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Selected Political Correspondence

May 2001

Text coloring decodes as follows:

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

5-01-01

Thomas Koch wrote, in part:

> I think the main thing is that the onerous burden of work
> can be greatly lightened if we co-operate and share more.

I agree with sharing the work very much.

> your garbageman looking for shorter hours and more respect,
> Thomas Koch

If shorter hours is what you'd like, then you might want to move to France,
to take advantage of their 35 hour week.

> I will be unsubscribing soon, as I head to Germany on Thursday.

Good luck in Deutschland. I, at least, will miss your intelligent messages.

Ken Ellis

 

5-06-01

Hi, Michael,

> Hey Ken,
>
> Well I think that if you really want to get the labor sharing idea
> across you might as well spread the word on it now. Its almost
>
pointless to argue among the endless number of sectarians.

Maybe you are right. Jean-Paul's recent response on the Houston-SLP discussion list
was pretty disappointing. There is no superiority of left wing morality when they knee-
jerk defend illogical ideologies, even though the ideologies represent a tremendous invest-
ment of mental effort, making of the ideologies religions to worship, such as the SLP's
support for their sacred SIU. Loyalty to sacred programs justifies any crime against
consciousness, and nearly any Black Hundred lie will pass muster, such as their defunct
'dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry'. People who think they have the corner
on morality also think that any lie will justify the worst of their ridiculous ideas.

> If this is an idea whose time has come you will be the one responsible for it.

A whole lot of people already advocate work sharing, and the whole country of
France leads the way. What I did that was new was to show that driving down
the length of the work week is the only feasible way to get to classless and
stateless society in democracies. But, I wonder if I will ever change anyone's
mind about anything. One would think by now that activists would to be
frustrated enough with their lack of progress to rethink their strategy of
wanting to take away the property of the rich.

> I will be happy to help with any ideas like a website, FAQ, and whatever.

Thanks for the kind offer. It would be great to have a collaborator who could
become proud to be part of this pioneering effort to bring about socialism by
driving down the length of the work week. If you would like to check out a
web site which is dedicated to a shorter work week, but which has no great
socialist vision of reaching classless and stateless society, proceed to:

http://www.timesizing.com

> In the meantime I'm still confused and have responses to a few things.
>
>> <If a single country lowers the length of its work week, then capital can
>> be expected to flee, especially if the difference between the length of its
>> work week and the other countries is significant. So, this is where the
>> international solidarity of labor comes in. Labor's strategy should be
>> to lower the length of the work week EQUALLY around the world,
>> to prevent capital from wastefully flitting from one country to
>> another, and to ensure that all workers are equally protected.>
>
> What would happen if a 30 hour work week law passed here
> but only in a few other countries?

If an international movement were to dedicate itself to an international
shorter work week, then it would probably advise workers against trying
to make a drastic change in any single country at the same time others
remained at 40 hours. 30 hours IS a drastic change compared to 40,
so no country should try to go to 30 before everyone else gets to 35.

> We can't expect the rest of the world to just adopt these
> standards all of a sudden. The capitalists would just move
> their businesses to those countries.

That is why we should build an international movement. Both of us could play
a part in that. There's hardly anything more important one could do in the cause
of social justice, for this is the one big issue that would have profound effects
upon all other issues. If any issue is key to broad social justice, this is it, for it
is in the workers' interests to share work. Getting workers to cooperate to force
the enactment of a shorter work week would be the basis of further unity on other
issues. The bosses want as few of us as possible to work for as many hours as
possible, while it is in our economic, social, and political interests for as many
workers as possible to work for as few hours as possible. Plus, sharing work
now is the only way to prepare us to share the products of whatever entity that
creates the means of life after all of the opportunities to earn a living dry up in
another few decades, when the machines and computers become so much smarter
at practical tasks than we are. For some pretty astounding predictions about that, see:

http://www.KurzweilAI.net/index.html?flash=0

> How would your theory stand if they moved
> and we had mass unemployment and 30 hour work week ?

I think that we would try very hard not to let the movement proceed so
haphazardly, but, suppose one country did go off on its own, and capital
did flee that country. Then the situation would closely parallel the situation in
France at this moment. The Shorter Work Time forum has broadcast a lot of
information regarding the results of France's 35 hour week, and everything bad
imaginable has already started to happen, as well as everything good! By no
means is France's 35 hour week a brilliant 100% success, but the benefits have
been well worth the gamble. A shorter work week is THE way to go, haphazard
or not. Often it takes one brave country to take a leap and wait for everyone
else to follow. Russia in 1917 took the leap into socialist revolution, and a
few other countries followed, but their revolutions were crushed, while Russia
struggled mightily against counter-revolution for years after. The nice part
about the shorter work week is that it is based upon slow reliable economic
evolution, but not upon shaky expropriation politics, so the shorter work week
is 100% guaranteed success, while expropriation was guaranteed to fail for
being 'too much, too soon'. It's up to us socialists to tune into this fact and
replace our broken expropriation dream with the feasible dream of sharing
work equitably, which is perfectly fitted to the most industrialized democ-
racies, and will get us to classless and stateless society without a civil war.

>> It may not be so much of an ABSOLUTE increase as a relative increase.
>> Wages represent the necessities of life, and the quantity of products and
>> services required to produce and reproduce labor power doesn't change
>> just because the length of the work week changes. Whether a worker works
>> merely one day per week or all seven, his rent and food bills are the same.
>> So, the basic thing is that the pay check at the end of the week should pretty
>> much remain the same, no matter how long or short the work week, as long
>> as the length of the work week is uniform for the class. But, then there is the
>> labor market factor. Because we compete for scarce jobs, bosses confidently
>> offer low wages, knowing that desperate workers will snap the jobs up. But,
>> if we create an OPEC-like shortage of LABOR (instead of OIL), wages could
>> easily go up enough to provide every worker a living wage, and far beyond the
>> minimum wage. In terms of dollars per hour of work, wage rates would certainly
>> increase, but, due to the reduction in hours, the end result could remain relatively stable.
>
> I'm sorry but I'm still confused. Please explain more clearly to me the
> ABSOLUTE and RELATIVE increases to me. I still do not understand
> how the worker will get paid the same amount for 4(v) hours instead of
> 8(v). How do you know that a labor shortage will cause an inflation in
> wages. please tell me these basic economic stuff.

Thanks for the question. By absolute, I mean what's on the bottom line of the
pay check at the end of the week. Relative refers to the wage rate, which would
be free to flex as needed. Here's how 'relative' and 'absolute' go together:

Suppose a worker grosses $400 for a 40 hour week, also meaning that he grosses
$10/hour. If we adopt a shorter work week, say 35 hours, we wouldn't want the
(absolute) wage to decrease down to $350 per week, for that would mean a lower
standard of living, so we would want the RELATIVE wage to increase by 40/35
(or by 8/7) so that the pay check at the end of the week would still remain at $400.
So, 35 hours times $11.43/hour still equals $400, meaning that the wage rate would
have to increase by $1.43, from $10.00 to $11.43. Maybe my home made terminology
(ABSOLUTE and RELATIVE) isn't really Marxist, but this explanation should help
you to understand what I meant. Let me know if it still isn't perfectly clear.

>> Whether a worker works merely one day per week or all seven, his rent
>> and food bills are the same. So, the basic thing is that the pay check at
>> the end of the week should pretty much remain the same, no matter
>> how long or short the work week, as long as the length of the work
>> week is uniform for the class.
>
> But how ?

As shown above, by the working class getting higher wage rates. A higher wage
rate times fewer hours still takes us to the same pay check at the end of the
week, and prevents the standard of living from declining.

>> <Full participation would give us the kind of economic security that
>> would enable worker control of the government and economy.>
>
> How would full participation enable workers control
> over the work place and economy ?

Workers desperate for employment feel compelled to accept ugly, unfulfilling
jobs. For every worker who is morally repulsed by the thought of clearcutting
the last of the old-growth redwoods, or is morally repulsed by the thought of
building land mines, there are a dozen or more others who would gladly snap
up jobs like that for the pocket-money, so we workers continue to do the wrong
things for the people and the planet. How else do so many evil things continue
to happen? Bosses may order us to do awful things, but we good Germans are
the ones who actually do the dirty work. And then we adopt the same blanket
denial as the bosses over the evil we do. We really are their partners in crime.
It's very one-sided to just blame the bosses for everything, so blaming the rich
for everything falls flat, which is another good reason why socialist movements
are so weak - weak arguments.

Consider, on the other hand, if we were class-conscious enough to create the
kind of shortage of labor that would enable EVERYONE to find work, and if
all fear of unemployment were banished from the land. Then, a movement that
opposed clear-cutting and land-mine manufacture would stand more of a chance
of uniting workers to boycott those industries. We could simply refuse to build
land mines, and refuse to cut down the last of the redwoods, but we would not
suffer unemployment as a consequence, for we would simply make room for
the displaced workers by further reducing hours of labor, as necessary. By
creating an artificial (OPEC-like) shortage of labor (instead of oil), we could
create a moral society.

>> If you have a concise summary of findings, I wouldn't mind taking
>> a look. It might give me some good ideas.
>
> Well most parties have the illusion that you can simply become a mass
> party by agitation and promoting themselves vigorously. Anyone's goal is
> a mass Marxist party. How do u get there? We know that workers just don't
> wake up one day and cry out revolution. People are conservative by nature.
> But we also know that there are periods in which they can't take much more
> and they want to do something about their oppression. At this point they crave
> information, they want to learn how to fight their oppression, they want to be
> in politics. Building a movement is tough and takes many years. You start off
> SMALL. In periods before a dramatic situation like now, we know that you
> can't get more than a handful of people, getting from the first 2 to 100 people is
> hard work. But from those 100 its easy to build up to 500, then 1,000 and so on.

That sounds like the old theory, all right, but we have already seen workers
pushed to the brink of desperation during the Depression. The AFL solution
back then was 'a 30 hour week'. The AFL supported the Black-Connery 30 Hour
Bill, which was compelling enough to pass the Senate and looked like a shoe-in
for the House before FDR's brain trust convinced the AFL to let it die in exchange
for other goodies, such as the Wagner Act. This example from real history is how
real workers wanted to tackle a big unemployment crisis in the past, and this is how
workers will continue to want to meet future crises. So, instead of thinking about
organizing people to revolt, we should organize workers and politicians to push
for a shorter work week. It is infinitely more probable and feasible.

The scenario you painted (above) perfectly describes how people united to
overthrow oppressive and intransigent monarchies, or to liberate colonies.
It reminded me a lot of Lenin's pre-revolutionary teachings, but that same
technique does not work in today's existing democracies. Of course, you
won't find today's 'great leaders of the proletariat' going to admit that their
tactics are out of historical context, but that's what their tactics amount to,
whether it's the SLP, the SWP, the WSM, or any other revolutionary party.
Their tactics just do not fit the democracies we live in. Some revolutionary
leaders understand this fact, but are making enough money misleading eager
gullibles, that they aren't about to change their tunes. 'Revolution in democracies'
was a lot of wishful thinking, but its impossibility turned it into nothing but a con
game, designed to keep revolutionary bureaucrats at the tops of their party
bureaucracies. They aren't about to give away the secrets of their success, so they
maintain their party lines right to the bitter end. A party dedicated to such an out-
of-place program can't have the best interests of society in mind. Their obsolete
programs are perfectly complementary to their own undemocratic, censorious,
secretive, and sectarian party structures.

What's useful is for people to become AWARE of the colossal fraud, convince
enough rank and file revolutionaries that the fraud really is fraud, carry on a lot
of counter-agitation, and then organize the more honest members to take over
the crumbling revolutionary parties and movements, and unite into a solid
movement based on sharing work. Negating the negativity of today's useless
revolutionary movements is the best and fastest way to speed the arrival of
classless and stateless society. As long as people waste their time dreaming
about taking away the property of the rich, the larger will become the gap
between the rich and poor.

> Also in the communist manifesto it says "workers do not separate
> themselves from other workers' parties.
" This is a far cry from those
> who form their own revolutionary parties. Lenin and Trotsky talked
> about how communists should basically join other parties (and unions)
> to work within them because that's the best way to get a movement going.
> Of course this would only be valid if such parties existed. For example
> my comrades in the UK are organized in the Labour Party. In the 1980s
> we did such a good job that we had a tendency called "Militant Labour"
> in the party and we managed to get 3 PMs in Parliament and control
> Liverpool council. Later Thatcher cracked down and there were a
> series of expulsions in the Labor party including within the assholes
> in Militant who kicked my group out from the rest. This shows how
> our correct ideas and clear perspectives can pay off.
>
> Right now we call on workers to organize a mass party of labor of their
> own and for the trade unions to break with their democrats. The reason
> why we are in the labor party is because on paper there are 2 million
> member endorsing unions, so it has the best chance of becoming such
> a party, cause its based on the trade unions.
>
> comradely,
> Michael

Well, a labor party is the place to be. I wish I were in one. To educate
workers to the necessity of sharing work as the machines and computers
become ever so much smarter in the next few decades, that would be a
movement based upon fraternal love and respect for life, whereas
organizing to smash or tear down existing structures requires rallying
hatred. We don't need any more hatred in democracies. It would be
much nicer to see people building a movement based on fraternal love.
The patient explanation of the futility of taking away the property of the
rich is an exercise in fraternal love. We will get so much farther that way.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

5-06-01

Jean-Paul wrote:

> Hello Everyone:
>
> I knew about Ken Ellis' SLP history before Carl set this site up so
> when he joined I decided to ignore him. My belief was that by simply
> showing people who we actually are
we would simply invalidate most
> of his arguments. To me this was a noble position and also knowing
> his style of debate from the WSM (if he talks the same way he writes
> I don't blame Comrade McClintock for walking out in disgust).

Bob said that he was needed at home. Maybe he was disappointed in me,
I may never know. I would have loved to have found out how he really felt
about our little Friday afternoon discussions.

> I chose to try and not get personally involved except by
> occasionally correcting mostly historical points. Recently I
> broke that promise to myself and the result has been a series
> of unproductive monologues. So I am ending my part in the
> 'debate' with K.E. and returning to my original position.

Sorry to see Jean-Paul go. I've enjoyed his contribution to the debate.

> I asked for a temporary reprieve from our discussion and in reply
> simply got back another
attack.

Which part of the last message could have been interpreted as an attack?
I try never to attack anything except bad ideas. That's the whole purpose
of dialogue - to attack ideas, not people.

> It was an attack which came from a man who knows he is right.
> He's 100% sure that there will never be a revolution in a bourgeois
> republic. What's more is that in a world where the media,
> entertainment, historical interpretations, and government is
> controlled by business, Ken Ellis is right even if
he's wrong.

I am right, even if I'm wrong? The mystery deepens.

> Never mind the fact that many historians consider the US Civil War
> to be the second part of the US Revolutionary War.

The Civil War began some 85 years after the start of the Revolutionary
War, and was fought for an entirely different reason. I don't understand
the relevance of the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. Perhaps a
further explanation will be forthcoming.

> Never mind the fact that the 13th Amendment which abolished an
> economic system known as chattel slavery was a
Revolutionary act
> which took place in an
apparent democracy.

I don't understand how passing a mere Amendment could be regarded as
a revolutionary act. Revolutions imply replacing one state with another, as
in liberating a colony (USA in 1776), or replacing a monarchy with a
democracy (France in 1789-93).

> Never mind the fact the eventual emancipation of the working class
> from the system of wage-slavery whether it occurs
slowly or all at
> once will signify a Revolutionary act because it will permanently
> and decisively alter the economic relations between workers and
> capitalists,
rendering the latter completely unnecessary.

Slow emancipation, or all at once? The SLP revolutionary scenario, last I
heard about it, was an all-at-once kind of event, on the day of the election.
Why would a member bring up a 'slow' emancipation, unless the SLP
now allows for both fast and slow emancipations?

Secondly, workers and capitalists are 2 sides of the same coin. One cannot
rid the world of capitalists without simultaneously ridding the world of workers.
We will never see a world of 'workers, but no capitalists', but new technologies
will soon render both classes obsolete within a few decades, but only if we
learn to share the remaining work in the meantime.

> Forget about the Paris Commune, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Johnson,
> Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Daniel
> De Leon, Eugene V. Debs, John Brown, W.E.B. DuBois, et al.
Forget
> about the past,
forget history (or only read the parts you like).

That doesn't sound like very good advice. Where is this taking us?

> Forget that 150 (or so) years of Reformism have only helped to
>
cement capitalism, and consolidate wealth in fewer and fewer
> hands and build up a bureaucratic welfare state.

Could the world have done very much better? Besides the example of the
struggling 'communist' countries, was there ever much of a choice, except
for the path we are on? If a revolution was possible at one time, then, who
sabotaged the revolution, and when? I doubt if any one person or party
could be found at fault.

> Ignore the apparent fact that if the working day gets shorter in
> the US or Western Europe it's
only because it's getting longer
> in India, South America, China, and Africa.

Not having seen any figures, I don't know if this is a valid observation or not,
but I hope that it isn't making an argument for us to become more 'charitable',
and 'volunteer to work longer hours, so that other countries might be able to
work fewer
'. In a world in which less and less human labor is needed (no
matter which country), I can't think of a charitable policy that would please
the bosses more than if we were to be foolish enough to chose to work longer.

> Ignore the 2 billion human beings living on less then $1.00 a day.

This is looking like an argument against a shorter work week, supposedly
because a shorter work week for the North would translate into a larger wealth
and income gap between North and South. If we in the North 'do the charitable
thing' and let bosses enslave us to needlessly long hours, would that enable
poorer nations to live a little better? I doubt that is a valid economic law.
Is there a precedent in Marx's Capital?

> Concentrate your focus on the 5-10% of the world's population
> which uses up 25% of the world's resources. Don't do the simple
> math equation which tells you that it is impossible for the rest of
> the world to be brought up to the wasteful standards of the West.

Our willingness to work long hours is what's responsible for a lot of the
waste in the first place. If we are 40 times more productive than we were 200
years ago, then it is theoretically possible for us to provide the necessities
for all by each of us working a mere single hour per week. Deciding to be
that parsimonious with our time would be one heck of a political decision
on our part, and it would help us to streamline our economy like nothing we
have ever seen before. We would become a model of energy conservation
for the whole world. But, whether we chop off 39 hours per week, or whether
we simply follow the French and move to 35, the path to conservation is best
begun by us working less instead of more.

> Read the newspaper financed by your friendly multi-national
> corporations and watch the network news owned by General
> Motors, General Electric, and Disney. Believe what they tell
> you is the unbiased truth because the press is free.

Well, it was the Washington Post that gave us the Pentagon Papers. If the
socialist press were more credible, then maybe the socialist press would be
bigger than the rest of them.

> Proclaim yourself a socialist and then tell everyone why socialism is impossible.

Socialism WILL be impossible if we try to get there by taking away the
property of the rich, and if we directly confront the power of the state along
the way. Socialism will be feasible by only one method alone, when we drive
down the length of the work week to its logical conclusion - zero. That will mark
the end of employment, the end of work, the end of the working class, and the end of
the capitalist class as well. After thus abolishing class distinctions, the disappearance
of the state and all the rest will be effortless. We merely have to convince ourselves
that the old way of doing things never got us anywhere, and that it really is worth
rethinking Marxism and socialism.

> Tell them that Stalin, Castro, and Mao are Marxists
> and that De Leon,
Eugene V. Debs and maybe even Lenin
> (remember STATE AND REVOLUTION) are Anarchists
.

I haven't mentioned Debs' name or socialist legacy except in passing, or while
quoting Lenin in my book. Very few people would regard Lenin or Debs as
anarchists. It's for sure that I never did.

> And don't forget to write a book about it that doesn't go past 1977.

My era of intense involvement with the SLP was merely from 1972-7.
Writing about the years after 1977 would not have been relevant to my
particular story. Was it a crime for me not to write about the SLP after
1977? If anyone would like to correct my perceptions about where the
SLP stands on various issues today, that would be consistent with the
Party's motto - 'Educate, agitate, and organize'.

> If you do all these things you too can be 100% Right.

Anyone who did half of the things mentioned wouldn't have much credibility.

> You can do all these things just please do them somewhere else because
> it gets tiresome having a dialogue with someone who
Knows they are Right.
>
> The only thing I know for sure is that the working class isn't free.

Well, at least we can agree about our lack of freedom. But, we will never be
really free for as long as we have to work for a living. In his 3rd volume of
Capital, Marx regarded a shorter work day as a precondition to freedom. It
should make sense that bosses who work 0 hours per week are a lot freer than
the unfortunates who have to work 40 or more. The more we can whittle down
the length of the work week, the freer the working class will be.

> In Solidarity,
>
> John-Paul Catusco
>
> rank and file member of the Socialist Labor Party, and more
> recently the United Auto Workers (National Writers Union).
> Constantly reading, constantly writing, constantly making mistakes,
> and constantly learning from them.

Ken Ellis

"One can examine the data in different ways, on different time scales, and for
a wide variety of technologies ranging from electronic to biological, and the
acceleration of progress and growth applies. Indeed, we find not just simple
exponential growth, but "double" exponential growth, meaning that the rate
of exponential growth is itself growing exponentially. These observations
do not rely merely on an assumption of the continuation of Moore's law
(i.e., the exponential shrinking of transistor sizes on an integrated circuit),
but is based on a rich model of diverse technological processes. What it
clearly shows is that technology, particularly the pace of technological
change, advances (at least) exponentially, not linearly, and has been
doing so since the advent of technology, indeed since the advent
of evolution on Earth.
" - Ray Kurzweil

 

5-06-01

Hi, Bro' Ben!

> Hi folks! Hiya Ken!
>
> Okey dokey...
>
> I would agree that the Civil War was fought due to the
> rivalry between two deeply divided capitalist classes, one
> of which utilised chattel slavery and wished to extend
> their archaic form of exploitation into yet more states.


2002 analysis: I certainly wasn't very forgiving with Ben in this message.
I must have been under the weather when I wrote the following:

You would agree? With whom? Not avec moi. That 'rivalry'
sounds like a mere economic explanation for the Civil War, but
the War was really caused by a clash of POLICIES. The South
was felt threatened by America's growing opposition to slavery, so
the South eventually became desperate enough to try to attain the
kind of total political power which would have perpetuated slavery
for all time. Now, where's the economics in that explanation? Maybe
you could also help me figure out why no POLITICAL explanation
seems to be good enough to pass muster in this forum.

Maybe people go to war over purely economic issues in other
instances. Perhaps someone could provide an example.

> However, part of my point was that the morality of slavery
> was not the reason the war was fought.

I agree. I hope that I never even come close to saying that the
war was fought over the morality of slavery. Rather it was the
South's AGGRESSION with the intent to impose the immoral
form of ownership over the whole country that caused the War.

What a curious situation, that, whether it was the aggression
of the South, the aggression of Milosevic, or the aggression
of Sadam, that you don't regard any of these aggressions to
be serious enough reasons to justify retaliation by the
trampled-ons. What could explain your reasoning?

> The North didn't go to war in the name of humanity, after all.

Initially, the North couldn't do much more than merely parry
blows in self-defense. Later in the game, the North became
more determined to win. The South had many years beforehand
prepared for an assault on the North. In his letter to Weydemeyer
of Nov. 24, 1864, 'General' Engels wrote (MESC p. 141): "It was
after all easy to see why the North found it hard to create an army
and generals. From the start the Southern oligarchy had the
country's small armed forces under its own control - it was this
oligarchy that had supplied the officers and looted the arsenals
into the bargain. The North had no ready military forces except
the militia, while the South had been preparing for years.
"

Imagine the South winning militarily over the North. The South
could not have imposed slavery without at the same time imposing
a bit of a dictatorship over the whole country, and democracy might
have been sacrificed. What concessions would England have wrested
in exchange for its assistance to the South? Would it have meant a partial
return of colonialism? Or, greater English influence over American affairs?

> The point being that Len and myself are arguing that Southern poor whites
> didn't necessarily march happily off to battle convinced that chattel slavery
> and racial oppression were morally excellent and worth dying for.

Well, there was 'the cause of the Civil War', and then there were
'personal motivations'. When it came to personal motivation, the
web sites also agree with your statement. Regarding its cause,
little doubt exists that the cause of the War was slavery, an
issue of property ownership.

> I have to say that I think motivation DOES matter here because you
>
are suggesting that there was absolute ideological unity between the
> Confederate ruling class and the Southern white workers and homesteaders.

If I had proclaimed ideological unity between Confederate
soldiers and generals, you could have quoted my words or
phrases. Web sites show that there WASN'T very much identity.
The generals and officers of the slave-holding oligarchy might
have known better what they were fighting for. The Articles of
Secession gave a good clue, but a poor white would more likely
have fought because of patriotism, peer pressure, defense of the
homeland, etc. On the other hand, Marx noted quite a bit of
abolitionist ideology among Northern soldiers.

> I dispute that such cross-class unity exists in any nation at time of war.

But, the whole USA didn't have much unity between proletariat
and bourgeoisie in the 1860's, for only a quarter to a third of the
work force consisted of wage-labor, and we had an enormous class
of petty bourgeois peasant farmers. Engels described the USA as the
most bourgeois country on earth. Even so, we shouldn't forget that the
bosses and workers had been united in their efforts to get rid of feudal
monarchies, and to free the USA from the yoke of colonialism, so a lot
of precedent for a community of political interests between worker and
boss has existed for centuries. The major difference between the 2
classes is mostly economic: Bosses want work to be done by as
few workers and for as MANY hours as possible, whereas it is in
the workers' economic, social and political interests for as many of
them as possible to work for as FEW hours as possible. In that
economic sphere is where we find a polar diversion of interests.

> Thus at the outset of the Gulf War (a recent example) we were not
> treated to arguments such as "we must got to war to ensure our
> cheap oil supply and defend BP and Texaco's precious profits".
> Instead we got all that shite about "protecting democracy"
> (though Kuwait had/has nothing resembling democracy either
> before OR after the Iraqi occupation) from a terrible "dictator"
> (armed to the teeth previously by the US and the other western
> states, who had just suddenly made the startling discovery that
> Saddam Hussein had become "the new Hitler" overnight!).

The West wanted to protect its economic and oil interests by
preventing a hostile power (Sadam) from expanding his control
over the area. I don't remember Kuwait's form of the state being
much of an issue on this side of the pond.

> You maintain that Southerners fought explicitly
> FOR slavery and what it represented morally.

In that case, I should have been quoted. The differences between
the cause of the War and the personal motivations of the soldiers
were several. The overall intent of the South's policy was to legalize
slavery everywhere, and to impose that policy by force of arms.
The North responded with: 'Over our dead bodies.'

> So, did westerners and those from allied Arab armies fight
> explicitly FOR western imperialism and the wallets of oil
> barons? Were these the reasons actually GIVEN for the war?

I don't think so. Who would bother to lift a finger to fight for those reasons?
On the other hand, foreign aggression is an issue that has a life of its own,
and motivates self-defense, unless people don't mind strangers running
roughshod over their countries, but not many people want that.

> Propaganda on the basis of "democracy" and
> "helping the little guy" was seen as necessary and
> worked quite effectively in the case of the Gulf,

MAYBE some people appealed to 'defense of democracy', but
the USA has always been more sensitive to the issue of 'hostile
aggression against an ally and business partner', no matter what
their form of state, or how shaky their 'democracy'.

> so why not appeals to "state rights" and god knows what
> else in the case of the American Civil War? (Alongside the
> stoking of nationalism and chauvinism of course!).

It's easy to understand states' rights being as popular a motivation as
patriotism, as well as 'military defense of one's home state', and peer pressure.

> Wars aren't sold on their real causes because, for some reason,
> the warmongers are not confident that the great unwashed
> WILL actually get the guns out to defend their masters'
> property (whether those masters be slave owning tobacco
> growers or the chairman of an oil company).

You make a good point there. I never argued that the rank and
file were 100% motivated to protect the interests of the Southern
oligarchs. Extension of slavery to the whole country might have
motivated the Confederate military brass, but the rank and file
soldiers had their own reasons, as indicated by the many web
sites devoted to 'motivation'. Even President Lincoln listed half a
dozen non-slavery-related motivations of Confederate soldiers.
As one web site noted, North Carolinians fought to preserve the
independence of their state. States' rights would be a much nobler
reason for Southerners to fight, rather than for the rights of
300,000 slaveowners to own and exploit human beings.

> Thus, as I can't quite picture Southern whites rising en masse
> under the slogan "defend slavery", I can't quite see the working
> class breaking out the rifles and rallying to the cause of "save
> my boss's right to own factories and exploit the crap out of me"
> in the (wholly different) scenario of the working class movement
> being on the verge of overthrowing capitalism.

The self-emancipation of the proletariat is certainly a good moral
cause, and we all know that slavery wasn't. Self-emancipation is
something we would all have to be very conscious of in order to
attain, whereas it was better to give reasons other than slavery if
one wanted people to fight for such an immoral cause. It
therefore appears to be ideologically correct for workers to want
to be perfectly conscious of their struggle for self-emancipation,
and it also appears to be pragmatic to create a motivational fog
over imposing an oligarchy's right to own slaves. That has a kind
of consistency to it. If I may run off on a slight tangent, I would
then guess that it's all right for us to do wrong if we don't really
understand why we are doing it. Then, maybe it is all right for us
not to resist foreign aggression if we think that capitalist profits
perfectly explains the whole conflict. Hmmm. It sort of reminds
me of a theory of Arnold Petersen (from the American Socialist
Labor Party - ASLP) that: the Vietnam War (of years past) was
of no concern to American workers, for, no matter who won or
lost, the Vietnamese were sure to be saddled with an oppressive
state of either the capitalist or communist variety, so protesting
American brutality was nothing but a waste of time.

> I don't actually recognise the following quote (!):
>
>> "In the first place, while states' rights were why the South sought
>> to secede from the Union, the rights in question were meant to
>> protect the ownership and employment of slave labor.
"
>
> ... although it's quite a good point!

I forget which scholarly web site I got that from. If you do a google
search for 'cause of American Civil War', then the quote would
probably come up within the first 30 pages.

> On this:
>> <<Lies or no lies, if no one bothered to stop Germany from
>> over-running Europe, and if Sadam Hussein had been allowed
>> to take over Kuwait, then what kind of a community of nations
>> would we have? No world power is simply going to sit back
>> and let tin-pot dictators like the Kaiser, Sadam, or Milosevic
>> to overrun other countries, even though a considerable portion
>> of the population might advocate non-intervention. Intervention
>> reflects the will of the majority - for all nations to learn to live
>> in peace, or learn the hard way.>>
>
> You see how effective war propaganda is at masking the real
> causes of war!? ; ) WWI (what an example!!), the Gulf War
> and the Balkan Wars were NOT fought for "the community
> of nations" or any other liberal sounding reason, but purely
> and simply in capitalist interests.

WW1 really was a dumb war. A bunch of circumstances
combined to make a powder keg out of Europe, and all it took
was a spark, and then everyone had to defend their national
honor. No web site mentioned the interests of the capitalist
classes as the cause of WW1.

> At any time any "dictator" or tyrant can be an ally to one or more
> of the Great Powers, and at another time an enemy. Saddam Hussein
> is a classic case - armed and supported by Britain and the US to act
> as a barrier to Iran and protect western oil interests.

I can't imagine capitalist interests and profits supposedly being
so immoral that no one gives a tinker's dam about the oil our
economies depend on, and we just allow tin-pot dictators to
over-run whichever countries they want. Dictators and tyrants
would then have the green light they would need, knowing that
resistance had been paralyzed by 'moral rectitude'.

> The "community of nations" didn't give a toss when Iraqi
> government forces used the poison gas they had armed
> them with against Kurdish villages (and they don't
> give a toss now). He was an ally until he started
> threatening US, British etc. regional interests.

Western governments have so many interests in Kuwait that they
couldn't let Sadam get away with his obvious aggression. Will
soldiers lay down their arms just because activists protest the
capitalist profits involved? The majority has lived with profits for
centuries, and they don't really regard profits as immoral for as
long as workers make a living wage, and slavery is not involved.

> Likewise, where was the intervention by the "community of nations"
> when the US client state of Indonesia was busy with its 25 years +
> butchery of the population of East Timor?

The USA didn't find it worth its while to displease Indonesia,
so the East Timorese lost out, and the struggle there was hardly
covered in the press. Not very moral of the USA, for sure.

> And on the subject of intervention, who is going to intervene to
> stop US terrorism in Latin America or the continuing slow death
> of Iraqi society at the hands of sanctions and bombing? When is
> that particular Rogue State going to learn to "live in peace"?!

Our so-called drug war in Latin America is truly an abomination,
and popular opinion is pretty strong against its escalation, but it
unfortunately continues onward without much press coverage for
weeks at a time.

> All the best.
>
> For working class power and world socialism,
>
> Ben.

For a more sensible world,
Ken Ellis

 

5-08-01

Dear Michael,

> Hey Ken,
>
> Why don't you go to my groups list and talk about your labor hours
> theory. Feel free to bring up why you don't believe in revolution but i
> would appreciate it if you don't attack us.
>
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/yfis
> It builds up alot of messages,but they are easy to delete :)
>
> Michael,

On Tuesday morning, I applied, but have yet to be approved. Until then, I
can't read messages or do anything. Thanks for the invitation. We'll see if
the central committee approves this request. I don't attack people as much
as I do bad ideas. Do I have a reputation or something?

Yours,

Ken

 

5-09-01

Joan wrote:

> I haven't checked my e-mail in 2 weeks, but I do, in fact, still exist.

We were wondering about that. Welcome back!

> 1. I think that encouraging less population growth is not as easy as
> just having a tax credit or no.

I only suggested that A FEW people would plan the size of their families
according to the rise and fall of the tax credit for kids, but not ALL, for
the reasons you indicated:

> Most people who plan their families decide on a certain number
> of kids based on how many they want to have. Those who don't
> really plan their families, often poorer people, who aren't affected
> in their choices by current economic status, probably won't be
> affected by the tax issue any more.

I won't argue with that, but it's statistically very probable that people will
have MORE kids because of GWB's additional tax allowances for kids.

> 2. I can't help but not believe your utopia will ever exist. Even if it did,
> I don't think that excelling in studies or art or sports makes up for the
> challenge of existence.

