to retiring so I could work in my
> garden, paint my house, decorate, build things, make toys
> for my grandchildren, but I am so busy being employed,
> I just don't have the time for it all.
>
> So I will have to leave now Ken and go water the sweetcorn
> and the tomatoes and the roses, for some people it is work,
> but for me it is like Paddy or Len, making their music, I do
> it because I enjoy it.

I'm glad you brought that up, cuz I just read Marx contradicting
some recent forum philosophy about art for its own sake (Marx to
Weydemeyer, Jan 16, 1852): "Write a friendly letter to Freiligrath.
Don't be afraid to compliment him, for all poets, even the best of
them, are courtisans, more or less, and they have to be cajoled to
make them sing. ... He is a real revolutionary ... Nevertheless, a
poet - no matter what he may be as a man - requires applause,
admiration. I think it lies in the very nature of the species."

> Yours for an employment free world, and plenty of time to make
> music and, no thanks Ken, I don't want robots making compost
> for the roses :-)

Don't worry, the robots will be completely under our control. If
we tell them to step aside, they will step aside and let us do what
we want. A little exercise is good for us once in a while.

Ken Ellis

 

1-22-01

Allen quoted point #8:

>> 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.
>
> This needs to be defined with more precision.
>
> What taxes paid by whom?
>
> In my understanding taxes paid by employers, not employees,
> are a flat percentage of the total wages so are neither an incentive
> or a disincentive in any way. Un-employment taxes are the only
> ones that might be a disincentive as the rate is lowered if the
> unemployment experience rating governs the exact amount
> paid. One would have to look into this further to better
> understand if this is true or not.

Joe Polito penned number 8. Perhaps Joe and Allen could work out the details
of a new #8 to their mutual satisfaction, after which I can post an amended
version to our list of proposed swt legislation. Anyone with second thoughts
should also feel free to withdraw or amend their own proposals at any time.

Does Kelley think that we should add 'universal health care' to the list?
Just say the word, and we'll stick it in there. I should add that, at this early
stage in our development, it's no one's job here to pre-judge or eliminate
any proposal to the swt legislation list. My only volunteer task here
is to compile the proposals into a list.

Ken Ellis

 

1-22-01

Gina asked:

> is anyone else going to the Alliance of Work-Life Professionals conference
> in Orlando in a couple of weeks? I am going and I know nora spinks is too,
> but I was wondering if anyone else is going...

As Gene also asked: Please tell us more about it.

Also, I'm glad to hear that you are ready to party. I'm all for a stay-at-home
Internet party in the meantime, because I'm sure that we are spread too far
apart to get together for tea and crumpets, though I do imagine that a handful
of us might be able to gather and brainstorm in the Boston area. I'm not sure
if there's a similar pocket of interest in the far northwest, or perhaps another
in Iowa, or another in the SFBA, but perhaps people could chime in and
express their interests.

As far as a party name goes, I have yet to see one that really grabs me. The
socialists and communists have it easy compared to us, cuz they can sum up
what they want in one word, while we have to stumble around with multiple
words. 'Workers Party' sounds communist. So does 'Labor Party', so we may
have to go back to something that's time related. 'Vacationers'? 'Perpetual
Vacationers'? :-) I once toyed with the idea of a 'class abolitionist party',
but 'the abolition of class distinctions' might be a little too ideological
for most people.

Charles Brass and others have recently brought up some interesting points.
The whole notion of swt is irrevocably intertwined with the notion of freedom
for all. Some occupations may require long hours and some people may just
be willing to perform for long hours, and, in a free world, they shouldn't be
forced to quit at the end of 35 hours per week. So, maybe we should allow
people to work long hours if they want to. Especially if they have good
and satisfying jobs and are eager to work by personal choice.

Those of us with lousy jobs, on the other hand, shouldn't be forced to work 60
hour weeks. Those who want to work but can't find work shouldn't be shunted
to the sidelines because the work hogs occupy the whole trough. Maybe we
need a proposal that would allow us to work the hours we want, no matter
whether we like our jobs or not. Some people, like myself, would ordinarily
rather have many hours off per week to pursue other interests.

Our proposal needs to take into account the fact that some people are going
to be willing to work 60 hour weeks, so should not be prohibited from doing
so, while setting the nominal length of the work week low enough to enable
all to participate who want to. The ideology of the USA includes a lot of
'individualism', and there's no way we should want to even try to do anything
about that by forcing too many restrictions down anyone's throat. Workers
should be free, while it's the employment relation that needs the restrictions.
Something tells me that at least MY thought along these lines has yet to com-
plete its evolution. Maybe the overtime premium needs to be on a sliding scale,
according to the disgustingness of the job. Maybe that's it! The lower the wage,
the higher the overtime premium! With modern computers, no problem calculating
1.792 x the wage, for example. Anyone have any further thoughts on that?

Ken Ellis

 

1-22-01

[Shaun: Yes, I think that I've been a good enough boy for long
enough that you can trust me with free access to the forum. I
promise not to abuse the privilege of posting, and will gladly
heed warnings, if necessary. Please auto-approve my posts,
and we'll see if it works out. Thanks. - K.E.]

Ben wrote:

<snip>

>> <<The program of socialism, being what it is, equals what
>> it equals, but does not equal short hours at high wages>>
>
> No, it equals free access to a socially produced
> abundance and the abolition of being forced to work for
> a pittance in rationing (wages and salaries).

That sounds as 'good' to me as long hours at high wages. I'd
rather have the free time that comes with shorter hours. As Marx
said in the 3rd volume of Capital: 'The precondition for freedom is
a shorter work day.' Economic freedom equals good compensation
plus freedom from absurdly long hours of employment.

> Also - it was bad enough when the lefties were claiming the
> USSR was a "workers' paradise", but France! 35 hours of wage
> slavery is still 35 too many. I'm doing about 35 hours a week myself
> at the mo and while it is an improvement on the 50 odd I was doing
> before in another job (though not financially) I still feel crap for it.

