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Marxist Crisis Theory – Cyclical & Breakdown

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A lot of Marxists seem confused about economic crises. Some evoke the fall in the rate of profit to explain cyclical crises, some underconsumption, some forget the law of value & sound like establishment economists, & some just forget the materialist foundations of Marx & drift into a world of subjective will powering the class struggle. So here’s an attempt to explain the nature of an abstract cyclical crisis & how it differs from breakdown.

A cyclical crisis is just over-production. An overproduction of commodities relative to the commodity that acts as the universal equivalent – money. In otherwords, production runs ahead of the market. There is a problem realising surplus value. As the law of value asserts itself commodity production falls, i.e. there’s a recession.

The big thing to remember here is money is the commodity that acts as the universal equivalent. The money commodity has to be social labour. Gold has traditionally played this role. This is because it takes a certain amount of labour time to produce gold. Hence it measures value – the socially necessary labour time invested in commodities – & becomes visible as prices – as exchange-value. Even if bits of paper are actually used in circulation & gold remains in the vaults, these bits of paper must be exchangeable into gold on demand. If they are not (as today) we have a fiat monetary system where token money can be produced with minimal labour time. This breaks its ability to act as the universal equivalent & prices in terms of paper money no longer reflect values. Prices no longer equal values. This cannot persist & is resolved in a crisis where paper money – or more specifically credit – gets destroyed along with general commodity production. The capitalist survivors get constant capital at prices that are often below their values, e.g. taking over a bankrupt company. They also get variable capital – labour power – at lower wage levels than before. This enables recovery & eventually another boom, extended by credit followed by yet another bust.

It appears as a crisis originating in finance that then through a credit crunch affects the ‘real’ economy, but in reality no distinction can be made between finance & the real economy. Money cannot be divorced from capitalist production. It is why the capitalist produces. Money, overproduction & crisis are all deeply inter-related.

This is the abstract cyclical crisis. It is not directly about changes in underlying values – changes in the rate of exploitation (s/v) or the organic composition of capital (c/v). So when Marx talks about the tendential fall in the rate of profit in Volume III of Capital, he isn’t refering to the cyclical crises but the long term trend that capitalism faces. In a world where there is no population growth there is a limit as to how much more additional absolute surplus value can be extracted. In otherwords, there’s a limit to the number of additional hours capitalists can make the fixed number of labourers work. They have to resort to increasing relative surplus value.

Remember capitalist production is based upon M-C-M’ – the end value must be more than the starting value. But if value is labour time, & labour time is fixed, where can this additional value come from? The capitalists have to steal more of the working day from the worker. So if a worker works 10 hours a day & it takes him 5 hours to produce the value he gets as a wage & the remainder goes to the capitalist, then the capitalist needs to take more of the labourer’s time, say 6 hours of the 10. Again, there’s a limit as to how much this can be done by reducing the labourers wage & so his means of subsistence. But the capitalist can introduce more machines that increase the productivity of labour so that the means of subsistence that the labourer is use to can be produced in less time. The capitalist is increasing his exploitation of the worker but the worker in use-value terms is no worse off. These increases in productivity have a positive impact on the rate of profit, but depending upon their scale & how much they affect productivity in industries that produce the means of subsistence relative to industries that produce the means of production, can result in an overall fall in the rate of profit due to an increase in the organic composition of capital. That is, the more profit producing labour is replaced with non-profit producing constant capital, all things be equal, the less profit there is. Marx clearly regarded the increase in the organic composition to more than off-set the increase in the rate of exploitation as capitalism advanced & that this would put downward pressure on the rate of profit.

It is these objective conditions that force capitalists to attack the workers; whether in the pocket, in working conditions or even by ending their employment. This is the science behind the class struggle.

It is this asymmetry in capital accumulation – in capitalism – that leads to breakdown theories. Again to emphasize, not a mechanical breakdown separate from the class struggle, but the motor that drives the struggle itself.

Today’s crisis has, it would appear, elements of both cyclical crisis & breakdown. The overproduction of commodities relative to the money commodity, gold & the accompanying credit/debt is plain to see. But are we not also seeing underlying values move against the rate of profit? As the price of energy has increased (not in token money terms but in actual labour time now that the cheap easy to get at oil is less available) so this adversely affects both the rate of exploitation (more labour time needed to produce the means of subsistence) & the organic composition of capital (oil as a raw material is part of constant capital). This is putting the squeeze on the rate of surplus value & so profit. Hence the renewed attacks on workers. The days of cheap energy appear to be over & things look like getting worse. This affects the supply-side more widely & reinforces the severity of the cyclical crisis which can be seen as essentially demand-side.

So why don’t establishment economists see this? The answer is probably to do with the fact that they don’t understand value. They had to reject the labour theory of value because this exposes the capitalists & landowners as the parasites that they are, living off the value created by workers. Their replacement theory is marginal utility. A subjective theory that is quite useful in micro-economics but is useless in the aggregate trying to explain the economy as a whole.

This is the advantage Marxists have: an objective theory based upon labour values that can explain not just capitalism’s trade cycle, but its historical limit. It’s time to push this advantage home as the demoralised economists struggle to explain just what is going on.

Discussion 79 Comments

  • David Jones 4th Aug 2012

    Hi John,

    I don't really buy this "labour theory of value" as described here. Maybe we could talk about that, since it seems to be what your conclusions are based upon? For example:

    "The money commodity has to be social labour. Gold has traditionally played this role. This is because it takes a certain amount of labour time to produce gold."

    Does gold mining really track labour faithfully? And is this really why it was chosen as money? It seems somewhat unlikely to me. If somebody invents things that make mining more efficient, aren't you getting more gold for the same amount of labour? And hasn't most gold simply been stolen rather than mined? There's a reason emperors and kings paid their soldiers in gold coins - David Graeber talks about the "military-coinage-slavery complex" in Debt: The First 5000 Years. Or, for example, when the Spanish Conquistadors destroyed Aztec civilisation, European gold supplies increased hugely - did that have anything to do with lots of extra European worker labour to mine gold?

    "Remember capitalist production is based upon M-C-M’ – the end value must be more than the starting value. But if value is labour time, & labour time is fixed, where can this additional value come from?"

    I'd say from any number of places. For example, a new invention: workers produce more goods for the same hours = more profit. Or it could come from a slick marketing campaign - psychologically manipulate people into believing that they really need to part with more of their M' to acquire your product. "steal[ing] more of the working day from the worker" is only one way of doing it, surely?

    Value is subjective, I think. It ultimately depends upon some network of power relations. Micheal Albert calls it "relative bargaining power" in Parecon: LAC - with markets you get what you have the power to take. Unions and civil disobedience might increase the "value" of labour. Political funding by Wall Street and corporate lobbyists might decrease it. So I really don't understand this idea of "intrinsic value" or see the value (!) of the concept. It seems to just confuse things. I think it (value) all depends on how people decide to behave towards one another.

  • John Keeley 4th Aug 2012

    David,

    The term value is used in many different ways & so can cause confusion.

    When trying to understand capitalism we need to understand just what is happening when commodities exchange at prices. Is it really the case that individuals come together in the market place, exchange, & each so-called factor of production - land, labour & capital - receives its just reward? Or is there a hidden form of exploitation enabling a capitalist class (the 1%) to live off the 'value' created by the workers (the 99%)?
    We need to start with commodity production - things produced not for their direct use, or to barter with, but produced for sales, for money. Indeed, for more money (they hope) than was initially spent on the labour & capital to produce the commodities. Just what is this monetary amount? Why do some commodities exchange for more money than others? If we just stay at the level of supply & demand how do we explain the fact that generally a pair of shoes costs more than a pair of socks? What is it behind supply & demand that determines a 'natural' or 'equilibrium' price? The classical economists, including Adam Smith & David Ricardo, & Marxists see that the only thing all commodities have in common is labour. But Marx made an important distinction between 'concrete' labour & 'social' labour. Concrete labour is the amount of actual labour time spent by an individual labourer producing a commodity. Social (abstract) labour is the amount of socially determined labour credited to a commodity, which can only be known in exchange. This means that some commodities may not be sold at prices that cover their costs of production. Some may be sold for more. And some may not be sold at all. But importantly there is a finite amount of social labour time that a society has. It is this labour time which is value.
    Under a feudal system the social labour is allocated to produce as the Lord of the Manor determines. The labour time the peasants spend producing food for the Lord is visible exploitation. But under capitalism, the labourer is free to sell his labour to whoever he wants at the best wage he can get. Doesn't this mean that there is no exploitation? Isn't the wage the just market determined return for labour, just as the rate of profit or the rate of interest is the just return for the capitalist?
    By showing that prices reflect the finite amount of social labour & that all commodities, whether means of subsistence or means of production, are products of labour, we can go the next step & show that profit originates from labour. This is because a labourer creates value but gets paid a wage that is less than the value created. Most workers will recognise this in their daily life. This is the source of profit, although this exploitation is hidden relative to that under feudalism.
    Please don't think I'm avoiding answering your questions directly. I think it's important to try & set out what Marxists mean by value first.

    Regards,

    John

    • David Jones 4th Aug 2012

      Hi again John.

      Thanks for trying to clarify. But your definition of "value" has me confused....

      "Concrete labour is the amount of actual labour time spent by an individual labourer producing a commodity."

      Okay... So if I dig a trench using a spade and it takes an hour, that has a concrete labour "value" of 1 hour? And if I dig it using a teaspoon and it takes 100 hours, the trench has a concrete labour "value" of 100 hours? Have I got that right? But then...

      "Social (abstract) labour is the amount of socially determined labour credited to a commodity, which can only be known in exchange."

      I'm confused by this - you don't credit labour to a commodity in an exchange for it, you give somebody a future claim over another commodity (money being a kind of I.O.U). The commodity will have been produced with the help of human labour, of course. But the monetary price of the stuff reflects a history of social relations that produced it, involving bargaining power of buyer vs seller setting a price at each stage of its production.

      What's that necessarily got to do with the history of the hours of labour that went into producing stuff? To go back to my trench example, wouldn't a trench dug with a teaspoon vs one dug with a shovel have the same monetary price - it's the same trench, how would anybody that just came across it know the difference? - but a different "value", in the sense that one trench takes 100 hours to dig and the other only 1? I don't see how "value" in the way you defined it has any necessary connection to your M or your M'. It seems wholly unconnected to the profit it is supposed to explain.

  • Christof Franz 4th Aug 2012

    @ David Johns

    Generally I think that the "labor theory of value" can help us a lot if we want to understand and explain current economic phenomena. I don't think that the statement about "relative bargaining power" contradicts the "labor theory of value" (rather the "relative" in the formulation seems to contradict your view of value as "subjective"). As with other commodities, the value of the commodity "labor power" depends on what is socially necessary for reproducing it. The "socially" in this formulation includes the class struggle aspects you mentioned (unions and lobbying), but also certain consumer standards.

    I think that you raise an important point by questioning "the traditional role played by gold". Marx examples about simple commodity production and capitalist production are very similar to the ones of Adam Smith. However, even if money historically did not develop in the way they imagined, this does not necessarily mean that the theory about money (and gold as money) developed by Marx for explaining the capitalist mode of production is flawed. If money historically developed as debt and not as a commodity, or if money was stolen rather than mined, it is still possible that money was and is used as a commodity measuring social labor in capitalism past and present.

    (By the way, looking at the book "Towards an anthropological theory of value" (2001), it seems to me as if Marx' labor theory of value makes a lot of sense to David Graeber. His anthropological theory of value is more or less based on it - replacing the term "human labor" with a more general term: "creative energies".)

    To answer a more detailed question: "If somebody invents things that make mining more efficient, aren't you getting more gold for the same amount of labour?" Yes, and according to the labor theory of value - other things being equal - the relative value of gold to other commodities changes. You will get less of the same stuff for the same amount of gold (or the same amount of stuff for more gold).

    You write: "For example, a new invention: workers produce more goods for the same hours = more profit." Indeed, if one company can make use of a new invention and other companies cannot, it is possible that the company continues to sell the product for the same price and makes more profit than the other companies (Note that the other companies also still make profit!). However, It is more likely that the company will sell its products for a cheaper price in order to outcompete the other companies. If other companies make use of the new invention too, competition on the market will make the other companies reduce the prices (in accordance with the value of the product as meassured according to social labor). In this situation the first company is no longer able to make the extra profit. The example you give, is of course possible. However, it is an exception rather than the rule of capitalist accumulation, I think.


    Yous write: "Or it could come from a slick marketing campaign - psychologically manipulate people into believing that they really need to part with more of their M' to acquire your product." Concerning this issue, if we follow the labor theory of value, marketing is not creating any value. Rather it makes the realization of value as money possible. Companies make their workers produce stuff. Like this the workers generate surplus. However, if the company is not able to sell its products, the surplus cannot be turned into profit. In such a situation, companies have to split the surplus with others, in this example with marketing agencies. The company might also split surplus with banks (interest), landowners (rent), merchents (merchent profit) and so on. This is a question of bargaining power. If capitalists are able to do without the help of these actors, they do not need to split the surplus they extract from their workers.