Engels noted in 1875 that the periodic crises of overproduction beginning in
the West in 1825 had rendered obsolete 'the struggle for existence' in the old
sense of the phrase. The struggle for existence just hasn't been the same for
the past couple of centuries.

> I have excelled in those things, and each time it has been easy. There
> is still something about being in the wilderness that makes it so much
> greater a thing to tackle than winning a quiz show or a writing award...
> I hope you understand what I mean.

I think I do. I did crazy enough things with my tiny sailboat many long years
ago, and usually lived to tell about it. Winning the Rensselaer Medal for excel-
lence in math and science in high school, and 20 years later graduating at the top
of my class (for an Associate in Science), was a different kind of a thrill.

> By the way, I sure wouldn't want just any random person operating on me
> if i needed surgery -- competition ensures that the best ones get the jobs --
> otherwise, I think there would be a lot more incompetent surgeons, etc.

There's a big difference between workers competing for scarce jobs, and
workers competing with one another to arrive at the tops of their professions.
There is no excuse (except for our cave-person mentalities) in this day and
age for the first form of competition - it being unhealthy for the country,
immoral, and unnecessary; while the second form of rivalry is very healthy
for the professions.

> 3. It is important to be concerned with the future. But Mr. Average Joe
> with a wife and 3 kids to feed can't afford to sacrifice his job for some
> ethical principle.

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.

> It takes more than a couple of protesters. People often take a job because
> it pays more. If the land mine factory jobs pay more, there will be those who
> will take them, regardless of the moral issue. Where do you think scabs come
> from? I see that you are thinking in the future; however, you can't forget about
> the present reality.
>
> Joan

Scabs are created anytime there are more workers than jobs. The misery of the
present reality is what makes me want to plan ahead for the future. Those who
don't mind today's pollution, poverty, unemployment, crime, lack of care for the
poor, etc., may wish for things to remain the same. But, the middle classes will
soon have a frightening encounter with 'politics as usual' when machines and
computers become so much smarter, and threaten to hurl the middle classes
down into the bottom-most layer. Learning to share the remaining work now
will mentally and morally prepare us for the day when there will be no way for
anyone to earn the necessities of life. In 1900, anyone who thought people would
someday fly like birds would have been dismissed. Three years later, the Wright
bros. flew, and in 1969 we were on the moon. Who can guess what life will be
like by 2100?

Ken Ellis

"One can examine the data in different ways, on different time scales, and for
a wide variety of technologies ranging from electronic to biological, and the
acceleration of progress and growth applies. Indeed, we find not just simple
exponential growth, but "double" exponential growth, meaning that the rate
of exponential growth is itself growing exponentially. These observations
do not rely merely on an assumption of the continuation of Moore's law
(i.e., the exponential shrinking of transistor sizes on an integrated circuit),
but is based on a rich model of diverse technological processes. What it
clearly shows is that technology, particularly the pace of technological
change, advances (at least) exponentially, not linearly, and has been
doing so since the advent of technology, indeed since the advent
of evolution on Earth.
" - Ray Kurzweil

 

5-09-01

Hi, Magda,

> Hi Kenneth....not broken sweet guy!

But, Bro'Ken is my nickname. I got the nickname many years ago, when I was
working for free-speech radio station KPFA, one of the Pacifica Network's 5
FM radio stations. One of my fellow engineers jokingly quipped: "We are all
brothers and sisters here at Pacifica." from then on, I started calling my fellow
engineers: Bro' Larry, Bro' Tim, Bro' Steve, Sister Marcy, etc. Naturally, I became
Bro'Ken. That went on for quite a while, when one day Bro' Steve asked me (as if
he didn't know): "Are you Bro'Ken?" And, at that moment, I knew that the little
inside joke I had helped elevate to an institution had come back to wound me.
That first day I was a little devastated, but then the second and third days it
wasn't so bad, and eventually I came to relish it. Ten years later, I even went on
the air on pirate micro-power radio station Free Radio Berkeley as Bro'Ken. :-)

snip personal data

Your friend and bro',
Bro'Ken

 

5-09-01

A month or two ago, I joined the Massachusetts Green Party, which is having
its annual Congress at Holy Cross College in Worcester on Sunday, June 3, 9am-
6pm. They say that the platform will be up for discussion, among other things.
It would be nice if a bunch of us could be there to help make the case for swt.
It would also be nice to meet one or more of you for the first time.

If you haven't yet joined, you can probably get more info through their web
site at www.massgreens.org. Registration before May 18 is 30 bucks, vs. 40
bucks otherwise.

For a sane future,

Ken Ellis

 

5-10-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., scotchwallace@y... wrote:

> Recently some comrades on this list put forth some very
> interesting initiatives in search of unity, but recently that
> discussion has evaporated. Let's try to start it up again?
>
> Here is what I would advocate as a set of coherent principles for left unity.
>
> 1. We assert the necessity for a revolutionary change that will put
> the means of production under democratic control, and allow for
> the production of a material abundance for all, in a manner that
> is environmentally sustainable.

'Revolutionary change' in democracies is without precedent. Revolution implies
replacing one state with another. Are we supposed to replace one democracy with
another democracy? We already do that at least partially during every election. In
the USA, which had its revolution in 1776, fresh talk about 'revolution' to the average
Joe can only imply counter-revolution, or reactionary monarchism. Nearly everyone
would fight against a revolution in a democracy, because revolution doesn't fit the
kind of change we need. The historical purpose of revolution was to bring democracy
towhere it didn't exist before, not to fix the economic woes of the lowest classes,
which are best addressed by reforms.

Allow my opposition to revolution to get a little passionate here, because the time
for pussyfooting around is gone. The revolutionary left doesn't understand how
badly it has been lied to, for it endlessly repeats a lot of mistakes. Every leader
wants to attract gullible followers, and to fill them with revolutionary enthusiasm
so that intransigent party bureaucracies can hope to be supported in their old age.
Revolutionary nonsense discredits socialism and the left, so it is past time for a left-
wing campaign to drive revolutionism out of business. Revolutionary parties are in a
monumental state of denial, are more censorious of their own members than are the
very democracies they want to overthrow, are internally secretive to hide the history
of their own mistakes and betrayals, are sectarian, and can't fight for a shorter work
week because they understand that a shorter work week and other reforms would
bring enough social justice to dampen revolutionary fervor. Leaders would rather
allow conditions in the country to get bad enough to force workers to revolt, which
is what the revolution is all about, so revolutionary leaders have the same stake in
the status quo, or even in brutal exploitation, that the very rich have. Leaders are not
interested in making things better by means of slow reform, for they claim to be able
to do it 'all at once', as in 'instant gratification'. But, workers in democracies will never
revolt, no more than they revolted during the Depression. If not enough European
workers were willing to smash their Social-Democracies in support of the Russian
revolution of 1917, then that failure proves that we can kiss off all hopes for a
revolution for the rest of time.

> 2. We will pursue this goal by civilized means.

Civilized revolutions have never occurred, another reason for dropping the call for revolution.

> 3. We commit ourselves to the construction of a revolutionary union
> movement, a
revolutionary cooperative movement, and a revolutionary
> political party, in order to achieve this goal.

Marx criticized and rejected the 'union administration of society' as early
as 1869. It didn't fly then, nor in 1905, and it won't fly in 2001. It will be
especially obsolete 40 years from now, when the machines and computers
become much more adept at practical tasks than humans, who will no longer
be able to go out and earn a living.

> 4. We look to an alliance between Marxists and anarchists as the lever
> to set this process in motion.

Marxian communists would replace existing states with workers' states,
while anarchists would replace existing states with a classless and stateless
administration of things. Activists won't be able to do both things at the
same time, so it might be better to try to get them to cooperate to make
room in the economy for everyone who wants to work by first of all
adopting France's 35 hour week. That would be a lot more useful than
trying to do the impossible, like 'taking away the property of the rich'.

> This is a set of principles for uniting revolutionaries, and it is a set
> that most Leninists
would probably not be interested in, though I
> wouldn't exclude them if they would accept these principles. I
> personally don't see much point in trying to unite leftists who
> do not agree with this minimal program.

The revolutionary principles have thus been tendered with a 'take it or leave
it' attitude. Perhaps it is hoped that the impossible can be done with the
participation of only the anarchist portion of today's revolutionary groups.

> I would be very interested in hearing your responses.
>
> Fraternally,
>
> Scott W.

Please return to the drawing board, and come back with something more
appropriate for today's advanced democracies. The revolution more befits
what was needed to address the feudal monarchies of 1848.

Ken Ellis

"The burning desire to act, face to face with the impossibility of doing
anything effective, causes in many intelligent and energetic heads an
overactive mental speculation, an attempt at discovering or inventing
new and almost miraculous means of action. The word of an outsider
would have but a trifling, and at best a passing, effect.
" - Engels

 

5-10-01

Joan conjured up an important difference between 'the personal motivation
of Confederate soldiers', and 'the cause of the Civil War':

> I know this is one of your favorite examples, but how many times do I have
> to say that the civil war was about
whole lot more than just slavery!!! - Joan
>
> In a message dated 4/18/01 1:27:07 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> ken ellis writes:
>
>> I would inquire further as to the feasibility of expropriating expropriators
>> (without compensation, I presume) in a country in which Southerners fought
>> and died to preserve and extend as immoral a form of ownership as slavery.

In a different forum, the very same issue recently came up. Some correspondents
claimed that Southern soldiers did not fight explicitly for the extension and perpetuation
of slavery, and I freely admit as much. Even Abe Lincoln spoke of a half-dozen
motivations for Confederate soldiers, but he didn't say that they were motivated
by a desire to perpetuate and extend slavery. In spite of personal motivations,
a preponderance of web sites admitted that slavery was the one big issue, without
which, the Civil War would not have occurred. Even if many of the Confederate
soldiers didn't understand what they were fighting for, the officer scions of the
300,000 slaveholders certainly understood.

Economic issues have a way of working themselves out in due time, but political
threats to remove the property of 300,000 slave-holders moved them to overt hostility.
Marx wrote an article for the New York Herald Tribune in which he noted: "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.
" As the USA grew, and new states and
territories rejected slavery, pro-slavery sentiment in Congress eroded. The South
felt that the victory of the Republican Party in 1861 meant nothing less than a direct
assault on slavery, so they desperately attempted insurrection in order to gain the
kind of state power that would have perpetrated slavery on the whole country. The
South fired the first shot at Fort Sumter, and the North scrambled to defend itself.
In his letter to Weydemeyer of Nov. 24, 1864, Fred Engels wrote (MESC p. 141):
"It was after all easy to see why the North found it hard to create an army and
generals. From the start the Southern oligarchy had the country's small armed
forces under its own control - it was this oligarchy that had supplied the officers
and looted the arsenals into the bargain. The North had no ready military forces
except the militia, while the South had been preparing for years.
"

While trade wars, tariffs, states' rights, patriotism, peer pressure, etc.,
played small roles in getting people to fight, the Civil War would not have
occurred if the Southern oligarchy had not desperately tried to maintain its
property rights. The bottom line will always remain: The willingness of
Southerners to be led to fight and die to extend and preserve as immoral a
form of ownership as slavery will ensure that people today could easily be
led to fight and die to protect private ownership of means of production -
IF socialists, communists and anarchists were ever so foolish as to try to
expropriate the rich. If anything proves that expropriation is the height
of foolishness, it is the experience of America in its Civil War.

Ken Ellis

 

5-12-01

utku wrote:

> selam,
>
> I do not write a long analysis of the mail written by
> Kenneth, however I have two questions. the first one
> is about my curiosity. the second one aims to show
> him the existence of the chance of thinking globally.
>
> 1)let's assume french workers get the right of 35 hour
> week after a serious strike. what would the french and
> international bourgeoisie do?: they would transport
> their physical capital to other parts of the world.

French capital has already threatened to do that. This demonstrates that
the movement for a shorter work week should be global in order to be
most effective. But, internationalism is part of our ideology already,
so it shouldn't be any great thing to extend our internationalism to
the struggle for a shorter work week.

> let's assume again that the resistance of the workers
> is global, that is the bourgeoisie has no room to flee.
> then, what would happen?: after "
the depression", the
> serious "
crisis" (a fictive crisis, this is) would create
> unemployment
, which would urge global or national
> unions to
accept the terms of the bourgeoisie.

The problem with this analysis is that it assumes that a depression would be
the result of an international shorter work week. But, I don't know where such
an idea could come from, since it is the very opposite to the American
experience, when the AFL could see inventories building up in the 1920's, and
predicted the crisis of overproduction of the 1930's, well before it happened.
The shorter work week is the natural and efficient response to overproduction.
M+E described every depression as a crisis of overproduction.

> so the revolution is not a dogma, not a taboo:it is a rational strategy.

Which country needs to have its government overthrown?

> My friend, your rhetoric and reasoning became obsolete in 80s,
> when the welfare state
died. during that period, there was really
> a redistribution, but the redistribution did not use to occur through
> bilateral agreements between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
> there was no such a direct confrontation. there was a mediator
> that we call "state". now
there is no state, or no state will remain
> in the near future as a mechanism managing such a redistribution.

Sorry not to be able to understand: 'now there is no state'.
Every country I know of today has a state, as far as I can see.

> so my first question is this: what would your strategy be,
> after such a
depression began and created employment,
> which would urge both unionized and informal workers?

Depressions cause UNemployment, not employment.

> 2) this statement, I think reveals much more what you
> think of this issue:
>> "Please return to the drawing board, and come back with
>> something more appropriate for today's advanced democracies"
>
> you are very right that the appropriate is the democratic
> struggle for "today's advanced democracies", which are
> partly financed by "the developing democracies".
>
> for example, in my country the communication company -t'rk telekom-
> is being sold to the international bourgeoisie as a result of a financial
> crisis, which was also created by the same group.
>
> the rent provided by this sale will leak to your
> country through different channels, which will
> be used to finance your democracy!

Doug Henwood, the noted radical economist, has noted that the theory
of 'superexploitation of colonies and underdeveloped countries' isn't very
credible. See his website, and look for a little essay about the relevance of Lenin:

http://www.panix.com/%7Edhenwood/LBO_home.html

> my second question is this:
> if the "markets" of the usa closed their gates to the us
> firms (which was proposed by the dependency theorists),
> could the usa maintain its democracy in which you imagine
> a continuous trend of reforms, which would bring socialism
> or something like this????
>
> please come back with something more appropriate for the reality,
>
> because I cannot compromise and come to unity with an individual
> having so explicit bias for the bourgeois democracy in his country.

Sorry to be having so much trouble with your use of the English language that
I couldn't make heads or tails out of a lot of what you wrote. Perhaps if you
had an associate with a better understanding of English who could help you
edit before submitting to the forum.

Ken Ellis

 

5-12-01

Carl brought up a fundamental philosophical divide between 'the revolutionary
solution
' and 'the work-sharing solution'. Both methods of getting to classless
and stateless society are plausible, the revolutionary scenario more so in Marx's
day, when the overthrow of feudal monarchies would have given socialists and
communists the kind of state power in enough countries to both expropriate the
rich and prevent counter-revolution, while the work-sharing (shorter work week)
method more befits today's technologically advanced democracies.

snip to bigger issues

>> Work sharing is based upon rallying brotherly and sisterly love, while
>> many other activists think that hate must be rallied to bring down the old
>> order, and to replace it with a new order. Rallying hate was appropriate for
>> overthrowing the intransigent monarchies of the past, but is inappropriate
>> for the democracies of today, which represent the rule of the people. The
>> democratic model of peaceful and incremental struggle is quite a mystery
>> to radical activists who are bent upon destroying instead of building.
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Those who cannot refute
logic
> often resort to name calling and using buzzwords in place of facts. I really
> don't appreciate you calling what we do "
rallying hate".

Sorry about that. 'Rallying hate' is a bit of a harsh term, which wasn't very
nice of me. Maybe I could come up with something a little easier on the eyes.
But, it was good enough a term for Engels to use in his Nov. 12, 1875 letter
to Lavrov (MESC, p. 284): "In our country [Germany] it is hatred rather than
love that is needed - at least in the immediate future - and more than anything
else a shedding of the last remnants of German idealism, and the establishment
of the material facts in their historical rights.
"

In his March 18, 1852, letter to Marx, Engels wrote (paraphrasing from MESC,
p. 65): 'the instinctive class hatred of the workers against the industrial bourgeoisie
... was ... the only possible basis for the reorganization of the Chartist party ...'
Engels also hoped that class hatred 'can not only be retained but even widened,
and developed so that it becomes the foundation of enlightening propaganda
...'

SLP literature often encourages workers to replace democracies with the
classless and stateless SIU. In his "Socialist Reconstruction of Society", De
Leon described the economic movement of labor as constructive, and the
political movement as purely destructive, so rallying hatred might come in
handy for the revolutionary act. In revolutions, the venting of hatred is hard
to get away from. Which Marxist would disavow it altogether? I doubt if very
many (besides myself) think they can love their way to the abolition of the state.

If a Marxist party intends to take political power and property away from the
rich, then I think that it is perfectly appropriate for them to also rally hatred as
part of that program. But, I say that the time is instead ripe to rally love for our
fellow workers (and for the planet) by making room in the economy for full
participation. I also say that the rich are rich enough, and that it is past time to
put the brakes on surplus values. Both 'increased participation in the economy'
and 'reductions in surplus values' mean a reduced work week. Unless, perhaps,
a Marxist party would rather follow the bourgeoisie and insist that surplus value
creation continue unimpeded, and follow the bourgeoisie by insisting upon contin-
ued brutal competition for scarce long-hour jobs. But, while praising the good effects
of unions in his Condition of the Working Class in England, Engels wrote: ".. the
supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon the competition of the workers
among themselves
.." Because of his use of the word 'wholly', Engels told us exactly
what to do in order to end the supremacy of the bosses - eliminate competition.

> You seem to feel that we have to resort to manipulating people
> to follow our program and get rid of capitalism.

I don't know what I could have said to make you think that. I don't remember
using the word 'manipulate', though I have often used the word 'market' as a
substitute for 'educate' or 'agitate'.

> It has been the SLP's stated belief, and a Marxist belief, that the emancipation
> of the working class must be accomplished by the working class itself. We
don't
> pressure anyone or manipulate anyone.
All we can do is educate people about the
>
outdated, contradictory system of capitalism and offer a program for changing
> society for their benefit. Of course we realize that at this point the workers don't
> seem to be ready to make a change but we realize also that the historical necessity
> to do so
has not yet arrived, but draws ever nearer.

Not much to argue with there. I certainly favor getting rid of capitalism. The only
point of contention is 'how do we do it?', and 'at what rate?'. By directly confronting
property and state? And by doing it all at once? Not for me anymore.

> Now, you made the statement that our present "democracy" represents
> the rule of the people. I am not even going to dignify this statement
> with a response. It only further demonstrates your
naivete concerning
> this system and the truth about how it operates.

If 'the man on the street' showed the slightest inclination to do something
fundamental about our form of state, then that would surprise me. No one in my
neighborhood is interested in replacing our democracy with anything new.

> It also shows where your loyalties lie.

Engels thought that the English democracy of his day was good enough for
workers to get what they want, and Marx's 1872 speech at The Hague indicated
that peaceful solutions were possible in democracies, so those particular attitudes
toward existing democracies are good enough for me. I'm glad to be in alignment
with M+E on the issue of peaceful change in democracies, as well as on the issue
of violent overthrow of intransigent monarchies, even though the monarchies are
getting a lot scarcer with time.

> Next you make the statement that we are bent upon destroying instead of
> building. This shows me you learned absolutely
nothing from your time in
> the SLP. What is the purpose of the SIU, Ken? To refresh your memory
> it's purpose is to take and hold the means of production for use by society
> and to back up the call for socialism at the ballot box.

That's the constructive part of the program, granted. But, then you remembered:

> The purpose of the socialist political party is to move into the capitalist state
> and dismantle it in favor of the SIU form of government. Oh, wait, I guess you
> have me there Ken, we evil socialists are going to destroy the capitalist state!
> We're
going to destroy the rule of the people! Guilty as charged.

In a world in which the philosophy of the working class is to 'live and let
live', the idea of us having to dismantle our democracies in order to create
a better world seems just a little far-fetched.

> snip old text > xxxxx And Ellisism has millions of adherents
> and
has made great strides toward the implementation of it's
> program. Yeah, right.

Well, no, I feel quite alone in my efforts. I probably am the only one in the world
doing exactly what I'm doing, all of it as the result of writing an unpublishable book.
Few others seem willing to think things out the way I did. So, I simply patiently
plod along, for I know that correct thinking on the social question will eventually
win out over incorrect thinking. When we get to the 30 hour week, perhaps more
people will think about my new and feasible way to get to socialism, and will be more
willing to consign the old 'property and power' methods to the museum of antiquities.

> And just how do we measure success Ken? Is it the number
> of members that makes an organization a success?

I measure my own success by my own self-confidence. Readings from Marx,
Engels, and other great thinkers assure me that I am on the right track. To have
successfully thought out a new and feasible road to socialism was as satisfying
an accomplishment as I could ever hope for, but it's difficult to enjoy it in a
vacuum. I'm surprised that a humble nobody like me or I was the first to detect
a 'new' and logical method to get to socialism, but someone else would have
figured it out eventually. It's just a matter of looking back and looking ahead
with an unprejudiced eye. Others will reach the same conclusion eventually.

> The IWW is probably one of the largest as far as
> membership but I don't see their brand of unionism
> catching on anywhere. Is it the actual implementation
> of a group's program the recipe for success?

From what I learned of the IWW in the S.F. Bay Area before I moved to the
East coast, it appears as though they have no uniformity of ideology anywhere
approximating the uniformity enjoyed by the SLP. I was surprised by that at
first, but then again they seemed to consider themselves more of a union than
a party. Not being a real party, members enjoy a variety of political sentiments.
The big drawback to that is in not having a coherent political program, but
maybe the satisfaction of economic struggles sufficiently compensates. Out of
their economic struggles ... well, Marx said it best in his letter to Bolte on Nov.
23, 1871 (MESW 2, pp. 423-4): "And in this way, out of the separate economic
movements of the workers there grows up everywhere a political movement,
that is to say, a movement of the class, with the object of enforcing its interests
in a general form, in a form possessing general, socially coercive force.
"

In Value, Price and Profit, Marx wrote (MESW 2, p. 73): "2. As to the
limitation of the working day, in England, as in all other countries, it has
never been settled except by legislative interference.
"

Out of its economic struggles, the IWW may someday learn that 'hours of
labor' legislation will have the best effect. And, in a democracy, it is feasible
to replace the political economy of the capitalist class with the political
economy of the working class, as the rise in wages provided by the Ten
Hours Bill in England proved to M+E a century and a half ago.

> Then I guess the entire left is a failure.

They only fail to the extent to which they advocate gaining power with the
intention of redistributing property, income or wealth, depending upon
whichever faction of the left they represent. We haven't mucked about with
property relations since the Civil War, and for good reason. It would take
yet another civil war to change private ownership of non-human means of
production. Because no one would seriously advocate a civil war over such a
meager reward, then the abolitionist campaign we should consider is 'slow
abolition of class distinctions, as made possible by technological progress',
just like the plank of the SLP program of a century and more ago. Slowly
liberate ourselves from work until we are as free as our bosses.

> The only thing we have learned is that the situation
> is not yet ripe for revolution. But that will change in due course.

When many more workers than today are thrown out of work by ever-smarter
technology, the situation will be riper for something, for sure. No amount of
make-work or fiddling with interest rates will do any good when the machines
really begin to gobble up the remaining work. Our liberation from work is
getting closer and closer, and automation's effect on the unemployment rate
will have the desired effect on our consciousness. It will move us to share
the remaining work by means of a shorter work week.

snip old text for brevity

> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I have to wonder sometimes what your
> thought process is and just where you get your information from. Okay, let's
> examine this little kernel of yours. Now, the SLP is a Marxist organization, it
> promotes Marxist literature and has what we consider a Marxist outlook as to
> how we analyze society, yet
we are non Marxist - makes perfect sense to me.

The Marxist percentage of SLP ideology falls somewhere between 0 and 100%.
Surely the SLP's expropriation of the expropriators is Marxist, but the SLP
method of taking power in order to expropriate differs markedly from the
method of M+E. Proletarian struggles at the barricades convinced M+E that
workers would create a state power of their very own, and that the means of
production would be concentrated into the hands of that very state. Many
Marxist activists still retain that idea as the bases of their programs, but not
the SLP, which rejects the notion of workers' state power, and rejects the idea
of concentrating the means of production into the hands of any kind of a state.

> Also, Daniel De Leon, probably the foremost American Marxist of our time,
>
was an anarchist.

Before that, the Workmen's Advocate showed that De Leon was a Nationalist.
He must have been a man of many talents.

> Let's forget about the fact that he based all of his oratory
> and writings on the work of Karl Marx

De Leon's economic teachings might have cut the mustard, but not very many
of his political teachings corresponded with Marx's.

> and even translated many of Marx's works into English
> so that they could be accessed by American workers.

Engels was disappointed in De Leon's translations, as indicated by his letter
to Sorge of Oct. 24, 1891 (MESC, p. 411): "[Socialism: Utopian and Scientific]
will be published here in a translation prepared by Aveling and edited by me (in
Sonnenshein's Social Series). In face of this authorised translation the American
pirate edition
* with its miserable English will be rather innocuous. It is moreover
not even complete, whatever they found too difficult they have left out
...."
__________
* "Engels refers to a translation by De Leon and Vogt which was published by
the Socialist
[Labor] Party of America." [Note by Progress Publishers]

> Seems like a stupid thing for an anarchist to do.

If Marxism had a lot more credibility than anarchism a century ago, then
it would make sense for a party to use Marx where it could, in spite of
disagreement on fundamental principles. Anarchists do not have the best
history of being perfectly frank on all issues, and Engels noted the presence
of 'disguised anarchists' at a conference in 1891. They were easy for Engels
to spot, for sure, but, what about rank and file members? More easily fooled.

> Next, the SLP's program is nothing but modified Bakuninism that
> issued forth from the mind of America's greatest Marxist scholar,
> okay that makes sense. Lastly, the SIU program was rejected by
> Marx as early as 1869 even though it wasn't formulated until
> after the turn of the century. Genius sir, pure genius.

Engels wrote to Marx on July 30, 1869: "Old Becker must have gone
completely off his rocker. How can he decree that the trades unions must
be the true workers' association and the basis of any organisation, that the
other unions must only temporarily exist alongside with them, etc. All this
in a country [Germany] where there are no real trades unions as yet. What
'intricate' organisation! On the one hand, each trade centralises itself in a
national summit and, on the other hand, various trades of a locality
centralise themselves in a local summit. If one wants to make incessant
squabbling permanent, he should use this form of organisation.
"

Those 'local and national summits' ought to sound familiar to SLP members. M+E
didn't think that organizing future society on the basis of trades unions was a good
idea, for the flow of history had already demonstrated that workers would be much
more likely to organize themselves in a state of their own making, using the democratic
republic as the form of their proletarian dictatorship. In his "Critique of the Draft
Social-Democratic Programme of 1891
", Engels wrote (MESW III, p. 435):

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

If the SLP rejects the democratic republican form of proletarian dictatorship
in favor of the SIU, then the Party's claim to being Marxist is proportionally
diminished. The proletarian dictatorship is good enough for a lot of other
revolutionary parties.

> Next I guess you will tell me that De Leon had close ties
> with the anarcho-syndicalists who booted him and the SLP
> contingent from the IWW. That would also make sense.

Sorry not to have an opinion on that one.

snip Lazy-Boy philosophizing, etc.

>> On the other hand, those who want to create a proletarian dictatorship
>> in the form of a workers' state - they qualify as Marxist.
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Just how do you define a worker's
> state Ken? Okay, let's use your logic. The old Soviet Union claimed to be
> a worker's state, China claims to be a worker's state, North Korea claims
> to be a worker's state so in your way of thinking all of the above were or
> are Marxist.

There are and were so-called "workers' states", and then there was Marx's
theory of proletarian dictatorship. What was fact and what was theory were
two entirely different things. Marx's revolutionary proletarian dictatorship was
expected to be simultaneous in the most developed countries, but the existing
'communist' states emerged one at a time in less developed countries, and didn't
cooperate anywhere nearly as closely as what Marx visualized. The form of
Marx's dictatorship would have been a democratic republic, but the existing
workers' states don't enjoy Western standards of democratic freedoms of
speech and association, etc. As you say, the existing "workers' states" have little
in common with Marxism. I'm glad that we can agree on at least SOME things.

> Let's look at some facts here, first of all none of the above revolutions were
> the classconcious act of the proletariat as a whole, they were instigated by
>
radical bourgeois elements with the eventual support of the masses.

Lenin a bourgeois radical? If so, then he would have stopped all revolutionary
activity after the February revolution, he would have supported the Kerensky
republic, and he would have advocated nothing more radical than that. But,
we know that they went a lot further in October of 1917.

The parallels between the Paris Commune and the Russian revolution were
manifold. Each revolutionary episode began when rotten-ripe monarchies were
replaced with petty-bourgeois republics, and each republic was superseded by a
fledgling social republic. The Paris Commune would have prospered if the rest
of Europe had revolted in sympathy, as Marx noted in his 1872 speech at The
Hague. Likewise, the Soviet Union would have prospered if the rest of Europe
had revolted in sympathy. Millions of people did not revolt in sympathy with
either revolution, causing the first to fail after 9 weeks, and the second to fail
to measure up to expectations, indicating a fatal flaw in Marxist ideology.
Present generations should come to terms with this shortcoming of
Marxism, unless they would rather pledge fealty to an ideology that
was useless enough to permit anarchism to emerge as a rival.

> Marx said that the emancipation of the working class must be the
> classconcious act of the workers themselves
. Next, in these supposed
> worker's states the workers owned none of the means of production,
> had no say in how they were operated, and received only a portion of
> what they produced in return for their labor. Wages. Marx stood
> entirely for the abolition of the wages system.

Marx never said that the wages system could be abolished overnight. In his
scenario, inequalities of wealth and income were to disappear over the course
of the proletarian dictatorship, a whole historical era of indeterminate length.
M+E didn't even say that capitalist production would disappear on the day
after the revolution. In the Communist Manifesto, M+E wrote: "The prole-
tariat 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.
"

> Next, the above societies were and are still class divided societies.
> Marx also supported a classless society.

But, according to theory, classlessness could not have arrived on the day
after the revolution, when everything was to look the same as the day
before, except for the class content of the state.

> Marx said above all that the state is merely the tool by which
> one class oppresses another
and he also said that the state
> is inseparable with slavery
.

He did say that, but again we have the difference between
'what was supposed to be', and 'what developed in practice'.

> Now who is non Marxist? Engels said that socialism will be the free
> and equal association of the useful producers
, does this statement
> fit in with any of the above countries? Not hardly.

Workers' state power was to make a lot of very good things happen.
Without a true universal proletarian dictatorship among the most technol-
ogically advanced countries, what happened in the 'communist' countries
could only have developed into a mere distorted caricature of Marx's dream.

The failure of history to correspond with Marx's scenario of 'simultaneous
revolutions in the most developed countries
' means that whatever happened
in the world was a fluke, and that it is foolish for anyone to blame Lenin,
Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, etc., for the failure of their countries to
adhere to Marx's dream. If anyone deserves the blame for the failure of the
Marxist revolution, then it has to be the millions of European workers who
refused to support the Russian revolution by replacing their Social-
Democracies with the universal proletarian dictatorship. If we are unwilling
to blame so many millions of workers, then perhaps it is time for us to blame
Marx for giving us an impossible scenario to follow, even if his scenario was
plausible for the era in which he and Lenin lived.

> This is as far as I go on this one, I will resume at some later point.
> Please keep your response to a reasonable length.

I tried, but failed again to keep it short. My humble apologies.

Ken Ellis

Engels wrote to Sorge on May 17, 1893: "The May First demonstration here
was very nice; but it is already becoming somewhat of an everyday or rather
an annual matter; the first fresh bloom is gone. The narrow-mindedness of
the Trades Council and of the socialist sects - Fabians and the S.D.F. - again
compelled us to hold two demonstrations, but everything went off as we desired
and we - the Eight-Hour Committee - had many more people than the united
opposition. In particular, our international platform had a very good audience.
I figure that there was a total of 240,000 in the park, of which we had 140,000
and the opposition at most 100,000.
...."

 

5-15-01

Scott replied and quoted me:

>> 'Revolutionary change' in democracies is without precedent.
>
> Even if that were true, it would mean nothing, because every day things
> happen that are without precedent, but it is not true. One could argue that
> a
revolutionary change took place when Pinochet overthrew democracy
> in Chile. Not the kind of revolutionary change we are looking for, but
> a revolutionary change none the less.

Most activists would describe what happened in Chile as a counter-revolution.
Revolution implies going from non-democracy to democracy, while counter-
revolution implies the reverse. People in the Western Hemisphere value their
democracies enough to fight to preserve them, whereas they generally opposed
intransigent monarchies.

>> Revolution implies replacing one state with another. Are we supposed
>> to replace one democracy with another democracy?
>
> What exists in the United States
is a far cry from democracy the way I see it.

No matter what a few radicals may think, average people are unmoved in their
convictions that we live in a political democracy, and most are willing to fight
for it. We still vote, don't we? New candidates replace old ones, and people
debate the issues. Without average people supporting a revolution, the
revolution will get nowhere.

> I define democracy as majority rule after a free and open debate.
> The capitalist class controls the media, defines the issues, and
> sees to it that no real debate takes place.

In this age of perfect freedom of speech on the Internet, most little parties
still do not have completely free and open forums in which their platforms
could be criticized without mercy 24/7. They are all scared that the little
people will find their voices, will critique programs that have been static
for decades, and will eventually arrive at a program that they can all agree
with, thus smashing sectarianism, thus smashing the means by which many
a party bureaucracy has maintained their means of 'making a living off the
pennies of the workman'. A lot of left-wing parties offer their members less
freedom of speech than does the very capitalist state that they ostensibly
would like to replace with something new. The intransigent revolutionary
left enjoys business just the way it is, and presently have little reason to
change anything for as long as gullibles are willing to support what is offered.