Well, at least the French have the brains to be lowering the length
of their work week, which is a step in the right direction, while us
dumb Amerikkkans were recently discussing time and a half after
160 per month. Work like a dog for 2 weeks and have 2 weeks off,
which would fit some bosses' schedules just fine, I was told.

>> <<The friendly missiles are not pointed at you or me.
>> Ordinary people engaging in civil and legal behavior
>> rarely have reason to fear the police>>
>
> Sorry about the missiles. They are meant for slaughtering
> our sisters and brothers in foreign lands rather than internal
> repression. Such onslaughts as the decade+ long pounding
> of Iraq and the murder of our fellow workers in Yugoslavia
> by the "forces of democracy".

I didn't know that we were still bombing Iraq and murdering
Yugoslavs. Well, live and learn. Are you sure about that?

> As for the porkers and other mercenaries, they are used
> by the state and capitalist class for fighting the class war
> on the home front. People in the "west" may have good
> reason to fear violence and/or repression by arms of the
> state if they are on strike, are anti-racist or civil rights
> activists (especially within the prison system), are engaged
> in protest actions, are black, asian or gypsy, are "known"
> to the police (or are from a "known" family), are homeless
> or are just a general "pain in the arse" for the powers that
> be. As they say on the National Lottery in this country -
> "it could be you!". By the way I am not a hysterical "the
> state is fascist" leftist. This is life in a class divided
> society. And anyway, if we need to break the law
> to pursue class interests - is this "wrong"?

Not at all. The question is: How often do we NEED to break the
law to pursue our class interests? In a monarchy or dictatorship,
all of the time. In democracies, none of the time. Or, can you
think of an occasion where it's necessary?

>> <<what happiness would the extra profits buy if the world
>> became an armed and dangerous camp as a result?>>
>
> It is. More countries are pointing missiles at each other
> than ever before,

After the Berlin Wall fell, and Russia consigned its Communist
Party to relative obscurity, the USA went on a short binge of
military base closings, though, regretfully, its military budget
wasn't cut very much, and has been on the upswing ever since.
Another big waste of resources, but one which some people
find necessary in this uncertain world.

> we have had full-scale war in Europe
> for the first time since Hitler,

Full-scale war? I almost forgot! Thanks for reminding me of the
recent landing in Normandy that rivaled D-Day. Then Germany
invaded Poland, the Soviet Union, Italy and Africa. Thanks for
reminding me about the 'full-scale war in Europe' in the 1990's.
I just wish the media had been there. Maybe next time. ;-)

> wars rage all over the Majority World and the battle
> of each-against-all will only worsen as the former
> western bloc continues disintegrating and western
> states follow conflicting foreign policies.

What have you been reading? Doesn't the EU mean
a trend to greater unity?

>> <<Lots and lots of rules, regulations and laws protect
>> workers from employer abuses>>
>
> And stop us taking what's ours. All law in capitalism
> being based on the sacred law of property - ie. we make
> it, they take it.

At the same time, we fight for diminishing numbers of long-hour
opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams.
Don't worry, we'll someday see the folly of our ways, but we have
far too much respect for private property to want to do anything
about that institution, plus we are logical enough to know that the
answer to 'too few long-hour jobs' isn't a radical change in property
relations. Americans have a reverence for the 40 hour week that rivals
their respect for property. Which institution - the 40 hour week or
private property - do you think workers will do something about first?

>> <<Deaths and injuries are decreasingly acceptable
>> in the West>>
>
> I'm at a loss. Even in clear cases of employer negligence
> it is nigh-on impossible to get a corporate manslaughter
> conviction. Without tireless trade union activists and
> campaigners god knows how bad the situation would be.
> Please have a look at the article "Danger: Capitalism at
> Work" at:

http://www.worldsocialism.org/SPGB/jun00/index.html

As you point out, deaths and injuries are still acceptable, but the
trend is toward decreasing acceptability. People and workers like
to feel as though they are protected to the highest degree possible,
so, when accidents happen nowadays, the government spares little
to see to it that the cause of the accident is accurately determined,
and negligent parties punished. Today's levels of care are a far
cry from the attitudes revealed in 'The Ragged Trousered
Philanthropists'. Society has evolved. We have resources with
which to help us care for one another like never before.

>> <<Think of all of the transportation deaths - plane,
>> train, auto, bicycle, etc., accidents, and yet not too
>> many people talk about shutting down the means
>> of transportation>>
>
> Yes, but carnage like that we have seen on British
> railways recently is directly caused by corner-cutting
> inherent to the profit system.

Yes, we have the same problem with our Amtrak. Too few people
putting in too many hours per day leads to accidents.

>> <<If crummy jobs like that will still continue the day
>> after the revolution, I doubt if you will be able to
>> coax such laborers to help the revolution>>
>
> Voluntary association mate. If my mates are in trouble I pitch
> in and help them (and vice-versa) - I don't winge that I "don't like
> work" and sit on my backside. In socialism we'll all pitch in and
> get the job done, rather than making some poor bastards do all the
> crap work all of the time like what happens now. If in socialism
> someone was to tell me I had to clean the toilets till the day I died
> I'd "vote with my feet" by kicking them up the arse. You can't do
> that in capitalism where they can make you clean the bogs week
> in, week out by threatening you with no money.

I don't know if you have the same phenomenon in the U.K.,
but here in the USA a lot of work gets done by independent
tradesmen and women, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers,
handypersons and the like, often working alone or with a semi-
employed hand or two. When gramma needs something done, she
calls on the phone and they come over to do the job, get paid, etc.
In other words, not a lot of cooperative workers there. Yet, what you
describe is a lot of cameraderie and cooperation, so I'm wondering how
this little contradiction would be handled (between the cooperative labor
found in larger enterprises, and the relative independence of small contractors
and small businesses who employ half of the workforce). Millions of people
work alone, or nearly so. I was one of them for awhile. If it wasn't a relatively
efficient way of doing the odd job here and there, I suppose an entirely
different way of doing things would have arisen. How would socialism
treat all of these small 'independents'?