    Of course one can imagine other ways of making money in a market economy. For example companies can - if they have a monopoly - sell the products above their value. But in this case, no surplus value is created. In this case the consumers, obviously, get ripped off. And of course it is also possible that bigger companies if they buy inputs from smaller companies pay them less than the value of the products. In this case the smaller companies get ripped off.

    The point is that the labor theory of value can explain how surplus is created in a market economy even if companies do not ripp off consumers or other companies.

    Does this make sense to you?

    • David Jones 4th Aug 2012

      Hi Christof, I'm still not sure what this word "value" means, so I'm not able to respond to most of what you wrote, sorry. But just a couple of things...

      "If other companies make use of the new invention too, competition on the market will make the other companies reduce the prices"

      Yeah, but how do they get to "make use of the new invention"? Surely patents and intellectual property are a big part of (state) capitalism? A big source of profits rather than some minor "exception"?

      "if we follow the labor theory of value, marketing is not creating any value."

      What if the marketing department works really hard to produce a video for a television commercial, for example. Doesn't that count as "concrete labour value" (if I've understood John's definition of this?) going into marketing? Is that marketing video not a "commodity" as well?

  • Christof Franz 4th Aug 2012

    @ David Johns (trying to answer the question you asked John Keeley)

    As far as I understand Marx (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm .), workers' concrete labor produces concrete use value materialized in a product. The concrete use value of a product only carries abstract exchange value if the product is turned into a commodity through market exchange. In an ideal market situation (price is equal to value because there is no excessive demand or supply, no unequal power relation, full information for both sides, rational profit maximizing individuals who respect the rules of the market and so on), the buyer pays the seller the abstract value of the commodity measured in the socially necessary labor time, that is the average labor time currently required to produce an output.

    Turning to your example, the overall labor time is 1 plus 100 is 101 hours; the average labor time - socially necessary labor for producing one trench - is 50,5 hours. Hence, in an ideal situation the producers of the two trenches could sell them for the price of 50,5 hours each.

    @ David Johns (trying to answer the questions you asked me)

    Concerning patents and intellectual property: "exception" was probably the wrong term. However, the point is that capitalists can make profits without inventions. Of course, they can try to use their power to have the market regulated in a way favorable for them, for example with patents and intellectual property on things invented by them in order to make even bigger profit.

    Concerning advertisment: of course the company can choose between different ways of splitting the surplus: it can decide to have its own marketing department and split the surplus (produced by other workers) by paying some marketing workers a wage, or by oursourcing and buying a marketing campaign on the market. The important thing to note is that the marketing agency can only produce "use value" (indeed marketing is useful for companies who could otherwise not sell their stuff) in the context of other workers having already produced something useful for the company. Without this, advertisement would be useless as well. There is no new value added through marketing; marketing only increases demand; it does not produce stuff that can satisfy demand. Marketing helps actors in the market to sell stuff and, hence, to make profit they would have not been able to make otherwise. It enables them to turn surplus into money. However, they do not create this surplus. Rather, the company gives them a share of it. Hence, the marketing video appears as a normal commodity if one only focuses on one single market exchange. However, one can only understand what really happens if one views this exchange in the larger context.

    • David Jones 5th Aug 2012

      You mention "an ideal market situation" to average the teaspoon and the spade. I think it's worth pointing out just how absurd the assumptions behind "an ideal market situation" are. I'll run through them:

      "no excessive demand or supply" Isn't the whole point to explain how these enormous surpluses can build up? How is that to be explained by a theory that assumes it is impossible?

      "no unequal power relation" What kind of economist's utopia is this?! (e.g. see rightmost column of table - wealth gini - here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_distribution_of_wealth .)

      "full information for both sides" - people are omniscient? Multi billion dollar industries dedicated to deception don't exist?

      "rational profit maximizing individuals" - all people basically behave like psychopaths, all the time?

      "who respect the rules of the market" - surely these aren't ordained by God - in fact, don't corporations just make them up as they go along, through bodies like the W.T.O.?

      "and so on" I know some more:

      "flexible prices" - people don’t have non-negotiable needs like food, water, shelter etc?

      "Zero transaction rates" no middlemen, no parasites, nobody who ever dreams of taking a cut? Barges and freight trains and planes don't need fuel? etc.

      I'm not having a go at you Christof. These aren't your ridiculous assumptions - they're the ridiculous assumptions of classical economics. But I question the utility of any theory based upon such manifestly ridiculous assumptions. I see no reason to expect "an ideal situation" to have the slightest bearing on reality. Apparently I'm not the only one - Bakunin opened his "Critique of the Marxist theory of the State" with the lines:

      "There is no road leading from metaphysics to the realities of life. Theory and fact are separated by an abyss."

      http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/michail-bakunin-statism-and-anarchy .

  • John Keeley 5th Aug 2012

    Christof Franz - thanks for your assistance.

    David Johns, I was hoping to generate some discussion about the nature of crises in capitalism, rather than discus the nature of value. This is not a problem, but I think there's only so much I can achieve responding to your comments. Can I recommend that you, & any others who are not sure just what Marx's theory of value is, let alone whether it's correct, read David Harvey's 'A Companion to Marx's Capital'. Even just part I on commodities & money.

    I know it can be annoying when people request you go away & read something, so here's some notes on commodity production & value I've acquired:

    Marx does not see the market simply as an institution in which individuals meet to exchange commodities, to be understood in isolation from the production of commodities, for exchange has implications for production. The market is a place in which the labour of individual producers is brought into relation with that of other producers, and so of society as a whole. The market is a particular way of allocating social labour, appropriate to a particular kind of society in which individuals work independently of one another to produce goods for the use of others.

    Thus the relation between individual producers in a commodity producing society is not directly recognised as a social relation – the producers do not get together to plan production as interdependent members of society. Instead the social relation between these producers takes the form of a relation between things, between goods they exchange for one another.

    The exchange ratio, or exchange value, of commodities, is not, therefore, merely a relation between inanimate objects, but it expresses the relation between the labours of individuals who have produced those commodities.

    Commodity – something produced for sale and not for immediate consumption

    It has both use-value and exchange-value.

    A thing has a use-value if it can find a use. The use-value refers to the physical properties that make it potentially an object of use.

    “Exchange-value appears first of all as the quantitative relation in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind” (p. 126, Capital, Marx)

    Value expresses the fact that the commodity is the product of social labour, of a part of the labour-time of society as a whole, and not simply the private labour of a particular individual. Thus: the substance of value is “human labour power in the abstract”, “homogenous human labour”, “human labour-power expended without regard to the form of its expenditure” (p.128).

    The magnitude of value is determined by the labour-time socially necessary to produce the commodity, defined as “the labour-time required to produce any use value under the conditions of production normal for a given society and with the average degree of skill and intensity of labour prevalent in that society” (p.129)

    The commodity is a thing (a “use-value”) that embodies a certain portion of society’s labour-time (a “value”). Behind the distinction between use-value and value lies that between useful (“concrete”) and abstract (“social”) labour.

    Useful labour “is labour whose utility is represented by the use-value of its product, or by the fact that its product is a use-value…i.e. productive activity of a definite kind, carried on with a definite aim” (pp. 132-3)

    The value of a commodity does not express these concrete characteristics of particular labours, it expresses the common quality of labour as social “homogenous” labour (abstract labour). The basis on which different useful labours can be compared as simple expenditures of labour time is the fact that the same individual can perform a whole range of different kinds of useful labour. Abstract labour is social labour, i.e. the expenditure of human labour-power insofar as such expenditure is socially necessary.

    The value of a commodity does not represent the amount of labour actually expended by a given individual, but that portion of social labour that is credited to that commodity. It is only in exchange that the producer finds out how much of his labour-time was socially necessary. This is precisely what exchange does: it validates the socially necessary character of the labour-power expended in producing a particular commodity as that commodity is compared in the market with others.

    Since value is a purely social phenomenon it cannot find any direct natural expression, but can only be expressed in the relation between commodities.

    The imperatives of commodity exchange give rise to money. It is exchange that gives rise to money and not money that gives rise to exchange. Money is itself a form of social relation.

    The value of the commodity, which is really simply an expression of the portion of social labour embodied in the commodity, appears to be an inherent and semi-natural property of the commodity, its price. The exchange relation, which is really only a relation between amounts of social labour embodied in the commodities in question, appears to be a relation that exists between commodities themselves, without reference to the producers.

    The fetishism of commodities arises from the fact that commodity producing labour is not directly social. Commodities are produced by individuals working independently of one another. Although the total of these individual labours is the total social labour devoted to producing the total social product, these producers do not come into contact with one another until they exchange their products. Hence the social character of their labour only appears in exchange, and they exchange their labour for that of others only by exchanging products.

    “To the producers, therefore, the social relations between their private labours appear as what they are, i.e. they do not appear as direct social relations between persons in their work, but rather as material relations between persons and social relations between things” (p. 166)

    Thus value appears to be an inherent quality of the product that dictates to the producer rather than vice-versa.

    It is the fourth section that clearly differentiates Marx’s theory of value from that of the classical political economists, especially Ricardo. Marx does not see exchange relations simply as the quantitative market relations between commodities. Marx sees exchange relations as the particular social form through which the labour of producers who work independently of one another without reference to social needs can be brought into relation with one another and so with the needs of society. Thus for Marx exchange relations are a form of social relations of production: the market regulates the interdependence of producers who appear to be working independently of one another.

    The idea that exchange relations reflect the amount of labour-time expended on particular commodities was not original: it was central to all of classical political economy. The idea that Marx introduces is the idea that exchange is a particular system of social relationships and not simply an institution through which prices are mechanically derived from labour-times.

    For Marx, value is a characteristic only of a society in which the relations between producers as members of society are regulated through the market. This has a fundamental effect on Marx’s theory of value. It is through his examination of form of value that Marx was led to argue that exchange value is not an expression of labour-time (of the amount of time actually spent by the labourer), but is an expression of value.

    Value, in turn, does not simply express labour-time actually embodied in the commodity (either individual or on average), but the socially-necessary labour-time, the portion of the total labour-time of the society allocated to that commodity, the labour-time of the individual producer in relation to the labour-time of society as a whole. This relationship cannot be found in the individual commodity, or in the relationship of the individual producer to that of the commodity, but only in the relationship between producers that manifests itself in the exchange relation between commodities.

    Hence, for Marx the concept of value is not a technological concept, it is fundamentally a social concept: value expresses the social relation between producers. Thus, while for Ricardo value expressed the labour of the individual producer, for Marx it expressed the labour of the producer as a member of society.

    “It is only the expression of equivalence between different sorts of commodities which brings to view the specific character of value-creating labour, by actually reducing the different kinds of labour embedded in the different kinds of commodity to their common quality of being human labour in general” (p. 142).

    These points are very important, because a quite different interpretation of Marx’s theory, that equates it with the Ricardian theory, is very common.

    Marx’s theory does not see value as inherent in the commodity, in isolation from the exchange relation – indeed that it is not is the core of Marx’s theory of the form of value.

  • Mark Evans 5th Aug 2012

    What is the value of Marxist theory for revolutionaries?

    Do we have to understand the labour theory of value before taking an anti-capitalist stance?

    Do we need to understand the labour theory of value before we can develop vision for a classless economy?

    Do we have to understand the labour theory of value before we can develop good strategy that moves us from capitalism to classslessness?

    I would say no to all three of these questions. So what is the value of such theory for revolutionaries? Or we might wonder what class function such theory has.

  • Christof Franz 5th Aug 2012

    @ Mark Evans

    I think Marxist theory can help revolutionaries a lot if it accurately identifies certain real generative mechanisms causing the problems they want to address (we can never know for sure 100%, if a theory is accurate, but we can compare it with other theories trying to explain the same phenomena, the current crisis for example, and try to evaluate the explanatory potential of the different theories). A revolutionary anti-capitalist movement will act quite differently depending on what it thinks capitalism is and what causes the problems it wants to address, the current crisis for example. It is possible to do without (better) theories and learn by trial and error. However, accurate theories of reality (be it Marxist or any other) can inform actions and help to avoid some errors without trying.

    Concerning the other three questions I would say that it is not a necessary precondition of revolution that every single revolutionary activist perfectly understands Marxist theory. However, if Marxist theory accurately identifies real generative mechanisms, it will help revolutionary activists a lot.
    I would not force anyone to study Marxist theory. However, I would recommend it to those who are interested in what caused the current crisis and think that it was caused (only) by greedy bankers, the federal reserve bank, or by lazy greeks and so on.