> In 1980 I ran for congress for the Socialist Labor Party. We weren't even
> allowed to use our party's name on the ballot (we had to use Industrial Gov-
> ernment Party instead), and the media completely ignored the fact that I was on
> the ballot, while the campaigns of the democrat and republican were covered in
> detail. In the US one experiences democracy in direct proportion to how much
> money one has. We already do that at least partially during every election.

Socialism is on the decline all over the world, and all because most socialists
mistakenly think they can get to socialism by taking power in order to take away
the property of the rich. Half a billion people in Russia and Eastern Europe recently
dumped their 'communist' states in favor of taking their chances with democracy,
shaky as some of those attempts may very well be. Socialism is in an abysmal state,
and needs to be rescued from state-smashing and revolutionary socialists. Socialists
need to discuss a new way to get there - by driving down the length of the work week
in proportion to the development of the means of production. 'Shorter work time in
proportion to technological progress
' was advocated by the SLP over a century ago,
and was approved by Engels.

>> In the USA, which had its revolution in 1776, fresh talk
>> about 'revolution' to the average Joe can only imply
>> counter-revolution, or reactionary monarchism.
>
> Nope, James Madison, the principal author of the US constitution warned,
> "
We are free today substantially, but the day will come when the wealth of
> the nation will be in the hands of a few. A nation cannot stand upon bayonets.
"
> He went on to suggest that it would be the task of the responsible elements in
> society to change the laws of the nation in response to this reality.

I'll bet that he wrote that before workers began their nearly 2 century long fight
for reduced working hours. You will notice that Madison advocated a REFORM
to overcome the indicated problem. Today, in order to halt the growing disparity
between rich and poor, one need only amend the Fair Labor Standards Act, which
presently gives us time and a half after 40, and change it to read 'double time after
35'. Then we will create less surplus values, less of a disparity of income between
rich and poor, more participation in the economy, and a whole heck of a lot more
good things, by means of that single reform; but it isn't good enough for
revolutionaries, who refuse to build their way to socialism, and instead
think they can get there by destroying institutions.

>> Nearly everyone would fight against a revolution in a democracy, because
>> revolution doesn't fit the kind of change we need. The historical purpose of
>> revolution was to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before, not to fix
>> the economic woes of the lowest classes, which are best addressed by reforms.
>
> Just like Madison warned, we had democracy for everyone, but
we lost it.
> Now we have democracy for the rich.

Everyone knows that we still live in a democracy, even if the rich have
disproportionally more influence than the little guys. Otherwise, one could
point to a particular date on which a coup took place. But, we are all aware
of the significance of July 4, 1776, everyone knows that we vote, different
candidates and parties take power, etc. 'We lost our democracy' would be
big news to the average Joe who votes.

>> Allow my opposition to revolution to get a little passionate here, because
>> the time for pussyfooting around is gone. The revolutionary left doesn't
>> understand how badly it has been lied to, for it endlessly repeats a lot of
>> mistakes. Every leader wants to attract gullible followers, and to fill them
>> with revolutionary enthusiasm so that intransigent party bureaucracies can
>> hope to be supported in their old age. Revolutionary nonsense discredits
>> socialism and the left, so it is past time for a left-wing campaign to drive
>> revolutionism out of business. Revolutionary parties are in a monumental
>> state of denial, are more censorious of their own members than are the very
>> democracies they want to overthrow, are internally secretive to hide the
>> history of their own mistakes and betrayals, are sectarian, and can't fight
>> for a shorter work week because they understand that a shorter work week
>> and other reforms would bring enough social justice to dampen revolution-
>> ary fervor. Leaders would rather allow conditions in the country to get bad
>> enough to force workers to revolt, which is what the revolution is all about,
>> so revolutionary leaders have the same stake in the status quo, or even in bru-
>> tal exploitation, that the very rich have. Leaders are not interested in making
>> things better by means of slow reform, for they claim to be able to do it 'all
>> at once', as in 'instant gratification'. But, workers in democracies will never
>> revolt, no more than they revolted during the Depression. If not enough
>> European workers were willing to smash their Social-Democracies in
>> support of the Russian revolution of 1917, then that failure proves that
>> we can kiss off all hopes for a revolution for the rest of time.
>
> You obviously have
no scientific understanding of what proof is.

Was Scott's answer the correct way to disprove a statement? Usually, a
correspondent examines the evidence, weighs it against evidence to the
contrary, and then issues a grand conclusion at the end of the presentation.
Instead, we got an assertion, but no analysis.

> Yes, the time for pussyfooting is gone.
> Will we succeed? The chances are
very slim.

That's a pessimistic outlook. Maybe the outlook for revolution isn't so bright after all.

> Perhaps human beings just aren't intelligent enough to survive,

Back in the Depression, the USA went through an unemployment problem
abysmally worse than we have now, and labor's solution was a 30 hour week,
which passed the Senate, and nearly passed the House before the New Deal
compromises were voted in. And Scott suggests we are not intelligent enough
to survive
. He is a victim of his own revolutionary propaganda which asserts
that 'disaster is the only alternative to revolution'. Not very convincing.

> but clearly, capitalism is creating crisis upon crisis; economic crises,
> environmental crises, social crises, and inevitably war. Our only chance of
> long term survival is to go beyond capitalism
to a system that doesn't breed crisis.

We are not in any kind of extraordinary crisis today, and yet Scott demands
that we scrap the system. Why? Just because of a few economic problems for
the lowest classes? Everyone in my lower class neighborhood is getting by.
No one here is ready to take to the barricades. Far from it.

> Has sectarianism existed and been detrimental? Yes! Have we failed to learn
> from our mistakes? Yes! The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics tells us that it is
> easier to create chaos than order, but with a net expenditure of energy, we
> can create order. The capitalist class has put a
hell of a lot of energy into
> disrupting working class political movements during the 20th century.

Oh, like spying against the SWP? Spying against Cispes? The defeat of the
Weather underground and the SLA? What does the defeat of a few adventurists
prove? Not much more than we must create order in our own houses before we
can come up with a unifying program. We will never create order on the basis
of 'revolutionary' noise, which is perpetrated merely for the benefit of revolution-
ary bureaucratic business people, some of whom know to their cores that we will
never have a revolution in the USA, but are making enough money peddling
damaged goods as to want to maintain that relatively easy way to make a living.
We should demand the recall of revolutionary propaganda as 'unsafe at any speed'.
Revolutionary parties care little about the damage their obsolete products create.
When ordinary commodities are found to be faulty, companies issue recalls, but
revolutionary parties can't even approach the ethics of a corporation, and refuse to
admit that there is anything wrong with the idea of a 'revolution in a democracy'.
It's time for socialists to rescue their ideology from 'revolutionary' profiteers.

> I'm sure that right now, they have all kinds of people on the payroll
> who spend hours and hours on the Internet trying to wreak havoc
> on the attempts of
honest working people to organize.

Who prevents any revolutionary from presenting their revolutionary solutions?
With the high degree of ideological confusion among activists, do the intelligence
services need to spend a single moment trying to sabotage a movement? We sab-
otage our own movements every time we propose ultra-radical 'solutions' which
never directly address our problems in the first place. For example: To address
the unemployment problem, which is bound to someday get much worse, what
do revolutionaries propose? TAKING AWAY THE PROPERTY OF THE RICH.
Now, what effect would that have, in itself, upon unemployment? ABSOLUTELY
NONE. On the other hand, what was the program of labor during the depression?
A 30 hour work week, which would have distributed work to many more people
than ever before, and would have done it without the waste of the make-work
programs of the New Deal. The New Deal didn't save the USA from socialism,
it 'saved' the USA from a reduced work week, and forced us to waste zillions
more cruel hours of servitude to making the rich richer than their wildest
dreams, and we have been paying the consequences of that for far too long.

> They must do that, because a coherent, non-sectarian
>
revolutionary program could crystallize in the minds of
> working class people very rapidly through this technology.

There is nothing coherent about anarchists wanting to replace the state with
a classless and stateless administration of things while communists want to
replace the state with a workers' state. The two factions will never agree on
a single common program. The complete failure of the left to own up to its
mistakes - often perpetrated by liars who KNOW they are lying - will prevent
revolutionaries from adopting a common revolutionary program. They ignore
their own lack of logic because they are 100% dedicated to peddling sectarian
nonsense to gullibles who will be enticed to buy the nonsense and keep
intransigent revolutionary bureaucracies in power. The day on which sectarians
begin to doubt their own illogical programs will be a bright day indeed.

> We could see globalization from below suddenly appear as a force that could
> eclipse capitalist globalization from above. I happen to think that revolutionary
> cooperativism
is the missing piece that could potentially bring this all together.

I have nothing against workers getting together to change the world. But,
REVOLUTIONARY change? From what problem do we suffer which couldn't
be better addressed by reforms? Marx wasn't against reforms in the interests
of the working class. He favored the 10 hour bill in England, bolstered the
8 hour day, and even bragged (in a letter) to having initiated an electoral
reform movement in England.

>>> 2. We will pursue this goal by civilized means.
>>
>> Civilized revolutions have never occurred, another reason for dropping
>> the call for revolution.
>
> It was cloudy yesterday, therefore it will be cloudy today.

We therefore should have been given an historical example of 'a civilized
revolution'. If not, then a civilized revolution will never be realized, because
people tend to do what they did in the past, and we already have the precedent
of nearly 2 centuries worth of struggles for a shorter work day and week. That's
what people will continue to do in the future, right up until 'the abolition of wage labor'.

>>> 3. snip Marx's criticism of the 'union administration of society' idea
>
> Do you remember how Marx pointed out that it was
the economic organization
> that must set the true political party of labor on foot and thus raise a bulwark
> against the power of capital.
(a paraphrase) Well, revolutionary unions and
> revolutionary cooperatives
would both be such organizations.

Yes, the SLP swore by 'the economic organization setting on foot the true
political party of labor
', but then they completely reversed that idea when
they started the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance in 1895, hoping that
'the true labor party could set on foot the true labor union'. It must have
been a fun 10-year experiment for them.

>> It will be especially obsolete 40 years from now, when the machines
>> and computers become much more adept at practical tasks than
>> humans, who will no longer be able to go out and earn a living.
>
> More likely the elites will decide that the world would be better without
> us have-nots and
move to eliminate us. Ever hear of the Club of Rome?

No, tell me about the Club of Rome. Have you ever heard about communities
pulling together when disaster strikes? When machines really begin to take all
of our jobs away in another few years, then we will pull together to cooperate
to solve that problem, just the way we solve all of our others. Scott's statement
goes right back to the old socialist threat: 'If you don't organize the way we
socialists tell you to organize, you will meet with nothing but disaster.
'

>>> 4. snip irreconcilable conflict between communists and anarchists
>
> Marxists in the WSM, Marxist-DeLeonists, many independent Marxists want to
> go immediately to a classless stateless administration of things wheareas Marxist-
> Leninists talk about a workers state. Daniel De Leon came up with
a practical
>
program for going directly to a classless stateless administration of things.

De Leon resuscitated an idea that had already been rejected by Marx and Engels
as early as 1869, 36 years before De Leon's SIU, but, what counts is a program's
popularity. A few hundred dedicated people aren't going to change much.

> Unfortunately, De Leonism was eclipsed by Leninism after the Russian
> revolution. Finally De Leonism is enjoying a comeback. Some Ukranian
> Marxists, after rejecting both Stalinism and Leninism have adopted Deleonism
> as
a practical program for socialism in modern times. In Brazil, a DeLeonist
> movement with the added feature of revolutionary cooperativism is being set
> on foot. Anarchists throughout the world are attempting to do similar things.

All the more reason for people to jump on the revolutionary bandwagon, I guess.
If you can get to classless and stateless society before work is abolished, or before
the abolition of class distinctions, then that will prove your revolutionary merit.

snip old dialogue

>> The revolutionary principles have thus been tendered with a 'take it or
>> leave it' attitude. Perhaps it is hoped that the impossible can be done with
>> the participation of only the anarchist portion of today's revolutionary groups.
>
> Unfortunately, too many Leninists say that the revolution must sail on a
> sea of blood. That is neither practical or necessary. That kind of talk will
> insure that sane, responsible working-class people won't come on board.

Oh, I don't know, M+E were not above rallying hate, which they proposed to
make good use of. In his Nov. 12, 1875 letter to Lavrov, Engels wrote (MESC,
p. 284): "In our country [Germany] it is hatred rather than love that is needed -
at least in the immediate future - and more than anything else a shedding of
the last remnants of German idealism, and the establishment of the material
facts in their historical rights.
"

In his March 18, 1852, letter to Marx, Engels wrote (paraphrasing from MESC,
p. 65): 'the instinctive class hatred of the workers against the industrial bourgeoisie ...
was
... the only possible basis for the reorganization of the Chartist party ...' Engels
also hoped that class hatred 'can not only be retained but even widened, and
developed so that it becomes the foundation of enlightening propaganda
...'

Rallying hate is perfect for overthrowing old feudal monarchies, like Germany
and Russia of a century ago, but rallying hate doesn't work in democracies.
Such people get dismissed as nut cases.

snip old text

>> The revolution more befits what was needed to address the feudal monarchies of 1848.
>
> Even from your limited point of view, the
revolutionary approach should make sense.

The revolutionary approach was plausible in Europe until 1917, when millions of
Europeans proved that they were not interested in smashing their Social-Democra-
cies for the dubious pleasure of taking away the property of the rich. The failure of
all of Europe to revolt in support of the Russian revolution proved that the path to
socialism in the Western hemisphere will never be blazed by taking away the property
of the rich without compensation, because the old days of overthrowing a pack of
monarchies in order to create the universal proletarian dictatorship have disappeared
since Europe democratized at its own rate.

> Do you remember this editorial by Daniel De Leon?
>
> "
The "practical" man sneers at socialism as visionary, unattainable, and
> without any immediate social value.

On the other hand, I value socialism; it's just that history has taught me
that socialism won't be attained by taking away the property of the rich. It
WILL be arrived at by driving down the length of the work week. Perhaps
the only thing that will rescue socialism from the revolutionaries will be if
we succeed in shortening the length of the work week a couple of times,
which may finally force the revolutionaries to admit defeat. Speed that day.

snip remainder of De Leon's speech

> Scott

For a non-revolutionary path to socialism,

Ken Ellis

'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time.'

 

5-16-01

Joan wrote:

>> snip 'struggle for existence became obsolete after 1825'
>
> I'm not glorifying a state in which people are close to starvation. I think
> it is good to work toward eliminating that if we can. However, I don't value
> success that is easily gained.

Because it only takes 2% of the American population to feed 100%, then
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.

> I have received so many awards in my life that they don't
> really mean anything anymore. I have one award recently that
> really did matter to me -- for investigative reporting, an award
> that was only given to 8 people in the country.

Congratulations! As an investigative journalist, perhaps you are well
practiced in the art and science of refuting lies. May the lower classes
benefit greatly from the application of your talents to the problems of the day.

> But for the most part I have felt, through school and
> whatever else, that the system was designed to
guarantee
> success -- even, perhaps, to whose who are not deserving of it.

It would be a lousy artifice if we designed the systems to willy-nilly fail people,
and for what reason? Any struggle for existence in the USA will be PERFECTLY
obsolete in another few decades, so an enlightened populace wouldn't want to see
people fail, not when we can create so much wealth with such little effort. People
should be brought up to regard notions of 'guaranteed to fail if you don't work
hard' as obsolete, reactionary and downright evil, designed with little more intent
than to perpetuate the dominance of the rich, as well as their philosophy.

> Much higher I value the freedom to succeed or fail -- I consider that
> independence an important thing for the existence of mankind -- the
> factor of risk, without guarantees, where one must battle it out using
> hard work and abilities -- the thing that bothers me about the ideal of
> utopian socialism is that it seeks to destroy this risk, seeks to provide
> for all without discrimination and regardless of merit.

'Providing for all without discrimination and regardless of merit' has been a
long-held goal of humanitarian socialism for centuries. But, no socialist would
ever force anyone to stop climbing mountains, or crossing deserts on foot. In a
few more decades, when the economic struggle is completely behind us (thank
the goddess), a lot more people may decide to sail single-handedly around the
world, or do a lot of other things like that, and no one will want to stop them.

> And that's something that I just can't ever see as a positive. - Joan

You seem to associate socialism with totalitarianism, and that's not an
invalid association, given the bad record of actually existing socialism.
Socialists have never been able to take away the property of the rich without
becoming totalitarian. In today's era, such socialism has to be combated as a
useless anachronism, but the vast majority of the adherents to deprivational
and punitive socialism run away from principled dialogue, and often reply with
nothing more convincing than personal attacks, as befits their present level of
comprehension, as reinforced over and over in various sectarian groups who
have made businesses out of obsolete ideologies. The new socialist paradigm
needs to be rescued from those bad memories. The new socialism will be very
unlike the old, and will be based upon hours of labor instead of power and
property. How about a New Socialist Party, anyone?

>> 2. Ken writes: There's a big difference between workers competing for
>> scarce jobs, and workers competing with one another to arrive at the tops
>> of their professions. There is no excuse (except for our cave-person
>> mentalities) in this day and age for the first form of competition - it
>> being unhealthy for the country, immoral, and unnecessary; while
>> the second form of rivalry is very healthy for the professions.
>
> Sure. But I don't think you understand what I'm saying. With jobs like surgeons,
> where people really need to be good, it is better if some wanna-be's don't actually
> become surgeons. Just getting a degree shouldn't guarantee anyone a job.

That remark insinuates a lot of 'money-grubbing to the exclusion of ethics' on
the motivations of a lot of alleged wanna-be surgeons, which is certain not to
please the profession very much. But, your concerns about that profession are
becoming more obsolete as time passes. Recent trends in surgery show that
human error is being reduced by ever-better technologies. Plus, flawless robots
are increasingly taking over the actual work. It may not be much longer before
the days of a surgeon picking up a scalpel to operate will be over.

> I think that that kind of field is different from a job in say a factory or an
> office. It would be better for a community to have 6 surgeon jobs and 12
> surgeon wanna-be's, for example, because then the 6 who are surgeons are
> going to be really good ones. The rest can work at a different job.

It doesn't quite work that way in reality, for anyone who currently goes
through all of the years of training to be a surgeon is going to end up
practicing surgery, period. No doubt some surgeons will be better than
others, so let the consumer beware.

>> 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.
>
> What about all the places that have no jobs at all?

I can't think of a 'place' like that. Name one, besides 'heaven'.

>> 4. Ken writes: The misery of the present reality is what makes me want to
>> plan ahead for the future. Those who don't mind today's pollution, poverty,
>> unemployment, crime, lack of care for the poor, etc., may wish for things
>> to remain the same. But, the middle classes will soon have a frightening
>> encounter with 'politics as usual' when machines and computers become so
>> much smarter, and threaten to hurl the middle classes down into the bottom-
>> most layer. Learning to share the remaining work now will mentally and
>> morally prepare us for the day when there will be no way for anyone to earn
>> the necessities of life. In 1900, anyone who thought people would someday fly
>> like birds would have been dismissed. Three years later, the Wright bros. flew,
>> and in 1969 we were on the moon. Who can guess what life will be like by 2100?
>
> Sure, plan for the future, but you also have to plan how to get from here to
> there. You cannot do that unless you recognize what things are like now and
> how it relates to how you think they should be. I think if everyone has to "share,"
> sooner or later there
won't be any more jobs created -- industry will stagnate, etc.
> since
no one has any motivation to do their job well. I am very skeptical when it
> comes to schemes that attempt to involve everyone -- we all know that, regarding
> involvement, only 20% of the people vote in local elections.

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 any-
thing 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'!

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, gov't 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 Ellis

Excerpt from a different forum:

>> <<The same people who presently laugh at the ones who
>> run off to form intentional communities may very well be
>> the same ones in a few decades who will be running off
>> to gather in 'capitalist retreats'. I can just see it now:
>> They'll build a big factory, institute a 16 hour work-day,
>> and a 96 hour work-week. Naturally, their Puritan work-
>> ethic will drive the good people to take the Sabbath. No
>> benefits or health care plans, and they will hold gladiator
>> tournaments in a stadium to determine who will be lucky
>> enough to win the long-hour jobs in the factory, leaving
>> the others to live lives of deprivation. They will give the
>> factory owner control over the press and every other
>> institution in town, and they will bow down to HIM
>> (of course) everywhere he goes. :-)>>

 

5-16-01

Joan wrote:

> Response to 2 points
>
>> snip a lot> Common knowledge has it that the Civil War
>> was fought over slavery, and I don't know why people
>> would want to contradict common knowledge.
>
> They were trying to preserve their way of life -- slavery was
> a large part of this, but it was not the only cause of the war.

Irreconcilable differences between 2 capitalist classes over an immoral form
of property ownership provided the conditions for a hot war. The slavocracy
struck the first blow in a desperate attempt to impose slavery on the whole
country. People do not go to war over mere economic factors, because a
country's economy implies nothing more exciting than mere civil trading,
buying and selling.

> Remember that even with a technical end of serfdom in Europe,
> lords continued to exist.

And, the relevance of that is - ???

> Just for the record,
> with the invention of the cotton gin, slavery was quite profitable
> and not likely to die out in the near future when the war began.

Yes, profitability was also brought up in another forum, but it also failed
to be relevant to the subject: the cause of the Civil War.

> Remember, too, that near the end of the war the Confederacy decided
> to have slaves fight -- in a large part giving up the institution.

Since that is still being debated among scholars, I won't dispute it,
but it should have had some kind of bearing on 'cause'.

> The need to industrialize to fight the war
> also changed the character for the South forever,

Again, that too should have some bearing on 'cause'.

> as did the fact of their idealized Southern belles
> having to work in support of the war effort.

Again, this should have some bearing on 'cause'.

> At the end of the war the only thing the South was still
> fighting for was its independence. - Joan

We know that the South wanted to secede from the Union and become a separate
nation so that it could enjoy its immoral form of property ownership unimpeded by
the North. The South had already enjoyed many decades of tolerance and a laissez-
faire attitude by the North. Now, suppose that cooler heads had prevailed in the South,
and supposing that the South had not panicked over the Republican victory, and had not
initiated the War by firing on Fort Sumter. What do you think would have happened?
Slavery probably would have gone on to enjoy another few years of existence. After
that first shot, however, the die was cast, hostilities escalated, and there was nothing left
to do but fight it out to a finish. At the end of the war, bye-bye to Southern independence.

>> snip> Point #2:
>
> What I'm trying to tell you here is that if there is an all-out attack
> on businesses, the jobs for everyone will not exist!

My gosh! Who said ANYTHING about 'an all-out attack on businesses'?
Wouldn't that be kind of radical or revolutionary? Haven't I distinguished
myself instead as a reformer?

> It will not be physically possible for everyone to have a job
> if all the potential employers are destroyed!

I agree 100%! Again, though, perhaps you confuse me with some of the more
radical members of this forum. I keep trying to get people to understand that
I'm just plain old Ken Ellis, the mild-mannered reformist from the mid-sized
town on the East coast. Try not to confuse me with Che Guevara, Cinque,
Tim McVeigh, or Pancho Villa.

> Just as businesses cannot function without workers,
> workers cannot have jobs without business.

That's true for the most part, unless people would rather do things like in
the old Soviet Union, which I'm definitely not in favor of, so we are back to
square one - good old American capitalism, but, maybe with just a little dash
of A.O. Dahlberg, the 'liberation capitalism' exponent of the Depression era.
No harm in putting everyone to work who could use a little bit to get by. Full
participation really enjoys a very long tradition, going deep into the roots of
the human psyche, and I'd just like to revive it a little, in a 21st century context.
It shouldn't hurt you or me. Honest. The ones whom it might hurt just a little
bit - financially speaking - can already afford to do without a few percentage
points of profits. They will still make plenty of money. But, as Daniel De Leon
said one time (to the following effect, at any rate) - 'put a can of beans on the
shelf, and it will still be there at the end of a year. But, put a man on the shelf,
and all you will find at the end of a year will be just a few dusty old bones.
'
Old Daniel told quite a few truisms.

> My comment above was in regard to companies that have no full-time
> workers -- no one to make them raise wages or improve conditions. So
> the temporary employees there earn peanuts. How can the government
> force them to pay more?

Under the work sharing plan, businesses wouldn't be FORCED to 'pay more'.
They wouldn't be forced to do much more than observe the hours of labor rules,
whether it's time and half after 35, double time after 35, or whatever gets applied to
all workplaces. What could be fairer and more consistent than 'applying to everyone'?

Ken Ellis

 

5-16-01

Carl continued:

snip preliminaries for brevity
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx You're still operating
> under the
false assumption, or misguided belief that we live in a democracy.

I'd hate to be guilty of contradicting common knowledge. If our democracy
had been overthrown at some point, we would know the date for that, as easily
as we can recall July 4, 1776. It doesn't really matter how much of a case that
can be stated for an alleged lack of democracy in the USA, for what counts is
what the man on the street believes, and the man on the street 'knows' very well
that we have a democracy, so they would be willing to fight and die to defend
what we have, no matter what a few others might think of it. So, there is your
obstacle. But, democracy hasn't always been the form of government in every
country. France didn't have much of a democracy in 1870, so it wasn't much
trouble for revolutionaries to get people to overthrow the reign of Napoleon 3,
and not much trouble getting the Russians to overthrow Nicholas 2 in 1917.
So, if a relative handful insists that we don't have a democracy in the USA
today, are we supposed to overthrow what we have? Not very likely.

> I would love to see proof of your beliefs. I am sure there are those
> on this list who would also like to see it.

Proof of a belief? Isn't that a bit like asking a Christian to prove that God exists?

> I just don't understand how you can receive a good Marxist education from
> the SLP
and still go through life under this system with blinders on. Most
> people start out believing in this system until they are directly exposed to it's
> realities. Once exposed they usually adopt a different outlook which almost
>
always ends up being anti-capitalist in one way or another. But you, somehow,
> even after being set on the
right foot, woke up, but then went right back to sleep.
> Time to take the alarm clock off of snooze and wake up.

While getting acquainted with the SLP, I learned about the common goal of all
communists, socialists and anarchists, the goal of someday reaching classless
and stateless society. For that knowledge, I was grateful. The problem is that
today's communists, socialists and anarchists have 3 or more different ways
of getting there. For that confusion and divisiveness, I am not grateful.

I still want to get to classless and stateless society, which doesn't make a very
good capitalist out of me. I really want a good logical method of phasing
capitalism out. While most activists would get to socialism by taking power
and property away from the rich, I would get there by a totally different
means - by driving down the length of the work week until all wage labor
is replaced by volunteers, which will surprise me if it doesn't happen in 40
years. I am fully confident that many more socialists would join me once the
length of the work week got to 30 hours or so, but it would be nice to have
their support in the meantime, to get this movement off the ground. This is
totally innocuous stuff, because it couldn't happen without mass support,
and no one could possibly get hurt in the process.

>> snip old text
>>
>> But, you merely ASSERT my theories are unsound. You have never properly
>> analyzed my shorter work week theory the way I've tried to refute SLP political theories.
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I ASSERT
nothing.
> The facts are the facts, Ellisism will
not come to pass under capitalism.
> It
flies in the face of the inner workings of this system. I've stated time
> and time again, in my own uneducated manner, the reason Ellisism will
> not get off the ground. The
sole reason for the existence of this system
> is profit. The capitalist must extract surplus value from the workers in
> order to make profit. Shortening the workday will cut a big slice of
> surplus value from the bottom line of the capitalist. Bad for the capitalist.

Under that profit theory, profit should have prevented us from adopting the 40
hour week in 1940. But, we know that profit wasn't strong enough to prevent
the Fair Labor Standards Act from being passed, and it won't be strong enough
to prevent that law from being amended, once all of the other rag-tag reforms
prove to be inadequate, and they can't prevent unemployment from going ballistic.

Though a shorter work week will certainly reduce profits, entrepreneurs will
continue to invest for as long as they think they can still make at least SOME
profit. There's no law that says that 'profits must be high' before they will
invest or produce.

> You also promote work sharing, this maintains the extraction of
> surplus value for the capitalist but it
cuts the worker's weekly
> wages
in half. Bad for the worker.

No matter how long or short the work week, what it costs to keep a worker and
his family alive remains pretty much the same. Whether the length of the work
week is one day or seven days, workers still have to eat, pay rent, etc., so workers'
costs are pretty well fixed, no matter how many hours or days per week they work.
It would be far better to earn the same paycheck in exchange for a mere one day's
work, rather than for five or more. A universally applied shorter work week would
mean a raise in wage rates, because the product of fewer hours times a higher wage
rate can still equal the same paycheck, which is good for the worker.

> Next you say this can be forced on the capitalists if the workers will form
> an OPEC style cartel and control their labor. Well, if they can band together
> and control their labor, why can't they band together and get rid of the capitalists?

The secret is in having a program feasible and attractive enough to get
workers to adopt it. Which issue will workers unite around? It had better be
good, but some 'socialist' programs totally exclude other 'socialist' programs.
For instance, workers won't be able to replace the state with a classless and
stateless administration of things while at the same time others are urging them
to create a workers' state. Workers simply won't be able to do both at the same
time, so they will remain divided, and won't get anywhere close to socialism by
trying to deal with state and property.

Here is the beauty part of the shorter work week: There are at least a half dozen
ways we can withdraw labor from the labor market in order to create that OPEC
like shortage of labor that would allow for full participation, and workers could
strive to enact ALL methods AT THE VERY SAME TIME, without clashing with
the other methods. For instance: Those who would apply their energies toward
winning longer vacations (in place of our measly American 2 weeks) would not
be at loggerheads with those who would try to win a shorter work week, nor with
those who would try to win a higher overtime premium, nor with those who would
try to win earlier retirement, etc., for those are all complementary means of obtaining
full participation in the economy. On the other hand, activists are constantly competing
among themselves to attract workers to programs to create a workers' state, or a classless
and stateless administration of things, or to nationalize industries, or tax the rich to spend
more on the poor, etc., many of which methods are incompatible with the others. At rallies
where various segments of the left market their programs, the Trots are against the Sparts
who are against the Wobblies who are against the Communists, who are against the RCP,
who are against the De Leonists, etc., ad infinitum. They behave little better than merchants
competing for a market share of gullible political neophytes, as evidenced by their bureau-
cratic structures, lack of free internal communication, internal secrecy, sectarian policies,
etc. It is impossible for workers to achieve unity around the zillions of ways of taking
away the property of the rich, or of redistributing wealth and property, or of dealing
with governments.

Not very many workers end up becoming interested in abolishing capitalism,
nor in other radical solutions, due entirely due to the deep divisions and wide
diversity among the programs, confusing everyone. Radical programs are by
nature divisive, while the struggle for full participation is ALL INCLUSIVE.
It rejects no one, nor for any reason. It wouldn't even reject the misled who
spread spurious arguments against work sharing. Work sharing is a whole
different ball game, based on fraternal love instead of on hatred, destruction,
revenge and punishment.

> Then they wouldn't have to worry about how to get shorter work hours,
> it would become a fact of life.

After the SIU revolution, the industrial government would still have to equally
apply the new rules for hours of labor to every work-place. Rule, law, it's
pretty much the same, for no one would be allowed to cheat, either way.

> Not only that, they would control what is produced because
> it would belong to society. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Workers' control of the economy is possible in democracies, if we create
the kind of artificial shortage of labor that would give workers real economic
security, enabling them to boycott the clear-cutting of the last of the old-growth
redwoods, and enabling them to boycott the plant in the Mid-West that is
responsible for so much misery with its manufacture of land mines. Workers
would be free to boycott those jobs, because the rest of the workers would just
make room for them in the more benign economy by further shortening the
length of the work week, if necessary, to continue to make the economy all-
inclusive. So, workers' control is possible without abolishing capitalism,
just like a shorter work week is possible. The 2 would be complementary.

snip 'clarity and agreement'

>>> I don't think I ever claimed that we have all the answers,
>>> I have not heard you admit as much either.
>>
>> At the WSM forum, I hashed out a bunch of stuff along similar lines,
>> but I was the only one who seemed capable of learning a little from
>> others, or of conceding certain small points to others.
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxx Okay, if you did it in their forum why
can't you do it here?

I could easily do that here if cause to do so ever arrives. In time, chances
are that I'll goof somewhere, and will own my mistakes. In my book at my
web site, I've already admitted to many mistakes. My experiences with the
revolution was practically a comedy of errors. I put my history of mistakes
on the Internet precisely so that novices might learn a little from them, and
hopefully not repeat some of them. 'Those who do not study the mistakes
of the past are condemned to repeat them.'

> I want you to concede to some facts here Ken.
> Namely: a) The existence of the class struggle b) The working class is
>
robbed of the majority of what it produces by the capitalist class through the
> extraction of surplus value or unpaid labor. c) The Materialist Conception of
> History explains how society has evolved to this point d) We do
not, in fact,
> live in a democracy. e) Reforming capitalism will
not permanently solve
> society's problems f) A Socialist revolution is the
only way to permanently
> solve these problems. A concession on any one of these points would at
> least show that we are making some headway here and that your SLP
> education has not gone to waste.

a) I have no trouble with the class struggle as the driving force of history.

b) I do have trouble with the word 'robbed', because I know what it's like to
be robbed of possessions, the feeling of violation that results, the helplessness,
the rage, etc. On the other hand, I also know what it's like to work for a living,
to get a paycheck at the end of the week, to cash the check and have enough money
for all my expenses, and to even put some cash away for a rainy day. [I remember a
halcyon time when I was a mechanic at a boat yard, was living there rent free, had so
little need for cash that I had 4 uncashed paychecks in my wallet, and the boss was
begging me to cash them so that his books would add up.] I know that my experience
is not very different from that of millions of other workers, who also don't feel that
awfully ripped off. The sensation of feeling 'robbed' at the point of production is not
mainstream, and anyone's hope of convincing people that they are being robbed is about
the same as that of the WSM or SLP of convincing billions of people that 'Russia was
not a communist country
'. I firmly believe that if a party cannot communicate to people
AT THEIR OWN LEVEL, then that party has little chance of gaining their confidence.
On the other hand, Marx's German party could talk to people about overthrowing their
old feudal monarchy, and they could really connect and get lots of support. But,
overthrow a democracy? The public can be no more convinced of the need to do
that than a Leninist could be convinced that Marx's proletarian dictatorship was
intended to be a dictatorship over the peasants and middle classes.

c) I have no trouble with the materialist conception of history.

d) Many Germans and Russians in the 19th century believed that they didn't
live in democracies, but few Americans would believe the same of the USA
today, certainly not enough to be able to rally them to do anything
fundamental about the American form of gov't.

e) Reforming our present laws will be the only peaceful way to get to socialism.

f) 'Revolution in democracies' has no historical precedent, and will only be regarded
by the average Joe very suspiciously, or as a call for a counter-revolution.

snip 'all of the answers', 'refutations', etc.