>> <<The state is more oppressive to bosses
>> than it is to workers>>
>
> Why aren't the prisons full of bosses then?

We have a few 'Club Feds' for non-violent business people
who are found guilty of white-collar malfeasance. These lock-
ups feature relatively low security and lots of recreational
facilities and other amenities for the upper crust.

> <snip>

Ken Ellis

 

1-23-01

By popular demand, we have added 'universal health care' to the list of proposed legislation:

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.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the idea of 'overtime premium inversely
proportional to pay'? i.e., the lower the pay, the higher the overtime premium.
Also, the higher the pay, the lower the overtime premium. This might help
balance out the oft-observed phenomena of low-skill, low-wage personnel
absolutely detesting their jobs, but having to endure them for long hours,
while top professionals are occasionally in love with their jobs and can't
get enough of them.

Ken Ellis

 

1-23-01

Dana wrote:

> There was a "Leisure Party" in England. "Quality of Life Party" is a
> bit cumbersome but expresses things aptly. I like QOL; it's a palatable
> buzz-phrase that won't immediately generate furled brows and grimaces.
> Anything hinting of Marxism or Revolutionary ideology is dead in the
> water (as it ought to be I suppose). I sure don't subscribe to Marxist
> ideology. I don't want to "smash the system" or overthrow capitalism.

Very well put. I'm beginning to like the QOL name as well. Wasn't there a
Leisure party in the USA that later became the CLAWS discussion group?
I'm not sure of that history. If Leisure Party isn't already taken, we might
want to consider it. The name certainly is innocuous enough. Hard to think
about smashing the state when our name indicates that we'd rather be
lounging by the beach.

> Wanting a bit more time off for personal interests outside of the work place
> shouldn't be presented as something more radical than it actually is.
>
> I'm not sure a political party is the way to go unless the goal is
> understood as simply forcing the Two Parties to address "time off" issues.
> Might be more efficient to proceed however the FMLA people proceeded.

I also don't think that we would have to become the number one party in the
world to get what we want, no more than labor had to be a big party to get the
Black-Connery 30 hours bill passed by our Senate during the Depression. Maybe
we are feeling our way toward 'becoming more of a formal organization'.

Running our own candidates for office would be pretty unthinkable at the
present stage of the game. Though our policies are distinctly political, few
would think we were a real political party until we ran candidates. Until then,
we would be no more of a political party than the women's group NOW, or any
other number of groups with political agendas who never run candidates. Maybe
those groups are the way they are for tax purposes. Maybe we could think about
becoming a similar type of organization. It's been a long time since I was part of a
group that was giving serious thought to such things, and I wasn't the one doing the
research, though I did sit through a few meetings with reports of tedious progress
on that front. I remember a few things about by-laws, boards of directors, executive
committees, raising money, etc. Is it time to reach for the bottle of aspirin?

Ken Ellis

 

1-23-01

Daniel asked:

> a lot of times in talking to the few people i do about capitalism's
> evils, they usually end up on one leg saying "Yeah well, capitalism
> itself isn't bad. its the people that make it that way."
>
> what do y'all think? is an economic system inherently "evil"? or just
> inherently flawed. or are all systems neutral until the human factor is
> added??

Evil existed long before capitalism ever did, but capitalism might have lent
itself to a continuation of that evil instead of its abolition, which abolition will
hopefully occur as capitalism destroys itself. The drive for ever greater profits
drives capitalists to replace expensive, balky, rebellious human labor with
machinery, machinery that flinches not at 24-hour work-days. When machines
get really smart in the next couple of decades, and when they truly learn to run
themselves without our help, then we will begin to see unemployment problems
like never before conceivable. To take care of that, we will probably borrow a
lesson from recent European history and move to work-week reductions. Even
Marx thought that the precondition for freedom was a shorter work day. More
time away from work will give people more time to combat evil, I hope. I kind
of think that evil begins when we are forced to work for long hours at the same
time we would rather be doing something else, and so plot and plan to get others
to do our work for us for nothing. When, in the next century, the length of the
work week becomes absurdly short, we will phase out wage labor and move to
an entirely volunteer work force for as long as any kind of mass effort will be
needed at all. At that point, capitalism as we've known it will disappear.

Bro'Ken

 

1-24-01

Chris quoted me:

>> Much of the left uses a terminology tempered by
>> the aspects of Marxism about which there is fairly
>> wide agreement, such as class struggle, exploitation
>> of labor, the extraction of surplus values...
>
> I don't move in left circles (or any circles), but I'm surprised that they
> use terms such as "surplus values". It means that they are speaking a
> different language than most mainstream economists.

At least part of the left rejects a lot of what comes out of the mainstream
economic press as irrelevant to the interests of any but the business
community, and instead embrace radical economic analysis as best
serving the needs of the majority.

>> Marx didn't understand the full importance of what
>> he wrote best about - surplus values
>
> Marx had a rather neat explanation for the existence of profit. According
> to the (classical) "Labour Theory of Value", everything sells at its labour
> cost of production. If it takes twice as long to make hats than shoes, then
> hats will be twice the price of shoes. So if some factory needs 10 hours of
> labour per day to make a pair of shoes, then their price will be 10 hours
> (or the money equivalent). But if it only takes 3 hours of labour per day
> to keep a labourer alive, then the price of a day's labour will be 3 hours
> or the money equivalent. So the factory owner buys a day's labour for 3,
> and sells the produce for 10, and so gains a profit of 7. The difference
> (10 minus 3) is what Marx (I think) called "surplus value".

That's it in a nutshell.

