- Capitalism and Alternatives -

We got FUNDAMENTAL differences

Posted by: Barry Stoller on December 23, 1999 at 21:10:18:

In Reply to: Sugar... posted by Red Deathy on December 23, 1999 at 16:17:56:

Well, Bill, I have had nothing but the highest regard for your descriptions of the LTV. Your understanding of Marx in that area is of the highest caliber.

However, your reliance upon the utopian ideas of Morris has, in my opinion, warped your understanding of revolutionary Marxism.

Abundance AND voluntary labor are obvious opposites.

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.

Again, freedom posited as a uniform standard (by a 'Marxist' no less!).

Please read this post.

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

I am more concerned about each citizen 'equally' saying fuck UNSKILLED work.

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...

Bill, I think you have missed too many posts to really keep up.

Please see this post.

: 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..

It's that casual way you say 'lifetime' that worries me...

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

What nonsense!

If I porter everyday of my life and receive 'according to my needs' instead of receiving paychecks, I am STILL portering everyday of my life.

You can change the WORDS, but that doesn't change the JOB.

Why are you defending the idea of someone doing NOTHING but portering all their life? Is that YOUR idea of a good life, one that 'engages mind and spirit'?

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.

Oh, so you upgrade their job a bit and that will be satisfactory, eh? Let's be sure to ASK the porter first, shall we? And, as you upgrade his job description a bit, that porter still hasn't been upgraded to PARTICIPATING in running the state (let alone the school you attended).

: 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...

I am primarily comparing skilled work with unskilled work.

Nevertheless, I would say that doing JUST ONE JOB---even a highly skilled one---limits the humanity of a person.

: [C]ontrast 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...

He's still doing only ONE job.

You are recreating Plato's argument for the social division of labor.

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

That's craven.


[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.

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

First of all, you DO have SOME disagreement with it, the 'multi-faccetted' porter and all.

And secondly, if labor is voluntary (during the first phase of communism), most people will NOT do any unskilled work. Especially those labor aristocrats produced by the prior capitalist order.

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.

I'll deal with that theme later...

: 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).


Read Bukharin & Prebrazhensky's A B C of Communism (party platform)---which Lenin endorsed at the 8th All Russia Congress of Soviets---and you'll see that the 'never, never land of tomorrow' started in 1919.

Now, on to the important stuff...

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.

To 'sell the idea'? That's the revolution? A salespitch? How will you be 'selling' that idea to the capitalists and their armies?

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.

The 'tech' exists because there ARE 'vast areas of production.' Ever heard of the Third World? If 'ad hoc' labor was 'sold' to them, then we confortable First Worlders would soon feel it.

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.

You are mixing Morrisian twaddle with Marxism here.

Nupkins Awakened to the contrary, simply releasing financial capital will not create abundance.

Abundance will require the PRODUCTION PROCESS---and Marxists want to REVOLUTIONIZE that process; we want to make it less repetitive, less degrading, less overwhelming for workers.

This will REDUCE abundance as we know it now. Which is fine (ecologists take note)---but we cannot simply WISH IT AWAY.

The production process---with all it's detail division of labor---will always be necessary to some degree. That, after all, IS the mode of production upon which socialism is predicated.

What will mitigate the need to retain the detail division of labor is to ABOLISH the social division of labor. Pass the lousy work around in equal parts to everyone so everyone can enjoy the skilled (rewarding, interesting, etc.) work in equal parts.

Stoller :
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?

I can't believe you would even ask that question, Bill. The industrial revolution (mechanization in a word) NECESSITATES the detail division of labor (monotonous work).

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.

Morris was a utopian artisan. He wasn't a Marxist. Hell, Engels didn't even MENTION him in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.

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?

Socialism is NOT 'the right to be lazy,' Bill; it's the PUBLIC ownership of the means of production as a method for dissolving the mental / manual distinction between labor (and town & country) as well as a method for effacing classes.

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...

I never said people (in the first phase phase of communism) wouldn't work, Bill---I only said they would eschew UNSKILLED work. And THAT is the sort of work the abundance needed for socialism REQUIRES.

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.

All you've done is blow bubbles, Bill. When you got that neoliberal fanatic Gee defending your pseudo-socialism, then you KNOW you're on the wrong track.

Lose the Morris, Bill. Get back to Marx.

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