Back to Index of Year 2003 Correspondence

Back to Home Page

Selected Political Correspondence

April 2003

   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

04-04-03

   Jack quoted me:

>> Two hundred years ago, 80% of Americans were tied to agriculture, but
>> only 2% of Americans remain 'down on the farm' today.
Though the American
>> population certainly has grown, I wonder if it has grown as quickly as its
>> agricultural productivity. Ray Kurzweil claims that
productivity in general
>> is rising at a double exponential rate.
Has population grown at the same
>> rate? I wish I had time to do THAT bit of homework.
>
> I don't want to over-quote, but here's the powerful Anuradha Mittal.
> Derrick Jensen fans might want to read his interview with her:
> http://www.foodfirst.org/media/interviews/2002/amittalsun.html

   I have mucho respect for Food First. It's always educational to read what they have to say.

   What should be derived from the statistics repeated above is that hunger in the USA 200 years ago could, under some circumstances such as 'bad crops' or 'bad weather', be regarded as acts of the goddess, or otherwise be blamed on economic circumstances such as a 'temporary insufficiency of agricultural output'. What should be glaringly obvious about hunger TODAY, on the other hand (due entirely to the fact that the food is grown by only 2% of the population), is that hunger can no longer be blamed upon economic or other natural circumstances, but rather is 100% the result of BAD POLITICS. In other words, then, hunger is as much the result of national policy as is the unemployment rate. Americans go hungry today for the same bad reasons unemployment hovers around 5%. Hunger is often the result of insufficient participation in the economy. Desperate people chase too few jobs, and they compete with one another for scarce opportunities to make the rich richer. They accept lousy wages in exchange for the opportunity to gruel long hours in unsafe workplaces, and end up with not enough cash to ensure a decent standard of living. Bad national political policies could be easily cured TOMORROW if enough people wanted. Economics do not hold us back at all, because all scarcities of food in the USA are 100% artificially contrived. Instead of 'It's the economy, stupid', people should say: 'It's the stupid politics.'

> In the U.S., farmers are killing themselves and trying to make it look like
> an accident so their families can get life-insurance money. Forced out of
> their profession and unable to make a livelihood, they see no other way out.
>
> At the
World Food Summit in 1996, Dan Glickman, then the head of the usda,
> claimed that
U.S. farmers would feed the world. He did not tell the summit
> that in the last few
census polls, the category of "farmer" as a profession
> has been removed.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, farmers are not
> endangered; they're extinct.
When Glickman talks about farmers, he really
> means corporations such as
Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland self-styled
> "
Supermarket to the World." (Or, as I call it, Supermarkup to the World.)
> They aren't U.S. farmers. They're agribusinesses.
> Anuradha Mittal,
> Co-director of the
Institute for Food and Development Policy

   Well, of this I have no doubt. Perhaps enough horror stories have been told to spur enough of us to soon think about SOLUTIONS.

> Food First reports their conclusions: that small farms are more productive
> than large farms
and that sustainable agriculture is potentially far more
> productive than large farm, chemical intensive mono-culture.
A World Bank
> study of northeast Brazil estimates that redistributing farmland into smaller
> holdings would raise output
an astonishing 80 percent. The good news for
> people who believe that increased, organic pesticide-free small-farming
> is bad (too much production!)is that instead, in the south of India, you can
> go to village after village and not find a farmer who has both kidneys:
> they've all sold a kidney to feed their family. Meanwhile another 20,000
> human corpses can now be plowed under for fertilizer for luxury
> agroexport--Jack

   Conditions in other countries may be as bad and probably worse than in the USA, but if American hunger cannot be solved by Americans, then it may be time for us to think about 'cleaning up our back yards' first. So, the question remains: What should American activists do?

 

04-04-03

   J S wrote:

> Is this from you?
> It has the concluding paragraph that I would
> attribute to you. I downloaded this article last
> week, but now I've forgotten the source!...

   Hi, John,

   It was an interesting and long article, and though some of my views coincide with Bonefield's, I did not actively collaborate. Maybe he got some ideas from my website, who knows?

   I haven't been as anti-war as most of the people I correspond with, cuz I regard Saddam as a billionaire tyrant who must be removed. I could easily find fault with the way the USA is going about this regime change. Lots of information about the evils of the American way come my way. But, after all is said and done, Saddam still needs to be replaced, and 'we are the boys to do it.' A year or so from now, after the dust settles, and Iraq gets accustomed to democracy, Bush will be applauded as a savior, and he'll win a second term. In fact, that's how this war was timed, so that it will be over and done with by the time of the next election.

 

04-04-03

   matt fair wrote extensively:

   < snip long list of 'things to do' >

> Or do nothing - but do it well.
>
> What I'm getting at is best expressed, I think, by Friedrich Nietzsche,
> who wrote: "
I know of no other manner of dealing with great tasks than
> as *play*.
"
>
> The precise alternative to "work" I would say.
>
> --Jack

   That was a mighty long list of things to do, any one of which would certainly help idle hands to idle away the hours.

   But ... It seems to me that the greedy people who are wrecking the world, and are imposing their policies upon us, are organized to do so, while ranting and raving about the abuses is just about all WE get to do.

   Can't we do a little better by organizing our own multitudes to prevent the evil rich and powerful from imposing their life-negating policies upon us?

   Or, as the alien in the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe' warned, as he dragged 'hero' Ford Prefect off to a cell, "Resistance is useless!" Is it?

 

04-05-03

   matt fair wrote, in part:

> If 250,000 American soldiers suddenly were struck
> with the urge to lay down by a river with a cute friend
> and a bottle of wine, what would you think of that idleness?

   I think it would be wonderful. ... I wonder if you misinterpreted my "idle hands" comment as a misplaced critique. Twas not, for I treasure idleness with every fiber of my body. How to use idle moments was not the easiest puzzle for me to solve in my earliest years, but I later learned that I was not alone in my affliction. Those who have no problems from day one living their idleness to the fullest have my blessing, for, in a few more decades, everyone will be able to enjoy the same unmitigated pleasure. Speed that day. How to 'speed that day' may then become a topic of discussion.

> If you want a happier world, it strikes me as a bit odd to come from the
> same premises of corporate CEOs, who are often workaholics who, according
> to psychologists, "
don't know how to have fun."
>
> But - if pure fun
wastes your time,

   Gosh, you really jumped on my use of "idle hands". I'll repeat it's original context:

>> That was a mighty long list of things to do, any one of which would
>> certainly help idle hands to idle away the hours.

   That can't be interpreted as anything worse than a neutral attitude toward idleness. It doesn't criticize idleness in any way.

> what about my suggestion that you join a group like
> "
Food First" or any other number of hardworking serious world
> changers whose work has led to a quite significant reduction in
> starvation -- they are doing work in the US -- is this "
idle" as
> well in your view? Another thing you can do is write lots of
> letters to your representative politicians -- each letter
> they receive they count as representing something
> like 100 people. What do you say?

   Those aren't bad suggestions at all. But, I was aiming at soliciting ideas for activism that we could engage in collectively. Something that resonates with claws philosophy.

> Organizing a festival negates life-negation. But hey -- as I say, there are
> plenty of groups, foundations, etc. Or if you feel you have a different
> workable idea for organizing, do it! I won't call it names.

   'Join something', 'create something' - certainly. But, I was really trying to solicit ideas about how to change the world to OUR satisfaction. I wrote:

>> But ... It seems to me that the greedy people who are wrecking the world,
>> and are imposing their policies upon us, are organized to do so, while
>> ranting and raving about the abuses is just about all WE get to do.
>>
>> Can't we do a little better by organizing our own multitudes to prevent the
>> evil rich and powerful from imposing their life-negating policies upon us?

   If we all feel the same way about the madness of modern life, then what kind of directed willful change can we collectively get behind?

 

04-06-03

   Lady Elf quoted me:

>> If we all feel the same way about the madness of modern life, then
>> what kind of directed willful change can we collectively get behind?
>
> live and let live. Respect all around you ... not just human life ...
> but all life, all things.
>
> Elf

   That's not a bad philosophy, but it doesn't stop the rich and powerful from stepping all over us, and using us as machines to augment their already vast wealth. At least SOME upper class policies need to be opposed, especially their policy of 5% unemployment that condemns millions to poverty and hunger because of inadequate access to the above-ground economy. Many who DO work are often mistreated or grind away at wage slavery for long hours. This bad employment picture could be evened out very easily with good legislation. If Americans had been smart enough to support France's 35-hour week with 35-hour legislation of our own, the world would be well on its way to the abolition of wage slavery. But, no, it seems most people are not ready to step away from the madness of the race to the bottom, for one reason or another:

   1) Apathy. No problems detected.

   2) Some concern, but lots of ignorance on social issues.

   Many concerned people go further:

   3) Greater concern prompts investigations and formation of ideas.

   4) Deeper study can lead to epiphany, and abrupt changes in beliefs.

   5) Dedication enables good analysis, give and take in true dialogue, leading to advocacy of socially viable solutions.

   Progress to higher steps is impeded by funded disinformation, which immobilizes many people at steps 1 and 2. Despite the impediments, many move on to step 3. Some move on to step 4, and a few move on to step 5. Many at steps 2, 3, and 4 have been deluded into thinking they are at step 5, so they continue to adhere to outmoded ideas. Some are paid to propagate outmoded ideas, while others reject different ideas out of a sense of loyalty that is reinforced by association with other adherents.

 

04-07-03

   Karla E. wrote Re: [worldincommon] 'Different'

> Ken says he thinks abolishing unemployment is a worthwhile goal.
> Personally, I'd rather work towards the
abolition of employment.
> Let's follow Paul Lafargue and demand
the right to be lazy!

   Karla is correct, of course. That is a much nobler goal, and harkens back to Marx's 'abolition of labor'. Now, as unemployment can be straightforwardly abolished by driving down the length of the work week, perhaps Karla can clue us in as to how to do the other task, i.e., 'how to straightforwardly abolish employment'. 25 words or less?

 

04-08-03

   Karla responded to my inquiry:

>> ... perhaps Karla can clue us in as to how to do the other task, i.e.,
>> 'how to straightforwardly
abolish employment'. 25 words or less?
>
> By
eliminating capitalism and establishing a world where goods and
> services are produced to satisfy needs, not to make profits.
>
> (That's 20 words.)
>
> And allow me to point out that since capitalism
requires a certain
> amount of unemployment (as a
labor pool to call upon if the workers
> get too uppity), it will be
impossible ever to abolish unemployment
> while capitalism persists. -- Karla

   20 words is very brief. Excellent. 'Eliminate capitalism' is very brief as well. The only question is: How does capitalism get eliminated? Here's at least a partial list of methods that have been considered in the past:

   1) Abolish the state in a 'fire and sword revolution'.

   2) Vote the state out of existence at election time, and replace it with a classless and stateless administration of things.

   3) Smash the capitalist state and replace it with a workers' state (proletarian dictatorship).

   4) Slowly reform capitalism out of existence.

   5) Tax the capitalist class out of existence.

   6) Abolish the distinction between worker and boss by driving down the length of the work week, as made possible by advances in technology and productivity.

   This short list by no means exhausts all possibilities, so feel free to remain unencumbered by it. I look forward to pondering your method of choice.

 

04-09-03

   Bill J. wrote, in part:

> Abolish Wage Slavery!
>
> Bill J.

   Right on! By all means, let's do it. But, the only place I could find in which Marx or Engels specified a METHOD of abolishing wage slavery was in the final words of Engels' 1881 article entitled "Trades Unions" (me24.387):

   ... "it is not the lowness of wages which forms the fundamental evil, but the wages system itself. This knowledge once generally spread amongst the working class, the position of Trades Unions must change considerably. They will no longer enjoy the privilege of being the only organisations of the working class. At the side of, or above, the Unions of special trades there must spring up a general Union, a political organisation of the working class as a whole.

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

   "For the full representation of labour in Parliament, as well as for the preparation of the abolition of the wages system, organisations will become necessary, not of separate Trades, but of the working class as a body. And the sooner this is done the better. There is no power in the world which could for a day resist the British working class organised as a body."

   If anyone can find a SPECIFIC method other than "the struggle for high wages and short hours" for abolishing the wages system, that would be interesting news indeed. Engels hinted at other 'means', but what are those other means?

 

04-09-03

   ael wrote:

> The leftists and "progressives" are blockheads, often even worse than the
> right-wingers (difficult though that may be to believe), and deserve to go
> down with the ship. Quite frankly, they ALL -- left and right -- deserve to
> go down with the ship, and (fortunately?) the ship is sinking, so it will
> not be long before justice is done right here in the temporal world.
>
> Alan

   That's my experience as well, but I'm more optimistic, and am no where near ready to give up or throw in the towel.

   I enjoyed reading your comments, and it looks, from a cursory exam, that you have been finding some pretty interesting forums. Most of the forums I've been on lately seem so infantile, with people maintaining infantile states of denial, and unwilling to change the ideologies they've helped market for so great a portion of their lives. They are heavily invested in their beliefs, and so it takes quite an irresistible force to move these immovable 'objects'.

   Whaddaya think of the fall of Baghdad? I can't wait for a new Iraq democracy to be established. Lots of anti-war people are being plain old unprincipled in their contrarianism. They forget the republicanism of their 'Marxist' ideologies. What they adhere to is more akin to anarchism. They forget entirely that Marx and his First International wanted to replace absolute monarchies and dictatorships with democratic republics enjoying universal suffrage. They would rather 'enjoy' the rule of a vicious billionaire dictator like Saddam than to help Iraqis enjoy a democracy. The lies told by the peaceniks rival the lies told by the Iraqi official who denied that the Americans had captured the airport.

   Tis a sad world we live in.

 

04-09-03

   ael wrote:

> Sorry, I can't go there right now. Suffice to say that "democracy"
> (obviously) cannot be imposed by military force
-- quite apart
> from the matter of
Saddam being a bastard.
>
> Alan

   Aw, BRO' !!!!! Don't be like that. Remember Yugoslavia. Our military action there led to the establishment of democracy, and to the downfall of Milosevic. This is no longer Chile in 1973, or Iran in '53. Since Clinton, our world presence is no longer the way it used to be. Much improved communications must certainly take much of the credit. It's very hard for a government to run roughshod and hide its crimes.