> This was a really neat explanation back in the days when all economists
> subscribed to the Labour Theory of Value. But round about the same time
> that Marx's Capital was first published (1870?), a number of economists
> had started thinking that the price of goods was not determined by their
> labour cost, but by their value to the people who bought them. If people
> wanted hats and shoes a lot, they'd be prepared to pay a lot.

Supply and demand theory has been around even longer than the labor theory of value.

> With this one step, these economists rendered the Labour Theory of Value
> redundant, and along with it Marx's neat use of it to explain the origin of
> profit. They moved the goalposts. Anyone who uses the term "surplus
> value" is using pre-1870 economic reasoning.

Marx had already taken the supply and demand theory into account, and
incorporated it into his labor theory of value. With a good balance between
supply and demand, everything sells at the value determined by the labor theory.
If demand exceeds supply, then the price rises above its value, whether it be the price
of labor power or the price of commodities. If supply exceeds demand, prices can
drop below their value. Monopoly also has a strong effect upon prices, but, as
Marx said, 'monopoly breeds competition, and competition breeds monopoly.'

> But these new (neo-classical) economists - who went on to write most of
> Western economic theory in the 20th century - saw the value of goods in
> terms of the amount of "happiness" or "pleasure" they gave. But how do
> you measure happiness or pleasure? The economists just sort of assumed
> that it could be done, somehow. But at the same time these economists were
> suggesting that what powered the economy was an insatiable quest for
> pleasure/happiness/satisfaction, as if the economy only produced candy
> bars, perfumes, fashion accessories, etc, and that if the hunger for such
> consumer goods ever abated, nobody would do anything.

Somewhere in the third volume of Capital, Marx's cohort Engels wrote about
the difficulty (near the end of the 19th century) of determining value by means
of the labor theory. So many things had changed by then that a host of new
factors (which Engels listed) made the values of commodities a lot less
determinate by simply calculating the amount of labor incorporated therein.

> Essentially, these economists saw human life as being leisure, and
> the economy as a sort of game we all play as we go looking for
> happiness. And in all games there are winners and losers.
>
> There is a great deal of reciprocity between these modern economic doctrines
> and the prevailing attitudes in the consumer societies in which they are
> found. It seems to me that it would be more instructive to attack these
> modern doctrines than to resurrect their largely defunct predecessors.

Agreed, which is why it is necessary today for us to make relentless war on
the notion of time and a half after 40, which was obsolete even before it was
passed in the late 1930's. Its obsolescence was why labor promoted the Black-
Connery 30 hour bill which actually passed the Senate in 1933 and looked like
a shoe-in for the House before FDR's brain trust ordered it killed. Read Ben
Hunnicutt's "Work Without End" for more details.

Time and a half after 40 is a sacred cow with Americans who have nevertheless
suffered under it for 60 years, and which has done more to harm our
cohesiveness as a society than anything else I can think of.

Ken Ellis

 

1-24-01

Evan asked:

> I always wondered what makes a Mary Frances Berry or a Lynn Chadwick -
> how does someone with any roots in the community get to be like that?

Some people will do anything to get ahead. There may not be much financial
incentive to heeding the will of us little people, but fulfilling the agenda of the
politically powerful may be a different cup of tea.

> This is the first time I have seen that transformation live and first hand.
> What can we do to detect these latent tendencies toward syncophancy
> and tyranny earlier and cast these people out before the metasticize?

Make our organizations truly democratic from the getgo instead of bureaucratic
like Pacifica. With Pacifica's structure, deterioration like this was inevitable.

Ken Ellis

 

1-24-01

Robin wrote:

> In response to my question - "how can the bourgeoisie which,
> by definition, can only exist as an exploiting class, coexist with a
> proletariat that it exploits yet is nevertheless suppressed by" - you say:
>
>> Simple: go back and read the Communist Manifesto, where M+E
>> talked about the proletariat winning the battle for democracy and
>> using their new political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital
>> from the bourgeoisie, and put the property under the control of the
>> proletariat organized as ruling class.
>
> Frankly, I couldn't care a monkey's if the notion of a
> "proletarian state" was propounded by Karl Marx, Ronald
> McDonald or Britney Spears - it is STILL a contradiction in
> terms. Or do you expect us to genuflect at every word Marx
> uttered just because he was Marx?

If you can logically prove that 'the proletariat cannot wield
state power', then you will also prove that the proletariat cannot
politically suppress the class that exploits them economically.
You would probably be glad to admit that the bourgeoisie can
enjoy state power, so why not the proletariat (?), unless you
would like to claim that our economic exploitation prevents us
from being politically supreme in the state. Is that the reason?
If so, that still fails to prove that the proletariat cannot wield state
power. If the proletariat wielded state power for 9 weeks in the
Paris Commune, and if the proletariat briefly held state power
during the struggles of 1848-9, then proletarian state power
is a done deal in my book.

> Unlike the Bolshevik dictatorship OVER the proletariat,
> Marx's notion of the proletarian dictatorship was that of an
> ultra-democratic state (I believe he cited the Paris Commune,
> as an example - Adam can correct me if I'm wrong). It was to be
> a transitional stage between capitalism and socialism/communism,

Why not use the terminology of the Gotha Program and call
them the lower and upper stages of communism? As everyone
knows, the proletarian dictatorship was to be the lower stage,
and the upper stage needs no explanation, for it seems to be
the only stage of communism appreciated by the WSM.

> neccesitated in his view by the inadequate development
> of the productive forces at that time that would make it
> difficult to proceed to full-blown socialism/communism.

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'? On the other hand,
the proletarian dictatorship, as a political dictatorship (whose
specific form was to be a democratic republic), was regarded as
the political form in which the political battle between worker and
boss would be fought to a finish. (See Gotha Program, or 1894
letter to Turati.) M+E certainly intended for post-revolutionary
policy to be political, for neither class was to immediately lose
its identity after the revolution, so the question of whether the
policies of the bourgeoisie or the policies of the working class
would dominate in the state was to be democratically decided in
a new democratic republic. Sorry if that doesn't meet with much
agreement in this forum very often, but Marxism is Marxism,
and it isn't the same as Bakuninism.