    I would say Marxist theory is like a boat. If it is constructed in a way in tune with reality it will float on the water and wont sink. If it is not in tune with reality, it will sink. Now, you can use it in two ways in order to cross a lake. You can either sit in it or you can swim and try to carry it on your back. If you are forced to learn Marxist theory it will probably feel like the latter.

    • Christof Franz 5th Aug 2012

      maybe I should have added some scare quotes: "greedy bankers", "lazy greeks"...

  • John Keeley 5th Aug 2012

    Mark,

    Marxist theory is important if we want to understand the nature of the current crisis.

    My original post tries to explain the difference between cyclical crises & breakdown. If we have a cyclical crisis that is soon to be resolved & we have a new boom similar to the one after WWII then there is unlikely to a revolution.
    But if we expect economic conditions to continue to be tough & even getting worse, then there is much more of a likelihood that people will support revolutionary struggles, this includes projects such as IOPS.

    Regards,

    John

  • David Jones 5th Aug 2012

    Thanks for posting those notes John.

    I read them and I think Marxist theory is probably not for me. Each to their own I guess. I still don't understand what you or Marx means by "value". I suspect I never will and that I'm "missing a gene" and "just can't hear the music". I find most of the notes you posted incomprehensible. The few parts I can "translate" seem like tautologies. For example:

    "Useful labour “is labour whose utility is represented by the use-value of its product, or by the fact that its product is a use-value"

    So, what's the definition of "use-value"? well...

    "A thing has a use-value if it can find a use. The use-value refers to the physical properties that make it potentially an object of use."

    So, putting the two together, the content of that first sentence I quoted seems to me to be:

    "Useful labour is labour that is useful".

    I'm not saying the notes you posted are devoid of meaning. I'm happy to accept that I could be missing important insights, but... based on "advertisements" such as the above, I probably won't be reading a book about the "labour theory of value". I asked about this initially only because your conclusion about the current crisis seemed to be entirely based upon it. So if I disagree with (or more accurately, don't comprehend) the assumed founding premise, then I can't get anything much out of the analysis that follows from accepting it.

    So I guess I'll bow out of this discussion now. But I think Mark's questions should be given more convincing answers. It's not at all obvious to me that "Marxist theory is important if we want to understand the nature of the current crisis." I think a clearer argument must be given as to why.

    I'll just end with one final remark: I think "a new boom similar to the one after WWII" will be bio-physically impossible. For me, hard bio-physical limits trump the predictions of any economics hypothesis.

  • LedSuit ' 5th Aug 2012

    I too found the above blog somewhat incomprehensible. David pipped me to the post in a way. Even if I were to read some Marx and perhaps get to a point where I think I understand the original post and subsequent explanations, my confidence in explaining the current crisis from a Marxist view would really be zero.

    That said, the Marxist economist Richard Wolff has a website with online classes. There are videos of Wolff explaining the crisis from a Marxist perspective. Having not read Marx, I found them somewhat easy to understand with not a great deal of economic jargon. They are longish so one needs some time.

    I also agree with Mark, that one does not need to understand such to want or feel we need revolutionary change.

    Richard Wolff link below

    http://www.rdwolff.com/classes

    • LedSuit ' 5th Aug 2012

      Now consider the different schools of anarchism. There are Anarcho-Syndicalists, AnarchoCommunists, Insurrectionists, Cooperativists,
      Individualists, Platformists... None are named after
      some Great Thinker; instead, they are invariably
      named either after some kind of practice, or most
      often, organizational principle. (Significantly, those
      Marxist tendencies which are not named after individuals, like Autonomism or Council Communism, are
      also the ones closest to anarchism.) Anarchists like to
      distinguish themselves by what they do, and how they
      organize themselves to go about doing it. And indeed
      this has always been what anarchists have spent most
      of their time thinking and arguing about. Anarchists
      have never been much interested in the kinds of broad
      strategic or philosophical questions that have historically preoccupied Marxists—questions like: Are thepeasants a potentially revolutionary class? (Anarchists
      consider this something for the peasants to decide.)
      What is the nature of the commodity form? Rather,
      they tend to argue with each other about what is the
      truly democratic way to go about a meeting, at what
      point organization stops being empowering and starts
      squelching individual freedom. Or, alternately, about
      the ethics of opposing power: What is direct action? Is
      it necessary (or right) to publicly condemn someone
      who assassinates a head of state? Or can assassination,
      especially if it prevents something terrible, like a war,
      be a moral act? When is it okay to break a window?
      To sum up then:
      1. Marxism has tended to be a theoretical or analytical discourse about revolutionary strategy.
      2. Anarchism has tended to be an ethical discourse
      about revolutionary practice.
      Obviously, everything I’ve said has been something of a caricature (there have been wildly sectarian
      anarchist groups, and plenty of libertarian, practiceoriented Marxists including, arguably, myself). Still,
      even so stated, this does suggest a great deal of potential complementarity between the two.

      Just thought I would post this fragment from Graeber's Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology which I have just started to read ( thanks to Christof and David-would probably not be reading Graeber even though he is on the interim committee). I thought it bore some relevance to Mark's questions. It is from the first chapter, "Why are there so few anarchists in the academy".

  • Mark Evans 5th Aug 2012

    "Marxist theory is important if we want to understand the nature of the current crisis."

    That may or may not be true - I don't know. So I will ask the same questions again but slightly changed following that reply.

    What is the value of understanding the current crisis for revolutionaries?

    Do we have to understand the current crisis before taking an anti-capitalist stance?

    Do we need to understand the current crisis before we can develop vision for a classless economy?

    Do we have to understand the current crisis before we can develop good strategy that moves us from capitalism to classslessness?

    I would still say no to all three of these questions. So what is the value of such knowledge for revolutionaries? And we might wonder what class function an emphasis on such knowledge has...

    • LedSuit ' 6th Aug 2012

      "And we might wonder what class function an emphasis on such knowledge has..."

      I think this question of Mark's is quite important. I take it to imply that emphasis on such knowledge can alienate many people making them reliant on those that have it. Not everyone can "afford seven years of grad school", to use a phrase of Graeber's, to understand such debates or discussions. I get a similar feeling when economists like Ha Joon Chang suggest that ordinary folk can understand most of economics, even the difficult mathematical aspects, if explained adequately. The problem is I don't think they really want them to. They would like to hold onto their lofty position. So what is the value of such knowledge for revolutionaries bearing in mind the last question.

      I think Richard Wolff does a mighty job in trying to explain, say the "current crisis", for those who want to know, from a Marxist perspective in fairly simple language.

      But Mark I think has asked a question twice now that bears some consideration. I have tried to address it in a way that I understood it. It may be wrong, I've been wrong before!

  • David Jones 5th Aug 2012

    As far as "understanding the current crisis" goes, this is the most lucid explanation I have come across:

    http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/2011/09/fractional-reserve-banking-leads-booms-busts/ .

    The key point of the above article is that banks can create new money as commercial bank debts, then funnel it into a speculative asset bubble (e.g. house prices). There is effectively no upper limit on how much money they can create for this purpose.

    At the financial level, we are basically suffering from a debt crisis (there's an ecological crisis going on at the same time, which compounds matters...). Unlike the Babylonians, who invented credit money and interest about 5000 years ago, we haven't been smart enough to figure out that you need some mechanism to discharge debts every so often (they had regular debt jubilees) - otherwise interest turns the poor into debt peons and renders the whole system unworkable under the collective burden of its ever-growing debts.

    Marx's analysis, from what I can gather, was based on the assumptions of classical economics, that:

    1 - money is just a veil over barter
    2 - the planet is infinite

    So I would question its relevance to our problems today.

    • David Jones 5th Aug 2012

      Please don't take the above as any attempt to sabotage this blog. I just provided the link and one or two comments for information. If people here predominantly want to discuss how Marxist theory applies the current crisis, and not other explanations, I can take a hint and leave them to it.

  • John Keeley 6th Aug 2012

    David,

    The Austrian school, despite their marginalist foundations, at least recognise the problem of credit/debt. They are not popular amongst the ruling class though because to go back to a gold standard would put a huge constraint on finance capital's ability to make money. They are an ideology that appeals to the small businessman who is understandably outraged that Wall Street gets bailed out whilst his business goes to the wall.

    Marx, & the classical economists, had a much deeper undesrstanding of money than you give them credit for. They most definitely didn't just see money as a veil over barter. That's what I've been trying to explain. I know its not easy, but that's the subject matter - Capitalism.

    As for the planet being infinite, 150 years ago ecological limits were not at the forefront of analysis. But the key part of Marx's Capital is the law of the falling rate of profit. This is the breakdown part I refered to in the orginal blog. As productive labour time (number of workers employed) stops growing absolutely, then capitalists have to steal an increasingly bigger % of the worker's labour time to make a profit. This brings the class conflict into the open. Without any supply-side constraints, there's abundant materials & energy for population growth & labour-time growth (i.e. growth in value). Today, we can see the supply-side constraints kicking in, most notably in oil. This is why I argue that the current crisis is more than cyclical; that capitalism is breaking down. This is why something like IOPS is so important.

    Regards,

    John

    • David Jones 6th Aug 2012

      Imagine there is a pie, of which everybody has just enough to eat - if it is divided equitably. This means that if some people now grab more than an equal share, the pie no longer feeds everyone. A solution is to make the pie bigger. And bigger. And bigger. But at some point the pie has been made so big that the ingredients for making it start to run out - especially when people are getting a fairer share of the pie, because of "pie unions" and "the new pie deal". At this point the pie making and pie dividing system breaks down.

      I haven't been able to understand whether or not Marx is saying anything more sophisticated than that. I'm personally finding that his language serves more to obscure the analysis of capitalism than clarify it. But as I said, each to their own.

  • Christof Franz 6th Aug 2012

    @ David Jones 5th Aug 2012 "You mention "an ideal market situation" to average the teaspoon and the spade..."

    Marx did not argue that the ideal market situation is reality. Rather, he starts from a an actual event that is empirically observable (for example, capitalists making profit) and asks: what kind of real generative mechanisms have to exist to bring the event about. In other sciences, physics for example, you can create artificially closed systems in experiments and try to isolate one of the many generative mechanisms that lead to an event. That is not possible with society. Hence, you need other methods for identifying real generative mechanisms. This is what Marx did. In his mind he abstracted from a real situation in order to be able to identify one or some of the many generative mechanisms that create the actual event - leaving other generative mechanisms aside for a moment. I don't think that this is ridiculous.

    • David Jones 6th Aug 2012

      Well, my take is something like this. Newton, Galileo et al found simple laws describing the dynamics of particles and everyone was very impressed. People working in other fields (economics, philosophy, psychology etc.) started looking for similar "laws" to describe these other things. If only they could find the "laws" (the "generative mechanisms") - think what could be explained!

      But here's the rub: nobody forced simple mathematical descriptions upon the dynamics of particles - these just happen to give empirically good descriptions of how particles behave. I see no reason to expect a method that worked so well for particles to work at all for something like entire human societies - too many "moving parts", too many variables. I do think it's ridiculous to reduce all these to simple "laws", "generative mechanisms" or equations - and I like equations. Mathematics might be "nature's language" but why should it be economics'? Honestly, I think economics today is an example of what Richard Feynman called "cargo cult science". Just my opinion of course.

  • Christof Franz 6th Aug 2012

    @ David Jones

    It seems to me that you are attacking a straw man.

    • David Jones 6th Aug 2012

      Probably. I freely admit I don't understand the real man. I don't understand the terms of the theory - like what "value" means, concretely. I couldn't explain it to others or myself after reading what was posted above. I did read what you wrote for me Christof, I just didn't understand most of it. And there seemed to be a lot of questionable assumptions made (not *your* assumptions, as I said, the assumption of classical economics). I didn't mean to be a jerk about it, so sorry if I've done that.

      It's hard to get everything across in text alone. I think I should have worded my comments above more carefully. But I do think there was a tenancy in the 19th century to get carried away with the successes of physicists and try to make everything look like physics - including things that had no business looking like physics. So I have serious reservations about the entire methodology of economics. That is my subjective opinion and I could be quite wrong about it. After all, I know very little about Marx or his theories other than what I've read here, most of which I haven't comprehended.

      If there is something worth understanding in the labour theory of value I would like to understand it. Genuinely. Is there something worth understanding though? Before anybody puts too much personal effort into trying to explain it to me again, I'd like to see Mark's questions addressed. If I can see a point to Marx's theory - a "light at the end of the tunnel" so to speak, I'll be happy to read more on it. Otherwise, I probably wont - because I wont see why I should do this as opposed to any number of other things I could be doing. Does that make sense?

    • David Jones 6th Aug 2012

      What I mean is this: if I am going to learn something new and difficult I need some motivation. If I'm going to learn theoretical physics, I know at the end of it I'll be able to accurately predict the outcomes of experiments - what will the particles do next? - which proves a level of understanding of nature has been accomplished by me. If I learn first aid I might save a life. If I learn to swim I won't drown. And so on.

