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Re: [ox-en] Labor contradictions

Hi Stefan, Grahal, Michel, all !

on 29/11/2007 Stefan Merten wrote :
Hi Graham and Raoul!

If I understand the both of you correctly then you are puzzled by
phenomenons where labor society is on its rise - instead of its fall
as for instance I suggest. If I remember right then your main examples
are from China where the labor society certainly gets bigger.

I have one point and one question about this. The point is that of
developments not happening at the same time. Capitalism came into
being in Europe and it took two centuries to make it the dominant mode
of production world-wide. Or even more than two centuries if the
developments in China are understood as the extension of capitalism
into not yet conquered areas - which is certainly a valid point of
Of course, I don't pretend to talk in Graham's place. He already answer to your questions and, as you will see, we don't always agree. I suppose that if you say "labor society" instead of "capitalist society" you have a reason. But I am not sure I understand it. I see capitalism as a "labor society", since one of its main characteristic is to be based on wage labor. I also think that it should be the last one, since a post-capitalist society can only be a society without wage labor and without "labor" understood as an alienated form of activity. The work force won't be a commodity any more. I don't see that just as a nice wish, but as the only way to go beyond the deadlock that capitalism will more and more impose on society (unemployment, incapacity to allow greater strata of world population to participate in the productive process, marginalization, etc.) Is capitalism still "on its rise" or "ascending phase"? Graham answers that "capitalism is declining". To make it short, I would say that it is approaching the end of its "rise" or the beginning of its decline. The concepts of "rise" and "decline" of modes of production are often very controversial, and, in any case, very complex ones. But I think they are pertinent for past modes of production and also for capitalism. My point of departure is the old Marx's idea that: "The real mission of the bourgeois society, is to create the world market, at least in its main lines, as well as a production conditioned by the world market." (Letter to Engels, 8 oct 1858). As far as capitalism is expanding, creating the world market, capitalism is in its rise. Many times in the past, Marxists thought that the world market was already created, "at least in its main lines". In the same letter to Engels, Marx, for example says that "this mission seems to be completed since the colonization of California and Australia and the opening of Japan and China." Almost 40 years later, in 1895, Engels had to admit that they (and "all those who thought the same way") were wrong. On the eve of the First World War, and later on, the fact that the world was for the first time totally divided into colonial capitalist empires gave rise to an analogous idea among the Marxists, especially those who participated in the revolutionary movements of 1917-23. The historical decline of capitalism had begun. Later, the economic collapse of 1929-32, the barbarity of the two World Wars seemed to confirm that assessment. After the end of WW II, many of them thougth that a new real phase of expansion of capitalism was impossible. But the spectacular development of capitalism during the second half of the XXth century showed that they (and "all those who thought the same way") were wrong. Probably there was a tendency to identify the expansion of the capitalist market with a superficial geographical/political expansion. Creating capitalist trading posts in the India or China's coasts did not mean that capitalist trade relations had become present in all India or China. To put a Coca-Cola advertising in a tropical underdeveloped town, doesn't mean that the country's social relations have become deeply integrated in the world capitalist market. The second half of the XXth century saw the most important period of development of capitalism, in terms of economic growth and integration of new labor force. Capitalist market expansion developed not only geographically but also in depth, even in the most developed countries. For example, the elimination of millions of small peasants in continental Europe (it was already done in the UK) was also part of the capitalist world expansion. The new development of China (but also India and other Asiatic countries) is certainly one of the most important realities of the beginning of the XXIst century. Its magnitude, in terms of labor-force capitalist integration, for example, is comparable to the European ones in the best periods of the past. In that sense, I don't agree with you, Stefan, when you suggest that the "labor society" is already in "its fall". Even if I think that, with the integration of China and India, things will become very difficult for capitalism, probably marking the real constitution of the world capitalist market and thus the beginning of its fall, or decline.

The question is as follows: If you imagine a decline of capitalism how
would it look like?
Would you expect such a decline as a process in harmony - i.e. without
contradictions? If so do you have reasons to think so?
If we accept that there were periods of decline in the past, the end of the Roman Empire or the end of feudalism in Europe, with some periods especially dramatic, as the end of the XIV century in Europe, for example, what we can see is exactly the contrary of harmony. The basic contradiction between the old social relations of production and the need/possibility of development of the productive forces intensifies provoking the intensification of all other social contradictions. In that sense, I would say that we can identify three general tendencies:
- the development of wars between factions of the dominant classes;
- the development of class struggles: between the dominant class and the exploited classes, and between the old dominant class and the revolutionary class, protagonist of the new production relations of the future society; - an hypertrophic development of the state apparatus as defender of the old establishment but also and as a mean of fighting the tendency towards tearing apart of society, which pushes it to make concessions to the new production relations. Things will partially be different with the real capitalist decline, especially because of the nature of the new production relations emerging, peer production, which are not, as in the past, another system of exploitation and alienation, based on coercion. But as long as the influence of peer production will remain small, the inner tendencies of a capitalist society in economical difficulty, will push society in the same kind of turmoils as in the past declines. I agree with Graham when he sees in present Iraq the kind of "harmony" that capitalism will develop in decline.




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