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josef k.
05-08-2008, 11:52 PM
I want to start a successor to this thread:

http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=2809&highlight=capitalism

In which (it seems to me) the Marxists got more or less routed by borderpolice.

Is the labor theory of value of bullshit - and if so, what are the consequences for so-called Marxist theory? Is "capitalism" a meaningful concept, or is it really a more-or-less empty buzzword? Is it fair to say that leftist professors don't really understand economics? Do we even still live under capitalism, or have we entered into a profoundly new system? Or, despite it all, was Old Karl right all along?

noel emits
06-08-2008, 01:02 AM
It's a shame k-punk dropped out - he was making a lot of sense. Although this...

It's not capitalism - the system dedicated to the replication of capital - which has agency but Capital, a vast parasitic artificial intelligence system which reproduces human beings as a means of reproducing itself.
...takes a little digesting.

Maybe arriving at a definition of capitalism isn't as interesting or useful as getting at what, if anything, it is that is wrong with money as it is presently used. Although that might amount to the same thing.

Borderpolice's argument seems to rest on this:

Yes, humans have had preferences and faced scarcity since they emerged on earth. that's what i'm saying. the introduction of money does not change that. money is a form of communication technology that facilitates communication preference decisions and expectations about future contingents. the novel thing about the emergence of money, which happened prior to what you call capitalism, is that it drastically increases the reach of exchange and the probability of acceptance of an exchange. prior to money goods were bartered. just as with money, that involved comparing and exchanging uncomparables.
what's new is that everyone acceptes money in exchange for a good now. i no longer have to find a butcher who's willing to take my toothbrush for his sausage, which may be difficult, i only have to find a butcher who takes my money. that's much easier.
Which explanation of money doesn't say anything about why it should be acceptable to make money out of money as far as I can see, and so doesn't actually discuss capitalism as such. Are we going to be back to the 'risk' thing? Because you know there is no real risk in lending someone money if you know for instance that you are going to be guaranteed in the future stuff that you actually need like food and clothes, as well as your money back, rather than more money.

Also, how does Marx's understanding of money relate to currencies that are not based on real commodities, incidentally?

Slothrop
06-08-2008, 01:15 AM
It's a shame k-punk dropped out - he was making a lot of sense. Although this...


It's not capitalism - the system dedicated to the replication of capital - which has agency but Capital, a vast parasitic artificial intelligence system which reproduces human beings as a means of reproducing itself.

...takes a little digesting.

It's an idea that I find very compelling as a general concept, although I sometimes think it needs closer analysis of precisely what mechanisms are involved - for instance, if you want to talk about schools and newspapers and Hollywood films reinforcing yer state capitalist hegemony or propogating yer ruling class ideology then it 's worth asking what the anatomy of that reinforcement is, and what's influencing the individual journalists or or teachers or scriptwriters to work in the way they do, rather than always taking it as read that they will because they're part of an organism in whose general interests it is to do so.

But that's veering off topic already.

josef k.
06-08-2008, 01:41 AM
I thought borderpolice's main argument was that the labour theory of value was junk. To recap: the idea of the labour theory of value is that all value is ultimately a product of labor - so more value simply equals more labour. The reason why Bill Gates, say, is so rich is because he has exploited more people, and stockpiled their extracted surplus value.

What follows from this is the idea that there is something inherently, not just incidentally, exploitative about labor under a capitalist system. The workers are being exploited as workers, not just because, for instance, the given conditions they work under (a sweat shop in China, say) are especially bad. From here, you get the idea of a vampiric ruling class feeding on the labor of the masses, and the idea of the proleteriat as the grave-digger of capitalism: the reason why this makes sense, according to the Marxist paradigm, is because they in fact create all of the value: capital is simply parasitic, and nothing else besides.

But Borderpolice pointed out, what about the concept of risk? Which is connected to the idea of price differentials. If am a sea captain, involved in the business of carrying cargo, I think that I can buy, say, opium low in one place, and sell it high in another. So I go to Afghanistan, invest in some plants, and set-off for America, taking the risk that I'll be intercepted by customs. I'm not, the value of my stock increases. Why? Not because I've extracted some surplus labor exactly, though I may have done that as well, but because I placed a bet and won. And you could see lots of examples of this, if you looked.

vimothy
06-08-2008, 10:26 AM
I thought borderpolice's main argument was that the labour theory of value was junk.

It is: LTV is a classical economic theory and as such is a couple of hundred years out of date. No one uses it anymore (except Marxists like my boss, i.e. non-economists). Instead, value is thought to be determined by utility at the margin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marginal_utility).

We've done this topic to death, though, haven't we? Still good though...

vimothy
06-08-2008, 10:31 AM
If am a sea captain, involved in the business of carrying cargo, I think that I can buy, say, opium low in one place, and sell it high in another. So I go to Afghanistan, invest in some plants, and set-off for America, taking the risk that I'll be intercepted by customs. I'm not, the value of my stock increases. Why? Not because I've extracted some surplus labor exactly, though I may have done that as well, but because I placed a bet and won. And you could see lots of examples of this, if you looked.

Yep.

Hence the famous description of Marx by Paul Samuelson: "a minor post-Ricardian".

IdleRich
06-08-2008, 10:52 AM
"Which explanation of money doesn't say anything about why it should be acceptable to make money out of money as far as I can see, and so doesn't actually discuss capitalism as such."
You mean interest right? I don't see why it's a problem, if money now is worth more than money later then it is worth paying to have it now isn't it? If it isn't worth more then no-one will pay for it and interest will disappear.
This isn't an idea that arose with capitalism as such is it? I mean suppose every day in a bartering system I traded some bread for a pint of milk but one day I didn't have any bread, it's perfectly possible that the milk guy might have said something like "you can have the milk today without giving me any bread as long as tomorrow you give me two loaves".

vimothy
06-08-2008, 11:02 AM
It's a shame k-punk dropped out - he was making a lot of sense. Although this...


It's not capitalism - the system dedicated to the replication of capital - which has agency but Capital, a vast parasitic artificial intelligence system which reproduces human beings as a means of reproducing itself.

...takes a little digesting.

It sounds cool, but does it even mean anything?

noel emits
06-08-2008, 11:19 AM
You mean interest right? I don't see why it's a problem, if money now is worth more than money later then it is worth paying to have it now isn't it? If it isn't worth more then no-one will pay for it and interest will disappear.
This isn't an idea that arose with capitalism as such is it? I mean suppose every day in a bartering system I traded some bread for a pint of milk but one day I didn't have any bread, it's perfectly possible that the milk guy might have said something like "you can have the milk today without giving me any bread as long as tomorrow you give me two loaves".
I didn't mean interest Rich, I meant more broadly. Like, should it be acceptable for a broker to trade in essential commodities that they have no interest in other than to make money out of the trade? Isn't that rather arse about face as regards what we actually require of a market - i.e. a fair and workable distribution and valuation of goods? It all gets a bit artificial doesn't it, with too many scumbags skimming off profits and pushing up the price of things people need just because they have money to play with, while at the same time those valuable commodities are hoarded away from those that need them. So it becomes less about the use value of a thing and more about who has the purchasing power to hold others to ransom for it.

But interest isn't based solely on inflation (money being worth more now than in the future) anyway. Getting into examples using commodities, and especially perishables actually helps to explain why, it's quite different -

The guy offering milk has a surplus of milk he can't immediately use, he knows that it would be better to trade it for the same amount of milk, or something else he wants, in the future than to let it go unused and perish. So he wins purely by dint of offering the loan. Obviously the same goes for the bread. Money of course doesn't perish in the same way* so a money lender can happily withhold it until the borrower agrees to pay an agreed interest rate, or whatever.

* Except by inflation but that of course is easily covered by the lender's other loans at interest.

IdleRich
06-08-2008, 12:00 PM
"I didn't mean interest Rich, I meant more broadly. Like, should it be acceptable for a broker to trade in essential commodities that they have no interest in other than to make money out of the trade? Isn't that rather arse about face as regards what we actually require of a market - i.e. a fair and workable distribution and valuation of goods? It all gets a bit artificial doesn't it, with too many scumbags skimming off profits and pushing up the price of things people need just because they have money to play with, while at the same time those valuable commodities are hoarded away from those that need them. So it becomes less about the use value of a thing and more about who has the purchasing power to hold others to ransom for it."
Ah, ok, I just thought I remembered you saying in the past that you had a problem with interest.
But in answer to what you're saying - for me a broker is basically like an estate agent; some people have houses, some want houses but the agent has something that they both need - the expertise to put them together. He gets paid for that - unless people find a way to get together without him (and for more cheaply than his fee) and then his job becomes redundant.
This kind of liquidity is presumed necessary for those who partake in a market - that's why exchanges pay companies to act as market makers.
I don't think that brokers hoard commodities or raise the prices, as many trades are based on the price going down as up aren't they?


"But interest isn't based solely on inflation (money being worth more now than in the future) anyway."
I didn't mean that it was worth more now than in the future because of inflation, I meant that if you have it right now then that is better than having it at some date in the future because you can use it right now whereas if you just know that you are going to get some money in the future you can't spend it until then. If you need it immediately then it's worth paying (in the future) to have the chance to spend that money now regardless of inflation.

vimothy
06-08-2008, 12:07 PM
I didn't mean interest Rich, I meant more broadly...

I think some of that is self-evident -- assume no or negligable inflation: would you rather have X amount of money now or in ten years time?

Regarding making money out of money -- why should it be regarded as different to making money out of an other resource?

Money has a function and it works.


Isn't that rather arse about face as regards what we actually require of a market - i.e. a fair and workable distribution and valuation of goods?

I dunno -- Brad DeLong would say that the market is useful for production (and valuation, to some extent), and that we have politics for the fair distribution of goods and services.

noel emits
06-08-2008, 04:00 PM
if money now is worth more than money later then it is worth paying to have it now isn't it?
Why should you have to pay if it doesn't really 'cost' the lender anything to lend it?

If it isn't worth more then no-one will pay for it and interest will disappear.
No, because money can be withheld without loss to the lender. Interest is a ransom, a racket.

Regarding making money out of money -- why should it be regarded as different to making money out of an other resource?
It's not a resource, it's a representation. Seeing it as a resource is part of the problem I think.

vimothy
06-08-2008, 04:04 PM
Why should you have to pay if it doesn't really 'cost' the lender anything to lend it?

No, because money can be withheld without loss to the lender. Interest is a ransom, a racket.

EH?!?!?!?!

Of course lending money has a cost -- even absent inflation, there is always an opportunity cost.


It's not a resource, it's a representation. Seeing it as a resource is part of the problem I think.

One of the problems with the original thread is that no one could even say what money's functions are.

Money is a medium of exchange, a unit of account and a store of value, and as such it's very much a resource.

Mr. Tea
06-08-2008, 04:15 PM
Why should you have to pay if it doesn't really 'cost' the lender anything to lend it?

No, because money can be withheld without loss to the lender. Interest is a ransom, a racket.

I do have some sympathy with this position, but it leads to the following quandrary: if there is no interest charged, what incentive is there for the lender? And if no-one lends money, how do you afford anything you can't put up 100% of the capital to pay for in one go - like buy a house or set up a business?

IdleRich
06-08-2008, 04:19 PM
"Why should you have to pay if it doesn't really 'cost' the lender anything to lend it?"
Well, if they lend it, they can't spend it can they? Plus of course there is the risk that it won't come back.


"No, because money can be withheld without loss to the lender. Interest is a ransom, a racket."
I don't really understand this. In any transaction either party can choose not to enter into it if they please though obviously they don't gain the advantages they were hoping to from the deal. I just don't see how interest is a racket; it makes perfect sense to me that if I have a pound and I want to buy a lollipop and my brother has no money until pocket-money day and also wants to buy a lollipop then to persuade me to lend him the money now he would have to provide an incentive to cover my loss of lollipop until he can pay me back.

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 04:27 PM
It sounds cool, but does it even mean anything?

To undestand what it means, consider a thermostat, a device for regulating the temperature of a [room] so that the [room]'s temperature is maintained near a desired setpoint temperature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermostat). This is an example of circular causality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causality). Because of this circularity, you may also reverse the causal description and say that a room is a device for regulating the state of a thermostat so that the thermostat's state is maintained near a desired setpoint state.

Similarly, we can -- in the absence of absolute coordinates -- reverse the usual ascription of the earth circulating around the sun, and say instead that the sun travels in a complicated orbit around the earth.

A more common example of this is saying that we (humans) don't use genes to reproduce, but instead that the genes use us for their perpetuation.

Why is this interesting? Because it deconstructs usually implicit assumptions about arrows of causality by means of saying something that is -- upon first impression -- in total violation of common sense, but on closer inspection, is quite reasonable and interesting.

In the context of capitalism, the original claim seeks to convince the reader that we are living in a world where human needs are not the key focus of economic and political decisions, but instead server only to reproduce the current economic system.

I don't fully agree with this Marxist claim, but It is not without merit.

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 05:20 PM
Is the labor theory of value of bullshit - and if so, what are the consequences for so-called Marxist theory?

I once told a Marxist that I though the LTV was rubbish and he replied:


Yes, it is true, and updating the Marxist description of capitalist economics is the most important <i>theoretical</i> problem of Marxism today. However for political purposes (i.e. constructing a sufficiently powerful revolutionary party that carries out the revolution) the existing theory is good enough, because whatever the details of a better Marxist theory of capitalist economics, surely the need to overthrow capitalism in a revolution will still be valid. Hence we can leave updating the theory of capitalist economics for after the revolution.

TBH, no Marxist has ever said this to me, but I wish I would meet one who's got the courage to say this.


Do we even still live under capitalism, or have we entered into a profoundly new system?

If you read the Communist Manifesto (http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manifesto.html), you'll find that its 10 key demands have in essence all been met in the advanced industrialised states, especially in more egalitarian ones. The same cannot be said of the worlds poorest countries.

IdleRich
06-08-2008, 05:36 PM
"TBH, no Marxist has ever said this to me, but I wish I would meet one who's got the courage to say this."
I was actually just trying to compose something to say that the Marxist position was something along the lines of the one you just identified. It seems that having basically lost the economic argument the position has changed to "within capitalism you can't think of anything outside it so we have to destroy it first".
There was no attempt to suggest an alternative to capitalism in this thread about suggesting an alternative to capitalism

http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=6468&page=14&highlight=capitalism

and I think your wish of a marxist having the courage to say the above has been granted here


"Capitalism is an inherently destructive and repressively contradictory ideology which unwittingly is destroying both humanity and the planet. Given that any alternative is potentially more preferable, how should we go about destroying, not humanity and the world, but its vampiric enemy, capitalism."

vimothy
06-08-2008, 05:52 PM
In the context of capitalism, the original claim seeks to convince the reader that we are living in a world where human needs are not the key focus of economic and political decisions, but instead server only to reproduce the current economic system.

And likewise for a mixed conomy, and likewise for tr00 socialist command economy...

vimothy
06-08-2008, 05:53 PM
I once told a Marxist that I though the LTV was rubbish and he replied:


Yes, it is true, and updating the Marxist description of capitalist economics is the most important <i>theoretical</i> problem of Marxism today. However for political purposes (i.e. constructing a sufficiently powerful revolutionary party that carries out the revolution) the existing theory is good enough, because whatever the details of a better Marxist theory of capitalist economics, surely the need to overthrow capitalism in a revolution will still be valid. Hence we can leave updating the theory of capitalist economics for after the revolution.

Laugh or cry? Who knows...

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 05:55 PM
And likewise for a mixed conomy, and likewise for tr00 socialist command economy...

I agree!

vimothy
06-08-2008, 06:03 PM
And so it's not "Capital" as such (bluerrgh -- superstitious nonsensical capitalisation), but rather the (abstract) economic 'technology' (be it socialist, capitalist, contested, collapsing, etc) around which social relations are organised that is the "vampire" to which k-punk refers, and indeed, it was ever thus.

Reminds me of k-punk's thesis actually (I think). You ever read that?

vimothy
06-08-2008, 06:05 PM
Just noticed this in the other thread, and realised it relates to what noel's saying here...


1. We must remove the incentives to hoard money, in fact it should be very much discouraged.

There's a problem with that, and I can sum it up in one word: bubbles.

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 06:09 PM
And so it's not "Capital" as such (bluerrgh -- superstitious nonsensical capitalisation), but rather the (abstract) economic 'technology' (be it socialist, capitalist, contested, collapsing, etc) around which social relations are organised that is the "vampire" to which k-punk refers, and indeed, it was ever thus.

In fairness, "Capital" is a shorthand for these social relations, as Marx points out repeatedly.


Reminds me of k-punk's thesis actually (I think). You ever read that?

Some of it. It's quite interesting.

Mr. Tea
06-08-2008, 06:11 PM
And so it's not "Capital" as such (bluerrgh -- superstitious nonsensical capitalisation)

'Kapitalisation', surely? ;)

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 06:13 PM
There's a problem with that, and I can sum it up in one word: bubbles.

There is a much more fundamental problem with it: it's impossible -- in some sense -- to hoard money! The cash you put in your bankaccount is in fact reinvested immediately.

vimothy
06-08-2008, 06:17 PM
In fairness, "Capital" is a shorthand for these social relations, as Marx points out repeatedly.

But (like we've just said) there is no difference between that and anything else!


Some of it. It's quite interesting.

I'm thinking of the bit where he describes WWII (?) fighter pilots getting machine guns synced into their rotors -- rather than representing man's mastery over nature, the pilot is a mere switch in a circuit.

vimothy
06-08-2008, 06:17 PM
There is a much more fundamental problem with it: it's impossible -- in some sense -- to hoard money! The cash you put in your bankaccount is in fact reinvested immediately.

Yeah, that's the whole point...?

If you want to hoard money, just put it under your bed.

Mr. Tea
06-08-2008, 06:20 PM
Yeah, that's the whole point...?

If you want to hoard money, just put it under your bed.

...where it immediately starts to depreciate. To say nothing of being vulnerable to burglary!

So I suppose there is a good disincentive to hoard money, at least in this very crude and inactive way.

vimothy
06-08-2008, 06:23 PM
Exactly.

[Just add that inflationary economic policies are generally thought of as being 'leftist' (in economic terms), BTW.]