      What do I get out of learning Marxism? I'm not being facetious, honestly, it's a genuine question.

  • Mark Evans 6th Aug 2012

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people trying to understand capitalist crisis and if people find Marxist theory helpful then fine!

    The issues that I was trying to highlight were specifically to do with revolutionary organising which, of course, are of particular relevance here at IOPS.

    Many old left revolutionaries spend hours, days, weeks, months and years debating these kinds of issues and I sit there listening or reading them, scratching my head, wondering what this has to do with revolutionary organising. How is the development of such knowledge helpful in revolutionary organisation? And I can not find an answer to that question.

    Now maybe I am missing something here. Maybe such knowledge really is important for in the development of revolutionary vision and strategy. If so then I would be very happy to learn about it. But I just don't see it...

    So then I think to myself, if this is not about revolutionary organising, what is it about? What other function could the focus on such knowledge play within the revolutionary left? I think the answer is pretty obvious -

    1) it distracts working class revolutionaries away from what is important - ie. the development of vision and strategy.

    2) it intimidates workers, who do not understand this "science" of society, with its claims to objective knowledge, into a position of follower mentality.

    This distraction and intimidation both work together to promote the interests of anti-capitalists within the coordinator class. This is something that we have seen happen in the past and it is something that IOPS is keen to avoid - hence the focus on value based vision and strategy (which requires only common sense to understand) with no scientific pretentious.

    • David Jones 6th Aug 2012

      Mark, your 1) and 2) is how it appears to me also. I don't mean to accuse anyone here of intellectual charlatanism (apologies again I have given this impression above) especially when I know next to nothing of them or their theories. But I think the burden of proof of efficacy should be firmly placed on any "science of society", not upon those presently non-plussed by it - who in the meanwhile have a right to be skeptical.

    • LedSuit ' 6th Aug 2012

      Yep. I agree with Mark and David. I think I was mainly on point two. It sets up a vanguard of those who know better. But point one is equally true. Loads of analysis that even creates confusion among Marxists, debates, arguments, that not many others understand fully if at all and then a smaller amount of time devoted to what needs to be done. And if one does get there, there are a bunch of commissars who know better running the show.

      "Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people trying to understand capitalist crisis and if people find Marxist theory helpful then fine!" Seconded.

    • LedSuit ' 6th Aug 2012

      PS: Richard Wolff's lectures are pretty good though. I just have trouble remembering it all.

  • John Keeley 6th Aug 2012

    I was hoping to generate a discussion about the nature of the current crisis & whether Marxist crisis theory could assist given the confusion even among Marxists.
    But c'est la vie...

    In a way it's nice to have such challenges. We should challenge everything. I also think that there are genuine concerns about co-ordinator classes, as the history of the 20th century shows.

    I am a member of the commune.co.uk - we could be labelled libertarian, council or even anarcho-communists. In some ways I happy with all three labels. The commune is about equality in decision-making. There is no central committee, no leaders. Most would consider themselves Marxists in the sense of how Marx explained how capitalism works & its probable replacement by a system without any classes, no bosses, no people selling their labour for money. In otherwords, a system where the people collectively decide what gets produced, how it's produced & who gets it. Parecon would be in this vein.

    It was on top of Marx's analysis of how capitalism worked that Lenin, & for that matter Stalin & Mao, expected revolution in the 20th century to come from the developing world rather than the industrial one. This was because an analysis of the economics showed that imperialism meant workers in the imperial countries, largely the West, benefited from the exploitation of the colonies.
    This is why Lenin though the second international collapsed when the German social democrats supported WWI. If the workers in the imperialist countries had been 'bought off' far better to focus on those in the colonies, support national resistance movements & anti-imperialists in general. Much like the Bolsheviks formed an alliance with the majority peasants in Russia. As it turned out all the revolutions in the 20th century were in developing countries (someone correct me if I'm wrong). But with the post-WWII boom this didn't become a worldwide revolution & the Soviet Bloc collapsed. Of course, that's not to pretend the Soviet Union was communist or even socialist (Soviet leaders never said they had achieved communism, but were at a stage of so-called 'socialism' where supposedly the workers execised a dictatorship through the communist party). After Kronstadt in 1921 (http://thecommune.co.uk/ideas/historical-events/kronstadt-1921/)it was clear that power was not with the Soviets but with the party (the co-ordinator class, if you like).

    My point is an understanding of how capitalism works helps explain history, even the history of the Soviet Union. It enables us to see that workers throughout the world, including the West, are getting worse off & will continue to get worse off. This will generate a reaction. IOPS is a reaction, but so too is the Tea Party. At the end of the day the followers of the Tea Party will support capitalism & keep us all enslaved, whilst IOPS, (or the commune), will fight for participation in society as human beings rather than a source of labour-power to be exploited for profit.

    It's all about human liberation!


  • Mark Evans 6th Aug 2012

    "It's all about human liberation!"

    I agree John - so keeping this in mind would you agree that it makes sense for revolutionaries like us to focus on developing and organising around value based vision and strategy that only requires common sense to understand?

  • John Keeley 7th Aug 2012

    Mark, If we only just stick with 'common sense' then we'll mistakenly believe the sun goes around the earth.
    In terms of politics it might take the form of 'regulate the banks better', or 'kick out the foreigners'.
    If we really believe capitalism is the problem we need to show just how profit comes from value created by workers. That there is exploitation. That the pursuit of profit requires unending growth & ecological damage.
    I don't think we should be afraid of some intellectual effort, so long as decision-making doesn't fall into the hands of intellectuals. This is why IOPS is based upon participation.

    Regards,

    John

  • Christof Franz 7th Aug 2012

    @ Mark Evans and John Keely RE common sense and intellectual effort

    I agree with Mark - if I understand you correctly - that vision and strategy should be easily understandable and accessible.

    I agree with John - if I understand you correctly - that one needs to back up vision and strategy with an theoretical understanding of what exactly is the problem with capitalism (in the case of economic vision).

    Isn't it possible to combine these two?

    Is it impossible to formulate visions that are both backed up with a deep theoretical understanding of society and still understandable for everyone?

    I think it is.

    In fact, I think you should not (and in fact cannot) stop people who want to get a deeper understanding of society and a vision. It is good, if there is more to the vision then common sense and that it still makes sense if one goes deeper. I think you should not (and in fact cannot) force anyone to go beyond common sense.

    I think as an revolutionary organization we can neither afford to lose those who are interested in a deeper understanding of society and vision by forbidding or preventing theoretically sophisticated debate nor to lose those who are not interested in it by making (it seem as if) a sophisticated theoretical understanding of society a necessary precondition for being taken seriously and respected in discussion about theory, vision and strategy.

    What do you think?

    @ John Keeley

    The discussion thus far distracted me from your original blog. I want to write a comment concerning the topic you raised, the nature of the current crisis, soon.

    • LedSuit ' 7th Aug 2012

      I think in some ways you are right Christof.

      "Isn't it possible to combine these two?"

      Possibly. It does depend on the language used. Sometimes theoretical analysis is just plain off putting. Sometimes it assumes too much. That the reader understands certain things already. It may merely attract others already interested and knowledgeable while others will ignore it. Some,like me might go back to Richard Wolff's lectures to reacquaint myself with stuff. Look stuff up etc. Dead labour, living labour, constant and variable capital, surplus value, exploitation etc etc. It can be fun for some, friggin' boring and totally unnecessary for others but ultimately do no harm. It's just learning stuff. That's all.

      "Is it impossible to formulate visions that are both backed up with a deep theoretical understanding of society and still understandable for everyone?

      I think it is."

      Not sure if you meant possible instead of impossible but will go with impossible. You may be right but so what. The idea is to make it as accessible and understandable as POSSIBLE. It also depends on what that deep theoretical understanding of society is. Is it economic, political,anthropological, sociological, historical, physical, scientific, post-modern, post post modern, Chomskian or whatever . Is it all of the above? Gees, does one have to be that knowledgeable? How knowledgeable is deep? I can read stuff and wouldn't have a clue what they are really talking about or what they want (see Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism). Marx is hard. Wolff makes it a little easier but one forgets quickly if one isn't dealing with such stuff regularly. Albert and Hahnel's book Unorthodox Marxism is hard for me to penetrate and maintain interest. Probably won't finish reading it. The prints friggin' small too!!

      Is it necessary to have such a deep theoretical knowledge to back up an anti-capitalist stance? No I don't think so. Does one need to understand the labour theory of value to be an anti-capitalist? No. Would it help? Maybe for some. Is it a fun thing to learn? Ah....yeah.... maybe not. Does one have to read Marx? Nup. I have always felt that capitalism sucks. I decided to read stuff. To learn stuff. But one can learn much from just living in a capitalist society. Being a worker. Others learn differently etc. Some are practical types, some the opposite.(See, too obvious and unsophisticated)

      Is deep theoretical understanding needed for vision and strategy? No I don't think so, but what can be good about, say blogs like this is that all of a sudden one finds one is discussing all sorts of other things one didn't expect. I find that interesting. I have looked up some things, David has pushed the discussion in certain direction, as has Mark, and here we are. That can be helpful. And enjoyable for some.

      "I think as an revolutionary organization we can neither afford to lose those who are interested in a deeper understanding of society and vision by forbidding or preventing theoretically sophisticated debate nor to lose those who are not interested in it by making (it seem as if) a sophisticated theoretical understanding of society a necessary precondition for being taken seriously and respected in discussion about theory, vision and strategy."

      I agree and I do not think IOPS for instance is doing either. I would be pissed if it did. However, I am probably of the latter variety. Unsophisticated in discussion. The unsophisticated can, at times, feel intimidated when in presence of those with sophisticated knowledge and confidence, and therefore, recede into the background where they remain silent and undetected. Perhaps that is just me! For instance, this blog was somewhat intimidating to me until it got to a point where I felt I could make a contribution. Most have been ignored. That's not a problem. But if it wasn't for David and Mark moving the discussion in a certain direction, and it remained a full on Marxian analysis of economic crisis I probably would have sat out. So if people want the unsophisticated to be respected and taken seriously then people have to be open enough to allow the unsophisticated to mix it up with the sophisticated. If that doesn't happen you will get a divide. Coordinators lurk in the shadows. Sometimes they just lurk!

      People are all different and that diversity needs to be taken into consideration when suggesting that people NEED to have a DEEP theoretical understanding of things to back up vision and strategy. I also think this blog has been interesting, good natured, obliging and harmless.

      See, now my unsophisticatedness (and slow typing), has caused me to loose the thread, plus tiredness, so I think I will stop here.

      I apologise for any repetitiveness and possibly just stating the bleeding obvious.


  • Mark Evans 7th Aug 2012

    When, above, I said - "Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people trying to understand capitalist crisis and if people find Marxist theory helpful then fine!" - I was trying to make sure that I am not coming across as anti-intellectual. I am not against people making an "intellectual effort" to try to gain a "deeper understanding of society". And I am certainly not arguing that we should abandon science (where actual scientific understanding exists) for common sense in all areas of life - for example the motion of the heavenly bodies. I hope that is clear.

    Furthermore if John had posted his blog on a left media site - like ZNet for example - then I probably would not have commented as I did. However this is a site for revolutionary organising so I felt justified in raising the issues I did - even though they do move us away from the initial topic.

    The focus here, at IOPS, should be on ideas that are useful for revolutionary organising. From this we might ask of any content posted - do we need to understand this subject in order to organise effectively? When applied to this blog this question becomes - do we need to understand capitalist crisis to organise for a classless economy?

    I am saying we do not. What we need to organise for a classless (and sustainable) economy is a vision of such an economy that we can use to inform our strategy that will move us in that direction. I don't see how an indepth understanding of capitalist crisis helps at all - in fact I think it would be a distraction away from what is important.

    John writes that if we only rely on common sense...

    "In terms of politics it might take the form of 'regulate the banks better', or 'kick out the foreigners'."

    But if you look at the IOPS organisational description the vision for the economy is revolutionary so we would never settle for such meagre reforms, plus we are clearly anti-racist so we would never tolerate members suggesting such things as kicking out foreigners.

    In the same vein John also argues -

    "If we really believe capitalism is the problem we need to show just how profit comes from value created by workers. That there is exploitation. That the pursuit of profit requires unending growth & ecological damage."

    I say that workers feel the exploitation every second of every day and do not need an indepth understanding of how exploitation works. What holds workers back from taking an anti-capitalist stance is not a lack of understanding about their exploitation but a lack of awareness of a viable and desirable alternative to capitalism. This, again, is where developoing and popularising a vision for a classless economy comes in.

    Any model for a future economy will need to be based on a set of values which, if we want to build popular support for, will need to be accessible to the general public. Then we use this vision to inform our day-to-day organising, to help us make our strategic and tactical choices etc.