> We do not change our program because there has been nothing in our present
> or past situation which would warrant such a change. All of the reasons for
> maintaining our program are just as
valid today as they were in De Leon's time.

The SIU has lasted for nearly a century. We shall see if it lasts another 40 years,
when practical tasks of all sorts will have been taken over by computers and
technology, and there will no longer be a way for people to go out and earn a living.

>> So, members end up enjoying each other's company, and they
>> enjoy defending the SLP and SIU without giving up an inch of turf,
>> and they think they are doing the right thing.
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Another thinly veiled insult.

All right. You got me. I'll try to operate at a higher level next time.

snip repetitive material

snip old text
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx You
make it sound as though we are
> all just working 8 hours a day. There have been many studies which show that
> instead of the workday getting shorter, it is getting longer. Although it is true that
> now we are compensated for overtime (unless you are salaried like myself or work
> in agriculture) that doesn't change the fact that Americans are working longer
> and longer hours.

That we can agree with. Full timers reportedly work an average of 47 hours
in recent times, compared to a mere 43 hours 20 years ago. In spite of this,
the much more rapid growth of part time labor has sunk the overall average
work week to below 40, and reflects a worse distribution of work.

2002 answer: Actually, because of the rise of part-time work,
overall weekly hours continue to sink.

> What good is the overtime pay when you don't have time to enjoy it?
> I am all for shorter hours with no reduction in pay but I don't see that
> happening under a capitalist system, not without a massive struggle anyway.
> If we can mount the massive effort needed to achieve this small gain, why
> can't we organize to get rid of the system that makes our lives so miserable
> and forces us to undertake these struggles in the first place?

The full loaf vs. a single slice is a captivating concern. The trick is to get the
working class to move as a class.
Many workers would enjoy a shorter work
week at the same pay. That's an issue we could get some unity over, whereas
we know that activists are hopelessly divided over how to redistribute property,
wealth and income, how to deal with the government, etc.

> Next, you speak of Ellisism's natural conclusion being a classless,
> stateless society. Wait a minute, aren't you contradicting
yourself? You
> consider yourself a Marxist don't you Ken? You are certainly fond of
> pointing out how our program is non Marxist because of our rejection
> of the state. Well, that can only lead me to one conclusion - after reviewing
> this program with Ken's version of Marxism as a guide I must declare that
> Ellisism is absolutely and unequivocally NON-MARXIST!

Full participation by means of shorter work hours is non-Marxist? Marx
advocated a shorter work day as 'a precondition to freedom' in the middle of the
3rd Volume of Capital (chalk one up for me). At the same time, he also advocated
expropriation (chalk one up for you). But, here's the thing about the relation of the
two: expropriation was supposed to be a device IN SUPPORT of full participation.
In other words, full participation in the economy was THE HIGHER GOAL, and
expropriation merely a device in support of full participation, just like the shorter
work day. Such was the basic humanitarianism of Marx. It wasn't a simple mindless
pursuit of divorcing the rich from their property, as what Stalin's policies amounted to.

Carefully examine the following passage from Engels' 1877 biography entitled
'Karl Marx' (MESW 3, pp. 85-6): "... that historical leadership has passed to the
proletariat, a class which, owing to its whole position in society, can only free itself
by abolishing all class rule, all servitude and all exploitation; and that the social pro-
ductive forces, which have outgrown the control of the bourgeoisie, are only waiting
for the associated proletariat to take possession of them in order to bring about a state
of things in which every member of society will be enabled to participate not only in
production but also in the distribution and administration of social wealth, and which
so increases the social productive forces and their yield by planned operation of the
whole of production that the satisfaction of all reasonable needs will be assured to
everyone in an ever-increasing measure.
"

Did you fully appreciate the part about 'take possession ... in order to ...
enable participation
'? Am I the only socialist to hold to Marx's higher goal
of full participation, and to reject expropriation as a device that was more
plausible for the times Marx lived in, when there was a mass of monarchies
to overthrow, hopefully giving activists the power of state with which to
expropriate? It sadly seems as though all other socialists are so irrevocably
bent on taking away the property of the rich (and maybe putting it under their
own control) that they can't help but overlook the higher humanitarian goal of
full participation. This is the sad state of socialism today, and why it absolutely
100% has to be rescued from the expropriators, and put in the hands of those
who hold to the goal of full participation above all others, no matter what the
name of the system in which we arrive at full participation. I can only hope that
more socialists than just myself will see fit to enlist themselves in service to that
noble goal. If they can take the time and effort to see through the overwhelming
unlikelihood of 'revolution and expropriation in democracies', then they will come
around to Marx's nobler goal. I can only hope that socialists will not be so wedded
and loyal to their existing ideologies that they forever ignore the call for social
justice by means that are perfectly appropriate to advanced democracies.

>> I can't help but begin to question the sincerity of those who claim to want
>> to better the lot of the working man, and can see that the remaining work
>> is continually being eroded by labor-saving machinery, but who refuse to
>> adopt a method of social justice which is nearly 2 centuries old, and has a
>> history of being acceptable and promoted by organized labor.
>
> xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I can't help but question the
> sincerity of someone who would prolong this system one day longer than
> it needs to be prolonged.

It's a question of keeping the difference clear between 'the injustice of the
system' and 'the system'. There's not much we can do about 'the system', but
'liberation capitalism' has been around since the early 1900's. In 1932, A.O.
Dahlberg wrote a really good book comparing the benefits of a shorter work
week to competing ideas.

> I question the sincerity of one who would keep
> humankind in wage slavery one hour longer than is needed.

I wouldn't needlessly do that. Neither would I lead anyone to abolish
capitalism and political democracy before the time for that was ripe. The
American Civil War proved that people were willing to fight and die to extend
as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, proving that people would be many
times more willing to fight and die to preserve private ownership of means of
production, a form of ownership which very few people find immoral.

> I question the sincerity of one who would allow one more child
> to go hungry one minute longer than is needed.

Hunger comes from poverty, which is mainly caused by
incomplete participation in the economy.

> I question the sincerity of one who would try to lead
> the working class down the road of continued misery
> while ignoring the evils this system carries with it.

Full participation, even under capitalism, would end the misery of the lowest
strata. Even that would be a proud accomplishment for any party. 'Something'
positive along that line is far superior to 'nothing', which is what we get when
we fail to advocate the small goals that are possible under present circumstances.

> Now let's address the fact that shorter work days are acceptable to
> organized labor. The things that are acceptable to organized labor
> in it's present form
are whatever are acceptable to the capitalist class.

That's not true, for it is in the bosses' interests for as few workers as
possible to work for as many hours as possible, while it is in our political,
social and economic interests for as many workers as possible to work for
as few hours as possible. In my neck of the woods, nurses often strike over
the issue of forced overtime. Their 'hours of labor' issue is a big point of
contention, pitting bosses and labor directly against one other. Workers
and bosses have fought over that issue for 2 centuries.

> They may speak of a shorter work day, but what moves have
> they made toward it? None that I have seen.

That's true. Prof. Ben Hunnicutt observed in 'Work Without End' that
organized labor gave up its traditional struggle for shorter work time
during the Depression, when their 30 hour week was defeated, and they
decided to settle for the Wagner Act and other concessions. When they
someday eventually run out of goodies, they will return to what's basic.

> But this is to be expected from organizations that claim to have the
> workers' interests at heart but all the while preach of the "brotherhood
> between capital and labor". The two are
entirely contradictory.

There has often been a lot of corroboration in history for that brotherhood.
As far as the basic issue of democracy goes, the 2 classes collaborated to replace
intransigent monarchies with democracies, and Marx even preached their alliance
up to the point of democratic revolution, after which the workers' party was to
come to the fore and make the resulting republics social, by means of universal
suffrage. But, as pointed out earlier, their economic and political interests will
always be diametrically opposed on the 'hours of labor' issue.

> Until we organize along industrial lines into unions wholly controlled by the rank
> and file with full acceptance of the class struggle with all it implies then ever will
> it be the case that so goes the capitalist then
so goes organized labor. You make
> it sound as if the craft unions of today are bona fide working class organizations.
> This would be in line with your beliefs so I will not attempt to sway you.

A lot of unions still elect their own leaders, which makes 'real workers'
organizations' out of a lot of them. When bosses appoint all of the union
leaders, then the fix will be in.

> That's it for this round. At this rate perhaps I will have addressed
> this post in it's entirety by Christmas.

snip excess portion

Ken Ellis

 

5-16-01

Joan wrote:

> I understand what you're saying, but I think that slavery was only part of a larger
> issue: the different economic systems that had developed in the North and South.
>
> The plantation system in the South was largely a type of feudalism, where
> the slaves cultivated rice, tobacco, cotton, etc. for their owners as feudal
> serfs had grown crops for their lords. The culture tried very much to
> emulate this. Remember, though, that only 25% of Southerners owned
> slaves at the start of the civil war, and most of them only had a few.
>
> The North had become much more industrial, with growing cities and
> factories. And because of the nature of Northern agriculture (dairy products
> and grain) a large labor force was not necessary. The culture had kept that
> ideal of individualism and "Yankee ingenuity" that was moving forward to
> meet the growing economy.
>
> The clash came in many areas. Northern congressmen supported high tariffs
> to help manufacturing, but those tariffs made it harder for Southerners, who
> focused on agriculture, to sell their crops abroad. Largely a rural society,
> the South was opposed to increasing government regulation that was a
> product of Northern industrialism.

Off the top of my head, I might guess that the high tariffs were part of the
general political conflict over slavery, and could have been imposed purposely
to retaliate against the South's acts of aggression and hostility.

> The states' rights issue and the slavery issue were intertwined --
> the causes of the civil war were largely
economic.

The South wasn't forced to fire its first shots on Fort Sumter, which was done
for purely political reasons, as the words of John Calhoun remind us: - "the
attempts of the South to create new slave States by force were therefore
justified
". What's so economic about 'the creation of new slave states?' That
happens to represent the clash of one policy vs. another - slavery vs. free labor.

> To call it "the war for slavery" is not correct.

Then feel free to disagree with Marx as well, for he said that it was a war
'to preserve and extend slavery'. As further proof of the political cause of
the War, look at its political consequences: 3 new Amendments to the
Constitution: #13, #14, and #15, all dealing wholly or partially with slavery
and race relations. If the War had occurred over economics, then some
memorable economic legislation should have resulted from the War. Perhaps
you could bolster your arguments by finding such memorable legislation.

> "The war for Southern independence" (as I learned it)
> might be more correct. But whatever you call it, the basis is an
>
economic clash that goes far beyond the moral issue of slavery.

Like I say, the hostility of the South was the direct cause of the War. That
should be irrefutable, given what happened at Fort Sumter. You should do the
research: what economic factor caused the South to fire the first shot? And
what memorable legislation was passed in order to prevent such 'economic
causes
' from embroiling us in a civil war again?

> Joan

snip old messages

Ken Ellis

 

5-16-01

Hi, Ben! You wrote:

> Hi folks! Hiya Ken!
>
> OK - I am glad we do seem to agree on the motivations of
> those who fought for the South in the American Civil War.
> I think this is important as if proletarian/peasant/petit
> bourgeois southerners did NOT take up arms explicitly
> to defend their masters' property (the right to hold chattel
> slaves), then this example does not provide support for
> the view that at some future time the working class will
> be motivated to violently suppress the movement for
> socialism in the name of defending property.

Well that's true, in itself. But, slavery was different in that it was a
very divisive issue, and preventing that form of ownership from
spreading to the new states and territories was bound to raise some
hackles. On the issue of private property in general, on the other hand,
the country has never been divided, and this most bourgeois country
in the world will never be anything but overwhelmingly in favor of
property rights (for as long as people have to work for their property,
in which they stake so much of their personal security), so any
opposition to private property is bound to remain tiny at best.

In any hypothetical struggle over private property, abolitionists
would be aware of the intent of their struggle, while the rich would
recruit many a soldier to fight for 'national defense against godless
communism', etc., and the government would handsomely reward
the defenders of private property.

The willingness of Southerners to be led to fight and die to
extend and preserve as immoral a form of ownership as slavery
will ensure that people today can be far more easily led to fight
and die to protect private ownership of means of production,
which few believe to be immoral - IF socialists, communists and
anarchists were ever so foolish as to try to expropriate the rich.
But, they will never be able to gather the necessary electors or
other forces, especially with all of the divisions in their ranks,
not being able to decide whether to create a workers' state or a
classless, stateless, etc.less administration of things. Why, in
the face of all of their demoralization and hopelessness, don't
the would-be expropriators just throw in the towel, give up, and
admit that their anti-capitalist revolution became extinct when
Europeans failed to support the Russian revolution by replacing
their Social-Democracies with workers' states?

> On the subject of economic and political "reasons" - yes, of
> course there are political reasons for wars, but these
cannot be
> looked at separately from the economic base of society at that time.

The economic base gradually works, over time, to create political
conflicts, which have often been settled violently. When the USA was
formed over 200 years ago, the proletariat was hardly a significant class,
the vast bulk of society's work being done by a class of petty farmers, a
few of them owning slaves. By the time of the Civil War, the proletariat had
grown to perform about a third of the work, had formed unions, struggled
for the 8 hour day, and was abolitionist to the core. Slavery muddled along
all of the while, but was under political attack in Congress. The economy
had evolved to place the class of slave owners at odds with the class that
merely owned non-human means of production. As a conflict between 2
factions of property owners, abolition of slavery could not be accomplished
without a bitter political struggle, which, in this case, ended in war. In that
respect, it resembled the struggle between feudalism and capitalism.

The economy was a factor in the War, but only as a passive element
that slowly elevated the influence of the abolitionists, and then, finally,
as the result of the War, to a complete political victory. No one who
looks at the War from this perspective can say that the cause of the
War was in any way economic. It was political to the core because
it pitted one form of ownership against another form, and one
capitalist class against another class. When capitalist classes
can't settle their political differences peaceably, war is the result.

On the other hand, the conflict between worker and boss is purely
economic, thanks now to universal suffrage. Workers and bosses
both want and need democracy, which is a prerequisite to fighting
their final battle in the state. During the Depression, unemployment
was a big crisis, and a similar unemployment crisis is bound to develop
again in the next decade or two. Worker demands to equitably share the
remaining work will someday result in an amendment to our Fair Labor
Standards Act, but it will be the last thing acceptable to the bosses, and
therefore probably won't be tried until every other scheme has had
a chance to fail.

> Ruling class politics arises directly from the interests of the
> ruling class, who own the means of production and distribution.

Their right to own means of production will never be directly
confronted, because it doesn't do any direct harm, not to say that
some rich people aren't meanies. No one can demonstrate how
private ownership directly bears upon unemployment. In what
way does a single person's ownership of a factory employing,
say, a thousand people, determine whether that same thousand
people will have jobs to go to on the morrow? Not a whit.
Employment is usually based upon one factor - conditions in
the market place for the commodity or service. 'No demand'
for either translates into 'no employment', but ownership has
nothing to do with 'no employment'.

> All their policy will thus surely express their capitalist interests.

The bosses' policy is for as few workers as possible to work
for as many hours as possible, while our interests are just the
opposite - for as many workers as possible to work for as few
hours as possible.

> War in the Gulf can therefore be seen in terms of political reasons,
> but these are inextricably linked to western capitalist interests.

If Saddam started a round of hostility by intervening in Kuwait,
then what were his 'western capitalist interests'?

> As a practical example, western policy was to intervene
> massively in the Gulf (motivated by oil and territorial interests),

What motivated Saddam to intervene in Kuwait? That is what started
the Gulf War. Incidentally, I'm now reading an autobiography of an
old activist who pointed out that the Communist Party USA in the
1930's was forced by principle to support Ethiopia's independence
against Italy's invasion, in spite of the fact that Ethiopia was an
absolute monarchy using chattel slave labor. Again, it points
out the over-riding importance of foreign aggression, even
to staunch supporters of 'republic vs. monarchy'.

> but to allow (and encourage) invasion and butchery in East Timor
> (as there was no capitalist interest to be served in confronting Indonesia).

It's true that the USA doesn't have a good record on East Timor, but
how is this remark relevant? I was just reading in today's paper how
Ted Kennedy (brother of slain President JFK) and another Senator
are introducing legislation to recognize the independence of East
Timor, which would be a real step forward for American politics.

> Further on war - whether there is intervention by the Great
> Powers or not is not something I can possibly affect.

Neither can I, nor millions of others. Foreign policy is for our
dreaded elected to muck around with, until we hit the streets with
massive demonstrations, as during the Vietnamese War debacle.
How many hit the streets in the Gulf War? Not very many.

> They will intervene where they see an interest in doing so
> (and the intervention often leaves the countries in question
> in a worse position - former Yugoslavia for instance will
> be tied to western "aid", and thus be under more direct
> control, for the foreseeable future).

Does that also mean that the USA should have gotten out and
stayed out of Europe after WW2? If the world is heading for unity
among its democracies, then is their cooperation a bad thing?

> The best possible way to stop wars and defeat dictators
> is for the working class to refuse to have anything to do
> with capitalist aggression and imperialism against their
> fellow workers and human beings.

I'm all for that, but how can we exert our moral influence when
we are too busy prostituting ourselves to the bosses' agendas?
We compete among ourselves for scarce long-hour opportunities
to make the bosses richer than their wildest dreams, and for scarce
long-hour opportunities to spread lies to the public, and for scarce
long-hour opportunities to cut down the last of the old-growth
redwoods in California, and for scarce long-hour opportunities
to manufacture land mines in that factory in our Mid-West,
and we compete for a shrinking pool of other opportunities
to do wrong to one another and to the planet. When will we
come to our senses?

The situation is just the way Engels defined it in 1845, while
praising the good effects of unions, in his 'Condition of the
Working Class in England
': ".. the supremacy of the bourgeoisie
is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among
themselves
..". We should eliminate competition for scarce jobs
by means of a shorter work week, and thereby end the real source
of our misery, and simultaneously increase our freedom from long
hours of toil, and eventually become as free as the bosses. I need
not belabor the advocacy of M+E for shorter work days, electoral
reform, and for all other reforms in the interests of the working
class. It's all right there in the works of M+E. People should look
in the right places for the clues as to 'whither the political movement
of the working class', instead of in all of the wrong places that tend to
lead them to think that a revolution would be an apt solution to their
mere economic problems in democracies.

> That such revolt occurred in Europe during WWI is,
> after all, the decisive factor in the war being stopped.
> A war abroad can be ended by revolt at home. Dictators
> too are defeated by "their" subject people.

Good points. The people's initiatives should be encouraged
and supported, just like in Marx's day.

> If the west was serious about wanting to see Saddam Hussein go,
> then sanctions would be lifted, giving the Iraqi working class and
> bourgeois opposition groups the improved conditions in which
> they would organise to overthrow a repressive government.

Now that Saddam is out of Kuwait, sanctions should be eased or lifted
to allow food and medicines go where they are desperately needed.

> However, this particular tyrant, imposed on Iraq
> by western capitalism, is being kept in power and
> helped in internal repression by western policy. In
> capitalism Might Is Right, and what is seen as moral
> or a "Just Cause" is dictated by who is mightiest.

That's all too often the case. Let's do something real to help morality win the day.

>> <<snip Petersen's rejection of protesting the Vietnam War>>
>
> I certainly wouldn't agree with Petersen. Workers have NO
> interest in any capitalist war. But this does not mean that wars
> should be ignored - just the opposite. It is the working class who
> are slaughtered in atrocities like the Vietnam War. The aggression
> and brutality of capitalist states should always be exposed and attacked.
> It's part of the case for socialism, after all. No war but the class war!

That reminds me of the traditional appeal to turn imperialist wars
into civil wars (against the bourgeoisie).

>> No web site mentioned the interests of the capitalist classes as the cause of WW1.
>
> Territorial disputes and imperialist ambitions?

Jeez, I can't remember, but I don't think I saw either of those.
Try a google search for 'cause of WW1', and see what pops up.

> Cheers for now!
>
> For a world free of tyranny,
>
> Ben.

For the abolition of work,

Ken Ellis

 

5-20-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., scotchwallace@y... wrote:

> Hi everyone,
>
> And now for my next round with Ken.
>
>> Ken: Everyone knows that we still live in a democracy, even if the rich
>> have disproportionally more influence than the little guys. Otherwise, one
>> could point to a particular date on which a coup took place. But, we are
>> all aware of the significance of July 4, 1776, everyone knows that we vote,
>> different candidates and parties take power, etc. 'We lost our democracy'
>> would be big news to the average Joe who votes.
>
> Scott:
> I'd like to hear from the rest of the list on this question. Is the US
> democratic in any meaningful sense of the word?. Do the people of
> the US rule their country, or is it ruled by the capitalist class? I am
> hopeful that there is a possibility of rebuilding our democracy and
> making it function again, but as far a I am concerned democracy in
> the US is a complete
farce. Democracy in the US has been sabotaged
> by the US capitalist class, just as they have helped other national
> ruling classes sabotage democracy in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador,
> Nicaragua, Brazil, Iran, Russia, Vietnam, to name a few.

There's your invitation, folks. Tell Scott just how undemocratic the USA is,
and how 'rotten ripe for overthrow'. Buoy his hopes for imminent revolution
by telling him of the many millions who are desperate to put all of the country's
property and wealth in the hands of revolutionaries who can't decide whether
to replace the state with a communist workers' state, or with an anarchist
classless and stateless administration of things.

>> Ken: Allow my opposition to revolution to get a little passionate here,
>> because the time for pussyfooting around is gone. The revolutionary left
>> doesn't understand how badly it has been lied to, for it endlessly repeats
>> a lot of mistakes. Every leader wants to attract gullible followers, and to
>> fill them with revolutionary enthusiasm so that intransigent party
>> bureaucracies can hope to be supported in their old age.
>
> Scott:
> Do you seriously believe that anyone who dedicates their life to a
> revolutionary cause, does so for material gain. Don't you realize
> that just about any other job would pay better than working for a
> revolutionary party.

I don't know very many people who work for absolutely nothing. The SLP
didn't live hand to mouth when I was there. They had at least $100,000 in the
bank, or maybe 5 times as much. I forgot which of the 2 figures I saw, but
their ideology prohibited them from speculating with it in the stock market.

> And as for the part about being lied to. When I first came in contact
> with a revolutionary party, and it was the Socialist Labor Party, I
> finally became aware of how badly I had been lied to in school,
> through the news media, and by cynical politicians. I finally got the
>
truth from the SLP, not that I'm saying that they have a monopoly on
> the truth, or that they have never made mistakes, or that they should
> single-handedly lead the working class to socialism, but they gave
> me a
healthy dose of the truth, and for that I will be forever grateful.

For my whole life, I felt that I was surrounded with a mass of lies all around
me, and I came to feel the same as Scott about the SLP in 1972, which I felt
saved me from a worsening depression of spirits. I was grateful for the
opportunity to be enthusiastic about something again. But, after the dust
settled down from the SLP's move from N.Y. to California, increasing concern
over why the Party wasn't getting anywhere led me to uncover some inexcusable
theoretical blunders SLP theoretician Arnold Petersen had made, such as his
'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry' excuse for the non-necessity of
a proletarian dictatorship in the USA, which was supported by a quote from
Lenin that could only have been willingly and knowingly taken out of context,
so I knew that the Party that had told me so many good and useful things about
the class struggle, the materialist conception of history, Marxian economic
analysis, etc., was also capable of filling my head with complete nonsense
about 'revolution in democracies'. That whole story is at my web site:

http://www.libcap.net

> And I would like to share a bit of that truth with you right now.
> These are some of the great truths that the SLP clearly spelled out for me.
>
> The working class suffers exploitation at the hands of the capitalist class,
> and that truth is at the heart of all the crises that capitalism generates. It
> works like this. "
You have seen that the wages you live on, and the profits
> the capitalist riots in, are the two parts into which is divided the wealth
> that you produce. The workingman wants a larger and larger share, and
> so does the capitalist. A thing cannot be divided into two shares so as to
> increase the share of each.
" "Between the working class and the capitalist
> class there is an irrepressible conflict, a class struggle for life. No glib-
> tongued politician can vault over it; no capitalist professor or official
> statistician can argue it away; no capitalist parson can veil it; no labor
> faker can straddle it; no reform architect can bridge it over. It crops up in
> all manner of ways, as in this strike, in ways that disconcert all the plans
> and all the schemes of those who would deny or ignore it. It is a struggle
> that will not down, and must be ended
only by either the total subjugation
> of the working class, or the abolition of the capitalist class.
"

De Leon was doing pretty well up with his analysis until the last sentence.
The circumstances did not call for the abolition of the capitalists when he
wrote it a century ago, and conditions do not call for it now.

> The SLP provided me with an understanding that the founding fathers of the
> American revolution had laid down a philosophy that was in
resonance with
> the revolutionary work of Karl Marx, and of socialists who came after him.

In what way did the philosophy of the founding fathers resonate with the
revolutionary work of Karl Marx?

> I've already discussed Madison's warning that democracy would be
> subverted as wealth became concentrated in the hands of a few
. Benjamin
> Franklin once said, "
Property is the creature of society, and society is entitled
> to the last farthing whenever society needs it.
" Furthermore , Franklin discovered
> the Law of Value, long before Marx was born, and Marx gave Franklin credit for
> the discovery of this cornerstone of Marxism. Franklin put it this way:
>
> "
By labor may the value of silver be measured as well as other things.
> As, suppose one man employed to raise corn, while another is digging
> and refining silver; at the year's end, or at any other period of time, the
> complete produce of corn, and that of silver, are the natural price of each
> other; and if one be twenty bushels, and the other be twenty ounces, then
> an ounce of that silver is worth the labor of raising a bushel of that corn.
> Now if by the discovery of some nearer, more easy or plentiful mines, a
> man may get forty ounces of silver as easily as formerly he did twenty,
> and the same labor is still required to raise twenty bushels of corn, then
> two ounces of silver will be worth no more than the same labor of raising
> one bushel of corn, and that bushel of corn will be as cheap at two
> ounces, as it was before at one. (all other things being equal)
"
>
> When I began to discover little jewels like this, I began to
> understand how badly I had been lied to, and it
wasn't the
> revolutionaries who were lying to me.

A lot of revolutionaries of whatever stripe can agree about several aspects
of Marxism, such as: the law of value, the production of surplus values, the
class struggle, and the arrival of classless and stateless society. But, all hell
breaks loose over the way they are supposed to arrive at classless and
stateless society. The various parties are not above lying when they try to
justify their own particular sectarian differences. In his preface to Engels'
'Socialism: Utopian and Scientific', SLP theoretician Petersen said that
'Engels didn't give the world any better a revolutionary theory than state
capitalism
', while Engels differentiated between proletarian revolution and
state capitalism in the main body of that same pamphlet. Also, Petersen
accused Engels of being in a fog about the form future society would organize
itself into, whereas Engels clearly stated that 'the form of the proletarian
dictatorship was to be a democratic republic
'. Petersen also accused Engels
of being retrograde in having to fall back on the state as the agency to
administer future production, the solution to that 'problem' not being solved
until Daniel De Leon arrived with his allegedly brilliant Socialist Industrial
Union idea, even though Marx and Engels had already criticized the idea of
trades unions as the basis of government as early as 1869, that idea having
been the twisted brain-child of Bakunin. Petersen practically blamed Engels
for the rise of the fascist state in Germany, all because Engels would have
relied on the state to administer production. Trying desperately to disassociate
the SLP from anarchism, Petersen claimed that the anarchists wanted to
abolish the state, but they supposedly didn't have any suggestions for how
to organize production after the revolution, even though the better educated
among us know that anarchists want to replace the state with a classless and
stateless administration of things, just like the SLP's SIU program. The SLP
revolutionary program was supported by a mass of fairy tales and plain lies,
many more of which are analyzed in detail at my web site:

http://www.libcap.net

> The SLP provided me with a clear definition of socialism, and this
> definition was certainly at odds with what I had been programmed, up
> until that time, to believe. "Socialism is that social system under which
> the necessaries of production are owned, controlled, and administered
> by the people, for the people, and under which, accordingly, the cause
> of political and economic despotism having been abolished, class rule
> is at end. -- That is socialism, nothing short of that."

As clear and crisp as that definition might seem, it has problems in that it
assumes (like Marx did) the compatibility of socialism with work; but, when
people work, they create property in the form of a product, and even wages are
property. Everyone who creates property has a certain stake in it, and they do
not give it up in exchange for nothing, unless they can afford to be more
philanthropic than workers. If newly created property can be exchanged for a
wage or other form of wealth, then things proceed smoothly, but not otherwise.
With our present dog-eat-dog mentalities, in which people constantly scheme
to do other people out of their wealth, we cannot proceed to a classless and
stateless society tomorrow, nor for as long as people will still have to work
for a living. The next unemployment crisis will teach us how to share the
remaining work, and we will see a movement for a shorter work week, just
like during the Depression. Revolutionism completely misses the boat,
which is heading for the abolition of work within a few short decades, while
revolutionaries maintain a complete state of denial over that, and merely spin
utopian visions of a future society that mixes work with socialism, a world
which will never be. One has to be very eccentric and/or bourgeois in order
to be able to afford to waste so much time doing nothing.

> Like I said, I don't think the SLP or any other revolutionary party
> or group has all the answers, but unless a particular group or party
> is an out and out agent provocateur outfit, each of them has some
> truth, some pieces of the puzzle to offer us.

Every party or group that suggests that the road to socialism will be paved
by altering government or property relations is handing us a bum steer, which
is why so few Americans are attracted to them. Such a path to socialism was
plausible a century or so ago, when a mass of intransigent monarchies were
waiting to be overthrown by socialists, all at the same time, which would have
given socialists the power plus the unity in enough revolutionary countries with
which to both expropriate the rich, and prevent counter-revolution. But, instead
of the revolution in developed Europe proceeding the way Marx wanted, backward
non-European countries revolted one at a time. The failure of history to adhere to
Marx's vision proves that his vision contained a fatal flaw - expropriation of the
rich. Every party advocating revolution in democracies is worthless to the working
class, but very valuable to the capitalists, for it keeps workers' minds off of its own
work-sharing successes during the past 2 centuries. That's what workers really do
in order to win a measure of social justice, but 'what workers actually do' isn't good
enough for socialists from Marx onward, who feel (like the bourgeoisie) compelled
to steer workers in a completely different direction, a direction that isn't quite so
damaging to profits and surplus values.

> Those of us who seek left unity should take what is
> of value from these groups, and reject the sectarianism.

The left will never achieve unity until it directly addresses sectarianism.
Doesn't anyone other than myself have any ideas about the cause of
sectarianism? Is everyone out there so dedicated to their own sectarian
notions that the very idea of getting to the root of it is as foreign to them as
the notion of having lunch on the planet Mars? Has everyone been stupefied
by stupid sectarianism? What is the purpose of a forum about left unity? Is
it merely a place to post long rants about what's going on in Vieques?

> If anyone would like to have further contact
> with the SLP, section Houston has a small e-group at:
>
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SLP-Houston
>
> In addition to the stimulating discussion you can find there,
> their bookmarks and files section is really excellent. You will find
> speeches from the founding convention of the IWW, you can find
> Jack London's novel (he was a member of the SLP) Iron Heel, about
> an attempt at socialist revolution and the ensuing reaction. You will
> find many interesting and informative things there.
>
> I am no longer a member of the party, I believe there are many pieces
> of the puzzle to be found elsewhere, but I still have enormous respect
> for these revolutionaries, and I believe that they have much to offer
> anyone who is looking for the truth. And I certainly hope that when
> the working class finally acts in its own behalf, it will be guided by
> its own collective experience, a part of which has been preserved for
> it by the Socialist Labor Party.
>
> Ken, I will have more to say to you in my next post, especially about
>
your contention that capitalism doesn't create crisis.

I never said that 'capitalism doesn't create crisis', or the seeds of its own
destruction, for capitalism does both of those things. We simply have to
become like martial artists, and learn the weak points of our opponent. We
need to look at the evidence of what capitalism actually does, and right now
one of its biggest effect is to replace human labor with machines. 200 years
ago, 80% of the population lived on farms in order to feed 100%. Today, it
only takes 2% to feed 100%. In a few more years, agriculture could be fully
mechanized and robotized, and the same goes for the production of other
necessities of life, clothing and shelter. Soon a factory will be built loading
raw material in one end, and sending finished apparel out the other, with
no human labor in the middle. Then, why are we still working so hard?
Certainly not to create the necessities of life. It boils down to one reason
only - to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams. There is only one
way to stop that - stop working so hard, take more time off, pass an amend-
ment shortening the length of the work week, just like the French.

> Fraternally,
>
> Scott W.

For an end to sectarianism,

Ken Ellis

".. The International was founded in order to replace the socialist or semi-
socialist sects by a really militant organisation of the working class. The
original Rules and the Inaugural Address show this at a glance. On the other
hand, the International could not have stood its ground if the course of history
had not already smashed sectarianism.
".. - Marx to Bolte, Nov. 23, 1871

 

5-20-01

Carl wrote:

> Ken and everyone,
>
> It is obvious from the numerous posts between the two of us that
> no progress is being made in our debate. I attempt to respond to a
> fifteen page post a little at a time and get 10 pages in response to
> my response and still we are no closer to an understanding. I know
> I have done this before but now it is final. I will no longer engage
> myself in this worthless effort because I cannot convince Ken and
> he will never, ever convince me. Ken quotes Marx in such a way as
> to make him out to be a
reformer.

That's because the record shows that Marx DID advocate reforms in England,
like the 10 hour Bill, and he even initiated an electoral reform movement. He
didn't have any ideological conflicts advocating reforms in the interest of the
working class in democracies, though he was critical of petty-bourgeois reforms
propping up rotten monarchies, like the German state. He also was very interested
in revolutions, especially in countries in which he thought revolution was imminent,
such as Germany and Russia. Evidence for what I say can be found in his writings.

