Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wobbly times number 88


You'll hear a lot of people say that Marx never had a vision for a communist society. It's true that Marx didn't presume to write down exactly how a communist society would function in its particulars--he didn't write the all the receipts for the cook shops of the future. You will also hear that he concentrated on presenting a ruthless critique of capitalist political-economy. This is true. It is also true that he and Engels ruthlessly critiqued the utopian socialists of the earlier 19th century. But this is not to say that he had no vision of what a post-capitalist, socialist society would look like nor that anything positive was to be said of utopian socialist visions. The only visions we have of what socialist societies would look like today are the ones we get, mostly filtered through hostile lenses beaming from Marxist-Leninist party directed forms of wage-slavery and of bourgeois socialist parties which have succeeded in representing the capitalist class every once in awhile after being elected as, 'The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law' e.g. the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Australian Labor Party. Granted, some of these societies are more appealing than others e.g. Cuba versus the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea or Norway versus Singapore.

Ask yourself this question as you read these three expositions by Marx on how communism/socialism would operate, according to Marx's own vision: "Do Marx's descriptions resemble what I've been told about how actually existing socialism operates? If not then, why not?"

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the first volume of CAPITAL by Karl Marx.

"Let us now picture to ourselves, by way of change, a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community. All the characteristics of Robinson’s labour are here repeated, but with this difference, that they are social, instead of individual. Everything produced by him was exclusively the result of his own personal labour, and therefore simply an object of use for himself. The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion amongst them is consequently necessary. The mode of this distribution will vary with the productive organisation of the community, and the degree of historical development attained by the producers. We will assume, but merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities, that the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour time. Labour time would, in that case, play a double part. Its apportionment in accordance with a definite social plan maintains the proper proportion between the different kinds of work to be done and the various wants of the community. On the other hand, it also serves as a measure of the portion of the common labour borne by each individual, and of his share in the part of the total product destined for individual consumption. The social relations of the individual producers, with regard both to their labour and to its products, are in this case perfectly simple and intelligible, and that with regard not only to production but also to distribution."

"Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase "proceeds of labor", objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning.

"What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as
much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.

"Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed, because under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.

"Hence, equal right here is still in principle -- bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange exists only on the average and not in the individual case.

"In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor.

"But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

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

from the Critique of the Gotha Programme

"On the basis of socialised production the scale must be ascertained on which those operations — which withdraw labour-power and means of production for a long time without supplying any product as a useful effect in the interim — can be carried on without injuring branches of production which not only withdraw labour-power and means of production continually, or several times a year, but also supply means of subsistence and of production. Under socialised as well as capitalist production, the labourers in branches of business with shorter working periods will as before withdraw products only for a short time without giving any products in return; while branches of business with long working periods continually withdraw products for a longer time before they return anything. This circumstance, then, arises from the material character of the particular labour-process, not from its social form. In the case of socialised production the money-capital is eliminated. Society distributes labour-power and means of production to the different branches of production. The producers may, for all it matters, receive paper vouchers entitling them to withdraw from the social supplies of consumer goods a quantity corresponding to their labour-time. These vouchers are not money. They do not circulate."

CAPITAL Volume II, chapter 18, page 358

Finally, there is no doubt that the credit system will serve as a powerful lever during the transition from the capitalist mode of production to the mode of production of associated labour; but only as one element in connection with other great organic revolutions of the mode of production itself. On the other hand, the illusions concerning the miraculous power of the credit and banking system, in the socialist sense, arise from a complete lack of familiarity with the capitalist mode of production and the credit system as one of its forms. As soon as the means of production cease being transformed into capital (which also includes the abolition of private property in land), credit as such no longer has any meaning. This, incidentally, was even understood by the followers of Saint-Simon. On the other hand, as long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, interest-bearing capital, as one of its forms, also continues to exist and constitutes in fact the basis of its credit system. Only that sensational writer, Proudhon, who wanted to perpetuate commodity-production and abolish money, was capable of dreaming up the monstrous crèdit gratuit, the ostensible realization of the pious wish of the petty-bourgeois estate.

CAPITAL Volume III, chapter 36, page 607

And here's Engels on what socialism would first look like:

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. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of nature foreign to, and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history — only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the humanity's leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.

             Anti-Dühring, 1877

The way I see it, the whole concept of projecting a positive view of the future has been shit-canned. Artistic effort has once again been channeled into an ideological foundation which upholds bondage instead of freedom. With the exception of ancient visions of a possibly grand afterlife, we non-believers are left with nothing overwhelmingly endorsing greater freedom. Our vision is blinded by an either/or ideology which presents only dystopian possibilities for the future of living, human beings. The possibility of creating a classless commonwealth of democratically organised producers is fenced off under the general heading of the dreaded 'grand narrative'. We all know what the 'grand narrative' ends up as: 1984 and a BRAVE NEW WORLD.