    This prefigurative, vision oriented approach to organising is how IOPS differs in important ways to other revolutionary organisations.

    Revolution is not a science. Anti-capitalist / pro-classlessness organising does not require objective or indepth knowledge of capitalist crisis.

    • 10th Aug 2012

      Now that we have a vision for an anti-capitalistic, classless society embodying a sustainable economy that eliminates the exploitation of workers, racism, sexism and authoritarianism, what is your strategy for attracting new members to make it possible?

      Some of the workers I can think of who feel the most “exploitation ever second of every day and do not need an indepth understanding of how exploitation works” are in the agricultural fields of California. How would you convince them to join and recruit for an organization promoting anti-capitalism when they are under the threat of deportation, loss of livelihood and starvation?

      What about recent college graduates, some of whom have racked up $80,000 in debt and now see putting their degree training to work in the capitalist system as the only way to pay it off? How do you convince them to join a revolutionary society that advocates the elimination of the system that will allow them to come out from under their debt burden?

      And do all workers really and fully understand their exploitation, or have they been so conditioned by the dominant system’s propaganda that it makes an alternative vision seem unworkable and not worth the risk and potential sacrifice?

      Is an organizational description sufficient to persuade people like these to join, or do we need examples, working models, comparisons, and strategies on how it can be achieved before they will come to the conclusion that they’d be better off joining a revolutionary organization then working to maximize their position and status within the current system?

      Do we need to accept that it might need to be transitional, with intermediate stages having to be achieved prior to the attainment of the full vision, or would that be counterproductive and not a necessity? If it were necessarily transitional, what would be some the likely intermediate stages, what features would they have?

      I’d be interested in your thoughts on these questions and whether you think they are relevant to revolutionary organizing.

  • David Jones 7th Aug 2012

    "Mark, If we only just stick with 'common sense' then we'll mistakenly believe the sun goes around the earth."

    Actually that one is quite interesting! In one coordinate system the earth goes around the sun. In another coordinate system the sun goes around the earth. But the laws of physics don't care which coordinate system we pick (this is called "general covariance") - so it isn't actually "right" to say that the earth goes around the sun and "wrong" to say that the sun goes around the earth! However, some coordinate systems make calculating things easier than others, so these are the ones we tend to pick. It happens to be easier to calculate the motion of the planets in a coordinate system where the earth goes around the sun. Actually, I heard this is how Copernicus got out of trouble with the church - he said "no, the earth doesn't "really" go around the sun - it is just a trick to make the calculations easier" - and he was right! Completely off topic, I know, but hopefully fun :-)

    On a more serious note, whilst I agree that "common sense" will not get you very far within scientific topics (my everyday experiences of being a sub-atomic particle traveling at close to light speeds are tragically limited!), I agree with Mark that "revolution is not a science". People sometimes seem to get uppity when you declare something "unscientific" but I don't see why. There is nothing wrong with something not being a science. Love is not a science. Music is not a science. etc.

    I also think that understanding how this society is organised and deciding how we might organise an alternative one is not a science. Societies are made up of human beings with all their loves and hates, fears and hopes, dreams and actions - not a planet going around a sun (or alternatively, a sun going around a planet!). When it comes to understanding how such unscientific ingredients all mix together within something as complicated as an entire human society - something with that many "independently moving parts", that many "variables" - common sense is all we have to go on, I think. We can and should draw on the understanding that sciences (as well as other areas of human thought) can provide us, within some limited contexts. But I think when we start naming "iron laws" of economic history we delude ourselves, by attaching to these areas of thought a degree of precision that is just not merited. Again, just my opinions.

  • stephen lawton 9th Aug 2012

    Value is created by people working on any given material to create a commodity. A person uses his muscle, and brain power to turn cotton into a coat, the value is the effort he or she expends in the process.

    Under capitalism we sell our labour power to capitalists to make things/commodities. If we work 10 hours per day for $100 turning cotton into coats but the coats are sold at $140 we are creating enough value to pay for our wage the $100 and another $40 in pure profit that goes to the capitalist. This is the "Surplus value" that underpins the capitalist system.

    The worker is creating all value including the necessary "Surplus value". But this is exploitative in as much that all value is dependent on the labour of workers but only capitalist take the profits.

    " Nice" capitalists want to pay their workers what they are worth but they still must take surplus value to reinvest in growing the business. The system is based on continual growth and expansion this draws the nicest capitalist into competition with one another and to grow faster than other capitalists wages have to be reduced to pay for growth. More money is now spent on modern machinery in order to stay competitive, so the worker get less.

    As capitalism developed the international market pitted capitalist against many more capitalist. No room left for the old fashioned nice capitalist, the market and competition forces all capitalist to become cut-throat. A few rise to the top and become mega corporations, this is monopoly capitalism.

    And on top of this finance moves in and distorts and corrupts the system further. Finance now is hegemonic , the value base of capitalism the labour of the worker, the real creator of value, takes second place to the speculation and profits that are made in the casinos that the big banks now choose to speculate in.

    The link between value and labour is broken and the world is now in a financial debt spiral. Capitalism can be saved if they restore the link between labour and value but there is no sign of this happening any time soon. The elite have gone mad they are destroying themselves and we are there to give them a helping hand.

    This is basic stuff, but the notion of Value is key to understanding how capitalism works and why crisis happen.

    David Harvey has been teaching Marx's "Capital vol 1" for 30 years

    David, Mark and others take a look on Youtube he makes it very clear and very stimulating and you know that he is a member of IOPS

    • John Keeley 10th Aug 2012

      Nice post Stephen.

      The breakdown of the link between value & labour cannot continue indefinitely because it requires debt (claims on future labour time) to artifically support profit rates today. At some point, as happened with the credit crunch in 2007, leading to Lehman's collapse & recession, capitalists realise that these future claims on labour time will not be realised. In otherwords, the paper money & other financial assets are not worth what they thought they were & need to be depreciated. Although some depreciation occured, faith was restored by more debts - governments (taxpayers) bailing out the banks (finance capital). But taxpayers (workers) can't afford to bail out the banks (i.e. pay the required labour time). The result is a mixture of more debts (e.g. quantative easing) & austerity (e.g. reduced government services, an increase in the retirement age, real wage cuts, etc). Capitalism is in huge trouble. The eventual capital depreciation is going to so huge that little will be left of the financial sector. What is left will likely be nationalised. We will then have the battle between those who want to rebuild capitalism, e.g. tea party activists & those who want to build a participatory society, where we produce to meet the needs of humanity & have a chance of resolving the ecological crisis.

      There's a future to be won.

  • stephen lawton 10th Aug 2012

    John Keeley, thats better in that its much easier to understand.

    Exploitation is at the heart of capitalism, capitalist and workers are at the mercy of the logic of competition and the the global market. Capitalism must grow or it dies, finance capitalism adds no real value ergo the system itself is dying.


    Understanding this mechanism as you say John gives us necessary queues when we can best employ our efforts to fight and change the system. If I give a talk about the current crisis and how IOPS plans to change things a clear understanding of how the system works and dies can only give IOPS credibility. Marx did the legwork 100 years ago we would be mad not to use it.

    • Mark Evans 10th Aug 2012

      Hi Stephen - I agree that it would be crazy not to use a theory that is helpful in understand something that is going on in the real world.

      However, what I am not sure about is how such a theory actually helps inform revolutionary organising. How does understanding capitalist crisis help anti-capitalist organisng? More specifically (1) how does it help inform vision for a classless economy? (2) how does it help inform strategy for a classless economy? Perhaps you or John or maybe one of the others here will write a blog spelling that out.

      I also have a concern about focusing on such theories and there claim to objective knowledge / science and how this impacts on working people in terms of how they relate to the revolutionary left. Ironically there is, I think, a very real danger that the working class can become alienated from anti-capitalism by Marxist theory, turning them completely off or pacifying them into a follower mentality. This is where coordinator class consciousness comes in - which Marxists typically lack.

  • stephen lawton 10th Aug 2012

    Mark I do not disagree with any of what you say. Marx's work was an exploration of what classical economists were saying in the 19th Century but from the position of the worker rather than the owners. He took their theories and exposed them for what they were, a justification for exploitation, and he mashed them.

    The old boys(Marx) logic and method is a wonderful thing, he lays bare how we are fooled, dispossessed and alienated from within a world we create. But he pegged it before he said too much about how to make a revolution. Mark I have waited nearly 60 years for ideas about social change and agency to excite me, but now IOPS does it for me.

    There is an important place for Marxism in any left movement, take it for what it is, a clear liberating insight into the system that oppresses us.

    • Mark Evans 10th Aug 2012

      It is great that you feel that way about IOPS Stephen. Eventhough I have not waited quite that long I also feel excited about what we are doing here and I look forwards to meeting up with you soon, I hope. I think IOPS has great potential but we need to make sure that we learn all the important lessons from past efforts at revolutionary organising.

      I'm am sure we all agree with that so in-keeping with this I would still very much like to see one of you guys write a blog spelling out how, having an indepth knowledge of capitalist crisis based on Marxist theory, helps revolutionaries develop vision and strangely for a classless economy.

      That would be a nice continuation from this blog - I think.

  • John Keeley 11th Aug 2012

    Mark,

    Not everyone needs to understand Marx to know capitalist society is based upon the exploitation of the poor by the rich. But it helps to fully understand what you are against to help to win over those to what you are for. This is why it helps to understand capitalism. Marx contributed to this understanding more than most, but his isn't & shouldn't be the last word.

    Furthermore, if we understand how capitalism works - why it is a class system - we should be able to explain its crises.See how today's economists can't explain what is going on. How we supposedly just need a bit of rebalancing with China, or more regulation of the banks, or more money printed. None of these excusers explain the class nature & how one class extracts profit from the labour of others. We should be able to explain the crisis.

    As I said before, if an understanding of capitalism shows that workers in the imperial countries are benefiting from the exploitation of workers in the colonies, we may decide that a stratgey like IOPS is doomed to failure in the west & we should focus on supporting anti-imperialists. This was the 20th century Marxist (Bolshevik & Maoist) analysis. As much as I have differences with these tendencies (their faith in 'the party' & hence a lack of equality in decision-making) I think they were right that there was little prospect of world revolution starting in the imperial countries.

    Now the economics have changed. Outsourcing & globalisation mean that the situation for workers in the old imperialist countries is getting worse. Profits have been supported by debts that can be traced all the way back to the dollar decoupling from gold. Things will get much worse. So now people are looking for a better alternative. IOPS offers something better because it is based on classlessness & importantly a lack of hierarchy. The latter is lacking from many Marxist groups today. This is because they are more accurately described as Leninist.

    But now is the time to come out of the Bolshevik shadow.
    The future belongs to those who want participation.

  • Mark Evans 11th Aug 2012

    John - it is clear from what you write that we have a lot of important shared political views.

    However, you claim, for example -

    "it helps to fully understand what you are against to help to win over those to what you are for."

    This is the kind of assumption that I was hoping you might flesh out a little, but because I already feel a bit guilty about distracting from the central topic of your blog, I hoped you might do so in a separate blog. Up to you of course...

  • Christof Franz 11th Aug 2012

    @ James Wilson 7th Aug 2012

    ""Is it impossible to formulate visions that are both backed up with a deep theoretical understanding of society and still understandable for everyone?

    I think it is."

    Not sure if you meant possible instead of impossible but will go with impossible."

    I meant: I think it is possible.

  • stephen lawton 11th Aug 2012

    John Keeley I have read the stuff on "thecommune" and clearly there is a lot of overlap with the ideas of IOPS. Are others from "thecommune" joining IOPS? Or do you see it as some type of networking?

    • John Keeley 13th Aug 2012

      Stephen, the commune was a project to bring together those who were for 'communism from below' (as opposed to Stalinists who tried to impose 'communism from above'). That means anarcho-communists, council communists, libertarian communists, & such like. I wanted to see the commune reach out to the occupy movement & eventually become something like what IOPS is trying to be - a worldwide network of communes forming the basis of a future classless society.
      The members have a good theoretical understanding of communism. I think some have a problem with working with those who don't see themselves as communists & who they would regard as reformists - just wanting more fairness & equality without understanding that this will never happen in a capitalist society. Hence some have actually said that IOPS should be ignored.
      Although I recognise that there will be many who join IOPS who could be classified as 'reformists', the very fact that we are trying to build direct, participatory democracy, makes IOPS potentially revolutionary. It's still early day though.
      For those who consider themselves 'communists from below' & want to learn more about communist theory you are welcome to come along to a commune meeting. The next one is on Saturday 22nd September at the Lucas Arms (245A Gray's Inn Road, London WC1). One of the topics for discussion is actually capitalism & crises. The communes meetings are always open to non members who are sympathetic to our tradition.