Or, take Marx's letter to Nieuwenhuis of February, 1881: "One
thing you can at any rate be sure of: a socialist government does
not come into power in a country unless conditions are so
developed that it can immediately take the necessary measures
for intimidating the mass of the bourgeoisie sufficiently to gain
time - the first disideratum - for permanent action."

Now, does that have anything to do with anything except
'the political repression of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat'?

> One can understand the reasoning behind this [economic development]
> argument - even if the notion of a proletarian dictatorship is one of
> Marx's least well thought out formulations!

'least well thought out' may very well be your opinion, but you
have yet to make a revolution. As far as successful revolutionaries
go, I don't think that Lenin, Mao, Castro, and other people (who
were lucky enough not to have to try to revolt within the confines
of democracies) held the same opinion as you do.

> However, to advocate such a preposterous notion NOW when
> the original reason for it being formulated - the inadequate
> development of the productive forces - no longer exists
> is frankly reactionary, dogmatic and plain daft.

Now, now, just because we don't see eye to eye on this issue so
far, that's no reason to call anyone names, another favorite tactic
of Arnold Petersen of the American Socialist Labor Party. Just
because he hurled invective at his many opponents, and perhaps
for that reason had to work behind locked doors at his old
Brooklyn National Office, it doesn't mean that we have to hurl
invective in order to make our points. Before you can get your
labels to stick, you will have to do a better job proving your point.

Also, the very times we live in prove your point wrong. People
were overworked in 1848 and 1871, and we are still overworked
in 2001, no matter how much more we produce today. When
machines become smart enough to run by themselves, then we
will have some economic conditions for socialism, but not until
then. The reason for that is: as long as people still have to get up
in the morning to go to work, labor exists, hence a division of
labor. A division of labor is also a form of class division, unless
you prefer brain surgeons to work in the fields part of the year,
but who would impose that artificial leveling but a repressive state?
Class divisions result from the division of labor, creating the
conditions for a state to mediate the differences in class interests.
So, where there is work, there cannot be the upper stage of
communism, in spite of Marx's speculations to the contrary.

> Your comments demonstrate succinctly just how preposterous such
> a notion is. In response to my point about the proletariat that:
>
>>> Its ascension to power must and can only amount to the
>>> complete disappearance of itself as an exploited class (and
>>> hence also of an exploiting class). Otherwise you are saying
>>> that this same proletariat is prepared to oversee the process
>>> of exploitation of the proletariat on behalf of the bourgeoise.
>
> You say:
>
>> That's not what it means. The brutality of the exploitation
>> was to have been immediately ameliorated by proletarian
>> policy in their state.
>
> So its still "exploitation", then, albeit "ameliorated", eh??

Yes. In Marx's scenario, patriotic capitalists would have been
allowed to retain their profit incentives, exploit wage labor, and
maintain production pretty much as usual until such time as their
capital could be wrested under the control of the proletarian
dictatorship and converted into a cog of the great cooperative
enterprise M+E wanted workers to enjoy. I hope that your concept
of the revolution that was plausible 150 years ago doesn't include
'doing everything, both economic and political, in one day'. If you
don't think that a shorter work day and week would have been an
amelioration of exploitation, then maybe you've never suffered
from having to work an occasional 12 hour day, and maybe you've
never been relieved at finishing a particularly pressing job and then
resuming work at what seemed like 'a mere 8 hour day'. Workers can
understand the relief of fewer hours per day or week. Can't you?
Maybe you've never read the joyful stories of the Kellogg's Corn
Flake workers who worked 6 hour shifts starting in the depression,
and continuing until the 1980's.

> And presumably over time as this so called proletarian state
> finds that reducing the rate of exploitation will progressively
> impair its ability to compete in the capitalist markets, such
> "amelioration" will, no doubt, eventually have to be put on
> the back burner in the name of a "new realism".

Oops. It appears as though you may have forgotten something.
Marx's scenario, to be successful, would have had to occur (as
he said) simultaneously in the most advanced capitalist countries,
so, out the window with your 'competition between competing
capitalist markets'. Lenin was counting on Europe revolting in
sympathy to ensure the success of the Russian revolution, but
the resulting European revolutions piffled pretty quickly, pretty
much ending right there the possibility of the Marxist scenario
from ever being realized in anyone's future. Gone are the days of
socialists having at hand several European rotten-ripe monarchies
to overthrow, to be replaced with democratic republics whose color
was quickly expected to turn red. But, replacing absolute monarchies
with democracies occurred with a lot less violence than what Marx
anticipated, therefore depriving socialists of the opportunity of being
armed, and of becoming significantly dangerous to the existing order.
If I had my choice, I wouldn't have minded very much if history had
developed the way Marx wanted, but, because it didn't, it's time for us
to put our revolutionary toys away, and face the future of working
peacefully within our existing democracies, with little room for
socialist or revolutionary bravado.

> And quicker than you can say
> "Lenin-is-a-bourgeois-revisionist"
> you will find these new proletarian state managers
> stepping into the shoes of the old capitalist class.

That may be an astute observation of what actually happened in
history, but actual history turned out to be a far cry from Marx's
scenario, which few people remember any more. The relative
'success' of modern revolutionary sects deprives their members
of the motivation to read Marx to learn about his scenario. But, if I
expected to be at all successful in my hobby of refuting ASLP and
Arnold Petersen lies, I simply HAD to learn history for what it was,
and not for what modern revolutionaries simply wish it had been.

> No wonder the bourgeois commentators go on about "Marxism"
> inevitably leading to tyranny. With guff like this it's hardly surprising.

