countertendencies

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sun Apr 16 02:04:53 MDT 1995


Rahul wrote:


>But why on earth do you think
>that the exportation of the most egregious exploitation to the Third World,
>where control of revolution by military means is much easier, combined with
>the abatement of revolutionary pressure at home by the dole and all that
>goes with it (not to mention the constant spate of mindless entertainment
>-- bread and circuses redux) are not also very strong countertendencies?
>Because it's harder to give them a hard, "concrete" economic basis?

The dole in Newt's US?  Along with the orphanage, the prison, the ghetto
and all the other melioratives of open class struggle--I suppose.  Welfare
has always had this double-side which I understand is an important theme of
Gareth Steadman Jones' Outcast London; Ralph recommended Jones' essay on
Engels. Has anyone read this book by Jones?  Seems to be relevant.

  Mindless entertainment is everywhere.  And it is not clear to me that the
most egregrious exploitation (in Marxian terms) is in the Third World. The
labor process is being speeded up and intensified everywhere, and real
wages are  falling in the US, as elsewhere.  Whether real wages are falling
relatively slower in the imperialist nations and whether the real wage is
still higher here are both irrelevant, as are questions of income
distribution; if  workers experience their real wage as inadequate in the
face of labor intensification and a drop below a certain
cultural-historical level to which they have become accustomed,  class
struggle will continue to deepen in this country. This is one of the
central insights of Grossmann's wage theory, and it sure wreaks havoc with
standard interpretations of the law of increasing misery, even if his
theory is also flawed.

[See Kenneth Lapides' trans and intro, "Henryk Grossmann on Marx's
'Increasing Misery Thesis'" in History of Political Economy 26:2, Summer
1994: "At a certain point, the increase in real wages is halted, and
following temporary stagnation there begins a rapid decline.  However, as a
result of the growing intensity of labor as the capitalist mode of
production progresses, a *constantly growing amount* of the means of
susbsistence is necessary for the mere reproduction of labor-power, so even
a standstill in wage gains (and even more their decline) means a fall of
wages *below*the value of labor power and therefore the impossibility of
reproducing labor-power in its entirety. This deterioration in the
condition of the working class, however, is identical with the increase not
only of its social but also of its physical misery." (p.261))

  Moreover, in what I think is the most advanced contribution to wage
theory, Paolo Giusanni has argued that as real wage increases are built in
to capital accumulation (alluded to in Grossmann above), their decline can
only be evidence of capitalist instablity . This idea could be tied into
something Kevin Brien alluded to: the mounting frustration of existential
needs generated by the dynamic of capital could force the proletariat into
revolutionary action, even if they are not impoverished in some narrow
biological sense. Of course, as Brien emphasizes, reactionary politics
could also provide a vent for such frustration. (P Giussani, 'Value of
Labor Power and the Wage' in International Journal of Political Economy, v
22, n 3 Fall 1992, pp. 7-28)

  But now we must go deeply into Marx's wage theory, and I hope that we do
such things on this line  (in addition of course to understanding Marx's
indebtedness to Spinoza).

  But Rahul's post reminds me of the Marcusean thesis of one-dimensionality
in the advanced capitalist nations.  Which of course then reminds me of
Paul Mattick's Critique of Marcuse:One Dimensional Man in Class Society
(NY:Herder and Herder, 1972).  Not surprisingly, I would be happy to reread
this piece. Which I may do tonight.

Rakesh



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