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Selected Political Correspondence

January to March 2002

   Text coloring decodes as follows:
 Black:  Ken Ellis
 Blue:  Recent correspondent
 Purple:  Unreliable Info
 Green:  Press report, third party, etc.
 Red:  Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
 Brown:  True to Marxist intent

01-03-02

   White's essay begs some questions: Does private property oppress workers, and is that the reason it should be abolished?

   A handful of activists may think so, but far more people work very hard to acquire property of their own. They also think that 'the more property they own, the better off they are'. Communism in modern democracies has always generated a mass of similar contradictions, which prevented unity around creating communist workers' states (on the ashes of European social democracies) in support of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Communism was far more plausible in Europe during Marx's era, when democracies were less plentiful, a mass of feudal monarchies seemed ripe for overthrow, the hopefully resulting socially-controlled democracies seemed likely to have coalesced into a universal proletarian dictatorship, communists would then have had the power to dispossess the rich from their property in enough countries at the same time to avoid counter-revolution, and the communist millennium would have begin.

   If communism was iffy enough to be unpopular during Marx's era, and if communism was rejected by half a billion people after 1989, then perhaps it is time to think about replacing that broken dream with something better, something more befitting the growing number of advanced capitalist democracies, every one of which needs an inclusive solution for their social problems that doesn't require massive state intervention.

   Advanced economies consist of socially useful civil activity, with intermingling legal and underground components. The more inclusive the legal economy, the healthier the society, because fewer people get forced underground to eke out a living robbing, dealing, etc. Excluding too many people from the legal economy also results in high taxes, as many are driven to seek refuge in government programs. Regardless, a high unemployment rate is a national policy in the USA, and its Federal Reserve Board trims interest rates to make unemployment hover at around 5%. But, the time may be nigh when cutting the interest rate to zero still can't put enough people to work.

   Why can't unemployment be 1%? Politics. Companies profit more when jobs are scarce. Competition for scarce jobs forces desperate workers to accept low wages, low wages reduce operating costs, and those savings redound to profits, so companies lobby for a level of unemployment that benefits a rich minority, but which also penalizes workers. Millions of low-paid workers have difficulty surviving with only one job, resulting in alienation, bitterness and stress. It's little wonder that so many 'go postal'.

   On the other hand, a low unemployment rate favors workers with high wages. Because of the world market, a country which favors its working class is a less profitable place to do business, so capital flees to where jobs are more scarce, and wages are soon leveled off for everyone again.

   Over time, machinery and computers get smarter, and productivity increases. Adopting a shorter work week throughout the industrialized world would make the economy more inclusive and healthier without forcing people into a lower standard of living, because higher productivity allows more leisure time without negative consequences. People work less today than they did a century ago, but yet have many more toys to play with.

   It's up to average people to apply political pressure if they want a saner economy. I don't know how much more crime, bank robberies, homicides, school kid alienation, and other social problems people should put up with before creating a stronger movement for a more inclusive economy. Now that France has adopted a 35 hour week, all industrialized countries should follow their lead and make that movement international, which would prevent France from being penalized for taking the first big step away from the 40 hour week since it became the standard during the Depression era.

   Also, driving down the length of the work week is a perfect way to diminish class distinctions, and to bring workers up to the level of freedom of the rich. That method was even endorsed by Engels in his 1881 article entitled "Trades Unions". Without a lot of feudal monarchies to overthrow, or a lot of colonies to liberate (which were the only political events providing communists the kind of total state power required for expropriating the means of production), driving down the length of the work week should now be regarded as the only feasible way to abolish the evil aspects of capitalism.

 

01-04-02

> the qualification requirements for voting in kpfa's station board elections
> as indicated below:
>
> 1- contributed $25 or more within a certain time period,

   What an awful thing to do to low income people, thus ensuring control of KPFA by the middle classes.

   Ken Ellis, ex-KPFA engineer

 

01-04-02

   Gregory W. wrote:

> Well, Ken's conclusion is misinformation by partial information.
>
> There is another category for
eligibility to vote: someone who has
> contributed 3 hours of
volunteer time. That's $8.33 per hour worth
> of contribution. Any low income person who can't come in on one
>
weekend a year and give three hours has no basis to complain.

   It does sort of make me wonder why the same qualifications to participate in citizenship can't apply to voting for Pacifica issues and people. Does New Pacifica have a lot to fear from the participation of the unwashed masses? As Edwin just wrote:

> Please don't fear people with low incomes and don't patronize them.

   Ken Ellis, ex-KPFA engineer

 

01-05-02

Hi, Phil,

   Looks like you heard the news that Gov. Swift chose someone else. :-((

> talk about death wish!
> a politically correct choice for a conservative community to whom age and
> experience matters more, and the guy has baggage from his Melrose mayoring
>
> hooboy
>
> phil

   I'm unaware of his political baggage so far, but maybe the media will dig up some dirt. He looked so clean and well-polished on TV, where Swift touted him as having 'never lost an election'. Maybe this will be his first. :-)

   Maybe I'll vote for Robert Reich. I sent his campaign an e-mail, asking his position on work-sharing, but no reply yet. And nothing yet from Swift in writing.

   snip irrelevancies

>> <<One thing for sure, work-sharing is inevitable. Success is ours.
>> If not sooner, at least later.>>
>
> Yeah,
it has to happen sooner or later, but if we use 'negative sell' and
> forecast it
later (2100? 2200?), maybe people won't feel pressured
> and will start trying to grab it closer.

   That reminds me of the sticky point about WHO will start the movement. It's looking more and more like GOVERNMENTS are taking the lead for our own good, and may drag the people behind them kicking and screaming all of the way, for the people will miss the long-hour opportunities to fatten their larders, will resent what will seem to them like 'more government interference in their lives', and may even sue to get their long hours back. I suddenly recall a paragraph from Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme:

   "In a higher phase of communist society, ... after labour has become not only a means of life but LIFE'S PRIME WANT; ... From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!" (emphasis mine - K.E.)

   I often wonder what Marx meant by 'labor becoming life's prime want', and whether there's an analog in that ancient prediction to people's present resistance to a shorter work week.

   After the 35 hour week is enacted, media mavens may do some research and take a closer look at long-time advocates of liberation capitalism. Some documentaries may ensue, some people may be interviewed, but our philosophy won't receive very much media attention. When the movement for a 30 hour week becomes international not long after, people may question the future of work on a higher philosophical plane.

>> <<I just love to keep up with the advances in science and technology
>> through Ray Kurzweil's site.>>
>
> Is he at all tuned in to
shorter hours/worksharing?

   Within the past month, sci-fi maven Arthur Clarke was mentioned as having predicted that even the CONCEPT of work would be phased out by 2040.

> What's his URL?

   Here's some of the past year's highlights:

   http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0372.html

   From his site, one can sign up for the daily or weekly e-mail newsletter, which is real easy to zip through, or link to longer stories. snip

> Phil
>
http://www.Timesizing.com

   Cheers, Bro'Ken

 

01-05-02

   impatiens wrote:

> I fear that it would be easy to organize poor people who have no
> personal interest in the
stations to vote 'as a favor to a friend' or
> under the direction of a leader who seeks to sway
Pacifica elections.
>
> Filling out a form and having a low income does not mean they
> have any real connection with a
Pacifica station. A work or money
> requirement seems as
fair as can be considering that the world
> is full of complexity and exceptions.

   Rych wrote:

> I agree with Harmony on this. What would prevent some organization, maybe
> a political party, or a
religious group, to claim that all their members are poor,
> and signing them up? For Example, do we need 10,000
Scientologists signing up
> and taking over one of the
LABs at a time? I see this as a loophole that would allow
> an organization to take over without expending any serious time, money or effort. I
> feel the
3 hour minimum volunteer requirement is very minimal. Heck, answering
> phones during a pledge drive for
3 hours is pretty minimal. Considering that a year
> has about 8700 hours
in it, that works out to .00035% of the hours in a year.

   bushlost wrote:

> How can we in good conscience dilute the votes of people who are committed
> enough to give of their own time with the
votes of people who merely write
> a check for some inconsequential portion of their income?

   We ought to consider the actual context in which ordinary people might want to vote on Pacifica matters. Nothing related to Pacifica internal affairs will ever come up on a municipal, state, or national government ballot, so no one should fear that the Mormons out in Utah will ever pull the strings at the stations.

   All of the voting over station and Pacifica affairs in which people would want to play a role would be at LAB meetings. Not long ago, I opined that elected LAB members be regarded as intellectual and spiritual ADVISERS, but not dictators of policy, holding all of the power in their hands. Toward that end, I suggested that EVERYONE who shows up at LAB meetings have equal votes. To give the elected their due respect, I would suggest the following process:

   As important policy issues come up for discussion, each electee is given a chance to speak. Then, the audience is allowed to give their perspective on the issue (no one being allowed to speak more than once), then the electees affirm or change their opinions and make their recommendations on how the policy should be handled, and then EVERYONE at the meeting would vote on it. If, on the other hand, every issue is left in the hands of the electees, then the community would have very little real reason to attend LAB meetings, except once a year to elect LAB members, but that kind of democracy wouldn't satisfy the elevated requirements of Pacifica listeners.

   Now, regarding commitments to Pacifica: Everyone who makes it to a LAB meeting will have already displayed a certain level of commitment to their station, which commitments should be regarded as totally fulfilled by reason of their presence. As technology advances, it is entirely plausible that others outside of the meeting, and in some kind of enhanced teleconferencing mode, might be invited to participate. This might come in real handy for national issues and policies, and this kind of technology will become more popular within a very few years.

 

01-05-02

   KPFA might have been especially blessed in this regard, but the nearby senior center was perfectly accessible to all, and had a very large meeting room that we occasionally filled to bursting.

>> I suggested that EVERYONE who shows up at LAB meetings have equal votes.
>
> How workable this system of
total participatory democracy is I don't know.
> My heart likes it. My head has lots of questions. However, the first question
> is how do we really truly make
LAB meetings accessible to all listeners the
> poor, the disabled, prisoners etc.?
>
> Susan Klein

 

01-06-02

   impatiens wrote:

> the organization got hundreds of extra ballots postmarked
> from some very small towns they had only a few members.
> They knew something went wrong.
>
> In the above instance, it turned out that the
extra ballots were all from
> the
ex-board member and a few friends and were done specifically to make
> a point about the
voting rules being too lax. They came to the board and
> explained this and the
board threw out the ballot results en masse and
> changed the
rules, had the election a second time. In fact, if the 'culprits'
> had not come forward, and the
multiple votes had been from someone who
> simply wanted to
sway the election, it could have been an enormous muddy
> mess that got dragged into the
court system, because those hundreds of
>
extra ballots were, according to the poorly written voting rules, all 'legal'.
>
> Just a cautionary tale. In the above case, the organization was a non-profit,
> but it didn't have anywhere near the assets that
Pacifica had. So the motivation
> for someone to swing the
voting would not have been as strong.
>
> Harmony

   This warning amply illustrates a problem that could arise if rules of inclusion do not become not chiseled in stone. If Pacifica remains a lump of clay which is ready to be molded into any shape imaginable, then Pacifica could remain quite an attractive plum. But, if any community programmer could be guaranteed a dollop of air time, and if the size of each dollop were regulated by the program's popularity, then that rule would have to be followed by EVERYONE, and no one would have to fear that some outlandish group would take over the network and turn programming into a 24/7 monoculture like bluegrass, classical, religious right, talk radio, news, commercial schlock, etc.

   If Pacifica can't adopt the politics of inclusion, then internal squabbling may continue until FM Radio gets totally eclipsed by some future technology, which may happen someday anyway. In the meantime, think of it: The reason we were dissidents was because we were excluded, and if we can't think past the exclusion mind-set, then the New Pacifica might turn out to be little to no better than the old.

   We want diversity, we want opposing points of view; all we have to do is adopt the rules that would give us what we want.

   Pacifica's current dilemma is similar to what the Social Democrats of the First International faced, over a hundred years ago. The old feudal monarchy is losing its grip on power, the bourgeoisie wants to create an exclusively bourgeois democracy on the ashes of the monarchy, while the proletariat wants control over the new republic to be social, by means of universal suffrage, which the bourgeois democrats do not want, which is why they propose commitment and/or money qualifications for its control. One might as well bring back the poll tax and restore control over the government to the propertied and educated elites. Remember that, because the larger society enjoys universal suffrage, California billionaire Huffington was prevented from buying a Senate seat.

   Because of the ongoing replacement of labor with technology (and labor's total abolition in a few more decades), control by elites is on its way out. Pacifica could be far-sighted enough to endorse the elimination of elitism by endorsing and implementing the politics of inclusion.

 

01-06-02

   John Sheridan wrote:

> Ken,
>
> What is your proposal for
inclusion of the indigent in a KPFA style vote?
> Do you mean all indigent people everywhere, or all indigent people within
> certain signal areas,
indigent people who listen to the stations, those who
> don't, those who might, those who are progressive?

   KPFA listeners who seemed most interested, and who wanted a say in what went on, came from near and far to attend meetings of groups like 'Save KPFA', 'Take Back KPFA', and LAB meetings.

   I propose that everyone who attends LAB meetings be enfranchised, rich or poor, and for LAB members to be elected annually for their qualities of leadership, intelligence, dedication, etc. Plus, I think that everyone who subscribes to the Folio should vote for the candidates, but NOT vote FROM AFAR over ISSUES. Every nominee would be listed in the Folio, along with a paragraph of pertinent information. Voting by means of the Folio would occur previous to annual LAB election meetings, and those meeting votes would be added to the Folio vote, and the grand totals and winners announced then and there. Trying to prevent the few who use the Folio vote, and who also attend the annual election meeting, from having 2 votes might be more trouble than it's worth. Having 2 votes might befit their level of commitment anyway. No big deal, and it might be an incentive to be super-involved.

   Between elections, everyone who goes to LAB meetings should have equal votes in the proceedings, and the elected LAB shouldn't be allowed to dictate policy to the audience. Pacifica people are too politically aware to sit still for being dictated to, which is why the old arrangement didn't work very well. Too much power in too few hands.

   I earlier suggested that, on any issue before the public LAB meetings, electees should be the first to opine and recommend, the audience second to opine (with no one speaking twice). Third, electees would affirm their beliefs or change their minds, and make their final recommendations. Fourth, everyone at the meeting would get an equal vote. At this point in evolution of technology, I don't see what good it does for people all over the place to vote remotely on issues with which they are not very well connected, unless issues were VERY WELL or professionally laid out in advance over the Internet.

> And please, the mechanism for reaching all of these groups, how much
> will it cost, at what point is there any kind of cutoff, if there is one?
>
> I appreciate your
moral outrage, but bring it back into the positive:
> tell folks how you think it should be fixed.
>
> -- John

   I'm not aware if the technology to distribute the franchise and the information can easily be installed or acquired. A few more years of technological evolution may yet have to pass, I don't know. I believe that, in the meantime, LAB meetings could be a lot more meaningful if methodology such as I suggest could be put into practice. Having to swallow the decisions of small elites is what really angers the politically aware. Pacifica activists will remain angry until they can play a greater role.

 

01-08-02

   It's strange how some people who claim to advocate for workers can still oppose the nearly 2 century long history of struggle for shorter work days and weeks. Reasons can include thoughtlessness and ignorance, but some people I've run into actually LIE about its value. In White's case, which will it prove to be? Stay tuned. In the meantime, White replied:

> Poor people know that they get paid by the fraction of an hour--
> not the
week--so the demand for a shorter work week is meaningless.

   It is in the economic interests of the rich for as few people as possible to work for as many hours as possible. The resulting competition for scarce jobs forces desperate workers to accept low wages, which raises profits. On the other hand, it is in the interests of the working class for hours of labor to be sufficiently limited to eradicate competition for scarce jobs, and to enable full participation in the legal economy.

   If workers' demands for shorter work hours were allegedly meaningless, then Marx and Engels might have corroborated that story. Instead, throughout their whole lifetimes, they advocated shorter work days. Marx wrote into the Provisional Rules of the First International Working Men's Association:

   ... "
the economical emancipation of the working classes is therefore the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means" ...

   The first
political demand of the First International was for the 8 hour day. Marx wrote into its platform (Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 187):

   "3. - LIMITATION OF THE WORKING DAY

   "A preliminary condition, without which all further attempts at improvement and emancipation must prove abortive, is the limitation of the working day.

   "It is needed to restore the health and physical energies of the working class, that is, the great body of every nation, as well as to secure them the possibility of intellectual development, sociable intercourse, social and political action.

   "We propose 8 hours work as the legal limit of the working day. This limitation being generally claimed by the workmen of the United States of America, the vote of the Congress will raise it to the common platform of the working classes all over the world."

   Toward the end of his life, working with English socialists was frustrating for Engels. He 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 Social Democratic Federation - 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." ...

   As machinery becomes more efficient, and human labor becomes increasingly redundant, a social device is needed to ensure positions in the LEGAL economy for all workers. Such is our mutual humanitarian responsibility, of which activists should be especially aware. The most efficient way to ensure full participation in the legal economy is for work to be shared among everyone who could use a little to get by, and for hours to be diminished as machines and technology evolve to replace human labor. In this regard, the whole world should follow France's example of phasing in a 35 hour work week. In his 1881 article entitled 'Trades Unions', Engels endorsed work reductions as a means of abolishing class distinctions. Think of it: If the work week could shrink, the working class would become that much further removed from wage slavery. They eventually will become totally free when the work week becomes so ridiculously short that a new generation of energetic people step in to replace the remaining wage-labor, and all of the necessities of life thereafter become free.

   Those who prefer revolution tend to disparage the movement for shorter work hours as an unworthy competitor to their 'instant solution to all social problems'. Revolutionaries have little but scorn for ameliorative reforms, apparently preferring conditions to become bad enough to drive the working class into their welcoming arms, which is quite a fantasy and self-delusion, which is why they don't often discuss the subject in much depth.

   The working class has a 2 century old tradition of sharing work by fighting for shorter working hours, which tradition the workers will continue to follow. Unlike the revolutionaries of old who understood that the purpose of revolution was to bring democracy and independence to where they didn't exist before, today's revolutionaries living comfortably in democracies are often dishonest enough to DENY that we live in democracies, hopefully to entice gullible people to replace what we have with either a communist workers' state, or with an anarchist stateless and classless 'administration of things'. But, revolutionaries are so torn between anarchism and communism that they will never cooperate enough to bring about any kind of a revolution. Some cynics understand this well enough, so regard their revolutionary movements as little better than businesses designed to maintain party leaders in cushy little jobs. Toward their self-perpetuation in power, sects take the form of intransigent bureaucracies, operate in secrecy, offer their members less freedom of speech than what's offered in the larger society, and compete among themselves for gullible followers.

   Suppose the Federal Reserve Bank cuts its interest rate to zero, and it still fails to stimulate the economy sufficient to put enough people to work. What will the government do next? Beyond resuscitating FDR's New Deal, what with all of its objectionable taxing and spending, not much remains but to cut the length of the work week. Already, at an October 2001 press conference, Massachusetts Gov.Jane Swift advocated work sharing techniques to deal with the growing recession. When half of the Postal carriers get laid off because of the massive introduction of the new Segway scooter, what will happen then? A revolution? At some point in the near future, people will better learn to share the dwindling supply of work, and revolution will remain the furthest thing from their minds, right up to the complete replacement of wage labor with ever-smarter technology. Future generations will witness the abolitions of labor, the division of labor, class distinctions, the state, and private property. What more could an activist want? Instant gratification?

   Here's hoping that White will detect historical motion, and advocate full participation in the economy by sharing the remaining work. Let us hope that it was mere ignorance that caused White to belittle the movement for shorter work hours. Here is an opportunity to admit ignorance, display contrition, and promise to further study this issue. Failure to do that would indicate typical sectarian dishonesty.

>> Ken Ellis: "...communism was rejected by half a billion people after 1989..."
>
> If you read these articles, you know that I characterize the USSR as "socialism"
> which I define as "
a form of capitalism." Who are you arguing against?

   Ordinary people regard European Social Democracies as a form of democratic socialism, and also regard what was practiced in the old Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, etc., as forms of totalitarian communism. I have no argument against common knowledge, because trying to change definitions can be a frustrating game, as I discovered when I tried unsuccessfully in the mid-1970's to convince people that 'socialism really means classless and stateless society'. Nobody bought my schtick, but our party's work was to constantly shovel sectarian schlock against the tide of common knowledge, which hardly ever worked.

   Here are a few good places to learn more about real labor struggles:

   http://www.cep.ca/swtime_e.html

   http://www.Timesizing.com

 

01-12-02

> Ford to Cut 35,000 Jobs Worldwide
>
> By ED GARSTEN, AP Auto Writer
>
> DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford Motor Co. said Friday it would
> shed 35,000 jobs, close five plants and eliminate four vehicles
> in a restructuring that the CEO called ``painful but necessary.''

   I guess we have all heard this unfortunate bit of news by now. Its suicidal nature lies in this: All of those workers get dismissed and disengaged from the legal economy, making the legal economy less viable than ever, sending us further into recession, and possibly into a depression. When pessimistic, I sometimes wonder if a depression will HAVE TO occur before people awaken to the benefits of work reductions.

   If Republicans can keep the 35 hour week at bay until 2004, maybe newly-elected Democrats will further stave it off by giving us yet another 'tax and spend' New Deal. History repeats itself, but how often in the same old way until something 'new' has to be resorted to?

 

01-12-02

   Hi, Phil,

   snip irrelevancies

> Unfortunately, none of the big guns campaigning against consumption
> and for frugality have yet realized that the root of the matter is the
frozen
> workweek
which necessitates lotsa extra production which requires lotsa
> fatuous consumption aka
The Gospel of Consumption.

   Maybe it's time to spray a little WD-40 on that frozen work week. ;-)

   I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we had a really big name to go to bat for our program. Someone like Barbara Streisand, or Ed Asner, or one of those other big guns who do so much for liberal causes.

   Maybe we should make a humble appeal to them. Maybe I'll try finding a list of e-mail addresses for famous people and send them a personal letter, and see if anyone bites. I often think that, in order to sustain hope, that we have to be pro-active and do outreach, and not just wait for people to discover us.

   When I was a socialist and was rejected so often, doubts increased at the same time I remained a 'true' believer. That frustration led to paralysis, because I KNEW that further outreach would be ineffective. But, work reductions are so correct for our times that I know that, rich or poor, there have to be a lot of kindred spirits out there, and our job is to find them, and put us all together.

