[Marxism] Brad DeLong's "Understanding Marx" lecture
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Waistline2 at aol.com
Wed Apr 22 14:16:00 MDT 2009
>> Intelligent people often get caught up in a narrow way of thinking that
makes them unable to see things that don't fit in with there scheme. Brad
is a left of center economist (remember, we have our own metric of such
things), but he interprets Marx in a way that reinforces his own way of
Ideological barriers are virtually impermiable. <<
Ideological barriers - blinders, are the worse kind and spells the end to
critical thinking. In this regard, Delong is not so different, no better and
no worse than many first and foremost myself. My ideas about Marx meaning
and what these ideas mean in my life have changed considerably from first
introduction, 40 years ago, to today. These ideas have been greatly changed
under the impact of the Internet and list such as this one (Marxism) and
Pen-L. A decade ago my concept of value was pathetic and with much help has
become less pathetic.
Excluding his misunderstanding and opposition to Marx approach to the
commodity form and the value relation, Delong’s articulated ideas/vision of Marx
meaning, are not his ideas at all, but rather the most standard and
typical vision advanced by capitalist ideologues and reinforced by some sections
of Marxism. Comparing a Pol Pot to Mao and a Mao to Stalin, etc., is meant
to obscure critical thinking about social revolution and matters of
Rather than the concept of the polarization between wealth and poverty, the
steady growth of first millionaires and then billionaires at one end of
the pendulum of capital concentration, and three billion proletarians living
in absolute poverty on earth and the reality of a good 40% of our working
class, some American economic writers enjoy dwelling on the absolute and
relative improved conditions of our working class in the post WWII period.
Even here the economic relationship describing the improvement of the wages of
the post WW II working class is never measured against the actual rate of
exploitation of capital and a generation of overtime hours. It is often
forgotten that some of the sharpest social conflicts in America occurred
precisely during the expansion of the system and improvement in wages, which set
the great mass of unskilled labor in play.
Why is that?
The post WW II improvement in the life of our working class, has its
fundamental and primary source in the exploitation of the working class at the
front of the curve of capital/industrial development as the pivotal point of
surplus value extraction. The basic condition for the post WWII rise in
income - wages, was the devastating results of WW II, and the gearing up of
America's productive capacity to meet a commodity hunger Europe, rather than
the exploitation of the colonies or the building up of productive forces
in say Africa, Asia and Latina (South) America.
Therefore, in my opinion the only valid approach to measuring absolute
improvement in the conditions of the working class is on the basis of capital
itself as polarization of wealth and poverty at the point of greatest
concentration of capital and surplus value extraction. This is not to deny for a
moment the horrible exploitation and political oppression in countries at
the back of the curve of capital development.
Delong is wrong to imply that Marx believed that revolution comes about as
the result of increasing poverty amongst the working class, and apparently
a section of Marxism support this view.
Revolution, social revolution, comes about as the result of qualitative
changes in the productive forces, the machinery of society self reproduction
and these qualitative changes create the necessity for revolution. The God
force and the market can inspire, but social revolution comes about because
of the introduction of qualitative changes in the productive forces, which
are fundamental to the existence of any and all societies of human beings.
Marx states this in unmistakable terms in his preface to A Contribution to
the Critique of Political Economy.
These qualitative changes accumulate over a period of time and this period
cannot be determined before it happens. Therefore, my suggestion to a
Delong, as a left of center economic thinker is to read Marx famous history
making statement on the process of revolution as society leaps from one mode of
production to another.
The word/concept revolution means social revolution rather than just a
political revolt or insurrection. Lenin's crew did not carry out a revolution,
but rather a political insurrection. Lenin's crew carried out political
insurrection as Russia was passing through a gigantic revolution from agrarian
social relations founded and stabilized on manufacturing process to
industrial society founded on electro-mechanical processes.
The problem is that it has taken the more than one hundred years to really
understand what Marx famous proposition in "Critique" really means. One
should not assume that Delong understands Marx basic statement on the motive
force of social revolution.
My goal is to strive to be as honest as possible with our own history and
our own experience at the front of the curve of capital/industrial
development. We are just beginning to learn how to describe our real life activity
unfettered by old forms of Marxism. Concepts and words that equate
revolution with political insurrection actually causes the meaning of revolution to
be submerged into acts of political revolt and political rebellion.
