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Selected Political Correspondence

June 2001

Text coloring decodes as follows:

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

6-01-01

Hi, Michael,

> Ken,
>
> I checked Crit Of Gotha Program for that quote and what I found
> was this: Is this the quote you were talking about ?
>
> "
Even vulgar democracy, which sees the millennium in the democratic
> republic, and has no suspicion that it is precisely in this last form of
> state of bourgeois society that the class struggle has to be fought out
> to a conclusion
"

Yes, that was the statement, but it suffers from being an ultra-short treatment
of the subject. A much better treatment can be found in Engels' Aug. 27, 1883,
letter to Bernstein: "But just as this struggle [between feudalism and bourgeoisie]
could not be fought out under the old absolute monarchy but only in a constitutional
one ... so that between bourgeoisie and proletariat can only be fought out in a republic. ...
The bourgeois republic
[in Germany] ... will enable us in the beginning to win over the
great masses of the workers to revolutionary socialism. This will be done in one or two
years and will lead to the utter exhaustion and self-destruction of all intermediate parties
that may still exist apart from our
[Social-Democratic Workers] Party. Only then can we
successfully take over.
"

For more insight, also read his March 24, 1884, letter to Bernstein. Also,
Marx's May 18, 1870 letter to Engels. Also, Engels' Jan. 26, 1894, letter to
Turati. Also Engels' 1891 Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Program
(Erfurt), where he wrote:

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

Without the republican form of government, Marx's revolution would have been
inconceivable. By not teaching people about this important information, today's
parties are pulling the wool over people's eyes, and for good reasons. How could
they survive as businesses if people knew better than to fall for revolutionary
ideology? Teaching what I teach would put them out of business, so we can't
expect leaders to cut their own throats. It's up to us proletarians to do it for
them. Did you ever hear about 'class struggle within the party'? Lenin
wrote a bit about it. I'll dig up a reference for you, if you'd like.

> I think this quote does not mean that differences between the classes
> are worked out in the bourgoise state

The differences between worker and boss cannot be worked out in a
BOURGEOIS republic, but only in a social democracy, like the USA
and most of Europe. Remember that propertyless workers cannot vote
or control politics in BOURGEOIS republics, but they CAN control
the state by means of their greater numbers in social democracies.
Once they have control, they can enact intelligent legislation to ensure
full participation in the economy, a goal for Marx that was HIGHER
than expropriation.

> BUT that one class must win against the other;

Marx doesn't mean that the two classes engage in battle, where one class wins
militarily over the other, because the two classes would not need a republic for
that kind of fight. Rather, the proletariat enacts the proper legislation in a social-
democratic republic which ABOLISHES CLASS DISTINCTIONS. That is a
tremendous 'night and day' difference between peaceful and civil political struggles
in democracies, versus fighting things out with guns and bullets. Now, how do we
abolish class distinctions? In Marx's day, they would have made a TREMENDOUS
LEAP in that direction by divorcing the rich from their property, thus divorcing them
from their economic supremacy, along with their ability to bribe politicians to enact
the BOURGEOIS agenda. Today, workers can abolish class distinctions by reducing
the length of the work week, as made possible by advances in technology. By paring
down the number of hours of labor, workers will gradually free themselves of wage
labor, and will become as free as their one-time bosses. They could free themselves
COMPLETELY as early as 40 years from now. You sound fairly young, so you might
get to see the abolition of class distinctions in the most developed countries with your
own 2 eyes, and you will probably play a part in leading people in that direction.

> either workers win socialism or the capitalists overpower workers.

One has to take the long view, and give the economy a chance to evolve.
If you follow up on the references I provided above, you will see that the
proletarian state was to have the same republican form as bourgeois states.
But, Switzerland and the USA are examples of FEDERAL republics, while
Engels always preferred CENTRALIZED republics, like France.

In 1884, Engels answered Bernstein's inquiry about the meaning of the phrase
from 'The Civil War in France' - 'workers cannot simply lay hold of the ready-
made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes
' (MESC, p. 345): "It is
simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion
the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state power before it can use it
for its own purposes; whereas all bourgeois republicans since 1848 inveighed
against this machinery so long as they were in the opposition, but once they
were in the government they took it over without altering it and used it partly
against the reaction but still more against the proletariat.
"

The class struggle between worker and boss was to continue in new proletarian
republics, because, if you read the Communist Manifesto, you will see that M+E
didn't expect all bosses to be fully expropriated on the day after the political
revolution: "The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, BY DEGREES,
all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the
hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to
increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.
"

Bosses who respected the new proletarian republic enough to cooperate with it
would have been allowed to continue to produce, and even make profits - but
curtailed by the progressive income taxes as prescribed by the Communist
Manifesto. Everything that M+E wrote about the revolution, all of the little
bits and pieces found in their works and letters, can all be put together in one
cohesive package, but M+E never did that for us in one single place, allowing
sectarian leaders to pick out little bits and pieces to bolster their own sectarian
interpretations of Marxism. Leaders will not cooperate and unite to make a
Marxist revolution, because that revolution was specific to overthrowing
monarchies in the late 1800's, and up until 1917. Those days are gone.

> There are other references to revolution in this text anyways. In
> chapter 3 he critices Lassalle for saying that the state should start
> producers co ops with the help of state and, that "
instead of arising
> from the revolutionary process of transformation of society
"
> Somewhere else i found a quote where Marx said that:
>
> "
Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the
> revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding
> to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be
> nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat
"
> Marx does not sound too reformist in this book at all.

That quote is from the Critique of the Gotha Programme. Though Marx certainly
was a revolutionary, he was not above advocating reforms in the interests of the
working class, such as the 8 hour day for the USA and England. In one letter,
he even bragged about initiating an electoral reform movement in England. The
important thing to remember is that reforms were perfectly appropriate to the few
existing democracies of his day, especially the USA and England, while revolution
was appropriate to the continent of Europe, which suffered from either intransigent
monarchies or monarchies embellished with a smattering of democratic devices,
like Germany. Marx often advocated overthrowing the German and Russian states,
but never spoke directly about overthrowing the USA or English governments, and
even speculated about a peaceful route to socialism for the USA and England in his
1872 speech at The Hague.

As far as co-ops go, that was very much a part of the program of the First
International. Marx didn't expect co-ops to really get anywhere until workers
had first become politically dominant in the state, because bourgeois
democracies were expected to continue to pass legislation hindering co-ops.

> Also to clear things up more; By "social" the first international folks
> just meant a republic with universal suffrage ? If not please explain
> what you mean by social, cause i guess im not familiar with that term.

Socially-controlled means that a democracy would be controlled by the whole
people, by means of the ballot, which right and privilege would be extended to
ALL citizens of voting age, and not restricted to people who were registered
at their town halls as owning a slice of property in town, or in the country. The
thing that distinguished revolutions in Marx's day from the revolutions of a
century before (late 1700's in the USA and France), was that the proletariat
had grown by Marx's time to include a much greater percentage of the
population, the proletariat in each succeeding revolution increasingly
expressed its own class interests, and was not content to form the tail of
bourgeois republican parties intending to place property restrictions on the
use of the ballot. Not long after the proletariat helped carry out a bourgeois
revolution in France in 1848, a subsequent struggle resulted in the creation
of a red republic lasting a few days, and a similarly brief red republic was
created in Germany. The proletariat was feeling its oats, and wanted full
political participation in the newly created republics. Equal political rights
is an issue worthy of fighting for, even to the death. Engels was injured in
one of those skirmishes in Germany. People died in past revolutions so that
we don't have to die over the same issues today. Every violent struggle resulted
in new laws that eliminated issues for people to die over all over again. Our
American Civil War resulted in 3 new Amendments to the Constitution,
forever banning slavery, and preventing discrimination.

> Also what do you think of Bernsteins view that goal is nothing and
> the movement is everything ?

That's a lot better than 'the end justifies the means'.

> Got any criticism of dialectics ? Im reading a book "To the Finland
> Station" where the author critices it with the law of negation of negation.

Every time I try to invoke dialectics in a dialogue, someone comes along
and tries to squash me like a bug, so I hardly ever invoke it. I like it, though,
and I like to think that dialectics prevents the proletariat from smashing
capitalism the same way capitalism overtook feudalism. The issues are
different, much different. Capitalism and feudalism represent two different
forms of property ownership - land vs. factories - while workers and bosses
both enjoy the very same rules and laws respecting private property, so
property is not an issue in our present struggle for social justice. On the
other hand, hours of labor are the root of most of our problems: The bosses
want as few workers as possible to work for as many hours as possible,
whereas it is in the interests of society as a whole if as many workers
as possible can work for as few hours as possible.

> Comradely,
> Michael

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

"The republican form is no more than the simple negation of monarchy -
and the overthrow of the monarchy will be accomplished simply as a
corollary to revolution; in Germany the bourgeois parties are so bankrupt
that we shall pass at once from monarchy to the social republic.
" - Engels,
Peasant Question in France and Germany, 1894.

> hey ken
>
> I added you to a discussion list started by me and my socialist friends
> in houston. It was started for the purpose to discuss the possibility of
> revolution in the 21 century. please join it :)
>
> sincerely,
> Michael

Thanks, Michael. Is it an e-Group? How do I join?

 

6-01-01

Michael wrote:

> Hello All,
>
>
snip
>
> Is revolution possible now ? Ken says no. He says that revolutions
> are only possible after feudalism changing into bourgeois democracy.
> Can anyone (Ken) state the reasons for this.
>
> I can't honestly say if a revolution is possible. All I could see is that
> after WW2 US capitalism was able to prop itself up in 3rd world
> countries where it could find new markets but now those markets are
> getting bad too. We are already seeing increasing instability in the
> world and the protests at WTO and what have you are sure enough
> a sign of something that will be far greater in the future. In Europe
> there were 3 or 4 general strikes that were really impressive
>
> I also point out that based on historical experience workers can
> become class conscious on their own, no matter where they live.
> They are capable of organizing society on their own and setting
> up workplace committees(soviets) But will workers ever want to
> overthrow the American government ? Or would they need to ?
>
> Comradely,
> Michael

Bourgeois-democratic revolutions occurred because of squabbles between
2 powerful economic interests, those of landowners and capitalists. Both
wanted complete political control for THEIR side. Absolute monarchies
were appropriate to the rule of the landowners, republics to the rule of
the bourgeoisie, and constitutional monarchies to their shared rule.

What is the issue facing today's classes in democracies? A handful of
revolutionaries poses no threat to private property, so property is not a hot
political issue. Slavery was abolished over a century ago, so slavery is not a
hot political issue. We are not in a heavy war with another country, so war is
not a hot political issue. We have universal suffrage, so denial of the vote is not
a hot political issue in most elections, except for the one that gave the election
to Dubya, but electoral reform ought to prevent a repeat of that injustice.

We do have an economic-political issue of incomplete participation in the
economy, maintained by laws setting the length of the work week too high
to ensure full participation and economic well-being for the lowest classes.
So, all we have to do to get full and fair participation is to amend the Fair
Labor Standards Act. Revolutionaries should no longer waste their gray matter
trying to get people to revolt over problems that are easily reformed away.

Ken Ellis

 

6-02-01

Jean-Paul wrote:

> I do not really understand how Ken plans to bring about his Zero-Hour
> work week by devoting all of his time to constant attacks on a few hundred
> revolutionaries whom he believes are insignificant. To me those are not
> rational tactics for reducing the legal work week to 35-hours.

Suppose a few hundred revolutionaries think they have a feasible goal, but
the failure of their revolutionary movement to be widely accepted piques their
curiosity as to 'why'. I was hoping that people would notice the qualitative
differences between programs dealing with power and property vs. a program
dealing with labor time - it's the realm of the tangible vs. the intangible. The
bosses have the wealth, while we spend all of our time making them wealthy.
Traditional socialist programs deal with wealth and property, and the kinds
of power needed to transfer control and ownership of the property from one
class to another, while labor time reforms circumvent earthly concerns like
power and property, and thus help to negate society's present obsession
with the material world. Society's present willingness to allow participation
to remain incomplete is evidence of our spiritual malaise. Juggling power
and property relations won't help to heal our spirit.

> To satisfy Ken Ellis' constant complaints his comrades turned over the study group
> to a discussion of his ideas and opinions on the left-wing lies of the SLP. That
> discussion lasted for a
year. At the end of the year Ken having failed "to present
> any coherent political position
" (organizer's words) the other members of the
> section voted
unanimously to move on to another topic of discussion, Ken's vote
> being the
only one opposed. Ken's response was that the SLP un-democratic and
> he walked out never to return. Ken's conception of democracy is a place where his
> ideas are
always in the front. Section Santa Clara gave him a year, the WSM gave
> him a year, both were years completely
wasted. I am not going to give him a year
> of my life and I urge Carl not to either.

Lest misconceptions fester in our minds, the record should be set straight.
In 1976, I refuted Petersen's 'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry'
antidote to the proletarian dictatorship in the USA. The dictatorship is
certainly not needed, but for reasons other than Petersen gave. I wrote a
long analysis and a resolution, which inspired no action from the Section,
even though no one openly disagreed with my basic analysis. The Section
consisted mostly of N.O. personnel, who feared alienating the financial sup-
port of the powerful Petersen faction, forcing my next analysis (of Petersen's
Introduction to Engels' pamphlet "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific") to be
quite militant, ensuring that its disposition would decide whether I remained
with the Party, or leave it.

I worked on that second analysis for a couple of months, presented it to Section
Santa Clara near the end of October of '76, and moved a discussion of it, but the
Section had already embarked on a discussion of Lenin's "State and Revolution"
(which pamphlet, I figured, would help the Section understand what I had written),
so my motion to discuss was tabled, and we didn't pick it up during the 4 months
or so we finished discussing Lenin's work. I had pre-determined to quit if they
decided to ignore the fruit of my labors. At that fateful Section meeting some 3
months into '77, the Section decided not to discuss what I had written, so I
simultaneously quit the N.O. and the Party in April.

In the scenario which I lived out, where was the alleged YEAR OF DISCUSSION
of my analyses? Aside from the brief discussion of the 'proletarian dictatorship over
the peasantry
' in the middle of '76, the major analysis of Petersen's allegations that
'Engels didn't know the difference between socialism and state capitalism' was
never discussed in the same room and at the same time that I was there.

If it was an alleged organizer who gave the misinformation to Jean-Paul
(who wasn't there), then perhaps the organizer would oblige by making a
better effort to remember what actually happened.

Ken Ellis

 

6-02-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., "Mike Morin" <mmorin@e...> wrote:

snip maladies - [get well soon! - K.E.]

>
[Someone else's] simple-minded response, while being accurate, illustrates
> the negative energy that is so abundant in the remnants of a counterculture. To
> turn this thing around we need almost 100% cooperation but we get about 0%.

You got that right. Sectarianism paralyzes our bodies and our minds.

> Some of it is confusion among sometimes well intended but fundamentally
> misled individuals, most of it is blatant obfuscation and sabotage by greed
> motivated self-interested parties...

You sound more like me than I do myself. Are we sick and tired
of the hidden agendas yet?

> I have no interest in drudgery, I've had a better part of a lifetime at
> that... But if automation, just fattens the acquisitiveness of Philistines,
> and does not free us to Confucian-like assessment, and direction to a
> more humane, sustainable, and equitable future, then fuck it all...

All the more reason for us to more equitably share the remaining work
by means of a shorter work week.

snip Daniel Quinn [whoever he is]

> -----Original Message-----
> From: N.Botna
>
> There already is enough work for everybody, but two things that I
> can think of off the top of my head preclude it as being desirable:
> 1. the capitalists won't pay human labor when automation is possible,
> 2. some jobs are just plain nasty enough that most people wouldn't
> want to do them unless they had no choice.

All the more reason for us to unite to protect workers' interests with a
shorter work week, which would enable over-stressed workers to take it
a little easier. Every extra bit of free time helps. If we can't unite to share
the remaining work (though we will, someday), we won't cooperate to share
the product of the entity that creates the means of life when there is no longer
a way (in about 4 more decades) to earn them. Because such a doomsday is
unthinkable, we WILL figure out how to share the remaining work, but, by the
way the activists are fighting among themselves over their myriad programs of
wealth redistribution, people will learn to share the work without the help of
activists. It's a shame that so many activists never learned that, for Marx,
expropriation of property was hardly more than a facilitator for full
participation in the economy, while today's activists chase after expropriation
like The Holy Grail. Getting away from programs dealing with the material
world, and concentrate on reducing labor time, would be a qualitative difference
indicative of a higher stage of spiritual development, and more worthy of the
name 'socialism'. Marx thought that the precondition for freedom was a shorter
work day (and week). Let us follow the lead of France's 35 hour week.

Ken Ellis

 

6-02-01

Some socialists are taught that feudalism replaced the system of slavery that
was utilized in Rome millennia ago; capitalism replaced feudalism; and, though
socialism was predicted by the founders of modern socialism - Karl Marx and
Frederick Engels - to someday replace capitalism in the most industrialized
countries, socialism has so far only achieved the status of an intermediary
between feudalism (or colonialism) and capitalism in less-developed countries.
They expected socialism to replace capitalism simultaneously in the most
industrialized countries of Europe, for only there and in America did capitalism
exist to any significant extent in their time, so, in theory, were the only places
where communism could replace capitalism; but, highly developed countries of
the Western hemisphere show no such inclination. The association of democracy
with industrialized countries has always been the sticking point, for workers have
not been willing to scrap their democracies for the sake of abolishing private
property. When Europe failed to go communist during the upheavals of 1848 and
71, Marx looked to a revolution occurring in Russia, which event was expected to
spark more revolutions in Europe; and so it happened in 1917, though the lesser
revolutions in Europe soon reversed themselves. The fact that Europe did not go
communist before the less-developed countries of the world shows that Marx's
theories had to have been fatally flawed right from the beginning, so it's little wonder
that some countries abandoned communism from 1989 on. 'Communist revolution in
the West' had to have been based more on wishful thinking than on reasonable
probabilities of what people in Western democracies could be led to do.

Ken Ellis

 

6-05-01

Check out the following articles about overwork:

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/DailyNews/workwhy_part1_tech.html

On June 3, I went to Holy Cross College in Worcester for the Massachusetts
Green Party's all-day Convention. Approximately a hundred people attended.
One fellow mentioned the Timesizing.com party in the context of troublesome
election laws, but I forgot to get his name, darn it.

The morning session went along fairrrrrly smoothly. Some aspects of the
process of by-law approval seemed quite good, but I was disappointed in other
aspects. I don't know if the GP might be biting off more than it can chew by trying
to adhere to the complex requirements for being recognized by Massachusetts as
an official political party. The afternoon session seemed quite disorganized, and
I sat through quite a bit of it with my eyes semi-glazed over.

The election of party posts almost put the Florida election debacle to shame.
In my notes, I wrote several times - 'I want to go home.' We nominated people
in the morning (instead of weeks beforehand), so, no names were on the ballots.
Only after I had voted and passed in my ballot did the election really get organized.
In the middle of the vote, we voted for a new party structure by getting out of our chairs
and moving to whichever corner of the room represented our structure preference.

The most important thing I went there for - the party platform discussion -
was put off until the fall, so I didn't have a chance to argue for 'double time
after 35', nor much else. I don't know if I will go. I may need lots more time
to recover from this one.

Ken Ellis

 

6-06-01

Hi, Michael, Congratulations on creating the new forum.

>> The fact that Europe did not go communist before the less-developed
>> countries of the world shows that Marx's theories had to have been fatally
>> flawed right from the beginning,
>
> Marx and Engels stated in order to arrive at socialism, many countries
> would have to have a proletarian revolution. That is because
no single
> country can produce enough to satisfy its people.

The reason it would have to be simultaneous had nothing to do with the
development of the means of production, but had everything to do with
preventing counter-revolution. Several crises of over-production after 1825
proved to Marx that the existing economy could easily support a universal
proletarian dictatorship. You should make an effort to remember who was
telling you that particular lie, and then confront them with it.

If you read Marx's 1872 speech at The Hague, the Commune failed because
of a lack of solidarity. The Commune was a social and democratic republic,
but the reaction allied itself with Germany as a base of counter-revolution
against the Commune. If, on the other hand, all of the other countries had
simultaneously gone social-democratic, the reaction could not have crushed
the Commune, and would instead have been crushed.

> The Bolsheviks believed that their revolution would spread westward, and
> it did, there were many revolutionary situations all over Europe. The
only
> problem was the subjective factor, bad leadership.

The real problem was that millions of Europeans were unwilling to replace
their Social-Democracies with communist workers' states. Leaders of the day
were both good and bad, but they knew their goal and how to get there. Not
enough of the masses were sufficiently interested to make it happen as
planned. The further West on the continent of Europe one travels, the
more ingrained and respected is the institution of private property.

>> little wonder that some countries abandoned communism from 1989 on.
>
> There was
nothing communist about those countries.
> You could call it socialism if you want to,

We mustn't discredit ourselves as 'creatures from another planet' by
contradicting common knowledge. If the revolution is depends upon
re-educating the masses, then you can forget about the revolution.
Marx didn't need to re-educate the masses to get them to overthrow
intransigent monarchies, or to create social and democratic republics.
Revolution was what people were actually doing in his day, but it
didn't turn anti-capitalist where it was supposed to.

> but it certainly is not a higher form of society
> where everyone takes what they need.

Even in the USA, the economy has a lot of evolving to do before people will
be able to take what they want from the social store at will. With the prevailing
pro-capitalist mentality, something will have to give before socialism becomes
acceptable.

> We like to think of the so called "communist" countries as deformed workers
> states, or bonapartist proletariat states; the economy is planned but its run by an
> elite bureaucracy. Please see Leon Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed or ask anyone.

I have no argument with those terms. Before I knew much of anything,
I thought of Stalin as a 'proletarian dictator'. Later, I thought of the Soviet
gov't as 'a feudal monarchy with a communist tinge', because they abolished
a lot of private ownership, but didn't have the freedom that Marx expected
the proletarian dictatorship to have.

> Why don't you explain to everyone why you think a revolution is only
> possible in feudal countries and not here.
>
> Michael,

I'll repeat 3 paragraphs from what I wrote in my 8th message to you:

"In Marx's day, the REAL revolutionary movement that attracted MASSES
of people was the BOURGEOIS-DEMOCRATIC movement - the movement
to replace rotten ripe monarchies with democracies. The bourgeoisie, upon
coming to power in a revolution, wanted to restrict suffrage to property owners,
while the champions of the proletariat, like M+E, wanted universal suffrage
in the new republics. That was the main distinction between the bourgeois
republic and the proletarian republic. M+E wanted the proletariat to enjoy
universal suffrage, and thereby the electoral supremacy of their own workers'
parties in new republics. Workers were to win universal suffrage in their
new republics by means of HOLDING ON TO THEIR WEAPONS
after helping the bourgeoisie win new republics.

"You can catch many of a glimmer of this struggle for bourgeois vs. proletarian
democracy, especially in the 4th of the 5 volumes of Minutes of the General Council
of the First International, just before the Commune in 1871, when the conversation often
turned to the subject of creating new democracies in Europe. The First International
differed from ordinary bourgeois republican clubs by insisting upon universal suffrage
in new democracies. Marx even said at one point that 'Middle-class republics have become
impossible on the continent of Europe
', meaning that the proletariat had become strong
enough by 1871 that the days of creating purely bourgeois republics had passed. The new
republics were bound to become SOCIALLY controlled, and the workers' parties bound to
become dominant in the new republics simply because they would be more numerous in
the new Parliaments and Congresses than the bourgeoisie, so they could outvote the
bourgeoisie, and they could push through proletarian policies in those new states.

"That's how the name 'Social-Democrat' came into existence: New republics
(or DEMOCRACIES) were to be SOCIALly controlled. Social-Democrats would
not settle for mere bourgeois democracy, but would make the revolution permanent
by ensuring social control of the new democracies. Marx hoped that enough new
democracies would be created simultaneously to ensure the success of expropriation,
which would also make counter-revolution impossible. Lenin described that whole
process as: 'making the revolution permanent by pushing new republics through
to the dictatorship of the proletariat
'. Other than the element of expropriation being
rather far fetched, Marx's revolutionary program was 100% based upon what was
going on in Europe, as opposed to today's revolutionaries, who have been robbed
of real revolutionary history by their own revolutionary leaders, and who can't think
past 'smashing the state', which is so completely out of any substantive context that
they will never get anywhere with it. One does not revolt in a vacuum, but that's what
today's revolutionaries are asking followers to do today. No wonder no one is buying
that product. It is EXTREMELY shoddy."

Best wishes for a fine forum,
Ken Ellis

 

6-06-01

Lens wrote:

> !so, why is a revolution not feasible, you have a nice paragraph why marx was
> wrong, however, you do not state one reason why revolution in amercia is impossible,

Sorry for the oversight. There is no historical precedent for workers overthrowing
stable and long-lasting democracies, where private property and democracy enjoy
long traditions. Overthrowing existing states is a precondition to expropriation, but
expropriation was regarded by Marx as SUBSERVIENT to full participation in the
economy. In today's democracies, full participation can be won by simply reforming
existing 'hours of labor' laws. People will seek out simple reform solutions before
they try more difficult solutions involving overthrowing democracies, which isn't
necessary anyway, according to Marx in The Gotha Programme. Marx wrote that
the republic is the form of state in which the final political and legal battles between
worker and boss will be fought to the finish, so, if most people think that we have
a democracy, then we should bow to popular culture and try to reform what we
have before venturing toward more difficult solutions.

> as well as the fact that russia was not communist because it did not
> follow any of the lessons of the paris commune as described by marx,

Major similarities between the Paris Commune and the Russian revolution
include: the replacement of a feudal monarchy with a bourgeois republic as
the first step, and then its further development into a social and democratic
republic. But, the Commune and Russian revolutions were both supposed to
be part of M+E's scenario of 'simultaneous revolutions in the most developed
countries
'. The lack of simultaneity caused the Paris Commune to fail, and the
Russian revolution never developed beyond much more than a mere caricature
of a proletarian dictatorship - insufficient political democracy. But, as far as
Russia being 'communist' goes, billions of people understand the old Soviet
Union, China, Cuba, North Korea, etc., as being 'communist', and I see no
need to contradict common knowledge. It's a waste of time trying to educate
billions to new terminology, when all that will suffice will be to merely rally
people's sentiments, whatever they might evolve into.

> and as Engels says directly in his The Principles of Communism http://
> www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1840/prin-com.htm
point number
> 19 socialism/communism can not exist in one country, so the fact the
> Soviet Union fell is just evidence that proves them right even more.

It's true that socialism cannot exist in merely one country. The fact that the Soviet
Union a decade ago replaced their state ownership model with capitalism proves
that the rest of the world would just be wasting its time if it tried to have socialist
revolutions. No one is interested in 'solutions' which involve the use of force.

> And as so far as the fact that America being the only place that was fully
> capitalist in their day, this is untrue,

England and the USA were of comparable development during much of the
lifespans of M+E. Engels referred to the USA as the most bourgeois country
in the world, for agriculture was far more peasant in nature than in England,
which was far more proletarianized.

> and just because Socialism wasn't obtained in 1848 or 71 in no way
> disproves class struggle or the hope for revolution, In fact they are just
> increasing evidence that
it is possible, and the russian revolution proves
> it. However, your argument is that revolution is not feasible in America,
> however, as of yet, you have declined to give your reason as to why.

Please read my answer to Michael, and I'll happily tidy up
any loose ends in a new round.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

6-07-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., raycun@n... quoted me:

>> Political repression needs no apology as a cause of revolution. But poverty?
>> Perhaps you could provide an example of a country revolting over poverty alone.
>
> Poverty rarely occurs in isolation, it goes along with a lack of political
> power - like in Chiapas, a province of the Mexican democracy...

Thank you for admitting that poverty alone does not cause revolutions.
With cooperation like that, we may get somewhere real.

>>>>>> snip old dialogue

> the aim of the revolution, at least for the proletariat, was not simply
> 'democracy', it was also equality. It was a reaction to the enormous
> extremes of wealth and poverty in France. (Of course it would be
> interesting to compare the poverty gap in revolutionary France
> to that in present day south america, or even the US)

Because the intransigent monarchy refused to share power with the emerging
bourgeoisie, workers and bosses alike pitched in to replace the old monarchy
with a new democracy in 1789, and they made the republic social in '93 (or
'socially controlled'), but they didn't hold on to either republic for very long.
The big difference between the 2 republics was 'universal suffrage'.

>> That revolution brought democracy, the form of state in which the final political
>> battle between worker and boss will be fought to a finish, according to Marx
>> in the Gotha Programme, and in many other writings and letters of M+E.
>
> Yes, yes, I know that's what Marx said. But just because he said it doesn't mean
> its true, does it? (Otherwise you'd hardly be arguing for your working-hours programme)

Marx also favored a shorter work day. He thought of it in the 3rd Volume of Capital
as 'the precondition to freedom', but he also thought that the shorter work time agenda
was best pursued under the aegis of the proletarian dictatorship.

What Marx said about democracy was some of the more valid things he wrote.
As an example of an invalid theory, his 'simultaneous revolutions in the most
developed countries
' didn't stand the test of time, because it was part of his overly-
optimistic EXPROPRIATION scenario, which didn't match the level of interest of
enough people in the very countries in which it was supposed to happen first.

>>> Property has always been one of the main motivators of revolution,
>>
>> In the American Civil War, the South fired the first shot
>> to extend slavery to the whole country.
>
> I'm amazed that there are still Americans who believe this (it seems to
> go hand-in-hand with reverence for the constitution). The civil war
wasn't
> about slavery, emancipation was declared after the war started, not before.

You mean by Lincoln's emancipation proclamation? That rubbed some salt in the
wound. The proclamation wasn't enough to get the South to lay down their arms.

> It was about free trade and protectionism.
> The south had an agricultural economy, and was a heavy trader
> with other countries. The north was industrialising, and so wanted
> to introduce trade barriers to protect its growing industry. (And you
> praise Marx!) Read Zinn's 'People's History...' for a brief explanation.