> Usually these quotes prove my position but he interprets them otherwise.

Carl should have given an example of a quote from Marx that supports Carl's
position, instead of mine.

> He accuses De Leon of being an anarchist.

The SIU program is little more than an anarcho-syndicalist replacement
of the state with a classless and stateless administration of things, with the
additional political element of the abolition of the state at the ballot box.
Communist or anarchist, the SIU is unfit for American or democratic
conditions. In a country overwhelmingly believed to be democratic, reform
is the ONLY thing that can be on a party's agenda. Monarchy or republic,
it is standard practice for a real workers' party to exhaust all legal means
to social justice before advocating revolution.

> He makes the SLP into a social club. He insults our organization
> and thus the entire membership of that organization.

I criticize the program the Party stands for, but I don't insult the members.
I was a member once.

> Don't try to separate the two Ken, De Leon said that
> "
The principle and the organization are one."

Well, then, all I can say is: The SLP should have fun with its revolution,
but I'm afraid that it will be a very lonely revolution.

If members are so afraid of what other members would think if they questioned
their 'revolution in democracies', that would be a symptom of having given up
their rights to think for themselves in exchange for a membership card. I was
there. Members did not dare to think for themselves, for they saw what
happened in the past, such as the expulsion of Section Palo Alto for having
the audacity to protest against American involvement in the Vietnam War. In
today's world, people live in fear, even members of revolutionary organizations.

> He picks and chooses what he wishes to respond to
> and even then it is a tired repetition of his so called program.
> He is quite proud of himself for coming up with this "program",
> even though it doesn't attract much of a following.

For now, revolutionaries choose to believe what they believe. When the length
of the work week gets down to 30 hours or so, and does so without the help of
the revolutionaries, then some may begin to understand how correct my program
actually is, and the humanitarians among them will regret having missed the
opportunity to lend a hand to a movement in the making, just the way I was
sorry in the early 1970's not to have been permitted by the SLP to protest
American involvement in the Vietnam War. I lived in fear of being true to myself.

> This program is somewhat confusing and very vague as to how we will
> achieve his stated goals.

My program is very simple - reform 'hours of labor laws', 'overtime premium'
laws, 'length of vacation' laws, 'retirement age' laws, etc., always with a mind to
get labor off of the labor market. This can all be done very peacefully and legally,
and with the consent of the majority. On the other hand, the SIU leaves open a
very important question about the revolutionary use of violence, which has
never been settled either way. That's at least vague, if not confusing.

> Yet, he accuses us of using language that the workers
> do not understand and also of being "unrealistic".

Some of your beliefs are not really down to earth, such as: 'America is not a
democracy
'; 'Russia, China, Cuba, etc., were not communist'; etc.

> Ken lives under the delusion that we live in a democracy and that all
> things are possible under this democracy of his.

Our democracy can be reformed all of the way to classless and stateless
society. If we could come very close to getting a 30 hour week during the
Depression, that proves that we have all the democratic processes it will
take to free ourselves from wage-slavery peacefully and legally.

> This democracy even includes capitalists who are kind hearted
> and concerned about the condition of the working class.

Well, sure. Kellogg's continued the 6 hour day right up to the late 1980's,
and the owner of the Polarfleece mill kept his workers on full salary while
the plant was being rebuilt after their disastrous fire. A humanitarian program
doesn't have justify itself by demonizing a class, as mean as some of the
individuals can be, but good and bad co-mingle among every identifiable group.
As Engels quoted an old saying, 'They sin inside and outside the Trojan walls.'

> I don't think I have to defend this statement to anyone
> who subscribes to this list and works for a living.

In a country which is already sick and tired of hate,
demonization will get a party nowhere.

> Ellisism diverts the workers from the true nature of their
> misery, even
prolongs that misery, but Ken clings to it like a
> drowning man to a piece of driftwood. Ken is
never wrong
> and all of his theories are
correct even though they have no
> firm scientific ground under them.

The first element of science is 'observation'. I am not supported by very
much revolutionary dogma, such as 'the abolition of the state', 'proletarian
dictatorship', or anything else which activists love to fight over ad infinitum
without reaching any kind of unity. Instead, my program rests upon things
which all honest activists will readily admit to, because it is right there in
black and white: Marx understood that surplus values are created when we
work beyond the time required to create the necessities of life, he believed in
the possibility of peaceful development in democracies, he advocated a shorter
work day in the most developed countries, his final goal included a classless
and stateless society, etc. My program puts all of that to good use.

> Yes, Marx advocated a shorter work day, but it was not the
> main focus of what he was attempting to do.

Both his shorter work day and his expropriation of the rich supported his
higher humanitarian goal of 'full participation in the economy'. If he had come
to regard either of those elements as obsolete, he would have been humanitarian,
courageous and intelligent enough to alter his program accordingly.

> Marx wanted a proletarian revolution and a socialist society. He was not opposed
> to easing the suffering of the masses in the mean time, but he was
no reformer.

What's the difference between Marx supporting England's 10 hour Bill and
electoral reform, and him being a 'reformer'? Unless, perhaps, a reformer is
one who advocates only reform, even where no democracy exists to reform?

> Ken would attempt to twist the meaning of Marx's work
> to prove his position, but he is having
no success.

People who insist that all of their beliefs are valid, in spite of lots of
evidence to the contrary, are hard to reason with. In the old 'hook, line
and sinker' syndrome, people refuse to see that only the hook and line
are OK, but the sinker has always been invalid.

> Ken would have us believe that a revolution is pointless in our "democracy".

Even though Marx doesn't necessarily teach quite the same thing, HISTORY
teaches that the purpose of a revolution was to bring democracy and independence
to where it didn't exist before. Do we always have to follow Marx's words right down
to the last letter, even though the revolution didn't happen all at once in the most developed
countries
, and shows no sign of doing so? If Marx had been right about everything,
then Marxism might still be taught in Russia, and at the University of Havana.

> I really don't know what Ken expected from me in this discussion.

Just for everyone to have the courage to call a spade a spade, even when others
might be content to call a spade a pitchfork, just because someone told them it
was a pitchfork a long time ago, and they are too scared to be anything but loyal.

> I joined the SLP for a reason, I believe in what we are trying to accomplish
> and I believe in our program for attaining that goal. I guess he thought that
> once exposed to his "logic" I would reject the SLP's program and walk away.
> Wrong again Ken.

I didn't expect anyone to simply accept what I say without a battle, but a
rigid obedience to an ideology can prevent the application of ordinary rules of
engagement in dialogue, and it can even pre-determine that someone will refuse
to be swayed by a different ideology. I was the same way when I was new to the
SLP, and I defended it against people of other ideological persuasions, but I often
came away from those battles feeling uneasy. Ordinary folks today, on the other
hand, would regard what I do here as 'a good-faith effort to communicate'.

> To sum up, Ellisism is just another in a long line of crackpot schemes
> which, while probably not by design, divert the workers from the true
> source of the problems in our society and how to get rid of those problems.

If a shorter work week is crackpot, then so is the early SLP platform plank
advocating shorter work days and weeks in proportion to progress in industry.
That plank was written at a time in American history when annual hours of
labor were declining faster than ever before, or any time after, but will pale
before the shock that's in store for the future, unless we plan ahead.

> So, this will be my last comment on this subject since there is no progress
> being made and no sign of any on the horizon. Of course Ken will deliver
> a twenty page response to this post but he will draw no response from me.

Again, I wish you had made the requisite effort to achieve clarity and agreement.

> Anyone on the list who wishes to respond
> is more than welcome to but it will not come from me.

I'm always willing to debate with reasonable people.

> I apologize to the list for devoting so much wasted time to this endeavor,
> it will not happen again, at least not on this subject and not with Ken Ellis.
>
> Fraternally yours,
> Carl Miller

I hate to see an opportunity to lead the bull by the horns so easily forsaken.
These are real issues for the times we live in!

Ken Ellis

 

5-20-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., utku balanan <butku1@y...> wrote:

> Selam,
> I am sorry for this reply, because I am sure that I
> made the same points in the previous mail I wrote.
> However, because Kenneth Ellis said that he could
> not get my points, I felt the necessity of re-stating
> some important points again.
> 1) The question about the crisis:
>> "The problem with this analysis is that it assumes that
>> a depression would be the result of an international
>> shorter work week. But, I don't know where such an
>> idea could come from, since it is the very opposite to
>> the American experience, when the AFL could see
>> inventories building up in the 1920's, and predicted
>> the crisis of overproduction of the 1930's, well before
>> it happened. The shorter work week is the natural and
>> efficient response to overproduction. M+E described
>> every depression as a crisis of overproduction."
>
> Though I do not know my friend's level of knowledge
> about theory of liberal and marxist economics, both
> ways of analyses converge on the point that the use
> of labour can be decreased according to the current
> production function and the relative price of labour
> against the capital. I can re-state my question in terms
> of the productivity crisis of 60s, which was observed
> both in the U.S.A. (I wrote in the previous mail "usa"
> and "us". I think that my friend did not understand
> this "authentic" use of words.)

If people use an abbreviation like 'us' when they really mean 'USA',
then 'us' can easily be confused with a very common word.

> The problem of the Keynesian economics is simply the
> restrictions/regulations of state over the labor market via
> official (ie. via legal decisions) and unofficial (ie. via unions)
> means. this made during this whole period the labor a "scarce"
> input for the industry and this situation increased the price of
> labor (ie wages). Except this, there had been also some
> considerable improvements in the working conditions.
> Now, everything seems fine, but why did things change?
>
> This is about the first rule of capitalism: if there is no chance
> for investment, there is crisis. Let's look at the Marshall plan!:
> U.S.A government tried to inject a lot of money into European
> countries to abstain to experience a crisis like 1929 depression.
> The problem could have been solved also through making labor
> more scarce, as my friend suggested.

I don't propose imposing a labor shortage after a world war, when there is so
much rebuilding to do. On the other hand, imposing a labor shortage is a viable
tactic during crises of overproduction, such as during recessions and depressions.

> But this is an answer, which IGNORES the definition of capitalism:
> capitalism rests on the capital in production. That is, if there is no
> investment opportunity for the capitalists, the system will fall into a
> crisis. Thus, after World War 2 U.S.A government tried to apply
> the Marshall Plan instead of shortening of work hours. That is,
> shortening work hours globally in a capitalist economy
creates a
> crisis/depression in the long run: this is what we see during 60s.

I was suggesting a shorter work week as a realistic solution to a real crisis of
overproduction and unemployment, as during a depression or recession. High
unemployment all over Europe recently compelled to France to lower the length
of its work week to 35 hours, and other countries are considering it as well.

>> "Sorry not to be able to understand: 'now there is no state'.
>> Every country I know of today has a state, as far as I can see."
>
> Unfortunately, I suppose I have serious problems of
> communication in english (or my friend may
lack the
> willingness of understanding the counter-part within
> the same communication effort): the state functions
> to maintain the prevalent mode of domination.

If I say that I can't understand, then I can't understand.

> In capitalist society, the domination is simply to maintain
> the liberal democratic society and economic order.
>
> What I try to say about the recent situation is that the state
> lost its ability of redistributing the income since 1970s.

My program is to redistribute work, not income.

> I did not mention in detail the theory of democracy, but, if one
> takes habermas seriously, one can claim that there is a kind of
> disjunctiveness in the concept of democracy, which is revealed
> in the tension between "the equality" and "the freedom". (this
> is the intrinsic tension of the liberal democracy deriving from
> the fact that it promises something which it cannot fulfill in the
> capitalist economy that the liberal democracy should preserve for
> its own sake) The modern democratic state is legitimate, to habermas,
> as long as it can redistribute the income in favor of masses. But the
> origin of the current crisis of legitimacy of democratic states can be
> explained in this way. I emphasize this point again: the state lost its
> redistributive character. I did not say that, as an oppressive mechanism
> that has the task of maintaining the current order of domination, state
> has been withered away. But the state, as the mechanism that has the
> capability of bringing institutional framework, for example, for the
> shorter work hours,
has withered away.

One should not confuse the ability or inability of the state to redistribute
wealth (which is limited) with its ability to redistribute work (which is infinite).

> So one cannot find a state in domestic level as a
> respondent to his demands about the shorter work hours.

A little amendment to existing 'hours of labor' laws is all that is required for full
employment, and is a totally different task compared to 'redistributing wealth and income'.

> Without legal institutionalization of the rights against the
> capitalist class, your gains, if any, can be only temporary.

Every 'hours of labor' law that will ever be passed will only be temporary,
until some day in the future, when the robots and technology take over
completely, and no one will have to work for a living, and we can all
enjoy the freedom we yearn for.

> Additionally, the imagined global struggle has no counter-part in terms
> of a global institution, too: IMF, UN, or World Bank cannot charge any
> decision to nation states about the regulations of redistribution. So what
> is your collocutor, your counter-part in the democracy?

I couldn't find 'collocutor' in my dictionary, unfortunately. A redistribution
of work only involves reducing hours of labor, which is entirely different
from redistributing wealth, property and income.

> This is a serious problem, which does not deserve simple demagogy
> and polemic: during years of Keynesian economics, the state had
> been the mediator between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat
> for the sake of the maintenance of the capitalist order.

What I suggest has little to nothing to do with Keynesian economics. Sharing
work by means of work reduction is purely a humanitarian gesture, lest
unemployment go out of control, and many more people suffer as a result.

> My question is here: why did Western European countries
> and U.S.A give up the Keynesian economics during 70s? The
> answer on the surface shows the importance of the Vietnam War
> (and it had certainly some importance), but in the long run any kind
> of policy leading to a continuous re-distribution of income (ie. not
> only wealth) in favor of the labor hinders the capital accumulation,
> which makes the investment less favourable. And this fact is one of
> the reasons of the stagnation, one of which the U.S.A economy
> experienced during 70s.

Redistributing work, by means of reforming hours of labor laws, is TOTALLY
different from redistributing income, wealth, accumulation of capital, Keynesian
economics, or anything else remotely to do with money or finances. Changing
the number of hours of labor merely redistributes work so that everyone can find
a little to get by, which is in line with Marx's higher goal of 'full participation in
the economy
', as Engels mentioned in his 1877 biography entitled: "Karl Marx".
In that biography, even expropriation was supposed to be subservient to 'full
participation
'. Can you imagine social justice with mere 'partial participation'?
Partial participation is all we have in today's world, so we must wage the class
struggle with full participation foremost in our minds.

> Thus, I can easily claim that in the global, capitalist
> economy any measure to redistribute the income
> hindering the capital accumulation will lead to the
> decrease in the opportunities of investment, which lead
> to the decrease of productivity and, hence, the stagnation.

Well, I certainly have no intent to redistribute income, so your lessons should
be a very apt warning to those who would try to do so, but I am not one of them.

> My friend's suggestion seems nice and I respect this
> idea: but it
ignores the basic principles of the capitalism.

Workers have struggled for shorter work days and weeks for 2 centuries. It
is part and parcel of the class struggle between capitalist and worker. Bosses
want as few workers as possible to work for as many hours as possible, while
it is in our political, economic and social interests for as many workers as
possible to work for as few hours as possible.

snip unfathomable old text

>> Depressions cause UNemployment, not employment.":
>
> yes, here I wrote wrongly "employment" instead of
> unemployment. But the question with this modification,
> I think, was not responded yet.

In that case, you should have quoted more of the statement, including
your corrections, so that I could have responded to it this time.

> Can my friend claim that the strategy he suggests would not
> lead to a global crisis, even if it can be successful?

Work sharing is designed to AVERT the inevitable global HUMAN crisis which
is bound to occur, unless we take measures to share the remaining work, while
it is being taken away from us, and is given over to more profitable robots,
computers and technology. The solution no more complicated than that.

> And can he claim that at the end of such a crisis the movement
> (local or global) that would have an aim not to change the
> current regime but only the situation of the workers
> in the regime would not be dissolved?

I don't know if the following answers the question or not, but the end result of the
work sharing movement will be the same as the goal of all communists, anarchists
and socialists - the dissolution of the state, as soon after the abolition of work as
reasonably feasible, with no special effort to make the state disappear. We would
make NO direct assault whatsoever on the state, nor the institution of private property.
Work sharing is a totally humanitarian effort; it is not vengeful, punitive, acquisitive,
or mean-spirited. We do not intend to place all property in the hands of the working
class, for we aim only at the abolition of classes and class distinctions. If we become
smart enough to maneuver the phase-out of work in the favor of the working classes,
we will get to our classless and stateless goal without a scratch.

> So I repeat (to avoid misunderstandings): any political project aiming
> only at improving the situation of the labor (not at overthrowing the
> capitalist mode of production through revolution)
would lead, at best,
> to a crisis
, even if it seems to become successful in short term.

Our disagreement on that point, I am sure, is based upon a misunderstanding which
I hope can be cleared up in our next messages, after you tell me that you have come
to understand that my program has absolutely nothing to do with redistribution of
wealth, property, income, finances, etc., and has only to do with redistributing work
to all who could use a little to get by, using the simple technique of reducing hours
of labor, thereby freeing people from unnecessary toil.

> This statement is not a "metaphysical" belief but a conclusion resting on
> the analysis of the causes of 1970s. If someone will respond to this essay,
> he/she should show where he/she differs from the analysis mentioned above.
> Without doing this, one may fall into a trap of demagogy, which I will avoid
> simply by abstaining from the discussion.

Don't worry, I don't question your sincerity. I'm sure that we can work
out our differences after you understand the difference between work
redistribution and wealth redistribution.

> 3) On the "exploitation":
>> "Doug Henwood, the noted radical economist, has noted that
>> the theory of 'superexploitation of colonies and underdeveloped
>> countries' isn't very credible. See his website, and look for a
>> little essay about the relevance of Lenin:"
>
> What does this mean? The origins of this idea lay simply
> in the modernist idea, which sees the poverty of the non-
> Western societies as their misery due to their laziness.
> I simply suggest you to read Eric Wolf's books.

Sorry to have opened up a can of worms. We can set it aside as irrelevant.

> What I tried to stress is that the absolute level of exploitation says
> nothing about the effect of the domination of the centre countries on
> the development of the social formation of the periphery countries.

If you say so. I really have nothing more to add on that topic,
for it is tangential to my program.

> I cannot understand how you look at this issue so much in terms
> of a
false classification: you can, for example, classify people in a
> society simply according to their incomes. This, certainly, gives
> some information about the social formation, but - this question
> is to you, my friend - can one understand with this data the class
> formation of the same society?

No such class analysis is necessary if we set as our goal full employment by
means of work sharing. If some people are out of work, then we can count their
numbers, and then we can reduce the length of the work week until everyone can
find a job, and keep on reducing work hours until the abolition of work itself. My
program is that simple. In the near future, that path will be absolutely necessary,
and people will not choose to revolt. Revolt can mean whatever a revolutionary
wants it to mean. If we didn't revolt in the USA with 40% unemployment during
our Depression, then we won't revolt in the future. We will hopefully soon follow
the lead of France, and move to a 35 hour work week.

> No, because you classify the society not in terms
> of their position in hierarchies in the interdependent
> production relations, but
only in the monetary terms,
> which says simply nothing of "relative deprivation",
> which reveals the real meaning of the exploitation.

But, I never said anything about 'money'. You brought it up. I'm counting
on you to regard 'money' as irrelevant to the work sharing program.

> Besides, please see the history of United Kingdom: how
> "the democracy" was evolved from a class struggle to a
> "democratic struggle" was so much about the exploitation
> of the colonies. I can give many other examples.

Please don't bother. Few who observe history would argue against
what you wrote about that issue.

> The common point here is that the exploitation has been used by the ruling
> classes of the centre to keep the masses silent (with the rhetoric of democracy)
> regardless the absolute amount of the transfers from the periphery.

Those who have read the Minutes of the General Council of the First
International would not be so quick to disparage 'the rhetoric of democracy'.
In those 5 volumes, you will find Marx and Engels at the time of the Commune
differentiating the International from bourgeois republican clubs, saying that the
International wanted - not just a republic, but the SOCIAL republic (meaning
universal suffrage). The very name 'Social-Democrat' meant that: any republic
was better than a monarchy, but Social-Democrats were different from ordinary
bourgeois republicans in their insistence on universal suffrage.

In the ideology of M+E, the republic played a MAJOR role. It is a thread that
runs through much of their writings. The republic was to be the form of state in
which the final battle between worker and boss would be fought to a finish.
Engels
called the democratic republic 'the specific form of the dictatorship of the proletariat,
as the Great French Revolution has already shown.
' Workers were to be united with
petty-bourgeois democrats up to the point of bourgeois revolution, and then workers
were to use their numerical supremacy in the new republics (with universal suffrage)
to pursue the political agenda of the working class. If you ever spend some time
refuting LEFT-WING lies, then you will learn aspects of Marxism which no
state-smashing revolutionary bureaucrat-leader wants you to learn, simply
because a lot of Marxism, as applied to democracies, is un-revolutionary.

> But if you will claim that "our revolution (???) was so different, so
> beautiful that you cannot understand as a person from a poor country",
> I quiet and begin to listen to your precious analysis of history.

I can assure you that your satire is fully appreciated. I hope someday that
you will understand that, in this instance, the satire was misplaced. I never
brought up the issue of 'the relation of the center countries with the colonies'.
The struggle for a shorter work week should be an INTERNATIONAL
struggle to have its best effect. Overwork is endemic to ALL countries, as we
madly dash to make the international bourgeoisie richer than their wildest dreams.

> To try to ignore the role of the exploitation of the
> periphery in the development and the maintenance of
> the democratic life in the core countries is simply to ignore
> the basic historical data and the basic principles of the leftist
> idea requiring the belief in the equality between peoples.

I hope you are not saying that I don't believe in the equality between
peoples. The basic principles of work sharing include 'perfect equality
AFTER work is completely abolished'. I say 'after', because I don't think
that it's possible to achieve perfect equality before, so I wouldn't try. We
have to remove the INDIVIDUAL human element from the productive
process before there will ever be perfect equality.

> But without dealing with the normative failure of such an idea,
> one should mention the net transfer of resources from periphery
> to the centre via the economics working on "the rights of intellectual
> property" preserved by GATT. China finances USA democracy
> through its cheap textile. Certainly, its exports are not as worthy as
> the USA brands: I mean, if you look at the trade in monetary terms,
> you will see a clear superiority of the centre countries against the
> periphery. But this way of looking at things is simply illusionary.
> Because the "goods" imported by the periphery are included now
> in the intellectual property. The material (physical) "inputs" for the
> democracies of the core are provided by the periphery. (This does
> not mean that centre does not produce anything: please, look at
> above to understand the importance of the exports of the periphery)

I'm sure that your analysis is very accurate. I won't argue, for I don't think
that it's relevant to the human need to share work equitably.

> I want to finish this by restating my idea about the denominator of this group:
> If there will be a denominator, this will be certain assumption about the epistem-
> ology and the ontology: the political theory cannot be a base for the leftist people,
> who believe in the fact that the thing that does not change is the change itself.

I don't understand the relevance of that. I'm afraid to have to admit
my lack of interest in that subject.

> In another short paper, I want to explain why the
> supporters of the democracy in these terms
make
> simply metaphysics
in the modernist regime of truth.

It might be more fruitful if you first make an effort to understand
the importance of democracy to M+E.

> p.s: communication has usually two sides. I am not a native
> speaker of english, though I try to establish communication with
> the people of other societies, but not necessarily native speakers
> of english. So, if similar problems of communication will continue,
> please inform me. A chronic communication problem will simply
> make me unsubscribe, because my efforts to understand the leftist
> movements of other cultures will become meaningless under these
> conditions. (and I expect the same effort I took to write to this
> group from the readers.)

Don't give up. If I don't understand what you are trying to say,
then I'll let you know, and maybe you will find someone to help
your words and ideas be less ambiguous.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

5-20-01

Hi, Michael,

> Hey Ken,
>
> If your not on there now i don't think they ever let you on. Did you
> say something bad when you signed up? I guess the moderator only
> looks for people he could recruit.

I didn't do much more than push the 'Join this group' button. Maybe my name
didn't match the master list of members, and they probably want to keep it a
member-only kind of forum. That's all right, for I have plenty of interesting
work to do in other forums.

> Anyways in your last email to Carl, u said that Marx said somewhere
> that he favored an alliance with the bourgoise at some point. Can you
> please show me the quote or a reference to it? This might have a big
> impact on Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution.
>
> sincerely,
> Michael

Happy to oblige, Michael.

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.

You could do the proletariat a great service by looking for corroborating
material in the works of M+E and Lenin, and then discussing what you learn
with your most trusted friends, and then building an internal OPPOSITION to
useless revolutionism within your parties. The history of the past 2 centuries
is not all that mysterious. I had to learn a lot of history in order to refute SLP
lies, because that's exactly how revolutionary parties 'get' their recruits - by
taking advantage of their ignorance, and filling their heads full of revolutionary
nonsense, removing the real content of past revolutionism, and substituting their
own 'proletarian' revolutionary nonsense that has no relation to any real process.
Marx lived in an age when democratization was a process, but that process is
practically over in Europe. In order for more people to adopt a new program
like work sharing, people should become more aware of how ruthlessly
commercial socialism has absolutely buried real history, and substituted
semi-plausible, watered-down, commercial shlock and garbage.

Do you want to make an impact on your own age? You won't do it by merely
peddling commercial schlock. You will have to pull yourself up by your own
bootstraps, educate yourself, and then teach others. There's no other way.
Good luck. Let me know what you think.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

5-20-01

Derek wrote:

> Ken-
>> The economy had evolved to place the class of slave owners at odds
>> with the class that merely owned non-human means of production.
>
> Derek-
> How so? I thought the South used slaves largely to produce cotton
> which the more libertarian North didn't. Where's the economic conflict?

You are a very thoughtful guy, Derek. What the devil was I
thinking about? Umhhh. I think my statement is WRONG,
because the slavocracy and their opponents were ALWAYS
at odds with one another on spiritual and moral grounds, so
it wasn't the economy that 'placed them there'. The two sides
merely tolerated one another as long as each was free to do what
they wanted, even if it meant the dubious freedom of some people
to own and enslave other people. The new republic more resembled
the Jeffersonian ideal of a vast sea of free peasant labor than at any
time afterwards. Tools of production slowly evolved, freeing peasants
to do other things, and to greatly expand the class of wage-laborers by
the time of the Civil War, thus augmenting resistance to the expansion
of slavery to the new territories and states of the West and Northwest.
Consequently, the political influence of slavery slowly eroded in the
Legislature. The Republican Party owed its genesis to the Kansas-
Nebraska conflict over slavery. Lincoln's Republican Party victory
in 1861 panicked the South, and they desperately attempted to
impose slavery on the whole country by force, realizing the
threat of John Calhoun in 1847: "the attempts of the South
to create new slave States by force were therefore justified
".
So, by raising new classes of wage-labor and industrial capital
to greater prominence, the economy put its stamp on the political
scene, causing the numbers of legislators in favor of slavery to
diminish, and threatening slavery so much that the South
desperately tried to preserve it by force.

Ken Ellis

 

5-27-01

Joan wrote:

> 1. Ken:
>> Off the top of my head, I might guess that the high tariffs were part of
>> the general political conflict over slavery, and could have been imposed
>> purposely to retaliate against the South's acts of aggression and hostility.
>
> Joan:
> It was actually to benefit northern business. The actions that benefited the
> manufacturing industries in the north (who wanted to sell domestically)
> were damaging to the agricultural society in the south (who wanted to
> sell abroad). It is a mere difference in economic interests.

That's at least half right. Tariffs were actually imposed on imports from
foreign countries, not on the South's exports. The US Gov't needed money
to run itself, and the North was politically strong enough to pass tariff bills,
which had the side effect of burdening mainly the South. I'm sure that the
North didn't mind making the South 'pay' for its slavery policy, so PUNITIVE
tariffs were purely political in execution. Before the 1820's, the South had
the choice of buying goods from either the North or from abroad, but the
new tariffs made it more expensive for the South to buy foreign goods.

> 2. Ken:
>> The South wasn't forced to fire its first shots on Fort Sumter, which was
>> done for purely political reasons, as the words of John Calhoun remind us:
>> - "the attempts of the South to create new slave States by force were therefore
>> justified
". What's so economic about 'the creation of new slave states?' That
>> happens to represent the clash of one policy vs. another - slavery vs. free labor.
>
> Joan:
> It was not physically forced to, but chose to because of the realization that their
> different society would always be impeded by policies designed to benefit northern cities.

The South was afraid that their slave property would be expropriated without
compensation. That's more like something worth fighting for.

> btw, lincoln refused to abandon the forts guarding the most important
> southern ports, which were necessary for export and import, and to be
> taken seriously as a nation. Even after declaring independence, they could
> not be considered independent abroad with another nation controlling their ports.

The Government couldn't give up its forts without also giving up its capacity to enforce tariffs.

> The creation of new slave states meant an extension of their economic system
> and an opportunity for farmers to migrate west, increasing the amount of land
> being cultivated and therefore the economy, and providing new land after much
> of the land they had been using had been destroyed by bad farming practices.

That was pretty much the practice.

> 3: Ken:
>
>> Then feel free to disagree with Marx as well, for he said that it was a war
>> 'to preserve and extend slavery'. As further proof of the political cause of the
>> War, look at its political consequences: 3 new Amendments to the Constitution:
>> #13, #14, and #15, all dealing wholly or partially with slavery and race relations.
>> If the War had occurred over economics, then some memorable economic
>> legislation should have resulted from the War. Perhaps you could bolster
>> your arguments by finding such memorable legislation.
>
> Joan: I feel free to disagree with anyone who I disagree with. Slavery
> is only part of an economic system that clashed with another. The
> amendments were enacted after secession.

They were enacted even later: The 13th at the end of the War in 1865, the 14th
in 1868, and the 15th in 1870.

Slavery may very well differ economically from classic capitalism, but slavery
also doesn't mix very well with classic capitalism's traditional democratic politics,
no more than feudalism was compatible with democracy. In my opinion, the South
could never have successfully imposed slavery on the whole country without also
imposing a dictatorship in place of democracy.

> The war did not occur over economic "issues" being argued with legislation.

I rather stated that the political issue (slavery) was fought with economics, as well
as with politics. If not for slavery, the two sides would not have let tariffs and other
issues become such big bones of contention. Matters escalated out of control, each
side upping the ante until the South threw the first stone.

> It [the War] came from the clash of two different economic systems and ways
> of life. The expansion of slavery was an issue, the tariff was an issue, the rural
> vs. urban and agricultural vs. industrial was an issue. And one could argue that
> most slaves were treated better than most industrial workers.

Maybe SOME slaves were treated better, but that doesn't reduce
the immorality of owning people.

> Though slavery was an important part of the economic
> system in the south, that issue alone did not cause the war.

Like I and a bunch of web sites always say, it's the one political issue,
without which, the country would have not have gone to war. One has to look
as well at other countries that have treated one set of inhabitants differently from
another: Israel's denial of Palestinian property rights, South Africa's denial of the
vote to black people, Milosevic's ethnic cleansing. Civil War is what a country
gets when it arbitrarily treats some of its inhabitants very differently.

> Do you really think that the north was made of entirely moral crusaders?

I wouldn't say or think anything like that. It was an irreconcilable conflict
between 2 forms of property ownership. Free labor and capital was on the rise
because increasing agricultural productivity enabled people to work in other
industries, so free labor was bound to become politically, economically and
socially dominant, while 'growth dynamics' disfavored slavery. The inevitable
decline and defeat of slavery had everything to do with creeping technological
progress. Slavery could have gone away peacefully, but they couldn't let the
old tradition go without a fight.

> As for changes after the war,
> by the time the war was over the south had industrialized in
> order to fight the war, and the plantations had been burned --
> they were forced to change, not by legislation, but by necessity.

They had to obey the new reconstruction legislation that was spawned
by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, so the South
really didn't have much of a choice EXCEPT to change.

>>> "The war for Southern independence" (as I learned it)
>>> might be more correct. But whatever you call it, the basis is an
>>> economic clash that goes
far beyond the moral issue of slavery. - J
>>
>> 4. Ken:
>> Like I say, the hostility of the South was the direct cause of the War.
>> That should be irrefutable, given what happened at Fort Sumter. You
>> should do the research: what economic factor caused the South to fire
>> the first shot? And what memorable legislation was passed in order to
>> prevent such 'economic causes' from embroiling us in a civil war again?
>
> Joan:
> Read what I wrote above. "The hostility of the South" is
no more the cause
> of the american civil war than "the hostility of the peasants" was the cause
> of the russian revolution.

I read and wept, but a country does not treat its inhabitants unequally
(as the result of a political decision to do so) without inviting civil war.
I wonder if or when the human race will learn that.

Ken Ellis

 

5-27-01

Joan wrote:

> Ken: Just out of curiosity, do you live in new england?

Yes, in the olde Whaling City. How did you guess? Is it by the way I say:
'You can't pahk yih cah in Hahvid Yahd'?

> Point #1: on the civil war
>
> 1. Ken:
>> Irreconcilable differences between 2 capitalist classes over an immoral
>> form of property ownership provided the conditions for a hot war. The
>> slavocracy struck the first blow in a desperate attempt to impose slavery
>> on the whole country. People do not go to war over mere economic factors,
>> because a country's economy implies nothing more exciting than mere civil
>> trading, buying and selling.
>
> Joan:
> When 2 economic and social systems are in direct conflict, only one can win out.

The conflict was political as well as 'economic and social', because the South
couldn't have imposed slavery over the whole country without imposing a non-
democratic dictatorship.

> 2.
>>> Remember that even with a technical end of serfdom in Europe,
>>> lords continued to exist. - J
>>
>> And, the relevance of that is - ??? - K
>
> Joan:
> Slavery ended, but many of the former slaves were on the same land as
> sharecroppers, while others moved to northern cities where they were paid
> sub-survival wages in factories...

I forgot - that was tendered in support of: which argument?

