Marxism in rich countries
j.bendien at wolmail.nl
Wed Jun 6 15:37:58 MDT 2001
Actually, Anwar Shaikh does not show that use values are 'useful effects'
in general.He more or less asserts that. For Marx, a service is the useful
effect of a use-value, where the use-value is concrete (specific or
specialised) labour. That is one of his definitions anyway. The issue that
arises is whether the provision of services can be a production of
commodities, even if they don't result in any tangible product. Marx never
satisfactorily defined the boundaries of commodity production, hence his
concept of productive labour remains a bit vague. According to Mandel,
services in the Marxist sense cannot be commodities, although many
activities listed statistically as "services" are really straightforward
commodity production. The trend a la Mandel would then presumably be for
more and more services to be transformed into, or substituted by,
commodities. You get a sense of that when so many services these days are
presented and accounted for as "products". I don't think it is possible to
devise a non-arbitrary, watertight definition of "material production"
(since most production has some materiality to it). Marx actually sometimes
contrasts material production with "spiritual production" (geistliche
produktion) such as when a writer writes a book. And sometimes he contrasts
material production with the production of ideas as well. The issue is of
some importance for understanding the future of capitalist development. How
compatible is the growing "information economy" with capitalist social
relations anyway ? How does the commodity form get imposed on information ?
How stable a commodity is information ? How does the imposition of the
commodity form on information affect the pattern of communication ?
>Therefore, they should not be confused with
>physically tangible objects. A host of productive activities do not yield
>products that are tangible objects (haircuts, transportation, genetic data,
>etc.) because the product does not exist in tangible form or its production
>coincides with the act of consumption. Excluding labor spent under
>sub-standard technical conditions and therefore wasted, non-productive labor
>under capitalism is labor spent in (1) the change of forms (pushing
>commodity exchange) and (2) social and political control (in the workplace
>or outside). Supervisory labor that is technically required under
>capitalist production is productive labor in this sense.
>While a lot of hair-splitting can be done here, the thing is that when we
>take this into consideration, the collective producer (regardless of the
>color of their collars) remains an absolute majority of the adult-and-able
>population in rich capitalist societies.
>CB: How about WAGE-LABORERS, as 85 % of the adult pop. ?
>accordance with this view, most workers in the rich capitalist societies are
>Marxists who perceive the working class in the rich capitalist countries as
>spoiled by higher real incomes, and better working and living conditions,
>overestimate the ability of wealth to satisfy human needs, particularly to
>please and pacify the human condition of people who are systematically
>engaged in shaping up the world with their hands and minds. IMO, it is
>inherent to Marxism the belief that our outlook stems not so much from our
>consumption activities as it does from our productive activities, from our
>engagement as workers. If we believe that the acquisition and consumption
>of modest amounts of wealth render workers submissive, vain, and powerless,
>then we have abandoned the spirit of Marxism. [The counterpart of this is
>the idealization of poverty as a revolutionary engine, the denial of its
>CB: So your explanation for the failure of revolution in the rich
>countries is that it is entirely the fault of the socialists and
>communists , who lost the propaganda war, the battle of ideas with the
>bourgeoisie to win the hearts and minds of the working classes of those
>countries ? You give no credence to the material basis explanation ( booty
>from imperialism generating opportunism in the wc in rich countries) for
>this given not only by Lenin , but by Marx and Engels ? The latter
>discussed the "bourgeoisification" of much of the British working class
>based on imperialist booty.
>I have alluded in another posting to Lenin's frank assessment of the
>historical, revolutionary role of urban proletarians in Russia, in spite of
>its smallness, which contrasted with a large peasantry. The specific weight
>of proletarians in the Russian society depended crucially on the position
>they occupied in the economic structure. Their ability to transform society
>(not only to paralyze and dislocate but mainly to resist and build) was a
>potency invested on them by their role in social production.
>CB: Weren't these "urban proletarians" overwhelmingly industrial
>proletarians , too ? Giving an empirical basis for strategy of industrial
>concentration ( not exclusive attention) by the Leninists in the rich
>Analogously, in rich capitalist societies nowadays, the educated and highly
>skilled segments of the working class occupied in dynamic and strategic
>areas of social production are to be regarded as the potential leaders of
>the social revolutions to come. Marxists have an obligation to investigate
>their living and working conditions, their interests and view of the world,
>and engage with them. The challenge is to do it in a way that is consistent
>with workers' solidarity, the support of the most vulnerable and
>impoverished sectors of the working class, and the assistance to the direct
>producers in the poorer societies.
>CB: What is your evidence that communists in rich countries have not
>investigated and engaged educated and highly skilled segments of the
>working class ? They have. It would be more pertinent to advise on why
>those investigations and engagements have failed.
>An undeniable practical problem is that highly educated workers are 'harder'
>to persuade and organize.
>CB: Why do you say this ? What is the evidence and argument for this claim
>? More highly educated workers are more likely to have read some
>Marxism-Leninism, studied science ( a basis for understanding the Marxist
>For good or ill, the further advance of Marxism in the rich capitalist world
>is to be measured by a triple standard: (1) How effective they become in
>attracting educated workers in the dynamic sectors of the economy in the
>rich capitalist countries,
>CB: Are you saying that the "educated workers" are the most revolutionary
>sector of the working class in rich countries , and not the "industrial
>workers" ? If so, where has this strategy been demonstrated ? Or is it a
> (2) how effective they become in protecting and
>defending the rights, living and working conditions of impoverished and
>vulnerable workers in the traditional sectors of the economy and poor direct
>producers in the 'Third World', and (3) how effective they become in
>engaging in a revolutionary political struggle in the rich capitalist
>It's a path set with tensions and contradictions, but the anti-imperialist
>strategy can only bring more insignificance and irrelevance to revolutionary
>Marxism as a method and worldview. Anti-imperialism is a democratic
>ingredient in the class struggle of workers in the whole world, it is in
>itself an important struggle, but it cannot be the core of the strategy
>CB: Are you saying the core strategy must be to concentrate
>on radicalizing educated workers in the rich countries ?
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