- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Rotating bosses or Permanent bosses?

Posted by: Barry Stoller on January 24, 19100 at 10:06:19:

In Reply to: Old News. posted by Red Deathy on January 23, 19100 at 11:54:09:

Answer how those rules will be 'open ended' (who will enforce THAT?) and get back to me.

: They will be open ended because they will be made and rewritten constantly by those who use them, and that will be enforced by people living freely, co-operatively and democratically together. Folks'll do what is necessary to get on with life.

In other words, the rules will be open ended because the rules will be open ended.

Great---an infantile tautology posing as Marxism.

I should simply say (again), answer HOW those rules will be open ended, and get back to me---and ignore your silly post. But since there are some people who have not read Marxist works checking in on these debates (trying to understand Marxism through our debates), I will counter your utopian and unMarxist assertions (again and again).

You seem to represent liberty (no enforced job rotation) while I represent authoritarianism (enforced job rotation). That's an illusion.

The social division of labor---as Plato so aptly noted---leads to the very hierarchy that engenders authoritarianism. Your support for the social division of labor, therefore, supports authoritarianism. My support for job rotation---necessary to demolish the social division of labor---is, instead, a guarantee that authoritarianism can never form.

The illusion of your position---giving me your position (authoritarianism) while you take mine (freedom from authoritarianism)---rests on bourgeois prejudices which assert that freedom is an absolute quality. It may fool Lark but others on the board here are beginning to wise up. What galls me, RD, is that you have the nerve to do all this in Marx's name.

Let's clear this up, shall we?

In this post, you say: 'I don't argue *for* social division, I argue that it cannot be done away with, for reasons of Geography if nothing else.' The social division of labor as immutable 'nature,' in other words: 'I don't defend it, that's just the way it is.' Where have I heard that one before?

That's you business if that's how you feel. But DON'T say that's a Marxist position, it's not.


The existence of classes originated in the division of labor, and the division of labor as it has been known up to the present will completely disappear...

People will no longer be, as they are today, subordinated to a single branch of production, bound to it, exploited by it; they will no longer develop one of their faculties at the expense of others; they will no longer know only one branch, or one branch of a single branch, of production as a whole...

The form of the division of labor which makes one a peasant, another a cobbler, a third a factory worker, a fourth a stock-market operator has already been undermined by machinery and will completely disappear. Education will enable young people quickly to familiarize themselves with the whole system of production and to pass from one branch of production to another in response to the needs of society or their own inclinations. It will therefore free them from the one-sided character which the present-day division of labor impresses upon every individual.(1)

That should make it pretty clear: in the communist future, the social division of labor will not exist.

Stoller: I said that if (some) skilled work and (some) unskilled work was not shared between all people, hierarchy would eventually reemerge.

: But I don't agree with that, because I think that as long as allocation of resources is entirely indepentant of work done, no such hierachy can emerge.

Here you seem to be saying that if private property is abolished and goods are distributed according to needs, hierarchy is impossible. The inference is clear: you assert that the social division of labor can exist within communist society without hierarchy occurring.


Those small and extremely ancient Indian communities, some of which have continued down to this day, are based on possession in common of land, on the blending of agriculture and handicrafts, and on an unalterable division of labor, which serves, whenever a new community is started, as a plan and scheme ready cut and dried...

In those of the simplest form, the land is tilled in common, and the produce divided among the members.(2)

Marx is describing primitive communism, public ownership of the means of production, distribution according to need---all the qualities needed, according to you, to support the social division of labor without hierarchy forming.

