[Marxism] (no subject)

S. Artesian sartesian at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 24 16:38:20 MST 2009

And I had all these great things to say about antagonism and its non-use by 
Marx in Capital... oh well.

I think that what you say about capital being an "environment within an 
environment" is very insightful in that the historical specificity of 
capitalism is clearly defined in such a description.

We can say, and I would say, the determining contradiction that drives 
history is the conflict, or antagonism if you prefer, between the 
organization of labor and the conditions of labor.  Within that environment 
we have the conflict specific to capital between the means of production 
organized, monopolized by the bourgeoisie, as private property and the 
social organization of labor as wage-labor.  Further within that 
environment, we see this conflict compressed, transferred, and reproduced in 
every product of created by the exchange between wage-labor and capital, in 
the commodity-- in its dual form, coincident existence, as both useful 
article and value.  We see the inseparability of the coincident facets, 
use-value and exchange value, and we can see how use-value tends to 
undermine value, to which threat value responds by withholding, 
incinerating, destroying use-value--  by devaluing itself.

And this contradiction within the conflict within the antagonism (if you 
like) is expressed throughout capitalism as the conflict between the 
usefulness of accumulating the means of production, which can only exist in 
commodity form, and the ability to accumulate profits.  In short, the 
conflict between the means and relations of production.

(Brief cinematic digression:

"But all this... this discussion.... You were made as well as we could make 
you," said Eldon Tyrell.  "Revel in your time, Roy."

"I've done....questionable things," said  Roy.

"You've done remarkable things.")

Marx doesn't really begin with the exploration of primitive accumulation. 
He begins Capital  with --The Two Factors of  A Commodity:  Use-Value and 
Value (The Substance of Value and the Magnitue of Value).   Most difficult 
part of his analysis, Marx says, this twofold existence of the commodity. 
Starts us right off with it because in that two-fold character is the social 
relation of production that is at the core of capitalism.

But back to the issue at hand:  The original question is, was, the 
"inevitability" of defeat in revolutionary struggles, an inevitability 
determined by the technical development of capitalism-- not simply its 
expansion, but its sophistication in the productive process.  Crudely I 
could put this:  Were the Chinese workers destined to fail in the 1920s 
because capitalism had not advanced sufficiently?  Is it the backwardness of 
capitalist development that limits the revolution in China to an 
"anti-imperialist" struggle?  And crudely again, "Did Mao triumph because he 
more faithfully represented the backwardness of the economy, of the 
technical development of the mode of production?"  I think that's where we 
came in.

Short version:  Is historical materialism a hammer-lock on the proletarian 
revolution? Is there a technological determinism to it, or is the assertion 
of a technological determinism really an imposition of a mechanistic, and 
formalized, interpretation of Marx's work?

Historically, the argument was known as the "stages" argument, with sooner 
or later back then, every opponent of the proletariat's revolution in Russia 
pretending at some knowledge of Marxism deploying the "not now, we're not 
ready" argument against the actual existence of the workers' seizure of 

So we need to ask, what are the elements that would indicate that capitalism 
has indeed developed enough, that the proletariat has developed beyond 
contradiction and to antagonism, that bourgeois private property is 
obsolete?  Would we say, only where and when agriculture is conducted on a 
large, and largely mechanized, scale, with minimal labor inputs?  Would we 
say, only where and when tenant-farming, debt-peonage, hacienda/plantation 
agriculture have been replaced by "free" yeoman farmers?  Would we say only 
where industrial production is  X percent of GDP?  How do we know when 
capitalism has reached the wall, or the curve, or the event horizon?  Would 
we say, only where X amount of the population lives in urban areas?

