Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wobbly times number 165

"Today, a vague mood of “anti-imperialism” is back, led by Venezuela’s Chavez and his Latin American allies (Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia), more or less (with the exception of Stalinist Cuba) classical bourgeois-nationalist regimes. But Chavez in turn is allied, at least verbally and often practically, with the Iran of the ayatollahs, and Hezbollah, and Hamas, as well as newly-emergent China, which no one any longer dares call “socialist”. The British SWP allies with Islamic fundamentalists in local elections in the UK, and participates in mass demonstrations (during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, summer 2007) chanting “We are all Hezbollah”. Somehow Hezbollah, whose statutes affirm the truth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is now part of the “left”; when will it be “We are all Taliban”? Why not, indeed?"

Loren Goldner

I'm for common ownership of the collective product of labour; the abolition of the wage system and production for use and need,what Marx had called in CAPITAL the "union of free individuals", not State controlled commodity production for sale to producers in bondage to an employing class. Leninists are always on about their 'socialist State'. Marx never wrote about establishing a 'socialist State' because for Marx the State was synonymous with the dictatorship of one class over others. Thus, a 'socialist State' would be a theoretical and material contradiction.  The State, as Marx used the concept, was the governing instrument of class rule.  Socialism was to be a classless society. Perhaps socialism would flow out of a workers' controlled democratic republic in less developed industrial States, a republic in which the workers would see a need to allow capitalists and peasants to continue to function as separate classes until social ownership of the collective product of labour i.e. socialism, could be effectively established.  But such a proletarian democracy was never the reality of Leninist Party political practice.  The absolute dictatorship of the Party was its preferred method of rule.    

To my way of thinking, "Stalinist" means, above all, setting up a Soviet style wage system, including the sort of equality of wages (a measure Proudhon called for in his brand of anarchist socialism) which existed in Cuba for awhile, of course with upper echelon party bureaucrats getting extra shall we say 'perks'. The Soviet style wage system was more or less copied by all the Marxist-Leninist ( M-L) regimes with slight variations. Tito's Communist Party (CP) led Yugoslavia was an exception to the rule when 'self-management' of their wage system was introduced. The lack of civil liberties was/is ubiquitous in M-L States. 

In reality, Lenin's theory failed its own historical test of practice. The apologists for what issued out of the Bolshevik political Revolution are many, varied sects now, some Stalinist, some Trotskyist and all mostly ignored by the working class who see no advantage in changing bosses from one set who allow civil liberties to another who don't. Every M-L State dictatorship has failed to transition to anything but another capitalist system of wage-slavery. Cuban workers only recently were granted the privilege of Internet access. In short, you can't blame Marx for Lenin's theoretical failures.

The Cuban CP has basically ignored Marx's critique of political economy as they believe that the old Leninist dictums concerning the transition to communism via a 'socialist' wage system and CP State controlled commodity production will work. But, as it has become apparent to all that this sort of Idealism only results in a kind of frustrated capitalism, despite the moral suasion of Fidel and his comrades, the whole Leninist ideological edifice of the Cuban political revolution will crash as history has already demonstrated with the USSR and other Leninist States. 

Karl Marx's theory of how to establish socialism via the abolition of the social relation of Capital was probably spot on but, it has yet to have been grasped and established through workers praxis. Workers are the only ones who can establish communism.  The communist social revolution is a class act. For socialism to work, the collective product of labour must be socially owned and democratically managed by the freely associated producers themselves in a classless society where the wage system has been abolished. This is what Marx was talking and writing about: eliminating the alienation of the product from the producer.  The legal, State enforced separation of the product from the producer  defines the character of political-economy in class divided political States. The Leninists maintained that alienation via Marxist-Leninist Party control and effective ownership of the social product of labour using their own brand of wage system. Most workers have seen through this failure for expanding their freedom and have rejected it in one way or another, which is why Leninism is dying on the vine the world over.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wobbly times number 164

Georges Bataille in a nutshell

"The word, silence, is too noisy. The word, mystical, is too comprehensible." -- From Mike Greene (Bataille's Wound).

Whatever 'noise' there is comes from being mentally immersed within the fetters of capitalist levels ideological hegemony. Bataille uses the catalyst of 'non-knowledge' to break out in order to achieve 'individual sovereignty' and by extension, 'human sovereignty' aka a higher level of freedom through what the Situationists would call, 'radical subjectivity'.  To demystify is to cease reification by becoming the power to move and shape the world without the fetters of domination and submission inherent in class divided civilsation. 

Individual sovereignty could only be fully realised in a classless world where 'the accursed share' had been self-consciously turned into free-time. I think Bataille grasped this much better than Sartre. The shamanic wound (however that is brought about) works as a catalytic agent designed to push us beyond reified notions of the 'sacred'. A sovereign individual uses such catalytic agents on the basis of need in the history one makes, the praxis of which contains no 'last men'.   

Friday, February 1, 2013

Wobbly times number 163

“It is above all necessary to avoid postulating ‘society’ once more as an abstraction confronting the individual."  Karl Marx


Money is a commodity.  The commodity is the seed from which the collective product of labour is turned into private property.  Money is the commodity which allows traders to trade their wares and services for something easy to carry and which can be used to obtain other commodities and pay taxes.  To abolish money, you need to abolish commodity production and institute production of goods and services for use with distribution of natural and human created wealth based on need. Money exemplifies the abstraction of commodification which rules today.  Everything which can be commodified will be turned into a commodity under the rule of the capitalist class, while the actual power relationship between the producers and the collective product of their labour will continue to be mystified.  

"How?" you ask.

How much labour time is embodied in a Euro, a hog, a dollar, a Mercedes Benz, a yen, a can of beer, a house and so on?

This is why Marx would promote 'labour time vouchers' to replace money in a socialist society, as labour time vouchers would make the relation between product and producers' time at wealth production transparent, just after the social revolution from class dominated society to a classless democracy of social ownership of the collective product of labour. 

Commodity production itself would be abolished in a classless association of producers who would democratically plan what they themselves need in the way of goods and services.   Abstractions confronting the individual today are e.g.: 'debt', 'the government', 'corporations', 'bureaucracy' and 'human nature', all of which are used by conservatives ideological justifications for all the social ills which flow from unequal political power between people. 'The economy' which is actually produced by employing commodified human and using private property in nature, is THE ABSTRACTION.  Embodying abstractions with human power is the stuff of reification.  It is the bane of revolutionary subjectivity.

Common ownership of the collective product of labour is socialism, in my book. There is no socialism as such in the world, nor has there ever been more than attempts to establish it, beginning with the Paris Commune of 1871. With wage labour, the producer sells his or her skills on the labour marketplace for a price over an amount of time. In this sense, labour power, just like any other commodity, is sold for a price. The difference is that commodified labour power produces more wealth, when at work, than it is bought for in wages. This social relation of product and its producer is obscured by the vast division of labour necessary for industrial production; still it applies. 

As a class, those who work for wages in order to make a living and their dependents make up 90% of the population and produce 100% of the wealth. The resulting fact is that 10% of the people in the world own and control 71% of the wealth produced. A system of common ownership of the collective product of labour would see 100% of the people owning/enjoying and controlling 100% of the product of their labour.