Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wobbly times number 89

What the word, 'revolution' means to me and what I'm for.

Revolution is a change in the mode of production based on a change in social relations. Revolution has nothing to do with the violence or peacefulness of societal change. Revolution is not a tactic. A cooperative commonwealth (aka socialism and communism) is the strategic goal of revolutionaries in the modern age. Because we human beings make history, if we're not class conscious enough to demand and organise: the abolition of the wage system; common ownership of the social product of labour, with production based on use (as opposed to commodity exchange), there will be no revolution. At best, those workers actively participating in the class struggle will achieve a continual leftist reform of the capitalist mode of production or perhaps another form of State capitalist production of commodities. [As Marx observes in CAPITAL Volume I, chapter one: "Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself."] At worst, humanity will step backwards into harsher forms of dictatorship under dogmatic, sadistic rulers, out of fear of realising their own freedom and the false notion that they can best survive by embracing the authority of those they find already in established positions of political power over the majority.

In this day and age, achieving more freedom on a societal level lies in the direction of embracing: common ownership of the social product of labour; production for use and need; distribution of collectively produced wealth based on labour time (not the mystifications associated with commodified sale); abolition of wage labour (wage-labour is commodified sale); a classless association of free producers (not a class dominated political State). These are the positions I take in relation to the question of revolution for what I'm talking about is a social revolution, not merely a political revolution where one class replaces another as ruling class of a political State.

Again, my position on revolution has nothing in common with notions about violence, random or otherwise. Nor does it have anything to do with small minorities bravely seizing the State and exercising political power over the majority. I won't become another Blanquist who thinks a tiny core of activists and revolutionaries are all that is needed to effect the most profound change in history: social revolution from class divided society to a classless, free association of producers. Learn this from historical experience: Without the corresponding need for majority support, any political project based on Blanquist tactics and strategy has always ended in the maintenance of class domination, not its sublation. Class rule is the existential condition individuals find themselves under even within a capitalist democracy and its political State. The aim of a revolution is to extend democracy beyond these limitations and can only be achieved by a conscious classwide organisation of democracy within the womb of capitalist class rule. Under the conditions where producers are organised as a class of wage-slaves by employers to produce wealth for the capitalist class, there is little in the way of democratic practice in society.

A free association of producers which is capable of organising as a class, as the overwhelming majority of the population, to take, hold and operate the means of production for themselves would also be quite capable of defending itself, as an organised, classless, Stateless society, from attack from reactionary forces attempting to preserve the condition of wage-slavery over the majority. A classless, grassroots-democratic governing structure is not a political State. Face it, most capitalists and landlords would never take up arms against the majority of a population, class consciously organised and in control of both the means of production and their own collective product of labour. Outside of a few psychopaths, most of our old rulers would just put in their four hours or less labour time like the rest of us and resign themselves to lives without servile politicians and other lackeys to enforce their political power over us as they do nowadays.

Communism means individualism. Not narrow individualism, the 'hooray for me, devil take the hindmost' individualism. Capitalist or narrow individualism is based on a negative dynamic for freedom: My freedom is your un-freedom. We need communist individualism, an individualism firmly based on the principle of equal political power amongst all men and women. Nobody should have more political power than anyone else in a classless association of free producers. This principle, consciously enforced by the association of free producers themselves in a spirit of solidarity will ensure that people attempting to impose political power over others are shunned by consensus, up to and including exclusion from the society for periods of time.

"Thus things have now come to such a pass that the individuals must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces, not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence. This appropriation is first determined by the object to be appropriated, the productive forces, which have been developed to a totality and which only exist within a universal intercourse. From this aspect alone, therefore, this appropriation must have a universal character corresponding to the productive forces and the intercourse.

"The appropriation of these forces is itself nothing more than the development of the *individual capacities* corresponding to the material instruments of production. The appropriation of a totality of instruments of production is, for this very reason, the development of a totality of capacities in the *individuals* themselves."


Again, I was inspired by Marx's notion of communism. I was not attracted to Lenin's nor his followers notions of socialism. Unlike Marx, Lenin, his followers and other ordinary non-leninist social democrats (for example: those in the Social Democratic Party of Germany) all these self-described socialists and communists continually make the case that socialism and communism are different systems. Marx and Engels made the case that socialism and communism were interchangeable terms identifying the same system: a classless society where production would be based on creating use-values with distribution taking place on the basis of the socially necessary labour time put into the creation of total wealth in society. In other words, commodity production would cease in a communist organisation of society. I'm really not that interested in living in a State capitalist society, a society where wage-labour and commodity production continues nor, am I interested in promoting any of the existing State capitalist societies.

My position is that you'll never, 'implement a new society' or 'find ecologically-sustainable solutions' without changing the way social relations are arranged and you can't do that without abolishing wage labour and instituting a mode of production based on what humans find to be useful (for example, it is useful not to destroy the Earth with climate changing technology), as opposed to marketing commodities for sale as is the case within the capitalist matrix of market wage-slavery. Anything less than changing the mode of production, is merely another proposal for the reform of the capitalist mode of production, the mode of production based directly on wage-labour. To be sure, liberal reform is preferable to conservative reform; but reforms do not overturn the set of social relations which result in the vast majority of the population having little or no political power over their own conditions of existence including the enormous quantity of wealth they produce: Wealth which politically empowers ruling classes to control government and the laws we are all supposedly equal under.

