[Marxism] Law of Value (was Re: Did the Cuban Revolution enforce socialist realism?)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 31 19:20:32 MST 2012

The central concern of The Socialist Alternative is the process of 
transformation from the initial appearance of socialism, which is 
infused with the old values of capitalism, to the establishment of 
socialism in its pure form “economically, morally and intellectually” 
(p. 91). (This advanced state of socialism is synonymous in many ways 
with “communism.”) Lebowitz recalls that capitalism was also initially 
imperfect and only gradually evolved into an all-encompassing “organic 
system” (p. 95). In both cases, the state plays a key role in the 
achievement of the authentic model of the new system, but progress is 
not irreversible. Throughout the book, Lebowitz points to the 
characteristics and modalities that form part of the “organic” socialist 
system and are, according to the author, interdependent: worker 
solidarity and sense of community; equality; distribution of goods 
according to need; worker management; and elimination of material 
incentives, exchange relations, the market economy, competition among 
workers, and the division between mental and physical labor.

Lebowitz claims that his view of socialism as an ongoing process of 
transformation rather than a stage coincides with Marx’s writing, but 
not that of Lenin. According to Lebowitz, Lenin’s postulation of 
socialism as a “stage” prior to the achievement of communism “distorts” 
(p. 107) Marx’s “dialectical understanding” (p. 108) of the steady 
ripening of conditions leading to pure socialism. The distinction 
between the two conceptualizations is hardly academic. The concept of 
socialism as a stage implies a static strategy and the acceptance of 
certain practices that are open to criticism but are compatible with 
existing subjective or objective conditions during a given historical 
period. Furthermore, the more ambitious goals that underpin “organic 
socialism” tend to be subordinated (if not completely brushed aside) to 
the objectives corresponding to the current stage. (1)

In contrast, by viewing the carryovers from capitalism as “defects” and 
socialism as an ongoing, transformational process, Lebowitz strengthens 
his case for an all-out war to root out capitalist remnants from the 
outset. Revolutionaries, according to Lebowitz, will inevitably pay a 
price for their failure to “consciously and continuously build… the 
solidarian society” (p. 81) and to realize that the defects of the past 
“must be subordinated” (p. 108). In doing so, they leave intact the 
condition of workers as “alienated and fragmented human beings” (p. 86) 
and run the risk of opening the doors for the reestablishment of 
capitalism, as occurred in the former Soviet Union and its Eastern 
European allies.


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