Revolution means the emergence of a moment of antagonism within the mode of
production, rather than simply saying "class struggle" or "class conflict"
without specific qualifications.
Social revolution cannot take place when society, industrial society, is
passing from one quantitative boundary of development to another. Such is our
experience. The theoretical problem has been an inability to distinguish
between revolutionizing the existing industrial system, which drives
industrial society through its quantitative boundaries as bourgeois and
proletariat fight to shape the emerging boundary in one or the other favor; and the
act of revolutionizing productive forces as a leap away from industrial
configuration as an electro-mechanical process.
We could not distinguish the difference between a quantitative boundary of
development of the industrial system and the emergent properties of a new
mode of production because such is not possible before the new qualitative
configuration has arisen. Thus, we fought the class struggle or the
revolutionary struggle for reform, while fighting to preserve the treasure house
of Marx to the best of our ability. The harsh reality is that no one else on
earth could distinguish the boundaries of a system. The is why wrote the
law system, rather than the specific details as
"No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which
there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production
never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured
in the womb of the old society itself."
For revolution to take place in any society, something new has to be
introduced into the society and this something new has to be injected into the
way society reproduce itself. Then a revolutionary change wave is released
and compel society to leap forward to a new political relations.
As these new qualitative changes in the productive forces accumulate
quantitatively, exponentially, intensively and extensively reconfiguring the old
character of productive forces, the change wave come into increasing
conflict and antagonism with the old social relations, rituals, behavior, ideas,
ideology and habits - the old self reproducing waves, that grew up with a
previously existing form of society self reproduction.
The old ways of life tend to block the full and universal development of
the new productive forces from two directions; the force of habit tied to the
old ways of doing things and the old configuration of production does not
disappear overnight and its persistence is the platform for the old way to
keep self reproducing itself.
However, "the new" steadily triumphs in one field after another compelling
society to make a transition, one way or another to the new method of
producing. More, the qualitative reconfiguration of the productive forces, the
introduction of new productive equipment and machinery - and the growth of
the sciences behind utilization of these new qualitative ingredients,
creates new classes and/or new forms of classes and these new classes and forms
of classes are birthed in antagonism with the old forms of the old social
Revolutionizing the Industrial productive forces does come into conflict
with out dated forms - methods and techniques, of industrial production, but
not antagonism. This conflict was witnessed in the case of the introduction
of the sewing machine organizational technique (Fordism), the Taylor
system and the “lean systems” and “Just In Time” methods introduced in the
late 1970’s and 1980s. This is not the meaning of antagonism. Industrial does
not and cannot evolve in antagonism with itself - industrial. The
manufacturing process, so vividly described by Marx and Engels did not evolve in
antagonism with itself, only conflict with old modes of manufacture.
Poverty does not create the need or necessity for revolution. Poverty can
only create the need for political struggle - class struggles, over a
greater share of the social products and for expanded political liberties. Class
struggle in and of itself cannot usher in revolution, only political
reformulation of the existing system. For revolution, in Marx meaning, what
ushers in the social revolution is the movement of antagonistic classes.
Measuring the activity and self movement of the working class at the front
of the curve of capital/industrial development, against and with the
movements at the back of the curve, no longer makes any sense. Delong is not very
different in substance from some sections of Marxism that put forth a view
that the post WW II rise in the conditions of the American working class
somehow halted or slowed down the revolutionary process.
It did not.
We are actually right on schedule, when the working class at the front of
the curve of capital/industrial development is considered as a whole. Things
in America and at the front of the curve world wide, are a lot worse than
we think and going faster than we think.
Nor has capital showed itself to have an unusual resilience or stability.
The last 30 years of falling wages is barely half of most of our lifetime.
When asked what he thought about the French Revolution, one leading member
of the anti-colonial revolution in China said to the effect, "lets give it
a little time and see."
Pardon, the revolution in China was not a socialist revolution. The
revolution was from agrarian social relations founded on landed property as the
primary form of wealth to industrial social relations of production. During
the real revolution communists seized the commanding heights of power and
attempted to development an industrial system without capital concentrated in
the hands of private citizens and institutions operating on the basis of
bourgeois private property. We are going to witness the outcome of this back
and forth clash over property relations in China in say the next 100 - 150
All we have to do is our part right here at home.
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