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 06:30 PM
Because you know there is no real risk in lending someone money if you know for instance that you are going to be guaranteed in the future stuff that you actually need like food and clothes, as well as your money back, rather than more money.

This is the most interesting remark! If we were sure that our future needs would be guaranteed, one of the key factors that brought about the current monetary system would be gone. One might call this key factor the <i>pacifying function of money</i>: if you pay for the scarce resources you are consuming, you are in some sense not taking away from others, you are just exchanging one form of scarcity (say oil) for another (for example your labour). Hence, through this exchange, you are not (in some sense) endandering my future access to resources. This is why I don't feel like killing you, or making sure, I got the resource first. Hence monetary exchange has a pacifying function.

It is rarely appreciated just how important this is and bringing about this pacifying function was a great advance in the evolution of humanity. If we find an alternative mechanism that guarantees just future access to scarce resoures, this pacifying function of money becomes irrelevant (there are other functions mentioned in the original thread, risk multiplexing, communication ...). Marx idea was that a communist state makes these guarantees (the idea is much older, Leibniz for example proposes thinking of the state as a kind of universal insurance against all manner of misfortune, that's the oldest source I am aware of, not sure if it originates with Leibniz).

One problem with contemporary Marxism is that all attempts at a communist state failed on a spectacular level. Yet, all they seem willing to offer is another revolution.

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 06:35 PM
I'm thinking of the bit where he describes WWII (?) fighter pilots getting machine guns synced into their rotors -- rather than representing man's mastery over nature, the pilot is a mere switch in a circuit.

Firing through a propeller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interrupter_gear) was one of the 'advances' of WW I, not WW II.

As I said upthread, one can play similar games with any circular causality: London Underground is just a tool in the perpetuation of rats, Tesco's real function is to ensure there's always more white/blue/red plastic bags, the human body's function is to move air ...

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 06:39 PM
If you want to hoard money, just put it under your bed.

Nobody does this with serious, socially relevant amounts of money.

If serious amounts of cash were truely withdrawn from circulation, the money in circulation would appreciate in value.

Mr. Tea
06-08-2008, 06:41 PM
Nobody does this with serious, socially relevant amounts of money.

If serious amounts of cash were truely withdrawn from circulation, the money in circulation would appreciate in value.

This would seem to back up vimothy's argument that money is a, after all, a resource.

3 Body No Problem
06-08-2008, 06:48 PM
This would seem to back up vimothy's argument that money is a, after all, a resource.

Of course money has resource-like qualities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource) in the technical sense of limited availability. Unlike natural resources, money's scarcity is artificial. If money wasn't scarce, it would not work. But that's not the full story as elaborated in the original thread. Money is a form of communication between humans, and the scarcity of money is a key factor that makes it work, for better or worse, the way it does.

Transpontine
06-08-2008, 08:36 PM
Is the labor theory of value of bullshit?

Well I think the first chapter of Capital shows how the music industry's attempt to keep the value of music at its previous levels is doomed. Basically Marx has a concept of socially necessary labour, the average amount of labour needed to produce a commodity. Once the amount of socially necessary labour declines, so does value - so because the amount of labour in distributing music digitally is much less than the amount of labour needed to distribute vinyl and CDS (e.g. no lorry drivers shifting product), prices must fall - even of CDs.

noel emits
06-08-2008, 09:44 PM
In the context of capitalism, the original claim seeks to convince the reader that we are living in a world where human needs are not the key focus of economic and political decisions, but instead server only to reproduce the current economic system.
That was a good post and I thank you for it.

I was thinking also that Mark's statement was getting at something else that is particular about Capitalism. That at some very fundamental level in our understanding of economies, of the world even, an error has crept in, a fallacy, a false assumption. It is very difficult to see because it is so pervasive, and replicates virally as one of our most basic assumptions.

There is a much more fundamental problem with it: it's impossible -- in some sense -- to hoard money! The cash you put in your bankaccount is in fact reinvested immediately.
Are you saying that even though disproportionately large amounts of money that continue to grow are owned by individual entities, it remains in circulation?

That can't be quite right, surely?

josef k.
06-08-2008, 11:40 PM
"That at some very fundamental level in our understanding of economies, of the world even, an error has crept in, a fallacy, a false assumption. It is very difficult to see because it is so pervasive, and replicates virally as one of our most basic assumptions."

Clearly, this line could quite be extended into the realms of the madness, Philip K. Dick-style. And Dick was working from a more-or-less gnostic conception of reality, which seems to me reason enough to at least put this notion in question. What I mean is, if 2000 years ago the Gnostics were also saying something like: "Everything we know is wrong!" then it becomes clear that this sort of radical ontological doubt, at least, is not particular to capitalism itself. And so the question is raised as to whether there is any grounds to suppose that the global delusion hypothesized by the Gnostics should be considered in our own capitalist era any realer then it was in their pre-capitalist one. In other words, what I am saying is perhaps this idea does not strictly apply to capitalism; indeed, perhaps it does not apply to it all.


Yes, it is true, and updating the Marxist description of capitalist economics is the most important <i>theoretical</i> problem of Marxism today. However for political purposes (i.e. constructing a sufficiently powerful revolutionary party that carries out the revolution) the existing theory is good enough, because whatever the details of a better Marxist theory of capitalist economics, surely the need to overthrow capitalism in a revolution will still be valid. Hence we can leave updating the theory of capitalist economics for after the revolution.

This would be a form of madness, since the whole hinge of Marxism rests on its efficacy as an economic theory. As Lenin put it: "Marxism is powerful because it is true." What would even be the need to overthrow capitalism - as opposed to this or that particular regime - if it wasn't the case that labor under its reign was inherently exploitative?

[INDENT]Which explanation of money doesn't say anything about why it should be acceptable to make money out of money as far as I can see, and so doesn't actually discuss capitalism as such.[INDENT]

The problem with this is its very difficult to see how one could prevent people from making money out of money. In the middle ages there were prohibitions on usury - in other words, ethical stipulations against lending sums of money at interest - and some of these prohibitions actually still hold in the Islamic world today - which is incidentally why the recent growth of Islamic banking is in some ways so interesting. In any event, though, this particular issue applies only to finance capital, not to capitalism as such, so it doesn't really apply to the whole of the question.


Finally, since no-one seems able to offer a convincing defence of the LTOV, or Marxist theory in general, is it worth asking at this point why, in the absence of logical grounds to support it, it should still enjoy such prestige today, at least within certain circles (especially academics, intellectuals, students, etc) ?

noel emits
07-08-2008, 04:00 AM
Clearly, this line could quite be extended into the realms of the madness, Philip K. Dick-style. And Dick was working from a more-or-less gnostic conception of reality, which seems to me reason enough to at least put this notion in question. What I mean is, if 2000 years ago the Gnostics were also saying something like: "Everything we know is wrong!" then it becomes clear that this sort of radical ontological doubt, at least, is not particular to capitalism itself.
In a way I agree with you - the primary focus on capitalism as crux is something I've questioned previously. I guess that approach is inevitably what comes from those parties doing the questioning being mostly immersed in Marxist theory, Situationism, critical theory and so on - i.e. responses to capitalism. Still, it is pretty relevant as that is our situation after all.

In other words, what I am saying is perhaps this idea does not strictly apply to capitalism; indeed, perhaps it does not apply to it all.
I think the idea though is along the lines that cultures use people to replicate virally, as in memetics. So while that class of phenomenon might not have to do with capitalism uniquely, there are aspects that are particular to the instance that is capitalism, and it is those that the critiques concern themselves with.

I'm just remembering this from past discussions though, it's not my contention as such - like I say I've argued against the singling out of capitalism as the primary issue before.

Philip K. Dick was brilliant though. Why not consider that he was on to something instead?

That point about it being impossible to imagine anything outside the present order is born out here so regularly these days it's depressing.

IdleRich
07-08-2008, 09:43 AM
"Firing through a propeller was one of the 'advances' of WW I, not WW II."
Yeah Vimothy, didn't you read Biggles?


"I was thinking also that Mark's statement was getting at something else that is particular about Capitalism. That at some very fundamental level in our understanding of economies, of the world even, an error has crept in, a fallacy, a false assumption. It is very difficult to see because it is so pervasive, and replicates virally as one of our most basic assumptions."
I think if you look at the world and its economy today it is clear that there are huge problems. The question is obviously "why?" and another more specific question is "have those problems been created or mitigated by capitalism?". The argument goes round in circles as it has become apparent that no other system of organising resources has worked even nearly as well and the only Marxist response to this situation is to say that the wrong question is being asked (in other words that a false assumption has crept in at a basic level). This could well be the case I guess but I think that the onus is on the people insisting on this to demonstrate it - not just say it could be happening but show that it is, otherwise is's nothing but paranoia or wishful thinking on the part of those who don't want to face the fact that the basis for their philosophy is flawed.


"This would be a form of madness, since the whole hinge of Marxism rests on its efficacy as an economic theory. As Lenin put it: "Marxism is powerful because it is true." What would even be the need to overthrow capitalism - as opposed to this or that particular regime - if it wasn't the case that labor under its reign was inherently exploitative?"
I think to get an answer to this it would be helpful to consult the fashionable dictionary again:


Marxism
Probably not true, but it should be.

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/dictionary.php#m

dHarry
07-08-2008, 11:46 AM
Before we consign Marx & LTOV to the dustbin of history, consider Karatani's Transcritique which claims that Marx critiques the flawed, but not simply wrong, LTOV, and arrives at a more useful theory than even contemporary economics.

Apologies for the long quotes from Shaviro discussing this here (http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=457), but here's a spoiler from the last paragraph which might encourage you to read through it: "It is not Marxist political economy, but neoclassical economics, that reduces everything to production and to utility, and thereby ignores the structural and material importance of the delirious, ungrounded flows of finance capital that constitute the largest part of economic activity today."

I'm no economist, but the following seems like a powerful argument for Marx's relevance (I've left out the comparison of Marx with Kant, where terms like Antimony and transcendental come from, transcendental being Kant's term for something that acts as a structural condition for knowledge, not a transcendant condition outside reality):


Karatani argues that Marx’s “critique of political economy” operates precisely in the Antinomy, or parallax, between the labor theory of value, on the one hand, and Bailey’s (and the neoclassical economists’) positivistic dismissal of value theory altogether on the other.
[...]
according to Karatani, Marx rejects Ricardian essentialism (the labor theory of value in its classical form), but also insists, against Bailey’s (and later, neoclassical) nominalism, that a “transcendental reflection on value” (6) is necessary in order to make sense of capitalism as a system.
[...]
How does one get from the abstraction of “value” to the actual prices of individual commodities, and from the abstraction of “surplus value” to actual profits? It’s well known that Marx’s mathematical model for making this “transformation” is flawed; and that indeed the problem is mathematically intractable — the equations can only be solved under very special, limited, and unrealistic conditions — which is why Marx, like Ricardo before him, was unable to solve them.
[...]
The basic point is not to correct Marx’s mathematics — which cannot be done, given the presuppositions of the problem — but to question those presuppositions themselves. The whole problem of transforming values into prices itself seems to depend on the idea of capitalism as a closed, synchronic system in a state of equilibrium — which is what most economists, classical and neoclassical alike, in fact presuppose — but elsewhere in Capital Marx argues that such a view is entirely inadequate, since capitalism is a process that necessarily unfolds in time, and that it is never in a state of equilibrium. Crises, Marx argues, are endemic to capitalism. They are not (as neoclassical economists assume even today) mere aberrations or temporary departures from the norm of equilibrium. Rather, crises are intrinsic to the movement of capital, they are even what pushes it forward. Crises are unavoidable because of the temporal factor. If anything, crises and business cycles are the norm; equilibrium is a fictive idealization, an abstraction: and not even a very useful one.
[...]
Marx’s Volume 3 involves an Antinomy between 1)the grounding of price in value, and of profit in surplus value (Thesis: Ricardo); and 2)the independence of price from value and of profit from surplus value (Antithesis: Bailey). In this Antithesis, price is determined relationally, and independently of any notion of value, by supply and demand; while profit, from the point of view of the individual consciousness, is simply “price of production minus cost price” (241), and labor-power (sometimes today renamed, in neoclassical theory, “human capital”: quite a wonderful catachresis, since — by a mere shift of terminology — it simply spirits away the entire difference between capitalist investment, and workers selling their labor-power as a commodity) is just another input into production costs. Anybody who has read Capital knows how much time Marx spends criticizing the latter set of assumptions. But the criticism is necessary, precisely because these “ideological” assumptions do necessarily exist as “objective illusions”: for they constitute the actual manner in which individuals confront the market as buyers and sellers, consumers and owners. As for the other side of the Antinomy, the Thesis: the Ricardian labor theory of value is also an objective illusion, insofar as it is understood as an empirical actuality (something we encounter within experience) rather than as a transcendental condition of experience. We only encounter “surplus value” in and for itself in the way that we encounter time, space, and causality in and for themselves. They are conditions of experience, rather than things that we encounter within experience.This is why, Karatani says, “Marx’s labor theory of value and Ricardo’s are fundamentally different”; for Marx, “it is not that input labor time determines the value, but conversely that the value form (system) determines the social[ly necessary] labor time” (244). And, “while for the classical economists, labor value is just a replacement of the equilibrium price that is established within a unitary system, Marx began his whole analysis from manifold systems, and hence came to need the concepts of social and abstract labor value” (227-228).

These considerations lead Karatani to emphasize the importance of circulation, and of money, within Marx’s analysis of capitalism. There’s long been controversy as to why Marx begins Capital Volume 1 with a discussion of the commodity form and of money (and of commodity fetishism), before he gets to the theory of surplus value. Louis Althusser even advises readers to skip these chapters when reading Capital; Althusser sees them as a Hegelian throwback, and as a distraction from Marx’s main argument. Karatani, to the contrary, argues for the centrality of these chapters to Marx’s entire project. Indeed, for Karatani these chapters are the site of a rupture (what Althusser calls an epistemological break) with Marx’s earlier, more tentative theories: because they are the place where Marx develops the crucial notion of the value-form: “all the enigmas of capital’s drive are inscribed in the theory of value form… Value form is a kind of form that people are not aware of when they are placed within the monetary economy; this is the form that is discovered only transcendentally” (9).

The theory of value-form turns on the dual nature of commodities: that they are at once both use-value and exchange-value. This sundering is only possible because of the role of money. Money is a universal equivalent, a special commodity that stands in for all other commodities. As a result, there is a radical “asymmetricity… inherent in the form of value” (200) between money and all other commodities.
[...]
The core problem in Marx’s Antinomy of value is that both sides ignore the actuality of money as universal equivalent. For Ricardo and the classical political economists on one side, and for Bailey and the neoclassical school, down to the present day, on the other, money itself is considered to be of no importance. For Ricardo, money simply measures the labor inscribed in commodities as their value; for Bailey, value is relational, but he pays no attention to money as the medium in which these relations are expressed and worked out. “Bailey overlooked a simple fact — that commodities cannot be exchanged directly” (194). Both Ricardo and Bailey see money as transparent, in the same way that traditional metaphysics sees language as transparent. Even today, as Doug Henwood puts it in his fine book Wall Street, “in (neo)classical economics, money is held to be neutral – a mere lubricant to trade, but not a force in itself”; economics builds “paradigms that often ignore money and finance completely, or treat it as an afterthought.” Marx, to the contrary, insists on the opacity of money and finance. As a universal equivalent or transcendental form, money does not merely put external terms (objects sold as commodities) into relation; it molds and alters those terms by the very fact of equating them (money as universal equivalent is what transforms things into commodities in the first place). Similarly, financial speculation — such as is overwhelmingly present in global markets today — is not just an illusion distracting us from the “real” economic activity that takes place in production. Or better, financial speculation is an illusion, but a transcendental one: its illusoriness is itself an objective force, one that drives the entire process of production and circulation. It is not Marxist political economy, but neoclassical economics, that reduces everything to production and to utility, and thereby ignores the structural and material importance of the delirious, ungrounded flows of finance capital that constitute the largest part of economic activity today.

vimothy
07-08-2008, 01:22 PM
Even today, as Doug Henwood puts it in his fine book Wall Street, “in (neo)classical economics, money is held to be neutral – a mere lubricant to trade, but not a force in itself”; economics builds “paradigms that often ignore money and finance completely, or treat it as an afterthought.”

I'd be careful before paying to much heed to Doug Henwood. He has his moments (as does LBO) but he's pretty from being an actual economist. Macroeconomics is, ahem, pretty concerned with finance and money. Even regarding economists themselves, the above is simply not true, in my experience. Go to the most popular economic blogs on the net -- Mark Thoma's blog, Yves Smith's blog, Brad DeLong's, Dani Rodrik's, Angry Bear's, CR, Krugman's -- they all discuss money and finance probably more than any other topic. Hard not to in today's clilmate, I suppose.

Also, it's been a while since I read any Marx. Does he regard "this sundering" as unique to capitalism, or is it present in all cultures -- the human condition, if you will?

And I'm intrigued as to what, if you regard (or agree with) the transformation problem as fundamentally unsolveable, you are going to do instead?

dHarry
08-08-2008, 03:27 PM
I'd be careful before paying to much heed to Doug Henwood. He has his moments (as does LBO) but he's pretty from being an actual economist. Macroeconomics is, ahem, pretty concerned with finance and money. Even regarding economists themselves, the above is simply not true, in my experience. Go to the most popular economic blogs on the net -- Mark Thoma's blog, Yves Smith's blog, Brad DeLong's, Dani Rodrik's, Angry Bear's, CR, Krugman's -- they all discuss money and finance probably more than any other topic. Hard not to in today's clilmate, I suppose.

Also, it's been a while since I read any Marx. Does he regard "this sundering" as unique to capitalism, or is it present in all cultures -- the human condition, if you will?

And I'm intrigued as to what, if you regard (or agree with) the transformation problem as fundamentally unsolveable, you are going to do instead?

Well, obv money is, ahem, pretty important to economics - Marx-via-Karatani's point is that money is not a transparent medium, but something that changes the nature of exchange.

The sundering in question is of the commodity form within the money-capitalism system - not sure how that could be the human condition? (unless you're thinking of something like Deleuze & Guattari's insight that capitalism is the nightmare of all previous society forms, because of its seemingly infinite capacity to proliferate, something that was somehow warded off even when conditions were favourable for it to develop? but you're probably not!)

