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Selected Political Correspondence

June to December 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


06-09-02

   Sorry for the long delay. Mike B. replied:

>> snip to relevant sentences:
>>
>> 1)
General strike.
>>
>> Workers would need a very good reason to
stop work altogether. (snip more)
>
> Hmmm. I don't read the above as a call for a
general strike. What is being
> said is that
workers need to organize as a class into one big union. This
>
union should logically be based on which industry the worker is in as
> opposed to which trade s/he is in. It also says that "
an injury to one is
> an injury to all
" within our class or in specific instances in the industry
> which we work in. That means that if the sheet metal workers in a Ford
> plant go out on
strike for better wages, then the other workers up to and
> including the janitorial staff in that Ford plant would go out in
solidarity.
> It means that the sorts of organized
scabbing which goes on now within
> industries would not occur.
>
> Let's say that the pilots in the transport industry went out on the
>
picket line. That would mean that other workers in that industry
> would
go out with them so as not to undercut their strike and to
> make it a strong action.

   The Preamble reads: "all its members in any one industry ... cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof" ...

   "Cease work" indicates a strike, while "making an injury to one an injury to all" indicates willfully broadening the strike. The more workers on strike, the greater the likelihood of worker success. If the strike spreads far enough, the term 'general strike' could apply.

>> 2) Abolition of the wages system.
>>
>> Workers enjoying
high wages don't have that much to complain about.
>
> It's the
wages system which results in most of the wealth which workers
> create going into the pockets and control of the employing class.
>
> We think that the product should go to and be controlled by the producers.

   The goal of a greater return, by itself, is quite materialistic. The past century of technological progress has glutted modern societies with commodities and frivolities of every variety. Merely 'getting more stuff' doesn't fill the soul, especially if the benefits of higher wages flow only to producers, while non-producers reap the wind. To antidote such spiritual malaise, union between employed and unemployed is needed. As Marx wrote in Capital (me35.634):

   "As soon, therefore, as the labourers learn the secret, how it comes to pass that in the same measure as they work more, as they produce more wealth for others, and as the productive power of their labour increases, so in the same measure even their function as a means of the self-expansion of capital becomes more and more precarious for them, as soon as they discover that the degree of intensity of the competition among themselves depends wholly on the pressure of the relative surplus population; as soon as, by Trades' Unions, &c., they try to organise a regular co-operation between employed and unemployed in order to destroy or to weaken the ruinous effects of this natural law of capitalistic production on their class, so soon capital and its sycophant, political economy, cry out at the infringement of the "eternal" and so to say "sacred" law of supply and demand. Every combination of employed and unemployed disturbs the "harmonious" action of this law."

   The secret of our failure or success lies not merely in unionizing workers, but in cementing solidarity between the employed and unemployed.

>> Wages for low-skill people could be raised by creating a universal labor
>> shortage
. Wages for all American workers could be made as universally
>> high as when
labor migrated West during the 19th century, creating a
>>
chronic shortage. However, 'merely' raising wages for all is disparaged
>> by
revolutionaries as 'a social solution within the context of capitalism',
>> and as '
a solution which does not abolish capitalist exploitation', so
>> simply
creating a labor shortage is taboo among those who can
>> afford to think independently of
labor's interests.
>
> This is not
true of the IWW. We fight for higher wages and better working
> conditions
. We also fight for a shortened work week with no cut in pay.

   If the Preamble is the first document read by newcomers, they first see: 1) organize into one big union, 2) "cease work", 3) abolish the wages system, 4) replace capitalist economics with socialist economics.

   1) 'Organize into one big union' is desirable. Trade unions in England were legalized in the days of M+E, but M+E also promoted 'a big political union' - or party - to advance working class interests through legislation.

   2) 'Cease work' is concrete, but also threatens survival if continued for very long, so 'cease work' could be problematic. Strikes are last resorts.

   3) and 4) are not concrete, so are subject to a myriad of interpretations. One could fight forever over exactly how to 'abolish the wages system', or how to 'replace capitalism with socialism'.

   Steps 2, 3 and 4 are problematic, so should be replaced with action everyone can agree upon, like struggling for higher wages and fewer work hours. Capitalists prefer lower wages and more hours (or even the status quo, because the increase of surplus value as a function of time automatically favors bosses). As Engels noted, higher wages and fewer work hours are good means of abolishing the wages system, so it would be possible for activists to have their cake and eat it too.

>> 3) Replace capitalist economics with 'socialist economics'.
>
> It's true that once we workers
get organized as a class, we'll most likely
> want to replace the
wages system with a system that allows us to socially
> own
and control the wealth we create.
>
> Regards, Mike B)

   Replacing capitalist economics with 'socialist economics' implies abolishing private property rights. Private property can't be abolished in an era of wage-labor, because labor creates property. Something that is constantly being created can't very easily be abolished. As M+E wrote in The Holy Family: "the abolition of private property will become a reality only when it is conceived as the abolition of "labour"" ...

   I have yet to begin working on 2 more replies. Proceeding slowwwwwwly ...

 

06-09-02

   Eric KochKetola replied to my critique of the IWW program:

>> 1) General strike.
>>
>> Workers would need a very good reason to
stop work altogether. On
>> the other hand, a
universal slow-down strike would create an artificial
>> shortage of labor
which would drive wages up, much in the way OPEC's
>> artificial oil shortages drive up the price of oil. But,
revolutionaries
>> don't seem interested in social solutions within the context of
capitalism.
>> They prefer to think that '
capitalism can be ended one fine day', and can
>> afford to abstain from advocating ameliorative remedies.
>
> They abstain from
advocating ameliorative remedies because they feel that
> you're
only placing salve on the burn, rather than putting out the fire, if
> you'll excuse the metaphor.

   If the means of putting out the fire are not at hand, is applying a salve the worst thing to do? Can the fire (capitalism) be abolished overnight, similar to the ways some monarchies were replaced with democracies, or some colonies were liberated?

> The idea is that any ameliorative remedy advocated within the capitalist
> system
is at best temporary,

   The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and every step in the right direction gets us closer to the goal. The question is: Which is the right direction? Which easily understandable, feasible, and lawful steps can be taken today towards the abolition of the wages system, and/or towards the abolition of capitalism?

> and at worst a new means of allowing control over the labor force.

   That's pretty pessimistic. Sixty-four years ago, was enacting America's Fair Labor Standards Act a step in the WRONG direction? Should hours of labor have been left to 'market forces', or for bosses to decide?

> If you look at the history of "social democratic" movements, you'll find
> that they're having trouble sustaining themselves. Even in those countries
> that do not devote large portions of their
GNPs to their armed forces, a
>
welfare state is a huge drain on the state coffers.

   Considering what has happened in Social-Democracies over the past century, where would people be without modern medicine, radio, TV, satellites, the Internet, computers, the European Union, universal suffrage, etc. Is there a chance that France and Germany will battle it out on the Maginot line again? Is further political, social and economic progress impossible or unlikely?

>> 2) Abolition of the wages system.
>>
>> Workers enjoying
high wages don't have that much to complain about.
>>
Wages for low-skill people could be raised by creating a universal labor
>> shortage
. Wages for all American workers could be made as universally
>> high as when
labor migrated West during the 19th century, creating a
>> chronic shortage
. However, 'merely' raising wages for all is disparaged
>> by
revolutionaries as 'a social solution within the context of capitalism',
>> and as '
a solution which does not abolish capitalist exploitation', so
>> simply
creating a labor shortage is taboo among those who can
>> afford to think independently of
labor's interests.
>
> 1. Workers enjoying such
high wages are encouraged to live beyond
> their means and spend more than they make. Many of them do so.

   That certainly is true, but those who can live within their means don't show much indication of wanting to do something drastic merely to cure the indebtedness of those who don't, can't, or won't live within their means.

> 2. How are people supposed to live if there's a universal labor shortage?
> You have to work to live, and if
there are no jobs, you can't work.

   A 'universal labor shortage' is not the same critter as a 'universal job shortage'. In fact, the two are as opposite as opposite can be. A universal job shortage is inseparable from evil competition between workers, while a universal labor shortage indicates both healthy economic competition between bosses for scarce labor, and good economic conditions for workers.

> 3. "Merely" raising wages for all will not solve the seduction
> of the
debt industry. See #1.

   The debt industry is merely part of the system of exploitation of labor. Marx identified exploitation with surplus value. Neither exploitation nor surplus value can be reduced EXCEPT by raising wages and/or reducing hours of labor.

>> 3) Replace capitalist economics with 'socialist economics'.
>>
>> The task of the
capitalist economic system is to abolish scarcity. That
>>
abolition, plus the creation of an effortless abundance, will also mean the
>>
abolitions of the wages system, labor, the division of labor, competition,
>> profits, capitalism, class distinctions, the state
, and everything else we
>> love to hate in the present era. A '
socialist economy' is little more than
>> a figment of an overactive imagination. In a few more decades, along
>> with
capitalism itself, all economy and scarcity will vanish.
>
>
Capitalism cannot abolish scarcity, because scarcity, according to the
> science of
economics as it is presently taught, is a natural law.

   Capitalism, feudalism, and slavery were all based upon scarcity. But, in a few decades, consumables will be created without direct human maintenance or intervention. Economy and scarcity will then be no worse than 'ugly memories of the past'. With the abolition of scarcity and economy, capitalism will end its career as the FINAL system of economy. Like 'military intelligence', 'socialist economics' is an oxymoron - a contradiction in terms. Socialism will exclude economy, and today's economy excludes socialism.

> The Earth is only capable of producing a finite amount, which is
>
not enough to satisfy everyone's needs, or so the reasoning is.

   That statement surely doesn't originate in Marxism. Engels wrote in his Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy (me3.436): "Capital increases daily; labour power grows with population; and day by day science increasingly makes the forces of nature subject to man. This immeasurable productive capacity, handled consciously and in the interest of all, would soon reduce to a minimum the labour falling to the share of mankind. ... progress is as unlimited and at least as rapid as that of population."

   Application of new sciences and technologies to productive forces will soon abolish human labor at a rate FASTER than what the population can grow to consume the new wealth of commodities and services, FORCING humans to finally relax their economic endeavors. A little leadership NOW would help conserve resources.

> The task of the capitalist economic system is therefore not to abolish
> this
scarcity, but rather to take advantage of it and create shortages
> where none previously existed, driving up the
value of the commodity,
> etc. Ultimately, then, the task of the
capitalist economic system is to
> enrich the bourgeoisie, which task it has performed admirably.

   Agreed. Artificial shortages prevail in the TV cable industry, e.g. Due to monopoly control, prices zoom skyward, channel choices stagnate, but local communities are beginning to cooperate to start their own municipal cable companies that will hopefully provide 'better for less'. "Monopoly produces competition, competition produces monopoly." {me6.195}

> Capitalism, however, relies on an abundance of one essential commodity: labor power.

   "SURPLUS labor power" would have been more accurate. Marx wrote (me28.325): "If it is true that capital produces surplus labour, it is equally true that surplus labour is the prerequisite for the existence of capital. The entire development of wealth rests upon the creation of disposable time."

   Capital was also observed to consume most disposable time (me20.253): ... "the labourer during the whole of the live-long day is nothing but labour-power; that all his disposable time is working-time and belongs to value-begetting capital" ...

   Today, SURPLUS labor abounds, but is so nasty that it should be abolished. Surplus labor is alienated labor; it imbues consumables with the character of commodities; it imbues them with exchange-value; it is the origin of profits; it is uncompensated labor; its capital form dominates living labor; it is identified with property, i.e., alienated property; it is identical to exploitation; it is the usurpation of free time; it enriches one class to the exclusion of the other; its origin is obscure enough to enable plausible deniability of its very existence; and, surplus value remains relatively unquestioned as 'fair compensation for the labor of the exploiter'.

> It is the task of the capitalist economic system to abolish
> the scarcity of labor & labor power
, thus driving the value
> of the
labor power down.

   That's the situation today, for sure. But, similar to the way OPEC retards production to drive up oil prices, labor could make itself artificially scarce, create demand for itself, and thereby raise its wage-price. Little more than that is required to make the world much easier to live in. If labor today is 40 times more productive than 200 years ago, then humanity could be sustained by working no more than one hour per week. {2003 correction: Recent research shows that 25% of the American population is involved with agriculture directly or indirectly, so the old 'one hour per week' would probably have to be revised upward to 10 hours per week.}

> It accomplishes this by an intense division of labor which breaks
> production down into a multitude of simple tasks
, and by "labor-saving"
> devices which
reduce the amount of skill required to perform these tasks -
> or by
abolishing human participation in the process altogether - resulting
> in a demand for a
workforce which is relatively unskilled, plentiful, and
> interchangeable. Said
workforce can no longer, except by large-scale
>
combination (i.e., labor unions), represent its interests in opposition
> to those of the capitalists/corporations.

   True, Taylorism can be nasty stuff, and can be thwarted by unionization.

>> This isn't 100% Marxism, which became obsolete after Europeans refused
>> to support the
Russian revolution with long-lasting revolutions of their own,
>> but this
philosophy does contain some Marxist elements, most notably the
>>
struggle against surplus value, which struggle the 'power and property'
>>
Marxists of today seem to have abandoned altogether in favor of 'quick'
>> solutions, like 'instant
expropriation'.
>
> I don't see any practical solution to the problem of
surplus value here.

   The way to shrink surplus value, and to diminish 'working for nothing', is to win appropriate legislative amendments to existing hours-of-labor laws, and lawfully drive hours of labor ever downward, creating increasing free time for those who earn and deserve it.

> According to Marx, surplus value is an essential component of the
> capitalistic mode of production.
How do you propose to solve the problem?

   "Problem"? Which problem? By gradually abolishing surplus labor, capitalism itself would be abolished. I always thought that 'abolishing capitalism' was a dearly-held revolutionary goal, so where is the problem?

   Surplus labor is donated, unpaid, unnecessary, and free to capitalists. By means of surplus (unpaid) labor, workers voluntarily enrich bosses. Marx wrote in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (me24.92):

   ... "the whole capitalist system of production turns on increasing this gratis labour by extending the working day or by developing productivity, that is, increasing the intensity of labour power, etc.;" ...

   Why should workers be ragged-trousered philanthropists and give away all of their free time to the bosses for nothing? 'Working for nothing' can surely be diminished without workers cutting their own throats. Surplus labor can best be abolished - NOT by demanding that the unpaid surplus labor be PAID FOR, but by organizing as a class to ABOLISH unpaid surplus labor, by means of a general slow-down strike, enforced by the government itself. How else to liberate labor from wage-slavery, and to make workers as free of yukky toil as today's idle rich?

> Legal limitations? Higher wages alone don't eliminate surplus value.

   'Working more than necessary' creates surplus value. Reducing labor time down to what's necessary is the most direct way to eliminate surplus value, but raising wages ALSO reduces surplus value. That's why workers have traditionally fought for both higher wages and fewer work hours, both by contract and by law.

> They'll just spark price increases and an interest rate hike by the Fed.
> --
> Eric KochKetola

   After 9/11, the Fed continually reduced interest rates. For awhile, it was an object of speculation whether the rates would have to cross the zero line and go negative in order to prevent another depression, but it didn't come to that - this time. Some bright shiny day in the future, however, no matter how the Fed tries to spur the economy, not enough people will find work, and work-sharing will have to be adopted. I hope activists do their homework, jump ahead of the curve, and lead the inevitable movement to share work SOONER rather than later. 'Nothing to lose but our chains.'

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

 

06-09-02

   Tom Walker mused about the extent of popular interest in socialism:

> I would love to do some "focus group" testing to see how
> something like Long's
platform would play these days, in
> the wake of
Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing etc., etc., etc.

   Except for point 4, Huey Long's Share-Our-Wealth program was quite socialistic, some points confiscatory. In the USA, scanty votes for overtly socialist parties and programs demonstrate expropriation's unpopularity. Marx and Engels often advocated abolishing private property rights in order to reduce competition between workers, but 'reduced competition' is achievable by less divisive (viz. swt) methods.

   In spite of Marx's enthusiasm for expropriation, the INSEPARABILITY between labor and property (expressed in "The Holy Family") should dampen enthusiasm for a QUICK expropriation (me4.278):

   '"Labour" is the living basis of private property, it is private property as the creative source of itself. Private property is nothing but objectified labour. If it is desired to strike a mortal blow at private property, one must attack it not only as a material state of affairs, but also as activity, as labour. It is one of the greatest misapprehensions to speak of free, human, social labour, of labour without private property. "Labour" by its very nature is unfree, unhuman, unsocial activity, determined by private property and creating private property. Hence the abolition of private property will become a reality only when it is conceived as the abolition of "labour"' ...

   Other early works practically equated the abolition of private property with the abolition of monarchist rule, as in Marx's 'Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law' (me3.109): "In feudal rule it is directly apparent that the monarchical power is the power of private property" ...

   Judenfrage (me3.153): ... "man declares by political means that private property is abolished as soon as the property qualification for the right to elect or be elected is abolished, as has occurred in many states of North America. [Thomas] Hamilton quite correctly interprets this fact from a political point of view as meaning: "the masses have won a victory over the property owners and financial wealth". Is not private property abolished in idea if the non-property owner has become the legislator for the property owner? The property qualification for the suffrage is the last political form of giving recognition to private property."

   Some threads of those arguments were maintained throughout the lifetimes of Marx and Engels. Replacing monarchies with democracies was more appropriate to their 19th century, while abolishing labor is a modern feasible task mandated by improvements in productivity. Popular interest in private ownership will begin to wither away only after the swt passion begins to replace the current passion to accumulate property.

 

06-12-02

   Jehu inquired:

> Following on this discussion:
>
> Marx also made the statement that, "
Right can never be higher than
> the economic structure of society and its cultural development
> conditioned thereby.
" (Critique of the Gotha Programme)
>
> I have wondered for some time how large a
reduction of labor time
> is immediately possible based on the actual development of social
> productive capacity. My own rough figures show it is possibly as
> much as 50 to 70 percent of the present
social workday.
>
> Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I would think that offering
> the possibility of some immediate radical, but realistic,
reduction of
> labor time
-- on the order of one or two work days per week to start
> -- might spur more intense discussion of this idea among
labor.
>
> Excuse me, if I am out of order here. Just a question, the general
> consensus for which I have always wanted to get from among the group.
>
> Jehu

   One estimate is that today's productivity is 40 times greater than 200 years ago. Evidence for forty is somewhat corroborated by American agribiz: 80% of the population farmed the land 200 years ago, while less than 2% of today's population labors in agriculture. So, 80%/2% = a ratio of 40.

   Given a 40-fold increase, a very determined population might be able to chop 39 hours off a forty hour work week, work a mere hour per week, and still provide everyone with basics, probably with little left over.

   It was reported this morning that a new fabrication process will soon enable chip density to increase 2,000-fold, promising super computers no bigger than a fingernail. If those new computers talk to one another and guide production, then kiss a lot more human labor good-bye.

   Marx, Wage Labour and Capital (me9.226): "If the whole class of wage-workers were to be abolished owing to machinery, how dreadful that would be for capital which, without wage labour, ceases to be capital!"



