[Marxism] The absence of real forces [was: The low point]

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Fri Aug 3 23:05:09 MDT 2007

Marvin Gandall writes: "Tantalizing. What kind of national capitalist
interactions are you referring to which pose a challenge to traditional
Marxist theory, and  how do they do so? I'm sure I'm not the only one on
this list who's genuinely interested in your speculations and where they are
leading you."

What I'm focused on is that I feel we need a way to account for a systemic,
"automatic" exploitation of the third world nations by imperialism through
the mechanism of the world market itself.

I think the mechanism lies in an unexplored (at least by me -- and I'm not
an academic or specialist) area of labor theory of value.

Value is a SOCIAL category. But what happens when the economic value
structures of two societies begin to interact? Those things that are easy
for one society to produce get shipped to the other society where they are
"more valuable," and vice-versa, assuming both are societies based on
generalized commodity production for the market. As best I understand it
(and this may not be a very sophisticated understanding) the unfettered
operation of the market should lead to an "equalization" of values: the
exchange of commodities builds a bridge between the two markets and this
leads to equal exchanges, on average, over time. 

My observation is that this doesn't happen, mainly because one society keeps
the other one down by decapitalizing it, sucking out the surplus value, so
that you get a systematic, organic situation of unequal exchange --more
labor is embodied in the commodities sent to the imperialist countries than
is embodied in the commodities sent back from the imperialist countries.
Part of the labor time of commodities from semicolonial countries is not
recognized in the imperialist market, and too much labor time is recognized
in the commodities from the imperialist country in the semicolonial market.
The missing/extra value 

And my gut feeling is that this is true because you're not allowed to get to
an international labor market. Labor power is constrained to remain within
its national market, and in many ways within its local market. But other
commodities --at least some-- are allowed to find their value not within the
national market, but within the international market. Labor power is not.
And this sets up a situation where systematically, an hour of Third World
labor is only recognized as a half hour, or a quarter hour, when the
products of that labor get to New York.

I don't have this worked out in any detail, with mechanics and
counterarguments to objections and so on. I'm not an economist. I just have
a gut feeling that the explanation has to lie somewhere in this field of the
way capitalist national economies interact. Because the exchanges are
fundamentally and systematically unequal, at least in terms of the labor
theory of value. We know from Marx that commodities can be traded
systematically above or below their value and not just fluctuating around
the monetary expression of their "true" Value. This certainly seems to be
the case here.

This instead of a theory that would say simply that extra economic factors
--brute force, superiority in arms, colonial subjugation-- are what keeps
the exchanges from being equal. It may be that originally, to establish the
pattern of unequal exchange only force and subjugation will do, and even
that to maintain the pattern some application of force is needed from time
to time otherwise there will be a drift towards equal exchange, but I'm
looking for a mechanism that in the main will result in automatic,
continuing unequal exchange, even if there is a slow tendency that must be
counteracted towards equal exchange. This to explain semi-colonialism and
the joint, largely cooperative exploitation by the imperialist countries of
the third world.


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