Zinn didn't live at the same time as Marx, and didn't write articles about the
War for the New York Tribune. As proof that the War was about slavery,
and not trade, look at the 3 Amendments to the Constitution that resulted
from that conflict - 13, 14, and 15 - eliminating involuntary servitude and
discrimination. If trade issues were the cause, new legislation would have
prevented trade from becoming so hot an issue in the future, but no one
recalls any memorable trade legislation coming out of the War. People go
to war over POLITICAL issues, not mere trade, and the country was divided
over a major political issue - whether people could own other people or not.
Slaveowners were losing influence in the Legislature, so decided on a
desperate act to gain the kind of power that would have preserved their right
to own people. If the feuding capitalist classes didn't have a form of property
ownership to fight over, they never would have gone to war. Some communists
are ready to go to war to take away the property of the rich. Marx was a
revolutionary advocating the use of force to change property relations,
and yet some activists don't think that war is necessary to do so.
Very strange what people are willing to think.

>>> and the US is very obviously divided between rich and poor.
>>
>> In the USA today, no arbitrary rule prevents workers from owning anything
>> their bosses own, which is why some big companies, like United Airlines,
>> are employee-owned.
>
> There is no arbitrary rule, and no uncrossable division. But the reality is
> that 99.9% of those born rich will die rich, and 99.999% of those born poor
> will die poor. Capitalism allows social mobility - but doesn't make it easy.

The only reason the rich are so rich is that workers compete over scarce long-
hour opportunities to make them so rich. Nothing prevents workers from
organizing to eliminate the competition between themselves, but their leaders
are often willing to do anything EXCEPT fight for a shorter work week.

In "The Condition of the Working Class in England", Engels wrote in 1845: "If
the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine
not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end.
"

That's all workers have to do. Social justice is as simple as that.

>>> It's also a country where a few people have a lot of power, and a lot of people
>>> have very little, people
could choose revolution to try to lessen that gap.
>>
>> As long as the chance to lessen the gap by means of reforms remains intact,
>> people will not revolt.
>
> And when enough people realise that
they've very little chance of enacting
> reforms that will do them much good, they'll revolt.

If the path of reform were refused to us, then we would revolt, but we have
yet to even try to enact the right reforms yet, we are so arriere. Our constant
political and economic losses resulting from our own theoretical mistakes
will eventually teach us enough to put us on the right track. In the meantime,
activists will continue to blame everyone but themselves for their failure to
thrive, which is why one still hears infantile cries to 'Smash the state'.

>> The struggle over the pie may be over the slices, but never over whether
>> property should exist, or be legal or not. If revolutionaries want to outlaw
>> private property, then that struggle would most assuredly escalate into a civil
>> war, but the need for another civil war would have to be clearly demonstrated.
>
> All you're saying is that revolutions are not run-of-the-mill events. Sure,
> they don't happen every six months, but that doesn't mean they don't happen.

Not only did revolt not happen during the Depression, a good reason for a
revolution can hardly be anticipated for the future. The trouble with a lot of
revolutionaries is that they cannot even define their revolution. Its first act, its
tasks, how long it would last, the final result, etc., are all great mysteries, while
revolutionaries nevertheless insist that we somehow accomplish those vaguities.

>> M+E predicted revolution in Russia many decades before it happened.
>> When a country lives under the oppression of an intransigent absolute
>> monarchy, one can expect a civil war, or a revolution.
>
> Marx may have predicted it, but most social commentators in Russia in
> 1867 would have said that 'the peasant in the field' will never support
> revolution. Everything is natural and obvious _in hindsight_.

That shows that Marx was a better observer.

>> Obviously (as you may have conceded as well), the time for revolution
>> is not ripe in the USA. People would obviously have to wait.
>
> 'Waiting' doesn't mean twiddling your thumbs, it means fighting for what you
> can get in the meantime. But you
don't get to socialism by a slow process of
> reforms, you
get there by revolution.

But, no revolution in the USA will ever occur, because the political issues
just aren't there. They allow us to vote, they give us equal access to property,
the press, and the courts, slavery is prohibited, etc. Why revolt now, or in the
future? Wouldn't we have to be crazy?

>> None but a few activists question democracy, private property, the flag,
>> motherhood, or apple pie. Those things seem eternally established in our
>> value system, and do not fundamentally change.
>
> And so does the 40-hour week. If you think that people's ideas about working hours
> can change, why do you insist that people will feel differently about private property?

Not even the forty hour week is eternal. It has only existed some 60 years, along with
time and a half. Both of those figures are arbitrary, and are subject to change if they
someday no longer serve us, just the way France is transitioning from 39 to 35 hours.

> Your distinction is arbitrary, and doesn't make any sense.

Private property is tangible, while hours of labor are intangible. It's hard
to imagine people revolting over something as intangible as hours of labor.
People would much rather fight and die over property and related issues, like
territorial conquest. We would be crazy to go to war over property at the same
time anybody with enough money could go out and buy however much they wanted.

>> Average people have little interest in changing property relations, for
>> they don't regard property as the source of their discomfort - the more
>> property they own, the more secure they feel.
>
> They regard the absence of property as a source of
discomfort. Why is
> property
absent? Because other people have more than they deserve. You
> might as well argue that people regard work as a source of security -
> the more work they have, the more secure they feel, so they will
never
> campaign to work less.

People are comfortable with the institution of private property. People
respect it, and are content to allow it to continue on, even if it doesn't
serve the poor very well. If half of Americans own a piece of the stock
market, then private property is here to stay, and anyone who wants
to change things around very radically won't get very far.

'Too much' property doesn't wear people out, so we place no upper limit on
property ownership. Too much WORK, on the other hand, wears people out,
which is why we respect an upper limit on daily and weekly hours of labor.

>>>> As to (b), there is no historical precedent for a revolution in a democracy.
>>>
>>> Germany, 1921. Come to think of it, there was an elected government in
>>> Russia in 1917, wasn't there? And what was France in '68 but an attempted
>>> revolution?
>>
>> No one would want to deny the occurrence of the revolution in Germany.
>
> And yet you argue that revolution is impossible in a democracy.

Revolution IS unthinkable in stable and long-lasting democracies. But,
for anyone to apply a blanket simple rule like 'revolution is impossible in
democracies' to ALL 'democracies' at ALL times would be forgetting the actual
political and economic conditions of Germany after WW1. Westernmost Europe
traditionally has the strongest attachment to democracy and private property. The
further east and south one travels, the less solid those institutions become.Germany,
being closer to Russia than France and England, hadn't completely abolished all of
the remnants of its old feudal structure, so it wasn't so perfectly democratic that
revolutionaries didn't enjoy a strong movement. Plus, the need to work in solidarity
with the Russian revolution, the devastation of World War One on Germany's
economy, their money inflation, high unemployment, the Bela Kun revolution in
neighboring Slovakia, those were all very destabilizing influences on Germany, so
activists could be expected to try to make the red revolution permanent by extending
it all over Europe, in accordance with Marx's plan. No one would blame an activist
then and there for trying to do what they tried to do. If they had succeeded, just think
of how different the world would have become. They might very well have inaugurated
the communist millennia. The fact that they didn't do it then, and the fact that the days
of simultaneously overthrowing enough monarchies are gone, speak to the need to
adopt NEW TACTICS if communists expect to get to communism.

>> No historical precedent. People don't do things like that. If unhappy with
>> an administration, they simply vote them out in the next election.
>
> You just accepted that there was a revolution in Germany. You're
> contradicting yourself. (And anyway, you're still stuck in the argument that
> it hasn't happened before [sez you] therefore it can never happen in future.
> The exact argument that could be made against reducing the working week)

The length of the work week and work day has steadily decreased over the
past 2 centuries, both by union action, and by legislation. Some of the first
Federal laws were passed around the time of Van Buren, and lots of States
gradually enacted their own protective legislation. The general trend to
diminish the number of hours of labor is unmistakable. People today
work only 2/3 as much as they did in 1870.

>>>> snip old dialogue
>>
>> How ambitious do you think people are? No one I know wants a whole hell
>> of a lot more than what they already have, so they won't revolt to get more. I
>> know a LOT of people who already have what they need and want, they can
>> get even more without much trouble, and would be afraid of mis-guided
>> efforts to make things a whole hell of a lot different.
>
> Maybe you have unambitious friends, and maybe an important issue is (as I said)
> confidence. People don't think they can get a lot more, so they don't try. But when people
> become more confident (because of experiencing victory) they set their sights higher.

My experience is that people can do without a whole hell of a lot more than
what they already have. If ambitious, they go to school and earn a degree and
get better jobs. My niece and nephew, in their late 30's, are doing that very thing.

>> If not a Marxist, then what's your frame of reference? Why not just openly
>> proclaim your philosophical roots?
>
> I've never hid them - I'm an anarchist. Marx said some useful things, he
> also came out with
some real crap (like just about every other human being
> that's ever lived). He wasn't superhuman, so why pledge allegiance to him?

Well, I don't really pledge allegiance to Marx, because he advocated the
expropriation of the rich, which was plausible only in the era in which he
lived, but not in today's world. So, I am not a Marxist. I became interested
in socialism some 30 years ago, and I at first gobbled up everything my first
party told me. Later on, I wised up to their distortions, and in order to refute
them, I took the trouble to learn a lot of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. I just received
the CD of the Collected Works of M+E, because there is still a lot of good work
to be done setting the record straight about what M+E actually stood for. Business
interests, parading as revolutionary groups and parties, justify their existence on the
basis of their sectarian distortions of history. Because it is wrong to simply let them
get away with fogging up our minds up, I try to oppose the momentary tom-foolery.
Engels wrote to Laura Lafargue: "if we are not to go against the popular current of
momentary tomfoolery, what in the name of the devil is our business?
" People have
no idea how badly they are being lied to, and being an ignorant revolutionary is about
as blissful a 'high' as can be imagined. I was there. I know from personal experience
how nice it was. My 'high' lasted for years. The come-down was quite traumatic.

>> The nice part about many activists using Marx as a frame of reference was that
>> his programme was a natural extension of the European politics he was a part of.
>
> Marxism was one extension of those politics, the type that sought salvation
> in
parliaments and states. Anarchism also came out of that milieu, but is
> (to my mind) much more revolutionary.

Marx was a statist in a sense, but the kind of temporary state he advocated
was far different from an ordinary bourgeois state (which may be difficult
to impossible for anarchists to believe). Marx felt certain that the universal
proletarian dictatorship would have been a mere temporary transition to the
classless and stateless goal of both communists and anarchists. History's
actually existing communism was a lot different from Marx's vision. The
universal proletarian dictatorship would have meant a world controlled by
the workers for the benefit of workers.

>> Any program that varies from Marx's is plain moonshine,
>
> LOL - it wasn't true when Marx said it, and it certainly isn't true now.

Marx's proposed scenario was an extension of what had actually occurred
in France and Germany in 1848-9, and in 1871. There simply never has been
another feasible way to take away the property of the rich than the way Marx
outlined. Because communists were always a small minority in Europe, it was
necessary to use existing bourgeois-democratic movements to accomplish most
of the revolutionary work. Marx hoped to further develop fledgling bourgeois
democracies into socially-controlled democracies by means of winning universal
suffrage. If accomplished in enough new republics at the same time, Marx hoped
to create a universal proletarian dictatorship and use workers' state power to take
away the property of the rich. The unity derived from wide-spread success would
have prevented any chance of counter-revolution. Of course, world history didn't
quite follow that plan, but look how close they came in 1917! In real history, all
they were able to do was to take away the property of the rich in semi-developed
countries, one at a time, separated by relatively long periods of time. The 'replace-
ment of the state with a classless and stateless administration of things' enjoys
no historical precedent, which is why that anarchist program has never been
much better than 'moonshine'.

>> because people act pretty much the same way they have acted for a long
>> time, and don't do unprecedented things - like replacing their states with
>> a classless and stateless administration of things.
>
> That was part of Marx's programme, you know, so therefore Marxism
> is pure moonshine.

The replacement of states with a classless and stateless administration of
things may have been Marx's long-range goal, but Marx's PROLETARIAN
DICTATORSHIP scenario accounted for what workers ACTUALLY DID
in the old struggles at the barricades. An important place where Marx went
wrong was in thinking workers would do it simultaneously in the most
developed countries. People's high regard for private property in the most
developed countries sabotaged that program, and underestimating that degree
of respect for property was Marxism's downfall. He often confided in Engels
that 'he thought they could get off cheapest by buying out the whole lot of them.'

> You really are stuck in a rut, aren't you - if it hasn't happened before,
> it can never happen in future. You
ignore the partial successes, the
> steps in the right direction, and the short-lived realisations of a goal,
> and demand that everything must be an
exact repeat of something
> that has already happened.

If I wanted no more than 'things merely repeating themselves', then I would
still be a Marxist revolutionary, hoping for an overthrow of the capitalist class.
A lot of today's communists think that a perfect expression of dialectics is for
workers to replace capitalism with socialism the same way capitalism replaced
feudalism. But, no. Today's property issues are entirely different, superannuating
violence in the struggle for socialism. The old struggle pitted 2 ruling classes
together, along with 2 types of ownership, land vs. capital. Today, that struggle is
over with, so no violent struggle over forms of property ownership is conceivable.

The public has zero interest in communizing property ownership, for they
don't regard private property as the source of their problems at all. Everyone
thinks - 'the more I own, the better off I am.' Marxism failed because it was
impossible to take away the property of the rich - EXCEPT after overthrowing
feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, revolutions which are NO
LONGER applicable in the most advanced countries.

>>> And if I did, I could easily argue against that interpretation.
>>
>> Perhaps you will see fit to give us your interpretation next time.
>
> Why bother? I don't 'believe' in Marx, so why should I argue about what he
> 'really meant'? It
makes as much sense as arguing that Koran is 'really' anarchist.

That's fine. No problem.

2002 answer: Figuring out what Marx 'really meant' would be
a worthwhile exercise for many a radical and revolutionary activist,
because they only think they know, but they often don't understand
how badly they've been lied to.

>> You are right, thank you. I should have said something like 'People's
>> attempts to overthrow their democracies did not meet with long-lasting
>> success, as the revolutions in Germany and Slovakia demonstrated.' Right
>> there you proved the value of dialogue to help us to get our acts together.
>
> Okay, so you agree that it happened before. There were revolutions in democracies,
> even though people in a democracy have apparently no reason to revolt.

There's a big difference between trying to overthrow a stable democracy like the
USA vs. a totally unstable, semi-feudal, post-WW1 Germany. Marx and Engels
believed that overthrowing fledgling BOURGEOIS republics would be like taking
away candy from a baby, as borne out by the Paris Commune and Russian revolution.

>> Unlike other revolutionary schemes, Marx's revolutionary scenario was
>> a natural extension of what workers were actually doing for themselves
>> in the revolutionary struggles of 1789, 1848, 1871, etc.
>
> Its funny, you argue against revolutions because they have failed. But you
> still say that Marxism
is the only serious road to socialism, even though
> every attempt to follow his theories ended in failure. Notice the contradiction?

It's not a question of 'IS the only serious road', it's a matter of 'WAS'. The
Marxist revolutionary scenario WAS the only one that approximated what
was happening in Europe. Even Western Europe was bourgeois-revolutionary
in Marx's day, but, what with today's EU, few would continue to argue for
revolutions in Europe. No more there than in the USA.

>>>> If it weren't for the commercial revolutionism that wants to take advantage
>>>> of people's ignorance to keep it in business, more people would be
>>>> interested in moving past stupidities like 'revolution in democracies'.
>>
>> When I discovered that my revolutionary party's program...
>
> So your problem is with the party you used to be a member of.
> There's
nothing 'commercial' about my 'revolutionism'.

How lucky you are. I wonder how many others enjoy the same experience.

>> My main purpose in life has become to try to save honest activists the
>> heartbreak of watching their revolutionary dreams go to pieces. I want
>> to break the bad news to them ahead of time, to prepare them to lend
>> their energies to a program that makes sense for the times and the
>> property-loving countries in which they live.
>
> Look, I don't know what party you were a member of, but my activities
>
make sense in the country in which I live.

I've been trying to prove that revolutionary activities DON'T make sense, so
maybe I'm not doing a good enough job proving it. What am I doing wrong?
What would it take to prove that revolutions in stable democracies are not
necessary? Am I casting pearls before swine? Or, am I casting worthless
pebbles before people who are a lot smarter and thoughtful than I am?

> I don't go around saying that nothing can be done until the revolution,
> I work for whatever gains can be won in the present. But I'm not so naive
> to think that we can get to socialism through a slow process of reforms.
> Reforms may be all that's possible at the moment, but that doesn't mean
> that they are all that will ever be possible.

Perhaps you expect our governments to become unstable sometime in the future.
In Marx's day, he saw how the bourgeois-democratic movements of the day were
destabilizing European monarchies, and how the bourgeoisie (with the help of
the proletariat) converted one country after another from monarchy to republic,
and how the proletariat even occasionally won social control over new republics,
by winning universal suffrage. Marx detected real political instability in his day,
which he regarded as 'something to build on'. His proletarian program
complemented the existing political mosaic very specifically, and his scenario
ALMOST happened in 1871 and in 1917. Modern revolutionaries have WHAT
to build on? Which weakness of the opposition can they take advantage of?

>>> History just doesn't show many successful revolutions.
>>> Neither does it show a successful campaign for a 30-hour week.
>>
>> Quite a few successful revolutions have occurred. The American
>> revolution successfully liberated this colony. Russia liberated itself
>> from the Romanovs. France liberated itself from feudalism. Cuba
>> liberated itself from Batista. And so on.
>
> So I'm ahead of you - I can point to precedents, and you can't.

Each of those revolutions had clear political motivations. With the advent of stable
democracies, the clear political motivation for people to revolt doesn't exist the way
it did in Marx's day. We have no intransigent autocracy to overthrow, no colony to
liberate, no oppressed class to liberate from chattel slavery. No property or territorial
issues = no cause for revolution. But, revolutionary zealotry can blind many to the
lessons of history. Aux armes, comrades! Ignore the nay-sayers! To glory we shall go!

>> Yes, minorities do become majorities, just like the once-tiny proletariat grew
>> like Topsy. But, the problem with revolution in the Western Hemisphere is
>> that the issues over which people have traditionally revolted barely exist anymore.
>
> Capitalism still exists, and it still creates an unequal society.

People didn't revolt much over capitalism in Europe in Marx's day. They revolted
mainly over feudalism. Communists hoped to further develop bourgeois-democratic
revolutions into the universal proletarian dictatorship in Europe, but private property
had too firm a grip on the European mind. The anti-capitalist revolution was possible
only where capitalism and private property didn't have much of a grip on people's
consciousness, and where private ownership was not wide-spread. In order to attack
the institution of private property in the most bourgeois countries in the world, activists
will have to learn to work AROUND the property issue, and actually ignore it.

After the length of the work week becomes absurdly short, and all wage-labor is
replaced with volunteers, and after people have equal access to the necessities of life
with no effort on their part, only then will private property cease to be as important to
people as it is now. Private property is the social device that determines how the product
of labor is divided. When 'the product of labor' becomes the product of unsupervised
machines in a few more decades, then we will have no more concern over how the
product of machine labor is divided, and private property will cease to be as important
as it used to be, and it will fade away from disuse.

>> It's hard for me to accept that as a good-faith response. You didn't argue
>> on the merits of my argument, which is that labor time amendments are
>> FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT from those dealing with TANGIBLES
>> like finances, wealth, property, and money. Is time a tangible item, even
>> though we admittedly speak about 'buying time'?
>
> The time that you work is
tangible, just as much as the balance in your bank account.

We mustn't confuse 'the time during which we labor' from 'the product that RESULTS
from our labor time'. If time were tangible, then you might be able to show us some of
the minutes you carry around as loose change in your pockets, the hours you have in
your wallet, and the weeks and months you have in your checking account.

snip assertion

snip imponderable

>> Did you know that the workers have been fighting
>> for shorter work time since the 1820's?
>
> Guess what? They've also been fighting for higher wages.
> And against capitalism in general.

They didn't fight against capitalism anywhere nearly as much as they fought against
the EFFECTS of capitalism. That was a big difference between Marxism and mere
reformism, but not very many people became Marxists. Anti-capitalism in the USA
has never been anywhere near the mass movement that ordinary unionism has been.

>> Workers will continue to struggle to share work by means of shorter
>> working time until what little wage labor that remains is someday
>> replaced by volunteers, ending capitalism as we've suffered from it.
>
> I think capitalists may have something to say about your grand plan.

They've had more to say against anti-capitalism than against mere reformism. Reforms
are the real bread and butter of social change today. If activists can't fight for reforms
in the interests of the working class, then they place themselves outside of the realm
of social change, which is just fine with those who can afford to ignore REAL potential
for change. If revolutionaries would like to build the trust of the people, then they would
fight for feasible reforms, just like Lenin's Social-Democratic Party did in Russia. But,
many revolutionaries treat reforms like 'the work of the devil'.

>> The bottom line is this: If you can't end capitalism by means of revolution
>> anytime soon, then today's suffering demands that we give the shorter work
>> time proposals the respect and consideration they deserve. This struggle is
>> decades older than Marxism, communism and anarchism.
>
> But I'm not arguing for 'revolution or nothing'. I work for reforms too.
> But reforms are
not going to create a socialist society.

When the work week becomes absurdly short, and it no longer makes sense
to shorten it further, and volunteers take over the remaining work, then capitalism
as we've suffered from it will be no more. Because revolution is illogical in the USA,
the shorter work week reform scenario is the only feasible means of getting to socialism,
so try to give it closer consideration before rejecting it. I hope that we don't have to get
down to a 30 hour week before you realize your mistake.

>> I forgot. Why EXACTLY do we want to revolt? And just exactly what would
>> be the result of the revolution? On the other hand, incomplete and uneven
>> participation in the economy is the reason I fight to share work by means
>> of a shorter work week, and THAT is the beginning and the end of my
>> program, though I often wax philosophical about it. Your program had
>> better be just as short and sweet if you want workers to buy it.
>
> Freedom and equality. That's even shorter.

Wonderful as they are, 'freedom and equality' is not a program. One does not
go out in the world and 'free and equalize' the proletariat the way one is able
to 'shorten the length of the work week'. I'm not against free and equal. I think
that a shorter work week is the best means of getting us to 'free and equal'.

> 'Uneven participation in the economy' - what the hell does that mean?

It means that some people have too much work, while others don't have enough.
Access to the means of making a living should be more equal. For Marx, full
participation in the civil economy was the HIGHER GOAL toward which
expropriation was to be merely subservient. Expropriation had a purpose in
Marx's program. He didn't just crazily foam at the mouth, lusting over all of
that wealth and property. Expropriation would have divorced the rich of the
wealth with which they bribed politicians to throw obstacles in the way of the
giant cooperatives advocated by the First International. The co-ops would have
made room for ALL potential workers to participate, ending all unemployment
forever. Hours of labor would have been shortened enough to make room for
all. Also, expropriation would have been a giant leap in the abolition of class
distinctions, regarded by M+E as another very noble goal.

> If people aren't working I'm sure they're more concerned
> about the money than their participation.

Instead of directly trading work for groceries, people usually spend money to
buy their necessities, so the point you make about money being more important
than participation is valid for at least some people. But, many people I know are
ready and willing to lend their energies to some area of the civil economy.

>> You are right. Far better to fight for the 35 hour amendment first, and/or double time.
>
> The man on the street isn't ready to fight for that either -
> if he was, there'd already be a campaign.

I'll never forget the anti-logging demo I attended in San Francisco. I had
the only sign advocating a shorter work week (as part of improving workers'
control over the economy), resulting in some good conversations. A pedestrian
in a suit pointed to my sign and said to a companion, "I could go for that." A
shorter work week is key to the success of many good issues activists fight
for. Workers' control of the economy is impossible as long as people fight
over scarce employment opportunities. Jobs often include damaging the
environment, clear-cutting old growth forests, building land mines, etc.
Workers need the kind of economic security that can only come about
with full participation in the economy, a precondition to security and
freedom to boycott the most destructive tasks.

>>> I know, it doesn't matter that the week should be shorter,
>>> people aren't willing to put in the effort required to win it.
>>
>> It will take far less effort to pass an amendment whose results are clearly
>> predictable than to organize people to revolt to elevate activists to power
>> who won't know whether to create a workers' state, or create a classless
>> and stateless administration of things.
>
> But you
can't get from there to your vision of socialism.

Socialism, or a good-enough approximation of it, will come about when the
length of the work week is driven so short that it no longer makes much sense
to shorten it any more, and the remaining work is taken over by volunteers,
thus ending capitalism and wage-labor as we've suffered from it. The only
feasible path to socialism in our civil societies is by means of labor time
reductions, as made possible by further advances in technology.

>>> This whole thread has been an argument against the shorter week
>>> as a way of getting to socialism.
>>
>> If so, then maybe some of the readers (if there are any) would like to say
>> a word about 'whose arguments have been more sincere and convincing'.
>
> Its hardly a representative sample (but then a representative sample of
> 'men on the street' would be listening to either of us). For what its worth,
> at least one other person has argued with your programme on this board,
> no-one's argued with mine. (and no, it isn't worth much)

Well, maybe all it means is that we both have some work to do. If people don't
pay attention, or don't put in any work, then they won't learn.

>> I have yet to see a principled critique against the shorter work week
>> path to socialism. So far, sectarians have merely taken pot shots at it, and
>> practically all of them say "You can't do it." But, the shorter work week
>> scenario can give people new hope for the prospects of socialism.
>
> So why is arguing that it's impossible not a principled critique?

It's one thing to assert that 'the shorter work week to socialism scenario is impossible',
while it's another thing entirely to argue against it with logic and historical facts.

> And why are those who rebut your arguments 'sectarians', but you aren't?

The shorter work week scenario can appeal to many, many activists, because not
very many of them would argue for LONGER hours without cutting into their own
credibility. It's not hard to imagine right wingers and plutocrats advocating an end to all
labor laws to force us back to the 16 hour days of the industrial revolution, so it would be
difficult to imagine fellow activists advocating LONGER work hours. No one detecting
the historical trend for the length of the work day and week to DECLINE would advocate
hours of labor REMAINING THE SAME, either. Today's activists either advocate a
shorter work week, or they distinguish themselves as myopic or blinded by their own
sectarianism adherence to absurd programs. The few groups who take an ideological
stand AGAINST a shorter work week will continue to appeal to very few.

>> For revolutionary leaders, it really is a matter of revolution vs. a
>> shorter work week, for revolutionaries understand very well that the
>> amelioration brought about by a shorter work week would DIMINISH
>> interest in the revolution, while revolutionary leaders are counting on
>> suffering to drive gullible and supportive workers into their arms.
>> Revolution went from being a legitimate working class interest in the
>> olde monarchies of the 1800's to become a mere business in democracies.
>
> You've obviously had a bad experience with an organisation. But not everyone
> agrees that things must get worse before a revolution is possible - I'd argue
> that winning campaigns, while making things better, can also increase class
> confidence and solidarity and so
make revolution easier.

Revolutionaries (like Marx and Engels) who can advocate both reform AND
revolution stand a better chance of affecting politics than those who merely
advocate 'revolution or nothing'. You have a leg up on quite a few, but still
have something to learn about the feasibility of revolution.

>>>> snip old dialogue
>
> One could equally argue that workers just want to be paid the actual value
> of their labour - that necessarily contradicts with the bosses interests,
> since their profit is the surplus value of labour (as a Marx fan you should
> know that definition). Anyway, as both possible definitions show, the
> struggle is not about working time, but about return for your work.

I wonder how many activists appreciate the dynamic nature of surplus values.
Two hundred years ago, it took 80% of the people living on the land to feed
100%, while today it only takes 2%, for a 40-fold increase in agricultural
productivity. At the rate housing is erected and clothes are made, those
productivities skyrocketed as well. Marx often used the example of a 12 hour
day, creating the value of wages (necessary values) in the first 6 hours, with 6
more hours creating surplus values. Today, I would imagine that people work
less than one hour per day for themselves, and 7 or more for their bosses and
the government, for an ENORMOUS increase in the rate of surplus value
production. If anyone really wanted to slow down surplus value production,
while providing for everyone, our 40 fold increase in productivity probably
means that we could create enough necessities of life for everyone if we each
only worked ONE HOUR PER WEEK. So, why are we working so hard? Well,
we know that wages represent the necessities of life, no matter how productive
we are, so the way to make the bosses inordinately rich is by prolonging the
length of the work day and week far beyond the time to create the necessities
of life. One way to do that is to allow productivity to increase by leaps and
bounds, while simultaneously preventing workers from taking the benefits of
increased productivity in the form of increased leisure, and instead allowing
bosses to take the benefits of increased productivity in the form of greater
surplus values and higher profits. Using the 'one hour per week' model, we
probably spend one hour per week working for ourselves, and 39 hours
working for the bosses and the government. I don't have many REAL figures,
so some of this is speculation, but I don't think that it's all that very far off.
A real analysis could open up a lot of eyes about the nature of the rip-off,
and enable people to appreciate the appropriateness of the shorter work week
in cutting out the waste. A working class program which does not include
a shorter work week is really a bourgeois program in disguise.

>> That idea isn't 'sneaky'; it's no worse than 'optimistic'. Let's face the facts:
>> Labor saving technology is soon going to make a LOT of unskilled labor redundant,
>
> Funny, people have been saying that for centuries, but it just never happens
> (it occurs to me that this is because the leisure industries expand to fill the available space)

It's true that it hasn't happened yet. But, since the mid-90's, annual productivity
has increased faster than at any time previous. 5% increases per year for a few
years in a row is unprecedented. It allowed wages to increase somewhat, while
minimizing inflation. But, we ain't seen nothing yet. Productivity increases will
soon become infinite in a few more decades, tossing everyone out on the street.

>>>> snip old dialogue
>>
>> It was pretty clear that something had to be done back then, but they
>> sabotaged the 30 hour week in favor of tax-and-spend policies, which
>> ballooned the American gov't like never before in its history.
>
> Yes, but my point is that 'long-term class interests' did _not_ make the
> bosses support a 30-hour week. If it's passed, it will have to be fought
> for, people aren't going to just agree on it.

Short term interests may have won the day for them so far, but their
long-term interests in shorter hours (for the benefit of all of society)
would have prevented all-out opposition.

