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Selected Political Correspondence

September - December 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

09-04-03

   In worldincommon, John Henry quoted me:

> > In a vain attempt to downplay the importance of private property, ...
>
> I doubt that you are talking about me here as I had specifically said:
> "
It was actually fought over the issue of private property, specifically
>
tariffs and taxes as well as the basic constitutional..."
> You even included this in your note.

   Sorry about the confusion. My replies often include critiques of what some other socialists have thought or said. You were not being implicated there.

> If the War Between the States had been over slavery,
> it would
never have been fought.

   That looks like a clear denial of common knowledge that 'the Civil War was fought over slavery.' Wonder what good it does to buck common knowledge. If the War hadn't been about slavery, Constitutional Amendments banning slavery would not have been adopted shortly after the War.

   {October note: Googling the exact phrase 'war to end slavery' yielded over 1,000 pages. Many were of the opinion that 'the war to preserve the Union developed into a war to end slavery.' }

> Slavery in the south was never as pervasive as in the rest of the
> world.
Slavery went from being common and almost universal in
> 1800 to very rare in 1900 and there were no
wars fought to end
>
it. Most northerners, while feeling that slavery was probably wrong,
> were not willing to give their lives nor their son's lives for a
cause
> that they did not see as their own.

   Looks like history is being ignored altogether. The war didn't begin with the North swooping down on the South to end slavery. The South initiated the war by firing on Fort Sumter. Their last desperate hope in retaining slavery was to impose it on the whole country. The North then had little choice but to defend itself and its free labor traditions. After committing to war, the North made sure that the slavery issue would never again divide the country. After victory, Constitutional Amendments were adopted banning slavery. There was a distinct 'cause and effect' relation between the War and the Amendments. If the War had been over tariffs, then some memorable tariff legislation would have been enacted after the war, but the number of people who can remember the tariff legislation of that period is pretty small compared to the number of people who immediately associate the War with slavery. There has to be a reason for this phenomenon.

> So if the northerners did not, generally, care intensely about slavery ...

   It's true that the North didn't have a history of being all that bothered about slavery, but they did give a damn about being ATTACKED.

> and if, as in the rest of the war was not necessary to end it,
> do you *really* think that
we would have fought a war as
> destructive as the
WBTS over the issue of slavery?

   The North did not initiate the WBTS over the issue of slavery. I think that we can agree about that. But, I wonder why the notion of 'the South initiating the hostilities against the North' is meeting with such stubborn resistance. Were the Southern rebels flawless angels merely defending themselves against Northern abolitionist demons?

> As I said, you really should go back and read some US history.

   Is my alleged 'ignorance of history' your best argument?

> And what about you Brits? Slavery, prior to 1800 or so was probably much
> more important to your
economy than to to that of the US or even to the
> southern US. Yet you
abolished slavery at home (Scotland) and abroad
> (colonies) without any
war. How (and why) did you all do it?

   In 1833, England passed a law banning slavery. One thing that might have made the abolition less traumatic for them was that their island wasn't divided by a Mason-Dixon line separating slave-holding states from free states.

> > Marx wrote (me19.44): "The war of the Southern Confederacy is,
> > therefore, not a war of defence, but a war of conquest, a war
> > of conquest for the spread and perpetuation of slavery.
"
>
> Yeah, well. He was spectacularly wrong about
so many other things,
> it is not surprising
he would be wrong on this as well.

   "so many other things"? Can you think of another error? Why not name one? I think that his 'power and property' path to socialism was his worst.

   For years, many of Marx and Engels' articles about the American Civil War were published in American and Austrian newspapers. If their analysis had been wrong, newspapers would not have printed so many of their articles.

> > Their initiation of the War at Fort Sumter ...
>
> You might wish to look at what actually happened at Fort Sumter.

   Thanks for being so brief, but tell us: What DID happen at Fort Sumter? Marx wrote (me19.33): "It is above all to be remembered that the war did not originate with the North, but with the South. The North finds itself on the defensive. For months it had quietly looked on while the secessionists appropriated the Union's forts, arsenals, shipyards, customs houses, pay offices, ships and supplies of arms, insulted its flag and took prisoner bodies of its troops. Finally the secessionists resolved to force the Union government out of its passive attitude by a blatant act of war, and solely for this reason proceeded to the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston. ... The bombardment of Fort Sumter cut off the only possible constitutional way out, namely the convocation of a general convention of the American people, as Lincoln had proposed in his inaugural address. For Lincoln there now remained only the choice of fleeing from Washington, evacuating Maryland and Delaware and surrendering Kentucky, Missouri and Virginia, or of answering war with war."

   Is any of that incorrect?

> > demonstrated their resolve to perpetuate slavery by extending it
> > to the rest of the States by
force.
>
> Um, Ken, the South
seceded from the rest of the US. They had no desire
> or mechanism to do anything to the rest of the US
by force or otherwise.
> They
simply wished to be left alone. They never tried to seize control
> of the US
. That is why it was not, technically, a "civil" war.
>
> Best,
>
> John R Henry CPP

   Southern secession certainly occurred. Marx wrote (me19.35): "Just as the bombardment of Fort Sumter gave the signal for the opening of the war, the election victory of the Republican Party of the North, the election of Lincoln as President, gave the signal for secession. On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected. On November 8, 1860, a message telegraphed from South Carolina said: "Secession is regarded here as a settled thing"; on November 10 the legislature of Georgia occupied itself with secession plans, and on November 13 a special session of the legislature of Mississippi was convened to consider secession."

   The April 12, 1861, bombardment of Fort Sumter shows that the South attacked the North AFTER secession, a strange way of showing that "They simply wished to be left alone", as you said. Your version of history evinces conviction that 'Southerners were innocent angels', but not many would agree with that.

 

09-04-03

   In worldincommon, "becca89014" wrote:

> Hey'ya Ken;
>
>> snip points of agreement
>>
>> for a population that can barely think more progressively than
>>
re-electing President Bush, or electing Schwarzenegger governor
>> of California. What realistic hope can
socialism have?
>
> So, if people are so
naturally stupid why do you think that
> such extreme
measures have to be taken on by the government,
>
right wing institutions, free market economics, mainstream
> media
, etc..etc..?

   Right wing ideology and capitalist institutions dominate the vacuum because little else of substance is available. A myriad of 'pie in the sky' schemes offer scant competition to the status quo. It's up to us to build a real alternative mind-set, not just a run-of-the-mill house of cards. We can do it, and we will. Someday we'll have no choice, but hopefully the task can be initiated sooner.

> Why doesn't the government just come out and tell us the truth
> or an uncomplicated
lie..Why do they, or for that matter anyone
> else, have to hide behind such
dishonesty in disclosure of the
>
facts? Why does indoctrination have to be so cleverly designed
> for such
simpletons as us? Why does corporate power, and foreign
> policy
entail such elaborate scams against humanity? Why can't
>
they just come out with a simple lie that we would just as
> readily accept if we were just a mindless herd, or the
>
simple truth that we, as dolts, could accept effortlessly?

   If there's evil to be spoken or done, workers compete among themselves for scarce opportunities to do or say it. Workers are as complicit in misdeeds as any greedy capitalist, and willingly adopt capitalist ideology and mannerisms in pursuit of their own survival. Who shredded the documents for Arthur Anderson? Who builds land mines and clear-cuts forests? It's not a 'them-us' situation. We are all in this cruel game together. As long as people compete for scarce opportunities to do or say evil, a moral society will remain out of reach. The enemy - competition - must be identified, and then eliminated. Engels wrote (me4.507): "But what gives these Unions and the strikes arising from them their real importance is this, that they are the first attempt of the workers to abolish competition. They imply the recognition of the fact that the supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among themselves; i.e., upon their want of cohesion. ... If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end."

   Activist ambitions need go little further than 'eliminate competition between workers for scarce jobs', but many activist ambitions unfortunately run far afield into many a dead end, such as the quest for control over power and property.

>> To put the horse before the cart: Present attitudes have to
>> change a whole lot BEFORE
socialism can become a reality.
>> Attitudinal changes first,
socialism second. It can't be
>> done the other way around, can it?
>
> I do agree that educating in general is the first practical
> step, precisely because we've been constantly and intensely
>
indoctrinated by a system designed to do just that.. confuse
> us, dumb us down, keep us preoccupied with the trivial for
> the lucky and with earning a daily existence for those not
> so fortunate, which prevents the exercise and development
> of our critical thinking skills, etc.

   Shuck 'n jive couldn't persist without the help of workers. Struggles between 'honest workers vs. lying bosses' are rare. Too many workers compete for scarce opportunities to shuck 'n jive, and the lies won't stop until competition between workers is abolished. It's wrong to allow job seekers to go without work, allowing a climate of general immorality to flourish. Fail to lie, cover up, destroy, and pollute to the bosses' satisfaction, and a replacement worker can easily be found. Socialism would be impossible to implement tomorrow, simply because of the dog-eat-dog mentality that prevails today. The revolution must begin in the spaces between our ears, and it will begin someday, prompted mostly by having to deal with the threat of unemployment on a scale hitherto unimaginable.

>> snip 2 points of agreement
>>
>> The greater the
rate of exploitation, (i.e., s/v),
>> the more energy can be poured into negativity.
>
> Good to see you consistently incorporating your support for
> for the notions behind
surplus value Ken.
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   Surplus can be used for good or evil. Competition between workers for scarce jobs enables surplus to be turned to evil. People are basically good, and would not turn to evil if given a viable alternative.

 

09-08-03

   Tom Walker wrote:

> About four years ago I learned of an anonymous pamphlet titled, "The Source
> and Remedy of the National Difficulties Deduced from Principles of Political
> Economy in a Letter to Lord John Russell.
" What interests me about the
>
pamphlet is its argument that "wealth is disposable time," and also
> Frederick Engel's claim that
the pamphlet inspired Karl Marx's conception
> of
surplus value. A selection from the pamphlet is posted on timework web.

   Of that pamphlet, the publisher of the CD of Marx-Engels Collected Works says (me26.647): "See the anonymous pamphlet: The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties, deduced from principles of political economy, in a letter to Lord John Russell, London, 1821."

> A few days ago I came across a source that attributed the authorship of
> the
pamphlet to Charles Wentworth Dilke, who was a 19th literary literary
> critic, editor and close friend and neighbour of the romantic poet, John Keats.
> The attribution appears in a biography of Dilke by William Garrett who refers
> in his endnotes to a 1952
Times Literary Supplement letter to the editor by
> Joanna Richardson and to a collection of Dilke papers edited by his namesake
> grandson, the arch-imperialist Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke.

   I wondered about that as well, because whoever wrote the 1821 pamphlet certainly would have been too old to have been a contemporary of M+E. The grandson is said to have lived from 1843-1911, and was a: "British politician and writer; a leader of the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, M.P." M+E had mixed emotions about the grandson, more negative than positive.

> I've seen the TLS letter and would like to also get ahold of the relevant
> pages from the latter volume, which unfortunately is not available in
> any local library. Garrett's footnote simply states that a passage from
> the
Source and Remedy was "Quoted in Papers, 1:14-15." I would love
> to know the context of that quotation. The full title of the book is,

>
"The Papers of a Critic, selected from the writings of the late Charles
> Wentworth Dilke. With a biographical sketch by his grandson, Sir
> Charles Wentworth Dilke.
" (2 volumes)
>
> If anybody happens to be wandering around a big university library and
> can grab a photocopy of pages 13-16 of volume 1 for me I would much
> appreciate it.
>
> Tom Walker

   Here are excerpts from Dilke that Marx found notable:

   "Wealth is disposable time and nothing more. If the whole labour of a country were merely sufficient to raise the support of the whole population, there would be no surplus labour, and consequently nothing that can be allowed to accumulate as capital... A nation is truly rich if no interest exists or if the working day is 6 hours rather than twelve... whatever may be due to the capitalist, he can only receive the surplus labour of the labourer; for the labourer must live" ... (me28.324)

   "A nation is truly rich if 6 instead of 12 hours are worked. Wealth is not command over surplus labour time" (real wealth) "but disposable time, in addition to that employed in immediate production, for every individual and for the whole society." (me29.92)

   "If the whole labour of a country were only sufficient to raise the support of the whole population, there would be no surplus labour, consequently nothing that could be allowed to accumulate as capital if the people raise in one year sufficient for the support of 2 years, one year's consumption must perish, or for one year men must cease from productive labour. But the possessors of surplus produce or capital employ people upon something not directly and immediately productive, e.g. in the erection of machinery. So it goes on" ... (me29.94)

 

09-10-03

   Sorry for the long delay, but some research needed doing. In worldincommon, John Henry quoted me:

> > That looks like a clear denial of common knowledge that 'the Civil War was
> > fought over
slavery.' Wonder what good it does to buck common knowledge.
>
> The problem is that
common knowledge is so often wrong. Was slavery
> one of the causes of the
WBTS? Sure, I have never said it was not.
> What I have said is that it was
not the primary cause.

   What was the primary cause? The tariff you mentioned? The tariff few can remember? Marx wrote (me19.8): "The war has not been undertaken with a view to put down Slavery, and the United States authorities themselves have taken the greatest pains to protest against any such idea. But then, it ought to be remembered that it was not the North, but the South, which undertook this war; the former acting only on the defense. If it be true that the North, after long hesitations, and an exhibition of forbearance unknown in the annals of European history, drew at last the sword, not for crushing Slavery, but for saving the Union, the South, on its part, inaugurated the war by loudly proclaiming "the peculiar institution" as the only and main end of the rebellion. It confessed to fight for the liberty of enslaving other people, a liberty which, despite the Northern protests, it asserted to be put in danger by the victory of the Republican party and the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidential chair. The Confederate Congress boasted that its new-fangled constitution, as distinguished from the Constitution of the Washingtons, Jeffersons, and Adams's, had recognized for the first time Slavery as a thing good in itself, a bulwark of civilization, and a divine institution. If the North professed to fight but for the Union, the South gloried in rebellion for the supremacy of Slavery."

   Slavery made 300,000 white Southerners rich, and they weren't about to kowtow to calls for abolition of their "peculiar institution". Fighting and dying must have seemed a reasonable price for enjoying the fruits of slave labor.

> One of the problems with "common knowledge" is that
> it derives from the winner's ability to write history.
> Ridding the US of
slavery? Sure, that is a noble cause.
> Denying a number of
states basic economic liberty
> (via
tariffs)? That sound pretty skunky to me.

   Marx debunked the notion that the war was fought over a tariff (me19.33): "Naturally, in America everyone knew that from 1846 to 1861 a free trade system prevailed, and that Representative Morrill carried his protectionist tariff through Congress only in 1861, after the rebellion had already broken out. Secession, therefore, did not take place because the Morrill tariff had gone through Congress, but, at most, the Morrill tariff went through Congress because secession had taken place. When South Carolina had its first attack of secession in 1831, the protectionist tariff of 1828 served it, to be sure, as a pretext, but only as a pretext, as is known from a statement of General Jackson. This time, however, the old pretext has in fact not been repeated. In the Secession Congress at Montgomery all reference to the tariff question was avoided, because the cultivation of sugar in Louisiana, one of the most influential Southern states, depends entirely on protection."

   The high Morrill tariff passed in early March of 1861, but a half-dozen states seceded before then, so the tariff could certainly not have caused secession.

> Which reason would you present to justify your actions? This is
> also the
reason why it is commonly called the "Civil War". The
> term "
civil war" implies that a group of insurgents is trying
> to take control of a country ie; the US.

   The online Merriam-Webster defines 'civil war' as: "a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country". No mention of 'trying to take control', nor 'insurgents'.

   Insurgent: "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially: a rebel not recognized as a belligerent"

   Non-belligerent rebel? Hmm ... Some rebel. Rebel: "opposing or taking arms against a government or ruler". Belligerent: "inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness".

> In the WBTS, the south was simply trying to take control
> over their own countries/"
states". If you were the winner,
> which term do you think would make you look better?

   'Simply trying to take control over their own country'? Weren't Southerners already in control of the South before the War?

> It's the winners who get to write the history books, Ken.
> Remember that when reading them.

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

> The truth is, other than a relatively few abolitionists, very few
> people in the US cared if the south continued
slavery or not.
> Certainly not enough to go to
war over it.

   That's true, but people did care about being attacked. Marx noted a half century's worth of aggression and insults perpetrated by the South (me19.9):

   "The progressive abuse of the Union by the slave power, working through its alliance with the Northern Democratic party, is, so to say, the general formula of the United States history since the beginning of this century. The successive compromise measures mark the successive degrees of the encroachment by which the Union became more and more transformed into the slave of the slave-owner. Each of these compromises denotes a new encroachment of the South, a new concession of the North. At the same time none of the successive victories of the South was carried but after a hot contest with an antagonistic force in the North, appearing under different party names with different watchwords and under different colors. If the positive and final result of each single contest told in favor of the South, the attentive observer of history could not but see that every new advance of the slave power was a step forward to its ultimate defeat. Even at the times of the Missouri Compromise the contending forces were so evenly balanced that Jefferson, as we see from his memoirs, apprehended the Union to be in danger of splitting on that deadly antagonism. The encroachments of the slaveholding power reached their maximum point, when, by the Kansas- Nebraska bill, for the first time in the history of the United States, as Mr. Douglas himself confessed, every legal barrier to the diffusion of Slavery within the United States territories was broken down, when, afterward, a Northern candidate bought his Presidential nomination by pledging the Union to conquer or purchase in Cuba a new field of dominion for the slaveholder; when, later on, by the Dred Scott decision, diffusion of Slavery by the Federal power was proclaimed as the law of the American Constitution, and lastly, when the African slave-trade was de facto reopened on a larger scale than during the times of its legal existence. But, concurrently with this climax of Southern encroachments, carried by the connivance of the Northern Democratic party, there were unmistakable signs of Northern antagonistic agencies having gathered such strength as must soon turn the balance of power. The Kansas war, the formation of the Republican party, and the large vote cast for Mr. Fremont during the Presidential election of 1856, were so many palpable proofs that the North had accumulated sufficient energies to rectify the aberrations which United States history, under the slaveowners' pressure, had undergone, for half a century, and to make it return to the true principles of its development."

> > If the War hadn't been about slavery, Constitutional Amendments
> > banning
slavery would not have been adopted shortly after the War.
>
> Huh?

   This is obviously news to JRH, who perhaps has never heard about the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, passed between 1865 and 1870, addressing issues directly related to the War. Here are some of the more relevant portions. The full text is available at: http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Amend.html

   -------------

   Article XIII.

   Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

   Article XIV.

   Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ...

   Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

   Article XV.

   Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

   --------------

   Were not those passages quite relevant to Civil War issues?

> > Looks like history is being ignored altogether. The war didn't begin
> > with
the North swooping down on the South to end slavery. The South
> > initiated the
war by firing on Fort Sumter.
>
> Let's see, the "
State" of South Carolina seceded from the US. Fort
> Sumter was now a US installation within an
independent country.

   The North didn't recognize the independence of seceded states. Secession was regarded as no better than an illegal rebellion.

> Throughout the Confederacy, after secession, the feds turned over
> installations. Sumter and Ft Pickens in FL were the exceptions.
> The south was negotiating compensation for the various facilities.

   Lots can be learned at http://www.patriotist.com/miscarch/mg20030407.htm, such as "4. The Confederacy was prepared to pay compensation for all federal installations in the South." But, I have yet to see any indication that the North was willing to accept the South's offers. Lincoln was preparing to win the War, even though he was limited in the beginning to blockading Southern ports, so negotiating surrenders of installations probably would have been counter-productive. Perhaps some documentation could be offered in defense of 'the feds TURNING OVER installations.'

> So, yes, the south initiated the war by firing on a foreign,
> seemingly
hostile, facility within their country, after
> giving
every opportunity for surrender.

   Anderson offered to surrender Fort Sumter within 3 days, but Beauregard insisted upon a more immediate timetable, so didn't quite offer EVERY "opportunity for surrender", and instead blasted away.

> > Their last desperate hope in retaining slavery was to impose it
> > on the whole country.
>
> Which "
whole country" did you have in mind here? The Confederacy?
> Or the
remaining states in the US? If the confederacy, they had no
> need to
impose it since it already existed. If the remaining states,
>
you are not making sense. How and why would they try to impose
> anything on a country of which they were
no longer part?