 

01-12-02

   Hi, Magda,

> Hello Kenneth!
>
>> The new topic sounds interesting. Did you ever read the book 'Summerhill',
>> by A.S. Neill, written in England? That book best describes my ideal for
>> child-rearing practices. Lots of
freedom.
>
> I think I heard, but I didn't read it. I will try to find
it here.
> What are your experiences with childhood? Was it a happy one?

   Not many happy memories. I was coerced into working for the family business at an early age, and I resented it 100%, but was powerless to do anything but slave away at ugly chores. I spent many an hour scraping gunky grease and oil deposits off of auto engine parts, and many an hour washing those parts in a tub of stinky gasoline. At the same time, I slowly learned the auto repair trade, which gave me a few skills to make a decent living, but my unhappy experiences created a bad attitude toward work and bosses. That's why I became a socialist, to find a way to create a better world for kids. :-) It's too bad that commercial socialism is no alternative to capitalism.

> bye
> Magda

   Like I always tell my niece and nephews: Be good, and if you can't be good, then be bad. :-)

 

01-16-02

   cgunther wrote:

> Mark,
>
> There are lots of good reasons that
Cooper must go.
> You list some of them yourself.

   Well, let's not forget that cg has all along been wanting to tell us who should be included and who shouldn't. I hereby nominate him to the honorary post of 'Pacifica censor for 2002'.

   As far as wanting to ban people on the basis of alleged lying, come on now, isn't it up to the audience to sort out the grain from the chaff? Are we supposed to PRE-DETERMINE what is the truth before anything has a chance to hit the air waves? That is precisely what some people want to do. Good luck. The truth machine has yet to be invented (though it may soon be on its way). In the meantime, whatever one faction says is truth, another faction will regard as lies. Give one faction the power to determine what's true, and we will be no better off than what we were.

 

01-23-02

   Hi, Michael,

> I was just wondering if you had that quote by Frederick
> Engels where he said something like
evolutionary process
> (
reforming) to socialism from capitalism ?
>
> Thanks
> michael

   I couldn't find a corroborating quote for 100% evolution, because M+E regarded the FIRST blasts of change (putting the proletariat in command, thereby initiating the LOWER phase of communist society) as occurring QUICKLY, as in 'political revolution'. AFTER some relatively quick and decisive victories, the UPPER phase of communist society (classless and stateless) was regarded as arriving by means of gradual change and Evolution.

   In opposition to M+E, MANY late-19th century socialists (such as state socialists, Fabians, municipal socialists, etc.) came to believe that few more European Revolutions were needed by the END of the 19th century, by which time the most dominant countries of Europe were pretty thoroughly democratized. More socialists came to believe in 'socialism by means of gradual reform', as in Evolution. CLOSE cohorts of M+E started out in the middle of the 19th century as Revolutionaries, like Bernstein and Kautsky, but later turned their back on Revolution, and became Evolutionists sometime after Engels died in 1895.

   For the west, Evolutionism turned out to be more correct than Revolutionism, because M+E's revolutionary expropriation scenario after 1917 proved feasible ONLY after communists overthrew feudal monarchies and liberated colonies, but was never feasible after socialists and communists won elections in Western democracies, thus fitting expropriation more to BACKWARD countries than advanced countries. After communists rose to power in underdeveloped countries like Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc., M+E were put on pedestals THERE, but not in Europe. So, for many generations after 1917, Western communists found themselves in the odd position of subscribing to revolutionary theories that were feasible ONLY in countries in which communists had a chance of acquiring full state power after toppling one or another type of repressive dictatorship or colonial despotism, but they could never 'bring the revolution home' to the countries they lived in. Sad, but true.

   Newly published Volume 49 of the Collected Works (and newly arrived in the mail) covers Engels' correspondence from 1890-2. Here is an excerpt from his August 21, 1890 letter to Otto Boenigk. According to a footnote, Engels speaks here of the lower phase of communist society, or the proletarian dictatorship:

   "So-called 'socialist society' is not, in my view, to be regarded as something that remains crystallised for all time, but rather as being in process of constant change and transformation like all other social conditions. The crucial difference between that society and conditions today consists, of course, in the organisation of production on the basis of common ownership, initially by the nation, of all means of production. I see no difficulty in carrying out this revolution over a period i.e., gradually. ....

   "Assuming, therefore, that we have an adequate number of supporters among the masses, the SOCIALISATION of large-scale industry and of the farms on the big estates can be carried out VERY QUICKLY, ONCE WE HAVE GAINED POLITICAL SUPREMACY. The rest will soon follow at a faster or slower pace. And when the large sources of production are ours, we shall be masters of the situation." (emphases in all of these quotes are mine - K.E.)

   Engels and Marx foresaw 3 major changes: First, the organization of the proletariat into a separate and independent party, and their CAPTURE of POLITICAL POWER - peacefully through elections in the existing democracies of the day, viz., England and the USA, and by forcefully overthrowing the existing monarchies on the Continent of Europe, creating new and socially controlled democracies. As Engels said at a meeting of the First International, "Before our ideas could be carried into practice we must have the Republic." Plus, in order to prevent the kind of counter-revolution suffered by the isolated Paris Commune, social-democratic republics had to be created SIMULTANEOUSLY in MANY highly developed countries. Simultaneity of revolution, and avoidance of counter-revolution, were MANDATORY if the proletariat would be successful in the next step:

   Secondly, EXPROPRIATION of the MEANS OF PRODUCTION. The letter above indicates expropriation occurring either slowly or quickly, depending on circumstances. A similar indication can also be found in the Communist Manifesto: "The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, BY DEGREES, all capital from the bourgeoisie" ...

   Thus ends the initial Revolutionary period of change. Next:

   Thirdly, CLASS DISTINCTIONS WERE TO DISSOLVE GRADUALLY OVER TIME, under the aegis of the proletarian dictatorship. That dissolution was the PREREQUISITE to the gradual withering away of the state. The smaller the distinctions between classes, the smaller the state can become.

   None of the above power and property scenarios take anything away from their consistent advocacy of work time reductions, and take nothing away from Engels' regard for workers' struggles for higher wages and shorter work time as legitimate means of abolishing the wages system.

   From Engels' 1881 article entitled "Trades Unions" (me24.387):

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

   The abolition of the wages system was regarded as closely related to socialism in general, because Engels wrote to Bebel on March 18, 1875:

   "The German workers' party strives to ABOLISH WAGE LABOUR AND HENCE CLASS DISTINCTIONS by introducing co-operative production into industry and agriculture, and on a national scale; it is in favour of any measure calculated to attain that end!"

   Labor time socialism, aka liberation capitalism, dispenses with steps one and two of M+E's power and property scenario, and uses existing institutions to try to get to classless and stateless society, starting as soon as people are ready to begin. Radical activists should take a clue from the fact that few people today are interested enough in expropriation to motivate creating a workers' party dedicated to capturing state power. Liberation capitalism for generations has regarded today's democracies as sufficiently facilitative of the abolition of class distinctions. Enacting labor time reductions could deliver as much social justice as any mortal has a right to dream about in this day and age of social breakdown.

   The abolition of the wages system is 100% dependent upon taking political advantage of developments in the means of production, past, present and future. Today's relatively primitive level of the means of production means that we still have to work, but a few more decades will change all of that, and human labor will soon become perfectly redundant. It is up to the advanced elements of society to ensure full participation in the legal economy at every step of the way. Full participation combined with technological evolution will ensure social harmony and the abolition of class distinctions like nothing else. Over a century ago, the American SLP included a program plank to the effect that 'hours of labor should decline commensurate with technological development'. Intelligent use of the institutions at hand is all we need.

   Best wishes,
   Ken Ellis

   Engels - Speeches in Elberfield (me4.263) {emphases mine - KE}:
   "
If, gentlemen, these conclusions are correct, if the social revolution and practical communism are the necessary result of our existing conditions - then WE WILL HAVE TO CONCERN OURSELVES ABOVE ALL WITH THE MEASURES BY WHICH WE CAN AVOID A VIOLENT AND BLOODY OVERTHROW of the social conditions. And there is ONLY ONE MEANS, NAMELY, THE PEACEFUL INTRODUCTION OR AT LEAST PREPARATION OF COMMUNISM. If we do not want the bloody solution of the social problem, if we do not want to permit the daily growing contradiction between the education and the condition of our proletarians to come to a head, which, according to all our experience of human nature, will mean that this contradiction will be solved by brute force, desperation and thirst for revenge, then, gentlemen, WE MUST APPLY OURSELVES SERIOUSLY AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THE SOCIAL PROBLEM; then we must make it our business to contribute our share towards HUMANISING THE CONDITION OF THE MODERN HELOTS [serfs and slaves - K.E.]. And if it should perhaps appear to some of you that the raising of the hitherto abased classes will not be possible without an abasement of your own condition, then you ought to bear in mind that what is involved is to create for all people such a condition that everyone can freely develop his human nature and live in a human relationship with his neighbours, and has no need to fear any violent shattering of his condition; it must be borne in mind that what some individuals have to sacrifice is not their real human enjoyment of life, but only the semblance of this enjoyment produced by our bad conditions, something which conflicts with the reason and the heart of those who now enjoy these apparent advantages. FAR FROM WISHING TO DESTROY REAL HUMAN LIFE WITH ALL ITS REQUIREMENTS AND NEEDS, WE WISH ON THE CONTRARY REALLY TO BRING IT INTO BEING. And if, even apart from this, you will only seriously consider for a moment what the consequences of our present situation are bound to be, into what labyrinths of contradictions and disorders it is leading us - then, gentlemen, you will certainly find it worth the trouble to study the social question seriously and thoroughly. And if I can induce you to do this, I shall have achieved the purpose of my talk."

 

01-24-02

   Hello,

   I'm new to this forum. I heard about it through an article in Frank Girard's Discussion Bulletin #111, where the forum was described as Marxist, but not particularly Leninist, De Leonist, Trotskyist, Maoist, etc., which permits us the opportunity to figure out what Marxism really was, and how it came to be split among so many different tendencies, and its current relevance.

   I hope that everyone here embraces the concept of classless and stateless society, and will participate in helping us to arrive at a simple program to help diminish class distinctions.

   On the eve of the Paris Commune, The General Council of the First International had some interesting discussions in volume 4 of the 5 volume set of Minutes. Here is some of the meat of the conversations:

   p. 129, Citizen Marx: "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, Citizen Marx: "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 defence. 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: "The International wanted to establish the Social and Democratic Republic and therefore it was high treason to belong to it."

   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."

   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."

   What do people think might be the significance of these comments?

 

01-25-02

   Dear S-T,

   If the Enron debacle should teach us anything, it should teach that the government should more closely regulate and oversee the operations of giant corporations to prevent the bosses from ripping off the little people, and then just sailing off into the sunset with all of their billions in rip-offs intact. After all, being incorporated means being a creature of the state, and therefore being a creature of the people. If we the people are content to just let our creatures run amuck, then maybe we deserve the chaos and broken dreams that result from our carelessness.

 

01-26-02

   I'm wondering if people here understand Marx's program much different from the following:

   1) workers would form into a political party of their own, separate and apart from any bourgeois party.

   2) their party would strive for political supremacy in the state - by elections in democracies, or by replacing monarchies, dictatorships and colonial despotisms with new democratic republics. Universal suffrage and proletarian numerical supremacy would ensure the dominance of workers' parties and policies.

   3) workers would use their political supremacy to expropriate the means of production, and to concentrate all of it in the hands of their governments, but not all at once, considering Engels' August 21, 1890 letter to Otto Von Boenigk.

   4) socialist revolutions must occur simultaneously in the most developed countries in order to avoid counter-revolution from neighboring non-revolutionary countries, taking a lesson from the Paris Commune.

   5) class distinctions would be abolished under the aegis of the grand universal proletarian dictatorship. This commune-state would wither away, and the upper phase of classless and stateless communism would be realized.

   Thanks for your input,

   Ken Ellis

 

02-01-02

   Sorry to be so late with this reply. Rolf Martens wrote:

> I think your description of Marx' programme
> is a fairly
accurate one, Kenneth.
>
> Of course events were to show that point 4),
> as conditions had developed, was not necessary -
> during a long time, impossible to fulfill too.
>
> Rolf M.

   Karl added:

> I am not too sure about the above comment. There have been different
> interpretations of Marx's
programme. Leninism has a different understanding
> of Marx's
programme --if you can say he had a programme-- to communists.
>
Communists advance the one programme --the communist programme-- while
>
Leninists promote minimum, transitional and maximum programmes. I reject
> the latter
programmes as I do Leninism.
>
> It is because of this that I formed the
Communism List.
>
> Karl Carlile

   Thanks for both comments, demonstrating some of the differing opinions over what's appropriate in a modern working class program.

   Before delving too much into post-Marxism, I think it prudent to initially explore more facets of Marx's actual program or advice. Because simultaneity of revolutions is now at issue, let's explore reasons why it might have been appropriate to Marx's era:

   If the 1871 Communes of France were doomed for a LACK of solidarity, then Marx regarded GREATER solidarity in a subsequent crisis or revolution as more appropriately fulfilling the needs of the European proletariat, as in a reporter's record of his 1872 Speech at The Hague - "all efforts aiming at the universal emancipation of the working classes have hitherto failed from want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labor in each country". Plus, Engels advised 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; i.e., upon their want of cohesion."

   So, lots of working class solidarity is essential to Marxism. But, the amount of solidarity that can be generated depends upon the difficulty of the task assigned. 'What workers were actually willing to fight for' in 19th century Europe needs to be examined. Industry was making great strides, raising agricultural productivity, reducing the relative influence of the peasantry and nobility, while the bourgeoisie and proletariat gained. Both new classes wanted to replace crumbling monarchies with democratic republics, but the bourgeoisie wanted property qualifications on the use of the ballot, while workers demanded universal suffrage. Republican movements of all sorts abounded, and the First International was considered a red republican club. Their debates revealed that the difference between a bourgeois republic and a red republic was universal suffrage. Workers had a decreasing amount of tolerance for helping the bourgeoisie create plain bourgeois republics. On the eve of the Paris Commune, Marx stated that: "middle-class republics have become impossible in Europe", because workers were willing to go the extra mile to ensure SOCIAL control of the new republics, as in the Paris Commune. Marx also stated: "The International wanted to establish the Social and Democratic Republic and therefore it was high treason to belong to it."

   Universal suffrage had often been both won and lost during European revolutions and counter-revolutions, until finally became a permanent standard toward the end of the 19th century, often without violent struggle. From the days of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels considered winning universal suffrage as the beginning of the revolution, and as the precondition for ALL ELSE. Engels reportedly stated, "Before our ideas could be carried into practice we must have the republic." Workers in new republics were to vote for workers' parties, and workers' parties in a universal proletarian dictatorship were expected to enact and enforce communist legislation, so winning universal suffrage (democracy) everywhere in Europe and all at once was essential to Marx's communist revolution.

   But, European revolutionaries were split between communism and anarchism, and Bakunin's anarchist followers were more interested in replacing European states with a classless and stateless administration of things. Communists didn't have the popularity to initiate a communist revolution on their own, so their only hope was to lead popular struggles for democracy and universal suffrage in order to create the requisite network of workers' republics. Only then could that universal proletarian dictatorship have cohered closely enough to enforce expropriation without fear of counter-revolution. Had that all happened according to communist desires, world history would have been a LOT different.

   In a single European country, it would have been difficult to imagine consummating revolutionary expropriation while a hostile bourgeoisie used neighboring capitalist countries to plot their next moves. In their mature writings, Marx and Engels regarded Russia as riper for revolution than a lot of other places, and also expected a Russian revolution to trigger revolutions in Europe. On the periphery, such as Russia, somewhat removed from Central Europe, a communist revolution could succeed by itself, but not with the earth shaking force with which simultaneous communist revolutions all over Europe would have shaken the world. Russia's huge size and relative removal from Europe enabled defeat of the counter-revolution, while a single revolutionary European country would have been quickly crushed.

   If anyone thinks that Marx could have been wrong about the necessity of simultaneity in Marx's own era, then good reasons should be forthcoming.

   K.C.'s statement that "There have been different interpretations of Marx's programme" is certainly true. It seems that every group has its own pet interpretation. We could do activism a service by agreeing upon what Marx's programme actually was, why it was the way it was, and why simultaneity of revolution was essential to it. Agreeing on 'what Marxism was' should be a lot easier than agreeing about Biblical history. But, some sectarians still insist that Marx gave us a clean slate, deny that Marx had a real programme, and thereby find it easier to justify their own sectarian programs. But, the Collected Works contain a lot of evidence of the kinds of policies and activities M+E considered important.

   Here again is the relevant portion of the message about Marx's programme:

   snip for brevity, see message of 01-26-02

 

02-03-02

   Jan Pole wrote:

> Surplus value
>
> Marx's third general theory is that of
surplus value. In the simplest
> terms, Marx realised that the
wage slaves, the people who needed to
> work to exist but couldn't work unless they exchanged their mental and
> physical powers for a
wage, were continually being exploited. This is
> because the capitalists, by virtue of their ownership of the means of
> producing wealth, appropriate a share of the product of their
labour.
>
> Because capitalists have the upper hand, stemming from their ownership
> of the means of wealth production, they are able to buy a worker's power
> to work on terms favourable to themselves, paying the worker less than
> the value of what they produce.
>
> The difference between what workers are paid for their
labour power,
> and the price the capitalist gets for the finished commodity,
once
> overheads have been taken care of,
is what Marx called surplus value -
> the source of profit, in a sense wide enough to include rents and
> interest as well as industrial and commercial profits.
>
> The
reason the majority working class have never posed a threat, so
> far, to the system that exploits them is because most believe
there is
> no alternative system.
The explanation for this can be found in Marx's
>
materialist conception of history.
>
> Marx observed that the
ruling class of any historical epoch controlled
> not only the economic sphere of society. Their influence extended
> further. They perpetuated their own
philosophy and ideas that
> justified their position as masters.
>
> So prevalent have been their
ideas that so far the subject class take
> them for granted but this is being continually undermined by the
> contradictions of
capitalism.
>
>
Marxism is not a dogma, but a system for the understanding of human
> history and society. It basically asserts that as securing the means of
> living is the predominant influence in
human life, it has to be the
> most dominant historical influence.
>
> Jan Pole

   The rich are as rich as they are ONLY because workers slave away for NEEDLESSLY long hours, thereby creating enormous surplus value which accrues to the rich and the military. Because of exponentially increasing productivity, and, for as long as 40 hours remains the accepted length of the work week, wages will represent an EXPONENTIALLY DECREASING fraction of newly created wealth. What's worse is that workers compete bitterly among themselves for scarce opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams, as well as to bloat the size of the state. If hours of labor remain a non-issue, unemployment and competition for jobs are bound to intensify as the means of production attain unprecedented degrees of sophistication, and human labor becomes increasingly redundant.

   Due to escalating pressures on tax-payers, taxing and spending to create new jobs will become increasingly difficult to justify, so, sooner or later, the futility of hard work at long hours will become more apparent, after which ordinary people will initiate action around THAT particular issue. As always, success in sufficiently redistributing wealth and property will continue to elude activists. But, because of their blinding fanatic loyalty to obsolete ideas about expropriation and redistribution of wealth, they may be the last to become aware of the futility of those pursuits.

   During the 19th century, hours of labor were so long for everyone that their incremental productivity gains regularly translated into shorter work hours, while upper class protest was too insignificant to block expanding leisure time. But, since winning the 5 day week, and along with the rise of the class of professional managers, productivity gains have increasingly translated into increased surplus value and profit, while competition for scarce jobs ensures low wages and poverty at the bottom of the social ladder. Who is to blame for this intensification of differences between rich and poor? -- everyone who insists on maintaining unnecessarily long hours of labor. Insistence and stubbornness prevents creation of a labor shortage that would ensure jobs for all at high wages. If OPEC can raise oil prices by creating an artificial shortage of oil, no iron law prevents workers from following the example of France's 35 hour week, thereby reducing the competition among themselves, putting more of themselves to work, raising their wages, and then learning from that success to keep unemployment in check by reducing hours again and again, as made possible by ever-increasing productivity. For those who enjoy a larger vision of social progress, work reductions will someday prove to be the ONLY way to abolish class distinctions. Marx wrote in V3 of 'Capital':

   me37.807
   "
In fact, the realm of freedom actually begins ONLY WHERE LABOUR which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations CEASES; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, THE TRUE REALM OF FREEDOM, which, however, can blossom forth only with this realm of necessity as its basis. THE SHORTENING OF THE WORKING DAY IS ITS BASIC PREREQUISITE."
   (Emphases mine - K.E.)

   In the meantime, American socialists, communists and anarchists have been more interested in gaining control over power and property than ensuring full employment by means of sharing the remaining work. Whereas the AFL during the Depression supported the Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill, socialists, communists and anarchists sold social phlogiston, such as 'tax and spend' and 'expropriation', which continue to this day as their basic programs. They have yet to learn the proper lessons from Marx's treatment of surplus value, regarding it instead as little other than an issue to cry over, or an excuse to 'smash the state', 'abolish capitalism', or perform some other impossible or illogical revolutionary act. Activists have yet to learn that 'an impossible program is as good as no program at all'.

   If increasing portions of the working day are spent creating surplus value, then the logical, time-honored solution to that problem is to work fewer hours, plain and simple. Temporary shortages in the labor market have often translated into higher wages and higher levels of social satisfaction, but activists can't bring themselves to advocate creating an artificial shortage of labor that would provide jobs at high wages for everyone. They aren't interested in saving the environment or stopping the population bomb by winning a shorter work week, higher overtime premiums, longer vacations, earlier retirement, etc. They instead want to be elevated to power so they can personally steer a percentage of the unnecessary surplus into the pockets of the poor, but few will travel with them down that path.