My personal opinion is that the 30 hour week was too radical a move, and that
they might have had better success by going for 35, but they didn't even have
a 40 hour week as a general rule to go by in 1933, for the 40 hour week law
wasn't passed until 1938, and wasn't actually phased in until 1940. 30 hours
was a shot in the dark, and it missed. Prof. Ben Hunnicutt's "Work Without
End" says that HALF of American businesses voluntarily helped share work by
cutting work days and weeks during the Depression, and Kellogg's maintained
their 6 hour day in some departments until the late 1980's. Kellogg was known as
a 'liberation capitalist', believing that the shorter work day and week was the best
way to assure social justice, but his successors at Kellogg's were more pragmatic.

>> One thing for sure is that taxing and spending can only be
>> taken so far before the taxes become unbearable.
>
> For whom? For the same people who would be hurt by a shorter working week.

Taxing and spending can do quite a bit in the short run, but new robot and
computer technologies will soon start dumping unskilled labor out on the
streets so quickly that no amount of taxing and spending will be able to put
everyone to work at long-hour jobs. If dedication to enslavement to long-hour
jobs really becomes a necessity for some people to maintain their workaholic
lifestyles, then I can imagine we could set them up in front of terminals with
joysticks controlling mechanical monsters to move the Appalachians over to
the Rockies, and vice-versa.

>>> http://struggle.ws/wsm.html
>>
>> I looked it over, but I'm still unsure what the big plan really is.
>> Revolution can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and anarchism can
>> also mean a lot of different things. If your program is not as simple as 'a
>> shorter work week', then I wonder how many average people it will attract.
>
> 'A shorter work week' is
not that simple. You're arguing for a shorter week
> _for the same pay_, right? And everybody hearing that will know that it
> doesn't bypass class struggle, its just one section of the battleground.

A shorter work week certainly is part of the class struggle, and the weekly
pay would have to remain the same, which means that the hourly rate of pay
would have to go up. No matter how long or short the length of the work week,
bosses would still have to pay workers enough at the end of the week to see
that they show up for more work the following week. Bosses can often afford
to abuse low-skill labor, because many workers are willing to suffer abuse in
exchange for a pittance, while highly-skilled labor has to be pampered.

>>>> The French led the way with their 35 hour week.
>>
>> snip old text questioning its effectiveness
>
> The source is Newsnight, the flagship current affairs programme of the BBC.
> Which part of the report are you suspicious of? (The information may be on
> their website, I haven't checked)

In that case, I won't question it. The important thing about a shorter work week
is that: it would be far more effective if it became an international movement.
Allowing France to go it alone is like Europe not supporting the Paris Commune
of 1871, or Europe not revolting in support of the Russian revolution.

snip redundancy

Ken Ellis

 

6-07-01

Mike replied:

> Ken,
>  
> Seems like we had this discussion before...

I remember it well. On the way home, we often take the same paths over
and over again. If we can stop and sample the roadside treats from different
perspectives, then it doesn't have to be as stale as it might first appear.

> I'm all for a shorter work week,
> but how do we legislate and enforce such a thing.

It's already legislated in the Fair Labor Standards Act. All we have to do is
convince our legislators to AMEND it to read more like 'double time after
35' instead of 'time and a half after 40'.

> It seems to me that a limited guaranteed income would work well
> to relieve the pressure that working people feel to make ends meet
> in our inflationed economy.

That would definitely help, but people are unemployed primarily because
the length of the work week is too long, and time and a half isn't enough
disincentive to prevent overwork of the same old people. Unless we want
to create a lot of waste, we will have to take the benefits of increased
productivity in the form of increased leisure for workers, instead of
the bosses always taking the benefits in the form of increased profits.

> Also, I think the economy is on the brink of failure due to the cost of real
> estate and other productive assets relative to a very meager effective demand.

Is the fundamental problem the fact that 'only the rich can afford property, but
they already have more than enough of their own, so they refuse to buy all that
they can afford'? The poverty that results from competition over scarce jobs can
best be alleviated by eliminating the competition over scarce jobs. Eliminating
competition is most efficiently accomplished with a shorter work week. As Fred
Engels wrote in his "Condition of the Working Class in England": "If the
competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine
not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end.
"

> This may take something as bold as writing off trillions of dollars
> of bad debt and re-establishing assets at their salvage values.

Someone might have to eat that debt, and I don't think I'd be the one to ask
them to do that. If we are going to legislate, far better not to muck around
with tangible finances and wealth, and instead alter intangible hours of
labor. Altering hours of labor is of a whole different order of efficiency in
bringing social justice. Otherwise, we could legislate and legislate finances,
wealth, minimum wages, basic incomes, etc., and still not get to the root of
our problem, which is to efficiently bring every potential worker into the
civil economy, albeit for fewer hours, but in preparation for the days ahead
when new technologies take over even more human labor, and workers are
thrown out on the street wholesale. Some people predict that we are heading
for a 'singularity' in our economy in a few more decades, something like a
supernova, when all of the new technologies converge.

> These bold and necessary moves would take a huge burden off the backs of workers
> and
allow them to shorten their work weeks, if that's what they choose to do.

If a shorter work week arrives soon enough, workers wouldn't need the other
legislation. On the other hand, even with all of the proposed financial and
wealth legislation, workers would STILL need a shorter work week.

> It would also allow for the discontinuance
> of a great amount of unnecessary production (i.e. waste)

If waste is the result of too much work, then the most direct way to cut the
waste is to diminish the work load.

> which could open the door for rational community economic development
> planning based on quality of life considerations rather than standard of living.
> Such progress would place social equity and resource sustainability at the very
> top of the guiding principles.
 
With more time away from work, people would have more time
to get involved in the planning process.

Ken Ellis

 

6-07-01

Joan wrote:

snip agreement to disagree about slavery and Civil War.

> However, the one thing you said about the civil war that caught my attention
> was your comment that the war was caused by "
the hostility of the South."
> When I read that I wondered if someone really saw the war in such a simple-
> minded way (or if it had something do with your being in new england). but
> considering you are a thinking person i thought there must be more meaning
> behind it -- could you explain what you meant? Joan -- in pursuit of knowledge

It was the fact that the South fired the first shots, on Fort Sumter.
That made their hostility overt.

>> If a societal need exists, then a business will start up to meet the needs,
>> or the government will step in to fill the void. Businesses have come and
>> gone for centuries, so the birth or death of a business is no tragedy. If a
>> business fails, but the need still exists, then a new business will take
>> the place of the old. - Ken
>
> that's the thing though -- if you create conditions under which it is very
> difficult for businesses to exist, then they will die without being replaced. - Joan

In that case, perhaps you should have provided an example. Government controls
on businesses can illustrate this issue. Governments usually don't allow people to
freely traffic in 'controlled substances'. That doesn't prevent the drug trade, because
the demand is great, so entrepreneurs risk everything hoping not to get caught, and
balance the risk with high prices. Outlawed trades continue on, albeit underground.
The same goes for lots of other illegalized activities and substances, such as 'back-
alley abortions', radioactive substances, etc. Therefore, if a market exists for a
material or service, then usually SOMEONE will step in to fill it, for as long
as a profit can be made, and the market tends to equalize profits.

>> Controls on hours of labor are not to be compared with economic controls
>> which deal with doles, dollars, minimum wages, etc. Limits on hours, and
>> reforms dealing with money and financial issues, are 2 entirely different
>> things, like vectors and scalars. To invoke 'what happened to energy in
>> California' is 100% irrelevant, because the two issues are fundamentally,
>> QUALitatively different - not QUANTitatively. Money and wealth are
>> tangibles, while time is not tangible, even if we occasionally jest about
>> 'buying time'. - Ken
>
> labor is linked to money because labor is in large part a commodity.
> a wage is the price that an employer pays for labor.

There's no denying that link, without which 'not much would get done', except
maybe for labors of love. Still, it doesn't address the qualitative difference between
hours of labor legislation vs. reforms dealing with money and wealth redistribution.

> a price floor for labor (minimum wage) acts the same way
> to its buyers as a price floor on cigarettes does to consumers.

That's true as well, but it still doesn't prove that reforming 'hours of labor' laws
is of the same ilk as reforming minimum wages, doles, welfare, health care, etc.
Reforming hours of labor laws can get us to classless and stateless society, as
made possible by further advances in technology, while reforms of all of the
other laws do not liberate workers from unnecessarily long hours of toil.

>> Isn't 'full-time' rather to be defined by law? When we someday
>> arrive at 'double time after 30', will you still define full time as
>> 32 hours or more? - Ken
>
> Right now i am defining 32 as full time because many companies
> give benefits to employees who work 32+ hours per week and
> consider them full-time employees. - Joan

That's fine for today's world.

>> Because of so many loop-holes designed to benefit businesses, part-time
>> jobs with no benefits is what workers often get, at present. A shorter work
>> week would create greater demand for labor, and provide incentive for
>> bosses to hire more full-time workers, thus diminishing demand for
>> part-timers. - Ken
>
> Giant is always hiring. They can't get enough people to work there. But
> they still treat them like crap, and they still pay them very little. What
> makes you think they will stop relying on part-time employees? - Joan

If enough of a shortage of full-time labor can be created by means of driving
down the length of the work week, then it will force bosses to convert some
part-timers to full timers. E.g., a certain establishment requires 1,000 person-
hours of labor time each week. Ten key people each work 50 hours per week,
for a total of 500 hours, while the other 500 hours are performed by 25 people,
each working 20 hours per week.

A double time amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act is passed,
discouraging the boss from keeping the 10 key people beyond 40 hours per
week, meaning that 10 x 10 = 100 hours of labor per week have to be made up
somehow, encouraging the boss to convert 5 of the original 25 part-timers to
40 hour full-timers, thereby making up the missing 100 hours. Because the
law extends to all establishments, labor becomes scarce everywhere, forcing
bosses to promote from within, instead of just hiring more part-timers.

Ken Ellis

 

6-07-01

Joan wrote:

>> snip
>> whatever hunger we have in the USA has to be caused by bad politics,
>> and cannot be related to the economy. Guaranteeing 100% full bellies is
>> something that is easily accomplished on the economic plane of endeavor.
>> The only obstacle to full bellies is the political obstacle, which can be very
>> difficult to overcome, what with all of the social Darwinism that abounds. - Ken
>
> It is related to the economy because if a farmer can't sell his crops for a
> price where he will make money, he is better off letting them rot in the
> fields than to sell them at a loss and lose even more money.

'Inability to sell crops at a profit' causes hunger in America? Never
heard of it. I thought hunger resulted when some consumers didn't
make enough money to put food in their bellies.

> And if the government buys the grain, prices are driven up,
> production increases, and the
same problem is there again.

Nichts verstehen. Which of the 3 elements would cause the hunger problem to
return? Gov't purchases, higher prices, or increased production? Or, how do
the 3 combine to cause the hunger problem to return?

> don't just blame social darwinism for a much more complicated problem. - Joan

Hunger never seemed very complicated to me before, but now I'm confused.

>>> snip old exchange
>
> I'm not saying willy-nilly fail people. I'm saying that success should mean
> something. I am not rich, but i do value hard work. From my perspective, an
> achievement gained without any work is useless. it's like giving everyone an
> award just for showing up. that award doesn't mean anything. i would rather
> work hard and build something myself than have all day free time and have
> someone else hand it to me. i like having the opportunity to accomplish
> something -- and to take the risk myself, to be responsible for what i do --
> accept the failures and have credit for my successes. - J

Marx taught that our personal value systems reflect the existing mode of production.
Hard work may have made America the richest country in the world, but all value
systems are in a state of flux. A value that may work today for a go-getter may
not work for a slacker, and we will all be slackers in the future.

>> snip me
>
> I believe in providing all with basic necessities to live.
> But I don't believe in providing all with the luxuries
> of modern living unless they work for it. - J

I wonder how that attitude will stand the test of reality some 40 years from
now, when no one will have a way to earn a living. In the meantime, slow
economic progress will give people's views time to evolve. Slow evolution
shouldn't be very painful.

> Maybe there are people who want to sail around the world. There are
> also those who want to own their own place and build it themselves --
> without the government getting involved. I believe in opportunity -- that
> means opportunity to succeed or to fail and the opportunity to try again. - Joan

I'd hate to live in a world without freedom. Building a house with one's own 2
hands still means a lot to people. My dad built his own auto-repair shop from
the ground up, the house we live in, and a 21 foot motor boat. Such self-reliance
may become meaningless to future generations. Old timers will remember how
things used to be, but new generations may have no way to appreciate it, and
may even come to regard such ideas as 'mental baggage' or 'hang ups'.

>> snip me
>
> I associate the loss of individual freedom with totalitarianism. it is one
> thing to work toward humanitarian goals -- providing for people who are
> down on their luck, improving state parks and libraries and the like for all
> to enjoy, helping people get the education or opportunity they desire. - J

If 'good luck' means 'finding a decent job', then the whole human race will
soon be out of luck. Funny thing is, I don't think too many will mind, as long
as we first create a sense of community to replace our over-reliance on property.

> These things i support. but it is another thing entirely to try and take away
> individual choices and opportunities. if humanitarianism means taking away
> individual freedom, then we need to find a new kind of humanitarianism. freedom
> of choice and freedom from hunger don't have to cancel one another out. - Joan

I don't think that the socialism of the future will be totalitarian in any way.
Real people wouldn't stand for it. For perhaps centuries into the future, people
will preserve old ways of doing things, as in 'arts and crafts'. But, we will be a more
cooperative society, and not very many of us will make a principle out of adhering to
old ways of doing things. Perhaps the Mennonites and Amish will do so, but their
societies are so innocuous that no one will think of interfering with them.

>>> snip old exchange
>
> human error is increased by health care giants where the doctors don't even
> know who the patients are. personally, i would much rather be operated on
> by a human being than a machine. machines are just as fallible, and humans
> don't run on electricity. - Joan

If you can find a human to operate on you by the time you need it,
then perhaps you will be the exception who will prove the rule.

>>> snip old exchange
>
> why should that person be a practicing surgeon if he's going to
screw up
> people's surgery? it's a danger to people's health. Is giving him a job in
> what he wants to do more important than the lives h'e
screw up? - Joan

The fact that some surgeons will always prove to be better than others doesn't
necessarily mean that the under-performers are incompetent. Surgery still
involves a bit of art work, and some people are more artistic than others. It
doesn't mean that the poorest performer is necessarily going to hurt anyone. A
lack of excellence or interest may convert some of them into professional golfers.

>> 3. Ken writes: No one need sacrifice anything personal in order to apply
>> the very feasible principle of putting everyone to work by means of sharing
>> what little that has yet to be taken over by machines and computers. If we
>> presently enjoy a law bestowing time and half after 40, then we could
>> easily learn to enjoy double time after 35 for the same pay check at the
>> end of the week. It would become the new standard, and only a few
>> would miss the old time and a half after 40, but not for long. - Ken
>
> a 35 hour week would be nice. but i do not believe that becoming more
> dependent on machines and computers is good. - Joan

There's not much anyone can do about our increasing dependence upon machines
without smashing them like Luddites. Another alternative is to 'refuse to work for
much more than necessities of life', which would give us all a lot of time off, as well
as stop all future technological progress. Or, we could do something in between. A
shorter work week thus becomes key to preserving at least some of today's values
without creating an oppressive state, and the days of the devilishly hard work of
the industrial revolution are pretty much behind us.

>>> What about all the places that have no jobs at all? - J
>>
>> I can't think of a 'place' like that. Name one, besides 'heaven'. - K
>
> for example, a desert in africa. the land is desert, so they can't farm
> it, and all the people can do is sit and starve because there are no jobs.
> redistributing work hours somewhere else won't help them, and they still
> aren't getting fed or getting a chance to work and produce something. - Joan

That doesn't sound like an economy that could support ANYONE.
It sounds more like a good place to just lie down and die. Without jobs,
it is admittedly not a good place to apply 'hours of labor' legislation.

>>> 4. snip old dialogue
>
>> Suppose we don't learn to share the remaining work, and the length of the
>> work week is frozen at 40, but computers and technology continue to replace
>> human labor, the number of 40 hour jobs drops, and many more people end
>> up on welfare. Who pays the welfare? The taxpayer. Who are the taxpayers?
>> The workers, for the most part. But, if the number of workers declines, while
>> the number of unemployed rises, then the tax burden on workers goes up.
>> Such a 'solution' wouldn't do much good for the disparity between rich and
>> poor. The poor will be desperate for work, so will do anything, moral or
>> immoral, to get by. They will be the first to offer to help Maxxam clear-cut
>> the last of the old-growth redwoods in California, will be the first to help
>> make land mines in that factory in the Mid-West, etc., which guarantees that
>> we won't be building anything like a moral society. We will be so afraid of
>> the poor that we will have to alarm all of our homes and cars, etc., and the
>> only humans who survive this rat race may be the ones who evolve with
>> eyes in the back of their heads. Some 'great society'! - Ken
>
> I don't believe in freezing it at 40, but i also don't believe that continual work
> week reductions are the answer either. the goal should
not be no work, but
> having everyone employed in jobs they don't mind doing or even like doing.
> I think it is
better to have more jobs created than to try and "share" existing
> jobs at a level of production that does not provide for all as it is. - Joan

More people might someday very well think the same way, and put an end to all
future technological progress. But, in a world of capitalist competition, a policy
like that would soon mean economic ruin for the particular factory or country
which adopted such a rule. International cooperation to prevent technological
progress in particular industries might enable some success. But, the temptation
of individual capitalists to cheat will remain very strong, and it may require an
international police force to maintain stasis. I can't see imposing such repression
for no good reason other than to maintain an old system of values, unless a lot
of people feel similarly, but I think that enough people will be more than glad
to phase out work completely for that sentiment to prevail.

>> A lot of our society's 'going down the wrong track' began back in the
>> Depression, when labor's simple solution to the unemployment crisis was
>> a 30 hour work week, while the insidious forces of reaction had other plans
>> for us. Instead of us just passing that one brilliant act, reactionaries wanted to
>> keep people enslaved to needlessly long-hour jobs, which continue to create
>> far more commodities and services that would otherwise go unconsumed, had
>> it not been for government stimulation of the economy, the creation of all kinds
>> of alphabet soup agencies to put people to work, etc. Instead of a simple solution,
>> we received complexity, waste, and interference. Further refusal to cut the length
>> of the work week will only create an enormous cesspool of fresh, unnecessary
>> waste. These are the two horns of the dilemma which our increased productivity
>> has impaled us upon - whether to choose the simple road of little work and great
>> freedom, or the complex road of waste, overwork, overconsumption, government
>> interference in all aspects of daily lives, poverty, environmental degradation,
>> superprofits for the rich, a constant bombardment of advertising to get us to
>> consume the excess wealth, etc. This was all decided for us in the 1930's,
>> and we either acclimatize ourselves to it and learn to love it, or else we
>> yearn for the other choice and fight for a saner way of bringing the
>> whole society into a workless future in an intelligent manner. - Ken
>
> Your theory has the sound of conspiracy.

Like so many other important decisions, not enough people were involved, and the
ones who made the decision were the power elites. I'm not calling for a witchhunt, or
burning anyone in effigy. The fact that the decision was made by a very few is no news
to leftists, who constantly decry the incomplete political participation of the masses.

> Like you, I dislike the throw-away society and obsession with material goods.
> However, changing people's attitudes -- affecting demand on a large scale --
> is not as simple as you seem to think it is. - Joan

My way of doing things is so simple that maybe too many people reject it on
that basis. Maybe they think that, for something to be valuable, we all have to be
rocket scientists in order to effect complex solutions. I had to go back in history
to find out 'what really was' in order to understand how simple the solution really is.

Ken Ellis

 

6-08-01

Mark Leigh wrote:

> This sounds a lot like _The End of Work_ by Jeremy Rifkin.

Some of our conclusions about hours of labor are similar,
but I don't think that he critiques traditional left wing 'solutions'
like tax-and-spend, revolution, etc., the way I do.

> Is he generally well-regarded on the left?

Semi-well-regarded, at least. Some leftists unfortunately don't share the
shorter work week program, so a lot depends upon which leftist one talks to.

> The whole shortening the work week idea seems so obvious,
> but it's so hard to convince people it will work, for some reason.

That's because of a very strong over-reliance on traditions such as tax-and-spend,
expropriation of the rich, redistribution of wealth and property, etc. I've been trying
to convince various people of just how obsolete their power and property programs
are, but an unfortunate part of joining sectarian organizations is having to exchange
one's brain for a membership card. Sectarians are religiously loyal to their organiz-
ations and ideologies. People once tried to inoculate me with that virus, but I had
already immunized myself with a lot of self-analysis. If I no longer believed the
lies I told myself, then the fistfuls of lies sectarians wanted to tell me wouldn't
easily be taken for gospel, at least not forever.

Glad to have you on board, Mark. Interested in a movement to shorten the
length of the work week, higher overtime premiums, extending the Fair Labor
Standards Act to include all workers, longer vacations, etc.?

Ken Ellis

 

6-09-01

Lens wrote:

>> Sorry for the oversight. There is no historical precedent for workers
>> overthrowing stable and long-lasting democracies, where private property
>> and democracy enjoy long traditions. Overthrowing existing states is a
>> precondition to expropriation, but expropriation was regarded by Marx as
>> SUBSERVIENT to full participation in the economy. In today's democracies,
>> full participation can be won by simply reforming existing 'hours of labor' laws.
>> People will seek out simple reform solutions before they try more difficult
>> solutions involving overthrowing democracies, which isn't necessary anyway,
>> according to Marx in The Gotha Programme. Marx wrote that the republic is
>> the form of state in which the final political and legal battles between worker
>> and boss will be fought to the finish, so, if most people think that we have a
>> democracy, then we should bow to popular culture and try to reform what
>> we have before venturing toward more difficult solutions.
>
> !Well, you can say the same thing about the fall of the Soviet Union,
>
no one saw that comin' except the Trotskyists.

Marx and Engels predicted the downfall of the Russian monarchy half a century
before 1917, well before the Trotskyists.

> And, if it is possible to change the world into a socialist paradise democratically,
> then that is the path we should take. However, that is
only a dream, the rise of
> fascism in Europe just goes to
show you exactly what will happen when the
> capitalists are threatened by their expropriation, either Democratically or not,

The shorter work week movement to socialism knows better than to threaten
expropriation. Private property is doomed, but will not be felled by socialists.
People will merely lose interest in property after wage-labor is replaced with
volunteers, and the concept of exploitation fades away. Expropriation is so far
removed from people's interests that it is ignored for the eccentricity that it has
become. Expropriation was plausible only during Marx's era as an offshoot of
overthrowing the monarchies of the day. Because there are no monarchies in
Europe to overthrow today, socialists can safely consign expropriation to the
museum in order to stop upsetting so many people, and so that we get down to
the task of providing social justice by shortening the length of the work week.

> combined the social democrats and the communist party of Germany would have
> been more then enough to change all of germany democratically, however, this
> German Democracy legally apointed a dictator and stopped this from happening.

Marx's scenario of simultaneous revolutions would have been satisfied only if
all of Europe had revolted in sympathy with the Russian revolution. Socialism in
one country is impossible, or even in a few countries scattered across the globe.

> The same could happen here, all that is needed to change the constitution is
> 2/3rds votes of congress, and 2/3rds votes of states congresses, and guess
> who occupies those positions? And guess how long they are still in office
> to change this after a a majority of socialists have been elected, they have
> the power to change all of the rules, before the new congress even begins.

All that we need for social justice is a few little amendments to the Fair Labor
Standards Act, so as to replace 'time and a half after 40' with 'double time after
35', and to keep on amending that law as made necessary by improvements in
technology. We don't even need a separate workers' party to take control of gov-
ernment. All we need is a strong movement dedicated to a shorter work week, longer
vacations, or anything else that will withdraw labor from a glutted labor market.

> And even if they don't how are you going to force Alan Greenspan and the
> capitalists to change, the key word is force, and if these people are sod ear to
> their property they would rather die than give it up, what makes you think it
> will be any different if it is voted democratically to have them give it up?

We will never ask anyone to give up their property, so property will never
become an issue. We could collectivize all of the property tomorrow, and it
still wouldn't affect unemployment. Unemployment has to be addressed with
measures that differ markedly from measures dealing with property relations.
Property and wealth is tangible, while labor time is not. (We all know that the
PRODUCT of labor time is wealth, but the time itself is intangible. The laws
that will best serve the workers are the laws that affect intangible - but
measurable - time. An American hour is the same as a Siberian hour.)

> Also, I have read the gotha programme, and in no way does Marx say that it
> was even possible to form a workers state democratically? Please list your quotes.

"Even vulgar democracy, which sees the millennium in the democratic republic
and has no suspicion that it is precisely in this last form of state of bourgeois
society that the class struggle has to be fought out to a conclusion - even it
towers mountains above this kind of democratism which keeps within the
limits of what is permitted by the police and not permitted by logic.
"
Page me24.96 Gotha Programme

"On the other hand, the proletariat feels that the funeral dirge of the
monarchy is simultaneously the clarion call for the decisive battle with the
bourgeoisie. The modern republic is nothing but the stage cleared for the last
great class struggle in world history - and this is what gives it its tremendous
significance.
" Page me23.419 Engels - "The Republic in Spain"

"The highest form of the state, the democratic republic, which under our
modern conditions of society is more and more becoming an inevitable
necessity, and is the only form of state in which the last decisive struggle
between proletariat and bourgeoisie can be fought out - the democratic
republic officially knows no more of property distinctions. In it wealth
exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely.
" Page me26.272
Engels - "Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State"

I just installed the 50 volumes of Collected Works of Marx and Engels on my
computer. If I knew how to use this new program better, I know of at least one
more place where Engels credited Marx with that thought.

>> Major similarities between the Paris Commune and the Russian revolution
>> include: the replacement of a feudal monarchy with a bourgeois republic as
>> the first step, and then its further development into a social and democratic
>> republic. But, the Commune and Russian revolutions were both supposed
>> to be part of M+E's scenario of 'simultaneous revolutions in the most
>> developed countries
'. The lack of simultaneity caused the Paris Commune
>> to fail, and the Russian revolution never developed beyond much more than a
>> mere caricature of a proletarian dictatorship - insufficient political democracy.
>> But, as far as Russia being 'communist' goes, billions of people understand
>> the old Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea, etc., as being 'communist',
>> and I see no need to contradict common knowledge. It's a waste of time
>> trying to educate billions to new terminology, when all that will suffice will
>> be to merely rally people's sentiments, whatever they might evolve into.
>
> !France was not a third world feudal country when the paris commune
> happened, it was a bourgeois democracy,

Somewhere around 1850 or so, the second French republic was overthrown by
Napoleon 3 (nephew of Napoleon the First). The N3 monarchy lasted until Sept.
4, 1870, when the 3rd Republic was proclaimed in Paris. The 3rd Republic was
created in the middle of the Franco-Prussian War, and reaction against the
Republic was very strong. A power struggle ensued, during which the Commune
was proclaimed in defense of the Republic on March 18, 1871. The creation of
the Commune followed a pattern: new republics were formed on the ashes of
monarchies, and the new republics were further developed into social-democ-
ratic republics, by means of winning universal suffrage. Bourgeois republics
always restricted the use of the ballot to property owners, but proletarians
wanted political rights in exchange for their help in overthrowing monarchies.
It was precisely this dynamic which Marx wanted to rally into the creation of
a universal social-democratic red republic, otherwise known as a proletarian
dictatorship. But, lack of solidarity prevented it from happening in enough
countries simultaneously, leaving us in 2001 to follow France's lead in short-
ening the length of the work week as the best means of bringing social justice.

> and I think it is clear enough from that experience it is possible
>
here, just because of the fact there is historical evidence of it, in
> Russia, and France, France being an industrialized western world,
> and no matter how feudal these countries are, they are still examples
> of revolution, and examples for revolution being possible
in america.

Revolutions are political struggles, but over what? Is it the feudalism-capitalism
struggle over 'which form of property ownership would dominate politics'? -
Ownership of land, using a monarchy; or, ownership of capital, using a republic?
In the USA today, ownership of capital has dominated since we abolished slavery
136 years ago, so no fight over property ownership is conceivable today. If the
South was willing to fight and die to preserve as immoral a form of ownership as
slavery, then how hard would ordinary people fight to preserve private ownership
of everything else? That right there tells you that expropriation in 2001 is the
height of folly. Only a commercial operation could hope to exploit people's
gullibilities by promoting expropriation in democracies. Commercial sectar-
ians hope that the suckers will keep on comin', and will keep on supporting
intransigent sectarian party bureaucracies dedicated to marketing pure folly.

> If you can cite some evidence in the past of a democratic transformation of
> society from one mode of production into another, that would be exemplary
> evidence towards your case, and by mode of production I mean, Slave to
> Feudal, Feudal to Capitalist, or Capitalist to socialist.

Slave to feudal, I don't think involved violence. Rather, I remember hearing
the term 'disintegration of slavery into feudalism'.

Feudal to capitalist, by itself, does not conjure up violence the way the associated
change from 'monarchy to republic' often does. But, not all such political changes
involved violence. Many absolute monarchies semi-capitulated by changing to
constitutional monarchies, a change which occurred in Germany and many other
countries without violence. M+E wanted a clean break with feudal and monarchical
institutions, because they wanted the proletariat to be armed and to fight for universal
suffrage in the new republics, but they didn't get the violent overthrows as often as
they wanted, and at the same time.

Capitalist to socialist remains to be seen for the future, but that change can only
be peaceful as the world becomes increasingly democratic, where no fight over
property will occur. Socialists will learn to drop the old obsolete demand for
expropriation, for they will learn that expropriation without compensation was
feasible only after overthrowing monarchies, or after liberating colonies, but
was never feasible after socialists and communists won mere elections in Social-
Democracies, demonstrating the incompatibility of expropriation with democracies.

> Those countries were not by our definition Communist, they were Deformed
> workers' states, and it is important to tell people that to help them to realize
> what Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky were talking about, if let the old
> demagogic terms remain, they will get the wrong impression.

The people who really need the education are the revolutionaries who think
they can replace democracies with workers' states, or with a classless and
stateless administration of things. They don't understand how poorly their
smattering of ignorance serves them.

Even if ordinary people were willing to sit through long explanations of how
the old Soviet Union differed from Marx's proletarian dictatorship, people still
wouldn't want to expropriate the rich. Expropriation is not what social justice is
all about. The philosophy of the working class is 'live and let live'. As long as the
majority of the people can live (and who says that Joe Six-Pack is starving?), they
are not interested in a radical redistribution of wealth and property. An attack on the
ownership of the property of the rich will be regarded as an attack on everyone's
rights to own property, eliminating mass support right there.