What to do instead is, presumably, use the insights to better analyse how capitalism works.

3 Body No Problem
09-08-2008, 02:57 PM
I was thinking also that Mark's statement was getting at something else that is particular about Capitalism. That at some very fundamental level in our understanding of economies, of the world even, an error has crept in, a fallacy, a false assumption.

There is truth to this, but I don't think Mark's posts (or indeed Marxism) goes to the root of the problem. It is easy to see that many of the problems Marxists attribute to capitalism, are also prevalent in pre-capitalist societies.

The two real issues seem to be the scarcity of certain resources, and the lack of trust (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_(social_sciences)) between humans which originates in humanity's emergency out of the dog-eat-dog world of the animal kingdom. This lack of trust is still visible everywhere in contemporary human behaviour, and wars over resource access, like the ongoing Iraq war is but one example.

Due to technological development we can now feed humans easily and with little labour input for the first time in history. This abundance of food from the mechanisation of agriculture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanised_agriculture)), together with social innovations (all not coming out of the Marxist tradition) like health insurance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_insurance), pensions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pension), unemployment benefits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unemployment_benefits) ... has pacified humanity to a considerable degree. Choice quote: "If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million." (See this text (http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge206.html#pinker).)


Are you saying that even though disproportionately large amounts of money that continue to grow are owned by individual entities, it remains in circulation?

Yes.

Take Bill Gates as an example. He does not sit on a heap of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck (http://www.yodaslair.com/dumboozle/barks/images/bin-dive.jpg). His wealth, or so I assume, is in Microsoft shares. His wealth is thus tied up in the production of software that fuels much of the contemporary world. It is (re)invested. It is productive. The figures of his wealth that are quoted in support of his fabulous wealth are thus largely fictional. The combined price of his shares is but an expectation of how much he would earn if he sold all his shares based on today's price of a single Microsoft share. But at Gates' level, Microsoft shares are not liquid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_liquidity). If he sold all his shares in one go, the share price would collapse.


This would be a form of madness, since the whole hinge of Marxism rests on its efficacy as an economic theory. As Lenin put it: "Marx ism is powerful because it is true.

I disagree, one can disentangle various features of Marx analysis: a theory of monetary value, a theory of history, an account of the dependency of economic on scientific progress, a theory of politics, ideology, revolution, preproduction of inequality, epistemology ... and find them convincing to varying degrees. The main attraction of Marxism in general seems to be in its ethical impulse, in the realisation that there's something wrong in how this world is organised, and that the problem is fixable. But good intentions are not much and I don't think that revolutionary politics are the way to go.


Finally, since no-one seems able to offer a convincing defence of the LTOV, or Marxist theory in general,

Nobody seems to be able to offer a convincing defence of key features of quantum mechanics either, and yet it's the dominant theory of sub-molecular behaviour, because there is nothing on the horizon that could rival its successes.The question of what economic value is, and how it relates to prices is far from being solved. Marginalist approaches also often ignore the question of risk, or the communicative function of monetary exchange. Clearly, in many economic situations, the amount of labour that goes into a product has a strong influence on prices. Clearly, there are also important prices, like that of an oil future maturing in 5 years hence, where this is different.

There is an underlying epistemological problem: what does it mean to explain (economic) values? Usually scientific explanation is tied up with prediction (and the mechanism allowing prediction needs to be simpler than the system to be predicted to be of any use). But the complexity and the reflexive nature of markets (which are about expectations of human behaviour) makes it unlikely that good and simple predictions about prices are obtainable. But then how can we have a solid theory of prices/values?


is it worth asking at this point why, in the absence of logical grounds to support it, it should still enjoy such prestige today


Because there is poverty and injustice in the world.

Because the poor and those who deem themselves to be victims of injustice (i.e. everybody), assume that if the world would be organised slightly differently, they would not be poor/victims of injustice.

Marxism is a convenient framework (socially and theoretically) to discuss poverty and injustice.

Alternative approaches to economics/social theory do not always address the issues of poverty and injustice adequately.



That point about it being impossible to imagine anything outside the present order is born out here so regularly these days it's depressing.

This is confused on two counts.

How could you make this statement, except if you had (or imagined) the ability to imagine something outside the present order? (Somewhat of a cliche argument, I know.)

Marxism is not -- contrary to its often repeated self-description -- "outside the present order. It is very much part of it. Communist parties have been around for more than 100 years. They were ruling substantial parts of the world population for a long time. Communist discourse is everywhere and totally stable, in the sense of not changing, or changing only marginally. Hence Marxism is very much part of the structure of society and the most interesting question is: what function does Marxism have in the reproduction of society.



it has become apparent that no other system of organising resources has worked even nearly as well and the only Marxist response to this situation is to say that the wrong question is being asked [...]. This could well be the case I guess but I think that the onus is on the people insisting on this to demonstrate it - not just say it could be happening but show that it is, otherwise is's nothing but paranoia or wishful thinking on the part of those who don't want to face the fact that the basis for their philosophy is flawed.

That's exactly right, and my position also. It would be so easy for lefties to demonstrate the superiority of their ideas for social organisation. Just form communities that practise what you preach. Mennonite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mennonites) communities like the Amish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish), pariah countries like North Korea -- for better or worse, or historical slave communities like Palmares (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmares_(quilombo)), demonstrate that it is perfectly feasible to achieve a near perfect isolation from surrounding market economies. There are enough Marxists around to do a similar thing with Marxist economical organisation. I concede that the isolation would not be perfect, but the superiority of Marxist economics should be robust under various environments, otherwise it is unlikely to be correct.

NB: I have included Palmares as an example, as a warning to myself,knowing very well that the Brazilian landowners ran several extremely violent campaigns against it which eventually lead to its downfall, because they did not want to see free ex-slaves to succeed, thus endangering
their slave economies.


"It is not Marxist political economy, but neoclassical economics, that reduces everything to production and to utility, and thereby ignores the structural and material importance of the delirious, ungrounded flows of finance capital that constitute the largest part of economic activity today."

But that is nonsense. In no way does the flows of finance capital constitute the largest part of economic activity today. The largest part of economic activity today is in building cars, ships, houses, producing food, computers, organising health-care ... An interesting question is: how does the general perception that "the flows of finance capital constitute the largest part of economic activity today" come about? I can envision the following reasons.

Financial transactions are easy to observe because the are explicitly quantified.

Some financial transactions are spectacular, worth millions or even billions, which brings attention.

It is easy for critics to go on about the absurdity of modern economic organisation by pointing to financial transactions, since the audience does not understand what these transactions are for and what their economic value might be, while at the same time harbouring resentment against those who pocket the substantial transaction costs (bankers).


And I'm intrigued as to what, if you regard (or agree with) the transformation problem as fundamentally unsolvable, you are going to do instead?

Every time you buy or sell something, you solve that problem.

3 Body No Problem
09-08-2008, 02:57 PM
Marx-via-Karatani's point is that money is not a transparent medium, but something that changes the nature of exchange.

Of course money changes the nature of exchange. It generalises, simplifies and extends the reach of exchange. That's the whole point, and was one of the poitns of the original thread.

noel emits
10-08-2008, 05:27 PM
How could you make this statement, except if you had (or imagined) the ability to imagine something outside the present order? (Somewhat of a cliche argument, I know.)
Maybe I do. :p

What I mean is that discussions about the er, 'ontological hegemony' in a forum situation often fall prey to sticky assumptions and arguments about definition, not to mention prejudice, bias and agendas, if that's not the same thing. In other words, the very same issues of repetition and reproduction we would seek to address. 'Outside' possibly not the best choice of term in this context, our disagreement a case in point? ;)

Doing a search on some of those terms I just found this paper which looks to be rather pertinent actually:

Cave! Hic Everyday Life: Repetition, Hegemony and the Social - Antoniades, Andreas
The paper aspires to bring everyday life and social repetition under the spotlight of political theorising, and examine their emancipatory potential. To do so it engages with two competing understandings of hegemony in radical political theory; one based on transcendence and social antagonisms and the other based on immanence and everyday life. The main thesis of the paper is that in order to understand the ontological foundations of hegemony we need to shift our focus from social antagonisms and hegemonic representations onto social repetition. The paper starts with an exposition of Laclau’s radical theory of hegemony and its limitations. It then develops a counter ontological reading, an ‘ontology of social repetition’, based on the work of Maurice Blanchot and Gilles Deleuze. The paper concludes by examining what kinds of agency are present in social repetition, and how these can be translated in social action and strategies for social change.
http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/9/4/3/pages179435/p179435-1.php

PDF here (http://www.allacademic.com/one/isa/isa07/index.php?cmd=Download+Document&key=unpublished_manuscript&file_index=1&pop_up=true&no_click_key=true&attachment_style=attachment&PHPSESSID=f41c7b8bf6217cfef78c61d51aba552c).

BTW, elgato if you are reading I think this might also be relevant to what we were talking about on the Public Enemy thread (http://dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=6905&page=4) a while back...

3 Body No Problem
10-08-2008, 07:19 PM
Maybe I do. :p

What I mean is that discussions about the er, 'ontological hegemony' in a forum situation often fall prey to sticky assumptions and arguments about definition,

Yes, conversations tend to have thematic attractors. The discussions in the music section are a case in point: as threads grow in length, the (alledged) class position of musical audiences becomes a focal point for many posters.

vimothy
12-08-2008, 01:25 PM
Well, obv money is, ahem, pretty important to economics - Marx-via-Karatani's point is that money is not a transparent medium, but something that changes the nature of exchange.

Sure, sure -- but are economists ignorant of that?


The sundering in question is of the commodity form within the money-capitalism system - not sure how that could be the human condition? (unless you're thinking of something like Deleuze & Guattari's insight that capitalism is the nightmare of all previous society forms, because of its seemingly infinite capacity to proliferate, something that was somehow warded off even when conditions were favourable for it to develop? but you're probably not!)

What I mean is, what about (for instance) this?

http://www.visit-fsm.org/yap/gallery/64.jpg

Or these?

http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/877/70007558.JPG

Or this?

http://people.ucls.uchicago.edu/~cjacobs2/Products8-9/WAMPUM2.jpg

Or even these (http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=%22first+working+capital+asset%22&btnG=Google+Search&meta=)?


What to do instead is, presumably, use the insights to better analyse how capitalism works.

I'm not sure that there's much point in looking to Marx for that. I was thinking more of insights to better construct an alternative rather than just a 'critique'. That is, if you're not going to use money, what are you going to do?

vimothy
12-08-2008, 01:31 PM
Every time you buy or sell something, you solve that problem.

It's not the same problem.

josef k.
13-08-2008, 01:29 AM
"The main attraction of Marxism in general seems to be in its ethical impulse, in the realisation that there's something wrong in how this world is organised, and that the problem is fixable. But good intentions are not much and I don't think that revolutionary politics are the way to go."


Because there is poverty and injustice in the world.

Because the poor and those who deem themselves to be victims of injustice (i.e. everybody), assume that if the world would be organised slightly differently, they would not be poor/victims of injustice.

Marxism is a convenient framework (socially and theoretically) to discuss poverty and injustice.

Alternative approaches to economics/social theory do not always address the issues of poverty and injustice adequately.






There is clearly some truth to this. On the other hand, there is a sense in which a similar point could be made about Christianity, or really any religion. And this is, of course, an old canard about Marxism: that it is really in truth just another religion. But I'm thinking that Marxism has a specificity which sets it apart from this category. Two or three points I would make:

1) Marxism has always been a strongly intellectual theory. It has always appealed to intellectuals, it has always, in some sense, been dominated by intellectuals. When you look to the leaders of the great Communist parties, very few came from what would be called a working class background. The possibility is thus raised that the real subject of Marxism is not the proletariat, but rather the intellectual, understood - whether tacitly or explicitly - to control them.

2) There is some justification for this hypothesis in the works of Marx himself. He speaks at one point (I think in "A Contribution to a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law" but I may be wrong) of "philosophy as the head and the proletariat as the heart" of the real movement of communism. The first point here is that there a certain rhetorical advantages (though perhaps ultimately limited ones) which accrue to intellectuals who take on the mantle on speaking either on behalf of others, or else, on behalf of the Good, or Justice. Foucault was attuned to this point, to the horror of Chomsky. But I leave the question open of whether it is identifiable among contemporary Marxists, or self-proclaimed Marxists. "I am not merely an academic, or book lover, or a music journalist, or dreary latter-day scholastic. I am a fighter for justice."

3) Marx's metaphor is not just also philosophically intriguing. What is suggested here, in some sense, is a kind of solution to the famous mind-body problem. That solution is, in fact, the real movement of communism, which joins together the head and heart. For whatever reason, I can only here think of a bowel movement, but then, I am vulgar like that, and don't really know what this thought means. But the general point is this: Marxism sought, as perhaps its primary goal, to submit the world to the rule of reason. In this way, it presented the notion that it had solved the problem of theory and praxis - the famous last theses on Feurbach: the point is not to interpret the world, but to change it. Change it how? Through the writing of manifestos, the publication of books, the activation of others in the service of the cause, all via the form of a certain kind of special discourse, and language. For my own part, it strikes me that at least one question of Marxism is this mediological question: was Marxism right in the solution which it engendered to the problem of how writing impacts back on the world? I think that it wasn't, but has no more to offer at this time.

3 Body No Problem
13-08-2008, 01:28 PM
It's not the same problem.

In what sense?

vimothy
13-08-2008, 02:59 PM
In what sense?

In the sense that it's not Marx's or the Marxian transformation problem, though I do agree with you that it is basically solved every time transactions occur. It's a semantic point, and not a very interesting one. I shall shut up.

3 Body No Problem
14-08-2008, 11:36 AM
There is clearly some truth to this. On the other hand, there is a sense in which a similar point could be made about Christianity, or really any religion. And this is, of course, an old canard about Marxism: that it is really in truth just another religion. But I'm thinking that Marxism has a specificity which sets it apart from this category.

While I do agree that my first two points are also applicable to religions, my other two points are not. No religion of my acquaintance offers interesting theories of political power, revolution, markets, money, political strategy etc.


Marxism has always been a strongly intellectual theory. It has always appealed to intellectuals

That's true.


The possibility is thus raised that the real subject of Marxism is not the proletariat, but rather the intellectual, understood - whether tacitly or explicitly - to control them [...] 2) There is some justification for this hypothesis in the works of Marx himself. He speaks at one point (I think in "A Contribution to a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law" but I may be wrong) of "philosophy as the head and the proletariat as the heart" of the real movement of communism.

To find the subject of revolution, that's what Marxists do most of the time. Currently British Marxists seem to think it's disaffected Muslims. Anyway, The party line on the matter of intellectuals running the show is that the proletariat is too opressed to be able to run a successful transition from the current state of affairs to a post-revolutionary paradies, but in that paradise, the dominance of intellectuals over workers will vanish because this class distinction will have withered away.

Krushev was certainly no intellectual. He could not even read or write properly, at least that's what I have heard.


Change it how? Through the writing of manifestos, the publication of books, the activation of others in the service of the cause, all via the form of a certain kind of special discourse, and language.

No, the change in Marx happens by way of a revolution. Writing manifestos and similar activities are just support activities for bringing about the revolution.

3 Body No Problem
14-08-2008, 11:43 AM
I'm not sure that there's much point in looking to Marx for that. I was thinking more of insights to better construct an alternative rather than just a 'critique'. That is, if you're not going to use money, what are you going to do?

That's right. Interestingly though, the aforementioned Karatani discusses a novel exchange mechanism (Local Exchange Trading System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Exchange_Trading_Systems)), which sets him apart from most contemporary writers in the Marxist tradition.

Recently, there is has been a shift in the use of money away from the totally anonymous medium of exchange: tax-fraud, money laundering, drug money, money in support of organisations that are deemed terrorists are problematic for many governments, and significant flows of money are beginning to be tracked. Hence money becomes "information-richer". Given our vastly increased number-crunching capabilities, I can envision that in the future all monetary transactions will be tracked and that tracking data will be public. This would be a gigant leap in terms of transparency. It would be possible for anybody interested to value all financial positions of a JP Morgan, say, by just going to some website, downloading the relevant data and running a Monte-Carlo simulation. It would then be much harder to hide debt, and a credit crisis like the present one would be unlikely.

3 Body No Problem
14-08-2008, 12:00 PM
In the sense that it's not Marx's or the Marxian transformation problem, though I do agree with you that it is basically solved every time transactions occur. It's a semantic point, and not a very interesting one. I shall shut up.

I think there's is a very interesting problem: although we do solve the aforementioned problem everytime we decide to buy something, the question remains if the mechanism we use to determine what price we pay is perfect, or if it could be improved. Since we don't usually have direct access to our own decision making process, interesting methodological questions arise as to how our own processes function. The study of decision making (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_making) is a fascinating field between psychology and sociology. The relatively new field of behavioural economics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioural_economics) investigates economic decision making, often with a neo-classical bias. Results in behavioural economics suggst that human decision making is often far from the simple models of classical model, vindicating many of the criticisms from the left, though this vindication happens at a much improved scientific level. Since there is no reason to believe that the decision processes humans typically use are innate, one can asks questions about better decision making processes, and game theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory) is a field that seeks to define what it means for decision making strategies to be good or bad, and tries to design better strategies. The brand new field of algorithmic game theory (http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521872829) has discovered that the design of optimal strategies, or even approximations of optimal strategies, is often very difficult (and hence it is also unlikely that a market (a form of approxiation algorithm) can find optimal strategies).

josef k.
26-08-2008, 06:31 PM
On matters related to this thread:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0254/is_5_66/ai_n27485645

3 Body No Problem
28-08-2008, 03:21 PM
On matters related to this thread:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0254/is_5_66/ai_n27485645

Great text, informed and informative. Recommended. Thanks for posting the link.

D84
29-08-2008, 09:52 AM
I might be going off on a tangent here but I don't see how any "debunking" of the Labour Theory of Value is supposed to affect the validity or otherwise of being for or against Capitalism, by which I mean the dominant social system that exists today however you'd like to call it.

Does Arthur Daley stop himself before pocketing the money that was supposed to go to Terry and think whether doing so would conform to a Labour Theory of Value.