6-24-02

   Karl wrote:

> Although Karl Marx was one of the foremost pioneers of the interests of
> the
working class on a number of levels a serious re-examination of his
> theory and politics is an indispensable task facing
communists. To some
> degree this task has been begun. However it is still at its initial stages.
>
> Marx's role in relation to the
First International is one that needs
> to be looked at with the cold eye of objectivity. In the first place his
> acceptance of a leading position in the leadership has to be questioned.
> In many ways the
International had more of the character of a Popular
> Front
rather than a United Front. Evidence of this is the failure of Marx
> to seriously subject the
trade union leadership on the International to
> criticism. He concentrated his fire on what were called
sects by some
> --the
Bakunists-- while going easy on other elements actively present in
> the
International. Even the entire purpose, structure and character of the
>
First International makes the role of Marx in relation to it questionable.
>
> Much of the later
opportunism and perhaps even revisionism within the
>
Marxist movement can be traced back to the First International. Even the
> way in which the
International was effectively dissolved by Marx and
> Engels smacks of crass. Marx and Engels stand
guilty, together with Lenin
> and many others, in
generating a myth about the significance of the First
> International
. Lets stick to the facts.
>
> Karl Carlile

   Engels regarded the 8 years of the First International as the jewel in the crown of Marx's achievements. One of its shinier qualities was its ability to absorb sects. Marx observed that (me44.252): 'the course of history had smashed sectarianism.' As an umbrella organization, the FI invited any group that agreed with its principles, and in return promised not to meddle in their internal affairs.

   The Bakuninist Alliance, however, broke the rules, for it tried to build a separate international organization WITHIN the FI. After years of trouble-making, the Bakuninists were finally expelled in 1872. Several officers of the secretive Bakuninist Alliance were exposed as police spies.

   Some trade unionists often held to mistaken theories, some of which Marx tried to rectify in an 1865 address to the Central Council of the FI. His address was finally published as a pamphlet under the title 'Value, Price and Profit' in 1898, many years after his death.

   The political content of the FI was Red Republicanism, as opposed to both ordinary bourgeois republicanism and monarchism. The FI supported French efforts to replace the hated Second Empire with a democracy, and celebrated the Sept. 4, 1870 birth of the 3rd Republic. Support continued as the 3rd Republic turned Red on March 18, 1871. Marx advised them, but the failure of Europe to revolt in support of Paris and the other Communes spelled doom, just the way the failure of Europe to support the Russian revolution in 1917 led to mere partial communist success at best. Lone revolutions in semi-developed countries could never approach the sheer mass and power of Marx's desired 'simultaneous revolutions in the most developed countries'.

   The successes of the First International derived from the dedication and clear thinking of M+E. Knowledge of its principles could help activists defeat sectarianism, as well as inspire unified action against exploitation.

 

6-27-02

   Messages 5A and 5B are now combined into this round #5. Mike B. replied:

> HI Ken,
>
> Hope your teeth are better. Anyway, finally a response....

   Thankfully, the teeth did improve with time. Also, we should feel free to take plenty of time to carefully polish our responses. Quality does count.

>>>> snip old dialogue for brevity
>
> This is a large part of what
socialism means to me: control of my
> life and work.
Capitalism means just the opposite to me to wit:
> loss of control over my life and work.

   Agreed. For our mutual inspiration, here are 4 of the 34 times the phrase "disposable time" appears in the current Collected Works (me20.253):

   "It is a matter of course that the labourer during the whole of the live-long day is nothing but labour-power; that all his disposable time is working-time and belongs to value-begetting capital ... But in this madly blind race after surplus-labour, capital outruns not only the moral, but also the purely physical maximum limits of the working day ... Capital does not care for the duration of life of the working power ... it produces its premature exhaustion and death, it effects the prolongation of the working- time during a given period by shortening the labourer's life."

   (me28.326) "It is the law of capital, as we have seen, to produce surplus labour, disposable time. It can do this only by setting in motion necessary labour, i.e. by entering into exchange with the worker. It is therefore the tendency of capital to produce as much labour as possible, just as it is its tendency to reduce necessary labour to a minimum. It is therefore as much the tendency of capital to enlarge the working population, as well as constantly to make a part of that population surplus - that is useless, until such time as capital can utilise it."

   (me30.192) "Thus the free time of society is produced through the production of unfree time, the labour time of workers prolonged beyond that required for their own subsistence. Free time on one side corresponds to subjugated time on the other side. ... Wealth is therefore disposable time."

   (me35.241) "If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist."

   When commodities someday become astoundingly cheaper, but the treadmill shows few signs of slowing down, and wages continue to fall, the struggle over disposable time is bound to intensify.

>> snip old dialogue for brevity
>
> I'd like to propose that we get it together to
> try to get as much control of the product of
> our
social labour and our very lives as we can.
> We can do that best, IMO, by
organizing as a class,
> a
class which has every intention of taking, holding
> and operating the means of production for ourselves.

   My neighbors don't show much interest in "taking, holding and operating the means of production", but they ARE interested in good jobs at high wages. In an 1853 letter to Cluss, Marx seemed to disdain 'salvation through materialism' (me39.381):

   ... "it is precisely from its thraldom, from its slavery to past, materialised labour that present, i.e. actual labour seeks to emerge, and from its thraldom to the product of labour that labour seeks to be emancipated."

   Marx detected an ancient attitude which seems quite antithetical to the contemporary orgy of 'more and more of this, that, and everything else under the sun'. General satisfaction with the existing division of labor prevents much interest in re-arranging the deck chairs. Capitalists do their part by owning, controlling and directing, but, in spite of their intentions, are bound to put themselves out of business by laying off workers faster than new jobs will be created, perhaps not long from now. 2030 is a more recent estimate for the end of all human labor, in place of the previously touted 2040. In a few more years, some might say '2020'. By 2010, some might say '2015'. On Kurzweil's web site, a new robot reportedly escaped its 'nursery' on its own initiative, ambled into a parking lot, and was nearly run over before being captured. Perhaps a court for wayward robots may someday be set up. That story is at: http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=1058&m=342

> Of course, instantaneous class organization has not been "revealed"
> to us. So, short of that miracle, we must do the best we can to
> develop our
political-economic strength. My chosen method here
> is to
organize in a grassroots democratic union to carry on the
>
struggle at the point of production and wherever else I happen
> to be at any particular time. See:
http://www.iww.org/

   Getting power and property under the control of producers consistently seems to be the gist of your intent, while getting disposable time under control remains my intent. Divided we fall, our disunity rendering the proletariat so much the worse off.

>>>>> snip old dialogue for brevity
>
> I have no problem with the notion of
civilized methods. Nobody in
> their
right mind advocates barbarism. Sometimes ruling classes act
>
barbarically when dealing with the people whom they rule. When this
> happens, it can and usually does create and equal and opposite savage
> response.

   Struggles between workers and bosses may occasionally become violent, but peaceful negotiations have increasingly become the rule in most developed countries. A violent class war shows little sign of erupting in the USA. As necessities become cheaper and cheaper, withholding them from anyone becomes increasingly absurd and unnecessarily cruel, so the lowest classes get supported enough to keep them from taking to the streets en masse.

>>>>> snip old dialogue for brevity
>>
>>
Exploitation is rather well obscured in ordinary
>> transactions, and doesn't just openly reveal itself.
>
> I agree.
Exploitation is obscured. We need to hammer home
> the issue of why and demonstrate how the
wages system leads to
> powerless,
alienation and degradation through the commodification
> of human relations and the concomitant commodification of Nature.

   Workers learning the mechanics of exploitation would be a good preliminary step towards agreement on its remedy.

> But ultimately, it won't be words which tear the veil from most
> workers' eyes. It will be an
existential crisis or series of crises
> which open the crack in their
ideological rationalizations for
>
capitalism e.g. an environmental crisis, a war or something
> like that. The
reification which takes place within a commodity
> producing,
class society has such a strong effect on peoples'
> outlook, on how they explain themselves and orient themselves
> in the real world that they will not move toward looking for
> alternatives until they feel the
existential pinch.

   A crisis of some sort will no doubt occur. Before an EVIL crisis erupts - such as a war or environmental disaster - I'm hoping for an unemployment crisis, which I'm sure can be handled with less sweat than the other types.

>> snip old dialogue for brevity
>
> I think that we workers have already achieved levels of production
> which make
scarcity of useful goods and services obsolete.

   Agreed. In developed countries, scarcities of necessities no longer spring from physical constraints, but rather are political. Millions of California kids don't go hungry every day due to production constraints. Handling the politics correctly would ensure an equitable distribution of necessities with no sweat or waste. But, short-sighted politics leads to bad economics.

> But I do not agree with the notion that the capitalist
> system
will automatically acknowledge this.

   How can a system of economy acknowledge anything? Does capitalism enjoy a will of its own, independent of human concerns? If so, then its evil attributes would justify its abolition. But, capitalism does not have a totally independent life; it can be, and in some areas is, controlled by the state. The more redundant workers become, the greater the necessity of state control over capitalism.

> It will continue to use our labour to produce things for
> sale with a view to
profit into the future, unless we take
> things into our own hands and act for ourselves as a
class.

   "Take things into our own hands and act for ourselves as a class" could be as badly misinterpreted as 'Hug a factory building', or 'Revolt!', etc. Solutions should be beyond misinterpretation, such as: "Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act from 'time and a half after 40' to 'double time after 35'."

>> snip more for brevity
>
> I think that I have made my position clear though.
>
> Regards, Mike B)

   Getting control over power and property will require a lot of force, because Western ideology is founded on private and personal property rights. Getting control over disposable time merely requires a few amendments to the FLSA. Easy to understand remedies will be tried before the ambiguous ones.

   Here's a neat quote from Vol. 3 of Capital (me37.261):

   ... "the historical mission {of capitalism} is unconstrained development in geometrical progression of the productivity of human labour."

   Geometrical progression, OK. But, did M+E instruct workers to murder capitalism after it reached a certain high level of productivity? Infinite productivity will arrive when consumables are produced without human intervention, viz., the robots step in and do everything. At the present rate people take to socialism to solve their problems, full robotization appears far more likely than most socialist scenarios. The quicker the robots take over, the quicker the workers can abolish class distinctions, and the quicker capitalism can be consigned to the museum of antiquities, along with the spinning wheel and bronze axe. This will prove to be the ONLY way to abolish capitalism.

 

6-28-02

   Mike B. wrote:

>>>> snip old or uncontested dialogue
>>
>> The goal of a
greater return, by itself, is quite materialistic.
>
> That's
true. I am materialist. I want my material back. One of the
> big problems of not getting it back is that it comes around in the
> form of the power to oppress me.

   This reminds me of recent dialogues. A previously unused quote from Capital is relevant here (me35.726):

   "The dull compulsion of economic relations completes the subjection of the labourer to the capitalist. Direct force, outside economic conditions, is of course still used, but only exceptionally. In the ordinary run of things, the labourer can be left to the "natural laws of production", i.e., to his dependence on capital, a dependence springing from, and guaranteed in perpetuity by, the conditions of production themselves. It is otherwise during the historic genesis of capitalist production. The bourgeoisie, at its rise, wants and uses the power of the state to "regulate" wages, i.e., to force them within the limits suitable for surplus value making, to lengthen the working day and to keep the labourer himself in the normal degree of dependence. This is an essential element of the so-called primitive accumulation."

   The era of primitive accumulation was fading away while Marx wrote about it. With all of the modern goodies available, talk of "capitalist oppression" doesn't convince very many people.

>> The past century of technological progress has glutted modern
>> societies with commodities and frivolities of every variety.
>
> This is because we
don't have the power to decide what we produce.
> We only have the power to consume what our
labour will sell for on the
>
labour market. The more power we have, the more we control what we
> produce, the more
class consciously we're organized, the less junk will
> come back to hit us in our collective faces.

   The distinction between 'junk' and 'quality' will remain blurry for some time to come. Obsolescence is the common fate of all commodities, but future consumables will make today's stuff look like junk.

>> Merely 'getting more stuff' doesn't fill the soul, especially if the
>> benefits of
higher wages flow only to producers, while non-producers
>> reap the wind. To antidote such spiritual malaise,
union between
>>
employed and unemployed is needed.
>
> Well, I would agree. The
unemployed are workers too. The reason
> they're not "making a living" is because they aren't needed by
Capital.
> They are needed in the
class conscious movement to rid society of
> wage-slavery
though.

   That is true, and wage slavery would proceed a long way towards abolition if the labor market could be forced to include everyone. It isn't fair for only SOME people to get work and wages, while so many others eke out marginal existences. A shorter work week will prove to be the only environmentally friendly way to include everyone who would like to work.

>> The secret of our failure or success lies not merely in unionizing
>> workers, but in
cementing solidarity between the employed and
>> unemployed
.
>
> This is what I've been saying in one way or another for my whole
> life as a
class conscious proletarian.

   Good. Every would-be worker should be unionized. Does the IWW have an official statement about 'union between employed and unemployed'?

>>>> snip old dialogue
>
> most of the politicos who went on to advocate for
labour's interests
> also went on to feather their own personal nests at
labour's expense.
> This all goes to prove that the
revolution is something that cannot
> be made by leaders; but must be made by the workers themselves.
> The workers themselves must see the need to
organize as a class
> for the purpose of eventually
abolishing all classes.

   Agreed. I have no doubt that productivity's approach to infinity will have a revolutionizing effect on people's minds. 'Making a revolution' may be some people's last desire, but a slow revolution will occur despite all efforts to prevent it. The first amendment to the 40 hour law will mark its first major feat. Can reforms be revolutionary? Engels wrote (me3.409): "The associations of the working classes for the purpose of introducing practically the ideas of socialism, or rather communism, by means of revolutionary reform, become daily more frequent and more dangerous."

>> 2) 'Cease work' is concrete, but also threatens survival if continued for
>> very long, so '
cease work' could be problematic. Strikes are last resorts.
>
> The word '
strike' can be filled with nuanced meanings. One can strike
> on the job by withholding efficiency. A
union at a plant can strike to
>
force safety regulations to be implemented. The transport industry
> can be
struck to demand a shorter work week with no cut in pay.
> And strategically, the
working class as a whole can strike for
> about a week before the whole world comes to a screeching halt.
>
> Workers have the power, if they're
class consciously organized to
> get whatever they want from the pie they create. The quantity of
>
class conscious workers in motion at any particular moment
> will determine how much power they can exert.

   It's true that strikes can sometimes be effective. But, toward the greater goal of abolishing class distinctions, or abolishing the wages system, strikes are little better than a single tactic. If M+E had ever considered strikes to be an ESSENTIAL element of revolutionary change, I'm sure they would have described strikes as such.

>> 3) and 4) are not concrete, so are subject to a myriad of
>> interpretations. One could fight forever over exactly how to
>> '
abolish the wages system', or how to 'replace capitalism with socialism'.
>
> The
abolition of the wages system is a pretty straight forward concept.
> The social relation we know as
Capital is founded on the employment of
>
labour for wages. Wages represent only part of total wealth created by
> the
labour employed by Capital. When the full social product of labour
> is
returned to the control and social ownership of labour, the wages
> system
ceases to exist.

   We had a similar conversation in "Re: Marxism 2" on 3-06-02. You wrote:

>>> 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 phrase 'return the product of labor to social control and ownership' was never correct for the many millennia of class divisions, except, maybe, for the few who've been lucky enough to live in utopian communes.

   On the larger issue: If labor is NOT going to be lucky enough to have its product RETURNED to it, then ... how should labor proceed to ACQUIRE it, if labor even WANTS it? Mass passion for the undiminished proceeds of labor has yet to be demonstrated. Growth of surplus value continues to outstrip wage growth at an accelerating pace, often exclusively benefiting greedy captains of industry, while activists fume and spout in impotent rage.

> You are right about socialism. How we organize production
> and distribution
in a society where the means of production
> are
socially owned and democratically controlled WILL be a
> matter of much
debate as that social system is organized.

   Here you link 'socialism' with economy, while I regard 'socialism' as contemporary with the final ABOLITION of economy, scarcity, and class conflict. Labor creates private property, so private property cannot be abolished, except by abolishing labor. Labor and socialism will prove to be incompatible.

>> snip uncontested dialogue
>
> Ok. I have to run as well. I don't disagree with what you've written
> above. In fact, it dovetails nicely with what I've already said.
>
> Regards, Mike B)

   It seems like we still have a long way to go before unity, sad to have to say. We seem as divided as ever over whether to control physical things or intangible time. Tell me where I go wrong. Maybe a higher synthesis remains to be discovered.

   A reply to Karl is still in the works. Proceeding slowly ...

 

7-04-02

   Karl added to the debate over the First International:

>> Ken: <snip> Marx observed that (me44.252): 'the course of history
>> had smashed sectarianism.
' As an umbrella organization, the FI
>> invited any group that
agreed with its principles, and in return
>> promised not to meddle in their
internal affairs.
>
> Karl: It did not
smash sectarianism.

   Marx very well may have been over-optimistic in estimating history as having smashed sectarianism, but he did write the rules of the International to allow for full debate. Sectarianism is the result if a relatively small part of an organization is allowed to decide for the whole membership that some subjects are taboo.

> Sectarianism will always exist under capitalism.

   Is it really fair to blame a society's problems on capitalism? Systems of production/economy are not insidious in themselves. They only reflect certain levels of productivity. Did serfs blame all of their problems on feudalism? Did they pray to be made into wage slaves, and did they look forward to capital as their salvation, with the same reverence today's revolutionaries look forward to a 'socialist mode of production'?

   Abolishing capitalism in the same manner as 'slaying an evil monster' cannot be done, because the task of capitalism is to raise productivity much closer to infinity, and to make wage-labor redundant to the point of forcing major social change.

   If revolution would be pursued, and class distinctions abolished, driving the length of the work week down to nothing can't be beat. Unlike the old revolutionary struggles for power and property, the revolutionary struggle over intangible time has the advantage of being more relevant to developed countries than to those whose political and economic under-development spawned 'communist' revolutions. While past revolutions were all about power and property, the proletarian revolution of the future will be all about intangible labor time. Our duty is to ensure everyone a fair share of the dwindling supply of substantive work. If that means dividing the pie into smaller slices, so be it. Not many people are ga-ga about work anyway.

> The conditions for a sectarian free society can only exist under communism.

   I might agree with that, especially if 'communism' is used here in the sense of 'classless and stateless society'. 'Political sectarianism' won't apply to tomorrow's society liberated from class distinctions. Liberation will automatically abolish political sects.

> In a sense too communists are sectarian. By struggling against
> prevalent
bourgeois ideology and politics within the working class
>
communists are engaging in a form of sectarianism.

   Genuine struggles 'against bourgeois ideology and politics' are antithetical to sectarian intent, which is to make an exclusive business out of whatever 'power and property' shibboleths distinguish one sect from the next.

   snip undisputed dialogue

>> Ken: Some trade unionists often held to mistaken theories, some of
>> which Marx tried to rectify in an 1865 Address to the
Central Council
>> of the
FI. His address was finally published as a pamphlet under the
>> title '
Value, Price and Profit' in 1898, many years after his death.
>
> Karl:
Some!