   Your pessimism seems so deep that I'm worried about you committing SUICIDE. You should maybe take some homeopathic Aurum metallicum or something. You should tune in to Fox News and celebrate the fall of Saddam as do the Iraqis living in Michigan, who are dancing in the streets. Celebrate the fall of a billionaire dictator! And don't forget to :-)))))

   I'm also celebrating a serious ideological blow dealt to leftists who were predicting all kinds of evil flowing out of the war in Iraq. Now the left has less credibility than ever, and perhaps some of the best of them will now consider re-thinking their leftism. This is a great opportunity for those of us with a message that is neither far right nor far left. {The quagmire that is developing in Iraq certainly made me reconsider my position. ael may have been 100% correct about inability to forcefully impose democracy, and I may end up being wrong. Time will tell.}

   Cheer up,

   Bro'Ken

   PS: I applied for membership to the Green Alliance forum. Thanks!

 

04-09-03

   ael wrote:

> The cultural Marxists have
> elevated the *relatively* petty and insignificant stuff (women's
> rights, gay rights, abortion, multiculturalism, etc.) to the Primary
> Stuff, and have done so at the expense of permanently alienating
> most Americans, marginalizing the left, and driving wedges
> between right and left such that a united front to
> address the big issues is impossible.

   The left does concentrate on relative inconsequentials. Maybe that's because of the absence of really big issues in the richest country in the world. Most people are doing 'OK' to 'fantastic'.

> As a result, the planet is being wrecked at an
> alarming rate, the gap between rich and poor is at all-time
> highs, the risk of nuclear war is higher than ever, the state
> is more fearsome and arrogant and imperialistic than ever,
> the corporations and corrupt money powers are in total
> control, etc., etc., etc. How could it be otherwise? All those
> who might oppose those trends are atomized, disorganized,
> and busy lobbing grenades at each other, and bickering
> about abortions and affirmative action.

   Things just aren't as bad as those exaggerations make them out to be. No one but extremists perceive things as that bad. One thing for sure is that some leftists have been corrupted into selling pure garbage, stuff that's supported by lies and fabrications. Leftists will be dead in the water until they look more carefully at the ideologies to which they adhere.

 

04-10-03

   ael wrote:

> Yes, really wild. Yes, it DOES bug me that the country was turned
> over to an
idiot

   Bush is obviously not an idiot.

> and his fascistic cabal,

   The fascists were defeated more than 50 years ago.

> because of the left's
> idiotic insistence on gun control

   The left's idiotic insistence on gun control had nothing to do with Bush getting elected.

> and that the country and the
> world are rapidly going
down the tubes.

   That's not true.

> the left -- cannot see the nose in front of their faces, and
> cannot identify the most obvious blunders that they are making.

   Do the left a favor and list those blunders.

> I truly believe, by the way, that the problem has become in some significant
> measure *biological*; i.e. that people's omega-3-deficient diets, combined
> with other dietary insufficiencies and excesses, and combined with
> environmental contaminations, [2] all add up to a literally (physically) and
> permanently dumbed-down population -- including the would-be "activists"
> -- that cannot tell its ass from its elbow anymore. That is of course in
> addition to the many other and major moron-izing influences in
> this country and elsewhere.
>
> Alan

   Surely they are dumb, but abuse never made anyone any brighter. Patient, careful, and non-emotional explanation is the order of the day. Otherwise, one could be mistaken as just another hysterical leftist. Simmer down. Be cool. The country is emerging from victory over a tyrant, and the revolution is obviously not going to start tomorrow.

 

04-11-03

   ael wrote:

> Interestingly enough, I've had more responses to my recent
> intemperate tirades than I've ever gotten to anything I've
> ever written -- which is a LOT. More responses BY FAR.
> So what does that tell you?
>
> Alan

   Sounds like you've found a formula for SUCCESS. What fool would argue with success? Not me. Enjoy.

 

04-11-03

   Hi, gang,

   Well, it looks like the world is minus one dictator. Boy, am I glad I was not one of those anti-war protestors marching against 'regime change'.

   Anti-war contrarianism betrays a lack of knowledge. The activists of Marx's era went gung-ho in favor of replacing monarchies and dictatorships with democracies enjoying universal suffrage, as in the Paris Commune, but today's anti-warriors seem ignorant of that bit of history, have never learned much more than an anarchist hatred of ALL forms of state, and consequently feel angered by the replacement of Saddam's dictatorship with ANY kind of new state machine, be it another dictatorship, or be it the freest democracy imaginable. The Iraqis certainly know what they want, as they proudly march around with American flags and pictures of Bush the Liberator. What a triumph for Bush, as well as for the Iraqis. Bush is almost guaranteed another electoral victory in 2004, as his approval rating just shot up to 70%.

   The contrarian left suffered another major defeat. They failed to stop the war, and they failed to bring the boys (and girls) back home before their job was done. They will fail to celebrate the enormous victory over undemocratic tyrannical absolutism. They must feel very unhappy, while republicans as well as Republicans rejoice in victory.

   What a time for radical republicans to be alive!

 

04-11-03

   Robin quoted me:

>> If anyone can find a SPECIFIC method other than "the struggle for
>> high wages and short hours
" for abolishing the wages system, that
>> would be interesting news indeed. Engels hinted at other '
means',
>> but what are those other
means?
>
> I'm not sure that "
the struggle for high wages and short hours"
> does constitute a "
specific method" for abolishing wage labour
> in the sense that one normally understands this term.

   I was hoping that Engels' English would be plain enough, but the abolition of the wages system is no more complicated than abolishing surplus labor (or surplus value, the same thing), by reducing hours of labor.

> Yes, Engels does refer to this struggle as a "means"
> to the higher end of abolishing wage labour
but I think
> he is talking here of
this struggle being a psychological
> "precondition"
of the struggle to abolish wage labour;

   What could lead anyone to think that? Of the 76 variations of the word 'psychology' in the Collected Works, neither Marx nor Engels ever expressed much respect for that branch of social science. In a refutation of Duhring, Engels wrote (me25.612): "And so, no mention of historical development. Mere eternal law of nature. Everything is psychology and the latter unfortunately is much more "backward" than politics." M+E left the 'psychologizing' to other pundits, who were then mercilessly critiqued.

> he clearly seems to think that we need to TRANSCEND
> the former in order to accomplish the latter

   'Latter' appears to refer to the abolition of wage labor, and 'former' appears to refer to 'the struggle for higher wages and shorter hours', and you seem to infer from what Engels wrote that 'this struggle needs to be transcended' for some reason. Please explain how Engels could have led you to that conclusion.

   Here is how Engels used a variation of 'transcend' in "The Workingmen of Europe in 1877" (me24.218): "In Belgium there are no factory laws whatever to limit the hours of labor of women or children; and the first cry of the factory voters of Ghent and neighborhood was for protection for their wives and children, who were made to slave fifteen and more hours a day in the Cotton Mills. The opposition of the Proudhonist doctrinaires who considered such trifles as far beneath the attention of men occupied with transcendent revolutionism, was of no avail, and was gradually overcome. The demand of legal protection for factory-children became one of the points of the Belgian working-class platform, and with it was broken the spell which hitherto had tabooed political action. The example of the Germans did the rest, and now the Belgian workmen, like those of Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, Austria and part of Italy, are forming themselves into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all other political parties, and aiming at the conquest of their emancipation by whatever political action the situation may require."

   This was the only time in which a variation of the word 'transcend' was combined with the labor time issue, and Engels was obviously not asking workers to 'transcend' the political struggle to regulate hours of labor.

> The point is that abolition of wage labour requires
> conscious organisation and direction.

   I agree, but let us discriminate further: Labor (and wage labor) consists of both necessary and surplus labor. Capitalism is doing a FANTASTIC job of abolishing NECESSARY labor. 200 years ago in the USA, 80% of the people were tied to agriculture, while only 2% of today's population works the land. With the passage of time, necessary labor declines while surplus labor grows, both at a double exponential rate. Surplus labor now comprises the vast bulk of labor, quite the reverse of 200 years ago. One would think that activists would want to do something real about abolishing SURPLUS labor, and advocate that workers reap the benefits of increasing productivity in the form of more freedom, and more time off from work. But, no, activists fail to create a movement against surplus value, apparently preferring instead for all of the surpluses to continue to be converted into profits for the already rich, taxes for an oppressive state, security for an insecure class of rich and powerful, an incessant bombardment of ads, an increasing rate of investment into robots and labor-saving technologies, and all of the other things today's activists love to hate. Or maybe activists are not really workers, so they prefer to rally workers to overthrow the existing political order so that activists can hopefully get control all of the surpluses for themselves. ... Well, SOMETHING has to explain why activists refuse to create a movement against surplus value, and if it isn't the anticipation of all of the power and wealth the workers will bestow upon activists (for the pleasure of being liberated by activists), then what else could explain the lapse?

> Therefore whatever facilitates that would in effect
> constitute a means to
abolishing wage labour. Engels
> saw the
working class organised as one political body
> as the expression of this
consciousness but this does
> not preclude other forms of expression such as the
> formation of
intentional communities or mutual-aid
> schemes (e.g.
LETS) from likewise expressing the
> desire to transcend wage labour
> Regards
>
> Robin

   Movements to transcend wage labor are not to be disparaged, but, to the extent that a LETS scheme might represent a separate economy OUTSIDE of the mainstream economy is the extent to which such a scheme would remain irrelevant to the zillions remaining 'trapped' in the existing economy.

   (me28.467)"//Capital itself is subject to the contradiction that while it constantly tries to transcend necessary labour time (which implies the reduction of the worker's role to a minimum, i.e. his existence as mere living labour capacity), surplus labour time exists only in a contradictory way, only in antithesis to necessary labour time. Consequently, capital posits necessary labour time as a necessary condition for its own reproduction and valorisation. A development of the material productive forces, which is at the same time the development of the forces of the working class, at a certain point transcends capital itself.//"

   Yahoo! Speed THAT transcendence.

 

04-12-03

   In worldincommon, ITzar wrote:

> what is the difference between number 1 (Abolish the state in a 'fire
> and sword revolution
'.) and number 3 (Smash the capitalist state and
> replace it with a
workers' state (proletarian dictatorship)." ?
> Simon

   In misguided attempts to build revolutionary unity, some modern activists deny the differences between Bakunin's 'anti-state anarchist revolution' and Marx's 'pro-state communist revolution'.* Though a 'pro-state revolution' may reek of self-defeat, Marx optimistically intended for his proletarian dictatorship to differ from a bourgeois state like day and night, for it meant to him the difference between the supremacy of proletarian policies in a worker-controlled post-revolutionary state vs. the supremacy of bourgeois policies in a bourgeois-controlled post-[bourgeois-democratic] revolutionary state. (The revolution of Marx's day primarily meant replacing monarchies with republics, either a Marxist red republic, or a petty-bourgeois democratic republic.) These major differences between anarchism and Marx's communism should be honored and studied rather than covered up, for a close study can instruct as to the eventual futility of any kind of 'power and property' revolution. Myriad methods of dealing with power and property can only breed sectarianism, which in turn can only spell doom for any kind of revolution.

   * Note: Apparently, Marx's 'communist revolution' was far more devoid of the state, property, labor, etc., than what I had imagined (me5.380): "It follows from what was said above against Feuerbach that previous revolutions within the framework of division of labour were bound to lead to new political institutions: it likewise follows that the communist revolution, which removes the division of labour, ultimately abolishes political institutions; and, finally, it follows also that the communist revolution will be guided not by the "social institutions of inventive socially-gifted persons", but by the productive forces." There, Marx seems to have been writing about the approach to the classless and stateless administration of things, or the end of the proletarian dictatorship.

 

04-13-03

   In worldincommon, robbo quoted me:

>> I was hoping that Engels' English would be plain enough, but the abolition
>> of the wages system
is no more complicated than abolishing surplus labor
>> (or surplus value, the same thing), by
reducing hours of labor.
>
> But that's what I don't understand - how exactly does the wages system get
> to be abolished by
reducing labour hours as such (assuming this could be
> done). What is the mechanism by which this comes about?

   In order to abolish the wages system, all that's needed is for bosses to introduce labor saving technology while activists simultaneously tighten up labor regulations, and then let things proceed to their logical end. The USA supporting France with a 35 hour week of its own would have been an important psychological step. But, it seems like the 40 hour week can't easily be transcended. It has become as sacred an icon as our proverbial 'motherhood, flag, and apple pie'. But, the rupture must occur someday, for labor saving technology cannot be introduced forever without eventually creating an unemployment problem. For a long time, the system was flexible enough to create new kinds of jobs upon the ashes of old obsolete jobs, but the machines of the future will be so much smarter that human labor will be replaced faster than what new jobs can be created. Marx wrote (me20.289): ... "only the mass opposition of the workers wins for them the passing of a law that shall prevent the workers from selling, by voluntary contract with capital, themselves and their generation into slavery and death."

   Marx didn't call for us to revolt over this problem, but rather called for us to 'pass a law'. Legislation and amendments will be the primary vehicle for abolishing surplus labor, as well as the wages system.

>>> Yes, Engels does refer to this struggle as a "means" to the higher end
>>> of abolishing wage labour
but I think he is talking here of this struggle
>>> being a
psychological "precondition" of the struggle to abolish wage
>>> labour
;
>>
>> What could lead anyone to think that? Of the 76 variations of the
>> word 'psychology' in the
Collected Works, neither Marx nor Engels ever
>> expressed much respect for that branch of social science. M+E left the
>> 'psychologizing' to other pundits, who were then mercilessly critiqued.
>
> Sure sure I understand that but I didn't want the use of this word to
> be interpreted too literally. Perhaps if I used the term "predisposed"
> this might help. If workers lives are less bound up in wage labour
> (the realm of necessity) perhaps they might be more predisposed
> to consider life beyond the wages system (the realm of
freedom)

   Today's alternative to 'the realm of necessity and wage labor' seems to be 'the realm of profit and surplus value', which is a realm in which a lot of people would probably rather dwell, for it surely represents more economic freedom than the realm of necessity.