My novel is the dialectical opposite of this dogma. Human beings can, do and will make history and depending on how class conscious they can become, they have the possibility to rid themselves of social relations based on unequal political power between all men and women.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wobbly Times number 87

Marat/Sade part one

"At that time the working classes of the towns, taking them in the bulk, were not yet readily distinguishable, as regards their interests, from the poorer sections of the middle-class. The whole question seemed only one of degree, from the well-to-do (for that time) large employer of labour like Reveillon or Santerre, a rara avis, of whom only a few specimens existed in Paris and in other large towns, through the small master working himself and employing a few journeymen to assist him, to the small independent craftsman who could not afford to employ labour, down to the journeyman labourer himself. There seemed no essential economic halting-place. At the top of the scale you had a man relatively rich, but still not rich as the noble was rich, and at the lower end of the scale you had various gradations of poverty. Outside this small industrial middle-class of the towns was to be found the man of the land, the peasant, who formed the bulk of the population of France. Here, in the peasant in his hut, as against the noble in his chateau, the lord of the countryside, was to be found the antithesis of rich and poor in its most direct and its sharpest form. Bad seasons and abject local conditions had driven numbers of the peasantry into the towns, both before and during the early years of the Revolution. These detached elements of the rural class formed a vagabond population, living from hand to mouth, and not fitting into any distinct section of society as then organised. In the France of the eighteenth century, the intellectual and bureaucratic middle-class, including the middle ranks of the clergy, attached by social and economic bonds to the smaller noblesse, and which formed the intellectual backbone of the moderate side of the Revolution, are not to be confounded, it should be observed, with the industrial middle-class. Though also men of the Third Estate, they must not be identified with the former. From them the ranks of the Constitutionalists and Girondists were mainly recruited."

E. Belfort Bax from his introduction to 'Gracchus Babeuf'

Wobbly Times number 86

Marat/Sade part two

Wobbly Times number 85

Marat/Sade part three (and so on.....)

Wobbly Times number 84

Wobbly Times number 83

Wobbly Times number 82

Wobbly Times number 81

Wobbly Times number 80

Wobbly Times number 79

Wobbly Times number 78

Wobbly Times number 77

Wobbly Times number 76

Wobbly Times number 75

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wobbly times number 74

Eleven Rules for Kids' Growing Minds

Bill Gates' vs. Mike Ballard's 

BG's Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

MB's Rule A: Why not ask why life isn't fair? Are you afraid of critical thinking? Isn't it the case that capitalists like Bill Gates are engaged in an unfair trade: wages in return for all the wealth workers produce for Gate's coporation? Aren't you just justifying your position of power over your hired producers?

BG's Rule 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

MB's Rule B: Listen to your bosses. They expect their hired producers to create wealth for them. Your self-esteem should be found in the knowledge that you're part of the producing class and not part of the parasitic class.

BG's Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

MB's Rule C: You might make $60,000 a year, if you actively participate in union with your fellow workers. Be realistic: most of you will NEVER be a vice president of a corporation. You will produce the corporation and serve it though and as long as you refuse to organise, you will never make $60,000 a year.

BG's Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

MB's Rule D: Because the employing class can deprive you of your means of making a living, even though your labour is what creates the wealth which makes the boss a power over you. Again, a worker has no security except in union solidarity with fellow workers.

BG's Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

MB's Rule E: Better you should remember that your Grandparents were in the class struggle to provide their grandchildren with a decent standard of living, including the right to retire in security. Better you should be conscious that the labour you do for the fast food corporate giants makes them richer and richer while you struggle to pay rent on the wages you get from them and pass on to a greedy landlord class.

BG's Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

MB's Rule F: Learn from your parents' mistakes, especially the mistake they made of thinking that the employing class and the working class have interests in common.

BG's Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

MB's Rule G: Remember that you are not just a narrow individual with narrow interests which only concern your tiny personal world. There are corporations out there raping and pillaging the planet to the extent that your Earth's climate is being made to change. Sure, clean up your room. But don't stop there: make the people responsible for fouling the human nest, clean up their mess.

BG's Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

MB's Rule H: Correct the mistake of your parents' generation: organise to abolish wage-slavery and the system which puts people like Bill Gates in charge of large portions of your life and nature itself. Learn what democracy is and practice it.

BG's Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

MB's Rule I: Under the rule of capitalists, like Gates, remember that as a part of the working class, you'll be producing enough wealth in the first hour or two of your eight or more hours of employment, to pay for your wages. Make your employers give you more time for yourself. You and your workmates deserve it. Organise for shorter work time for yourselves, your family and your friends; it's the key to happiness and well being.

BG's Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

MB's Rule J: Again, an individual employee has no security. In real life under the rule of Capital, workers have to produce wealth for their employers or be sacked. Be afraid of your bosses and remember that the only way you can confront them with power, against the power they lord over you, is in courageous union with your fellow workers.

BG's Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

MB's Rule K: Classwide solidarity is a must. Nerds are workers too! Gates was a nerd who now employs thousands of nerd workers to produce his wealth. Chances are that nerds will continue to do this until they organise One Big Union with their fellow workers and get what they are entitled to: control and common ownership of their collective product of labour.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wobbly Times number 73