   Yes, some trades unionists were mistaken. But, M+E regarded trades union struggles for higher wages and shorter working hours as legitimate means of abolishing class distinctions, because surplus value (and exploitation) are thereby attacked at the root. TRADES UNIONISM WAS NEVER A DISEASE, even though its proponents could be wrong about various issues. Over a century ago, my old American SLP hardly ever turned down opportunities to attack Sam Gompers and his AFL, but Gompers was far more correct about SOME issues than were his revolutionary De Leonist detractors. Gompers said: 'If even one man cannot find work, then the hours of labor are too long.' That was a far greater contribution to the class struggle than anything the SLP did or said, especially after abandoning its 19th century plank advocating 'hours of labor to decline in proportion to increasing productivity'.

> The vast majority of them were prisoners of incorrect theory and
> politics
. Communists are obliged to relentlessly combat such theories
> and
politics. Marx from within the International did not do this.

   Struggles for shorter work hours and higher wages are, were, and never will be incorrect, but it IS wrong for unions to write rules making themselves into exclusive little clubs, preventing mass membership. In spite of that weakness, a general political movement cannot be prevented from emerging, precisely in order to legislate shorter work hours and higher wages for the entire working class. Continuation along that path will lead precisely to the abolitions of class distinctions, the wages system, and capitalism itself. Anyone living in a democracy thinking that communism will arrive by any other means has some meditating to do. Workers are not going to smash their democracies in order to abolish private property, nor will democracies be smashed to gratify the egos of activists who can't decide whether to create an anarchist classless and stateless administration of things, or a communist workers' state. To initiate CLASS struggle, obsolete 'power and property' activism MUST be abandoned in favor of 'surplus value' activism.

> He, in a sense, provided the existing trade union leadership
> with the appearance of
radicalism by placing himself in the
> leadership of the
First International.

   Is that alleged intent supported by facts?

> He conspicuously failed to pursue a relentless struggle against
> the
reformist politics that filled it.

   In democracies, nothing EXCEPT reform is possible. The historical purpose of revolution was to bring democracy and independence to where they previously didn't exist. Once democracies are created, all that's left for activists is to USE their democracies, not try to tear them down.

> Bakunist and Proudhonist politics were not any more reactionary
> than the
reformist politics of British trade unionism. Yet he gave
> the
latter an easy ride.

   The reformist politics of British trade unionism was not a disease. Workers in democracies don't revolt; they simply elect new leaders. Unacceptable as this might be to a lot of activists, they should learn to adapt to it.

   While Proudhonism was faulty in theory, M+E didn't regard it as malicious as Bakuninism. Proudhonism and Bakunin were so popular in Europe that Marx, despairing of his own sons-in-law, wrote (me46.375): "Longuet as the last Proudhonist and Lafargue as the last Bakuninist! May the devil take them!"

> Indeed the visible development of the forces of production
> under
capitalism, then, was increasingly undermining the
> conditions for the existence of
Bakunism.

   I think that the opposite is truer to reality. M+E forecast the demise of Bakuninism many, many times, but anarchism didn't go away then, and it's very much alive today. The post-1989 fall of Eastern Bloc communism discredited the whole category of communist states and proletarian dictatorships, so anarchism grew in response to fresh demand for radical ideas. But, anarchism is similarly fated for demise, for it offers no solution that can be readily implemented. Just try to 'abolish the wages system', for instance. What is the anarchist method? 20 different anarchists might be approached, and 20 different answers might be given in response. Anarchists usually don't advocate 'driving down the length of the work week', because such a reform is usually regarded as antithetical to revolution. But, rejecting what the lowest classes desperately need betrays carelessness of thought and hasty judgment.

> The conditions, in contrast, for the existence and development of
>
reformism were growing. Consequently if a choice had to be made
> between the two, a questionable exercise, then
reformist politics
> would have been the
correct target.

   In democracies, 'reform' in itself can never be an issue, because nothing other than reform is possible. But, are reforms in the interests of workers, and do they reduce class distinctions? In the USA in 2002, and as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, the best that can be hoped for, or worked for, is to pass reforms to shrink that gap.

>> Ken: The successes of the First International derived from the
>> dedication and clear thinking of M+E. Knowledge of its
principles
>> could help activists defeat
sectarianism, as well as inspire unified
>> action against exploitation
.
>
> Karl: For
communists the FI was anything but successful.

   Success is relative. The International certainly didn't inaugurate a world-wide revolution, nor did it abolish capitalism, but it never set out to do any of those things right away. It did succeed in what had never been done before - it created bonds between workers in many lands. Marx wrote: (me22.354) "Our Association is, in fact, nothing but the international bond between the most advanced working men in the various countries of the civilized world."

   The solidarity forged by the International was instrumental in the success of many a strike in Europe. In its heyday, its ideas influenced many a trades unionist, even the British. Small successes, certainly. But, the International was nothing to sneeze at, certainly not by the reactionaries who criminalized mere membership in the International, precisely because of the many 'small' successes they enjoyed.

> It not only failed to contribute to the development
> of the
class consciousness of the working class

   Thirty years ago, the most consciousness-raising pamphlet I read was "Value, Price and Profit", which originated in the International.

> it never even seriously attempted to win
> the
working class over to communism.

   The FI was never an overtly communist organization, even though a handful of communists were part of it. It began as an expression of trades unionism, and Marx knew enough about the interests of workers to get trades unionists to listen to him. They even chose him to play its most important role. A reputed communist acquiring such influence over middle-class do-gooders was quite an accomplishment!

> Marx and Engels opportunistically sucked up to the reformism
> of
British trade unionism while the International existed.

   Where is the evidence for them sucking up to anyone?

> An opportunity was missed. It these limitations in the politics
> of Marx that
helped sow the seeds for the future limitations of
> the
working class movement and of marxism in particular -- the
> future
opportunism, revisionism and even reformism that has
> been an inherent feature of
marxism.

   Like any of us, Marx also was an imperfect product of his times. The most important mass political movement in Europe in his era was democratization. Marx detected a way for workers to further develop new democracies into a universal proletarian dictatorship, IF revolutions could be orchestrated simultaneously in the most developed countries. But, his plan was overly ambitious, especially his 'expropriation of the expropriators'. Still, his mistaken program was SO CLOSE to what people were willing to do, that 1917 nearly brought success. His power and property revolution may be toast today, but his economic theories tell exactly how to abolish classes: attack surplus value, and reduce hours of labor. Activist aggression against power and property (instead of against surplus value) betrays petty bourgeois mentality, which cannot emancipate workers. When Americans finally follow the lead of France and seek ways to share work, only then may some activists begin to question their own mistaken tactics. {2003 note: Later I refocused my ambitions more toward abolishing competition between workers, which would still have the same effect on surplus value, viz. reducing it.}

> However we have to look at the very core of Marx and Engels
>
thought and politics to uncover the source of their opportunism
> and
desire to compromise the class interests of the working class.
>
> Karl Carlile

   Evidence of their alleged "desire to compromise the class interests of the working class" would be interesting to behold.

   "When, thanks to the Commune, the International became a moral force in Europe, the row began at once. Each tendency wanted to exploit the success for itself." (me45.42)

 

7-21-02

Dear Standard-Times,

   Each policy decision carries its own consequences. Should the treadmill be sped up, or slowed down? Should every square inch of land be exploited, or open spaces preserved? Should labor laws be weakened, or the economy made more inclusive? Should lower-class living standards be sacrificed while balancing budgets, or the rich forced to pay more? Are the poor forever doomed to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate profits, or should the powerless be better protected? Should tax dollars support apartheid states, or should so-called republics be induced to become republics in deed? Fuller societal involvement in decision-making would enhance general well-being.

 

08-27-02

   'Hyla regilla' (nice name for a tree frog) wrote, in part:

> Redefining "work" is needed to protect the environment from rampant
> industry. So many useless products and their factories/stores that put
> people to "work" generate so much waste and
environmental havoc.

   Havoc is truly wreaked on the environment by mass failure to appreciate the consequences of constantly increasing productivity. Labor is 40 times more productive than 200 years ago, but toil proceeds with a paradoxically feverish determination, as though all of our wonderful new tools never distanced us from the brink of starvation. The fact that American crops are grown by less than 2% of the population (compared to 80% 200 years ago) proves that 'bad politics' causes hunger, not 'a bad economy'. 98% of new wealth accrues to the upper 20% of the population, while only 2% accrues to the bottom 80%, which is a far cry from the days when producers retained control over most of the (meager) fruits of their labor. Without simultaneously reducing hours of labor, industrial progress means that 'the rich get richer', and exploitation of labor (and other resources) intensifies.

   Not very long ago in history, agricultural labor could feed little other than itself, and then only if mother nature cooperated. Today, even though each agrilaborer can feed many more people, laborers often live in poverty. Increasing surpluses are pocketed by the rich in the form of profits, demonstrating the increased exploitation that goes along with higher productivity. Soon, new generations of smart machines will render ALL monotonous repetitive labor obsolete, forcing labor to struggle to make sense of the Frankenstein they create. The choice will prove to be as simple as 'more leisure', OR compete for vanishing long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams, racing to the bottom, and tearing up the environment in the process. As high tech and nanobots replace human labor at an ascending rate, unemployment will tend to rise faster than ever. The resulting social problems will help clarify the choice between abject wage slavery and greater freedom, inspiring lobbying for a shorter work week. The 'threat' of 'greater freedom for all' will become reason enough for the rich, their mouthpieces, and the hopelessly confused, to want to delay it until the last possible moment, but their cliches, bad logic, and even repression, will not be allowed to forever determine our future. As surely as the economies of slavery and feudalism gave way to capitalism, economic progress likewise dooms wage labor and capital to obsolescence. The rich will never be punished and brought down to the lowly level of wage workers, but 'workers' will someday become as care-free as the idle rich.

   Why should Americans suffer from a work-year that is 50% longer than either Norway's or Holland's? Lucky Kuwaiti nationals enjoy a 3-hour work day. Survival (in the West) would be ensured even if everyone decided to work no more than a single productive hour per week. Overwork certainly doesn't make the USA any healthier or happier, nor any less subject to anthrax attacks, going postal, terrorism, corruption, scandals, etc.

   Ignorance and stubbornness are all that stand between abject wage slavery and gradual liberation. Long hours may translate into high wages for a few in the short run, but the status quo is definitely not the best choice for society as a whole. If liberation from long hours of drudgery is desirable, then vocally and persistently advocating reduced work hours is essential. Such a mass movement is long overdue for resurrection.

 

09-04-02

   The sad loss of the 35 hour week in France brings to mind Marx's prediction that 'the revolution will occur simultaneously in the most developed countries'. Not only was 'replacing old feudal monarchies with democracies' considered revolutionary, but so were political struggles for shorter work hours. 'Fewer hours of labor' translates into fewer differences between rich and poor. The longer the hours, the more intense the exploitation of labor.

   The struggle for a shorter work week should be synchronized in all advanced countries, lest lone pioneering countries suffer from jitters when capital flees abroad in search of longer hours, lower wages and higher profits.

 

09-05-02

Hi, Brad,

   Nice to hear from you.

> Ken --
> It's exceptionally good to hear some good ol'
Marxist analysis slipping into
> the
discussion. Your last comment reminds me of Michael Harrington's final
> book, "
Socialism: Past and Future" where he states:
>
> ". . .
the immediate demands of the new socialism will be internationalist
> or else the new socialism will fail
. . .there can be no 'socialism in one
> country' at a time when the economic and social structures of the
> world are becoming more international every day.
"

   How true that rings!

> Harrington was probably my greatest political influence, and I am a member
> of
DSA since the 1980s. I am assuming that you are fairly receptive to socialist
> ideas
, or you wouldn't have worded that message in such a way. I, am therefore,
> taking the
liberty of sharing a couple of articles (see attached Word documents--
> they were created in
Word 97, by the way) that I wrote recently for submission to
>
DSA's quarterly "Democratic Left" -- they didn't publish them. I'd be interested
> in any ideas you might have.
>
> These are primarily philosophical, and not in depth research. And, as you
> will notice, I spiced one of them up with a few pictures, that I pilfed off
> the
internet, that I could never get into print. Anyway, if you are
> interested, please give them a look. Thanks!
> - Brad L.
> Central Indiana
DSA

   Allow me to say 'aarggghh' in frustration, for I happen to be one of those rare Apple iMac aficionados, and I couldn't open the attachments with my limited utilities. Oh, well.

   As for my own ideas, most can be found at my web site. Newcomers are especially encouraged to begin with my little RBSD essay: 'Replacing Broken Socialist Dreams'. That 8,000 word doc unfolds soon after hitting its hypertext link, and is a good synopsis of most of my perspectives. But, it's getting a wee bit dated, and more recent views can be discovered in some of my more recent correspondence, where I have gotten far more deeply into Marxism, as enabled by my purchase last year of the CD of Collected Works of M+E. If only I could get Lenin on CD as well, plus Trotsky, Stalin, etc. Plus, all of the Neue Zeit stuff from Germany, plus all of the letters that people wrote TO Marx and Engels. I'm sure that, with time, all of these wishes will be fulfilled, but I want it all NOW.

   Briefly, where activists go wrong nowadays (as in the past), is in wanting to have anything to do with power and PROPERTY (land, wealth, money, means of production, etc.). All problems could be solved merely by focusing on getting control of the labor market, and working on issues relating to intangible TIME, not tangible wealth and property. As the young Marx said himself: 'The abolition of private property cannot be sought, except in the abolition of labor. Labor creates property, so private property cannot be abolished until labor is abolished.' Once the 'abolition of private property' nonsense is cleared from the minds of modern activists, progress can ensue.

 

09-06-02

   Dear Brad,

   It was a pleasure to read your first article. It was as good as 'coming home'. Right on.

   Though the first article mentions most of my favorite remedies for long hours, it doesn't mention higher overtime premiums. The U.C. Berkeley Labor Library has an old study suggesting that raising the overtime premium to double time ALONE would reduce unemployment by 1-2%. Plus, as hours of labor shrink in the future, it will become even MORE necessary to economically and civilly reduce employer incentives to keep the same old people on the job beyond the legislated 35 or 40 hour time limit. The shorter the work week, the more extra energy people will have, so the more necessary to civilly discourage overwork. I will definitely want to hear your opinion on this. 'Time and a half' is no more carved in stone than '8 hours', so is subject to change.

   Your critique of the left is very good. I'm glad not to be the only one doing it.

   In the second message and article:

   Neither the 'abolition of the working class' nor 'abolish the working class', nor 'abolish the proletariat' were found, but M+E were very big on abolishing class distinctions (which shows up at least 8 times).

   The agricultural statistic you used is practically identical to mine, which I was glad to see. I often pair it with the observation that 80% of the population worked the land 200 years ago, compared to less than 2% today. Hunger in the USA today is no longer an economic issue, but rather is totally political.

   I found this slip on the part of the editor - "to supply to supply", perhaps 15% down into the article itself. It seemed to be the only slip of its kind.

   Marx regarded the 'profit rate' to be an entirely bourgeois issue. I will research its exact place for you (if you like) after rebooting in a few days or less. Though the profit rate only TENDS to decline (according to Marx), the rate of surplus value constantly increases for as long as the hours of labor remain relatively constant. The rate of surplus value (which M+E equated with the rate of exploitation) should definitely become a BIG ISSUE for the labor movement. It's not that difficult to understand, but it must be presented properly to avoid going backwards by confusing the issue. And believe me, some leftists have confused that issue.

   Instead of 'being dead', I would say that 'capitalism is very much alive, though it has no future. Nor does property, labor, class distinctions, etc.'

   Because we still live in an age of economy and scarcity, people will still be willing for quite a while longer to fight to the death over property. After wage labor is abolished, 'acquiring property' will become as ludicrous as 'getting a job'.

   Your might enjoy visiting Ray Kurzweil's web site and searching for the 'singularity', which seems to be slated for 2029. If you enjoy new ideas taking your breath away, this web site is hard to beat. Their daily newsletter is wonderful for keeping abreast with high tech.

   Expropriatory ideologies are dead because property could only be expropriated (without compensation) after overthrowing feudal monarchies or after liberating colonies, acts which bestowed full state power upon communists. But, expropriation without compensation was never feasible after social democrats won mere elections in the West. Thus, expropriation without compensation happened -- not in the Western countries where M+E thought it most logical to happen first -- but rather in less developed countries. The fall of the Berlin Wall sounded the death knell of that movement. This observation proves how ill-conceived was the original idea about messing around with tangible property. I used to hope that this observation would prove to be a zinger to help the left bury its desire for expropriation, but no one pays attention. I will respect your opinion on whether this observation is worth anything.

   Marx wrote a lot about the American Civil War, describing it as a war to perpetuate slavery. The South started by firing on Fort Sumter. Years later, the North ended up with sufficient power to partition the plantations to provide freed slaves with 40 acres and a mule, but stopped well short of that. People back then had no more revolutionary will than what was required to abolish private ownership of people. So, if people were willing to fight to the death to perpetuate private ownership of people, then how hard would people be willing to fight to perpetuate private ownership of NON-human means of production? Likewise, no one has an opinion of the tenacity with which people would resist a communist re-distribution of wealth and property. Let me know as well if this observation has a chance of being useful.

   Keep up the good work. It's a pleasure to meet someone whose thinking seems firmly planted on the right track.

 

09-07-02

   Hi, Brad,

> Ken-- Thanks for your insightful critiques. I do want to address
> your observation about the
Left's attitude toward "property" and
> "
expropriation without compensation." First, if I understand you
>
correctly, you are putting the emphasis of socialism on the emancipation
> of the working class
, rather than the expropriation of property -- and
> suggesting that
this is much sounder political position for the Left.
> I heartily agree.

   Socialism can be characterized either as expropriation or liberation, and I've advocated both in the past, but my most recent intent is to persuade the left to discard its use of the word socialism altogether. The trouble with the 'isms is that they inherently and automatically imply socialization of property ownership, and no one needs to be reminded of Joe Six-Pack's bad attitude toward socialism, communism and anarchism, because Joe works hard for a living, struggles to make a decent wage, and equates socialist ideologies with his own personal expropriation, as well as with losing his freedoms, and, besides, 'look what happened in Russia!' So, socialism, communism and anarchism are alienating words for the millions of common folk who, despite their attitudes, will indeed make the next revolution, by building the machines that will put their very own hard working selves out of work. Socialism (in the sense of classless and stateless society) will come sometime after all of the work ethic that can possibly be mustered fails miserably to put enough people to work, and the work sharing movement begins to move society toward toward total liberation and the abolition of class distinctions. We have only to wait for productivity to shoot up a few more notches for that movement to begin, and, in the meantime, to prepare ourselves to help guide the approaching gradual revolution along peaceful and sensible lines.

   As per Arthur O. Dahlberg (back in the 1930's), capitalism can work well (right up until the abolition of wage labor) if forced to operate under a chronic shortage of labor. Much of the talk about 'isms turns out to be silly and stale. We live and operate under the capitalist system, which most people accept as a given, because that's all there is, and all there will be, until the abolitions of wage labor and class distinctions.