>>> And as so far as the fact that America being the only place that was fully
>>> capitalist in their day, this is untrue,
>>
>> England and the USA were of comparable development during much of the
>> lifespans of M+E. Engels referred to the USA as the most bourgeois country
>> in the world, for agriculture was far more peasant in nature than in England,
>> which was far more proletarianized.
>
> !No england and america were not comparable in their times, hell, even the SLP says so.

What does the SLP know? Some of them still believe in Petersen's lie that
the dictatorship of the proletariat was supposed to be a dictatorship over the
peasantry
. If foolish enough to believe that, then we could also be convinced
that the absence of a large peasantry would render a proletarian dictatorship
(over the peasantry) unnecessary in the USA. Though we certainly do not need
a proletarian dictatorship in the USA, the SLP's reasoning is invalid, because
their definition is invalid. Everyone knows that M+E intended the proletarian
revolution to be exerted over the richest of the rich, and intended for the
workers to be ALLIED with the peasants and lower middle classes. Allied for
what? Primarily to overthrow monarchies. Revolutionism in the USA and other
democracies is nothing but a series of cheap and dirty tricks, just like the SLP's.

> If you read Value, Price, and Profit by Marx, the SLP version on page 69-71
> they go on and on in a foot note that spans 3 pages about how different America
> and Britain are, and how less developed the USA was. If you could find that quote
> by Engels I would be very appreciative, although this is a little off topic.
>
> Lens Travis

The long footnote on pp. 69-71 was not written by Engels. It was clearly
signed at the end by Arnold Petersen, Nat'l Secretary of the SLP (1913-68),
and was written during some of the worst of the conditions of the Depression,
when hunger in America and the rest of the world was very real. Those
conditions no longer apply.

Politically, Marx likened the USA and England of his day, and considered
them democratic enough to get to socialism by peaceful means, no matter how
peasant-dominated the USA compared to proletarianized England. When it
comes to revolution, the political condition of a country is the major factor.
The only countries in Marx's time that revolted, or came close, were the
monarchies on the continent of Europe. The only people who muse about
'revolutions in democracies' are those who have yet to study history, or else
figure out how badly they've been lied to. Knowledge liberates.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

6-09-01

Jakks inquired about a quote from Engels:

> Three... Historical Materialism. Please help me to clarify this....
>
>> "
III. PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION --
>>
>> "To accomplish this act of universal emancipation
>> is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To
>> thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and
>> thus the very nature of the act, to impart to the now
>> oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the
>> conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act
>> it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the
>> theoretical expression of the proletarian movement,
>> scientific Socialism.
"
>
> What I get from this is that Socialism, scientific
> Socialism, is the 'act' and that 'act' is spreading the
> education, comprehension, and acknowledgment,
> which informs us of the possibility and allows for
> the acceptance of socialization of production. In turn
> this will lead to, and develop into, man becoming "
at last
> the master of his own form of social organisation
".
>
> Please expound on this for me... if you'd care to..
>
> Thanks in Advance .... Regards, Jakks

Going back to the text of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific,
Engels defined 'the act' in his previous paragraph (with my emphasis):

"The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this
transforms the socialised means of production, slipping from
the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. BY THIS ACT,
the proletariat frees the means of production from the character
of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialised
character complete freedom to work itself out.
"

Though many (like I do) now regard that particular act as
obsolete, it being far more plausible in Engels' time than
today (when Europe was far more revolutionary), such
was the nature of 'the proletarian revolutionary act'.

Ken Ellis

 

6-10-01

Sorry for the delay. Mike wrote:

> Ken,
>  
> I agree that a thirty-five hour work week would be something to propose,
> support, and work for, but
not without a guaranteed income.

'Not without'? Is a guaranteed income on a higher pedestal
than a shorter work week? If so, why?

> A thirty-five hour work week (with double-time or time and a half for
> hours worked beyond) would encourage and cause the employment
> of more part-time workers.
>
> A guaranteed income could be implemented as an extension of the current
> social security system. As a general rule, at the age of eighteen, all citizens
> would be given a small guaranteed income. Increases would come with age
> and a formula based on accumulated work time, to an upper limit.

The second part sounds complicated.

> I have other ideas related to subsidies of this kind relative to whether the
> place of employment is worker owned, the nature of the endeavor, and the
> employer's ability to pay (perhaps the latter could be tied to an increased
> minimum wage provision)...

Sounds complicated as well, and like a job for another state bureaucracy.

> For now, however, I would support your proposal if it includes
> the guaranteed income that I am proposing.

The shorter work week solution is simple and elegant, but can still do a lot.
Addressing intangible hours of labor is of a whole order of efficacy removed
from reforms dealing with money, finances, welfare, minimum wages, guaranteed
incomes, etc. Once people begin to appreciate the differences between dealing
with doles and dollars vs. intangible hours of labor, then the shorter work
week will begin to acquire a life of its own.

> If you concur, let's talk about how we can introduce, support,
> and implement such action.
>
> I look forward to hearing opinions regarding these concepts.
>
> Thank you.

A guaranteed income isn't the worst idea in the world, but it would
be obviated by putting all available people to work for fewer hours.
For now, each measure can be allowed to fight for air on its own.

Ken Ellis

 

6-10-01

John Henry wrote:

> Kenneth writes that the "Civil War" was about slavery. I will not deny
> that slavery was a factor, but it was a relatively
minor one.

MINOR? When slavery inspired 3 separate amendments to the Constitution?

> How was it, that after having been universal around the world since before
> recorded history, in less than a hundred years slavery was almost totally eliminated?

Slavery was incompatible with the rise of wage labor and capital,
which became sufficiently politically dominant to abolish slavery.

> The only place there was a war was in the US.

M+E regarded America as the most bourgeois country in the world, where
property was king, and slaves were property. As Marx wrote in his articles
about America and the Civil War, the Southern slavocracy was determined
to preserve slavery, and to extend it to the new territories so as to maintain
their majority in the Legislature. The election of the abolitionist Republicans
and Lincoln was regarded as a direct threat to slavery, so the South decided to
secure slavery by force of arms, and started the hot war by firing on Fort Sumter.

> You don't really think all those nice white boys from Michigan etc fought
> to free the slaves, do you?

After the South started the overt hostilities, the North fought to defend itself,
very ineptly at first, under McClellan.

> And, if it was about slavery, why were the slaves never freed?

All this time, have I been laboring under the MISCONCEPTION that 'the slaves
were freed'? Pity me, and so many others. Is this part of another left-wing re-
education campaign, which may include: 'The old Soviet Union wasn't
communist
'? I don't why it's so necessary to contradict common knowledge.

> The Emancipation Proclamation covered only those slaves outside of the then
> United States. That is, the slaves in the non-seceding states were not freed.

But later, the post-War 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution
came along and abolished slavery, involuntary servitude, discrimination, etc.

Ken Ellis

 

6-12-01

Joan wrote:

>>> However, the one thing you said about the civil war that caught my attention
>>> was your comment that the war was caused by "the hostility of the South."
>>> When I read that I wondered if someone really saw the war in such a simple-
>>> minded way (or if it had something do with your being in new england). but
>>> considering you are a thinking person i thought there must be more meaning
>>> behind it -- could you explain what you meant? Joan -- in pursuit of knowledge
>>
>> It was the fact that the South fired the first shots, on Fort Sumter.
>> That made their hostility overt.
>
> Even though they were forced into it by a really shrewd politician?

Nothing forced the South to shoot first. They could have acceded to the
prevailing mood by phasing out slavery. England had abolished slavery earlier
in the century without a civil war, so the South could have followed that good
example. Perhaps the South even could have asked for financial compensation
for the loss of their slave capital, and perhaps they would have gotten it.

>>>> snip old text
>>
> There is a big difference between drug trade and legitimate businesses that
> provide products & services for many people. Say the government decided
> that strawberries could be sold for no more than a dollar. Then they take 50
> percent of that dollar as a tax. if it costs 60 cents to produce the strawberries,
> then no one will grow them (except to sell on the black market) because they
> are guaranteed to lose money. This is what happens when there is too much
> government regulation.

Ahhh, government regulation, perhaps that is the bugaboo.
Are any regulations worth keeping?

The example provided for us contains some rather arbitrary figures. In order to
perform those particular government misdeeds, it would seem that the agents
would have to be bent on destroying the strawberry industry. That would be
rather spiteful and counter-productive, and for what reason? Are all gov't
agencies that poorly motivated?

>>> snip old text
>
> forcing companies to pay more for fewer hours
has
> the theory of
redistributing wealth to workers.

Shorter work hours would mean less wealth to distribute. In what way would
a reduction in wealth production represent a redistribution of wealth to workers?
Let me first try answering my own question. A shorter work week would mean
less production, but wages represent necessities of life, which mustn't be curtailed
without introducing more suffering for the masses, so that level of production
would have to be maintained, and only non-essential surplus values would be
cut back. In that manner, the rich and the government would get fewer goodies
to play around with. Percentage-wise, workers would get more wealth, while in
ABSOLUTE terms, the rich would get less, while workers would get the same.
'Tragic', perhaps, but only for the bourgeoisie, who can bear the brunt of
'tragedy' easier than workers.

> it doesn't work that way though; if production costs are higher, prices are
> higher. a kid makes 40 cents a quart to pick strawberries. if the minimum
> pay for strawberries was 50 cents a quart, then they'd be sold for 3.35
> instead of 3.25. they may get more money, but it
won't buy any more.

Closer to real life, and IF the labor of the pickers were the only cost of
production, then the dime more per quart (a rise of 20%) for the kids
would make the retail price increase by 20% (to $3.90), so that the
boss could make the same percentage profit.

>>> snip old text
>
> 1.
nothing can "get us to classless and stateless society."

Evolution gets us closer to that socialist goal every day. At some point in
our slow economic evolution, people will recognize that economic progress
will have to be steered politically to prevent the working class from starving,
and then we will see some progress in social cooperation, and a leap towards
classless and stateless socialism.

> 2. technology can't pick strawberries.

In the old days, people used to say things like: 'People will never fly', or
'People will never go into space and come back alive.' Instead, 'we ain't seen
nothing yet.' Machine vision and smarts have a long way to go, but they are
making progress. YOU may not have to look ahead, because others will do it
for you. WE feel the need to cooperate to get to classless and stateless society
with as little pain as possible.

> 3. i work 10-hour days because i need the money, not because
> anyone is forcing me to. i make significantly more than minimum wage.

I hope that you will still remember us when you become a philanthropist.

>>> snip old text
>
>> A double time amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act is passed,
>> discouraging the boss from keeping the 10 key people beyond 40 hours
>> per week, meaning that 10 x 10 = 100 hours of labor per week have to be
>> made up, somehow, encouraging the boss to convert 5 of the original 25
>> part-timers to 40 hour full-timers, thereby making up the missing 100
>> hours. Because the law extends to all establishments, labor becomes
>> scarce everywhere, forcing bosses to promote from within, instead
>> of just hiring more part-timers.
>
> What about the fact that there are always new high school students and
> immigrants who need jobs?

Those who retire, or become disabled, make room for new people all of the
time. If employee turnover were something for the left to worry about, then
the left would be worrying about it, but we leave such purely bourgeois
concerns to the bourgeoisie to worry about. It is enough for us to worry
about our own class, if only we would begin to do even that.

Ken Ellis

 

6-12-01

Mike wrote:

>>> I agree that a thirty-five hour work week would be something to propose,
>>> support, and work for, but
not without a guaranteed income.
>>
>> 'Not without'? Is a guaranteed income on a higher pedestal
>> than a shorter work week? If so, why?
>
> Mike responds:
>
> No, I see a guaranteed income as an
equal part of the plan.

Not me. I've already advised against mixing up reforming
'hours of labor' laws vs. 'doles and dollars'.

>>> A thirty-five hour work week (with double-time or time and a half for
>>> hours worked beyond) would encourage and cause the employment
>>> of more part-time workers.
>
> Mike responds:
>
> Yes, this would be and is a legitimate concern to the current forty hour
> week and the increasing use of part-time workers. Where is your response?

Going back a few messages, that was YOUR original statement,
which I mostly agree with.

>>> A guaranteed income could be implemented as an extension of the current
>>> social security system. As a general rule, at the age of eighteen, all citizens
>>> would be given a small guaranteed income. Increases would come with
>>> age and a formula based on accumulated work time, to an upper limit.
>>
>> The second part sounds complicated.
>
> Mike responds:
>
> I don't think it would be all that complicated...

Like a lot of 'doles and dollars' reforms, it's a LOT more complicated than
'double time after 35', because double time after 35 would be the beginning
and the end of it. When dealing with reforms in the interests of the working
class, things should be kept simple.

>>> I have other ideas related to subsidies of this kind relative to whether
>>> the place of employment is worker owned, the nature of the endeavor,
>>> and the employer's ability to pay (perhaps the latter could be tied to
>>> an increased minimum wage provision)...
>
>> Sounds complicated as well, and like a job for another state bureaucracy.
>
> Mike had written (realizing that complexity in administration
> was starting to become an issue):

??? Yes? You were saying?

>>> snip old monologue >
>
> Mike adds:
>
> What is Ken Ellis' direct response to this straightforward question?

I thought I had already given it, but here it is again: "A guaranteed income
isn't the worst idea in the world, but it would be obviated by putting all
available people to work for fewer hours. For now, each measure
can be allowed to fight for air on its own."

Ken Ellis

 

6-12-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int*y..., "MC Shan" wrote:

> Ken, you make some very good points about the civil war but it WASN'T
> about slavery, well it was, but the north wasn't fighting to free them. In fact
> a good majority of Northerners were just as racist as southerners. Lincoln
> would have never freed the slaves if he had felt he didn't have to. The reason
> he did so was purely tactical. He felt <as I'm sure many of his generals did too>
> that if he could cause the slaves to riot in the south, that the southern government
> would have to pull troops from the front lines to maintain order in the south,
> thus weakening them.

Maybe instead of jumping to the middle of the War to begin your analysis, you
could have looked at 'who fired the first shots, and why'. Marx made it very clear,
quoting John C. Calhoun from a Senate speech in 1847, that the South was willing
to be physically aggressive in order to maintain their 'right' to own people. The South
fought to preserve slavery in the South, and to extend slavery in the new territories
opening up to new settlers. The slavocracy's majority in the legislature had been
slipping steadily, and their overt hostility was a desperate attempt to maintain
their immoral form of exploitation.

Marx wrote quite a bit about the American Civil War, and many of his articles
were printed in The New York Daily Tribune, and quite a few were reproduced in
a McGraw-Hill compendium entitled 'Karl Marx - On America and the Civil War',
edited by Saul K. Padover.

p. 76: "John Calhoun, whom the slaveholders admire as their
statesman par excellence, declared in the Senate as early as
...
1847, that
... the attempts of the South to create new slave States
by force were therefore justified.
... A tight restriction of slavery
within the old terrain was bound, therefore, according to economic
law, to lead to its gradual extinction, to the annihilation, in the political
sphere, of the hegemony that the slave states exercised through the
Senate, and finally to expose the slaveholding oligarchy within its
own states to threatening dangers from the "poor whites". With the
principle that any further extension of slave territories was to be
prohibited by law, the Republicans therefore attacked the rule of
the slaveholders at its root. The Republican victory was accordingly
bound to lead to an open struggle between North and South.
"

> The north wanted to keep the country whole, the south wanted out
> so they could keep their slaves <at this time several laws had been
> passed stating that slaves could only exist in states already owning
> them I.E. no new slave states. and that you could no longer buy slaves.
> The only way to produce more was to "breed" them.>. Many schools
> fail to teach this to students, because of the difficulty in providing all
> of the background material necessary to truly understand all the reasons.
> Its far too much to go over in the 2 or 3 weeks that are usually allotted
> to go over the subject.
>
> Shan
http://www.redscarehq.vze.com
>
> ----- Original Message -----
snip

Those were interesting tidbits.

Marx on page 70: "Above all, it is to be remembered that the war
did not emanate from the North, but from the South. The North
finds itself on the defensive. For months it had quietly looked on
while the Secessionists appropriated to themselves the Union's
forts, arsenals, shipyards, customs houses, pay offices, ships,
and supplies of arms, insulted its flag, and took prisoner bodies
of its troops. Finally the Secessionists resolved to force the
Union government out of its passive attitude by a sensational act
of war, and solely for this reason proceeded to the bombardment
of Fort Sumter near Charleston.
"

p. 71: "... the election victory of the Republican party of the North,
the election of Lincoln as President, gave the signal for secession.
"

p. 92: "Between 1856 and 1860 the political spokesmen, jurists,
moralists, and theologians of the slaveholders' party already
sought to prove, not so much that Negro slavery is justified, but
rather that color is a matter of indifference and the working class
is everywhere born for slavery. Thus one sees that the war of the
Southern Confederacy is, in the true sense of the word, a war of
conquest for the extension and perpetuation of slavery.
"

p. 93: "The present struggle between the South and the North is
therefore nothing but a conflict between two social systems, the
system of slavery and the system of free labor. The struggle broke
out because the two systems can no longer live peacefully side by side
on the North American continent. It can end only with the victory of
one system or the other.
"

Though I don't stand with Marx on the need for proletarian revolution,
most of his observations on the American Civil War seem valid. He was
an astute observer of history as it unfolded. But, he may have blinded
himself to one particular lesson: If the South was willing to fight and
die to preserve and extend as immoral a form of ownership as slavery,
then how hard would ordinary people fight to defend private ownership
of everything else (against rambunctious socialists)?

Ken Ellis

 

6-12-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., Mark Leigh <fusion@n...> wrote:

> Yeah. I've basically been lurking here for about half a year, give or take a month.
>
> Is anything interesting going on, relative to this group,
> with respect to the 2002 election season?

If you've been lurking for awhile, then you probably can guess that we don't
do much more than theorize and rant. I don't think anyone here has any big
plans for 2002. I surely don't, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't propose
something. What with all of the blabbing I do, the thought of 'being
organized' is overwhelming. I don't know when I'd ever find time for it.

Maybe one important thing to do is to find out which way to go before we proceed.

Ken Ellis

 

6-13-01

Joan wrote:

>> snip old text
>>
>> Hunger never seemed very complicated to me before, but now I'm confused. - Ken
>
> It is quite a
complicated problem. Say, for example, a random third-world
> country. There are many reasons why there is hunger:
> 1. desertification caused by poor farming practices and climate change
> 2. war leading to destruction of crops
> 3. refugee populations, etc. on the move
> 4. drought/plague/etc.
> 5. people having more children than they can feed
> 6. better health care that means more children survive
> 7. and many others as well as combinations of these and others.
> There is
much more to the problem of hunger than just who has the money.
> In North Korea the government controls all of the grain for the good of the
> people. They feed it to the army, and the people starve. - Joan

Granted the complex nature of the problems of underdeveloped countries
(or even communist countries like North Korea, with its profound economic
problems, exacerbated by a lack of a market). No quick solution (like a shorter
work week) can apply to such struggling economies. But, that whole ball of wax
sort of brings us back full circle to the home turf, where crises of overproduction
lead to slow-downs, causing well-meaning individuals to sit around scratching
their heads, while Greenspan lowers the prime interest rate, hoping to spur growth.
If OUR problem is one of overproduction (which statistics showed the malaise of
the past year or so to actually be), then relying on Greenspan may become a thing
of the past if lowering the rates - even to zero - still fails to sufficiently move the
economy out of the doldrums. The resulting high unemployment would then force
us to resort to more basic measures, such as 'sharing the remaining work'.

>> snip old text
>
> I am very much a slacker -- but I also work hard when I need to. If no one
> worked
hard, then nothing would be produced and society would fall apart. - Joan

It's been a few hundred years since Westerners have had the opportunity to
really take it easy, like they did in the middle ages, when people only worked
half the year or so. Still, they managed to build the Renaissance, and the
Industrial revolution followed that epoch, so all of the slacking in the old
days couldn't have hurt people very much.

>> snip old text
>
> 40 years from now will be
like today, only more polluted. Your kind of slow
> evolution may be happening -- but it is a
bad thing.

It wouldn't have to be bad if we kept the interests of the majority in mind at
all times, but we go wrong when we pay more attention to the interests of the
rich (as in the latest tax cut, the benefits of which I'll never see).

> I often find there are fewer people who don't want
> to earn a living than there are ways to earn a living. - Joan

'That's America, the land of untapped opportunities, whose people are so rich
that opportunities to work go unfulfilled.' Puhleeze.

Perhaps you never heard the statistic that one out of every six California kids
goes hungry. Will more money for farmers solve that? All of the money in the
world could be dumped on their doorsteps, and they still wouldn't give the food
away to the kids and people who need it. I'm not the one to propose just giving
money away, but YOU want to give the money to GROWERS, even though
such a give-away wouldn't result in a single full belly.

>> snip old text
>
> I will
not see self-reliance become meaningless. If the world does become
> fully reliant on your so-called technology, then at some point it will all
collapse,
> and those who can be self-reliant and creative are the ones who will survive to
> repopulate the planet with a more intelligent breed of humans... - Joan

No one has a crystal ball. The only way to avoid future disaster will be to
take care of the interests of the majority while we can, and we will. In spite
of all of the doom-sayers, we humans are quite humanitarian way down deep,
and we will take care of our own, dumb as we sometimes can seem.

>> snip old text
>
> Good luck
doesn't find you a job. Good work does. People whine that they
> don't have jobs -- but they don't have jobs because
they're too good to do
> any of the jobs that are available. - Joan

That's a slanderous accusation against the blue-collared people of this red-
blue-green forum - blame the victim. 'People are not unemployed because they
don't want to work.' If people didn't want to work, then the unemployment rate
would be zero, for the BLS's often-quoted U-3 number reflects only those who
actively LOOK FOR WORK. Our 5% unemployment rate is NATIONAL POLICY.
The Federal Reserve System goes into contortions to keep the unemployment
rate from going very much above or below 5%. Go below 5%, and bosses
compete for scarce labor, raising wages, and thereby lowering profits. Go
significantly above 5%, and the whole country goes crazy with social
instability. So, it's a narrow fence they walk along.

>> snip > not very many of us will make a principle out of adhering to old ways
>> of doing things. Perhaps the Mennonites and Amish will do so, but their
>> societies are so innocuous that no one will think of interfering with them. - Ken
>
> A government that has full control of the economy can interfere with anyone
> they want to -- and they would
probably attack the Amish in some way, if not
> totally destroying their way of life, "for the good of society". - Joan

The government often reflects the will of society as a whole, just the way the bulk
of the people acquiesced to the post-WW2 red scare, until McCarthy's witch hunt
began to appear like the craziness it really was. When we finally decide to share the
remaining work equitably, and we cut down on the wealth and waste we produce,
we will simultaneously cut down on government excesses, which will mean taking
away government powers somewhat in the beginning. Further reductions in class
distinctions will enable further reductions in government power.

The greater the difference between the rich and the poor, the stronger must be
the government. As shorter work weeks liberate workers from unnecessary toil,
and the difference in freedom between worker and boss diminishes, then the
need for a strong and oppressive government will decline in proportion, and
the government's initiative to do damage will fade away.

The theoretical goal of socialism has never been to create strong states like
Stalinist bureaucracies, but rather to build as full a mass participation as conceivable.
Remarkably enough, even that full POLITICAL participation would diminish to zero
as class distinctions decline to zero, and the state itself diminishes to zero. Today, it
should be becoming increasingly clear that the abolition of class distinctions will have
to be proportional to technological progress, enabling work, class distinctions, reliance
on property and the state, to all diminish proportionally, and to facilitate entrance to the
realm of freedom. Even formal 'equality', which invokes the notions of political and
legal equality, will also fade away in proportion to the fading away of work, class
distinctions, government, and property. If it can't be that way, then the alternative
could easily be a hell on earth. We in this forum could be voices in support of
such a rational slow abolition of capitalism and the state.

>>> snip old text
>
> Why do you put so much value/trust in "technology"? - Joan

I'm not the only one. Humankind is rushing headlong into increasing trust of
machines and technology. Maybe we do it because 'it works', and because the
technology has yet to turn against us with a will of its own.

>> snip old text > Surgery still involves a bit of art work, and some people
>> are more artistic than others. It doesn't mean that the poorest performer
>> is necessarily going to hurt anyone. A lack of excellence or interest may
>> convert some of them into professional golfers. - Ken
>
> And how many peoples' lives do they have to
ruin/end
> before they lose their job?

That's like saying that, except for the top few percent, that every other bus
driver, truck driver, grocery clerk, auto mechanic, bank teller, etc., are all
incompetent wreckers. Where did you acquire this attitude? If it were at all
based on reality, then the whole economy would never have come as far as it has.

>> snip old text
>
> There is a difference between smashing machines, and recognizing their
> problems and choosing to not become too dependent on them. speaking of
> shorter work weeks, i don't mind working 10-hour days at my job. and if the
> standard work week was shorter, good because i would make more money for
> my 10-hour days. - Joan

If the disincentive against overtime were great enough, your boss wouldn't work
you for 10 hours per day, unless you were REALLY good, like superhuman. The
whole point of a shorter work week/higher overtime premium is to humanitarianly
share what little work that remains to be done by humans, and which has yet to be
taken over by machines and technology. You don't seem to have picked up on that
point, and instead seem to be more interested in using a shorter work week and
higher overtime premium to your personal advantage over others. It calls into
question the purpose of your involvement in a rbg alliance. You certainly don't
represent b, because you don't seem to want to protect the interests of the working
class as a whole. You certainly can't be a red, either, so that leaves 'green', perhaps.

>> snip old text
>
> That was my point. If there are no jobs, you can't redistribute the jobs.
> Jobs need to be created there, something that doesn't happen under a
> state-controlled economy...

Without a viable economy in the first place (in the barren desert example),
a state cannot exist either.

>> snip old text
>
> I don't believe in freezing it at 40, but i also don't believe that continual work
> week reductions are the answer either. the goal should
not be no work, but having
> everyone employed in jobs they don't mind doing or even like doing. I think it is
>
better to have more jobs created than to try and "share" existing jobs at a level
> of production that does not provide for all as it is. - Joan

New machines and technology are going to continue to raise the productivity
of labor, and will continue to force workers out on the street to try to find new
jobs or otherwise rely on their own devices. If you don't want the length of the
work week to be continuously shortened proportional to technological progress,
then surely you must have some other program in mind to take care of all of the
unskilled people when they are thrown out on the streets.

>> snip old text
>
> We're talking about a theoretical world here, right? You think there should
> be no work. I say that no work ever would make everyone
bored. Rather,
> in an ideal world everyone would be employed in a job they enjoy. - Joan

Be prepared to be bored. We are heading for a very different world, no matter
how little some of us may want our world to change. My Stop and Shop has just
installed new 'self-check-out' booths, enabling a single check-out person to supervise
2 or 3 self-check-out stations. Stop and Shop doesn't care about the people they were
able to lay off, because they figure that the government will do that for them.

>> Like so many other important decisions, not enough people were involved,
>> and the ones who made the decision were the power elites. I'm not calling
>> for a witchhunt, or burning anyone in effigy. The fact that the decision
>> was made by a very few is no news to leftists, who constantly decry the
>> incomplete political participation of the masses. - Ken
>
> The masses
choose to buy the cheap crap... - Joan

The cheap crap will be phased out of production even before the workers
become as completely free as their theretofore bosses.

>> snip old text and minor redundancy
>
> How would reducing the work week make people want less stuff?

The shorter work week reform is on a much more spiritual plane than reforms
directly affecting money and the material world, so, by the time people are ready
for labor time reductions, they will have begun to understand that legislating doles
and dollars is not the end-all and be-all of social progress. The human race will learn
to cooperate and hang together like never before, because no other viable choice will exist.

Ken Ellis

 

6-13-01

Lens wrote:

>> The shorter work week movement to socialism knows better
>> than to threaten expropriation. > snip >
>
> !I was wondering who the "The shorter work week movement" was,
> and if you consider the fact they tried to coup the american goverment,
> and set up a facist dictatorship in the 30's for going off the gold standard,
> and making some progressive reforms, it will seem absurd they would sit
> on their ass and let you destroy their profitability.

The 40 hour week already cut into their profitability, beginning in 1938.
Why didn't they revolt over it then? Instead, it became the law of the land,
and the gov't holds their feet to the fire.

> I was also wondering if you had a Phd of some sort that would give you
> personally any credibility to decide what what the "People" will do, and
> if you ever any evidence to back any of your assertions up.

No one needs a Phd to expatiate at length in these free forums. All I have is an A.S.

> If you want to look up the Fascist Government thing, Nazi Propaganda Activities
> and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities: Public Hearings before
> the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives,
> Seventy-Third Congress, Second Session, at Washington, D.C. December 29, 1934.
> It is published as an House report, micheal knows more, You cant find it on the
> internet, however, you can find it at the downtown Library in houston.

Yes, I know about the coup attempt. But, it didn't amount to much,
and it failed. Did anyone even bother to make a movie about it?

>>> Also, I have read the gotha programme, and in no way does Marx say that it
>>> was even possible to form a workers state democratically? Please list your quotes.
>>
>> "Even vulgar democracy, which sees the millennium in the democratic
>> republic and has no suspicion that it is precisely in this last form of state
>> of bourgeois society that the class struggle has to be fought out to a
>> conclusion - even it towers mountains above this kind of democratism
>> which keeps within the limits of what is permitted by the police and not
>> permitted by logic.
" Page me24.96 Gotha
>
> !That is clearly in our favor, he states there that even in this Republic,
> revolution
has to take place, he is not saying to use the Democratic
> apparatus to make revolution. he says Proletarian democracy towers
> above Our democracy.