In fact I would argue that if you put the LTOV to most people in the business of exploitation and profiteering, they would tell you that that is exactly how they view their role in the economy.

Why else would our capiltalist <del>slave</del> share-holding forefathers have gone and continue to go to such efforts to undermine, infiltrate and sometimes even machine-gun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_spies) unionists?

And whoever has experienced working for such people (ie. everyone who's worked for a large corporation and put up with all the cant that goes along with it) would agree that they have been exploited for the material benefit of their distant masters. It's not rocket surgery. It's a fact.

The whole system of share-holding in corporations is about maximising profits (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/08/26/2346579.htm) for a small class by whatever means (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/08/29/2350514.htm).

Does the validity or otherwise of LTOV invalidate the fact that the class system (http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/aug/04/workandcareers.executivesalaries) and imperialism (http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20050704.htm)are healthier than ever?

Of course it is a fallacy. How could anyone justify the amazing income and power of a very small class (http://www.lcurve.org/)? Exploitation and profiteering are nonetheless facts and thriving (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVHNdwypiE).

Capitalism is a flawed system. Please correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that one of the concerns of Marxism: exposing its flaws and internal contradictions etc? As dHarry quotes above, it thrives as it lurches from one self-generated crisis to the next.

IdleRich
29-08-2008, 10:28 AM
"I might be going off on a tangent here but I don't see how any "debunking" of the Labour Theory of Value is supposed to affect the validity or otherwise of being for or against Capitalism, by which I mean the dominant social system that exists today however you'd like to call it."
Yeah, I agree with that, I think it's easy to get bogged down in one specific detail of the argument and miss the bigger picture.

3 Body No Problem
29-08-2008, 02:35 PM
Capitalism is a flawed system. Please correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that one of the concerns of Marxism: exposing its flaws and internal contradictions etc?

As pointed out many times in this thread and the thread it is a continuation of, "exposing its flaws and internal contradictions" is not particularly interesting. Everybody knows, and nobody denies that the organisation of the world leaves a lot to be desired. The point is not to whine, but to propose something better, and to give convincing reasons why the proposal is better. A flawed theory of value isn't particularly convincing way to start, and the historical record of millions of people murdered by Marxists is a really good reason to be sceptical that anything useful will come from this corner.

turtles
30-08-2008, 12:44 AM
the historical record of millions of people murdered by Marxists is a really good reason to be sceptical that anything useful will come from this corner.
That statement reads equally as true with "Capitalist" swapped for "Marxist" y'know.

Also, y'know, if positions were swapped and we lived in a communist world economy, with some failed capitalists states smattered around, I'm pretty sure people who favored capitalism would have a really hard time providing a truly concrete counterexample. I think it would be near-impossible to give an accurate and credible description of how our current real-world global capitalist society works without it actually having existed beforehand. For example if someone came along and said something like "I know! We'll have exchange rates for all the worlds currencies be determined on an open market in a process hardly distinguishable from a random walk!" no one would take you seriously.

Mr. Tea
30-08-2008, 03:50 PM
That statement reads equally as true with "Capitalist" swapped for "Marxist" y'know.


But people don't generally go around promoting capitalism as this utopian system that's going to save the world, do they? Or if some do, as a rule they're fewer in number and much less vocal than people who say the same thing about communism/Marxism.

comelately
30-08-2008, 06:35 PM
Er, The IMF? The World Bank?

Mr. Tea
30-08-2008, 09:52 PM
Er, The IMF? The World Bank?

I mean ordinary people. Popular opinion. You, me, the internet.

comelately
30-08-2008, 11:03 PM
Yes, but if we lived in a "communist world economy, with some failed capitalists states smattered around" scenario, then I suspect that it would be institutions talking about the benefits of economic planning and "ordinary people" arguing against the status quo?

Plus I think it does kinda depend which bit of the internet you're on. That said internet pro-capitalists will often believe in some religion or other belief system which means they aren't looking directly at economics to deliver "a utopia which is going to save the world". But nonetheless I think there's plenty of self-perpetuating highly pro-capitalist nodes out there. Who will often also have some other crazy plans that will see some major additions to the bodycount. And the truth is that the ones who don't (eg US fiscal conservatives, some social libertarians) are pretty much chasing the same utopian dream that Marxists are as far as I can see. Pardon me if I'm missing the point though.

Mr. Tea
31-08-2008, 11:08 AM
Yes, but if we lived in a "communist world economy, with some failed capitalists states smattered around" scenario, then I suspect that it would be institutions talking about the benefits of economic planning and "ordinary people" arguing against the status quo?


Yes, maybe - the grass is always greener (or redder!) and all that.

john eden
01-09-2008, 04:24 PM
But people don't generally go around promoting capitalism as this utopian system that's going to save the world, do they? Or if some do, as a rule they're fewer in number and much less vocal than people who say the same thing about communism/Marxism.

There is no point in "promoting" the prevailing order. It's like doing an advertising campaign for gravity.

mos dan
01-09-2008, 04:28 PM
There is no point in "promoting" the prevailing order. It's like doing an advertising campaign for gravity.

milk and potatoes both have marketing boards and advertising campaigns, why shouldn't gravity?

3 Body No Problem
01-09-2008, 05:05 PM
That statement reads equally as true with "Capitalist" swapped for "Marxist" y'know.

And yet, I bet that what you would offer in support of this claim (slavery, imperialism) was practised before capitalism, was practised by the soviet union, and has not been practised by the advanced capitalist states for a long time. So it is misleading to say that these are problems of "Capitalism".

Moreover, I doubt that you find sophisticated non-Marxists avocating for unspecified "capitalism". That crude, undifferentiated picture is the realm of propaganda, not of serious analysis. Instead interesting non-Marxists argue for variants of democratic welfare states with independent press, judiciary, and so on, and a mixed mode economy (e.g. state assisted/legislated health care, state mandated pensions, some degree of social security, social housing, primary and secondary education etc for the basics, and relatively free markets for consumer goods). Such states are the most peaceful and most prosperous the world has ever seen.

3 Body No Problem
01-09-2008, 05:07 PM
milk and potatoes both have marketing boards and advertising campaigns, why shouldn't gravity?

Incidentally, food production is heavily subsidised and regulated in all rich countries as far as I can tell.

droid
01-09-2008, 09:10 PM
And yet, I bet that what you would offer in support of this claim (slavery, imperialism) was practised before capitalism, was practised by the soviet union, and has not been practised by the advanced capitalist states for a long time. So it is misleading to say that these are problems of "Capitalism".

Offhand:

Capitalist economic practices became institutionalized in the United Kingdom between the 16th and 19th centuries, although some features of capitalist organization existed in the ancient world, and early forms of merchant capitalism flourished during the Middle Ages.[7][8] Capitalism has been dominant in the Western world since the end of feudalism.[7] From Britain it gradually spread throughout Europe, across political and cultural frontiers. In the 19th and 20th centuries, capitalism provided the main, but not exclusive, means of industrialization throughout much of the world.[9]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

Imperialism has 'has not been practised by the advanced capitalist states for a long time'?

When was the last time it was practised in your opinion?


Moreover, I doubt that you find sophisticated non-Marxists avocating for unspecified "capitalism". That crude, undifferentiated picture is the realm of propaganda, not of serious analysis. Instead interesting non-Marxists argue for variants of democratic welfare states with independent press, judiciary, and so on, and a mixed mode economy (e.g. state assisted/legislated health care, state mandated pensions, some degree of social security, social housing, primary and secondary education etc for the basics, and relatively free markets for consumer goods). Such states are the most peaceful and most prosperous the world has ever seen.

SOME of these states are the most peaceful and most prosperous the world has ever seen.

Id say that the record of many leading capitalist states would suggest otherwise. Unless you're talking simply about peace within the state.

The history of US and UK aggression against, and inteference with other nations in the 20th century alone has been well documented and makes a mockery of that claim.

Slothrop
01-09-2008, 10:25 PM
SOME of these states are the most peaceful and most prosperous the world has ever seen.

Id say that the record of many leading capitalist states would suggest otherwise. Unless you're talking simply about peace within the state.

The history of US and UK aggression against, and inteference with other nations in the 20th century alone has been well documented and makes a mockery of that claim.
On the other hand, it is rather easier to point to examples of peaceful and prosperous capitalist democratic states than of peaceful and prosperous communist ones... this doesn't completely discredit communism, but imo it does leave the ball in the revolutionary marxists' court when it comes to explaining why it's going to work this time.

droid
01-09-2008, 11:03 PM
On the other hand, it is rather easier to point to examples of peaceful and prosperous capitalist democratic states than of peaceful and prosperous communist ones... this doesn't completely discredit communism, but imo it does leave the ball in the revolutionary marxists' court when it comes to explaining why it's going to work this time.

Yeah, thats fine. Im not defending state marxism or communism, but one thing you have to take into account in any analysis of the role of socialism in governance and its effects on populations is the fact that almost every emerging state that has attempted to deviate signifcantly from capitalist systems has been vociferously attacked and intimidated by the dominant world powers.

There are a million shades of grey between Maoist and Stalinist systems and capitalism as it is practised today, yet all of these alternative potentials have been mercilessly crushed.

Mr. Tea
01-09-2008, 11:36 PM
SOME of these states are the most peaceful and most prosperous the world has ever seen.

Id say that the record of many leading capitalist states would suggest otherwise. Unless you're talking simply about peace within the state.

The history of US and UK aggression against, and inteference with other nations in the 20th century alone has been well documented and makes a mockery of that claim.

But (to make a rather ridiculously simplified distinction between 'capitalist' countries on one hand and 'communist' countries on the other), isn't it the case that communist states in the last century committed vast atrocities against their own people, to the tune of tens of millions of deaths, as well as prosecuting wars of aggression against other countries and invading and occupying them, i.e. prosecuting an imperialist agenda? I guess Slothrop has already made this point, but playing the game of 'who has killed and oppressed the most people?' isn't a wise strategy for anyone promoting revolutionary Marxism these days. (Edit: though, to be fair, you make it clear you're not defending Marxism as such, and I'm not saying you are: I'm just pointing out that saying "Capitalist countries do bad things sometimes" isn't much of an argument in favour of Marxism/communism.)



There are a million shades of grey between Maoist and Stalinist systems and capitalism as it is practised today, yet all of these alternative potentials have been mercilessly crushed.


But "capitalism as it is practised today", in many countries, includes some elements of socialism, doesn't it? Look at Britain's welfare state, NHS, state schools and so on - OK, it's not perfect, but it provides for people and it means we're still a long way from being as un-communist as it's possible to get. A much more limited welfare system even exists in the US (surely the capitalist country par excellence?).

droid
01-09-2008, 11:53 PM
But (to make a rather ridiculously simplified distinction between 'capitalist' countries on one hand and 'communist' countries on the other), isn't it the case that communist states in the last century committed vast atrocities against their own people, to the tune of tens of millions of deaths, as well as prosecuting wars of aggression against other countries and invading and occupying them, i.e. prosecuting an imperialist agenda? I guess Slothrop has already made this point, but playing the game of 'who has killed and oppressed the most people?' isn't a wise strategy for anyone promoting revolutionary Marxism these days. (Edit: though, to be fair, you make it clear you're not defending Marxism as such, and I'm not saying you are: I'm just pointing out that saying "Capitalist countries do bad things sometimes" isn't much of an argument in favour of Marxism/communism.)

Other points aside, I think its a reasonable response to the suggestion that captialist countries are 'the most peaceful'.


But "capitalism as it is practised today", in many countries, includes some elements of socialism, doesn't it? Look at Britain's welfare state, NHS, state schools and so on - OK, it's not perfect, but it provides for people and it means we're still a long way from being as un-communist as it's possible to get. A much more limited welfare system even exists in the US (surely the capitalist country par excellence?).

Thats all up for debate really, but one thing that is clear, especially in the US, is that 'socialist' elements - unions, welfare etc... have beeen systematically rolled back. In fact the US under Reagan and Britain under Tatcher (and now labour) are pioneers in the elimination of social safety nets for their populations. And of course, the systems these countries prescribe, permit and enforce on weaker countries are about as far from socialism as you can get.

mixed_biscuits
02-09-2008, 11:18 AM
There are a million shades of grey between Maoist and Stalinist systems and capitalism as it is practised today, yet all of these alternative potentials have been mercilessly crushed.

Utterly wrong.

droid
02-09-2008, 11:29 AM
But (to make a rather ridiculously simplified distinction between 'capitalist' countries on one hand and 'communist' countries on the other), isn't it the case that communist states in the last century committed vast atrocities against their own people, to the tune of tens of millions of deaths, as well as prosecuting wars of aggression against other countries and invading and occupying them, i.e. prosecuting an imperialist agenda?

A further correction to make is that, despite the repulsive policies of State communists/marxists towards their own populations, the record of external aggression of China and Russia (I assume you were referring to them) pales in comparison to the Western aggression and interference in the third world.

The record of the junior partner alone is illustrative:


1948 Britain declares ‘emergency’ in Malaya and begins 12-year war to defeat rebels, who are mainly marginalised Chinese. Britain secretly describes war as ‘in defence of [the] rubber industry’ and engages in widespread bombing, draconian police measures and ‘resettlement’ of hundreds of thousands of people in fortified ‘new villages’.

1951 June: Attlee government begins covert plan to overthrow Iranian prime minister Musaddiq following the latter’s nationalisation of oil operations.

1952 October: Britain declares state of emergency in colony of Kenya. British forces conduct human rights atrocities, establish Nazi-style concentration camps and ‘resettle’ hundreds of thousands of people in ‘protected villages’. Around 150,000 Africans die.

1953 August: Musaddiq government in Iran overthrown in MI6/CIA-organised coup. Shah installed in power as per London’s and Washington’s plans.

1953 October: Britain conducts military intervention in British Guiana to overthrow democratically elected government.

1954 July: US overthrows Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz and US-backed junta seizes power. Britain aids US position at UN.

1956 October: Britain invades Egypt to remove nationalist president Nasser, eventually being forced to withdraw due to US and financial pressure. MI6 plans and carries out several assassination attempts against Nasser.

1957 July: Britain begins military intervention in Oman in support of extremely repressive regime against rebellion by Omani Liberation Army. SAS fights covert war and RAF conducts wide-spread bombing of villages and strongholds, defeating rebels by 1959.

1958 July: Britain conducts military intervention in Jordan, ostensibly to protect regime from alleged Egyptian-backed coup. Declassified documents suggest, however, that British planners fabricated the coup scenario to justify intervention.

1961 Death of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in mysterious plane crash while trying to secure peace in Congo. Recent evidence has emerged of possible MI5 involvement.

1961 US begins major intervention in Vietnam. As US atrocities mount in the war that follows, Britain secretly provides US with military intelligence, arms and covert SAS deployments, along with diplomatic support.

1961 July: Britain conducts military intervention in Kuwait, ostensibly to defend the country from imminent Iraqi invasion. Declassified documents suggest, however, that British planners fabricated the threat to justify intervention.

1962 MI6 and SAS begin covert operation in North Yemen that eventually involves providing arms, funding and logistical support to royalist rebels in dirty war against pro-Egyptian republican forces. Around 200,000 die in the war.

1964 Britain begins second war in support of Oman regime, against the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf, fought mainly covertly by the SAS. The ‘Dhofar Rebellion’ is defeated by 1975.

1965 October: Bloodbath in Indonesia begins as army moves against supporters of Indonesian Communist Party, reaching around a million deaths. Declassified documents show Britain aids the Indonesian army in conducting the slaughter through covert operations and secret messages of support.

1968 Britain begins illegal and secret removal of 1,500 population of Chagos islands, including Diego Garcia, following agreement to lease islands to US. Whitehall conspiracy begins, contending there are no indigenous inhabitants.

1970 July: British coup in Oman overthrows Sultan and installs his son. Sultan Qaboos remains in power today.

1975 December: Indonesia invades East Timor, leading to 200,000 deaths. In secret cable, British ambassador in Jakarta says Indonesia ‘should absorb the territory as soon and as unobtrusively as possible’ and that Britain ‘should avoid taking sides against the Indonesian government’.

1980 MI6 begins largest postwar covert operation in Afghanistan to train mojahidin groups fighting the Soviet occupation.

1981 US begins covert intervention against Nicaragua, training contra rebels in sabotage and terrorist operations. Britain provides strong diplomatic support to US and nod and wink to ‘security’ company, KMS, to train and recruit contra guerillas and conduct gun-running operations.

1983 October: US invades Grenada. British government privately furious at US failure to consult in invasion of Commonwealth country, but publicly backs intervention.

1985 First contract with Saudi Arabia signed in massive Al Yamamah arms deal. With second deal in 1988, overall worth is around £50 billion.

1986 Spring: MI6 begins supplying Afghan mojahidin groups with ‘Blowpipe’ shoulder-launched missiles, some of which are used to shoot down passenger airliners.

1986 April: US conducts air raids on Libya. Britain allows US use of British air bases and provides strong public support.

1989 December: US invades Panama. Britain is only major state to unstintingly support US.

1991 January: US, Britain and coalition begin massive bombing campaign against Iraq to force withdrawal from Kuwait following its invasion the previous August.

1991 April: Britain and US establish ‘no fly zones’ in northern and southern Iraq. They begin covert, permanent war of bombing in the zones.

1991 November: Indonesian forces massacre hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor. Britain continues arms exports and business as usual.

1992 MI6 draws up plans to assassinate Yugoslav president Milosevic, according to an MI6 official. These plans are apparently not carried out.

1993 June: US conducts cruise missile attacks against Iraq. Britain provides political support.

1994 April: Rwanda genocide begins, quickly killing a million people. Britain effectively aids the slaughter by helping to reduce UN force that could have prevented the killings, in helping to delay other plans for intervention and in resisting use of the term ‘genocide’ which would have obligated the international community to act.

1996 MoD quietly sends first of several training teams to assist Saudi Arabia in ‘internal security’ as part of wider support to Saudi Arabian National Guard, the force that protects the ruling family.

1996 February: Assassination and coup attempt against Libya’s Colonel Qadafi with, according to former MI5 officer David Shayler, MI6 funds and backing.

1996 April: British-supplied Scorpion light tanks used in Indonesia to repress demonstrators. It is the first of eight known occasions in 1996-2000 that British armoured cars are used for internal repression. Blair government continues arms to Indonesia.

