[Marxism] Not about Greece, but, well y'know...

ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
Sat Jul 18 20:28:39 MDT 2015


Gary wrote that Panitch and Gindin's Plan B ... "would have the Left in
Greece morph into a Leftist version of the Salvation Army or St Vincent
De Paul."

I think I know where Gary (and others on this list) are coming from.
Charities do not transcend capitalism: they exist only so that the
capitalist maldistribution of wealth can continute to exist, which
perpetuates poverty amidst plenty.  In socialism, soup kitchens will not
be needed.  They are not an arena for class struggle.

This is one of the areas where strategies that used to be wrong become
right.  It is a big issue, which gets to the heart of the Marxian theory
of wages and profits.  Here is a brief recap:

According to the labor theory of value, profits come from the unpaid
labor of the workers.  The pay check is not an equivalent of the value
produced, but it is a glorified cost of living allowance, calculated
just to be enough so that the worker can survive and come back to work
for the capitalist again.  Marx's goal is to overcome the wage labor
system, so that the workers themselves have a say over and can benefit
from the full amount of wealth they create.

What becomes of this when we must retreat from excess consumption for
ecological reasons?  Then the question is exactly reversed: instead of
asking: how can we rise above an income that just reproduces us as needy
individuals while leaving all the extra wealth created to the
capitalist, now the question is: how can we satisfy our needs with the
smallest possible environmental footprint?  Instead of expanding the
income of the workers as much as possible over necessary labor, now we
must define what necessary labor for a dignified and happy life is and
reduce the work day to this necessary labor alone.  How can we have a
high quality of life while minimizing the stuff that has to be produced
industrially with its inevitable and irreversible damage of the
ecosystem?

This is what becomes of Marx's theories of capitalist exploitation
when we no longer have an economy of abundance but when a retreat
to more modest lifestyles is necessary.

Since there is not much time, not enough time to wrest control of
industrial production away from the capitalists, I propose the following
second-best strategy: capitalists will continue to make profits in the
industrial sector, but the working class should aim to build a
solidarity economy outside the industrial sector, so that the industrial
sector becomes a smaller and smaller part of the overall economy.

Charities are the beginning of this solidarity economy.  Their goal is
not to make people rich but to allow people to satisfy their needs.
Marx's question "what is the daily value of labor-power" is a practical
question central to their operations.  The myth that people depending on
charities must be doing something wrong is losing plausibility.  Working
class people today know that they are only a storm, flood, or fire away
from becoming dependent on charitable organizations, and, due to climate
change, it is only a matter of time until these storms, floods, and
fires arrive.  Therefore calls to improve charities and participate in
them do not fall on deaf ears.  Their own hardship makes people more
generous towards others.

Europe depends on charities less than the US because they have a better
state-financed safety net.  Greece has charities for drug addicts and
those who can no longer pay their health insurance and for the stream of
refugees entering the EU at its strategic southeast corner.  More and
more these charities are needed by ordinary Greeks.  If organized right,
these charities can become centers for solidarity between refugees and
Greek citizens, for self-organization and resistance, and for life with
a low ecological footprint.

Crete has 5 different local currencies.  On the islands, people know
each other and can build trust and reciprocity, which is necessary for
these local currencies to work.  And there is a barter economy: if a
carpenter needs a lawyer or doctor, he pays by building furniture for
them, in some cities, Greeks can go the the theatre by bringing food,
the olive harvest is also an opportunity for beneficial barters.  Often,
one family member works in Germany, and their remittances allow the rest
of the family to survive in this solidarity economy.  Some Greeks move
back home because they see a challenge where they can make a difference.
The European freedom of movement is very important for these coping
strategies.

In Greece, the capitalists have already retreated and left their
production facilities empty and their workers unemployed.  This is an
opportunity to expand the solidarity economy.  Allow people go grow food
on empty lots in the cities and to move into empty buildings, bring
peasants together with consumers of food, etc.  Connect producers and
consumers of locally produced goods and services for an economy based on
barter, local currencies, or gifts.  For instance, here I am
brainstorming and maybe this is wishful thinking, if the government has
to cut pensions or salaries of state employees, they could lighten the
pain by giving supplementary amounts in local currencies, and if they
are required to raise taxes they could lighten the pain by allowing a
part of the taxes to be paid in local currencies.  This is certainly
better than state employees supplementing their incomes by requesting
bribes.  The Eurocrats will not like the use of local currencies by the
state, this may violate the EU contracts forbidding parallel currencies,
this will only be possible if the masses fight for it and if Leftists
are in government.


Here are some of my sources:

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-08-28/solidarity-for-all-greece

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/17/solidarity-economy-greece-mixed-fortunes

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/22/greek-crisis-civil-society-youthnet-hellas


Hans G Ehrbar






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