- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Offhand dismissal is a great substitute for debate

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on November 27, 1999 at 13:05:54:

In Reply to: Pretty pale points there, SDF posted by Stoller on November 26, 1999 at 22:32:40:

: : : My attacks on those who champion private property of the means of production and support institutional inequality (i.e. Rawlsian 'justice')...

: : SDF: Please read "Critique of the Gotha Programme" on institutional "equality".

: AND you'll notice a 'higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of individuals under the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished' (International 1938, p. 10).

SDF: I see no connection between that part of the text any argument which you may have wanted to make about "equality," or about why NJ has to be endlessly excoriated about his ostensibly partial endorsement of it. I will let NJ defend himself.

On the other hand, what we have in "Critique of the Gotha Programme" is a critique of the notion of rights, and especially "equal rights" as a bourgeois notion because the notion of "rights" attempts to establish "equality" in the same sense that commodity exchange attempts to establish "equality" in the exchanged items. Marx explains:

A right can by its nature only consist in the application of an equal standard, but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) can only be measured by the same standard if they are looked at from the same aspect, if they are grasped from one particular side, e.g., if in the present case they are regarded only as workers and nothing else is seen in them, everything else is ignored. Further; one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, etc. etc. Thus, with the same work performance and hence the same share of the social consumption fund, one will in fact be receiving more than another, one will be richer than another, etc. If all these defects were to be avoided rights would have to be unequal rather than equal.

So Marx could himself be considered a defender of "some inequality" under certain conditions. Given NJ's argument, which (acceptably for ME) differs from Marx's, it's easy to see how he would defend "some inequality" under certain conditions too. Marx explains those conditions:

Such defects, however, are inevitable in the first phase of communist society, given the specific form in which it has emerged after prolonged birth-pangs from capitalist society. Right can never rise above the economic structure of a society and its contingent cultural development.

SDF: Thus Marx shows that under the social conditions of commodity exchange, "some inequality" is the outgrowth of individual difference.

NJ is willing to defend social-democratic societies in a preliminary way, because they defend a tolerable standard of living for each of their members rather than dumping the working class like so much trash. Sure looks to me like a "lesser of two evils" argument. Meanwhile, you endlessly berate NJ for tolerating "some inequality," while citing in defense of this attitude a text which promises a world of greater FREEDOM for everyone, without reference to this big insistence of yours on "equality". Now, if NJ were promoting a world with "some slavery," I might be willing to understand your prior beef. What was it you were trying to say?

: This, after all, IS the communism to be achieved---NOT the 'first phase' where the DANGER of bureaucratic usurption is most likely! I STILL don't trust anyone who defends 'some' private ownership of the means of production---or 'some' privilege. DO YOU?

SDF: See above.

: You STILL haven't dealt with Marx's Address of the Central Committee from March 1850!

SDF: OK, I will. What was Marx's definition of "bourgeois elements"? We have to assume that Marx did not exclude from the category of "socialists" those who disagreed with him on some points, in view of his apparent tolerance of non-Marxist elements within the First International. (Unless you want to show that Braunthal was a liar.)

: Is that because your revisionist author left it out?

SDF: Let's question this notion of "revisionism" briefly. According to SOME notions of science, "all scientific statements are open to debate and all scientific theories are open to revision". Whereas on the other hand, according to sectarian Marxists, "revisionism" is a term of derision connoting a lapse of faith in the "true meaning" of the texts of the canon of Founding Fathers of Marxism as defined by any particular Marxist sect.

What are we to make of the claim to "scientific socialism" of such sectarian Marxists? Sounds to me like Gideon is the one who understands science. "Revisionism" is a demand that "scientific socialism" live up to its claim to be "scientific."

: : I challenged this "Russia" thing in several ways. Some empiricism!

: Some post, Sam. Pretty pale.

SDF: Offhand dismissal! Great substitute for addressing the issues I discussed!

: : : And, finally, you insist on a future ecological crisis of apocalyptic proportions which will act as midwife to a mass commune movement (which will engender socialism).

: : SDF: You really don't know what the Green Party is, do you?

: No---just what YOU are blabbing about.

SDF: Ask Gideon Hallett -- I'm tired of explaining.

: : : Perhaps a party devoted to the elimination of private ownership of the means of production should accept into its ranks 'fellow-travelers' who believe that 'some' members of society should own some means of production.

: : SDF: Marx apparently had a definition of "socialists" that was broader than "all those who agree with me on every point."

: Well, if you'll look at the final paragraphs of The Communist Manifesto, you'll see that he (and Engels) said communists 'bring to the front, as the leading question in each case, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time' (Internaional 1948, p. 44).

SDF: Which would explain why Marx DIDN'T insist upon an oath to abolish property as an entrance requirement to the First International?

: Does that sound like Marx embraced 'private property socialists'(like NJ) to you?

SDF: No, but it doesn't necessarily say that he declared war on them.

: : : Perhaps a party devoted to the elimination of hierarchy should accept into its ranks 'fellow-travelers' who wouldn't discount the 'possibility' of benevolent authoritarianism.

: : SDF: I guess any historical-materialist analysis of the connection between "benevolent authoritarianism" and the means of production is out of the question. NJ was defending "the lesser of two evils," peasant production as opposed to capitalist wage-slavery. His argument wasn't a very important one, as he didn't really give it much substance, but neither was it any indication of his own authoritarian tendencies.

: So someone who supports 'benevolent authoritarianism' (under 'some' circumstances)

SDF: As did Marx -- remember, Marx endorsed the imperialist conquest of India as a move in the direction of "progress".

: is OK by you---while someone who supports job rotation and complete economic equality is an authoritarian (as you imply I am)?

SDF: Given the current "success" of global revolutionary mobilization, a broad-based coalition between the varying socialists will be necessary FOR THE TIME BEING to present the owning classes with a unified front. When we're powerful and Janet Reno is suitably prevented from picking us off one at a time while the others clap with glee, then we can slug it out.

: : : And perhaps a party devoted to the economic equality of all citizens should accept into its ranks 'fellow travelers' who believe that 'some' inequality is inevitable or even acceptable.

: : SDF: Go back and read "Critique of the Gotha Programme" on "equality," "right," and other bourgeois values.

: See above point regarding the 'Gotha Programme.'

: : : THERE is your dreaded 'vanguard'!

: : SDF: Nope, M & E's quote is too vague [?] to establish a direct clash with Braunthal's assertion. And Marx isn't asserting "communists" as some sort of vanguard, as he is not claiming HIS GROUP to be the ONLY GROUP of REAL communists, just the BEST one...

: What a fine distinction you are making!

SDF: Actually, it's the key distinction throughout this entire thread. It's why it's important to maintain the notion of "disagreements from within," which is a notion sectarian Marxists DIDN'T hold, which is why they spend their time declaiming each other as possessors of "false consciousness" despite all they hold in common.

This thread started, as I recall, when I noticed that Marcos WASN'T having a "disagreement from within" with "liberals such as SDF".

: Isn't that ALL I have been saying?

SDF: Yeah, I didn't get all the jargon of your post. I'll say this much:

Once you accept a DICTATORSHIP, you have to accept its decrees, whether they be good or bad -- if you had accepted DEMOCRACY, you would at least have assured yourself of a VOTE. If you don't like the decrees of the dictatorship you fought so hard to put in power, you might at best consider committing suicide, so as to get your smelly carcass out of the way of the dictatorial cause as efficiently as possible.

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