> Again, I'd like to quote Michael Harrington as some length --
> this is also from his book "
Socialism: Past and Future":
> "
In thus pushing Kautsky's theory of socialism as the logical
> outcome of capitalist centralization to the extreme, Lenin made
> an important distinction.
Confiscating or nationalizing industry,
> he said, was easy enough, but socializing it--getting real control of
> its operation--was something much more complex. That is a central
> truth that has been often ignored by socialists who have made
>
nationalization per se a fetish. The point, Lenin understood, is
> not to transfer legal title of any enterprise from a private owner
> to the public. It is to get real control of that enterprise's
> decisions and operations. To which I would add that fascists,
> Stalinists, liberals, sophisticated capitalists, and many others
> can "
nationalize"--but real socialization is a question of the
> workers and the society transforming the hierarchical and
> authoritarian organization of work.
" To be honest with you, I
> find that many
socialists who emphasize "expropriation" tend
> to have deep-seated, psychological, bourgeois
materialism.
> This may be due to a tantalization -- wanting what the
> upper crust has. It may also be just simple confusion.
> Consequently, they miss the point.

   Very good analysis.

> The problem with emphasis on "expropriation" is that it takes too
> much away from the "
emancipatory" interpretation of socialism.

   I understand the sense in which that is said, but, like I say, the word is too tainted for the mainstream. Any 'socialist' who attempts to offer a solution for mainstream problems in the name of 'socialism' will be stopped dead in their tracks when push comes to shove, which is why I am swinging away from using that word. My 'labor-time socialism' ideas had some limited usefulness while debating the 'property socialist' Li'l Joe half a year or so ago, but 'labor-time socialism' has outlived its usefulness, and will soon be retired in favor of Dahlberg's 'Liberation Capitalism'. The 'isms can NEVER be divorced from their foul connections with expropriation. ... When I think of all of the troubles the SLP and WSM of today go to in order to try to 'correct' common perceptions of 'socialism', and when I think of how impossible it was for me years ago to try to convince ordinary people that 'socialism was nothing to be scared of', and when I recall that I was only being used back then to market anarcho-syndicalism cleverly disguised as 'socialism' ... I think that 'socialism' will never attract anyone, no matter how prettily it can be dressed up in all kinds of innocuous garb. Common people will shun the 'isms forever. No more than creating an artificial shortage of labor will ever be required, right up through the abolitions of capitalism and labor.

> Moreover, it establishes a foundation for the whole ideology
> that is the same as
capital -- expropriation. The key --
> as I believe you implied -- is to emphasize the
emancipatory
> interpretation of
socialism -- with that established in reality,
> the
property transformations will take shape of necessity.

   Nowadays, of course, the only arguments that I make about property is that 'property will take care of itself after abolishing the labor which creates the property.' Property is merely an innocuous institution that will fade out of use like the spinning wheel and bronze axe, after the abolition of labor. No one will find it necessary to apply a heavy hand, or the heavy hand of the state, to property. [... no more than a heavy hand will be needed to abolish labor.]

> The fly in the sugar bowl, of course, is that
>
capitalism transforms "property" into a weapon.

   As far as I can gather, property is no more insidious a weapon under capitalism than it was under slavery or feudalism. Property is no worse than the state, class divisions or labor. The four go together quite effectively. They have a job to finish, which is to first of all abolish human labor, after which all the others will follow along with perfect docility.

> An "alien" force over the worker. The emancipation from the tyranny of work
> and
economic hierarchy, will, of practical necessity, be, at best, retarded by the
> very existence of
capitalist property. This is, of course, what makes shorter
> hours
such a difficult struggle--capitalist property, in the form of a proliferation
> of consumption articles and fancies, is a powerful
slavemaster.

   Nothing can be done about the tyranny of work except to abolish work, which capitalism is driven to do for us by its very nature. Otherwise, armed guards would have to be stationed at every factory to see to it that the means of production DO NOT EVOLVE! Capitalism contains all of the motivation it needs to commit suicide. In its final days, beginning fairly soon, 'how best to euthanize capitalism' will be more popularly debated.

> Also, the ideology of property is an absolute abortion from Hell!!! I say
>
that because I have a friend who is a devout member of the Libertarian Party.

   So do I! My friend and I were neighbors 50 years ago. We may have moved away, but kept in touch for a long time.

> He has no conscience about imposing fascism in the name of property,
> and no difficulty in mistaking these atrocities for "
freedom."

   My old Libertarian friend's parents were socialists. He never adopted fascist ideology. He merely converted into a 'free-market' advocate.

> Frankly, it's that sort of crap that makes the
> old "
expropriation" ideologies seem attractive.

   Nothing could make me want to expropriate, except maybe if I flipped my lid.

> Moreover, I'd say that it's also worth reading Thorstein Veblen's
> "
Theory of the Leisure Class" -- the "power of emulation" which
>
capitalism has seemed particularly adept at mastering.

   Veblen can be very educational.

> I am also aware that Gandhi once pointed to a flaw in many
> interpretations of
socialism, in which he spoke disparagingly of
> "
dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good."

   The greedy quest for property can drive many people to be bad, but all of the badness is headed for the museum pretty soon. After the abolition of labor, being bad will no longer be rewarded, so people will excel in being good.

> Socialism can emancipate, it can socialize, and it can bring down the hierarchy.

   But, 'socialism' is dead.

> But, in the end, it has to have some form of spiritualism --
> on up to and including its own interpretations of the great
>
religions. I know that a lot of leftists don't like this notion
> very well -- and believe me, I'm not trying to advance any
>
religious point of view. But, the ability of this ideological
> construct
to succeed, depends to a great extent upon the human
> capacity for altruism
, caring and functional relationships
> built on something other than predatory impulses.

   I agree [with the need for higher virtues to lead the way]. Who would argue with the spirituality of the caring that went on after 9/11? Our higher qualities will be renewed with vigor after all of the work ethic in the world fails to put enough people to work, and people again begin to share the work. I can't wait. Until then, I live in fear of what evil people want to do.

> Economic redistribution is great for answering some problems,
> but wholly inadequate for the
spiritual requirements necessary
> for a new "
socialization." In other words, you gotta have
> sufficient
morality, ethics and spiritual peace to implement
> a truly
socialist society. That's really hard to foster in the
> pursuit of
economistic aims!!!

   Workers who compete for scarce jobs don't have many easy opportunities to turn down, on moral grounds, paid opportunities to do evil. So, workers end up performing most of the actual evil in this world. All the more reason to create the artificial scarcity of labor that would enable workers to boycott jobs with little to no socially redeeming value, such as cutting down the last of the old-growth redwoods, or building land mines in that factory in Minnesota.

> Gotta run. Great to hear from you -- please keep
> in touch -- I look forward to more
discussions like
> this. I get so few here in Indianapolis . . . even
> among
socialists, Greens and peaceniks!!!
>
Solidarity, -- Brad

   Our enjoyment has been mutual. I've also had problems with various leftists being very willing to make assertions, but unable to prove their arguments. Is my argument against the future use of the word 'socialism' adequate?

   Here's a replica of that promised quote from Volume 3 of Capital (me37.258):

   "The rate of profit, i. e., the relative increment of capital, is above all important to all new offshoots of capital seeking to find an independent place for themselves. And as soon as formation of capital were to fall into the hands of a few established big capitals, for which the mass of profit compensates for the falling rate of profit, the vital flame of production would be altogether extinguished. It would die out. The rate of profit is the motive power of capitalist production. Things are produced only so long as they can be produced with a profit. Hence the concern of the English economists over the decline of the rate of profit."

 

09-10-02

   Hi, Brad, glad you found the time to reply.

> Well, being one those few souls on this side of the Atlantic
> that still embraces the "
S-word" I am pretty prone to disagree
> on the idea that
the word should be dropped.

   Socialism means too many things to too many people to be of any practical use in itself, whatever 'socialism' is. Everyone has their own definitions. The swt agenda remains to be implemented for one reason only -- people aren't ready for it. When they do become ready, little doubt will exist about the meaning of the first half dozen measures the swt group cooked up a year and a half ago:

1: Double time overtime premium instead of time and a half.

2: 3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2.

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

4: Replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay.

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

6: Shorter work hours with no reduction in pay.

7: Portal to portal pay.

8: Decrease the financial disincentive for employing, and create an
incentive: a very progressive payroll tax structure, with such a low rate on
the first $10,000 as to be virtually an exemption.

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

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

11: Universal health care.

12: Proportional representation.

> I realize all the rhetorical reasons that you mention --
> I've heard them
all before. But I still have to be just a
> bit obdurate. The problems I see with
dropping the use of
> the word
"socialism" begin with the fact that to run from it
> is to be a wee bit dishonest.

   Run away from socialism? But, socialism is always running away from human attempts to pin it down. It means too many things. Is it Stalinism? Maoism? Trotskyism? De Leonism? Marxism? Leninism? Kautskyism? Bernsteinism? Anarchism? Anarcho-syndicalism? Reformism? Collectivism? Expropriation?

> The abolition of work would indeed abolish capitalism --
>
it's a wonderful strategy.

   That's true, but abolishing labor is also the ONLY way to abolish class distinctions. The idle rich don't have to work, but we do. The secret of worker success lies in making themselves as free of labor as the idle rich. Few seem interested in bringing down the rich to the level of wage slaves, because everyone would rather work for freedom.

> But the aim is to also abolish the authoritarian regime
> of
capital -- which, not so incidentally, is what
> enforces necessary labor.

   'Enforces NECESSARY labor'? Necessary labor is the same as wages, so I'm not sure if any Marxist would want to meddle with NECESSARY labor. SURPLUS labor, on the other hand, is where profits and excesses arise. Our being 40 times more productive than our ancestors of 200 years ago indicates, roughly speaking, necessary labor of one hour per week, and surplus labor of 39 hours WITHOUT PAY, which new wealth accrues entirely to the benefit of bosses in the forms of profits, capital, surpluses, advertisements, R+D, bribes for politicians, luxuries, etc. Wobblies get the mistaken idea that the picture could somehow be turned around to provide labor with more than merely an hour's worth of goods, but people show little inclination to do what Wobblies want. Leftist obsession with material wealth might only be a manifestation of the 'bourgeois materialism' you mentioned last time, where acquiring material goods is placed at a higher priority than sharing work or emancipating labor. Sharing work should be our guiding star, for it would provide basic necessities for all, without the gov't doing much more than enforcing amended 'hours of labor' laws.

   'The authoritarian regime of capital' may have to be dealt with, but how? A direct assault? Sharing work more equitably would remove most of the need for gov't oppression. I've heard drug dealers on TV wish they could 'get a job and make an honest living, but decent jobs are not available.' At least 14 million are underserved by the job market. That number will probably get bigger before determination to shrink it arises.

> It's just a little disingenuous, in my opinion,
> to
struggle against every facet of bourgeois power,
> and then not call the
alternative what it really is.

   'Struggle against EVERY facet'? Who does that? I want no more than the swt agenda of longer paid vacations, more paid holidays, higher overtime premiums, shorter work weeks, earlier retirement with full benefits, bring every worker under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and perhaps a few others.

   The struggle to share work is SEPARATE from the struggle for socialism. When machines begin to replace people faster than what new jobs can be created, and a giant unemployment crisis looms, those who struggle to share work will be INSULTED to be associated with 'socialism'. They will not welcome 'socialism' being insinuated on their movement, especially in the early stages. Years later, when the work week is down to, say, 20 hours, and labor time reductions become old hat, only THEN will more people begin to compare their new society with the recent past, begin to muse about FURTHER labor time reductions, the significance of reductions on the economy and on capitalism itself, which will be quite a breakthrough in popular thought. Until then, socialism will remain at least as distasteful as it is today.

   I cannot sufficiently stress the erroneous nature of introducing socialist ideology at the beginning of the work sharing movement. It would be so counter-productive, so injurious to the very goal toward which so many people will be willing to move, that a socialist would end up damaging the movement as badly as any government or capitalist agent. In fact, to preserve class distinctions and privileges, bosses will want precisely to poison the shorter hour movement with myriad notions of socialism, communism and anarchism. As soon as the shorter hour movement begins to acquire any legs at all, bourgeois agents in the press will do everything they can to besmirch the movement's image, which will then struggle to prove that it is older than socialism, goes back to 1820, and predates the Communist Manifesto by 28 years or so. The real movement will point out that, during the Depression, while Labor was fighting for the Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill, socialists in the USA were fighting for ... socialism! Similarly, the Communist Party wanted to overthrow the US gov't, and replace it with a Leninist workers' state! Pure wackiness! They could all afford to ignore what the AFL wanted, and could afford to work for their selfish socialist, communist and anarchist schemes. No wonder the mainstream distrusts 'isms! Promoting work-sharing in the name of socialism SABOTAGES work-sharing.

> Second, the socialism that we grew up with
> -- I am 47, by the way --

   I'm jealous of your relative youth. I'm 59. :-(

> was primarily based on the old mass production economy --
> factory workers, the industrial proletariat,
profit margins
> based primarily on volume of
sales, etc., etc. The challenge for
> "
socialism" is get beyond that. I would say that there's plenty of
> literature on the subject of "
a new socialism." The ideas are there.
> Indeed they borrow greatly from
green politics, feminism, and some
> of the various aspects of what I call "
group politics." The thing that
> is not often remembered, in all of this, is that the old "
capitalism" is
>
equally dead. You can play around with what every label you want to
> use, but the
truth is that "socialism," "the broader Left," (whatever you
> want to call it), has to adapt to the new realities as surely as the new
>
capitalism. The problem is that capital have done a much better job of
> actually "
organizing labor" than the left or the unions or the socialist
> or
social democrats -- that's a much bigger obstacle than the "S-word."

   What's 'new' in today's capitalist world is that rates of surplus value and exploitation have reached new heights, providing governments with more money to throw at social problems, primarily to get the poor out of sight. Too few people mention overwork as the source of increased wealth and heightened exploitation of labor and other resources. Many people in the know are playing dumb on purpose. Surplus value needs to be directly addressed by the left, not through a socialist back door. 'New' socialism can't help but fail to address overwork, simply because 'socialism' of any stripe will continue to primarily address wealth, property and gov't programs. So, people will pay socialism no more heed than during the Great Depression.

> Third, I would argue that unless something is done pretty quick,
> American
unionism is going to be a whole lot more "dead" than
> American
socialism. I say that because most unions are still stuck on
>
organizing those folks covered by the Wagner Act, and have almost
> completely abandoned the "
information workers." The workforce has
> been transformed, it has not yet disappeared.
Unions need to do a great
> deal more to reach out to workers beyond the shop walls, and beyond the
>
wage grade employee. Abandoning or trivializing the idea of organizing
> the "
salariat" was a huge mistake made a generation ago and organized
> labor
is paying for it dearly. The OPEIU is a good union and so is SEIU,
> but they need to find ways to reach a lot more workers in the newer job
> classifications. Believe me, I'm a
union man -- but as a government analyst
> I am not covered by the
collective bargaining agreement -- not only can I
> not get
union representation in my current position, but the union doesn't
> even accept at-large membership!!! Oh well, there's always the
Wobblies!!!

   Unionism certainly has strayed from its roots, but the public may also feel as though they can live very nicely without them. In the most developed countries, one has only to compare present living standards to those of a century ago to realize how much progress has been made, which generates so much complacency. People are in for a rude awakening, however, for big changes are on their way. As Engels wrote: "It is the revolutionising of all established conditions by industry *as it develops* that also revolutionises people's minds."

> Fourth, as a member and organizer in Democratic Socialists of
> America
, I understand how negative the reaction to the "S-word" can be.
> But as a member of
DSA, I am also a member of the Socialist International --
> which still traces its lineage back to the
Second International begun by the likes
> of Engels and Kautsky back in the late nineteenth century. There are a lot of
>
socialist parties out there in the world -- and a lot of them are either in power
> or the main opposition that goes in and out of
power on a fairly regular basis
> like the
Democrats and Republicans here. In my opinion, socialism is still in
> much better shape in the rest of the world than
it is here and if, as I think we
> can both agree, there can be no "
socialism in one country" or even any
> "
national" policies that can be truly effective without international
> cooperation
, then I would say that part of my reason for keeping the word
> "
socialism" is with a view that this is a global struggle, and there have been
> important developments for
socialism in other parts of the world.

   In Europe, 'socialism' is nowhere nearly as dirty a word as in the USA. But, in either place, work could be fairly shared without ever having to mention 'socialism', which will never be popular in the USA. Because socialism is automatically associated with property and wealth redistribution, sharing work actually has nothing to do with socialism. When the big unemployment crunch comes down in the near future, socialists will distinguish themselves as either sales personnel or humanitarians. Many socialists will carry on agitation as they do today -- as sectarians. Many will primarily be party loyalists, carry the socialist banner high, try to associate socialism with every manner of common interests, and extol the virtues of THEIR parties at the expense of all others. In inner party conversations, the interests of their PARTIES will take precedence over the interests of the PEOPLE. Parties obsessed with property redistribution (in the face of so much unemployment) will manifest their bourgeois heritage.

> Also, please remember, capitalism ain't doing that hot in eastern Europe.
> As we knew, but not many Americans could allow themselves to believe,
>
capitalism never was a panacea, and the folks in the former Communist
> countries are finally realizing that the only thing their former
governments
> ever got right was just how
exploitative capitalism can be. Now that they're
> starting to realize that they've traded one
false utopia for another, I suspect
> that you'll see a lot more
realism. Also remember that the United States is
> the ONLY industrialized nation in the world without a
national health system
> . . . and most other industrialized nations have
institutions that can only be
> thought of as "
socialist" and they've found that even in the onslaught of the
>
global capitalist triumph, the IMF and the World Bank, those institutions
> are going away. I would also point out that many of these types of universal
> provisions and
institutions still survive in Russia, even with all the corruption
> and infiltration of bourgeois thinking. In other words,
socialism may smell a
> bit funny, but it ain't
dead by a long shot -- at least not in the rest of the world.

   I would hardly qualify as an apologist for any 'ism, including capitalism. Capitalism has to go, same as slavery, feudalism and Stalinism, and go they will. But, as Engels wrote in an intro to the Communist Manifesto, 'the proletariat cannot attain its emancipation ... without, at the same time, and once and for all emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions and class struggles.' The next revolution will be humanity's last, but the next revolution will take many years to accomplish, perhaps decades, and will begin with the first determined effort of a goodly portion of the West to share the remaining work. It will all be easier sledding from there.

> Fifth, I've got more than a dollop of Hegel in my thinking. There is a
>
dialectic, and there has to be an antithesis. The model of "industrial
> socialism
" is gone, but I guarantee you that any Green model or new
> innovation on the
Left will have to stand on the shoulders of many
>
socialist giants in order to look over the wall at the fields of
> the promised land.

   Sorry to remain confused. Is 'industrial socialism' being compared to the thesis? If so, then what is the antithesis? Lastly, what's the synthesis?

   The expropriation of the expropriators failed to be dialectical. An institution as ancient as private property has to be transcended, not fought over like cats and dogs. As the early Marx wrote, the abolition of private property cannot be sought, except through the abolition of labor. Why Marx regressed into common expropriationism may remain a mystery of the ages.

> Sixth, the rise of the Green Party encourages me,
> but at the same time I am not really comfortable with
it.

   When the Green Party grew in Massachusetts, I became enthused, joined, and went to a 2001 convention, but their antics alienated me. They can't even run their books correctly, (perhaps accidentally) cheating me out of 3 years of membership, and not even bothering to TRY to correct the problem through snail mail. I kiss it off as so much water over the dam.