Well let's first consider the above "markers."  The historical facts are 
that between, 1885 and 1975,  capital's intrusion into less capitalistically 
developed areas has actually supported the power of the hacienda, the 
plantation; has actually fed the force of debt-peonage, tenant-farming; 
limiting the mechanization of agriculture.  Capitalism in fact had fused all 
these modern indicators with maintenance of the most backward and archaic 
organizations of land and labor.  So no revolution until after 1975?  Well, 
I give Marx a lot of credit, but not for seeing that far ahead, especially 
when he saw the proletarian revolution burst forth in the Paris Commune.

Perhaps just the opposite indicates the advance of capitalism to its 
limits-- perhaps its inability to overturn the haciendas, to provide 
agricultural labor that is not impoverished, tethered to the land in order 
to provide for subsistence when wages were below subsistence, perhaps the 
inability of capitalism to create a domestic market in these countries, 
perhaps capitalism's inability to employ its technological development fully 
in the reproduction of value is the indication that capital has hit the 
wall/mirror of its own existence.  Perhaps the fact that, after WW2, capital 
did compel the migration of millions from countyside to city in Latin 
America, Asia, without coincidentally transforming the nature of 
agricultural production, without being able to actually employ the millions 
of migrants to the extent and degree that it employed those in the great 
migrations of the  middle/late 19th century and the early 20th century--  
pehaps that's the indication that this is about as far as capitalism goes, 
and everything after this is just decomposition and reconstitution of the 
same failures on a more vicious scale-- perhaps that's the indicator.

What is required for the proletarian revolution to have a chance, the 
opportunity, of success in a revolutionary struggle?  Well, that it exist, 
for one.  And that the bourgeoisie cannot resolve the conflict, the 
contradictions of their own system without destroying the means of 
production, without attacking the living conditions of the urban and rural 

Is there a definite moment when we can say "Now.  Now the means of 
production have been sufficiently developed to allow the overthrow of the 
bourgeoisie."?  I actually think there is, there was that historical line of 
demarcation when capitalism had "fulfilled" its "purpose,"  its "historical 
obligation" to development-- and that moment came with the transition of 
capitalist appropriation from a dependency upon absolute surplus value and 
into the aggrandizement of relative surplus value.

That point takes place after the US Civil War and is generally known as the 
period of the "long deflation" -- 1873-1898, when prices declined 
dramatically for all commodities, including foodstuffs, so much so that real 
wages for workers actually increased although nominal wages were stagnant, 
declined or showed very little growth.  This is the period of tremendous 
increases in productivity in agriculture, in transportation, in 
production---  and it is the period when capital continuously expands only 
to devalue itself; and it is the period when capital advances its movement 
beyond North America, Australia, Europe, Britain, Argentina, and penetrates 
into Mexico, Brazil, Asia where-- in these areas capital proves itself 
incapable of revolutionizing the mode of production precisely due to its 
organization as private property, which makes it incapable of overthrowing 
the pre-existing social relations of production-- the hacienda, the 
plantation etc.

So what we get with capital's actual development of the means of production 
is simultaneously overproduction and underdevelopment; simultaneously the 
expansion of the world market, and the suppression of national markets in 
these areas;   And at the end of that period of the long deflation, what do 
we get?  We get Plessy v. Ferguson  with the Supreme Court codifying Jim 
Crow as the law of the land and we get-- The Spanish-American war, where the 
US takes over as the guarantor of underdevelopment, of accumulation of 
absolute surplus value, in Cuba, the Philippines, etc.  And this guarantee 
is created in the technical expansion and advancement of capitalist 
production which has become the great restriction.

That does not mean that revolution is always on the agenda,  that it will 
break out any day, every day.  It means that when the eruption starts-- the 
resolution is only in the triumph of the proletariat, or in its defeat and 
destruction.  I tend to think that the outcome of the struggle is not 
pre-determined technically, but socially, based on assimilating, rather than 
repeating the lessons, rather than the failures, of the past.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <Waistline2 at aol.com>
To: "David Schanoes" <sartesian at earthlink.net>
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 4:21 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] (no subject)

More information about the Marxism mailing list