It's not only bourgeois commentators who claimed that Marxism
led to tyranny. No less of a revolutionary socialist than Arnold
Petersen of the ASLP alleged that M+E's socialism amounted
only to state capitalism (in spite of Engels careful discrimination
between socialism and state capitalism in the pages of his Socialism:
Utopian and Scientific). Petersen also strongly implied that 'M+E's
state capitalism led to Hitler's fascism'. You can read that in Petersen's
preface to Engels' pamphlet. Petersen used his patently fraudulent
accusation to get gullible revolutionaries to turn away from Marx, and
towards De Leon. I always say, 'If revolutionism is based upon lies like
Petersen's, what good could the revolution possibly be?' As it turns out,
Marx never advised workers to overthrow their democracies. He thought
of democracies as the final form of state in which the battle between
worker and boss would be fought to a finish. So, let's treat our
democracies like potential proletarian dictatorships, and unite
behind useful policies that the whole working class can support,
like a shorter work week to enable all to work who would like to.

It's time for you to prove that it is inconceivable for the proletariat to
rule in the state, and that the proletariat of Paris didn't hold state power
for 9 weeks in 1871, and that they didn't make the plans for their
revolutionary republic that Marx described in his 'Civil War in France'.

Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

1-27-01

Phil wrote:

> Considering that the whole New Deal was thrown together to stop
> the shorter hours forces from passing the Black-Connery 30 hour
> work week bill which would have SHARED the vanishing work,
> maybe the problem with worktime as a control variable is that it
> has the potential of serving as a real sharing mechanism (and
> "if you start that, where will it end!")

I think this is perfectly correct. The economic interests of the owning class
is to keep as few workers on the job for as many hours as possible. This also
keeps desperate would-be workers willing to accept work at low wages, which
effect is to drive wages down for everyone.

The interests of the working class are just the opposite: to politically unite to
legislate shorter hours for everyone. Equitable work sharing would put everyone
to work and make labor scarce, and a tight labor market would drive wages up.

Workers, know your enemy: it is they who campaign overtly or covertly to deny
us the shorter hour legislation we need with which to equitably share work.

Ken Ellis

 

1-27-01

Dear friends,

snip irrelevancies

Have you been following the events at WBAI? Some speculate that KPFA and
WBAI will be sold to enable Pacifica to buy a string of small southern stations
that will program for black audiences. With all of the crap they've been pulling,
it's a plausible scenario. I wouldn't give them another cent. No amount of listener
money will bribe them out of fulfilling their agenda. You should hear the guff poor
Amy Goodman has to take during her Democracy Now program. I've read some
transcripts of stuff that is absolutely inconceivable under any standard of 'good radio'.

Be good, take care,

Bro'Ken

 

1-28-01

Dear Magda, I'm glad that you found the time to pen your cheery reply.

> Thank you very much for your nice post. This what happened to me
> didn't kill a socialist in me and i still believe that socialism is the best
> way of life of mankind, I am just loosing a hope that socialism will
> ever come true considering this how WSM acts.

I also think that we will arrive at classless and stateless society someday,
and maybe by 2050 if the present acceleration of technological progress
doesn't end prematurely because of an ecological or other catastrophe. My
difference with socialists is that I don't think we will get to socialism by
trying to take away the property of the rich, which was possible only after
socialists overthrew feudal monarchies like Russia, or liberated colonies
like Cuba. These days are mostly over and done with, but modern
revolutionaries have yet to put away their revolutionary toys.

The WSM really can't help but act hostile to those who disagree. Psychonaut
recently quoted their 'hostility clause' in their 'Declaration of principles'. They
pledge to be hostile to everyone calling themselves socialist or communist who
isn't part of the WSM or a companion party. Considering how few socialists
exist in the world today, it is rather foolish for socialists to make war upon
their red brothers and sisters instead of making war on their alleged 'real'
enemy (the government and capitalism). If the whole left can't unite behind
a common socialist plan, they will never establish socialism. Unity is key to
success, but socialist parties today are bitterly divided over nonsense. Every
socialist party I've ever heard of expects everyone to abandon their allegedly
'phony' parties and convert to a single perspective, but that is as futile as
waiting for the moon to fall to earth.

> Anyway, I always wanted to tell you that I very appreciate your strong
> mien when all people are against you but you don't surrender and keep
> your fight. It seems that you take your ideas as kind of mission and it is
> really great. I don't know if you are right or not but I love your courage
> and persistence!

Well, thank you! That's a very nice compliment. I put up the good fight
because I think that it is essential for us all to stand up for feasible plans
for social justice. If the battle of ideas can be fought fairly, and if we can
be generous enough to one another to gently correct each other's mistakes,
then we will have taken a good first step toward creating a just society.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

PS: It looks like one of the Citizens of the World is quite an admirer of your
efforts. We all received his long post on the 22nd.

 

1-28-01

Ben quoted me:

> <snip agreement on work reductions>
>
>> <<I didn't know that we were still bombing Iraq and murdering
>> Yugoslavs. Well, live and learn. Are you sure about that?>>
>
> Yes, Britain and the US started bombing Iraq again from
> December 1998 and were still at it in August 2000. If anyone
> out there knows whether Iraq is still being bombed now (I think
> I'm right in thinking it is) I would appreciate any information.
>
> If that were not enough

Not enough for what? To get us to revolt?

> the imposition of economic sanctions has led directly to the
> death of over half a million Iraqi children. In the words of
> UN official Denis Halliday, what Iraqi people have suffered
> amounts to the "destruction of a society".

I agree that it's a deplorable situation which never makes
the news around here, so people say little to nothing about it,
figuring that whatever their government does that they don't
hear about is OK with them.

> American humanitarians who take life-saving childrens'
> medicines out to Iraq are threatened with prosecution and
> treated like criminals. Even childrens' toys are seen as
> potential "weapons" in the hands of the evil Saadam
> and are covered by the export ban.

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.