Let us check in with Marx, again, same passage:

At the same time, spinning and weaving are carried on in each family as subsidiary industries. Side by side with the masses thus occupied with one and the same work, we find the 'chief inhabitant,' who is judge, police, and tax-gatherer in one; the book-keeper, who keeps the accounts of the tillage and registers everything relating thereto; another official, who prosecutes criminals, protects strangers traveling through and escorts them to the next village; the boundary man, who guards the boundaries against neighboring communities; the water-overseer, who distributes the water from the common tanks for irrigation; the Brahmin, or astrologer, who makes known the lucky or unlucky days for seed-time and harvest, and for every other kind of agricultural work; a smith and a carpenter, who make and repair all the agricultural implements; the potter, who makes all the pottery of the village; the barber, the washerman who washes clothes, the silversmith, here and there the poet, who in some communities replaces the silversmith, in others the schoolmaster. This dozen or so individuals is maintained at the expense of the whole community.(2)

That's right: maintained at the expense of the whole village. Some plow the fields, some write the poetry. Some plow the fields, some make the rules: judge, police, and tax-gatherer in one. According to Marx, hierarchy IS possible within societies characterized by public ownership of the means of production and distribution according to needs.

Now go back and read that Engels quote (about modern communism) again.

If you want to tell me that a Marxist position supports (or accepts the 'geographic' inevitability) of the social division of labor in the communist future, please back up that with relevant quotes. Otherwise, admit, concerning on the topic of the social division of labor, you have parted ways with Marxism.


Stoller: Do you or do you not remember---acknowledge---agree with---Engels' point?

: I was agreeing, that there will have to be authority, in teh form of social democrtacy, not in any sense of having leaders, etc. Further, there is a difference between having authority, and authoritarianism.


But the necessity of authority, and of imperious authority at that, will nowhere be found more evident than on board a ship on the high seas. There, in time of danger, the lives of all depend on the instantaneous and absolute obedience of all to the will of one.(4)

The point he was making, of course, is that industrialization itself predicates authority, necessitates bosses, requires discipline. Assembly-lines are not democratic affairs. If one worker slows down or absents himself, the whole process is ruined. Industrial activity requires centralization.

Since there must be bosses on the job (momentary bosses)---in order to do the job---the only way to prevent leaders (career bosses), i.e. authoritarianism, is job rotation. (The first quote by Engels and this quote by Engels are a perfect logical fit.)

You , on the other hand, want the OPPOSITE.

You defend the social division of labor (saying, alternately, that it is a geographic exigency or it will be voluntary, i.e. not worth insisting upon) which engenders career bosses---in the name of denying that industrialization requires momentary bosses.

This is the central issue here.

: [M]y point was that we are basically splitting hairs here, not debating serious issues.

The social division of labor is a very serious issue---because the social division of labor is the essential predicate of authoritarianism.

You see, I'm the one AGAINST authoritarianism; you (innocently, Iím sure) SUPPORT it.

Knowing that industrialization necessitates bosses (the captain on the high sea), I want those bosses to rotate. You, claiming that industrialization doesn't need any bosses at all, support the very thing (the social division of labor) which will create permanent bosses.

Hashing it over some more...

Stoller: But HOW does it come that 'Frank' is the one who knows where to drive?

: Coz he's the one thats been to Alnwick before, wheras Bernie hasn't.

Stoller: Because he's monopolized that particular job?

: Oooh, the bastard, he hasn't has he? No, its simply that different people know different things.

Red Deathy picks strawberries in the field; Franks drives the strawberries to the city. They're both in possession of the means of production, they're both receiving according to need.

Of course, Red Deathy is doing back-breaking work all day long while Frank gets to sit behind the wheel of the community truck and drive to the city. Hey, different people know different things, dude. And as long as Red Deathy NEVER drives to the city, he'll never be able to 'volunteer' to drive to the city. He'll just continue to 'volunteer' to pick strawberries---because that's all he knows how to do.

To sum: people may share ownership of the means of production; people may receive equally---or, better yet, according to need. But if one drives the truck while the other picks strawberries, or---returning to Marx's primitive communist society---if one writes the poetry while the other person picks the strawberries, then someone is getting screwed.

And that's not Marxism. Read that Engels quote at the top again.



1. Engels, Principles of Communism, Monthly Review 1952, p. 17.

2. Marx, Capital volume one, International 1967, p. 357.

3. Ibid, pp. 357-6, emphasis added.

4. Engels, 'On Authority,' (Marx and Engelsí) Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, Anchor 1959, p. 484.

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