1996 September: US conducts cruise missile attacks against Iraq. Britain provides political support.

1998 August: US launches cruise missile attacks against Al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. Britain provides strong political support.

1998 December: US and Britain begin four-day heavy bombing campaign against Iraq, followed by weeks-long secret escalation of bombing in ‘no fly zones’.

1999 March: Britain and NATO begin bombing campaign against Milosevic’s Yugoslavia over Kosovo. The humanitarian catastrophe that Western leaders claim they are preventing is in reality precipitated by NATO bombing.

1999 April: Former members of Kenyan Mau Mau movement announce they are suing British government for human rights atrocities committed in 1950s.

1999 August/September: Around 5,000 are killed in East Timor and 500,000 forced to flee from Indonesian-backed terror around the vote for independence. Britain continues arms sales to Jakarta and finally agrees only to delay not stop them, while inviting Indonesia to an arms fair in Britain. Blair government tries to take credit for stopping Indonesian violence by helping to establish UN peace enforcement mission.

Cont...

droid
02-09-2008, 11:30 AM
2000 January: Chinese defence minister, General Chi Haotian, who commanded the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, visits Britain to explore ‘military cooperation’, showing London’s apparent defiance of EU arms embargo on China.

2000 February: As Russian forces ferociously bomb the Chechnyan capital, Grozny, reducing the city to rubble, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook says he ‘understood’ Russia’s problems in Chechnya.

2000 July: British national Ian Henderson resigns as adviser to Bahraini government after career as head of repressive internal security service.

2000 November: High Court rules against government that Chagos islanders be allowed to return to some of their homeland islands, but not Diego Garcia.

2001 February: US/British airstrikes against Iraq in response to alleged threats to aircraft in ‘no fly zones’.

2001 August: US and Britain secretly step up bombing campaign in ‘no fly zones’ in Iraq.

2001 October: US and Britain begin massive bombing campaign against Al Qaida and Taliban regime in Afghanistan following terrorist attacks of September 11th. Civilian deaths in the war outnumber those killed on September 11th.

2001 November: At the World Trade Organisation summit in Qatar, Britain with EU allies tries to force ‘new issues’ on to the WTO’s negotiating agenda in face of opposition from developing countries. The latter remain united and the decision is delayed for two years.

2002 Foreign Office website continues to lie that there are ‘no indigenous inhabitants’ of the Chagos islands, while Foreign Office continues in effect to block islanders’ return.

2002 August: With full-scale war against Iraq appearing imminent, US and Britain secretly step up bombing campaign in ‘no fly zones’.

2002 October: In midst of continuing Russian atrocities in Chechnya, Tony Blair says ‘it is important to understand the Russian perspective’.

2003 March: After months of build-up, US and Britain launch war against Iraq, discarding the UN weapons inspection process and bypassing the UN Security Council.

Taken from this excellent book: http://www.human-nature.com/reason/01/curtis.html[/QUOTE]

(And thats without mention of human rights abuses and security forces collusion with Loyalist terror in Northern Ireland.)

Now, Im not a marxist or a communist. I abhor state communism and am not inclined to excuse the crimes of so-called 'communist' governments, but any argument that rests on the assumption that capitalist countries are 'most peaceful', or that communist states have been more aggressive than capitalist ones is contradicted by the historical record.

droid
02-09-2008, 11:30 AM
Utterly wrong.

Pray tell?

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 11:34 AM
Thats all up for debate really, but one thing that is clear, especially in the US, is that 'socialist' elements - unions, welfare etc... have beeen systematically rolled back. In fact the US under Reagan and Britain under Tatcher (and now labour) are pioneers in the elimination of social safety nets for their populations.

Agreed, as far as that goes - the problem is, for many people in Britain unemployment benefit has long ago ceased to be a mere 'safety net' and has become a way of life, not uncommonly for two or three generations of the same family. There's nothing socialist about having large numbers of people permanently on the dole.
And as far as other aspects of the welfare state go, huge amounts of money have been pumped into education and health under Labour (although I'm certainly not alone in being worried about the increasing role being played by private firms in these areas).

3 Body No Problem
02-09-2008, 11:36 AM
Imperialism has 'has not been practised by the advanced capitalist states for a long time'?

When was the last time it was practised in your opinion?

I apologise for being imprecise here. What I should have said was: Imperialism has not been practised by procedural democracy with a capitalist economy for a long time. I used to term "advanced captialist" as a shorthand for such states (which also feature a free press, independent judiciary and so on). I should have made that clear. Calling them "Advanced capitalist" is problematic, because of entities like Singapore.


The history of US and UK aggression against, and inteference with other nations in the 20th century alone has been well documented and makes a mockery of that claim.

I agree, however the UK can reasonably be called a democracy only after the loss of the empire in the 1950 or 1960s. The US is the most interesting and most problematic case for me. Internally, the US can be said to have become a democracy (in the conventional sense of the word of all citizens being allowed to vote) only when blacks got effectively the same formal rights as whites, which happened in the 1960s. To this day the US still dominates many countries on this planet without giving the citizens of these places adequate democratic representation. So it is on some level questionable if the US can be called a democracy in my sense (i.e. the real sense) of all subjects -- citizens or otherwise -- having electoral franchise. But there are mitigating factors.

The kind of dominance that the US practises in e.g. Western Europe, is very different from, and much more benign than the imperialist dominance of, say France in Viet Nam, or Belgium in Kongo, or the Soviet Union in the Baltics.
Internally the US is very democratic (in the sense of procedural democracy), with the electoral franchise being extended to almost all its (adult) citizens. This is very different from, and much better than the feudal regimes of Europe, or the autocracies of the communist world.

3 Body No Problem
02-09-2008, 11:55 AM
Thats all up for debate really, but one thing that is clear, especially in the US, is that 'socialist' elements - unions, welfare etc... have beeen systematically rolled back. In fact the US under Reagan and Britain under Tatcher (and now labour) are pioneers in the elimination of social safety nets for their populations.

That's true, but Reagan and Thatcher were elected into office, reelected, suggesting that the populace agreed with their policies to a fair degree, and left office peacefully. In terms of human history this is great progress. Their successors continued many of their policies, with great economic success. A few years ago, Britain elected a government to reverse some thatcherite policies. The US will probably do so soon with regards to health care.


And of course, the systems these countries prescribe, permit and enforce on weaker countries are about as far from socialism as you can get.

That's true, but I think that's because most (all?) successful transitions of poor countries to wealth happened using capitalist economic principles coupled with huge state investment into education, social housing and so on.

That said, the "Washington consensus" which never was a consensus, and is probably quite out of fashion now, was certainly a bad idea on many levels.

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 11:57 AM
A further correction to make is that, despite the repulsive policies of State communists/marxists towards their own populations, the record of external aggression of China and Russia (I assume you were referring to them) pales in comparison to the Western aggression and interference in the third world.

The record of the junior partner alone is illustrative:



Cont...

Oh come on - China's invasion of Tibet? China/N. Korea's invasion of S. Korea? Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Soviet invasion of just about the whole of Eastern Europe? Chinese aggression against India in the '60s? Soviet missiles in Cuba? North vs. South Vietnam?

droid
02-09-2008, 11:59 AM
I agree, however the UK can reasonably be called a democracy only after the loss of the empire in the 1950 or 1960s.

Well, Im not sure I agree with that, but how does that mitigate my comments? The record of UK aggression since the 50s is obscene.


The US is the most interesting and most problematic case for me. Internally, the US can be said to have become a democracy (in the conventional sense of the word of all citizens being allowed to vote) only when blacks got effectively the same formal rights as whites, which happened in the 1960s. To this day the US still dominates many countries on this planet without giving the citizens of these places adequate democratic representation. So it is on some level questionable if the US can be called a democracy in my sense (i.e. the real sense) of all subjects -- citizens or otherwise -- having electoral franchise. But there are mitigating factors.

Yes. And barriers to entry, major electoral fraud etc...



The kind of dominance that the US practises in e.g. Western Europe, is very different from, and much more benign than the imperialist dominance of, say France in Viet Nam, or Belgium in Kongo, or the Soviet Union in the Baltics.

'e.g. Western Europe'!!

As Im sure youre aware that is an utterly skewed and selective example. What about US actions in the Americas, the mideast or in South east asia, where the character of intervention is far lass benign than the examples you have given?

In western Europe there was the Greek civil war where the West supported reactionary elements against those who had liberated the country from Nazi occupation, a pattern repeated to a lesser extent throughout much of Europe, and then of course there was electoral interference in Italy, supprot for fascism in Spain etc...


Internally the US is very democratic (in the sense of procedural democracy), with the electoral franchise being extended to almost all its (adult) citizens. This is very different from, and much better than the feudal regimes of Europe, or the autocracies of the communist world.


Sure, but with serious caveats. Democracy cannot simply be declared and taken for granted forever after, rather its something that must be constantly measured and evaluated. The US is obviously more democratic than outright dictatorships, but far less democratic as nations that have popular mass movements and elements of direct democracy.

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 12:22 PM
In western Europe there was the Greek civil war where the West supported reactionary elements against those who had liberated the country from Nazi occupation...

...and went on to commit plenty of massacres of their own once the Nazis were defeated...

To be honest, I can't really see this debate getting anywhere useful if we're going to sit here racking our brains for atrocities, coups and invasions committed by this or that Marxist or capitalist country. The Big Question (not the one asked in this thread, but in another thread that went on for a long time, and it seems the most important question to be asking, in general geopolitical terms) is "If not capitalism, then what?". If we're going on the historical record, it seems to me that communist states, in terms of absolute death toll and most serious deviations from democracy and violations of liberty, are generally worse than capitalist ones. That's not, of course, to exonerate the US, UK, France or any other country for actions that are at odds with a professed love of democracy, freedom and equality.

droid
02-09-2008, 12:31 PM
Oh come on - China's invasion of Tibet? China/N. Korea's invasion of S. Korea? Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Soviet invasion of just about the whole of Eastern Europe? Chinese aggression against India in the '60s? Soviet missiles in Cuba? North vs. South Vietnam?

Portraying the Vietnam war as an act of Soviet aggression is utterly ridiculous. The soviet invasion of Eastern Europe - not really aggressive wars. Political domination and imposition of state communism after the war would be generally counted as internal aggression (apart maybe for Hungary and Czechoslovakia). Soviet missiles in Cuba? A response to American missiles in Turkey as is well known. Afghanistan? CIA provoked as we all also know.

And take notice of one thing. With the exception of Cuba, all major interventions were taken against neighbouring states.

(You missed out the Soviet adventures in Africa (notably Ethipoia) and the Mid East btw.)

But anyway, even taking all of this at face value, the record of US and UK aggression is still staggering in comparison. Especially if you take into account the actions of supported states like South Africa and Israel.

Ive already posted a list of UK malfeasance. Here are the major US interventions since WW2:

China, 1945-49:
Italy, 1947-48:
Greece, 1947-49:
Philippines, 1945-53:
South Korea, 1945-53:
Albania, 1949-53:
Germany, 1950s:
Iran, 1953:
Guatemala, 1953-1990s:
Middle East, 1956-58:
Indonesia, 1957-58:
British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:
Vietnam, 1950-73:
Cambodia, 1955-73:
The Congo/Zaire, 1960-65:
Brazil, 1961-64:
Dominican Republic, 1963-66:
Cuba, 1959 to present:
Indonesia, 1965:
Chile, 1964-73:
Greece, 1964-74:
East Timor, 1975 to present:
Nicaragua, 1978-89:
Grenada, 1979-84:
Libya, 1981-89:
Panama, 1989:
Iraq, 1990s:
Afghanistan, 1979-92:
El Salvador, 1980-92:
Haiti, 1987-94:
Somalia, 1992-1994
Sudan, 1998
Yugoslavia, 1999
Haiti, 2004
Afghanistan 2002-
Iraq 2003-

And these are only the major interventions.

And once again, this is not a pissing contest. Im not denying crimes committed by brutal 'communist' dictators, simply pointing out the facts in response to the laughable suggestion that Capitalist states are 'the most peaceful' and that when they intervene its usually 'benign', when in fact, they have carried out far more acts of external aggression, often in a far more brutal fashion.

droid
02-09-2008, 12:45 PM
...and went on to commit plenty of massacres of their own once the Nazis were defeated...

Care to expand?? There was infighting between leftist groups sure...

Strange how you can highlight this but ignore say the massacre of about 100,000 communists in Korea prior to the Korean war...


If we're going on the historical record, it seems to me that communist states, in terms of absolute death toll and most serious deviations from democracy and violations of liberty, are generally worse than capitalist ones. That's not, of course, to exonerate the US, UK, France or any other country for actions that are at odds with a professed love of democracy, freedom and equality.

If we're going by historical record it is clear that 'peace-loving' capitalist states have committed far more acts of external aggression (including suppression of democracy and self determination) than the filthy communists.

If you really want a laugh you should check out the US/UK veto record at the UN...

State communists generally fucked with their own populations and immediate neighbours. major capitalist nations generally fucked with the rest of the world.

Why is that so hard to accept?

mixed_biscuits
02-09-2008, 01:18 PM
To be honest, I can't really see this debate getting anywhere useful if we're going to sit here racking our brains for atrocities, coups and invasions committed by this or that Marxist or capitalist country. The Big Question (not the one asked in this thread, but in another thread that went on for a long time, and it seems the most important question to be asking, in general geopolitical terms) is "If not capitalism, then what?".

Agree - and I don't remember the other thread coming up with anything useful either.

john eden
02-09-2008, 01:31 PM
Agree - and I don't remember the other thread coming up with anything useful either.

Which is funny cos you would think there would be a simple answer to such an easy question, innit?

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 01:38 PM
Which is funny cos you would think there would be a simple answer to such an easy question, innit?

Well I don't think anyone here ever said there is, or should be! But it might be a better idea to admit that we don't know what to do (yet) than suggesting an ideology that history has repeatedly shown leads ineluctably to tyranny, economic stagnation (at the very least) and often mass murder as well.

mixed_biscuits
02-09-2008, 01:38 PM
Which is funny cos you would think there would be a simple answer to such an easy question, innit?

Well no, and that's precisely the point - instead of thinking about the impossible task of successfully replacing one entire social system with another, it would be more interesting and useful to look at particular parts of the system and bring about piecemeal change.

fokse vektaire xeven
02-09-2008, 01:43 PM
That's true, but Reagan and Thatcher were elected into office, reelected, suggesting that the populace agreed with their policies to a fair degree, and left office peacefully. In terms of human history this is great progress. Their successors continued many of their policies, with great economic success. A few years ago, Britain elected a government to reverse some thatcherite policies. The US will probably do so soon with regards to health care.


So the Thatcher Reagen years were a golden age of human progress. certainly not how it felt growing up in them.

in no sense did Margaret Thatcher leave office peacefully, she was pushed out by her own party. If you mean in terms of foreign policy you seem to have forgotten the Cold War and the Falklands. It was Blairs government that is seen by many- though excepting you evidently- as a direct continuation and honing of Thatcherism.



Blair and Brown recognised that Thatcher had introduced a new orthodoxy. Their achievement was to browbeat their party to accept that the clock could not be put back


personally i think the great victory of capitalism is on an individual level, its appeal to self interest. on that level it is almost indissolubly powerful. if any of you were among the excluded rather than than beneficiaries i expect you would feel differently.



"If not capitalism, then what?".

Well, we might at least hold out some hope for a move toward truer democratic socialism, as oxymoronic as some claim it is. Whatever fits into your own value system. anything seems preferable to some kind of wearied and/or knowing acceptance...


Agree - and I don't remember the other thread coming up with anything useful either.

i was as surprised as you the last thread failed to effect world peace. let's all just get on with the primary business of consuming instead of having these ineffectual, academic debates.

john eden
02-09-2008, 01:51 PM
Well no, and that's precisely the point - instead of thinking about the impossible task of successfully replacing one entire social system with another, it would be more interesting and useful to look at particular parts of the system and bring about piecemeal change.

One doesn't preclude the other.

Like it or not, capitalism is not the last form of organisation we will see on this planet.

droid
02-09-2008, 01:54 PM
Well no, and that's precisely the point - instead of thinking about the impossible task of successfully replacing one entire social system with another, it would be more interesting and useful to look at particular parts of the system and bring about piecemeal change.

Absolutely. A good start would be to introduce elements of direct democracy into our political systems. let people have a genuine input into how their lives are run instead of grotesque 5 yearly popularity contests.

This is instructive (it all goes pear shaped of course):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6b2OT3C9KY&feature=related

Comelately made a good point earlier, its not the political/economic ideologies that cause the problem, its the fact that small groups of elites think that they know best and they have the right to dictate to the bewildered herd - an obvious problem on the left and a perennial feature in Western politics.

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 02:07 PM
Well, we might at least hold out some hope for a move toward truer democratic socialism, as oxymoronic as some claim it is. Whatever fits into your own value system. anything seems preferable to some kind of wearied and/or knowing acceptance...


Yeah, I'd go with that, pretty much. A regulated (but not suffocated) market economy to generate wealth and produce consumer goods, a robust welfare state, publicly owned utilities and transport systems and a form of real democracy that helps people feel enfranchised and involved.

mixed_biscuits
02-09-2008, 02:16 PM
Absolutely. A good start would be to introduce elements of direct democracy into our political systems. let people have a genuine input into how their lives are run instead of grotesque 5 yearly popularity contests.

Agree - which country is the most directly democratic at the moment?

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 02:25 PM
Agree - which country is the most directly democratic at the moment?

Switzerland would be a good bet. Each canton has half-a-dozen or more parties standing on a whole range of local issues, and there seem to be elections or referenda almost all the time. Democracy there isn't so much a political system as a national passtime.

mixed_biscuits
02-09-2008, 02:45 PM
The US has many local variations between states too, doesn't it?

droid
02-09-2008, 02:50 PM
Yeah. And Venezuela (despite the hype). Theres also significant movements in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, South Africa, Mexico...

Of course, most of these groups are in direct opposition to globalisation, and would probably be described as communist/terrorist by the likes of the Wall Street journal. :D

3 Body No Problem
02-09-2008, 03:13 PM
State communists generally fucked with their own populations and immediate neighbours. major capitalist nations generally fucked with the rest of the world.

