[Marxism] Question: An epoch of social revolution/1

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Fri May 7 05:47:31 MDT 2004

In a message dated 5/7/2004 3:59:07 AM Central Standard Time, 
DLVinvest at cs.com writes:
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 surplus 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 . . .


Bingo. That is the question. 

Your description of the industrial advance since say 1920 , rationalization 
of industrial production, the oil shocks - Nixon years and scrapping of Bretton 
Woods, undermining Europe and Japan and the impact of auto production from 
Japan captures our general experience. In my opinion we simply could not know or 
discern the new features we currently face in the 1970s or 1980s.

Theoretical Marxism faces some tough questions arising from qualitative 
changes in the material power of production.  Not a spiral of endless quantitative 
additions intensifying rationalization of production, that at a certain point 
add up to a "qualitative change"  . . . but the injection into the production 
process of a qualitatively different ingredient, different from 
electromechanical processes. 

This is to say, "whether capitalist production has filled up the world" poses 
the question incorrectly on the basis of an external collision. There are 
other aspects of the question needing different formulation from "the last 

Even the concept of social relations of production or "relations of 
production" or "production relations" has to be defined on the basis of our own 

Slavery in the plantation areas of the South can be identified as a specific 
labor process, with a distinct deployment of labor and tools. The slave 
holding class was overthrown - shattered, as the result of the Civil War and the 
slave class abolished. Did the social relations of production change? What 
appears to have happened is that the form of social relations changed because social 
relations or production relations are riveted to how human labor is deployed 
within a definable stage of development of tools, instruments and machines, 
driven on the basis of an energy infrastructure . . . with the property relation 

Every social revolution must proceed from, stand upon and develop from an 
economic revolution or a revolution in the material power of productive forces. 
It is not possible to truly liberate slaves or proletarians without replacing 
them with more efficient energy. At the time of Emancipation, there was no such 
economic revolution in the means of production connected to Southern 
agriculture. The "social relations of production" or the production relations could 
not and did not change. The political forms of these social relations changed, 
without changing the property relations.  

The tools, the sharecropping slavery and the poverty of the South changed 
very little from 1870 to 1940. The invention of the cotton picker that year and 
the development of weed-killing chemicals in the early 1950s, was the economic 
revolution for the "social revolution" of 1864 to stand upon. The social 
revolution was given its economic legs to stand upon and moved to completion. The 
death of sharecropping slavery was followed by a massive Freedom Movement and 
the outlawing of segregation and discrimination. This economic phase is summed 
up as the mechanization of agriculture and the black and white sharecropper 
was tractored off the land along with the family farm. 

The mechanization of agriculture is a qualitatively different laboring 
process than the technological regime underlying slavery and the sharecropping 
system. Mechanization deploys labor, machinery and energy on a qualitatively 
different basis than slavery and sharecropping. The liberation of a class entails 
its abolition as a distinct class riveted to a definable configuration of the 
material power of production. The proletariat is not the grave digger of 
capital. The advance of industry is the grave digger or the process that digs the 
grave for capital - according to Marx, and we throw the dig in his face. 

The mechanization of agriculture meant the quantitative expansion of the 
quality that is a specific deployment of machines, labor and energy. Today when we 
talk about the revolution in agricultural production we are talking about the 
biogenetic revolution. The biogenetic revolution did not simply grow out of 
mechanization of agriculture but rather the scientific revolution. 

The results of the revolution in science are first injected into - grafted 
unto, the existing infrastructure of labor, machinery and energy deployment. The 
existing infrastructure begins to undergo a slow quantitative expansion of 
this new qualitative technique. The new technique hits barriers or collide with 
the "pathways" of the old infrastructure and at a certain stage in the 
quantitative addition of this new quality, new pathways or a new configuration in the 
infrastructure has to be created for its qualitative expansion. 

This sketch outlines how classes rise and fall and their basis for 
emancipation, as it has played itself out in American history. The social revolution is 
an economic revolution or revolution in how we produce, exchange and 
distribute products. 

Apparently this process is more difficult to witness in industry proper. Much 
of this is because we are only at the second stage of the quantitative 
addition of this new process - quality, called computerization, digitalized process 
and advanced robotics. The reconfiguration of the old communication pathways 
are well underway and has been called, "the information revolution." The 
revolution in the information/communications infrastructure is what gave the 
speculative sector of capital its new legs and allowed it to ascend to dominator of 
the world total social capital. 

What is taking place is not really an "Information Revolution" but a 
revolution in the mode of production in material life. I would argue or rather debate 
on the basis that we are at the second stage of this new social process. The 
human eye cannot see the emergence of a new qualitative feature. What we can 
see is that which has emerged. Because it has emerged and can be witnessed means 
you are at the second stage.  

I hate sounding like a jerk, but the first visible stage of the social 
process means you are at the second stage by definition. 

>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.<

This is how we formulated the question on the basis the last quantitative 
boundary in the expansion of the industrial system. What if we reformulated the 
question as: whether the material power of production is outstripping 
industrial (social) relations and threatening to burst asunder the bourgeois property 

Here the question is posed on the basis of the development of contradiction 
based on its internal components as opposed to "external collision" or "whether 
capitalist production has filled up the world." In my opinion the latter 
formulation has much to do with Rosa Luxembourg's "Accumulation of Capital." 

Society is formed on the basis of the unity of productive forces and 
production relations. Productive forces or the material power of production is a 
combination of labor, tools and machinery plus energy source. We of course are 
presupposing the existence of human beings or we are not talking about anything.  
Production relations are 1). the laws defining property. 2). the relationship 
of people to property. 3). IN THE PROCESS OF PRODUCTION. 

The constant, spontaneous development of the material power of production 
eventaully distrupts the unity that is productive forces and production 
relations, with the property relations within. Marx famous outline can now be 
understood much more fully. 

Our productive forces are not capitalist but industrial. Our industrial 
productive forces evolved from the manufacturing process. The Soviet Union 
developed the same industrial productive forces as industrial America and - at the 
risk of provoking everyone, the same production relations as America with a 
different property relations within. Socialism is not an economic system but a form 
of property. 

In the past many comrades attempted to unravel the "socialist social 
relations of production" and hit the wall . . . no one really made sense and this was 
a historical error or historical limitation - to a degree. It is a historical 
error - to a degree, because Lenin fought out this question and condemned 
those comrades how accused the Bolsheviks of wanting "State Capitalism" by 
importing industrial machinery and technique from bourgeois America.   

What if the question was never whether "capitalist production had filled up 
the world?" Industrial production on the basis of the bourgeois property 
relations can only "fill up the world" in relationship to political feudalism or the 
landed property relationship or what is the transition from agriculture to 
industry. In this concrete meaning we are talking about an external collision 
between different economic systems and not the internal development of the 
industrial system.  

Perhaps looking at what Marx states can clarify the issue. 

Part 1

Melvin P. 

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