   Marx also wrote:

   me 20.303 "Thus there is an inherent contradiction in the capitalist employment of machinery: for a given mass of capital it increases one factor of surplus-value, its rate, by reducing the other, the number of workers."

   me29.88 "Machinery is not introduced to make up for a shortage of labour power, but to reduce abundantly available labour power to the necessary volume. Only where labour capacity is available in large quantities is machinery introduced."

   me30.318 "The purpose of machinery, speaking quite generally, is to lessen the value, therefore the price, of the commodity, to cheapen it, i.e. to shorten the labour time necessary for the production of a commodity, but by no means to shorten the labour time during which the worker is employed in producing this cheaper commodity. In fact it is not a matter of shortening the working day but rather, as in any development of productive power on a capitalist basis, of reducing the labour time the worker needs for the reproduction of his labour capacity, in other words for the production of his wages; it is therefore a matter of shortening the part of the working day during which he works for himself, the paid part of his labour time, and thereby lengthening the other part of the day, during which he works for capital for no return, the unpaid part of the working day, his surplus labour time. Why the mania for devouring alien labour time grows everywhere with the introduction of machinery, and why the working day, instead of being shortened is rather extended beyond its natural limits - until legislation is obliged to take a hand - why therefore not only relative surplus labour time but also total labour time increases, is a phenomenon we shall examine in Chapter 3."

   Marx believed that the answer to the problem of enormous surplus value and class distinctions is LEGISLATION limiting labor time. When will activists take that lesson to heart?

 

02-05-02

   Glenn Winstead wrote:

> Brian: What I was trying to say is that people have a tendency to want
> much more than they need, to dig themselves deeply into debt for things
> they could live without, and then have to work
40-70 hrs/week in order
> to pay (on time, of course) for the things they "own." My focus is on the
> adverse effects that
excessive labor has on the individual, not the evil of
> material goods. On the other hand, every system has a growth-limit, and
> constantly expanding
consumerism, with more and more production and
> consumption, is simply
not sustainable, and is devastating the planet
> and its creatures.
> With kind regards, Glenn/ Montana

   Glenn's cogent reply reminded me very much of something I had recently read in Marx's 'Capital', Volume 3:

   Page me37.807
   "
In fact, the realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with this realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite."

   In addition to what Glenn observed, Marx also seems to be saying:
   '
The precondition for freedom is a shorter work day.'

 

02-07-02

   littlesnarf gave us a url to look up:

> This has a lot to say... I'm sort of posting it in response to the
> subject of
civil liberties, etc. I hope everyone doesn't mind
> things in the
anti-capitalist/anarchist perspective.
>
>
http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=02/01/29/1708014
>
> "
We're losing all touch building a desert."
>
>
-- Modest Mouse

   The story at the web site contains this statement near the end:

   "The bankrupt critique espoused by liberalism can only take us back into the dead-end of society from which we have been trying to escape. Democracy, as the defender of capitalism, is a false idol and a dangerous diversion for revolutionaries. We must totally reject democratic sentiments as criteria in the anti-capitalist struggle, criticizing them openly and reaffirming anarchy as the direct purpose and realization of all our endeavors."

   Democracy as a 'dangerous diversion'? Revolution in democracies? Precisely with WHAT would democracies be replaced? Aren't democracies renewed and replenished every few years by means of elections?

   Could more than a handful of people be counted upon to revolt? Why weren't the SLA, Weather Underground, Panthers, etc., successful with their armed insurgencies?

   In the transition from feudalism to capitalism, isn't it easy to forget that increased agricultural productivity enabled 2 new classes - workers and capitalists - to emerge, and didn't they both want to replace repressive, intransigent feudal monarchies with democracies? Didn't capitalists want democracy for themselves, and in the early days place property requirements on the use of the ballot? But, didn't the desires of ordinary workers to influence their governments result in the triumph of universal suffrage, which they will not easily give up nowadays, and will fight to preserve?

   Don't anarchists want us to forget that history so that 'we can abolish our democracies'? But, wouldn't that pave the way for the triumph of a minority? Don't anarchists REALLY want to control everything themselves?

   It's easy to be fooled by anarchists. They had me under their spell for 4 years.

 

02-07-02

   David Johns wrote:

> Anyway. Just some more fodder for the questions, "Why exactly are we working?"

   As far as I can see, for mainly one reason nowadays: To make the rich richer than their wildest dreams.

   200 years ago, it took 80% of the people working the land to feed everyone, whereas today it only takes 2%. Similarly with the production of other necessities of life. With each passing year, it takes less time to create necessities. But, if the time spent working does not decrease in proportion to technological progress, then MORE NON-necessities will be created. As an extreme example of superfluous activity, some Enron execs created little entities which they sold back and forth to each other for huge profits. More commonly, alienation is on the rise, and Brian recently mentioned a poll in which a surprising number of Brits considered their jobs to be meaningless.

   A lot of modern work is a waste, and yet we spend lots of time preening our feathers and otherwise competing with one another over various ways to make a living creating waste. This fact isn't new to social consciousness. Even before the Depression era, people asked themselves: 'if work has less and less meaning, why shouldn't there be less work?' Enough people felt the same way that they won shorter work days and the 5 day week.

   Alongside of that process was the fact that society's wants increased. Everybody wanted new items that their ancestors didn't have, like refrigerators, autos, gas stoves, phonographs, indoor plumbing, extra money to spend on amusements during their increased leisure hours, etc. The increased demands had the effect of increasing work hours instead of shortening them, and so a sort of balance was struck between the 2 tendencies. At the same time, mass advertising and easy credit abetted consumerism.

   Thanks to microprocessors, technological smarts in the present era are expanding everywhere, and exponentially. The automated check-out at my Stop and Shop replaces a few low-skill jobs, the likes of which are increasingly destined for the ash-bin of history. As labor-saving technology becomes TRULY smart in another few decades, people will either fight for a shorter work week to spread the remaining work around a little better, or else experience an unemployment and homelessness crisis like never before imagined. If the lower classes can't find a way to earn taxable income, tax-and-spend will no longer be a useful social mechanism for creating new jobs.

   A shorter work week really will become a matter of social choice, if enough people can become aware of the real issues. Because work reductions hurt the profits of the ultra rich, the rich can be counted upon to obfuscate the issues, just the way their influence impedes greater awareness of a lot of other interesting issues. The rich can be counted upon to continue to spend a certain portion of their income to spread lies.

   Activists don't really have to wait for the inevitable major job crisis to materialize before they start to make waves. The issues are no more complicated than thinking ahead to the inevitable crises of the near future and demanding a shorter work week NOW to reduce joblessness, homelessness, hunger, poverty, save the environment, put the brakes on the population explosion, etc.

   But, a lot of activists are still immersed in the old radical ideologies of the past that proved inapplicable to modern democracies, and only found a modicum of usefulness for a brief era in less developed countries. But that doesn't stop modern activists from squandering their energies looking for forceful and punitive ways to 'take away the property and power of the rich'. They have yet to figure out that redistributing work to all who could use some is a far more spiritual and efficient way to solve modern problems than trying to redistribute power or tangibles like property and wealth.

 

02-08-02

   littlesnarf added:

> I think the new generation of anarchists understands the horror of minority
> rule
. The problem is really getting people together to all make decisions
> and trying to get people out of mindset of just being led and following w/o
> questioning enough. Hence the tactics of getting ppl to all get in on it
> needs to be worked on... people are bred to follow.

   Minority rule? Universal suffrage signifies MAJORITY rule. You've no doubt heard the term 'mob rule' applied to democracies. 'Minority rule' and 'universal suffrage' exclude one another. The two cannot exist at the same time in the same place. So, which one do we have?

   I really wouldn't be able to blame you very much for not feeling perfectly at ease about committing to either answer, what with all of the lies bombarding us from ALL directions. 30 years ago, when I was looking for something good to believe in, and after rejecting mainstream politics, I fell for radical socialist ideology. It took 4 years of close involvement to figure out that I had all along been marketing anarchism cleverly disguised as socialism. Boy was I pissed, but I still wasn't perfectly sure of myself, even after finding a quote out of context. As I further researched the roots of my party's ideology, I found a lot more lies and quotes out of context than were healthy for a party to burden itself with. When I tried to bring up my discoveries as a topic of inner-party discussion, my fearless leaders gave me the cold shoulder, because a LOT of other people were stupid enough to believe what the party was selling, and my leaders didn't want to lose their financial support. So, they guaranteed (among themselves) that my new-found discoveries would never get heard by the rest of the party without me breaking the rules of internal communication, which rule-breaking would automatically discredit me. Catch 22. The only choices I had were either to shut up and do my job, or get out. I endured an unrelenting level of frustration for the following 9 months, which finally convinced me to quit.

   So, if anyone thinks that minority rule characterizes our democracies, then they should apprentice themselves to a revolutionary sect, do some research and maybe find something wrong with their own ideology, and try acquiring the internal freedom of speech with which to raise awareness. If successful, then try to refashion the sect into something more useful to the lower classes in order to apply the force of numbers to the problems of the day.

   Our harsh reality is that: the democracies we 'enjoy' at present will be all that will avail, right up to the abolition of labor, the abolition of the division of labor, and the abolition of democratic states themselves. In order to abolish all of these things which we mutually HATE, we will have to learn to put what democracy we have to good use. All that we need to abolish labor, the division of labor, and class distinctions, will be to amend laws that are already on the books. The solution is really that simple, but no anarchist worth their Bakuninism will help anyone reach THAT conclusion.

   A few amendments by themselves will enable driving down the length of the work week to its logical conclusion, freeing people from labor, turning everyone into slackers, and this will be the only way we slackers will ever be able to arrive at slacker paradise in another few decades. But, to think that paradise can be reached by means of some kind of quick power play, or by some kind of radical redistribution of property or means of production, is to delude oneself. Universal suffrage is popularly regarded as the highest form of democracy, and the many people who enjoy it will also be willing to fight to the death to defend it. Radical state-smashers will always be heavily out-numbered.

   We all make mistakes, hopefully we can learn from them, and if it's at all possible for some people to learn from someone else's mistakes, many of my own are free to examine at my web site. Information there can help people who are very concerned with the serious problems of today to learn about the various ways in which various issues have been handled over the past couple of centuries, and then use that information to inform their own activism. I frequently update the material there to make the issues easier to understand, and I am now colorizing text to help readers figure out who's saying what, and whether or not the information is considered reliable. I even colorize some of MY OWN older writings as unreliable, often as the result of more recent research and analysis. It's all part of correcting the errors of one's ways, and not to WILLINGLY broadcast tainted information.

   Nobody wants to be wrong about what to do about 'democracy'. Fewer still want to be PUBLICLY wrong, and yet it happens all of the time. A person cannot help but be wrong if s/he has yet to delve into history to see how the ideas of the past few centuries have evolved, how their popularities have waxed and waned, and why some ideas have won out over others in the free marketplace of ideas.

   It's not easy to juggle jobs with books and research. But, if anyone would like to make a mark upon the times in which they live, they have no choice but to hit the books pretty diligently, and do their own research. E=mc^2 may be a simple formula, but Einstein had to do a lot of work before coming up with it. The solution to our social problems is just as elegant. Its rediscovery is inevitable, if the madmen of the present administration don't blow us up first. Let's not give them too many more opportunities by continuing to compete among ourselves over increasingly scarce long-hour opportunities to make them more powerful and richer than their wildest dreams. Let's instead create the artificial scarcity of labor that could put everyone to work at socially USEFUL tasks at easily livable wages, while saving the environment and defusing the population bomb at the same time. Social justice is that easy. People have only to overcome long-standing prejudices in order to learn to appreciate it.

 

02-08-02

   Glenn Winstead opined:

> Actually, Democracy is seriously flawed. It implies that the minority must
> always do what the majority wishes.
Eventually, the majority figures out a
> way to extract money from the minority. It is the source of
all corruption
> in
government, which becomes the best that money can buy.
>
> Glenn

   Maybe our democracies ARE seriously flawed, but consider the alternatives. People can't exactly wield dictatorships or absolute monarchies. Democracies were not forced on people. People got democracies because they WANTED them. Years ago, the rich wanted democracies too, but they wanted property restrictions on the use of the ballot. Universal suffrage eventually prevailed because of POPULAR DEMAND. In the end, we either learn to make democracies work for good guys like US, or the likes of Ken Lay will get their way all of the time. Ken Lay not only bought government influence in all of the right places, but he also bought off the press and some spin doctors, like Lawrence Kudlow, who regularly appears on the McLaughlin Report. I'm writing McLaughlin today to demand Kudlow be kicked off in favor of someone less biased (if anyone less biased is available).

 

02-09-02

   Mike B. wrote:

> Still the rate of exploitation remains. The proles
> still produce the wealth which is
expropriated through
> the
wages system. The problem is fictious wealth
> which is created by moving papers around the planet,
> papers which sell for high prices but which have less
> value embodied in them than the cost of producing
> the actual piece of paper.
>
> Best,
> Mike B)

   Is this any better than a COMPLAINT? What exactly do we do with our complaints? Didn't Marx give us any hints as to what to do about surplus value?

   me30.318 (snip most of it): "Why the mania for devouring alien labour time grows everywhere with the introduction of machinery, and why the working day, instead of being shortened is rather extended beyond its natural limits - until LEGISLATION IS OBLIGED TO TAKE A HAND - why therefore not only relative surplus labour time but also total labour time increases, is a phenomenon we shall examine in Chapter 3."

   "legislation is obliged to take a hand" - Not revolution. Get it?

 

02-09-02

   I recently ran across a little gem from Marx's 'Capital' about why long hours at work consume so many people. Some people might appreciate this, especially from the * to the end. Enjoy:

   me20.259
   "
In the process of production considered as a mere process of labour, the relation between the labourer and his means of production is not that of labour and capital, but that of labour and the mere instrument and raw material of productive action: In a tannery, for instance, he treats the skins as a mere object for labour. It is not the capitalists whose skin he tans. * But things change as soon as we look upon the process of production as a process of creating surplus-value. The means of production at once change into means of absorbing other people's labour. It is no longer the workman who employs the means of production, it is the means of production which employ the workman. It is not he who consumes them as material elements of his productive action; it is they which consume him as the ferment of their own vital process; and the vital process of capital consists in nothing but its progressive motion as value begetting value. Furnaces and workshops which have to stand idle at night, without absorbing labour, are a pure loss to the capitalist. Therefore furnaces and workshops constitute a 'title upon the night-work of the hands'. (See Reports of Children's Employment Commission, 4th Report, 1865, pages 79 to 85.) The mere change of money into means of production changes the latter into legal and compulsory titles upon other people's labour and surplus-labour."

 

02-09-02

   Dear TMR,

   On NPR radio on Friday, I found out that Enron gave Lawrence Kudlow a significant amount of money for an insignificant amount of work, which would spoil your program for me if Mr. Kudlow continued to regularly appear. I hope that a more objective commentator can be found for future programs.

 

02-10-02

   TiMotHy wrote:

> ....but in too few of places can i find WHY the state of the world is such...like,
> WHY we are in this position...HOW it has come about (it's origins, etc...);
> not just
institutional facts, but i guess what i am looking for here are the
> *psychological*
reasons for the sickness.
> (TiMotHy sOMewhere)

   Not a whole lot of knowledge is needed to make this a better world - just a little of the right kind would suffice.

   Much depends on the state of the economy, which can be divided into 2 parts - the above-ground, legal economy; and the underground, illegal economy.

   The greater the proportion finding places in the legal economy, the better the society functions, and the happier and more carefree the population. Conversely, the smaller the proportion finding places in the legal economy, the unhappier and more dysfunctional that society.

   People who can't find places in the legal economy are often forced to eke out an existence in the underground economy, which doesn't automatically mean that 100% of them are condemned to poverty, but FEW can thrive there.

   If a better and happier world would be made, ALL that's needed is to make the legal economy more inclusive.

   How to make it more inclusive is the subject of debate and experimentation. With 25% unemployment during the Depression of the 1930's, the AFL, in labor's time-honored tradition, wanted a shorter work week to help spread the work around. Sam Gompers once said: 'If even one person is out of work, the hours of labor are too long.' The work-reduction device works perfectly, because increasing productivity means that not as much work is needed, and people deserve to take the benefits of increased productivity in the form of greater leisure. But, a lot of people in high places think otherwise.

   The 30 hour Bill was so highly regarded that it passed the Senate and looked like a shoe-in for the House, but FDR's commercially-minded brain trust convinced enough legislators to sandbag it, and a discouraged AFL settled for the Wagner Act and some other sops. A lot of new jobs were created, mostly by taxing and spending. The Fair Labor Standards Act and 40 hour week were introduced in 1938, but it was too little, too late. WW2 put people to work like not in a long time.

   Here are some other wasteful and enslaving ways to make the economy more inclusive: Promote consumerism through advertising and easy credit. Plus, promote population growth to encourage growth of new facilities and infrastructure.

   The degree of inclusivity in the legal economy determines the level of social sanity. Wealthy waste-makers may deny this, simply because it is in their financial interests to promote waste.

   If disaster can be avoided in the meantime, the whole crazy system of waste will get its comeuppance in another few short decades. Machines will keep on evolving, will learn to do repetitive tasks much better than humans, and an unemployment crisis of unprecedented proportions will arrive. Then, no device except work reductions will prevent a depression. Such a collapse could be avoided altogether if we join the French in phasing in a 35 hour week, and later allow improvements in productivity to automatically mandate work reductions. Inclusion in the legal economy is the only way to win sanity and satisfaction for everyone.

 

02-10-02

   Hiya, Mike,

> Hi Ken,
>
> I agree. Workers need to organize to
reduce the work
> day
. It's a fundamental issue in the class struggle over
> the product of our
labour. The main reason the work day
> is so long now is because the capitalists want us to produce
> a bunch of goods and services we don't actually need. I
> think that some of the polytricksters in Washington and
> the other capitals of the planet might be inclined to pass
>
legislation to reduce the work day, if they saw enough
> people in streets demanding same. Without that subjective
> impetus though, the objective conditions will continue
> to be determined by the
ruling classes of the world.
>
> Best regards,
> Mike B)

   True, the campaign for work reductions needs to be taken to the streets, and yesterday. I was hoping that, by now, more activists would take up this cause, but it may be easier for some activists to think about putting pots of beans on people's tables by trying to CREATE work rather than by REDUCING hours of labor. If activists don't bother to think about this issue more carefully, they may even regard work reductions as 'contra-indicated'.

   In the meantime, quite a bit of homelessness, hunger and poverty among the lowest classes seems fairly well tolerated. I hope activists don't wait for machines to get so smart that many more millions are downsized and tossed out on the streets, in SPITE of their best efforts to tax and spend to make the legal economy more inclusive. Hopefully, their frustration will wake them up soon.

   In the meantime, it's up to us to try to make the best sense that we can, and take advantage of new communications technology like the Internet to try to see that truly good ideas can be found at least SOMEWHERE in the vast wasteland.

   For introducing truly smart technology to hasten the abolition of work,



02-11-02

   littlesnarf wrote:

> Also, Ken Ellis said something before that I think was directed towards
> me, but I lost it. I think you said something like: "
you have to choose
> one or the other
"... in regards to minority rule/majority rule thing.

   I found the message again. I sent the following on Feb. 8:

>> Minority rule? Universal suffrage signifies MAJORITY rule. You've no
>> doubt heard the term '
mob rule' applied to democracies. 'Minority rule'
>> and '
universal suffrage' exclude one another. The two cannot exist at
>> the same time in the same place. So, which one do we have?
>
> Well, what I had said was that most
anarchists are against minority rule.
> I was talking about the basic perception of what I see
minority rule as,
> as you were all talking about and are currently... ie a small group of
> elites making the decisions for a large group of people in one way or
> another. Other than that I don't really remember what you were asking...

   I agree that minority rule would create lots of problems for the majority. I certainly wouldn't want minority rule, and I don't know of very many people who would. Because of the big discrepancy in the levels of power and wealth between the rich and the poor, it's easy enough to identify the American system as one of 'minority rule'.

   I think that there is plenty of room for change in this country. I'm always up for a discussion of WHAT WE CAN CHANGE so that the world we build with our own hands won't seem as oppressive as the rule of a minority.

 

02-11-02

   Hi, Fiona,

   If we could have a 25-words-or-so DEFINITION of the anarcho-syndicalist method of changing the world, we could then compare it to methods 2, 3, 4, and 5:

   1) Anarcho-syndicalism. [Details, please]

   2) Tax the rich and spend it on poor people who could really use some money to get by.

   3) Replace the existing government with a communist workers' government, and run everything in the interest of the working class.

   4) Abolish the existing government, and replace it with a non-political association of workers' cooperatives, or 'one big union'.

   5) Down-size the length of work week to enable everyone to easily find work at very livable wages, and use future productivity improvements to further down-size the work week.

   Fiona replied:

> Well I don't suppose we'll ever make a "paradise" in this world and I have
> my doubts about the next and an
anarcho-syndicalist paradise wouldn't be
> my cup of tea anyway, it is simply one among many methods for getting
> from here to there. And we'll get "
there" i.e. a free and as far as humanly
> possible,
egalitarian world, in much the same way as we got from serfdom
> to eventual
democracy, that is after a lot of time, with a lot of patience,
> persuasion, agitation, protest and yes, work. I mean work towards that end.
>
> You might be interested in checking out the
anarchist FAQ:
>
>
www.anarchistfaq.org
>
> Regards,
> Fiona.

   I'm also up for a little sincere work on our mutual social problems. How about everyone contribute to a COMPLETE list of the ways to change the world, and then we compare the different methods? I'll volunteer to post a NEW and complete reference list every time a new proposal arrives.

 

02-15-02

   Thanks to chris' suggestion, we now have 6 ways to bring social justice:

   1) Anarcho-syndicalism. [Details, please]

   2) Tax the rich and spend it on poor people who could really use some money to get by.

   3) Replace the existing government with a communist workers' government, and run everything in the interest of the working class.

   4) Abolish the existing government, and replace it with a non-political association of workers' cooperatives, or 'one big union'.

   5) Down-size the length of work week to enable everyone to easily find work at very livable wages, and use future productivity improvements to further down-size the work week.

   6) Ferocious anti-trust laws, to break up monopolies and cartels, so as to ensure that there is genuinely free and fair competition that drives down prices, and gives buyers maximum value for money. That should redistribute wealth from manufacturers/retailers to customers. I'd fill prisons with crooked CEOs, not crack dealers.

   There's plenty of room for more suggestions!

 

02-16-02

   Thanks to Glenn's, Brian's, and littlesnarf's suggestions, we have 5 new additions to the social justice list:

   1) Anarcho-syndicalism. [Details, please, or is it the same as #4?]

   2) Tax the rich and spend it on poor people who could really use some money to get by.

   3) Replace the existing government with a communist workers' government, and run everything in the interest of the working class.

   4) Abolish the existing government, and replace it with a non-political association of workers' cooperatives, or 'one big union'.

   5) Down-size the length of work week to enable everyone to easily find work at very livable wages, and use future productivity improvements to further down-size the work week.