> I couldn't bring myself to vote for Nader in part of this. The reason for
> my discomfort is that it seems to be that building a
political party based
> on
environment, and having it be more successful than socialism -- which
> emphasizes
human social relationship -- is, in fact, a statement of the
>
alienation of modern humanity in the context of bourgeois society.
> Therefore, I see the need for Christmas colors --
Green and RED.
> I don't want to sound like Archie Bunker or Rush Limbaugh, but
> I do believe in hugging people at least as much as hugging trees.

   I think I voted for Nader to send a message. I knew the few votes he'd take away from Al Gore wouldn't prevent Gore from taking Massachusetts. In closer races, I would have ignored Nader and voted for Gore. Bush has been a total disaster for the little people. Nader and the Greens handed the country to Bush. Let these 4 miserable years be a painful lesson. As Engels wrote: 'Durch schaden, klug machen.' 'Learn by bitter experience'.

> Seventh, I have to say, that to abandon the "S-word" simply
> because it's either unpalatable or
totally misunderstood,
> or both in American society is an enormous
tragedy.

   Socialists should regard 'misunderstandings and unpalatability' as a signal that 'they are doing something wrong.' The real tragedy is their inability to learn from their own decline, and their failure to learn more than 'expropriation with or without compensation'. The best lessons of M+E remain lost to socialists. Few bother to peruse their writings in any depth.

> It's delivering to the capitalists and the right wing a huge victory and concession.

   'Huge victory'? 'No victory' would be closer. Socialism in the USA is too puny to threaten private property.

> It means you can't even speak the name of the alternative to their power.

   Alternative? Regarding labor as compatible with 'socialism' was one of M+E's worst mistakes. Before our eyes, history is proving that socialist production will not involve human labor. After capitalism, people will be liberated from both labor and class distinctions. Marx wrote (me37.261): ... "the historical mission [of capitalism] is unconstrained development in geometrical progression of the productivity of human labour."

   M+E never specified a point at which 'labor would be productive enough to ditch capitalism and proceed with socialism.' Employing LABOR in a hypothetical mode of production BEYOND CAPITALISM makes no sense at all. Even the proletarian dictatorship was to utilize CAPITALIST relations of production, with wage-labor, class distinctions, politics, etc. The only immediate difference was to be a new supremacy of a workers' party in the state, the very form of which state was SPECIFIED as a democratic republic. The domination of one class was to be replaced with that of another. So, then, what's new? The day after Marx's revolution, everything was to look exactly the same, except that the political supremacy of the workers was to enable socializing ownership of land and means of production, legislating in the interests of workers (cooperatives, shorter work hours, etc.), and raising productivity high enough to abolish class distinctions, the division of labor, and labor itself. Capitalist relations of production would have remained until the abolition of class distinctions, because no better way of running an economy than capitalism could ever exist. It's historical mission is 'unconstrained development of productivity in geometrical progression', right up until 'infinite productivity' is reached -- the total replacement of human labor. No other system of production was specified as developing human productivity as well as capitalism. It has yet to fulfill its mission. Those who claim to want to 'replace capitalism with socialism today' know not of which they speak. Capitalism will be replaced with socialism neither today nor tomorrow, but maybe by 2029.

> Of course, this is nothing new in human history --
> demonizing the opposition is pretty common -- and
> if that
opposition class can be so alienated from the
> ability to name the
ideas that are in its own interest,
> so much the better for the
ruling class.

   Upper class demonization of the lower classes certainly happens, but demonization of the upper classes is an old leftist trick to make gullibles think that 'they are better than the rich, so should not hesitate to try to overthrow the rich.' Demonization is no more useful than classism, racism or sexism.

> Finally, I have also to say, that I sense that the politic seas are about
> to change.
Reaganism has just about run its course. The world is
> starting to tire of being a satellite for Washington and Wall Street.

   I hope so. I've also heard that the pendulum is about to swing away from protecting the gluttony of the greedy, and toward protecting our common interests, thanks probably to Enron, Anderson, and other accounting scandals.

> Moreover, one thing that hasn't changed is capitalism's innate
> tendency toward
overproduction -- and it's still the only economic
> arrangement ever devised by
human beings in which a bumper
> crop means starvation. This is nothing new here.

   The fact that only 2% (or less) of its population grows American crops shows that hunger is 2% economic, and 98% the result of bad politics. Rising productivity is the very thing that will make the next (slow) revolution possible. When all of the work ethic in the world won't suffice to put enough people to work, the remaining work will be shared, and the gap between the absolute freedom of the idle rich and the enslavement of the most abject wage slave will begin to diminish. Too bad that the left is so confused that we are forced to wait THAT long, for they don't have the presence of mind to fight surplus value NOW. Engels became active in that struggle when he joined the 8 Hour League back in 1890 or so, but the left doesn't seem interested in learning the more subtle qualities of Marxism. The USA badly needs a 7 Hour League.

> The next political wind could well open up new possibilities for the
> Left, and those possibilities will carry many "
socialist" or "social
> democratic
" characteristics.

   Such as?

> Gotta run!!! Hope that I did some justice to my position
> on "
socialism." Look forward to hearing more from you
> in the future. -- Brad

   You gave me much food for thought and introspection. It's a good exercise. But, my sad experience is that socialists never listen to what I say. My failures have been so consistent that it may be something that I'm doing wrong. If I knew what it was, I'd fix it. Sadly again, I've never met a socialist who was humanitarian enough to inform me of what I'm doing wrong, because they primarily want socialism to succeed, and they know that, in the last analysis, it really will be, once again, socialism VERSUS shorter work hours. So, maybe they figure that it would be political suicide to tell their 'opponents' where their arguments fall short.

 

09-10-02

Hi, Brad,

> Ken --
> Just as an addendum to what I wrote last evening. Are you familiar with
> E.F. Schumacher, and his book from 30 years ago "
Small Is Beautiful"?

   I'm familiar with the title, but little more than that.

> There is a really poignant quote in there that might put some
> perspective on notions of "
expropriation." In discussing
> the concept of "
nationalization" (and he obviously equates
> "
nationalization" as the main socialist prescription, he writes:
>
> "
'Nationalization' extinguishes private proprietary rights but does not,
> by itself, create any new 'ownership' in the existential--as distinct from the
> legal--sense of he word. Nor does it, by itself, determine what is to become
> of the original ownership rights and who is to exercise them. It is therefore
> in a sense a purely negative measure which annuls previous arrangements
> and creates the opportunity and necessity to make new ones.
"
>
> On this subject, he goes on to say,
>
> "
It must be admitted that this strategy, aided by a systematic smear
> campaign against the nationalized industries, has not been without
> effect on socialist thinking.

>
> "
The reason is neither an error in the original socialist inspiration
> nor any actual failure in the conduct of the nationalized industry --
> accusations of that kind are quite insupportable -- but a lack of vision
> on the part of the socialists themselves. They will not recover, and
> nationalization will not fulfill its function, unless they recover their
> vision. What is at stake is not economics but culture; not the standard
> of living but the quality of life. Economics and the standard of living
> can just as well be looked after by a capitalist system, moderated by a
> bit of planning and redistributive taxation. But culture and, generally,
> the quality of life, can now only be debased by such a system.
"
>
> "
Socialists should insist on using nationalized industries not simply
> to out-capitalize the capitalists--an attempt in which they may or may not
> succeed--but to evolve a more democratic and dignified system of industrial
> administration, a more humane employment of machinery, and a more
> intelligent utilization of the fruits of human ingenuity and effort. If they
> can do that, they have the future in their hands. If they cannot, they have
> nothing to offer that is worthy of the sweat of free-born men.
"
>
> Also, I believe, that somewhere in his voluminous letters, Marx once quipped
> to Engels, something on the order of, "
Perhaps it would be cheaper, in the
> long run, to just buy out the whole gang.
" (referring to the capitalist class).
>
> -- Brad

   Well, that's very nicely philosophical, but messing about with property and other tangibles will soon prove irrelevant to the unemployment crunch, whose approach is driven by a double exponential rate of productivity increases. Until the abolition of labor, property will remain but a toy for kids to fight over, and a diversion of no lasting consequence. If property is fated for extinction anyway, then why is it such a leftist obsession? That's because Marx didn't maintain the sound logic of his early writings, thus giving petty bourgeois expropriators more grist for their mills than what was good for them. But, one cannot be too condemnatory of past ideas, for one has to understand the changes between then and now. The days of M+E were quite different. Back then, it WAS plausible for communists to hope to expropriate the expropriators after overthrowing monarchies (as in Russia) or after liberating colonies, but those heroic days came and went. Still, much of the left maintains hope that they will someday be lucky enough to live in similar times. If communists were numerous and powerful enough to replace democracies with workers' states, then maybe expropriation would get somewhere.

   With regard to the buy-out, here's Engels' paragraph in full from "The Peasant Question in France and Germany" (me27.500):

   "Only the big landed estates present a perfectly simple case. Here we are dealing with undisguised capitalist production and no scruples of any sort need restrain us. Here we are confronted by rural proletarians in masses and our task is clear. As soon as our Party is in possession of political power it has simply to expropriate the big landed proprietors just like the manufacturers in industry. Whether this expropriation is to be compensated for or not will to a great extent depend not upon us but the circumstances under which we obtain power, and particularly upon the attitude adopted by these gentry, the big landowners, themselves. We by no means consider compensation as impermissible in any event; Marx told me (and how many times!) that in his opinion we would get off cheapest if we could buy out the whole lot of them. But this does not concern us here. The big estates thus restored to the community are to be turned over by us to the rural workers who are already cultivating them and are to be organised into co-operatives. They are to be assigned to them for their use and benefit under the control of the community. Nothing can as yet be stated as to the terms of their tenure. At any rate the transformation of the capitalist enterprise into a social enterprise is here fully prepared for and can be carried into execution overnight, precisely as in Mr. Krupp's or Mr. von Stumm's factory. And the example of these agricultural co-operatives would convince even the last of the still resistant small-holding peasants, and surely also many big peasants, of the advantages of co-operative, large-scale production."

 

09-13-02

   Hi, Brad, got your trial balloon.

> Subject: TRIAL BALLOON -- Work Time Reduction
>
>
www.onet.net/~hours30 or by e-mail request to ShorterWorkWeek@netscape.net

   It's a very good article, and I can appreciate the enthusiasm. But, 30 hours is too radical, and not even the French could hang onto 35.

   Second, I see no demand for a higher overtime premium. An old study suggests that double time would reduce unemployment by 1 or 2% just by itself, and it would really cut down on overwork. It's the overtime premium that puts the teeth in the 'hours of labor' laws in the first place. Without a higher overtime premium, neither 30 nor 35 would have much of an effect.

   So, please reconsider. Ordinary people will have to learn to crawl before they take off running.

   Other message to follow later.

 

09-13-02

   Hi, Brad, sorry to burden you with another really lonnnnnnnng message.

> First of all, I don't think your problem is that people don't listen
> -- but understand, you are telling them that
their political ideology
> is all washed up
-- that's not a great way to win them over --

   It's true that I tell people that their 'isms are all washed up, and that the property 'isms applied only to the bygone era when the very forceful act of overthrowing a mass of absolute monarchies would have bestowed the requisite power for triumphant united European socialists and communists to socialize property ownership, somewhat similar to what Lenin did, but he didn't enjoy the success that would have resulted had all of Europe revolted in support of Russia (the way Marx expected). Germany and Slovakia revolted, but their success didn't last long, so the Bolsheviks found it really tough sledding all by themselves. Their revolution was a far cry from Marx's desired 'simultaneous revolutions in the most developed countries'.

   In an anti-Kautsky pamphlet, Lenin declared that 'private ownership of land was abolished on the very first day of the Bolshevik revolution.' Soviet problems began shortly thereafter, forcing eventual adoption of the NEP market system and re-establishing some capitalist relations of production, just to get agriculture going again.

   How much confidence can Marxism (or its closely associated socialism and communism) generate if the expected scenario didn't materialize, and the regimes that did materialize fell far short of democratic expectations?

> and you are counterpoising shorter hours vs. socialism -- which isn't correct.

   Most socialists regard shorter work hours as a nice agenda item best pursued AFTER socialists come to power. Marx expressed a similar view in a letter to Kugelmann, as well as the quote you provided (further down) from Volume 3 of Capital, page 807, where Marx wrote of 'socialized man' reducing hours.

> So much of the program you're talking about in your last message is right
> in the
socialist / social democratic platforms in many countries. The rest of
> it is just as
radical, and would require some form of "socialism" (whether
> you use the rhetorical "
S-word" or not) to have half a chance to work.

   The parts of the swt program which 'would require some form of socialism to have half a chance' should be specified. Such a perspective surely appears Marxist, and yet, even in Marx's day, from the 1840's onward, workers fought for and WON reduced work hours in England and the USA, and Marx hardly begrudged workers their victories obtained outside the aegis of his desired universal proletarian dictatorship. Marx regarded struggles for shorter work hours to be nothing less than 'revolutionary', even if feudal monarchies would not thereby be overthrown. Shorter work hours is intimately related to the very Marxist abolition of class distinctions, his ultimate goal (me10.127):

   "Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionising of all the ideas that result from these social relations."

   ... "with the abolition of class distinctions all social and political inequality arising from them would disappear of itself." (me24.92 Gotha Program)

   Work reductions are a great way to abolish class distinctions, by slowly liberating workers in the direction of freedom. None but a few leftists seem interested in going backwards by trying to shackle the idle rich with yucky work.

> You are absolutely right about the aversion to the word "socialism"
> in this country. But, there is a very important
socialist history in
> this country . . I'm from Indiana, born and raised in Terre Haute.
> A very important monument there is the home of Eugene V. Debs.
> The thing to understand is that in
capitalism's citadel, the role of
>
socialism has been to create political space on the left.

   Debs did a lot of good in his day. He won my respect many years ago.

> The only way to "push the envelope" is to "push the envelope."
> Michael Harrington put it very well, "
Critical as the demand for
> free time is, it is
wrong to envision an utterly automated society
> of abundance in the next half century. The 'postindustrial society'
> becomes possible
only through a new social structure of accumulation
> for industrial society.
" That suggests to me that socialism and
>
shorter hours are not counterpoised, but necessarily linked.

   If socialism can be defined as the 'abolition of class distinctions', and if shorter work hours are a means to that abolition, then the Marxist link (from the quote above) is the proletarian dictatorship, which idea only a few would like to try to resurrect. Legislation, and a few amendments to the FLSA, are all that's required to totally abolish class distinctions in modern democracies like the USA.

   But, during the era of 'plenty of work', such as how the present era is popularly conceived, the struggle to share work by reducing labor time is often perceived as superfluous, counter-productive, or downright injurious to ambitious people. Activists, on the other hand, could perceive of that struggle as a great way to cut down on the surplus value that feeds advertisements, corruption, bribery, etc. Activists could regard our struggle as an efficient way to create a moral society by eliminating the competition for scarce jobs that makes people too insecure to do anything except what greedy bosses tell them to do, so they fight for diminishing opportunities to cut down the last of the old-growth redwoods, and fight for opportunities to manufacture land mines, as in that factory in Minnesota. In other words, successfully struggling for shorter work hours would deliver to activists precisely the results for which many of them would give an eye tooth. But, unlike you, they have yet to adopt it as a practical method.

> Also, this statement bothers me a bit:
>
>> 'Enforces NECESSARY labor'? Necessary labor is the same as wages, so I'm
>> not sure if any
Marxist would want to meddle with NECESSARY labor.
>>
SURPLUS labor, on the other hand, is where profits and excesses arise.
>
> I don't know about
this -- it isn't that simple.
>
Wages and profits are ONLY monetary representations of value.

   Your response puzzled me. Perhaps it's because I may have mistook you the first time around. You had written:

>>> But the aim is to also abolish the authoritarian regime
>>> of capital
-- which, not so incidentally, is what
>>> enforces
necessary labor.

   I guess I didn't understand what you meant by 'necessary labor', which conjured 2 meanings. First, 'necessary labor' can be used in the sense of 'socially necessary labor time', as in preferring to build ships near harbors instead of on mountain tops. Building on mountain tops would certainly add to the manufacture time, and consequently add to the price, but then the manufacture time wouldn't be 'socially NECESSARY labor time', because someone in the meantime would have figured out how to make more profits by building ships near harbors, which would set a new standard of profitability for everyone else to try to emulate.

   A second meaning for 'necessary labor' is the portion of the work day spent creating the value of wages. If wages are created during the first hour of a day's labor, but the worker doesn't simply go home at the end of that first hour, and continues to work 7 more, then the 8 hour day would consist of one hour of necessary labor, and 7 hours of surplus labor.

   Further down, however, you explained a plausible 3rd meaning.

> The capitalist accumulates "surplus value" which resolves itself to "surplus
> labor
." Necessary labor -- as I understand it -- is that labor of the worker
> to reproduce his own life -- biologically and socially.
Surplus labor is
> that
labor which goes to creating an excess beyond that need.

   No problem to this point.

> The notions of "wages" and "profits" are not necessarily
> the same thing. I think of them more as those forms of
labor
> reduced to terms that the
capitalist system can deal with --
> the result of the ability to reduce
human labor to a commodity.

   Wages and profits are definitely not the same, as you say. I could only quibble with the other sentence.

> When I referred to "necessary labor" I was referring to the labor that is,
> among other things, the
necessary basis of "the realm of freedom" as in this
> notable statement: "
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.
"

   That familiar favorite is from page 807 of Volume 3 of Marx's Capital. Re: 'labor .. is .. the necessary basis of the realm of freedom', I cannot help but protest! Labor, for me, has been nothing better than the basis of my sense of enslavement on the treadmill. Having never had 'a really good job', and having worked long hours for a pittance, and having worked with scores of others in the same boat, I've often wished for 'less work for more pay'.

> Necessary labor will not disappear under any circumstances.

   We may have to differ on this point. Necessary labor IS disappearing, as demonstrated by the fact that only 2% (or less) of the population grows the crops, whereas 80% grew crops 200 years ago. Look at how quickly housing can be created, compared to the old days. A new clothing factory loads raw material in one end, while finished and packaged clothes pour out the other end, with only maintenance personnel in between. It won't be but a couple of more decades before necessities of life require no labor at all.

> The only question is how much of necessary labor will be performed by
>
humans and how much will be performed by the tools that humans have
> developed. A big part of the whole ability to have
work time reduction gets
> back to a statement made by Aristotle 2,300 years ago:
{similar to me35.411}
>
> "
For if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying
> or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or
> the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, of their own accord
> entered the assembly of the Gods; if, in like manner, the shuttle
> would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide
> them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.
"
>
> In other words, the whole notion of the
emancipation from work
> depends upon technology -- the "
Statues of Daedalus" being statues
> that operate "
of their own accord." But for the "Statues of Daedalus"
> -- which in our times take the form of high technology modes of
> production -- to actually produce the desired result, a great
> deal of wisdom has to be applied.

   Wisdom will certainly be needed, and you may be hinting at the difference between ordinary machine 'smarts' and a higher philosophical wisdom, which may not be matched for quite a while. Though machines have been getting smarter as a function of time, they can still be regarded as 'stupid' at many levels of performance, as scientists struggle mightily to create AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence. Due to accelerating rates of research, machines are not doomed to stupidity for much longer. While biological evolution crawls along at a snail's pace, machine smarts improve at a double exponential rate. Even Moore's old law of 'computer power doubling every 2 years' is now approaching 'doubling EVERY year'.

> One truth that does come through here: capitalist
> technology
is geared to "top-down" authority. In that
> regard, it will also be as Marx said "
labor absorbing"
> rather than "
labor saving."

   'Labor-absorbing' is correct for now, but won't last much longer. Marx observed (me29.90):

   "What was the activity of a live worker now becomes an activity of the machine. Thus the appropriation of labour by capital confronts the worker in a gross-sensuous way; capital as absorbing living labour into itself - "as though it had love in its bosom"."

   "Of course the pretensions of capital in embryo - when, beginning to grow, it secures the right of absorbing a quantum sufficit of surplus labour, not merely by the force of economic relations, but by the help of the State - appear very modest when put face to face with the concessions that, growling and struggling, it has to make in its adult condition. It takes centuries ere the "free" labourer, thanks to the development of capitalistic production, agrees, i.e., is compelled by social conditions, to sell the whole of his active life, his very capacity for work, for the price of the necessaries of life, his birthright for a mess of pottage." (me35.277)

> One big key to the emancipation of mankind from
> "
necessary labor" is the ability to actually take the
> hierarchical relations out of the mode of technology.

   Hierarchy is scarcely a social problem. The early part of the industrial revolution witnessed lots of forced labor with the help of the state, but legislation later removed all except economic compulsion to toil. 'Work or starve' became quite sufficient to motivate labor. In Anti-Duhring, Engels wrote more about this point (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. "Property founded on force" proves here also to be nothing but the phrase of a braggart intended to cover up his lack of understanding of the real course of things."

   My debates with anarchists reveal their close attachment to the bogus theory that 'the capitalist is rich only by the grace of the state', not at all heeding Engels' observations of plain old economic evolution into widening class distinctions. Class distinctions are fated to widen, regardless of state interference, except on the 'hours of labor' issue. It is therefore increasingly important that surplus value be taken into account.

> In my opinion, long before you completely eradicate necessary
> labor
(not simply wages) capitalism will have to give way to a
> new form of social arrangements,
economic relationship etc.

   Positive steps to more equitably share work will generate many other positive changes.

> Now, you can call it whatever you want -- it's been called
> a number of things throughout history, but I just happen to
> think that
socialism is an apt term -- because it is a scientific
> term
. We are talking about human social relations after all.

   You should indicate if you differ from Marx's definition of socialism as the 'abolition of class distinctions'. Marx's definition is good enough for me, and helps motivate me to support work sharing and shorter work hours.

> I understand your emphasis on the shorter hour movement --
> essentially, we end up at the
same place in all this. To really
> have a major
emancipation of labor, you really have to change
> the way people live. That is what I call "
socialism."

   'Major emancipation' is troublesome, because it may indicate desire for some kind of a SUDDEN LEAP FORWARD. I see no more than slow evolution in the immediate future. By 2029, integration between biology and machinery has been foreseen, with such enormous consequences that it is described as a 'singularity'. That same name is also used to describe black holes in space, because matter that gets sucked into it has no way to report back on the experience. Likewise, little can be predicted for when nano-tech takes over. 'Progress' may spin out of the control of governments, organizations, scientists, etc., though nothing less than pure pleasure is predicted by proponents. But, life after the singularity remains unpredictable, and as much a mystery as 'life inside a black hole'.

> I don't feel that nationalizations or expropriations
> are necessarily the basis of that "socialism."

   I agree that 'labor can be emancipated without nationalizations or expropriations.'

> Nevertheless, I do insist that a political movement capable of
> delivering drastic
cuts in work hours will have to violate the
> living shit out
capitalist property relations, sooner or later.

   What purpose would those violations serve, other than to wreak vengeance on the rich? Property is fated to someday go extinct anyway, but it would be very contentious to try to RUSH its demise.

> Exporpriation may or may not be necessary, but I guarantee
> you,
political power is. The only question is, "will that power be
>
authoritarian or democratic?" If it's authoritarian the whole idea is
> self-defeating, as the decades following 1917 plainly show.

   Political power certainly is part and parcel of class divisions. I hope that our representatives will go to bat for work-sharing, like the Senate did during the Black-Connery era.

   Like you say, authoritarian regimes are out of the question. But, without a left wing authoritarian regime, a campaign against private property would probably not go very far. Property is innocuous enough in itself to let it die a natural death. It will simply fade from use after the abolition of labor, and after everyone becomes equally free of economic concerns.

> So I suppose part of the problem here is the rhetorical
> issue of what do I mean by "
socialism"? I would only say
> that I regard
Stalinism, Maoism, etc., as what Marx and
> Engels referred to as the "
false brothers."

   "False brothers" shows up 7 times in the Collected Works.

> In any event, Third World Socialism -- which started in Russia
> with Stalin, to be sure -- was more a means for
capital accumulation
> than for
worker emancipation. It was a non-capitalist method for rapid
> accumulation of capital
. But I believe that you'll find the "authentic
> socialism
" in what might also be called "left wing altruism" -- or
> "
radical democracy." Of course, "left wing altruism" and "radical
> democracy
" are every bit as utopian and pie in the sky as the old
> "
S-word". The problem is that without a "vision" influenced in
> that way, it's almost impossible to imagine much progress to
> a world. I call that
vision, and the movement to get there
> "
socialism" -- a utopian dream, but also a political movement.

   I see an oxymoron in a 'political movement based on utopian wishes'. Politics has been defined as 'the art of the possible'. Utopia is impossible, therefore non-political as well.

   But, I do agree with the necessity of people adopting wider visions. As machines march in to displace more and more human labor, people will definitely react to having their livelihoods taken away, so, a wider vision would be handy for leading people out of fearful places and into the light.

> It certainly has to leave behind the old industrial system, and
>
programs they necessitated. But, if not "industrial socialism" --
> that is "
mass production" socialism, then "post-industrial socialism"
> -- but with or without the "
S-word" the idea survives. If you want
> to rename it something else, fair enough.

   The passage of time has proven the uselessness of 'renaming' and 'redefining'. Serious introspection would do far more good. But, many leftists are so certain that they are correct, and 'everyone else is wrong', that logical arguments against property ideologies are constantly rejected without comment or consideration. The denials have to end someday, lest the losses continue to mount.

> But I would contend that you still have to have a healthy
> number of the
basic tenets of what I term "authentic socialism"
> in order to facilitate the
emancipation of labor -- and vice versa.

   Naming them would have been helpful. Also, Marx's First International may have been as close to 'authentic socialism' as ever existed. Its Basle Congress of 1869 came out openly for socializing ownership of land and means of production. Where is it now?

> I know you have a number of other ideas --
> I will read them again and give them serious
> consideration. I hope that I am not one of those
> socialists that you feel hasn't listened.

   I'm quite pleased with the quality of this dialogue. One has only to peruse some recent forum correspondence at my web site to appreciate just how much better this dialogue has been in comparison. Still, lots of heavy subjects have yet to be addressed. For your convenience, I could list them for you next time, if you wish. I know I have more time for this than you do. Considering how little time you have, you make a remarkably good effort. So many socialists pretend they could never learn anything from anyone other than Marx, Engels, Lenin, De Leon, etc., but you seem to have remained open far longer than most others. I hope you won't regret not having merely slammed the door in my face the way so many others did. Since I got on the Internet a couple of years ago, I've been ejected from 3 different socialist Internet forums for treating others no 'worse' than the way I've treated you. One ally wrote to a 'left unity' group, after the moderator's ultimate act of censorship:

> Amazing! Truly amazing!
>
> Sincere, thoughtful, well-reasoned and well-written contributions
> being banned... in favor of what? Cross-posted trivia? Newsy
> ephemera? Silly and tired screeds?
>
> Bad content crowds out good; then, the good is banned!
>
> I am reeling.
>
> Back to lurking, and shaking head in amazed disgust.
>
> A

   It was A (= Alan) who inspired me to upload my political correspondence to my web site, but everything had to be carefully reformatted, my worst mistakes had to be corrected, and I still have more to go. I hope it will end in early October.

> Rather, I see myself as one of those socialists who sees the ideology
> on a much broader plain, and I won't let myself, or my understanding
> of
socialism be type-cast, or rejected on rhetorical grounds. And, most
> importantly, I would insist that without a vibrant "
Left" -- with a strong
>
socialist (or rhetorical equivalent thereof) the possibilities for an
> honest
emancipation of human beings from labor are greatly curtailed.

   An honest emancipation of labor is something to work for, but I couldn't do it within my first (and last) revolutionary party. My old SLP spread quite a few lies in support of its program, such as their 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasants and middle classes', which rendered that party a detriment to emancipation. They sully the word 'socialism', probably in a lot more ridiculous fashion than most other parties, though things are not that much better anywhere else I've been in the left since leaving the SLP in 1977. I'd love to see socialists begin to clean up their own back yard before trying to fix the problems of the larger world. The SLP is a great hindrance to more 'honest' forms of socialism, if trying to rearrange property relations at all falls within the category of 'honest efforts'. That a party like the SLP can still exist and successfully market their program is nothing short of a scandal that besmirches the whole left. Engels wanted the SLP to fold up even in his time. The SLP gave Engels and Marx's youngest daughter Eleanor plenty of trouble.

> So -- to be humanitarian enough -- I would only suggest that just as the
> conventional interpretations of
socialism are washed up and not likely to
> come back
, you might keep yourself open to the idea that new versions of
> the old
ideology are emerging. They are much better tailored to the 21st
> Century, and they
seek to avoid the terrible mistakes of a lot of the
>
socialist past.

   I still don't know what could possibly be new about socialism. 'Dealing with wealth and property' has always been 'dealing with wealth and property', and always will be. The march of technology will convince people to do something quite a bit different, but I was hoping it could be done sooner rather than later to save both the planet and its resources, as well as solve today's unemployment and poverty problems.

> I don't know if the "S-word" can ever be truly revived, but the new
>
socialism-- the new ideology of "socialization from below" of "radical
> democracy
" and all that -- will be an important part of the future. And I
> would only say, that the
political movement involved will be a prerequisite
> for a really serious push for
emancipation from labor. If you frame the
> notion that what's dead is
not "socialism" -- but the old understandings of
> what
socialism is -- and at least try to imagine that in political terms the
> casualty is the limited notion of
socialism that dominated the 20th Century
> understanding -- well, you might find that the
new socialism will co-exist
> much better with your general
ideas. That's the way I see it, otherwise,
> "
Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti!!!"
> Take Care, -- Brad

   "Follow your own course, and let people talk." With the CD of Collected Works, it took only 10 seconds to find that quote. What a great research tool!

   You wrote a nice optimistic ending. But, like I say, with the kind of damage some old parties constantly do to the name 'socialism', good people who really want to distance themselves from past shenanigans will find the going pretty tough, especially in the anti-socialist USA. I don't know what to suggest except a cleanout of the Augean stables, perhaps to prove that 'not all socialists are bad', which is what Americans now tend to believe. I had hoped that my book (at my web site) would have begun such a clean-out, but few seem interested in a microscopic exam. Without microscopic exams, however, what hope is there to satisfy scientific minds? Without scientific minds in a movement, what hope can the movement enjoy? This is too sad to contemplate.

 

09-24-02

   Hi, Brad, You're doing good work assembling lots of good data on the effects of overwork. I hope this gets published. Thanks also for your photograph. I wish I could reciprocate, but the requisite technology eludes me for the time being. Comments on the article follow ...

> Subject: WORK TIME REDUCTION ARTICLE FOR NUVO
>
> Freedom is not denominated in dollars
>
> We seldom challenge the rat race
> we inhabit. We suspect, but resist, Bertrand Russell's
wisdom, "The
> morality of work is the morality of slaves.
" "Labor saving technology" has
> inspired
utopian visions, but two centuries of industrialism have yet to
>
emancipate humanity. Technology is used to facilitate consumption, rather
> than pre-empt toil--people work more for
incomes sufficient to clear the
> shelves. Consequently, we are caught in a cycle of work-and-spend, and
free
> time
is the casualty. Dr. Benjamin Hunnicutt of the University of Iowa
> observes that a "
metamorphosis" occurred in the past century that elevated
> work from a "means" to an "end in itself."
Leisure time was trivialized and
> subordinated to work. Americans today work 500 to 600 hours more per
> person per year than laborers in thirteenth century Europe. Since 1980,
> average American
work time has expanded almost 100 hours per year.
> People work an additional
month per year compared to their parents' day.
> The United States has replaced Japan as the most workaholic nation on
> Earth. And the pace of work has accelerated.
Human beings grapple with
> work processes driven by nanosecond technologies.
Long hours at a frantic
> pace create "
time urgency." An epidemic of work-related stress has resulted.
> Physicians conclude that "
time urgency" is the leading cause of premature
> heart disease. A recent survey concluded, "
Problems at work are more
> strongly associated with health complaints than are any other life stressor-
> more so than even financial problems or family problems.
"
>
> Family life has suffered from
overwork. Increased work hours have led to
> decreased parental time for children, and the remaining "
quality time" is
> impaired by parental exhaustion. Community life suffers with less time
> available for social, cultural, religious, and
political pursuits. Jeremy Rifkin
> of the
Foundation on Economic Trends observes: "How does one develop a
> relationship unless one takes time? We wonder why we have fewer and
> fewer bonds, fewer and fewer connections -- because they take time. If
> people want to re-establish community, it takes time.
" Longer work time
> accelerates
resource depletion and environmental damage. One study
> concludes that, ". . .
if everybody on Earth walked through life with the
> same size ecological footprint as North Americans-that is, enjoyed the same
> ecological standard of living-using prevailing technology we would require
> three Earths to satisfy aggregate material demand.
" Several Nobel Laureates
> adopted a statement that began, "
Human beings and the natural world are on a
> collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible
> damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many
> of our current practices put at serious risk the future we wish for human
> society.
" Full employment based on the 40-hour week could create an
>
ecological catastrophe. Ironically, full employment is another casualty.
>
Overtime and second jobs pre-empted five million American jobs in the 1990's.
> The
40-hour week and compulsory overtime enabled the "re-engineering" of
> corporations. This bolstered
profits at the expense of millions of jobs.
> Re-engineering adapts companies to computers, and enables the displacement
> of both manufacturing and service workers.
Work time reduction is not a new
> issue. It was the demand of workers in the
Haymarket Riot of 1886, and
> figured prominently in the
early labor movement. The Great Depression
> brought the issue to the forefront of American
politics. Spreading-the-work
> was a popular strategy for combating
unemployment. Few remember that
> F.D.R. was only days from signing the
Black-Connery Bill, which would
> have codified
thirty hours as full-time, rather than forty. Unfortunately, the
>
measure was killed by lobbying from business. W. K. Kellogg instituted the
>
6-hour day at his factory in Battlecreek, Michigan in 1930. William Green,
> president of the
American Federation of Labor, exclaimed, "Free time will
> come. The only question is whether it will be unemployment or leisure.
"
>
Work time reduction is again a viable option for the United States.
> Manufacturing has declined to just 13% of total
employment -- down from
> 33% in 1955. Some project it declining to only 2% by 2050. Service
> occupations are no longer a refuge from technological displacement.
> Families and communities suffer from the lack of
free time, and polling data
> shows Americans willing to forego pay increases to gain
time off. Per hour
> productivity is now higher in nations with
shorter work time, like Germany
> and Scandinavian countries. The
Work Time Reduction Committee of
> Indiana (
www.onet.net/~hours30) proposes a revival of the demand for the
>
30 hour week at no loss of pay, and the curtailment of compulsory overtime.
> It calls for
increased vacation time, and benefit eligibility based on time in
> the
labor force, not just with an employer. It also calls for the universal
>
right to a job at a living wage. For low income Americans work time
> reduction
may not be economically feasible. A minimum wage indexed
> to a decent
standard of living would help eliminate poverty, and enable
> more
free time. There will be resistance. Exploiting long hours of other
> people's
labor is a well-worn path to high profits. More free time means
> less
authoritarian power for management. Wall Street, the Business
> Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, bankers, and managerial gurus will
> all howl in unison. But the support is from people seeking a more livable
> world: workers,
unions, environmentalists, clergy, and enlightened business
> people. Their good sense says that
freedom is not denominated in dollars,
> but in fuller and happier lives. Such
good sense may yet prevail.

   The USA is certainly on a work binge, but new technologies will soon be putting people out of work faster than what new jobs can be created, which may be our only hope for work sharing, given the unwillingness of the derelict left to attack surplus value. Stubborn bourgeois, left or right, can only dream of capturing control over all of that power and property out there, and could give a rat's ass about capturing control over labor time. It takes considerable foresight to be able to switch paradigms. My newer foresight was gained a decade ago, at the expense of an exhaustive analysis of my old party's ideology. Ideological WORK has ample rewards, but it can be frustrating to work so far ahead of so many others that one finds oneself all alone. I hope that people will catch up with recognizing the need for work sharing before we blow ourselves up.

   It's refreshing to know someone concentrating on the time issue. I continue to dream about getting activists to think more carefully about their obsession with power and property. All of their good talents go to waste trying to do the impossible, or the superfluous.

   I have about another month's worth of drudgery ahead of me, formatting and uploading the last of my old correspondence to my web site. After that, I hope to get more creative again.

   Keep in touch.

 

09-27-02

   Dear Bruce,

   Long time no scribble to the AVA. Regarding 'Off the Record' of Sept. 18, 2002: In the CD of Marx-Engels Collected Works, 'lions' and 'lambs' appear together in only one short article at the end of 1847: "No, no, capital never represents labour! The lion and the lamb would lie down together before capitalists and workers were united by interests and feelings!"

   But, near the beginning of 'The German Ideology', written between 1845 and 1847, sheep and wolves were mentioned in the desired context (me5.23-4):

   "These innocent and child-like fancies are the kernel of the modern Young-Hegelian philosophy, which not only is received by the German public with horror and awe, but is announced by our philosophic heroes with the solemn consciousness of its world-shattering danger and criminal ruthlessness. The first volume of the present publication has the aim of uncloaking these sheep, who take themselves and are taken for wolves; of showing that their bleating merely imitates in a philosophic form the conceptions of the German middle class; that the boasting of these philosophic commentators only mirrors the wretchedness of the real conditions in Germany. It is its aim to ridicule and discredit the philosophic struggle with the shadows of reality, which appeals to the dreamy and muddled German nation."

   That passage predates the first written notice of Marx's carbuncles by some 18 years.

   Here on the East Coast, I can happily report that the AVA arrives every Saturday almost like clockwork. One rare exception was during the week of the 4th of July, when it arrived in the middle of the following week.

   A pleasure to have been of service.

 

10-03-02

   Hi, Bruce,

> Subject: Re: Lions and lambs
>
> Thank you, Mr. Ellis, for the update. Looks like the old boy was right, doesn't it?