>> 'Latter' appears to refer to the abolition of wage labor, and 'former'
>> appears to refer to '
the struggle for higher wages and shorter hours',
>> and you seem to infer from what Engels wrote that '
this struggle needs
>> to be transcended
' for some reason. Please explain how Engels could
>> have led you to that conclusion.
>
> Because I can't see how the
struggle for higher wages and shorter hours
> IN ITSELF leads to the
abolition of the wages system. Can you?

   The inevitable struggle for higher wages and shorter work hours is purely a function of inevitably increasing productivity. Marx looked into the distant future of increasing productivity and 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!" Capitalists are HELPING us by abolishing NECESSARY labor. If that is the task of the capitalist class, then the task of activists should be to abolish SURPLUS labor, by reducing work hours.

>>> The point is that abolition of wage labour requires
>>> conscious organisation and direction.
>>
>> I agree, but let us discriminate further:
Labor (and wage labor) consists
>> of both
necessary and surplus labor. Capitalism is doing a FANTASTIC
>> job of abolishing
NECESSARY labor. 200 years ago in the USA, 80% of
>> the people were tied to agriculture, while only 2% of today's population works
>> the land.
With the passage of time, necessary labor declines while surplus
>> labor grows
, both at a double exponential rate. Surplus labor now comprises
>> the vast bulk of
labor, quite the reverse of 200 years ago. One would think
>> that activists would want to do something real about
abolishing SURPLUS
>> labor
, and advocate that workers reap the benefits of increasing
>> productivity in the form of more
freedom, and more time off from
>> work
. But, no, activists fail to create a movement against surplus
>> value
, apparently preferring instead for all of the surpluses
>> to continue to be converted into profits
>
> But they fail to do because they have still a capitalist mentality or
> mindset that is unable to distinguish between these two forms of
labour.

   That's true, but activists who understand surplus value are not exactly clamoring to educate workers about how their energies are being wasted. I'll bet activists don't really understand surplus value, because I've never seen them use the topics of 'huge profits' or 'huge surplus value' except as an excuse to revolt. Such misuse of the issue betrays gross misunderstanding. No one will revolt over huge profits.

> Which brings me back to the
> original point I made: how are they going to come to a point
> of view which recognises we can dispense with surplus value?

   The treadmill will provide one part of their education, and activists could provide another part, IF they can come to regard surplus value as more than just 'another burning issue over which to revolt'.

> The struggle for higher wages and shorter hours does
>
not in itself automatically produce this outcome.

   I hope that you are not trying to say that 'winning shorter work hours and higher wages does not reduce surplus value', or that 'it doesn't help abolish the wages system.' After what Engels wrote (as reproduced in an earlier message), you wouldn't be saying either of those things, would you?

> Yes we can live comfortably on a fraction of the amount of labour hours
> we actually expend but capitalism is an
inherently wasteful system and
> becoming ever more so.

   "Inherently wasteful"? Liberation capitalist Arthur Dahlberg believed that 'capitalism would be a very efficient system if forced {by activists} to operate under a chronic shortage of labor.' Capitalism is the only system containing the incentive to abolish NECESSARY labor. If activists can't follow up with an abolition of SURPLUS labor, then needless mass suffering results. Activists love to blame capitalists for all of the problems of the world, but activists will do little of substance to alleviate the suffering until they replace today's 'power and property activism' with surplus value activism. Democratic peoples don't overthrow their states for the dubious pleasure of putting power and property into the hands of activists who will never be able to decide whether to replace the state with a classless and stateless administration of things, or with a proletarian dictatorship. People will certainly not choose that uncertainty over a shorter work week.

> More and more of the work we do is not actually socially useful in
> any meaningful sense but is nevertheless
indispensable to capitalism
> as an economic system. Ergo if you accept this system then distinction
> between
necessary and surplus labour might seem a little meaningless
> or academic
; it is only by consciously transcending the system that
> it becomes meaningful and relevant. Which begs the question:
> how is the system to be transcended?

   Acceptance of the capitalism system is so universal that it matters not if a few do not accept it. Its doom will not be based on a lack of acceptance, because capitalism will be replaced by a NON-economy. Whereas previous systems of production were based upon economy, scarcity and human labor, the automatic system of production of the future will be based on none of those. When capitalism dies out, it will take class divisions, the state, the economy, scarcities, money, private property, and human labor along with it. Classless and stateless society will not be based upon cooperative human labor.

   If Marx thought that the issue of surplus value was worth explaining to workers, and if he wrote volumes on that very subject to help workers understand and overcome the difficulties associated with the era of labor, then it behooves sincere activists to give it more than the usual short shrift. Most minds seem made up that 'surplus value is no better than just another issue over which to revolt', and that 'anyone who merely wants to gradually reduce surplus value is just another renegade reformer not worth listening to.'

   Capitalism can be transcended by militantly driving down the length of the work week to nothing, as made possible by advances in productivity. If workers become as free of toil as the idle rich, then an important class distinction will thereby be abolished, eliminating justification for the maintenance of the state. With employment abolished, with no excuse to get up in the morning to go to work, with nothing to do but play all day long, can the capitalist system as we know it still be regarded as 'continuing along as usual'? With surplus value consigned to the museum, and with necessities produced by machines without human effort, the old quest for riches will disappear as well. Private property will be consigned to the museum, along with money and the state. Though not a 'fire and sword revolution', this surely represents a SOCIAL revolution, for the system of production for the entire world will change.

   This social revolution is a feasible reform project for activists who are not above reforms. The appropriate laws are already on the books, and need only be amended.

>> Movements to transcend wage labor are not to be disparaged, but, to the
>> extent that a
LETS scheme might represent a separate economy OUTSIDE of
>> the mainstream economy is the extent to which such a scheme would remain
>> irrelevant to the zillions remaining 'trapped' in the existing economy.
>
> Some estimates put the amount of
labour hours expended in the "grey economy"
> (the voluntary and domestic sector) as greater than that of both the white economy
> (formal
wage labour) and the black economy combined. See Charles Handy on
> "
The Future of Work"
>
> Regards
>
> Robin

   You very well could be right about that. To the extent to which the legal economy remains exclusive, then surely the grey economy must expand to fill the vacuum. The purpose of our movement, as Engels saw it, was to make the economy more inclusive (me24.193): ... "the productive forces of society, which have outgrown the control of the bourgeoisie, are only waiting for the associated proletariat to take possession of them in order to bring about a state of things in which every member of society will be enabled to participate not only in production but also in the distribution and administration of social wealth, and which so increases the productive forces of society and their yield by planned operation of the whole of production that the satisfaction of all reasonable needs will be assured to everyone in an ever-increasing measure."

   You will notice from the above that the purpose of expropriation was to enable complete participation in the economy. Today, complete participation can easily be accomplished with a few amendments to existing labor laws.

 

04-14-03

   In worldincommon, robbo203 quoted me:

>> In order to abolish the wages system, all that's needed is for bosses to
>> introduce
labor saving technology while activists simultaneously tighten
>> up labor regulations
, and then let things proceed to their logical end.
>
> But you
haven't explained anything here. HOW does this lead inexorably
> and automatically to the
abolition of the wages system ?

   When the work week becomes so short that proposals to shorten it further become regarded as ridiculous, and when hardy volunteers instead step in to perform the remaining toil (that a future generation of smarter machines will eventually take over), then capitalism as we've known it will disappear, because capitalism cannot survive on a basis of volunteer labor. It takes wage labor creating surpluses and capital (and being exploited) to make a capitalist system.

> Are you saying capitalism would collapse of its own accord?

   The day on which wage labor gets totally replaced by volunteer labor is the day of the demise of capitalism. Capitalism cannot be capitalism without wage labor, surplus value, and exploitation. Abolishing the wages system automatically abolishes capitalism, surplus value, and exploitation.

> If so I find your argument totally unconvincing

   I tried my best, 'but my best just warn't good enough', as the 60's song went. I was hoping that my English would be plain enough, but maybe it wasn't. :-(

>>> Which brings me back to the original point I made: how are they going to
>>> come to a point of view which recognises we can dispense with surplus value?
>>
>> The treadmill will provide one part of their education, and activists
>> could provide another part, IF they can come to regard surplus value
>> as more than just '
another burning issue over which to revolt'.
>
> Ah, so now you are positing a role for
socialist consciousness which is much
> more acceptable but would seem to be at variance with your apparently
>
mechanistic explanation of how revolutionary change would come about

   I don't know what part of my philosophy could be described as mechanistic. Perhaps the closest was when I said to the effect that 'the introduction of labor-saving technology is inevitable, producing an inevitable struggle for higher wages and shorter work hours.' However, introducing labor-saving technology does raise consciousness, because it does take political and class consciousness to petition the Legislature to write laws to counteract the inevitable tendency for unemployment to rise. It is this kind of social consciousness that will ensure that the future mechanized world will not be a hell modeled on the contents of sci-fi novels.

>>> The struggle for higher wages and shorter hours does
>>>
not in itself automatically produce this outcome.
>>
>> I hope that you are not trying to say that '
winning shorter work hours
>> and higher wages
does not reduce surplus value', or that 'it doesn't help
>>
abolish the wages system.' After what Engels wrote (as reproduced in an
>> earlier message), you wouldn't be saying either of those things, would you?
>
> No, I'm saying
the struggle for higher wages and the shorter week
> (which of course I support) does
NOT automatically bring about the
>
end of the wages system (and if Engels is suggesting otherwise I
> would strongly disagree with him). In other words, we need to go
>
beyond that struggle as well as continuing with that struggle
>
> Best regards
>
> Robin

   If so, then, what kinds of activities would you suggest for 'going beyond the struggle for shorter work hours and higher wages'? Please specify. Maybe we will be able to agree on some elements of a party program. Agreement would be something to look forward to.

 

04-17-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> I, for one, would feel a lot more comfortable with your position if you
> would dialogue on the state of American society today; the
increasing
> hours on the job while unemployment also increases
. A woman I know
> just had her
part-time hours forcefully increased to full-time with
>
mandatory overtime so that United Airlines could lay off thousands of
> other employees to save money. And THIS is an employee-owned airline!

   That kind of information is certainly useful. Colleague Phil Hyde updates such info daily at his Timesizing web site: http://www.timesizing.com/

> I was in France in the years leading up to the adoption of the 35 hour
> workweek
and can report that the working classes were underwhelmed with
> the program.
Everyone I talked with was sure that employers would be given
> new powers to extract more work per hour from each employee to more than
> make up the difference.
As it turns out, the employers successfully argued
> that
French businesses must compete with global forces that are pushing
> work hours in the opposite direction
...

   This is a good observation. The social value of driving down the length of the work week is nowhere nearly as apparent to most mortals as it was to Marx, for it solves a variety of social problems, even more so in our day than in Marx's, for production back then was nowhere nearly as robust as it is now. Maybe that's why Marx emphasized 'power and property activism' for his era, even though the bulk of his economic studies point directly at the benefits of 'surplus value activism'.

   To convert from obsolete 'power and property activism' over to 'surplus value activism' might take relentless exposure of the internal contradictions of the former. Once enough people become convinced that 'power and property activism' is as wasteful a treadmill as 'the rat race', then changing ways of thinking might stand a better chance.

   Coming up with a good program of political action also requires taking a longer view of societal evolution. Ray Kurzweil's site provides a longer view. His testimony to a Congressional Science panel includes interesting statistics on accelerating labor productivity:
http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0556.html

> Again; please square the logical outcome that you envision
> with what is really going on in the job market -

   First, the 'logical outcome that I envision': The peaceful abolitions of class distinctions, wage slavery, capitalism, the state, money, private property, etc. These abolitions will result from driving the length of the statutory work week down to nothing. Marx, Engels, Bakunin, De Leon, Lenin, Mao, etc., wanted us to arrive at a classless and stateless administration of things by forcefully dealing with the state and private property, but Liberation Capitalism ignores property and other tangibles, and instead directs its legislation toward intangible labor time. Marx and Engels are popularly known for their forceful approach, but it was mainly because of the compelling need to replace the absolute monarchies of their day with democratic republics. They also favored surplus value activism, far more than do today's activists, who seem largely ignorant of its benefits, and who even publicly reject that form of activism in a less than rational manner.

   Next, the job market: Unemployment is 'exclusion from the economy', and the resulting decline in consumption cuts back production, causing MORE unemployment, which can lead to spiraling depression. Labor could do a much better job handling the labor market. Instead of creating an OPEC-like artificial shortage that would drive wages higher, while ensuring jobs for everyone, Labor remains much too neutral. The resulting competition for scarce jobs causes desperate workers to accept low wages, which in turn translates into high profits and high CEO salaries. Desperation for any work at all forces workers to compete for declining opportunities to do evil, such as manufacturing land mines, and clear-cutting the last of the old redwoods. Morality cannot flourish while so many workers compete so desperately for scarce opportunities to make the rich even richer. Nausea can result from contemplating the wretchedness of the labor market.

   To 'square' 'peaceful abolitions of today's evils' with the labor market: If mass suffering would be alleviated, people should try to see the value of making the economy more inclusive, and should support policies toward that end. Unless, of course, they are 100% convinced that their own particular approaches are better. But, I won't hold my breath waiting for communists (who want to abolish the state and replace it with a communist workers' state) to cooperate with anarchists (who want to directly replace the state with a classless and stateless administration of things). Both scenarios cannot be adopted simultaneously, but both sides are too scared to admit that their irreconcilable differences will always prevent them from cooperating on a 'fire and sword revolution'.

   Many activists have been hostile toward the Liberation Capitalist approach, and 3 forums censored my views for no worse 'crimes against consciousness' than what I have committed here. Why the hostility against a non-traditional way of arriving at the classless and stateless administration of things? Is it fear of wondering aloud if the 'power and property path to the future society' might have been an error committed by Marx and Engels themselves? Is it fear of contemplating the possibility that continued adherence to a mistaken program might forever doom revolutionaries to ineffectiveness?

> what factors are not being considered in your scheme
> that would cause these deteriorating conditions?

   If my scheme is suspected of 'not considering some factors', then please name a factor (or more), and I'll do my best to publicly consider them.

> What form of collectivity could we use to alter these factors?

   The question of 'form of collectivity' is timely. 'The use of the state' remains underrated by those who have mistakenly adopted a blanket anti-government perspective, mistakenly thinking that an alternative to the state exists during the era of labor. If surplus labor creates private property, and if the abolition of private property cannot be separated from the abolition of surplus value, then Labor's good use of democracies will result in the reduction of surplus value and unemployment.