   In Oct. 1861, Marx revealed the South's compelling motives for acquiring new slave territories and states (me19.40): "As is known, the representation of the individual states in the Congress House of Representatives depends on the size of their respective populations. As the populations of the free states grow far more quickly than those of the slave states, the number of Northern Representatives was bound to outstrip that of the Southern very rapidly. The real seat of the political power of the South is accordingly transferred more and more to the American Senate, where every state, whether its population is great or small, is represented by two Senators. In order to assert its influence in the Senate and, through the Senate, its hegemony over the United States, the South therefore required a continual formation of new slave states. This, however, was only possible through conquest of foreign lands, as in the case of Texas, or through the transformation of the Territories belonging to the United States first into slave Territories and later into slave states, as in the case of Missouri, Arkansas, etc. John Calhoun, whom the slaveholders admire as their statesman par excellence, stated as early as February 19, 1847, in the Senate, that the Senate alone placed a balance of power in the hands of the South, that extension of the slave territory was necessary to preserve this equilibrium between South and North in the Senate, and that the attempts of the South at the creation of new slave states by force were accordingly justified."

   Note Calhoun's 'extension of the slave territory', and his 'creation of new slave states by force'. Calhoun's stated intentions to win new slave territories won him lots of support among the 300,000 Southern oligarchs.

> Even before secession, back to the 1830's or so, the southern
>
states had never tried to impose slavery on the country as a
> whole
, merely to defend it within their own borders and to
> allow
new states/territories to decide for themselves.

   Your "decide for themselves" conflicts with Marx's observations (me19.35): "The last Continental Congress of 1787 and the first Constitutional Congress of 1789-90 had legally excluded slavery from all Territories of the republic northwest of the Ohio. ({snip definition of 'territories' for brevity.}) The so-called Missouri Compromise (1820), in consequence of which Missouri became one of the States of the Union as a slave state, excluded slavery from every remaining Territory north of 36°30' latitude and west of the Missouri. By this compromise the area of slavery was advanced several degrees of longitude, whilst, on the other hand, a geographical boundary- line to its future spread seemed quite definitely drawn. This geographical barrier, in its turn, was thrown down in 1854 by the so-called Kansas- Nebraska Bill, the initiator of which was St[ephen] A. Douglas, then leader of the Northern Democrats. The Bill, which passed both Houses of Congress, repealed the Missouri Compromise, placed slavery and freedom on the same footing, commanded the Union government to treat them both with equal indifference and left it to the sovereignty of the people, that is, the majority of the settlers, to decide whether or not slavery was to be introduced in a Territory. Thus, for the first time in the history of the United States, every geographical and legal limit to the extension of slavery in the Territories was removed. Under this new legislation the hitherto free Territory of New Mexico, a Territory five times as large as the State of New York, was transformed into a slave Territory, and the area of slavery was extended from the border of the Mexican Republic to 38° north latitude. In 1859 New Mexico received a slave code that vies with the statute-books of Texas and Alabama in barbarity. Nevertheless, as the census of 1860 proves, among some 100,000 inhabitants New Mexico does not count even half a hundred slaves. It had therefore sufficed for the South to send some adventurers with a few slaves over the border, and then with the help of the central government in Washington and of its officials and contractors in New Mexico to drum together a sham popular representation to impose slavery and with it the rule of the slaveholders on the Territory.

   "However, this convenient method did not prove applicable in other Territories. The South accordingly went a step further and appealed from Congress to the Supreme Court of the United States. This Court, which numbers nine judges, five of whom belong to the South, had long been the most willing tool of the slaveholders. It decided in 1857, in the notorious Dred Scott case, that every American citizen possesses the right to take with him into any Territory any property recognised by the Constitution. The Constitution, it maintained, recognises slaves as property and obliges the Union government to protect this property. Consequently, on the basis of the Constitution, slaves could be forced to labour in the Territories by their owners, and so every individual slaveholder was entitled to introduce slavery into hitherto free Territories against the will of the majority of the settlers. The right to exclude slavery was taken from the Territorial legislatures and the duty to protect pioneers of the slave system was imposed on Congress and the Union government."

   "against the will of the majority of the settlers", and 'taking away the right to exclude slavery from the settlers' wasn't very democratic of the South. Indeed, a regime dedicated to as offensive a form of private ownership as slavery cannot simultaneously be very dedicated to democratic ideals. Whites enjoyed rights and privileges, while blacks had very little to enjoy. South Africa's old apartheid was little different, and today's troubles in Palestine are also based on exclusionary principles.

   Marx continued to explain why the slave system was compelled to expand (me19.41): "A strict confinement of slavery within its old terrain, therefore, was bound according to economic law to lead to its gradual extinction, in the political sphere to annihilate the hegemony that the slave states exercised through the Senate, and finally to expose the slaveholding oligarchy within its own states to threatening perils from the "poor whites". In accordance with the principle that any further extension of slave Territories was to be prohibited by law, the Republicans therefore attacked the rule of the slaveholders at its root. The Republican election victory was accordingly bound to lead to open struggle between North and South."

> > The North then had little choice but to defend itself
> > and its
free labor traditions.
>
> By invading the
confederacy, not the other way round.

   'Invasion'!?!? Up until now, the discussion was confined to battles, hostilities and aggression. Invasion means: "incursion of an army for conquest or plunder". It's true that the North eventually did invade the South, but not until Sherman's march to the sea, beginning in 1864. A surprising number of web sites refer to Lee's 'invasion of the North at Antietam' in 1862.

> > If the War had been over tariffs, then some memorable tariff
> > legislation
would have been enacted after the war,
>
> Huh? The people who had the problem with the
tariffs, the south,
> lost the
war. How would they have been able to change anything?
> the people who won the
war, the north, liked the tariff system
> as it was. Why would they have changed anything?

   Thank you. I see the problem with what I wrote. Sorry for the confusion. I should have said something more like: The particular tariff or tariffs that 'caused' the Civil War should have stuck in lots of memories, but specific tariffs are rarely recalled as the cause of the Civil War.

> > The North did not initiate the WBTS over the issue of slavery.
> > I think that we can agree about that.
>
> Well, good. Then what are we having this
discussion about? I thought
> that you were saying that
the WBTS was over slavery. Now I find that
> you
agree with me that it was not. Great!

   Not so great, nor so agreeable. The War was CERTAINLY fought over slavery, as the 3 Amendments to the Constitution amply corroborate, but the important part of my statement was: "The North did not INITIATE the WBTS". They didn't INITIATE the war because of slavery, nor over any other issue. The North just plain didn't INITIATE the hot war. The War began with the North on the defensive.

> > But, I wonder why the notion of 'the South initiating the hostilities
> > against the North' is meeting with such stubborn resistance.
>
>
Not from me. You were talking in earlier notes about the south
> trying to impose
slavery on the northern states. For example:
>
> > "...
white Southern rebels fought and died to preserve and EXTEND
> > (
by force of arms) the institution of slavery." (Emphasis added-JRH)
>
> Or
>
> >
Marx wrote (me19.44): "The war of the Southern Confederacy is, therefore,
> > not a war of defence, but a war of conquest, a war of conquest for the
> > spread and perpetuation of slavery.
"
>
> Or
>
> >
Their initiation of the War at Fort Sumter demonstrated their resolve
> > to perpetuate
slavery by extending it to the rest of the States by force.

   "Not from me"? You resisted accepting the fact that 'the South initiated the hot war at Fort Sumter.' You claimed the attack was an act of 'defense', asking me to "look at what actually happened at Fort Sumter", as if the bombardment of the Fort by Southern General Beauregard was outside of the realm of historical certainty.

> > snip 'flawless angels'.

> If you know anything at all about me, you know that I hold
>
individual liberty as the highest possible political goal.
> I can imagine nothing, short of murder, as offensive as
>
slavery. OTOH, the South did have a right to secede, IMHO,
> in the same sense and for the same
reasons that France
> would have the right to
secede from the European Union.
> The
confederacy did not invade the US, at least not till
> the 3rd year of the
war. They were invaded by the north.

   "Invasion" implies a rather extreme escalation of 'hostilities', whereas we have previously been speaking of nothing more intense than attacks, battles, hostilities, and aggression. Bringing up the subject of 'invasion' appears an attempt to take the focus off the subject of 'who initiated HOSTILITIES'. "Invasion" is such an intensification of quantity as to alter quality.

> Nor did they seek to take control over the US, they merely
> desired to go their own way. They were "
defending themselves",
> by
any meaning of the word with which I am familiar.

   Was Calhoun's advocacy of 'creation of new slave states by force' a shining example of 'self-defense' rhetoric?

> > snip 'ignorance of history'.
> >
> > In 1833, England passed a
law banning slavery. One thing that might
> > have made the
abolition less traumatic for them was that their island
> > wasn't divided by a
Mason-Dixon line separating slave-holding states
> > from
free states.
>
>
True, by that time most of Britain's slaves were overseas which
> did make
it much easier.

   I'm glad we can agree on SOMETHING.

> In 1862 (yr?) Russia freed something like 60 million
> slaves (or "Serfs")
in their midst. Again, no war. Had
> the US wanted to
free the slaves, we could have done it
> in several different ways without the need to go to
war.

   I'm sure that we can both accept the idea that 'slavery was doomed by the march of time and progress.' The North perhaps could have been less pushy and more flexible, and then maybe the South would have changed its views and institutions slowly, rather than be forced into abolition all at once. {October note: Re: 1862 (yr?) As for the correct year, the title of one web site is: "Declaration of Alexander II Emancipating the Serfs (March 3, 1861 ..."}

> > "so many other things"? Can you think of another error? Why not name one?
>
> Jeez, where have you been for the past couple years in
WSM? I've named
> many. Start on
page two with his discussion of value, if you want one example.

   That's where Marx delves into the difference between 'exchange value' and 'use value'. Do you have a problem with his differentiation between the two?

> > For years, many of Marx and Engels' articles about the American Civil War
> > were published in American and Austrian newspapers. If their
analysis had
> > been wrong, newspapers would not have printed so many of their articles.
>
> Wow. You must live a
sheltered life. It is incredibly easy to get
> published. I publish 7-8 articles a year in international magazines.
> Sometimes, though not always, I even know what I am talking about.
> I hope that, knowing this, you will now give my words the proper
> respect they deserve. That is, since I get published, you will
> accept
anything I write unquestioningly. Right.

   Touche, but no thanks for the exaggerations.

> Does this also mean that you unquestioningly accept Ann Coulter or
> Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh? They've all published books as well
> as written in newspapers.
>
> Be real, Ken.

   Touche again. I admit that my argument was weak in that spot.

> > snip Fort Sumter, covered near the top

> > "For Lincoln there now remained only the choice
> > of fleeing from Washington, evacuating Maryland
> > and Delaware and surrendering Kentucky, Missouri
> > and Virginia, or of answering war with war.
"
> >
> > Is any of
that incorrect?
>
> Well, Marx seems to be saying that
the south had the desire and/or
> the means to invade the north.
That is plainly incorrect.

   "Invasion" again, eh? How about 'attack, hostility, and aggression'? BTW, various web sites seem to be evenly divided between 'North invading South' and 'South invading North', though Lee's 'invasion at Antietam' was common. If both North and South possessed 'Generals in command of armies', then 'attacks' were certainly feasible. I will concede that the North certainly invaded the South in 1864. But, using the word 'invade' for early battles defocuses the original point: Who fired the opening salvo? The more Internet material is perused, the more solid the consensus that 'the South initiated the hostilities by bombarding Fort Sumter.' No one I would want to know would go too far out on a limb denying that bit of history.

> > The April 12, 1861, bombardment of Fort Sumter shows that the South
> >
attacked the North AFTER secession, a strange way of showing that
> > "
They simply wished to be left alone", as you said.
>
> How would you feel about having a fort occupied by a foreign army
> on your soil?

   One web site states: "Lincoln referred to the Southern states' secession as "The Rebellion" rather than secession, as he refused to recognize secession as legal." See: http://www.americasvoices.org/avarc2002/archives2002/AdamsJ/AdamsJ_092802.htm

   So, if the North didn't recognize the newly seceded states as sovereign and independent, an attack on Fort Sumter could then be easily interpreted as an act of great hostility, worthy of inspiring retaliation.

> > Your version of history evinces conviction that 'Southerners
> > were innocent angels
', but not many would agree with that.
>
> Nope. I never said
they were innocent angels. However, I do think A) they
> had the
right to secede, B) they had the right to defend themselves and
> C) that Sumter was essentially
defensive (for reasons given above)
>
> Best,
>
> John R Henry CPP

   A. Secession is a long-recognized legitimate right under some circumstances, but look at the South's reason for seceding - to practice SLAVERY, of all things. The Confederacy committing to a more primitive mode of production benefiting a mere 300,000 oligarchs is not a good reason to secede, but the North perhaps could have been more patient. With hindsight, we certainly can see that slavery was doomed eventually, but people back then might not have had the patience that perhaps only hindsight can facilitate.

   B. Self-defense is another long-recognized right, but the South's attack on Fort Sumter strays outside the customary boundaries of 'self-defense'.

   C. 'Fort Sumter essentially defensive' has been rendered null and void by the South's initiation of the hot war: "Lincoln considered the Fort Sumter attack an insurrection, and called up the state militia." See: http://home.silverstar.com/~nhokanson/socialstudies/history/16.html

 

09-10-03

   Dear S-T,

   It was good to see so many concerned citizens at the forum Tuesday night. The S-T did a wonderful service by bringing so many people together for open dialogue. The fact that so few people blamed our social problems on the economy best explains why the economy is so often left for higher-ups to worry about, and perhaps lie about, as in: "the impossibility of doing anything real without spending a lot of money that just isn't there". But, our legal above-ground economy could be made much more inclusive without spending a dime. The only reason the economy isn't more inclusive is that the "haves" benefit greatly when the "have-nots" compete for scarce jobs. Desperate workers are more willing to accept low wages, and are more willing to obey orders to do awful things, such as manufacture land mines and clear-cut the last of the old-growth redwoods. Bosses don't want the economy to become so inclusive as to create a shortage of labor necessitating paying higher wages, even though less stress and greater happiness for workers would result.

   Bosses want workers to remain ignorant of this dynamic to maintain a glutted labor market which results in low wages and high profits. But, beyond a certain amount of joblessness, social tensions and problems eventually become unacceptable to even the powerful, so reforms are introduced to make the economy more inclusive, such as the 40 hour law during the Great Depression of the 1930's. Greedy bosses presently want to abolish time and half, but an exclusive economy like ours doesn't need to be made more exclusive, so our politicians need to be reminded of that. In fact, our economy needs to be made more inclusive by replacing 'time and a half' with a minimum of 'double time', so as to even better discourage overwork. Also, the USA is the only highly industrialized country not to mandate paid vacations, so a minimum 3 week paid vacation needs to be enacted. More paid holidays would also help make labor scarce, which would result in greater inclusion in the legal above-ground economy. Greater inclusion is the key to the health of our society.

   This coming October 24 is 'Take Back Your Time Day'. More information about the general topic of making the economy more inclusive can be found at: http://www.timeday.org

 

09-14-03

   In worldincommon, John Henry wrote:

> I was tempted not to reply as your research seem to consist
>
solely of Marx and nothing else.

   The many web sites that provided lots of input to this dialogue should not be forgotten.

> It is sort of like arguing evolution with
> an Oral Roberts or a Jerry Fallwell.

   If alleged Marxist monomaniacs are not your cup of tea, then perhaps you are in the wrong forum. This forum rests largely on a socialist foundation, and the works of M+E are the original sacred texts, which can sometimes be used to effectively reply to doubters of the faith, unless some minds are already made up, no matter what. Naysayers are free to naysay, but changing our minds will take some pretty strong arguments. Keep trying and you may succeed.

> Something you might consider when basing your life on Marx is,
> what did he base his life on? Sitting there in the
British Museum,
> day after day, reading? That is all well and good but it tends to
> give one very little experience with the real world.

   Marx unluckily suffered from chronic illnesses which made his last 20 years a living hell. Before his forays into the library, Marx was a revolutionary and was booted out of one European country after another. Engels was injured while fighting to democratize Germany. How many countries have given YOU the boot?

> Re the WBTS in particular, on what did he base that,
> newspaper accounts? We all know how accurate,
>
factual and unbiased those are, don't we.

   Marx's resources are listed at the back of the individual volumes of his works. Volume 19 contains most of his writings on the Civil War. Roughly half of the sources appear to be newspapers and periodicals, and the other half from more direct sources. Marx was not guilty of 'simply using newspapers to the exclusion of other sources'.

> However, I do want to clarify a few points:
>
> > What was the primary cause? The tariff you mentioned? ...
>
> OK, you got me. The
primary cause was secession, which was caused,
> in
large part by tariffs and economics.

   Secession appears to have been caused by slavery: http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html lists reasons (that were given at that very time) why 6 Southern states seceded. Five states put the North's anti-slavery policies at the top of their lists of complaints, while the sixth certainly didn't forget to complain about those policies.

> > The online Merriam-Webster defines 'civil war' as: "a war between
> > opposing groups of citizens of the same country
". No mention of
> > '
trying to take control', nor 'insurgents'.
>
> OK, I'll go with
M-W. My def was off the top of my head though I still
> think
it was OK. In any event, the Confederate States of America (CSA)
> or the South was a
separate country or association of countries fighting
> with another
separate association of countries, the USA or the "North".
> At least
arguably. I know that there are people who say that the
> secession was not legal
though I am not one of them. So even under
> the
M-W you cite, it was not a "civil war" unless one believes
> that
the south did not have the right to secede.

   Maybe that's why so many people call it a Civil War, then. Maybe most people didn't and wouldn't recognize the South's right to secede, especially to defend the 'freedom' of a minority of slave-owners to deny freedom to others.

> One thing that we must all bear in mind and which has been lost over time
> is that the US was founded not as the United Provinces but as the United
> *
States*. A state is a sovereign entity or a country unto itself. The US
> was a collection of countries that agreed to band together and cede
> certain powers to a central authority. The
CSA was likewise a
> collection of
sovereign countries.
>
> France is a country. The
European Union is not. The US, at least on paper
> and the way it was founded is much more like the
EU than like France.

   I don't have much problem with that. But, if a collection of states wants to be belligerent, then it should be prepared to pay the consequences. (See the research further down showing the number of battles fought in the North in 1861.)

> > who perhaps has never heard about the 13th,
>
> Yes, I have heard about them. My "Huh?" was too short a comment. What
> I was expressing was a disbelief that the
fact that they were passed after
> the fact
was evidence that the WBTS was "about slavery". Yes, there were
> lots of people who wanted to
end slavery. Yes, after the war they had an
> opportunity and
did so (rightly IMHO). But that does not mean the war was
> fought primarily for that purpose. Read Lincoln, for example, as late as
> 1863 on why he was fighting the
war. It was to "save the union". And, at
> the risk of being repetitions,
slavery was one of a number of factors
> that the
war was about. Not the primary one, though.

   Well, it's a free country, and everyone is free to believe whatever they want. So, if the best of Marx and others cannot convince that 'slavery was the main cause of the Civil War', then maybe we should simply agree to disagree. A dead horse can be flogged only so many times before the flogging arm gets tired. Obstinacy can also be a cause of war. Israelis can be told an infinite number of times that it's not proper to deny Palestinians the same rights enjoyed by Israeli citizens, but little attention is paid to those reminders. No matter how good an argument can be made, some people are bound to remain intransigent. When Palestine was a secular state, Arabs and Jews got along fine, but as soon as Israel became an exclusively Jewish state, things went downhill. If JRH could come to see that some of his views don't stand the test of time, then maybe he could become useful to the masses.

> > The North didn't recognize the independence of seceded states.
> >
Secession was regarded as no better than an illegal rebellion.
>
> Sort of the same situation that had occurred 90 years before when the
> colonies
seceded from Britain? I don't know what point you are making here.

   I was replying to your argument that 'the South was sovereign and independent, so was justified in attacking Northern installations.'

> > 'Invasion'!?!? Up until now, the discussion was confined to battles,
> >
hostilities and aggression. Invasion means: "incursion of an army for
> > conquest or plunder
". It's true that the North eventually did invade
> > the South, but not until Sherman's
march to the sea, beginning in
> > 1864. A surprising number of
web sites refer to Lee's 'invasion
> > of the North at Antietam
' in 1862.
>
> Until Antietam, I think *
ALL* the WBTS battles occurred
> on southern territory.

   The data at http://americancivilwar.com/tl/tl1861.html show that 5 of 10 battles between Ft. Sumter and Bull Run occurred in West Virginia and Missouri, which were aligned with the North, so it was half and half.

