[Marxism] RE: Katrina's real name

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Tue Aug 30 16:23:37 MDT 2005

Andrew wrote:

>>I hope the anti-capitalist community realizes that an opportunity to
critique capitalism independent of the labor exploitation line is now more
obvious than ever.<<

It may be an opportunity to do this, but why narrow our scope? The two are
integrally related, as John Bellamy Foster explains very well in "Marx's
Ecology". A short summary of his argument follows (part of something longer
I wrote):

[Marx’s pursuit of freedom] was spurred on by awareness of alienation, a
concept that began to emerge in his early polemic about the theft of wood.
The rising capitalist order denied the poor their traditional right to
firewood, an aspect of the wider ‘privatisation’ of common land into the
hands of the rich. This was part of turning the working people into a
wage-earning proletariat, but at the same time it destroyed all their
relationships to nature not mediated by private property. As Eldridge
notes, this process began with the move from hunting and gathering to
agriculture, but Marx focuses on a further, tragic step. It was part of a
dual alienation: the labourers were estranged from the products of their
labour, and at the same time from nature, with everything commodified (as
the Durban Declaration notes.)

This dual alienation brought a rift in the natural and social ‘metabolism’.
Marx used the German word Stoffwechsel (exchange of ‘stuff’, material)
which better captures the sense of a constant and vitally important
interaction with nature – our ‘natural workshop’-- and amongst ourselves.
However the rise of capital (he wrote in the Grundrisse), presupposed:

"a process of history which dissolves the various forms in which the worker
is a proprietor, or in which the proprietor works. Thus above all (1)
Dissolution of the relation to the earth – land and soil – as natural
condition of production – to which he relates as to his own organic being 

(2)issolution of the relations in which he appears as proprietor. (p. 170)"

Workers’ loss of their organic link to nature is an essential aspect of
losing control over the means of production; a devastating double pattern
of capitalist alienation. Just as we lose control over capital (the fruits
of our own past labour) which returns as an alien power to exploit us, so
we lose control of our relation to nature; the ‘subjection of nature’s
forces to man’ becomes the seizure of land by an exploitative minority. 

Capitalism obliges millions of the working population to move to cities
where they have no alternative but to labour for capitalist employers;
while those who remain on the land are likewise forced to work for
capitalist farmers. Either way, people who used to gather and grow their
own food, and the materials for their own clothing, begin to purchase these
things through intermediaries. Today we buy most things in supermarkets and
department stores, seldom asking whence they came.

This threatens to create a fundamental crisis for humanity, because: ‘Man
lives from nature, i.e. nature is his body, and he must maintain a
continuing dialogue with it if he is not to die.’ (p. 72) The emancipation
of labour on the economic, political and social fronts becomes inseparable
from restoring workers’ organic connection to the earth.

Full essay: http://redsites.alphalink.com.au/greenreview1.htm

More information about the Marxism mailing list