Marx was complaining about petty-bourgeois elements in his German party going
soft on the demand for the Social and Democratic republic in Germany, which was
the reference to "this kind of democratism which keeps within the limits of what is
permitted by the police and not permitted by logic.
"

'Fighting issues to a conclusion' doesn't necessarily have to be violent.
In democratic republics, battles are fought out to conclusions 'politically',
i.e., in the state - especially in the Legislature and in the courts. In actual
history, the purpose of revolution was to bring democracy and independence
to where it didn't exist before. A country does not win democracy, and then
revolt. A country revolts, and thereby wins democracy, which is the form of
state in which the final battle between worker and boss will be fought to a
finish, politically. Marx left open a possibility that the final political battle
might lead to a physical battle, but that hypothetical battle would have been
entirely initiated by bourgeois resistance to the reforms proposed by workers'
parties. In other words, workers should absolutely, 100%, free their minds
from thoughts of a physical confrontation with their bosses, and instead
concentrate entirely upon pushing their issues to their satisfaction in politics.
Only a bourgeois refusal to accede to a working class program could lead to
a physical confrontation. But, WE have yet to create a party capable of putting
our proposals forward! Some activists are behaving like revolutionaries, as
though their pip-squeak demands to abolish capitalism have been REFUSED,
while their demands haven't even been ADDRESSED. That's because nobody
in the public gives a damn about communism, except for a certain tiny fringe.

>> "On the other hand, the proletariat feels that the funeral dirge of the
>> monarchy is simultaneously the clarion call for the decisive battle with
>> the bourgeoisie. The modern republic is nothing but the stage cleared for
>> the last great class struggle in world history - and this is what gives it its
>> tremendous significance.
" Page me23.419 Engels - "The Republic in Spain"
>
> !How does this even assert using democracy?

Engels said that 'the REPUBLIC is significant', not the monarchies, which
had to be replaced with democracies. Monarchies cannot be wielded by workers,
but democracies can. Once the republic is established, the class struggle was to
continue on, in the state. The proletariat would not need a proletarian dictatorship
unless they had a class of bourgeois to dictate to. A political victory over old
monarchies, plus the further development of the new republics into the proletarian
dictatorship, otherwise known as the universal social and democratic republic,
would have meant the use of the new republic to keep their bosses under the
political thumb of the working class. According to the plan of the Communist
Manifesto, profits were to be curtailed by the use of a progressive income tax,
so bosses were not to have the kind of economic power with which to bribe or
influence politicians, nor with which to build a counter-revolutionary army.

>> "The highest form of the state, the democratic republic, which under our
>> modern conditions of society is more and more becoming, and is the only
>> form of state in which the last decisive struggle between proletariat and
>> bourgeoisie can be fought out - the democratic republic officially knows
>> no more of property distinctions. In it wealth exercises its power indirectly,
>> but all the more surely.
" Page me26.272 Engels - "Origin of the Family,
>> Private Property and the State
"
>
> !again, where does it say that the battle will be fought democratically?

If it were not to be fought out democratically, then why would the republic
have become 'an inevitable necessity'? Here's another quote, this one from
the Minutes of the General Council of the First International, Citizen Marx
speaking: "The International wanted to establish the Social and Democratic
Republic and therefore it was high treason to belong to it. This had been the
charge on which the men at Vienna had been convicted and sentenced to long
imprisonment though they were now released.
"

Did you get that? "THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL WANTED TO
ESTABLISH THE SOCIAL AND DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
..."
That's what Marx and the F.I. WANTED. That's why they called themselves
Social-Democrats. Lots of bourgeois clubs wanted republics, but bourgeois
republics had property restrictions on the use of the vote. Marx and the F.I.
wanted new republics to be SOCIALLY CONTROLLED, and the way to win
social control of the new republics was to win universal suffrage. The disting-
uishing characteristic between proletarian REPUBLICAN clubs like the First
International, and the strictly bourgeois clubs, was universal suffrage. The proleta-
riat was to dominate politics WITHIN the proletarian dictatorship by virtue of the
fact that workers would have the vote, worker votes would outnumber bourgeois
votes, and workers would vote their own class interests. And, as Engels proclaimed
in his Critique of the 1891 Erfurt Programme (MESW 3, p. 435): "If one thing is
certain it is that our Party and the working class can only come to power under the
form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship
of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown.
"

> It says a battle will be fought, and this is where it will happen, however,
> it does not say democracy is the weapon which will be used.

Here is a little paragraph from Engels from 1894:

"This year's Party Congress has particularly important tasks to fulfil. What
matters most in Austria is the campaign for universal suffrage, that weapon
which, in the hands of class-conscious workers, has a longer range and a surer
aim than a small-calibre magazine rifle in the hands of a trained soldier. The
ruling classes - feudal aristocracy and bourgeoisie alike - are doing their
utmost to prevent the delivery of this weapon into the hands of the workers.
The struggle will be long and fierce. But if the workers show the political
judgment, the patience and perseverance, the unanimity and discipline with
which they have already won so many fine victories, then the ultimate victory
will surely be theirs. The whole of historical necessity, both economic and
political, is on their side. And although full and equal suffrage may not be
achieved at the first blow, we can even today give three cheers for the future
representatives of the proletariat in the Austrian Reichs Council.
" Page me27.442

>> Revolutions are political struggles, but over what? Is it the feudalism-
>> capitalism struggle over 'which form of property ownership would dominate
>> politics'? - Ownership of land, using a monarchy; or, ownership of capital,
>> using a republic? In the USA today, ownership of capital has dominated
>> since we abolished slavery 136 years ago, so no fight over property
>> ownership is conceivable today. If the South was willing to fight and
>> die to preserve as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, then how
>> hard would ordinary people fight to preserve private ownership of
>> everything else? That right there tells you that expropriation in 2001
>> is the height of folly. > snip >
>
> !Thank you for illustrating
my point, wage slavery, is bad like all slavery,
> and, the Capitalist class will fight to the death to protect its interests,
> which is exactly the reason why revolution is the
only viable option, like
> I said, when it is voted to
nationalize the means of production, there is
> going to be no need for arms, however, they will fight for their interests.

With regard to the need for arms, the preceding paragraph about Austria
contains Engels' opinion about 'the ballot vs. the bullet'. While workers
have a real social democracy, the need for bullets is zero.

>> Slave to feudal, I don't think involved violence. Rather, I remember
>> hearing the term 'disintegration of slavery into feudalism'.
>
> !
If disintegration is a synonym for democratically deciding to change
> the mode of production, you would have a good case.

The transition from slavery to feudalism was ancient history, and had nothing
to do with the struggle between bourgeois and proletarian, so has little to no
bearing on our discussion.

>> Feudal to capitalist, by itself, does not conjure up violence the way the
>> associated change from 'monarchy to republic' often does. But, not all such
>> political changes involved violence. Many absolute monarchies semi-capitulated
>> by changing to constitutional monarchies, a change which occurred in Germany
>> and many other countries without violence. M+E wanted a clean break with
>> feudal and monarchical institutions, because they wanted the proletariat to be
>> armed and to fight for universal suffrage in the new republics, but they didn't
>> get the violent overthrows as often as they wanted, and at the same time.
>
> !ohh yes, there wasn't a little thing called WORLD WAR 1 that wasn't an
> armed conflict at all to set up that republic...., just further evidence that you
> can't be alone, all the rest of the world was in a different mode of production,
> and shit hit the fan for germany.

In what way does 'what you say' detract from my argument?

> List the many absolute monarchies you make reference to, I would like to
> know of them, I know england wasn't one of them, hell they had 2 revolutions.

Engels considered England to be democratic enough for workers to get what
they wanted, but few other countries in the 19th century enjoyed sufficient
suffrage to be considered a real socially-controlled democratic republic.
The continent of Europe consisted of absolute monarchies, constitutional
monarchies, or bourgeois republics, so Europe was the real revolutionary turf.

>> Capitalist to socialist remains to be seen for the future, but that change can
>> only be peaceful as the world becomes increasingly democratic, where no
>> fight over property will occur. Socialists will learn to drop the old obsolete
>> demand for expropriation, for they will learn that expropriation without
>> compensation was feasible only after overthrowing monarchies, or after
>> liberating colonies, but was never feasible after socialists and communists
>> won mere elections in Social-Democracies, demonstrating the incompatibility
>> of expropriation with democracies.
>
> !People are
not fighting for property and dying in todays world, that is
> a thing of the past (I am being sarcastic) And what if you rally the entire
> working class just to have your movement stoped in its tracks, because a
> new goverment is formed that says it is different but is the same? It has
> been and always be the only option, if there is no alternative.

Our purpose is to wield our democracies to the best of our abilities, and not
to worry about what the bourgeoisie MIGHT do, until they actually do it. For
us to worry ourselves to death over NOTHING would be the height of timidity,
not worthy of the working class's past fighting record. Who in hell would be
SCARED of proposing a reform in the first place? As long as we have a social
democracy, whoever would propose revolution would have to be a little 'crazy'
or overly ambitious (like I once was).

>> snip irrelevancy

>> Even if ordinary people were willing to sit through long explanations of
>> how the old Soviet Union differed from Marx's proletarian dictatorship,
>> people still wouldn't want to expropriate the rich. Expropriation is not
>> what social justice is all about. The philosophy of the working class is
>> 'live and let live'. As long as the majority of the people can live (and who
>> says that Joe Six-Pack is starving?), they are not interested in a radical
>> redistribution of wealth and property. An attack on the ownership of
>> the property of the rich will be regarded as an attack on the everyone's
>> rights to own property, eliminating mass support right there.
>
> !you are right mr. Phd in human psychology, the dog that gets beat, never
> wants to bite it's owner, and again, historical evidence shows otherwise, people
> didn't stand around when the monarchies fell and say, Jesus if the kings lose
> their thrones, we will lose our farm lot, dear god! like wise the workers of the
> russian revolution did not say "dear god, we will lose our shabby apartments,
> and our houses, we must stop those bastards" like marx said, the world to win
> only your chains to lose, tell a man I am taking his factory and tell 1,000 I am
> giving it to them. It is obvious who they will side with.

Sorry to be overwhelmed by this, and for not knowing how to respond.
Perhaps your argument could be a little more focused.

>> Though we certainly do not need a proletarian dictatorship in the USA,
>> the SLP's reasoning is invalid, because their definition is invalid. Everyone
>> knows that M+E intended the proletarian revolution to be exerted over the
>> richest of the rich, and intended for the workers to be ALLIED with the
>> peasants and lower middle classes. Allied for what? Primarily to overthrow
>> monarchies. Revolutionism in the USA and other democracies is nothing
>> but a series of cheap and dirty tricks, just like the SLP's.
>
> !Marx must have been drunk I guess when he said he wanted to over throw the
> bourgeois, he meant the monarchies, what a big typo, lets go correct capital.

Well, you make a valid point here. Marx did hope for a proletarian revolution.
But, he could have taken a hint from the history he so carefully elucidated for
us, and pershps could have observed that people in the West weren't interested
in winning much more for themselves than universal suffrage - the Social and
Democratic Republic. The further West in Europe one goes, the less interested
in radically changing property relations ordinary people became, for Western
Europe was where the institution of private property became the strongest. While
the Social-Democratic Republic was very much on the social agenda, the dream of
communism became a quest for a relatively small handful of communists, socialists
and anarchists to squabble over, just like today - a bit out of touch with reality.

>> Politically, Marx likened the USA and England of his day, and considered
>> them democratic enough to get to socialism by peaceful means, no matter how
>> peasant-dominated the USA compared to proletarianized England. When it
>> comes to revolution, the political condition of a country is the major factor.
>> The only countries in Marx's time that revolted, or came close, were the
>> monarchies on the continent of Europe. The only people who muse about
>> 'revolutions in democracies' are those who have yet to study history, or else
>> figure out how badly they've been lied to. Knowledge liberates.
>
> !No, if you read what marx said in value price and profit, not the slp's
>
correction of it, you'll see he thought it was very different than britain,
> but hell what the point of debating this, he
didn't even support a
> democratic movement in britain, so really it is of little importance.

The Chartist Movement in England wanted universal suffrage, which both
M+E supported. Here's a paragraph from a short article Engels wrote:

Page me6.29 Engels - 'The State of Germany'
"I have thought it necessary to make these few remarks upon the subject
of middle-class government in order to explain two facts. The first is, that in
all countries, during the time from 1815 to 1830, the essentially democratic
movement of the working classes was more or less made subservient to the
liberal movement of the bourgeois. The working people, though more advanced
than the middle classes, could not yet see the total difference between liberalism
and democracy - emancipation of the middle classes and emancipation of the
working classes; they could not see the difference between liberty of money and
liberty of man, until money had been made politically free, until the middle class
had been made the exclusively ruling class. Therefore the democrats of Peterloo
were going to petition, not only for Universal Suffrage, but for Corn Law repeal at
the same time; therefore, the proletarians fought in 1830 in Paris, and threatened
to fight in 1831 in England, for the political interest of the bourgeoisie. In all
countries the middle classes were, from 1815 to 1830, the most powerful
component, and, therefore, the leaders of the revolutionary party. The working
classes are necessarily the instruments in the hands of the middle classes, as long
as the middle classes are themselves revolutionary or progressive. The distinct
movement of the working classes is, therefore, in this case always of a secondary
importance. But from that very day when the middle classes obtain full political
power - from the day on which all feudal and aristocratic interests are annihilated
by the power of money - from the day on which the middle classes cease to be
progressive and revolutionary, and become stationary themselves, from that very
day the working-class movement takes the lead and becomes the national movement.
Let the Corn Laws be repealed today, and tomorrow the Charter is the leading
question in England - tomorrow the Chartist movement will exhibit that strength,
that energy, that enthusiasm and perseverance which ensures success.
"

> You gave me 3 quotes by Marx and Engels, and if that is all out of 50
> volumes of Marx and Engels, then well, you don't have much of case
> arguing that marx and engels wanted a democratic transition to
> socialism, considering, they wrote nothing on the subject at all.
>
> Lens Travis

Oh, they wrote enough about that subject. Here's an early sentence by Engels -
Page me4.254 - "the calm and composure necessary for the peaceful
transformation of society can also be expected only from an educated working class.
"

Page me4.263
"If, gentlemen, these conclusions are correct, if the social revolution and practical
communism are the necessary result of our existing conditions - then we will have
to concern ourselves above all with the measures by which we can avoid a violent
and bloody overthrow of the social conditions. And there is only one means,
namely, the peaceful introduction or at least preparation of communism. If we
do not want the bloody solution of the social problem, if we do not want to permit
the daily growing contradiction between the education and the condition of our
proletarians to come to a head, which, according to all our experience of human
nature, will mean that this contradiction will be solved by brute force, desperation
and thirst for revenge, then, gentlemen, we must apply ourselves seriously and
without prejudice to the social problem; then we must make it our business to
contribute our share towards humanising the condition of the modern helots.
And if it should perhaps appear to some of you that the raising of the hitherto
abased classes will not be possible without an abasement of your own condition,
then you ought to bear in mind that what is involved is to create for all people
such a condition that everyone can freely develop his human nature and live in
a human relationship with his neighbours, and has no need to fear any violent
shattering of his condition; it must be borne in mind that what some individuals
have to sacrifice is not their real human enjoyment of life, but only the semblance
of this enjoyment produced by our bad conditions, something which conflicts with
the reason and the heart of those who now enjoy these apparent advantages. Far
from wishing to destroy real human life with all its requirements and needs, we
wish on the contrary really to bring it into being. And if, even apart from this,
you will only seriously consider for a moment what the consequences of our
present situation are bound to be, into what labyrinths of contradictions and
disorders it is leading us - then, gentlemen, you will certainly find it worth the
trouble to study the social question seriously and thoroughly. And if I can
induce you to do this, I shall have achieved the purpose of my talk.
"

Page me24.248: Marx -
The Debate on the Anti-Socialist Law (in Germany of 1879):
"The objective in the case under consideration is the emancipation of the
working class and the revolution (transformation) of society implicit therein.
An historical development can remain "peaceful" only for so long as its progress
is not forcibly obstructed by those wielding social power at the time. If in England,
for instance, or the United States, the working class were to gain a majority in
PARLIAMENT or CONGRESS, they could, by lawful means, rid themselves of
such laws and institutions as impeded their development, though they could only
do so insofar as society had reached a sufficiently mature development: However,
the "peaceful" movement might be transformed into a "forcible" one by resistance
on the part of those interested in restoring the former state of affairs; if (as in the
American Civil War and French Revolution) they are put down by force, it is as
rebels against "lawful" force. But what Eulenburg advocates is forcible reaction
on the part of those in power against development while still at the "peaceful" stage,
and this for the purpose of preventing subsequent "forcible" conflicts; the war cry
of forcible counter-revolution against actually "peaceful" development; indeed,
the government is seeking to suppress by force a development it dislikes but
cannot lawfully attack. This is the necessary prelude to forcible revolutions.
"

That was the result of just one little search, excluding what Marx wrote
about the possibilities for peaceful change in England and the USA
in his 1872 speech at The Hague, which speech is easily found in
abridged collections of their writings.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

6-14-01

I'm wondering if anyone knows of an analysis of how many hours
we spend per week creating the necessities of life like food, clothing
and shelter, comparing recent figures to those of a couple of hundred
years ago, perhaps with a graph with 'time' on the horizontal axis and
'labor time to create necessities of life' on the vertical axis.

If no graph like that exists, where would one go for the raw data?

Ken Ellis

 

6-15-01

Tony wrote:

> Ever noticed that political philosophies' underlying theme is usually 'freedom'
> of some sort?: Socialism - freedom from oppression of employer classes;
> Objectivism (or the philosophy of capitalism according to Ayn Rand):
> freedom of action, freedom from coercion; anarcho-capitalism- freedom
> from coercion including coercion of the government; other forms of anarchy:
> freedom from coercion of employer classes, the state, and anything else!
>
> We're quite preoccupied with our personal 'freedom'. We want to loosen as
> many restrictions on us as possible. I'm fascinated by this. We're a species
> bent on freeing ourselves, taking away the limits. Do other species do this?
> Anyone care to chat about this facet of human psychology (is it? are there
> human societies out there who's individuals' aim is the opposite?)
>
> Tony

We're the only species whose enslavement of one another arose a few millennia
ago, and whose enslavement is bound to end in another few decades, when machines
and technology become smarter than people, and perform practical tasks so much better,
freeing us to enjoy life without economic struggle. Our hang-up over 'freedom' reflects
our longing for what we've been missing, and sweetly anticipates the pleasures of the
not-too-distant future. Let us free ourselves gradually by driving down the length
of the work week as made possible by improvements in technology.

Ken Ellis

 

6-16-01

Michael wrote:

> Ken,
>
> I want to respond to one thing you said. U said that Germany the workers
> didn't want a socialist revolution. In the book at marxist.com "Germany
> from Rev to Counter Rev" it talks about the mass uprisings of the workers
> there in 1918 because of the war. The workers and soldiers set up their
> own councils like the soviets in Russia and they could have
easily taken
> power if the workers social-democrat leaders didn't hand it back to the
> bourgoise. After that there were many uprisings, some that the CP was
> forced into unwillingly, but they all failed
because of the subjective factor,
> leadership.
If the CP wasn't dominated by the stalinist policy of "social
> fascism" it could have made a united front with the social democrats
> to defeat the Nazis in the elections.

The uprisings after the Russian revolution are undeniable, but the problem
with those uprisings in Germany and Slovakia, etc., was that not enough people
participated to make them permanent pieces of the Universal Red Republic, so
Marx's hoped-for scenario of 'simultaneous revolutions in the most developed
countries' did not unfold as expected. Only if it had, could a sufficient number
of countries have banded together in the universal proletarian dictatorship with
the power to take away the property of the rich, and the solidarity with which
to prevent counter-revolution.

You seem to want to blame the leaders for that failure, but I would advise
against anyone getting too carried away with the blame game. The leaders
back then knew what they wanted - state power - and they knew how to get it,
and they tried and failed because not enough people joined in to make it happen.
So, if anything is to blame, I blame the insufficient following. If socialism had at
all been FATED to be accomplished by taking away the property of the rich, then
the people would have FOLLOWED in 1917 and after. Just the fact that 'taking
away the property of the rich was feasible after overthrowing monarchies and lib-
erating colonies, but never after winning mere elections' should tell us that forcible
communism is unsuited for the people living in most developed democracies. So,
people should figure out another way to get to socialism. In the meantime, it is
sufficient to think about the abolition of the wages system, and, along those lines,
I found a great quote from Engels from 1881, so it represents his MATURE
THINKING, and it was written while Marx was still alive to argue with, if
anyone had disagreed:

Page me24.387 - excerpt from Engels' 1881 article "Trades Unions"
"Thus there are two points which the organised Trades would do well to
consider, firstly, that the time is rapidly approaching when the working class
of this country will claim, with a voice not to be mistaken, its full share of
representation in Parliament. Secondly, that the time also is rapidly approaching
when the working class will have understood that the struggle for high wages and
short hours, and the whole action of Trades Unions as now carried on, is not an
end in itself, but a means, a very necessary and effective means, but only one of
several means towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether.
"

So, if anyone would like to abolish the wages system, a shorter work week
is a valid means in the eyes of M+E.

When it came to taking away the property of the rich, Marx misjudged the
temperament of the people, i.e., what they were willing to do to arrive at a
satisfactory level of social justice. The anti-monarchist revolutions of Marx's
era abolished the split between capitalist and feudal ruling classes, as well as the
fight over whether 'property in capital, or property in land' would rule politics.
Because workers and bosses were allied in the quest for a republic, but divided
over whether the republic should be 'socially controlled', the eventual victory of
universal suffrage left the 2 classes with too few reasons thereafter to engage
in physical conflict over political control. Universal suffrage signifies that
political conflicts will never escalate into a physical battle.

In democracies, only slow political struggle will avail, but small gradual
victories WILL suffice to get us to classless and stateless society in a few
more decades, though the small victories along the way may not excite us much
more than the desertion of Senator Jeffords away from the Republican camp.
Capitalism will die with a whimper, not with a bang. Those who say otherwise
haven't stuck their heads in the books long enough to accurately determine
what revolution was all about, or else they are taking advantage of the fact
that 'the proletarian revolution' can still be sold to young enthusiasts as an
instant solution to our social problems.

The price one pays to be a member of a revolutionary club is to exchange one's
brain for a membership card, as well as one's freedom of speech, the right to
democratic processes, and the right to feel like a member of a community of
similar interests, applying one's talents instead to do battle with ideological
variants. Also, one must be prepared to participate in a 'cult of personality',
and place one's leaders on pedestals, and fear indirectly questioning their
wisdom for fear of being ratted upon by one's comrades. Also, one must be
prepared to give up the kind of intellectual discourse that cuts to the core of
various issues in exchange for memorizing a few platitudes that will help
market the party line.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

6-16-01

Ray wrote:

> Slavery was one of the major divisions between north and south, but the major
> cause of war was the question of economic policy and its relation to states' rights -
> in particular, could the federal government impose tariff barriers that would apply
> to all states, or could these barriers only be set by individual states?

That argument plays right into the hands of anti-capitalists who like to blame
all wars on capitalist economics, thereby encouraging the politically naive to
abolish capitalism to bring world peace. It's a great way to recruit (sucker)
new people, but most people are gratefully not all that foolish. The South and
the North represented 2 distinct forms of property ownership, powerful and
willing enough to go to war with one another to determine which of the 2
systems of ownership would prevail, just as Marx taught us:

Page me19.34
"The question of the principle of the American Civil War is answered by the
battle slogan with which the South broke the peace. Stephens, the Vice-Presid-
ent of the Southern Confederacy, declared in the Secession Congress that what
essentially distinguished the Constitution newly hatched at Montgomery from
the Constitution of the Washingtons and Jeffersons was that now for the first
time slavery was recognised as an institution good in itself, and as the foundation
of the whole state edifice, whereas the revolutionary fathers, men steeped in the
prejudices of the eighteenth century, had treated slavery as an evil imported from
England and to be eliminated in the course of time. Another matador of the South,
Mr. Spratt, cried out: "For us it is a question of founding a great slave republic."
If, therefore, it was indeed only in defence of the Union that the North drew the
sword, had not the South already declared that the continuance of slavery was
no longer compatible with the continuance of the Union?

Page me19.115
"It is believed that the issue for the slaveholders' party is merely one of uniting
the territories it has hitherto dominated into an independent group of states and
withdrawing them from the supreme authority of the Union. Nothing could be
more false. "The South needs its entire territory. It will and must have it." With
this battle-cry the secessionists fell upon Kentucky. By their "entire territory"
they understand in the first place all the so-called border states - Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and
Arkansas. Besides, they lay claim to the entire territory south of the line that
runs from the northwest corner of Missouri to the Pacific Ocean. What the
slaveholders, therefore, call the South, embraces more than three-quarters of
the territory hitherto comprised by the Union. A large part of the territory
thus claimed is still in the possession of the Union and would first have to be
conquered from it. None of the so-called border states, however, not even those
in the possession of the Confederacy, were ever actual slave states. Rather, they
constitute the area of the United States in which the system of slavery and the
system of free labour exist side by side and contend for mastery, the actual
field of battle between South and North, between slavery and freedom. The
war of the Southern Confederacy is, therefore, not a war of defence, but a war
of conquest, a war of conquest for the spread and perpetuation of slavery.

Page me19.264

"The hold of the slave states proper on the border states naturally rests on
the slave element of the latter, the same element that enforces diplomatic and
constitutional considerations on the Union government in its struggle against
slavery. However, in the border states, the principal theatre of the Civil War,
this element is in practice being destroyed by the Civil War itself. A large
section of the slaveholders, with their "black chattels" are constantly migrat-
ing to the South, in order to bring their property to a place of safety. With
each defeat of the Confederates this migration is renewed on a larger scale.
All this, however, is by no means the main thing. At the time Lincoln was
elected (1860) there was no civil war, nor was the question of Negro emanci-
pation on the order of the day. The Republican Party, then quite independent
of the Abolitionist Party, aimed its 1860 electoral campaign solely at protesting
against the extension of slavery into the Territories, but, at the same time, it
proclaimed non-interference with the institution in the states where it already
existed legally. If Lincoln had had Emancipation of the Slaves as his motto
at that time, there can be no doubt that he would have been defeated. Any
such slogan was vigorously rejected.
"

Ken Ellis

 

6-17-01

Mike wrote:

> I don't know.
>  
> I've been trying for years to go through legislative channels, public and quasi-
> public organizations to try to get all sorts of progressive change implemented.
>  
> To summarize, I have been about 100% frustrated in my efforts.
>  
> I know the futility of "call or write your congressman", but that's
> sort of what we're proposing here, isn't it?
>  
> Mike

If our society would be saner, then 'time and a half after 40' in the Fair
Labor Standards Act would be replaced with 'double time after 35". If
enough people were interested, then Congress people would be informed
of our desires, but it seems like our energetic population isn't very interested
in taking it much easier. Taking it easier might only delay the arrival of the
moment when the machines become smart enough to replace us humans, and
we can all go on permanent vacation because there's nothing left for us to do.
So, maybe we shouldn't do anything to stall the arrival of that precious day.
It's all up to what the people want to do. Maybe our only purpose in the
meantime should be to serve to remind people of that option, especially if
our intensely competitive capitalist milieu drives us crazier than what we
are willing to tolerate. There are pluses and minuses to every solution,
so we have to choose our poison carefully.

Original messages:

>>> We must go beyond "airing" and take action.
>>>
>>> Again, I support shorter work week legislation
>>> if it is accompanied by a guaranteed income.
>>
>> Tis better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all.
>> Besides, we can always learn something from our mistakes, if we
>> are making any. So, let's take action. Not personally being much
>> of a man of action, what do we do next?

Ken Ellis

 

6-17-01

Hi, Carol,

Thanks, first of all, for persevering on our behalf.

> write me ... your thoughts on bottom line settlement ideas.

As a paid engineer at KPFA for 8 years, and closely associated for 15,
I witnessed helplessly as voice after voice tried to get a little air time and
was rejected. Philip Maldari once said at staff meeting, with respect to the
relative ease of his job: "All we have to do is keep on saying 'Yes' to the
people we always say 'Yes' to, and keep on saying 'No' to the people we
always say 'No' to. So, we had little diversity, and when some alternative
voices tried to get on the air, some intolerant politically correct elements
went absolutely haywire.

The old system of determining who gets air time has to be modified.
Excluded voices must have a means of appealing their concerns to a
community group associated with local stations, and the community
needs some power to influence or determine programming.

Communities also need to somehow have influence upon how money is spent,
and all leadership and management posts should be elected positions, as befits
the notion of Pacifica as a community resource.

Regards,
Ken Ellis

 

6-18-01

A recent perusal of the works of Marx and Engels uncovered this little paragraph
about the abolition of the wages system, which I'm sure everyone here is interested in:

Page me24.387 - Engels' 1881 article "Trades Unions":
"Thus there are two points which the organised Trades would do well to consider,
firstly, that the time is rapidly approaching when the working class of this country
will claim, with a voice not to be mistaken, its full share of representation in Parlia-
ment. Secondly, that the time also is rapidly approaching when the working class
will have understood that the struggle for high wages and short hours, and the
whole action of Trades Unions as now carried on, is not an end in itself, but a
means, a very necessary and effective means, but only one of several means
towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether.
"

Activists interested in the abolition of the wages system should not overlook
the quest for higher wages and a shorter work week, now legitimized more
than ever by this little discovery.

Ken Ellis

 

6-19-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., John Henry <johnh@c...> quoted me:

>> If the South was willing to fight and die to preserve and extend as immoral
>> a form of ownership as slavery, then how hard would ordinary people fight to
>> defend private ownership of everything else (against rambunctious socialists)?
>
> The US is hardly unique in having slavery. in fact, our brand of slavery
> was relatively limited and benign (relatively speaking, even one slave is
> not limited enough and slavery can *never* be benign) compared to
> slavery in other parts of the world and other times.
>
> Yet in the 19th century slavery virtually disappeared in the world. As far as I know,
> the US was the only place to ever fight a major (or even a minor) war over it.
>
> If the US had wanted to end slavery, it could have done so without the war.

'If the SOUTH had wanted to end slavery, it could have done so without the
war' would be closer to the real situation, for we know who started the War by
firing on Fort Sumter. Marx wrote that "The war of the Southern Confederacy
is, therefore, not a war of defence, but a war of conquest, a war of conquest for
the spread and perpetuation of slavery.
" No one held a gun to the heads of
the slave owners, forcing them to start the war to perpetuate slavery. Greed
compelled them to try to perpetuate slavery by force of arms, as threatened
by John Calhoun in the Senate as early as 1847.