Why is that so hard to accept?

Because it is false? Cambodia or Viet Nam are hardly Neighbours of the Soviet Union. Moreover by fucking with your immediate neighbours, your gain new neighbours and so on ... Anyway, Marxism is explicitly and openly an imperialist ideology with the goal of establishing a world-wide socialist state. The reason many state communists governments could not carry out their expansionist plans for world domination, is because they were contained in the cold war by the west. Most of the items of aggression in your list would not have happened but for a need to contain the Soviet Union, and China.

One can and should question some of the technique used by the west, especially in supporting dodgy dictators in the 3rd world, but seeing them without acknowledging a need to contain stalinist and maoist states is a gross distortion.

IdleRich
02-09-2008, 03:33 PM
"personally i think the great victory of capitalism is on an individual level, its appeal to self interest. on that level it is almost indissolubly powerful. if any of you were among the excluded rather than than beneficiaries i expect you would feel differently."
Maybe, but surely ideological capitalists believe (or claim to believe) that it is the system that maximises the amount of prosperity for humanity as a whole and that it if it working properly the poorest people will still be better off than they would be under communism - that to have smaller share of a much bigger pie is better than the alternative. Hence all the talk of absolute versus relative poverty, trickle down, rising tide lifts all boats etc
Obviously, as much discussed, this is controversial and also as an analysis it ignores factors other than prosperity as a way to measure human success and happiness.

crackerjack
02-09-2008, 03:39 PM
Maybe, but surely ideological capitalists believe (or claim to believe) that it is the system that maximises the amount of prosperity for humanity as a whole and that it if it working properly the poorest people will still be better off than they would be under communism - that to have smaller share of a much bigger pie is better than the alternative. Hence all the talk of absolute versus relative poverty, trickle down, rising tide lifts all boats etc
Obviously, as much discussed, this is controversial and also as an analysis it ignores factors other than prosperity as a way to measure human success and happiness.

Fascinating piece on Angola here (my bolds)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/31/angola.elections


The parliamentary poll is a crucial test for this south west African country - hitherto associated with conflict and land mines - which is the world's fastest-growing economy. Luanda, remarkably, has overtaken Tokyo as the most expensive capital on the planet. In three years, the former Portuguese colony's oil output will match Kuwait's. Angola is China's single biggest oil supplier. And the supplies are not about to run out.

But for ordinary Angolans - who between 1961 and 2002 endured successive wars - the boom remains elusive, although economic growth last year was estimated at 24 per cent. The population of 12 million languishes in the lower development indicators of life expectancy, education and wealth. The gap between rich and poor is a chasm: while the middle classes pay $20,000 a month rent for an unimpressive one-bedroom flat in central Luanda, millions live in shanty towns around the capital. Aid statistics show two thirds of the population are surviving on less than $2 per day.

Unemployment is high - between 40 and 60 per cent - and infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world, with about a quarter of children dying before the age of five.

droid
02-09-2008, 03:41 PM
Because it is false? Cambodia or Viet Nam are hardly Neighbours of the Soviet Union. Moreover by fucking with your immediate neighbours, your gain new neighbours and so on

Are you saying that Vietnam and Cambodia were invaded by the Soviet union?

If so, that's a demented cold war fantasy. Even hardline pro Western historians have acknowledged that the Soviet role in Vietnam was extremely limited. And as for Cambodia? I cant think of any serious commentator who has even suggested soviet interference there.

Consider the state departments' opinion:



It is amusing to trace the efforts to establish that Ho Chi Minh was merely a Russian (or Chinese) puppet – as obviously must be the case. The State Department, in July, 1948, could find "no evidence of direct link between Ho and Moscow" (but naturally "assumes it exists").29 State Department intelligence, in the fall, found evidence of "Kremlin-directed conspiracy . . . in virtually all countries except Vietnam." Indochina appeared "an anomaly." How can this be explained? To intelligence, the most likely explanation is that "no rigid directives have been issued by Moscow" or that "a special dispensation for the Vietnam government has been arranged in Moscow" (I, 5, 34). In September, 1948, the State Department noted that "There continues to be no known communication between the USSR and Vietnam, although evidence is accumulating that a radio liaison may have been established through the Tass agency in Shanghai" (DOD, book 8, 148, grasping at straws). American officials in Saigon added that "No evidence has yet turned up that Ho Chi Minh IS receiving current directives either from Moscow, China, or the Soviet Legation in Bangkok." "It may be assumed," they conclude from this, "that Moscow feels that Ho and his lieutenants have had sufficient training and experience and are sufficiently loyal to be trusted to determine their day-to-day policy without supervision" (ibid., 151). By February, 1949, they were relieved to discover that "Moscow publications of fairly recent date are frequently seized by the French," indicating that "satisfactory communications exist," though the channel remains a mystery (ibid., 168; also "there has been surprising[ly] little direct cooperation between local Chinese Communists and the Viet Minh").

http://www.chomsky.info/articles/1972----.htm



... Anyway, Marxism is explicitly and openly an imperialist ideology with the goal of establishing a world-wide socialist state. The reason many state communists governments could not carry out their expansionist plans for world domination, is because they were contained in the cold war by the west. Most of the items of aggression in your list would not have happened but for a need to contain the Soviet Union, and China.

Uh-huh. Thats right. :rolleyes:

Western acts are always defensive and benign... Communist states are bloodthristy expansionists trying to ensnare the globe with their evil plots, prevented from doing so only because of brave American self sacrifice. that explains why NATO disbanded after the USSR collapsed and why the US and UK decommissioned its nuclear arsenal and stopped invading other countries after the Warsaw pact collapsed.

This is mind-numbingly simplistic textbook coldwar propaganda.

The threat was not primarily the USSR and China, which were not aggressively expansionist. The threat (as seen by US planners) was from national independent movements and social revolutionaries in 3rd world countries potentially preventing access to the exploitation of 3rd world resources

Try reading the Pentagon papers sometime. Its mostly spelled out there.


One can and should question some of the technique used by the west, especially in supporting dodgy dictators in the 3rd world, but seeing them without acknowledging a need to contain stalinist and maoist states is a gross distortion.

Yes. Question the techniques, but never their motives.

And I agree that an analysis of global politics during the cold war without a distorted and false propagandistic filter would look like a gross distortion to the naive and credulous observer.

mixed_biscuits
02-09-2008, 03:45 PM
Bear in mind how grim Britain was during the Industrial Revolution, as the 'tide had begun to rise.'

'the USSR was not aggressively expansionist' LOL

droid
02-09-2008, 04:53 PM
'the USSR was not aggressively expansionist' LOL

Indeed. I would LOL at a traditionalist view of the cold war that was discredited as far back as the mid 60s, but unfortunately, you're serious.


In sum, traditionalists portray the Soviet Union as an expansionist, ideologically driven power and the West as primarily reactive; revisionists argue that the Soviets were reactive, and the United States expansionist; post-revisionists, while assigning some responsibility for the Cold War to Soviet expansionist pressures, often place equal or greater blame on the United States; realists portray the Soviets as highly reactive because of the security dilemma, and therefore generally defensive and cautious.


So tell me. As a the most basic of indicators, exactly how many countries did the USSR invade during the cold war?

droid
02-09-2008, 05:22 PM
Heres an interesting exercise. If the West's unsavoury actions during the cold war were simply an attempt to protect the free world and contain Soviet and Chinese expansion, then there would have been a sea change in policy after the fall of the USSR and the integration of China into the World economy.

Right?

Some random commentator has done the following study comparing US policy in Columbia during and post cold war that touches on the differing views of the cold war:

http://uk.geocities.com/dstokes14/choms.htm

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 05:36 PM
So tell me. As a the most basic of indicators, exactly how many countries did the USSR invade during the cold war?

Quite a few...


In the aftermath of World War II, the Soviet Union extended its political and military influence over Eastern Europe, in a move that was seen by some as a continuation of the older policies of the Russian Empire. Some territories that had been lost by Soviet Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918) were annexed by the Soviet Union after WWII: the Baltic States and eastern portions of interwar Poland. The Russian SFSR also gained the northern half of East Prussia (Kaliningrad Oblast) from Germany. The Ukrainian SSR gained Transcarpathia (as Zakarpattia Oblast) from Slovakia, and Ukrainian populated Northern Bukovina (as Chernivtsi Oblast) from Romania. Finally, in the late 1940s, pro−Soviet Communist Parties won the elections in five countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria) and subsequently became Stalinist dictatorships. These elections are generally regarded as rigged, and the Western powers did not recognize the elections as legitimate. For the duration of the Cold War, the countries of Eastern Europe became Soviet satellite states — they were "independent" nations, which were one-party Communist States whose General Secretary had to be approved by the Kremlin, and so their governments usually kept their policy in line with the wishes of the Soviet Union, although nationalistic forces and pressures within the satellite states played a part in causing some deviation from strict Soviet rule.

...especially if you include those countries that weren't physically invaded but became de facto Soviet satellite states as a means of survival.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union_(1927–1953)#Soviet_heg emony_over_Eastern_Europe

Then there was the repression of the Hungarian uprising in the '50s, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the '60s and the invasion of Afghanistan in '79 (which may have involved American provocation, but that doesn't alter the fact of Soviet aggression) - to say nothing of war crimes committed against Poland as the Red Army rolled across it after the retreating Nazis.

Edit: you could even include the Russian civil war and subsequent formation of the USSR itself...

crackerjack
02-09-2008, 05:57 PM
Quite a few...



...especially if you include those countries that weren't physically invaded but became de facto Soviet satellite states as a means of survival.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union_(1927–1953)#Soviet_heg emony_over_Eastern_Europe

Then there was the repression of the Hungarian uprising in the '50s, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the '60s and the invasion of Afghanistan in '79 (which may have involved American provocation, but that doesn't alter the fact of Soviet aggression) - to say nothing of war crimes committed against Poland as the Red Army rolled across it after the retreating Nazis.

Edit: you could even include the Russian civil war and subsequent formation of the USSR itself...

I think Droid's (pedantic) point will be that the Cold War began after WWII, by when the USSR already had its empire on lock. So the answer is the three you've mentioned above: Hungary, Czecholsavakia and Afghanistan.

(soviet war crimes dring WWII weren;t confined to Poland - Stalin indulged in mindboggling population shifts. In fact, the little local difficulty Georgia's been having might be the consequence of one of them - I'm gonna check)

droid
02-09-2008, 05:57 PM
Quite a few...

..especially if you include those countries that weren't physically invaded but became de facto Soviet satellite states as a means of survival.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union_(1927–1953)#Soviet_heg emony_over_Eastern_Europe

So, it becomes 'quite a few' if you include those countries that weren't actually invaded during the cold war ? :slanted:


Then there was the repression of the Hungarian uprising in the '50s, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the '60s and the invasion of Afghanistan in '79 (which may have involved American provocation, but that doesn't alter the fact of Soviet aggression) - to say nothing of war crimes committed against Poland as the Red Army rolled across it after the retreating Nazis.

So we're taking wartime acts into consideration now as well? My atomic bombing of Japan trumps your wartime atrocities in Poland so. :slanted::slanted:

FYI, the cold war is traditionally believed to have started with the Truman doctrine in 48 and the Berlin blockade. It was known as far back as Yalta that the soviets would attempt to absorb former territory and form a buffer zone against countries in Western Europe that had tried time and again to destroy them...

If you're at all serious in discussion about expansion, you really have to look at the postwar period after the intial aftermath of the war, from 48 on, and apart from Korea (maybe) and Afghanistan (both arguably reactive actions), (Czechoslovakia and Hungary could technically be seen as internal actions, but it makes no difference) there simply are no major soviet armed interventions - and this is a period in which soviet intervention is cited as being ubiquitous. Espionage and dirty tricks? Sure, but nothing at all like the scale and frequency of Western actions which continued through the 60s, 70s and 80s, as I have illustrated...

BTW Tea, are you going to continue responding to my points whilst ignoring the refutations I make to your responses?

EDIT - Spot on Crackerjack!

droid
02-09-2008, 06:03 PM
Edit: you could even include the Russian civil war and subsequent formation of the USSR itself...

bzzkk... logic and history units overloading...

KABOOM!

:slanted:

crackerjack
02-09-2008, 06:05 PM
(soviet war crimes dring WWII weren;t confined to Poland - Stalin indulged in mindboggling population shifts. In fact, the little local difficulty Georgia's been having might be the consequence of one of them - I'm gonna check)

It wasn't.


Stalin drew the borders of the Soviet republics to ensure Georgia contained autonomous ethnic entities, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adzharia, through which Moscow could keep Georgia in order.

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 06:28 PM
If you're at all serious in discussion about expansion, you really have to look at the postwar period after the intial aftermath of the war, from 48 on, and apart from Korea (maybe) and Afghanistan (both arguably reactive actions), (Czechoslovakia and Hungary could technically be seen as internal actions, but it makes no difference) there simply are no major soviet armed interventions...

What do you mean, "technically seen as internal actions"? Internal, because those countries were at that time under effective Soviet control anyway, so they weren't technically aggressive acts against foreign countries? Sorry, but I'm failing to see how this shores up your "USSR not imperialist" argument.



BTW Tea, are you going to continue responding to my points whilst ignoring the refutations I make to your responses?


If it looks that way it's because this is a rather asymmetrical argument. I don't think I've claimed, at any point in this thread, that capitalist countries post-WWII haven't launched unjustified wars and other actions abroad to further their own agendas; I'm just saying that communist countries have too, so harping on about Vietnam or the Suez crisis is not in itself much of a defense of communist foreign policies.
I'm not denying capitalist imperialism; you seem to be denying, or at least severely downplaying, communist imperialism.

And as for:

bzzkk... logic and history units overloading...

I'm not too sure all those peasants in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and so on were given a nice democratic referendum on whether they wanted to be part of the USSR, are you? My point is that the USSR was effectively an empire since its inception, long before it started gobbling up eastern Europe. OK, so that was before the Cold War - not sure why this is such an important distinction, it still happened.

crackerjack
02-09-2008, 06:39 PM
in no sense did Margaret Thatcher leave office peacefully, she was pushed out by her own party

In the sense that no one was killed during her overthrow then she most certainly did leave peacefully (but I won't reach for my dictionary again, as I know how much some people round here dislike definitions that can't be reinterpreted on the hoof ;))

droid
02-09-2008, 06:58 PM
What do you mean, "technically seen as internal actions"? Internal, because those countries were at that time under effective Soviet control anyway, so they weren't technically aggressive acts against foreign countries? Sorry, but I'm failing to see how this shores up your "USSR not imperialist" argument.

I never made that argument, I claimed that they were not aggressively expansionist. When I say internal actions I mean actions against areas that were already under USSR control, which I then follow with the statement 'not that it makes any difference' because even with those countries included, the thesis does not stand up...

Get it?


If it looks that way it's because this is a rather asymmetrical argument. I don't think I've claimed, at any point in this thread, that capitalist countries post-WWII haven't launched unjustified wars and other actions abroad to further their own agendas; I'm just saying that communist countries have too, so harping on about Vietnam or the Suez crisis is not in itself much of a defense of communist foreign policies.

And I never said it was. I made those points in response to arguments that capitalist countries are peaceful and, following that, that capitalist aggression was a response to soviet expansion. People (like yourself have responded with ridiculous statements like 'what about Vietnam', which I have replied to, and those replies have been ignored.


I'm not denying capitalist imperialism; you seem to be denying, or at least severely downplaying, communist imperialism.

Im sorry, but thats just pathetic.

Apart from the fact that I have repeatedly stating that I am not denying communist aggression and have even pointed out communist crimes you have missed in your rigorous analysis, surely you are the one 'severely' downplaying Western aggression?

Theres a list of what? 50 or so countries there (and thats not all of them) which have been victims of Western interference and aggression during and since the cold war, and all you can do is maintain that the communists were the real bad guys based on the fact that they invaded 6 or 7 states during a 40 year period.


m not too sure all those peasants in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and so on were given a nice democratic referendum on whether they wanted to be part of the USSR, are you? My point is that the USSR was effectively an empire since its inception, long before it started gobbling up eastern Europe. OK, so that was before the Cold War - not sure why this is such an important distinction, it still happened.

For the love of god. The current point is 'was the soviet union aggressively expansionist during the cold war?. - and you respond with something about the formation of the USSR and the Russian 'civil' war???

It beggars belief.. but OK, lets look at that:


These are the numbers of the foreign soldiers who occupied the indicated regions of Russia:

* 50,000 Czechoslovaks (along the Trans-Siberian railway) [5]
* 28,000 Japanese, later increased to 70,000 (all in the Vladivostok region) [6]
* 24,000 Greeks (in Crimea)[7]
* 13,000 Americans (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 12,000 Poles (mostly in Crimea and the Ukraine)
* 4,000 Canadians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 4,000 Serbs (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 4,000 Romanians (in the Arkhangelsk region)
* 2,000 Italians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 2,000 Chinese (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 1,600 British (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 1,200 French and French colonial (mostly in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
* 560 Australians (mostly in the Arkhangelsk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War

As I said in an earlier post 'many communist states were attacked from the moment of conception'...

And why stop there? Lets go back a bit further.. I hear that Britain was once 'an empire'. And I don't remember an referendums in the wild west when the natives were being slaughtered... :slanted:

fokse vektaire xeven
02-09-2008, 06:59 PM
In the sense that no one was killed during her overthrow then she most certainly did leave peacefully (but I won't reach for my dictionary again, as I know how much some people round here dislike definitions that can't be reinterpreted on the hoof ;))

Reaching for the dictionary is something my old man used to do around the family dinner table. Constant appeals to a higher authority. It happens here a lot too.

I assume you're fucking around, but i'm not sure what the joke is.

Slothrop
02-09-2008, 07:23 PM
Reaching for the dictionary is something my old man used to do around the family dinner table. Constant appeals to a higher authority. It happens here a lot too.
If you're thinking of the racism thread, it's not an attempt to appeal to authority to prove yourself right, it's an attempt to get people to either use words in a commonly used sense or to acknowledge that they're being used nonstandardly. Otherwise we might argue based on "aha it's no means yes day so I win."

fokse vektaire xeven
02-09-2008, 07:31 PM
And i was using the word "peace" in a standard way. anyway- cj was fucking about....


