[Marxism] Marxism for the 21st Century
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 13 12:49:27 MDT 2007
Marxism for the 21st Century - a revolutionary tool or more scholasticism?
Monday, 13 August 2007
Michael A. Lebowitz
'Save me from these so-called Marxists who think they have the key to
history in their back pocket! Save me from disciples like those who
followed Hegel and Ricardo!' Few people understood better than Marx how
a theory disintegrates when the point of departure for theoretical work
is 'no longer reality, but the new theoretical form in which the master
had sublimated it.'
Happily for him, Marx was spared the spectacle of disciples scandalized
by the 'often paradoxical relationship of this theory to reality' and
accordingly driven to demonstrate that his theory is still correct by
'crass empiricism', 'phrases in a scholastic way', and 'cunning
argument'. Lucky Marx who (if Engels is to be believed) was before all
else a revolutionary whose 'real mission in life was to contribute, in
one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society' - he missed
the affirmation by 20th Century scholastics that what the working class
really needs for its emancipation is proof that he was right all along
about the transformation of values into prices and the tendency for the
rate of profit to fall!
How can we today follow Marx's mission and contribute to the overthrow
of capitalism? How can we help the working class become 'conscious of
its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its
In a talk several years ago, subsequently published in Monthly Review
(June 2004) with the title, 'What Keeps Capitalism Going?', I stressed
two main points. Firstly, if we understand anything from Capital, it
should be that capital tends to produce the working class it needs -
workers who look upon its requirements 'as self-evident natural laws'.
Why? The point is really simple: (a) the wage necessarily appears as a
payment for a quantity of labour, thereby extinguishing every trace of
exploitation; (b) all notions of justice and fairness are based upon
this appearance of an exchange of labour for money; (c) capital, the
product of workers, necessarily appears as the independent contribution
of capitalists and thereby deserving of a separate return; and (d)
workers, as individuals within capitalist relations, really are
dependent upon capital in order to meet their own needs and, indeed, are
dependent upon particular capitals.
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