I also think that socialism can only come from a conscious act/praxis (the unity of theory and practice) of the workers themselves organised as a class for themselves. Thus, socialist praxis precludes the need for 'goons' or other monsters, like secret police or for that matter for ruling elites. In a classless, democratic society, politically equal human beings can discuss the issues which surround the distribution the product of their collective labour. As for myself, I prefer socially necessary labour time as a transparent solution for handling distribution and contribution in a newly created communist society and that's where my vote goes for the moment.
Commodity production and wage-labour fetishise the individual's social relations within the community of producers. We see ourselves as workers or 'middle class' 'worth' so and so much money. Worth is tied up and mystified with sale: I fetch this and so price on the labour market whereas Joe Blow only gets this much in wages at his job. Alienation of each from each becomes the rule of everyday life. The reality is that we all participate in a giant division of labour to produce the wealth of society and that if one part in the division of labour stops, say through a strike, the other parts suffer which can even lead to a breakdown of society. This reality is forgotten in the narrow indvidualists' fetishised rush to keep their own jobs in the rat race and impress their masters, their employers, and perhaps get a rise in pay in recognition of subaltern obedience. Meanwhile, in spite of all our supplications, mutual throat cutting (in our negative pursuit of freedom) and efforts at liberal reform, the social relation of Capital reproduces the exploitation inherent in the wage system with 10% of the population owning and controlling 88% of the wealth which 90% of the population produces. Along with the unequal distribution of wealth, goes a similar UNEQUAL share of political power in capitalist democracies.

Of course, in a communist democracy 100% of the wealth is owned and controlled by 100% of the people. In such a classless society, where labour time is obvious and open, everyone can see that they put in so an so much time into the creation of the social store of goods and services and that they are entitled to withdraw what they've put in from their own communal store of wealth. The specifics of how this is accomplished is left to the free association of producers deliberating at that time, in other words the society of that time. Unfortunately, there are no such societies today. This is what Marx meant when he quipped that he wasn't about making up recipes for the cook shops of the future as a Utopian Socialist might. The details are left up to the democratic organisation of the people who make the revolutionary change in the mode of production. For instance, a society-wide free association of producers decides how much labour time to deduct from the individual producer's time share in the social store in order to maintain and develop the means of production and social infrastructure. These formulas are not made up in advance of the functioning communist society by self-appointed vanguards.

The concrete knowledge that one contributes, one is actually the producer of society, is a very important aspect of daily life to maintain as it would solidify the philosophical basis of the socialist mode of production and distribution. The subject-object relation would finally be put right-side up in a classless society because this can only be done in a society based on the principle that the product belongs to the producer. Despite the propaganda of the various rulers in the history of class societies, neither kings nor slave masters nor captains of industry have created the wealth of society. Wealth is produced at the grassroots of class society, no matter what sort of class society is under examination. There is nothing against human nature in this principle. Before class societies began to appear some ten thousand years ago, our ancestors associated freely on the basis of kinship, without class division between haves and have not. They enjoyed a direct social relation with each other and held the collective product of their labour in common. This went on for tens of thousands of years. To be sure, class societies were historically necessary to achieve the level of wealth production required to create the potential for modern socialism's level of free-time from necessary labour. But, class societies have reached an historical point where they have become fetters on the greater freedom possible in the here and now and have even become dangerous to the survival of the human race.

Again, I'm for* common ownership* of the collective product of labour. Private ownership of personal goods is fine and in keeping with the individualism of communism e.g. one's home, one's garden, one's shovel, one's vehicle. Private ownership of nature is out of the question. The Earth is not a commodity. One does not own land or the means of production or cities in a classless society. One uses the land one's home is on. One uses the means of production in combination with other producers to create wealth and use that wealth for needs. These collective products of labour are owned socially: They are not sold. Labour time vouchers demystify our relation with what we produce. They are not traded on markets. They are not money. They are not accumulated and passed down in wills; neither is the land we used while we live.

How much labour time is in a dollar or a pound or a euro? Of course, money is a commodified, mystified abstraction. How much labour time is in a voucher which says one hour of labour time? This relation is transparent. How much labour time is in a can of tuna, a house, a car, a bottle of beer? Not many know. They do know how what the prices of various commodities are, including their skills. Skills are commodities in the market for wage-slaves thus, our labour time is estranged in our minds from each other in the division of labour and further, from the total product of labour. And where does this put us but into a mode of selfish, narrowly individualist thinking where each is potentially at the competitive throat of the other in the labour market.

As for slackers in a classless society, they can go off and live on their own as far as I am concerned. I doubt whether many people would be averse to shunning them. I certainly wouldn't be averse to it. Of course, some may feel guilt ridden enough to continue to support them through their own charity. Go ahead. However, my view is that if we don't do our bit, the revolution will never be made. Solidarity is about doing your bit to get a free society going. Scabs and slackers act the role of thieves within the working class movement for freedom from wage-slavery and for social ownership of the common product of labour. A four hour day max is all we need put in, probably a whole lot less. Four hours or less, shouldn't be a problem for anyone, unless they're sick or too young or too old and of course, solidarity with those members of society is a given. A classless society cares for its own. As with everything else, it takes nothing but our labour time in solidarity and love: There are no prices. Production is carried on for use and need and with a view toward, 'living in harmony with the Earth.'