- Capitalism and Alternatives -

If you wnat to tell the plumber he's a damn capitalist, be my guest

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on November 12, 1999 at 13:46:58:

In Reply to: Maybe those who manufacture his / her tools? Etc., etc. posted by Barry Stoller on November 12, 1999 at 11:39:31:

: Stoller:
: Nonetheless, if their Communist Party permits exemptions and exceptions to occur a bureaucracy WILL form---eventually.

: I'm not really out to knock Indian Communism, Nikhil, but any society that perpetuates professional porters (as well as their inverse, professional architects) is no socialism I'll fight for. It's not about what workers EARN, it's about what workers DO. And I will ALWAYS oppose any specialization that engenders the 'career' porter.

So which historical model IS your model, barry? Do you not have one? it's easy to criticize, nothing is going to be perfect.

: If you wish to defend a society where some people only do---say---architecture (or science), then you defend a society where other people only do---say---portering.

: Again: The idea is job rotation.
: Nikhil:
: No, not exactly. Marx didn't say that the factory worker be REQUIRED to do any of these things. Even if some measure of job rotation was required, Marx certainly wasn't saying that the worker do all these things one day, then teh next day he do another bunch of three-hour shifts inb entirely different jobs, et cetera....

: Stoller:
: Please see Engels' famous architect / porter paradigm, second paragraph from the end of chapter 7 in Anti-Dühring. Which, BTW, was written very late in his life.

: Stoller:
: Job rotation IS a definite feature of Marxism.

: Nikhil:
: Yes, but coercion is not.

: Read the quotes from this and say that again.

You're begging the question by assuming that your interpretation of Marxism is correct. The fact that there are many Communists who disagree with you means that your statement is an opinion,not a fact, and therefore you can't use it as evidence. Certainly it is not an established fact that Marxism requires force. Indeed, the examples of India, Chile, nicaragua, etc. would seem to show otherwise.

Also, denying a right to large-scale productive property is different from micro-managing every aspect of your constituents' lives. The former is Communism. The latter is Stalinism. If you go from being forced to work by capitalists to being forced to work by stalinists, I don't see a significant improvement.

: The issue of the peasant is a complicated one in Marxist theory---and in actual (Leninist) practice.

Does that perhaps indicate that the theory ought, on this point, to be revised or supplemented?

: Marx and Engels were explicit on the point that the peasant (independent proprietor) lacked revolutionary resolve. (See Engels two works on the German uprisings.) That task was---and is---the province of the proletariat. The reason owes to the fact that the proletariat---unlike the peasant---is ALREADY propertyless, an important precondition for Communism to flourish.

So everybody must be propertyless? Is that the idea? Are you merely in favor of expropriating productive proeprty, or personal property as well? I agree largely with the former, but not with the latter.Do you want to take everyone's favorite shirt? If they enjoy gardening, are you going to take away their garden?

: Lenin's N.E.P. demonstrated conclusively that he had no intention of ever trying to corece the Russian peasantry.

OK, I'll accept that...

: Nonetheless, the peasantry was quick to turn on the proletariat, withholding food from the cities until peasant prices could be met.

Peasants deserve prices that are high enough to survive. The peasant in general is not a profiteering class; most of tehse guys are merely trying to survive. The government ought to pay them decent prices, and then distribute teh food to teh cities at a DISCOUNT> This will entail a loss for teh government, which can mbe made up by the profits from the auto industry or otehr nationalized industries.

: The peasant IS an uncertain comrade.

: Luckily---as my American stats on the mere 10% who own their own means of production bear out---the independent proprietor is an increasingly small percentage of the population. Capitalism has been doing the work FOR communism by making more and more people LANDLESS---which is a necessary precondition for revolutionary consciousness.

So the crimes of capitalism are good because they pavethe way fro communism? Making people landless is vnever a good thing. Look at Central America, all teh communist movements tehre were in part about RETURNING land and economicfreedom to the peasantry.

: Nikhil:
: There is a qualitative difference bewtyeen a farmer and a senator, stemming from the fact that the senator directly affects far more people in far more significant ways than an individual small farmer does.

: Again: refer to Russia in 1920.

What about it? That didn't answer my question.

: Nikhil:
: (Yes, I know, we all affect each other, interdependence, etc. But you get my main point.)

: It is a VERY important consideration.

Do you not believe that peopel can exist as hermits, or as independent self-sufficient farmers outside the cash economy? Go to any Third World country. Some peopel are individualists by temperament,and if they want to live in a way that doesn't affect others (i.e. no employment, no capitalism) then they should be able to.

: Nikhil:
: It's quite possible to be a hermit farmer, living self-sufficiently off teh land, or nearly so.

: By any chance, are you a student of Richard Wolfe (whose organ is Rethinking Marxism? I've heard this hermit nonsense before...

'Nonsense'? Are you denying the validity of the hermit lifestyle? Is tehre something wrong with it? Do the Pygmies or the Penan not have the right to live their hunter-gatherer lifestyles? One of teh amny reasons I fault capiatlsim is because it forces tehse people into an economic system they want no part of- but if your 'socialism' does the same thing it is no improvement!

