- Capitalism and Alternatives -

The whole Marxist thing spelled out

Posted by: Barry Stoller on February 16, 19100 at 14:23:49:

In Reply to: Thanks for the Bravo Zulu, but... posted by Frenchy on February 15, 19100 at 13:20:55:

: Stoller, I hope you don't get real pissed, but constant value, variable value and their resultant surplus value have no objective meaning other than to justify Marx's own envy of other people's wealth and how to appropriate it.

You give Marx too much credit. Most of the fundamental thinking that produced the labor theory of value came from Adam Smith and David Ricardo, two pro-capitalist economists.

Simply put, the labor theory of value rests on the observation that the lowest possible price of a commodity is its production cost (and competition insures this lowest price is maintained by all capitalists).

Production of a commodity includes the buildings or mines or land (fixed capital [which may include rent]); raw materials for production (constant capital); and labor (variable capital).

How is a profit made?

The lowest possible price of the particular commodity labor-power is also its production cost (enough food, heat, shelter to maintain the laborer plus produce another generation of workers). This particular commodity, unlike others, however, produces more than what is necessary to meet its production cost (survival). It produces surplus-value.

How can I prove that?

Simply by proving that profit does not come from raising prices above their value (mark-ups). Capitalists can't do this with one another because capitalists must buy materials from one another each time they renew the production process; if each raises prices, they even out. Capitalists can't do this to workers because workers---receiving only what capital pays them in wages---do not possess any extra money to pay the capitalists back in mark-ups. And, finally, capitalists can't do this to landed gentry (landlords) and bankers for the same reason they can't do it to workers.

In short: raising prices, when successful, may redistribute value but it can never create value.

That leaves only one alternative: capital makes a profit because labor-power receives less (of what it produces) than what it costs to maintain labor-power.

How do we know labor-power creates value?

Take a CD ($15) and a dinner out ($15). How do we know that they’re both equivalent values? Put it another way: $15 is worth $15 whether or not it is expressed as a CD, a dinner out, etc., etc. How do we value $15?

$15 in these different forms must be reducible to some third thing that is neither a CD or a meal, etc.---some third thing held in common. What that CD and that dinner out, etc., hold in common is labor-power---and not just any labor-power, but socially necessary labor-power (the historically and technologically average amount of labor-time required to produce each of these commodities).

Regarding the Subjective theory of value: 'Desire' does not determine value: that dinner will not cost one penny less because I think it's only worth $10---and if everyone thought what I thought, the owner would simply go bankrupt whether he stubbornly charged $15 (production cost) while no one patronised his restuarant, or if he chose to sell his meals for less than their production cost.

To make a long story short, Marxism is simply the observation that workers---who produce more than they consume---should take all of their surplus-value for themselves and let the owners either shape up or ship out.

This is considered possible only since the global generalization of capital has socialized labor, centralized ownership of the means of production, and, as a practical result, increased productivity to the point where there is enough to go around.


[Socialism] presupposes that the development of production has reached a level at which the appropriation of means of production and of products, and with these, of political supremacy, the monopoly of education and intellectual leadership by a special class of society [the capitalists], has become not only superfluous but also economically, politically and intellectually a hindrance to [further] development.(1)

: That demand, that all countries reach a high level of industrialization can't be met except by the entrepreneur and today's risk capital. And even if these were available in all countries, not all countries have the citizenry to transform mere materials and ideas into usable products of high quality.

Only in today's economic conditions does industrialization require capitalists. (Things would be different if products were made for human needs, not profits.) Capitalists, however, will not fully industrialize each nation: many nations have always been and will always be used primarily for raw materials. They are outside of capitalism---yet capitalism, in order to survive MUST expand (because profits come primarily from increased productivity, i.e. reducing labor-power put into each constituent commodity). Here is one of capital's terminal contradictions: '[C]apital cannot accumulate without the aid of non-capitalist organizations, nor, on the other hand, can it tolerate their continued existence side by side with itself,'(2)

The industrialization of all nations will require socialism.

Your claim that 'not all countries have the citizenry to transform mere materials and ideas into usable products of high quality,' which sounds somewhat chauvinistic, is, at the present, mere speculation. We don't know what the underdeveloped nations would be capable of if they were developed.

: [D]o you see the 'one world' impetus as a possible curtain raiser for eradicating nationalism?

What I see as the prime mover in eradicating nationalism is class consciousness and class struggle.

Marx and Engels said '[t]he working men have no country,' specifically insisting that the communist revolution 'cannot take from them what they have not got.'(3) What is meant here is working people own nothing of 'their country,' they have no material interest, no land to call their own, no factories to call their own; all they have is their labor-power which they must sell off piecemeal each day: they are landless therefore countryless. All they have of national inclusion is language and the ideology of the rulers.


National differences and antagonisms between peoples are vanishing gradually from day to day, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.(4)

Quite modern, is that not?

National differences and antagonisms between peoples are vanishing gradually. Think of how the American media takes such a soft stance on a formerly 'red menace' like China these days, all for the sake of smooth global trade. Consider how the English language is being increasingly adopted by business people in Japan and Europe. Consider the influence of Western entertainment around the world. Consider the European common currency under way.

The 'political correctness' of tolerating other national identities (as long as they do not challenge 'free trade,' that is) is not, as Rush Limbaugh claims, a product of university elites. It is an economic necessity produced by international commerce (capitalists). The university elites are merely playing the role of capital's ideological shock troops.

Conclusion: capital itself globalizes (socialized) labor, yet it cannot do so completely because capital must have some precapitalist countries (colonies) to exploit. Therein one of capital's fatal contradictions that Marxists, like myself, think can only be solved by the necessary economic evolution of world communism.

: If loyalty to one's country is bad (as I'm assuming your saying it is) why then would loyalty to one world government be good? Wouldn't those feelings of loyalty then be simply transferred to another group of men, and let's not forget that men make horrendous mistakes regardless of the shoulder patch they wear, and we'd be back at square one?

Good question, I appreciate a suspicious mind.

Consider that, thus far, each historical phase of economic development has put a minority (such as feudal monarchs or capitalists) at the helm of the state. Communism is truly unique because it aims to place the majority (the workers) at the helm of state. Because of this, it stands to reason that hero worship and all its attendant evils will be greatly diminished. The mistakes of 'leadership' will simply be the mistakes of the people themselves.

And dare I say, whatever these mistakes may be, at least they'll never stem from the desire to screw the workers.



1. Engels, Anti-Dühring, International n.d., p. 316.

2. Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, Monthly Review 1968, p. 416.

3. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, International 1948, p 28.

4. Ibid.

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