   Marx was correct about many things, such as class struggle, surplus value, exploitation, economic and political organizing, at the very least. On the other hand, violent revolution, regardless of the form of state to be overthrown, turned out to be far beyond what Western Hemisphere people were (and are) willing to do to ensure a modicum of social justice. Marx's 1872 Speech at the Hague Congress of the First International made better sense: 'Peaceful evolution for democracies such as the USA, England and perhaps Holland' was juxtaposed to 'violent revolution for the absolute monarchies of Europe', a pattern that has often been corroborated by real history.

   The essence of revolutionary communism is the expropriation of the expropriators, but some early writings practically equated expropriation with the overthrow of absolute monarchies, and their replacement with democracies. The thinking was that: Kings owned land, and could do whatever they wanted with it, whereas democracies have long had the power to violate private property rights in the interests of the majority, thereby ending the absolute tyranny of property.

   Other early writings recognized a vital connection: 'Labor creates private property', so the abolition of private property was wisely preconditioned on a previous abolition of labor (which, in modern times, may arrive within 3 decades or less). The good logic of some early writings was unfortunately discontinued, and the abolition of private property became detached from the abolition of labor. If Marx had combined his early good logic with his excellent theories of surplus value, then the left might not be in such bad shape today. Adherence to bad theories results in ineffectiveness and sectarianism. 'Simultaneous socialist revolutions in the most developed countries' will forever remain but a dream.

   A shorter work week is the logical answer to exponentially increasing rates of technological progress, to rampant exploitation of resources, and to increasing rates of surplus value. Because labor creates property, private property as an institution is fated to prevail until smarter machines render human labor totally redundant. More rigorous documentation for all of the above can be found in the many pages of correspondence at my web site.

 

10-09-02

   Hi, Bruce,

> I just read a short Marx bio by Francis Wheen. You'd like it. I think
> he was
right about most everything, as current events bear out.
>
> very best,
>
> Bruce Anderson

   Wheen's book sounds like a good recommendation. I appreciate the tip.

   With regard to 'current events bearing out Marxism': In some respects it seems like the opposite might be more accurate. In the Eastern Bloc, police states were once required to prevent people from enriching themselves, and few other than party apparatchiks and underground figures succeeded therein. After 1989, state ownership gradually gave way to privatization, but the half billion affected people didn't protest very vigorously.

   Marx's socialist revolutionary scenario was proved inaccurate in 1917, when the revolution didn't happen simultaneously in the most developed countries, and when Europe didn't revolt en masse to support the victorious Bolsheviks. Communist revolutions occurred in relatively backward countries, one country at a time, and were intimately related to overthrowing political absolutism. Conversely, most Westerners proved unwilling to smash their democracies for the sake of putting the means of production under the control of Leninist workers' states.

   Expropriation ideologies conflict with Western traditions upholding private property rights. If 'labor creates property', as Marx himself once noted, then abolishing private property rights breaks a well-evolved connection between what's produced and what's earned. Western people seem to like lots of property and stuff, they work like crazy to accumulate things, they succeed in many cases, and those who end up with little to nothing supposedly have only themselves to blame. That's the way many Americans think, which is still reinforced by mass experience. This situation won't change much until the machines get very much smarter, and all of the work ethic in the world won't succeed in helping humans find work.

   Thanks again for a very enjoyable paper. I'd also love to see Odd Bodkins enlarged to a more readable size.

 

10-22-02

   'A shorter work week with no reduction in pay' can be a bothersome phrase. Curiously enough, however, 'no reduction in pay' might not be as much the source of the problem as the 'shorter work week'. How is that possible, when a 'shorter work week' seems like such a perfect social solution?

   Shorter work days and weeks have been tried in the past, but have yet to be as 'social' a solution as conceivable, for they have yet to be enacted uniformly in every developed country. Regulations are lax in many other countries, where workers are exploited for long hours at low wages, and international capital is attracted to the resulting higher profits.

   No worker presently enjoys the complete security that only universal labor laws can provide. Until that happy day arrives, shorter work weeks may continue to be stigmatized by a sense of impending 'correction by market forces', and accompanied by speed-ups and/or smaller pay checks.

   Machines get smarter and cheaper with each passing day, and the time nears when all of the Protestant work ethic a modern John Henry can muster may never again translate into 'a good 40 hour job'.

   Only then will it be driven home that the remaining work needs to be equitably shared. Barring wars or disasters that drive productivity down instead of up, the arrival of that new day is as certain as the arrival of tomorrow.

 

10-23-02

   Hi, Nicholas,

> Regarding labor and the shorter work week: you know that I do not agree
> with you on this topic. There is
plenty of work to do. We don't need a
>
shorter work week. We need different priorities. Longer vacations make
> more sense that a
shorter work week.

   I wouldn't argue against any method to get labor off the labor market. Longer vacations are a very good idea. Replacing time and a half with double time should also be implemented before a shorter work week. Analysts have known for a long time that time and a half isn't the disincentive to 'overworking the same old workers beyond 40 hours' that it should have been, so double time would prevent overwork a lot better. That change in the overtime law - by itself - would put 1-2% more people to work.

   In general, you are right about the shorter work week. Before enacting it, a minimum month's paid vacation should be enacted, as well as a higher overtime premium. The recent boosts in retirement age should also be nullified. The USA went from 65 to 67 at the same time Norway went from 65 to 64.

   National policy sets the unemployment rate at around 5%. If it heads much higher or lower, Greenspan goes into action to adjust interest rates accordingly. 5% unemployment is the best evidence I can point to that contradicts the common notion that 'plenty of work exists.' The Fed consciously balances the low profits, high wages and general euphoria that go along with low unemployment against the high profits, low wages, rising crime, and social unrest that go along with high unemployment. Policy and only policy prevents fuller employment, not laziness, nor a lack of will to work. If activists ever wanted social justice, they wouldn't need to do much more than assault bourgeois unemployment policies. Instead, they look forward to their 'day of unity against private property', which will never arrive. Nothing anyone can write can change activist attitudes. They may have to witness the working class take control of their own affairs, and do the right things for themselves without the help of the bourgeois, property-conscious left. Policies affecting intangible labor time have much greater effect on a fundamental level than do policies affecting tangible property.

> In the loooong run, technology will not save us.
> It is certainly not the solution to every problem.

   I agree. Before humans consider doing the right thing by one another, mass consciousness will have to change. Engels wrote, 'It is the revolutionizing of all established conditions by industry, AS IT DEVELOPS, that also revolutionizes people's minds.' Though machines have a long way to go, they are getting so smart (at an ACCELERATING pace) that it won't be long before all of the Protestant work ethic a modern John Henry can muster will still fail to provide him with a 40 hour job. Nothing can stop technology from replacing all human labor, except some kind of war or disaster that kicks productivity backwards instead of forwards.

> The "Green Revolution" is a great example of how technology has become the
>
problem rather than the solution. Maybe your hemorrhoids wouldn't be so
> bad if you didn't have your head up your butt on this issue. A
shorter work
> week
will evolve on it's own if it has merit. Political time would be
> better spent
organizing against US imperialism.

   Technology by itself is no solution, like you say. But, I'm counting on a lot more people being replaced by machines to change their consciousness. Nothing else will have the desired effect. Nothing anybody's written so far seems to make much difference. When people get a lot more time on their hands, maybe THEN they'll start thinking better. It's hard to think correctly about issues in the middle of a rat race.

 

10-25-02

   Jehu quoted my first paragraph from Oct. 22:

>> "'A shorter work week with no reduction in pay' can be a
>> bothersome phrase. Curiously enough, however, '
no reduction
>> in pay
' might not be as much the source of the problem as the
>> '
shorter work week'. How is that possible, when a 'shorter
>> work week
' seems like such a perfect social solution?"
>
> I would argue: The
shorter work week might not be as perfect
> a solution as you believe it to be:

   Before trying to reduce the length of the work day or week, a good argument could be made for first-of-all enacting a month's paid vacation (to bring us more in line with Europe), as well as a higher overtime premium (to reduce overwork). Time and half just isn't a sufficient disincentive to overworking the same people. Of the following numbers: time and a half, 40, 8, 2000, 2 week vacations, 65 years (and climbing) retirement ages, etc., none of those numbers can be considered sacred, and all will be modified eventually.

> It is has been argued that the length of the work week is
> fundamental to the production of
surplus value, and, therefore,
> indirectly,
profit. Marxians have always emphasized this point,
> but, since the
rate of profit does not correspond to the rate
> of
surplus value in any directly measurable sense, their
>
arguments have been dismissed.

   The difference between the rate of surplus value [s/v] and the rate of profit [s/v+c] might be subtle, but with modern computer data collection and analysis, the difference should be easy enough to detect. With v shrinking with respect to both c and s, the math is intriguing.

> Still, the officers of any given business appear to know
> instinctively that the potential for deriving
profit from
> the worker hinges on the
length of the workday. And,
> economists seem to acknowledge it indirectly by imputing
> '
fixed costs' to the finding and hiring of new employees.
>
> Inversely, (in this scenario) the more the worker is paid,
> the longer that portion of the
workday devoted to reproduction
> of his
wages, and the shorter the time available to produce
>
profits. If you, therefore, simultaneously increase wages and
>
reduce the work time, you cut deeply into the basis for profit
> from two directions. What we need to understand, however,
> is how to address the linking of the two in the spontaneous
> demands of the worker, or, as in the thread, the demands
> of their representatives in the
labor movement.

   The economics portrayed there seem true to life. With regard to labor activism, when workers finally desire to share the work more equitably, 99.999% will be motivated by the rising unemployment that will seem uncontrollable by any other means. Profit and surplus value issues will motivate very few, probably because labor will continue to regard those issues as rather abstract or futile. Profit is widely respected as the goose that lays the golden egg, hence few want to kill it.

> We have been pretty much given an either or proposition: Either
>
wages go down with the shortening of work time, or wages are held
> steady as
work time decreases. I would argue that it is possible
> to do both:
reduce nominal wages in line with a reduction of work
> time
, but still keep disposable income steady. This, however,
> means targeting
taxes on wage income. I advance it not as an
> answer to this conundrum, but as a possible solution which
> deserves some investigation.
>
> Peace, Jehu

   In today's 'anarchy of production', boosting wages while reducing hours of labor may very well happen in some places at some times, but good fortune will only become universal when hours-of-labor laws become standardized in many significant world economies. (That was the major point of my first message.) Otherwise, market forces have a nasty habit of foiling good intentions. That is why France's lost 35 hour week is no worse than small potatoes, and at best a reminder not to expect consistency from the swt struggle until it is internationalized, and the world labor market becomes controlled by labor.

   What Engels wrote about labor in England still pertains: "If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end."

   Eliminating income taxes on the first $20,000 or so worth of income would surely help workers, or would it? Market forces might then enable bosses to soon thereafter reduce wages accordingly, leaving workers with exactly the same bottom line as before the tax reform. But then, the more heavily-taxed higher-income workers might complain about the unfairness of their extra tax burden.

 

10-28-02

   Hi, Nicholas,

> You miss my point on the work thing...as you are wont to do. You seem
> to be hung up in an old fashion
capitalist paradigm. As they say, there are
> as many
realities as you care to imagine. If there is too little work in the
> old
capitalist regime to sustain, then a new perspective is in order. Over-
> production is only a problem because too many people are involved in
> making too much shit. There are other ways of creating
wealth. Rolling
> in consumer goods isn't all there is to a good life. I like the concept of a
> service industry. Health care, roads, housing, infrastructure, art, etc.
> These things should have more
intrinsic value. There should be more
> people engaged in preserving and perpetuating the basics of our society.
> Remember, we are off the
gold standard after all. Economics is the
> science of bullshit. Greenspan is a total joke. Your notions of how
>
wealth is created may be the ruling protocol but are just too limiting.

   But, what should be done about productivity rising at a double logarithmic rate? That can't go on too long before productivity reaches infinity, for all practical purposes. That will mean NO JOBS for anyone, no scarcities, and no economy. Speed that day, for it will also mean the end of politics, class divisions, the state, etc. Gotta have a vision to provide hope, and to keep the soul together to weather yet another lousy decade of business as usual, after which things might get moving.

   Ever multiplying productivity - without reducing hours of labor - also translates into: increasing the gap between rich and poor, pressure to 'grow the economy' to absorb the surpluses, pressure to grow the population for the same reason, extra strain on the environment from all of the needless wasteful pressures, more money in the pockets of the rich with which to bribe politicians, bombard us with ads to 'buy more', and the list goes on. At some point, people are going to have to think about this issue the way it ought to be thought about. Causes and effects are right out there for people to grapple with, but much of the left still wants to blame private property or capitalism for the problems of the world, when all that's needed to fix what's wrong is to revamp hours-of-labor laws. Then capitalism could be peacefully ridden all of the rest of the way to its demise. But, the stingy, ego-driven left has to do things ITS way, and the left is rich enough to be able to afford to hold on to its worn-out ideologies at the same time things get worse and worse, causing them to scream ever louder. On a Pacifica forum today, I got yet another reminder that 'Americans don't have democracy'. Pure alienating idiocy. The left often puts together good research on the connections between Jeb Bush, a billionaire, and the flight school that trained the 9/11 terrorists, and then they spoil it all with their wacky claim that 'it all goes to prove that we don't have democracy'. Someone ought to whisper something in their ears. It doesn't matter if a handful of radicals think that 'we don't have democracy'. It's what the man in the street thinks that counts. People like Wellstone get elected, not selected. We have democracy, even if the only reason we have democracy is because the man in the street thinks we do. But, the left always proves that it is only interested in talking to itself when it comes out with alienating and bogus conclusions.

> Sustainable solutions will not necessarily fit into
> the box. For example: At the very least we should
>
nationalize the energy industry in this country and
> use the proceeds to benefit the people.

   Nationalizing utilities isn't the worst idea in the world. At least it would eliminate the kind of fraud that occurs when Enron-type vultures get control of industries. It's been good to see at least a few of them get taken away in handcuffs. I can't wait for Martha Stewart to get her turn.

 

11-07-02

   Portside wrote:

> Capitalism, increasingly concentrating wealth and consequent power
> in the handful of superrich, is
incompatible with democracy. ...

   The alleged incompatibility of democracy with capitalism is ahistorical. Over the past few centuries, the bourgeoisie and proletariat struggled to replace absolute monarchies with democracies. But, replacing capitalism means nothing less than the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, a much taller order than overthrowing the Romanov Dynasty in 1917. Marx stated that 'labor creates property', and "the abolition of private property will become a reality only when it is conceived as the abolition of labour" ... When smart machines abolish human toil within a few more decades, only then will private property lose its mass attraction.

   The young Marx also equated the abolition of private property with democratic revolution. The thought was that 'totalitarian rule immunizes property, whereas modern republics have the power to interfere with private property in the interest of the majority.' Marx's First International supported socially-controlled democratic republics, such as the Paris Commune.

 

11-08-02

   Hi, Nicholas,

   It's been a busy week, which is why I'm so late. I ruined half a day waiting for ex-President Bill's plane to land. He came to town on Monday to drum up support for Goooobernatorial candidate Shannon O'Brien, who ran and lost to Republican Mitt Romney, a zillionaire exploiter of labor. If Massachusetts cut back on programs for the poor under previous Republican Governors, then the next few years may see even worse cutbacks.

   OK, where were we?

> I want you to be happy. But I still reserve the right to jump
> on your head regarding your sense of
economics and history.
>
>
Productivity reaching infinity? Are you serious?

   Certainly. It only means 'something for nothing', which will happen when the machines do all of the work that no human wants to do, and all of the stuff required for survival and enjoyment of life gets produced by automatons. Communicating our wants and desires to the new creative entity will be all that's required to fulfill every need.

   Few would allege that 'productivity hasn't risen'. It's widely acknowledged that today's productivity is 40 times greater than 200 years ago, as demonstrated by the fact that 80% of the people were tied to agriculture 200 years ago, while only 2% work the land today. 'Infinite' is certainly a much bigger number than '40', but the DOUBLE EXPONENTIAL rate of techno-progress could make up the difference in just 3 more decades.

   For nearly their entire history, dumb computers sucked more labor out of our hides than what they saved in labor. But, in 1995, computers finally began to save more labor than what the vast computer industry absorbed. No credible source forecasts a quick end to computer evolution, and the media are RIFE with articles about tech research and breakthroughs - new and different ways to do things, only the best of which get adopted. Elapsed time between computer doublings of speed and power used to be 2 years, but now it's down to 18 months. Pretty soon it'll be one year. Productive powers will continue to improve exponentially for as long as the the big asteroid doesn't crash, or the victorious Republicans don't impose Armageddon. How could America give Bush another mandate? Disgusting election results.

> You are truly trapped in a capitalist paradigm.

   A.O. Dahlberg stated in the 1930's: 'capitalism would be an ideal form of production if forced to operate under a chronic shortage of labor.' Everyone would have a job, technology would improve, and standards of living would rise for everyone, but not at the expense of 'the working poor'. Human labor would gradually be abolished, class distinctions would shrink to nothing, and the state no longer would have a reason for existence. Such is the vision of liberation capitalism. Someday give me the Nicholas version of societal evolution, and let's compare it. From where we are now, society has to evolve SOMEWHERE, but, where to?

> Don't forget it too shall pass. And long before we get near
> infinity. For a guy as
theoretical as yourself I would think that you
> could appreciate
theorizing about an alternative model of economies.

   Utopians have already imagined all of the alternative models anyone could ever want, and for the rest of time. Science is more about extrapolating what's likely to happen in the future, based on past performance. People are likely to do in the future what they did in the past.

   The way in which millions are exploited is this: The 8 hour day and 40 hour week became obsolete in the 1930's, when the AFL endorsed a 30 hour bill, which actually passed the U.S. Senate. Long hours (for only some people [the 'lucky' ones]) robs work from those who could use a little work to get by. The resulting competition for scarce jobs forces desperate would-be workers to accept low or insufficient wages. Poverty, escapism, social malaise, and ugliness result from one fundamental cause: our collective refusal to insist upon an equitable distribution of work to all who could use some work to get by. Nobody talks about precisely what they ought to be talking about. Strife will persist until people insist on redistributing work, and they will, someday, because society will soon be forced to remove its blinders with regard to the 'hours of labor' issue. Until then, millions of hard-working Americans will continue to believe that 'plenty of work will exist until the end of time.'

> Your vision doesn't provide me hope. It makes me laugh. The no jobs, no
>
scarcity, the end of politics, class divisions, the state...indeed. Give me a
> freakin break! If you are going to go
utopian on me, at least be reasonable!

   We may have to agree to disagree on this point. I whole-heartedly embrace some futurist predictions. If the human race were to be doomed to suffer from toil for all eternity, IN SPITE OF RISING PRODUCTIVITY, then I would give up hope. Nowadays, the benefits of rising productivity flow right into the pockets of the rich, who use their windfall to bribe politicians (to make sure things stay the same), they plaster media with boring ads, they promote population and economic growth to ensure the expansion of profits, and care little to nothing about environmental impact. ENOUGH!

   It has been estimated that '20,000 years worth of progress will occur in the 21st century.' That might seem like a lot of progress for one century, but here's how to think about it:

   Back in cave man days, living conditions at the end of any century would probably be little better than at the start. As tools of production gradually improved, and innovations became popular, and surpluses began to pile up, living conditions at the end of a century might be noticeably better than at the beginning, just the way no rocket scientist has to patiently detail the many differences between 1900 and 2000.