There are MANY epopel, depending on the society (particularly monks and other religious people) who wish to liev as hermits and leave thsi material world behind as tehy focus on teh spiritual. Are you going to denigrate thsoe peopel? Most people would saythat they are admirable, but thet they lead a lifestyle which is too demandoing and renunciative than most of us. Would you deny these peopel their right to seek spiritual enlighetnment?

Or the mountain peasant? would you force him to come down to teh lwolands and work on a collective farm? Give me a break. That has nothing to do with teh socialism I believe in, or indeed that most socialist societies have put into practice.

: Again, communism must occur after capitalism. And capitalism wipes out almost all independent producers.

: Apologies to India...

And the entire rest of the Third World. Precapitalist mdoes of production exist in every Thrid World counrty, and often people are quite happy with them.

: Stoller:
: But YOU are deciding your level of service, Nikhil---NOT SOCIETY AS A WHOLE.

: Nikhil:
: YEs, as it stands in the non-socialist economy, we each decdie our own level of service. I believe that the state shoudl require from everyone a certain minbimum level, but if some people wish to work more, then they should be able to. I am proposing that a certain, fairly low level of community labor be required from everyone. You are also making a suggestion, albeit a different one. Obviosuly society must amke the decsiion, but I can offer my suggestions to 'society' and have them voted on- can't I?

: Nikhil:
: I am in favor of requiring something like 1 day each week of volunteer labor from everyone. (Scientist and writers included).

: Stoller:
: Shouldn't those determinations be left to SOCIETY AS A WHOLE?

: Nikhil:
: Yes. Each of us needs to make individual suggestions though, and the people's government can vote on them. I also think that liquor stores should be closed on Sundays- obviously taht decision, too, is up to the state to make. But i can make my suggestions, and if I like, can push vehemently for them to be adopted as state policy. Good God, that's what democracy is all about!

: Exactly. Democracy. But after the bourgeoisie (all private owners of the means of production) have been expropriated.

SO we don't ahev any partial democracy before tehn? The road to socialism IS through socialism, Barry.

: Nikhil:
: These guys are not your enemy, Barry.

: All those who privately own the means of production ARE the enemy, Nikhil.

: : They were USED, Barry. The capitalists lied to them and used them by spreading propaganda against socialsim; and they were put off by people like your precious Bolsheviks who said that they could be no part of a socialist state, and that tehy were 'the enemy'. Compare this with a certain Captain Sankara in Burkina Faso who stated unambiguously that all peasant farmers, oppressed women, landless laborers, working class people, unemployed people, petty proprietors, shopkeepers, and compassionately minded intellectuals were 'friedns of the people' and that the socialist revolution was for the benefit of all of them against the bigtime capitalists and the comprador reactionaries. I believe he ws better at getting popular support than the Bolshies were- he was eventually assassinated though but that's another story....

: I do not believe that pre-industrial Communism is sustainable. History is NOT on your side.

History IS on my side. the most popular communist regimes ahve been thsoe that democratically appealed to the people as a whole. These regimes were invariably overthrown by outside forces, not by the peopel. In any case, why don't you accept he Nicaraguan, Tanzanian, or Chilean models among many others.

: Stoller:
: Property owners---whatever the size of their concern---will always be uncertain comrades.

: Nikhil:
: So you only want 'certain comrades'? People who agree with you? Isn't some measure of disagreement healthy?

: Shall we include the capitalists in order to have a 'healthy' democracy?

As I said, we should definitely reach out to the petty proprietor! Exactly! They are not the enemy of teh peopel, unless they CHOOSE to be. Some capitalists are good people who will want to eb on our isde. We should take the good and not include the bad ones. Whether soemone can be helpful to our side depends on their moral worth and their philosophical convictions, NOT on their class identity. People's decisions ,may be colored by tehri class interest, but it is NOT determined by them; tehre are many peopel who can easily overcome their class bias and see things with a clear moral eye. Ideal factors, as opposed to material ones, have an importance that you totally overlook.

Example: Expropriation in teh state of Kerala was fairly easy because the Brahmin landowning caste was mostly Hindu, and as a result adhered to a certain fatalism as well as an ethic of nonviolence. So they were hardly inclined to try and take back their property or go on rampages against the peasants, as happened in other parts of teh world. (El Salvador anyone?) This proves that religion, culture, and ideas DO matter.

: Nikhil:
: So what if small business people have at times been hired as 'shock troops' by the Establishment?

: You're equivocating.

: You're looking for a loophole to hold on to your exemptions.

: Stoller:
: When you read more Marx you will see that his ENTIRE SYSTEM is based upon LANDLESS workers who have NOTHING TO LOSE but their chains (labor-power expropriated by the capitalists).

: Nikhil:
: There was communism before Marx, and there was Communism after him. You can agree with some thsing Marx sid and not with everything.

: Be my guest.

I will, thank you....

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup