Production, circulation, distribution and death

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Wed Sep 24 06:41:25 MDT 2003


Just a brief comment:

"Mandel and others categorised retailing as being unproductive - an activity
which consumed surplus value rather than producing it."

This is a total lie, most people who talk about Mandel's work are liars,
because they did not read what he wrote, they were blind Marxists as I said.
Mandel's views are provided in three key texts, namely MET chapter 10, Late
Capitalism (chapter on expansion of the services sector), and Introduction
to Capital Volume 2.

Mandel argues that physical storage of perishable goods, physical transport,
physical transformation in transit, and the packaging of products etc. IS
PRODUCTIVE. He distinguishes carefully between revenue resulting from market
exchanges only and alteration/preservation of the use-values themselves

 The whole tenor of his discussion is that in analysing retail, we need to
distinguish between circulation activities and production activities in
retail. The production activities add new value to the product.

Mandel's argument is that we need to distinguish between reality, which is
dynamic and in motion, and the statistical representation of reality.

Hence, strictly speaking, the productive labour applies to only labour which
adds new value, which adds to the total mass of surplus value, but, we may
not even know in advance whether the labour has done so, because whether it
has done so, depends on whether the surplus-value has been realised through
purchase of the product and the appropriation of payment for the product. We
know if labour has been productive only a posteriori, after the fact.

That is one reason why Marx laughs at bourgeois discussions about productive
labour and considers them hypocritical. Because in reality the argument is
not about wealth creation "in general" at all, it is only about wealth
creation in the specific sense of "what activities contribute directly to
appropriating the maximum private profits". This is a sectional class
perspective by the owners of private capital.

The necessary product and the surplus product should, according to Mandel,
not be conceived statically, but dynamically. It is not as though a worker
"adds value" to such-and-such an amount to the necessary product, and
such-and-such an amount to the surplus product. Rather, the division between
the necessary product and the surplus product in capitalist society is
directly an outcome of class conflict, a direct struggle over the rate of
surplus-value and the rate of exploitation, which starts at the point of
production and is modified by many factors at the level of income
distribution. (The International Socialists, being terrible economists,
"blind" Marxists, and misunderstanding Karl Marx, do not grasp this, their
polemics against Mandel are always, consistently, and thoroughly sectarian
and dogmatic).

Therefore, the struggle over productive labour (over the rate of surplus
value), and the transformation of the capitalist division of labour, depends
according to Mandel crucially on "what you can commoditise", and "how your
can commoditise it", and this raises the question of "what sorts of things
can be commodities". Marx considered this question important from the point
of view of the capitalist modification of the division of labour, but, he
was undecided about the "laws of motion" involved in this, because
technological revolutions could change the whole way in which we thought
about that, in other words, technological revolutions could cause a
qualitative change in the world division of labour.

The only conclusion Marx arrives at (and Mandel mentions) is, that if a
function is not in itself productive, then an alteration of the division of
labour which re-allocates tasks between people does not make the function
productive, and vice versa. But Marx may be wrong about that, precisely
because his own analysis says that productive labour must be dynamically
conceived and not statically. The idea of a "productive function" which Marx
works out is related to his idea that it is not just labour that is
productive, but workers who are productive workers, because they perform
labour which is mainly productive.

But this conception, which is an experiential generalisation and not an
economic concept, may obscure the real issue, by looking at it only from a
capitalist-managerial point of view, because the manager is fully aware that
a worker expends his labour time BOTH in productive tasks and unproductive
activity, and the challenge is to get the worker to expend his labour only
in productive tasks and reduce unproductive activity to zero. So when you
talk about a "productive worker" this is again a historical, a posteriori
judgement, a generalisation of experience, and this generalisation may lead
to errors in economic analysis.

In fact, Mandel refers to this problematic in his German introduction to
some previously unpublished manuscripts by Marx in preparation for Das
Kapital, which are about cooperation and the division of labour within the
production process. For Marx, the function of co-operation within productive
enterprises is also a potentially productive function for capital, and
therefore managers or supervisors who operate this function, also
potentially perform productive labour, because labour within the private
capitalist enterprise which enhances co-operation, increases private
profits. But the "a posteriori" determination of productive labour to which
I referred means that you cannot be certain about this in advance, and this
is reflected in the waffly nature of management literature.

Take for example the air. It is very difficult to commoditise the air,
because you cannot prevent people from breathing it, all you can do is kill
them, but if you kill them, then they cannot buy your commodity and consume
it (whether out of pleasure or out of necessity). However, you can for
example control access to air space, you can sell air products (pressurised
air and so on), you can make clean air a tourist commodity, and clean air
may add value to residential property (the German concept of an "Umwelt
faktor"). Thus, clean air is for the bourgeoisie, and foul air is for the
working class. This social issue is obscured a bit by cultural disputes
about the merits and demerits of smoking cigarettes. But for a hell of a lot
of workers, this clean air-foul air issue is not a sexual joke at all,
because their livespans are shortened by air pollution. And they might say,
"I might smoke cigarettes anyhow, who cares, if they do not kill me this
way, they will kill me that way, life is a bitch and then you die".

In general, I very much regret my studies of what Mandel wrote in some ways,
because I was savagely persecuted as a result of that, and my persecutors
were all liars without any exception whatsoever. My research was cancelled,
because science is incompatible with lies.

People who say that the class struggle is dead because of qualitative
transformations in modern capitalism are wrong, because the class conflict
continues, and social inequality increases as a result, due to bad
leadership among other things. The capitalists as a class do not give a damn
about whether hundreds of millions of people die as a result of capitalism,
and they do not give a damn about whether or not the human species might
peter out sometime after they are dead, as a result of capitalist
development. They argue that capitalism is just only one factor in the
equation, one factor in a bigger picture.  Their lifestyle is based on the
principle of, "live now, pay later" but they tell the workers and peasants,
"no pain, no gain". For the working class, the peasantry and the offspring
of the people alive now, that however means death.

Which is why Mandel came to the conclusion that Rosa Luxemburg's idea of
"socialism or barbarism" was only partly correct, it was more a 20th century
idea. The appropriate 21st century idea is "socialism or death". All that
really happens in reformist discussions is arguments about the
redistribution of death, along the lines of, "I am glad it is not me that
has to die", and "these people deserve to die, and these other people do not
deserve to die", in other words, it is arguments about the allocation and
re-allocation of death. This becomes very clear when you look at the public
interpretation of the 9/11 incident.

Jurriaan









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