> If Lincoln had wanted to end slavery, why did he exclude the only areas (MD,
> DE and the other northern slave states) where he actually may have had the
> power to do so? (Although, arguably, he did not have the power under the
> Constitution, he didn't let that stop him in other things)

The North had a record of great tolerance to slavery, so Lincoln didn't have the
mandate to end it. Marx recounted some facts: "At the time Lincoln was elected
(1860) there was no civil war, nor was the question of Negro emancipation on the
order of the day. The Republican Party, then quite independent of the Abolitionist
Party, aimed its 1860 electoral campaign solely at protesting against the extension
of slavery into the Territories, but, at the same time, it proclaimed non-interference
with the institution in the states where it already existed legally. If Lincoln had had
Emancipation of the Slaves as his motto at that time, there can be no doubt that he
would have been defeated. Any such slogan was vigorously rejected.
"

> Sorry, your view of history just doesn't wash.

What really doesn't wash is the traditional socialist strategy of wanting to take
away the property of the rich, sometimes with compensation, other times without,
depending on the Social-Democratic or communist approach. Why did communist
revolutions happen one at time in backward countries, instead of 'simultaneous in
the most developed countries'? I'll answer first: the most developed countries had
the strongest attachment to the institution of private property, so their populations
were least interested in putting property in the hands of activists who, today, would
rather fight among themselves over whether to create a communist workers' state,
or an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things. The socialist left
is in such a state of disarray among feuding sectarian elements that all that can
be expected of them is to continue on as little intransigent businesses, with less
ethical commitment to logic than Ford Motor Co. had to recalling Pintos with
fragile gas tanks. If Chevy's old Corvairs were 'Unsafe at any Speed', then the
same can be said about socialist ideologies of property expropriation.

Ken Ellis

If activists were serious about the abolition of the wages system, they would
heed what Engels wrote in 1881:

Page me24.387 - Engels' 1881 article "Trades Unions"
"Thus there are two points which the organised Trades would do well to consider,
firstly, that the time is rapidly approaching when the working class of this country
will claim, with a voice not to be mistaken, its full share of representation in Parlia-
ment. Secondly, that the time also is rapidly approaching when the working class
will have understood that the struggle for high wages and short hours, and the
whole action of Trades Unions as now carried on, is not an end in itself, but a
means, a very necessary and effective means, but only one of several means
towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether.
"

 

6-20-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., "Mike Morin" <mmorin@e...> wrote:

> Brian, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond.
>
> I would begin by referring you to a book called "Changing Course"
> by Schmidheiny and Gonsalves published by MIT Press.
>
> The book sets out to chart a course on how the Capitalist system can be
> made sustainable (or green if you will). What it actually does is document
> how the Capitalist system works and that maintaining the status quo for
> any kind of green (or sustainable) or equitable future playing by those
> rules is impossible.

snip remainder of message

In 1932, Arthur Dahlberg wrote "Jobs, Machinery and Capitalism", setting
forth the 'liberation capitalist' point of view, advocating shorter work days and
weeks, as made possible by improvements in technology, enabling us to utilize
capitalism right up the abolition of both work and class distinctions. What a
great way to give people time to live well, keep the whole population in productive
labor, and cut down on waste. Kellogg was a standard bearer for the movement,
and his plant maintained 6 hour shifts in some departments until the late 1980's.
During the worst of the Depression, about half of all American companies volun-
tarily adopted a shorter work time schedule to avoid lay-offs. Engels promoted
shorter work hours and higher wages as methods of abolishing the wages
system in his 1881 article entitled "Trades Unions":

"Thus there are two points which the organised Trades would do well
to consider, firstly, that the time is rapidly approaching when the working
class of this country [England] will claim, with a voice not to be mistaken,
its full share of representation in Parliament. Secondly, that the time also
is rapidly approaching when the working class will have understood that
the struggle for high wages and short hours, and the whole action of
Trades Unions as now carried on, is not an end in itself, but a means,
a very necessary and effective means, but only one of several means
towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether.
"

Today's fools who think they can 'make a revolution', 'overthrow the state',
'abolish capitalism', or 'abolish private property', have a lot to learn about
what Marxism really was, and about what it wasn't.

Ken Ellis

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

 

6-21-01

Hi, Carl,

> Ken,
>
> I have allowed you ample opportunities to promote your program and
> while this passage would seem to promote your ideology it is open to
> interpretation. You interpret it as an endorsement of your ideas, I interpret
> that Engels is saying that the demand for shorter hours and higher pay is
> one of many tools to be used by the working class in it's struggle with
> capitalism, and by no means the only tool.

Of course that's what Engels wrote, but now, for the first time, you and I know
that Engels, at the same time Marx was alive and well, endorsed the shorter work
hours method of pursuing the abolition of the wages system, and that abolition is
something we both want. That paragraph may be the only place in their writings
where CONCRETE and viable paths towards the abolition of the wages system
were mentioned. As such, it's a wonderful antidote to enthusiasts who might
want to claim that 'REVOLUTION is the ONLY way to abolish the wages
system.
' M+E have YET to mention revolution as a way to abolish the
wages system, but they did mention high wages and a shorter work
week, indicating the prominent status of those methods.

> He does not single these demands out as a foundation for an ideology
> ie. Ellisism. What he is doing here is encouraging the working class
> to continue it's struggle on all fronts, not focusing on the demands
> of lower hours and higher wages alone.

That's true, for he also mentioned 'a full representation in Parliament', another
method of struggle the SLP doesn't seem to regard very highly. Where can
we find 'the revolutionary path to the abolition of the wages system'?

> I do not see this as an endorsement of Ellisism.
> Once again,
bad interpretation.

Engels' paragraph encourages active promotion of traditional trade union
struggles for shorter work time and higher wages, as well as political involve-
ment. If anyone gets the urge to support workers in those methods, but their
party ideology gives them second thoughts, they should feel freer to contradict
their own party, citing this paragraph as a reason. Such modes of struggle cannot
be opposed without opposing Marx and Engels. Because few would want to oppose
M+E, then a conscientious member could persevere, and even succeed in having a
positive influence on various parties. This is truly not a task for the faint of heart,
fearful of upsetting long-standing applecarts.

> In case you did not read my post on the National Convention
> one of the things that was concentrated on were guidelines for this
> discussion group and the internet in general. This group was a very hot
> topic and although some of the comments concerning it were positive there
> were points made concerning areas of improvement. Soon I will be working
> on concrete guidelines for participation in this discussion forum and they
> will be based on the SLP Member's Guide for Discussion Groups and
> Organizational Norms and Procedures. The central theme that will be
> adhered to is that this is an SLP forum. Ideas and topics discussed
> will be analyzed using SLP principles and teachings.

I hope that you don't decide to exclude everything M+E wrote advocating
'working within existing unions and democracies'.

> Promotion of other groups programs and tactics and using this
> forum as a soapbox for various schemes will not be tolerated.

Are you accusing me of promoting the schemes of other parties? Everything
I promote is essentially the result of the research I did while writing my book
of experiences with the SLP.

> If you intend to continue to promote your program and smear the SLP
> then I suggest you do it elsewhere.

Neither the little quote from Engels I sent along to you, nor my accompanying
text, can in any way be interpreted as a smear of the SLP. Your sentence was
therefore inappropriate.

> There are numerous forums where you can air your grievances against the SLP
> and also spread the gospel of Ellisism, but you will no longer do it here.

Have you decided to ban me forever from this forum? In spite of what Engels
wrote to Trier on Dec. 18, 1889?: (MECW 48, p. 425) "The labour movement
depends on mercilessly criticising existing society, criticism is the breath of life
to it, so how can it itself avoid being criticised or try and forbid discussion? Are
we then asking that others concede us the right of free speech merely so that we
may abolish it again within our own ranks?
"

I don't understand how the quote from Engels could possibly hurt the
working class, but I do understand how the quote could be used to enable
reconsideration of plans to overthrow democracies in order to abolish the
wages system. That little paragraph would hopefully get people to THINK
more carefully about their party programs.

> My advice is for you to terminate your subscription to this forum.
> If you choose to continue, understand that I will not approve any
> message that promotes Ellisism or attacks the SLP, which has
> been the bulk of your posts of late.

If you can somehow manage to interpret my last post as an attack on the SLP,
then you will probably manage to interpret ALL of my future attempts to post
as attacks. That would be unfair to me, and to the readers of the Forum, who
might otherwise get something useful out of these little nuggets from my
new CD of Collected Works of M+E.

> A good analogy to this situation was related to me by a Comrade I respect
> a great deal: If this were a Ford Motor Company forum centered on selling
> Ford automobiles, you wouldn't let a salesman from Chevrolet come in and
> steal your customers by promoting his product would you?

That's as good an excuse for sectarianism as ever I've read. Instead of Ford
and Chevy cooperating to manufacture the very best product conceivable, they
continue to scheme and plot against one another (just like sectarian political
groups do), hoping that John Q. Public will continue to cheer on their favorite
manufacturers, and will cultivate Ford and Chevy clubs, just the way political
clubs cheer on Stalin, Lenin, Mao, De Leon, Castro, etc. That kind of competitive
spirit is in our bones, and society can tolerate the frivolity for as long as the
economy purrs along so smoothly, and only a few percent on the bottom suffer.
Society has tolerated the suffering of the lowest strata for a long time, so who
wants to give up sectarian competitive fun for the sake of creating an economy
into which everyone can fit? Not very many at present, but, times will change.

> While I have no fear of you "stealing my customers", since
> opinion has been generally running against what you have to
> say, I will not allow this
abuse of an SLP forum to continue.
>
> Fraternally, Carl Miller

Well, that's your prerogative, I guess. It's your forum, your property, and
may ownership of it never be socialized, so that you can continue to promote
your revolutionary plans, unimpeded by the wisdom and logic of people
who have taken the time to learn better.

Original message sent to the SLP Houston forum, but rejected:

>> A recent perusal of the works of Marx and Engels uncovered this
>> little paragraph about the abolition of the wages system, which I'm
>> sure everyone here is interested in:
>>
>> Page me24.387 - Engels' 1881 article "Trades Unions": "Thus there are two
>> points which the organised Trades would do well to consider, firstly, that the
>> time is rapidly approaching when the working class of this country will claim,
>> with a voice not to be mistaken, its full share of representation in Parliament.
>> Secondly, that the time also is rapidly approaching when the working class
>> will have understood that the struggle for high wages and short hours, and
>> the whole action of Trades Unions as now carried on, is not an end in itself,
>> but a means, a very necessary and effective means, but only one of several
>> means towards a higher end: the abolition of the wages system altogether.
"
>>
>> Activists interested in the abolition of the wages system should not
>> overlook the quest for higher wages and a shorter work week, now
>> legitimized more than ever by this little discovery.
>>
>> Ken Ellis
>>

 

6-21-01

Attention, everyone: Engels wrote a great nugget about
'how to abolish the wages system'. Read on.

Hi, Ben,

Our discussion isn't really about chattel slavery anymore, so I
changed the subject to Wage-slavery, which is also appropriate
to the great quote from Engels.

> On our ongoing disagreement on the working class's supposed commitment
> to the principle of private property you say:
<<snip me>>
>
> But, of course, nobody is being asked to hand over their stereos
> or their cars. Hand them over to whom? For what purpose?

Right about that. Confiscation of property would be unreasonable.

> What socialism does propose though is to remove
> the monopoly of the capitalist class over the means
> of producing and distributing wealth.

That's the old-fashioned socialist proposal. Expropriation was
perfectly plausible for Marx's revolutionary scenario, and in his
era, when, after overthrowing a mass of intransigent monarchies
in Europe, socialists would have had the power with which to
expropriate the rich, and the unity with which to prevent counter-
revolution. The problem with expropriation today is that winning
mere elections doesn't confer the kind of absolute power required
to expropriate without compensation. So, are you ready to take this
history lesson to heart yet? What part of this history lesson might
you not agree with?

When I was new to socialism, and my study class instructor
introduced the subject of the abolition of private property, I
was set back in my chair, like in one of those 'unforgettable
moments' that live forever in our minds. I may have thought
to myself subconsciously: 'Private property? Can't we pick
on something a little easier?' But, I sat there and took it all
in, though I occasionally wondered if I should ever go back.

> In those circumstances (common ownership) then, things like stereos
> would have only their use value - there would be no monetary or social
> prestige value to them. They would only be "valuable" in so far as they
> were useful or enjoyable. Thus the "problem" of property, "things"
> would not be such a problem after all.

If the anti-property revolution could occur at all, then what you wrote
about 'things' sounds very reasonable. But, before we land in that
reasonable world, let's try to figure out, once and for all, whether
the anti-property revolution is at all possible in democracies.

> What is so intrinsically important about a stereo and
> whether it is "mine"? In a rational scheme of things,
> as proposed by socialism - nothing whatsoever.

If only the scheme of things WERE actually rational, as both of us
desire. In today's world, workers fight over insignificant trinkets,
etc., all because they have to WORK to acquire their miserable
possessions in the first place. 'Blood, sweat and tears' is expended
to obtain many things, so workers often figure that they have a
considerable personal stake in what little they own. If something
is lost, just think how much EXTRA work it takes to earn it all
over again, especially if wages are low.

> I still honestly don't think many members of the working
> class are likely to confuse their own meagre "property"
> with private property dictatorship of the capitalist class.

Well, that's true, but then the issue changes, and we have to
consider: 'where do we draw the line as to who gets to maintain
nominal possession of their stuff, vs. who does not?' If the stereos
of the little people won't be ripped off, but the big fish will have their
factories and farms expropriated, then someone is going to have to
figure out where to draw the line in between. I hope that they won't
call on me to help figure it out, cuz I would hate to get bogged down
in the minutiae of calculating all that. I couldn't think of anything more
boring, alienating and divisive. An old-fashioned form of socialism
which includes 'work after the revolution' may be compatible with
delving into such minutiae, but the socialism I see heading our way
won't include work, because much of society's present effort revolves
around abolishing expensive human labor. In the meantime, property
remains property, whose quality doesn't really change very much,
but whose quantity constantly multiplies, creating even more 'stuff'
for socialists to think about. Figuring out 'who gets to keep their
stuff' would not be a very ethereal task at all.

> Anyway, many many people don't "own" much at all,
> even in the "advanced" nations. How many people don't
> even "own" their homes? Or their cars (the things are often
> knackered by the time all the payments have been made). The
> same goes with a lot of electrical goods like washing machines
> and computers. When it comes to property the working class
>
really hasn't got much to fight or die for!

We may have to agree to disagree that 'the working class owns
nothing of value', for all I have to do is look up and down my
(average) street to see otherwise. My neighbors worked very hard
for many years for what they own. If the working class didn't
already feel that they own valuable stuff, then they wouldn't be
willing to work very hard to earn more, so as to provide economic
and physical security for themselves and their families. Those who
don't own very much are a small minority on the very bottom.

Back during the Depression, when the debate over a 30 hour week
raged in Congress, it was decided not to allow the working class to
take it easy. They instead built an ideological edifice supporting hard
work. The unnecessarily long hours were rewarded with higher wages
than the mere Lassallean 'minimum required to maintain the working
class in a state of destitution'. In my youth, I sometimes amazed myself
at how little work I could get away with, while my friends were out
busting hump with hard work, and 'climbing their way up the ladder
of success'. Everyone I know who applied themselves intelligently
did real well for themselves and their families.

> And on this:
>
>> < snip a lot of me > I think that whichever level
>> people decide is 'right' (above which level is 'wrong'),
>> can only be a perfectly arbitrary line in the sand. Or,
>> perhaps someone knows just exactly where to draw
>> the line that wouldn't create a storm of protest.>>
>
> Or whether it's "OK" for a gardener to "own" a spade or
> a pair of boots? Thankfully I don't think we shall ever have
> to have such a ludicrous public debate. What we are asking
> people to think about is whether it's OK for a tiny fraction of
> humanity to own the means of producing and distributing
> wealth, to exploit the rest of humanity with a view to profit
> and to squander our planet's resources.

Is such a debate all that ludicrous? If Joe Schmoe will be able to
hang on to his spade and boots, while Mr. Branson may have to
give up Virgin Airlines, then there has to be a level of ownership
in between, above which the wealth will be taken away, and below
which, the people will be allowed to maintain nominal possession.
If such a level exists, then determining that level would be a practical
socialist task. Maybe such a task is easier than we think, but the fact
that such a level is not popularly known could also indicate that its
determination might not be easy. All the more reason to abolish
the obsolete property-related socialist program.

For more than a century, socialists have been asking, as you did,
"whether it's OK for a tiny fraction of humanity to own the means
of producing and distributing wealth, to exploit the rest of humanity
with a view to profit and to squander our planet's resources", but I don't
hear much protest over massive ownership. Everyone would rather be a
billionaire than a pauper, so no one wants to illegalize whatever it takes
to become a billionaire. What's the old saying about 'having the courage
to change what I can, and having the wisdom to know the difference'?

> The case for socialism is fundamentally about human social
> relations
rather than who gets to use tools and stuff.

In my humble experience, the case for socialism has not so much been about
'tool usage' as it has been about 'tool ownership'. Socialists of whatever stripe
often carry on at length about 'ownership and control of the means of production'.

I hope that we don't get stuck on 'property ownership'. We certainly agree
about the desirability of a shorter work week, but property could become a
real hang-up. Property may merely be something for people to fight over,
just the way people have fought over it for eons.

>> snip us > However, the case for socialism is all about human social
> relations and our relationship with the natural world and the means of
> producing socially useful wealth. The case for common ownership
> is about a bit more than saying "give us all your stuff" to the rich.

But, you wrote at the beginning of the message:

> What socialism does propose though is to remove
> the monopoly of the capitalist class over the means
> of producing and distributing wealth.

Now, Ben, I hope that you will recognize this contradiction for
what it is. I hope that you will assume responsibility for it.

If socialism is about human social relations, like you said above,
(and I would agree), then compare the human social relation of
'obeying the command of a clock to go to work at 9am and go
home at 5pm' to the traditional socialist program of establishing
common property. Once again, it would seem to me that the 'hours
of labor' relationship is very social - obeyed by zillions of workers
and bosses alike. On the other hand, traditional socialists would
socialize the ownership of, say, a jewelry factory, while some people
(like myself) would never consider owning a jewel, unless one fell
into my hands, and then I would sell it or give it to a family member,
so 'whoever owns the jewelry factories' would mean nothing to me.
Conversion of many other industries to common ownership would
also hardly affect me one way or the other, though other industries,
like utilities, certainly would. But, going to work and leaving on
time, and setting the hours of labor time, have a universal effect on
many MORE people in a similar fashion than merely converting
ownership of factories and means of production. This example
demonstrates 'what counts' to traditional socialism. If socialists
are to influence evolution toward ethereal socialism, then
property-related socialism should be consciously rejected,
and replaced with a more ethereal program.

snip redundant 'lower-class ownership' controversy.

> Also - I totally agree with your dislike for sectarianism.
>
>> << snip us > We could get the necessary stuff done as quickly
> and enjoyably as possible by using useful technologies to the full
> and devote all that time we presently waste being exploited and trying
> to get by to doing what's really important: exploring our potential,
> understanding and studying the world, enjoying our human
> relationships, actually LIVING our lives rather than just
> existing. So, yes, let's start demanding the "impossible"!
> "Four hour day - four day week - why not?!".

Bravo! Another voice of reason. But, we won't get to that happy place
by mucking about with property. We must steer clear of that traditional
preoccupation and merely deal with surplus values, labor time and the
abolition of the wages system, about which, Engels wrote in a 1881 article
entitled 'Trades Unions': 'the struggle for high wages and short hours ... is ...
a very necessary and effective means ... towards a higher end: the abolition
of the wages system altogether.
' The full quote from Engels is at the end.

> The abolition of private property is not about:
>
>> <<'Property is really all there is in life, so WE should
>> control all of it.' Suppose we did get control of it all, then
>> we would only continue to fight over its disposition.>>
>
> ... as you seem to suggest. What we need to control is our
> own lives. This is negated by the system which concentrates
> the production and distribution of wealth in minority class
> hands and thus compels us to go out and work for the
> bastards, making them their profits, in order to get what
> we need to survive and reproduce our labour power.

Well before property got concentrated so intensely at the top, humans
enjoyed a rudimentary economy. But, guess what? In spite of the con-
centration of wealth at the top, the economy STILL manages to putter
along! People continue to work in the larger economy because it
enables survival at a relatively good standard of living, or as good
as what one could do if forced to rely on one's own devices.

Though long hours of labor became quite popular during the last
couple of centuries, no one holds a gun to our collective heads and
forces us to work today's unnecessarily long hours. As a class, we
could easily unite to put an end to the ridiculous hyper-creation of
surplus values. Nothing stops us except for our own unwillingness
to think clearly about it. The working class needs real (dare I say it?)
leadership on this issue, pointing out the differences between surplus
and necessary values, and how to diminish the surplus values; but,
many activists refuse to grapple with that issue, suspecting that
dealing with it would also mean delivering themselves right into
the hands of the shorter work week REFORM movement. Heaven
forbid that anyone should rethink their eternal revolutionary programs.

It's funny how so many socialists think that the concentration of wealth
at the top signifies that property ownership should be socialized. Surpluses
pile up in the hands of the rich because workers put it there, and for little
other reason. Now, why would workers do that? Because, as Marx would
say, the boss pays for their labor, not for just one little part of the day and
week, but for as much of the day and week as possible. So, workers pile
up surpluses for the rich all day long, and all week long. The issue of
wealth accumulation depends directly upon 'how much of a workers'
life is spent creating wealth', but only indirectly on ownership.

If capable of thinking clearly, socialists could easily figure out
that the rich are rich because workers make them that way, and
they would also figure out that the way 'not to make them so rich'
would equal 'not to work so hard for the rich'. It's obvious that
socialists are being muddleheaded about this easy issue, but it
may not be so obvious 'why'. If property-concerned socialists
merely want a dumb driven herd of workers to put property in
their hands, then that would explain why they don't just use what
they know about surplus values to convince the working class
not to work so hard. If workers are dumb enough to believe that
private property is the most important reason why wealth is
concentrated in the hands of the rich, then workers might also be
dumb enough to take property away from the rich. Unfortunately
for the property-concerned branch of the socialist movement,
workers don't seem to be that dumb, and probably never will be.

snip old 'street fighting' text

> The Romanian state was pretty well armed in 1989 and tried
> to use its weapons and troops to suppress the popular uprising
> there. But it didn't work, most soldiers went over to the people
> and the government was toppled very quickly by force of
> numbers and popular dissent. Same with the scenario of
> a working class social and political revolution.

Same scenario? We know that the Rumanians wanted to get rid
of their dictator, but what exactly in the democratic West would
precipitate a 'social and political revolution'? Why will people
revolt? Principles of private property and capitalism are too well
established to fight over, and they take over more and more of
the world all of the time, especially since 1989. For as long as
people have to work to survive, private property has been a
natural device to help figure out how to divide the product
of labor. 'Thems what own' receive profits and interest,
while 'thems what don't own' merely get wages.

> Once capital loses the "battle of ideas" any
> attempts at violently suppressing a class-conscious
> majority will at most be postponing the inevitable.

The battle of ideas is being lost by socialists who are overly
concerned with property. I surely hope that they will learn to
stop attacking private property, capitalism and democracies.
It's a losing battle.

> A hard core of loyalists (however well armed) would
> be useless in the face of millions of workers who have
> consciously rejected capitalism. Who was it who said the
> working class is the strongest standing army in the world?

Gee, I have no idea who might have said that. I looked around for
various combinations of 'workers, working class, standing army,
strong', etc., in the works of M+E, but found nothing approaching
that phrase. The works of M+E indicate that the working class is
opposed to standing armies, which sometimes disintegrate in
revolutionary times, and merge with the proletariat.

> Back to property again: << snip me >>
>
>
<snip Ben's repetition, already addressed>
> Yes, we'll only really have security when we have built
> real communities. This has got to be a key part of the
>
revolutionary process, building a society of solidarity
> rather than each against all, all fighting for the scraps.

Except for 'the revolutionary process', some good points were made there.

> As for the "youth of today" bit (I'm 25 - do I qualify? ; ) )

You do. I was 25 once - way back in 1968. I was born in the wrong
century, probably the last one in which 'hard work' will have any social
significance for new generations. People born in 2000 and beyond
probably won't have to suffer under that 'hard work' hangup.

> - christ on a bike!
> If people are really forming sexual and emotional
> relationships on the basis of who's got the most stuff,
> this is a tragic state of affairs indeed! But I don't think
> most people think like this. The bourgeois model of
> "relationships" is alien to the working class.

In this 'most bourgeois of all countries', the bourgeois model
of marriage and relationships is very much alive and prevalent
in the USA. We don't have very much WORKING CLASS
consciousness, as proven by the fact that we don't even have a
big labor party. We are SO bourgeois. Everything has been
commodified, even ideologies. As one moderator (who very
recently banned me from his forum) explained:

> A good analogy to this situation was related to me by a
> Comrade I respect a great deal: If this were a Ford Motor
> Company forum centered on selling Ford automobiles,
> you wouldn't let a salesman from Chevrolet come in and
> steal your customers by promoting his product would you?

I only wanted to inform his forum of the quote from Engels'
1881 article "Trades Unions", but the quote must have been too
dangerous to the moderator's revolution. Free forums help good
ideas win hearts and minds, which is what he was afraid of.

>> << snip old 'denial of access' arguments >>
>
> Right, this ain't some sort of conspiracy. It's how capitalism works.
> Those who own the means of production and distribution (whether
> they are individuals, corporations, the state or whatever) deny our
> access to what we need unless we pay for it. Right?

Looking at it that way, then you are right - access is
ENCOURAGED, as long as we pay for it. Encouragement
is what advertisements are for, and we pay for those as well.
Oh well, I guess that we are stuck with this kind of access,
at least for as long as wage-labor continues.

> I can't walk into a supermarket and take what I want to eat (legally)
> unless I can present enough money-rations to pay for it. Thus my
> access to food is denied unless I can pay for it. Therefore I have
> to go out and find a way to get these money-rations (usually by
> submitting to exploitation by an employer). Thus private,
> monopoly ownership is
anti-social.

Private ownership is 'anti-social'? Not in countries where
ownership of so much wealth, like homes, autos, boats, furniture,
etc., is so wide-spread, and where half of Americans own a piece
of the stock market. Ownership is quite social in the USA, and
only people who own lots of stuff get much respect.

Marx said that 'there is no exploitation in trade'. When dollars are
traded for vittles, we get what we pay for, more or less. The only
problem is that: wages don't take us very far, because 'wages only
represent a portion of the wealth we create'. As productivity of
labor increases, wages represent a decreasing proportion,
which is why the gap between rich and poor widens.

> There is enough of everything produced in the world
> now for everyone to be able to take what they need -
> natural scarcity is now in the dustbin of history.

Isn't that somewhat debatable? Scarcity might very well be 'in the
past' in reality, but what counts is whether PEOPLE THINK that
scarcity is a thing of the past. If everyone thought like us about
scarcity, then they might not be willing to work so hard, and
working hard is a tough habit to break. You and I might not
regard all of our excesses as very necessary, but it might be
hard to convince those who own or trade such excesses, and
who probably feel that they have a right to do what they want
with them. It might be nice to have a public campaign against
the production of frivolities and waste, so as to conserve
resources. But then, people might rail against us 'for trying to
put people out of work', if we didn't integrate the shorter work
week argument into our arguments against waste. A general
reluctance to support a shorter work week reform may be why
a lot of socialists don't come out as strongly against waste as,
say, the Greens, and maybe that's why the Green movement
is more popular than property-concerned socialism.

> However, we are deprived of all this wealth unless
> we constitute a viable market for profit making capital.
> Whole regions of the world are denied access like this -
> people all over the Majority ("third") World are hungry,
> the food is there, but they cannot eat because they cannot
> pay the market price. So they starve. Anti-social in the
> extreme. We have to submit ourselves to wage slavery
> in order to feed, house, clothe and entertain ourselves -
> if we don't make the money we are denied access to
> what we need. Anti-social, and capitalism in action.

You are right about access being denied unless people pay. Not enough
free lunches exist. But, not very many of us EXPECT a free lunch, especially
us Westerners who are infected with the Puritan work ethic.

>> snip me >>
>
> Fair enough points well made. We can break free of all this
> crap, but we have to make the conscious decision that we,
> as a class, are no longer prepared to be exploited and to
> create surplus value for the capitalist class.

Right on!

>> <<I was hoping that you would first prove that 'private
>> ownership causes unemployment'. (Now you have me
>> wondering if private ownership even causes EMPLOYMENT.
>> Hmmmm... very interesting. I at least know that private
>> ownership causes a disparity in wealth accumulation. All the
>> more reason to get rid of private ownership, but how?)>>
>
> Employment/unemployment - two sides of the same coin.
> Monopoly class ownership creates a proletariat which must
> work for wages to survive and thus must seek employment
> or suffer through unemployment (no wage).

Suppose bosses stopped hiring in a recession. Would we really
starve? If the onset of the recession were gradual enough, we would
adapt. More of us would set up our own little gardens, and would
trade chickens and produce with one another to get a balanced diet.
We might trade the product of our labor for other commodities as
well. So, we aren't totally and exclusively dependent upon the main-
stream economy. But, the bosses know that the size of their profits
depends upon as full a participation as possible in the mainstream
economy, which is another reason why they don't like to see
unemployment rise too high.

> So employment/unemployment are indeed caused by private ownership
> and by the ups and downs of the capitalist system and its crises.

I don't think that's really been proven yet, especially considering
the willingness and ability of people to work outside of the
mainstream. Marijuana accounts for a rather stupendous
percentage of the economy of California, for instance.

> Abolishing class society and the wages system also abolishes
> the twin evils of employment and unemployment. Instead there
> is just human activity, geared towards meeting human needs.