> Other than the facts on the ground, I love your ideas...

   If even a few people can see merit in my perspective, then maybe it's not all in vain. Hope springs eternal.

 

04-18-03

   Bill Johnson wrote, in part:

> With an advanced understanding of the limits and dangers
> of Capitalism the working-class would figure out and
> coordinate plans of action for themselves.

   Capitalism is well-known to be doomed, and it's just a matter of time before a new system of production replaces it. But, what precisely dooms capital? Its alleged 'limits and dangers'? What exactly are the limits of capitalism, and what are its dangers?

   Not much more could be found about 'dangers of capitalism' other than 'stagnation of production', as noted in a 1858 letter from Engels to Marx. In Capital, Marx found the growth of capital limited by both the length of the work day and population growth (me35.311): "With a given length of this working day, whether its limits are fixed physically or socially, the mass of surplus value can only be increased by increasing the number of labourers, i.e., of the labouring population. The growth of population here forms the mathematical limit to the production of surplus value by the total social capital. On the contrary, with a given amount of population, this limit is formed by the possible lengthening of the working day."

   Surely those are limits, but not very daunting to the average exploiter at the present time. What logically follows from what Marx wrote is that some hours-of-labor activism could certainly limit the growth of capitalism.

> That is for individuals to organize politically,
> using the
ballot for the overthrow of political
> power and the establishment of socialism.

   Big-bang social change certainly applied to replacing monarchies with democratic republics, but little else. Big-bang theories of socialism may still attract a few adherents, but the failure of Europe to support Russia with long lasting revolutions of its own dashed [revolutionary] socialist hopes for the West, and the events of 1989 et seq saw Russia and the Eastern Bloc run away from socialism. Hope for a big bang socialist revolution is lost forever. The sooner the big-bang socialist revolution is obsolesced, the sooner it can be replaced by a better plan.

 

04-18-03

   In worldincommon, becca wrote:

> Ken;
>
> What kind of opposition are we looking at in the US, if
labor
> united in endeavor took a progressive stance on this demand?
>
> Rebecca

   Labor taking a more progressive stand on limiting hours would be grrrreat. Labor still controls quite a few votes, and one of the saving graces of democracies is that candidates often try to give voters what they want. Back during the Depression, when unemployment peaked at 25%, Labor supported the Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill, which actually passed the Senate, and looked like a shoo-in for the House, before being scuttled on behalf of business interests. 5 years later, the 40 hour law was phased in. Though it helped somewhat, a 30 hour law would have put lots more people to work.

   This history (and much more) shows that it is possible for workers to see the value of a shorter work week, and to back legislation towards that end. Workers often have few pre-conceived notions of social progress, and instead vote their own interests.

   Labor remains generally uninterested in a shorter work week, and social activists overlook this valuable tool as well. It could end unemployment, raise wages, and give workers the freedom to boycott evil occupations, but many activists don't seem to appreciate its potential. Some I've argued with even seem downright against it, as if it competes against the schemes they've poured so much of their lives' interests in. Maybe it will take a new generation of activists who don't have so much energy invested in unworkable and obsolete 'power and property' schemes, and are open and interested enough to let an effective plan override sentiment, dreams, and dim memories of glory.

   Opposition to the shorter work hour solution comes from a variety of corners, but the opposition certainly is not insurmountable.

 

04-20-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> Ken,
>
> I'm still trying to grasp the prescription for action
> in your statement.

   The shorter work time group collaborated last year on a list of proposed legislation, which includes the following labor-time-related measures, which should be enacted more or less in the following order:

   Bring all workers under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

   Replace 'time and a half' with 'double time'.

   More paid holidays, and a minimum month-long paid vacation.

   Reduce the work week from 40 hours to 35.

   Even if enacted but one at at time, these would help prevent labor from glutting the labor market, unemployment would fall, higher wages would result, and workers would have quite a bit more freedom from wicked wage slavery.

> Part of the problem is the difference between consumer markets
> and
state regulatory environments. Multinationals are pretty
> much
free to manufacture products/services anywhere in the
> world and to sell them to anywhere else in the world, based
> on the highest profit potential. Profit potentials are raised
> when products are manufactured in societies with lower
>
regulation on working conditions and compensation,
> but sold in societies with wealthy consumers.

   International uniformity of protective labor laws would remove incentives for capital to flee to other countries.

> This oversimplifies, since consumer debt is a lagging indicator
> of imbalance, as is the need for imperialistic wars of conquest -
> as to keep down the price of oil. But it does bring back the point
> of realms of influence. You talk about
labor as if it is a coherent
> entity in the same sphere of action as the flight of capital to the
> lowest cost production and sale of the products to the highest
> bidder.
Labor operates locally but capital operates globally.

   I think every worker in the world would like more or less the same things: democracy, full participation in the economy, decent wages, good health care, good schools, etc. In that respect, labor's basic desires are more or less coherent. But, internationally, coherence of PROTECTIONS for labor remains but a dream. Our task is to develop a program to which every worker in the world can feel comfortable adhering.

> Labor is tied closer hand-to-mouth to current income
> where capital is a bit
freer to speculate and cut losses
> and all the wonderful schemes we've been witnessing in
> de
regulated US markets. In other words, there is a marked
> divide between the power of
collective labor, even if we
> could organize, and the power of deep-pocket players on
> the stock markets of the world.
IF we could organize labor,

   Why can't labor be organized? They are in Europe, and enjoy lots more freedom from wage-slavery than Americans.

> could we overcome the deficiencies of dependence
> on capital to supply the means of survival?...

   This seems to reflect a rather hopeless 'them-us' paradigm, but think of the economy this way: Workers and bosses are in the world economy together, and bosses would be cutting their own throats if they regarded workers as foes to be ruthlessly exploited. Rather, they know (better than we) that 'full participation in the world economy maximizes the health and wealth of all of its citizens.' If we don't consume enough, they don't get as rich as they could possibly be. EVERYONE's common interest is full participation, while bosses' individual interests can often be the opposite. One of the reasons for the existence of the state is to balance the struggle between full and incomplete participation, one day ruling in favor of the free market, then the next day applying restraints. The American government has balanced the struggle well enough that Labor has hardly found it necessary to organize itself politically, unlike European Labor. We have only ourselves to blame for the ideological blinders that prevent us from organizing, and for the laziness that keeps us from detecting the ways in which we prevent our own progress.

 

04-21-03

   In WSM_Forum, redrepublicanuk quoted Gwyn:

>>> Gwyn: [Wages, Prices and Profits] is a short and readable summary
>>> by Marx of some of his thoughts on the workings of capital aimed at
>>> "ordinary", non-academic workers...The fact that you seem
>>> unimpressed leaves me unimpressed.
>
> RS: The problem of holding up
WPP as a holy text is the fact that it
> contains errors
which Marx corrected in his later works notably capital.
> Yes
WPP was his most advanced and correct text at the time he wrote
> it but
some elements were dropped and some added so it was just
> a stepping stone
to later more correct works.

   WPP should not be confused with Marx's 1849 "Wage Labour and Capital". Here's what the editors of M+E's Collected Works wrote about WLC (me6.672):

   "In their works of the 1840s and 1850s, prior to Marx having worked out the theory of surplus value, Marx and Engels used the terms "value of labour", "price of labour", "sale of labour" which, as Engels noted in 1891 in the introduction to Marx's pamphlet Wage Labour and Capital, "from the point of view of the later works were inadequate and even wrong". After he had proved that the worker sells to the capitalist not his labour but his labour power Marx used more precise terms. In later works Marx and Engels used the terms "value of labour power", "price of labour power", "sale of labour power"."

   WPP was written in preparation for a debate with Citizen Weston in the General Council of the First International in 1865, and it did represent Marx's mature economic thinking. Marx's daughter Eleanor first published WPP in 1898, well after the deaths of both Marx and Engels, under the title "Value, Price and Profit".

> The problem is if you give this book to read to a non-marxist
> telling him to learn this then you run the risk of not educating
> him but rather
miseducating him

   'Miseducation' could apply to parts of WLC, but not to VPP.

> so firstly I recommend all to read E. Mandel's
> '
The formulation of the economic thought of Karl Marx'.
>
> The reason I say this is because a '
marxist' told me that the 'communist
> manifesto
' contains the basic elements of marxian economic thought related
> to wages and it took me a while to break from this miseducation in that
the
> wage theory in the
CM is based solely on Ricardo and to be frank is shit.

   The CM certainly isn't as bad as THAT. It may not contain Marx's mature thinking on economics, but is an adequate primer on materialism and class struggle.

> Just on intererest, Marx based his economics on the theories of others and
> did
little independent research so one must always be wary of what he states.

   The whole of Marx's economic works should not be so easily dismissed. Marx did lots of original research. No one else of his era better described surplus value, exploitation, and waging class struggle by means of reducing hours of labor. Compare those contributions to merely using 'high profits' as a lame excuse to revolt.

> Remember to question and question. why should we base our lives on a theory
> which is
wrong? (I am not saying Marx is wrong on all things but on some he
> most definitely is)
>
> yours,
>
> Richard

   Questioning repeatedly is good advice, but RS should tell us exactly which of Marx's theories he suspects might be wrong, as a topic of further discussion.

 

04-21-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 wrote:

> Ken,
>
> There is a
crisis in profitability in businesses and the push for ever
> higher productivity is the only item on the agenda. Like I said earlier,
>
workers are being pushed into longer hours of harder work in the name
> of productivity.
If workers were to demand shorter hours for the same pay,
> it would have an
inflationary effect on the money supply, wouldn't it?

   The evils of inflation don't flow from a reduced work week, nor from a militant Labor agenda. If someone is warning of these consequences, then it's time for them to prove their case, rather than for Labor to meekly take false warnings to heart, and then meekly bend before the lash, expecting that 'trying to move the Labor agenda would only make things WORSE.' I wish I had a dime for every time an activist warned me about 'the impossibility, impracticality, or evil consequences of a reduced work week'. Such warnings are designed to get gullible workers to abandon their traditional 'higher wages and shorter work hours' struggles in favor of obsolete socialist agendas.

> If you remember, the expropriation of jobs to third world countries came
> about to break the cycle of wage and price increases - at least here in America.

   That presumes that bosses are maliciously against American Labor, whereas their real motive is to maximize profits by availing themselves of the lower wages and longer work hours of foreign labor. It's as simple as that. They are much more pro-profit than they might be against American Labor, because if considerate bosses don't take advantage of foreign labor, they don't profit as immensely, and risk going out of business for being 'too kind'.

> How do you square all these factors - along with the need for global
> action in a political system that acts best locally? It seems to me
> that capitalists are exploiting their advantage of mobility over
>
labor, due to national boundaries to political action.

   Labor need not be constrained by outworn slogans. In the Internet age, organizing and action can be global as well as local.

> As long as work must be profitable for the employer, there will
> be a squeeze on workers to do ever more work for the same time.
> Technology has made this possible in the past,

   ... as it will continue in the future. During the era of labor, some motives don't change very much.

> but differing standards of compensation from one political
> region to another
destroys this progress. It seems that a
>
worldwide solidarity of working class interests should include
> the overhaul of the profits system at the same time - and why
> not, since it is going to be such a huge undertaking?

   'Overhaul the profits system'? It isn't necessary to meddle with bourgeois interests as long as we are smart enough to struggle for, and get what we need: democracy, freedom of speech and assembly, and full participation in the economy. That's all we really need until human labor is replaced by new technologies, after which we will all become free of scarcity, economy, money, property, the state, etc.

> Don't you think that the pyramid aspect of profits
> and passive income is a bit anachronistic in an age
> when we claim
equality and when technology can
> provide the means for everyone to live securely?

   Evils endemic to the era of labor and scarcity are not anachronisms. The 'pyramid of profits and passive income' will eventually tumble down like the house of cards that it is.

   In the meantime, the only reason for economic insecurity is that it is allowed to continue on. Economic insecurity could be abolished tomorrow if enough of us wanted. But, remember apathy, and remember that a lot of activists work at cross purposes to the traditional Labor agenda. It's up to a new generation of self-educated activists to immunize themselves against revolutionary snares. There are no more quick fixes to our problems than it is possible for the robots to take over tomorrow.

> I think that you misjudge working people to say that they don't
> desire shorter work requirements, when you see them making
> choices between employer demands and family ties.

   If enough workers want to institute a shorter work week, then a shorter work week we will have and enjoy. But, first, it must become a mass movement. Activists could become catalysts toward that end, if so many weren't so busy promoting getting control over power and property. Labor getting control over the labor market, and over intangible labor time, would benefit society much more.

 

04-21-03

   Danyeke wrote:

> I don't understand enough about the ramifications of funding
>
Basic Incomes or lowering the work week (which, by the way,
>
used to be federally mandated at 30 hrs back in 1933.)

   The legal work week didn't quite make it down to 30. The Black-Connery 30 hour bill passed the Senate, but was scuttled in the House on behalf of business interests. 5 years later, the Fair Labor Standards Act phased in a 40 hour week, time and a half after 40, and a minimum wage of $0.60 per hour. Time and a half after 40 has been intact for the past 63 years. Recent proposals would water down overtime premiums by substituting comp time, but those proposals could be defeated with a big enough mass outcry.

> Party politics would slam me from every angle no doubt,
> to assure me of the plan's underlying wickedness, but really,
> I don't see their point; not when we come from a perspective
> of letting people live, first. When you have time, investigate
> the
web site above & share your thoughts. Is this a viable plan
> for the US? Would you want to see it happen or do you think
> it's a *program* that'd ultimately do more harm than good??

   Basic Income really isn't a bad plan. It sure beats the Republican agenda of giving away the store. But, Americans are prejudiced anything that smacks of giving people a free ride. They prefer the good old American way of 'going out and earning a living'. But, what if there aren't enough jobs? That's where the shorter work time movement is superior. It wouldn't cost anything in taxes, would put more people to work, and thereby solve many social problems.