> The first, Manassas (or Bull Run) battle of the war occurred
> in Virginia, in the South. With a
couple exceptions, Antietam and
> Gettysburg being two major ones,
almost all the fighting was done
> on southern soil throughout the
WBTS. How did those northern
> soldiers get there other than by invading?

   Let's look at 24 more battles in 1861 after Bull Run: N, N, S, N, N, N, N, N, N, N, S, N, N, S, N, N, N, S, S, N, S, S, N, N. That adds up to 17 battles in the North, and 7 battles in the South.

   1862: "January 1862 -- Abraham Lincoln Takes Action. On January 27, President Lincoln issued a war order authorizing the Union to launch a unified aggressive action against the Confederacy. General McClellan ignored the order." 1862 battles were fought in the S, N, N, N, N, S, S, NM, N, S, S, S, S, S, S, NM, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, N, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, and that only covers the first half of the battles of 1862. NM = New Mexico. Clearly the fighting shifted from North to South early in 1862.

> Before Ken jumps on me, let me modify this. Sumter was the first
> battle
of the war. Though it did take place on southern territory,
>
it was not an invasion, having been there when SC seceded.
> Manassas/Bull Run was the
first *major* battle of the war.
>
> In any event, my point remains. Once the
war started, it was the north
> that
invaded the south, almost immediately. Not the other way round.

   Research shows that, in the BEGINNING year of the War, 1861, battles were fought mostly in the North, not in the South. Those early hostilities demonstrate desire to conquer the North so as to force slavery on it. Marx was correct about slavery being the cause of the War. The more specifics I dig up, the more specifics point to slavery as the main cause.

> > That's where Marx delves into the difference between 'exchange value' and
> > '
use value'. Do you have a problem with his differentiation between the two?
>
> Yes, it is, though it is not what I had in mind. So I guess you get a
> twofer ("twofer": Two for the price of one). The
exchange vs. use value
>
idea, is really pretty trivial and non-useful. Value is value. Exchange
> value
*is* use value. The use value of a dollar bill comes solely because
>
it can be exchanged for something. The exchange value of a dollar bill
> derives from it's utility.

   The money commodity may not be the best choice for generally denying the difference between use value and exchange value, because money has only one value - as a medium of exchange.

   Take a pencil as an example of a simple 'non-money' commodity. A pencil definitely has use value if it can be sharpened to a point and directed to produce meaningful marks on a surface. That same pencil also has exchange value if it can be sold for a nickel to someone who thinks that it can then be sold for a dime, thereby yielding profit. The proper use for which the pencil was designed was never lost on any of the traders, but still the pencil has a history of enjoying exchange value on its way to the final consumer/user. On the other hand, money is created for one main purpose: as a medium of exchange, and certainly not for setting thoughts to paper. When exchange value = use value exclusively, the commodity in question = money.

> What I actually had in mind, and should have specified more clearly,
> was Marx statement that
people exchange for things of equal value.
> From this
fallacy flows the fallacy of objective value, the LTOV
> and much other
bunkum.

   In Volume 3 of Capital, it was admitted that, further back in time, prices and values corresponded more closely. In modern times, as production and exchange become increasingly complex, prices of commodities increasingly vary from their value. However, the LTOV will remain at least somewhat valid for as long as useful things are still created by HUMAN labor. Remove HUMAN labor from production, and then the LTOV - as well as all other economic theories - will fall apart, because economy and scarcity will also disappear. Without economy, who will need economic theory?

   Marx's LTOV is by no means the 'fallacy' it's impugned to be, because the LTOV wasn't even MARX'S theory to begin with, having been expounded by Adam Smith and later David Ricardo, and agreed with in the main by many classical economists. Back then, the association of value with labor was far more palpable.

   {October note: Marx used the exact phrase "objective value" only 3 times, Engels never. Obviously, "objective value" was never a biggie for M+E.}

> In reality, people only exchange for things of greater value.

   "Only"? Not so. A thirsty wanderer in the desert would gladly trade his Rolex for a cup of water. Objectively, such a trade would appear to be a bad deal for the wanderer, while subjectively it's a life saver.

> A person exchanges x boot polish for y silk *ONLY* because the silk
> is worth
more than the boot polish.

   In the old days, at least, equal values would be traded if the amount of labor worked up in the quantity of silk equaled the labor worked up in the quantity of boot polish. After trading his silk for boot polish, trader A sells the boot polish for more than he paid for the silk, and trader B sells the silk for more than he paid for the boot polish, so that profits can be realized. Trading equal values of boot polish and silk yields no new value.

> At the same time, the other person exchanges y silk for x boot
> polish *ONLY* because the boot polish is worth
more than the silk.

   Subjectively, perhaps it could appear that way to a trader, especially if a lucrative market for the boot polish is in mind.

> In other words, in Marx' transaction, the boot polish is worth
>
more than the silk which is simultaneously worth more than the
> boot polish although Marx would have us believe otherwise.

   First you say a > b, and they you say a < b. Real commerce simply isn't that nebulous, especially in one-on-one transactions.

> That would be impossible if value is objective.

   Value can be both objective and subjective. It depends on circumstances. For instance, you and I are probably practical enough not to buy a Shop-Vac cooped up in a Plexiglas cage, but such a contraption was exhibited in a gallery a few years back, and it garnered for its 'creator' thousands upon thousands of dollars when sold as a 'work of art'.

> If Marx were right, there would never be any basis
> on which two parties could ever
exchange anything.
>
> This is the
fallacy that I had in mind.
>
> Best,
>
> John R Henry CPP

   The fallacy is all yours because the subjective is given too great emphasis.

 

09-16-03

   In worldincommon, John Henry quoted me:

> > However, the LTOV will remain at least somewhat valid for
> > as long as useful things are still created by
HUMAN labor.
>
> More correctly, they are created by the
human mind. Even at the
> most elemental basic
manual labor level. The problem with LTOV
> is that it
fails to consider this.

   Minds - both great and small - may direct muscle contractions, but mental exertion, as a form of labor, was long ago recognized by Marx, as in his "division of material and mental labour" (me5.64), also known as 'the contradiction between mental and manual labor'.

> > "Only"? Not so. A thirsty wanderer in the desert would gladly trade his
> > Rolex for a cup of water. Objectively, such a
trade would appear to be
> > a
bad deal for the wanderer, while subjectively it's a life saver.
>
> I think you've got it!!!
>
> snip

> I do not really expect you to accept the real world nature
> of value
since to do so you would have to reject socialism.

   'Reject socialism'? Hardly. Besides, your alleged 'real world nature of value' is as 'real' as your willingness to admit mistakes about the Civil War. The link between value and human labor is absolute. When robots and new technologies replace human labor, material value will disappear as well. Socialism will be workless and carefree.

> I expect that you will have yards of argument about why I am wrong.

   Not much to argue with this time. The differences between use value and exchange value are well accepted among thinking people.

> The arguments are unnecessary. All that is needed is for you to explain
> why you would ever
exchange a dollar for a quart of milk if they each
> have identical
value.
>
> Best,
>
> John R Henry CPP

   The quart of milk and the dollar might have the very same exchange value, but qualitative differences make the milk much more pleasing to the human palate. Not many people I know would try to quench their thirst by eating the milk money.

 

09-18-03

   In worldincommon, John Henry quoted me:

> > The quart of milk and the
dollar might have the very same exchange
> > value
, but qualitative differences make the milk much more pleasing
> > to the human palate. Not many people I know would try to quench
> > their thirst by eating the
milk money.
>
> So it sounds like you are saying that the milk has
more use value
> to you than the
dollar. Is this correct?

   'More use value to you' or 'to me' prejudices the relation between the dollar and the quart of milk, making value perception more subjective than objective. It could be hypothesized that 'thirst, or anticipation of future thirst, drives me to the corner store to exchange my dollar for a quart of milk.' Under the duress of thirst, or even under the duress of ANTICIPATION of future thirst, a quart of milk has more subjective use value at that particular moment than the dollar sitting idly in my wallet. At other times, however, I know (without even having to think about it) that a dollar can be exchanged for a quart of milk at any time I choose to make such an exchange.

> Are you also saying that the dollar has
> more
use value to the grocer than the milk?
>
> Best,
>
> John R Henry CPP

   To the merchant - thirsty not for milk, but for profit - the dollar and the quart of milk have equal EXCHANGE value while having qualitatively different USE values: money as a medium of exchange, and a quart of milk as a means of quenching thirst. Rarely does milk serve as a medium of exchange, though unusual circumstances don't rule out that possibility.

 

09-19-03

   In worldincommon, Hayduke wrote:

> We "assess" human interaction with the biosphere under
>
capitalism and decide that profit comes first. Should I
> just accept the word of one person on an
email discussion
> list
that socialism is the answer to environmental ills?
>
> Why should I relax my vigilance when contemplating the
environmental
> effects of a
socialist economy? There is nothing in socialism that guards
> against
over exploitation of non-human habitat. There is nothing in
>
socialism that directs socialists to disperse waste products no faster
> than can be assimilated in natural biological and geophysical cycles.
>
> Michael

   Until current primitive manufacturing techniques are replaced with molecular manufacturing, waste will occur during manufacture, whether under capitalism or socialism. When a tree grows in the forest, does waste occur while the tree grows? Silly question: there's certainly no 'waste' in that process for anyone to complain about, and then complaints would have to be taken directly to the goddess.

   With molecular manufacturing, useful things will be 'grown' molecule by molecule, in no more destructive a process than that utilized by trees growing in the forest.

   What's the incentive for people to switch from capitalism to socialism before the advent of molecular manufacturing? Not enough incentive will manifest, so capitalism will continue until molecular manufacturing becomes the new standard, and old-fashioned methods are retired to arts and crafts studios.

 

09-20-03

   In worldincommon, Hayduke quoted me:

> > Until current primitive manufacturing techniques are replaced with
> >
molecular manufacturing, waste will occur during manufacture,
> > whether under
capitalism or socialism.
>
> This is another
fantasy as fundamentalist and irrational as the Rapture
> or
6 billion people becoming Socialists.
>
> NOTE:
There is no free lunch! There never has been. There never will be!
>
Nothing in the Universe has ever gotten something for nothing!
>
>
Forget it! Just discard this wet dream along with free energy, free
> access
and free freedom! Molecular manufacturing may have a place
> in some industrial processes; it will
never be the answer to all needs.
> It will
never be the free source of all that is Good and True. It is
> merely
another technological approach to human growth that is
> subject to natural biological and geophysical limitations,
> just like everything in the Universe.
>
> There is a real world that exists in the here and now, that we
> are
incapable of dealing with.

   'Incapable'? Marx knew how to deal with it: Here's part of a report of an 1868 Speech to the General Council of the First International (me21.387):

   ... "a reduction of the hours of labour was also indispensable to give the working class more time for mental culture. Legislative restrictions were the first step towards the mental and physical elevation and the ultimate emancipation of the working classes. Nobody denied, nowadays, that the State must interfere on behalf of the women and children; and a restriction of their hours led, in most instances, to a reduction of the working time of the men. England had taken the lead, other countries had been obliged to follow to some extent."

   Revolutionaries should take note that: revolution was not the 'first step toward ultimate emancipation' in England. Rather, 'legislative restrictions' comprised that first step. Naturally, a country had to be democratic enough to ALLOW for legislative restrictions, but few countries in the 19th century were, which is why democratic revolution was not outside the scope of responsible activism. Nowadays, however, what role can revolution play, besides coaxing dollars out of wallets?

> Lets work with what is real and present in the world,
> and
forget about these high tech fantasies that promise
>
nothing but empty dreams.
>
> Michael

   'Fantasy'? If molecular manufacturing (mm) were nothing but fantasy, research funding would not be escalating exponentially. What happens when governments and companies invest in new technologies? They often get implemented; jets replace prop-driven planes, rockets are sent into space, computers boost productivity, etc. Because humans often practice gross unfairness when given any opportunity at all to do so, free access turns out to be incompatible with the era of human labor, so human labor will have to be abolished (probably with the help of mm) before free access is feasible.

 

09-23-03

   In WSM_Forum, "bddanel" quoted Redrepublicanuk:

>> Redrepublicanuk: Yes, but as Marx himself points out, wages are set
>> at the value to produce and reproduce a worker.
>
> Bddanel: Just where, pray tell, does Marx state
this? Marx clearly
> states that
the value of wages is determined by the same factor that
> determines every commodity--the socially necessary labor time to
> produce it.
Highly technical labor power takes much longer to
> produce, but has nothing to do with the volume of production.
> Indeed the
labor power of some of the lowest paid workers is
> highly productive.

   Redrepublicanuk got it right. Here's Marx in 'Value, Price and Profit' (me20.130):

   "The value of the labouring power is determined by the quantity of labour necessary to maintain or reproduce it, but the use of that labouring power is only limited by the active energies and physical strength of the labourer. The daily or weekly value of the labouring power is quite distinct from the daily or weekly exercise of that power, the same as the food a horse wants and the time it can carry the horseman are quite distinct."

   In 'Theories of Surplus Value', Marx wrote (me30.357):

   "Thirdly. All surplus value, not only relative but absolute, depends on a given productivity of labour. If the productivity of labour had reached only such a stage of development that a man's labour time no more than sufficed to keep him alive, to produce and reproduce his own means of subsistence, then there would be no surplus labour and no surplus value, and there would be no difference at all between the value of labour capacity and [the result of] its valorisation. The possibility of surplus labour and of surplus value therefore arises from a given productive power of labour, a productive power which enables labour capacity to create more than its own value, to produce more than the needs dictated by its life process. And indeed this productivity, this level of productivity which is presupposed as the starting-point, must first - as we saw in the second point above - make its appearance in agricultural labour. It appears therefore as a gift of nature, a productive power of nature. Here, in agriculture, from the very beginning there is generally co-operation of the forces of nature - the increase of human labour power through the use and exploitation of the forces of nature - working automatically. This utilisation of the forces of nature on a large scale appears in manufacture only with the development of large-scale industry. A definite stage in the development of agriculture, whether in the country concerned or in other countries, forms the basis for the development of capital."

 

09-27-03

   In WSM_Forum, Hayduke wrote:

> What is the Socialist answer to the question of non-human species' needs
> for habitat, clean air, clean water, shelter and food. How do
Socialists
> approach the need to curtail
human exploitation of natural resources so
> as to avoid destroying critical habitat for
non-human species? How do
>
Socialists propose to curtail CO2 production to levels that do not cause
>
global warming? What will Socialists do to provide energy for 6 billion
> people when oil is no longer available in sufficient quantity and quality?
>
> Despite all the empty bluster, excuses, rationalizations, insults, petty
> backbiting and juvenile name-calling,
no one has answered any of these
> questions.
No one has any proposal to deal with the very real environmental
> problems we face in the world today, problems that are increasing in
> severity yearly, problems that will overwhelm
human society if not
> adequately dealt with within the next generation.
>
> What is your
program, Socialists, to save the human world from
>
environmental and economic collapse?
>
> Michael

   Hayduke asks a very important question. If productivity is 40 times higher than 200 years ago, and if necessities could be provided to all with no more labor than an hour per week, then eliminating wasteful effort would reduce human impact on the environment. But, people in addictive competition with one another do not hold 'less work' in high regard, so competition will remain intense until reducing it becomes a mass movement. Because robots and computers are taking over more and more labor, humans will be forced to slow down EVENTUALLY, but why prolong the {onset of} relief? The destructive consequences of needless competition should become the focus of education, and a campaign for a slow-down initiated.

   Engels, 1845 (me4.507): "If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end."

 

09-28-03

   In WSM_Forum, Hayduke quoted me:

> > Hayduke asks a very important question. If productivity is 40 times
> > higher than 200 years ago
, and if necessities could be provided to
> > all with no more
labor than an hour per week, then eliminating
> > wasteful effort would reduce
human impact on the environment.
>
>
If? It will take a lot more than "if" to meet the challenges of the
> next generation. How about some real information?

   I say 'if' because these approximate statistics are from a decade ago. The 'if' gives leeway in case someone would like to chime in with more up-to-date verifiable info. '40 times as productive' is corroborated by '80% of the population grew food 2 centuries ago, but agri-labor a decade ago comprised less than 2%, for a greater than 40 to 1 productivity boost.'

> > But, people in addictive competition with one another do
> > not hold '
less work' in high regard, so competition will
> > remain intense until
reducing it becomes a mass movement.
>
> If "
people" are addicted to competition, why would there ever
> be a
mass movement to reduce it?

   Good question. During the Depression, the business class was definitely addicted to competition. Economic collapse combined with competition for scarce jobs resulted in 25% unemployment, which was met with a wide variety of measures throughout the decade, culminating with the Fair Labor Standards Act's 'time and a half after 40' just before WW2. Certainly Labor favored reducing competition back then, and the AFL-supported Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill of 1933 even passed the Senate before being scuttled in the House on behalf of the business class. Mass interest was certainly a prerequisite to getting relief from competition in the labor market. To create heaven on earth, it takes little more than to convert 'workers competing for scarce jobs' into 'bosses competing for scarce labor'. This alone would solve so many social problems that scarcely any other social program would be necessary.

> > Because robots and computers are taking over
> > more and more
labor, humans will be forced to slow
> > down
EVENTUALLY, but why prolong the {onset of} relief?
>
> Really? How will robots and computers change the work life
> of the majority of the working people in the world?

   Eventually, new technologies will render ALL human labor superfluous, no matter what part of the world, though everyone will certainly be free to engage in arts and crafts. Everyone will finally be freed from economy and scarcity, and the rich will lose their relative advantage. The rich may not especially appreciate that, but that's the way the (capitalist) cookie crumbles. Capitalism truly is doomed.

> Factory work is affected by automation, but humans are
> still required to do
99 44/100% of the work in the world.

   99 44/100% is the advertised purity of Ivory Soap, which is the only significance of that particular number that I'm aware of. Humans are required for 100% of the work (offered) that robots can't (yet) do.

   As for the replacement of human labor by new technologies, percentages are different for different branches of industry. If 80% of Americans lived on farms 200 years ago, but only 2% work the farms today, that means a 4,000 percent liberation from agriculture, far more than a mere 99 44/100%.

   Compare centuries-old successes in replacing routine agri-tasks with today's impossibility of replacing highly skilled space shuttle technicians. Machines and computers have a long way to go in the latter field.

> The robots and computers must be manufactured and distributed,
> requiring mining, metals and rare earth production, shipping,
> assembly, distribution, installation, maintenance and dispersal.
> How does this reduce the impact of
humans on the non-human world?

   Author Marshall Brain does a good job extrapolating some trends out to the year 2015: "The rise of the robotic nation will not create new jobs for humans -- it will create jobs for robots." See his interesting website at: http://marshallbrain.com/robots-in-2015.htm

   He also wrote: "Right now we are standing right on the edge of an era where the number of jobs in our economy will be drastically reduced by robots. ... With robots doing most of the work, can we actually create a society that takes advantage of the leisure that robots can provide? Or will the tens of millions of people displaced by the robots end up being homeless and destitute, living in government welfare dormatories?" Marshall Brain's solution? It's not quite the same as mine, though worse solutions are certainly imaginable. He says: "We create a 'citizen stipend' that pays each citizen $25,000 per year." Of course, that income would be derived from surplus value - in other words, MORE exploitation for those 'lucky' enough to have jobs - not an equitable solution.

> > The destructive consequences of needless competition
> > should become the focus of education, and a campaign
> > for a
slow-down initiated.
>
>
Should? Who "should" do this? How is "should" translated into action?
>
> Michael

   Activists should first educate themselves about surplus value, competition for scarce jobs, and other trends that are on the increase. Activists will not get far unless they become willing to take increasing trends into account. Until it is widely accepted that 'the workerless world is fast approaching', then it's difficult to agree about much else.

 

09-30-03

   A 1986 Cato Institute paper says: "Robots doing all our work might be fine, given time to adjust our workweek to zero." Shorter work time is forecast by R.H. Mabry and A.D. Sharplin. See: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa068.html

 

10-03-03

   In WSM_Forum, Hayduke quoted me:

> > '40 times as productive' is corroborated by '80% of the population
> > grew food 2 centuries ago, but agri-labor a decade ago comprised
> > less than 2%, for a greater than 40 to 1 productivity boost.
'
>
> So these figures are based solely on the number of people
> directly engaged in agriculture?

   Yes. 200 years ago, most farm dwellers contributed in one way or another to the success of the farm. They retained the products of their labor, or sold or traded them for other things. That old Jeffersonian ideal is quite different from today's practices.

> What about those who manufactured and sold the farm equipment,
> what about the mining of metals for the farm equipment? What
> about all the oil production that goes into supporting modern
> agriculture?

