Re Peter Grimes interview on Indymedia/Marxists economy

Waistline2 at Waistline2 at
Thu Nov 6 09:22:35 MST 2003

In a message dated 11/5/03 2:05:25 PM Pacific Standard Time, Schanoes at MNR.ORG

No one argues that oil reserves are infinite.  The issue is if the
actions of capital leading up to and following OPEC 3 in 1999 are the
result of resource scarcity or profit declines and historical
overproduction. . . it wasn't the shortage of
capital frightening the bourgeoisie, it was the opposite, the
overproduction of capital that had depressed the rate of profit.

If you think an absolute resource scarcity was the cause of the
collapse of the USSR can you please provide some more detailed analysis,
something more concrete than headlines about Putin and Yukos.



"Towing the line" has its benefits and pleasure. It is a heavy burden but you
seem to carry well on this issue of "scarcity." Oil by definition is finite
on earth because the earth is finite. This matter of use value and exchange
value is enough to make ones head spin. What are we talking about? The question
is not the utility of a thing - use value, in Marx Capital or its
exchangeability - value that is manifest as exchange value, for that matter.

Marx is describing the conditions under which products become commodities -
or more accurately, the evolution of the commodity form. He in turn describes
the evolution of the commodity form on the basis of bourgeois property. Human
labor becomes a commodity or more accurately acquires a commodity form, that is
sold and purchased in the market as labor power.

Labor and "the labor process is "supra-historical" in the appropriation of
nature for the means of subsistence," because this is the condition for
existence of women. Labor and the labor process exists as the condition of history.
The biblical Adam and Eve were not laborers - or rather, evolved along a
trajectory where their conditions of existence is junctured with their expulsion from
the Garden of Eden. Adam is hurled unto the earth as a tiller of the land - a
farmer. Let us assume that at some point he no longer tilled the land with
his unaided hands and muscles. Instruments of production enter history and the
long march ahead begins.

Women enters history appropriating ready made products of nature and in this
sense it is strange to apply the category of "use-value" - utility, to this
ready made bounty. Ready made bounty of nature is not a product by definition.
Use-value means more than simply utility and is better understood as a unity
with exchange value. Use value embody and expresses not "use" or "utility" as
fundamentality but value. Eating a ready made apple from nature ten thousand
years ago is not an act of appropriation of a use value. Use-value and exchange
value acquire meaning as the substance of the commodity form or the value form
of social products. The evolution of the commodity form has a history
thousands of years old. Instruments of production must make their appearance for the
evolution of the commodity form to make sense.

>To argue from the existence or scarcity of use values is to deny the
essential characteristic of social production-- the expropriation of
surplus value-- in favor of  ahistorical quantitiies.<

The above is correct.

>From time to time comrade speak of the "use-value" of oil - meaning its
utility, and put "Use-value" in quotes. Why not say the utility of oil in the
industrial infrastructure? Nothing without utility can enter exchange in the first
place. Use value is not a "supra-historical" concept, but concrete and
specific as a category of political economy.

Labor and "the labor process is "supra-historical" in the appropriation of
nature for the means of subsistence," embody this historical curve and this is
basically called the materialist conception of history. Attributing concepts of
political economy to nature before economy arises as such departs from
"towing the line." The burden is heavy but such is our lot. The line was correctly
towed when DMS specifically point to the existence of a surplus as setting the
stage - a juncture, in the emergence and evolution of the commodity form. I
hate sounding like a "yes" man but how can one say "no" to what is clearly

Generally, this kind of "stuff" is the substance of the "ABC of Marxism."
Tools and/or instruments must exist, a surplus emerge in society and this sets
the basis for exchange or the development of the commodity form.

>No economic analysis of the oil industry can be made based on the
production of use values, or the supply of natural resources. The
determining quality is the labor process and the expropriation of that
labor process.  If you want to know why the price of oil tripled after
1998 that is an economic, social, inquiry about the production of
exchange values, not an inquiry into the geological history of oil

The bourgeois as a class is not driven by its intellectual understanding of
nature or scarcity - real or perceived. They are driven by the logic of
property relations and their geopolitical considerations demands that they fight the
worlds people as the first survival imperative. Under conditions where oil was
actually running out, this factor would not drive the bourgeoisie as a class.

Socialism does not and cannot solve problems of science or real scarcity. A
transition to socialism in America will not solve or recast my ignorance on
many questions simply because we have a "higher" and better mode of production.
We face the same questions the previous generations of communists and socialist
faced at another level of development of the commodity form. Scarcity has to
be understand in the context of property relations or the commodity form
because everything on earth at the disposal of women is finite by definition -
except our infinite capacity to make new mistakes.

This is not a generalization or avoiding the issue but the starting point to
viewing the issue and its resolution. On one level or another species come
into and go out of existence. There is probably a distinct law governing this
process. Socialism cannot solve the issue of species extinction as a historical
law because this is a question of science. Socialism can solve species
extinction as it is driven on the basis of the bourgeois property relations or rather
the destruction of the commodity form recasts the question and allows for a
higher resolution of the social questions. Everything "we" do has an impact on
earth and the biosphere and more often than not, this impact remains unknowable
until a certain stage in the development of the social process that is women
and nature.

This matter of industrial socialism - public property relations in the
industrial infrastructure, and its internal processes has to be treated in a strict
materialist fashion. Calling this "socialism in one country" obscures the
question because socialism and capitalism are more than less political forms of
property at a given stage in the evolution of the commodity form. Oil probably
had "something" to do with the continuous expansion and qualitative development
of the industrial infrastructure in the Soviet Union. I have no idea about
how this is related to the overthrow of public property relations in the
industrial infrastructure. Heck, on one level or another everything and ever action
on earth exist as an interactive process. However, this is the worse possible
approach to the question in my opinion.

The mistakes of industrial socialism are historical errors and no one is
really foolish enough to build a damn knowing that a month after its construction
say, a million people are going to die. Then politics get in the way of
science. If a group of folk came to me - our committee for approval of plans to
build a dam and one lone voice said, "This will result in disaster in fifty years"
I would look at everyone in the room and explain that I know zero about dam
construction. I would ask comrade CB and DMS what they know about dam
construction and if they both stated, "Not a damn thing" I would hunch my shoulders and
then go along with the majority. Hoping our actions would not send all of us
to hell. This is not a problem of socialism but human thinking.

Much of the mistakes of capital in its ascendency are historical errors.
Trying to solve historical errors of capital on the basis of bourgeois property
compounds the errors of history and convert them into real blunders of
foolishness and down right stupidity and evilness.

I tend to separate the subjective factors of socialism from the abstract
purity of public property relations in the industrial infrastructure. Communism
has revealed itself for our generation and the conclusion is obvious: communism
cannot be built on the basis of the industrial system and only becomes
possible once the commodity form has reached its zenith - crossed over, and begins

Each generation gets its "shot" at "doing the right thing."

What is unsustainable is bourgeois property and it's logic of reproduction.

Melvin P.

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