Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wobbly times number 125

"At the end of the chapter [on primitive accumulation] the historic tendency of [capitalist] production is summed up thus: That it itself begets its own negation with the inexorability which governs the metamorphoses of nature; that it has itself created the elements of a new economic order, by giving the greatest impulse at once to the productive forces of social labour and to the integral development of every individual producer; that capitalist property, resting as it actually does already on a form of collective production, cannot do other than transform itself into social property. At this point I have not furnished any proof, for the good reason that this statement is itself nothing else than the short summary of long developments previously given in the chapters on capitalist production."   Karl Marx

I think that the 'development of every individual producer' was undermined by the very historical process on which collective production expanded. Through this lens we see the commodification of human relations. With the cheapening of the commodity through industrialisation came the cheapening of social relations of solidarity in both the working class and its masters. The commodity is corrosive to community.  Yes, communities can develop under class rule, even with all their dominance and submission fetishes. Reactionaries seize on the feelings of insecurity which generalsed commodity production induces and push the need to look backwards in time for salvation from moral corruption.  Liberals feel the commodity's alienating powers, describe them and then resign themselves to the absurdities of life and shop on. Use-value (the material core of the commodity, encased in its capitalist shell of exchange-value) is lost in a haze of electronic blips, buying and selling, gaining market share. And always, the relentless cheapening of the commodity mingling with capitalist class society as a whole. And the proletariat calls itself the middle class and thinks of themselves as individual consumers, competing for the lowest prices.  And with less and less labour time in the collective product, the fact that it is a collective product of labour disappears in an immense, constant sale. Wherever you look, you see an advertisement for a commodity. The 'development of every individual producer' is not something to be assumed.  History demonstrates that this development requires education, agitation and organisation by and amongst the workers themselves about who creates the wealth and which class appropriates the lion's share of both wealth and political power through the wages system of slavery.  

"Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature's productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage." Karl Marx 

But what also has happened is the commodification of human relations, of social relations. The discipline necessary to maintain the sophisticated division of labour within industrially developed capitalism, to keep it running the show, so to speak, is made easier for our rulers as the commodity invades our everyday lives at every level and even our relation with Nature. Commodification develops cheapness in critical thinking as it destroys Nature in the pursuit of market share. "We had to destroy the Earth in order to save the economy."   The commodity puts a price on everything. Our mind's eyes are fixed firmly on consumer prices. Reification is built into the language as corporations become thought of as subjects creating wealth. "Mercedes produces the best cars."  The legalised separation of the product from the producer is aided and abetted by commonplace notions, embedded in the cultural intercourse which distance concepts like 'expoitation' from 'wage' and hitch words like 'fair' and 'social justice' to more 'humanely' moderated wage-slavery.  

The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties -- this possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here.
With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears.
Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones.
The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of nature because he has now become master of his own social organisation.

Friedrich Engels, from Anti-Dühring, part 3, chapter 2 (1877)

No comments:

Post a Comment