   Those factors are very relevant to modern agriculture, and definitely have to be taken into account.

> How does productivity compare when the total cost
> of petroleum based agriculture is taken into account?

   It doesn't change anything from the perspective of 'output per FARM worker'. Modern agrilabor, down on the farm, is 40 times more productive than the counterpart of yore, enabling mass migration to cities. Agrilabor didn't begin to shrink (in ABSOLUTE terms) until after farm tractors and machines were introduced a century ago. Only 1,000 tractors were in use in 1910, but a million were in use in 1920.

> > To create heaven on earth, it takes little more
> > than to convert '
workers competing for scarce jobs'
> > into '
bosses competing for scarce labor'. This alone
> > would solve so many social problems that scarcely
> > any other
social program would be necessary.
>
> And how is this accomplished?

   Labor could take a lesson from OPEC's artificially-created scarcity of oil. Producing less oil results in higher oil prices, so agreeing to withhold labor from the labor market would raise wages while ensuring a more equitable distribution of work.

   The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was a tacit admission that a subset of workers coupled with advanced machinery could provide every commodity and service that people were willing to pay for, while millions of would-be workers could be excluded from the economy indefinitely.

   The resulting competition for scarce jobs also results in low wages, high profits, and worker insecurity. Competition can be reduced by replacing 'time and a half after 40' with 'double time after 35'. Helpful also would be more paid holidays, a minimum 3 week paid vacation, earlier retirement, etc.

> >> Really? How will robots and computers change the work life
> >> of the majority of the working people in the world?
> >
> > Eventually, new technologies will render ALL
human labor superfluous,
> > no matter what part of the world, though everyone will certainly be
> >
free to engage in arts and crafts.
>
> This is such an
absurd supposition, I don't know how anyone can give it
> any credence. New technologies will
never render labor superfluous!

   'Just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.'

> there is not enough energy in the our little corner of
> the Universe to change everything to machine work,
> even if it were technically feasible. We don't have
> enough energy left now, let alone after building a
> bazillion robots to do the work? How do you think
> work gets done? Robots need energy to do work.

   Energy, shmenergy. Molecular manufacturing should not be forgotten. It's no more taxing on resources and the environment than 'sunlight and dirt'. The USA is spending a near billion researching new technologies that will create all useful things molecule by molecule, no more wastefully than the way living organisms grow. This new mode of production will eventually be unmediated by worker-boss relationships, and that changeover will represent a true social revolution. All lunches thereafter will be totally free.

> > Everyone will finally be freed from economy and scarcity,
> > and the rich will lose their relative advantage.
>
> Why this appeal to a
Utopian future that has nothing to do with reality.

   'Utopian'? I like Engels' definition (me23.384): "To be utopian does not mean to maintain that the emancipation of humanity from the chains which its historic past has forged will be complete only when the antithesis between town and country has been abolished; the utopia begins only when one ventures, "from existing conditions", to prescribe the form in which this or any other antithesis of present-day society is to be resolved."

   Utopians insist that people or workers organize themselves into one or another FORM, but utopian forms bear no direct relation to the philosophy of liberation capitalism. 'Democracies with free speech and association provide all of the tools needed for worker lib.' See: me20.77.

> there is no free lunch, there never has been and there never will be.

   None of us have lived long enough to witness worker lib, but it's coming, thanks mostly to scientists, engineers, and anyone far-sighted enough to invest in high tech.

> > As for the replacement of human labor by new technologies, percentages are
> > different for different branches of industry. If
80% of Americans lived on
> > farms 200 years ago, but only 2% work the farms today
, that means a 4,000
> > percent
liberation from agriculture, far more than a mere 99 44/100%.
>
> Only if you ignore the percentage of the population engaged in
> producing all of the equipment necessary to run a petroleum
> based agribusiness industry.

   Only people with axes to grind NEED to ignore facts. The percentage of the population that has been freed from the land cannot be denied. Neither can the fact that lots of labor and resources seemingly far removed from the farm DO support agriculture. Now for some numbers:

> It takes more people and far more energy to run
> a farm now than it did 200 years ago. Do the math.

   'Math'? Very well: 'In Africa', according to http://www.uneca.org/eca_ resources/Speeches/2003_speeches/042203statement_Josue_Dione.htm: ... "at least two-thirds of the total labor force engage directly or indirectly in agriculture-related enterprises." In the USA, on the other hand, according to http://www.acs.ohio-state.edu/oncampus/v30n20/thisissue_7.html: "David Stacklin, a graduating senior in agriculture education ... said only 2 percent of the population is directly involved in agriculture, with 23 percent indirectly involved through careers in communications, media, teaching and the business side of farming. "That means 75 percent of the people are never involved in agriculture. They have no direct or even indirect contact, except at the grocery store," Stacklin said. "This percentage of the population controls the lawmaking process, so if we can help inform them, then it will be to the advantage of the agriculture industry.""

   Compare today's '75% totally out of touch with agriculture' (except as consumers) to the 80% living on the farm 200 years ago. Will Hayduke still insist that "more people" (implying an even HIGHER percentage than 80%) are required "to run a farm now than it did 200 years ago"? Certainly more ENERGY is required, by far, but that fact never was at issue.

> > Compare centuries-old successes in replacing routine agri-tasks with
> > today's impossibility of replacing highly skilled space shuttle technicians.
>
> One has
nothing to do with the other.

   'The two are unrelated'? But, surplus labor capacity BEGINS with agriculture. The only reason a space program is at all feasible is because a large (and growing) proportion of the population has been freed from agricultural endeavors, and becomes increasingly free to do other things.

> Routine agricultural tasks have never been replaced.

   It's for sure that those tasks have to be performed by something or someone, but this week's Global News Service Summary 257 indicates increased mechanization:

   "Even when you see it from an aeroplane, the sheer scale of farming in the heartland of North America is hard to comprehend. Each one of those squares or circles in the endless patchwork of maize and wheat, soya and alfalfa that rolls from horizon to horizon can measure a square mile-about 260 hectares, the standard unit for field sizes in this part of the world. Farmers rarely stroll through fields that big. They might send in a sprayer every few weeks, and finally a harvester. Otherwise, plants on which millions depend for food are on their own."

   Not many horse-drawn plows or scythes in sight anymore.

> The work still must be done. Instead of a hay crew of
> five men putting up hay for the winter, we now have an
> agricultural equipment industry that operates year round.

   Labor time expended by a zillion supportive workers on the periphery of agriculture admittedly can add up to lots of hours of labor, but your words would mislead us to think that 'a greater proportion of labor time than ever is expended in agriculture, directly and indirectly.' The figures speak otherwise, viz. 25% max, and shrinking.

> > Author Marshall Brain does a good job extrapolating some trends out to
> > the year 2015: "
The rise of the robotic nation will not create new jobs
> > for humans -- it will create jobs for robots.
" See his interesting
> >
website at: http://marshallbrain.com/robots-in-2015.htm
>
> yes, this is a
web site. Anyone can wax eloquent about anything on a
>
web site. That doesn't make it real.

   Admittedly, the 'robotic nation' is no more real than anything else in the future. But, if governments and corporations are willing to invest lots of money in tangible projects, chances are that progress will be made precisely in the directions towards which they are aiming. On the other hand, how much is being spent to teach 'living in place', or 'how to abolish private ownership'?

> > He also wrote: "Right now we are standing right on the edge of an era
> > where the number of jobs in our economy will be drastically reduced by
> > robots.
... With robots doing most of the work, can we actually create
> > a society that takes advantage of the leisure that robots can provide?
> > Or will the tens of millions of people displaced by the robots end up
> > being homeless and destitute, living in government welfare dormitories?
"
>
> But this is
silly. Robots are not going to drastically reduce any jobs!
> This is
fantasy! A product of watching too many movies and TeeVee programs.

   Robots and machines have already replaced LOTS of humans in various industries, because machines give advantages to capitalists who use them. That incentive has existed for centuries, and has even caused (at least indirectly) monarchies and dictatorships to topple. So far, displaced workers have been able to move on to new gigs, but only because robots are still pretty dumb. In spite of robotic shortcomings, today's 'workerless recovery' indicates that the 'tried and true' approaches to social problems that were employed during the Great Depression may soon have to be employed again.

 

10-06-03

   Hi, Phil,

   You write, in the Wednesday blog,

   "Schwarzenegger says unions exert too much political influence and that businesses need fewer regulations and cost mandates. His campaign says he is skeptical of a new family leave law and believes overtime should be based on a 40-hour workweek rather than an eight-hour day. [And from the timesizing viewpoint, it's immaterial, so give business the extra flexibility and avoid the unnecessary stifling micromanagement. And by the way, for seasonal jobs, as in agriculture, we need to back off from a weekly to a yearly regulation - what the French call "annualization."]"

   Hmm, California was a leader in terms of time and a half after 8 per day, and double time after 12. Hearings were held (which I attended in the mid to late '90's) for returning to the Nat'l standard of 'time and a half after 40', but unions were quite vociferous in their objections to changes. The changes went ahead anyway, but then the old rules were restored within a few years by newly elected Gov. Davis in 2000: http://www.employersgroup.com/Data/Newsletter/1999/07/CapitolReview.asp

   "Governor Signs AB60 - Daily Overtime Returns

   "Despite strong opposition from the Employers Group, our association members, and other members of the employer community, AB60 has passed both the California Assembly and the Senate. The return of daily overtime was one of the key elements in Davis' election platform. And at press time the bill was sitting on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. Since the bill must be signed within twelve days of enrollment, it is certain that Governor Davis will sign the bill within the allotted time. AB60 will be effective beginning January 1, 2000."

   Very few states enjoy this provision, the figure '3' comes to mind. Movie crews, because of their hectic and unpredictable schedules, are especially in favor of this protection for labor. Businesses can certainly afford to pay a little more to prevent labor from burning out. All states should adopt a standard as strict as California's.

 

10-08-03

   Timesizing wrote:

> Ken -
> Thanks for the
labor perspective. It will certainly have an easier
> time coming in, though, when we have the
basic workweek pegged and
>
geschrunk. I guess I believe in prioritizing and pacing - getting the basics
> without stirring up a lot of resistance before the employee-employer power
> gradient is more level.
Labor has lost a lot of battles and even killed its host
> companies by getting things out of order and demanding too many detailed
> bells and whistles too fast. The outstanding examples that come to mind are
> the bankrupting of the host of NYC
dailies, and the demands for "more control"
> in the workplace by the Kellogg employees on the
30-hour workweek in the
> late 1930s -
control that supposedly only a union could fight for, and lo and
> behold, the
union started siding with mgmt on re-extending hours to 40/wk
> in the 1940s. The essential thing is to vacuum the
unemployed into the job
> market
and create a perceived labor shortage, so market forces will bestow
> power and leverage
, which then can be used to get some frills. But frills
> in their nature are detailed and therefore dangerous to try to enforce
> too broadly, given the diversity of business and workplace
> situations out there.

   Hi, Bro',

   I think that the time for labor to get militant is now, not later. Better legislative protection is overdue, which will be far more effective than merely struggling with individual bosses over scraps from their tables.

 

10-11-03

   Hi, Michael

> We want to know, among the 294,000 or 98% of ZNet users who are not now
> materially supporting
ZNet's operations, how many of you are politically
> compatible enough to indicate a desire that
we grow?

   Any group that's in the business of deluding itself into thinking that 'something can be done about the institution of private property during the era of labor' needs sobering by Marx's acknowledgement that 'labor creates property'. Private property cannot be abolished in an era when so much labor is being expended to CREATE it. Abolish labor, and property will fall of its own dead weight. Human labor WILL be abolished after 'molecular manufacturing' takes over in a few decades.


10-28-03

   Rebecca wrote:

> In the late 1800's the all-absorbing issue of the American Labor
> Movement
was the eight-hour day. And scheduled for May 1st -
> 1886 was set as the date for a
nationwide strike on behalf of the
>
shorter work day. More than 300,000 workers laid down their tools
> in 13,000 establishments throughout the country. Chicago alone,
> but being the center of the
movement held the number of strikers
> at around 40,000.

   Those numbers are corroborated by several web pages, so you seem to be on fairly safe ground. The only thing that worries me is 'all-absorbing issue'. Important and re-occurring issue, fine ... But, 'all-absorbing'? Naw.

 

11-12-03

   M+E certainly did distinguish socialism from communism, as a reading of the Communist Manifesto will certainly reveal, but my old SLP was fond of spreading the myth that 'M+E did not', because their distorted version of 'socialism' did not allow for 2 stages of post-capitalist society (the way Marx did in the Gotha Programme). The SLP was selling the idea that 'American workers could leap from capitalism to the classless and stateless administration of things IF Americans united into Socialist Industrial Unions.' But SLP ideology was commercial fraud designed to rope in naïve followers (like I once was). As anarchists cleverly disguised as socialists, they were DESPERATE to portray post revolutionary society as apolitical, classless and stateless, and certainly not political, with class divisions, a state, and class struggle (as what happened in the Paris Commune, the early Soviet Union, or anything approaching real life).

   Engels, Preface to the 1888 edition of the Communist Manifesto (me26.517): "Socialism was, on the Continent at least, "respectable"; Communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that "the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself," there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must take."

   Don't let any socialist (i.e., covert anarchist) convince you that 'M+E regarded the 2 terms as interchangeable.'

 

11-13-03

   Rebecca wrote:

> Ken;
>
> Really... well, well, well... have I been duped?

   Dear friend,

   Try to get over it, pardner. Being duped by something or someone is just an ordinary part of life. My book at my web site practically CELEBRATES my own propensity for being duped. (I've tried desperately to find this M+E quote to the effect: 'In a monarchy, the bourgeoisie rules by force; in a democracy, by deception.' All of my best efforts to find that quote have so far been frustrated by a lack of evidence. And yet, that quote sticks in my mind like egg to a skillet.)

> Hmmm... thanks for the heads-up friend. I'll
> check into it and dig around until I'm satisfied
> and then I'm going a looking for the intentional
> myth prepetuators!
>
> Cheers, Rebecca

   I forgot to deliver a punch line to yesterday's message: If the SLP could somehow convince us that 'M+E never distinguished between communism and socialism, and instead used those terms interchangeably', then that would be so much the better for another of the SLP's unwarranted assertions: 'M+E posited only a classless and stateless post-revolutionary society in developed countries (like the USA). M+E's proletarian dictatorship (as a transition to classless and stateless society) applied only to backward countries relying on peasant labor that would have to be repressed if those propertied middle classes refused to support the proletarian revolution. Developed countries like the USA need no transition to the classless and stateless administration of things, because the middle classes are weak or non-existent, and the peasantry has long ago been replaced by wage-labor.'

   'Dictate to the PEASANTS'? The very Marxist 'worker-peasant alliance' was replaced in SLP ideology with a totally bogus 'proletarian dictatorship over the peasants and middle classes', in spite of the fact that M+E intended workers to dictate policy to the BOURGEOISIE in a workers' state. The hammer and sickle on the old Soviet flag was a symbol of the worker-peasant alliance, but no SLP member could ever admit to that fact without placing themselves in jeopardy of violating their party's teachings. Every SLP person I've ever met, in or out of the party, refused to admit that the SLP DISTORTED the meaning of the proletarian dictatorship, and that the party totally DENIED the existence of the worker-peasant alliance. BTW, a lot of these disputes originated with M+E's battles with Bakunin in the First International.

   The SLP could not admit that 'anarchists want to replace the state with a classless and stateless administration of things.' Instead, the SLP erroneously faults anarchists for 'wanting to abolish the state, but having nothing with which to replace it'. But, anyone who knows anything knows that anarchists want to replace the state with a classless and stateless administration of things. But, if the SLP were to admit that fact, then that admission would place the SLP squarely in bed with anarchism, because their SIU is PRECISELY a classless and stateless administration of things. But, the SLP wants to put zillions of miles between their 'socialist purity' and anarchism, and the SLP never cared too much about how exactly that illusion was created. They have no morals about ideology, and their commitment to immoral posturing is what drove me to quit in 1977.

   For more on this particular issue, for SLP quotes and my refutations, go to part B of my book at: http://www.libcap.net/partb.html

   It's one of the shorter chapters. Even a quick skim would be worthwhile.

 

11-14-03

   In worldincommon, robbo203 wrote: Hi Ken

> Thanks for posting what I thought was a very interesting and stimulating article.
> The notion of
abundance is problematic yet it constitutes a cornerstone of our
>
communist worldview: abundance negates scarcity and hence the very
>
competition that rationalises the continued existence of capitalism.

   Abundance SHOULD be negating competition, but it doesn't in the USA, unfortunately. Republicans heighten competition to the max, while poverty, hunger, and homelessness are on the rise. Under Bush, sad situations get sadder all the time.

> The trouble is - what do we mean by "abundance"? Is it an objective measure?
> Or is it subjective in which case is it conceivable that the powers-that-be
> could so manipulate the psychology of the mass consumer into interminably
> believing that
there is no such thing as enough, and that more is always
> better.
"Satiety", the feeling that you have enough, would therefore
> constantly retreat before us despite our best attempts to capture
it.

   Good observations. As labor productivity accelerates, more and more can be produced without a corresponding increase in human effort, which explains our 'jobless recovery', whose mechanics even the mainstream media accurately portray. New things that were inconceivable in bygone days now flow plentifully, especially for those in the money. 'Infinite wealth for all' is conceivable for the future, but only if competition in the labor market can be reduced, with an eye to its total elimination.

   For as long as human labor is required to overcome scarcity, labor-saving innovations will continue. Innovations certainly won't be abandoned for the sake of 'hanging onto jobs', nor for maintaining the soon-to-disappear 'work=survival' paradigm. Abolishing both scarcity and wage-slavery are 100% dependent upon the march of technology, as well as on negating the bourgeois politics of competition.

> I think that the the kind of problems which the article addresses might
> in fact help to dispel the illusion of "
perpetual scarcity".

   Scarcities are still very real, because human labor is still required to produce useful things. Lazy humans have a nasty habit of conniving to get others to work for them. When necessities someday materialize without human effort, scarcity will be no more, provided today's bad politics maximizing competition can someday get replaced with the proletarian politics of inclusion and cooperation.

> If that is an illusion
> that helps to prop up
capitalism then this can be no bad thing.

   For every person trying to bring capitalism down, many more prop it up. And why not? After all, abolishing human labor is certainly progressive, so capitalism is bound to last until its mission is accomplished. In an 1847 "DRAFT OF A COMMUNIST CONFESSION OF FAITH", Engels wrote (me6.96):

   "Question 4: On what do you base your community of property?

   "Answer: Firstly, on the mass of productive forces and means of subsistence resulting from the development of industry, agriculture, trade and colonisation, and on the possibility inherent in machinery, chemical and other resources of their infinite extension."

   When that 'infinite extension of resources' arrives, then capitalism and private ownership will go the way of the spinning wheel, but not before. M+E did not speculate about a level of productivity, beyond which, capitalism could be replaced by some kind of 'socialist mode of production' that would still be based on human labor. From Vol. 3 of Capital (me37.261):

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

   Should capitalism be allowed to fulfill its historical mission? Or, should capitalism be replaced with socialism beforehand? Is there a valid model of a 'socialist mode of production' ready to use? Though M+E referred in their works to the 'capitalist mode of production' well over 500 times, 'socialist mode of production' appears only once, in a note by the PUBLISHER, not by M+E. If a 'socialist mode' was at all contemplated, then its main feature was common ownership, as described by Marx in Vol. 3 of Capital (me37.435):

   "This result of the ultimate development of capitalist production is a necessary transitional phase towards the reconversion of capital into the property of producers, although no longer as the private property of the individual producers, but rather as the property of associated producers, as direct social property."

   This doesn't look like an instruction for socialists to 'abolish private ownership by means of force and violence.' It rather looks as though Marx's "ultimate development of capitalist production" will have to manifest itself before socialism becomes any kind of an agenda item. The only problem is, how is this "ultimate development of capitalist production" defined? How will it be recognized for what it is? When no one has to get up in the morning to go to work? Opinions are welcome.

> It might also help to promote the idea that abundance - or scarcity for
> that matter - is a
social construct and that we don't have to accept the
> advertiser's view of the world which relegates us to the status of a
> "loser" if we don't want more.

   Until infinite productivity arrives in another few decades, scarcity and wage slavery will continue to be very real. Real abundance is antithetical to human labor, simply because humans prefer not to toil, if getting by while 'not toiling' is an option. Most of us are not lucky enough to live on Easy Street, so must be forced to toil, or persuaded with wages.