> 3.
>>> Just for the record,
>>> with the invention of the cotton gin, slavery was quite profitable
>>> and not likely to die out in the near future when the war began. - J
>>
>> Yes, profitability was also brought up in another forum, but it also failed
>> to be relevant to the subject: the cause of the Civil War. - K
>
> Joan:
> Because slavery was profitable, the slave-plantation system in the south was
> profitable, therefore perpetuating and strengthening an economic system that
> was in conflict with the system in the north.

I doubt if people would go to war over simple differences in trade. Suppose
some economic disparities existed between two provinces in Canada: Would
Nova Scotians go to war against Newfies? Not likely. History shows that it
takes a tremendous POLITICAL conflict to bring about a war, and that means
either territorial conquest, or a difference in a form of property ownership, or
one group of people denies another group the right to vote on some arbitrary
basis, or maybe one group wants to ethnically cleanse 'their country' of
another group. That's all very serious political stuff, leading to open conflict.
Look at Israel as an example of a country depriving Palestinians of citizenship
rights. What do they expect, except for conflict? Israel has no pressing rational
necessity for denying Palestinians their political rights, unless they want to create
a state based on ethnic identity, which will prove to have been a very big mistake
in another few decades. Palestinians and Jews got along quite well until 1948, when
the new republic decided to practice the politics of exclusion, and treat Palestinians
as less-than-deserving of equal rights. There's nothing economic about that kind of
conflict, but has everything to do with the bourgeois politics of exclusion.

> 5.
>>> Remember, too, that near the end of the war the Confederacy decided
>>> to have slaves fight -- in a large part giving up the institution. - J
>>
>> Since that is still being debated among scholars, I won't dispute it,
>> but it should have had some kind of bearing on 'cause'. - K
>
> Joan:
> If the primary cause of the war had been slavery, they would not have been
> willing to give up the institution of slavery for the sake of another, more
> important goal, which was political and economic independence.

If the South had been willing to give up slavery before the War, then the
differences big enough to cause the War would have dissipated, and the
War wouldn't have happened. It wouldn't have made sense for the South
to have cast the first stone at Fort Sumter if they had been so conciliatory,
or did they concede slavery sometime AFTER the War began, perhaps
after it was too late to do anything but fight it out to the finish?

> 6. Ken:
>
>> We know that the South wanted to secede from the Union and become
>> a separate nation so that it could enjoy its immoral form of property
>> ownership unimpeded by the North. The South had already enjoyed
>> many decades of tolerance and a laissez-faire attitude by the North. Now,
>> suppose that cooler heads had prevailed in the South, and supposing that
>> the South had not panicked over the Republican victory, and had not
>> initiated the War by firing on Fort Sumter. What do you think would
>> have happened? Slavery probably would have gone on to enjoy another
>> few years of existence. After that first shot, however, the die was cast,
>> hostilities escalated, and there was nothing left to do but fight it out to
>> a finish. At the end of the war, bye-bye to Southern independence.
>
> Joan:
> When the south seceded, it was not recognized by any other nation as an
> independent country. it could not be recognized as one with union soldiers
> occupying its most important ports with forts -- and sending ships to
> re-supply those forts with weapons. lincoln refused to abandon the forts,
> meaning that for the confederacy to be taken seriously as a country, they
> had no option but to forcibly remove them from the forts -- an event that
> kicked off war by giving the north something to rally against. lincoln was
> a pretty shrewd politician.

Those forts also played roles in the enforcement of collection of tariffs.
From the website:

http://www.civilwarhistory.com/slavetrade/causes.htm

'The nullifiers declared that any effort of the federal government to employ naval
or military force to coerce the State, close its ports, destroy or harass its commerce,
or ENFORCE THE TARIFF ACTS, would impel the people of South Carolina
to secede from the Union and organize a separate independent government.
'

> I also think you need to realize that however immoral slavery was
> viewed in the north, it was the foundation of the south's economic
> system, and defending slavery was defending that system and the
> way of life (the culture) that had used it for several generations.

Their defense was pretty offensive, as their assault on Fort Sumter showed.

> Point #2: on businesses and full-participation economy
>
> 1. Ken:
>> My gosh! Who said ANYTHING about 'an all-out attack on businesses'?
>> Wouldn't that be kind of radical or revolutionary? Haven't I distinguished
>> myself instead as a reformer?
>
> Joan:
> I think that attacking it all-out with legislation could be just as dangerous...

I wonder what would constitute 'an all-out attack with legislation'. In the
face of inevitable creeping unemployment, simply amending 'hours of labor'
laws could hardly be considered 'an all-out attack'. Of course, we could always
put together a DUMB response to unemployment and advocate revolution, or
try to redistribute wealth or income from the rich to the poor.

> 2. Ken:
>> It shouldn't hurt you or me. Honest. The ones whom it might hurt just a
>> little bit - financially speaking - can already afford to do without a few
>> percentage points of profits.
>
> Joan:
> Maybe. The problem is, if you keep looking to them over and over and over,
> sooner or later they
won't be able to afford it -- and when businesses start
> going under, it means major loss of jobs.

For a political remedy, one does not look to the bosses for money.
One looks to legislators to pass the requisite amendments. The amendments
are not designed to force businesses under. The legislation is not motivated by
class hatred, but is only designed to facilitate full participation in the economy. A
country with low unemployment is a happier country, while a lot of unemployment
spells UNhappiness. It isn't correct to think that, 'in order for a country to do well,
we must appease the short-term interests of the richest bosses'. To appease bosses
to the point of giving them everything they want would be tantamount to cutting our
own throats, which is as good a way to ruin a country as practicing class warfare.
Such a plan would be unworthy of this forum, which seems to be dedicated to
fighting back effectively against injustice and oppression. It IS plausible that
some radicals might want to practice class warfare with hours of labor legislation,
but, if the MAJORITY decides to restrict legislation to the simple humanitarian
chore of maximizing employment, then social justice will be facilitated quite nicely.

> 3. Ken:
>
>> Under the work sharing plan, businesses wouldn't be FORCED to 'pay
>> more
'. They wouldn't be forced to do much more than observe the hours
>> of labor rules, whether it's time and half after 35, double time after 35, or
>> whatever gets applied to all workplaces. What could be fairer and more
>> consistent than 'applying to everyone'?
>
> Is it fair to pay minimum wage to part-time employees instead of paying
> higher wages and benefits to full-time employees?

Are you too closely associating 'full-time' with 40 hours? When we someday
pass the 35 hour law, a 40 hour week would then include 5 hours of overtime.
Not too many people I know enjoy working overtime, especially when they get
over 40 years old.

Ken Ellis

 

5-27-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., raycun@n... wrote:
> (apologies for the delay, I've been off-list for a few weeks)
>
>>> Actually, revolution is arguably
much easier now than it was back then -
>>> mass literacy and mass communication means that ideas can be spread
>>> rapidly and it's much easier to organise simultaneous actions (look at all
>>> the events that happened worldwide on S26, N30, or A22). I'm not saying
>>> its easy now, of course, but it was hardly easy a century ago either.
>>
>> For a revolution to occur, does all it take is for the right idea to come along?
>
> Ideas, confidence, a bit of luck...

Do people revolt simply out of a spirit of pure adventure? Or, does
revolt require more substantive issues? Name one or more.

>> The historical purpose of revolution over the past few centuries was
>> to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before.
>
> That's
your own particular definition of 'revolution', which very few people would accept.

Besides bringing independence and democracy to where it didn't exist before,
name another purpose of revolution.

> Some would argue it's about property, others would argue its about a
> particular class seizing the state.
...Anyway, it makes little sense to argue
> that
there can't be a revolution in America, because (a) you think America is
> a democracy and (b) you don't think there can be a revolution in a democracy.

As to (a), the question is not whether *I* think America is a democracy, the
question is whether THE MAN ON THE STREET thinks that our system is so
undemocratic or unjust that they would be willing to replace it with something
new. If they are, then many more millions of people, at least in 2001, would be
willing to fight and die to DEFEND it than would be willing to bring it down,
no matter what adjectives some activists might use to describe our system.

As to (b), there is no historical precedent for a revolution in a democracy.
Why would anyone want to do that? To replace one democracy with another?
As long as people can vote for issues and for people, they will support what
they have. Even Marx in the Gotha Programme said that the final battle between
worker and boss would be fought in a democracy
, so we should learn to use
what we have instead of yearning for some kind of revolutionary quick fix.

>> Once a democracy is in place, people do not overthrow their democracies
>> for the dubious pleasure of putting property in the hands of people who
>> won't be able to decide whether to replace the state with a communist
>> workers' state, or with an anarchist classless and stateless administration
>> of things, as the failure of Europe to revolt wholeheartedly in favor of
>> the Russian revolution demonstrated around 1917.
>
> Of course, substantial numbers of people attempted revolutions, in the
> immediate aftermath of 1917, so they obviously don't agree.

Certainly they had revolutions in Slovakia and Germany after 1917, but
they weren't long-lasting revolutions, so they couldn't support the Russian
revolution very well. If European revolutions did not trigger the Russian
revolution, Marx's other scenario called for the Russian Revolution to trigger
numerous, long-lasting revolutions in Europe, which would have inaugurated
the communist millennia. They theoretically all should have been successful
and numerous enough to both divorce the rich from their property, and prevent
counter-revolution. Obviously, the 1917 revolution wasn't simultaneous in the
most developed countries, indicating insufficient interest among Europeans for
communism. Now that practically all of Europe is democratic, communists have
no more hope of overthrowing enough European monarchies to further develop
them into the universal proletarian dictatorship that would have been extensive
enough to make the red revolution permanent.

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'. Not too many people
like to admit that what they believe in is stupid, so I have a bit of a task ahead
of me. A prerequisite to progress in dialogue is for people to admit, when they
are wrong, THAT they are wrong. But, revolutionaries think they know everything.

> (And in an anarchist revolution, people don't 'put property into
> the hands' into a bunch of rulers who then decide what to do.
> They take control themselves.)

Of all the revolutions that have happened, I can't think of a single anarchist
revolution that lasted.

>>> Trying to enact reforms is equally a confrontation with power
>>> and property, just one with no long-term perspective.
>>
>> In our democracies, reform is the only tool we will ever have.
>
> Says you, because _your_ definitions of democracy and revolution imply that
> revolution is impossible. While I certainly can't prove that there _will_ be
> a revolution, are you foolish enough to try to prove there will never be one?

No, I won't, but it's just that history shows that revolutions in democracies are
unprecedented. People reform their democracies just quickly enough to prevent
political, economic and social chaos. People fight violently over things like
territorial conquest, slavery, property, arbitrary abrogation of citizenship rights,
etc., none of which goes on in the USA sufficiently intensely to get us up in arms.

>> Reform will be good enough to get us to classless and stateless society,
>> but in one way only: by driving down the length of the work week to its
>> logical conclusion (zero) as made possible by advances in technology, and
>> as ever smarter machinery replaces more and more human labor, and we learn
>> to share in the meantime what little work that remains for humans to do.
>
> I know what kind of reform you want to see, my point was that such a reform
is
> impossible
. Every time you reduce the length of the working week (and maintain
> the level of wages) you reduce the profits of capitalists. One
might as well argue
> for a progressive raising of income tax until eventually it reached 100% - its not
> going to happen.

I would never advocate a reform dealing directly with money, wealth, or
property, for an infinite number of such plans could be proposed, and
activists would fight over them forever. My reforms center on labor time.
The difference is fundamental, like that between vectors and scalars.

If anyone thinks that a reform dealing with labor time is impossible, they
should be aware that we already have a law setting time and a half after 40,
as a result of the Depression. France led the way with its 40 hour law in
1936, and they now have a 35 hour week. If such a reform is possible in
France, then it should also be possible here. Plus, before we got our 40 hour
law, we were very close to getting a 30 hour law in 1933 (the Black-Connery
Bill actually passed the Senate), but FDR bought off organized labor with the
Wagner Act and other goodies.

>>> Everything we can do to improve our situation means facing off against
>>> those who'd prefer to keep the situation just as it is.
>>
>> One of the big misconceptions floating around among activists is that the big
>> choice is between revolution and stasis, but, if one merely looks around, one can
>> see changes coming down the pike. The French led the way with their 35 hour week.
>
> And that's not being applied uniformly, it depends on the strength of
> workers. Some work longer weeks, some work short weeks for less pay.

True that it's still being phased in, but other European countries are considering
the 35 hour week as well. It's not an overnight process. We COULD advocate it
all over the world, thus making a show of internationalism. Or, we could side with
the bourgeoisie and not advocate it. We could also betray the interests of the
working class by siding with revolutionaries, and hope that worsening conditions
(resulting from our own inaction and lack of leadership on feasible issues) will
drive workers into the waiting arms of revolutionaries, who can AFFORD to
waste our time with stupid nonsense, like 'revolution in democracies'.

>> It's up to the rest of us to follow [France], and to be militant with that demand.
>> Nearly 200 years of fighting for shorter work hours should teach us something
>> about the way to go in the most advanced democracies, whereas revolution was
>> more fitted for replacing the intransigent monarchies of olde with democracies.
>> People don't smash democracies for the sake of replacing them with new democracies.
>
> 'Democracy' isn't an all-or-nothing thing - the US is more democratic than China,
> but not absolutely democratic. it may be more egalitarian than Brazil, but its not
> absolutely egalitarian. You may describe the US as simply '
a democracy', but
> others offer more subtle definitions. And you can't argue that '
people don't
> do X' when its quite clear that they do - not a majority at the moment,
> perhaps never a majority, but 'people' nonetheless.

The man on the street is nowhere near ready to overthrow the American
government, so people should learn to exclude revolution from their list of
worthwhile causes. It doesn't even matter whether we are democratic or not.
The question is - if it's so unjust that people are willing to risk their own
lives to get rid of it. Revolution WAS on the agenda in France in 1871,
and in Russia in 1905 and 1917, so those were times and countries
when and where revolution was the thing to do.

>> Revolution is a big waste of time and effort, and mainly serves to discredit
>> impatient activists who fail time and again to take the long view of things.
>
> So you think. One could equally argue that arguing for a zero-hour work week
> serves only to discredit you - after all, I'm sure you haven't convinced everyone
> you've argued with, and some people think that your idea is flawed.

If you are willing to present a substantive case against a shorter work week,
or a case against getting to socialism by driving down the length of the work
week, then we should talk about it. Unlike revolutionaries who can't stand to
hear about problems with their 'revolution in democracies', I'm always willing
to carefully listen to theories about potential flaws in my labor time theories.

>>> If my working week was reduced, but my pay stayed the same, my boss's
>>> profits would go down, so that's something that can only be won by confrontation.
>>
>> That's very true. The battle for shorter working hours has traditionally
>> been fought on 2 fronts: in the work place, and politically. Workplace
>> struggles won a little social justice in a few workplaces, but the important
>> thing is to win it on a national scale, and to make that gain general for the
>> whole working class. Just the way time and a half after 40 was a reform
>> enacted in law some 60 years ago, double time after 35 would be a very
>> important amendment to that law. It's the best thing we could do for
>> ourselves. In another forum, we compiled a list of 15 benefits of a
>> reduced work week: <snip>
>
> Yeah, Kenneth, I'm not arguing against the idea of a shorter working week.
> As far as it goes, its a good idea. But it just doesn't replace all other political
> activism, and it
doesn't short-circuit the fundamental contradiction between
> the desires of the rich and the desires of the poor.

I see that 'fundamental contradiction' as: 'Bosses want as few of us as
possible to work for as many hours as possible, whereas it is in our economic,
social, and political interests for as many of us as possible to work for as few
hours as possible.' People in other forums have openly agreed with that state-
ment, while detractors, if any, remain mute. If we can't have full participation
in the economy, then we can't have social justice. Do you see the 'fundamental
contradiction' much differently?

> Its not as if you could just sneak that law through, and capitalists
> wouldn't notice that it's reducing their profit margins.

There was nothing 'sneaky' going on when the AFL supported the Black-Connery
30 hour Bill of 1933, which passed the Senate, and looked like a shoe-in for the
House. The Bill failed when FDR and Co. pressured labor to support the Wagner
Act and other goodies in its stead. What ever inspired you to use the word 'sneak'?

> Its a zero-sum game - if we gain, they lose -

If unemployment ever gets bad enough that the bosses are confronted with
another shorter work week bill, their short term interests will command them
to oppose it, while their long-term class interests will cause them to support
it. A country which is suffering from really awful unemployment doesn't have
enough money in its pockets to support businesses any better than it supports
the poor, so the bosses' LONG-TERM interests are also BEST SERVED with
full participation in the economy.

> so you have to be prepared to work for your gains, and realise that there is
> a real limit to how far you can advance in a society where a small minority
> have most of the political and economic power.
>
> Ray

Does that mean that you would advocate doing something direct about their political
and economic power? Let me know exactly what, and we can discuss that as well.

Ken Ellis

 

5-28-01

Hi, Michael,

> hey Ken,
>
> I want to make sure I'm on the same level with you about the history u
> explained in the previous message.
>
> "
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."
>
> Is this what Marx said workers ought to do?

That's what Marx observed workers actually DOING in the revolutionary
struggles of 1848-9, and Marx regarded 'what workers actually do' as a good
thing. When the Communards of the National Guard of 1871 seized a few cannon
and became an executive committee of the new republic, that also was applauded.

> By weapons do you mean parties ?

No, I mean actual guns and other arms that the workers had used
to dethrone the absolute monarchs.

>> That was the main distinction between the bourgeois republic and the proletarian republic.
>
> Did Marx actually use the term "proletarian republic" to distinguish a
> place with universal suffrage from a property voting place? I have not
> read the minutes of the First International since they are not on the net.

The terminology for what the First International was fighting was 'the social
and democratic republic
'. Hence the name - Social-Democrat. Lenin was a
Social-Democrat before the RSDLP became the CP.

>> the new republics were bound to become SOCIALLY controlled,
>
> By socially you mean nationalized property ?

No, social control by universal suffrage in democracies. The social control, which
the workers wanted BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, was the kind of control
which can only come about via universal suffrage, or full political participation in the
affairs of state. Social-Democrats FOR SURE wanted everyone to have the vote, but
the further geographically West one goes, the iffyier and weaker their communism
became, because the West was where private property developed. As far as nationalizing
property goes, Marx said conflicting things about the communist aspirations of the
masses. In the final text of his Civil War in France, he says that the people were fighting
for 'communism, impossible communism', whereas in his First Draft of that work, he
mentioned Communards wanting to compensate factory owners for the factories that
were taken over during the Commune, which wasn't very communist of them. The
essence of Leninist communism is - expropriation WITHOUT compensation. The
closer one gets to Europe and America, geographically, the iffier expropriation becomes,
because Western Europe was where private property sentiments were historically
strongest. In a letter to Lafargue, Engels noted that the institution of private property
barely extended south or east of the Mediterranean
.

> Did Marx actually say that they were bound to
> become socially controlled? Please provide references.

OK. Keep in mind that these are minutes of meetings, and not a polished
statement. In volume 4 of the 5 volumes, page 129, Marx speaking: "The mo-
ment the Republic was proclaimed everybody in France became enthusiastically
republican. Had the Republic been recognized then [by England] it would have
had a chance to succeed. But when no recognition came they turned back. The
propertied class had an interest rather to see Prussia victorious rather than the
Republic. They are well aware that sooner or later the Republic must have
become socialistic and therefore they intrigued against it, and these
intrigues have done more for Prussia than Moltke and his generals.
"

pp. 130-1, Marx speaking: "The third point that has come out is that middle-
class republics have become impossible in Europe. A middle-class government
dare not interfere so far as to take the proper revolutionary measures for defense.
It is only a political form to develop the power of the working class. The last
elections in France and the proceedings of the middle class in Germany prove
that they rather have a military despotism than a republic. In England there is the
same fear. Republicanism and middle-class government can no longer go together.
"

p. 164: "Citizen Marx announced that the Prussian government had dropped all
other charges against our friends in Germany except that of belonging to the
International. 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.
"

p. 165: "Citizen Engels said the question was not whether we support a
republican government but whether under present circumstances it would drive
into our path. There were men like Peter Taylor and others who were simply for
the republic but it must be considered that the abolition of monarchy would involve
the abolition of the State Church, the House of Lords and many other things. No
republican movement could go on here without expanding into a working-class
movement and if such a movement was to take place it would be as well to know
how it went on. Before our ideas could be carried into practice we must have the
republic. We must watch it and it was right for our members to take part in it and
try to shape it. If it turned into a middle-class affair it would become a clique.
...
Citizen Engels said there was as much oppression in America as here, but the
republic gave a fair field for the working classes to agitate. In the densely
populated states the labour movement was organized but the extent of
unoccupied land prevented it from getting stronger than it was.
"

p. 165: "Citizen Marx was convinced that no republican movement could become
serious without becoming social. The wirepullers of the present move
[ment] of
course intended no such thing.
"

Try to memorize: "The International wanted to establish the Social and
Democratic Republic
...", because that's what Marx and the International
REALLY WANTED back then. It was the right program for THEIR time,
but people today have achieved their Social-Democracies, so we have to learn
to stop fighting for the old Social-Democratic agenda, and instead learn to
address today's problems. It's silly for us to live in the past, and pray that a
whole bunch of monarchies could be rotten ripe enough for us to overthrow
them, so that we could create Social-Democracies on their ashes, use our
political dominance to expropriate the rich, and do all that in enough
countries to guarantee success, and also prevent counter-revolution.

> Then you go on to say that Marx believed workers would
> outvote the capitalists since they are stronger in numbers in
> their parties. Assuming Marx said that, he would have to be
> wrong because the majority of workers don't vote. Only a
> small percentage of them actually vote, most won't go into
> politics until something really effects them.

If you go to a graph at http://www.umich.edu/~nes/nesguide/graphs/g6a_2_2.htm
you will see that voter turnout shows only a very slight decline since 1948. Voter
turnout in the graph fell between 45 and 83%. Another web site asserted that voter
turnout percentages have been quite consistent since the founding of the USA, over
200 years ago. So, if you say that the majority of workers don't vote, it sounds
plausible, but I wouldn't bet my life on it, nor would I use it as an argument for
revolution, nor against democracy. Revolutionaries would need a plan for something
to do on the day after the revolution. What would they do, besides create another
democracy? Democracy is the way the world increasingly tends. The number of
democracies in Marx's day could be counted on the FINGERS OF ONE HAND.
Today, there has to be around a hundred. Soon, EVERY country will be a
democracy, putting us more in the mood for world government. There's no way in
which a democracy-smashing revolutionary can circumvent this popular trend, so it
is far better for them to learn a few facts that will help distance themselves from the
rantings of sects and groups that want little more than to take advantage of people's
ignorance, and rally hatred. The average American who is sick of hatred will not buy
it, so it is better for us to rally love for our fellow humans by working for the politics
of inclusion and full participation.

> How exactly did the term "social democrat" come into existence?

Social-Democrats wanted to replace old rotten, useless feudal monarchies with
democracies, and they wanted the new democracies to be socially controlled
through universal suffrage. When the USA was born, only people who owned
property could vote. The ballot was restricted to property owners. That's why
we were known as a 'bourgeois democracy'. Social Democrats, on the other
hand, wanted all adults to vote. That is why the USA today is also a Social
Democracy in a sense, though we apply that label more to Europe. But, since
the New Deal proliferation of government agencies, we have become nearly
as much of a 'Social-Democracy' as any European country. It's not new: I've
occasionally heard other people apply the Social-Democracy label to the USA.

> Also who would you say is the bad guy in the Second International split
> between the now reformist Bernstein and the orthodox Marxist Karl Kautsky ?

Marx and Engels were friends with both of them, and I've seen a photograph of
M, E, B, K, and some family members relaxing at an outdoor picnic table. The
split in the Second Int'l reflected the split between Marxist revolutionaries and
reformers. Reform was correct for the democratic half of Europe by the time
of the Second Int'l, while Marxist-Leninists adamantly pursued revolution in
the less democratic countries. So, there were no good or bad guys, just dumb
guys, and dumber. Maybe someone could have figured out that Marxist
revolutions were not really all that appropriate to Europe, but, if they did,
they were too few to be of any influence.

After Europe failed to support the Russian revolution with long-lasting revolutions
of its own, Russia was fated to go it alone, and all other succeeding communist
revolutions have gone it alone, one at a time, instead of simultaneously in the most
developed countries. History itself superannuated Marxism, which depended 100%
upon simultaneous revolutions in the most developed countries, and the only way to
get people to revolt was by overthrowing monarchies. In that respect, Marxist
revolutionism is opportunistic, for it relies on bourgeois revolutionism to set the stage
for Marxists, who would then take advantage of revolutions in order to expropriate the
rich. People do not revolt over mere economic exploitation. There has first got to be
a POLITICAL reason to revolt. Political reasons for civil war include: a fight over
different forms of property ownership (such as slavery vs. non-slavery), denying
people the vote (as in Palestine and South Africa), ethnic cleansing (Yugoslavia), etc.
A revolutionary in the USA is a crusader without an audience. No one will revolt
over our measly economic problems, and we have no major political problems.

>> 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
'
>
> Are u sure Lenin was referring to the creation of universal suffrage
> in bourgeois republics? Where does this quote come from ?

Universal suffrage would have converted new republics from merely bourgeois
into Social-Democracies. Lenin also took Marxism to the nth degree and always
stressed the expropriation of the rich after the proletariat took power in their new
republics, while Marx in his First International was barely able to express any
more than a sanitized version which emphasized the universal suffrage aspect
of the proletarian, social republic. M+E in the First Int'l were surrounded by all
sorts of reformers and anarchists, with whom they were constantly squabbling.
(The splits back then are still reflected in the splits of today.) Reformers resigned,
anarchists were expelled, etc. Universal suffrage in new democracies was about the
only thing they could all agree upon, and barely that sometimes. Expropriation of
the bourgeoisie after proletarian victory was NEVER mentioned (that I can see) in
the Documents of the First International. VERY FEW in Western Europe were
interested in communism, or in expropriation without compensation, a program
which could only be followed through after activists overthrew feudal monarchies
in backward countries, such as Russia and China, or after liberating colonies, as
in Cuba. Expropriation was never feasible after socialists and communists won
mere elections in Western European Social-Democracies, such as in France and
Italy, because winning mere elections never confers the kind of FULL STATE
POWER required to expropriate the rich without compensation. Therefore,
reforms are perfectly fitted for democracies, while expropriation without
compensation was only possible after communists overthrew monarchies
or colonies, and those days are nearly gone forever.

> You bash Marxist parties for using the term "smash the state"
> but
it says so in the Communist Manifesto.

You are right, of course, but what kind of state? M+E never directly advocated
smashing democracies, but they were adamant about smashing useless feudal
monarchies. Use value is the big difference. Absolute monarchies are totally
useless to workers, but democracies are very useful, especially the democracies
with universal suffrage. According to M in the Gotha Programme, democracy is
the form of state in which the final battle between worker and boss will be fought
to the finish
. As long as we have a democracy in the USA, we might as well get
accustomed to using it, because nothing else is available.

2002 answer: What the devil was I thinking about? Nowhere in the works
of M+E can the phrase 'smash the state' be found. The closest was in volume
24, where Engels used: "smash the Russian state" in a critique of "Refugee
Literature
", but not as an instruction for us to go out and do.

> You could quote Marx saying something like 'the democratic
> republic is the only form of state in which the battle between
> worker and boss can be fought to a finish
'

That one is easy, because it is in Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme.
Engels repeated the same thing in a letter in one of the popular compendiums
of M+E correspondence. I've also seen it in a 3rd place. M+E wrote a LOT
about republics, and the differences between bourgeois and proletarian.
You should curl up with a book of M+E correspondence, and read
a few pages every night before falling asleep.

> or 'Workers in England have a good-enough democracy to get
> what they want
'. (where do these quotes come from ?)

That one is more difficult, for it is in the rare 3 volume set of Engels-
Lafargue Correspondence, which volume I'm not sure, but I read it in the
Niebyl-Proctor Marxist library in Berkeley. I may have copied the page it was
on, I'm not sure. Laziness is my only excuse for not digging it up for you. The
good news this past Friday is that a CD of the 50 volumes of Collected Works
of M+E is now available, and I plan to buy it on Tuesday, so I might receive it
in a week or two.

> Somewhere else he would say smash the state
> or "
abolish the wage system". I'm looking forward
> to your rebuttal of Carl Miller's quotes.

I won't bother rebutting Miller's quotes because Marx said everything Carl
quoted, but Carl played a bit of a trick on me by not addressing the original
issue: Instead of him demonstrating how my use of Marx had better proved HIS
points, he merely introduced a whole new batch of quotes. We don't have to be
told ad infinitum that Marx advocated expropriation and revolution, for we already
know that. But, expropriation and revolution have been proven in history not to
apply to Western Hemisphere democracies - places where the proletariat has been
practicing work sharing methods of arriving at a modicum of social justice and full
participation for nearly two centuries. Workers have no reason to overthrow their
democracies, and no reason to take away the property of the rich, for taking away
the property of the rich would have no direct effect upon unemployment, while a
shorter work week most certainly would.

> How exactly do you want people to start oppositions in their own parties?
> Please tell me.

By learning about and discussing the obsolete nature of revolution and
expropriation in today's world. After becoming sure of that subject, activists
could criticize their revolutionary party programs, and then they could push
for dropping the revolutionary and expropriation aspects of their programs
in favor of work-sharing measures.

> What do u think about this excellent article about the greek working
> class and revolution ?
> http://www.marxist.com/Europe/greek_general_strike_501.html
>
> Here is an article that u might be interested in about why most parties
> are undemocratic. It has something to do with the way the Comintern was
> organized and how they made a fetish of organizational principles.
> http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/comintern_and_germany.htm
>
> Sincerely,
> Michael

Aarrghhh. Every time I wanted to try those web sites, I was off line;
and every time I was on line, I forgot to go there. Sorry about that.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

5-29-01

Carl wrote:

> Ken,
>
> Once again you have made statements that
> I simply cannot ignore no matter how hard I try.

Consider it a good exercise for all of us.

> You seem to know exactly what to say that will draw me once
> again into an endless so-called debate that goes nowhere. You
> speak of hatred not getting us anywhere but yet you continue
> to demonstrate your
hatred for the SLP.

It's my respect for the innate intelligence of its members that compels me
to try to get them to think more carefully about what they stand for. So far,
though, I wonder if they are just content to let merely 3 of us 'slug it out'.
Maybe no other members are interested, and maybe they don't even read
what we have to say. Maybe we will never know.

> Let it go Ken, you are no longer a member, you were a member at a time
> when the party indeed isolated itself from the mainstream but this is
no
> longer the case
. We are involved in any and every movement that advances
> the cause of the working class, even if that movement is blatantly reformist. I
> don't know how many times I have to repeat this statement. You don't seem to
> want to accept this fact. Once again I will respond to your rantings, although I
> would probably be better off just letting this one go. I once again go back on my
> word because you have not only
insulted the organization I belong to but you
> have insulted
me personally also. You charge me with not being able to think
> for myself. That is very
un-generous of you. I shall be un-generous in return.

Here is why I continue to do what I do. In his February 4, 1889, letter to
Laura Lafargue, Engels wrote: . . . "When Paul gets to work at a paper again,
he will brace himself up for the fight and no longer say despondently: il n'y a
pas à aller contre le courant
[There's no going against the current]. Nobody asks
of him to stop the current, but if we are not to go against the popular current of
momentary tomfoolery, what in the name of the devil is our business?
"

snip old dialogue
>
> ---------------------------------- Again, I realize full well that Marx
> advocated reforms. But to sit there and say that
reforms were the
> focus of his work
is absolutely ridiculous and ignores what the
> real focus was - a proletarian revolution and the establishment of
> socialism. Evidence for what I say can also be found in his writings,
> unless you choose to ignore the greater portion of what he wrote
> which would be about
par for this discussion, if it can be called that.

Re reform vs. revolution, Marx had a reputation as a revolutionary. Re
the 'focus of his work', that could be discussed, for one could easily be
impressed by the sheer volume of his work analyzing capitalism. One can
also find a prodigious amount of work analyzing past revolutions and politics.
When it came to giving us a real BLUEPRINT to follow, his revolutionary
writings were inadequate (and even wrong, when it came to 'simultaneous
revolutions in the most developed countries
'). No single work tells activists
exactly what to do, and sectarians are free to misinterpret his Critique of the
Gotha Program, Communist Manifesto, Civil War in France, 18th Brumaire, Value,
Price and Profit
, etc. So, one could look at the actual record of his revolutionary
writings, and easily conclude that revolution was not the main focus of his work.

>>> Usually these quotes prove my position but he interprets them otherwise.
>>
>> Carl should have given an example of a quote from Marx that supports Carl's
>> position, instead of mine.
>
> ----------------------------------------- Okay, you asked for it:
> "
Instead of the conservative motto,'A fair day's wages for a fair
> day's work', they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary
> watchword, 'Abolition of the wage system!
"-Value Price and Profit
>
> "
The existence of the state is inseparable from the existence
> of slavery.
"-The King of Prussia and Social Reform
>
> "
Do not be deluded by the abstract word Freedom. Whose Freedom? Not
> the freedom of one individual in relation to another, but freedom of Capital
> to crush the worker.
"-Free Trade
>
> "T
he worker does not necessarily gain when the capitalist gains, but he
> necessarily loses with him.
"-Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
>
> "
THE WORKING CLASS IS REVOLUTIONARY OR IT IS NOTHING."-
> Letter to Johann Baptist von Schweitzer
>
> "
But those revolutions will be made by the majority. No revolution can be
> made by a party but by a nation.
"-Chicago Tribune Interview with Karl Marx
>
> "
In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression
> of one class by another, and indeed in the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
> no less than in the monarchy
..."-The Civil War in France
>
> "
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the
> point, however, IS TO CHANGE IT.
"-Theses on Feuerbach
>
> I could go on and on and on.

Very good! But, there's only one big problem. Instead of you demonstrating how
my use of Marx had better proved YOUR point, you merely introduced a whole
new batch of quotes. Both you and I know that Marx said the things you quoted,
but the litany was irrelevant to the original complaint - that MY USE of Marx
better proved YOUR points instead of mine.

