The MIM Debate Reply

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Oct 8 19:21:27 MDT 1995

Maoism of course is suspected of idealist deviations, stress on 
voluntarism etc. I don't however think this means MIM is more idealist 
than "Eurocentric" marxists who forget one of the most glaring material 
realities of the global economy, the great difference between the First 
World and the Third World.

Pat's response for MIM, reaffirms their internationalist standpoint
as fundamental and implies that a global calculation should be made
of what is the total surplus produced by the human race and how 
unevenly is it distributed. Since the global economy is capitalist, 
that makes it pretty well a tautology that the working class in the
metropoles benefit by capitalist and imperialist exploitation.

I find the reference to cultural factors affecting the value of labour
power important and have thought so for some time, but it is more than a
"cover" in the way implied in this passage by Pat:

We see no reason why "cultural and
historical" factors that Marx referred to should be a cover for national
chauvinism saying that First World workers need more use-values for their
higher civilization levels.

I think Pat does not allow enough for unevenness in the rate of 
centralization of capital in addition to all unfair distortions in the 
"free" capitalist market, from residues of colonialism, cartels, trade 
barriers etc.  

It would of course be wrong to regard the economies of individual 
countries as hermetically sealed boxes. Pat makes a reference to them 
having different military structures. It is also wrong to see the global 
economy as one smooth homogeneous mass. 

We need IMO to focus on the global economy but to see that it is 
distorted by many uneven asymmetries. We need a "field" theory similarly
to Einstein's theory of gravitational fields. These asymmetries are
certainly affected by state and other power relations but it is more 
dynamic than that. The uneven patterns of capital accumulation and capital 
loss are affected by the continual tides of economic movement like areas 
of a beach that gain and lose sand. There are different rates of 
circulation of different types of commodities. Different for transportable 
commodities, than for services. Different conditions again for the 
circulation of finance capital and local exchange value.

A momentum builds up that is *both* unfair and spontaneous. Where there
is more capital relative to labour, labour power is in a stronger position
to make some gains against capital. A relatively well-advantaged labour
force emerges, capable of using telephones, and television, whose children
each have a computer, or a computerised game, unlike children in the Third
World who have to help carry water for several miles each day.

Now as technological advances permit the production of 
more and more complex commodities, capital requires a higher educated 
workforce and can allow some slight reduction in the rate of local 
exploitation of this workforce in order to win extra surplus value in 
the global market. At the same time the slightly higher relative wages
permit an enhancement of the living conditions of the workers of these
metropolitan areas in terms of commodity use values (although the quality
of their life may decline).

Note that Marx argues that the capitalist who introduces new technology
gets relative surplus value from enjoying a "sort of monopoly". That 
can be extrapolated to the world scale. The technological rich north 
enjoys a sort of monopoly. It does not have to be perfect, it has merely 
to be a gradient which repeatedly puts the workers and other classes of 
the oppressed countries at substantial disadvantage.

Here I have spelled out a global field theory of the capitalist economy
that frankly does not *emphasise* north south expoitation but does not 
deny the many effects of post imperialist power relationships. Also it  
does not fundamentally require a moral critique of workers in the 
imperialist countries who fail to understand the importance of lowering 
tariff barriers to the free import of say Indian textiles or inward 
migration of labour from countries less well endowed with capital.

On this I guess I part company with MIM.

I do think Pat confuses the Marxist use of the word "productive" meaning
productive of surplus value for the capitalist, with the issue of the 
increased range of commodities in the advanced countries that 
cater for culturally shaped needs of the mind rather than the stomach.

I can supply quotes from Capital for consideration, but the issue has 
been ventilated on this list before.

However although I would like Pat to be a bit more precise about the 
usage of the marxist concept of productive labour, I feel he uses
marxist concepts with flair about real situations, albeit in rather a 
sectarian way. I do feel there should be many more voices on this list 
championing the position of the most oppressed and exploited workers of
the world.

Chris B, London.

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