   Using the year 1000 as a yardstick, and guessing that technology by 1100 might have been a teeny bit better than in 1000, then it could be said that the 11th century may have benefited from perhaps 101 previous years worth of technological evolution. Here's a little table:

   As the second millennium progressed, it may be said that
the 11th century perhaps enjoyed 101 years of technological progress,
the 12th century perhaps enjoyed 102 years of technological progress,
the 13th century perhaps enjoyed 105,
the 14th century perhaps enjoyed 110,
the 15th century perhaps enjoyed 125,
the 16th century perhaps enjoyed 160,
the 17th century perhaps enjoyed 200,
the 18th century perhaps enjoyed 300,
the 19th century perhaps enjoyed 500,
the 20th century perhaps enjoyed 2,000,
and the 21st century may enjoy 20,000.

   These figures infer a double logarithmic rate of progress, a breath-taking acceleration, but these particular numbers are only estimates. The knee of the curve of progress away from hellish toil is approaching quickly enough to soon give mass consciousness one hell of a boot, ready or not.

> There will always be struggle. There will always be ass holes.
> There will
always be work to do. Your vision of robots peeling
> grapes and cleaning your toilet is
worse than religious. When
> I read the below paragraph I am reading an old disenchanted
lefty
>
turning into a kind of libertarian righty.

   I try to distinguish my 'workertarian' philosophy from Libertarianism by noting that: Libertarians have no interest in regulating capitalists, nor in forcing them to abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act that prescribes time and a half after 40 hours worth of labor. Libertarian failure to uphold the interests of workers is why Libertarianism appeals to so few. But, lots of political philosophies are WORSE than Libertarianism, which is why there are so many more Libertarians than pure Stalinist and Maoist communists.

   Don't forget that the right wing wants the propertied classes to be supreme in the state, and they don't care if all that the propertyless get to eat is dirt. Is that what I want? If people don't have access to jobs, then they WILL remain propertyless. Anyone who works for the liberation of ALL workers can hardly be described as a right-winger.

> There are idiots on both sides of the line. When you start
> dwelling on the idiots on one side, you got a problem.
>
>> snip my long paragraph from earlier message to N.
>
> Yea we got
democracy. It struggles to survive within this duopoly run
> by the
DemReps that does more than discourage other parties and points
> of view. You have to admit that our
democracy is at the least, challenged.
>
Criticism is appropriate. Absurd conclusions are just that. You diss the
>
left like a disgruntled old fart who has endured one too many insults. I
> love and admire you. I wouldn't get on your case if I didn't. Stay real.
>
> -Nicholas

   I'll forgive you for not changing your mind. I can't convince anyone of anything anyway, so I take my failures philosophically. The times just may not be right for the kind of change society needs, but I'm very confident of those conditions arriving. It won't be but a few more years before demonstrations for jobs become common. Until then, I won't mind if most people feel content harboring the notion that 'plenty of work exists'. I don't mind working quietly in the background, because the continuing industrial revolution is bound to eventually change people's minds.

   snip closing irrelevancies

   PS: Phil Hyde provided a stimulating comment at his timesizing web site:

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

   He reproduced a media tidbit:

   "...In the last three years, the number of homeless families seeking shelter {in New York City} has gone up 55%. Food banks and soup kitchens are facing larders so emptied by growing need - meals for more than one million people every day - they have had to turn away hungry children."

   A million people per day! Phil commented:

   "So, let's get this straight. America, the self-styled Land of the Free and Most Technologically Advanced Nation (but our money is on Japan), despite loads of work-saving technology, retains a workweek that hasn't been reduced since 1940 and the resulting stress and labor glut pushes people into mental illness, then the great USA pushes all its mentally ill out into the streets, then it pushes them all into crime, then it stores them all in jails and prisons at a cost of $30,000 a year. What a utopia! Then arrogant Yankees think they're in a position to lecture the rest of the world on human rights and democracy and freedom! What a laugh."

 

11-11-02

   Jack wrote:

> I think a clue may lie hidden in what you call "advances." What might some
> of these "
advances" be, and what makes them "advances"? And toward what may
> they be
advancing? Because advancement is toward, isn't it?

   While on the subjects of advances, progress, and Moore's law, allow me to repeat some of what I recently wrote to an old friend:

   "If the human race were to be doomed to suffer from toil for all eternity, IN SPITE OF RISING PRODUCTIVITY, then I would give up hope. Nowadays, the benefits of rising productivity flow right into the pockets of the rich, who use their windfall to bribe politicians (to make sure things stay the same), they plaster media with boring ads, they promote population and economic growth to ensure the expansion of profits, and care little to nothing about environmental impact. ENOUGH!

   "It has been estimated that '20,000 years worth of progress will occur in the 21st century.' That might seem like a lot of progress for one century, but here's how to think about it:

   "Back in cave man days, living conditions at the end of any century would probably be little better than at the start. As tools of production gradually improved, and innovations became popular, and surpluses began to pile up, living conditions at the end of a century might be noticeably better than at the beginning, just the way no rocket scientist has to patiently detail the many differences between 1900 and 2000.

   "Using the year 1000 as a yardstick, and guessing that technology by 1100 might have been a teeny bit better than in 1000, then it could be said that the 11th century may have benefited from perhaps 101 previous years worth of technological evolution. Here's a little table:

   My original numbers needed reworking, so here are some new ones:

As the second millennium progressed, it may be said that
the 11th century perhaps enjoyed 101 years of technological progress,
the 12th century perhaps enjoyed 102 years of technological progress,
the 13th century perhaps enjoyed 105,
the 14th century perhaps enjoyed 112,
the 15th century perhaps enjoyed 130,
the 16th century perhaps enjoyed 180,
the 17th century perhaps enjoyed 320,
the 18th century perhaps enjoyed 680,
the 19th century perhaps enjoyed 1,600,
the 20th century perhaps enjoyed 5,000,
and the 21st century might enjoy 20,000 times more technological improvement than experienced during the 11th century.

   These figures hopefully impart the sense of a breath-taking, double-exponential acceleration of progress away from hellish toil, but these particular numbers are only estimates. Regardless of accuracy, mass consciousness will soon receive a hell of a boot, ready or not, as all of the Puritan work ethic that can possibly be mustered will fail miserably to deliver enough 40-hour jobs to keep people off the streets - demonstrating for jobs.

 

11-18-02

   Hi, Nicholas, we had a stormy, wet, Nor'Easter of a weekend. Didn't go outta the house on Saturday, but the sun is shining today.

> Oh Bro' deo O Doe,
>
> the
dialog goes on. You do pretty well under fire Ken. But then it's
> the same old saw. Not that there shouldn't be
theorists theorizing. The
> trouble with YOU GUYS is that you
all think in straight lines. You carefully
> assemble a most
unlikely scenario and challenge the world to come up with
> another unlikely scenario at which point you argue the fine points.

   Not much is unlikely about society someday having to adopt a shorter work week. But, judging by popular sentiment, it's still a lonnnnnng way off.

   By the way, are 'we' not lucky, lately? Practically the same time Saddam knuckles under to UN demands, Bin Laden resurfaces. That way there's always a really bad guy out there, ready to take our minds off the economy, and so that we can whip ourselves up into a frenzy of war preparedness.

> Thank goodness I am not a theorist. I wouldn't want to be caught up in this sort of thing.

   I will admit that the fun does consume lots of time and gray matter, perhaps far more than what busier people can possibly hope to expend. It may not be worth it for busy people to quit their jobs or careers just to make more time to dialogue. The course of events takes time to evolve, and can't be hurried along as quickly as dialoguing activists would like.

> I haven't the time or the staying power to go up against an entrenched
>
theorist whether he be libertarian or workertarian. Bless you for
> championing the cause of the workers and for having such a solid sense
> of
right and wrong. I really do appreciate you for these things and I
> don't want to get in your face over petty issues but...when you start
> mealy mouthing
lefties instead of the fucking jerks that make lefties,
> I just can't help myself. Disenchantment affects us all. Please stay
> true to your school.

   Well, I do get your point, and it may very well be that my critique of the left is too harsh to be productive. It can definitely have a raw edge at times. Maybe I should just stick to the facts and pour out honey instead of vinegar.

 

12-01-02

   Dear readers,

   On page 5 of DB 116, Adam of intsdiscnet critiqued struggles to limit the work day as 'manifestly non-revolutionary', but, in a Nov. 23, 1880, letter to her husband Charles Longuet, Marx's daughter Jenny claimed the opposite (me46.474):

   "As to the revolutionary side of the struggle for the limitation of the working day, he {Marx} thinks you have passed it over without notice in your answer to those revolutionists of the fire and sword. - From the Capital you will see that the fight of the English working class assumed more than once the character of a revolution, and that the governing classes only granted what they dared not refuse."

   Sixteen years before the American SLP adopted its SIU program, its number one Social Demand (in its 1889 platform) was: "1. Reduction of the hours of labor in proportion to the progress of production."

   That demand reflected the history of that era, as average hours of labor steadily declined from 1820 to 1920. After WW1, bosses stubbornly resisted further reductions. The resulting overproduction caused the Depression of the 1930's. The AFL responded to rising unemployment by supporting a 30 Hour Work Week Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate, and looked like a shoe-in for the House, before being scuttled on behalf of business interests.

   Productivity surges forward, and investment in R+D accelerates. Noteworthies like Ray Kurzweil believe productivity is rising at a double exponential rate. The era of work is increasingly feared to be drawing to a close.

   Marx wrote in "Wage Labour and Capital" (me9.226): "If the whole class of wage-workers were to be abolished owing to machinery, how dreadful that would be for capital which, without wage labour, ceases to be capital!"

   Wouldn't it be funny if work gets abolished before the 'fire and sword' revolution gets off the ground? In his "Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy", Marx claimed that (me34.406): "Labour is the eternal natural condition for human existence." If Marx had a Roomba robot to automatically vacuum his floors, he might have written 'vanishing' in place of 'eternal'.

 

12-13-02

   On 12/11/02 10:12 PM, "ShorterWorkWeek@netscape.net" wrote:

> Ken --
> I've gone over the
BLS data, and I used to work for BLS. The problem with
> the
BLS numbers is that they don't capture the "work year" -- which is
> heavily influenced by America's lack of
vacation time -- also America's
> "
amazing shrinking work week" is inordinately influenced by part-timers,
> especially in retail establishments, that over the past couple of decades
> have grown in number (precisely because retail capitalists don't want to pay
> for employee
health coverage). I strongly suggest the International Labour
> Organization's Key Indicators of the Labor Market study
. It's in part based
> on
BLS data but shows that the implied conclusion doesn't hold when one
> looks at "the
work year." (see my new website -- www.onet.net/~hours30 --
> on the
Links page for links to these studies).
> -- Brad Lorton

   Thanks for the information, Brad. The ILO information you referred to didn't appear in a crisp graphical format like the BLS info. Correspondence between ILO data and BLS data eludes me. Does the ILO anywhere provide as nice and crisp a graph as the BLS? When it comes to mountains of data, visuals are everything.

   Due to the rise of part-time labor, it is true that the average length of the work week has shrunk, while the workweek for full-timers has increased. All the more reason for legislation to even out the numbers. It isn't fair for some people to get overdosed with work, and for so many others not to get enough to get by.

   My earlier message to swt:

>> Greetings,
>>
>> Best viewed in
PDF format, here is a graph of the amazing shrinking
>> American
workweek:

   www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2000/07/art3full.pdf

 

12-31-02

   On 12/24/02 09:15 PM, Antinello wrote:

> I didn't bother to read everything on this site ...

   First of all, I am grateful to anyone who responds. The site is now so large that people can't be expected to read everything. Much of the older material accomplishes little other than to illuminate small matters of historical detail.

> I didn't bother to read everything on this site because it is built upon a
> fundamentally
flawed and useless idea that is dangerous to the working class
> and
humanity in general. The belief that humanity will be liberated by
> capitalism and emerging technology
is, quite frankly, ridiculous because it
> undermines the cultural implications and power relations that naturally
> arise from the
capitalist profit motive.

   Now that I'm pushing 60 years old, I've had plenty of time to be swept off my feet by one bad idea or another, and I've also had time to reflect quite a bit on them. Liberation capitalism goes back at least to the height of the unemployment crisis of the Great Depression. Liberation capitalism has always been a fitting response to unemployment, which may be why so few modern people are aware of it. Many activists seem far more aware of the attention-getting, extremist schemes of the far left and right. If new technology makes jobs scarce, then reduce the length of the work week, plain and simple. No rocket science there. But, many leftists propose expropriation as the solution to all of our problems, even though it does take rocket science to arrive at expropriation from the premise of unemployment.

   If you don't think capitalism and technology are sufficient to liberate humankind, perhaps you could say what it is that you think will do the job.

   You seem to regard the capitalist profit motive as purely destructive, yielding nothing of value (except, of course, to the capitalists whose powers are augmented by profit). The profit motive doesn't even seem to have been accepted by you as motivating technological progress. In contrast, Marx wrote (me37.258):

   "The rate of profit is the motive power of capitalist production. Things are produced only so long as they can be produced with a profit. ... capitalist production ... is ... only a historical mode of production corresponding to a definite limited epoch in the development of the material conditions of production."

   Capitalism will be superseded by a different mode of production only after that new mode of production is ready to replace capitalism, just the way capitalism could replace feudalism only after capitalism sufficiently matured. Since capitalism is based upon human labor, and since capitalism is doing its best to divorce labor from production, then it is correct to conclude that CAPITALISM's REPLACEMENT WILL NOT BE BASED UPON HUMAN LABOR. Laborers will certainly not revolt in order to 'keep their jobs', not when labor is already doing its darnedest to replace itself with new and better machines. How many will rebel against 'robbery of the right to be enslaved to dull, disgusting, and boring long-hour jobs'? Ordinary people already know that replacing old machinery with new labor-saving machinery is progressive, and that it will eventually result in liberation from dull, disgusting, and boring tasks. It is not correct to simply regard the replacement of labor by machinery as a selfish and mean-spirited move by capitalists to increase exploitation. Instead, it is a progressive social movement, because many millions of people are engaged in the process of replacing old machinery with new. {That particular job shift represents the last big employment hope, but it is doomed like all the rest.}

> Capitalism leads to domination by a primary elite group that maintains control
> of the means of production and thrives on the
exploitation of the masses.

   That's a traditional observation, and yet innovation continues to lead us precisely to the abolition of labor. In a milieu of technological progress, with so many people poised on the edge of their seats waiting for the next fancy gadget to hit the market, few people will ever complain about 'private ownership and control'. Private ownership has never been a big issue with my friends, family and neighbors, who all wish that THEY were in control, and envy those who already are.

   Re exploitation, Marx identified exploitation with surplus value, which is generated whenever labor time continues beyond that required to produce necessities of life. With the passage of time, and with ongoing technological evolution, necessary labor time occupies a diminishing portion of the working day, causing the rate of surplus value to rise at an exponential rate. Reducing labor time is a very smart way to reduce surplus value (and exploitation). Can you think of a better way?

> The profit seeking motive has created various technologies that only serve
> to destroy the
environment and waste resources.

   I would question your use of the word "only", because reflection upon what's happened during the past many decades of accelerating technological evolution reveals that far more than 'ONLY waste and destruction' has resulted.

> You claim that we should let the growth principle go uncontrolled while
> the earth is being destroyed and billions of people are starving to death by
> embracing complete faith in a
dream that increased neoliberal principles and
> an influx in capital will inevitably lead to a technology that will render labor
> useless and
free humanity.

   I never advocated removing controls on growth. Far from it. I have long favored legislation in the interests of workers. Limiting hours of labor could put everyone to work, and also quell the ever-increasing calls to 'grow the economy', wasting tons of resources in the process. Reducing hours of labor would allow the economy to work in the interests of everyone, not merely the rich who presently benefit enormously from high rates of unemployment. As you MUST know, competition in the labor market enables low wages to be paid, which causes profits to rise. Who says labor cannot address competition in the labor market, and convert it into 'competition between bosses for scarce labor'? Labor has influenced legislation for a long time, so it's merely a question of influencing labor to once again advocate labor time reductions. Sharing the remaining work, by itself, would solve most of our social problems without creating make-work or other forms of waste.

> Sounds great but did you ever consider that the cultural implications that
> influence technological development, which are primarily based upon the
>
capitalist/consumerist idea of progress, might actually destroy the world
> before we get to the point of your "
liberation."

   I remain quite concerned about the damage that continues to be inflicted upon the environment, and will continue to be inflicted, until work-sharing is adopted. In the meantime, I am confident that popularizing work-sharing is the correct thing to do. The little businesses that specialize in selling revolution may disagree with my choice, but I never tire of entering into polite correspondence to point out the absurdity of adopting ideologies that were fitted for overthrowing feudal monarchies, but have no connection to modern social needs.

> Even if it doesn't you must ask yourself who will control the technology
> that is supposed to
liberate us? The same greedy profit driven elite that
> dominate the world today? Technology may serve to ultimately
enslave
>
humanity instead of liberating it.

   You brought up yet another area of concern, not to be dismissed lightly. But, a working class sufficiently aware of itself to want to abolish competition within the labor market would be exactly on the right track. On the other hand, Marxists know deep down that ownership will someday disappear, and yet they waste so much of their energy trying in vain to convince people to 'divorce the rich from ownership and control of their property', in spite of the fact that labor creates property (as well as value), indicating that private property cannot be abolished before abolishing labor. Marx himself stated (in his early works) that 'the abolition of private property cannot be conceived, except through the abolition of labor.' I try to get activists to take such contradictions in their philosophy to heart, but the lack of response demonstrates the close connection between 'power and property' ideologies with religious fanaticism that is impervious to logic. I hope that you are different, and will not allow your energies to be wasted promoting fruitless ideas.

> I think you should reflect on your cultural perception of the world and take a
> deeper look at the
philosophical assumptions you are making. I am not attacking
> technology and progress because I agree that
scientific accomplishment is part of
> the solution
but I do think that you should question your beliefs about capitalism
> and how you define "progress."
Liberation capitalism is a contradiction in terms.
> You should read Herbert Marcuse.

   I wish you had been more specific about which of my philosophical assumptions that need to be reassessed. My main belief about capitalism is that 'we are in it now, and we will be in it until labor is abolished.' Unlike many on the left, I do not see any value in 'replacing capitalism with a socialist mode of production'. The alleged 'socialist mode of production' has yet to be adequately defined, so remains but a utopia for people to chase after. Even M+E in their Communist Manifesto could do little better than propose CAPITALIST relations of production for the proletarian-controlled economy. The main feature of their proletarian dictatorship was political: the proletariat replacing the bourgeoisie as the power of the state in order to empower the proletarian agenda.

   If liberation capitalism is supposedly a contradiction in terms, then you should explain exactly why. What lesson should I take from Marcuse?

   If you read some of the correspondence at my web site, say 2000-2, you will find my opponents arguing from very weak positions, charging me with all kinds of crimes and hidden agendas. But, they were never able or willing to answer me on point.

   Please feel free to engage in further dialogue. Dialogue is a sensible way to work out ideological differences.

 

End of June to December 2002 Correspondence

 

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