> As Marshall Sahlins so wisely pointed out in Stone Age Economics. "For there
> are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be easily satisfied either
> by producing much or desiring little
". Instead of the kind of pre-occupation
> with "
producing more" that historically exercised the minds of our communist
> forerunners such as Marx and co, we should instead be shifting our attention
> to the latter course of action. In todays' world, sticking two fingers up at
> the advertiser's spiel is an act with potentially subversive consequences
>
> Best regards
>
> Robin

   Hayduke might have a similar opinion, but an ascetic lifestyle isn't likely to be practiced by my neighbors, who compete for more, more, and still more. They are all on a treadmill. The harder they work, the less they get, because the relation between a glutted labor market and social ills is not something they care to act on, not for the time being.

 

11-17-03

   In WSM_Forum, "epcious45" wrote:

> I see your website there and I am not going to detail my
> understanding of the
faults to you. I fear that you may take
> my ideas for your own
. I simply cannot do this sorry.

   You fear that I might plagiarize your ideas? Am I thereby judged a potential plagiarist, oh so soon in our dialogue? Some days it just doesn't pay to get up in the morning.

   If you had any kind of information that would help people overcome the worst aspects of Marxism, you wouldn't hesitate to share it with us, because that is your humanitarian duty.

   This isn't the kind of forum where people proclaim: "I know the errors of Marx, but I'm not going to tell you." Otherwise, it could get pretty boring.

   I'll tell you where Marx went wrong: His 'expropriation of the expropriators', because history demonstrated its feasibility only after overthrowing monarchies in backward countries, or after liberating colonies, occasions where communists emerged with full state power, and could do with property whatever they wanted. But, according to Marx, that revolution was supposed to happen simultaneously in the most developed countries, not one-at-a-time in backward countries, which contradiction (between theory and history) proves that his anti-property revolution was ill-conceived from the getgo. Indeed, he was far more on target in his early writings, when the attack on private property was predicated on the abolition of labor.

   So, epcious, please tell me what's wrong with MY assessment of Marxism, and maybe we can proceed from there, if such an exercise could appeal to you.

 

11-18-03

   In worldincommon, Brian wrote:

> Many of you will have seen this recent post (below - from Jim
> Plant, a UK member of the
SLP) democratic on spintcom regarding
> the differences/agreements between the
SPGB and the SLP, which
> seems very pertinent to the remit of
WiC.

   And so on. Brian raised many valid concerns, all of which, however, fell within the context of revolution already having been deemed necessary or inevitable.

   But, the question is: Is revolution necessary? Why would anyone organize a revolution? A good reason will have to be given beforehand, so a good answer might as well be figured out now.

   I must admit that I can't figure out a good reason for revolting. Maybe someone else can.

 

11-19-03

   In worldincommon, arminiush wrote: Hello Ken,

> Maybe before this goes off track, you should give us *your* definition
> of what you mean by the word '
revolution'.
>
> For
Freesocialism,
>
> arminius

   Revolution was being referred to in the popular sense of 'overthrowing governments'. Some might say that revolution can be accomplished without force or violence, while others say otherwise. Engels in his 1889 draft of a letter to Trier says: "We are agreed on this: that the proletariat cannot conquer political power, the only door to the new society, without violent revolution."

   By 'conquer political power', Engels referred to 'winning the battle for democracy', a battle which has been won in the West, so, again I ask, why do some parties call for revolution? I still can't think of a reason.

 

11-19-03

   In worldincommon, bddanel wrote:

> Let's set the record straight. The SLP's roots go back to 1876 and
> was then called the
Socialistic Labor Party. Some of its original
> members were hanged with trumped up "evidence" emanating from
> the
Haymarket riot of 1883(4?). The SLP changed its name to
> the
Socialist Labor Party after DeLeon became editor of The
> People
in 1890. This was an American organization.

   I don't know how their German language paper (Der Sozialist) referred to the SLP, but their English paper (Workmen's Advocate) dropped the 'ic' from 'Socialist' back in 1887. When the anarchists took over in 1889, I was amazed to see the 'ic' restored to the Party name, but only briefly. I've seen no evidence suggesting that De Leon had anything to do with those name changes. De Leon doesn't seem to have had any OFFICIAL sway in the party until 1891, when the January 10, 1891 Workmen's Advocate reported that the New York Section had been reorganized, and that, during the election of officers, De Leon had been elected as "Agent".

   The March 28, 1891 edition announced that the Workmen's Advocate would be replaced in April by "The People", to be published by the "New Yorker Volkszeitung Publishing Association" "in the interests of the working classes."

   The Haymarket incident occurred in 1886.

 

11-20-03

   In worldincommon, bddanel wrote:

> You're right on the Haymarket riot date but incorrect on the beginning
> of DeLeon's influence. In "
Daniel DeLeon, A Symposium," by Henry Kuhn
> (published in 1919 or 1920. The date of publication is missing on my
> copy.), Kuhn states, "
In 1889. . . . Benjamin J. Gretsch [then National
> Secretary of the SLP
] . . . and I remember well the day Gretsch at one of
> the meetings of the body
[the N.E.C.] proposed that we arrange an agitation
> tour with DeLeon as the speaker.
" The tour was undertaken in 1891 and
> reached the West coast. Thus, DeLeon had come to the attention of the
>
National Executive Committee in 1889. He became very well known
> to all Party members after the 1891 tour.

   'Incorrect'? Which part was 'incorrect'? You originally mentioned De Leon's editorship of The People beginning in 1890, which was incorrect, because The People didn't even replace the Workmen's Advocate until April 1891. Another mistake was in referring to the Party's minor name change "after DeLeon became editor", because the 'ic' was dropped in 1887, was restored in 1889, and was soon dropped again, all of which occurred well over a year before De Leon became Editor. So, who was 'incorrect'?

   With regard to De Leon's UNofficial influence in the Party, Professor De Leon was first mentioned as a speaker at the Labor Lyceum in the May 19, 1888 edition of the Workmen's Advocate. Subsequent speeches were often announced thereafter. He was still with Bellamy's Nationalist movement when the anarchists took over {the SLP} in September of 1889.

   Also, caution should be observed while using information published during Petersen's era of 1913-68, for any part of it may prove to be as 'reliable' as Petersen's 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasants and middle classes', as laughable an 'error' as ever contributed to socialism's bad name. What precisely could be holding the SLP back from acknowledging its errors so that it can move forward into the 21st century with a clean conscience? Egregious errors deserve correction, and soon. Also, Engels knew the difference between socialism and state capitalism, don't you think?

 

11-21-03

   In worldincommon, bddanel quoted me:

>> KEN: De Leon doesn't seem to have had any OFFICIAL sway in the party
>> until 1891, when the January 10, 1891
Workmen's Advocate reported
>> that the New York
Section had been reorganized, and that, during the
>>
election of officers, De Leon had been elected as "Agent".
>
> BDDANEL: You are correct, but "
official" in my book would include
> consideration for a nationwide tour.

   No doubt being elected or selected for a nationwide speaking tour speaks of his great influence in the Party, but the first indication I ever got of De Leon having been OFFICIALly elected as an OFFICER of a section of the SLP was as described above.

> My 1890 Editor date was an oversight.
> The book I am referring to ("
Daniel DeLeon, a Symposium")
> was written by Henry Kuhn--former Nat. Sec'y of the
SLP. It was
> finished on October 15, 1918 (as noted in the
Introduction), and
> published within a few months--I believe early in 1919. [My copy
> of "
With DeLeon Since '89" by Rudolph Katz has long since disappeared.]
> You seem to be claiming that
everything that was published during the
> tenure of Arnold Peterson is suspect.
This is an untenable conclusion.

   It's true that a record of lying 100% of the time is enough to turn off just about everyone, but what about intentionally lying only 10% of the time? Many people might be fooled into thinking that such a liar was infallible.

> Incidentally, I am not sitting in the Arnold Peterson cheering section.
> Arnold Peterson was only 26 years of age when he became Nat. Sec'y.
> He certainly wasn't
error-free. If being error-free is a prerequisite,
> none of us could qualify. It is much easier to maintain the
error-free
> mantle today with the
Internet always at the ready. If you believe the
>
book to which I am referring is tainted please reveal to us where it is
>
inaccurate. In any event, this book was not authored by Peterson.

   It's true that that particular pamphlet wasn't authored by A.P., but he probably looked it over and gave it a stamp of approval. Anyone who can subtract 1891 from 1931 and come up with 30 (as he did on p. 26 of his own 'Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism') can't be faulted too severely for allowing 'De Leon's 1890 editorship' to pass unnoticed. Did you know that those errors (and scads more) were replicated edition after edition? Nobody cared enough about accuracy to call it to anyone's attention, or didn't care enough to correct mistakes for the next edition, nor do they care now. Are revolutions made on the backs of errors, big and small?

 

11-22-03

   On 11/21/03, Jeanette wrote:

> Ken,
> Can you explain (in simple, layman's terms) what
>
nanotechnology means? What is the word "nano"?
> Jeanette

   Nanotechnology means 'small technology'. Nano is the next step smaller than the microtechnology that gave us microprocessors, for example. Computer manufacturers have long been in a race to miniaturize semiconductor features so as to pack more and more of them into small spaces. Miniaturization allows more and more functions to be added to devices, which results in increasingly smart technology. Home computers nowadays have far more processing power than the megawatt-hungry Eniacs and Univacs of the 1950's.

   Milli = one thousandth,
   Micro = one millionth,
   Nano = one billionth,
   Pico = one trillionth
, ...

   And so on towards smaller and smaller features. The 21st century will truly be the century of miniaturization, which will enable increasingly powerful devices to take over more and more human labor. Thus, while in the early stages an increasing amount of labor is destined to be applied to the development of nanotechnology, the final result of the nanotechnology itself will be the total replacement of human labor (physical labor first, mental later). The total replacement of human labor will result in true human liberation from scarcity and want, provided the politics can be guided onto the correct path, and the benefits of improved productivity can be taken in the form of increased leisure and enhanced work sharing (rather than higher profits for the already rich, and increasing degradation for the poor and working poor). Swt will hopefully become increasingly socially relevant as time proceeds. Otherwise, it could turn into a Brave New World.

 

11-25-03

   Roy wrote:

> Yes, it's wonderful to find some of those rare people thinking about
> these issues, and coming to similar conclusions. The only trouble is,
> I'm afraid to write anything because everyone in this
discussion group
> has probably heard it all before!

   Coming up with new stuff isn't easy, but if enough of us find ourselves thinking in parallel, then that could signal the beginning of a people's movement.

> I looked at Phil Hyde's website and yours, and it's almost like I'm reading
> stuff I wrote myself. Phil Hyde is a
small-government leftist, just like
> me, and writes about how badly the
free market handles automation, and how
> excessive disparities of
wealth slow the economy, something the mainstream
> media
never tell us. And you write about where socialism and Marxism went
> wrong
, as I have.

   Good, I'll have a look at it to compare our thoughts. My discoveries about Marxism comprise the essence of my original thinking: socializing ownership was feasible after overthrowing monarchies and liberating colonies, but never after communists won elections, proving that Marxist expropriation was more fitted to backward countries than to the very advanced countries where the revolution was supposed to happen first. Messing about with private property is not very wise during the era of labor. Marx himself admitted that 'labor creates property', so how can private property be abolished before labor is abolished? There was a disconnect in his thinking, while many modern minds have not cared to figure those things out logically. Some have even made small businesses out of impossible expropriatory programs.

> I'm even more concerned with where liberalism went wrong, why liberals
> keep losing
elections in the US, and how they could change tactics to win. I'm a
>
small-government leftist not just because I'm against government make-work,
> but also for
tactical reasons. Most Americans seem to want tax cuts more
> than
government programs.

   That's very true, but government programs can't be cut before making the economy more inclusive, lest the haves and have-nots become even more bitterly divided.

> I favor simplifying our tax system and entitlement
> programs
, and having nothing but a flat tax, but one that would favor
> the non-rich, unlike the ones some
Republicans have proposed. Perhaps
> each adult would pay 30% of that portion of their income above $40,000 a
> year, if it's above that, or receive 30% of the amount that their income
> falls short of $40,000. I would think the
Democrats would win elections
> with the biggest landslides ever, since they wouldn't merely be cutting
>
federal taxes for the lower 95%, and not merely eliminating them altogether,
> but even giving people
money instead, for the lower 90% of the population,
> the great majority of
voters. I am baffled at why no Democratic candidates
> ever propose this, but I have some
theories (stupidity being one of them).

   I tend more toward blaming corruption of politics, combined with public apathy. People don't care until it hits them in the pocketbook, but not a big enough percentage is being hit right now. People also tend to rubber stamp what politicians advise, and don't often veer from mainstream solutions.

> The main difference I see between us is that up till a few years ago, I
> was thinking just as you are, of
shortening work hours in order to create
> a worker shortage and drive
wages upward. But I started to get away from
>
that idea, and now somewhat favor the reverse, which you reject, of
>
redistributing wealth downward, so that employees can afford to force
> their employers to
shorten work hours. I'm interested to see your
> reaction to my
reasons.

   That's a novel approach to the 'hours' question that I may not have considered, maybe because such a program would be such a difference from today's rat race. It should work in theory, so I guess then the whole trick would be in 'redistributing wealth downward'.

   Methods of redistributing tangibles like property and wealth are infinite, whereas making the economy more inclusive is easily accomplished by altering intangible labor time. The more inclusive the economy, the more alike people become, and the more solvable today's social problems.

> I've been influenced by "The Third Wave" by Alvin Toffler, which in
> 1980 predicted a
trend toward people becoming more individualistic in the
> Information Age, and being treated as such
. Some of the trends he predicted
> in working arrangements do seem to be coming
true to some extent so far,
> such as widespread temping, contracting out, and some telecommuting, and
> an end to the standardized 9-to-5-till-you're-65. There's
no need to force
> work hours lower
if people can increasingly choose for themselves.

   I'm all for choice, but recent studies show a reversal of telecommuting and flextime. That's not a healthy trend.

> For a while I was hoping
> there would be a chain reaction in which some people would choose
>
shorter hours now that they could, so there'd be a shortage of workers,
> so
wages would go up, so more people could afford to choose shorter
> hours
. But it can work in reverse too, so that lower wages cause
>
longer hours which cause lower wages - and during this economic
> slowdown
, it seems like that might be happening.

   Well, yes, economists concur in that observation, but apathy prevents action. People perhaps feel they can afford to ride this artificially created downturn. What would people say if they knew that the downturn can be easily reversed?

> At any rate, while it's easy to understand how to shorten
> hours
in standardized jobs, how would we do so with these
> nonstandardized work arrangements? (I suppose we could have
> a
steadily-increasing penalty for working longer hours rather
> than a sharp cut-off, beyond which is considered
overtime.)

   The natural solution to 'too much overtime' is the overtime premium. Time-and-a-half needs to be abandoned in favor of double time, so as to provide more of an economic disincentive to overworking the same old working stiffs.

> Europe is shortening work hours
> across the board, but I wonder how they're dealing with
> nonstandardized jobs, or if that trend isn't occuring there.

   Hopefully a European member of the forum will chime in.

> I hope the trend
> intensifies because it should give people
increasing freedom to set
> their own
hours according to their own needs. But there's even a trend
> to blur the edges between work and non-work. How do we even measure
>
working hours then, in order to shorten them?

   If greater participation in the economy can be given higher priority, then maybe the requisite proper actions can be initiated, and various mechanisms of inclusion tailored accordingly.

> Another problem is that time-and-a-half
>
backfired as a way to shorten work hours, as Juliet Schor talked
> about in "
The Overworked American." It provided a disincentive to
> employers to
shorten hours, but not enough to counter the incentive of
> various fixed costs per employee, and it provided an incentive for
longer
> hours
to workers. We ought to have penalized the employers for overtime,
> with
taxes, rather than letting the employees get the penalty money, but I
> could just imagine trying to explain why to ordinary working people! Also,
> if we succeeded in
raising wages by shortening hours, that wouldn't be
> much better than
redistributing wealth by raising taxes on the rich.

   I think, rather, that it's far better to provide greater freedom from wage slavery than to redistribute wealth, whose mechanisms are infinite. Besides, complaints will always be received that 'more is being distributed to Joe than to Sam', etc. More time off is extremely fair, as easy to determine as the time of day, and it helps make the economy more inclusive.

> Instead of capital flight out of this country, we would
> have even more
job flight than we do now, because there
> would be even more of a difference in
wages between here
> and the third world. Granted, not all jobs can be exported
> as easily as
money because some have to be performed on site
> (barring possible future widespread use of teleoperators).

   Increasing competition between countries, states and cities to 'give away the store' in order to attract business has severely eroded the social safety net. The poor can't get much poorer. At some point, competition will have to be curtailed and the economy made more inclusive lest social problems worsen.

> On the other hand, the combined wealth of the rich has grown so enormously,
> due to technology,
doubling every 4 years on average while everyone else's
>
wealth has remained about stagnant, that it is no longer necessary to even
>
tax the rich very much in order to provide generous help to the rest of the
> population, and it's becoming less so with each passing year. All that is
> necessary is merely to STOP the
Republicans from repeatedly lowering taxes
> for the rich as their
wealth mushrooms. Their skyrocketing wealth was
> the reason why the
US government budget suddenly went from deficits to
> surpluses a few years ago. If Bush hadn't started
lowering their taxes, we
> probably would have soon had such massive surplusses that we could have
> funded massive aid to the poor and even middle class. And that is precisely
> why the
Republicans are so desperate to keep that from happening, and to
> provide the general public with a false sense of
economic scarcity when
> there is really more
wealth than ever, so that ordinary Americans won't
> even realize that they ought to be getting more and more each year. Since
> we wouldn't have to
raise taxes on the rich very much now to redistribute
> wealth
, and probably soon not at all, I don't think capital flight out of
> this country would be much of a problem, as you say on your
website.

   My position is that people don't really have to fear that 'jobs will flee', because, like you say, there's always a home market, so that economy would be viable if sharing the remaining work could be initiated and maintained.

> Especially since we are about the most right-wing country on earth now,
> and most other countries already have
higher taxes on the rich than we
> do. (As for those
tax havens, such as certain Caribbean countries, we
> ought to wage
economic war against them to bring them into line.)
>
> Not having been in this
discussion group very long, I hope people appreciate
> long-winded
emails like this, rather than being annoyed at them.
>
> Roy
>
www.geocities.com/tengirtizim/politics.html

   I've also been guilty enough of sending long messages, but lately I think that keeping them short is best.

 

11-25-03

   In worldincommon, robbo203 wrote:

> Hi Ken
>
>
<snip ...> I cannot see the necessity
> of expunging all
human labour from the production
> process in order for
scarcity, experientially speaking,
> to come to an end. On what grounds do
you make this claim?

   It's easy to get the impression from the above that 'eliminating labor abolishes scarcity', but that's no theory of mine.

   Satisfying demand for useful items (i.e., alleviating scarcity) is the primary purpose of industry. Alleviating scarcity with minimum expense is a secondary consideration, though success in that endeavor enhances viability in the marketplace. Alleviating scarcity while aggressively introducing state-of-the-art technologies helps eliminate human labor.

   M+E often advocated the abolition of private property, class distinctions, wage slavery, labor, and exploitation, but surprisingly never seem to have advocated the abolition of scarcity or economy, maybe because industry was already doing such a good job of doing exactly that.

> This seems to me to imply a particular view of human
>
labour as a "sacrifice", whereas I take the very opposite view
> (See William Morris on "
Art and Labour") - that human labour
> is itself a psychological as well as productive
necessity. It is
> the (capitalist) conditions under which we
labour that is
> the problem,
not labour itself. Without human labour,
> life
would be a pretty tedious and unfulfilling affair

   That may be fine for those who have made their avocations their vocations, and for other lucky people whose jobs are not beastly bores, but what about 'working stiffs'? Lots of people hate their jobs. I hated working on cars, but did it on and off for 10 years. Many other jobs were just as bad, though in different ways. Putting a happy face on work is not Marxist, but it's rife in this movement, for some strange reason.

   Many believe in the 'compatibility of labor with socialism'. If that idea wasn't initiated by Marx, he certainly supported it. A corollary is: 'under a classless and stateless administration of things, work would be pleasant and satisfying.'

   Though M+E thought labor compatible with the classless and stateless administration of things, at least they weren't guilty of glorifying work:

   me3.204 "The community from which the worker is isolated by his own labour is life itself, physical and mental life, human morality, human activity, human enjoyment, human nature."

   me3.228 "Presupposing private property, my work is an alienation of life, for I work in order to live, in order to obtain for myself the means of life. My work is not my life."