If you're thinking of the racism thread, it's not an attempt to appeal to authority to prove yourself right, it's an attempt to get people to either use words in a commonly used sense or to acknowledge that they're being used nonstandardly. Otherwise we might argue based on "aha it's no means yes day so I win."

i wasn't, so i'm not sure if we're on the same page. i will say this over familiar discursive tactic that aims to define people into a strict, rigorous position in order to cite formal argumentative exceptions is utterly pointless, though i realise the education we receive in this country encourages us to think that way.

droid
02-09-2008, 08:21 PM
And i was using the word "peace" in a standard way. anyway- cj was fucking about....



i wasn't, so i'm not sure if we're on the same page. i will say this over familiar discursive tactic that aims to define people into a strict, rigorous position in order to cite formal argumentative exceptions is utterly pointless, though i realise the education we receive in this country encourages us to think that way.

But of course, if you cant even define terms of reference or the meaning of words, it makes it almost impossible to have any kind of reasoned discussion and everything becomes meaningless, and god knows, its difficult enough as it is...

Mr. Tea
02-09-2008, 08:38 PM
But of course, if you cant even define terms of reference or the meaning of words, it makes it almost impossible to have any kind of reasoned discussion and everything becomes meaningless, and god knows, its difficult enough as it is...

I'm with comrade droid ;) on this one.

fokse vektaire xeven
02-09-2008, 08:54 PM
ok, carry on exchanging wikipedia entries.

droid
02-09-2008, 08:55 PM
heh.

josef k.
02-09-2008, 11:39 PM
This thread seems to have moved on. I'd just like to add a few quick points.


I might be going off on a tangent here but I don't see how any "debunking" of the Labour Theory of Value is supposed to affect the validity or otherwise of being for or against Capitalism, by which I mean the dominant social system that exists today however you'd like to call it.

Capitalism is a flawed system. Please correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that one of the concerns of Marxism: exposing its flaws and internal contradictions etc? As dHarry quotes above, it thrives as it lurches from one self-generated crisis to the next.

For me, the question of the labour theory of value is to do with the issue of whether Marxism is really equipped to provide a serious analysis of the economy, society, history and so on. The world in which we live clearly is "flawed" - but what is the source of those flaws? Marxism says, on the basis of the labour theory of value (which states that to work under capitalism, in any capacity, is to be exploited and robbed from) that the problem is capitalism, the capitalist system. To be more specific - for Marxists, the problem with capitalism is not simply that it is a flawed system (arch-conservative non-Marxists, such as Winston Churchill, are fully capable of admitting this too) but that it is itself, in some sense, the source of all of the flaws that exist in society. The body rots from the head, and these flaws won't be corrected - can't be corrected - until a revolution ends capitalism. Therefore, the destruction of capitalism is the main and ultimate goal of any truly Marxist politics.

How valid is this view? Clearly, that the world has many problems. And saying Marxism is a bad way of explaining those problems doesn't alter that fact in the slightest. On the other hand, it might the case that the problems are not where Marxist theory supposes them to be.

What I mean more specifically is; how real a concept is capitalism, actually? Incredible differences maintain between all the various actually existing systems of capitalism, both historically and contemporaenously. Belle epoque France and modern Dubai are both, in theory, capitalist countries - but is the capitalist paradigm really all that helpful in understanding how these countries function? I feel not, and further suggest, that it might in fact be a barrier towards doing so.


There is no point in "promoting" the prevailing order. It's like doing an advertising campaign for gravity.

There are in fact plently of people who do this, as stupid as it may be. Thomas Friedman is one of them - his idea is (or at least, was): capitalist enterprise leads inexorably to human rights and democracy. This is, in fact, it is demonstrably false. But I think the central point here is that you don't need to swing into supporting capitalism just because you don't believe in Marxism. Actually, I think the main problem would be the thought that this need be so; the idea that Marxism is the only position outside of capitalism, that no other kind of stance is really possible, that anything which is not Marxist, but not wholly capitalist, is somehow "liberal." Marxists promote this idea vigorously. But it's an absolute blackmail. Instead, it seems to me that both of these concepts - capitalism and Marxism - when used in real world situation are in fact highly suspect as concepts.

This is especially true of the kind of game which runs: "What system has done more evil in the world, capitalism or communism?" It seems to me that this approach can never get anywhere. The problems of Marxism aren't to do with what people who call themselves Marxists have done (and indeed, Marxists will always respond to these kinds of points by saying "They we're not really Marxists") but in the fact that the theory itself is, in the end, bullshit. Though, admittedly, seductive and fascinating.


Sorry to be a witless pedant and go on so long.

crackerjack
03-09-2008, 12:54 AM
Reaching for the dictionary is something my old man used to do around the family dinner table. Constant appeals to a higher authority. It happens here a lot too.

I assume you're fucking around, but i'm not sure what the joke is.

Slothrop has explained it, but the serious point stands. Thatcher's downfall might not have been quiet, but it was a lot more peaceful than Zinoviev or Beria's.

3 Body No Problem
04-09-2008, 04:41 PM
Are you saying that Vietnam and Cambodia were invaded by the Soviet union?

If so, that's a demented cold war fantasy. Even hardline pro Western historians have acknowledged that the Soviet role in Vietnam was extremely limited.

Viet Nam is an interesting case. The definite history on that conflict, and on the soviet involvement has not been written, so what I say is speculative (the same holds for you). What is know is that the Soviet Union was involved: for example the first american plane that was shot down in Viet Nam was shot down by the soviets. They Soviet Union and China also delivered a continuous stream of arms. In fact, after the Sino-Soviet Split (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Soviet_split), just about the only thing that Bejing helped Moscow with is to deliver arms to North Viet Nam via China. However, what is also true is that the Soviet Union did not seem to get involved as heavily as it could have, and would like to have done. And the reason for this reluctance? The fear of the US (and the fact that Ho Chi Minh and his people were doing a good job anyway). So Khrustchev's behaviour in the Viet Nam war is a good example of succeful containment. It is quite clear that the fear of the US was the motivation for the limited Soviet involvement, not soviet pacifism.

There is also evidence that China saw things the same way (i.e. thought Moscow to be behind Hanoi). I believe (but the available evidence is slim -- the archieves in Hanoi and Bejing have not yet been scrutinised by historians) that the reason China attacked Viet Nam in 1979 (when the chinese army got totally hammered by what amounts to Vietnamese reserve units), was the fear of being surrounded by Moscow from the North and South. China believed it might be invaded by the Soviet Union (the fear of this invasion might even be the real reason for the US involvement in Viet Nam -- the though of combining soviet arms and resources with chinese man power must have sent chills down the spine of the US defense establishment ... but that's just speculation on my side).



And as for Cambodia? I cant think of any serious commentator who has even suggested soviet interference there.

Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, was educated/got his ideological training by the french communist party, which -- as far as I'm aware -- was Moscow-run. He went on training sessions in Jugoslavia. He regularly visited Beijing before coming to power, and continued to do so. The Red Khmer were installed by the Vietnamese. It is difficult for me to believe that this happened without approval from Moscow/Bejing. Part of the reason why Pol Pot starved large parts of the Cambodian population to death is to exchange the food he gained that way for weapons from China.

When the Khmer Rouge attacked Viet Nam, he probably acted on Chinese orders.

NB: the data on Cambodia is even less solid and well-researched than that on Viet Nam. What I say above has a large speculative element.


Consider the state departments' opinion:

The state department might have been wrong. Or it might have put out misleading public statements to conceal its true insights. You don't want your enemies to know what you know. Chomsky was famously wrong on the Red Khmer.


Western acts are always defensive and benign...

I certainly do not hold this position. Western imperialism was awful.


The threat was not primarily the USSR and China, which were not aggressively expansionist.

I strongly disagree with that statement.


The threat (as seen by US planners) was from national independent movements and social revolutionaries in 3rd world countries potentially preventing access to the exploitation of 3rd world resources

There is a lot of truth to what you say, but it is interlinked with the communist threat. Access to resources is one of the most crucial military matters. In fact it is of the same importance as industrial capacity, manpower and access to nuclear weapons. It would have been very difficult to win the cold war, had the Soviet Union succeeded in taking over the oil-rich state in the middle east.

crackerjack
04-09-2008, 04:55 PM
China believed it might be invaded by the Soviet Union (the fear of this invasion might even be the real reason for the US involvement in Viet Nam -- the though of combining soviet arms and resources with chinese man power must have sent chills down the spine of the US defense establishment ... but that's just speculation on my side).

Can you explaiin what you mean more clearly? One minute you say China feared USSR invasion, the next that America invaded (maybe) Vietnam to keep them apart.

3 Body No Problem
04-09-2008, 05:23 PM
Can you explaiin what you mean more clearly? One minute you say China feared USSR invasion, the next that America invaded (maybe) Vietnam to keep them apart.

The SU invasion of China was feared by the US and by China. China didn't want to be invaded, naturally. The US feared what a combination of the SU and China could do after a successful invasion.

I don't know how real this danger was, it might have been speculative.

crackerjack
04-09-2008, 05:36 PM
The SU invasion of China was feared by the US and by China. China didn't want to be invaded, naturally. The US feared what a combination of the SU and China could do after a successful invasion.

I don't know how real this danger was, it might have been speculative.

So a post-invasion China would be more obedient to the USSR. It all sounds a bit Risk, that - after all, if the Soviets feared the american reaction to their overt involvement in Vietnam what would they (USA) do if the USSR invaded China? Vote Goldwater :eek:?

droid
04-09-2008, 05:41 PM
I am more than happy to go toe to toe on this and debate many of the points you have made, many of which are tortuously confused distortions, but I think the evidence Ive already given already asks the crucial questions.

If the USSR and China were the 'aggressively expansionist' parties, then why were their overtly aggressive acts against other states limited to only about 10 incidents (primarily against their immediate neighbours during the early stages) during the entire course of the cold war, whilst overt acts of US and UK aggression numbered over 50 and were directed at states all over the world?

The proposition that the West acted aggressively only in response to 'reds under the bed' is a self-justifying paranoid fantasy, and if you look at internal documentation from the US and UK its clear that this was not how elites viewed the situation. Its also the case that any independent move to the left in the third world was automatically portrayed as 'intervention from Moscow', regardless of the facts.

We also now know that the USSR from the mid 60s onwards was in no position economically to project its power in the way you are asserting it did. Its interventions were primarily limited to arms shipments and espionage.

I am not (as has been suggested in this thread), a supporter of either the USSR or China. I dont believe these countries were 'pacifist' in any sense, its obvious that there were monstrous states who abused their citizens and their neighbours to a horrific extent - but they were not the rapacious expansionist states that Western propaganda portrays them as, and the first thing anyone genuinely interested in the study of history should do is to disregard the chauvinistic cultural baggage that informs these kind of stereotypes.

BTW - an earlier statement you made really makes me wonder about your knowledge of Russian history:


Anyway, Marxism is explicitly and openly an imperialist ideology with the goal of establishing a world-wide socialist state.

In the USSR, Trotsky was the figure who advocated 'permanent revolution' - the same Trotsky that was politically isolated , exiled and then eventually assassinated by Stalin, whose main desire was to consolidate his power (which was what the purges were all about), not to project it around the globe - curbing workers movements in his policy of 'peaceful coexistence' with capitalism, and this approach continued to dominate Soviet policy throughout the cold war.

crackerjack
04-09-2008, 05:49 PM
In the USSR, Trotsky was the figure who advocated 'permanent revolution' - the same Trotsky that was politically isolated , exiled and then eventually assassinated by Stalin, whose main desire was to consolidate his power (which was what the purges were all about), not to project it around the globe - curbing workers movements in his policy of 'peaceful coexistence' with capitalism, and this approach continued to dominate Soviet policy throughout the cold war.

This much is true, 'socialism in one country' was the other phrase used at the time. Reading Tony Judt's Postwar recently, it was striking just how cautious Stalin was in projecting Soviet power beyond the buffer.

3 Body No Problem
04-09-2008, 06:12 PM
[...] Stalin, whose main desire was to consolidate his power (which was what the purges were all about), not to project it around the globe - curbing workers movements in his policy of 'peaceful coexistence' with capitalism, and this approach continued to dominate Soviet policy throughout the cold war.

World Revolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_revolution).

Two Stage Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Stage_Theory).

3 Body No Problem
04-09-2008, 06:14 PM
This much is true, 'socialism in one country' was the other phrase used at the time. Reading Tony Judt's Postwar recently, it was striking just how cautious Stalin was in projecting Soviet power beyond the buffer.

This is true, but I would argue that this is not indicative of JS's ultimative intentions, but because the rest of the world has made it very clear in various ways that it was not willing to tolerate Soviet expansion without serious fighting.

josef k.
04-09-2008, 06:19 PM
I think that trying to figure out which one out of the USSR or the USA were more aggressively expansionist/imperialist during the cold war is a finally unsolvable question that doesn't really ultimately touch on the issues of communism and capitalism, or the communist critique of capitalism, today. But I could be wrong.

crackerjack
04-09-2008, 06:24 PM
This is true, but I would argue that this is not indicative of JS's ultimative intentions, but because the rest of the world has made it very clear in various ways that it was not willing to tolerate Soviet expansion without serious fighting.

So it was a pragmatic adjustment to the situation, a bit of realpolitik. In this respect, are the post-Trotsky leaders of communist countries (for the most part) any different from those of capitalist countries? I take your point about the nature of the ideology outlined in the links below, but the gulf between the classical Marxism of the academic world and the application of the theory in the real world is enormous. Marxist purists imagine both a withering of the state and the eventual abolition of national boundaries (iirc, tho i could be wrong on the 2nd part). In practice communist countries built up totalitarian states and used nationalism as a vital cohesive tool.

Mr. Tea
04-09-2008, 06:24 PM
Reading Tony Judt's Postwar recently, it was striking just how cautious Stalin was in projecting Soviet power beyond the buffer.

Which I guess supports droid's point about direct Soviet intervention being limited to the Eastern Bloc countries (and Afghanistan) - and Chinese intervention in/invasion of Tibet and other E/SE Asian states.

So what about, for example, 'Maoist' guerrillas like these Shine Path guys in Peru? Did/do they act totally independently from China (and the USSR)?

3 Body No Problem
04-09-2008, 06:27 PM
The proposition that the West acted aggressively only in response to 'reds under the bed' is a self-justifying paranoid fantasy, and if you look at internal documentation from the US and UK its clear that this was not how elites viewed the situation. Its also the case that any independent move to the left in the third world was automatically portrayed as 'intervention from Moscow', regardless of the facts.

I am not saying that the West acted aggressively only in response to the communist thread, but that the communist threat was a major determinant in western action. The west had a terrible colonian baggage, and serious parts of the western power elite were intent on keeping the colonies for exploitation. But, and this is an important point, the decolonisation conflicts, e.g. in Malaysia for the British, or in Viet Nam and Cambodia for the French were inextribably linked with fear of communist takeover. For example the geographic shape of South Viet Nam (which got a large bit of Khmer territory -- one of the sources of anti-vietnames ressentment in Cambodia until today) is what it is mostly because the French wanted to strengthen the South against the north.


We also now know that the USSR from the mid 60s onwards was in no position economically to project its power in the way you are asserting it did.

I disagree with that statement. The SU had lots of nukes, subs & rockets for worldwide delivery, a gigantic and capable military-economic complex (the Sputnik shock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_crisis) was a very real shock to the west), vast natural resources and could easily put millions of men under arms. China managed to kill millions of citizens, so surely they could have done a lot of damage abroad. While engaging NATO directly would have been suicidal for the SU or China, it would have caused enourmous damage.


Its interventions were primarily limited to arms shipments and espionage.

As I said repeatedly, I believe that the reason for this is because they were contained.

crackerjack
04-09-2008, 06:28 PM
Which I guess supports droid's point about direct Soviet intervention being limited to the Eastern Bloc countries (and Afghanistan) - and Chinese intervention in/invasion of Tibet and other E/SE Asian states.

So what about, for example, 'Maoist' guerrillas like these Shine Path guys in Peru? Did/do they act totally independently from China (and the USSR)?

Couldn't tell you about the Shining Path - they imported their ideology from Mao. Maybe they got funding, i don't know, but I think Droid's point was that Communist countries rarely intervened directly beyond their immediate neighbours. cuba in Angola would be one obvious exception, though that was gesture politics, a bit half-arsed.

Mr. Tea
04-09-2008, 06:29 PM
I think that trying to figure out which one out of the USSR or the USA were more aggressively expansionist/imperialist during the cold war is a finally unsolvable question that doesn't really ultimately touch on the issues of communism and capitalism, or the communist critique of capitalism, today. But I could be wrong.

No, I think you were quite right the other day when you said the "who was worse?" game was basically pointless. It certainly doesn't seem to have brought us any closer to answering the questions you asked at the start of this thread. :D

3 Body No Problem
04-09-2008, 06:37 PM
So it was a pragmatic adjustment to the situation, a bit of realpolitik. In this respect, are the post-Trotsky leaders of communist countries (for the most part) any different from those of capitalist countries? I take your point about the nature of the ideology outlined in the links below, but the gulf between the classical Marxism of the academic world and the application of the theory in the real world is enormous.

I agree. I'm not saying that the west's actions were optimal -- in hindsight, an unconditional decolonialisation that would accept some communist takeovers in some countries might have been a better strategy. Or maybe not, I don't know. The south vietnamese mostly didn't want to go communist, but they also didn't want to be colonised by the French. What can you do in such a situation?


Marxist purists imagine both a withering of the state and the eventual abolition of national boundaries (iirc, tho i could be wrong on the 2nd part).

Marxism without world-revolution doesn't make much sense. Any temporary deviation from this ideal is merely political strategy.

droid
04-09-2008, 08:26 PM
I think that trying to figure out which one out of the USSR or the USA were more aggressively expansionist/imperialist during the cold war is a finally unsolvable question that doesn't really ultimately touch on the issues of communism and capitalism, or the communist critique of capitalism, today. But I could be wrong.

No, it doesnt really have any bearing, and I dont claim it does - how could it? My responses in this thread have simple been to address some of the glib, counter-factual and frankly fantastical assertions that have been made here. Apologies for the derail.