> <snip bombing of Iraq and Yugoslavia>
>
>> <<The question is: How often do we NEED to break
>> the law to pursue our class interests? In a monarchy or
>> dictatorship, all of the time. In democracies, none of the time.
>> Or, can you think of an occasion where it's necessary?>>
>
> If it were decided such a move wouldn't be counter-productive
> in the longer term, any amount of trade union legislation, such
> as restrictions on sizes of pickets, could be disregarded. On a
> more personal level many, many workers (especially those out
> of work) need to break the law on a regular basis (getting by in
> capitalism often calls for this, even if it's just the odd dip into
> the black economy). But part of my point was that sometimes
> trouble will come to you - an abusive society like capitalism
> has a plethora of prejudices and scapegoats for its ills.

There is no doubt that individuals under pressure can be forced
by circumstances to break the law, democracy or dictatorship.
But, the question was 'whether we in democracies need to break
the law to pursue our CLASS interests', not individual survival,
which is what the cited examples related to.

>>> <<> we have had full-scale war in Europe
>>> for the first time since Hitler,
>>
>> Full-scale war? I almost forgot! Thanks for reminding me
>> of the recent landing in Normandy that rivaled D-Day. Then
>> Germany invaded Poland, the Soviet Union, Italy and Africa.
>> Thanks for reminding me about the 'full-scale war in Europe'
>> in the 1990's. I just wish the media had been there. Maybe
>> next time. ;-) >>
>
> Thanks for the winking e-mail face thing (does anyone know if
> these cheeky little characters have a special name or something?)

Here in the colony we call them "emoticons",
as in 'emotion-icons', I would guess.

> - I can now assume your comments should be taken
> as showing more than a touch of gallows humour. If the
> protracted dismemberment of Yugolslavia can't be desribed
> as involving more than a bit of full-scale war then I don't
> know what can.

If the skirmish in the Balkans can be described as 'a full-scale war',
then I wonder what name you would apply to World War 2?
Apocalypse? Armageddon?

> <snip web site>

>>> <<the battle of each-against-all will only
>>> worsen as the former western bloc continues
>>> disintegrating and western states follow
>>> conflicting foreign policies.
>
>> What have you been reading? Doesn't the EU mean
>> a trend to greater unity?>>
>
> I have been reading both the bourgeois press and socialist
> and left-communist publications - nice to get a bit of balance!
> ;-) (I like these little things now!). The almighty rumpus over the
> EU's "rapid reaction force" in the UK bourgeois press itself shows
> things are not quite hunky dory with the former western bloc allies.

But, it doesn't sound like the bad old days of 1871 are returning any too soon.

>> <snip long history lesson which, though certainly well-written,
>> unfortunately doesn't prove that we need a revolution>

> <snip more for brevity - 'the soul of wit'>

> Best wishes as ever Ken.

Likewise to you, brother Ben.

Ken Ellis

 

1-29-01

Jimmy wrote:

> <snip cordialities, much appreciated>
>
> First of all I do not see any need today to have the distinction
> between the higher and lower levels of communism, i.e. socialism
> as the lower level, and communism the higher level, we just propagate
> the case for communism/socialism, because as far as I am concerned the
> terms are synonymous, therefore the emancipation of the working class.

I see what you mean, but I don't think we will get to classless,
stateless, etc.less society by directly meddling with property or
state. In that respect, I probably differ with you, Marx, the WSM,
and a whole host of other people who fight or fought for socialism.
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.

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
don't have the consciousness to appreciate just how much we
can do for ourselves at the present, so blinded are we by our
supposedly liberating ideologies, which have become a fetter
instead of a liberator. For people who have newly arrived at an
appreciation of radical thought, the fetters of perfectly bourgeois
ideology have been replaced by ideology more fitted for 150
years ago than for the conditions of today, but people are so
relieved by their new ideologies that they mistakenly don't think
they can go higher. To get to a higher stage, they would have to
do their own research, for it isn't quite as easy as plunking down
a few pounds for a membership card, taking out a subscription
to a party newsletter, and professing enlightenment.

> Your plan to militantly drive down the hours of labour. I could
> agree with you that it could be just as plausible as mine, but you
> do not put forward any idea as to how you will bring it about.

My many-month-long advocacy (in this forum) of work-reduction
legislation is part of the strategy of regarding our democracies as
potential proletarian dictatorships.

> Do you form a new party to do it, or do you organise
> through the Trade Unions, or is your workless, moneyless,
> classless etc. society, just going to creep up on us, like the
> proverbial thief in the night?

Except for the last, I wouldn't exclude very much from that list.
A different group of us are now discussing which course to take.
Some favor forming a real political party that would run candidates,
while others are thinking of forming a political focus group that would
promote legislation for something like 'double time after 35' instead of
'time and a half after 40', as well as nearly a dozen other Social-Democratic
type reforms (some of which I wish they hadn't added, but, that's life. We
can never have things our own way, and we will always have to deal with
people who only semi-agree with us.)

> I will be interested to learn your view on the subject. Also I feel
> that we are getting nowhere trying to score debating points about
> what Marx and Engles wrote or said, in the middle of the 19th.
> century, because nowadays their proposals are not applicable, e.g.
> support of the North against the South during the American Civil
> war, he also supported Free Trade. In the 21st. century socialists
> would never support any such measure. The reasons for his proposals
> no longer exist, the proletariat is world wide. Capitalism Dominates
> the World, not just Europe as it was in Marx's time.

