James Lawler's paper

Paul W. Cockshott cockshpw at wfu.edu
Sat Oct 15 14:22:03 MDT 1994

Now that Jim has explained his arguments in more detail,
I have less difficulty agreeing with them.

He raises the question as to why Marx regarded labour tokens
as distinct from money. There is no very detailed discussion of
this that I am aware of in Marx, but the passage that I cited
in conjuction with a few others and his general analysis of
money would lead me to suggest the following:

1. Money serves as a measure of value, as a universal equivalent
   a means of circulation and a store of value.

2. Marx contrasts theatre tickets with money, implying that labour
   tokens would have more in common with the former than the
   latter. Theatre tickets are not universal equivalents, nor
   do they circulate.

3. This implies that the difference between labour tokens and money
   is that only some of t the social origin of labour becomes plain.
   Bearing in mind Marx's critique of Proudhon, any system of labour
   tokens would have to allow some goods to be marked up at a premium
   if in temporary short supply and coversely others at a discount --
   provided that in aggregate these cancelled out. The exixtence
   of such premiums and discounts would be usefull information in
   fine tuning the plan.

On the question of what is happening in China at the moment, I would
agree that the final verdict is not yet in, but my judgement of the
direction in which things are tending is not as optimistic as Jims.

On the question of 'buying out', this is essentially a question of
political expediency. To the extent that the working class is not
yet in a position to organise the whole economy yet itself, then
it has in past proved expedient to buy out a section of the economy
rather than expropriate it. This had the effect of molifying the remaining
capitalists and discouraging them from trying to sabotage economic
development, but it is unlikely to be more than a short term measure.
As a greater proportion of the working class feels able to take over
their factories, continued interest payments on the bonds issued to
former owners are likely to prove politically intolerable. It has
to be born in mind, that bond issues are the only practical form
of buying out, issuing cash would be inflationary.

The British Labour Movement followed this policy of buying out the
capitalists until Thatcher came to power, but even there, by the
1970s there was considerable resentment expressed by the unions in
the nationalised firms that former owners were still getting annual

He is certainly right that Lenin saw very little difference between
socialism and communism, but Marx and Engels prefered to identify
themselves as communists not socialists, seeing socialism as a
variant of middle class reformism ( see Engels final introduction
to the Manifesto written in the 90's).

The ML orthodoxy became that the sequence was capitalism, socialism,
communism with the distinction between that last two being based
upon distribution according to need not labour. It was falaciously
asserted that in socialist societies distribution was already according
to labour, but all that had been achieved was the abolition of
and the abolition of non-labour incomes. Equal hours of labour were
definitely not equally rewarded, a hour of a womans labour tended to
be rewarded with less than an hour of a mans labour. The retention
of money wages meant the retention of all the illusions about a 'fair
wage', notions of what was fair retained all sorts of sexist and
gradist overtones.


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