>>> He accuses De Leon of being an anarchist.
>>
>> The SIU program is little more than an anarcho-syndicalist replacement
>> of the state with a classless and stateless administration of things, with the
>> additional political element of the abolition of the state at the ballot box.
>> Communist or anarchist, the SIU is unfit for American or democratic
>> conditions. In a country overwhelmingly believed to be democratic, reform
>> is the ONLY thing that can be on a party's agenda. Monarchy or republic,
>> it is standard practice for a real workers' party to exhaust all legal means
>> to social justice before advocating revolution.
>
> -------------------------------------- I think I just copied several quotes
> from Marx who was clearly in favor of eliminating the state and I don't
> think there can be any argument that he was in favor of a classless society.

Does that then mean that we are supposed to forget about the proletarian
dictatorship as the transition to classless and stateless society? Are we sup-
posed to ignore the fact that Marx's program was inspired by real European
political events, while the SIU wasn't? Do we ignore workers' unity with
capitalists to overthrow absolute monarchies, and to retain their arms so as
to force universal suffrage on the new republics, so as to make the revolution
permanent, and enable the dominance of proletarian policy in the new states?
Are we to forget that this scenario, if carried out simultaneously in enough
countries of Europe would have given workers the power to expropriate the
expropriators, and the unity with which to avoid counter-revolution? There
can be little doubt that Marx, like you and I, was in favor of a classless and
stateless society, but none of us should forget all about his TRANSITION
to classless and stateless society. That particular program, of course, is
obsolete, not because of new economic conditions, but rather because
the political conditions of 1848-71 no longer exist. We no longer live
in a world dominated by rotten monarchies, and in which the number
of democracies could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

> Yet you still grasp at straws and label our program anarcho-syndicalist.
>
Ridiculous, to say the least.

When a group of us new members asked a long-time SLP member 'from which
socialist tradition does our program derive?', he said 'a lot of people would say
that our program is closer to anarcho-syndicalism than anything else.
' He didn't
find it necessary to contradict or deny that bit of scuttlebutt popular among
activists. Isn't it obvious that replacing the state with a classless and stateless
administration of things reflects more Bakuninism than Marxism?

> Let's see, the anarcho-syndicalists kicked the SLP out of the
> IWW, so yeah, there's a lot of common ground there.

A split between similar tendencies doesn't mean that their final goals cannot
be practically identical.

> The SIU is only unfit for Ellisism because
> it
puts an end to it's founder's dreams of glory
> and much desired recognition and acclaim.

Even if I didn't have a vain bone in my body, the SIU would still be unfit.
But, I am vain. I like recognition, and maybe someday I will get some.
'Nothing human is foreign to me', said Marx. But, even greater than my
vanity is my desire to create a world in which new generations will not
have to suffer needlessly.

> Sorry Ken. Overwhelmingly believed to be democratic?
> By who? Oh yeah, by shut ins and inmates of psychiatric wards.

Not many people I know are willing to replace 'what we have' with something else.

> Where have you been the last 40+ years by the way?

Working for a living, for the most part.

> This system has been reformed to death, we've had
> the new deal, the war on poverty, welfare, workfare
> etc etc ad nauseum and what have we gained?

I have no interest in reforming merely to maintain the status quo. A 35 hour
work week would be a real advance in freedom for workers: Just think - 5 hours
less wage-slavery per week. That's not 'status quo'. If we keep reducing hours of
human labor as the robots increase THEIR hours of labor, then we eventually
arrive at total freedom for all humans, peacefully and legally. The key to progress
is for us to tune into social dynamics, and use the dynamics to the advantage of
the working class. Ownership and wage-slavery are static institutions, but human
labor is being replaced with robots. The more we are replaced, the less we should
work. A working class program should address that interest.

> In fact most of those mentioned above are gone or in the process
> of being gone so what does this tell us about reforms? They are
> subject to the whims of our democratic republic, here today and
> gone tomorrow. Reforms
only prolong and prop up the system
> being reformed. Battles must be fought over and over again.

Petty-bourgeois, status-quo reforms don't get to the heart of what needs to
be done. They deal with doles and dollars, instead of dealing with hours of
labor. The difference is fundamental, like that between vectors and scalars.
Not all reforms are born equal.

> A 30 hour work week granted by a Democratic administration can be
> wiped away by a Republican one with the stroke of a pen or vice versa.
> Of course I realize that it is somewhat more complicated than this but it
> demonstrates my point. No, I think I will put my energy into a permanent
> solution, a socialist revolution.

The point about shakiness is well taken. Republicans recently made a similar
assault on 'time and half after 40' a few years back, hoping to replace it with 'time
and a half after 160 hours every 4 weeks'. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

>>> He makes the SLP into a social club. He insults our organization
>>> and thus the entire membership of that organization.
>>
>> I criticize the program the Party stands for, but I don't insult the members.
>> I was a member once.
>
> ------------------------- Can't criticize one
without dumping on the other.

That's not true. There's a big difference between principled criticism and
simply dumping on personalities. Few would claim that my arguments are
not principled, or that I am not interested in advancing the working class.

> You were a member once until you were expelled.

I initiated the divorce by quitting both the N.O. and my membership at the same
time. If I recall the standard procedure, my Section would have been formally
expelled me in absentia some time after my departure. If I had gotten a letter
informing me of such a decision, I probably would have saved it, but I didn't
run across anything like it in the archives I referred to while writing my book.

> You see folks, Ken has a serious problem with any
> organization whether it be the SLP or the Kiwanis club.

This is a curious turn in the discussion.

> He finds the slightest adherence to principles as bordering on "thought crime"
> and a
hindrance to Ken Ellis and promotion of his own personal agenda.

Very interesting and amusing.

> He also feels that those who join the SLP are incapable of independent
> thought, who cares how they came to find the SLP in the first place,
> who cares why they joined or what their thought process was,
> once members
they are zombies toeing the party line.

I was there. I barely knew socialism from Adam when I joined. I found so much
truth and interesting material that I never suspected that the program was based
upon invalid theories. I swallowed everything - hook, line and sinker, until 1976.

> He doesn't stop to think for himself that the
> "party line" is formulated
by the membership itself.

The basic program was determined a century ago. That members have changed
some aspects since then is to their credit, and a good sign that change is possible.

> Of course he'll deny all of this. But, he also doesn't stop to think that he has
> been allowed to speak his mind in a forum produced by an SLP member.
> I have threatened to ban him but I haven't done it yet, so I let him ramble
> on and continue whining about the SLP.

A little freedom of speech doesn't make everything else perfect, especially
when that freedom is under potential threat. What with our modern miracles
of communication, the bad old days of people arbitrarily being denied their
say will hopefully soon become as archaic as a horse-drawn buggy.

snip 'lonely revolution' as unproductive

>> If members are so afraid of what other members would think if they
>> questioned their 'revolution in democracies', that would be a symptom
>> of having given up their rights to think for themselves in exchange for a
>> membership card. I was there. Members did not dare to think for themselves,
>> for they saw what happened in the past, such as the expulsion of Section Palo
>> Alto for having the audacity to protest against American involvement in the
>> Vietnam War. In today's world, people live in fear, even members of
>> revolutionary organizations.
>
> ------------------------------------- Here we go again, SLP members
can't think
> for themselves, they're
zombies and brainwashed.

One problem among every activist group I've every run across is that members
are penalized for thinking for themselves. In the bound volumes of NEC reports,
Petersen heaped abuse on his opponents. Such treatments didn't accomplish the
revolution in the past century, and won't accomplish the revolution in the present
century. People will have to stop punishing others for speaking their minds if we
are to unite to create a better world. We should be free to figure out why
revolutionism is not growing, free to theorize, and free to ask if there is a better way.
Old ideologies should be as subject to recall as any other commercial product, and
we should not fight the recall efforts in the same way in which Ford fought the
recall of its 'exploding gas tank Pintos'. Those who fight such recalls just
end up looking rather silly.

> We support our program because we think it is right,
> that's why people join an organization.

I never really fully 'thought' the SIU was right. It was handed to me as part and
parcel of a whole package, some of which elements were and are perfectly valid,
which convinced me that everything else had to have been perfect as well. But,
we never got around to comparing the SIU to other party programs, even though
my study class instructor promoted that agenda item as standard SLP practice.

> Why would we join if we didn't agree with
> what the SLP is trying to do? Unless it would
> be to whine and gripe and complain like you did.

I wasn't much of a 'whiner, griper and complainer' until I discovered Petersen's
'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry' excuse for the non-necessity of a
proletarian dictatorship in the USA, where the absence of a large peasant class
supposedly obviated the need for a proletarian dictatorship. But, more valid
reasons for its non-necessity are not that hard to find.

> You were looking for things to justify your gripes and complaints
> while you were still a member, you stood up in a
National Convention
> and voiced your gripes and then
wondered why the members of the NO
> staff looked at you funny and treated you differently from then on.

It was merely a California State convention in Oakland. After embarrassing
myself there, I didn't 'wonder why the other workers at the N.O. treated me
differently from then on
'. I don't really remember THEM treating ME much
differently, for they always were perfect ladies and gentlemen, befitting SLP
membership. Since *I* felt quite shrunken in stature as a result of my
admitted faux pas, *I* was the one who acted differently, in terms of being
a lot quieter. My fellow workers maintained their civility at all times.

> But you got your say without being expelled, now didn't you Ken?
> You weren't expelled for speaking your mind were you?

No, I wasn't expelled for making a fool of myself. I made a lot of mistakes back then.

> You're still living in the past.
> The episode with section Palo Alto happened almost 30 years ago Ken.

It was 33 years ago, not 'almost 30'. Pardon the nit-picking.

> The party is deeply involved in anti war movements, the party printed
> leaflets against the war in Yugoslavia, I helped pass them out. The party
> was involved in previous anti war and peace movements from the late
> seventies all the way up to the present time. Get up to date please.

Few would want to fault a proletarian party for practicing anti-war
activities. Who knows? Maybe your anti-war efforts around the Central
American conflicts prevented Reagan's war from becoming a worse
conflagration. That would be something to be proud of.

>>> He picks and chooses what he wishes to respond to and even then it is a tired
>>> repetition of his so called program. He is quite proud of himself for coming
>>> up with this "program", even though it doesn't attract much of a following.
>>
>> For now, revolutionaries choose to believe what they believe. When the
>> length of the work week gets down to 30 hours or so, and does so without
>> the help of the revolutionaries, then some may begin to understand how
>> correct my program actually is, and the humanitarians among them will
>> regret having missed the opportunity to lend a hand to a movement in
>> the making, just the way I was sorry in the early 1970's not to have been
>> permitted by the SLP to protest American involvement in the Vietnam
>> War. I lived in fear of being true to myself.
>
> ----------------------------------------------------- If the workers demand a
> shorter work week, we'll be there to help. If they demand more vacation
> time, we'll be there. If they demand better health care, we'll be there. But,
> these things would be temporary gains at best. Worth fighting for but
> under this system a gain can be just as quickly turned into a loss. The
> eight hour workday comes to mind. Welfare comes to mind.

Health care laws, tax laws, welfare laws, vacation laws, retirement laws,
minimum wage laws, hours of labor laws, and many other laws will have
to be reformed until the cows come home. The constant insecurity, the
losing, and the winning, are some of the 'joys' of our present system.

> In a socialist society these would be rights that could
> not be taken away. We would have a much shorter work
> day, much shorter than even 30 hours. We will have
> free health care, much more free and vacation time.

Those would be very nice to enjoy, but I don't recall any societies revolting
to acquire shorter work hours, free health care, etc.

> None of this could be taken away with a new president or a
> change in the majority of Congress or Senate because politics
> would be ended for good with the dismantling of the capitalist state.

Socialism is incompatible with work. As long as people work, they have a stake
in the property they create. Different forms of property will always have to be
exchanged for other forms, the exchanges will never be perfectly fair, but will
remain fair enough to prevent people from revolting to change everything.

> Stop being a hater Ken.

What brought that on? Sharing work is based on humanitarianism, not hate.

> The SLP is much different now from the one you were a member of.

If even one member were interested in getting to the root of Petersen's
'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry', I would agree that the Party had
changed. I may not agree that the Party is much different until the apathy or
fear of the past is replaced with an interest in why the revolution gets no closer.

>>> This program is somewhat confusing and very vague as to how we will
>>> achieve his stated goals.
>>
>> My program is very simple - reform 'hours of labor laws', 'overtime
>> premium' laws, 'length of vacation' laws, 'retirement age' laws, etc.,
>> always with a mind to get labor off of the labor market.
>
> ---------------------------- See, this is exactly what I am talking about.
> How are these reforms going to get labor off the market?

If we are physically and mentally capable of working 3,000 hours per year
(or more, as a lot of people did in the 1800's), then every law that prevents us
from working that many hours effectively withdraws labor from the labor
market, giving us more free time, and less wage-slavery. Such reforms are
already in place, for the 40 hour law already prevents many of us from
working more than 2,000 hours per year. We just need to amend those
laws to make them more stringent and inclusive.

> As long as capitalism exists labor will be a merchandise, bought
> and sold on a labor market. It is fundamental to the capitalist system
> that labor must be exploited in order to gain a profit.

Profit is the grease that makes the wheels run along the track. Reasonable
people wouldn't want to eliminate ALL of the grease, just the grease that
oozes out of the machine and finds its way into politics, excess advertising,
rampant mindless speculation, exorbitant CEO salaries, etc. Our willingness
to work creates the grease, and our willingness to over-work and compete
for long-hour jobs creates grossly excessive profits.

> Your statement says nothing about ending capitalism so these fundamental
> rules apply. Confusing
to say the least, and vague is an understatement.

When the work week becomes absurdly short, and volunteers take over the
remaining work, then capitalism, as we've suffered from it, will be no more.

>> This can all be done very peacefully and legally, and with the consent
>> of the majority. On the other hand, the SIU leaves open a very important
>> question about the revolutionary use of violence, which has never been
>> settled either way. That's at least vague, if not confusing.
>
> ------------------------------------------ All of these things you say you
> want will not be gained without struggle. You
seem to forget about
> the blood shed to get a supposed eight hour work day.

All different kinds of struggle are imaginable, but struggle for reforms in
our interest would be far more peaceful than any revolutionary struggle I
could imagine. The bomb at Haymarket was an anomaly, and people still
don't know who threw it. Or, does anyone know for sure?

> Once again you slept through the SLP study class.
> Our
entire program is based on our Constitutional
> right to bring about peaceful change.

Changing property relations is not a peaceful chore, no more than firing on
Fort Sumter was a peaceful introduction to the plan to extend slavery to the
whole country. Anyone who wants to impose common ownership on an entire
country, or any other civilized part of the world, should start planning for war.
In a world in which people strongly associate their security with their property
(instead of with community), the only way they know how to survive in any
decent fashion is by holding on to what they have, and by augmenting what
they have, if possible. Youngsters even hope to attract mates by showing off
their glitter. Seeking property is a whole way of life that can't be changed
overnight, especially in my neighborhood.

> As long as that road is open then we advocate peaceful and
> legal means to accomplish change. Does that mean there would
> be no bloodshed? Hopefully but we are realists, not pacifists.

The nice part about the shorter work week scenario is that I anticipate no violence
whatsoever. The party which advocates the shorter work week scenario to socialism
would adamantly CONDEMN violence as corresponding to obsolete dreams of the
past. That alone would attract people who are sick of violence. Socialism may be less
tainted with images of violence than the terms communism or anarchism, but people will
never like socialism as long as it conjures up obsolete 'power and property' programs.

>>> Yet, he accuses us of using language that the workers do not understand
>>> and also of being "unrealistic".
>>
>> Some of your beliefs are not really down to earth, such as: 'America is not
>> a democracy
'; 'Russia, China, Cuba, etc., were not communist'; etc.
>
> I guess it all depends on how
you would define a democracy Ken.

Actually, it's not what's in the name, but rather whether people are ready to
overthrow what they have. Nobody in my neighborhood is ready to overthrow
their government, whether anyone calls it a democracy, a capitalist dictatorship, a
feudal monarchy, etc. Americans are no more up in arms over their government
than are the Canadians over theirs.

> If a closed two party system controlled by the wealthy elite
> in this country (and probably other countries as well) is your
> idea of democracy then who am I to tell you otherwise? Keep
>
sleepwalking through life if you wish. It bothers me not.

What matters is whether people are ready to overthrow our government, like
they were in Russia in 1917, or in France in 1789-93. The rich are richer than
their wildest dreams because we compete for opportunities to make them rich.
We could stop that by means of a few simple amendments to existing laws.
Much easier to amend a law than to revolt.

> Okay Ken, are you saying that all of the criminal
> states you mentioned were or are socialist?

You and I may know and agree that none of the allegedly communist states are
or were classless and stateless, but what about the man on the street, who may not
be able (off the top of his head) to differentiate Sweden's 'socialism' from China's
'communism'? The man on the street associates socialism and communism with
some kind of state ownership, and often with violence and a lack of democracy.

> Are you a Leninist?
> Why don't you finally admit here in this forum that
you are.

After I learned about the Bakuninist foundations of De Leonism, I abandoned
it, and thereafter considered myself to be an independent Marxist-Leninist
until 1994. I wished I could have found a group of like-minded individuals,
but didn't like the odors emanating from any group I ran across. I feared
having as bad an experience with a new party as with the old. How much
disappointment can one person withstand?

In 1994, two years into writing my book, when I learned that taking away the
property of the rich without compensation was irrevocably associated with
violence, and therefore was incompatible with democracies, I disassociated
myself with Marxism, Leninism, or anything similar, and for a few years
even disattached myself from the 'socialist' label, though a recent dialogue
with Ben Malcolm in the WSM forum re-convinced me that I am still a
socialist, for I still want society to get to classless and stateless society.
I just can't agree with most socialists on the method of getting there.

> If you support these criminal regimes and hold them up as shining examples
> of socialism then you
are even more deluded than I thought. Not only that,
>
you've got blood on your hands. Working class blood. You are welcome to
> your beliefs but you better really put your thinking cap on when it comes to this.

Not me. I consider all of those systems to be doomed to fail. Not a
lot of them are left, so it's just a matter of time before they all join the
democratic fold. It would be wonderful to see Cuba become a political
democracy. It would make quite a few people wake up.

> You know, I am really confused as to exactly what you do stand for.

I merely advocate the abolition of class distinctions. Marx often advocated
it. The abolition of class distinctions can be found all over M+E's writings,
but today's activists barely mention it, if ever.

> One minute you quote Marx, the next minute you defend our
> system. One minute you
defend Russia, China etc. as socialist

If by that you mean classless and stateless, I know better than to say that.
If you mean 'socialist in the popular sense', then I'm guilty of that crime,
sure. I see little reason to contradict or fight against common knowledge.

> then you harp on the value of capitalism. Could you once and for all
> tell us what you really stand for? I can't seem to make any sense out of it.
> But, this is the case with reformers, they try to be all things to all men.

Correspondents at the WSM forum often have the same trouble. One correspondent
rightfully claimed that I upbraid them for not being Marxist enough, and yet I disavow
Marxism. It doesn't make sense to the casual observer. The complexity came about
because of the education I got while writing my book. Aside from Petersen's 'dictatorship
of the proletariat over the peasantry', he also made a ton of other theoretical 'mistakes'.
Going back into history to try to find the roots of those mistakes was a learning experience.
When I discovered that the property of the rich could be taken away only after overthrowing
monarchies, or after liberating colonies, but never after merely getting elected, that changed
everything for me, for the days of overthrowing a bunch of monarchies simultaneously are
long gone, ending all opportunities to take away the property of the rich without compensation.
Socialism is complex. To learn its history, one should read the Minutes of the General Council
of the First International. I include a few selections about democracy at the very end.

>>> Ken lives under the delusion that we live in a democracy and that all
>>> things are possible under this democracy of his.
>>
>> Our democracy can be reformed all of the way to classless and stateless
>> society. If we could come very close to getting a 30 hour week during the
>> Depression, that proves that we have all the democratic processes it will
>> take to free ourselves from wage-slavery peacefully and legally.
>
> -------------------------------------- Oh boy, I'm not even going to comment
> on this little gem. This statement demonstrates complete
ignorance about
> our system and the way it operates so I'm going to leave it alone.

Once a law regulating hours of labor is in place, it takes very little
additional effort to amend it to suit changed conditions.

snip 'good and bad capitalists', 'demonization and hatred', and 'revolutionary dogma'

>>> Yes, Marx advocated a shorter work day, but it was not the main focus
>>> of what he was attempting to do.
>>
>> Both his shorter work day and his expropriation of the rich supported his
>> higher humanitarian goal of 'full participation in the economy'. If he had
>> come to regard either of those elements as obsolete, he would have been
>> humanitarian, courageous and intelligent enough to alter his program
>> accordingly.
>
> ---------------------------------- No,
wrong again. The working class is
> still laboring under the same basic conditions that they were in his time,
> exploitation, poverty, poor healthcare, poor educational system, job
> insecurity etc. etc. He would still advocate a socialist revolution today
>
just as strongly as he did then.

Marx didn't put his revolution on an alter for us to worship forever. He would
have re-thought his revolution if he had lived to see Europe refuse to revolt in
sympathy with the Russian revolution to the extent necessary to create the
universal proletarian dictatorship in the most advanced countries. The course
of history directly contradicted what Marx expected, but he was very well-
intentioned. A lot better intentioned than anyone who would give us a
'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry', and who would never
allow us to go back in Party history to correct it.

2002 answer: Marx's revolution wasn't founded upon poverty and exploitation
as much as it as founded on the lack of democracy in Europe. Poverty, etc., can
be reformed into relative insignificance, while a lack of democracy never can be
refomed away.

>>> Marx wanted a proletarian revolution and a socialist society.
>>> He was not opposed to easing the suffering of the masses
>>> in the mean time, but he was
no reformer.
>>
>> What's the difference between Marx supporting England's 10 hour Bill and
>> electoral reform, and him being a 'reformer'? Unless, perhaps, a reformer is
>> one who advocates only reform, even where no democracy exists to reform?
>
> --------------------------------------- The difference is that he above all
> advocated a worker's revolution. This was the
center of his work. He
> would advocate the alleviation of human suffering in the immediate
> sense but he knew just like all Marxists that a socialist revolution
> was the only permanent remedy.

It's true that a revolution was one of Marx's cups of tea, which is why I
can't consider myself a Marxist, a Leninist, a Maoist, or any other kind of
revolutionist. I hereby concede that point to you. Even though Marx was a
revolutionary, it doesn't necessarily follow that WE have to be revolutionaries
as well, not if there's no need for it. There is no precedent for a country abolishing
one democracy to replace it with another. Replacing democracies with SIUs is not
even on the field of contention. Senator Jeffords' defection from the Republican
Party, and the consequent tipping of the balance of power in the Senate in favor
of Democrats, is as momentous a change as most of us can withstand.

2002 answer: If revolution had been so much more important to M+E than reform,
then Engels, in his "Refugee Literature" would never have castigated Blanquism the
way he did: "Blanqui is essentially a political revolutionary, a socialist only in
sentiment, because of his sympathy for the sufferings of the people, but he has
neither socialist theory nor definite practical proposals for social reforms.
"

snip 'intransigence', and 'hook, line and sinker syndrome'

>>> Ken would have us believe that a revolution is pointless in our "democracy".
>>
>> Even though Marx doesn't necessarily teach quite the same thing,
>
> --------------------- This statement finally says it all. Finally you
admit
> to all of the
misquotes, the twisting of meaning and just generally terrible
> interpretation of Marx's work. Thank you.

I don't agree with Marx on EVERYTHING. I admire a lot of the things he did and said,
but he was UNCLEAR about the necessity of 'revolution in democracies', especially
considering his 1872 speech at The Hague. On the other hand, he was very clear
about the necessity of revolutions in Germany and Russia, and for good reasons.

>> HISTORY teaches that the purpose of a revolution was to bring democracy
>> and independence to where it didn't exist before. Do we always have to follow
>> Marx's words right down to the last letter, even though the revolution didn't
>> happen all at once in the most developed countries, and shows no sign of doing so?
>
> ------------------------------------------------ Dang it Ken, break out that
> book on Historical Materialism and find out why the revolutions of the
> past brought down monarchies and installed capitalist "democracies". In a
> nut shell it was because at that point in time feudalism was restraining the
> impending birth of the new society, capitalism, thus society had to move on
> to its next logical stage and could only do so through revolution because of
> the impediments to progress thrown up by the monarchies.

I agree with that statement so far. No problem up to there.

> Now capitalism is restraining the impending birth of a new society,
> the next logical step of progress by society - socialism.

I really don't see much restraint on the part of CAPITALISM. I eschew the
anthropomorphization of a system of production. I do see restraint on the part
of the capitalist CLASS. The world would be a lot better place if bosses didn't
so intensely resist our attempts to equitably share the remaining work. As a
correspondent in the WSM forum recently agreed, 'the bosses want as few
of us as possible to work for as many hours as possible, while it is in our
social, political and economic interests for as many of us as possible to
work for as few hours as possible.'

> Try as they may, with each new development in the means of
> production and with the eventual exhausting of further progress,
> the forces built up behind the capitalist road block will tear it
> asunder and the new society will take its place. Simple eh?

That is rather simple, but merely because capitalism overtook feudalism
by means of a terrific (and sometimes violent) political struggle, it doesn't
mean that socialism also has to overtake capitalism by means of a terrific
(or violent) political struggle. Today's issues are VERY different, requiring
different modes of struggle. Capitalism and feudalism were two different
systems of OWNERSHIP, the nobility representing one form of ownership,
capitalists representing the other, along with 2 different forms of state.
Slavery, or the ownership of people, was unacceptable to most people,
especially to the fast evolving and growing classes of capital and labor, so the
termination of the slavery form of OWNERSHIP could be expected to result
in a very bitter political struggle, which, in the American case, resulted in war.

Initially, feudal monarchs had state power, but their monarchies were useless
to capital and labor. When capitalists took political power in the form of
republics, or else convinced monarchies to incorporate democratic reforms,
only then did governments became useful to capitalists and workers. Marx
in the Gotha Programme believed that democracies would be the form of state
in which the final battles between worker and boss would be fought to a finish
.
You could elevate this discussion to a higher level by clearly agreeing or
disagreeing with Marx on that particular political point.

In today's capitalist democracies, there is no great struggle over FORMS of
ownership, as there was during the days of feudalism, or during the days of
slavery. To us, private ownership of anything and everything is just fine and
dandy, except to most socialists. No struggle over FORMS of ownership are
conceivable today, so capital and labor also have no excuse for bitter and violent
political struggle over ownership of anything, so our political differences merely
center over the economic struggle. If some socialists insist upon the expropriatory
road to socialism, then the political struggle will be elevated to one over OWNERSHIP
instead of over mere economics, so they can very well expect another civil war. That
kind of political struggle is so needless and pointless that few will join the
expropriatory socialist movement.

>> If Marx had been right about everything, then Marxism might still be taught
>> in Russia, and at the University of Havana.
>
> This only goes to prove my point that these criminal regimes have or had
>
nothing to do with Marxism in the first place.

Well, that bit of circumstantial evidence is a pretty weak proof. What really
proves they didn't have much to do with Marxism is that none of them were part
of Marx's world-wide proletarian dictatorship, and they weren't democracies, so
whatever developed in those countries could only have been a weak caricature of
Marx's vision. Just about the only Marxist things they have to show for themselves
were state ownership, and the abolition of the market in favor of central planning.

snip undebatable points of disagreement

>>> To sum up, Ellisism is just another in a long line of crackpot schemes
>>> which, while probably not by design, divert the workers from the true
>>> source of the problems in our society and how to get rid of those problems.
>>
>> If a shorter work week is crackpot, then so is the early SLP platform plank
>> advocating shorter work days and weeks in proportion to progress in industry.
>> That plank was written at a time in American history when annual hours of labor
>> were declining faster than ever before, or any time after, but will pale before the
>> shock that's in store for the future, unless we plan ahead.
>
> --------------------------------- Still living
in the past.

A Marxist program of expropriation is perfectly suited for the past, when
socialists could still hope to simultaneously overthrow enough monarchies
to give themselves the unity and power with which to both expropriate the
property of the rich, and prevent counter-revolution. Those days are gone.
The shorter work week program addresses the issues of 2001, and beyond.

> I am not going to go into a long explanation of why the
> SLP dropped immediate demands as part of it's platform,
> although you could probably benefit from it since you
>
wasted your time in SLP study class either sleeping
> or reading
Chairman Mao's little red book.

Someday, please give us the long explanation of why the SLP dropped
its shorter work time demand.

> I agree that we must plan for the future, but I hope that the future
> does not include capitalism.

We won't have to worry about capitalism in another 40 years.

>>> So, this will be my last comment on this subject since there is no progress
>>> being made and no sign of any on the horizon. Of course Ken will deliver
>>> a twenty page response to this post but he will draw no response from me.
>>
>> Again, I wish you had made the requisite effort to achieve clarity and agreement.
>
> -------------------------------------------- I've made
every effort, but you
> just are unwilling to see things my way. So, I have wasted another hour
> or so of my time trying to convince you again.

I think we have made good progress this time, so it isn't time wasted.

Ken Ellis

In volume 4 of the 5 volumes of Minutes of the General Council of the
First International, page 129, Marx speaking: "The moment the Republic
was proclaimed everybody in France became enthusiastically republican.
Had the Republic been recognized then
[by England] it would have had a
chance to succeed. But when no recognition came they turned back. The
propertied class had an interest rather to see Prussia victorious rather than
the Republic. They are well aware that sooner or later the Republic must
have become socialistic and therefore they intrigued against it, and these
intrigues have done more for Prussia than Moltke and his generals.
"

pp. 130-1, Marx speaking: "The third point that has come out is that middle-
class republics have become impossible in Europe. A middle-class government
dare not interfere so far as to take the proper revolutionary measures for defense.
It is only a political form to develop the power of the working class. The last
elections in France and the proceedings of the middle class in Germany prove
that they rather have a military despotism than a republic. In England there is the
same fear. Republicanism and middle-class government can no longer go together.
"

p. 164: "Citizen Marx announced that the Prussian government had dropped
all other charges against our friends in Germany except that of belonging to the
International.
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.
"

p. 165: "Citizen Engels said the question was not whether we support a republican
government but whether under present circumstances it would drive into our path.
There were men like Peter Taylor and others who were simply for the republic but
it must be considered that the abolition of monarchy would involve the abolition of
the State Church, the House of Lords and many other things. No republican move-
ment could go on here without expanding into a working-class movement and if
such a movement was to take place it would be as well to know how it went on.
Before our ideas could be carried into practice we must have the republic. We
must watch it and it was right for our members to take part in it and try to shape
it. If it turned into a middle-class affair it would become a clique.
... Citizen Engels
said there was as much oppression in America as here,
but the republic gave a fair
field for the working classes to agitate. In the densely populated states the labour
movement was organized but the extent of unoccupied land prevented it from
getting stronger than it was.

p. 165: "Citizen Marx was convinced that no republican movement could become
serious without becoming social. The wirepullers of the present move[ment] of
course intended no such thing.
"

 

5-29-01

Hi, Ben,

> Hiya folks! Hi Ken! Some replies to your most recent contributions:
>
>> <<snip>> slavery was different in that it was a very divisive issue,
>> and preventing that form of ownership from spreading to the new
>> states and territories was bound to raise some hackles. On the issue
>> of private property in general, on the other hand, the country has
>> never been divided, and this most bourgeois country in the world
>> will never be anything but overwhelmingly in favor of property
>> rights (for as long as people have to work for their property, in
>> which they stake so much of their personal security), so any
>> opposition to private property is bound to remain tiny at best.>>
>
> I take your point - and I still disagree that there is a conscious commitment
> to the principle of private property by the majority of the working class
> (at least as far as the case for socialism goes - as we're talking about
> the ownership of the means of producing and distributing socially
> produced wealth - factories, farm land, roads, railways etc.).

Property takes many forms - wages, land, factories, homes, cars, boats,
stereos, etc. Unless in a philanthropic frame of mind, we usually don't
give up any of those things unless we get something in exchange, for we
know the hard work it took to get it in the first place. Property seems to
be in our bones, for people seem willing to fight and die over it, just the
way the American South wanted to ensure the permanence of slavery
by extending it to the whole country by force of arms.

> There is a general acceptance of "that's the way things are", but I disagree
> that people consciously think it's right and natural that a very few people
> should have a "right" to monopolise the means of production.

You may have taken us to a new stage in the dialogue, in which we
figure out whether attacking the private property of the rich would be
popularly regarded as 'encroaching socialist destabilization of everyone's
private property rights'. If it is 'wrong' to own means of production on the
level of the largest industries and utilities, then we would have to figure out
whether it is also 'wrong' for an independent tradesman, perhaps working
out of theback of his truck, or out of his garage, to own his own tools and
means of making a modest living. 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.

snip Fromm for brevity

> An obsession with property, capital is an obsession with
> dead, amassed, past human activity and is thus alienating
> - it dominates over living human activity, with all the results
> we are well aware of. We give away our actual lives in return
> for dead things which then define WHO and WHAT we are.
> This is doubly self-defeating as the working class actually gets
> to "own" so little - never has enough dead capital to even achieve
> escape velocity from the wages system. We are worshipping the
> property god of another class, the bourgeoisie (who DO own)
> if we subscribe to notions about "rights" of property.

In that case, isn't the traditional socialist program (that of divorcing
the rich from their property) just another manifestation of society's
obsession with property? A program that merely diminishes labor
time, on the other hand, is much less earthy.

> We are encouraged to entertain the ideology behind OUR OWN
> exploitation in the capitalist system. Unlike Fromm though, I don't
> believe this indoctrination is as successful as many think.

Certainly the poorest layers are exploited, but with half of Americans
owning a stake in the stock market, I question the degree to which
'capitalist exploitation' rhetoric can succeed in moving the American
public away from capitalism and private property.

Some of those who don't want to change the system may very well be rigid
in their indoctrination, but I think that many a sectarian is indoctrinated also.
Many people react to capitalist lies and indoctrination by changing, but often
become as rigid as before, but in a different direction. I've been in both places.
After abandoning capitalist doctrine, I marketed my socialist program faithfully,
I watched my comrades heap abuse on detractors, but I could never really get
the hang of that method of 'refutation of revisionist lies'.