   ... "Presupposing private property, my individuality is alienated to such a degree that this activity is instead hateful to me, a torment, and rather the semblance of an activity. Hence, too, it is only a forced activity and one imposed on me only through an external fortuitous need, not through an inner, essential one."

   Early Engels (me3.395): "Fourier proves, that every one is born with an inclination for some kind of work, that absolute idleness is nonsense, a thing which never existed, and cannot exist: that the essence of the human mind is to be active itself, and to bring the body into activity; and that, therefore, there is no necessity for making the people active by force, as in the now existing state of society, but only to give their natural activity the right direction. He goes on proving the identity of labour and enjoyment, and shows the irrationality of the present social system, which separates them, making labour a toil, and placing enjoyment above the reach of the majority of the labourers; he shows further, how, under rational arrangements, labour may be made, what it is intended to be, an enjoyment, leaving every one to follow his own inclinations. I cannot, of course, follow Fourier through the whole of his theory of free labour, and I think this will be sufficient to show the English Socialists that Fourierism is a subject well worthy of their attention."

   me4.415 "Another source of demoralisation among the workers is their being condemned to work. As voluntary, productive activity is the highest enjoyment known to us, so is compulsory toil the most cruel, degrading punishment. Nothing is more terrible than being constrained to do some one thing every day from morning until night against one's will. And the more a man the worker feels himself, the more hateful must his work be to him, because he feels the constraint, the aimlessness of it for himself. Why does he work? For love of work? From a natural impulse? Not at all! He works for money, for a thing which has nothing whatsoever to do with the work itself; and he works so long, moreover, and in such unbroken monotony, that this alone must make his work a torture in the first weeks if he has the least human feeling left. The division of labour has multiplied the brutalising influences of forced work. In most branches the worker's activity is reduced to some paltry, purely mechanical manipulation, repeated minute after minute, unchanged year after year."

   me5.52 ... "the communist revolution is directed against the hitherto existing mode of activity, does away with labour, and abolishes the rule of all classes with the classes themselves, because it is carried through by the class which no longer counts as a class in society, which is not recognised as a class, and is in itself the expression of the dissolution of all classes, nationalities, etc., within present society;" ...

   What kind of communist would not want to abolish (surplus) labor?

   me32.390 "If everybody has to work, if the contradiction between those who have to work too much and those who are idlers disappears - and this would in any case be the result of capital ceasing to exist, of the product ceasing to provide a title to alien surplus labour - and if, in addition, the development of the productive forces brought about by capital is taken into account, society will produce the necessary abundance in 6 hours, [producing] more than it does now in 12, and, moreover, all will have 6 hours of "disposable time", that is, real wealth; time which will not be absorbed in direct productive labour, but will be available for enjoyment, for leisure, thus giving scope for free activity and development. Time is scope for the development of man's faculties, etc."

   If wealth is disposable time, then abolishing impositions on our time should certainly prove rewarding.

> Also, as I said before most - and, indeed, more and more - human
> labour
under capitalism is NOT about "producing useful things";
> it is in fact about meeting the systemic needs of
capitalism itself
> as a
mode of production (e.g. banking. insurance, commerce, pay
> departments,
tax inspectors etc etc). This is completely socially
> useless
labour and it has expanded enormously in recent decades at
> the expense of that part of the
human labour force that is engaged
> in
socially useful labour ("producing useful things").

   True enough.

> So there is NEVER going to be a situation in capitalism in which
>
no human labour is required and there is no reason why there
> ever should be.

   'Within capitalism', true enough. But, at a stage in our evolution where 'no human labour is required', will capitalism still exist? Experience will reveal that the abolition of labor will also abolish capitalism.

> Even if hypothetically the production of socially useful
> things could be totally automated so that there is
no one
> working in the socially useful or productive sector of the
>
economy you are still going to have millions of workers
>
having to work albeit entirely within the structurally
> wasteful or unproductive sector of the
economy.

   I wonder about the possibility of that particular situation actually developing, especially considering your premise of 'total automation of production of socially useful things'. According to Marx, surplus value rests upon necessary value as its essential basis. If necessary value declines to zero, then wages dry up, and continuing to take orders in a worker-boss relationship becomes pure masochism. Why give up the total freedom associated with 'full automation of necessities' in exchange for maintaining industrial discipline? 'Having to work' in spite of 'total automation of socially useful things' would be silly.

> So where does that leave your scenario? The fact is that we live
> potentially if not yet in actuality in a
post scarcity society.

   'Post scarcity' will belong to the 'post labor' era. Useful things are scarce and cost money because so many people refuse to spontaneously be industrious and produce for nothing, so must be enticed to perform.

   My scenario of 'total replacement of human labor' seems inevitable, what with human labor getting to ready to bite the dust, our unprecedented workerless recovery (for the first time in history) pointing toward yet more astounding productivity enhancements in the future.

> Realising this actuality is not dependent any longer on the further
> development of the productive forces but rather on a profound shift
> in
social consciousness. The real issue is how do we get to nudge
> this
consciousness in the direction we hope
>
> Best regards
>
> Robin

   Social consciousness could surely use some nudging. I'm all for that. Hopefully it will arrive in terms of greater awareness of the bad effects of exclusion from the economy. For M+E, all-inclusiveness was a goal higher than mere socialization of ownership. In fact, socialization was to SERVE all-inclusiveness. But, many socialists ignore the politics of inclusion, instead placing socialization of ownership on a tall pedestal, and then they wonder why people do not flock to socialism. It's as though socialists are unaware that 'surplus labor is performed in order to concentrate ownership at the top', which won't change until the abolition of surplus labor. So few socialists derive this essential lesson from Marx's Capital.

   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."

 

11-27-03

   In worldincommon, robbo203 wrote:

>> KEN: That may be fine for those who have made their avocations
>> their vocations, and for other lucky people whose jobs are not
>> beastly bores, but what about 'working stiffs'? Lots of people
>> hate their jobs. I hated working on cars, but did it on and off
>> for 10 years. Many other jobs were just as bad, though in
>> different ways. Putting a happy face on work is not
Marxist,
>> but it's rife in this
movement, for some strange reason.
>
> ROBIN: I don't think it is work per se that is bad;

   Volunteer work isn't bad. Necessary labor isn't bad either. It's the competition to create more and more surplus that ruins societies.

> it is the conditions under which
> you work that makes it bad - above all,
> the sense of
alienation and lack of control.

   Looks like a couple of good reasons to abolish surplus labor.

> The fact that you might not like working on cars
> is fair enough but there are many who do - some
> to the point of making an obsession of it. Thank
> heavens for human diversity, I say...

   I sometimes enjoyed working on my own jalopies, and thanked my lucky stars for the skills that enabled doing it efficiently.

> > > So there is NEVER going to be a situation in capitalism in which
> > >
no human labour is required and there is no reason why there
> > > ever should be.
>>
>> KEN: '
Within capitalism', true enough. But, at a stage in our
>>
evolution where 'no human labour is required', will capitalism
>> still exist? Experience will reveal that the
abolition of labor
>> will also
abolish capitalism.
>
> ROBIN: I don't understand this argument at all, Ken. What are
> your grounds for presupposing there will ever be such a thing as
> the "
abolition of labour" or indeed that such a thing is necessary.

   Marx thought the "abolition of labour" worthwhile. I wonder if there's any difference between his 'abolition of labor' and his 'abolition of the wages system'. Doesn't everyone in this forum wish to abolish the wages system?

> A totally automated society is simply inconceivable -
> either now or in a future socialist world.

   We might as well agree to disagree on this point.

> Indeed, talking about the here and now,
> the total
workforce has never been larger and we are still being
> pressed to
work longer hours. So much for the so called leisure
> society
that was being touted two or three decades ago!!

   Necessity to share the vanishing work will awaken the workers someday.

> Granted this work
> is increasingly of a
socially unproductive nature - i.e. an
> expression of an increasingly inefficient and wasteful
capitalist
> mode of production
- but even that part of work that is socially
> useful
i.e. produces goods and services that actually make an impact
> on
human welfare is still sizeable in absolute terms and will never
> disappear altogether. At least I have
never seen any credible
> evidence to suggest otherwise

   As a function of time (and increasing productivity), necessary labor shrinks with respect to surplus labor, does it not? Assuming your agreement with that, then what you have written above suggests that, at some point in the future, the ratio of surplus to necessary labor would have to stop rising. What do you see happening in the future that will prevent productivity from accelerating, stop the forward motion, and perpetuate the world of work forever?

> With respect I think you are hung about the word, "work" which has
> associations with employment. But of course I am using work in the
> sense of
creative labour. If work does disappear it will only be in
> the sense that it will be indistinguishable from
leisure. But that
> would not alter the fact that people would still be producing useful
> goods and services in their
leisure time - with or without the aid
> of machines!
>
> Best regards
>
> Robin

   No doubt that, in the sense of arts and crafts, work will still continue after capitalism. But, work will no longer have any ECONOMIC value, because scarcity and economy will have been abolished, and work will be part of the pursuit of pleasure.

 

11-27-03

   In worldincommon, McD wrote, in part:

> McD: Ken simply underestimates the
> amount of work there is to do. No amount of
> machines will affect it much. They will simply
> aid other sectors of the
economy to open up.

> McD: There is no time due when human labour will be at
> an end.
The work before us is, in effect, infinite.

> McD: Ken clearly thinks that machines can replace the
> workers
as Mike Bradley thought in 1971 when he joined
> the
Situationists International.

   McD knows I agree that 'the work to be done is infinite.' Especially considering the amount of work to do around my house.

   What McD refuses to comment upon is: The work to be done may very well be infinite, but how willing are people to PAY to have it all done? Certainly not much of it. Very little, as experience shows. Infrastructures crumble, potholes widen and bridges rust, but how willing are people to pay to have everything fixed? While the work to be done is truly infinite, unwillingness to pay to have it done means that much of it will remain undone. McD refuses to acknowledge this fact.

 

11-30-03

   Roy quoted me:

>> Coming up with new stuff isn't easy, but if enough of us find ourselves
>> thinking in parallel, then that could signal the beginning of a
people's
>> movement
.
>
> That reminds me -- just how many people are in this
discussion group?
> My guess is, far too few to form a
people's movement, at least yet.

   We are surely too few to have much of an effect. Plus, many participants look for little other than ideas for personal liberation from wage slavery, rather than social liberation. I may be one of the few (in this forum) looking for the latter. The swt list is far more interested in social lib.

>>> Most Americans seem to want tax cuts more than government programs.
>>
>> That's very
true, but government programs can't be cut before making the
>> economy more inclusive
, lest the haves and have-nots become even more
>> bitterly divided.
>
> My idea would be to implement the plan in 2 phases, in order of
political
> feasibility
. First, reverse the recent tax cuts for the rich and start
> closing some of their
tax loopholes, and eliminate taxes entirely for the
>
middle class and below. That alone would massively redistribute wealth
> downward, from the rich to the
middle class, though only a little to the
> poor. Since I think the poor don't
vote very much, there's little incentive
> for politicians to give them anything. Don't say a word about
negative taxes
> or a
guaranteed minimum income - Republicans would scream "socialism!"
> - and keep the current patchwork of
entitlement programs.

   Of course the hypocrite Republicans won't complain about the 'socialism for the rich' they've enjoyed for far too long.

>> Time-and-a-half needs to be abandoned in favor of double time, so as
>> to provide more of an
economic disincentive to overworking the same
>> old working stiffs.
>
> Yes,
double time would probably be enough to counteract the fixed costs
> per employee, so that employers would have the incentive to
reduce
> overtime
and hire more people instead. But it would give employees
> an even greater incentive to clamor for more
overtime.

   Clamor the workers might, but only a boss in a really tight spot would pay double time, and begrudgingly at that.

> So even double time could backfire the way time-and-a-half did.
>
Time-and-a-half was in fact the downfall of the union movement.
> Before
it was put into effect, for a century unions stood for the
> correct thing,
shorter work hours. Ever since then, short-sighted
> members have seen to it that they stand for
longer work hours!

   You and I may be polarized on this, and either you or I or both may be making a mistake, so we should patiently figure this out. My impression is that '40 hours per week' was a decent limit to the work week at one time, and no one conceived of posting guards at every factory to see to it that everyone went home at the end of a 40 hour week, or an 8 hour day. So, clever legislators installed an economic disincentive to overworking the same old gang, and made it more expensive to keep workers beyond the nominal 40 hour limit. Time and a half wasn't toooooo unbearable a penalty, and yet it acted and still acts somewhat as a disincentive. A union-sponsored study at U.C. Berkeley speculates that 'increasing the overtime premium to double time would reduce unemployment by 1 or 2 percent.' In other words, then, the originators of the overtime premium were correct in applying an economic disincentive. If it no longer works as designed, then it should be upped to time and three quarters, or double time. Let us know exactly where their original logic failed.

> As I said, the only solution would be to penalize the employers
> for
longer hours, but NOT reward the employees.

   Wouldn't that be too similar to what the BOSSES want? Overwork is already a punishment. Not getting paid for overtime punishment would be like returning to the days of slavery.

> In fact, why not tax the employers for overtime,
> put the
money into a fund, and give it to employees
> ONLY for
NON-overtime hours, so they actually make
> less working
overtime than they do normally.

   Looks a little vague. The fund would have to be administered, and how would the payments be fairly apportioned?

>> I think, rather, that it's far better to provide greater freedom from wage
>> slavery
than to redistribute wealth, whose mechanisms are infinite.
>
> What
mechanisms are there to redistribute wealth other than raising taxes
> for the rich and
lowering them for everyone else? And even if there are
> other ways
, how is that relevant? Assuming my ideas are good ones,
> that's all that matters.

   The number of taxes that are paid today are myriad. Income, sales, excise, gasoline, etc. come to mind. Once the $$ is in the hands of gov't (local, county, state, federal), how to divvy the $$ equitably then becomes a political football, with the already rich running off with lots of it in the form of subsidies.

   Look at it another way. It won't be long before robots and machines become an awful lot smarter. Bosses will continue to replace people with machines wherever possible, and at an accelerating rate. After all, humans have the nerve to demand wages! vacations! family leave! sick leave! unions! insurance! parking places! transportation subsidies! etc., while smart machines never ask for those things, and can work 24/7, so what's a boss to do? Work must be done as efficiently as possible, so all of the inefficient human labor is slated for oblivion. Unless humans equitably share the vanishing work in the meantime, taxes will increasingly burden those who are 'lucky' enough to have jobs. The poor, the aged, the disabled, foreign countries, the Pentagon, etc., will all call upon working taxpayers for a handout, while the disappearing workers will say: 'Hey, give us a break!' So, excluding millions from the possibility of making a living, and then asking disappearing worker-taxpayers to bear an increasing burden is essentially unfair. The remaining work MUST be equitably shared, or else society finds itself in precisely the spot that it's in now. If work is equitably shared, and everyone has the opportunity to make a decent living, then tax burdens can be reduced to insignificance, provided the madmen in the Pentagon can be replaced with more reasonable people.

>> More time off is extremely fair, as easy to determine as the time of day,
>> and it helps
make the economy more inclusive.
>
> Yes,
reducing working hours has the advantage of the appearance of fairness.
> So would the first phase of my idea, of
eliminating taxes for the non-rich,
> as opposed to the 2nd phase of actually giving the non-rich
money. Both
> phases of my idea would have the advantage that it's still
one person one
> vote
, and the non-rich can gang up on the rich electorially and take back
> some of the
money that has been stolen from them, even if they don't yet
> realize they can.

   That's not an unreasonable plan, but, the fact is that nobody likes taxes, and few would want to bother to shuffle the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic in order to come up with a more equitable distribution of taxes as 'the big solution to all of our problems'.

> Whether that seems fair to people or not, it's in their self-interest.
> (And if it doesn't seem
fair, they can be reminded of the Savings and Loan
> Scandal
during the Reagan years, in which the rich stole $1.4 trillion from
> the non-rich, and
Enron, and now the brewing pension scandal that the media
> are paying almost no attention to that could rival the
Savings and Loan
> Scandal
, and so on, and so on.) We ought to be using every method at our
> disposal to combat what's going on, yours, mine, and anyone else's. The
>
Republicans certainly use every method at their disposal for their evil
> purposes. Of course, knowing that your
shorter work hours plan would also
>
redistribute wealth, they'd fight tooth and nail against it, as they would
> mine. They'd say you're interfering in people's "
God-given right" to work as
> many
hours as they please. Somehow they always manage to find a way to put
> the right "spin" on everything to make the
unfair seem fair and vice versa.

   A few good points in there, but, like Engels found out during the Panama Canal scandal of his era (which he thought would spur a revolution), no one gave a tinker's damn about scandals. JFK was bumped off, the Warren Commission report was full of holes, but who cares? Not enough people to do anything real about it.

> As I said, there is a trend toward work and non-work blurring. The very
> connectedness of cellphones and the
internet is allowing companies to have
> their employees
on call at all times. At the same time, I've read that some
> companies are actually allowing their employees to goof off at work, surfing
> the
web, in order to make them feel more "at home" at work, so they'll stay
> in the office even longer. One major company is supposed to be in trouble
> for the widespread practice of having their employees punch out after
40
> hours
, then stay longer to clean up afterwards. So it may not be as
> easy to measure people's
working hours as you think.
>
> Roy
www.geocities.com/tengirtizim/politics.html

   Measuring work hours can be tricky, as you point out. If a cold, clinical approach can be supplemented with a sincere effort to redistribute work in a humanitarian fashion, then maybe our problems can be worked out.

 

12-13-03

   In worldincommon, "kma77uk" wrote, in part:

> John Henry's alright though, isn't he? He seems to debate fairly and
> is
always willing to accept when he's been proved wrong.
>
> All the best
>
> Keith Anderson

   He isn't 'always willing to accept when he's been proved wrong', as he demonstrated during our debate about the Civil War a few months back. But this isn't an argument for tossing him or anyone else aside.

   In a letter written in his mature years, Engels once hit the nail on the head about giving people enough rope to hang themselves, referring to one notable as 'having proven that he was man enough to destroy himself'.

 

12-16-03

   Sorry for the delay in responding, but a seemingly endless windmill project has been absorbing most of my spare time since April. Roy quoted me:

>> only a boss in a really tight spot
>> would pay
double time, and begrudgingly at that.
>
>
Not necessarily. Think of how stores will double their prices, then
> offer sales for "50% off".
Employers could just lower regular wages
> enough that even if they were paying
double-time, they'd still be
> paying what they would have anyway.

   If wages could successfully be lowered, how wonderful for the bosses! Then, with as high an overtime premium as double time, it would pay to REFRAIN from offering any overtime during business booms, and instead hire temps.

> Again I maintain, based on several books I've read, that time-and-a-half
> was more of an
incentive for longer hours than a disincentive.

   One study indicates that time and a half weakened as a disincentive a few decades ago, when increasingly large benefit packages and other costs associated with new hires became more expensive than overworking the same old help. That's one good reason why another study indicated that 'upgrading to double time would reduce unemployment by 1 or 2 percent.'

   As an exercise, hypothesize downgrading time and a half to straight time: What would then prevent extension of the work week far beyond 40 hours, perhaps to the extremes of the Industrial Revolution? Farther out than that, imagine imposing a NEGATIVE overtime premium: Compensate overtime at only HALF of straight time. In that case, a 168 hour work week is plausible.

   In the other direction, consider an overtime premium of TEN times the straight wage: It's easy to guess that all workers would go home at the end of 40 hours, while only the most dire emergency would convince a boss to keep someone working beyond 40.

> Double-time should indeed be more of an
>
incentive than a disincentive, as you say, as
> long as employers don't pull the "50% off" trick.

   'As I say'? I don't associate the overtime premium with 'incentive'. Just the opposite. The overtime premium is a DISincentive to overworking the same tired old people. The higher the premium, the greater the disincentive.

> I'd want the overtime threshold of 40 hours
> to be gradually lowered, of course, as they
> are doing in Europe.

   Europe often leads in the right direction, but Americans don't have the collective sense to follow, at least not yet.

> I'm sorry I started this debate, because you and I seem to think
> basically alike, with just differences in
tactics.

   I'm glad for the debate. I hope that our differences over the overtime premium can be worked out, especially since its disincentive value is so widely accepted in the mainstream as 'proportional to its rate'. The USA's new Labor Party (founded in Cleveland in 1996) advocates 'double time' in its program.