   6) Ferocious anti-trust laws, to break up monopolies and cartels, so as to ensure that there is genuinely free and fair competition that drives down prices, and gives buyers maximum value for money. That should redistribute wealth from manufacturers/retailers to customers. I'd fill prisons with crooked CEOs, not crack dealers.

   7) Anarcho-Capitalist: Eliminate Government. Substitute Contract Law.

   8) No laws regarding drug use.

   9) A Guaranteed Income System (Basic Income, National Dividend, Negative Income tax, etc) to more evenly distribute the escalating wealth from technology-produced productivity gains, and to replace the absurdly bureaucratic, costly and stigmatising welfare system.

   10) Government incentives to encourage corporations to offer more flexible working conditions, shorter days, shorter weeks, etc (like in France).

   11) Find out where the missing $1.1 trillion went!: http://www.insightmag.com/main.cfm/include/detail/storyid/139530.html

   Always room for more suggestions!

 

02-17-02

   When I moved to the Bay Area in 1974, and soon after began to listen to KPFA ... to the uninitiated, who would have thought that such a marvelous lifesaver of a radio station was possible? ... I enjoyed SOME of the music, especially the Irish rebel and folk/protest music, much of which I had no previous idea it even existed, so it was a real cultural windfall for me. In the late 1980's, after having worked at KPFA for a number of years, I ran across a mid-seventies Folio which confirmed my suspicion that KPFA had previously broadcast MUCH more talk than music - about a ratio of 2 to 1. After my mid-1970's golden era of listening pleasure, post-Bensky managerial staff turned over rather rapidly. Talk and information then dried up, and was replaced with much lighter fare. A few hold-outs, like Bill Mandel, Mama O'Shea, Jeff Echeverria, Bari Scott, and a whole block of Saturday evening programs, gradually took on greater and greater significance. Within a dozen years, by fits and starts, the old 2 to 1 ratio of talk to music diminished to a lowly 1 to 2. Concessions to music, and to increasing commercial music, were made everywhere.

   When I think of all of the good music I learned to appreciate in my 23 years of KPFA listening (terminated when I moved East in '98), by no means would I want the really interesting music to be totally abolished. Just the really commercial schlock that increasingly became the norm, making KPFA listening not much more pleasurable than nearly any other alternative; so, over time, NPR stations like KALW and KQED, and small stations like KCSM (for its bluegrass Sundays), KKUP, and KFJC filled the gap. Later, Free Radio Berkeley!! But, FRB was axed a few months after I moved East.

   The increasingly troubled times we live in justify Pacifica returning to a healthier ratio of talk to music, perhaps something like the old 2 to 1. Hopefully some changes we dissidents want will be implemented sooner rather than later, and Pacifica will become a MUCH better antidote to the mass stupefication perpetrated by GWB and Co.

   How to get program councils to break with the old habit of doling out so much air time to music promoters? Local initiative doesn't appear to be moving that process very quickly, at least at KPFA. Maybe it could be abetted by some kind of general programming policy statement from above. But, then, KPFA seems to be the most highly resistant to policies handed down from above. Hmmm ...

 

02-17-02

   Brian Dean quoted part of the list:

>> 5) Down-size the length of work week to enable everyone
>> to easily find work at very livable wages
>
> This has always been my favourite approach, but the question is HOW?

   Legislation yields the most uniform results, even if legislation isn't the favorite approach of the anarchists. A properly thought-out law remains the only time-honored and logical choice, recommended by Marx himself (me30.318):

   "Why the mania for devouring alien labour time grows everywhere with the introduction of machinery, and why the working day, instead of being shortened is rather extended beyond its natural limits - until legislation is obliged to take a hand - why therefore not only relative surplus labour time but also total labour time increases, is a phenomenon we shall examine in Chapter 3."

> The market clearly isn't doing it - average working hours are still rising
> (after decades of advancing/maturing technology).

   Market mechanisms alone can't prevent labor's slide to the bottom. Labor has struggled for legal protection FROM the free market for the past couple of centuries, practically from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when, for the first time in history, a new mode of production came to demand labor's UNSTINTING attention.

> Or at least that's my perception. Do you have any evidence that shorter
> hours
are occurring as a result of "market demand" (rather than
>
government intervention)?

   No, none yet. Historically speaking, unemployment has never been a social problem that the market alone could ever fix. Take government meddling away from THAT sphere, and a ton of government meddlings in a million OTHER spheres becomes the price society pays for not meddling precisely where it would greatly benefit. It is far more efficient to legislate INTANGIBLE hours of labor than to legislate doles and dollars, or other redistributions of TANGIBLES. If humans would only apply a little brain power, many social problems would vanish. But, profit interests interfere with good logic, causing abysmal waste and suffering. The efficient solution is obvious to the politically adept, but many refuse to consider that solution until the bitter end, because greater freedom from toil would mean the beginning of the end of their empire of greed, which end they feel compelled to forestall with all of the craft and guile they can muster.

> Also, advances in technology tend to reduce the value of human labor.
> If a gadget for replacing Joe Bloggs cost $15,000 last year, but only costs
> $5,000 this year, I think we can expect a downward pressure on Joe's
wages.
> The
minimum wage is so low (and so common) that the government currently
> pays out more
welfare (in total) to the employed than the unemployed (much
> more, in fact) - typically to supplement the earnings of families with
> children to support.

   Horrifying tendency, but, it's to be expected if society continues to blindly obey profit directives. A glutted labor market combined with competition for scarce jobs can't help but apply increasing pressure on the welfare system, which gets leakier with increasing pressure.

> That's a recognition that human labor simply doesn't provide sufficient
> income to live on under the current economic system (for the majority, that
> is. The rich end of the
market will presumably just go on getting richer).
> The current situation is mass poverty for workers and
unemployed alike.
> That's what the figures show, I'm afraid. Check it out:
> http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/930.asp

   It's a great web site. The jrf does a really good job.

   But, if 'the current economic system DOESN'T provide sufficient income to live on', that fact doesn't necessarily mean that the current economic system CAN'T provide the income. Compare conditions today to those described in 'The Ragged-Trousered Philosophers'. In spite of today's problems, we are materially far better off than a century ago, which means that the current system CAN provide, and could also do a lot BETTER job, if forced to do so. If the legal economy is allowed to become an increasingly exclusive little club, activists will have no one to blame but themselves. It's much easier to blame something or someone else for poverty problems - blame the rich, corrupt politicians, a broken system, etc. - but poverty is really the fault of society as a whole, which sees fit to tolerate mass exclusion from the means of earning a living. Society today doesn't exert its imagination more than to apply one tiny bandaid after another to our growing festering sore in the middle of capitalist paradise. But, that will change, as soon as it becomes impossible to apply bandaids anywhere nearly as fast as new problems grow out control, which they will for awhile, until the contradictions grow large enough to force people to apply the kind of precise logic that created the labor-saving technology, which enabled the exclusion from the economy in the first place. We have only to wait a few decades longer for that. In the meantime, progressive forces bent on redistributing wealth and property will continue to suffer ideological defeats, not much different from when Europe failed to support Russia's Bolshevik revolution in 1917, or when communism began to collapse in 1989.

> Consider this: During the 90s, the number of people with jobs in Britain
> rose.
Average working hours per person also rose. Productivity rose. Total
> wealth (
GDP) rose. But inequality rose. Poverty levels rose. Personal debt
> levels rose.
>
> From what I've read, I gather the situation is the same in America.

   It surely does seem to be much the same. Your suggestions:

> Which is why I argue for:
> i) A
Guaranteed Income System (Basic Income, National Dividend,
>
Negative Income tax, etc) to more evenly distribute the escalating wealth
> from technology-produced productivity gains, and to
replace the absurdly
> bureaucratic, costly and stigmatising
welfare system.

   Lots worse things than those measures could be proposed, for sure.

> ii) Government incentives to encourage corporations to offer more flexible
> working conditions,
shorter days, shorter weeks, etc (like in France).

   Now you are getting closer.

> iii) Find out where the missing $1.1 trillion went!:
>
http://www.insightmag.com/main.cfm/include/detail/storyid/139530.html

   Duly noted, and forwarded to the list.

> Brian
>
http://www.anxietyculture.com

   For applying logic (rather than old ideologies) to our mutual problems, KE

 

02-18-02

   Glenn Winstead gave us a new addition to the social justice list, #12:

   1) Anarcho-syndicalism. [Details, please, or is it the same as #4?]

   2) Tax the rich and spend it on poor people who could really use some money to get by.

   3) Replace the existing government with a communist workers' government, and run everything in the interest of the working class.

   4) Abolish the existing government, and replace it with a non-political association of workers' cooperatives, or 'one big union'.

   5) Down-size the length of work week to enable everyone to easily find work at very livable wages, and use future productivity improvements to further down-size the work week.

   6) Ferocious anti-trust laws, to break up monopolies and cartels, so as to ensure that there is genuinely free and fair competition that drives down prices, and gives buyers maximum value for money. That should redistribute wealth from manufacturers/retailers to customers. I'd fill prisons with crooked CEOs, not crack dealers.

   7) Anarcho-Capitalist: Eliminate Government. Substitute Contract Law.

   8) No laws regarding drug use.

   9) A Guaranteed Income System (Basic Income, National Dividend, Negative Income tax, etc) to more evenly distribute the escalating wealth from technology-produced productivity gains, and to replace the absurdly bureaucratic, costly and stigmatising welfare system.

   10) Government incentives to encourage corporations to offer more flexible working conditions, shorter days, shorter weeks, etc (like in France).

   11) Find out where the missing $1.1 trillion went!: http://www.insightmag.com/main.cfm/include/detail/storyid/139530.html

   12) It tends to be the desire to own things that binds people to their long hours of labor. Thoreau managed to meet all his needs, working only six weeks in a year. Toss in a computer and a bicycle, and perhaps he would have labored another two or three weeks. The perceived need for traditional housing and for automobiles keeps most people in the U.S. in the position of slavery to their workplace, grateful for a two week vacation, during which they are too exhausted to enjoy themselves.

   Always room for more suggestions!

 

02-18-02

   Thanks to Fiona, we now have some details on #1

   1) Anarcho-syndicalism: revolutionary trade-unionism, class struggle, which sounds quaint but is still relevant, workers solidarity (with other workers and non-workers), collective action and self-management. It has nothing to do with the flexibility or inflexibility of labour, which are employer concepts, but recognises that we are paid far less than the full value of our labour in order to create profit for the "boss" classes. The above strategies are necessary in order to take what is ours, rather than negotiation, which basically amounts to asking for what is ours and then perhaps receiving varying small percentages of it and expected to be grateful.

   2) Tax the rich and spend it on poor people who could really use some money to get by.

   3) Replace the existing government with a communist workers' government, and run everything in the interest of the working class.

   4) Abolish the existing government, and replace it with a non-political association of workers' cooperatives, or 'one big union'.

   5) Down-size the length of work week to enable everyone to easily find work at very livable wages, and use future productivity improvements to further down-size the work week.

   6) Ferocious anti-trust laws, to break up monopolies and cartels, so as to ensure that there is genuinely free and fair competition that drives down prices, and gives buyers maximum value for money. That should redistribute wealth from manufacturers/retailers to customers. I'd fill prisons with crooked CEOs, not crack dealers.

   7) Anarcho-Capitalist: Eliminate Government. Substitute Contract Law.

   8) No laws regarding drug use.

   9) A Guaranteed Income System (Basic Income, National Dividend, Negative Income tax, etc) to more evenly distribute the escalating wealth from technology-produced productivity gains, and to replace the absurdly bureaucratic, costly and stigmatising welfare system.

   10) Government incentives to encourage corporations to offer more flexible working conditions, shorter days, shorter weeks, etc (like in France).

   11) Find out where the missing $1.1 trillion went!: http://www.insightmag.com/main.cfm/include/detail/storyid/139530.html

   12) It tends to be the desire to own things that binds people to their long hours of labor. Thoreau managed to meet all his needs, working only six weeks in a year. Toss in a computer and a bicycle, and perhaps he would have labored another two or three weeks. The perceived need for traditional housing and for automobiles keeps most people in the U.S. in the position of slavery to their workplace, grateful for a two week vacation, during which they are too exhausted to enjoy themselves.

   Always room for more suggestions!

 

02-19-02

   Jan Pole wrote:

> Capitalism depends on the uncritical acceptance of dishonest politics
> in order to gain your consent to the
legalised robbery of wage-slavery.

   Double edged sword: Uncritical acceptance of dishonest revolutionary politics diverts 'true believers' away from useful activism to reduce needlessly long hours suffered by workers.

   But, I know, 'true believers' are not allowed to consider the dishonesty of revolutionary politics, because revolutionaries are supposed to be the good guys, and everyone else the bad guys who supposedly hold the revolution back. But, revolution in democracies? Who are the revolutionaries trying to kid? As long as ordinary people can run for office and sometimes even get elected, people will not change what we have, so 'the revolution' becomes far more valuable to those who profit from maintaining the status quo.

   "But things change as soon as we look upon the process of production as a process of creating surplus-value. The means of production at once change into means of absorbing other people's labour. It is no longer the workman who employs the means of production, it is the means of production which employ the workman. It is not he who consumes them as material elements of his productive action; it is they which consume him ... The mere change of money into means of production changes the latter into legal and compulsory titles upon other people's labour and surplus-labour." Marx - Capital me20.259

 

02-20-02

   Li'l Joe wrote:

> Perhaps Ken can tell us: how may trade unionists are appointed
> to the
federal court, the Supreme Court? How many working-class
> are
officers in the US military, the Pentagon? How many workers
> are there in the US
Senate, State Senates? How many homeless
> workers have been elected to the
House of Representatives, State
> Assemblies
? How many governors are there in any of the US
> fifty States, and homeless workers that are
mayors of cities?

   The point was well made that ordinary people don't ordinarily make it up to the heights of political power. But, a poverty childhood didn't prevent Bill Clinton from becoming a Rhodes scholar and using his brains to build a career in politics and become President. Treasury Secretary O'Neill is apparently of humble background, enjoying a little tiff with a Congressman over which of the two came from the humbler background. One could thereby make the point that 'merely elevating people of humble background to high places, by itself, wouldn't do very much for social justice.' Condoleeza Rice is another who lifted herself by her bootstraps. The fact is: this is not a feudal monarchy that denies positions of power and influence to people born outside a royal family, or who are of humble origin. So, arguing about the backgrounds of a relative handful of people in high places does nothing to enhance social justice. Poor people can lie to hang onto what little they have as well as rich people can lie to try to hang onto their ill-gotten gains.

   Li'l Joe's complaint takes away nothing from my original argument:

   "As long as ordinary people can run for office and sometimes even get elected, people will not change what we have, so 'the revolution' becomes far more valuable to those who profit from maintaining the status quo."

   Not many people I know would be willing to revolt so as to replace the money-bags in high places with people of humble backgrounds. Talk about rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic! It would be too silly for words, so perhaps Li'l Joe attacked my critique in order to clear the path for more of Jan Pole's anarchist screeds. After all, revolutionaries have to stick together to make the revolution, even if the revolution would be bound to yield yet ANOTHER big fight over whether to create Li'l Joe's communist workers' state, or Jan Pole's classless and stateless administration of things. Again, this would be so silly that ordinary people wouldn't give it the time of day.

   People often choose methods of social justice that address the problems at hand. Many social problems arise simply because of the increasingly exclusive nature of the legal economy, whose exclusivity growth rate is bound to accelerate with the introduction of ever-smarter technology, as long as the 40 hour week remains intact. One glimmer of hope for a correct solution can be found in Japan's new policy to reduce overtime for teenaged workers. Who would have thought that Japan would ever suffer from unemployment, but it is becoming as much of a problem over there as it is over here.

 

02-26-02

   Let's explore whether Marx's program wasn't asking a little too much from European workers, even for Marx's revolutionary era.

   Last time, Marxism was shown to be irrevocably enmeshed with struggles for democracy and universal suffrage. Communists were to rally European anti-monarchist sentiments into revolutionary democratic movements, as evidenced in Engels' 1885 "On the History of the Communist League" me26.325:

   "That, however, the League had been an excellent school for revolutionary activity was now demonstrated. On the Rhine, where the Neue Rheinische Zeitung provided a firm centre, in Nassau, in Rheinish Hesse, etc., everywhere members of the [Communist] League stood at the head of the extreme democratic movement. The same was the case in Hamburg. In Southern Germany the predominance of petty-bourgeois democracy stood in the way. In Breslau, Wilhelm Wolff was active with great success until the summer of 1848; in addition he received a Silesian mandate as an alternate deputy to the Frankfurt parliament."

   European republican revolutionism was the major premise to Marx's communist revolution. Workers first had to organize into their own parties and win universal suffrage ("the battle for democracy"). If communism became popular in the process of simultaneously winning democracy in many countries, thus creating a universal proletarian dictatorship, only then could expropriation of means of production without compensation have been conceivable.

   But, herein lies a nub of possible philosophical conflict, on which I could use some opinions: On the one hand, Marx called for workers winning the most liberating form of democracy - universal suffrage - while at the same time using their new political powers and freedoms to OPPRESS wealthy classes by divorcing them from their property rights. To argue for the majority to appropriate power, and then use their new powers TO REVERSE the progress of a minority (of wealthy owners), may not have expressed a high-enough philosophical ideal, simply because it intentionally sends some people BACKWARDS, which I personally find to be quite iffy as a SOCIAL goal. The retrograde intent of communism with regard to the rich might have doomed it to unpopularity in the very parts of the world where it was supposed to triumph first.

   The Paris Commune seemed less than perfectly willing to use their new state power to expropriate without compensation, according to Marx's First Draft of "The Civil War in France" (me22.472):

   "A great lot of workshops and manufactures have been closed in Paris; their owners having run away. ... The Commune, very wisely, has appointed a Communal commission which in cooperation with delegates chosen by the different trades will inquire into the ways of handing over the deserted workshops and manufactures to cooperative workmen societies with some indemnity for the capitalist deserters;" ...

   If European workers had been as interested in expropriation without compensation as the Bolsheviks later proved to be, the Communards may not have bothered to consider compensating owners for the use of their abandoned workshops. But, that bit of history indicates popular respect for the institution of private property, which institution barely existed South or East of the Mediterranean during Marx's era.

   Why couldn't socialists and communists expropriate without compensation after winning elections? A party prepared to wage and win election campaigns already demonstrates a considerable degree of philosophical accommodation to institutions like democracy and private property, as the many tendencies within Marx's German Social-Democratic Party demonstrated. If socialist and communist parties are successfully elected in merely one country at a time, they would necessarily have to wait for the sympathetic parties of many surrounding countries to ALSO win elections, or emerge politically victorious, only after which would expropriation without compensation, and without fear of counter-revolution, have been conceivable. But, expropriation without compensation was never accomplished after socialist and communist parties won elections in the very part of the world in which communism was supposed to have first triumphed, manifesting a contradiction between history and Marxist expectations - no simultaneity, and no successful long-lasting communist revolutions, exactly where they were supposed to happen first.

   As 20th century revolutionary history demonstrated, expropriation without compensation was feasible only after overthrowing monarchies in backward countries, or after liberating colonies - events in which communists emerged with full state power. An abundance of intransigent monarchies and colonies simultaneously presenting themselves for overthrow would have presented the best possible foundation for a worldwide communist revolution, but the revolutionary path in Europe was increasingly obviated by gradual democratization, and as growing labor unions and parties guided passage of reforms in the interests of the working class. As Engels wrote in his March 8, 1892 letter to Bebel, "public works, shorter working hours, and wages in accordance with trades union demands, etc. ... represent the best means of safeguarding the masses against ... genuinely socialist heresies."

   If expropriatory communism still turns out to be the ONLY way to writhe our way out of the muck of the ages, then I would say yes, go ahead and expropriate, and divorce the rich from their property rights. But, considering the failure of Europe to successfully revolt in sympathy with the Russian revolution of 1917, and considering the post-1989 mass rejections of expropriatory communism, then, intentionally stepping on the rights of some classes of people may very well be doomed as a popular means of social progress, in which case it may be time for would-be expropriators to consider changing their programs, and put their energies behind ideas which are more fitted to current realities.

 

03-02-02

   I thought of another benefit to a reduced work week. Because it seems so fundamental, I added it as the new number 3, and bumped the rest up a notch.

   Labor time reductions could:

   1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

   2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

   3) Prevent full-time workers from being replaced by part-time workers, who often receive fewer or no benefits.

   4) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the right things for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

   5) Improve productivity by eliminating worker fatigue.

   6) Reduce the waste of lengthy commutes.

   7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

   8) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

   9) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

   10) Give people more time to spend in service to their communities, hobbies, with their families, and for unexpected family emergencies, etc.

   11) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

   12) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France, with its 35 hour week.

   13) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling tax reductions.

   14) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

   15) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation' justification for 'economic growth'.

   16) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

   17) Alter investment priorities, enabling the economy to serve a greater portion of humanity.

   Has anyone had any thoughts about possible new additions to this list since the last update back in August? There's always room for more.

 

03-02-02

   A while back Brian wrote:

> Ken, I agree with most of your last post. Frankly, I think *some* form
> of
redistribution of wealth is necessary to prevent large sections of the
> population starving.

   Redistributing wealth - from the rich to the poor, as well as a lot in the other direction - is an important government function, but obviously doesn't prevent social problems. Redistributing tangibles is not an efficient way to administer a dynamic economy. Governments are pressured to provide somewhat for the poor, but results seem haphazard. Recipients complain about the paucity of what little is allotted, and are jealous that other communities of interest might be getting 'more'. If a little wealth would be distributed to the homeless, then seniors would wonder what happened to their promised prescription benefits, or other communities of interest would wonder what ever happened to THEIR favorite programs. Redistributing wealth cannot be accomplished without Balkanizing the entire population into competing and warring little camps. Reducing hours of labor, on the other hand, would apply to 140 million American workers and their bosses at once, and would then have the advantage of applying to the many millions MORE who would then join the legal economy at life-sustaining wages. But, governments seem to dread good logic being applied to social problems, for fear of their own existence being obviated. So, valuable resources and lives get squandered.

> But I have a broad definition of "redistribution of wealth" which includes
>
welfare, minimum wage levels, subsidised public transport, etc.
>
> Under a "pure"
market system, wage levels supposedly relate to the "value"
> of
labor to the employer. If technology reduces the value of human labor
> (which, by and large, I think it does, since automation becomes increasingly
> cheap relative to
human labor), then it seems inevitable that "pure" market
>
wages (for most workers) would eventually fall below the level at which
> people can survive.