 

04-22-03

   In worldincommon, johnfull2 quoted me:

>> The American government has balanced the struggle well enough that
>>
Labor has hardly found it necessary to organize itself politically, unlike
>> European
labor. We have only ourselves to blame for the ideological
>> blinders that prevent us from organizing, and for the laziness that keeps
>> us from detecting the ways in which we prevent our own progress.
>
> It seems to me that the American government has abdicated its mandate
> to represent all the people and that the private powers at work in society
> have cowed the population into submission by various methods.

   'Cowed into submission'? Submission to what? Are you hinting at a capitalist dictatorship? People still believe that we live in a democracy, so 'we live in a democracy' until people no longer feel that it's a democracy.

> Among these are the incessant ideological rant against
> collectivity and in favor of
individual property rights,

   We live near the end of the era of labor, during which surplus labor creates capital and private property at an easily detectable double exponential rate. Without a campaign against surplus labor and overwork, property reigns supreme. If private property would be abolished, then attack surplus value. But, with so many people busting hump to CREATE private property [and surpluses], there's no other feasible way to approach its abolition.

> the non-stop identification of virtue with obedience to superiors,

   Bourgeois ideology cannot be combated without attacking the source of their wealth and power: surplus value. People go nuts thinking of ways to outbid fellow citizens for opportunities to make the rich even richer. Our job is to help everyone see the futility of mindless competition, and abolish competition.

> the disinformation campaign against other societies,

   "The first casualty when war comes is truth."

> the distraction of bread and circuses, etc., etc.

   Without the fun things in life, where would we be?

> Rather than a government of the people in America, we have gangs
> of lawyers who hire themselves out to maintain some form of order
> in a piecemeal and erratic fashion.

   Here's something I pulled off the Internet:

   ""The first thing we do," said the character in Shakespeare's Henry VI, is "kill all the lawyers." Contrary to popular belief, the proposal was not designed to restore sanity to commercial life. Rather, it was intended to eliminate those who might stand in the way of a contemplated revolution -- thus underscoring the important role that lawyers can play in society."

   Lawyering is a specialty in the 'division of labor', because we can't all lawyer very well, so some specialize in it. If 'division of labor' is worthy of complaint, then why not complain about the source of division: the fact that human labor is required at all? Bosses have incentives to abolish human labor, so we will soon be relieved of our burdens, as well as the division of labor. While their specialty is the abolition of necessary labor, and its replacement with surplus labor, our specialty should be the abolition of surplus labor (which automatically accomplishes the abolition of capital and private property).

> Without the massive litigation at work in our society, there would
> be pressure or
reforms of a broad and categorical sort.

   A better job of distributing work would help slow the proliferation of litigation by getting people off each others backs.

> As it is, we all hope to get rich quick through luck,
>
misfortune, inheritance, etc., and will impede any efforts
> at
egalitarian distribution of society's benefits.

   A more egalitarian distribution of work would bring about a more egalitarian distribution of tangibles. There's no other way to distribute, except by creating a bureaucracy. As the late great Liberation Capitalist Dahlberg opined, 'Capitalism would be a perfect system of production if forced to operate under a chronic scarcity of labor.' Creating that artificial scarcity is our task.

> Like I said, though; this state of affairs is maintained through
>
abdication of a corrupted government and with massive continuous
> effort by a media machine of unprecedented power and reach.
>
> Hopeless? No. Real hope has to be based in accurate assessment...

   Abdication may not be the right word here. The government is by no means ready to 'abdicate the throne'. {Oops. My mistake. 'Abdication of duties' was probably what johnfull2 intended.}

 

04-22-03

   In Msg # 19724, Richard S. quoted me:

>> "The whole of Marx's economic works should not be so easily dismissed.
>> Marx did lots of original research. No one else of his era better described
>> surplus value, exploitation..."
>
> Yes he did some good works however the practical use of value is severely
> limited. I can show in the text book workers are 'exploited' but I
cannot
> show it in the real world.

   As a real world Audi mechanic in Palo Alto 1977-9, my own rate of exploitation was easily calculated. The shop rate of $22.50 was proudly posted on the wall, and I was making $7.50, so I produced surplus value at the rate of $15.00 per hour, on average. The boss profited on the parts I installed, but he also paid for my uniforms, health care plan, workers' comp taxes, and other incidentals, so a little give and take occurred. Only some occupations allow for the rate of exploitation to be calculated this easily.

>> "Questioning repeatedly is good advice, but RS should tell us exactly
>> which of Marx's theories he suspects might be wrong, as a topic of
>> further discussion."
>
> RS: here are a few for starters:
>
> 1. The average rate of profit to fall.
>
> 2. Decline in real wages.
>
> 3. Concentration of capital to lead to state capitalism. (more from engels)

   Very good! I'll add one of my favorites to this list:

4. The revolution will begin in the most developed countries.

   Everyone should collaborate to make the list longer.

   #2 might be debatable, because today's standards of living in the USA, UK, and West Europe are far better than those of a century ago. People living in the most developed democracies are far better off in many ways, especially considering the tales of woe in 'The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists'.

 

04-22-03

   McD1st wrote:

> McD: Are you merely interested in Marxian dogmatics
> or does the
truth matter to you.

   Marxism contains lots of truths. Therefore, it interests me.

> Why should anyone think that what Marx called the proletariat
> is an interest group?

   I try to avoid using 'proletariat' whenever possible, preferring to use 'workers' instead. I also avoid 'working class', because the USA would have a big labor party if its workers were really exploited 'as a class'.

> Why should anyone think there ever was class struggle as Marx had it?

   Marx's 'Class Struggles in France' well described the struggles over state power between monarchists, bourgeois republicans, and red republicans in 1848-9. Those class struggles were real enough for Marx to detect. If a real workers' party is absent in the USA today, however, then it's nowhere nearly as easy to describe Americans' problems in terms of 'class struggle'.

> Why should anyone credit the daft theories of surplus value.

   As per my reply to redrepublicanUK, auto mechanics can figure out their rates of surplus value with significant degrees of accuracy. It is a very useful concept for explaining exploitation of labor.

> Do you like to think or do you prefer to conform to crass hogwash?

   The road of independent research can hardly be described as leading to conformity with crass hogwash. When I was a member of a revolutionary party, on the other hand, I certainly was conforming to crass hogwash.

> This Marxism claptrap is way more silly than any religion is.

   The sectarian types of Marxism which some people get sucked into can be pretty silly, for sure.

> Only someone demented could overlook its clear falseness.

   Some sectarian versions certainly are false in many ways. One could make a lifelong study of the differences between the sectarian versions and the real thing. The problem with the real thing is that its internal problems made it easy to be interpreted in various sectarian ways, the inevitable confusion leading to severe limitation of usefulness.

> There can be no proper excuse for it & it is about time it was got rid of.

   Due to obsolescence, much of it can be safely disposed of, except for the parts about exploitation and surplus value.

> The one thing Marx did say that had merit was
> that
we should not tolerate intellectual error.

   Good philosophy. I wish I knew where to find anything like that statement in my CD of Collected Works. A bit of searching for variations of those words yielded nothing, unfortunately. :-(

 

04-22-03

   John H. quoted me:

>> As a real world Audi mechanic in Palo Alto 1977-9, my own rate
>> of exploitation was easily calculated. The shop rate of $22.50 was
>> proudly posted on the wall, and I was making $7.50, so I produced
>> surplus value at the rate of $15.00 per hour, on average.
>
> So are you saying that you
should have gotten paid $22.50/hr less
> the $3-5/hr that the uniforms, workers comp, etc cost.

   Not at all, for then I might be expecting to be treated differently from all of the other workers in the world. I was merely implying that the profit on the parts that I installed probably compensated the boss for the expenses of my uniforms, workers' comp taxes, and other miscellany. I wanted to separate those incidentals from the main dishes: the wages ($7.50), the shop rate ($22.50), and the surplus value ($15.00).

> Even though the boss pays you $7.50/hr for 8 hours daily whether
> or not
there is any work being billed at $22.50/hr?

   In that busy shop, I can hardly think of a day when there wasn't money to be made by working on customers' cars. For me, it was a continuum of Audis.

> Even though the boss pays you $7.50/hr when you are not even present
> such as vacations, holidays, sick days etc.?

   Good observations. Though I didn't take any sick days back in those halcyon days, I did take a week vacation in '78, and did have a few hollerdays off. My payments came right out of the bosses' profits. But, while I was there, the boss bought a brand new Mercedes, and had a swimming pool installed in the back yard of his (then) half million dollar house, though I know for a fact that I wasn't responsible for ALL of that bounty.

> Even though the boss pays for rent, lights, property taxes, your
>
unemployment and workers comp, half your SS contribution, tools(?)
> and equipment, advertising to find customers and a host of other stuff etc.

   I paid for my own tools. The Snap-On man was mighty glad to see me each week. But, the other things you mention admittedly added up. It's a wonder that the boss didn't go broke! Now I'm feeling guilty for having existed at all, just when I thought I was making a good point about surplus value. There goes my argument! Maybe I was lucky to get Dieter to act as temporary welfare agent for me.

> Even though you still get paid if a customer stiffs the boss on payment?

   You are so right. Getting stiffed came right out of the bosses' profits, if any were to be had at all, at this sobering point.

> Even though the boss provides administrative assistance with such things as
> phone answering, correspondence, ordering parts, billing and collection and
> all that?

   Well, the boss did all that. He did his best to keep the millstones (Audis) tied securely around my neck, while he concentrated on the Porsches.

> Even though you are working under the boss's reputation? That is, the
> customer does not know nor care who works on their car. They only know
> that the repair has been made by Palo Alto
Audi and if you do a poor job it
> is their rep and business, not yours, that suffers. What is this worth?
>
> How much, on an
hourly basis do you think all these things, and probably
> more, are worth?

   Probably more than I could ever afford to pay. You are right. I should send Dieter a big fat check for the burden of having employed me.

> It sounds like you think he should give them to you for free.
> If so, why do you think this?

   Oh, no! Thanks to your expert tutelage in putting money values on all of these intangibles, I clearly owe Dieter every bit of money I can possibly scrape up. But, that sum not being more than a pittance, I am clearly in his debt for eternity! I am beginning to consider debtor's prison as a possible way to salvage my lost soul.

> Actually, even for the late $70's a $22.50 shop rate sounds very low.
> I would have expected it to be more in the $40-50 range to support
> $7.50 mechanics.

   As an independent, Dieter couldn't charge the big dealers' rates, so his mechanics were paid proportionally less. I was never interested enough to find out what the other shops made or paid. I didn't like fixing cars, so I quit in '79 to go to school to learn electronics, and got my ASEET. The day I told Dieter my plans, he wanted to wheel and deal and entice me to stay, but I never even expressed curiosity as to how much extra he might be willing to pay. In retrospect, I am curious, but it's too late now.

> Maybe the question to ask is why were you so foolish as to work for $7.50
> when you
could have gone out and charged people the $18-20 directly?
>
> So why were you so
foolish?
>
> Best,
>
> John R H

   Because I had access to a nice building, my repair bay had a nice hydraulic lift which I used 75% of the time, I had compressed air for my power tools, heat in the winter, lights and electricity, the occasional use of expensive specialized tools, etc. I obviously couldn't do a tenth of the things I did in the shop if I were restricted to the vicinity of a shade tree near my apartment building.

 

04-22-03

   McD1st wrote:

>>> McD: Are you merely interested in Marxian dogmatics or does the truth
>>> matter to you.
>>
>> Ken Ellis:
Marxism contains lots of truths. Therefore, it interests me.
>
> McD: Do you mean this to say that you
do like the truth as some of it
> was caught by Marx
?

   Yes. He taught me a lot about the politics of the era, and the importance of replacing old absolute monarchies with socially controlled democratic republics, which is where the term 'Social-Democrat' came from. The average revolutionary knows nothing about this history, so they willy nilly want to apply revolution to democracies.

> No, I guess you mean you like Marxism just because it
> is largely true.
I think that latter idea errs & maybe I
> can explain a bit below.

   Thanks for the offer. We'll see.

>>> Why should anyone think that what Marx called the proletariat is
>>> an interest group?
>>
>> KE: I try to avoid using '
proletariat' whenever possible, preferring to
>> use 'workers' instead.
>
> McD: Right.
>
> Why do you think
the workers form an interest group then?

   Because I've been a worker all of my life, and I've known lots of others in the same boat.

>> KE: I also avoid 'working class', because the USA would have a big labor
>> party
if its workers were really exploited 'as a class'.
>
> McD: We agree on that. That was the argument I was going to make against
> the workers as an interst group, or one of them. Not many people overlook
> their own economic interests decade out, decade in. Why should anyone think
> there ever was class struggle as Marx had it?

   I think the Republicans want to push us into class struggle; they want to see just how many things they can take away before we resist.

>>> McD: Why should anyone credit the daft theories of surplus value.
>>
>> KE: As per my reply to redrepublicanUK, auto mechanics can figure
>> out their rates of surplus value with significant degrees of accuracy.
>> It is a very useful concept for explaining exploitation of labor.
>
> McD: Yes, but it is
false. It exaggerates the contribution of passive
> labour
& plays down the passive contribution of capital & overlooks
> the rather dynamic contribution of entrepreneurship. Do you like
> to think or do you prefer to conform to crass hogwash?

   Combining Marx's theory of surplus value with Kurzweil's theory of a double exponential rate of technological progress provides a powerful rationale for legislating reduced work hours, which would give workers more freedom from wage slavery, provide everyone with a slot in the above-ground economy, and would reduce class distinctions by increasing workers' leisure time. Plus, society would benefit in many more ways.

>>>> KE: The road of independent research can hardly be described as leading
>>>> to
conformity with crass hogwash. When I was a member of a revolutionary
>>>> party, on the other hand, I certainly was
conforming to crass hogwash.
>>>
>>> McD: I think we agree, but it surely depends on the nature of the
>>> research. This
Marxism claptrap is way more silly than any religion is.
>>
>> The sectarian types of
Marxism which some people get sucked into
>> can be pretty
silly, for sure.
>
> McD: We are in danger of total agreement. Only someone demented could
> overlook
its clear falseness.

   A lot of people who get sucked into sectarian movements are more alienated than the average Joe.