  • Christof Franz 11th Aug 2012

    @ John Keeley concerning the original topic of the blog post: cyclical crisis or breakdown



    I. The value of Marx' theory for revolutionaries



    I think the main point is simple, namely that workers can - due to their position in the production process - be the crisis of capitalism - anytime (if they collectively refuse to work for the capitalists).

    I think Marx' theory can be of value for revolutionaries if we ask ourselves why there is crises today (and for many people in capitalism crises is permanent) and how we might avoid future crises:

    Concerning the question "what should replace capitalism" reading Marx can help us identifying features that should not be part of this replacement (e.g. private property, market, state). This may seem to be not a lot (or one might view such a short and easy-to-understand conclusion that is backed up by a deep understanding of capitalism as something very valuable), but it is something quite important. There is space for theoretical and practical creativity...

    I am not so sure if it helps a lot if revolutionaries spend time and energy in order to use Marx' theory (or, to be sure, any social theory) for making predictions about concrete future developments of capitalism. This is based on the view that explaining something after the fact is quite different from predicting a concrete fact.



    II. However, maybe I do not understand your position. Maybe answers to the following questions can help:



    1) What does "breakdown" of capitalism mean from your perspective?

    Does it mean that the dominant mode of production is no longer capitalism - in other words that the powerful do no longer extract surplus (as capitalists) from the less powerful (as workers)?

    And does it mean that instead of capitalism being the dominant mode of production there are two rough possibilities after the "breakdown":

    a) either some kind of unequal mode of production in which the powerful are still extracting surplus from the less powerful, however, no longer hidden as in a pure capitalist mode of production under the cover of supposedly "fair markets" and supposedly "equal citizens of nation-states with equal rights and possibilities";

    b) or some kind of egalitarian mode of production without exploitation and without hierarchy (for example parecon and/or communism).

    Or is there only one option after breakdown? If class struggle is necessary to bring about the breakdown of capitalism, it seems implausible if it was followed by a) and not by b).



    2) Let's suppose that there was a real difference between a cyclical crises and a breakdown and that it was possible to identify crises either as cyclical or as capitalism's final crises. From your point of view: How does this bear on concrete revolutionary organizing?



    3) Do you think one can - using Marx' theory - predict a concrete breakdown (in contrast to an abstract prediction that once there will be a breakdown due to capitalism's inherent contradictions) or to identify a breakdown while it is happening with any certainty?

    I doubt that this is possible. However, I can imagine that Marx' theory can be a helpful tool to explain a concrete breakdown of capitalism and the conditions that made it possible after the fact - or to explain why there was no breakdown yet, again after the fact.



    4) Let's suppose that there was a real difference between cyclical crises and a breakdown, but that it was not possible to identify crises either as the one or the other with certainty before the fact.

    Based on logic I can imagine four different scenarios here:

    1 Capitalism is in a cyclical crises. We think we are in a cyclical crises.
    2 Capitalism is in a cyclical crises. We think capitalism is breaking down.
    3 Capitalism is breaking down. We think we are in a cyclical crises.
    4 Capitalism is breaking down. We think capitalism is breaking down.

    What would happen in each of these scenarios if we acted according to our assessments - in tune with the real situation (1 + 4) or not (2 + 3)? What would be the worst consequences? What the best consequences of our actions?



    5) In your original blog post you mention that you view breakdown "not [as] a mechanical breakdown separate from the class struggle, but [as] the motor that drives the struggle itself".

    Do I understand you right: You say that there will be no breakdown without class struggle, no breakdown without revolutionary organization?

    If yes, how can one reasonably speak of a breakdown or identify a breakdown crises before the workers made it a fact through class struggle?

    If breakdown - followed by 1)b) - ultimately depends on class struggle on the side of the workers, scenario 3 above seems rather implausible to me - even if economic conditions as influenced by dynamics inherent to capitalism make participation and activism of affected workers more or less likely.

    I think workers can transform a cyclical crises of capitalism into its final crises due to their specific position in the productive process. Capitalism always depends on variable capital - the workers. If workers want, workers can be the crises of capitalism, anytime. Of course certain conditions will make workers more or less likely to want to overthrow capitalism. Some of these conditions are created through the inherent economic dynamics of capitalism, some through political attacks from capitalists on workers, others through revolutionary actions and so on.

    • John Keeley 14th Aug 2012

      Christof,

      1) What does "breakdown" of capitalism mean from your perspective?

      For me 'breakdown' means that capitalism is in a crisis that threatens its survival. It's different to a cyclical crisis because a cyclical crisis will resolve itself.
      Marx's part 3 of Volume III (The Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit) forms the basis of this breakdown, especially, I would argue, if we focus on the role of relative surplus value when labour time is restricted (sorry, if this loses a few people, I'll try & explain).

      Value is essentially labour time. Increases in value allow increases in profits (profit can be seen as the labour time that doesn't go on producing the means of subsistence for workers or replacing depreciated capital or new capital investment; largely luxury goods for the rich). In Marxist terminology all labour time is either v (variable capital: i.e. wages), c (constant capital: factorries, machines, raw materials) & s (surplus value: essentially profit).
      When there is no growth in labour time, all things being equal, there is no growth in profits (or rate of profit). Also, competition encourages new capital investment whereby those who are first to innovate get a competitive advantage & higher profits. This means c (constant capital) increases. As only labour produces profit (it gets paid less than the value it produces) the more that total capital is weighted towards c rather than v (variable capital) the more the rate of profit falls (expressed as s/(v+c), so as c increases the rate of profit falls).
      So to maintain profit rates the capitalist have to take more from v (what goes to the workers) to increase s (surplus value/profit).
      This explains capitalism's obsession with growth. The more labour time there is the easier it is to grow s. When there's no growth the class conflict comes to the fore as capitalists attack workers.
      At some point the supply-side constraints of planet earth kick in, growth is harder to achieve & we have this breakdown of capitalism, whereby profit rates are falling alongside workers pay & conditions. Workers want change & the capitalists can't go on like this.
      This doesn't mean that capitalism somehow turns into socialism automatically. The workers have to fight for something better. The class struggle is all important, but its the economic conditions that are the engine driving the class struggle.
      It may be that the class struggle isn't successful & humanity continues to descend further into barbarism. It may be that the crisis ends in nuclear war. All we can do is fight for a better world where everyone is respected equally as a human being, not as a tool for profit.

      I'll answer the rest of the questions later.
      I need to go & sell my labour power now to try & keep a roof over my head & my family fed.

      Regards,

      John

    • John Keeley 14th Aug 2012

      Christof,

      You ask:

      2) Let's suppose that there was a real difference between a cyclical crises and a breakdown and that it was possible to identify crises either as cyclical or as capitalism's final crises. From your point of view: How does this bear on concrete revolutionary organizing?

      If the crisis is cyclical it will resolve itself, eventually. This limits the time span for a revolutionary strategy. But with breakdown things will continue to get worse, or at best show no sign of getting better. People, especially the workers, will look for an alternative. There's a revolutionary opportunity for projects such as IOPS.

      I suppose it may be possible that the cyclical crisis is so deep that the required devaluation is so severe that the financial system collapses & risks bringing the whole system down.
      In otherwords, a crisis that has its roots in a realisation problem rather than the falling rate of profit, could bring about a worldwide socialist revolution.

    • John Keeley 14th Aug 2012

      3) Do you think one can - using Marx' theory - predict a concrete breakdown (in contrast to an abstract prediction that once there will be a breakdown due to capitalism's inherent contradictions) or to identify a breakdown while it is happening with any certainty?

      As you probably know the Marxist variables of c, v & s are very difficult to calculate & so can't be used like econometrics. That's not to say we shouldn't try, even if this is using proxies. This is what Andrew Kliman has done in his book 'The Failure of Capitalist Production'. He provides good evidence for a falling rate of profit. Although he doesn't like the term 'breakdown' I would regard this as evidence of breakdown possibly being upon us. I can't be certain though.

    • John Keeley 14th Aug 2012

      4) Consquences of mistaking a breakdown for a cyclical crisis & vice-versa.

      If, as some Marxists argued, capitalism isn't facing a serious crisis & a new boom is just around the corner, but we think its breaking down, projects such as IOPS will likely fail. People won't be so concern about buildinga new world when the existing one (capitalism) is working fine.

      But if the other way around, we may not bother with a project such as IOPS. When we find things arn't getting better, eventually people will find their way to a project such as IOPS. So potentially valuable time lost. Maybe this would make the prospect or barbarism more likely.

    • John Keeley 14th Aug 2012

      5) In your original blog post you mention that you view breakdown "not [as] a mechanical breakdown separate from the class struggle, but [as] the motor that drives the struggle itself".

      You may be right that workers can turn a cyclical crisis into a revolution. The relationship between consciousness & material conditions doesn't have to be one way. But I do agree with Marx that by & large its the material conditions that determine consciousness & so the class struggle. The two are closely related.

      I see IOPS as being class struggle, even if some/many of its members don't see themselves as class warriors.

      And just to say all that I've wrote on this blog is my attempt to understand the situation. It's offered as food for thought rather than a definitive answer.

      Regards,

      John

    • LedSuit ' 15th Aug 2012

      Well, then wouldn't it be better to assume that capitalism sucks all the time rather than some of the time. Then revolutionary organising goes on regardless, trying to "win" over people to the cause so at least we can be ready for those impossible to predict moments when they arise.

      "If, as some Marxists argued, capitalism isn't facing a serious crisis & a new boom is just around the corner, but we think its breaking down, projects such as IOPS will likely fail. People won't be so concern about building a new world when the existing one (capitalism) is working fine."

      So IOPS will only work if capitalism is breaking down, or at least given that a prediction that it is, is correct (how would one know?), IOPS would/could have the time to succeed? And if it's a boom around the corner, like the 25 or so years of the golden age of capitalism post WW2 (gee, 25 years of smaller discrepancies between the haves and have nots, even though so much deciet, crap and bullshit was still going on), IOPS would most likely close down due to a demand problem?

      I am also a little perplexed by the statement that a capitalist world could be working just fine. For whom? And aren't there many people outside of Marxism that would definitely say it has never worked fine. I think it was Michael Albert who said once that capitalism is only ever in crisis when the people that matter are affected but the truth is it is always in crisis (paraphrasing from vague memory). Wouldn't this suggest that a Marxist analysis isn't enough, or at least using it to predict crisis or breakdown, so as to know if we will succeed or not. The thing is we have to succeed regardless, don't we?

      Doesn't Immanuel Wallerstein in his World System theory of core, semi-periphery and periphery staes/countries, think that capitalism is in decline now and that what will happen after it has ended is unpredictable so we had better make sure that we prepare or we could be in for a nasty surprise.

      I'm trying to understand. I have read blog several times and looked up words and stuff. Gone through Richard Wolff's book to reacquaint with terms. So, the blog has got me a thinking and a learnin'. As you say John, food for thought.

    • LedSuit ' 15th Aug 2012

      Sorry for chipping in Christof.

  • LedSuit ' 11th Aug 2012

    I would like to add something. Christof in a previous post brought up the notion of sophisticated analysis and those who may not be interested in such and whether the two can mesh.

    There is a huge difference between those who have read Marx directly and those who have understood a few things via secondary sources like Richard Wolff or David Harvey. There is also a difference between those who have read Marx directly and those who have studied Marx and read a lot of related texts and criticism-seven years of grad work say. There is also a big difference between those who have the confidence to use a Marxian analysis with confidence and those who may use it in a kinda, sorta, well at least that's how I understand it in a basic, I could be totally wrong way.

    An unsophisticated analysis may be merely noticing the great discrepancies in wealth within capitalist societies. Few with many tickets to the fair and many with few. This could be enough for someone to say that capitalism sucks. Someone could read Planet of Slums and be sickened. Someone may notice that job A pays X an hour and that job B pays 5X an hour and ask why. Why does someone working to maximum effort in job A get 5 times less than someone working to maximum effort in job B? Does someone doing 1 hour of sophisticated Marxian analysis as a University lecturer, working at full capacity (whatever that is!), deserve 5 times as much as someone working at full capacity for

    • LedSuit ' 11th Aug 2012

      Sorry, accidentally hit submit didn't mean to post it. Too late now!! Continued below.

  • LedSuit ' 12th Aug 2012

    I would like to add something. Christof in a previous post brought up the notion of sophisticated analysis and those who may not be interested in such and whether the two can mesh.

    There is a huge difference between those who have read Marx directly and those who have understood a few things via secondary sources like Richard Wolff or David Harvey. There is also a difference between those who have read Marx directly and those who have studied Marx and read a lot of related texts and criticism-seven years of grad work say. There is also a big difference between those who have the confidence to use a Marxian analysis with confidence and those who may use it in a kinda, sorta, well at least that's how I understand it in a basic sense and I could be totally wrong way.