   What's implied here is: 'the decline of wages to less-than-livable threatens working class survival, unless government intervenes.' Wages certainly TEND to decline, but I don't blame that growing tendency entirely on automation, because: unemployment, competition and low wages result solely from CRUEL PUBLIC POLICY, determined by people in power, acting in the interests of the upper classes. But, few people identify unemployment as the result of cruel public policy, preferring to justify their seeming helplessness by mystifying this aspect of political economy. After that fait accompli, the only imaginable solutions to unemployment become EXPENSIVE solutions, and loathing towards spending money on the poor prevents much from being done.

   As productivity improves while hours of labor remain fairly constant, the rate of surplus value grows, workers spend less and less time working for themselves, and spend more and more time working for their bosses and the government. 200 years ago, producers kept most of what they produced. 80% of Americans had to live on the land in order to feed all, while today, less than 2% do the job, for a forty-fold increase in agricultural productivity. At the rate everything else gets built and created, a similar productivity spurt must be occurring in other spheres of production as well. This spurt theoretically means that society could probably survive on a mere hour of work per week. Relative to the mass of new wealth created, workers' shares definitely drop, and yet Westerners have many more toys to play with than a century ago. Seems like a bit of a paradox.

   Wages are under at least 2 different downward pressures. 1) Especially for the working poor, wages represent little more than necessities of life. Instead of simply going home after the value of a worker's wage has been created (which probably occurs at the conclusion of the first hour of a work week), workers remain on the job for 39 more hours, creating vast surpluses for owners to sell off to realize their profits. So, the workers' share of new wealth diminishes with time, and that discrepancy will continue to grow for as long as the work week remains unnecessarily long.

   2) The second downward pressure arises when workers compete among themselves for scarce jobs, desperation forces acceptance of sub-standard wages, while the discouraged try their luck in the underground economy. The decline of wages has prompted a growing number of communities to pass living-wage statutes, but many others still allow bosses to get away with legal murder because of the old story: 'Aww, if such a law is passed, businesses will move somewhere else, and then we won't have any jobs or businesses at all.' Regardless of that ill-conceived reservation, the living-wage movement is growing, and it may prove to be a pretty good band-aid for some time.

   Thus, unnecessarily long work hours pressure wages downward in at least 2 different ways: relatively and absolutely.

> The minimum wage (and welfare) seems to be an acknowledgement that this
> process is *already* happening. (In Britain, the
government pays out more
>
welfare to people in jobs than it pays to the unemployed). As technology
> continues to advance, I assume that most (but not all)
human labor will
> decrease in value, following the above trend. Therefore, I see the necessity
> for a *greater level* of
wealth redistribution. Whether you call it "welfare"
> or "
minimum wage" or "Basic Income", it still amounts to redistribution of
> wealth
- eg income to supplement inadequate "pure market-level" wages.

   I think that the very first minimum wage in America may have started out at something like a paltry 60 cents per hour.

   On the other issue: Failure to adequately distribute WORK necessitates redistributing wealth and income, or else sans-coulottes would take to the streets looking for officials to guillotine. As more and more wealth and income get redistributed to a growing reserve army of unemployed, and as the legal economy diminishes into an exclusive little club, tax burdens grow heavier, confidence in the economy erodes, and more and more people turn to underground means of scraping by. And then we wonder why crime increases.

> (The only alternative would be to condemn millions to grinding poverty.
> Glenn presumably thinks this mightn't be so bad. Maybe it would serve
> blue-collar workers
right for being too greedy about consumer goods, huh?)

   The ONLY alternative? We have yet to follow in the footsteps of France's 35 hour week, which dropped their unemployment rate from double to single digits. Their next elections will show whether right wing lies will persuade them to rejoin the race to the bottom.

> If working hours are reduced (whether "naturally" through market forces,
> or "artificially" through other means) - ...

   I can think of only one measly market force by which hours of labor can be shortened, and that's when a union or shop strikes for shorter work hours or higher wages and occasionally wins, but that hardly makes for steady or reliable income if forced to strike every few months, for we all know how temporary labor victories can be.

   A recent news item at the SWT forum indicates that a big union of Greek workers just signed an agreement with bosses on a 39 hour work-week, and was accomplished with NO government involvement! So, there's a downward pressure on the work week, and without government meddling. It appears as though enough people made the moral decision that it's wrong for some people to hog all of the work, and leave others with none at all. The world needs a LOT more sentiment like that.

> If working hours are reduced (whether "naturally" through market forces,
> or "artificially" through other means) - but without a corresponding increase
> in
redistribution of wealth - then how will people earn enough to survive
> (since they don't currently earn enough from
working *long* hours)?

   Competition for scarce jobs lowers wages. Remove competition, and wages would rise sufficiently for EVERY worker to live well without subsidies. A 19th century doggerel stated: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay." During an economic boomlet in Madison, Wisconsin a few years ago, labor was so scarce that wages zoomed far above the minimum, even for McDonald's workers. The all important thing is for labor to make itself scarce and desirable instead of a worthless glut. Labor scarcities require very favorable labor markets, or good organizations. Engels wrote in 1845: "the supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among themselves."

   Upper class sycophants may claim that 'a shorter work week would hurt workers', but that doesn't mean that it's the truth. Bosses lie like hell to protect their profits, and many people don't know what to believe. Psychology must also be considered. Long work hours have meant a decent living for a lot of workers going back many years, and anything less than long hours may seem to some go-getters like an impediment to buying a new house, car, etc. However, the ideology of the labor aristocracy won't fix SOCIAL problems.

   Long hours of labor are the REAL problem, and result from BAD social policy. Long hours of labor are ANTI-SOCIAL, because the 'lucky few' who get to slave away all week actually prevent the jobless from finding any work at all, so this is definitely a moral issue, and should be discussed as such. Bosses benefit economically when as FEW people as possible work for as many hours per day and week as is physically possible, while it is in society's better and more enlightened interests if work is spread out among as many as possible. This is THE social question on which capital and labor are in POLAR opposition. On no other issue have the views of capital and labor historically been so directly opposed. On other issues: both labor and capital want democracy, both want influence in government, both protect their countries, their property, their home turfs, the product of labor, etc.

   In the USA, the class struggle has been so WEAK that workers never developed their own party to push their political interests. Instead, Greenspan and his Federal Reserve Board fiddle with interest rates to keep unemployment from varying drastically above or below 5%. If the FRB has to so OVER-stimulate the economy (to keep unemployment down to respectable levels) that the environment is wrecked, whoever complains is unfortunately too paltry to have much of an effect. Resources get wasted, perhaps precisely so that no one gets it into their 'fool heads' that 'the benefits of improved productivity should redound to the working class in the form of increased leisure time', instead of exclusively to the upper classes in the form of increased wealth, and to the government in the form of higher taxes.

> I can, of course, see some indirect benefits of shorter working hours
> which would tend to increase overall productivity ...

   Data give mixed results. Productivity rises fairly undisturbedly as a function of the passage of years, decades, generations, etc., because labor saving technology is incrementally introduced, which constantly boosts the RATE of output (productivity). Generally, workers can make more gizmos this year than last year. On the other hand, production (output) is proportional to worker-hours. The decline of France's work week from 39 to 35 hours forced Michelin to hire more workers, because working FEWER hours required MORE workers to yield the same output. On the other hand, in Germany, H-P workers in some factories became more productive as the result of changing to a 30 hour week. MORE gizmos were made in four 6 hour shifts than were previously made in three 8 hour shifts, so the 2 hours cut from their work day DIDN'T result in a pay cut. Shorter work weeks often have a secondary effect of so exuberating workers that their increased productivity makes up for a shorter shift. A lot can also depend on the particular branch of production, and the effect might not occur in a field like health care.

   Though statistics for FULL-TIME workers show the American work week getting longer, the AVERAGE length of the work week has actually been shrinking for decades, due to the ongoing replacement of full-time with part-time labor.

> I can, of course, see some indirect benefits of shorter working hours which would
> tend to increase overall productivity, reduce
unemployment, reduce health costs, etc,
> but this doesn't really answer my question of how you pay people enough to live on
> without increasing the level of
wealth redistribution.

   How to pay people enough: In the American economy of yore, especially while wages were high enough to prevent EVERY worker from moving West to become independent farmers, and before much labor legislation was passed (ahh, those sweet halcyon days), bosses paid workers enough to live on, and to ensure that they returned week after week to learn their tasks well enough to boost efficiency. Outside of an occasional crisis of overproduction, the old economy worked quite well.

   The WHOLE idea behind the shorter work week movement is to enable ANYONE to find work, thereby obviating a LOT of government intervention in the economy. Social justice and lots of freedom in highly developed countries is NO MORE complicated than that. But today, and because of the glutted labor market, we necessarily are forced to resort to devices like unemployment compensation, welfare, subsidized health care, minimum wages, living wages, every kind of little subsidy and tax dodge imaginable, plus an army of public and private bureaucrats to put it all in effect, etc. It's PLAIN inefficient, and someday, when technology gets REALLY smart, compounding old inefficiencies with MORE bureaucracies WILL NOT suffice to put enough people to work. Liberation capitalists have been saying things like this for nearly a century. Capitalism COULD liberate all if we could overcome upper class resistance to workers taking the benefits of increased productivity in the form of greater leisure time. Know and oppose your slave-driving enemy.

   The BEST way to 'pay people enough' is to redistribute work, giving many more people opportunities to earn wages. Create an artificial scarcity of labor, and bosses would then be forced to compete for scarce labor instead of forcing workers to compete for scarce jobs. Bosses can more easily afford to compete for scarce labor than the other way around. If OPEC can create a cartel of oil producing nations, then why can't the ILO create a global labor cartel? If OPEC's artificial oil scarcity forces oil prices up, then why can't a labor cartel control the supply of labor by prescribing its hours, and thereby create the kind of labor shortage that would ensure at least SOME work for EVERYONE who could use some? Nothing prevents us from doing that, if we so desire. Some people might claim that social justice is MUCH more complicated than that, but they are often just making excuses for their own stubborn adherence to worn-out ideologies which impede clear thinking.

> In other words, the overall wealth produced might increase, but you
> still have to
distribute it in ways which owe nothing to "market forces",
> otherwise it benefits only the rich - as usual.

   As for distribution, the nice part about providing jobs to all is that it puts wages directly into the pockets of the people who earn it. That is much more direct and efficient than collecting taxes into the hands of a central agency, and then redistributing it from there.

> So I would combine a system like Basic Income (which I consider to be the
>
most efficient and benign method of wealth redistribution) with, as you say,
>
legislation (or financial incentives) for introducing shorter hours.

   One potential problem with Basic Income, depending on what it really consists of, is that it might run afoul of traditional American values favoring small governments and bureaucracies. America's traditional objection to 'government solutions' could become a handy excuse for not adopting Basic Income, especially if its intent included paying able bodied people NOT to work, while others slave away at long hours. I can already hear the chorus yelling: Unfair to workers!

> As I've stated before, I think such an approach would paradoxically create
> a
truer "free market" than we currently have - ie one based on true wants
> and desires rather than fear and compulsion.

   Distributing money from a central agency has 'what' in common with a free market philosophy?

> And you could combine this with Anarchist approaches to increasing personal
> liberty
- eg abolish drug laws, reduce the military budget by 99.9%, dissolve
> the CIA
, find out where the missing $1.1 trillion went, etc.
>
> Brian
>
http://www.anxietyculture.com

   I'm all for personal freedoms and liberties, plus low or no taxes. Everybody knows how to read a clock on a wall, which makes the length of a work week easy to administer. On the other hand, who knows exactly WHAT goes on in the cores of administrative bureaucracies? Enough atrocities leak out to sour advocacy of more bureaucracies.

   My own experience with anarchism is that the ideology prevents otherwise well-intentioned people from knowing exactly where and how SOME government pressure (in precisely the right area) would provide anarchists the very kinds of social justice which a lot of them seek. Anarchism unfortunately poisons people with hatred of ALL government, and provides adherents with fancy states of denial of what's obvious to ordinary people. Many endlessly repeat absurdities like: 'the USA is not a democracy'. Well, suppose they are right: Will many believe them? Practically every American will say that we have a democracy, and will not be swayed otherwise. So, what good does it do to argue whether or not we have democracy? Some people try unceasingly to convert people to unpopular views, instead of looking at the economy as 'useful social activity', and then using what freedoms we still have to try to get the economy to work better for more people, which is quite possible.


03-03-02

   Eaves sent some excellent suggestions about the financial benefits of swt, which invests number 12 with some real meat and potatoes. Thank you, Eaves.

   Labor time reductions could:

   1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

   2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

   3) Prevent full-time workers from being replaced by part-time workers,
who often receive fewer or no benefits.

   4) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the right things for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

   5) Improve productivity by eliminating worker fatigue.

   6) Reduce the waste of lengthy commutes.

   7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

   8) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

   9) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

   10) Give people more time to spend in service to their communities, hobbies, with their families, and for unexpected family emergencies, etc.

   11) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

   12) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France, with its 35 hour week. Domestic prices would fall, boosting demand for commodities. Demand for domestic credit would decline, lowering interest rates and debt. Demand for the currencies of swt countries would rise, and render them less attractive to foreign speculators.

   13) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling tax reductions.

   14) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

   15) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation' justification for 'economic growth'.

   16) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

   17) Alter investment priorities, enabling the economy to serve a greater portion of humanity.

   Keep up the good work. There's always room for more suggestions. If any of the 17 points of this community endeavor could be worded better, suggestions would be welcome.

 

03-05-02

   Aaron Murray commented:

> There were a lot of things I wanted to talk to from your message, but
> then I got overwhelmed by the length.. :) anyway, on to the show:
>
>> snip my statement, which seems unrelated to what follows:
>
> Have you read much of Noam Chomsky's
ideas about anarchism?

   No, but I've been listening to and enjoying his speeches on the radio for over 25 years, and saw him speak in person at UMass Dartmouth. From the first time I heard him, I've always appreciated his good work for the cause.

> He talks to many of the same points you make here. He doesn't regard *all*
>
governments and hierarchies as "bad" but thinks that every hierarchy should
> be examined and if found to be illegitimate they should be dismantled.
He also
> refers to the idea of "
expanding the floor of the cage". First you recognize
>
you're in a cage (which I think this list is all about) and then instead of
> being
idealistic and trying to destroy the cage and acquire instant
> freedom
you bit by bit expand the floor, giving yourself more room.

   A decade ago, I was surprised to read about Chomsky's adherence to anarchist philosophy. I read about it in his mild-mannered article in Frank Girard's Discussion Bulletin, which I subscribed to over a decade ago. 25 years ago, both Frank and I were members of the anarcho-syndicalist SLP, but later bailed out at different times, and for different reasons.

   As a working class person who's done his share of work, I doubt that it's possible to realistically speak of total freedom for as long as people are forced by economic necessity to work for a living. It's presently an endless treadmill. Politically, Westerners have all of the freedoms needed to provide work to MORE people for FEWER hours, which right there would INCREASE the freedom of the entire working class. Tell me your thoughts about whether that's a feasible and/or reasonable goal, and whether you'd be willing to stand up for it. Or, whether you'd rather have a private solution to wage slavery for yourself (and maybe a small circle of friends).

> Anyway, you may have read up on this but other might not have so here are some links:
>
>
Notes on Anarchism:
>
http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/other/notes-on-anarchism.html
>
>
Expanding the Floor of the Cage Part 1:
>
http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/z9703-cage-1.html
>
>
Expanding the Floor of the Cage Part 2:
>
http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/z9704-cage-2.html
>
> Noam Chomsky on
Anarchism:
>
http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/9612-anarchism.html
>
> Enjoy!
>
> ================================================
> Life, Love,
Freedom, Courage, Happiness, Peace
>
http://www.aaron-murray.net
> ================================================

   Thanks for the links.

 

03-06-02

   Mike B. quoted me, but I wonder how his reply might have pertained:

>> But, herein lies a nub of possible philosophical conflict, on which I could
>> use some opinions: On the one hand, Marx called for
workers winning the
>> most liberating form of democracy
- universal suffrage - while at the same
>> time
using their new political powers and freedoms to OPPRESS wealthy
>> classes by divorcing them from their property rights
.
>
> It is the case now and was in Marx's time that the
wealthy classes use their
>
political powers to divorce the workers from the social product of their labour.

   The 'wealthy classes use their POLITICAL powers to divorce the workers from the social product of their labour'? I have only ever known purely economic and civil processes in every plant I worked at. I was always paid somewhat for my work, usually enough to keep me coming back for more, and we workers never questioned turning the product of our labor over to our bosses. We just naturally accepted that it was the bosses' job to sell the products so that we could get paid. It's all part of the accepted division of labor.

   Marx and Engels wrote about the worker-boss relation, as well as the manner of appropriating the product of labor:

   me25.151 Engels: Anti-Duhring
   ... "
the progressive development of production and exchange nevertheless brings us of necessity to the present capitalist mode of production, to the monopolisation of the means of production and the means of subsistence in the hands of the one, numerically small, class, to the degradation into propertyless proletarians of the other class, constituting the immense majority, to the periodic alternation of speculative production booms and commercial crises and to the whole of the present anarchy of production. The whole process can be explained by purely economic causes; at no point whatever are robbery, force, the state or political interference of any kind necessary." ...

   In my search of the Collected Works, I couldn't find the notions of 'force' and 'politics' being an important part of the capitalist process of production, which seems to be the first era in which surplus is generally NOT divorced from producers by force, as in:

   me33.321 Marx: ECONOMIC MANUSCRIPT OF 1861-63
   "
In all previous forms, it is the landed proprietor, not the capitalist, who directly appropriates the surplus labour of other people. Rent (as the Physiocrats conceive it by reminiscence) appears historically (and still on the largest scale among the Asiatic peoples) as the general form of surplus labour, of labour performed without payment in return. The appropriation of this surplus labour is here not mediated by exchange, as is the case in capitalist society, but its basis is the forcible domination of one section of society over the other. (There is, accordingly, direct slavery, serfdom or political dependence.)"

   That pretty well summarizes the experience of billions of modern workers who go to work, do their duties, and get paid at the end of the week, month, year, etc. 'Political powers' hardly ever enter that everyday process of getting by. It is by far a purely economic and civil relationship.

   My search enhanced my appreciation of capitalism in comparison with previous and less civil modes of appropriating the product of labor. Why should modern communists think about using force to abolish a system of production which is based upon civil exchange? Instead of dreaming about a forceful solution to the problem of exploitation, pedestrian capitalism could be converted into liberation capitalism by means of a few simple amendments to existing laws. The old 'time and a half after 40' could quite easily be replaced with 'double time after 35', which would be a very good step toward abolishing class distinctions, and towards abolishing capitalism itself. Good opportunities to make workers as free from labor as the rich shouldn't be wasted or ignored.

> This is what Marx was showing when he wrote CAPITAL i.e. that wage-labour
> is the fulcrum on which Capital rests.
Without wage-labour, the social product
> of the politically dominate proletariat could be
returned to their democratic
> control and social ownership
.

   ... 'the social product ... could be RETURNED to their democratic control and social ownership'? When was the last time the social product WAS democratically controlled and socially owned? It wasn't in Marx's era:

   Marx: Capital (me35.507)
   "
In agriculture as in manufacture, the transformation of production under the sway of capital, means, at the same time, the martyrdom of the producer; the instrument of labour becomes the means of enslaving, exploiting, and impoverishing the labourer; the social combination and organisation of labour processes is turned into an organised mode of crushing out the workman's individual vitality, freedom, and independence."

   On the other issue, we certainly have a mutual dislike for the wages system. M+E also favored ending the wages system, but weren't very prolific in their pronouncements about HOW to do it. Fortunately, Engels wrote about specific methods in ONE place - his 1881 article "Trades Unions" (me24.387):

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

   So, if an end to the wages system would be sought, let us not forget the struggles for higher wages and shorter work hours, which seem to be the only 2 identifiable methods which Engels ever SPECIFIED, as in 'concrete measures we could collectively struggle for today'.

> The reasons why the workers (the majority of the voters) didn't/don't take
> the product of their
labour back through mere elections are numerous. Very
> briefly now, they can be located in:
>
> 1. THE POLITICAL: the fact that the ruling
ideas of any era are ever the
>
ideas of the ruling class--hence the workers are told not to revolt in so many,
> many words and ways and what you get is a kind of
garbage in; garbage out
> phenomenon. "
There is no alternative, except maybe the lesser of two evils."

   'Workers are told not to revolt in so many, many words and ways'? I'm not aware of any anti-revolutionary propaganda floating around, or am I simply missing it? If so, then I might need to be awakened with an example of what's out there. Perhaps I need to see a billboard, or a public service announcement on TV, reminding us not to revolt today.

   If a big revolutionary proletarian party (outside of tiny sects) were in operation, THEN anti-revolutionary propaganda would certainly become more obvious to the casual observer.