>> KE: Some sectarian versions certainly are false in many ways. One
>> could make a lifelong study of the differences between the sectarian
>> versions and the
real thing. The problem with the real thing is that its
>> internal problems made it easy to be interpreted in various sectarian
>> ways, the inevitable confusion leading to severe limitation of usefulness.
>
> McD: That is true but I think Marx saw that he had
backed the wrong horse
> in the 1870s when
vulgar supply & demand theory was rescued by marginal
> analysis.
There can be no proper excuse for it & it is about time it was got rid of.

   Surplus value is a valuable tool for explaining the treadmill effect of the modern economy. On the other hand, trying to explain price in terms of labor time is not very elucidating. Even Engels in Volume 3 of Capital explained how difficult it was in his day to determine value by means of labor time. That method really only applied to the distant past of more primitive modes of production, so it's not useful today. But, some people will defend 'the labor time theory of value' [in an exacting, dogmatic fashion] to their dying day. They are the same people who will also defend their inapplicable 'necessity for revolutions in democracies' theories until their dying days.

>> KE: Due to obsolescence, much of it can be safely disposed of,
>> except for the parts about exploitation and surplus value.
>
> McD: Why do you think
they have merit? Do you actually think all profit
> comes from
passive labour? It clearly comes from entrepreurship.

   To the extent that an entrepreneur works hard to build and maintain a business, I agree.

>>> The one thing Marx did say that had merit was that we should not
>>> tolerate intellectual error
.
>>
>> Good philosophy. I wish I knew where to find anything like
that statement
>> in my
CD of Collected Works. A bit of searching for variations of those
>> words yielded nothing, unfortunately. :-(
>
> McD: I have forgotten where he said it but it was not in a recondite work.
> I no longer read Karl Marx every day.

   Say, you know, I tried to post my earlier reply to the WSM forum, but the moderator rejected it, saying it was a cross posting. It was addressed to both you and the forum, so I guess that's what he meant. Maybe you should not send directly to me and instead just use the public forum for our future debates. I set my reading preferences to 'read messages on the Internet'. It keeps my e-mail files from being cluttered, but also enables keeping records of everything responded to.

 

04-25-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> Opposition to the shorter hour solution comes from a variety
>> of corners, but the opposition certainly is not insurmountable.
>
> How do you envision overcoming what the opposition will mount?

   A slow process of mass education. It begins in forum debates, while other education occurs in direct campaigns, such as 'Take Back Your Time Day', scheduled for Friday, Oct. 24. For info, visit: http://www.timeday.org/news

> Like I said I've been following your proposal for over a year now.
> Since we first met over at the
WSM forum. And I've always found it to
> be very interesting, and well considered. I don't think that I would want
> to overlook this possibility, and really I don't understand the opposition
> towards it, least of all from
social reformists and/or labor/union
> activists, other than for the reasons that John and I have put up, and
> Bill and Len, that capital will simply move on to the underdeveloped
> nation's
labor force and on top of that get more for their money,
> so to speak... so how do we overcome this in reality?

   By making the movement international, and winning uniformly consistent protections for every worker in the world, the incentive for capital to flee to other countries will be abolished.

> Do you suppose that we could take it globally?

   A global spread is inevitable, but first the Western world needs to try to get on the same page. Achieving that will set a good example for all others to follow.

> How would capital respond to such a world-wide labor demand?

   With obedience, just as the USA's Fair Labor Standards Act is obeyed today. Companies that violate laws get sanctioned (if they get caught). It wouldn't be the first time a company was fined for violating the FLSA. My nephew got a nice 'bonus' after his company was fined and forced to pay retro overtime.

> What opposition could we expect if (world-wide)
>
Labor were to become united in this demand?

   Naturally, bosses oppose such laws in the usual ways, such as by lobbying and pressuring legislators. Opposition from bosses is to be expected, but some residual opposition must also be overcome from within our own ranks, so as to unify our voices.

> And how do we prevail?

   With the persistence that comes from knowing that the path is the right path for the right time in history. With the abolition of human labor looming a mere 3 decades away (or less), now is the time for achieving clarity on the issue of 'full participation in the economy'. Full participation was even the PURPOSE of expropriation for Marx and Engels, as explained by Engels in his 1877 bio entitled "Karl Marx" (me24.193): ... "the productive forces of society, which have outgrown the control of the bourgeoisie, are only waiting for the associated proletariat to take possession of them in order to bring about a state of things in which every member of society will be enabled to participate not only in production but also in the distribution and administration of social wealth, and which so increases the productive forces of society and their yield by planned operation of the whole of production that the satisfaction of all reasonable needs will be assured to everyone in an ever-increasing measure."

   If 'the purpose of expropriation is to enable full participation', and if full participation can be achieved by no more controversial a method than 'reducing work hours', then expropriation needs to be rejected for its divisiveness. Common people don't know or want any more than private property, hard work, the flag, motherhood, and apple pie, plus a little time off to enjoy them. More time off will reduce the freedom gap between us and the idle rich.

> Labor not being mobile while capital is... Can we enforce this
> decision at some point?

   The Internet gives Labor a mobility never before available. We are no longer restricted to 'Think globally, act locally.' With web sites and e-mail, some pressure can be applied to any corner of the globe without having to travel.

> Forgive me if you've already answered some of these questions,
> I haven't read all of the recent posts as yet.
>
> Rebecca

   No problem. I'm pleased to be asked reasonable questions.

 

04-25-03

   Nicholas wrote:

> So Bro',
>
> you have your wish. The evil doers have been vanquished. Are you happy now?
>
> - Nicholas

   Hi, Bro',

   I am so happy that the war is winding down to practically nothing. I'm also very happy that the old regime is gone. The rhetoric about what's to replace it doesn't seem too bad. Maybe we could have done worse over there.

 

04-25-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> We have only ourselves to blame for the ideological blinders
>> that prevent us from organizing, and for the laziness that keeps
>> us from detecting the ways in which we prevent our own progress.
>
> Ken, I can't buy into this. I'd agree more with what John's
> assessment was in his reply to you.

   Sometimes I slip a little too far into negativity. John replied to what I had written (above):

> It seems to me that the American government has abdicated its mandate
> to represent all the people and that the private powers at work in society
> have cowed the population into submission by various methods.

   John was right about the cowing of groups and individuals. Still, our democracy is viable enough to enable workers to get what they need, if and when they are ready to move on any particular issue.

> I don't see how the people haven't been vocal about what they
> want, and just how the
government has ignored those interests.

   The government can always afford to ignore smaller movements. Joe Six-Pac still rejects National Health Care as 'socialistic'.

> Our public poll surveys since the 60's has repeatedly shown
> that
we want a Nationalized Health Care System... is that
>
public involvement laziness?

   It's big, but still isn't big enough of a movement to make the required dent. Masses can always be conned into rejecting beneficial plans on anti-socialist grounds. Just the other day, out of the blue, a neighbor railed against socialized medicine. He no doubt felt like he had lots of support for his attitude.

> Is the reason we don't have this system due to our own
> ideological blinders and lies in the fact that we have
> no one to blame but ourselves... I don't think so.

   Originally, I associated 'ideological blinders' with unproductive 'power and property' ideologies, not with Nationalized Health Care. Like yourself, I don't know of a leftist who ever railed against National Health Care. That good program is sort of a no-brainer. On the other hand, many ideologues dismiss shorter work week efforts. Maybe unemployment will have to double or triple before a shorter work week will also become a no-brainer. It's hard to predict, but a certain class of activists whose livings or self-esteem depend upon selling unworkable plans to gullibles may NEVER be convinced of the value of labor capturing control of the labor market.

> The government has told us it's financially impossible, and
> President Clinton told us it was
politically impossible, prior to
> his proclamation, we were hammered with media mainstream
> B.S. on the topic in general, and are still going around in
> circles with the privatization vs.
national health care ...

   A nation that can find billions to spend on an unneeded war while simultaneously cutting taxes for the rich can certainly subsidize National Health Care if it WANTS to, but it doesn't seem to want to, and not enough people care enough to make National Health Care happen. It's sad and disgusting, and makes one wonder where all of this truly mass selfishness is going to land us.

> Is this our fault? Are we to be blamed for
> the confusion which abounds? I think not.

   National health Care has been beaten down by the opposition time and again. The votes are simply against us. Money can't be applied to social problems if money is not to be had. So, ... What do we do? Put on our thinking caps, and examine the source of our social problems, which boils down to 'insufficient participation in the legitimate economy', forcing millions to eke out existences in the gray economy, and forcing overstressed participants in the legitimate economy to begrudge every dime the state demands they fork over to maintain the poor. Obviously, the exclusion of millions from the legitimate economy cannot increase to TOO great a figure before someone notices, and people act to make the economy more inclusive. Creating an artificial scarcity of labor would put everyone to work, and raise wages sufficiently for a totally employed populace to afford their own health care insurance, if National Health Care proposals continue to get beat down indefinitely.

> But getting past that now, where is the solution? Attempting to
> educate the public, striving and struggling to make them aware,
> even in the face of the odds against that maneuver, or maybe we
> could set-up a 'common goal' for active affiliation support?

   Not much can be done to move the traditional labor agenda ahead of its time, which is bound to arrive nevertheless. This hiatus provides opportunities to study activism and find a branch into which heart and soul can be poured without regret. Knowing for certain that one's time is not being wasted trying to do the unpopular, or trying to do the impossible, is no small comfort.

> As we might, perhaps, be able to accomplish here in our group.
>
Internationally higher wages, shorter hours, and domestically
>
national health care could these both not be on the agenda to
> be pushed and supported in solidarity?
>
> Rebecca

   Absolutely. It looks like a plan.

 

04-24-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> That presumes that bosses are maliciously against American
>>
Labor, whereas their real motive is to maximize profits by availing
>> themselves of the lower wages and
longer work hours of foreign labor.
>> It's as simple as that. They are much more pro-profit than they might
>> be against American
Labor, because if considerate bosses don't take
>> advantage of
foreign labor, they don't profit as immensely, and
>> risk going out of business for being 'too kind'.
>
> Yes, I think I'll agree with this, but it doesn't address the
> problem. If we aren't global in this effort we will, in effect,
> pronounce our own demise. Do you think that we can get into
> those third and fourth and fifth world countries
domestic
> labor forces
via the internet? I'd like to know how?

   Some of the most underdeveloped economies don't use wage labor, so a shorter work week would be irrelevant there. Achieving uniformly consistent labor standards in the West should be a more immediate priority.

> We stand a much better chance of using our national
> labor movements
in conjunction to put pressure on
>
globally regulated government policy.
>
> Rebecca

   The most developed countries need to be aligned on this issue. Much of Europe enjoys fewer hours of labor than the USA or UK. A common length of the work week and work year would help, as well as a common overtime premium sufficiently high to discourage most overwork. If time and a half is too weak to discourage overwork beyond 40 hours now, then it's surely too weak to prevent work beyond 35 hours.

 

04-26-03

   McD1st wrote:

>>> Why do you think the workers form an interest group then?
>>
>> KE: Because I've been a worker all of my life, and I've known
>> lots of others in the same boat.
>
> McD: Well then, what does the
common economic interests consist in?
> How do the
capitalists oppose the workers?

   Bosses want as few workers as possible to work for as many hours as possible (because competition for scarce jobs forces desperate workers to accept low wages, which translates into high profits), while workers prosper when as many as possible find work, participation in the legal economy is maximum, and dependence on the gray economy, the state, or charity is minimum.

   This relationship was rather well represented in today's New York Times article about falling pay:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/26/business/26PAY.html?th

> McD: Do you feel state services benefit the workers? How?

   In times of high unemployment, state handouts sure beat starving, but the REAL solution is full employment.

>>>> KE: ... surplus value is a very useful concept
>>>> for explaining exploitation of labor.
>>>
>>> McD: Yes, but it is
false. It exaggerates the contribution of passive
>>> labour
& plays down the passive contribution of capital & overlooks
>>> the rather dynamic contribution of entrepreneurship.
>>
>> KE: Combining Marx's theory of surplus value with Kurzweil's theory of
>> a
double exponential rate of technological progress provides a powerful
>> rationale for
legislating reduced work hours, which would give workers
>> more
freedom from wage slavery, provide everyone with a slot in the
>> above-ground economy, and would
reduce class distinctions by increasing
>> workers' leisure time
. Plus, society would benefit in many more ways.
>
> McD: But we can freely take
reduced hours if that is what we want.

   I don't know if you were hinting at this or not, but INDIVIDUAL solutions do not suffice nowadays. Conditions cry out for truly SOCIAL solutions.

> It means having less wages though.

   It depends upon how much society would be willing to cut hours. A small cut in hours - enough to put many more people to work, for instance - would raise wages considerably (by eliminating cut-throat competition for scarce jobs) while not slowing production of necessities at all. If, on the other hand, cutting hours were to become the next popular fad, the work week could be easily cut in half while still not cutting into necessities, though lots of non-necessary production would certainly be diminished, such as the willingness to jump into war, advertising, speculation, high-tech research, etc.

> I have not read Kurzweil.

   As an introduction, try reading his April testimony before a Congressional Science Committee at:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0556.html

>> KE: A lot of people who get sucked into sectarian movements are more
>> alienated than the average Joe.
>
> McD: Yes. But even Marx
doubted whether communism could get rid
> of alienation.
I think philosophy can ease it.

   Marx generally equated surplus value (and surplus labor (the same thing)) with all kinds of evil, such as alienation and exploitation. The way to cut back on alienation is to scale back on mindless, thoughtless surplus value production, at least enough to ensure full participation in the economy.

> McD: Do you feel that politics has a lot to offer people & that democracy
> can be a boon
? Did you ever read _Political Parties (1911) Robert Michels?

   I read Michels' Political Parties maybe 10 years or so ago while researching my book. I remember its elucidation of inner party dynamics.

   A study of Marx reveals that the mass political maneuvering of his day centered on replacing absolute monarchies with democratic republics. Marx and his First International differed from bourgeois republicanism by wanting new republics to be SOCIALLY controlled (by means of universal suffrage), which is where the term Social-Democracy comes from.

>>> Do you actually think all profit comes from passive labour?
>>> It
clearly comes from entrepreurship.
>>
>> KE: To the extent that an entrepreneur works hard to build
>> and maintain a business, I agree. {Gosh, what a weak answer.}
>
> McD: I was thinking of it as a function viz. that it comes from
> competition for consumer patronage, from guessing better what the
> consumers will go for. This is distinct from interest & wages [& rent]
> & it is less passive than the other three factors of production.