If anyone would like to abolish the wages system, and I know
that a lot of our readers very much would, Engels advocated
joining the struggle for higher wages and shorter hours in his
little 1881 article on Trades Unions:

Page me24.387 - Engels' 1881 article "Trades Unions"
"Thus there are two points which the organised Trades would do
well to consider, firstly, that the time is rapidly approaching when
the working class of this country will claim, with a voice not to be
mistaken, its full share of representation in Parliament. Secondly,
that the time also is rapidly approaching when the working class
will have understood that the struggle for high wages and short
hours, and the whole action of Trades Unions as now carried on,
is not an end in itself, but a means, a very necessary and effective
means, but only one of several means towards a higher end: the
abolition of the wages system altogether.
"

People worked to survive for a long time before the dawn of
capitalism, and worked even before society's division into
economic classes. Work is in our bones, whether it's done
under slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or even under the WSM's
projected socialism. We fight among ourselves over 'who will
do the work', and people for a long time have been intimidated
one way or another into working for the benefit of others. For
awhile, the USA was a place people could come from the old
country and work for themselves, but that didn't last forever.
The best way to end the cruel intimidation is to abolish WORK
once and for all. Maybe we sense that, for we seem to be in a
mad dash to keep on developing robotics and other labor-saving
technologies, which will soon enough put EVERYONE out of
work. Instead of the end of work arriving gradually and well-
planned, and because activists have delivered their souls to
property redistribution programs to the exclusion of the shorter
work week, we may continue with the long hours right up until
the very last day, when everything will finally fall into place,
enabling us all to go on a mass permanent vacation. As a 25
year old, you have a high probability of seeing that day arrive.

>> snip repetition

Snip Kuwait, the Marshall Plan etc.

> Cheers for now.
>
> For freedom and humanity,
>
> Ben.

For honesty and openness in politics,
Ken Ellis

 

6-23-01

Li'l Joe wrote about revolution. Part B will follow in a day or 2:

> snip > Marxist partisans of proletarian revolution know, or as revolutionaries
> come to know, that the
only answer to the ecological disruptions and economic
> chaos that threatens the world today can be solved only by taking the means of
> labour and production into the hands of the working-class, to
negate capitalism
> by making those productive forces public property.

The only problem is that revolutionary expropriation can't happen in Western
democracies. The only times in history in which expropriation without compen-
sation was possible was after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating
colonies, which never happened 'simultaneously in the most developed countries',
as Marx had wanted. After socialists won mere elections in Western democracies,
no more than 'expropriation WITH compensation' was possible. It would be a
wonderful tribute to people's ability to think if they would banish 'revolution in
democracies' as a desirable program. Revolution was designed to bring democracy
and independence to where it didn't exist before, not to liberate workers from capit-
alist exploitation, as Marx hoped it would. Marx was right about a lot of things, but
also wrong about a few important things. To follow ALL of his teachings, divorced
from a comparison with actual history, is a mistake, but some people persist in
making that mistake. 'Revolution in democracies' is such an absurdity that making
a business out of it was the only thing possible. Because everyone wanted a piece
of that act, sectarianism arose, making a miserable muddle out of Marxism, so that
it became a heroic task for any neophyte to figure out what Marxism was all about,
having to combat bureaucracy, secrecy, cults of personality, and censorship at every
step of the way. Similar to the way Lenin wrote of the necessity of bringing
undistorted Marxism to the people, it would be helpful if modern activists actually
knew what Marxism was, instead of what some business masquerading as a
revolutionary party says it was, in order to determine how well or badly Marxism
described how people tend to react to political oppression and economic hardship.
From there, we could progress to ideological unity, and, from there, to programmatic
unity and effectiveness. But, maybe it's too early in the game. Maybe the machines
will really have to ravage the planet and the lower classes before activists wake up
to the mistakes they have been making all along.

snip repetition

> The argument that the improvements incremental reduction
> in the average time for production of surplus products, by
> technological changes or/and labour innovations, makes
> possible the legal reductions of the hours of the working-
> day, is Marxist. But, the revolutionary praxis of Marxism
> in the class struggle is class consciousness engendered
> by this the understanding that this incremental reductions
> of socially necessary labour-time, the hours of the working
> day, will inevitable come into conflict with the capitalist mode
> of production's tendency of exploitation of wage-labour by
> capital, for the average rates of profits to decline.

That alleged conflict didn't bother Engels very much, for he wrote in his 1881
article "Trades Unions": "Thus there are two points which the organised Trades
would do well to consider, firstly, that the time is rapidly approaching when the
working class of this country will claim, with a voice not to be mistaken, its full
share of representation in Parliament. Secondly, that the time also is rapidly
approaching when the working class will have understood that the struggle for
high wages and short hours, and the whole action of Trades Unions as now
carried on, is not an end in itself, but a means, a very necessary and effective
means, but only one of several means towards a higher end: the abolition of
the wages system altogether.
"

So, if anyone would like to abolish the wages system, then they shouldn't
forget to struggle for 'shorter work hours and higher wages'. WHO SAYS
that driving down the length of the work week can't take us to socialism?
Engels didn't think that the money-greed of the capitalist class would be
a perfect obstacle to a shorter work week movement. After all, the workers
already HAVE a history of winning shorter work days and weeks, and there's
nothing to stop us from winning MORE amendments to existing laws.

If we struggle for shorter work time, and if we eventually become as free
from work as our theretofore bosses, capitalism as we've suffered from
it will cease to exist. But, this method of getting to classless and stateless
socialism may not meet with the approval of property-obsessed Marxists
who can't think about much more than getting control of all of that property.
As obsessed with their mistakes as they may be, they won't find enough
similarly-motivated people to help them expropriate, for they will all be too
busy fighting among themselves over whether to create a communist workers'
state, or an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things.

snip repetition of theme

> Lil Joe

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-01

Li'l Joe wrote:

> Cc comrades
>
> Below, perhaps inadvertently, is a dialogue that is
> characteristic of Green's pragmatic accommodation of
> bourgeois interests. It is also instructive in disclosing
> the petty-bourgeois nature of moral environmentalism.
>
> The "normative" economical choice has been to
> counterpose environmental interests of ecosystem
> continuation, presented as having opposition by
> "selfish", "home-centric" worker's who place their
> "jobs" above the preservation of e.g. RedWoods
> or/and Spotted Owls. Thus, while denouncing
> proletarian opposition as "homocentricism", and
> crude selfishness of "hardhats" (e.g. loggers in the
> forest industry) they circumvent the fact that it is the
> capitalist corporation that not only own, or are given
> access to by government, access to these forests, but
> suggest that it is the "reactionary" hard-hat workers
> that are the party that want to destroy the eco-niches
> of the forests, or/and even the forests themselves.
>
> This is as a valid economic analogy the same as
> the attribution of slave plantations, the agricultural
> production and cotton picking of cotton by slaves in
> the "South", to be based on the desires of the slaves
> rather than the economic ownership/advantage of the
> plantation and slave-owners. When we talk about the
> role of loggers in the forest economy in America, we
> are designating in the forest economy in America the
> function of proletarians who, as wage-labour do what
> they are commanded. It is not as wage-labourers the
> loggers that are to be held responsible for de-forestation,
> even though it is by means of variable capital energising
> constant capital by means of which de-forestation occurs,
> but the command formation of capital, the capitalists qua
> personification of capital that is to be held responsible.
>
> Proletarians are usually despised and rejected of men
> of the noble or/and wealthy classes. To-day proletarians
> are blamed for a "homo-centric", self-determined cause
> for the destruction of non-human eco-systems.

Li'l Joe well understands the difficulties around dealing with environment
issues. He probably could agree that workers do not exercise very good control
over the economy. When it comes to protecting the forests and environment,
consider the unlikelihood of any group of workers deciding to do the moral
thing and refusing to chop down the last of the old-growth redwoods. If so
moved by morality, how far could they get? We can probably agree that those
workers would be out on the street in no time, and a new batch of workers
hired, more willing to do the bidding of the bosses, no matter how immoral
the nature of the work. Building land mines is another immoral task, and
we could probably write a long list of immoral occupations.

(As a useful tangent, let's compile a list of WAGE-LABOR tasks with
no socially redeeming values. Send your ideas to the forum, and we will
compile them into a master list. Thanks in advance.)

If the length of the work week is set too high, as it is today, and if workers
compete for scarce long-hour jobs, as they do today, then, as soon as one
worker retires, quits, or is fired, a dozen more potential workers are ready
to jump in and fill the position, no matter what the nature of the work, good
for people and the planet, or as bad as cutting the last of the old-growth red-
woods. Most of us have probably heard about protests around the logging
operations in Northern California, the tree sittings, public demonstrations,
etc., but some logging still continues. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to
convince the loggers to give up their jobs? But, what would the
displaced loggers do for a living?

Here's an alternative. Suppose we had some real working class and
environmental consciousness in this country, and suppose both movements
were ready to cooperate. Environmentalists who determined that cutting the
last of the redwoods was too harmful could appeal to the labor movement,
who would seek to force down the length of the work week, so that the labor
market could absorb the loggers who would need to find other jobs. In that
manner, the environmentalists would be satisfied, and the labor movement
would be happy to have no unemployment, and a consequently much greater
control over what does and doesn't get produced. I know, it sounds too good
to be true. But, why can't it happen? Just because one activist says that the
bosses won't let it happen? Well, the authorities told us that we couldn't
stop the Vietnam war, didn't they?

> In this same ideologico framework as were yoeman, poor
> White subsistence farmers of the South and in the South
> and South-West denounced by bourgeois intellectuals and
> historians as an historical category of "Racist 'poor white
> trash' (whom in modernity the Clinton's call 'trailer park
> trash'). They are degraded, and despised hated by the
> bourgeoisie -- Blacks as well as Whites, as the racist.
> I do not defend them if, and to the extent that they ARE
> racist; but, must point out that they are the product of racial
> rapitalism and in this the general exploitation of wage-labour
> by capital - that, know it or not they to are part and parcel of
> an economically exploited proletariat, politically they are
> repressed although, by NOT being RACIALLY OPPRESSED,
> THEY ARE SUCKED INTO AN ILLUSORY CASTE SYSTEM
> of Black folks being DENIGRATED, oppressed.
>
> They are fools.
>
> The American "White" workers, after several generations
> of culturally determined "whiteness", internalize a false, racial
> consciousness. This racial consciousness can only be shattered
> by the individual members of the "white" working-class coming
> into conflict with the class limitations of "Whiteness". The "White"
> worker in America must, without illusory re-inforcement of White
> supremacist ideology come into conflict with the bourgeois deter-
> mination of "culture", shattering the illusion of racial identity.
>
> On the other hand proletarian Blacks and Latinos must resist
> the bourgeois forces of their ethnic groups. The attempt, on the
> behalf of the "bourgeoisie of colour" to have them internalize
> the racial ideologies engendered in American capitalist society
> must be recognised as what it is, and rejected.
>
> Economical behaviour of the classes that in America has
> been posited as racial i.e. as as racialized distortion of
> class consciousness, must be head-on confronted, and
> ruthlessly refuted. We as revolutionary Marxist cannot,
> and must not make any concessions to the racialization
> of economical relations in capitalistic American culture.
> None. None, whatsoever. None.

Many people recognize that racism is exacerbated by competition for scarce
jobs. Every worker wants a good job, but a too high unemployment rate ensures
that many people have to do without. Competition for scarce jobs then ensures
that desperate workers will be forced to accept employment at almost any wage,
no matter how low, and sometimes in destructive occupations without much
socially redeeming value. Competition for scarce jobs pits worker against
worker, and race against race. The way to reduce some of the worst
manifestations of racism is to reduce competition for scarce jobs, and the
best way to do that is to win a shorter work week, and replace workers'
competition for scarce jobs with bosses' competition for scarce labor.

> Today, while presenting capitalists as environmentalists,
> and patriots having no choice, the modern loggers are
> being portrayed as selfish individuals that are in the
> interest of preserving their jobs forcing the capitalists
> to log. Rather than capitalist profiteering, workers are
> being blamed for the destructions of the Redwoods
> forests, or/and the destruction of the eco-niche, i.e.
> the habitats of spotted owls. It is presented as if the
> capitalists, and the federal government that they (as a
> class) dominate, wants to do the right thing by Nature
> in reducing destruction but that they, as "moral" human
> beings concerned with the welfare of their working-
> class "employees", are compelled to keep on logging.
>
> In Econ.I and Econ.II students are told to differentiate
> "normative" and "positive" economic decision making.
> What is called "normative economics" is the humanitarian,
> or/and "moral" arguments that introduced to, and so con-
> sidered by, capitalists in making decisions. So, capitalists
> are presented as first and foremost as "human beings".
> Supposedly, capitalist investments are motivated just as
> much by normative considerations - i.e. e.g. environmental
> or/and employment concerns, as by positive economical
> considerations - e.g. profit margins.
>
> ****In other words, Marxists explain capitalist
> investments in terms of their self interests rather
> than the illusion that such investments are in any
> way motivated by some altruistic desire to create
> jobs. The class-based factional arguments that are
> constructed by bourgeois agents to accommodate
> bourgeois interests, surplus production in capital
> extractions from the exploitation of the surplus
> value from time-limited wage-labour, forces the
> bourgeois owners of the means of social produc-
> tion, and as such capitalistic employers of wage
> labour, to function as the personifications of
> capital qua capital, forcing surplus values
> embodied in surplus labour.
>
> THIS process is the basis for and means through
> which occurs the exploitation of wage-labour by
> capital. The intensification of labour, i.e. the absolute
> increase of the productiveness of labour by the use of
> more "efficient" technology, or/and speed-ups, or/and
> innovation, increases the social output per social
> individual qua worker qua hour, which for the
> capitalist, predicated upon wages per hour the
> same, increases the surplus produce.
>
> Unpaid labour-power is one thing, but on this basis
> of increase in the productive capacity of expended
> labour, the value of the labour power expended is
> transferred by the labour process itself to the items
> produced. As the capitalist competitors are so forced
> to either adopt the new technology or/and innovations
> of labour or go out of business, so those that enter the
> new thing are able on the basis of the excess of surplus
> products, by the law of supply and demand, engendering
> competition, to reduce prices. The competitors are there-
> fore forced in like manner to reduce prices. So the initial
> excess in profits based on overproduction, because of
> competition reduces average prices on one hand, and
> hence the tendency of the rates of profits to decline;
> but, on the other hand this competition of cheaper
> commodities results in relative overproduction:
> gluts, recessions, depressions.
>
> whereas in reality are motivated by this impulse in
> capital accumulation has to be, and is "explained"
> as a bourgeois capitulation to the proletariat in the
> capacity of capitalist investment as producer of "jobs".
> haven't been made to accommodate proletarians.
>
> Ought not proletarian arguments be developed to
> accommodate proletarian interests in holding their
> jobs, as are made to the bourgeoisie to bring them
> on board? But, here we are not so much concerned
> with the class politics of environmentalism as the
> class politics of class interest in general.

> snip repetition of text addressed in 'Lib cap 2' >

Li'l Joe makes the good point that the interests of environmentalism can never
be fulfilled without simultaneously taking care of the working class. Just as he
says - if we ask loggers to stop logging, then what are they supposed to do
instead? Making room for everyone in the economy by means of winning
a shorter work week is the most efficient way to take care of both workers'
needs and environmentalists' issues. If only activists could begin to see
this link between both of their problems. Why don't they? Are their heads
so stuffed with sectarian and obsolete solutions that they can't think for
themselves? Can't people SEE what's been happening to jobs in the past,
and what's going to happen to EVERY JOB in the near future, and that
we must begin NOW to prepare ourselves for a perfectly jobless future?

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-01

Hi, Carl, just a few points:

> Ken,
>
> I am not going to get into another discussion with you about whether
> or not Marxism is a reformist ideology. I have tried time and time again
> to convince you otherwise but I have obviously failed. You continue to
> interpret Marx and Engels writings as you see fit so I am not even going
> to get into this again. First of all I do not have the resources nor the time
> to properly research contrary evidence.

You should take the time and effort to be more certain of what you believe in.
The proletariat would thank you for it, because they certainly don't have the
time to do it themselves, and they are waiting for good leadership to help
them with their problems.

> Second, it doesn't matter how much evidence I produce,
> you still insist on sticking to your position with proof to
> the contrary staring you in the face. A hopeless situation.

I could say the same thing about your efforts. When I think about all of the
issues you have dodged ..

> Now, you ask if I am going to reject every message you post to the forum.
> If you continue to try and peddle your ideology then yes. If you continue to
> bash the SLP then yes again. You say that your last message did not attack
> the SLP, true, I never said that it did. You cannot deny that you have bashed
> the SLP frequently in the past, even going so far as to put a link to your anti-
> SLP website at the bottom of your posts. Suppose you were a member of an
> organization and you had a forum, suppose the purpose of this forum was to
> educate people who were interested in your program and hopefully get them
> to join. Suppose I join your forum and I have a link at the bottom of my
> messages that reads www.Ellisism_is_for_suckers.com How would you feel?
> You couldn't be very happy with the situation, otherwise you are the sucker.
> Suppose I also try to direct the discussion toward my ideology, even though
> I know that the forum is for those interested in Ellisism and discussion of
> the finer(?) points of this program. How would you react?
>
> I know what your response is going to be:
> We should all be open to ideas. Even if those ideas attack your organization's
> program and makes it's members out to be dupes? Maybe this is how you would
> run a forum but I prefer not to do it this way. I have already let you go on long
> enough. You say this is sectarian. I say that the purpose of the forum is not for
> open discussion of various and sundry schemes, it is for the discussion of the
> SLP and it's Marxist De Leonist program. If I had titled the forum the Left
> Issues list or the Radical discussion group then your posts would have been
> perfectly okay and in line with the purpose of the discussions. This is an SLP
> forum. It's title points that out clearly. I even stated in the description that it's
> purpose is to attract those interested in the SLP and it's Marxist De Leonist
> program, yet you take it as Carte Blanche to hype your ideology and to bash the SLP.

You seem willing to set aside concerns that your forum would be devoted
entirely to an ideology which I have tried to prove runs afoul of the interests
of the working class. What proved that it has already run afoul was the Party's
banning of participation in protests against the Vietnam war, now widely regarded
as a mistake (but which followed directly from its anti-state ideology).

I worry about what your recent decision might do to you as a person, deep
inside. The world needs people who care deeply enough to become 100%
certain about what they profess to believe in, and it needs people to cast doubt
upon such beliefs, and it needs free forums in which the exchange of relevant
ideas can proceed uninhibited. The only thing you've done so far that was
unforgivably wrong was to submit to the Convention's wish to moderate
dissenting opinions, such as mine, out of the forum. I can't understand
how someone in 2001 could possibly accede to such an immoral task.

> You state that you hope I am not going to reject everything Marx and Engels
> wrote about struggling for shorter work days and higher wages. No, unless
> you continue to interpret these statements as endorsements of your program.
> Then I will reject them all day long. On second thought, I'm not even going
> to bother anymore. I suggest that you start your own forum, you know it's
> free and you can post all day long about your program and bash the SLP
> as much as you want. I don't understand why you don't step up and do
> this. I guess it's the same reason that you wasted all your efforts in
> building a website trashing the SLP instead of doing something
> more constructive with your time. Oh well.
>
> Carl
> ---
> The original party of Socialism in America
> Established-1890
> Socialist Labor Party of America
> http://www.slp.org
> Socialist Labor Party of Houston
> http://houstonslp.tripod.com

I'll probably have to resign myself to denial of access to your forum, because
extolling the virtues of De Leonism is a thing of the past for me. In exchange,
think of me as a weed growing up in the crack of a sidewalk. Try as you may
to uproot me, I will persist in spreading the message that the whole notion of
'revolution in democracies' is fatally flawed, as proven by history, even if not
accepted by modern Marxists.

I would start my own forum, but no one yet seems very interested in the
differences between property socialism and labor-time socialism. Time will tell.

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., "Mike Morin" <mmorin@e...> wrote:

> There needs to be an alternative to expropriation.
>
> If you think you can get away with it and carry on, then good luck to you?
>
> Yet, market rates for property especially real property are ridiculously out
> of sight for those who don't already have equity holdings in such.
>
> We are looking at at least the following options:
>
> 1.) wholesale or widespread expropriation
>
> 2.) Charity donations of real property and access to productive resources
> by those who now hold such.
>
> 3.) Collective bargaining by a socialist business entity representing the
> poor, working class and people with small accumulations of wealth to
> bring property values back to earth.
>
> 4.) Substantial writing off of bad loans made on property at inflated values
> in the last ten to twenty years or so...
>
> 5.) some combination of the above..

There is a split between 'property socialism' (as extolled by Mike and many
others) and 'labor-time socialism'. Property socialists would:

1) try to take away the property of the rich in countries that have a high regard
for private property, and take state power in order to expropriate the rich.

2) establish common property.

3) fight among themselves over whether to create a communist workers' state,
an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things, or reform their
way to the nationalization of industries.

Labor-time socialists would:

1) leave property as is, knowing that it would disappear (along with
the state) AFTER the abolition of work and class distinctions.

2) reform labor laws to make labor scarce enough to put everyone to work who wants to.

3) reduce hours of labor in proportion to technological progress.

4) arrive at classless society after it becomes ridiculous to bother lowering
the length of the work week any further, and volunteers replace all wage
labor, ending capitalism as we've suffered from it.

Further suggestions for additional points of delineation would be appreciated.

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-01

Hi, Bill,

> Ken: What exactly is the WSM Socialism Forum? Is it the voice of some
> particular group or party? What does WSM stand for?

WSM stands for World Socialist Movement, which seems to be an umbrella
group that includes a few parties all over the world. The SPGB plays a MAJOR
role. There's a branch in the USA that's been around for a few years. Also
another one in Canada. A fellow named Shaun, from Canada, moderated
the group singlehandedly for a few years, but only now is passing off
co-moderation to others, such as that Dick Donnelly I responded to
for his accusation that I was boring.

A few months ago, I had asked your opinion about possible differences
between 'proletarian dictatorship' vs. 'dictatorship of the proletariat' in response
to a debate I had on this forum with a Len W. Without in any way implicating
your identity, I informed Len that I had consulted with a scholar of the old Soviet
Union on that issue, but he was not impressed, and remained stubborn, stomping
on me whenever I used the shorter phrase. He finally stopped responding to me,
as did most everyone else, except for the young Ben Malcolm, who seems to be
one of the few with a mind of his own.

Len is also from Canada, a frequent contributor, a Marxist heavyweight writer
who uses Martov for the ways Martov can be used to combat Leninism. Len has
a genetic heritage going back to Russia, was in his youth a Leninist, but has
taken to a brand of semi-open anarchism masquerading as socialism. Len
enjoyed a massive state of denial over Marx's program of STATE property
(which I finally broke down after weeks of effort).

Many of them can be a bit slippery, and hard to pin down.

I now have the CD of Collected Works of Marx and Engels, except for the
last 3 volumes, at least for another year and a half. I am still learning how
to retrieve the information I want from it. It's a learning experience.

I have worked about a third of the way through your 'Saying No to Power',
which is a truly wonderful excursion. I have noted most of the typos along the
way. I'd be glad to e-mail the typos to you when I'm through, or even sooner,
if you'd like.

> -- Thanks for the welcome!

I wish you every good fortune on the forum.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

6-24-01

A cheery hello to Bill Mandel, fresh to this forum. Such a pleasant surprise!

Thanks to Jakks for her supportive messages!

Dick wrote:

> Dear Everybody,
> Lets stop hitting the reply button.
> I have tried to follow what kenellis
> had to say, but I have got to admit that
> when a long boring message is replied
> to by another long boring message that
> I tend to hit the delete button. There may
> be a lot of good ideas in both long boring
> messages, but please let us be brief. It is
> supposedly the soul of wit. We could
> do with a little of that on this forum.
> Sorry for being long and boring.
> All the best,
> Dick

Of the 60 messages from Mr. Donnelly in my WSM file, I didn't
find any that were longer than half a page. That's very good. I wish
I could be as successful in being brief, but this brief note is the
exception that proves the rule. My apologies for the length of
my usual replies. But, there is a split between 'property
socialism' and 'labor-time socialism' that needs to be
delineated, and, hopefully, such a delineation will
prove not to be beyond the scope of this forum.

Property socialists would:

1) try to take away the property of the rich in countries that have
a high regard for private property, and take state power in order
to expropriate the rich.

2) establish common property.

3) fight among themselves over whether to create a
communist workers' state, an anarchist classless and
stateless administration of things, or reform their way
to the nationalization of industries.

Labor-time socialists would:

1) leave property as is, knowing that it would disappear
(along with the state) AFTER the abolition of work and
class distinctions.

2) reform labor laws to make labor scarce enough to put
everyone to work who wants to.

3) reduce hours of labor in proportion to technological progress.

4) arrive at classless society after it becomes ridiculous to
bother lowering the length of the work week any further,
and volunteers replace all wage labor, ending capitalism
as we've suffered from it.

I wish I could send a prize to anyone willing to think about and
lengthen either or both lists.

As the result of trying to post the little quote from Engels' 1881
"Trades Unions" article (reproduced in my most recent message
to Ben), I have been given notice that my participation in the
Houston-SLP forum is no longer welcome. Their new policy
against me is the result of a recent national pow-wow held by the
American SLP. I can imagine that if I were to send a message
extolling the many fine virtues of De Leonism, that I might once
again be welcome, but I can't quite see myself doing that.

Long live the WSM forum.

Ken Ellis

 

6-25-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., "Mike Morin" <mmorin@e...> wrote:

> Well, Kenneth
>
> Would you agree that progress needs to be made both along the fronts
> of property socialism and labor-time socialism?

No, not at all. I think that activists should compare the two methods of
getting to our common goal of classless and stateless socialism, abandon
property socialism as a painful hang-over from the 19th century, and adopt
a labor-time socialism that is infinitely more appropriate to, and compatible
with, our advanced capitalist democracies. Property socialism reflects what
would have been possible had socialism gone according to Marx's plan of
'simultaneous revolutions in the most developed countries', when socialists
would have used their full state power to take away the property of the rich
after overthrowing a mass of intransigent feudal monarchies in Europe.
Socialism was supposed to be for the working class, but property socialism
in recent generations has proven to be for the petty bourgeoisie, who have
commodified that ideology, and peddle as many versions of it as brands
of soap can be found on grocery-store shelves.

Labor-time socialism is for everyone who is interested in complete
participation, total inclusion, and a feasible and simple method of getting to
classless and stateless society. No strain, no pain, except for the heartbreak
of dispensing with the inappropriate and obsolete dream of using the state
to take away the property of the rich.

> I would add a third category, and that is resource allocation socialism
> (i.e. determination of what resources get allocated at what rate and to whom)...

Because resource-allocation socialism deals with the material world, instead
of with immaterial and ethereal labor-time, then it should be categorized as a
branch of property socialism, not to be pursued.

Mike's previous message:

> If you think you can get away with it and carry on, then good luck to you?
>
> Yet, market rates for property especially real property are ridiculously
> out of sight for those who don't already have equity holdings in such.
>
> We are looking at at least the following options:
>
> 1.) wholesale or widespread expropriation
>
> 2.) Charity donations of real property and access to productive resources
> by those who now hold such.
>
> 3.) Collective bargaining by a socialist business entity representing the
> poor, working class and people with small accumulations of wealth to
> bring property values back to earth.
>
> 4.) Substantial writing off of bad loans made on property at inflated
> values in the last ten to twenty years or so...
>
> 5.) some combination of the above..

Ken's response:

>> There is a split between 'property socialism' (as extolled by Mike
>> and many others) and 'labor-time socialism'. Property socialists would:
>>
>> 1) try to take away the property of the rich in countries that have a high
>> regard for private property, and take state power in order to expropriate
>> the rich.
>>
>> 2) establish common property.
>>
>> 3) fight among themselves over whether to create a communist workers'
>> state, an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things, or
>> reform their way to the nationalization of industries.
>>
>> Labor-time socialists would:
>>
>> 1) leave property as is, knowing that it would disappear (along with
>> the state) AFTER the abolition of work and class distinctions.
>>
>> 2) reform labor laws to make labor scarce enough to put everyone
>> to work who wants to.
>>
>> 3) reduce hours of labor in proportion to technological progress.
>>
>> 4) arrive at classless society after it becomes ridiculous to bother
>> lowering the length of the work week any further, and volunteers
>> replace all wage labor, ending capitalism as we've suffered from it.
>>
>> Further suggestions for additional points of delineation
>> would be appreciated.
>>
>> Ken Ellis
>>

 

6-25-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., "Mike Morin" <mmorin@e...> quoted Ken Ellis:

>> Li'l Joe well understands the difficulties around dealing with environment
>> issues. He probably could agree that workers do not exercise very good
>> control over the economy. When it comes to protecting the forests and
>> environment, consider the unlikelihood of any group of workers deciding
>> to do the moral thing and refusing to chop down the last of the old-growth
>> redwoods. If so moved by morality, how far could they get? We can probably
>> agree that those workers would be out on the street in no time, and a new
>> batch of workers hired, more willing to do the bidding of the bosses, no
>> matter how immoral the nature of the work. Building land mines is another
>> immoral task, and we could probably write a long list of immoral occupations.
>
> Mike Morin responds:
>
> Perhaps a program in which workers and ideally worker/owners with the
> exclusion of payments to corporations or others holding land for speculative
> purpose, would be paid a conservation subsidy not to harvest and/or harvest
> sustainably timber resources would be in order...

People have only enjoyed private property for a few thousand years, while a
final goal of socialist, communist and anarchist activism is to end the institution
of property, so I see no need to extend or immortalize property ownership by
proposing that the working class get cozier with that institution than what they
already are. Because of our 5th Amendment, workers can't 'expropriate without
compensation' without simultaneously abolishing the state, which few people are
interested in doing. Expropriation with compensation involves years of interest
payments, so the net beneficial result of proletarian ownership is negligible.
Further, it doesn't address what needs to be done in regard to making room
in the economy for everyone who could use a little work to get by. If we can't
fight for full participation in the economy by means of sharing the remaining
work, then a victory over proletarian propertylessness would be very hollow.

Ken Ellis

 

6-26-01

Li'l Joe replied:

>> Kenneth Ellis responded:
>> The only problem is that revolutionary
>> expropriation can't happen in Western democracies.
>
> Lil Joe's Response: It happens everyday. ... Unemployed, penniless workers
> engage in "expropriations" of bourgeois property every day, in so-called
> "Western democracies" every time penniless workers "steal" a sack of beans
> from capitalist "grocery stores". Where does Kenneth Ellis stand on this?

Even though this is tangential to the issue of 'revolutionary proletarian
expropriation of the bourgeoisie', I'm not against individuals doing what
it takes to survive, and practicing individual expropriation. If the larger
society refuses to practice the politics of inclusion, then people will
continue to eke out a living by whatever means avails, legal or not.