Maybe the innate sliminess of the ideology I was supposed to defend to the death
prevented me from engaging whole-heartedly in sectarian pit bull fighting. I was
merely interested in trying to create a better world, and heaping abuse contradicted
that ideal. The ends didn't justify the means. I'd much rather have engaged sectarian
opponents in deep conversation, IF I had dared to violate my party's rules of treating
all other anti-capitalist groups and parties like police agents, designed simply to keep
people like me from appreciating the 'perfection' of my party's program. Sectarianism
paralyzes the brain and the body.

> There must, however, be a conscious break with the values of capitalism
> by the working class if we are going to move on to the new human society
> which you and I want to see (albeit with our different emphases on how to
> get there). Without this we will stay stuck with capitalism because we will
> have no other frame of reference to think in.

You make some pretty interesting philosophical points. It's a
pleasure to discuss a deeper philosophical outlook on socialism
with so thoughtful a socialist. One of the values of capitalism is
'hard work', which no worker in such a productive economy should
feel perfectly at home with, especially with so many nurses having to
endure 16 hour shifts. 'The Right To Be Lazy' is closer to my ideal.
After all, the words 'leisure' and 'scholar' enjoy the same word root,
and I do like to learn, but it takes time.

I occasionally think about the differences between getting to
socialism by means of work reductions vs. by getting control of
all of that power and property, and I think to myself: 'Self, which
of these 2 methods really gets us to a higher degree of freedom?'
Work reductions negate property on a fundamental level, implying:
'We already make too much already, the wages system ensures
that the non-necessities go only to the rich, so hard work is really
part of the race to the bottom.' In the meantime, for us to 'go for the
whole pie' elevates property to the realm of '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. I've known activists for decades, and know how
vigorously they fight among themselves, as in: 'The left forms
its firing squad in a circle.
'

>> <<In any hypothetical struggle over private property,
>> abolitionists would be aware of the intent of their
>> struggle, while the rich would recruit many a soldier to
>> fight for 'national defense against godless communism',
>> etc., and the government would handsomely reward the
>> defenders of private property.>>
>
> True. But they
won't have enough loyalists to stop us.

With today's and tomorrow's new fighting technologies, one
wonders just how many soldiers it would take to stop 'crusaders
against capitalism'. If the scions of the rich aim their powerful
new weapons against the propertyless, then it may not take very
many of THEM to stop a whole hell of a lot of activists. At the
end of his 1895 Preface to The Class Struggles in France, Engels
mused at length about the ways in which the new weapons of his
day had already superannuated the street fighting of 1848. Think
how much MORE powerful are the weapons of today, a century
after he wrote about the dramatic changes of his day. In a letter to
Lafargue, he admitted to having to reconsider tactics from scratch,
and not yet arriving at any firm conclusions. Considering all of the
problems surrounding military solutions, Marx's peaceful 'buyout
of the capitalist class
', which is the same as 'expropriation with
compensation' (which the Communards considered for the
factories they took over), doesn't look like such a silly joke.

> Also - it's not a question of whether private property is
> "immoral", but that it is
redundant socially and damaging
> to humanity in a world where we have
beaten the "natural
> scarcity" problem.

Well, if private property damages humanity, then I would think
that the damage, by itself, makes it immoral, just the way slavery
damaged the mentalities of both slaves and slaveholders. The
denial of the right to vote damages Palestinians in Israel, and
also damaged blacks in pre-civil rights South Africa. Few people
who struggle to increase their own wealth and property would
agree that property harms society, which would probably include
the half of Americans who own a piece of the stock market.
Without property, people would have no security, if we hadn't
in the meantime created a sense of community. A new stage
of consciousness will have to be obtained before the race to
accumulate can be abandoned. That some people can amass
property invites a 'keeping up with the Joneses' competitiveness
in the rest of us. For the youth of today, a whole bunch of
property and 'things' can make them attractive to prospective
mates. That's a pretty powerful grip on our minds.

>> <<The economy had evolved to place the class of slave
>> owners at odds with the class that merely owned non-
>> human means of production. As a conflict between 2
>> factions of property owners, abolition of slavery could
>> not be accomplished without a bitter political struggle,
>> which, in this case, ended in war.>>
>
> Right so, the political battle in the American Civil War
>
WAS a direct result of capitalist economic rivalry?

The battle really resulted from 2 incompatible forms of private
ownership. Some people owned slaves, and others didn't;
neither side tolerated the other, and each side wanted to impose
its own standard on the other. Both modes of production were
profitable, but the evolution of tools of production created
wage-labor and capital faster than what slavery expanded. If the
philosophers of the South had been more aware of the dynamic
growth of wage-labor and capital compared to the static
character of slavery, then maybe they would have helped people
to understand that slavery was doomed, could never become the
truly dominant form of production, thus preparing themselves
to phase it out peacefully. Instead, they pressed their demands,
and their losses on the legislative front drove them to try to force
slavery on the whole country by means of force and violence.

>> <<No one who looks at the War from this perspective can
>> say that the cause of the War was in any way economic.>>
>
> ??? If there hadn't been the economic rivalry between North
> and South there just would
not have been a war, surely?

Economic rivalry? Was the North growing cotton and competing
with the South? Was the South producing industrial goods
similar to those produced in the North?

The South had planned for a long time that the loss of their pro-
slavery majority in the Legislature would be compensated by a
War to impose slavery on the whole country, showing that the
conflict was as political as the decision of Israel to deny
Palestinians their citizenship rights, or of the decision of
apartheid South Africa to deny blacks the vote. Some conflicts
are purely political. Someone should explain the decision of
South African whites to deny blacks the vote on the basis of
economics, or the decision of Israel to deny Palestinians
citizenship rights. It takes a certain meanness of spirit to
translate mere economic exploitation into that degree of
political exclusionism. In today's world, people accept
mere economic exploitation, but the political on top of
economic leads to a noticeable pattern of civil war.

snip area of agreement

>> <<Their right to own means of production will never
>> be directly confronted, because it doesn't do any direct
>> harm, not to say that some rich people aren't meanies. No
>> one can demonstrate how private ownership directly bears
>> upon unemployment. In what way does a single person's
>> ownership of a factory employing, say, a thousand people,
>> determine whether that same thousand people will have jobs
>> to go to on the morrow? Not a whit. Employment is usually
>> based upon one factor - conditions in the market place for
>> the commodity or service. 'No demand' for either translates
>> into 'no employment', but ownership has nothing to do
>> with 'no employment'.>>
>
> It does do direct harm - because the wealth of the world is
> monopolised by companies, individuals, the state, who can
> then
deny access to it - the whole point of private property,
> and what makes it so anti-social.

I have heard about this threat to 'deny access' many times, and I
wonder where that blackmail tactic comes from. What I see, on
the other hand, is capitalists desperate to entice as many people
as possible to partake of their products and services as often as
possible, for they thrive best by selling as much as they can.
Their long term interests lie with as full participation in the
economy as possible, because a mass of destitutes on the
bottom wouldn't have much money to buy very many goodies,
thus slowing the economy down, and depressing the wealth of
the rich as well as the lower classes. Long term interests may
be one thing, while ruthless day-to-day competition forces them
to pay closer attention to short term interests - getting as few of
us as possible to work for as many hours as possible. The idea
of an imperious, haughty autocracy with the power to grant or
deny access at will and with impunity ... I wonder where that
idea comes from, except as practiced politically by the racist
states mentioned. But, it doesn't match the reality which I
run into on a day to day basis.

> Thus we all work creating wealth which we have no control over -
> IT rather controls US. Now there is a problem here!

It's not quite that black and white, for nobody tells workers how
to spend their wages, do they? Except that advertisers are always
telling us how to spend our money, along with the tax man. On
the other hand, we can all decry our lack of control over the
surplus values we produce, but, even so, no ones holds a gun to
our heads forcing us, as a class, to mindlessly produce surplus
values. Nothing stops us from organizing to slow down surplus
value production, if we had a party which thoroughly understood
that particular working class interest. Isn't it about time we had a
party that could express a legitimate Marxist principle, while
remaining free of sectarian absurdities? If we socialists are so
smart, then we ought to be able to put something together that
can stand on [the best] Marxist principles, but remain solidly
scientific enough not to split us up into factions.

> That capitalists are also at the mercy of market conditions
> doesn't change this at all. There is employment/unemployment
> because they are a part of the capitalist system, which is built on
> private, exclusive ownership of the means of producing wealth.

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?)

>> <<The bosses' policy is for as few workers as possible
>> to work for as many hours as possible, while our interests
>> are just the opposite - for as many workers as possible to
>> work for as few hours as possible.>>
>
> Agreed!

I don't think too many will mind if we repeat that good point. It, or
something like it, could be part of a new party preamble including
the best of Marxism, but excluding the obsolete revolutionism.

>> <<If Saddam started a round of hostility by intervening in
>> Kuwait, then what were his 'western capitalist interests'?>>
>
> Western interests conflicted with the invasion. Until that
> point though Iraqi state policy (no matter how brutal) had
> suited western interests.

If we can agree that Saddam threw the first stone that started
the War, and if you hypothesize that western capitalist interests
caused the War
, then it follows, by adding the two together, that
'Saddam had to have been pursuing western capitalist interests'.
But, we can also guess that Saddam was NOT pursuing western
capitalist interests, so western capitalist interests therefore could
not have caused the Gulf War. Perhaps it was his invasion of
Kuwait, and the subsequent need of Western capitalist interests
to send him back home.

> On the question of "aid" to countries devastated by war:
>> <<Does that also mean that the USA should have gotten
>> out and stayed out of Europe after WW2? If the world is
>> heading for unity among its democracies, then is their
>> cooperation a bad thing?>>
>
> "Should" has got nothing to do with it. The Great Powers
> do what is in their own interest.

Clearly it was in American interests to carry out the Marshall
plan. Going home right away would have seemed like an abrupt
departure. I just didn't know if you had an opinion about our
post-War efforts over there.

> Co-operation is a different thing to domination too.
> US and other western states' policy is to gain control over
> the Yugoslav economy to dominate the region - not to "co-operate".

What's worth dominating over there, economically speaking?
Politically, we would have a big stake in encouraging the
development of full-fledged democracies in order to prevent hostilities.

snip point of agreement for brevity

> One thing I disagree with though is that
we can <<become as
> free as the bosses>> within capitalism. They are not free
> either - they are also in the thrall of the market system
> and have to act according to its economic dictates.

It's true that a lot of bosses choose to work long hours to
maximize the competitiveness of their own companies. Few
people can 'take care of business' as well as the business
owners themselves. But, after tending to business for awhile,
they can always take a nice long vacation in Bora Bora that I
could never afford. Freeing ourselves from unnecessarily long
hours of labor might also inspire bosses to take a bit more
freedom as well, but I think that the winning side of a shorter
work week would fall more on the side of the workers.

2002 note: I could have said that: When we DO become 'as free as our bosses',
capitalism will then no longer exist. But, no system other than capitalism will avail
to get us to that degree of (socialist) freedom.

> Cheers for now!
>
> Yours for pure, transparent freedom,
>
> Ben.

After knowing little more than slavery and wage slavery since
I was a kid, I agree that freedom is where it's at.

Ken Ellis

 

5-31-01

--- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., ray wrote:

snip old dialogue

>> Do people revolt simply out of a spirit of pure adventure? Or, does revolt
>> require more substantive issues? Name one or more.
>
> Poverty. Repression.

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.

snip old dialogue

>> Besides bringing independence and democracy to where it didn't exist
>> before, name another purpose of revolution.
>
> I'll give you three - Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

That was the promise of the bourgeoisie to the proletariat in the Great French
Revolution of 1789-93, where bourgeois and proletarians alike helped replace
the intransigent useless monarchy of Louis XVI with the First French Republic.
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.

> 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. Then the slave-property issue was decided by war,
and people were no longer permitted to own other people, as provided by
the subsequent 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution.
So, our Civil War was a fight over permissible forms of property.
Nowadays, just about anything EXCEPT other people is up for grabs.

2002 answer: Ray is right, as corroborated by Engels in his
Origin of the Family, State, and Private Property: Page me26.218
"... All revolutions to date have been revolutions for the protection of one kind of property
against another kind of property. They cannot protect one kind without violating another.
In the Great French Revolution feudal property was sacrificed in order to save bourgeois
property; in Solon's revolution, creditors' property had to suffer for the benefit of debtors'
property. The debts were simply annulled. We are not acquainted with the exact details,
but Solon boasts in his poems that he removed the mortgage posts from the encumbered l
ands and enabled all who had been sold or had fled abroad because of debt to return home.
This could have been done only by openly violating property rights. And indeed, the object
of all so-called political revolutions, from first to last, was to protect one kind of property by
confiscating - also called stealing - another kind of property. This is so true that for 2,500
years it has been possible to maintain private property only by violating property rights.
"

> 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. Property is nothing more than a civil issue in the USA,
meaning that it is bought and sold by everyone, all obeying the same rules.
We all respect one another's rights to own whatever anyone wants, and no
private property can be taken for public use without equitable compensation,
as guaranteed by the Constitution.

> 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. 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.

snip old dialogue

>> As to (a), the question is not whether *I* think America is a democracy, the
>> question is whether THE MAN ON THE STREET thinks that our system
>> is so undemocratic or unjust that they would be willing to replace it with
>> something new. If they are, then many more millions of people, at least
>> in 2001, would be willing to fight and die to DEFEND it than would
>> be willing to bring it down, no matter what adjectives some activists
>> might use to describe our system.
>
> Yeah sure. Now. But people's ideas change. 50 years before the French
> revolution commentators could have argued that 'the man on the street' was
> happy with the system. The same 50 years before the Russian revolution.

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.

Obviously (as you may have conceded as well), the time for revolution is not
ripe in the USA. People would obviously have to wait. While they are WAITing,
human labor continues to be replaced by robots and technology, and we are on
the verge of an explosion of far more effective labor-saving technologies, which
will pressure us to make some changes, but which changes? The economy is
dynamic, while politics continue as usual. 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. Meanwhile, new and better technologies continue to replace human
labor, labor competes among itself for scarce long-hour opportunities to make
the rich richer than their wildest dreams, and the gap between rich and poor
continues to escalate, as statistics demonstrate. What do we do? Attack
democracy, attack private property, burn the flag, attack motherhood, attack
apple pie? Or, do we address the replacement of human labor with technology,
and either preserve our long-hour jobs by becoming Luddites and smashing
machinery, or share the declining amount of work by proportionally reducing
the length of the work week? That very measure was part of the program of
the American SLP before they were taken over by anarchists. They retained
that plank for a few years, and later dropped it, along with the rest of their
minimum programme.

> Obviously, at the moment, most people are not looking for a revolution
> (if they were, there would be a revolution). But people's ideas change -
>
including their definition of 'democracy'.

People certainly do change, and will continue to do so. But, for as long as
people work for a living, they create property, whether it's in the form of
wages or commodities, so they have a stake in what they produce, and don't
give up their property for nothing at all. 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.
Even for Marx, abolishing private ownership was subservient to his higher goal
of 'full participation in the economy', as Engels observed in his 1877 biography
"Karl Marx". Unfortunately, today's commercial movements would rally
gullibles to take power and property out of the hands of the rich, and put it
in the hands of revolutionary leaders. But, we weren't all born yesterday, so
most of us will not lift a finger to obey activists who can't decide among
themselves whether to replace the state with a communist workers' state, or
with an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things. So, you
can see that the divisions among activists have defeated them before they
get their revolutionary programs off the ground.

>> 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. If
Slovakia, Spain, Poland, Austria, and so many other countries had revolted
simultaneously in order to support the Russian revolution, then that would
have corresponded with Marx's scenario. Activists would have had the unity
with which to prevent counter-revolution, and the power with which to
expropriate the rich. It would have established the communist millennia,
and today's world would have been much different.

The two revolutions in Russia in 1917 also corresponded with Marx's
revolutionary scenario, as did the further development of the 3rd French
Republic of 1870 into the Paris Commune of 1871. Marx spoke of workers
and bosses uniting to overthrow feudal monarchies, establish the bourgeois
republic, and, if workers retained their arms, they could force universal suffrage
on the new republics, ensuring the political dominance of workers' parties over
the bourgeoisie. If it happened in enough European countries simultaneously,
the new republics would have become red republics, activists would have had
the power with which to expropriate the rich, and the unity with which to
prevent counter-revolution, which would have made the revolution permanent.

>> Why would anyone want to do that? To replace one democracy with another?
>
> To
replace one, not very democratic democracy, with an unequal distribution
> of wealth with another, more democratic, democracy with a more equal distribution.

No historical precedent. People don't do things like that. If unhappy with an
administration, they simply vote them out in the next election. Very clever
device. Perhaps clever enough to enable democracies to last a lot longer.

>> As long as people can vote for issues and for people,
>> they will support what they have.
>
> Until they realise that their voting isn't getting them very far.

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.

>> Even Marx in the Gotha Programme said that the final battle between worker
>> and boss would be fought in a democracy
, so we should learn to use what we
>> have instead of yearning for some kind of revolutionary quick fix.
>
> Well I don't call myself a Marxist,
> so I don't feel bad about disagreeing with him.

If not a Marxist, then what's your frame of reference? Why not just openly
proclaim your philosophical roots? 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. Any program that varies from Marx's
is plain 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.

> And if I did, I could easily argue against that interpretation.

Perhaps you will see fit to give us your interpretation next time.

snip old dialogue

>> Certainly they had revolutions in Slovakia and Germany after 1917,
>> but they weren't long-lasting revolutions, so they couldn't support
>> the Russian revolution very well.
>
> So, you're no longer saying that there have been no attempted revolutions,
> just that they haven't succeeded. So, when you said "
people do not overthrow
> their democracies..." you meant that quite a lot of people have tried, but they
> haven't succeeded.

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.

>> If European revolutions did not trigger the Russian revolution, Marx's other
>> scenario called for the Russian Revolution to trigger numerous, long-lasting
>> revolutions in Europe, which would have inaugurated the communist millennia.
>> They theoretically all should have been successful and numerous enough to
>> both divorce the rich from their property, and prevent counter-revolution.
>
> Just because Marx tried to read the future
off an auto-cue doesn't mean that
> anyone who says revolution is possible must be wrong.

I had to go to the Internet to figure out what that modern gadget [auto-cue] was. :-)

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. While workers in other revolutions were disarmed
soon after creating bourgeois democracies, workers in Marx's day increasingly held
onto their weapons after overthrowing monarchies in the hopes of establishing
universal suffrage in their new republics, in hopes that workers' parties could
become politically dominant by sheer force of numbers, since workers always
outnumber bosses. This was the idea behind Social-Democracy. Bosses and
workers alike wanted to create democracies, but workers wanted the new democracies
to be SOCIALly controlled by means of universal suffrage, hence 'social democracy'.
Marx wanted to take the scenario a step further, and hoped simultaneous revolutions
in many European countries would enable the creation of a universal red republic,
giving the workers the power with which to expropriate the rich, and the unity to
prevent counter-revolution. This scenario was quite plausible to the activists of
yesteryear, and was not a pipe dream down-loaded from a web site.

That is the only revolutionary scenario that has ever come down the pike
that was not the result of a drug overdose. That was the only revolutionary
scenario that ever came close to being realized at the time of the Russian
revolution, but not enough countries came to the assistance of Russia, proving
that there had to have been a fatal flaw in the scenario. That fatal flaw was the
expropriation aspect of the program, because Western Europe was where the
institution of private property developed, and was where that institution had
the strongest grip on people's minds, and where they protected it better than
anywhere else by means of a complex legal structure. In a letter to Lafargue,
Engels observed that the institution of private property barely existed south
or east of the Mediterranean
. Property was not a strong institution in Russia,
as demonstrated by Marx's correspondence about that country, which is what
made it easy for Lenin to proclaim in his anti-Kautsky pamphlet that 'private
ownership of land was abolished on the first day of the Russian revolution
'.
If the Romanovs were the major land-owners in Russia, and if their rule had
been deposed, then of course Lenin could nationalize the land quite easily.
But, try doing that in the most bourgeois country in the world, the USA.

snip redundancy

>> Now that practically all of Europe is democratic, communists have no more
>> hope of overthrowing enough European monarchies to further develop them
>> into the universal proletarian dictatorship that would have been extensive
>> enough to make the red revolution permanent.
>
> I
don't know who you're arguing with here ...

That goes back to Marx's revolutionary scenario, the only one that wasn't
the result of a drug overdose. The only scenario that was firmly rooted in
the history and the struggles of the day.

>> 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'.
>
> 'Commercial revolutionism'? Sounds like you have a particular axe to grind,
> but not with me.

When I discovered that my revolutionary party's program had been justified
by quotes from Marx, Engels and Lenin out of context, I then understood that
their program had no chance of being adopted by the people, so I quit the party.
But, while I was fighting for my discoveries to be discussed in a free forum, I
also discovered that their top leaders knew as well as I that their program was
hogwash, but were too lazy or reactionary to bring that information to the
membership. They justified their intransigence by claiming that the members
were too old to learn new tricks, or were too dedicated to the old program, or
were too dogmatic, or that the staff was already too overworked to be able to
present all of the issues, in addition to putting out a weekly paper, and all of
the other things they did. As a result of their intransigence, that party is a lot
smaller and weaker than they were 25 years ago, but they can still find gullibles
to buy their same old commercial goods, which is 'unsafe at any speed'. They
have the same intransigent attitude toward recalling their worthless ideology
that Ford displayed in not wanting to recall their 'exploding gas tank Pintos'.

snip 'stupid' belief systems

>> A prerequisite to progress in dialogue is for people to admit, when they are
>> wrong, THAT they are wrong. But, revolutionaries think they know everything.
>
> And you don't.

Refuting lies is a good way to get an education. As many left-wing lies as I
have refuted, I admit that I still don't know everything.

>>> (And in an anarchist revolution, people don't 'put property into the hands'
>>> of a bunch of rulers who then decide what to do. They take control themselves.)
>>
>> Of all the revolutions that have happened, I can't think of a single
>> anarchist revolution that lasted.
>
> You're right, we're not living in an anarchist world, therefore the
> anarchist revolution hasn't been successful. Neither do we all work
> 4 hours a week, so your reforms
haven't been successful either.
> Guess we should both just give up.

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. After workers win a 35 hour work week, and while
the revolution is still no more popular, some revolutionaries may remember
these dialogues and begin to wonder if I was right, even if today they may all
be 'dead certain' that I am wrong, simply because they are too disinterested
to learn any better. It is SO MUCH EASIER to just join up with like-minded
individuals, exchange one's brain for a membership card, and then merely
market a party program, no matter how non-sensical it may be. That's fine for
people who merely want to be part of a group of like-minded people, but not
for those who are dead serious about making this a better world, by any means
necessary, even reformist, if that's the only method available.

snip old dialogue

> 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.

>> People reform their democracies just quickly enough to prevent political,
>> economic and social chaos. People fight violently over things like territorial
>> conquest, slavery, property, arbitrary abrogation of citizenship rights, etc.,
>> none of which goes on in the USA sufficiently intensely to get us up in arms.
>
> OKay, in an intensely unequal society, with relatively frequent riots and a
> government building being blown up, you're saying that people aren't up in arms?
> Of course its a minority at the moment - but minorities often become majorities.

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.
Sure, individuals blow up buildings here and there, etc., but nothing today
exists on the scale of 19th century slavery to plunge us into another civil war.
People respect private property, and activists will never unite to change that. So,
over which issue are people going to revolt? Poverty? Even a LOT of poverty?
Reforms have handled poverty so far, enough to keep the poor from rioting in
the streets, and that's all that the rich and politicians seem to care about. If 40%
unemployment during our Depression wasn't enough to get people to revolt back
then, then I don't know what would get them to revolt today. Economic hardship
has a long history of being adequately handled by reforms. At the same time, the
human race has a long history of tolerating a certain amount of poverty among the
lowest classes, and that is a very difficult habit to break. But, don't worry, when
human labor becomes perfectly redundant in another 40 years or so, then no one
will blame anyone else for being a bum, because we will all be bums, we will have no
way to earn a living, and everyone will have the same access to wealth as anyone else.

>> I would never advocate a reform dealing directly with money, wealth, or
>> property, for an infinite number of such plans could be proposed, and
>> activists would fight over them forever. My reforms center on labor time.
>> The difference is fundamental, like that between vectors and scalars.
>
> There are an infinite number of reforms that could be advanced, that's right.
> And I'm sure a lot of them have people who argue that *this one* is different.

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'?

>> If anyone thinks that a reform dealing with labor time is impossible, they
>> should be aware that we already have a law setting time and a half after
>> 40, as a result of the Depression. France led the way with its 40 hour law
>> in 1936, and they now have a 35 hour week. If such a reform is possible
>> in France, then it should also be possible here. Plus, before we got our
>> 40 hour law, we were very close to getting a 30 hour law in 1933 (the
>> Black-Connery Bill actually passed the Senate), but FDR bought off
>> organized labor with the Wagner Act and other goodies.
>
> Ah, I see. There was a failed attempt to pass a 30-hour law back in the
> Thirties ( a
very different time, during the Depression), but it wasn't
> passed. People obviously just didn't care enough about it.

I would like to know what's so fundamentally different now from the 1930's.
Did you know that the workers have been fighting for shorter work time since
the 1820's? 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.

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.

> Now, the 30-hour campaign is a small minority issue,
> and THE MAN IN THE STREET would probably laugh it off.

You are right about that. With today's mere 5% unemployment, only a fringie
would campaign for a 30 hour week before trying to win a 35 hour week, or
double time after 35.

> So when are you going to get back to reality, forget this 'stupid nonsense'
> and realise that, in today's society, revolution is the
only way forward.

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.

>> The man on the street is nowhere near ready to overthrow the American
>> government, so people should learn to exclude revolution from their list of
>> worthwhile causes.
>
> Ditto a 30-hour law.

You are right, but not absolutely right. Only to a degree. Far better to first fight
for the 35 hour amendment, and/or double time.

>> It doesn't even matter whether we are democratic or not. The question is -
>> if it's so unjust that people are willing to risk their own lives to get rid of it.
>
> 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 be far less effort to pass an amendment whose results were clearly
predictable than to organize people to revolt to elevate activists to power
who wouln't know whether to create a workers' state, or create a classless
and stateless administration of things.

>> Revolution WAS on the agenda in France in 1871, and in Russia in 1905
>> and 1917, so those were times and countries when and where revolution
>> was the thing to do.
>
> And maybe things would be different if the law had passed in the '30's, but it didn't.

It's true. Things would have been a lot different. The 40 hour week wouldn't
have become so sacred, and we would have been a lot freer to amend the length
of the work week in proportion to technological progress. Plus, people would
have become a lot freer and happier, the government would have remained as
small as its pre-Depression level, the environment wouldn't be so damaged, and
we would have become aficionados of the gentle arts of human communications.
The rich would never have become anywhere nearly as rich and powerful, and
[expropriation] would have died an honorable death. It would now be as dead as
anything you can think of, fit only for scholars to take interest in.

snip for brevity

>> If you are willing to present a substantive case against a shorter work
>> week, or a case against getting to socialism by driving down the length
>> of the work week, then we should talk about it.
>
> 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'.

>> Unlike revolutionaries who can't stand to hear about problems with
>> their 'revolution in democracies', I'm always willing to carefully listen
>> to theories about potential flaws in my labor time theories.
>
> Correction - you're willing to hear arguments about the desirability
> of shorter weeks, which no-one here has given you. You're
not all that
> enthusiastic about criticisms that point to the
impossibility of your
> aims being achieved through a series of reforms.

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.

In Marx's day, what workers actually did for themselves to acquire social
justice was good enough for Marx to build upon, and to encourage. That's
why Marx advocated revolutions for the intransigent monarchies of Europe,
and reforms for England and the USA, which 2 countries were the only
democracies of note during his era. Now we have a hundred, so democracy
is the wave of the future.

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.

>>> Yeah, Kenneth, I'm not arguing against the idea of a shorter working
>>> week. As far as it goes, its a good idea. But it just doesn't replace all
>>> other political activism, and it doesn't short-circuit the fundamental
>>> contradiction between the desires of the rich and the desires of the poor.
>>
>> I see that 'fundamental contradiction' as: 'Bosses want as few of us as
>> possible to work for as many hours as possible, whereas it is in our
>> economic, social, and political interests for as many of us as possible
>> to work for as few hours as possible.'
>
> That's one way of putting it, but not the best. 'Bosses want to pay
> as little as possible for as much work as possible, whereas its in our
> interests to get paid as much as possible for as little work as possible'.
> How's that.

That's not bad at all! [snip my dumb additional comment]

snip unanswered question

>>> Its not as if you could just
sneak that law through, and capitalists
>>> wouldn't notice that it's reducing their profit margins.
>>
>> There was nothing 'sneaky' going on when the AFL supported the
>> Black-Connery 30 hour Bill of 1933, which passed the Senate, and looked
>> like a shoe-in for the House. The Bill failed when FDR and Co. pressured
>> labor to support the Wagner Act and other goodies in its stead. What ever
>> inspired you to use the word 'sneak'?
>
> The idea that you can reform your way to socialism.

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, and workers are going to once again ride the shorter work week
bandwagon, because no amount of monkeying with finances or wealth and
income redistribution will keep people off the streets. With that amount of
popular support, sneaky won't apply. Never did, and never will. It will soon
enough AGAIN become a mass movement.

>>> Its a zero-sum game - if we gain, they lose -
>>
>> If unemployment ever gets bad enough that the bosses are confronted
>> with another shorter work week bill, their short term interests will command
>> them to oppose it, while their long-term class interests will cause them to
>> support it. A country which is suffering from really awful unemployment
>> doesn't have enough money in its pockets to support businesses any better
>> than it supports the poor, so the bosses' LONG-TERM interests are also
>> BEST SERVED with full participation in the economy.
>
> Like during the Depression? Which is why FDR pushed it through?

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 history. One thing
for sure is that taxing and spending can only be taken so far before the
taxes become unbearable. The government will someday be FORCED
to shorten the length of the work week, perhaps after all other types of
reforms have been tried. We could play a positive role and prevent waste
by encouraging a shorter work week sooner rather than later.

>>> so you have to be prepared to work for your gains, and realise that
>>> there is a
real limit to how far you can advance in a society where a
>>> small minority have most of the political and economic power.
>>>
>>> Ray
>>
>> Does that mean that you would advocate doing something direct about their
>> political and economic power? Let me know exactly what, and we can discuss
>> that as well.
>>
> Have a look at the website, and you can see the kind of things we're involved in.
>
> Ray
>
>
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.

Later, I received:

> --- In LeftUnity-Int@y..., Kenneth Ellis <kennethellis@e...> wrote:
>> The French led the way with their 35 hour week.
>
> I saw a report on this last night, and there were three things I noticed -
>
> 1) The law doesn't actually say there must be a 35-hour week. It said that unions
> and management should discuss the situation, and work towards a 35-hour week.
>
> 2) It has been applied for (most) large workplaces, but not smaller ones.
>
> 3) Companies aren't paying for it. The government is subsidising the
> whole scheme by giving companies the money its costing them - that
> means money is coming out of the health service, pension funds etc.
> And secondly, companies are only applying it in exchange for
> 'flexibility' from their workers - for example, all factories in France
> traditionally close down for the first two weeks of August. Everything
> stops, while everyone goes to the beach. This year, for the first time ever,
> the factories of a car manufacturer (it didn't specify Renault or Citroen)
> are going to be open in August.
>
> This last point is the main reason why we
can't expect to pass a 35-hour week law
> this year, a 30-hour law in 5 years time, a 25-hour law in ten years etc, etc.
>
> Ray

This information looks suspicious to me. The many reports I've gotten have
been much more favorable. Would you mind revealing the source?

Later, we received:

> This is what I was referring to (the Dumas, I think), an elected
> government. Toothless, yes, unimportant, yes, but elected. Therefore
> Russia
was a democracy, and revolution there was impossible! Either
> that or there are different standards of 'democracy'.

In February of 1917, Russia had it's bourgeois-democratic revolution. The
October replacement of that bourgeois republic with the Soviets was perfectly
consistent with Marx's scenario. Marx intended activists to try to further develop
fledgling republics into proletarian dictatorships. What happened in Russia in the
2 revolutions of 1917 was perfectly analogous to what happened in France, where
the September 1870 revolution saw the replacement of the Napoleon 3rd regime
with the 3rd French (bourgeois) Republic, while the Commune of March 18, 1870,
marked the beginning of the social and democratic republic. The same goes for the
revolutions of 1848. Bourgeois revolution further developing into proletarian
revolution became an unmistakable pattern of human behavior.

2002 comment: If Russia had become a democracy in the 1905 revolution, then the
revolutions in 1917 would have been redundant.

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

5-31-01

I think that the old dialogue about SLAVERY and the Civil War can be safely
retired. I don't think that Joan and I will ever agree on some fundamental issues,
so enough is enough.

> Joan: just for the record, i believe in reform -- not revolution. but i think
> that any reform measure must also be closely examined for potential flaws,
> so that hopefully they can be corrected before the program is put into effect.
> Whether or not the purpose of shorter work weeks is to cause businesses
> to go under, it will happen.

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.

> If it is reduced just a little, the effects might not be too bad.
> And reducing it slowly over time will probably benefit many
> people. But if you recall what happened in california, price controls
> on electricity caused companies to fall apart because they could no
> longer operate. price controls on labor (in this case price floors rather
> than ceilings), at each rise, will have the same effect. Not right away,
> but if it is continued as a consistent policy, and at frequent intervals,
> eventually it will lead to destruction of the economy. For that reason,
> i believe that other ideas need to be considered as well.

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'.

> Joan: I am defining "full-time" as 32 hours or more.

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?

> There are many companies that get around paying full-time employees by instead
> splitting up those full-time into two 16-20 hour weeks for part-time employees. Then
> they don't have to pay benefits or overtime, and get away with paying crap wages and
> bad treatment of employees that borders on illegal. What do you think should be done
> about this? A cashier at Giant yesterday was angry about how she was being treated --
> talking about the same things that I hated when I worked there (first full-time, then
> part-time as a second job). Remember, too, that part-time employees are not tied
> enough to their second jobs to unionize, which means that wages will stay low
> and treatment horrible. I don't see how your scheme will solve this problem.

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 Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

End of May 2001 Correspondence

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