   You might have something there, especially regarding the creation of new values, but I do not concern myself at all with trying to determine the value of a commodity, because hairs could be split all day long without getting an inch closer to social justice for workers.

   Marx's theory of SURPLUS value is quite different from his theory of the value of a commodity, because surplus value is all about the DIVISION of the product of labor between worker and boss. Surplus value is all about 'who gets what', and not at all about 'how commodity value is determined'.

   Going back to your pronouncement of 'false' for surplus value, I think if you approach surplus value as a rather VERY DIFFERENT theory from the law of value, you will find that it is very helpful, because bosses very much DO appropriate most of the product of labor. It's a perfectly legal and civil relationship, of course, but it does explain a lot about society's 'race to the bottom'. People have to do SOMETHING to resist the race to the bottom, so what do they do? What's YOUR solution?

>> KE: Say, you know, I tried to post my earlier reply to the WSM
>> forum
, but the moderator rejected it, saying it was a cross posting.
>> It was addressed to both you and the
forum, so I guess that's what
>> he meant. Maybe you should not send directly to me and instead
>> just use the
public forum for our future debates.
>
> McD: They no longer let my posts on their list.

   Ahh, yes, I know what it's like to be censored by them, and for no worse a crime against consciousness than what I've expressed here. Oh, well. So much for freedom of speech in the socialist world. Here's hoping that Castro gets his, someday soon. And to think that I was one of a couple of million marching past him in the Revolutionary Plaza in Havana 20 years ago.

 

04-27-03

   In worldincommon, becca quoted me:

>> 'Take Back Your Time Day', scheduled for Friday, Oct. 24.
>> For info, visit:
http://www.timeday.org/news
>
> Great! I'll check out that
link very soon. A slow process of making
> ourselves consciously aware is a slow process in the face of mainstream
> academia and media.. Very difficult indeed. But as I made mention in
> one of my other postings...just look at what an initial dozen or so
> people did for East Timor.

   True enough. Rome wasn't built in a day.

>>> capital will simply move on to the underdeveloped nation's labor
>>> force
and on top of that get more for their money, so to speak...
>>> so how do we overcome this in reality?
>>
>> By
making the movement international, and by winning uniformly
>> consistent protections for every worker in the world
, the incentive
>> for capital to flee to other countries will be abolished.
>
> O.k.. but is this realistically possible?

   Realistic, yes, because all Western nations enjoy protections for labor, so legislatures need to be pressured to make the protections more strict, as well move them toward uniformity with the protective laws of other countries.

> How could we enforce such a global rule in all countries?

   Enforcement is already a function of existing states. Once a labor law is adopted, it is enforced just like any other law. If a business disobeys, the heavy hand of the government steps in.

> Would we turn to a militant labor group to see to it
> that all those
governments conform and obey?

   Trade unions already watchdog businesses. When abuses occur, as is to be expected now and then, alert unions file complaints.

> I think that what you're proposing will take some kind'a undertaking
> to establish. Taking small baby steps to lead up to a point where
> even basic development can begin to proceed. Ya'know... the
> usual time-taking process.

   Progress surely takes time. If our ideas are worth anything, though, the ideas will spread.

>>> Do you suppose that we could take it globally?
>>
>> A
global spread is inevitable, but first the Western world needs
>> to try to get on the same page. Achieving that will set a good
>> example for all others to follow.
>
> Most assuredly it would. Perhaps that could be the start then.

   Agreed.

>> Companies that violate laws get sanctioned (if they get caught).
>> It wouldn't be the first time a company was fined for violating
>> the
FLSA. My nephew got a nice 'bonus' after his company
>> was fined and forced to pay retro
overtime.
>
> In here I see
many problems of enforcement. Just as you mentioned
> the problem of 'catching' someone in the act of 'not acting'. So,
> you're thinking about using the
institutions or amending or
>
establishing these institutions, to enable enforcement. I see.

   In my nephew's case, if it hadn't been for the workers feeling like they were getting nowhere fast, and for their curiosity leading them to inquire about their situation and complain, then nothing would have been done. Enforcement of labor laws is not as automatic as it could be.

>>> What opposition could we expect if (world-wide) Labor
>>> were to
become united in this demand?
>>
>> Naturally, bosses oppose such
laws in the usual ways, such as by
>> lobbying and pressuring
legislators. Opposition from bosses is to
>> be expected, but some residual opposition must also be overcome
>> from within our own ranks, so as to unify our voices.
>
> Well... that's what (
WiC/Commoner) we're here for! ...smile.
>
> I have to run now, I'll print out the rest of this to read over the
> week-end. My computer time will be at the beginning of this
> week coming up... until then ..thanks so much for your reply,
> and again, I too love the idea! And when the obvious objections
> are satisfied, I sincerely hope to help make it a united cause.
>
> Have a Wonderful week-end all,
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   In unity there is strength.

 

04-29-03

   McD1st wrote:

> McD: Here is a bit more feedback on Marxism.
>
> McD: Well then, what does the
common economic interests consist in?
> How do the
capitalists oppose the workers?
>
> DRS: Workers
cannot form an interest group, because most political issues
> set one alliance of workers and capitalists
against another alliance of workers
> and capitalists. For example, auto workers and
GM stockholders both benefit
> if there is an increased tariff on Japanese cars, but other workers and
> capitalists in the US
suffer, because they pay more for cars.

   "Workers cannot form an interest group"? Then what precisely have trade unions been for the past 2 centuries? Plus, during the American Depression of the 1930's, Labor backed the Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill, which had so much support that it even passed the Senate before being scuttled in the House on behalf of business interests. So, Labor can defend and pursue both its political and economic interests.

> DRS: As McD indicates, the theory of surplus value assumes that capital
> makes no contribution to the value of output
, and this is clearly wrong.

   The theory of surplus value assumes no such thing. Marx CERTAINLY accounted for the contribution of capital when he defined fixed, circulating, and constant capital. Raw materials add their entire value to commodities, while machinery and buildings, etc., add their value in the form of depreciation.

>> KE: Combining Marx's theory of surplus value with Kurzweil's theory of
>> a
double exponential rate of technological progress provides a powerful
>> rationale for
legislating reduced work hours, which would give workers
>> more
freedom from wage slavery, provide everyone with a slot in the
>> above-ground economy, and would
reduce class distinctions by increasing
>> workers' leisure time
. Plus, society would benefit in many more ways.
>
> McD: But we can
freely take reduced hours if that is what we want.
> It means having less wages though.

   That's certainly true if INDIVIDUALS wheedle reduced hours out of easy bosses. But, as soon as ALL workers win reduced work schedules, no reduction in wages results.

> DRS: Exactly, and this is what workers have done. Hours worked have
> shrunk enormously over the decades, and they will continue to do so.

> Workers take some of the gains of increased productivity in the form
> of
higher wages and some in the form of reduced working hours. That
> is why
real wages are vastly higher than they were a hundred years
> ago, while hours worked are vastly lower.

   Certainly today's generations have more time, as well as more stuff, and life is certainly easier. But, workers also create a higher proportion of SURPLUS value, and take home a SMALLER proportion of their product than ever before in history. Tech evolution translates into increasing rates of exploitation (which is the same thing as increasing rates of surplus value). Capital tends to drive necessary labor down to zero. Marx speculated that the abolition of necessary labor would also result in the abolition of surplus labor (and value). Speed the day when the machines create all of the food, clothing, and shelter anyone could ever need, and for free. If the abolition of necessary labor is the task of the capitalist, then the task of activists should be to abolish surplus labor by gradually legislating the length of the work week down to zero, or at least down to such a low figure that yet another work week reduction would be regarded as superfluous, and hardy volunteers step in to perform the remaining toil (all of it intellectual, at that point). That is how society will evolve out of capitalism, and in NO other way. If you can think of a different way in which it might evolve, then let's hear about it. Or, maybe you think that capitalism will last forever. A.O. Dahlberg believed that capitalism (while it lasts) could be an IDEAL system of production if forced to operate under a chronic shortage of labor. That shortage of labor can be created by legislating shorter work hours to keep pace with labor displacement caused by tech innovation. The economy is dynamic, so mechanisms must be installed to prevent a crisis of overproduction, such as what caused the Great Depression of the 1930's.

> Legislating shorter hours (and therefore lower real wages) on workers
> is forcing something on workers that they have shown they don't want.

   Actually, lower wages would result only from a LARGE reduction in labor time, while small reductions actually RAISE wages for all. The old timers had a saying: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay." Capitalists always warn workers not to ask for shorter work hours due to an alleged reduction in pay, because they want to reap the high profits that result from the low wages caused by unhealthy competition for scarce jobs.

   Lots of people on the treadmill of low wage jobs complain about getting nowhere fast. Some high-tech people, on the other hand, can't hog enough work for themselves, and enjoy salting away lots of money for their early retirements. The USA works a month longer per year than in the 1960's. Kids feel the effects of absentee parents for sure. A poll available at http://www.timeday.org/news-current.asp says:

   ... "the non-profit Center for a New American Dream shows that what American kids really want is not more stuff, but more time with friends and family.

   "The study shows that 90% of kids ages 9-14 say friends and family are "way more important" than things that money can buy. And while a strong majority of survey participants say they feel pressure to buy things in order to fit in, nearly six out of ten say they'd rather spend time having fun with their parents than head out to the mall to go shopping."

>> KE: Surplus value is a valuable tool for explaining the treadmill
>> effect of the modern economy. On the other hand, trying to explain
>> value in terms of
labor time is not very elucidating.
>
> DRS: Surely, if
value cannot be explained by labor-time,
> there can be no surplus-value.

   Good point. But, I wanted to differentiate my view from those Marxists who go overboard in relating the value of a commodity to the exact amount of time embodied in its creation, whereas even Engels in Volume 3 of Capital admitted to the difficulty of exactly quantifying value in terms of units of time during late capitalism. But, no doubt exists that commodities cannot be created without human labor exerting effort over periods of time, so time and labor do remain the essential ingredients of value, and they always will, until human labor is completely replaced by technology, and the products of machines fail to imbue the quality of 'value' upon them. Human 'labor' will then become an OPTIONAL adjunct to the creation of new things.

>>> McD: Why do you think they have merit? Do you actually think all profit
>>> comes from passive
labour? It clearly comes from entrepreurship.
>>
>> KE: To the extent that an entrepreneur works hard to build and
>> maintain a business, I agree.
>
> DRS: No, though entrepreneurs generally do work very hard,
> usually a
lot harder than most workers, that is not the key to
> their major contribution, and occasionally they may make
> a big contribution with hardly any work.
>
> McD: I was thinking of it as a function viz. that it comes from
> competition for consumer patronage, from guessing better what the
> consumers will go for. This is distinct from interest & wages [& rent]
> & it is less passive than the other three factors of production.

   Capitalism is inseparable from the worker-boss relation, so trying to give more credit for value creation to one side or the other is futile. It accomplishes nothing. Surplus value, on the other hand, is a great tool for educating labor about its history and fate, and for helping resist exploitation.

 

04-30-03

   A tip from a forum led me to this table at:

   http://reality.gn.apc.org/econ/mfs.htm

   --------------------------------------

Table 1: Exploitation of productive workers in the US, 1947-1987

 Year  Mins. per hour worked  Mins. per hour worked
    for self   for employing class
     
 1947  25.0  35.0
 1952  24.9  35.1
 1957  24.0  36.0
 1962  22.1  37.9
 1967  22.1  37.9
 1972  22.5  37.5
 1977  22.8  37.2
 1982  20.8  39.2
 1987  18.2  41.8

Data derived from Moseley: The Falling Rate of Profit in the Postwar United States Economy, 1991, New York, Macmillan.

 

04-30-03

   Two new messages received today ...
   McD1st wrote:

>>> McD: How do the capitalists oppose the workers?
>>
>> KE: Bosses want as few workers as possible to work for as many
>> hours as possible (because competition for scarce jobs forces
>> desperate workers to accept low wages, which translates into
>> high profits), while workers prosper when as many as possible
>> find work,
participation in the legal economy is maximum, and
>> dependence on the gray economy, the
state, or charity is minimum.
>
> McD: But hitherto there has been a
dire shortage of labour & wages
> has been going up those last 300 years.

   The New York Times ran an article the other day that explained the low wage phenomenon in parallel with the way I described it:

   http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/26/business/26PAY.html?th

   It begins: "For the first time since the 1980's, the average pay of workers at all income levels is falling."

   Plus, a Reuters article of April 24 stated: "First-time jobless claims rose by 8,000 to 455,000 for the week ended April 19, the Labor Department said.

   "It was the highest level since the week ended March 30, 2002, and the tenth straight week that claims held above the key 400,000 point, seen by economists as signaling an unhealthy labor market."

   It's an "unhealthy labor market", even by Reuters' standards. Plus, 5% unemployment is NATIONAL POLICY. Greenspan juggles interest rates to keep unemployment at 5%. Bosses like unemployment because intense competition for jobs forces workers to accept low wages, which translate into high profits.

> The books of the late J.L. Simon on the exaggerated &
> misunderstood overpopulation problem [& even the
likely
> under population
problem] shows that fact starkly. In any
> case, there is
no clash of class interests in what you say
> above. See his _
The Ultimate Resource (1981; II 1997).

   Why bring up the irrelevant issue of population growth? Does a growing population automatically translate into an excellent economy?

>> KE: This relationship was rather well represented in today's New York
>> Times
article about falling pay:
>>
>>
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/26/business/26PAY.html
>
> McD: I will look this up later. Does it maintain a fall in overall real
> wages? As prices, wages rates will need to adjust but the long run trend
> is up. To economise on anything, including wage rates, is in the interests
> of us all. We are all consumers & it is they who gain from any economy.

   Quibbling with the words of any particular article may not be productive. One needn't be a rocket scientist to figure out that the economy hasn't been doing very well for the past couple of years, and that a meaningful response is conceivable. What to do? Go on a rampage? Smash the state? Replace the state with a classless and stateless administration of things? Or, replace it with a communist workers' state? Make the economy more inclusive? Please tell us lost workers: What should we do? Count our blessings? Have lots of babies, and hope that a proliferation of babies will save us?