The main reason why I debate what M+E said in the 19th century is
that people need to hear more than just one side of the story. Modern
revolutionaries, for their own sectarian reasons, are either consciously
or unconsciously in a state of denial about what M+E really said and
stood for. I like to think that, if I can present a plausible case for
revolutionaries being off base with their alleged Marxism, and if
I can maintain a consistency to my arguments while other people
fumble with untenable assertions, then maybe I'll create enough
doubt in the minds of enough innocent bystanders to get them
to think for themselves. My efforts are rewarded often enough to
warrant continued efforts. If I can soon purchase the CD set of
M+E's Collected Works, I am counting on its pearls of wisdom
furthering my campaign even more, because M+E have some of the
best arguments against a lot of what presently passes for Marxism.
To unleash those pearls of wisdom on an audience that is truly
interested in moving society forward, no matter what their policies
or ideologies may otherwise demand or instruct that they think, will
help workers out of their stasis and into a more dynamic mode.


> I think we agree that the workers get paid the value of their
> labour power, but not the value of what they produce, bearing
> in mind that labour power is a commodity, and that it is the
> only commodity that produces a value greater than itself,
> hence the capitalists profit.

You have it right. I'm pleased with your willingness to strive to be correct.

> Finally, I was disappointed with your disparaging
> remark about your fellow workers, pedestrian indeed!

What I had written was: "So, I hope that you now understand the
difference between the impossible 'workers getting the full value
of what they produce' vs. the rather pedestrian 'workers getting
the full value of labor power'."

Your remark sent me to my dictionary to see if my use of
'pedestrian' had been correct or not, and there it was - "ordinary",
which is how I meant 'pedestrian'. But, please note that I didn't
use 'pedestrian' to describe either workers or the working class.
I used 'pedestrian' as an adjective to modify 'GETTING the full
value of labor power'. You might have been misled by the prox-
imity of the word 'pedestrian' to the word 'workers', but I can
assure you that 'pedestrian' was used there only to modify the
'getting'. I must apologize for leading you astray, for I probably
could have worded the sentence a little less ambiguously.

> For Socialism/communism,
>
> Jimmy.
>
> PS, What do you think of your new President?

I dread the thought of the reign of 'his fraudulency'. I think his
brother Jeb 'delivered the State of Florida to Dubya', and our
Republican Party's Supreme Court made things worse with
their 5-4 stamp of approval.

> I listened to his inaugural address, and afterwards I could think of
> two words, and one of them starts with an F and the second one
> ends with an F. Cheers.

I think I figured out the first word, but, what's the second?

Ken Ellis

 

1-30-01

Patty wrote:

> It is all our hard work and success of saving the network that will be
> diminished when people take on the ugly job of free speech issues and
> then censor just as they themselves have been censored. Are the events
> being censored because the listowner doesn't want to democratize Pacifica?
> Or is it a personal thing, and the events are censored because the listowner
> is willing to sacrifice the good of the station, and Pacifica, to her personal
> animosity? Whatever the reason, censorship doesn't belong here. Isn't
> that what we are supposed to be fighting?

Censorship has gone on for a long time in the left. Those in control
of a media outlet often want it to serve their ideological purposes alone.
110 years ago, Engels wrote to Trier: "Are we fighting for free speech
for ourselves, only to abolish it again in our own ranks?"

Sadly enough, and all too often, the answer to that is 'yes'.

Ken Ellis

 

1-30-01

Len quoted me:

>> Why not use the terminology of the Gotha Program and
>> call them the lower and upper stages of communism? As
>> everyone knows, the proletarian dictatorship was to be the
>> lower stage, and the upper stage needs no explanation, for
>> it seems to be the only stage of communism appreciated
>> by the WSM.
>
> 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.

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. But, most people on
the left know that Marx intended for us to consider the lower stage of
communism to equal the proletarian dictatorship, and the upper stage to
equal classless, stateless, etc.less society. That's the way Lenin and Mao
understood it, and if someone wants to argue for a different scenario, then
maybe it's because they have such a profound hatred of Lenin and Mao and
other successful revolutionaries that they are willing to say anything at all to
try to 'show' that the successful revolutionaries were wrong, and for that
reason their revolutions failed. The trouble is, the would-be revolutionaries
can never quote Marx to prove that 'Lenin and Mao were wrong'.

>> 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'?
>
> Yes, Marx says so explicitly in the Critique of the Gotha
> Program. Please read it carefully, Ken.

I did read it. So, where abouts is it?

> Of course, you also answer your own question when
> you quote Marx's letter to Nieuwenhuis.

OK, let's review what Marx wrote:

>> Marx's letter to Nieuwenhuis of February, 1881: "One thing
>> you can at any rate be sure of: a socialist government does not
>> come into power in a country unless conditions are so developed
>> that it can immediately take the necessary measures for intimid-
>> ating the mass of the bourgeoisie sufficiently to gain time -
>> the first disideratum - for permanent action."

Where Marx spoke of 'conditions', Len mistook Marx as allegedly
meaning mere 'economic conditions', as though differing political
conditions (such as some countries being democracies, and others
being monarchies) couldn't possibly count for anything. In the context
in which Marx wrote his sentence, though, he was obviously speaking
of political conditions. Toward the end of the letter, Marx mentioned
'the enormous positive development of the means of production' at the
same time 'the masses are lashed by the old ghostly governments'
(monarchies). Marx counted BOTH types of conditions as greatly
affecting the modus operandi of the proletarian revolution, not just
economic conditions. Because many people in this forum mistakenly
regard democracies as equally vulnerable to revolution as monarchies
or dictatorships, all that is left for them to point to are the enormous
economic differences between today and 1848, and they think they
have thereby made the case for socialist revolution. Wrong. 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'. What
has not changed is that: owners will fight to keep their property, while
workers in the most developed democracies will never do anything
radical about property relations. 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.

> The points that Ken always misses and the one he is
> blinkered to in his constant referance back to the Marx of 150
> years ago is that:
>
> 1) Because the productive forces of capitalism have developed
> for over 150 years from the time of the Communist Manifesto
> we do not, and indeed cannot, follow his strategy. It is simply
> outdated and would be historically recidivist to do so.

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.

[Yo, Robin, what sayest thou to all of this? This used to be a
debate between me and thee.]

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

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