> 2. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL: the natural condition of humans is to strive for
> freedom.
like language (see Chomsky) freedom is hard wired into us (see
> Fromm). but, this natural condition is itself conditioned to psychological
> suppression by years of maturing in a society which conforms to the bounds
> of
class and patriarchal hierarchies, among others. therefore freedom is taught
> to quiet itself and the acceptance and social endorsement of authoritarian
> personality traits are brow beaten into us and
legitimized as, "acting maturely".
> "
I agree with what you're saying; but all this talk about revolution is a bit silly,
> don't you think? I mean, I agree; but nothing can be done. TINA, you know.
"

   I'm not aware of very much revolutionary sentiment in my neighborhood, and I try to walk around the block every day. Since moving back East, I have a growing circle of neighbors to talk to, and we've been cooperating on an oil pollution issue a mere block from where I live. On March 1, four local and state officials gathered at the site, and promised to force the developer to do a supervised investigation of the extent of the oil problem, preventing him from willy-nilly constructing 4 new houses on the affected lots the same way he got away with building the first 2 new houses nearby. So, why revolt, with the government obviously on the people's side? The officials behaved just like ordinary people, they let me follow them around and add my 2 cents for 2 whole hours, and decided on the next course of action without having to conspire outside of my presence. What more could a citizen want? BTW, who or what is TINA? {Later: I finally figured out that TINA means: 'There is no alternative.'}

> 3. THE ECONOMIC/PHILOSOPHICAL: the very process of commodity
> production engenders a mystification of the process of production. much
> like the
religious impulse ("the gods gave us good fishing today"), commodity
> production
fetishizes the creative act, it alienates it from us--see Marx in
> the
first chapter of the first volume of CAPITAL section on the fetishism
> of commodities
. This in turn leads to a "reified" notion of how the world
> works (see Lukacs) i.e. it turns the world and reality upside down in our
> consciousness. By "
reified", I mean that the commodities--the actual
> products of our
labour--begin to assume human qualities in our eyes:
> cars make us sexy; deodorants make us powerful and so forth. as we
>
alienate the product of our labour (and by extension our power, for
>
wealth is power) through the wages system of slavery, we also
> begin to
alienate our humanity--it becomes commodified.
>
> All the best, Mike B)

   No denying the reification of commodities as described, and it's all the more reason to abolish capitalism. 'HOW to abolish capitalism' becomes the next question. Quickly or slowly? Revolution or evolution? The West enjoys lots of democracies, and people who vote are not going to be convinced that 'we don't have democracy.' So, 'democracy' is nothing to revolt over. What's left? Revolt over the economy? Revolt in sympathy with the poor? I know lots of working class people, but no one in my neighborhood is interested in revolution.We do have an economy, which works well enough for a lot of people, and most of my neighbors are getting by. But, the above-ground, social economy is not sufficiently inclusive, so many millions are forced to eke out an existence, with or without government assistance. The economy would be better if made more inclusive, but we also know how bosses profit when workers compete for scarce jobs, and we also know that the labor aristocracy agrees with bosses more than what's healthy, so not much gets done. Unity around a reasonable, logical and feasible plan to include everyone in the legal economy would work wonders.

   M+E: The German Ideology (St. Max) (me5.205):
   "
Labour is free in all civilised countries; it is not a matter of freeing labour but of abolishing it."

   Marx: Capital, Volume 3 (me37.807 ):
   "
In fact, the realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with this realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite."

 

03-06-02

   Glenn wrote:

> I guess I don't really have the solution, and I agree that the system has
> advantages, as written. My own solution would be too extreme for most
> mortals, and easily would include caves and covered wagons, and other
> solutions less luxurious, but I am eccentric. Glenn

   Lots of socially concerned people are critical of the system, but few have viable solutions. The Shorter Work Time forum recently added to its list of benefits of a reduced work week, which some newcomers on this forum may not yet have seen, so enjoy:

   Labor time reductions could:

   1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

   2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

   3) Prevent full-time workers from being replaced by part-time workers, who often receive fewer or no benefits.

   4) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the right things for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

   5) Improve productivity by eliminating worker fatigue.

   6) Reduce the waste of lengthy commutes.

   7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

   8) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

   9) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

   10) Give people more time to spend in service to their communities, hobbies, with their families, and for unexpected family emergencies, etc.

   11) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

   12) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France, with its 35 hour week. Domestic prices would fall, boosting demand for commodities. Demand for domestic credit would decline, lowering interest rates and debt. Demand for the currencies of swt countries would rise, and render them less attractive to foreign speculators.

   13) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling tax reductions.

   14) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

   15) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation' justification for 'economic growth'.

   16) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

   17) Alter investment priorities, enabling the economy to serve a greater portion of humanity.

 

3-13-02

   Renteria wrote:

> A Pacifica Mission Commission is being set up. Under the direction of the
> interim executive director, a single person has been appointed to choose the
> members of the
commission, which will set about to "frame" questions of
> tremendous importance to the future of
Pacifica.

   It appears as though 'rule from the top to the bottom' is still very much the status quo in Pacifica. I hope that we dissidents won't sit still for this insult.

 

3-16-02

> I don't think anyone is being beaten up here.
> It's a matter of
process, not personalities.
> It's also a matter of
democratic processes,
> not "
input." Input is the notion that one has
> a right to make suggestions to the powerful.

>
Input is not the ability to make decisions
> and implement them over time.
>
> In raising my concerns, I've not raised any question
> at all about Robbie's
integrity, because, simply put,
> that's not the question. The question is the level and
> kind of power concentrated in framing the questions
> around the
Mission, which is, simply, enormous, and
> which should, for that reason be handled with the
> utmost care. More care, even, than the
by laws matters,
> and with an even greater level of grassroots awareness
> and participation from the outset.
>
> Rafael

   Rafael states the issue well. Many of us would like to see more of a collective process to deal with important social matters. I wrote my last blurb not knowing that Robbie had already been selected. I've known Robbie since the late 1970's, and can hardly think of a fairer person to do a 'one-person job' like that one, but I would also think that more of a COLLECTIVE process should determine whether a matter of such importance IS a one-person job. We might also want a hand in at least nominating the person or persons. It might be polite in the future for the Exec to float such social proposals to the discussion lists. I'm sure that the principle of a Mission Commission would have met with wide agreement.

 

3-19-02

   Hi, Mike,

>> snip old text
>
> Hi Ken,
>
> You were the first to use the verb "
divorce". According to the Oxford
> English Dictionary
, the verb "appropriate" means: to take for one's own
> use without permission
.

   Divorce or appropriate: Little difference between those two is indicated in the 158 variations of 'divorce' in the CD of M+E Collected Works. 'Divorce' was often used as a synonym for 'appropriation of products and means of production', but was never used in the opposite direction, i.e., never to 'expropriate expropriators'. Here's a typical use by Marx from 1854:

   LETTER TO THE LABOUR PARLIAMENT (me13.57):
   "
A complete divorce of property from labour has been effected in Great Britain. In no other country, therefore, the war between the two classes that constitute modern society has assumed so colossal dimensions and features so distinct and palpable."

> So, this is how I responded: It is the case now and was in Marx's time that
> the
wealthy classes use their political powers to divorce the workers from
> the social product of their
labour.
>
> To which, you responded:
>
>> The wealthy classes 'use their POLITICAL powers to divorce the workers from
>> the social product of their labour
'? I have only ever known purely economic and
>>
civil processes in every plant I worked at. I was always paid somewhat for my
>> work, usually enough to keep me coming back for more, and we workers
>> never questioned turning the product of our
labor over to our bosses. We
>> just naturally accepted that it was the bosses' job to sell the products so
>> that we could get paid. It's all part of the accepted
division of labor.
>
> Ah well, there's the rub, no? The "
fetishism of commodities" which Karl
> pointed out in the
first chapter of the first volume of CAPITAL points to
> the reason why the workers don't see the commodities they produce as
> the product of their
labour. Part of the reason why they don't is the very
>
division of labour, you refer to and which I have described before as
> creating a
reified consciousness. Reification is the process of making
> something which is abstract seem concrete.
The exchange-value of
> the commodity obscures the concrete
use-value of the product
> and by extension the relation of the product to the producer.
> See Marx on the
fetishism of commodities:
>
> http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4

   I'll admit that my observation was one-sided. Bosses certainly use their political powers to their advantage OUTSIDE of the point of production, but workplaces are not the proper setting for anything but production, and for civil exchange of the use of labor power for wages.

> But at bottom, it has to do with the very process of commodity production,
> which involves
wage-labour. Wage-labour on the massive scale implies a vast
>
social division of labour. It is hard for workers within this net to see that the
> social product of
labour is their own work. As they are separated from the
> means of production (means which they themselves have created) by
> ownership and control which is in turn
legitimized by the State, they are
> at the same time separated from the product of their
labour through the
> exchange of their skills and time for a
wage, which is not based on the
> value of the product which they produce; but rather on the
exchange-
> value
they can sell their skills for on the labour market.

   "legitimized by the State"? Engels wrote quite a bit about this subject in Anti-Duhring (me25.149-150):

   "Private property by no means makes its appearance in history as the result of robbery or force. ... peasants simply find it to their advantage that the private ownership of land should take the place of common ownership. ... Wherever private property evolved it was the result of altered relations of production and exchange, in the interest of increased production and in furtherance of intercourse - hence as a result of economic causes. Force plays no part in this at all. ... Nor can we use either force or property founded on force in explanation of the "subjugation of man to make him do servile work" in its most modern form - wage-labour."

   M+E seem to have contradicted themselves by simultaneously advocating forcible expropriation of the means of production at the very same time they explained that 'private property was derived from civil and economic processes'. Thanks to Mike for bringing up the subject and helping me to finger this contradiction. I can only hope that bringing it to light can help activists overcome infatuation with expropriation, because only CIVIL AND ECONOMIC processes of the future will ever succeed in abolishing labor, the division of labor, private property and the state.

>> Marx and Engels wrote about the worker-boss relation, as well as the manner
>> of
appropriating the product of labor:
>>
>> Engels,
Anti-Duhring (me25.151):... "the progressive development
>> of production and exchange nevertheless brings us of necessity to the
>> present capitalist mode of production, to the monopolisation of the means
>> of production and the means of subsistence in the hands of the one,
>> numerically small, class, to the degradation into propertyless proletarians
>> of the other class, constituting the immense majority, to the periodic
>> alternation of speculative production booms and commercial crises and to
>> the whole of the present anarchy of production. The whole process can be
>> explained by purely economic causes; at no point whatever are robbery,
>> force, the state or political interference of any kind necessary.
" ...
>
> But
force, the State and political interference do become necessary as the
> proletariat
becomes class conscious and struggles with the bosses over the
> product of their
labour.

   "as the proletariat BECOMES class conscious and struggles"? I don't see much sign of a GENERAL trend in that direction. American workers occasionally struggle at their workplaces. If lucky enough to get temporary satisfaction, they often cease struggling until new conditions undermine previous gains. Workers enjoying COLAs seldom experience labor strife.

   Politics certainly play a big role in setting minimums and maximums on wages, the length of the work day and week, overtime premiums, retirement ages, vacations, etc., while many of those same conditions often vary greatly between professions, workplaces, industries, etc.

> What is the Taft-Hartley Law, if not State interference? What is
> making a
strike by teachers in New York state an illegal act, other political
> interference? Robbery is not necessary because the
evolution of capitalist
> class
expropriation of the product of wage workers' labour has been
> historically
legitimized by the ruling class, through its State. It shows
> when the
police and national guard are sent out to protect the bosses as
> the workers become too militant about their claims to the product of
> their
labour e.g. wage and hours struggles, picket lines and so forth.

   Well, much of that is very true. But, those well-known examples of interference are the exceptions to the ordinary experience of 'getting by'. If concerned with capitalist political meddling, then let us retaliate with OUR OWN political interference, and 'replace competition with association', as Engels prescribed in "Principles of Communism".

>> In my search of the Collected Works, I couldn't find the notions of
>> '
force' and 'politics' being an important part of the capitalist process
>> of production, which seems to be the first era in which
surplus is
>> generally NOT divorced from producers by force, as in:
>>
>> Marx,
ECONOMIC MANUSCRIPT OF 1861-63 (me33.321): "In all previous
>> forms, it is the landed proprietor, not the capitalist, who directly appropriates
>> the surplus labour of other people. Rent (as the Physiocrats conceive it by
>> reminiscence) appears historically (and still on the largest scale among the
>> Asiatic peoples) as the general form of surplus labour, of labour performed
>> without payment in return. The appropriation of this surplus labour is here
>> not mediated by exchange, as is the case in capitalist society, but its basis
>> is the forcible domination of one section of society over the other. (There
>> is, accordingly, direct slavery, serfdom or political dependence.)
"
>
> Yes, there is definitely a difference between
chattel-slavery and wage-
> slavery
and between the outright, autocratic rule of the landlord class
> a la
feudalism and bourgeois democracy. Ruling classes all live from
>
expropriating the product of the labourers whom they employ, be
> these
labourers wage-workers, peasants or slaves.

   True, but it is now (and for a long time to come) OUR DUTY to distinguish 'ancient expropriation by force' from 'modern expropriation through civil exchange', lest a newbie be misled into thinking that 'forcible expropriation might be a useful tool'. Civil damages demand CIVIL remedies, not the Communist Manifesto's: "Communists ... openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."

>> That pretty well summarizes the experience of billions of modern workers
>> who go to work, do their duties, and get paid at the end of the week, month,
>> year, etc. '
Political power' hardly ever enters that everyday process of
>> getting by. It is by far a purely economic and
civil relationship.
>
> And more's the pity that they don't realize that they are being
exploited
> as that leaves them with little or no
political power.

   Workers have understood exploitation on a gut level for a long time. What other than exploitation prompted American workers to move West to become peasants? That is no longer the option it once was, so today's resistance takes different forms. They organize into unions, and then politically into parties, which have come and gone with the times. 'Good times' cause such activities to decline, while bad times witness their resurgence.

   As machine intelligence advances logarithmically, vanishing opportunities 'to be exploited' will certainly awaken a growing reserve army of surplus workers to the necessity of action, or will inspire governments to institute work-sharing, as has happened so many times in the past. Engels thought that universal suffrage, freedom of speech, etc., gave workers all of the political tools workers needed to address their problems (me20.69): ... "freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly, universal suffrage, local self-government - without which, despite its bourgeois character, a timid bourgeoisie can manage passably well but without which the workers can never win their emancipation."

   "without which the workers can never win" sounds pretty emphatic, as though the usefulness of democracy to workers is not debatable.

> By doing nothing, they make the choice to live within a status-quo run by
> their employers, a
status quo which is running roughshod over their own
>
freedom. It is making a mockery out of democracy. It is sounding a death
> knell for nature itself.

   Workers CHOOSE to live within the status quo? I am not aware of the working class, as a whole, of having a CHOICE. I have yet to see representatives of 'an option to grueling toil' sign workers up to join the cooperative alternative with which they could take home the full value of their labor.

   snip point of agreement

>> Why should modern communists think about using force to abolish a system
>> of production which is based upon
civil exchange?
>
> Because
force is used to keep them separated from what is rightfully theirs
> to control: the social product of their
labour.

   We should use force because 'they use force'? Engels thought differently in his Anti-Duhring: "Nor can we use either force or property founded on force in explanation of the "subjugation of man to make him do servile work" in its most modern form - wage-labour."

   Secondly: 'KEEP workers separated from the product of their labor'? Where's the great force of attraction? Evidence of the LACK of attraction abounds: Productivity constantly increases with time, and workers are 40 times more productive than 200 years ago, back when producers retained MOST of what they produced. For as long as modern workers do not reap the benefits of increased productivity in the form of increased leisure or increased wages, the rate of surplus value increases exponentially, though the ongoing replacement of full-timers with part-timers at least partially slows that trend. '40 times more productive' indicates that workers probably produce the value of their wages in the first hour, and surplus for 39 more. The gap between what workers produce and what they take home widens rapidly in the form of taxes, surplus and profit, and with such little fuss that Americans lately don't even find it worth their while to create a real workers' party in opposition to the alleged 'great ripoff'. So, if a great natural attraction existed, workers would have been doing a LOT more to either drastically increase their wages, or drastically increase their leisure time, or both. But, we don't see workers doing either. Why? Because ENOUGH workers continue to make a satisfactory living. It doesn't appear that workers will get riled into action until making a living is denied on a much wider scale. But, that day will come. As far as smart technology goes, 'we ain't seen nothing yet.' In the meantime, with such little force of attraction between workers and the product of their labor, little force is needed to keep them separated.

> Here's a little passage to refresh our memories about the civil exchange of
> the bourgeois with the workers from "
The Civil War in France":
>
> "
After every revolution marking a progressive phase in the class struggle,
> the purely repressive character of the state power stands out in bolder and
> bolder relief. The Revolution of 1830, resulting in the transfer of government
> from the landlords to the capitalists, transferred it from the more remote to the
> more direct antagonists of the working men. The bourgeois republicans, who,
> in the name of the February Revolution, took the state power, used it for the
> June
[1848] massacres, in order to convince the working class that "social"
> republic means the republic entrusting their social subjection, and in order
> to convince the royalist bulk of the bourgeois and landlord class that they
> might safely leave the cares and emoluments of government to the
> bourgeois "republicans".
"

   State oppression hardly affects modern workers who don't go into debt or get into trouble. On the other hand, without the state, bosses would have free rein over labor. The old Hammurabi code stated that 'the purpose of power is to protect the powerless', which is why many bosses want to abolish the state and restore free competition, which they mistakenly believe will save their hides.

>> snip me > The old 'time and a half after 40' could quite easily be replaced
>> with '
double time after 35', which would be a very good step toward
>>
abolishing class distinctions, and towards abolishing capitalism itself.
>
> Dreaming aside, this sort of
legislation would require a lot of class
> conscious organization and struggle
to get the politicians to pass
> this level of
legislation. I'm all for it though as getting back control
> and ownership over our time and skills is what the
class struggle
> is about in a very fundamental sense.

   If amending existing laws is considered a tough project, which it undeniably is, the mind boggles at the level of organization and struggle required to have a direct effect on 'capitalism, property and state'. Such action would be doomed before it could begin, because activists would merely fight among themselves over whether to replace states with a communist workers' state, or with an anarchist 'classless and stateless administration of things'. No unity exists around the issues of property and state. On the other hand, no one with an ounce of credibility would argue that 'hours of labor should be longer', though some individuals in one forum recently argued against me in precisely that manner, perhaps to contradict for the sake of contradicting, but they surely weren't logical or helpful.

>>> This is what Marx was showing when he wrote CAPITAL i.e. that wage-
>>> labour
is the fulcrum on which Capital rests. Without wage-labour, the
>>> social product of the politically dominate proletariat could be
returned
>>> to their
democratic control and social ownership.
>>
>> ... '
the social product ... could be RETURNED to their democratic control
>> and
social ownership'? When was the last time the social product WAS
>>
democratically controlled and socially owned?
>
> Bingo! You're right. :D It is
alienated from their social ownership and
>
democratic control because the workers MUST sell them to the capitalists
> through the
wage-system in order to make a living.

   The MUST is mostly economic. Modern wage-labor is generally not driven to work under the lash of a whip the way movies portray the slaves of Rome. Today we are free to starve if we do not wish to toil, but that's hardly an option in the face of so much popular will to live and/or subsist.

   If participation in the economy were truly universal, then HAVING to sell one's labor power to the capitalist class would become nearly as innocuous as a butterfly landing on a flower on the first day of summer. It is only because participation is horribly incomplete that gross exploitation, poverty, and suffering result. The solution to the bulk of our social problems is no more complex than 'full participation'. For M+E, full participation was the greater goal towards which expropriation was subservient.

   May 2002 note: With regard to '
the fulcrum on which Capital rests', my reading of Marx's Capital suggests that the real fulcrum is not mere wage-labor, but rather the EXPLOITATION of wage-labor, through the extraction of surplus value.

>> Marx: Capital (me35.507) "In agriculture as in manufacture,
>> the transformation of production under the sway of capital, means,
>> at the same time, the martyrdom of the producer; the instrument of
>> labour becomes the means of enslaving, exploiting, and impoverishing
>> the labourer; the social combination and organisation of labour
>> processes is turned into an organised mode of crushing out the
>> workman's individual vitality, freedom, and independence.
"
>
> Great quote!

   I thought that passage would be appreciated. It contains lots of elements to inspire us to change the world. If only we could agree on 'how'.

>> On the other issue, <snip point of agreement for brevity.>
>
> Regards, Mike B)

   Part Two will be sent tomorrow.

   Marx: Grundrisse (me28.234)
   "
Labour itself is productive only as absorbed into capital, only where capital constitutes the basis of production and the capitalist is therefore the commander of production. The productivity of labour becomes the productive power of capital in the same way as the general exchange value of commodities fixes itself in money. Labour, as it exists in contrast to capital, for itself, in the worker, labour therefore in its immediate being, separated from capital, is not productive. As activity of the worker, moreover, it never becomes productive, because it enters only into the simple process of circulation, which effects only formal transformations. Those writers, therefore, who demonstrate that all the productive power ascribed to capital is a misplacement, a transposition of the productive power of labour, forget precisely that capital is itself essentially this misplacement, this transposition, and that wage labour as such presupposes capital, which is, therefore, this transubstantiation also from the viewpoint of wage labour; the necessary process for wage labour to posit its own powers as alien to the worker. To leave wage labour and at the same time to abolish capital is therefore a self-contradictory and self-negating demand."

 

3-20-02

   Mike continued with part B:

>>> The reasons why the workers (the majority of the voters) didn't/don't take
>>> the product of their
labour back through mere elections are numerous.
>>> Very briefly now, they can be located in:
>>>
>>> 1. THE POLITICAL: the fact that the
ruling ideas of any era are ever the
>>>
ideas of the ruling class--hence the workers are told not to revolt in so
>>> many, many words and ways and what you get is a kind of
garbage in;
>>> garbage out
phenomenon. "There is no alternative, except maybe the
>>> lesser of two evils.
"
>>
>> '
Workers are told not to revolt in so many, many words and ways'? I'm not
>> aware of any anti-
revolutionary propaganda floating around, or am I simply
>> missing it?
>
> Workers are told
not to revolt by never being told to revolt.

   Is the situation so close to the boiling point that revolutionaries should seize control of the mass media and urge people to revolt?

> Instead, workers are told to work, consume and die.

   I don't know if anyone needs to be TOLD to do things that come as naturally as those. If workers 'work, consume and die' only because they are told to, then they would appear to possess little better quality than that of a dumb, driven herd.

   Consumption and death have been our common fate, no matter which era. Unless born rich, economic necessity compels labor. Whoever doesn't like toil was born in the wrong century. Those lucky enough to be born after 2000 in developed countries may never suffer a single day's toil, that's how quickly productivity is exploding. Productivity increases logarithmically, and even that logarithmic rate is increasing logarithmically, which foretells great changes within 2 or 3 decades. Previous productivity gains were so glacial that it was difficult to predict the future of labor, but Arthur Clarke now believes that the concept of labor will be phased out of the language by 2040. With no labor, kiss the economy good-bye, as well as the state and private property. Freedom is coming, but impatient activists can't rush it to completion prematurely.

> They are never encouraged to strike.

   Capitalists can't be expected to cut their own throats for our benefit.

> They are told that democracy is a bi-polar concept between liberal (nice)
>
capitalism and conservative (tough) capitalism. Socialism, as in the common
> ownership and democratic control of the productive apparatus of society
is
> never discussed as a realistic solution--"
look what happened in the Soviet
> Union
" is the more or less constant refrain here. I have never heard it
> said that "
socialism works" for all you ML's out there, of course
> they'd never say that, "
Communism works."