> The problem, as Wilhelm Reich wrote in "The Mass Psychology of Fascism",
> is that the exploited workers don't strike, and that hungry unemployed -
> penniless proletarians don't steal. Yet, for example in the Los Angeles 1992
> bread riots, following the pigs aquittle of police officers who were video
> taped beating Rodney King. There was large-scale "expropriations"
> of means of subsistence, from markets and department stores.
>
> Similarly in Cincinnati, Ohio following the police murder of a Black teen-
> ager in that city. In both cases these large-scale small scale "expropriations"
> were limited, and suppressed by the armed power of the bourgeois state -
> i.e. as Lenin quoted Engel's description of the State apparatus qua:
> "special bodies of armed men; with prisons, &c., at their disposal.

Isolated incidents like in Cincinnati and LA are not really on point, for
the context in which I spoke of expropriation was in the popular Marxist
revolutionary context of workers taking full state power, and using their
new power to expropriate the means of production, which scenario includes
replacing the existing state with a communist workers' state. However well-
known the scenario, it just doesn't match what most people today are willing
to do to achieve social justice, and for good reasons, to be explored.

> It is the military power of the capitalist state, and primarily that which
> threatens the working-class against a "revolutionary expropriation" without
> compensation of society's basic means of production and distribution. The
> productive forces remain the property of capitalists,
not because the working-
> class wants that arrangement to continue, but
because the state, the government
> and its armed forces will not permit expropriations without civil war.

In democracies, the state is not the enemy. That attitude is a misconstrual
of the REAL enemy states of yore - intransigent feudal monarchies, which
could not in any way be wielded by the masses. The First International was a
republican club. It wanted to create democracies over the ashes of monarchies.
In Marx's day, only a handful of democracies existed, so replacing intransigent
monarchies with democracies was the prime political task in Europe. The
Communist Manifesto spoke of 'winning the battle for democracy' as the
number one task, after which, constructive political work could be done.

The difference between bourgeois republics and red proletarian republics
was the difference between 'ballot access being restricted to property owners'
vs. universal suffrage. As the proletariat matured in the 19th century, M+E
witnessed workers coming out more and more for themselves as a class in
each successive struggle, not settling for the creation of mere bourgeois
democracies, causing Marx to observe in the Minutes of the General Council
of the First International that 'middle class republics have become impossible
on the continent of Europe
'. Universal suffrage in new republics was what the
First Int'l wanted, as it would have enabled the proletariat to dictate policy.

> Part of the political problem is also ideological, as for instance
>
agents defending bourgeois ownership are prevalent in the working-class
> movement itself -
such as Kenneth whose primary function in the list-serves
> is to argue against the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois state; against
> the dictatorship of the proletariat that by means of organized proletarian
> politico- armed power that would expropriate bourgeois property
> - thus to argue against making the productive forces public property.

All of that 19th century stuff was little better than a dream, which was
demolished forever when Europeans failed to support the Russian revolution
with long lasting revolutions of their own. Marx was very close to being 100%
right, but the fizzling of the revolutions in Europe marked the end of the possibility
of Marx's scenario, for nevermore would enough monarchies be overthrown, and
enough new republics created, to endow workers' parties with the kind of power
with which to expropriate without compensation. It was just a little too ambitious
of M+E to expect workers to create a massive workers' state in Europe, and to
use workers' state power to take away the property of the rich.

Expropriation wasn't something that people were willing to do, even though
many of the political conditions for such action were in place in 1917 and
shortly afterwards. It was unrealistic for Lenin to expect workers to replace
their Social-Democracies with communist workers' states, and unrealistic to
expect the CPUSA to overthrow the American democracy. But, no one had
ever tried anything like that on such a massive scale before, so no one can
blame them for trying. The failure of history to conform to M+E's scenario
should have given activists cause to reflect on its future possibility, but not
enough of them were willing to do much more than keep the dream alive in
various little sects who will stubbornly keep the revolutionary dream alive
for as long as party bureaucrats can be kept in power. After 1917, making
various small businesses out of the proletarian revolution in Europe and
America was all that was possible, even though the dream still lingers on
in less developed countries.

>> Kenneth Ellis wrote: The only times in history in which expropriation
>> without compensation was possible was after overthrowing feudal
>> monarchies, or after liberating colonies, which never happened
>> 'simultaneously in the most developed countries', as Marx had wanted.
>
> Lil Joe, Response: We need
not engage in imaginary hypothetical
> about what Kenneth Ellis thinks about what "Marx had wanted."

There are lots of references to the scenario of 'simultaneous revolutions in
the most developed countries
', as the only way by which to avoid bourgeois
counter-revolution. Otherwise, neighboring countries could be used as bases
of counter-revolution, as in the Paris Commune, and later in Russia. Engels
did an interview in 1847 entitled 'Principles of Communism':

"The communist revolution will therefore be no merely national one; it will
be a revolution taking place simultaneously in all civilised countries, that is,
at least in England, America, France and Germany. In each of these countries
it will develop more quickly or more slowly according to whether the country
has a more developed industry, more wealth, and a more considerable mass of
productive forces. It will therefore be slowest and most difficult to carry out
in Germany, quickest and easiest in England. It will also have an important
effect upon the other countries of the world, and will completely change
and greatly accelerate their previous manner of development. It is a
worldwide revolution and will therefore be worldwide in scope.
"

It is reported that M+E changed their opinion in later years, and began to
regard the periphery as places where the proletarian revolution would begin,
but which would spread to the most developed countries. In some letters,
Engels opined that a revolution in Russia would spark a revolution in Europe,
as well as: a European revolution would trigger a revolution in Russia. Lenin
went further and saw the proletarian socialist revolution as succeeding in a
single less-developed country. This split of opinion is the result of the proleta-
rian revolution revolving around expropriation of property. The populations of
the most developed countries have always been least interested in a communist
revolution, while less developed countries enjoyed lots of communal ownership,
and had little tradition of mass private ownership, so it was relatively simple
for Lenin to abolish private ownership of land on the first day of the Russian
Revolution. If modern activists use this information wisely to reject the property
revolution as unachievable, then we can return to a more pedestrian construct:
Shorter work time will be fought for and won in the most developed countries,
bringing social justice to millions of workers and poor people.

> What Marx DID was make a scientific analysis of the laws
> of motion in the capitalist mode of production and at the
> same time critique bourgeois economic theory.

No argument with that, but Marx stood for other things as well,
such as the universal proletarian dictatorship.

> What is going on right now in Zimbabwe are peasant's expropriations of
> landed colonist's property. Marx and Lenin would "have wanted" this and
> supported it. Where does Kenneth Ellis stand on these expropriations?
> Does Ellis stand with the white land owners against expropriation?
> I stand with the African peasant expropriators.

Did you notice that it's OK for Marx and Lenin to want certain things, as
long as Li'l Joe also wants the same things? Then there's no doubt about
the certifiability of peasant expropriation of land in the works of M+E+L.

I've heard some good and some bad about the expropriations in Zimbabwe,
but haven't bothered studying the movement closely enough to form much of
an opinion. I'd rather think about methods of social justice in the developed
country in which I live. If that negligence on my part discredits me, then
maybe I should get my act together, but I wonder if a shorter work week
could do more for Zimbabweans than Americans.

> As in Africa, where the peasants are in a process of expropriation of land -
> which ought to go further, to expropriate the capitalist plantations and
> nationalize the basic means of production and distribution; and to
> nationalize all the basic industries and minerals - not because it is
> what "Marx had wanted", but because it is what is in workers own
> class interest to do so.
>
> The antinomy is quite clear: Kenneth Ellis stands with the capitalist class
> in his arguments against proletarian expropriations;

'Standing with the capitalist class' is an awful indictment. If I did stand with bosses,
then I would want as few workers as possible to work for as many hours per day
and week as possible, and really crack the whip. Instead, I would prefer that as
many workers as possible work as few hours as possible. If I stood with the
bosses, I would also propagate false ideologies to get workers to waste their
time pining away for proletarian revolutions, and get them to try to take away
the property of the rich. The bourgeoisie is very crafty, and knows how to
divert workers away from feasible and simple paths of social justice.

> whereas I stand with the proletariat
> in arguing for the expropriation of capital,
> for making the productive forces public property.

There's a big difference between 'property socialism' and 'labor-time
socialism'. Property socialism should have been regarded as a mistake after
Europe failed to revolt en masses in support of the Russian revolution. That
failure proved that property socialism was a mistake. Activists shouldn't
repeat that mistake forever, unless they want to remain ineffective forever.

>> Kenneth Ellis went on to write: After socialists won mere elections in
>> Western democracies, no more than 'expropriation WITH compensation'
>> was possible. It would be a wonderful tribute to people's ability to think
>> if they would banish 'revolution in democracies' as a desirable program.
>
> Lil Joe, Response: So, Ellis thinks that the people of the world ought to
> be commended if we demonstrate "ability to think" by agreeing with him -
>
and the capitalist as a class, i.e. in opposition to workers "revolutions in
> democracies"
. From the standpoint of the revolutionaries, to the contrary,
> however, "
winning of the battle of democracy" is desirable only because
> it will give us the right, as well as the power, to nationalize private capital.

Everyone knows that we already have democracies in the Western hemisphere, and
that the means of production could be expropriated with compensation if enough
people thought it would do something useful, but it may not be as useful as it's
cracked up to be. The battle of democracy has been won, and we have only to
use what was won for us a long time ago to the advantage of the working class.

2002 answer: Engels equated winning the battle for democracy with winning the battle
for universal suffrage. Since the West HAS universal suffrage, there's nothing to stop
us from using existing democracies as potential proletarian dictatorships:

"The Communist Manifesto had already proclaimed the winning of universal suffrage,
of democracy, as one of the first and most important tasks of the militant proletariat
" ...

>> Kenneth Ellis went on to assert: Revolution was designed to bring democracy
>> and independence to where it didn't exist before, not to liberate workers from
>> capitalist exploitation, as Marx hoped it would.
>
> Lil Joe, Response: It is
senseless to engage in a back and forth about what
> Marx "had wanted", or had "hoped for". I do not have ESP, and neither
> does Kenneth Ellis. If anyone out there want to answer the rest of Ellis's
> unsupported assertions, more power to you.

Marx wrote that 'the emancipation of the working class is the class-
conscious act of the proletariat itself
', which many activists interpret
as a call for revolution. About liberation, or 'universal emancipation', here's
a bit of Engels from 'Socialism: Utopian and Scientific', page me24.323:

"With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities
is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer.
Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The
struggle for individual existence disappears. Then for the first time, man, in a certain
sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from
mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones. The whole sphere of the
conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes
under the dominion and control of man, who for the first time becomes the real,
conscious lord of Nature, because he has now become master of his own social
organisation. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with
man as laws of Nature foreign to, and dominating, him, will then be used with full
understanding, and so mastered by him. Man's own social organisation, hitherto
confronting him as a necessity imposed by Nature and history, now becomes the
result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto
governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will
man himself, more and more consciously, make his own history - only from that
time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a
constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the ascent of
man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.
"

Page me25.270
"To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of
the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions
and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed class a
full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act
it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression
of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.
"

Thus, M+E often regarded the revolution as being bound up with the
expropriation of the owning classes, whereas, in reality, revolution in
Western history has usually been about bringing democracy and
independence to where it didn't exist before.

>> Kenneth Ellis continued: Marx was right about a lot of things, but also
>> wrong about a few important things. To follow ALL of his teachings,
>> divorced from a comparison with actual history, is a mistake, but some
>> people persist in making that mistake. 'Revolution in democracies' is such
>> an absurdity that making a business out of it was the only thing possible.
>> Because everyone wanted a piece of that act, sectarianism arose, making a
>> miserable muddle out of Marxism, so that it became a heroic task for any
>> neophyte to figure out what Marxism was all about, having to combat
>> bureaucracy, secrecy, cults of personality, and censorship at every step
>> of the way. Similar to the way Lenin wrote of the necessity of bringing
>> undistorted Marxism to the people, it would be helpful if modern activists
>> actually knew what Marxism was, instead of what some business masquer-
>> ading as a revolutionary party says it was, in order to determine how well or
>> badly Marxism described how people tend to react to political oppression
>> and economic hardship. From there, we could progress to ideological unity,
>> and, from there, to programmatic unity and effectiveness. But, maybe it's
>> too early in the game. Maybe the machines will really have to ravage the
>> planet and the lower classes before activists wake up to the mistakes they
>> have been making all along.

Ken Ellis

 

6-26-01

I've been censored off the SLP-Houston forum. Here is an innocuous little
paragraph from Engels that was rejected, and the moderator promises to reject
anything that smells of advocacy of a shorter work week, which he labels 'Ellisism':

>> A recent perusal of the works of Marx and Engels uncovered this little paragraph
>> about the abolition of the wages system, which I'm sure everyone here is interested in:
>>
>> Page me24.387 - Engels' 1881 article "Trades Unions" "Thus there are two
>> points which the organised Trades would do well to consider, firstly, that
>> the time is rapidly approaching when the working class of this country will
>> claim, with a voice not to be mistaken, its full share of representation in
>> Parliament. Secondly, that the time also is rapidly approaching when the
>> working class will have understood that the struggle for high wages and
>> short hours, and the whole action of Trades Unions as now carried on, is
>> not an end in itself, but a means, a very necessary and effective means,
>> but only one of several means towards a higher end: the abolition of
>> the wages system altogether.
"
>>
>> Activists interested in the abolition of the wages system should not
>> overlook the quest for higher wages and a shorter work week, now
>> legitimized more than ever by this little discovery.
>>
>> Ken Ellis
>>

 

6-27-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., "Mike Morin" <mmorin@e...> wrote:
In response to the discussion below:

> A long, long, time ago on a planet far, far away, there was a Supreme Court
> decision that unless eminent domain ruined the entire value of a property,
> then it was not considered a "taking" (i.e. expropriation)...though it
> actually was, wasn't it? All of military history is expropriation!

Valid points.

> For sometime in (American) history railroads, highways, other roads and
> other infrastructure were built that substantially took away value from the
> great majority of property where people reside. It appears that few have
> benefited from such a process...Those that have wreaked tremendous
> destruction on the environment and there appears to be some (e.g.
> President Bush et al) that want to continue with such a "laisse-faire",
> "free-market" for the gain of a relative few at the expense of the future
> of this planet (which includes the people).

Private property is a widely accepted social device which allows wealth to
accumulate in the hands of a few rich people. So what if property accumulates?
Even if one person owned EVERYTHING, the most important thing to the working
class would be that they would still have a paying job to go to on the morrow. The
majority doesn't want to muck with property, because everyone wants property to
accrue to themselves, so they don't want to pass laws preventing their own
accumulation of property. Half of Americans owning a piece of the
stock market doesn't bode well for an anti-property movement.

Mucking with property doesn't address the DYNAMICS of capitalism that affect
the WORKING class - the fact that jobs are being made obsolete at a rapid pace.
Machines are getting so much smarter that we will soon have to worry about many
more millions of low-wage low-skill jobs going bye-bye forever. We could distribute
all wealth equally tomorrow, and it wouldn't guarantee that workers would have jobs
to go to tomorrow. What workers need is POLICY - the policy of reducing hours of
labor as made possible by improvements in the means of production. Without that
policy, forget about broad social justice, workers' control, full employment, a clean
environment, and the abolition of prisons, etc.

> There is no "final" goal of socialism, communism, communitism, cooperative
> communitarianism, etc.

A long-term final goal of anarchism, socialism and communism is for society
to someday arrive at classless and stateless society. The same is also the final
goal of labor-time socialists. All of us activists merely differ as to how to
arrive at the final goal - whether it's by mucking around with property, or by
adjusting labor time as made possible by advances in productive technology.
I use the term 'mucking', because too many methods of changing property
relations exist for activists to agree upon any single method, and too often
one method cannot be adopted without excluding a whole bunch of others,
creating animosity among property socialists. On the other hand, labor time
socialists welcome all new ideas for methods to get labor off the labor market.

> The goal of such is to optimize the quality of life for all inhabitants of
> the planet and their progeny for as long as possible...for some of us,
> another goal is peace on earth.

Nothing wrong with those goals.

> Such requires radical reassessment from an environmental perspective
> and radical changes in the economic system.

Can't you be a little more concrete? Or, would it require a zillion pages?
When speaking to us Blue collars on this forum, better keep it short and sweet.

> I do not advocate expropriation, I simply stated that it is an option for some people.

In deference to the Reds on this forum, 'with or without compensation'?

> Again, I stated the options as:
>
> We are looking at at least the following options:
>
> 1.) wholesale or widespread expropriation
>
> 2.) Charity donations of real property and access to productive resources
> by those who now hold such.
>
> 3.) Collective bargaining by a socialist business entity representing
> the poor, working class and people with small accumulations of wealth
> to bring property values back to earth.
>
> 4.) Substantial writing off of bad loans made on property at inflated values
> in the last ten to twenty years or so...
>
> 5.) some combination of the above..
>
> Notice, not once dish I mention marks ore angles...
>
> Ho'ping peace

Hey, neither did I mention them (for once).

Ken Ellis

 

6-27-01

> Li'l Joe wrote:
>
>
snip: Lil Joe The antinomy is quite clear: Kenneth Ellis stands with the
> capitalist class in his arguments against proletarian expropriations of capital...
>
>> 'Standing with the capitalist class' is an awful indictment. If I did stand
>> with bosses, then I would want as few workers as possible to work for
>> as many hours per day and week as possible, and really crack the whip.
>> Instead, I would prefer that as many workers as possible work as few
>> hours as possible. If I stood with the bosses, I would also propagate false
>> ideologies to get workers to waste their time pining away for proletarian
>> revolutions, and get them to try to take away the property of the rich. The
>> bourgeoisie is very crafty, and knows how to divert workers away from
>> feasible and simple paths of social justice.
>
> But, what is this bourgeois crap you call "social justice"?
> Please define it.

Justice is another term for 'fairness', and 'social' means 'extending to the
masses'. M+E didn't put those 2 words together the way activists do today.
They mocked the 'eternal justice' proposed by the people they criticized, but
'social justice' is an acceptable term to many, many activists TODAY. I feel
no guilt in using it. It wouldn't surprise me if those who find fault with
'social justice' would also find fault with democracy and private property,
thus marginalizing themselves. We have to work with the human material
as we find it, and mustn't contradict common concepts, unless we want to
marginalize ourselves.

>>> Lil Joe: whereas I stand with the proletariat in arguing for the
>>> expropriation of capital, for making the productive forces public property.
>
> Lil Joe: The expropriation of capitalist property by the working-class,
>
will destroy the capitalist as a class. The workers owning the productive
> forces will determine for themselves the hours of the working day, &c.
> It is a matter of our class interests.

The proletariat doesn't argue for the expropriation of capital, nor to make
the productive forces public property, at least not in my neighborhood. In
the Paris Commune, the Communards even wanted to compensate factory
owners for the use of the abandoned factories the Communards put to good
use, as Marx mentioned in his first draft of The Civil War in France.

M+E long advocated expropriation, which can never be achieved without
workers achieving full state power. In the ultra bourgeois USA, parties
advocating expropriation are a dime a dozen. They adhere to that program
because M+E advocated it, so they think it is scientific. But, science is based
on observation, not on wishful thinking, and we can easily observe that workers
today have little interest in becoming anything but as bourgeois as their bosses.
The point is: not to stubbornly oppose such a rigid obstacle, but to work around
it. Property will fade away along with the state, but only after the abolition of both
work and class distinctions.

Ken Ellis

 

6-28-01

--- In RBG-Alliance@y..., Li'l Joe <joeradical@y...> wrote:

> I WAS WRONG, PERSONAL AND HOSTILE IN THE LANGUAGE I USED.
> The point remains the same. I ask Kenneth Ellis to respond to my response
> to his "labor-time socialism", which he stated in opposition to Mikes so-called
> "property socialism". I apologize to Mike, Kenneth, and the e-group for the
> language I used below. But, again I ask that Kenneth respond to my
> "Proletarian Socialism vs. Bourgeois Socialism".

snip old messages

Let me dash this off quickly, cuz I'm having a busy weekend.

I accept the apology for the language. Now I will be sure not to respond
in kind. Thanks to Li'l Joe for defusing the situation.

I'm in the process of responding to the other messages, but with several things on
my plate on the home turf for the next few days, I won't be as quick in responding
as I would like, but I'll get there eventually. My apologies for the delay.

Best wishes for a pleasant summer weekend,
Ken Ellis

 

6-29-01

Li'l Joe wrote:

> Before you read my response to Kenneth Ellis below, take a look at the
> antiquated notion of "bourgeois socialism", which Marx and Engels on behalf
> of the Communist League dismissed more that a century ago! Kenneth Ellis is
> trying to
resurrect this old idea as something "new", a 21st century concept!

What may be new, never before proffered by any socialist I know of, is to
claim that driving down the length of the work week is a legitimate way to get
to workless, classless and stateless society. The method is not only legitimate,
but it's also the ONLY feasible way, since the people of the Western Hemisphere
have no interest in altering property relations, and the half billion in the old Eastern
block who went over to capitalism after 1989 demonstrated that their old system
was working so badly that switching systems was worth the risk. Capitalism and
democracy are increasingly popular, while actually existing communist states
appear little more purposeful than a mid stage between feudal monarchies
and capitalist democracies.

> Where as you can see from the quote from Marx and Engels below
>
it is nothing but a bourgeois utopia that was long ago rejected by
> the European working-class.

The quote doesn't diss the possibility of getting to classless and stateless
society by reducing the length of the work week, so, what exactly should
people derive from this upcoming quote?

> Following this quote from the "Communist Manifesto" is my response to
> Kenneth Ellis. This is followed by the statement of Kenneth Ellis, in response
> to Mike, where Kenneth refers to proletarian socialism as "property socialism",
> which he rejects for wanting to expropriate capital by making the productive
> forces public property. In opposition to this "property socialism" Kenneth
>
proposed bourgeois socialism, which he tries to sneak by with quasi Marxist
> language as "labour-time" socialism -
without adressing the problem of the
> continued exploitation of wage-labour by capital, the continuation of which
> he in maintaining capitalist property-relations of production
must support.

The bourgeois socialism criticized in the CM doesn't have anything to do
with labor-time socialism, which I discovered in 1995. We are stuck with
class divisions for quite a few more decades.

> ************ In the "Communist Manifesto", Marx and Engels wrote:
>
> "
Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism: A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous
> of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence
> of bourgeois society.

In today's world, the bourgeoisie fights to secure their dominance by opposing
full participation in the economy. Driving down the length of the work week to
enable full participation is the surest way to diminish their power and wealth.
Why are they so rich and powerful? Because workers MAKE them rich and
powerful. If we didn't work SO HARD to make them rich and powerful, then
they wouldn't BE so rich and powerful. A shorter work week directly addresses
the QUANTITIES of their wealth and power.

> "To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians,
> improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity,
> members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance
> fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form
> of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.

Notice what Marx didn't mention? Movements for shorter work time, which
he supported during his whole career. Why did the First International put the
8 hour day in the most prominent place in their list of demands? Because the
8 hour day represented the interests of the working class back then, and Marx
always upheld the interests of the working class, even when obtained by reforms,
the way England's 10-Hour Bill was obtained. Supporting reforms in the interests
of the working class is elementary Marxism, and even Leninism as well.

> "The socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social
> conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting
> therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its
> revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie
> without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in
> which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois socialism develops this
> comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In
> requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march
> straightaway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality that
> the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but
> should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.

If I wanted the bourgeoisie to succeed, then I would fight for low wages and
long hours. But, I fight for the opposite, like workers in England and America
have fought for them for nearly 2 centuries.

M+E were not above rallying hatred against the upper classes. Rallying hatred
can be effective when the proletariat has a fighting chance to overthrow a ruling
class, as in Marx's era. But, no such opportunities exist today in the USA. So,
rallying hatred doesn't do anyone any good, and instead damages the campaigns
of anyone who runs on a hate platform. It's time instead to rally love. The way
to rally love for fellow workers is to drive down the length of the work week to
make room in the economy for everyone who could use a little work to get by.
The big difference between property socialism and labor-time socialism is the
difference between taking away possessions from the rich vs. giving all workers
more care-free time. People are smart enough to know the difference.

> "A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this socialism
> sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working
> class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material
> conditions of existence, in economical relations, could be of any advantage to
> them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of socialism,
> however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of pro-
> duction, an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative
> reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore,
> that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labor, but, at the best,
> lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work of bourgeois government.

Anyone who wants to use that paragraph to argue for a proletarian revolution
in the USA is barking up the wrong tree, because workers have never
spontaneously revolted to end their alleged exploitation at the hands of their
alleged capitalist exploiters. Try to get a software engineer making $75,000
a year to revolt in order to end 'his oppression'.

If workers were to revolt at the time of the CM, they would not just decide
to revolt against the economic oppression of the bourgeoisie. Another thing, a
bigger thing, was going on - political repression. So few people wanted an anti-
capitalist revolution at the time that no one could expect to put one together out
of thin air. Marx relied on a revolt against oppressive political conditions to
provide the right circumstances for a follow-up anti-capitalist revolution.

People on the Continent at the time were fired up over repressive intransig-
ent feudal monarchies. Nearly everyone wanted to replace monarchies with
democracies, and the proletarian element wanted universal suffrage in the new
democracies to enable workers' parties to dominate policy in the new republics.
Marx wanted anti-monarchist revolutions to be simultaneous on the continent of
Europe, and wanted newly dominant workers' parties to cooperate in a universal
proletarian dictatorship to take away the property of the rich - striking an enormous
blow right there at class distinctions. Their unity would have prevented counter-
revolution by separating the bourgeoisie from their power base.

Proletarian revolution in Marx's day required many preconditions to be
satisfied, and a lot of them almost were satisfied at that time, but so few of
those political preconditions come close to being a factor in the USA today
that modern revolutionaries are considered 'way out there' for good reasons.

> "Bourgeois socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when,
> it becomes a mere figure of speech.
>
> "
Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the
> benefit of the working class. Prison reform: for the benefit of the working class.
> This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism.

>
> "
It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois
> for the benefit of the working class.
"
>
> Marx and Engel's "
Communist Manifesto"
> ********************************************
>
> In response to Kenneth Ellis's response to Mike: Kenneth's idea of
> "socialism" for everyone - on the
basis of capitalist ownership of the basic
> means of production - is
as deceptive as the slogan that the "poor" and the
> "rich" each have the "right" to panhandle and to sleep under a freeway
> under-pass, and George Bush's "tax cuts for 'all' Americans - across the
> board" as "fair" i.e. including the very rich and excluding the very poor.

Socialism and capitalism cannot exist simultaneously in the same economy.
After a few more decades of technological evolution, and when enough work
is abolished that volunteers replace the last of the wage laborers, it will not
benefit anyone to own means of production, because there no longer will be
any wage labor to profit from. If the benefits of property ownership will no
longer accrue to owners, then ownership will decline as an institution. With
no property rights to have to protect, the state also will decline, and so will
the nuclear family, based as it is on existing property relations.

> In other words, in Kenneth's conception of "socialism", a 17th century idea
> that Marx and the proletarian socialists dismissed as "bourgeois socialism",

That's a repetition of a misconstrual of my theory.

> is that the capitalists have the right to monopoly ownership of the basic
> means of production, and thereby the "right" to employ wage-labour and upon
> purchasing that labour-power have the right to own the products of that labour,
> and therefore the "right" to appropriate the profits from exploited labour power;
> and that, given this objectively capitalist set up, the the workers conversely have
> the "right" to be exploited wage-labour, providing profits to the capitalists, but
> by his "socialist" scheme these workers will be exploited fewer hours a day.

If any quick way to end exploitation ever existed, I'm sure Li'l Joe would have
clued us in to it by now. Until the quick way manifests itself, we have little choice
but to suffer with capitalism for a few more decades. But, capitalism won't have to
be very miserable if we withdraw enough labor away from the labor market in order
to make room for everyone in the economy. In his 1845 book about "The Condition
of the Working Class in England
", Engels described how to end exploitation (p. 255):

"The active resistance of the English working-men has its effect in holding
the money-greed of the bourgeoisie within certain limits, and keeping alive
the opposition of the workers to the social and political omnipotence of the
bourgeoisie, while it compels the admission that something more is needed
than Trades Unions and strikes to break the power of the ruling class. But
what gives these Unions and the strikes arising from them their real importance
is this, that they are the first attempt of the workers to abolish competition. They
imply the recognition of the fact that THE SUPREMACY OF THE BOURGEOISIE
IS BASED WHOLLY UPON THE COMPETITION OF THE WORKERS AMONG
THEMSELVES; i.e., upon their want of cohesion. And precisely because the
Unions direct themselves against the vital nerve of the present social order,
however one-sidedly, in however narrow a way, are they so dangerous to this
social order. The working-men cannot attack the bourgeoisie, and with it the
whole existing order of society, at any sorer point then this. IF THE COMPETITION
OF THE WORKERS AMONG THEMSELVES IS DESTROYED, IF ALL DETERMINE
NOT TO BE FURTHER EXPLOITED BY THE BOURGEOISIE, THE RULE OF
PROPERTY IS AT AN END. Wages depend upon the relation of demand
to supply, upon the accidental state of the labour market, simply because the
workers have hitherto been content to be treated as chattels, to be bought and
sold. The moment the workers resolve to be bought and sold no longer, when,
in the determination of the value of labour, they take the part of men possessed
of a will as well as of working-power, at that moment the whole Political Economy
of to-day is at an end.
" (My emphases - K.E.)

> Kenneth thinks that his idea of bourgeois-socialism is "new", and dismisses
> proletarian socialism predicated upon public ownership of the means of
> social production as "
a painful hang-over from the 19th century"!

Bourgeois socialism knows nothing of shorter work weeks, so describing labor-
time socialism as 'bourgeois' is a mistake. Labor-time socialism is something new
for people to consider, so I can't really blame people for misconstruing such a new
concept. But, this new form of socialism will someday be considered valid and
appropriate enough to replace property socialism as 'the big thing' to work for.
Of this I am perfectly confident.

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net


End of June 2001 Correspondence

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