> As I said last email,
> I'm all for trying both
tactics, of shortening work hours,
> and
redistributing wealth. In fact I want to add back to my
>
website stuff I'd written years ago about shortening work
> hours
, especially since the trend away from standardized
> work arrangements seems to be reversing a bit at the moment.

   Either tactic is acceptable, though the shorter work week method is far more efficient than redistributing property and wealth. As A.O. Dahlberg wrote in the 1930's, 'Capitalism would be an ideal form of production if forced to operate under a chronic shortage of labor.' An artificial shortage of labor would prevent people from competing for scarce opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams, as well as raise wages. If the logic of this approach can come to be appreciated more popularly, then the solution to our social problems would not be far off.

>>> As I said, the only solution would be to penalize the employers
>>> for
longer hours, but NOT reward the employees.
>>
>> Wouldn't that be too similar to what the BOSSES want?
Overwork is
>> already a
punishment. Not getting paid for overtime punishment would
>> be like returning to the days of
slavery.
>
> It was just an idea I threw out to emphasize what I was saying, that
>
double-time would be an incentive for longer hours for workers. As
> I said in an earlier
email, no one would ever agree to that!

   Worker eagerness for overtime is proportional to the overtime premium rate, while willingness to grant overtime is INVERSELY proportional, except in 'cost plus' industries.

>> The number of taxes that are paid today are myriad. Income, sales, excise,
>> gasoline, etc. come to mind. Once the
$$ is in the hands of gov't (local,
>> county, state, federal), how to divvy the
$$ equitably then becomes a
>> political football, with the already rich running off with lots of it
>> in the form of
subsidies.
>
> Regardless of all the forms of
taxes there are, drastically lower taxes
> for the non-rich, and they will
vote for that, and then wealth will be
>
redistributed downward.

   I don't recall ever voting for or against a tax, or otherwise having much to say about tax rates. Is the lack of popular control over taxes expected to change anytime soon? As California's Prop. 13 demonstrated, voters generally reject taxes, even if the rich were to benefit most from proposed changes.

> And the more taxes are lowered and the less tax money the
>
government has to spend, the less of a political football it
> becomes, and the less in
subsidies it can give to the rich.

   True, shrinking the size of the trough is one way to discourage the hogs from wallowing there. But, high taxes are just one price society pays for allowing the economy to exclude so many people.

> I agree with sharing the work when possible, rather than just redistributing
> wealth
. But there are problems here too, if we approach a point where the
> last work is rapidly being automated away.

   To me, 'automation combined with work sharing' equals gradual liberation.

> First, when work is shared, more people must be trained to do it.
> That's still okay when
work hours are down to, say, 20 hours a week,
> if it takes, say,
5 hours a week to train people (including in college,
> on the job, and both the people being trained and the people doing the
> training). But suppose we reach the point where only
1 hour a week of
> work is left to do. Will we insist on having everyone spend
5 hours
> a week
training to do that 1 hour of work a week? That would be
> ludicrous.

   I agree with the absurdity of such a scenario. People in the future would probably also agree with its absurdity. That's one reason why I've always predicted the following: When the work week shrinks to where it would seem absurd or superfluous to formally LEGISLATE it down any further, and everyone becomes resigned to the inevitability of the egalitarian society, that's when a band of hardy volunteers and concerned citizens will step in to perform what little work that has yet to be completely automated, and 'compensation for a good job well done' will no longer matter.

> Also, while I'm not completely sure this is really happening, I have
> often heard the claim in the
mass media that the simple less-interesting
> work is being automated away first, making everyone happier and happier
>
wage slaves as time goes on because the work will be so fascinating.
> If so, then the work will become increasingly beyond more people's
> abilities as time goes on. Will everyone have to be brain surgeons
> or rocket scientists before the last work disappears?

   Such a scenario assumes that 'computers will always remain dumber than humans', but the industry generally believes that human intelligence has certainly been increasing, but at a much lower rate than the double exponential rate associated with machine intelligence, which will soon eclipse human intelligence. Once that threshold is surpassed in another decade or so, then rocket scientists and brain surgeons might just as well retire. Humans soon won't have much more to do than enjoy life.

>> nobody likes taxes,
>> and few would want to bother to shuffle the deck chairs on the sinking
>> Titanic in order to come up with a more
equitable distribution of taxes
>> as 'the big solution to all of our problems'.
>
> That's precisely why people
would bother, because no one likes taxes,
> and the bottom 95% would
no longer have to pay them.

   Rich people are not generally regarded as 'the enemy to be taxed'. Lotteries are played in order to make players rich. 'High taxes on the wealthy' could easily boomerang on hopeful players.

>> A few good points in there, but, like Engels found out during the Panama
>> Canal scandal of his era (which he thought would spur a
revolution), no
>> one gave a tinker's damn about scandals. JFK was bumped off, the
Warren
>> Commission report
was full of holes, but who cares? Not enough people
>> to do anything real about it.
>
> I wasn't talking about directly undoing the
scandals, only relieving
> people's guilt at
redistributing wealth back downward by eliminating their
> own taxes
. As you say, the rich stole money in the trillions, and no one
> cared (while as for the possibility that
welfare cheats might be stealing
> money in the thousands, THAT they cared about).
>
> Roy Fischler
www.geocities.com/tengirtizim/politics.html

   I wouldn't mind the wealth being redistributed according to your plan, cuz then the wealth would at least be going in the right direction. While you're working on that, I'll be trying to convince people to share what little work that has yet to be taken over by computers and machines. These 2 forms of activism aren't all that incompatible. I'd be as happy to see your plan work as mine. But, if I have to lay money on 'which plan stands a greater chance of acceptance', I'll keep doin' what I'm doin'.


12-23-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Jeffrey quoted Marx:

> "Labour, by its very nature is unfree, unhuman, unsocial
> activity, determined by private property and creating private
> property. Hence the abolition of private property will become a
> reality only when it is conceived as the abolition of labour
".

   What a pleasure to see 'the abolition of labor' mentioned. Too bad that idea from his early works was soon after abandoned. Ignored as well is the fact that 'labor creates property'.

   Nowadays, how often is the abolition of private property related to the abolition of labor? Hardly ever. Most who advocate the abolition of private property want to capture state power and use a new workers' state to abolish private property by forceful means. Or, if more of the anarchist persuasion, labor would be organized into an SIU or OBU, the state abolished (at the ballot box, or otherwise), and a classless and stateless administration of things arrived at without the help of a transitional political state.

   The foolishness of either method - political or non-political - is revealed by the fact that proponents of those 2 methods are at each other's throats, and wouldn't dream of cooperating with the other side in order to accomplish their anti-property revolutions. Their lack of cohesion naturally prevents either side from doing anything real about private property. Neither side cares very much that their programs are thereby crippled, because they were never interested in much more than in recruiting naïve supporters to their impossible sectarian programs, and keeping entrenched secretive, censorious, and bureaucratic party leaders in power.

   Abolishing labor would abolish capitalism. Labor can be abolished by driving the length of the work week down to nothing, as made possible by advances in productivity. The march of technology will prove to be a far more potent liberator than sectarians paralyzed by the internal contradictions of their programs.

> Forced labor, ie the forced need to "earn a living", is not at all a
> result of
natural social evolution, but a system which has had to be
> imposed,
against mass resistance, over a period of centuries. The writers
> take to task the
working class movement which stopped struggling against
> the
imposition of labor, instead working for "rights" and "ameliorations"
> within the
system. "Instead of radically criticizing the transformation of
> human energy as an irrational end-in-itself, the workers' movement took
> the 'standpoint of labour' and understood capital valorisation as a neutral
> given fact.
" And in the face of the increasing unviability of the entire
>
system of forced-labour-on-behalf-of-capital-accumulation, the Left
> continues to push for
increasingly unviable measures to save forced
>
labour. Social transformation must involve an attack on this system,
> contend the writers.
> HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!
>
> Jeff

   {I must have been too tired to analyze his statement, for I replied:} Some good points there. Few realize that the nanotech revolution is really our best hope for abolishing labor, private property, and capitalism. For some interesting reading, google 'nanosocialism'.

 

12-23-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Leroy wrote:

> Interesting, but there may be a problem here.
>
> Ken, you say
>
>> Labor can be abolished by driving the length of the work week down
>> to nothing, as made possible by advances in
productivity. The march of
>> technology will prove to be a far more potent
liberator than sectarians
>> paralyzed by the internal contradictions of their
programs.
>
> You also say that
>
>> the nanotech revolution is really our best hope for abolishing labor,
>> private property, and capitalism
.
>
> Do you mean that the march of technology, and especially nanotech,
> will be the driving force of social change?

   That's the way it was in the past, so it may be that way in the future as well. What enabled changing from primitive classless society to class divisions? Advances in the means of production. How about the change from ancient slavery to feudalism? Same thing. How about from feudalism to capitalism? Same. How about from capitalism to socialism? Same thing, won't it? Isn't that what historical materialism teaches? What makes a hardy band of activists think that THEY will have a hell of a lot more to do with the changeover than 'advances in the means of production'? Egotism?

> You advise a Google search on "nanosocialism." So I did that,
> and one of the first sites that comes up is this:
>
http://www.irannano.org/English/publication/Articles/NANOSOCIALISM-1.htm
>
> Almost at the beginning this warns against nanotechnology's dark side,
> which may be unleashed unless we
> "...
plan for systemic change as a precursor to the breakthrough. For that
> matter, it is highly unlikely nanotechnology will ever see the light of day
> in this country without systemic change. Furthermore, if nanotechnology
> arrives without systemic change as a prerequisite, nanotechnology will be
> dark, dangerous, and most probably the product of military research.
"

   Naturally, precautions will be taken during nanotech development. At least some caution is to be expected. If precautions had not been taken during the development of nuclear, then it's conceivable that access to radioactive elements would have been a lot more widespread, and accidents would have already caused a much larger part of the earth than Chernobyl and some others to be uninhabitable.

> In other words, if we expect technology drive social change, the
> results could be
disastrous. Clearly, that social change is the essential
> prerequisite for the benign and truly
liberating use of the technology.

   Certainly 'social responsibility' is at a very low level in the USA. Not enough attention is paid to making the economy more inclusive. Activists eager to get control over power and property should read the part of Engels' 1877 biography of Marx which places expropriation on a lower plane than 'full participation in the economy'. That neglected sphere of activism, if approached with the vigor it deserves, would yield tremendous social benefit.

> And if we step back from nanotechnology specifically to look at
> technological progress in general, the point becomes clearer. Since
>
WWII, technological progress has accelerated labor productivity to levels
> unimaginable half a century ago. I'm using half a century as a yardstick
> because that's about how long the
five-day, 40 hour work week has been the
> standard for American workers. (In
WWII, the standard workweek was five and
> a half days
; the weekend began on mid-day Saturday. Saturday work ended for
> most jobs after the
war.) If technology is sufficient as a driving force
> for social change
, a change as profound as abolishing labor, why have 50
> years of technologically impelled
productivity gains failed to make such
> a modest change as
shortening the work week by even a few hours?

   The lengths of the work week and work day in the most developed countries have been political issues for at least 2 centuries. It may not be a very big issue in the USA at the moment, but it will become increasingly important in the near future. France and the rest of Europe have taken the lead, while the USA lags, at least for now. It won't always be that way, because productivity doesn't have far to go before REALLY taking off.

> Nanotech may accelerate productivity even more, but (as the Nanosocialism
> discussion
on the website suggests), this is not sufficient to put an end
> to labor and private property.

   Others disagree, and say that nanotech will eventually lead to the abolition of the wages system. Personal or public possession of an entity or entities providing the necessities of life while running on sunlight and dirt will obviate the need to run out of the house every morning to earn a living. At that point, few will feel comfortable making the claim that 'capitalism is continuing as usual'.

> We must plan for such systemic changes as a precursor,
>
not a consequence; otherwise nanotech becomes a threat
> rather than a
liberating force.

   With the necessary precautions in place, the only ones who will need fear anything from nano will be those who cannot live without the sense of superiority that comes from commanding capital and labor. They might as well enjoy their superiority while it lasts, because it won't last much longer.

 

12-24-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Jeffrey wrote:

> Marx himself never abandoned the idea of abolishing labor, it's even
> in
Critique of the Gotha Program (implicitly),

   Which passage from that work would corroborate that?

> his last major *intended-for-publishing*
> work (1875) (The
Ethnographic Notebooks were
> just that, notes, great notes though that they are).

   It's in there as well? Please corroborate that claim.

> It's the left/labor movement that abandoned
> those goals, aside from the so-called
ultra-left
> that was born during
WWI and its aftermath.

   No argument there. The left seems more interested in getting control over power and property (in the name of human liberation) than in the liberation itself, which could easily be embarked upon by striving to make the economy fully inclusive.

> The idea of nanosocialism, etc, doesn't take account of the fact that soon
> technological society will be running into the sheer cliff wall of
Peak
> Oil
(and natural gas to boot). Cheap energy is a critical pillar of hi
> tech, and without it, all that technology will revert to being a dream.
> We have to find a way to
abolish labor without becoming reliant on
> unsustainable technology.

   By now, the prediction that 'nano will run on sunlight and dirt' should have made its impression. Is this professional estimate being intentionally ignored?

> Not to mention the fact that nanotechnology has the potential to
> create massive techno-disasters in the form of runaway machines,

   Nuclear has similar destructive potential, but much of the world decided its benefits were worth taking some risks. So, what did we get? Mixed results. What will nanotech yield? Mixed results, probably, especially at first. Later, its more sinister applications will be phased out.

> as one of the tech world's top experts, Bill {Joy} wrote some 4
> years ago. Ray Kurtzweil, who debated him, basically said nanotech
> includes a 50% chance humanity will destroy itself, but so what.
>
> Jeff

   'So what'? I sometimes wonder the same thing. In the opinion of many, stopping nanotech would be very unwise. If one country tried, others would advance in the field, and would become more profitable places to invest. So, the race is on, and 'stopping nanotech' has now become impossible. It would be useful to pressure politicians to steer it towards peaceful ends.

 

12-26-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Jeffrey wrote:

> I *strongly* object to the notion that historical materialism
> teaches us that
technological advance drives social change.

   If 'technology doesn't drive social change', then what does? 'Great men'?

> That is very contrary in fact to the
> thinking of Marx (not that he's *the* authority, but i think
> his writings are being appealed to to justify such a notion).

   If you think Marx might have opined negatively on this subject, then a good quote from him would have been in order. Here's how Engels referred to the bourgeoisie in Anti-Duhring (me25.153): ... "its own productive forces have grown beyond its control, and, as if necessitated by a law of nature, are driving the whole of bourgeois society towards ruin, or revolution."

   Engels said that 'out of control productive forces drive society towards revolution.' {Later: Revolution is not DRIVEN by a few enthusiastic radicals.} Many people would be willing to admit that the increasing use of machinery has caused a tremendous revolution in human relations over time, but the job of machinery is nowhere near to being finished. 'We ain't seen nothing yet.' In Capital, Marx wrote (me35.444): "Since therefore machinery, considered alone, shortens the hours of labour, but, when in the service of capital, lengthens them; since in itself it lightens labour, but when employed by capital, heightens the intensity of labour; since in itself it is a victory of man over the forces of Nature, but in the hands of capital, makes man the slave of those forces; since in itself it increases the wealth of the producers, but in the hands of capital, makes them paupers - for all these reasons and others besides, says the bourgeois economist without more ado, it is clear as noon-day that all these contradictions are a mere semblance of the reality, and that, as a matter of fact, they have neither an actual nor a theoretical existence. Thus he saves himself from all further puzzling of the brain, and what is more, implicitly declares his opponent to be stupid enough to contend against, not the capitalistic employment of machinery, but machinery itself."

   No one today should be dumb enough to oppose nanotechnology, but rather should work to see that the new technology is used for human liberation. This will be a very political task.

> Capitalism most certainly
> did
not arise out of feudalism due to technological change,
> but
due to a change in *social organization*, particularly the
> organization of work, in *rural* England. This is how a transfer of
>
surplus became a necessity for people to acquire the means of survival.

   But, what enabled the organization of work to change, if it wasn't advances in agricultural productivity, enabling agricultural labor to be converted into industrial labor? With the rise of wage labor (and capital), growing clamor for republican institutions was bound to lead to their triumph over moribund land-based feudal monarchism. Practically the whole history of 19th century European politics was involved with replacing feudal monarchies with democracies, as well as counter-revolutions in the opposite direction. France was the prime example of that topsy-turvy process, what with the revolutions of 1789, 1848, and 1871 best representing violent upheavals. Other countries achieved democratic results more peacefully, the German bourgeoisie aligning relatively peacefully with feudal elements, causing M+E to chastise the German bourgeoisie as 'cowardly' for not wanting to violently revolt like the French. The only factor with a chance of causing feudal rule to be replaced with democracy was the rise of agricultural productivity, which in turn enabled peasant, serf and slave labor to be converted into so-called 'free wage labor', which carried its own demand for democracy with universal suffrage. Is any part of this history contestable?

> Marx most certainly rejected techno-determinism. For a good account of
> this, see "
Democracy Against Capitalism" by Ellen Meiksins-Wood ('95),
> esp Chap 4,
History or Technological Determinism?

   Economic determinism goes overboard in attributing too many political and social changes to minor economic changes. Where did I evince guilt of THAT crime? Major economic changes occurring over generations and centuries is what's been presented here.

> And what about Peak Oil? What happens to nanotech dreams
> when we hit that wall?
>
> Jeff

   As noted before, nanotech supposedly will run on 'sunlight and dirt'. Many people making the news already embrace that view. Here's a quote from Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher of Iranscope, at http://nanodot.org/

   "The same way, the nanotechnology can be the most important technology that may replicate fuel cells, to put an end to the age of oil, and not only it would impact the economy of oil producing countries like Iran, but it can change the whole economy of energy production in the world, which is the basis of all industrial production worldwide, and can make a huge impact on poverty and wealth worldwide."

   Nanotech has already fallen victim to uninformed opinions, as well as to orchestrated slander campaigns. Before making up one's mind about a technology which is bound to become increasingly socially relevant, closer investigations are merited.

 

12-26-03

   Jeff P. wrote:

> Ken-I'm interested in expanding the debate on how
> we work and get paid for it. I believe it was helpful
> to have the Bush administration attempt to propose
> changes. The changes weren't mandated. Additional
> in-put was requested. I would like to see
overtime
> expanded to
triple-time at 35 hrs. as the bar. This
> would
re-distribute hours of existing work.

   We who advocate higher overtime premiums are in a small minority. I've been advocating double time for a long time now, but few outside of the Labor Party concur. I still don't understand the opposition to it, even by people who should know better.

> When we fight
> to retain
over-time premiums instead of raising
> the cost of
overtime to such a degree it becomes
> un-profitable to exact the work, we perpetuate the
> condition of
over-work in our society. Fighting to
> protect
over-time pay at time and one half. is a dad
> fight say we'll fight to go to
double-time and 1/2
> and we'll be making progress.
> Jeff P.

   I would agree that anything greater than time and a half would be a boost in the right direction, even time and 3 quarters. A study in the U.C. Berkeley Labor Library on Channing Way stated that 'changing from time and a half to double time would reduce unemployment by 1 or 2 percent.' I think the new Calif. Gubernator wants to defund the Labor Libraries on more than one campus, ostensibly as a way to save a few bucks. What a tragedy.

 

12-27-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Jeffrey wrote:

> > > Marx himself never abandoned the idea of abolishing labor, it's even
> > > in
Critique of the Gotha Program (implicitly),
> >
> > Which passage from that work would corroborate that?
>
> "..
after the enslaving subordinations of the individual to the division of
> labour, , and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical
> labour
..."

   Here's the whole paragraph (me24.87):

   "In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and thereby also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of common wealth flow more abundantly - only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!"

   In that passage (describing a higher phase of communist society, and certainly not the proletarian dictatorship), labor was spoken of as "not only a means of life but life's prime want", which hardly approximates the total abolition of labor that will be delivered by nano and zettatechnology. M+E and many socialists, communists and anarchists believed that labor and scarcity would be compatible with a classless and stateless administration of things, but a complete abolition of labor seems to be society's highest priority, so the abolition of labor will drive the abolition of class distinctions, as well as the state, private property, and capitalism.

