[Marxism] Question: An epoch of social revolution

DLVinvest at cs.com DLVinvest at cs.com
Fri May 7 02:55:51 MDT 2004


In a message dated 5/6/04 8:28:52 AM Mountain Daylight Time, 
Waistline2 at aol.com writes: 
> In Detroit you had a section of the highest paid industrial workers in 
> America hurled into absolute destitution. Our party organizations began collapse 
> as comrades moved to Texas and the old plantation areas of the South. 

Melvin, 

I suspect that if either of us raised these points back then, we would have 
had to subject ourselves to long sessions of self-criticism within our 
respective organizations, then we would have gone out and denounced each other as 
revisionists. I'm not an economist, and my political-economy is sketchy and dated, 
but here's what I recall from a pastiche of reading and my own experience, 
similar to yours:

Your experience was repeated throughout the industrial belt of the 
northeast-Great Lakes-Ohio Valley midwest, especially in steel, coal, rubber, and other 
sectors tied to auto, all of which were more heavily unionized as result of 
class struggle since 1920s, and therefore with high proportion of variable to 
fixed capital and ever-lower rates of profit as technification increased 
productive capacity, lowered unit-costs of production and reduced the labor-time in 
those sectors. Similar patterns of labor displacement and migration have 
occurred throughout capitalist history in response to changes in the dynamic of 
accumulation, based on the attraction of capital to differential profit rates, 
especially with the liquidation of feudalism and the industrialization of 
agriculture, which lowers the cost of means of subsistence.  

What was "special" about the 1970s-1980s? In part to finance imperial war in 
Southeast Asia,  Nixon & Co. unilaterally devalued the dollar, unhinged it 
from gold and dismantled the monetary framework for world trade under USaegis 
established at Bretton Woods after WWII to regulate inter-imperialist rivalry and 
unify the imperialists as a bloc to compete with and wage war on the USSR and 
socialist countries. The imediate effect was  to lower the relative price of 
commodities produced by US-based firms, giving them a competitive edge against 
European and Japanese capital, especially within the trading bloc dominated 
by the US in this hemisphere, with the resulting immisreation of hundeds of 
millions in Latin America and Africa. OPEC responded to this effective reduction 
in price for crude at the well-head by raising prices four-fold to restore 
pre-devaluation terms of trade. US and British oil companies (the real cartel, 
the Seven Sisters who controlled transportation, refining and distribution 
worldwide) passed these price increases along to customers at wholesale and retail 
levels, with a hefty mark-up for themselves. While US workers and small 
businesses suffered, those in other countries even more dependent on the US-Brit 
cartel fared even worse. But European and especially Japanese autos were more 
fuel-efficient, so they absorbed greater market-share worldwide at the expense of 
US-based producers and all their suppliers. Increased fuel costs and higher 
consumer prices, accompanied by lay-offs, also reduced emplyment and real wages 
as inflation skyrocketed (chronic over-production met acute 
"under-consumption"). Finance capital made like bandits, setting the stage for a new round of 
accumulation as profits and flight capital flowed to US-based banks and they 
steered investment to low-wage satrapies. The law of the tendency of the rate of 
profit to fall was in full effect throughout. (And some of your 
correspondents have posted some data to this list describing the huge flood of speculative 
capital unleashed on the world in the wake of this imperial restructuring.)

But all this is "quantitative" -- at some point, such cumulative quantitative 
changes have "qualitative" effects on the class composition of the world's 
population. The US workingclass suffered and was effectively disorganized even 
as big finance capital used the oil "super-profits" to consolidate the old 
auto-steel-coal-rubber-concrete industrial complex, build up the military for 
future imperial conquest, centralized and concentrated all formations of capital, 
diversified into other, competing fuels and energy resources, and extended 
their control even to the nominally "socialist" part of the world.

The big "qualitative" issue is whether the productive forces have outgrown 
the relations, whether capitalist production has filled up the world in the 
sense Marx meant as a necessary condition for revolution. 

I suspect part of the answer lies in applying the insights of Vol. 3 of 
Capital that Marx envisioned as imperialism took shape in the late 1800s re: the 
growth of an absolute suprlus population, distinct from the "reserve army" of 
un- and under-employed who are here and there, momentarily and temporarily, 
sucked into and thrown out of production; these are the masses of our species that 
may never be engaged in production, yet are deprived of land and any other mea
ns of subsistence; irrelevant, at best, to capital, or even a "sunk cost" and 
therefore utterly expendable so far as capitalists are concerned. This sets 
the stage for genocidal and racist class-war the likes of which the Nazis could 
only hint at, and the rendering of human labor into a mere "factor of 
production" to be consumed in the production process.

My guess, however inelegantly expressed:

The distinguishing "qualitative" characteristic of Nazi-style fascism was, 
and the real essence of the capitalist mode of production on a world scale 
(imperialism in advanced stages of decay) is this qualitatively distinct reduction 
of thinking-feeling humanity to mere labor-power without value to capital 
except insofar as it can be consumed in production without receiving sufficient 
value for its reproduction.  This is the insane "internal logic" of capitalism, 
and the basis for revolutionary change in the mode of production to communism: 
"from each according to ability, unto each according to need" is not only 
possible now, but necessary for the very survival of the vast majority of 
human-kind.

Is this what you have been winkling out in your suggestions about the 
emergence of a new "communist class."

Douglas L. Vaughan, Jr.
Investigations
for Print, Film & Electronic Media
3140 W. 32nd Ave. 
Denver CO 80211
303-455-9429



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