Positive side to anti-LTV case

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Thu Sep 22 23:12:37 MDT 1994


I've already followed Steve Keen, even in his own terms, through the
simplest determinations of surplus-value, showing how his conception that
"the means of production are sources of surplus-value" is a specific
manifestation of the fetishism of commodities. I've questioned his
procedures and his conclusions, and presented him with questions concerning
both, that he has never replied.

When one reasons about value and surplus-value as such, one is not
reasoning about some purely mental abstractions; one is actually reasoning
about the historically specific simplest forms the general social relation
of present-day society has. So one is reasoning about the basic
determinations of concrete political action, of class-struggle, and
therefore, about these very matters themselves. Steve has advanced into
them in a way I consider illustrative concerning science as a necessary
form of political action. So I will follow him now into these more concrete
social forms.

a)
>The capitalist buys inputs to production at their exchange-value; their
>objective use-value is irrelevant to the price he pays for them. In
>production, he exploits a commodity's objective use-value--which is
>its ability to produce new commodities.

Someone could believe this assertion that exploitation is exercised both
upon labor-power and upon the means of production has just a funny face:
"Means of production of the world, unite" (though science-fiction is
obviously a social form).

Yet, it actually has a far more repulsive face. Let's assume with Steve
this absurd that the means of production produce surplus-value (that is,
for instance, that a chair produces a specific form of the present-day
general social relation among human beings, or the same in other words,
that a chair as such is a concrete form in which the general regulation of
present-day social life realizes itself). Now, let's assume with Steve that


>the value of
>labor-power (the subsistence bundle of commodities) determines
>the _minimum_ wage.

and that

>... in general, the payment to workers will _exceed_ the
>value of the commodity they sell.

If we are to believe Steve's theory, when wages are high enough to include
'the value of labor-power' plus the whole 'surplus-value produced by the
particular input labor-power', the workers receive back the equivalent to
what they have consumed of themselves in production and the whole
additional social product their capacity to labor has created. So, as soon
as wages reach this level, capital ceases to exploit the waged-laborers,
the proletariat. Sure, and at the entrance of the working-places where such
wages are supposed to be paid, it should be written: "Capitalism makes us
free"!

There's even more. Let's suppose that the capitalists accept to rise wages
beyond the 'surplus-value' attributed to labor-power, thus making wages to
advance upon the 'surplus-value produced' by the means of production.
(Provided a high enough "organic composition of capital" (sic), this can
even result in an insignificant fall in profit) Now, the waged-laborers
have not only ceased to be the victims of capitalist exploitation, but
become the greedy _partners_ of capital, in capital's criminal depredation
of nature!

Just compare what follows from Steve's theory, with Marx's discoveries:

"Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining
together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the
original sources of all wealth - the soil and the labourer." (Capital I,
Progress Publishers, pp. 506-7)


b)
Marx specifically directed his lecture published as _Wages, Price and
Profit_ to present to the workers the reason why they must constantly
struggle for higher wages, though wages are determined by the value of the
labor-power specifically needed for the production of surplus-value at each
time and place of the process of capital accumulation, thus making any rise
of the wages above that value only temporary: the struggle of the working
class for higher wages is a necessary concrete form through which the laws
of the value of labor-power and of surplus-value realize themselves.

Moreover, Marx discovered that the class struggle isn't only just a
necessary concrete form through which the value of labor-power takes shape.
It's, above all, the necessary concrete form through which the supersession
of capitalism (that is, of the social metabolism process autonomously
regulated through the valorization of value) into socialism or,
indistinctly, communism (into the social metabolism process directly
regulated through the cognition by each of its members of her/his
determinations, that is, into the community of the freely associated
individuals) takes shape.

What message addresses Steve's theory to the working class?

>... there
>is a dialectical tension which manifests itself in the organisation
>of the sellers of labor-power to fight for a payment above its
>value, in individual and organised resistance over working conditions,
>in politics, in the myriad manifestations of humanity amidst
>capitalism.
>
>Since my analysis argues that the system of production in general
>generates a surplus, the class struggle is thus a struggle over the
>apportionment of the surplus between the capitalist and working
>class, and there is no upper limit--short of the entire surplus--
>to the level that workers can claim.
>
>However, the share of surplus that workers manage to achieve will
>affect the actions of capitalists, both negatively--reducing their
>profits and also their desires to invest--and positively-- ...

To put it straight: - Working class, there is much more than the value of
your commodity awaiting for you in capitalism, as, in general, your payment
will _exceed_ that value. The class struggle is a struggle over the
apportionment of the surplus and there is no necessary upper limit to your
claim upon the social product short of the entire surplus (So, by the way,
don't ask for a more revolutionary point of view). Still, though this
society is potentially so generous with you, moderate your claims
concerning wages, or you will end up harming yourself by forcing the
capitalists to reduce their desires to invest. -

As I've shown in a previous reply by following Steve's developments in his
own terms, Steve's basic theory can only avoid falling into an obvious
logical incoherence by assuming that surplus-value exists in the simple
production of commodities. That is, that capitalism exists even before it
actually exists. Now Steve tells us that, even assuming that the working
class doesn't leave a single bit of profit for capital to appropriate,
surplus-value will go on existing. That is, that capitalism will exist even
after it has ceased to exist. If we are to believe Steve, capitalism has
the capacity to defeat its own limits, it's eternal.

