Re: [ox-en] Labor contradictions
- From: Raoul <raoulv club-internet.fr>
- Date: Sat, 01 Dec 2007 23:18:27 +0100
Hi Stefan, Grahal, Michel, all !
on 29/11/2007 Stefan Merten wrote :
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.
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
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 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?
- 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
- 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.
Contact: projekt oekonux.de