- Capitalism and Alternatives -


Posted by: Red Deathy ( Socialist Party, UK ) on December 23, 1999 at 16:17:56:

In Reply to: RD's Candy-coated Marxism posted by Barry Stoller on December 21, 1999 at 11:15:36:

: Job rotation is the idea that: EACH CITIZEN should be required to perform an equal amount of unskilled work (preferably unskilled work of their choosing);

i.e. compelled. Hardly compatable with freedom. Further, my objection largely rests on the fact that I don't believe such a requirement is needed, I think by the very logic of the structures of society that arise from the banning of selling labour, that such rotation would naturally occur.

:EACH CITIZEN should be allowed to study for and then perform a specialized field that each citizen shows aptitude for---as well as enjoys; plus EACH CITIZEN should perform an equal amount of state administration work to insure that the state always remains in the hands of the people.

Equaqlly, a citizen should be free to say fuck skilled work, and since the state is everywhere, in every work place...

: No one will be 'forced' to become a brain surgeon. No one will be denied a chance to excel at whatever (specialized) task they are capable of doing. No one will ever miss out in participating in society.

Then surely social division of labour sets in? If someone is a brainsurgeon, and someone else is not...
: ['Liberty in the workplace'] implies that ad hoc division of labour may occur (i.e. that someone may porter for the day, as needed, rather than have to take turns at portering...).
: Which attenuates his 'entire' agreement with Engels.

If portering needs doing, then someone has to do it, and if people have to do it, then it has to be done for X period of time, be it day, hour week or lifetime..

: Now, THAT obliterates Engels' statement.

No, because such a person is not a oprofessional porter, since they are not paid to do so.

: Perhaps I would be more inclined to believe that portering, as a profession, was a 'multifaceted and skilled task, that engages mind and spirit' if a professional porter was telling me so. However, a recent English literature graduate is telling me that cleaning toilets, mopping floors, and emptying trash barrels 'engages mind and spirit.' How would he know?

None of those were duties for teh porter, the porters were involved in dealing with maintenance, security, and residence administration.

Further, I would say that you are conflating 'unpleasant labour' with teh argument against division of labour - the two are different. Cleaning is a differentiated task, one that freinds of mine have happilly and enthusiastically applied for - it may be unpleasant, but it is not the mindless, repetition of a single action - as per division of labour arguments. The two must be distinguished, because some people are willing to do work others find unplesdant.

:: The point about division of labour, is that it denies people to invest their whole person into their life-activity, as would have, say, an artisan, involved in using many different skills as part of a production process.

Thats an historical example- contrast the artisan shoe maker, invovled in the whole process of the production of a shoe, in various tasks, with tyhe modern shoe maker, who operates only one stage in teh assembly line of shoe making...

: What RD refers to is the detail division of labor of the shop, NOT the social division of labor. Indeed, arguing against the former (as he should), he argues FOR the latter. And to do so CONTRADICTS Marxian socialism. The artisan, after all, cannot be found in this view:

I don't argue *for* social division, I argue that it cannot be done away with, for reasons of Geography if nothing else.

::[I]n communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.(1)

Indeed, fine quote, I have no disagreement whatsoever with it. After all, how can it be otherwise where labour is voluntary?

: Voluntary labor is a key Marxian idea. Indeed, Lenin once said:
: Communism... is the name we apply to a system under which people become so accustomed to the performance of public duties without any specific machinery of compulsion, when unpaid work for the common good becomes the general phenomenon.(2)
: He is referring to the HIGHER PHASE OF COMMUNIST SOCIETY, not the first phase, however! Indeed, Lenin mentions voluntary labor THROUGHOUT The State and Revolution---in the higher phase.

However, we hold that there is no such distinction between the phases, and that it is possible to reach Communism very quickly now that capitalism is so fully developed. Lenin's emphasis (an emphasis which is not so accentuated in Charly's works) stems from the fact that there was no chance of socialism in Russia at that time.

: Or does RD, in his haste to 'sell' socialism, LEAVE OUT the ENTIRE IDEA of the first phase?

If you return to state and revolution, you'll see that Lenin writes almost exclusively about the first stage, and leaves the second stage to a never never land of tommorrow (indeed, he almost entirely replicates the sisyphian structures of bourgeoise desire in doing so). Whilst this was fair enough for an impoverished Russia, that still needed to develop capitalism (indeed, at least once Lenin said State Capitalism would be a step forward for russia) at the begining of teh 21st Century, its hardly relevent.

: Imagine 'selling' socialism with the promise that---after the revolution---everyone can do whatever job he or she wants to do. Everyone even has the option to do nothing, letting other people do the work. Lovely!---who wouldn't want to go along with THAT? But: How can that be?

Indeed, and any half-wit would see that that is not possible, so perhaps, just perhaps, its best to sell the idea of voluntaryu work, so people see how necessity of labour fits in with it.

:: When you base your premises of socialism on abundance, and not scarcity, then the compulsion to force everyone to work is lost - indeed, a classic work of socialism is entitled 'the right to be lazy'- I think that's what we're fighting for, everyone's right to be lazy.
: Yet how can such abundance be accomplished IF the detail division of labor in the shop is abolished (a premise RD has supported)? Would it not require MORE work to make things and provide services if the mind-numbing repetition so characteristic of detail division of labor was removed from people's jobs? After all, an artisan's work is characterized by requiring MUCH MORE TIME than mass-produced, assembly-line labor requires. Indeed, if work becomes more satisfying, more personal, then the very ultra-high productivity of the industrial revolution must perforce be REDUCED.

No, not necessarilly, because the tech is there now to use on a small scale, or to even remove the need to work from vast areas of production.

: But to promise the end of the detail division of labor AND to promise voluntary work for all---with abundance---is to promise incompatible qualities.

Not at all, at the moment tehre are millions involved in either enforced idelness, or unproductive labour (insurance, banking, etc.), whose labour would be freed up.

: As expected, RD falls back on an old socialist cliché to solve this glaring contradiction: '[M]echanize that job out of existence tout suite.'
: Yet to 'mechanize,' to automate all unpleasant work REQUIRES the very sort of industrial detail division of labor (associated with the factory) that is ALREADY ABOLISHED under RD's utopian scheme.

Why does it require that?

: You can't have both. You can't have the sort of industry that cranks out robot porters AND do away with the sort of monotonous work that the production of robots necessitates. Industrialization = boring work, the sort of work no one would ever volunteer to do.

Not necessarilly, I don't think, after all, as Morris shows in his 'A Facory as it might be' (IIRC) factoiries can be made pleasant places of work, where human beings can work together, and I'll say it again, on an ad hoc basis to produce vast amounts.

: Thus, in order to 'sell' socialism, RD omits the entire concept of the first phase / higher phase distinction PLUS invents a robot workforce ready to do all the unpleasant jobs that 'ad hoc' voluntary 'liberty in the workplace' would throw upon society.

But that is what socialism is, why sell it as anything else?

: Why not simply be forthright in the FIRST PLACE and tell working people that, in order to bring socialism about, people will need to work and, in order to make work equitable for all, rotation will be required?

Because I don't think rotation will be required, not on any regular or organised basis, and because I believe people can't not work - I've tried it, I'm going out of my mind...

: But RD's 'selling job' can only lead to utopian promises sure to DISAPPOINT expectations after the revolution. When a lot of the jobs that society requires are left undone and everyone asks 'where's the robots?' I trust RD will come up with some new 'selling points.'

you see, I don't think people are so thick as to overlook such obvious points, Barry, man, so when I sell such a line, I expect them to think such things through for themselves.

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