   To be even more realistic: Socialism and work are incompatible. Work creates private property, surplus property gives rise to the state, and the state is incompatible with stateless socialism. Scratch socialism for now, because socialism won't arrive before the end of work.

   me5.329 ... "division of labour and private property ... are in no way created
by the state power; on the contrary they are the power creating it.
"

   Capitalism is the LAST economic system before stateless and economyless socialism. Social justice in the meantime merely requires that competition between workers be replaced with association and cooperation.

>> If so, then I might need to be awakened with an example of what's
>> out there. Perhaps I need to see a billboard, or a public service
>> announcement on
TV, reminding us not to revolt today.
>
> The assumption is being made when you get up in the morning to hear the
> traffic report so that you can navigate your way and successfully get to
>
wage-slavery on time each day.

   In that case, storm the media and broadcast the eager voices of liberation. Perhaps we could all be inspired by the way dissidents have finally wrested the Pacifica Radio Network away from Democratic Party operatives.

>> snip small point of agreement
>>
>>> *********** 2. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL: the natural condition of humans is
>>> to strive for
freedom. like language (see Chomsky) freedom is hard wired into
>>> us (see Fromm). but, this natural condition is itself conditioned to psychological
>>> suppression by years of maturing in a society which conforms to the bounds of
>>>
class and patriarchal hierarchies, among others. therefore freedom is taught
>>> to quiet itself and the acceptance and social endorsement of authoritarian
>>> personality traits are brow beaten into us and legitimized as, "
acting maturely".
>>> "
I agree with what you're saying; but all this talk about revolution is a bit silly,
>>> don't you think? I mean, I agree; but nothing can be done. TINA, you know.
"
>>
>> I'm not aware of very much
revolutionary sentiment in my neighborhood,
>> and I try to walk around the block every day. Since moving back East, I have
>> a growing circle of neighbors to talk to, and we've been cooperating on an
>> oil pollution issue a mere block from where I live. On March 1, four
local
>> and
state officials gathered at the site, and promised to force the developer
>> to do a supervised investigation of the extent of the oil problem, preventing
>> him from willy-nilly constructing 4 new houses on the affected lots the same
>> way he got away with building the first 2 new houses nearby. So, why
revolt,
>> with the
government obviously on the people's side? The officials behaved just
>> like ordinary people, they let me follow them around and add my 2 cents for
>> 2 whole hours, and decided on the next course of action without having to
>> conspire outside of my presence. What more could a citizen want?
>> BTW, who or what is
TINA?
>
> Ah yeah.
Capitalism can be reformed. Maggie Thatcher coined the term when
> she told people in the UK, "
There Is No Alternative"--meaning to capitalism.
> Get used to it.
Reform it, if you can. But get used to it. Be resigned to it.
>
Socialism is impossible.

   I think that socialism is precisely where society is headed, and that M+E were correct about the FUTURE arrival of classless and stateless society. 'Forcible expropriation' was their most glaring mistake. I can't think of much else in their philosophy to disagree with. Private property is a BIG issue within Marxism, which is why I no longer consider myself a Marxist, so as not to be confused with those who would be so foolish as to advocate abolishing private property in a country whose Southerners fought and died to preserve and extend as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, and whose victorious Northerners didn't have the political will to partition the plantations to provide freed slaves with 40 acres and a mule, thus proving that Americans would be 10 times more willing to fight and die to preserve private ownership of most non-human forms of property. Capitalism contains the seeds of its own dissolution, but NO seeds of REPLACEMENT by a DIFFERENT economic system, because no one can imagine what the world would look like on the day after a 'socialist revolution'. In the meantime, the capitalist economy would not be bad if enough clear thinkers convert it into liberation capitalism, which THEY WILL, because: "It is the revolutionising of all established conditions by industry AS IT DEVELOPS that also revolutionises people's minds." ... (Engels to Sorge, December 31, 1892). Though many radical tactics are reminiscent of 1848, future evolution of the means of production will eventually change that stasis.

> This, btw, is part of what I'm talking about. There is a socially conditioned
> psychology within society, one which grinds the creative impulse down if
> it does not fit into the preformed patterns accepted by society. IN this case,
> we have capitalist society and all the social relations which pertain to it. The
> process of maturation is then, largely a process of having one's instinct to be
>
free (see how caged animals act) tamed, so to speak. That taming is what
> conditions us to accept the master/servant relationship rather than
revolt
> against it. After a number of brow beatings the child matures into the adult
> who now takes on the role of teacher to the young and master or servant
> to their fellow societal members. Again, see Eric Fromm's work on this.
> He did the bulk of his research in 1931 and produced a nice volume
> titled:
ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM in the early forties.

   What then can be done about the many zillions who will never gather the courage of will to do something about the capitalist mode of production by changing it into 'the socialist mode of production'? 'The socialist mode of production' does not exist as a phrase in the Collected Works, EXCEPT in a publisher's index. In Volume 37, Marx's speculations clearly remained within the bounds of capitalist relations of production, albeit with socialized ownership (me37.434): "It is the abolition of capital as private property within the framework of the capitalist mode of production itself." Big deal.

   Because we live in the era of labor, many choices have already been made for workers, so, many choose to cooperate to help perform the inescapable labor. Knowing what I now know, I would not rebel against cooperative labor, and would choose a field like robotics in order to hasten the end of human labor and suffering as quickly as possible. Only after human labor is over and done with (in a few more decades, if we don't first blow ourselves up), will future humans enjoy real freedom. In the meantime, whether one works for a boss or works for oneself, labor ensures survival, while non-labor ensures demise. 20th century birthdates condemned many of us to lifetimes of toil, while future generations will be 'condemned' to lifetimes of total freedom.

>>> 3. THE ECONOMIC/PHILOSOPHICAL: the very process of commodity
>>> production engenders a mystification of the process of production. much like
>>> the
religious impulse ("the gods gave us good fishing today"), commodity
>>> production
fetishizes the creative act, it alienates it from us--see Marx in
>>> the
first chapter of the first volume of CAPITAL section on the fetishism
>>> of commodities
. This in turn leads to a "reified" notion of how the world
>>> works (see Lukacs) i.e. it turns the world and reality upside down in our
>>> consciousness. By "
reified", I mean that the commodities--the actual
>>> products of our
labour--begin to assume human qualities in our eyes:
>>> cars make us sexy; deodorants make us powerful and so forth. as we
>>>
alienate the product of our labour (and by extension our power, for
>>> wealth is power) through the
wages system of slavery, we also
>>> begin to
alienate our humanity--it becomes commodified.
>>>
>>> All the best, Mike B)
>>
>> No denying the
reification of commodities as described, and it's all the
>> more reason to
abolish capitalism. 'HOW to abolish capitalism' becomes
>> the next question. Quickly or slowly?
Revolution or evolution?
>
> Well there's the rub, no? How do it? I guess, I'll just leave it there.

   No, there is no 'leaving it there', for we have already agreed with the basic critique of capitalism and the need to abolish it, unless we wish to be no more than arm-chair socialists and become as derelict in our duties to humanity as are capitalists who continue to pollute in spite of knowing how evil it is, simply because no one is holding their feet to the fire to force them to stop. Similarly, socialists need to hold each others' feet to the fire to ensure effectiveness. Capitalism is a pollutant which must and will be abolished. We only have to AGREE about how to abolish it, and not leave that task to a future generation. I've explored a few different ways to waste time trying to abolish capitalism by methods which don't stand a chance to become popular. If anyone thinks that capitalism will be abolished by altering or meddling with basic institutions like private property or democracy, then let them speak now so that we may overcome that barrier to progress. When a whistle-blower finds trouble with expropriation, then the trouble should be discussed and corrected, lest activists be criticized or worse by the very workers they claim to want to serve.

> As for bourgeois democracies which you point to below, I think that I've
> made my own views clear on this question now. The reason why
the State
> is inseparable from slavery
is that it is always an engine of class rule--even a
>
bourgeois democratic State. Bourgeois democracy is definitely superior to a
>
monarchy. But then, that's my opinion. Obviously many Saudis would disagree.

   If activists could overthrow the state tomorrow, people would still have to go to work the next day. LESS work would mean MORE freedom, and NOTHING in the world prevents the working class from working less, if it so desires.

>> The West enjoys lots of democracies, and people who vote are not going to
>> be convinced that '
we don't have democracy.' So, 'democracy' is nothing to
>>
revolt over.
>
> I think that more and more people are coming to the conclusion that
the rich
>
rule us no matter who wins the elections.

   With all of the history of struggle for socially controlled democratic republics, no one will be persuaded to give them up simply because some activists imagine that they are no more useful than intransigent absolute monarchies of yore.

   Second Draft of The Civil War in France (me22.549): "the workmen do want the republic, no longer as a political modification of the old system of class rule, but as the revolutionary means of breaking down class rule itself."

   Imagine using democracy to break down class rule! That's exactly what Marx's proletarian dictatorship was all about. Breaking down class rule is entirely possible, thanks to popular possession of modern democratic tools.

> They don't take the small parties seriously. Again, they are told in so many,
> many words not to take, say the
SPGB seriously by omission, if nothing else.

   My dialogues with members of the SPGB at the WSM forum revealed complexity and self-contradictions. As a small example, they promote absolute freedom, but make adherence to atheism a condition of membership. Plus, their forum censors dissidents. I get more freedom of speech through my local newspaper.

> So, they are not going to revolt over not having a democracy NOW. I agree.

   'NOT having a democracy'? But, EVERYONE in the West thinks that they live in democracies, so activists should become more aware of the limited effects of contradicting common knowledge. Should activists take over the media in order to tell people that they DON'T have the democratic tools with which to put everyone to work, and with which to abolish class distinctions? What a great way to get people to turn to music channels.

> The working class is basically conservative. It really believes in Maggie
> Thatcher's
TINA. They are "realistic". Meanwhile, as I've tried to point
> out on this
list, environmental destruction continues apace.

   Doesn't a lot of environmental destruction result from hyperactivity wasted on frivolities? What better way to stop being hyperactive than to slow down the economy by working less? It's the best cure for enormous surplus value that is plowed into advertising, speculation, political influence, etc.

> It is also the case that the ongoing, seemingly endless wars between
> the
ruling classes of the world are killing mostly civilians and most the
> civilians being killed are children. But no worries myte, they ain't us and
> we can
vote in the next election for the realistic candidates which usually
> amount to two equally pro-capitalist politicians of the
liberal or
>
conservative stripe. The rule of the people is really just the
> endorsement of the rule of the rich
.

   If only that indignation could be directed against liars who ask activists to do the impossible. Maybe then some good energy could be expended on civil activities that have a fighting chance of accomplishing something real. Democracies should be regarded as potential proletarian dictatorships and then utilized to diminish class distinctions, just the way M+E instructed.

>> What's left? Revolt over the economy? Revolt in sympathy with the poor?
>> I know lots of
working class people, but no one in my neighborhood is
>> interested in
revolution.
>
> I agree. It's the same all over.

   Entropy may be happening, but it isn't quite 'all the same' yet. If the universe 'runs down' in another few billion years, THEN it may become all the same. But, who knows what happens after matter 'disappears' into those black holes in the sky? For all we know, black holes may reverse entropy.

>> We do have an economy, which works well enough for a lot of people,
>> and most of my neighbors are getting by. But, the above-ground, social
>> economy is not sufficiently
inclusive, so many millions are forced to eke
>> out an existence, with or without
government assistance. The economy would
>> be better if made more
inclusive, but we also know how bosses profit when
>> workers compete for scarce jobs, and we also know that the
labor aristocracy
>> agrees with bosses more than what's healthy, so not much gets done.
Unity
>> around a reasonable,
logical and feasible plan to include everyone in the
>> legal economy
would work wonders.
>
> Ok sure....
>
> Regards, Mike B)

   Such enthusiasm! Try to look at it this way: Many of us are driven to do SOMEthing, so why not try to do something that has a snowball's chance of being implemented? I always look to France's 35 hour work week for pure inspiration as to the correct direction. France could teach America a lot about effective means of struggle. Their shorter work week brought down unemployment from double to single digits.

   Peace in our time,

   ENGELS (me20.77): THE PRUSSIAN MILITARY QUESTION AND THE GERMAN WORKERS' PARTY

   "
The bourgeoisie cannot win political power for itself nor give this political power constitutional and legal forms without at the same time putting weapons into the hands of the proletariat. As distinct from the old Estates, distinguished by birth, it must proclaim human rights, as distinct from the guilds, it must proclaim freedom of trade and industry, as distinct from the tutelage of the bureaucracy, it must proclaim freedom and self-government. To be consistent, it must therefore demand universal, direct suffrage, freedom of the press, association and assembly and the suspension of all special laws directed against individual classes of the population. And there is nothing else that the proletariat needs to demand from it. It cannot require that the bourgeoisie should cease to be a bourgeoisie, but it certainly can require that it practises its own principles consistently. But the proletariat will thereby also acquire all the weapons it needs for its ultimate victory. With freedom of the press and the right of assembly and association it will win universal suffrage, and with universal, direct suffrage, in conjunction with the above tools of agitation, it will win everything else."

   Marx, writing for the First International (me20.187): "A preliminary condition, without which all further attempts at improvement and emancipation must prove abortive, is the limitation of the working day."

 

3-22-02

> So how can we do it? Certainly theories that have been developed in
> the past are important. How do we achieve
revolutionary unity without
> sectarianism?
>
> Scott

   Ensure that the party's program contains nothing to exclude people. As an example of a divisive measure, affirmative action helps some people at the expense of others. Increased taxes and other redistributions of wealth and income are also unpopular and divisive.

   Because the legal economy isn't inclusive enough, people are driven into the underground all the more as economies worsen. Greater inclusivity could be obtained through more paid vacations and days off, higher overtime premiums, a shorter work week (like France), earlier retirement age (like Norway), etc. As productivity increases at a double exponential rate, 'less work for all' becomes increasingly important.

   The more inclusive a workers' program, all the more will be attracted.

   "One for all, and all for one!"

 

3-23-02

    In workersunity, "Mike Morin" quoted me:

>> Ensure that the party's program contains nothing to exclude people.
>
> Mike Morin responds:
>
> First of all, we should accept that in American English the word
party
> has become synonymous with
decadent.
>
> "Doing
nothing to exclude people" can be interpreted many ways. One
> way of interpreting could be keep doing the same things you are doing.
> In the Capitalist first world that will very soon
exclude everyone.
>
> Another way of interpreting it, is us that are aligned with the "third
> world" is that we who have the time to assess what is happening and
> propose alternatives to it, can only sit back and watch the Capitalist
> world go extinct. Some are resigned and delusional that
this is the
>
only and best strategy.
>
> I, sharing the words of JJ, in a true
Christian spirit, am proposing that
> we practice a "
politics (i.e. economic democracy) of inclusion".

   Bravo, Mike, let us practice the undiluted politics of inclusion until we die. Social problems cannot be fixed until we lend a hand. Even if we make mistakes, we hopefully can learn from them. In the meantime, and before this forum gets blitzed by propagandists who are unwilling to dialogue, it's a pleasure to be here.

 

3-23-02

    In workersunity, "Tom Siblo" wrote:

> I am new to this list and what I understand what we are trying to do here
> is develop
Workers Unity and what the both of you are discussing has
> been already been worked to death.

   I hope you will flesh out your critique.

> <snip long story> Either you guys are going to get it together and realize
> you need to start getting real or you will both
destroy this thing before
> it even begins to happen.

   This is too general to be of use. Be specific.

> I do not know if you haven't been looking around but since 1951 when 36% of
> the workers in America were organized we are now down to
11.3% and this is sad.

   Sad it is. What to do? Is your program different?

> See Lenin talks about a party adding the necessary subjective information
> to break through the walls of
economism. Soon there will not be enough
> organized workers to do this with. So there goes all the chances for the
> party builders.

   Technological unemployment is a real social problem. Productivity increases at a double logarithmic rate (according to Ray Kurzweil), and will approach infinity in a few more decades, which will mean the end of work as we've suffered from it. OUR job is to convert the end of work into the end of capitalism. Vanishing work must be equitably shared until it disappears altogether. Learning to share work will teach people to share the products of whatever entity creates the necessities of life -- after there's no longer a way for anyone to earn their stuff by means of labor.

> The great majority of workers will not listen to anyone they really do not
> know or who does not work with them. So if you guys work together forget
> it. You need to get a job in a different place.

   Scott, Mike, and I have already met and argued in various forums, but I've never met them in person.

> I think you need to take the time to really study workers democracy because
> this is the key. This is what we are lacking in the US. So if you do anything
> to create
workers control then you are really doing something.

   Workers' control would be wonderful, but how to get it if workers compete for vanishing opportunities to help their bosses rape the environment? For every worker morally repelled by such waste, 10 more might be willing to jump in and acquire any kind of job at all, no matter how destructive. You must be aware of what Engels wrote about 'competition between workers being the source of bosses power'. Could you become interested in a movement to help reduce competition between workers? I hope so.

> The next step is to talk political. This means acting socially and thinking
> politically. You want to be the best example of a worker
revolutionary there is.
>
>
Capitalism is dying. Our job is to build the new society in the womb of the
> old. Simple but for the US who has had a lot of problems getting it together
> we need something short of a miracle to make this happen.
>
> Anything you try is going to be wrong at first. There is
nothing anyone is
> doing which is correct because if we did have that happening then we would
> not be discussing this stuff.

   I'm 58, and have been on the left for over 30 years, and I think that I've learned from my mistakes, which were enormous and tragi-comic in my early days. That whole story is at my web site. I don't think that I'm anywhere nearly as wrong as I was back then, but I'm always willing to learn about the various ways in which I might still be wrong.

> So I am serious. If you guys are serious then drop the hacking
> and bull shit
and admit you do not know what you are doing.

   Please tell us what you read that inspired the 'hacking and bull shit' comment.

> You wouldn't be able to recognize a revolutionary worker if he or she came
> by and slapped you in your face.

   At least 10,000 words may be required to define any revolution, but will it boil down to something as simple as 'sharing work by reducing work hours'? Any humanitarian worker OR BOSS could easily understand that program, and might even want to adopt it in order to alleviate mutual social problems. Work-sharing has happened many times before, and needs to implemented today.

> I am going to clear. When we come here it is as comrades. Each comrade
> is important and we cannot afford to lose a single one. If we don't begin
> to work together then
capitalism will die and we will be living under
> either
fascism or barbarism. They are about the same.

   I'll admit that we have plenty of work to do in order to become effective. I'm always happy to reason with reasonable people.

   snip Workers Party, about which I know nothing.

   Best wishes for a good dialogue, K.E.

 

3-23-02

   Edwin Johnston wrote:

> Why do people wish to personalize this and make it about me?
> A number of members of the
KPFT LAB, current and former, are opposed
> to
Flashpoints because Dennis Bernstein is a conspiracy theorist, as detailed
> by
Political Research Associates (and by KPFT listeners themselves) which
> "
undermines the progressive goals of peace, social justice and economic
> fairness.
" (see also: http://www.publiceye.org/rightwoo/rwooz6-47.html)
> It's gotten so bad at
KPFT that one former KPFT LAB member has accused
> on-air pitchers supporting Bernstein's show of using "
Jew baiting" as a
> fundraising tool.
>
> So,
as we sink further into the swamp of conspiracy theorizing and
> scapegoating, a number of people have come forward to complain, heavily,
> and to suggest that instead of
broadcasting grand fantasies that the Mossad
>
blew up the World Trade Center, KPFT should be focusing on local
> programming
, created by local people.

   Edwin unfortunately seems to have been influenced by self-appointed censors like Sara Diamond and her Public Eye crowd, who have the gall to link Dennis Bernstein with fascists. What atrocious lies they tell! Sara didn't want KPFA to air anything that she didn't consider safe for KPFA listeners to hear. Her wide influence over many a KPFA programmer was, and may still be, a sad chapter in free speech history. If Pacifica wants only to be politically correct, and doesn't want to allow a full range of debate, then invite the Sara Diamond crew to oversee or administer Pacifica programming.

   For freedom of thought and speech,

 

3-24-02

    In workersunity, Tom Siblo wrote:

> Dear Ken:
>
> I was trying to get your attention. I don't have the answers and going over
> the same points which have been discussed before without doing some real
> practical work makes would help all of us to find what must be done to meet
> the challenge of today. I have since wrote another post and I think you can
> review it.
Don't spend time picking away at my words. Time is better
> spent on creating the
unity that is so desperately needed.

   Unity has to be based on a solid program. You have yet to propose something specific to attract workers, or would-be workers, taking into account emerging changes in the economy: Soon there will be NO MORE JOBS for anyone, so how does society evolve to that point in one piece? Our party needs vision so that ordinary people can hope to reach the future promised land.

> Anyone new to our movement ...

   We have a movement already? What did we agree to?

> Anyone new to our movement would very quickly learn to run away.
> The workers have been doing this for years.

   Why should workers run away from OUR movement? (Whatever it is, or becomes.)

> These issues being picked apart ...

   How else are we supposed to correct our mistakes? While driving down the road, don't we constantly move the steering wheel to prevent our cars from mistakenly veering off the road, where damage could occur? Progress is a process of error correction. From message number one in this forum, we all have to choose our words well. We don't have forever to dither around with vaguities and ambiguities. Not when productivity is increasing at a double logarithmic rate.

> These issues being picked apart are keeping us from developing the real
> questions such as
the impact on Information Technology on work today.
> Right now I know a lot of
IT workers who are angry about pay cuts and lay
> offs
while their companies are raking in more profits then ever before. They
> are individualized each seeking a better contract than the next guy and don't
> realize the corporations are sitting down and discussing how they can pay
> them as little as possible to maximize their profits.