> On the one hand, Marx sees the price system as an anarchy, but
> then on the other he
encouraged the claptrap about "the bosses".
> But they can only respond to consumer patronage.

   Actually, Marx never used "the bosses" as an exact phrase. Engels used that exact phrase only 4 times.

> In any case, there is no clash between a worker & the firm he works for.

   Tell that to Michael 'Mucko' McDermott, and to all the other workers who have 'gone postal'. Or to any union that's gone on strike. Are they the victims of self-delusion?

> Income for all in every firm needs to adjust & for the
> same reasons relating to consumer patronage.

   Is 'adjustment of income' the solution?

>>> McD: Do you feel state services benefit the workers? How?
>>
>> KE: In times of high unemployment,
state handouts sure beat starving,
>> but the REAL solution is
full employment.
>
> McD: When was starvation realistic in the USA or the UK for the average
> worker? Have you ever been anywhere near it?

   While living in California for awhile, I was disturbed to hear that one out of six California kids went to bed hungry every night. With only 2% of the USA population growing the food, it's obvious that the reason for hunger is 100% political, and 0% economic, as opposed to the days of yore when hunger was 100% economic. American hunger could be ended tomorrow if the political will existed, but the will doesn't exist, just like the political will to end unemployment doesn't exist.

> I never have & I have never bothered to get out of the poorest
> section of the population, or at least not since my teens [looking
> back I suppose I did make some effort before I converted to
>
Marxism but I have not really bothered much since].

   I considered myself a Marxist from 1972-94. In '94, I discovered that private property could be expropriated without compensation only after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, but never after communist parties won mere elections in the advanced countries where expropriation was expected to occur first, demonstrating a fatal internal contradiction in Marxism. By '95, I became convinced of the feasibility of abolishing capital and labor by driving down the length of the work week.

> I never saw anything like the class struggle & I doubt if you
> ever have either. Nor did Marx or Engels. They are like the
> Christians writing about their soul.

   True, I never experienced class struggle. But, Marx and Engels did, and Engels was injured fighting in a military battle to democratize Germany. Their experience of class struggle was largely political, as they watched and participated in trying to replace absolute monarchies with democratic republics. Not just the plain old democratic republics of their day, but socially-controlled democratic republics (enjoying universal suffrage), aka red republics.

>>> McD: But we can freely take reduced hours if that is what we want.
>>
>> KE: I don't know if you were hinting at this or not, but INDIVIDUAL
>> solutions do not suffice nowadays. Conditions cry out for truly SOCIAL
>> solutions.
>
> McD: Go on Ken, why do you think that?

   Because the economy is evolving, and productivity booms like never before. Human labor is being obsolesced at hitherto unprecedented and accelerating rates. Take a gander at this table drawn up by this union:

> The International Association of Machinists has
> compiled the job creation record of every presidential
> administration since World War II. The Machinists
> looked at the average growth in monthly employment
> during the terms of the last 15 administrations.
> Here's what they found:

 Truman 1   60,000 jobs gained per month
 Truman 2  113,000 jobs gained per month
 Eisenhower 1   58,000 jobs gained per month
 Eisenhower 2   15,000 jobs gained per month
 Kennedy  122,000 jobs gained per month
 Johnson  206,000 jobs gained per month
 Nixon 1  129,000 jobs gained per month
 Nixon/Ford  105,000 jobs gained per month
 Carter  218,000 jobs gained per month
 Reagan 1  109,000 jobs gained per month
 Reagan 2  224,000 jobs gained per month
 G. Bush   52,000 jobs gained per month
 Clinton 1  242,000 jobs gained per month
 Clinton 2  235,000 jobs gained per month
   
 G.W. Bush   69,000 jobs *LOST* per month


> This compilation, annotated with a brief explanation of
> the reason for job growth and losses in each administration,
> is presented in more detail in a slide show entitled: "Jobs:
> Worth Fighting For." To view the slide show, go to the
> Oregon AFL-CIO web site at
> www.oraflcio.unions-america.com.

   Scary enough to motivate considering a real unemployment solution?

>>> McD: It means having less wages though.
>>
>> KE: It depends upon how much society would be willing to
cut hours. A small
>> cut in hours - enough to
put many more people to work, for instance - would
>>
raise wages considerably (by eliminating cut-throat competition for scarce
>> jobs
) while not slowing production of necessities at all.
>
> McD: Well, the idea of "
cut throat competition" is hyperbole for none ever
> got their throat cut by economising & it aids the consumers to thrive.

   Tell that to the guys on the street corner with signs reading "Will work for food". Tell them just how well they are thriving.

> There is no end of part time jobs in the UK. Is that not the case in USA?

   Many part-time jobs may exist, but even a BUNCH of lousy jobs at minimum wage aren't enough to provide a living, nor enable low-wagers to pursue the great American dream.

> Jobs are superabundant but many have other options that they
> prefer & the
state supplies one option in unemployment
> benefit
hence many are unemployed.

   Sounds like a workers' paradise over there.

>> KE: If, on the other hand, cutting hours were to become the next
>> popular fad, the
work week could easily be cut in half while still
>> not cutting into necessities, though lots of non-necessary production
>> would certainly be diminished, such as the willingness to jump into
>>
war, advertising, speculation, high-tech research, etc.
>
> McD: If it was to be a
fad then it would be easier but it could be
> done by an individual.

   Many workers can cut a deal to work shorter work days or weeks, but many other workers would fear being replaced by a more willing hand.

> It is a bit like getting boiled potatoes instead of chips
> [French fries not chrisps] in cafes: it is easier if many are fussed
> but they can be had if just one is fussed, though not in every cafe.

   It may be an easy option for some, no doubt, but not for all.

>> KE: As an introduction, try reading his April testimony before
>> a
Congressional Science Committee at:
>>
>>
http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0556.html
>
> McD: Thanks. I will check it out from yahoo.

   It's a very educational piece. At one time, it was just the kind of info that I needed to satisfy my soul. After all, SOMEBODY out there had to be taking the longer view. Not EVERYONE could be so damned narrow-minded and short-sighted.

>>>> KE: A lot of people who get sucked into sectarian movements
>>>> are more alienated than the average Joe.
>>>
>>> McD: Yes. But even Marx
doubted whether communism could
>>>
get rid of alienation. I think philosophy can ease it.
>>
>> KE: Marx generally equated surplus value (and surplus
>> labor (the same thing)) with all kinds of evil, such
>> as alienation and exploitation.
>
> McD: Are they the same thing? I cannot see how!

   According to Marx, surplus labor = surplus value = surplus product. They are interchangeable economic categories. Maybe this will help: If workers went home after creating the value of their labor power (say after the first hour), then surplus labor would be absent, and just enough would be produced to keep society on a never-ending treadmill: go to work every day, never innovate. Surplus value and surplus labor would be just as absent as surplus product (that gets converted into capital and profits). Life would be as bare-bones as eons ago, when the human race lived a subsistence existence, and evolved at such an insignificant rate as to appear perfectly stagnant.

   Note: The Publishers of the Collected Works wrote (me29.xv): "When capitalist production is replaced by collective production, he [Marx] pointed out, the sources of all alienation of labour will be eliminated, the perversion of its social character will be overcome."

> Anyway, labour is hitherto [& likely to evermore be] short in
> supply; hence
the long run rise in wages.

   Labor was scarce in the infancy of capitalism, and bosses won legislation to force long hours out of them. When labor glutted the market, laws reversed to LIMIT the length of the work day and week. As productivity improves even more, limits will have to become stricter, lest unemployment run wild. The robots ARE coming, and in fact are arriving faster and faster. This will mean worker lib in a scenario barely envisioned by Marx 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!" If Marx could take a long view, then our long views should be so much the better for having seen society evolve without adhering to Marx's scenario of violent proletarian revolution, which is dead as a doornail.

> A real fall in wages would have been dire but it is clear that the
>
unemployment pay in the UK today beats the 1950s top wage rates
> with ease. No one is poor in absolute terms today if they are on the
dole.

   I am ready to move there, I tell you. Any place I can hole up while I'm waiting for my dole paperwork to go through?

>> KE: The way to cut back on alienation is to scale back on mindless,
>> thoughtless surplus value production
, at least enough to ensure full
>> participation in the economy
.
>
> McD: It is not easy to get people to like most jobs that need to be done &
> Marx admitted this somewhere in
vol III. He there suggests shorter hours
> for
some jobs but that makes no sense in free access communism but then nor
> does
free access communism & nor will history throw up something to aid it.

   In Volume 3, Marx did regard reducing the work day as a precondition to entering the realm of freedom. But, I don't remember him advocating shorter work hours for SOME jobs. I hope that you bookmarked that page. I remember references to HIGHER PAY for skilled labor, such as at me37.289.

   Re: free access communism: One mistake made by Marx and everyone else is to regard socialism or communism as happily compatible with the era of labor, but that is an oft-repeated big mistake. The purpose of the capitalist system is to abolish labor. Labor cannot be abolished without abolishing surplus labor, and surplus labor cannot exist without necessary labor as its foundation. Capitalism will continue on until the abolition of labor, so the system of autonomous machine production that follows capitalism will not be based upon either labor or capital. Socialism and labor prove to be logically antithetical. Do you get my point? If not, then where does my reasoning break down?

>> KE: I read Michels' Political Parties maybe 10 years or so ago while
>> researching my book. I remember its elucidation of inner party dynamics.
>
> McD: I read it in 1970 & it ended me as a democrat [but had no effect
> on me as a socialist, through I became an eccentric one in being
> against democracy as a
menace to the public].

   Menace? But, Marx and his fellow Social-Democrats fought so hard to create democracies on the ashes of absolute monarchies. He is even on record as saying in the Minutes of the General Council that the First International wanted to create democracies. Red republicanism was a life-long quest.

>> KE: A study of Marx reveals that the mass political maneuvering of his day
>> centered on
replacing absolute monarchies with democratic republics. Marx
>> and his
First International differed from bourgeois republicans by wanting
>> the new republics to be
SOCIALLY controlled (by means of universal
>> suffrage
), which is where the term Social-Democracy comes from.
>
> McD: But Michels shows that democracy is, intrinsically, a
sham.

   Proletarian PARTY democracy may have been a sham, even during the days of M+E, but they never ceased advocating democracy with universal suffrage. Proletarian dictatorship WITHOUT universal suffrage and democracy was inconceivable to them.

>> KE: You might have something there, especially regarding the creation of
>> new values, but I do not concern myself at all with trying to determine the
>> value of a commodity, because hairs could be split all day long without
>> getting an inch closer to
social justice for workers.
>
> McD: How do you feel
the wages system is unjust?

   Exclusion of workers from the legal economy is unjust, because exclusion results from policy created and maintained for the purpose of forcing desperate millions to accept low wages, which translates into high profits.

> Do you agree that we could all go self employed & thus end
> capitalism as Marx had it?

   No, because mass self-employment would be here today if it were a more efficient means of production. Mass self-employment would not work well at all for the production of commodities like pencils and light bulbs.

> Why do you think his surplus value is real?

   The division of the product of labor between owners and workers is very real, is it not? After all, workers race to the bottom, while bosses get lifted to the top. Or, are Bill Gates' billions a mere illusion?

>> KE: Marx's theory of SURPLUS value is quite different from his
>> theory of the value of a commodity, because surplus value is all
>> about the DIVISION of the product of
labor between worker and
>> boss. Surplus value is all about 'who gets what', and not at all
>> about 'how commodity value is determined'.
>
> McD: Yes, but why should we think there is any truth to it?

   If it isn't true, then I must be just as rich as Rupert Murdock, and I just don't know it, so I always watch my spending. I never bought a new car, for instance. Maybe I should just go down to the BMW dealer and see how high my rubber check will bounce.

>> KE: Going back to your pronouncement of 'false' for surplus value, I think
>> if you approach surplus value as a rather VERY DIFFERENT theory from
>> the law of value, you will find that it is very helpful, because bosses
>> very much DO appropriate most of the product of
labor.
>
> McD: I don't see it & I have always seen things that should have led
> me to doubt it all along [but didn't!]. Working as a painter & decorator
> I saw that many workers were very passive. Lots of girls in banks just
> seemed to chat amongest themselves for most of the day. It was not easy
> to see that the capitalist got much to sell in his half of the day from many
> I saw. But
marginal analysis replaced all that in the 1870s & Marx saw
> it for himself. He had
backed the wrong horse though he backed the
> one way ahead in the 1830s. "Vulgar" economics had
won out.

   Perhaps you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Just think about an auto factory: Autos come off the assembly line every minute of every day. What if the workers were to drive those autos home, instead of driving them onto the special trailers that take them en masse to auto dealerships, or onto car-carrying freighters for export to other countries, to be sold to customers and converted into profits and wages? If workers just drove the cars home, then they would get the full value of what they produced (and more, if they didn't pay for the raw materials, the heat and electricity in the plant, etc.) Division of the product of labor to workers and bosses would then not exist, because then workers would get everything. But, we know that doesn't happen, so division of the product of labor is very real.

>> KE: It's a perfectly legal and civil relationship, of course, but
>> it does explain a lot about society's '
race to the bottom'. People
>> have to do SOMETHING to resist the
race to the bottom, so
>> what do they do? What's YOUR solution?
>
> McD: I am not clear on what you see as the problem? Please do say more.

   To me, chronic unemployment and the resulting competition for scarce jobs, and the forced acceptance of lousy wages, and consequent low standards of living, are all very real problems. If you can't agree that problems exist, then you probably never go to the wrong parts of town.

>> KE: Ahh, yes, I know what it's like to be censored by them, and for no
>> worse a crime against consciousness than what I've committed here.
>
> McD: When I first got on their list they had a bee in their bonnet
> about you. Since then they have had others they loved to hate:
> anyone who differs from them, in fact.

   They surely know how to use abusive language.

> They used to be better at arguing than they are today. I hope I was
> never as fearful of criticism as they are.

   Yes, they surely have damaged goods to unload. And whoever finds fault is automatically classified as an enemy.

> I was in their group from 1968-'74.

   Now I realize that you are probably a graybeard like me. I'll soon be 60.


End of April 2003 Correspondence

 

Back to Index of Year 2003 Correspondence

Back to Home Page