No. _Socialism_ is certainly not _capitalism plus zero profit_, as some
post-Keynesians would like it to be.


c)
>"Pure" capitalism, without this big government aspect, could quite
>possibly plunge into a terminal crisis- ...
>capitalism
>needs the counterbalance of a state sector to survive its own
>extremes. This is, if you like, the ultimate dialectic.

Marx discovered that, being capital the general social relation in
present-day society, all human potencies are alienated as capital's
potencies. Therefore, there isn't a single social form in our society that
isn't determined as a concrete form of capital. The state sector is not a
counterbalance for capitalism. It's capitalism in itself, "pure"
capitalism.

_Socialism_ is certainly not _capitalism plus the collective ownership, and
then the ownership by the state, of capital_, as some Marxists would like
it to be.

Now, as Marx also discovered, capitalism has two essential necessities as
it's the general form taken by the regulation of contemporary human life
through the process of capital accumulation. It needs to reproduce itself
as such, lacking any limits concerning how brutal, how vicious, how bloody
a course this reproduction might demand. But, at the same time, its most
specific historical necessity is to produce the material conditions of
human life that can only have conscious action as their general social
regulation, thus annihilating itself in socialism. From this second point
of view, capital is revolutionary in itself. Being a historical necessity,
the latter realizes itself through the former.

Some of the infinite concrete forms the supersession of capitalism in
socialism has, can only take shape in a day by day imperceptible change;
what Marx called (quoting him by heart) "the hidden transitions" from
capitalism to socialism. Other of those forms need to be realized through
violently immediate visible movements. But both types belong in capital
accumulation process as much as any other capital's form. The reduction of
the former transitions to "reformism" and of the latter to "revolution"
does but to isolate them from their specific determinations, thus turning
them into pure ideological abstractions. And to claim upon this ideological
basis that

>One of the key consequences
>of nonlinear relationships is that a tiny difference in initial
>conditions makes an enormous difference to the final outcome;
>another is that, for that reason, it's impossible to predict what
>will eventuate after any sort of cataclysmic change in such a
>system. Revolution is obviously a cataclysmic change in a social
>system, and there is no guarantee--as history has shown us--that
>what will evolve after such a change bears any semblance to the
>reasons that change was undertaken. I thus see revolution as an
>inherently dangerous route to social re-organisation.

is just a twofold denying of the very possibility of socialism. In the
first place, Steve's unconditioned assertion "it's impossible to predict
what will eventuate after any sort of cataclysmic change in such a
[nonlinear relationships] system", presents the possibility itself of the
general conscious regulation of human life as a nonsensical chimera (By the
way, which social necessity do the ideologists of present-day "normal"
science from Popper to Rorty - and from the left to the right - personify,
other than this one?) In the second place, to claim that "revolution"
should be ruled out from the proletariat's political action because it's
"an inherently dangerous route to social re-organisation," is to claim for
the eternal subsistence of those of capital's forms that have this and only
this sort of route as their necessary way of transition towards socialism
(and there are lots of them, certainly); it is, therefore, to claim for the
eternal procrastination of the supersession of capitalism, to claim for the
eternal subsistence of capitalism.

The degree of violence any social change might have doesn't emerge from the
abstract will of those who personify it. On the contrary, it is the degree
of violence that the realization of the change in question demands from
those who positively or negatively personify it, which will necessarily
take concrete form in the degree of violence these agents will be willing
to apply.

"Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is
itself an economic power" (Capital I, p. 751)

"If money, according to Augier, 'comes into the world with a congenital
blood-stain on one cheek,' capital comes dripping from head to foot, from
every pore, with blood and dirt." (Capital I, p. 760) And, I would add, the
necessity to constantly renew this look belongs in it until its last minute
in the world.

Now, again, which social necessity does Steve personify?

"... vulgar economy, which deals with appearances only, ruminates without
ceasing on the material long since provided by scientific economy, and
there seeks plausible explanations of the most obtrusive phenomena, for
bourgeois daily use, but for the rest, confines itself to systematising in
a pedantic way, and proclaiming for everlasting truths, the trite ideas
held by the self-complacent bourgeoisie with regard to their own world, to
them the best of all possible worlds." (Capital I, p. 81)

In Steve's own words,

>the [his] analysis is critical of capitalism, but supports the mixed
>economy rather than socialism, and reform rather than revolution;

Yes, the best of all possible worlds!

The constant development of capital accumulation starts to place the
capitalists in the background concerning the active personification of
capital as simply such, while it places a specific portion of the
waged-laborers as that active personification. Vulgar economy starts then
to be massively produced not only for the consumption of the bourgeoisie,
but for the self-complacence and political action of this portion of
waged-laborers. Under this renewed face, vulgar economy doesn't any longer
need to openly praise the capitalist, but to enthrone capital itself as the
true sacred figure. Vulgar economy has therefore reached the highest
possible degree as the ideological materialization of the alienation of
human potencies into capital's potencies.

Marx personifies the completely opposite potencies inherent in present-day
society, in capital, that is, the necessity to construct the social
metabolism process consciously regulated, and therefore, the immediate
necessity for conscious, thus scientifically regulated, action. Then, could
the ideological materialization in question take a more developed form
today than to attempt to present Marx himself, provided the proper
"logical" correction is practiced upon him, as the true source of its
vulgarities?

This is the social necessity that Steve personifies. It's certainly not the
one I personify. This difference doesn't only show in what each of us has
to say, but in the methodological style each of us follows in his
presentations. So our respective social determinations will make us to go
on colliding in this field both of us have chosen as a proper place for our
political action, the Marxism list.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at inscri.org.ar



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