   If Marx had continuously and actively advocated the abolition of labor, he would eventually have targeted the abolition of SURPLUS labor, and the shorter work week agenda would have been given far more weight, both then and now. That Marx's abolition of labor was more directed at 'abolishing exploitation' was indicated by the following passage from The Holy Family (me4.281):

   "This assessment of industry {as a "sordid huckstering interest"} is then at the same time the recognition that the hour has come for it to be done away with, or for the abolition of the material and social conditions in which mankind has had to develop its abilities as a slave. For as soon as industry is no longer regarded as a huckstering interest, but as the development of man, man, instead of huckstering interest, is made the principle and what in industry could develop only in contradiction with industry itself is given the basis which is in harmony with that which is to be developed."

   'Making man the principle' (instead of 'huckstering') demonstrates Marx's humanitarianism, because 'making man the principle' implies abolishing exploitation. And, in his volumes of 'Theories of Surplus Value', what was exploitation constantly identified with? "For example, if we assume that necessary labour = 6 hours, and surplus labour = 6 hours, the rate of surplus value, or the rate of exploitation, will be 100%." (me34.79)

   Capital (me35.227): "The rate of surplus value is therefore an exact expression for the degree of exploitation of labour power by capital, or of the labourer by the capitalist."

   Surplus value was constantly identified with exploitation, but how many modern opponents of exploitation aim their weapons at overwork? Far too few to make a dent in it. This is a serious deficiency in modern activism. Far too many have been deluded about the value of targeting power and property, so they get nowhere, but scarcely want to notice for as long as new people can be sucked into their impossible agendas.

> > > It's the left/labor movement that abandoned
> > > those goals, aside from the so-called
ultra-left
> > > that was born during
WWI and its aftermath.
> >
> > No argument there. The
left seems more interested in getting control
> > over power and property
(in the name of human liberation) than in the
> >
liberation itself, which could easily be embarked upon by striving to
> >
make the economy fully inclusive.
>
> No, by destroying
it as a separate sphere of life.

   In the present era of scarcity and economy (in which labor is required to overcome scarcity), how is the economy, 'as a separate sphere of life', 'destroyed'?

> > > The idea of nanosocialism, etc, doesn't take account of the fact that
> > > soon technological society will be running into the sheer cliff wall
> > > of
Peak Oil (and natural gas to boot). Cheap energy is a critical
> > > pillar of hi tech, and without it,
all that technology will revert
> > > to being a dream. We have to find a way to
abolish labor without
> > > becoming reliant on unsustainable technology.
> >
> > By now, the prediction that '
nano will run on sunlight and dirt'
> > should have made its impression. Is this professional estimate
> > being intentionally ignored?
>
> It's not a matter of how it will run, but how it will be produced.

   One popular prediction is that at least some nano devices will replicate themselves using no more exotic resources than sunlight and dirt. That may be further down the line, but it's fully expected to arrive.

> All hi-tech production ...

   'All that's gone before', that is. But, the future will be different, just as the 20th century was far more different from the 19th than how the 19th differed from the 18th, and so on down the line. Our era is characterized by a quantifiable 'double exponential rate of technological change'. Even Marx observed an acceleration of change in his day, but doesn't seem to have quantified its rate. {Later: Marx did quantify the rate of change as 'geometric', which was a very good estimate for his era.}

> All hi-tech production is predicated upon the notion of very cheap,
> very abundant energy. And the prediction itself is questionable,
> but that is minor compared to the real problem, production.

   In what way would production be a problem after nanotech matures? Certainly enough fossil fuels and other energy sources will be around to facilitate the arrival of mature nano.

> > > Not to mention the fact that nanotechnology has the potential to
> > > create massive techno-disasters in the form of runaway machines,
> >
> > Nuclear has similar destructive potential, but much of the world decided
> > its benefits were worth taking some risks. So, what did we get? Mixed
> > results. What will nanotech yield? Mixed results, probably, especially
> > at first. Later, its more sinister applications will be phased out.
>
>
Nuclear has given us "mixed results"? It's like saying Adolf Hitler ran
> into some administrative problems. We have nuclear waste that no-one
> has the remotest idea of how to get rid off, Daryl Henriques, the comedian,
> has noted that this is like taking a shit and then wondering where to put
> the feces. We also have thousands of nuclear weapons, one of which could
> suddenly be used with no warning. And we have
depleted uranium
> contamination all over Iraq, Afghanistan (though that may be
> something worse than
DU), Kosovo,Vieques,...We got rotting
> nuke waste barrels in the ocean off the Golden Gate.

   At the same time, nuclear gives much of the world gigawatts of electrical power. Like I said, mixed results. If the arguments against its use had decades ago been sufficiently compelling, then maybe other sources would have been developed. Since activists don't have the political clout to stop nuclear dead, as nice a thought as that may be, then our political clout may be limited to a watchdog capacity. Centralized power is as bad as you say it is, I truly concur. However, informed sources believe that nano will act as a great decentralizer, and as a great (little-d) democratizer. I don't fully understand how nano could be trash-talked by any advocate of democracy. Does it arise from a general distrust of everything industrial or capitalist?

> And why the hell will the more sinister applications be phased out?

   Because, as nano is phased in (just the way micro was phased in a few decades ago), scarcities will disappear, and effortless abundance will gradually take the place of scarcity, and economy will disappear as well.

> Ray Kurtzweil, nano-tech's most unabashed booster amongst the tecchies,
>
admits to a 50% chance of ending the human race. But then, maybe he's
> not as enthusiastic as you.

   That didn't look like anything Ray would say, so googling key words yielded: http://www.earthisland.org/eijournal/new_articles.cfm?articleID=586&journalID=64

   {Bill} "Joy believes that the system of global capitalism, combined with our current rate of progress, gives the human race a 30 to 50 percent chance of going extinct around the time the Singularity happens."

   This same passage was also quoted on Kurzweil's web site at: http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0469.html?printable=1

   These facts don't vouch for your accuracy rate.

> > > as one of the tech world's top experts, Bill {Joy} wrote some 4
> > > years ago. Ray Kurtzweil, who debated him, basically said nanotech
> > > includes a 50% chance
humanity will destroy itself, but so what.
> > >
> > > Jeff
> >
> > '
So what'? I sometimes wonder the same thing. In the opinion of many,
> > stopping nanotech would be very unwise. If one country tried, others would
> > advance in the field, and would become more profitable places to invest.
> > So, the race is on, and 'stopping nanotech' has now become impossible. It
> > would be useful to pressure politicians to steer it towards
peaceful ends.
>
> This is very disturbing. So what, *
you* say. What gives you the right to
> play wit our lives like that?

   I wasn't the first to say 'so what'. What you wrote above could be interpreted as something YOU added as a comment, or else Bill Joy, or else Ray Kurzweil. It's ambiguous. I don't fit the role of a powerful Hitler very well, so your remark was out of order. Ad hominems should be avoided.

> You simply assume more of the same, ie the same rule by the
> profit motive
. If that continues, we are dead for sure.
>
> Jeff

   The profit motive is as doomed as capitalism. But, is there anything you or I could do tomorrow to eliminate either?

 

12-27-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Jeffrey wrote:

> > > I *strongly* object to the notion that historical materialism teaches
> > > us that
technological advance drives social change.
> >
> > If '
technology doesn't drive social change', then what does? 'Great men'?
>
> As i said below, changes in social organization.

   What causes social organization to change? 'Great men'?

> Engels used as a standby for Marx? What a far stretch. The Engels who
> tried to extend
dialectics to nature? Engels bears a major portion of
> the blame for the degeneration in understanding of Marx, a point
> made well by Maximillian Rubel.

   Suppose we were all blessed with a perfect understanding of Marx: What would people then do with their perfect understandings?

> > No one today should be dumb enough to oppose nanotechnology, but rather
> > should work to see that the new technology is used for
human liberation.
> > This will be a very
political task.
>
> Right, just like
nuclear technology has had "mixed results". That
> evaluation of the most destructive technology in
human history is
> downright
obscene.

   Nuclear deserves all of the opposition it gets, and more. But, it exists, and millions benefit from its electrical output, at least in the short run.

> And your boosting of nano-tech on the basis that
>
it is inevitable smacks of the chem industry pushing
> of
GMOs as inevitable. Bad politics meets bad science.

   I hate the thought of consuming GMO foods without a warning on the label. However, nano is a different kettle of fish, and is very enticing.

> > The only factor with a chance of causing
> >
feudal rule to be replaced with democracy was the rise of agricultural
> > productivity
, which in turn enabled peasant, serf and slave labor to be
> > converted into so-called '
free wage labor', which carried its own demand
> > for
democracy with universal suffrage. Is any part of this history
> > contestable?
>
> This is
most astounding. Changes in technology occurred all over, but did
> *
not* lead to the development of capitalism in rural Europe, or in urban
> Europe,
only in rural England.

   So, at the end of 2003, capitalism has yet to operate except in rural England?

> This change was not at all inevitable. And it was
> ferociously resisted. "
Free" wage labor did not at all
> automatically bring
democracy, it brought unprecendented
> misery
, and was fought tenaciously every step of the way
> by peasants defending their traditional ways of life.

   Does that mean that workers in the USA and England are no better off than a century ago? Did you ever read "The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists", describing the miseries of house painters a century ago? Would it have been better if governments didn't enact stricter protections for painters and other workers over the past century?

> Capitalism was not inevitable. The good side
> could have won the
English Civil War (ie Diggers, Levelers), the Luddites
>
could have prevailed (they were only put down thanks to massive military
> intervention),....In fact, it was re-organization and the submission to
>
market imperatives that led to rise in "productivity". This history is
> not only
contestable, it is laughable.

   So, then, 'what ACTUALLY HAPPENED in history is not important, rather it's what COULD have happened if the good guys had won.' Can't argue with that. If the good guys had won, life would undoubtedly be a lot better. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

> What do fuel cells run on? Hydrogen. Hydrogen is not a source of energy,
> but a means to *store* it, it requires massive amounts of energy to
> produce. As for
nano-tech running on sunlight and dirt, the claim itself
> is
pretty suspect, but as i said, that's petty change compared to the
> energy needed for the *production* of nano-tech
, indeed for all forms of
> high-tech production, which is a primary requirement for nano-tech.
> But that appears to be something you
won't touch.

   What do you know about 'the energy needed for the production of nano-tech'?

   Molecular manufacturing, or zettatechnology, has been compared to biological growth, such as the growth of a tree, or the growth of an animal. How much waste is involved in the creation of a tree or an animal? None that I'm aware of. If all useful things were to be created molecule by molecule, without any waste, using the sun for power, and at the will of any person, then wouldn't all production problems be solved?

 

12-31-03

   Roy F. quoted me:

>> As California's Prop. 13 demonstrated, voters generally reject
>>
taxes, even if the rich were to benefit most from proposed changes.
>
> I'd be counting on that! Since I would eliminate
taxes for the bottom 95%,
> the bottom 95% should
vote for politicians who advocate that, aside from
> voters who only care about other issues such as abortion.

   Sounds appealing. Libertarians also favor cuts in taxes. Wonder why more people don't vote Libertarian.

>> To me, 'automation combined with work sharing' equals gradual liberation.
>
> I prefer immediate
liberation to gradual liberation (see below).

   Is immediate liberation feasible?

>> When the work week shrinks to where it would seem
>> absurd or superfluous to formally
LEGISLATE it down any further, and
>> everyone becomes resigned to the inevitability of the
egalitarian society,
>> that's when a band of hardy volunteers and concerned citizens will step in
>> to perform what little work that has yet to be completely automated, and
>> 'compensation for a good job well done' will no longer matter.
>
> Yes, but why wait till that point to make all work voluntary,
> if it could be done sooner?

   Lots of things that are technically feasible right now are rendered unlikely (at least for the moment) by the inertia of the masses. If the economy can be perceived to be functioning well enough for a sufficiently large portion of the population, social change remains but a dream. {Later: Paid labor may have to be rendered impossible before it's abandoned.}

> I argue that since most work could already be automated away
> (perhaps 75%, so that 1/4 of the work there is now would be left), and since
> people would do a certain amount of volunteer work (perhaps
10 to 20 hours a
> week
, so 1/4 to 1/2 of the work there is now), then we are already near that
> point already (allowing for the fact that the work that needs to be done and
> the work that people will do voluntarily aren't necessarily the same work).

   The introduction of new machinery and automation is always slower than what's theoretically feasible, unfortunately.

> (And of course Jack has talked about how Buckminster Fuller claimed that
>
we reached that point decades ago, which I doubt.)

   Since 1/4 of the population directly or indirectly produces and distributes foodstuffs, a 10 hour work week seems to be the minimum lower limit, at least for now.

> Spreading around the existing work
> has the advantage that people would more likely consider it "
fair"
> than they would
redistributing wealth, with their current work-ethic
> mindset, so you'd think it might more likely come to pass. But it has the
> disadvantage that we ought to be changing people's mindset, and
spreading
> around the existing work
, as opposed to allowing people to not work at all,
> only delays that. Besides, bribing most voters with huge
tax cuts would
> overcome their feelings of
unfairness.

   Maybe we'll have to agree to disagree on this issue.

>> Rich people are not generally regarded as 'the enemy to be taxed'.
>>
Lotteries are played in order to make players rich. 'High taxes on
>> the wealthy
' could easily boomerang on hopeful players.
>
> Yes, there is a problem with many Americans that they think they're going
> to strike it rich, so don't want to
tax the rich because they think they'll be
> rich someday. But I don't advocate
raising their taxes much, merely NOT
>
lowering their taxes repeatedly as the Republicans keep doing.

   Agreed. If people re-elect Bush, that'll prove that they don't have the faintest idea of just how thoroughly he's swindled them.

> As profits soar from
>
increased productivity and screwing the workers, the taxes from
> the rich will quickly soar to the point where their
taxes alone equal
>
government budgets. Then we could eliminate taxes for everyone else. But
> we can't
eliminate taxes for everyone else because every time taxes from
> the rich increase,
Republicans lower their rates, to make sure of that!
>
> Roy F.
>
www.geocities.com/tengirtizim/politics.html

   As indicated, it's a losing battle, but the average Joe seems loath to enter the fray. Social agendas are stuck until the average Joe wakes up.

 

12-31-03

   In diogenesthecynic, Michael quoted me:

> > If 'technology doesn't drive social change', then what does?
> > 'Great men'?
>
> I'd say that human beings using tools drives it. Without human
> beings
, there would be no technology. To separate them is to fall
> into the
dualist trap. Humans make their own history within the
> systems which they themselves create and which act upon them.
> For sure, part of this matrix includes the tools which they
> use to create their ways of making a living.

   Maybe I stated it wrong. Maybe I should have said that 'CHANGES in technology drive social changes.' If tools never changed, society could not have advanced out of primitive communism to slavery to feudalism to capitalism, and soon on to socialism. Here's the early M+E on Feuerbach (me5.82): ... "an earlier form of intercourse, which has become a fetter, is replaced by a new one corresponding to the more developed productive forces" ...

   Previous systems became fetters. But, how could capitalism be described as a 'fetter', if billions are being spent to modernize the means of production? Capitalism has YET to become a fetter.

   Engels, Anti-Duhring (me25.269): "But if, upon this showing, division into classes has a certain historical justification, it has this only for a given period, only under given social conditions. It was based upon the insufficiency of production."

   'Class divisions are based on insufficient production.' In the same paragraph, Engels advocated socializing ownership of the means of production to remove the alleged fetters of the capitalist system, but the theory of 'capitalism as a fetter' remains false for now because of the obvious ongoing drive to modernize the means of production.

>> Engels said that 'out of control productive forces drive society towards
>> revolution.
' Many people would be willing to admit that the increasing use
>> of machinery has caused a tremendous
revolution in human relations over
>> time, but the job of machinery is nowhere near to being finished.
>> 'We ain't seen nothing yet.'
>
> But we do create this machinery and we do--at least some of us--own
> the machinery and therefore direct its use. What, I think, Engels
was
> referring to
in the above was the fact that the machinery being used
> was cheapening commodities to the extent that the capitalists
had to
> trapse all over the planet to sell the commodities which they had
> their employees making. The
competition for markets led to wars
> and
wars to disruptions in trade and wealth production. Besides,
> too much
wealth production couldn't be absorbed in the markets,
> so the capitalist was forced to
layoff workers and curtail the
>
production of his own wealth.

   Some of that may be true, but doesn't seem to be on point. The issue was: whether or not the level of development of the productive forces determines our social, political and economic institutions, and whether or not primitive communism corresponds to a low level of productive forces, class divided society corresponds to a higher level, capitalism corresponds to a higher level of development than feudalism, etc. {Later: Socialism will certainly correspond to a higher level of development of the means of production than capitalism, but a lot of fools want socialism now! But, socialism is not going to happen for as long as people have to roll out of bed every morning to go to work. It's perfectly naive to think otherwise.}

>> In Capital, Marx wrote (me35.444): "Since therefore machinery, considered
>> alone, shortens the hours of labour, but, when in the service of capital, lengthens
>> them; since in itself it lightens labour, but when employed by capital, heightens the
>> intensity of labour; since in itself it is a victory of man over the forces of Nature,
>> but in the hands of capital, makes man the slave of those forces; since in itself
>> it increases the wealth of the producers, but in the hands of capital, makes them
>> paupers - for all these reasons and others besides, says the bourgeois economist
>> without more ado, it is clear as noon-day that all these contradictions are a mere
>> semblance of the reality, and that, as a matter of fact, they have neither an actual
>> nor a theoretical existence. Thus he saves himself from all further puzzling of the
>> brain, and what is more, implicitly declares his opponent to be stupid enough to
>> contend against, not the capitalistic employment of machinery, but machinery itself.
"
>
> Right. What the bearded one
is saying here is that machinery in the
> owning hands of a minority for the production of commodities for
> profit is a machinery which is
fettered, just as human freedom is
> fettered in what the Webfairy might term, "
overdeveloped capitalism".

   I wonder which part of that passage could possibly convince anyone that Marx was speaking of fetters. Exploitation was the subject, as well as 'the dumb solution' to exploitation - opposing machinery, instead of opposing the exploitation imposed by the capitalists.

>> No one today should be dumb enough to oppose nanotechnology, but rather
>> should work to see that the new technology is used for
human liberation.
>> This will be a very
political task.
>
> This is
true. But this is the old socialist argument that the
> machinery of production, which includes science and technology,
> can and will be used against its creators if left in the hands
> of the bourgeoisie.

   The old socialist program of expropriation is too contentious for modern people. Labor could be happy, progressive and get everything it wants without resorting to expropriation. The trick is to force capital to operate under a chronic artificial scarcity of labor, ensuring full employment and high wages, all of the way through to the abolition of class distinctions.

> The commodification of EVERYTHING is the ultimate end
> of
humanity and the Earth under the rule of Capital.

   Capitalism's mission could be regarded differently. Engels paraphrased Marx in the 3rd volume of Capital (me37.261): ... "the capitalist mode of production is beset with another contradiction. Its historical mission is unconstrained development in geometrical progression of the productivity of human labour."

   Capitalism's mission is different from 'enslavement' or 'commodification'. Its mission is to expand production until the abolition of the labor-capital relation. Then capitalism can fade away, and a measure of sanity and honesty replace it. In the meantime, exploitation and competition could be reduced.

> To avoid this abhorent future,
>
common ownership of the socially produced goods and
> services
of a democratic association of free human
> beings
is what is called for.

   Have fun with the expropriation, especially since it has only been possible (so far in history) after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, but never after winning mere democratic elections.

>> But, what enabled the organization of work to change, if it wasn't
>>
advances in agricultural productivity, enabling agricultural labor
>> to be converted into
industrial labor? With the rise of wage labor
>> (and
capital), growing clamor for republican institutions was bound
>> to lead to their triumph over moribund land-based
feudal monarchism.
>
> Yes, but it was people seeing that they could be
freer i.e. more
> powerful, wealthier that drove them along this line.

   No matter which socio-economic system they find themselves in, everyone so far has wanted to be freer, more powerful, and wealthier.

>> Nanotech has already fallen victim to uninformed opinions, as well as to
>> orchestrated campaigns of slanderers. Before making up one's mind about a
>> technology which is bound to become increasingly socially relevant, closer
>> investigations are merited.
>
> I don't think that
Jeff is arguing against technology or science.
> I think that what is being missed is the fact that nano-technology
> or any technology in this day and age has the potential to increase
> certainty and control over the producers, over
humanity as long as
>
it remains a commodity, owned and patented for ownership by the
> few, the
capitalist class.
>
> Regards,
> Mike B)

   Provided we don't blow ourselves up in the meantime, nano will lead to the abolition of the labor and capital relation, so ownership and control will eventually disappear.

End of September - December 2003 Correspondence

 

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