[Marxism] Brad DeLong's "Understanding Marx" lecture

Waistline2 at aol.com 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 
political  economy. 
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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