    An unsophisticated analysis may be merely noticing the great discrepancies in wealth within capitalist societies. Few with many tickets to the fair and many with few. This could be enough for someone to say that capitalism sucks. Someone could read Planet of Slums and be sickened. Someone may notice that job A pays X an hour and that job B pays 5X an hour and ask why. Why does someone working to maximum effort in job A get 5 times less than someone working to maximum effort in job B? Does someone doing 1 hour of sophisticated Marxian analysis as a University lecturer, working at full capacity (whatever that is!), deserve 5 times as much as someone working at full capacity for 1 hour making picture frames? I don't think so. One could think further about it and come to the conclusion that markets and bargaining power are at the heart of it and decide to reject markets.

    Further, merely reading say, a description of how Foxcon (or any other like corporation) goes about doing its thing in China may be enough for someone to come to the conclusion that exploitation is at play and think capitalism sucks. The unsophisticated analysis would be, cheap labour of many= big profits for few. One might hear someone like australia's great and glorious foreign minister, Bob Carr, say that the greatest revolution of the 20th cent is the capitalist one in China coz half a billion have been lifted out of poverty! That must be 3 dollars a day, because extreme poverty is 1 dollar a day, poverty just 2 dollars a day. 4 dollars a day must mean things are lookin' up. 5 dollars a day means "you bourgeois bastard" and 6 dollars must mean easy street. Unsophisticated analysis!?

    A good way to come to the conclusion that capitalism sucks could be to read the comparison of Parecon with capitalism. That actually helped me a lot more, and without all the jargon that requires a lot of memory work and extra reading.

    Something I also noticed when watching the lectures of Richard Wolff on the current crisis from a Marxian class analysis point of view, was that in the end there wasn't much of a solution to anything other than getting rid of the capitalists. What I mean is that much sophisticated analysis of current crises, or old ones usually takes up about 80-95 % of the books or video and that 20-5% at the end is devoted to possible alternatives which are usually pretty vague.It seems like to me it is easier to do an analysis, be it sophisticated or unsophisticated, than to come up with real solutions with a lot of substance. This bares directly on what Mark is saying. I think this is both common to anarchists as well as Marxist/Leninists, and others. I do not think a sophisticated Marxian analysis or even a simple one necessarily bares any relationship with revolutionary organising, particularly if one wishes to attract people from all kinds of backgrounds.

    One other thing re Richard Wolff and the use of the term "overdetermination" as opposed to using the word "dialectical" (I think). It sounded much the same as Complimentary Holism to me. But my real point here is, I am not totally sure if I understand the use of the word "overdetermined", and I certainly have never really come to grips in a confident way with the word "dialectical". If I used the word, I feel I would be being dishonest and merely using it because some one else had. This applies to most sophisticated analysis, say like the original post above. How much do I need to understand to confidently use such information and how much background info do I need to understand the basic jargon? Do I need to read related literature? Do I need to read Schumpeter too? Does one need to read Rawls as well? All this reading and so little time.

    One doesn't need to understand the labour theory of value to understand exploitation. I agree with John however that classical economists have no choice but to disregard it as their analysis, along with I think most previous historical analyses of capitalism other that Marx, such as Smith, Ricardo etc, are merely rationalisations for the exploitative economic system that is capitalism. Rationalisations for the elite classes. The aristocracy and those wishing to join its ranks. Malthus was merely an arsehole. Maybe a smart one with some ideas, but an arsehole none-the-less. Unsophisticated analysis.

    I have mostly been a wage slave most of my life but have also taught music privately and with some independence at University level. Huge discrepancies in money earnt, even though effort. expended, leisure time lost was much the same. Absurd I say. No Marxian analysis here.

    Parecon gives a far better comparative analysis to capitalism re the structure and institutions of society, regardless of whether or not it is viable. In doing so it provides a better avenue from which to start thinking about revolutionary organising than does Marxian analysis. Not forgetting that Marxist have had to rethink much of Marx to incorporate new ideas thrown up from histories lessons. The superstructure and the economic base fro example. Complimentary Holism, and perhaps "overdetermination", do away with this thinking. Also the introduction of a third class, the coordinators. Not to mention the rather simple realisation that sophisticated Marxian analysis can easily alienate people from remotely thinking of joining a revolutionary organisation, well, because if I had to put up with that shit merely to understand what that org is doing, I would piss off. The unsophisticated need to feel included fully and sophisticated anything analyses can create a divide between those who KNOW and those who DON'T. Simple unsophisticated conclusion.

    I might leave it there.

    • LedSuit ' 12th Aug 2012

      Thought I might just add this thought from an answer Michael Albert gave in an answer in the Occupy theory project. Hope it's alright to do so

      "Further discussion, beyond the brief book chapters, of the situation of owners would certainly trace ownership to its implications for income via understanding profit - but I don't honestly think the most useful way to do that is through a foray into the labor theory of value, because I think that theory adds little to nothing useful, and often introduces a lot of confusion or mistaken beliefs, as compared to clarifying the issue in terms of rights and privileges stemming from, in this case of ownership and the implications for the share of social product one's class can claim and receive, as well as the influence over outcomes it has. With coordinators, the advantage stems not from property but from the position in the division of labor and the power it conveys both to influence outcomes and to claim social product".

  • Christof Franz 16th Aug 2012

    1) Partial barbarism to prevent complete breakdown?

    Starting from the idea of "articulation of modes of production", namely that any real social formation is composed of different modes of production with one mode being the dominant one, for example capitalism, isn't it possible (or indeed the case?) that capital manages to continually solve the recurring problem posed by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (let's suppose Marx was right on this causal law being inherent to capitalism) by using non-capitalist solutions, e.g. other modes of appropriating value produced by the less powerful - or what you call "barbarism" - or what Marx called "primitive/previous/original accumulation of capital" - or what David Harvey calls "accumulation by dispossession" pointing out that this is a permanent process?

    Isn't it possible that capitalism (understood as a social formation) - instead of collapsing completely and turning into barbarism - can persist even though according to its internal dynamic (as a pure mode of production) it has to break down once because of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (suppose such a dynamic really exists). Isn't it possible that capitalism (as a social formation) can persist because capitalism (as a mode of production) is combined with other modes of production and accumulation?

    Of course this would be (or indeed is?) an dynamic and unstable combination: capitalism (as a mode of production) has an internal tendency to grow and expand, however, in order to prevent complete collapse the powerful can and do - if there are no strong social movements against it - replace capitalist relations by non-capitalist but still (or even more so) hierarchical and exploitative relations to a certain instead in order to save capitalism as a system that hides exploitation better than any other hierarchical and exploitative mode of production that would be much more likely to lead to social unrest and even social revolution.

    Just an idea... What do you think?

    • John Keeley 16th Aug 2012

      Christof,

      This is an interesting post.

      The argument of using non-capitalist relations to keep capitalism going was Luxemburg's solution to the realisation problem she believed existed.
      Although most Marxists brush her to one side with the term 'production consumption', which I think refers to producers producing their own new fixed capital (someone correct me if I'm misunderstanding), I'm not so sure. There could at least be a real possibility of a realisation crisis which can, in theory, be resolved by non-capitalist elements. I suppose the same can be argued to support profit rates. Isn't this the history of 20th century Africa? Plundered to support Western profits & higher living standards for the workers of imperialist countries.

      It appears to be the case in China with peasants pulled from the countryside to sell their labour. Cheap Chinese goods sold to the West to enable the (former?) imperialist countries to live better than they would otherwise. I would have thought that most non-capitalist elements have now been converted to capitalism though? This kind of accumulation looks to be harder to achieve?

      Capitalism has now tuned to printing money in an attempt to create value. But this gets to the heart of problem of just what is value. As value is labour time, printing more paper money or creating more digits on a computer screen doesn't increase labour time. Neither does it directly give more of a fixed amount of labour time to the capitalists as profits & less to the workers in wages. But it does try to do this indirectly. The money created is loaned to the capitalists & so supports their reported profit rates, but then the governments try to reduce their debts by attacking the workers, e.g. more taxes, selling off assets, reducing benefits.

      So although non-capitalist elements may have been important in the past in keeping capitalism going, I'm not so sure that they can today.

      Let me know if you think different.

      Regards,

      John

  • Christof Franz 16th Aug 2012

    "4) Consquences of mistaking a breakdown for a cyclical crisis & vice-versa."

    John, do you agree with the following:

    Supposed there is a difference between cyclical crises and breakdown crises and supposed we cannot know for sure whether we are in a cyclical crises or a breakdown crises, we would lose more if we bet on option A (cyclical crises) and it is in fact option B (breakdown) [result: barbarism instead of capitalism, but something better would have been possible] than if we bet on option B and it turns out to be option A [result: effort spent on an attempt that did not bring about the intended result: still capitalism].

    If we suppose further that we cannot know for sure whether or not workers can turn a cyclical crises into the final crises of capitalism followed by a classless society, we would lose less if we bet on option C (workers can turn a cyclical crises into the final crises of capitalism) and it turns out to be option D (workers cannot turn a cyclical crises into the final crises of capitalism) [result: effort spent on an attempt that did not bring about the intended result: still capitalism] than if we bet on option D and it turns out to be option C [result: still capitalism, but something better would have been possible].

    To summarize this:

    Whereas option B (breakdown) and C (workers can turn a cyclical crises into the final crises of capitalism) are not save bets (we risk to put in effort without reaching our goal), we risk to lose much more if we bet on option A (cyclical crises) and option D (workers cannot turn a cyclical crises into the final crises of capitalism), namely the possibility to make a better world.

    I think this conclusion is similar to what James Wilson (15th Aug 2012) wrote above:

    "Well, then wouldn't it be better to assume that capitalism sucks all the time rather than some of the time. Then revolutionary organising goes on regardless, trying to "win" over people to the cause so at least we can be ready for those impossible to predict moments when they arise."

    • John Keeley 16th Aug 2012

      I don't think any revolutionary would disagree with the logic of your argument.
      However, I don't think it follows that you just assume the worse & stop analysing what's happening.
      Equally, you can't claim that capitalism is on the verge of collapse year after year after year without losing credibility.
      Anyhow, many, perhaps most, revolutionaries don't even accept breakdown theory. They only see cyclical crises of varying intensity & rely on the subjective will of workers. These are typically the Leninists who insist on building the party as a precursor to revolution.

  • Christof Franz 16th Aug 2012

    5) Consciousness and material conditions

    You wrote:

    "You may be right that workers can turn a cyclical crisis into a revolution. The relationship between consciousness & material conditions doesn't have to be one way. But I do agree with Marx that by & large its the material conditions that determine consciousness & so the class struggle. The two are closely related."

    So do you view social movements and social activism as part of the material conditions?

    • John Keeley 16th Aug 2012

      We want to avoid dualism. Our brains & consciousness are all part of the material world. (I say that at the risk of provoking a philosophical debate). So in that sense we can say everything is material.
      But when we typically use the phrase material conditions we are usually refering to the underlying economic conditions - the economic base. This base-superstructure distinction can make people feel uncomfortable though, in the sense that they are powerless in the face of economic determinism. But what the economic conditions are doing is driving humanity to take control of their lives. To liberate themselves from the profit system & decide how we collectively & individually live.

  • stephen lawton 17th Aug 2012

    You guys need to read Hillary Wainwright's article in the last issue of Red Pepper.

    She argues that peer to peer networking is leading to material production but not via private property but by communal or commons production. Via open source file sharing of knowledge and growing co-operative networks that are able to produce goods and services for the benefit of all a new" Mode of Production" is emerging.

    Corporations can see this so they are trying to wrest control of intellectual property rights and stop people freely sharing knowledge and working co-operatively and building bigger and bigger networks that threaten capitalism itself. The bigger we grow the stronger we become.

    Pirate Parties are the political organisations that are fighting to keep computer knowledge free, in the hands of the people and out of the grasp of corporations.

    Via open source file sharing Cars and other machines are being produced, we are able to print complex goods and turn them into materials that can made into stuff/ things we can use. Stuff/things/services that benefit all of us rather than the few.

    Wainwright argues that we now have virtual money( Bitcoin) that can't be controlled by the big corporations or the State. Money controlled by the community free of bank manipulation and currency flucuations. So as capitalism crumbles a new "Mode of Production" is emerging. The fight is to keep it in the hands of the many. IOPS has a role to play in this. This is not theory it is happening, go read, a participatory society awaits

  • LedSuit ' 17th Aug 2012

    I too share Stephen's appreciation for the peer to peer network. I enjoy the subverting of IP and a desire to reclaim a commons of sort-cyber commons. The debate between Michel Bauwens and Michael Albert is interesting and contains valid criticisms form Albert's side.However this is not my real reason for posting.