   I suggested how to deal with this problem in my last post or 2, while you have yet to offer any specific solution at all. I hope that I'm not stuck in another 'complaints about capitalism' department. Why don't you offer your solution so that possible differences between your solution and my solution may be discussed? We know that capitalism is bad for our health, so all we have to do is figure out how to dispose of it - peacefully, violently, all at once, gradually, etc. Why do I feel like a dentist pulling teeth to get anything specific from you with regard to solutions? If you don't think that the vanishing work should be equitably or fairly shared, then please say so, and soon, BEFORE the work vanishes completely. ;-)

> The group that formulates this from a revolutionary worker viewpoint and
> can reach these workers could overnight take on a mass character and there
> is no telling what such a group can do.
>
> All the
revolutionaries of the past used a method to understand the current
> situation. They developed a means whereby to link up with the working
> people. This does not require a rocket scientist but it does require us
> combining our abilities and working together on what is an important
> step forward in bringing about a new
socialist world.
>
> Comradly
>
> Tom SIblo

   The abolition of capitalism certainly is a revolution, so all we have to do is define exactly how this revolution will take place, and whether it will be slow, fast, bloody, bloodless, etc. Since you are talking revolution, I would like to hear more about your proposed version of it. Perhaps 50-100 words could outline it.

   me4.263 Engels: Speeches at Elberfeld
   "
If, gentlemen, these conclusions are correct, if the social revolution and practical communism are the necessary result of our existing conditions - then we will have to concern ourselves above all with the measures by which we can avoid a violent and bloody overthrow of the social conditions. And there is only one means, namely, the peaceful introduction or at least preparation of communism. If we do not want the bloody solution of the social problem, if we do not want to permit the daily growing contradiction between the education and the condition of our proletarians to come to a head, which, according to all our experience of human nature, will mean that this contradiction will be solved by brute force, desperation and thirst for revenge, then, gentlemen, we must apply ourselves seriously and without prejudice to the social problem; then we must make it our business to contribute our share towards humanising the condition of the modern helots."

   Anyone else up for 'humanising the condition' of the working class? - K.E.

 

3-24-02

   In RBG-Alliance, Li'l Joe wrote:

> Kin Ellis still thinks and writes as a good-old-boy
>
Republican of the old school - Jesse Helms, Strom
> Thurmund, Phil Ghramme, and David Duke (or is
> he a
Democrat?) in opposing affirmative action and
>
taxing corporations for social programs to improve
> living conditions of the American poor and
> oppressed. But, in a
male dominated racist class
> society
(i.e. the United States) folks objective
> material interests are
mutually exclusive,
> e.g.
capital and labour-power.
>
> It is
silly to say that you want a "party" that does
> not
exclude people! Does Ellis advocate that ALL
> the members of the
Democratic Party, the Republican
>
Party, the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party,
>
the Liberitian Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the
> Natural Law Party
, the Communist Party, the American
> Nazi Party
(which like Ellis and the Republicans oppose
>
Affirmative Action as "divisive") and the Reform Party --
> JUST TO NAME A FEW! -- that these parties ought
> to dissolve,
unite into one "big tent"!
>
> On what
programme? Once they begin to define what
> their
program will be, differences will emerge into factions
> representing specific interest
which are mutually exclusive
> to those interests of other faction diametrically opposed.

> Ellis does not want the
expropriation of capital by the
>
working class, nor even to overly tax the wealthy and
> their corporations.
He is quite willing to propose the
> sexist/racist program to recruit "angry White males"
> at the expense of women and minorities
by
> opposing
affirmative action, &c.
>
>> snip earlier message
>
> Li'l Joe

   Good question, Li'l Joe, even if a bit provocatively stated. But, consider this question: A communist would deny WHOM the right to make a living? Who, in OUR new society, would be denied the right to find a niche in the legal economy? Who, on the basis of whatever distinguishing features, such as style of clothing, tattoos, sexual preference, gender, religion, race, whatever, would be prevented from making a living in the world which progressive people would like to create?

   If someone were to answer back: 'Pennsylvania Dutch', or if another says 'Mexican immigrants', or if another says 'Black immigrants from Nigeria', or if another says 'Bigots in the Aryan Nations', then their humanitarianism would be suspect. If it can be agreed that 'everyone has the right to make a living', then unity is far more possible than if someone would exclude an identifiable group. If people have acquired the level of spirituality which tells them that 'no one should be denied the right to subsist or make a living', then it wouldn't matter to me out of which party or background those agreeable people originated. But I will not unite with anyone who thinks that an identifiable group of people should be excluded from the economy, no matter what the plausible basis or excuse.

   Affirmative action fails my test for 'a good program for the new world' because that program does not give jobs and other opportunities to women and people of color WITHOUT taking jobs and opportunities away from white males. Affirmative action cannot include some people without excluding others. It might be a partial remedy for the times in which we CURRENTLY reside, but affirmative action should not be considered a permanent solution, nor a long-term goal. Everyone has a right to participate in the economy, without taxing and spending to create new jobs.

   Of all of the evils we love to hate - work, politics, government, class divisions, private property, racism, competition, etc. - capitalism helps to abolish only one of them: human labor. If we become smart enough to share the vanishing work until it's all gone (in a few decades), then the other evils will disappear as well.

 

3-25-02

    In workersunity, Tom Siblo wrote:

> I am all for humanizing the coming socialist revolution. I believe the
> working people have the right to defend themselves by any means necessary.
> The
less violence or zero violence the better things will be. One must realize
> we are talking about
transforming a society run by a ruling class which has
> exported more
violence upon the rest of the world. It has used violence on
> the working people and students in the past. I do not advocate the use of
>
violence yet I believe in massive non-violence as a first choice tactic but
> also I agree in
self defense when it comes for life and death struggles.
> If they are coming to kill me you can bet I will do my best to first avoid
> being caught and killed and if cornered I would certainly defend myself.
>
> Comradly
>
> Tom SIblo

   Sorry to have to critique your reply as quite inadequate. Mike seems to have experienced similar problems with your answers in the past.

   Did the quote from Engels inspire the many words about violence? Has it been decided that a new American revolution is necessary? If so, to correct what flaw? What would be the nature of the revolution? Paris Commune? Soviet? Communist? Anarchist?

   The following queries were not answered:

   What should the party do about technological unemployment?

   Why should workers run away from OUR movement?

   What exactly is your solution?

 

3-25-02

    In RBG-Alliance, Mike Morin quoted Ken Ellis:

>> 'everyone has the right to make a living',
>
> MM replies:
>
> First of all, I don't really believe anyone
has a right to anything.

   The implications of that sentence are truly frightening. If we don't have any rights after birth, then we might as well have been born into slavery, and the historical struggles of people to obtain rights not worth fighting.

> What Ken Ellis states implies that everyone has the should have the
> "opportunity" to be an
exploited worker (i.e. a wage slave) While many
> would prefer
this to being without adequate shelter and food, in a Capitalist
> trickle-down and move away world which ravages
it is not possible.

   If work could be more equitably shared, our mutual slavery would be much diminished, along with the unfairness of the system. All of us in this forum were born into 'the era of work', and there's no escaping that common fate unless born rich, no matter what economic system could be devised by the finest minds. Pity us in our helplessness if we can't make wage-labor more fair. But, everyone born after 2000 might very well be condemned to lives of total freedom. Poor things, not to have to suffer from wage-labor. ;-)

> I stand firm with respect to the politics of inclusion. It requires reform
> not
revolution. If the minority that hold the Capitalist assets continue to
> waste the earth and
exploit a dependent minority by processes of over-
> consumption, division and neglect, then it dissipates for everybuddy. In
>
revolution, allies and enemies must be identified. Such is an impossible
> task because every culture develops dominance hierarchies and it is seldom
> clear who those dominants are. It could be simplified to International
> Capitalists versus
International Socialists. More likely it will become
> the most outrageous
savagery that man has ever experienced.
>
> Take banana plantations, coffee plantations, grain for beef, potential
> compost for swine, wine systems, beer systems, lawn systems and reorganize,
> tear them down and plant more for local and regional populations.
>
> Build (and improve and equitize human habitats), not automobiles.
> Restructure our transportation systems to manifest such a culture.
> Such is an absolute necessity with respect to the realities of the
> increasingly impending demand-supply deficit of fossil fuels.

   No problem with those 3 paragraphs.

> Ken's statement also is stuck on the obliviating notion that greed is good
> and
standard of living is not almost a complete antithesis of quality of
> life. The
trickle-down mentality is worth mentioning again.

   Mike must have been paying more attention to my critics than to anything I ever said. I never opined that 'greed is good'. The rest of the paragraph is too abstract for me.

 

3-26-02

   Mike Morin wrote:

>>> I stand firm with respect to the politics of inclusion. It requires reform ...

   snip repetition of 3 agreeable paragraphs from previous message

>>> ... impending demand-supply deficit of fossil fuels.
>>
>> No problem with those 3 paragraphs.
>
> OK, so if we are to attempt to work on such an agenda (despite the
> odds that read something like the age of the earth multiplied by the
> rapid progress and destruction of the "
oil age" to each new increment
> of the future), how can we proceed?
>
>
http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/Reg_Coop_Comm_Dev

   Much of the waste and destruction results from frivolous hyperactivity. The more highly developed the means of production, the higher the rate at which needless surpluses are produced (unless work hours are reduced in proportion to increased productivity, which isn't happening, and is what makes the rich so rich). A good way to reduce the needless overwork is to reduce the length of the work week, add more vacation time, and provide more days off. First, overwork may need to become more expensive, and thereby less attractive, by increasing the overtime premium from time and half to double time or so.

>>> Ken's statement also is stuck on the obliviating notion that greed is good
>>> and
standard of living is not almost a complete antithesis of quality of
>>> life. The
trickle-down mentality is worth mentioning again.
>>
>> Mike must have been paying more attention to my critics than to anything
>> I ever said. I never opined that '
greed is good'. The rest of the paragraph
>> is too abstract for me.
>
> Ken,
>
> It is not in response to anything you said or that you even recognized was
> a
logical extension of your program-oriented strategies. However, like my
> fundamental world/
peace/communism plans, your more traditional organized
> labor statutory collective bargaining
approach goes against the entropic
> greed driven self-interest that is destroying the earth and the world.

   Greed is a philosophical outlook, so 'us being relentlessly driven into the ground by the effects of greed' need not be an inescapable fate. In spite of whatever plausible shortcomings of the leisure approach, less needless overwork would translate into a smaller environmental impact. If necessities of life can be produced in an hour per week, then why do so many people work 39 more? Bad habit, like candy and cigarettes. It is past time to break the destructive overwork habit. Activists should campaign against overwork and its associated waste. If the cause/effect relationship of overwork/waste is so plain and obvious, then why don't more activists campaign against it? Is it because all of us are so hyped up with over-activity, that 'MORE activism to counter the bad symptomatic effects of TOO MUCH activity' might somehow be more intuitive than plain 'urging everyone to slow down and do less'? I have yet to meet anyone willing to admit reasons for failing to be, or refusing to be, logical. Being tight-lipped goes with the territory.

> About a year ago, I said (perhaps it was on the Energy Resources
> discussion group
), "It's all academic from here on out".
>
> It is only natural, therefore
human nature, for a person to keep trying.
> But that continued effort requires either ignorance or denial of reality.

   Much hyperactivity is slave-driven, resulting in our common ruin. Little more than that need an activist know in order to be inspired to demand an end to the SLAVE-DRIVING, whether legislated or simply inspired by the old Puritan work ethic. Subsequent failure to demand an end to the slave-driving indicates indifference to duty, if not willful neglect.

> Best wishes to all.
>
> May there be
peace and a minimization of suffering?
>
> Mike

   Let us hope so, but suffering will be minimized only if enough activists put their minds to it. Unfortunately, far too many would rather frivol with revolution.

   Looking backward at ethics from the future: "In the pre-global brain era, few people had many chances to use their intelligence for humanitarian purposes. Today [in A.D. 3000] we are all so interconnected that the right use of intelligence is constantly questioned, making the ancient dialectic of wisdom and intelligence very much alive today. Waste of any sort - including of good ideas and human talent - has become recognized as a sin."

 

3-27-02

>> Agreed, the question is, what program?

   This answer, unfortunately, is a mistake:

> Well, that I would see as part of the next step. First, there needs to be
> a committed group of
honest communists and working-class militants
> willing to declare themselves for
building a Party.

   First things first. Are people so desperate to become part of a new party, that they would join before deciding on its program? That wasn't how Marx built the First International. He wrote a program that was relevant to the most developed democracies, and then the workers flocked to it.

   A sound program could be created in this very forum. People drawn to the program might then want to build a party based on the program.

 

3-28-02

   Every once in a while something special in the Marx-Engels Correspondence stands out. In Vol. 46 of the Collected Works, covering years 1880-3, the publisher's preface says the following about private landownership:

   "Marx, however, thought the attempt at blaming all social evils on private landownership wholly groundless. Contrary to [Henry] George's theory, cheap land in the United States was contributing to the growth of the capitalist system at a rate unheard of in Europe." Marx wrote to Sorge, June 20, 1881:

   me46.100
   "
As already mentioned, we ourselves adopted the appropriation of rent by the State amongst many other transitional measures which, as is likewise indicated in the Manifesto, are and cannot but be contradictory in themselves." ...

   me46.101
   "
All these 'socialists' since Colins have this in common - they allow wage labour and hence also capitalist production to subsist, while endeavouring to delude themselves and the world into believing that the transformation of rent into taxation paid to the State must bring about the automatic disappearance of all the abuses of capitalist production. So the whole thing is merely an attempt, tricked out with socialism, to save the capitalist regime and, indeed, to re-establish it on an even broader basis than at present."

   It's not pleasant contemplating Marx admitting to having given us self-contradicting transition measures in the Communist Manifesto! But, 1848 was primarily an era of anti-monarchist revolutionary struggle. Later, Marx and Engels increasingly turned their attentions to the abolition of the wages system. In his 1881 article entitled "Trades Unions", while urging workers to run for elected office, Engels specified 2 methods by which wage-labor could be abolished: shorter work hours and higher wages. To my knowledge, no other methods of abolishing the wages system were ever specified by them.

   A decade later, Engels and friends created the 8 Hour Committee in London. After a Committee meeting with Engels and others, Cunningham-Graham reported in a newspaper article (me49.579): 'the object of our meeting was to combine the attack against surplus value, to endeavour to bring about friendly relations between the sweated of all nations, and to push on the general eight hours day by legislative action...'.

   Where is today's movement against enormous surplus value? To which subject did Marx dedicate a good portion of Capital? SV is fated to grow larger and larger if the benefits of increased productivity are not taken in the form of increased leisure time. What an opportunity for feasible activism! Instead, under sectarian leadership, many of today's activists fruitlessly promote communism, socialism, anarchism, and anti-capitalism, etc., forgetting what M+E stood for in their mature years, forcing the curious to do their own independent research. But, no one who is married to sectarian ideologies gives a damn.

 

3-30-02

   Activists who are less than content to keep the faiths propounded by rigid sects have been paying lip service to re-examining Marxism, socialism and communism for many years. While recognizing the many weaknesses of today's versions, few are willing to say that 'it was flawed from day one.' Thus, many activists remain on the same treadmills, and continue to demand that workers' parties seek state power to abolish private property and capital.

   Many continue to blame private property for today's problems, disregarding the fact that nearly every ordinary citizen wants property for themselves, so are unwilling to abolish property for all. Even secretive and censorious bureaucrat sect leaders regard their parties as their own private property, having used them for 'milk cows' since the days of Marx. They care not 'what CAUSES poverty' for as long as poverty can be used as an excuse to demand that 'workers become the ruling class, and abolish capitalism'.

   Everyone knows what capitalism is, but perspectives on socialism vary widely, so unity around socialism will not arrive until everyone agrees on what socialism is, which will never happen, so why even try?

   Re: Ian Donovan's program at http://www.cpgb.org.uk/draftprog.html

   The program is 100 times longer than what Marx proposed for the First International. Workers' eyes would quickly glaze over. Compare that program's many pronouncements for socialism or communism to Marx's down-to-earth program for the First International:
_________________________________________________

   Karl Marx
   
PROVISIONAL RULES OF THE ASSOCIATION

   Considering,

   That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves; that the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule;

   That the economical subjection of the man of labour to the monopoliser of the means of labour, that is, the sources of life, lies at the bottom of servitude in all its forms, of all social misery, mental degradation, and political dependence;

   That the economical emancipation of the working classes is therefore the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means;

   That all efforts aiming at that great end have hitherto failed from the want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labour in each country, and from the absence of a fraternal bond of union between the working classes of different countries;

   That the emancipation of labour is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem, embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries;

   That the present revival of the working classes in the most industrious countries of Europe, while it raises a new hope, gives solemn warning against a relapse into the old errors and calls for the immediate combination of the still disconnected movements;

   For these reasons -

   The undersigned members of the committee, holding its powers by resolution of the public meeting held on Sept. 28, 1864, at St. Martin's Hall, London, have taken the steps necessary for founding the Working Men's International Association;

   They declare that this International Association and all societies and individuals adhering to it, will acknowledge truth, justice, and morality, as the basis of their conduct towards each other, and towards all men, without regard to colour, creed, or nationality;

   They hold it the duty of a man to claim the rights of a man and a citizen, not only for himself, but for every man who does his duty. No rights without duties, no duties without rights;

   And in this spirit they have drawn up the following Provisional Rules of the International Association: -

   1. This Association is established to afford a central medium of communication and co-operation between Working Men's Societies existing in different countries, and aiming at the same end, viz., the protection, advancement, and complete emancipation of the working classes.

   2. The name of the Society shall be: "The Working Men's International Association".

   3. In 1865 there shall meet in Belgium a General Working Men's Congress, consisting of representatives of such working men's societies as may have joined the International Association. The Congress will have to proclaim before Europe the common aspirations of the working classes, decide on the definitive rules of the International Association, consider the means required for its successful working, and appoint the Central Council of the Association. The General Congress is to meet once a year.

   4. The Central Council shall sit in London, and consist of working men belonging to the different countries represented in the International Association. It shall from its own members elect the officers necessary for the transaction of business, such as a president, a treasurer, a general secretary, corresponding secretaries for the different countries, &c.

   5. On its annual meetings, the General Congress shall receive a public account of the annual transactions of the Central Council. The Central Council, yearly appointed by the Congress, shall have power to add to the number of its members. In cases of urgency, it may convoke the General Congress before the regular yearly term.

   6. The Central Council shall form an international agency between the different co-operating associations, so that the working men in one country be constantly informed of the movements of their class in every other country; that an inquiry into the social state of the different countries of Europe be made simultaneously, and under a common direction; that the questions of general interest mooted in one society be ventilated by all; and that when immediate practical steps should be needed, as, for instance, in case of international quarrels, the action of the associated societies be simultaneous and uniform. Whenever it seems opportune, the Central Council shall take the initiative of proposals to be laid before the different national or local societies.

   7. Since the success of the working men's movement in each country cannot be secured but by the power of union and combination, while, on the other hand, the usefulness of the International Central Council must greatly depend on the circumstance whether it has to deal with a few national centres of working men's associations, or with a great number of small and disconnected local societies; the members of the International Association shall use their utmost efforts to combine the disconnected working men's societies of their respective countries into national bodies, represented by central national organs. It is self-understood, however, that the appliance of this rule will depend upon the peculiar laws of each country, and that, apart from legal obstacles, no independent local society shall be precluded from directly corresponding with the London Central Council.

   8. Until the meeting of the first Congress, the committee chosen on September 28th, 1864, will act as a Provisional Central Council, try to connect the different national working men's associations, enlist members in the United Kingdom, take the steps preparatory to the convocation of the General Congress, and discuss with the national and local societies the main questions to be laid before that Congress.

   9. Each member of the International Association, on removing his domicile from one country to another, will receive the fraternal support of the Associated Working Men.

   10. While united in a perpetual bond of fraternal co-operation, the working men's societies, joining the International Association, will preserve their existent organisations intact.

_______________________________

   Notice the complete lack of references to property, communism, socialism, anarchism, etc. Notice the stress on unity and cooperation.

   Not until 2 years later, at the 1866 Geneva Congress, was the programme of the First International more fully fleshed out. The first item called for legal limitations on the length of the work day. The 2nd criticized child labor and promoted universal education. The 3rd promoted co-operatives, the 4th promoted trade unionism, the 5th advocated direct taxation, etc.

   Politically, the General Council favored replacing European monarchies with socially controlled democratic republics, which political task has largely been completed since 1871, and not always by means of revolution. Modern democracies provide all of the tools needed to abolish class distinctions, according to Engels, but who wants to abolish class distinctions when 'smashing the state', or 'instantly replacing capitalism with socialism', seems to have better chances of enticing masses who are eager for excitement? Revolutionary parties are no more relevant to social problems than any other agencies of mass entertainment. People won't listen to activists who claim that, "Because billions live in poverty, capitalism must be replaced with anarchism [or socialism, or communism]."

   THE FESTIVAL OF NATIONS IN LONDON Frederick Engels (me6.5)
   "
Democracy nowadays is communism. Any other democracy can only still exist in the heads of theoretical visionaries who are not concerned with real events, in whose view it is not the men and the circumstances that develop the principles but the principles develop of themselves. Democracy has become the proletarian principle, the principle of the masses. The masses may be more or less clear about this, the only correct meaning of democracy, but all have at least an obscure feeling that social equality of rights is implicit in democracy. The democratic masses can be safely included in any calculation of the strength of the communist forces. And if the proletarian parties of the different nations unite they will be quite right to inscribe the word "Democracy" on their banners, since, except for those who do not count, all European democrats in 1846 are more or less Communists at heart."

   "Introduction to Marx's Class Struggles in France" Engels, 1895 (me27.522):
   "
The irony of world history turns everything upside down. We, the "revolutionaries", the "overthrowers" - we are thriving far better on legal methods than on illegal methods and overthrow. The parties of order, as they call themselves, are perishing under the legal conditions created by themselves. They cry despairingly with Odilon Barrot: la legalite nous tue, legality is the death of us; whereas we, under this legality, get firm muscles and rosy cheeks and look like life eternal. And if we are not so crazy as to let ourselves be driven to street fighting in order to please them, then in the end there is nothing left for them to do but themselves break through this dire legality."

   Engels to Bernstein, November 28, 1882 (me46.389)
   "
To be momentarily in the minority - as to organisation - and have the right programme is at least better than having no programme and a large, though almost entirely nominal and bogus, following. We have been in the minority all our lives and have thrived on it."

 

3-30-02

Hi, Karl,

> I want to know what you think is good about the list.

   The name is good. One would think that more would have something to say about communism, unless they think that all aspects are irrelevant.

> What you think is bad about the list.

   The low level of dialogue.

> Have you any suggestions for improving the list?

   Make it mandatory for participants to make a good-faith effort to dialogue on point, using the gray matter between their ears.

> Why you do or do not contribute to the list?

   I have provided provocative items in the recent past, but some people think that the Antarctic ice cap is more relevant than any aspect of communism.

> I want to know why so many out of a list of over 145 subscribers or so few
> contribute to the
list.

   I've done my part, but it takes 2 or more to tango.

Best wishes for a better dialogue,
Ken Ellis

End of January to March 2002 Correspondence

 

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