    I was rereading through the posts again and came across something I feel needs addressing.In a reply to David Jones, John writes,

    "When trying to understand capitalism we need to understand just what is happening when commodities exchange at prices. Is it really the case that individuals come together in the market place, exchange, & each so-called factor of production - land, labour & capital - receives its just reward? Or is there a hidden form of exploitation enabling a capitalist class (the 1%) to live off the 'value' created by the workers (the 99%)?"

    It is the last sentence that is the problem. The 1% may be the capitalists but much, or at least some of the surplus they receive is distributed to many who are not capitalists and who also have nothing to do with the actual production process.Those such as bankers, politicians, security agencies, managers, accountants, financial advisers and services etc. all get a cut of the surplus and none of these groups are involved directly with production, don't add any value and hence are not exploited as the workers are. They get their hands on some of the surplus at the capitalist's bequest, but the workers never do.

    Hence it would perhaps be better to distinguish between the capitalists and the workers, a third class that is noted by some Marxists but perhaps not paid enough attention to. Albert and Hahnel have pointed to it as being one of the main problems of Marxist theory. A problem that gave rise to the Soviet Union. A problem that seems to arise from the fact that capitalism has its own in built means to self-destruction, eliciting a shift to socialism with the help of the commissar class with eventual control by the people, full blown communism. It just never seems to get to the third phase. Marxism ignores the coordinator class, approx 19% of the population. So perhaps the phrase I quoted above would be better if changed to, 1% capitalist and 80% worker.

    • John Keeley 18th Aug 2012

      James,

      You raise a very important point about those who live off the surplus value but are unproductive.
      The so called FIRE sectors (Finance, Insurance & Real Estate) are good examples of unproductive labour.
      This was most definitely not ignored by Marx & anyone worthy of the claim to be a Marxist is aware of it.
      All workers in the FIRE sectors, as well as the public services, private security, etc are unproductive & produce no value. They live of the surplus value created by productive workers. But note those who sell their labour are workers, whether productive or not. We should defend all workers, including those who work in the banks. That doesn't make investment bankers, or those high up the management greasy pole workers, because these people get large amounts of interest on their capital portfolios. These are the people I think you are refering to as the co-ordinator class. They are the people who love power & privilege & if they lived in China would be members of the communist party. But as they are now in England, the US & such like, they should be viewed as capitalists. Remember there's finance capitalists as well as industrial capitalists. People who no matter how many hours they labour recieve more in terms of labour hours, whether this is an expensive sports car, yacht, or just fancy meals out.
      Much better to think in terms of the 99% v the 1%, I think. Whilst still remembering the history of the Soviet Union & the hierarchy the Bolsheviks represented.

      Regards,

      John

    • LedSuit ' 18th Aug 2012

      John,

      I am thinking more about those who occupy empowering jobs. Jobs that may bestow more power and privilege to a certain sector than another sector. People who in China may be workers, but occupy a position in the hierarchy which places them somewhere between the workers, who are actually being exploited according to Marx, and the capitalists. They may or may not be in the party, but work for Foxcon, say, in a management role or such, etc. Yes, they are workers but don't, as far as I understand, get exploited in the same way as the workers, as it is the workers who are actually adding value. They get a cut of the surplus, the workers don't and are exploited as a result of there being a surplus in the first place. So they have a different consciousness. They need the capitalist, but perhaps realize that the capitalist needs them. They look at the workers from a privileged position, and sometimes a position of control and power relative to the worker/order taker. They don't necessarily want to lose this privileged/empowering position. So the question is, would they really fight for a participatory society or not if it meant that their privilege relative to others would disappear? Would they want to fight or advocate for a Parecon where they would definitely lose their empowering position relative to others? Are they being exploited in the same way as those who add value but don't get access to the surplus. Michael Albert talks of this in his article are we really the 99%. Albert says,


      "But what about managers? What about doctors? What about lawyers and engineers? What about financial officers? What about people who earn five six, ten, twenty, and even fifty or more times what the typical worker earns, but who do not own the means of production, do not work harder, do not labor under worse conditions, and do not work more intensely than more typical workers? In short, what about people who have jobs that are highly empowering and convey very substantial and sometimes incredible wealth and status inaccessible to those below?" He responds to himself thusly,

      "A 99er may reply: They are just at the top of our team, but they are still on our team, aren’t they? They can be fired. They get wages and have to conflict with the 1% to increase their wages. They are upset about the crisis. So isn’t it good if they come to our encampments and pitch in? Isn’t it good if they march in our parades and protest along with us? What’s the problem?

      The problem arises, or can arise, when we think of the whole 99% as all being the same type economic actor. In fact there are differences, some of which matter not only to our lives, but to our activism."

      He suggests that it would be good if they, the 19%, side with the working class, and truly want a more equitable world, but what if they side with the capitalist, or have their own agenda? It is good to include them on "our" side, and ignoring them would guarantee no help from them but one has to be aware of the class differences. He also goes on to discuss, briefly, the implications of these class distinctions and hierarchies for movement building and the importance of them. I will post more from the article as Michael says it better.


      "Inside our movements, it is certainly important that we address issues of private ownership of property. Otherwise we will not deal with the dynamics of capitalist rule. But it is also important that we address issues of asymmetrical access to economic power. Otherwise we will not deal with the dynamics of what I call coordinator rule.

      It is obviously important that we not have a bunch of capitalists deciding our agendas. It is also important that we not have only coordinator class members doing so. It is important that we not adopt styles and approaches comfortable for the 1%, or the 20% - 25%, but uncomfortable for the 75% - 80%.

      The 99er may reply, oh, that is all just outdated orthodox marxist rhetoric that would divisively diminish our potentials.

      The thing is, it isn’t. And ironically, the opposite is true.

      Treating the economy as if there are just two important classes - whether we call them owners and workers or we call them the 1% and the 99% - is itself, in fact, the tired old marxist approach. To lump everyone who isn’t capitalist into one category - whether we call that category worker or we call it 99er (or, for that matter, the multitude) - masks a critically important difference among non capitalists, and obscuring this difference was, indeed, a main conceptual problem of marxism (and programmatic problem of Leninism) because using a two class approach invariably generated economies (wrongly called socialist) in which the (unmentioned) coordinator class ruled over the (celebrated) working class."

      This was the main thrust of my point, which I think you got, but with some subtle differences.

      Here is Michael's article.

      http://www.zcommunications.org/we-are-the-99-by-michael-albert#comment_container_182910




    • John Keeley 20th Aug 2012

      James,

      I can see where you're coming from.

      Where does the 19% figure come from?
      Is there really 19% of the population (world, UK, US?) earning more than 5 times the average wage?
      Those that earn such sums with have huge capital portfolios & so can rightly be labelled capitalists.
      It's just not such a strong message to say us the 81% against them the 19%, but if that's closer to the truth I'd like to know.

      I also think that the emphasis on the co-ordinator class is a key ideological brick for building the argument against Bolshevism. In otherwords it suits yours & Alberts motives.
      As much as I'm against hierarchy I'm not so sure that we should be talking of three classes. Just as the landowners are capitalists today so those who are co-ordinators are capitalists.

      I would say keep the argument simple: the 99% v the 1%.
      Workers v Capitalists.
      Workers include those who don't have a job & those who are unproductive in the sense of not producing value or surplus value in the Marxist sense.
      Capitalists include those who get a wage but who are so wealthy that they have expensive property (& ususally more than one) & have a lot of investments.

      Where do todays leaders of Leninist parties fit in with your co-ordinator class analysis?

      Regards,

      John

    • LedSuit ' 20th Aug 2012

      John,

      Good questions. The 19% I used is usually 20% when Albert uses it. 1% capitalists, 19% coordinators, 80% workers or order takers. I think it's a general kind of stat. Haven't seen anything to support it totally, but am trusting of Hahnel and Albert and the use of the numbers. I'm sure one could give or take 5% or so and I am sure there is a bit of movement of people between the working class and bottom end of the coordinator class.

      As far as what they earn, I am sure it varies greatly depending on how high up the ladder one goes. But I see the coordinator class, not so much in terms of what they earn but what type of job they do. Coordinators are people who occupy empowering positions or at least jobs that are overall more empowering than the jobs that the working class carry out. Generally their jobs give them access to information and power that the working class miss out on. One could also suggest that their jobs help build confidence, bargaining power and other abilities that disempowered workers may miss out on developing because their jobs are more about order taking. So while income is important to consider as it gives the "coordinators" more tickets to the fair, it is often more about the type of consciousness that they develop that puts them in a separate class. Some may want to help in a revolutionary movement, see their position as privileged, and be truly willing to give that up for a more egalitarian society but it is questionable whether all would and to my mind, most would not. One could point to a different ideological outlook between this class and the worker/order taker class. An outlook more likely to maintain the status quo and more likely to justify their higher wages as reward for being better educated, smarter and carrying greater responsibility in their jobs, and that they are the only ones who can truly do what they do- managing, doctoring, lawyering, CEOing etc. The truth is they get paid more because of markets and bargaining power not because of those other reasons so frequently spurted out, which are really just rationalisations.

      So I think it is more that after one gets rid of the capitalist, are those others, used to such privilege, not just money wise but also in terms of empowerment, used to giving orders, with perhaps greater knowledge and education going to relinquish such to make way for a classless society?

      I also don't think all coordinators are capitalists. What distinguishes them is a monopoly on empowering work. The thing is would balanced job complexes, within Parecon, be something one would think of if one didn't recognise this third class. Which, by the way was apparently recognised /acknowledged by Barbara Ehrenreich and her then husband John, in a paper entitled The Professional-Managerial Class, 1977. Not recognising the power of this class, or at least considering it,could lead to revolutionary solutions that maintain hierarchies. Not just like in Russia or anywhere else, but in Market Socialist (Economic Democracy) type economies. David Schweickart in After Capitalism says this re worker self management,

      "Enterprises are not required to distribute the proceeds equally. Most firms will likely award larger shares to more highly skilled workers, to those with greater seniority, and to those with more managerial responsibility."p49

      Why do those three categories deserve greater remuneration? In fact, why does Schweickart presume that would be likely?Highly skilled workers, those with "seniority" and managers do not necessarily work harder than others with none of those attributes, so to my mind, do not deserve greater remuneration merely because they do have them. I think this presumption of Schweickart, is a consequence of the type of consciousness or ideological thinking evolving out of the coordinator class. Even in an economic democracy or market socialist economy, hierarchies are a given, accepted as if natural, allowed as if normal and unavoidable and this can give rise to ideas, thoughts, or consciousnesses that could allow such discrepancies to increase, incrementally at first, in ways that could undermine the democratic and egalitarian nature of the workplace and possibly see a return of practices usually equated with the previous insidious capitalist economy. This is because they also have a monopoly on empowering work, albeit ratified by the workers democratic vote. There is still this reliance on a special group of people, with special attributes, who obviously deserve more than those lower down the workplace ladder who take orders.

      I also don't say this because it suits some motive I have. I say this because when I read about Parecon, I thought the description of a third class called coordinators, seemed appropriate, not just because it helps to explain what happened in the Soviet Union and other places, but what needs to be done in order to do away with workplace hierarchy and achieve classlessness.

      If it is true that a capitalist is someone who derives wealth from ownership of productive wealth, or capital, then not all coordinators are capitalists. So lets distinguish them from that class, and then, further, distinguish them from those whose jobs are disempowering that require the attributes needed to do what one is told and be passive, the working class. I don't have any motive other than I agree with the distinction and the need for it, so as any revolutionary organising doesn't replicate things unnoticed, due to lack of attention or analysis, that could or would undermine self-management, equity, solidarity and diversity.

      Hope this makes sense and answers some of your questions. It was hard for me to keep a flow as I had to teach in the middle of writing which broke my train of thought, and then constant interruptions from family members! Inconsiderate bastards!

      Cheers.

    • LedSuit ' 20th Aug 2012

      A little extra. I think solidarity among the 99% could be achieved if the coordinator class truly wished for self-management and equity. But they would have to prove it to the "true" working class as I feel they are generally and genuinely suspicious of most of them. Discounting capitalists, the Rolex club, or professionals and others doing empowering work can be daunting types for many used to taking orders most of their lives. One doesn't mingle with them easily. there is a homogeneity to them, in the way they dress and think. I think there is far more diversity and creativity down the bottom rungs, with the working class, Definitely a better sense of humour. So, diversity and solidarity can be undermined by not recognising this class as well.

      Here's a link to the Ehrenreich's paper.

      http://dl.lib.brown.edu/pdfs/1125403552886481.pdf

    • LedSuit ' 23rd Aug 2012

      Here's the second half of the Ehrenreich's paper

      http://dl.lib.brown.edu/pdfs/112497719366862.pdf

  • stephen lawton 18th Aug 2012

    James that's how see it too.Where can I see the debate between Michael and Bauwens do you have a link.

  • John Keeley 19th Aug 2012

    FYI
    10 explanations of the current crisis: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/457920714226660/