And no - its not an 'unsolvable question', there is a rich and complex documentary record of this period, and internal documents and archives from both sides which can give a pretty good indication of what actually happened.

droid
04-09-2008, 08:31 PM
So what about, for example, 'Maoist' guerrillas like these Shine Path guys in Peru? Did/do they act totally independently from China (and the USSR)?

'Maoist' is just a label, a declaration of belief. Would you automatically assume that a 'capitalist' movement in a socialist country indicated that the US had to be behind it?

There have been revolutionary nationalist movements all over the world of many stripes, and believe it or not, many of them developed independently in response to local conditions.

droid
04-09-2008, 08:45 PM
World Revolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_revolution).

Two Stage Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Stage_Theory).

This proves absolutely nothing. Did marxism call for world revolution? sure. The question is, was that strategy ever really implemented? and the answer, (you guessed it) is no.

The mention of 'two stage theory' actually contradicts your view. If the soviets really believed that countries 'must first pass through a stage of bourgeois democracy before moving to a socialist stage', then surely this would have prevented them from attempting to revolutionise pre-industrial third world nations?


This is true, but I would argue that this is not indicative of JS's ultimative intentions, but because the rest of the world has made it very clear in various ways that it was not willing to tolerate Soviet expansion without serious fighting.

How do you know what Stalins 'ultimative' intentions were? What scholarly material and sources do you base this opinion on? and how exactly is this relevant to the cold war period (when the policy of 'containment' was implemented), during most of which Stalin was, in fact - dead.

And again you contradict yourself. You say the USSR was aggresively expansionist - your proof? That they did not expand because they feared conflict.

We're not discussing intent or desire here. Im sure every dictator (and many democratic leaders) who ever lived had dreams of global domination. By your logic one could argue that Cuba was aggressively expansionist.

josef k.
04-09-2008, 10:18 PM
And no - its not an 'unsolvable question', there is a rich and complex documentary record of this period, and internal documents and archives from both sides which can give a pretty good indication of what actually happened.

Questions of history are definitely interesting, and there are surely good reasons for taking issue with more or less glib interpretations of it. One interesting aspect for me is how quickly empirical issues of the historical record become philosophical issue of political science. In a sense, the question: Who acted more justly, the USA or the USSR very quickly turns into the question of why either should have acted in such a way at such a time - which is really a question to do with the problem of why states behave as they do. Which is a pretty complicated question, when it comes down to it, and not one which can easily be answered empirically.

I recently finished reading War and Peace - which is a book much to do with these matters. Tolstoy asks the question: "What causes masses to move?" He disputes the idea that great men cause them to, and suggests there is some deeper, more fundamental reason, some inevitable reason. But he never really says what this is. But I digress.

droid
05-09-2008, 10:15 AM
Questions of history are definitely interesting, and there are surely good reasons for taking issue with more or less glib interpretations of it. One interesting aspect for me is how quickly empirical issues of the historical record become philosophical issue of political science. In a sense, the question: Who acted more justly, the USA or the USSR very quickly turns into the question of why either should have acted in such a way at such a time - which is really a question to do with the problem of why states behave as they do. Which is a pretty complicated question, when it comes down to it, and not one which can easily be answered empirically.

It would seem to me that the first step in ascertaining why states act the way they do (and I agree, its a highly complex question), is to dig through the layers of seemingly all-pervasive propaganda to find out what they actually did. I'm not really interested in the abstract questions of which states act most justly - in this thread if nowhere else - especially since there is such a lack of knowledge as to what the states in question actually did, and a s a result these kind of threads often get bogged down in historical discussion of one sort or another.

Whilst there is still such seemingly widespread ignorance about the 'what', how can we even begin to ask about the 'why'?

If we are interested in the motives behind the action of states, there are places we can go that will give us some ideas, as mentioned above, internal records, testimony and documents such as the Pentagon papers and the Mitrokhin archives can provide such indications.

comelately
05-09-2008, 09:55 PM
The Labour Theory of Value is a signpost to a level of consciousness that the world is still quite far from. I understand the theory in spiritual terms - in many ways wasn't Marx continuing Hegel's work of making the spiritual something much more mundane (from spirit to mind to material reality)? There may well be a future when enough abundance exists where we have enough compassion and drive that we don't actually need to indulge in usuary and the like. I don't really see that dictatorships of the proletariat are going to contribute much, but the theory itself is beautiful and will almost certainly one day be true for all intensive purposes.

Mr. Tea
05-09-2008, 10:18 PM
I understand the theory in spiritual terms - in many ways wasn't Marx continuing Hegel's work of making the spiritual something much more mundane (from spirit to mind to material reality)?

That's funny, as schools of philosophy go I've always thought of Marxism as about as materialist as it gets. Though I'm not familiar with Hegel, so maybe it makes sense in that context.

comelately
06-09-2008, 10:34 AM
It is a materialist philosophy, that is Marxism's strength but also its fundamental weakness. It's a great thing to try and has brought many people who wouldn't touch religion/spirituality to higher levels of consciousness.

I'm probably more familiar with Hegel than Marx, so I probably do emphasise the lineage in my thinking. I find it interesting that in the new age world, you have guys like David R. Hawkins and his 'levels of consciousness', where he attempts to measure consciousness through "applied kinesiology". Pseudo-science of course, but still cute.

Mr. Tea
06-09-2008, 01:40 PM
I find it interesting that in the new age world, you have guys like David R. Hawkins and his 'levels of consciousness', where he attempts to measure consciousness through "applied kinesiology". Pseudo-science of course, but still cute.

Sounds a bit like Tim Leary's "eight circuit" model of consciousness: http://www.phinnweb.org/neuro/8-circuit/more.html

As you say about Hawkins, it's nonsense, but really fucking cool nonsense. :D

comelately
06-09-2008, 01:58 PM
Well there's the chakras as well of course

3 Body No Problem
08-09-2008, 08:13 AM
The Labour Theory of Value is a signpost to a level of consciousness that the world is still quite far from. I understand the theory in spiritual terms

Would you mind rephrasing this so the majority of readers here who are not familiar with the language of the "Phenomenology of Spirit" and its successors can understand your position and join the discussion?

3 Body No Problem
08-09-2008, 08:25 AM
This proves absolutely nothing. Did marxism call for world revolution? sure. The question is, was that strategy ever really implemented? and the answer, (you guessed it) is no.

Did marxism call for world revolution? sure. The question is, was that strategy ever really implemented? and the answer, (you guessed it) is yes.


The mention of 'two stage theory' actually contradicts your view.

It does not. I added the 'two stage theory' because the entry contains the following sentence: "The revolution cannot pause [...] but remains 'permanent', in the sense that it must seek worldwide revolution to avoid isolation and thus move towards international socialism.".


If the soviets really believed that countries 'must first pass through a stage of bourgeois democracy before moving to a socialist stage', then surely this would have prevented them from attempting to revolutionise pre-industrial third world nations?

Are you taking the p***? The Soviet Union itself was a pre-industrial nation, and despite Marx postulating that a bourgoise, industrial capitalist phase needs to precede a communist revolution, the Bolsheviks went ahead and did the October revolution anyway, ditto in China. The Bolsheviks didn't exactly adhere to that dogma either. Marxism requires flexibility with strategy. Same with world-revolution.


How do you know what Stalins 'ultimative' intentions were?

Inference to probable causes from observable behaviour, using heuristics like Occam's Razor, Bayesean reasoning, commonsense, speculation, imagining what I would have done in Stalin's position ... in short the same gamut of techniques that is applied to reason about somebody else's intentions. Roughing up a few citizens, commanding the economy to focus on military production, public adherence to an explicitly expansionist political outlook (Marxism) are pretty good indicators.


You say the USSR was aggresively expansionist - your proof? That they did not expand because they feared conflict.

Let me answer in two parts.


First, let's ask the same question, but in a simpler and less emotionally charged context: do bicycle thieves exist in London? Following your line of reasoning, the answer must be NO for me because my rather expensive bicycles haven't been stolen for over 5 years now! And yet, obstinately I will hold to the belief that bicycle thieves do exist and that I have been containing them with my heavy lock and paranoid diligence. I'm happy to change my mind if you leave an expensive bike in central London unlocked and it does not get stolen. Go on, prove me wrong!

Second, a nuclear conflict is not just any old conflict.




And how exactly is this relevant to the cold war period (when the policy of 'containment' was implemented), during most of which Stalin was, in fact - dead.

Containment in a general sense was implemented as soon as the October revolution succeeded. The cold war did not change the perception of a need of containment, what changed the strategic situation radically was nuclear weapons, which enabled MAD (mutually assured destruction). MAD required a new epoch of politico-military strategy that really changed a lot of things for humanity. The experience of Stalinism is the defining event in the perception of Marxism, and post-Stalin Marxist leaders have been -- perhaps sometimes unfairly -- tarred with the same brush. That Stalin's terror was later replicated in China and Cambodia was a gruesome reminder of the necessity of the cold war, and the essential correctness of the west's understanding of the communist states.


We're not discussing intent or desire here.

The question I am discussion cannot avoid discussing intent or desire.


Im sure every dictator (and many democratic leaders) who ever lived had dreams of global domination. By your logic one could argue that Cuba was aggressively expansionist.

The relevant difference is that Cuba is militarily powerless vis-a-vis the US, and has a much better record w.r.t. the treatment of its own citizens. If you don't see why that makes all the world's difference, I'd be baffeled.

3 Body No Problem
08-09-2008, 08:30 AM
Mitrokhin archives

Some context (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitrokhin_Archive).

vimothy
08-09-2008, 11:56 AM
Yes, but if we lived in a "communist world economy, with some failed capitalists states smattered around" scenario, then I suspect that it would be institutions talking about the benefits of economic planning and "ordinary people" arguing against the status quo?

Didn't we try that in the '70s?


Also, y'know, if positions were swapped and we lived in a communist world economy, with some failed capitalists states smattered around, I'm pretty sure people who favored capitalism would have a really hard time providing a truly concrete counterexample.

Nevertheless, the fact that we don't live in that world is interesting and significant.

vimothy
08-09-2008, 12:02 PM
To this day the US still dominates many countries on this planet without giving the citizens of these places adequate democratic representation. So it is on some level questionable if the US can be called a democracy in my sense (i.e. the real sense) of all subjects -- citizens or otherwise -- having electoral franchise.

I would widen the insitutional definition of democracy to include universal electoral franchise, independent vote counting, judicial indepence, as well as goods that enable the "strategic coordination" of political opposition (e.g. free press, freedom to contest elections, freedom of assembly, etc). I think that a misguided focus on democracy as merely voting has hampered the development of many poorer countries, especially in Africa.

vimothy
08-09-2008, 12:06 PM
(soviet war crimes dring WWII weren;t confined to Poland - Stalin indulged in mindboggling population shifts. In fact, the little local difficulty Georgia's been having might be the consequence of one of them - I'm gonna check)

I think that, similar to British strategy in Northern Ireland, Georgian borders were drawn to include significant sepratist or autonomist regions.

vimothy
08-09-2008, 12:10 PM
I never made that argument, I claimed that they were not aggressively expansionist.

What then (in your opinion) is the institutional arrangement that explains this phenomenon (of Soviet/totalitarian non-aggression vs democratic aggression)?

3 Body No Problem
08-09-2008, 03:27 PM
I would widen the insitutional definition of democracy to include universal electoral franchise, independent vote counting, judicial indepence, as well as goods that enable the "strategic coordination" of political opposition (e.g. free press, freedom to contest elections, freedom of assembly, etc). I think that a misguided focus on democracy as merely voting has hampered the development of many poorer countries, especially in Africa.

That's a good point. One reason for the emphasis on voting is that that's easy to do and easy to monitor.

vimothy
08-09-2008, 03:39 PM
That's a good point. One reason for the emphasis on voting is that that's easy to do and easy to monitor.

I think that the phenomenon of rigged elections is also interesting. Why, if the outcome is rigged, would you bother holding elections?

Paul Collier has made the point that absent a solid institutional basis (free press, independent vote counting, etc), democracy in many post-colonial African nations has resulted ina rather unfortunate "race to the bottom", rather than the hoped for race to the top.

I see institutions as prime -- the creators of an incentive structure that provide the range choices that political entities choose from. Which would explain josef's question about why states act as they do.

On a related (but perhaps controversial) note: the Cold War was pretty good, no? If you take (and I presume that everyone does) stability to be more important than justice, the Cold War balance of power and strategy of nuclear deterrence / MAD was nothing if not successful. Thoughts?

Mr. Tea
08-09-2008, 04:01 PM
I think that the phenomenon of rigged elections is also interesting. Why, if the outcome is rigged, would you bother holding elections?


Um, in order to maintain an illusion of democracy to supporters of opposition parties and external agencies? Excuse me if I'm being thick here...

vimothy
08-09-2008, 04:26 PM
Selectorate size (v. large relative to 'winning coalition'), I mean.

Mr. Tea
08-09-2008, 04:51 PM
Selectorate size (v. large relative to 'winning coalition'), I mean.

I don't understand. What's a selectorate when it's at home?

vimothy
08-09-2008, 05:17 PM
Possible members of a winning coalition. The electorate in democracies, the heads of the army & security services in military juntas like North Korea. Those people with at least a nominal say. The point about rigged elections (and why they are the institution of choice for Lenin et al) is that in principle the winning coalition could include anyone. If the winning coalition is small relative to the selectorate, it means 1, that defection is discouraged because there are lots of people to replace you with, and 2, that the cost of private goods is cheaper (less cronies relative to workers to exploit), which further reinforces the loyalty to the incumbent described in point 1.

3 Body No Problem
08-09-2008, 05:59 PM
which is really a question to do with the problem of why states behave as they do. Which is a pretty complicated question, when it comes down to it, and not one which can easily be answered empirically.

Interestingly, this question is deeply related to the question of the (economic) value of things. Both are intimately related to questions of future contingents: what would happen if I buy this good? what would happen if I make this political decision? Maybe this, but maybe that! Both are a form of speculation. In both cases uncertain future events are assigned probabilities which are the basis of decisions in the present.

In both cases the probabilities are socially constructed.

vimothy
08-09-2008, 06:14 PM
But it's important (IMO) to view states as not being unitary & discrete entities, that the actions of states are generated by the various pushes and pulls that come from within states. Who decides is closely bound up with how they decide.

comelately
08-09-2008, 06:57 PM
Would you mind rephrasing this so the majority of readers here who are not familiar with the language of the "Phenomenology of Spirit" and its successors can understand your position and join the discussion?

Dunno about a position, but I'll throw out some talking points.

1. It's pretty clear that the Labor Theory of Value is pretty meaningless from a 20th Century western philosophical perspective.

2. Karl Popper's critique of historicism is intellectually pretty tight. The idea that you can intellectually predict the progress of mankind with that kind of certainty is pretty laughable imho.

3. Even if you disagree, it seems to me that Marx predicted wrong. Marx underestimated the ability of consumerism to temper alienation. And even though I think middle-class salaries will be pushed down over time in the UK and the gap between the rich and poor will get wider - the relative notion of poverty can only take you so far, even the "underclass" still has, for the most part, access to an abundance of bread and circuses. I'm not saying noone ever goes hungry in the UK, but there are no starving masses and barely a recognisable working class.

4. The dialectic is just intellectualised prophecy. The progress/journey of humankind is a pretty common thread in religion, be it the Road to Armageddon or the more individual Road to Liberation or 2012~! or whatever.

5. Amongst the new-age crowd, you have guys like David R. Hawkins who also believes in the progress of the consciousness of humankind - and believes it shot up bigstyle once the commies were thrown out, mostly because of a lack of integrity. He believes this rise will continue to accelerate.

6. As do a lot of the 2012-ers. If the period up to "2012" was about the lower three chakras (feeding and clothing ourselves, educating ourselves, abundance issues), the next period will be about mankind truly beginning to open their hearts. When we as a species live with unconditional love, then surely then there will be to each according to their need and from each according to their ability? And what need would we have of owning things? But you cannot reverse-engineer unconditional love.

7. Don't You Know It's Gonna Be...Alright?

josef k.
08-09-2008, 11:04 PM
But it's important (IMO) to view states as not being unitary & discrete entities, that the actions of states are generated by the various pushes and pulls that come from within states. Who decides is closely bound up with how they decide.

This is exactly right, I think - and perhaps one of the abiding values of Marxism is that it does open the way into a consideration of this question. Even if the (conspiratorial) answer that Marxism itself supplies - that it is always at base a ruling class cabal which is driving things - is ultimately too simple. Capital, clearly, does not speak with one voice; its clear to see in our own era that the interests of, say, defence capital and tech capital do not converge.

josef k.
08-09-2008, 11:14 PM
Dunno about a position, but I'll throw out some talking points.

1. It's pretty clear that the Labor Theory of Value is pretty meaningless from a 20th Century western philosophical perspective.



A further question arises from this - what is Marxism apart from the labour theory of value which anchors it.

If you throw that out, what is left? I've been reading Fred Jameson's book "The Political Unconscious" recently. I'm on about page 50, so I can't speak with authority here. But Jameson does seem to have a slightly different conception of what Marxism is all about - he talks about it in the context of being able to provide an over-arching narrative through which History (he capitalizes it) can be considered as a totality. For Jameson, Marxism - and more particularly, Structuralist Marxism - provides the only real means available for understanding history as a whole, and not just as more-or-less local phenomenon. As part of his effort to prove this, he redefines the concept of the mode of production as referring, not just to economics, but to the structure of society as such. Jameson, at base, insists that only Marxism provides the means for being able to think historical change.

I read this paragraph back to myself, and seems somewhat garbled. I'm posting it anyway, though, since maybe others will be able to make something more coherent from it.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 08:31 AM
A further question arises from this - what is Marxism apart from the labour theory of value which anchors it.

To quote myself from earlier in this thread: "I disagree, one can disentangle various features of Marx analysis: a theory of monetary value, a theory of history, an account of the dependency of economic on scientific progress, a theory of politics, ideology, revolution, preproduction of inequality, epistemology ... " None of these contributions are anchored in the LTV.


But Jameson does seem to have a slightly different conception of what Marxism is all about - he talks about it in the context of being able to provide an over-arching narrative through which History (he capitalizes it) can be considered as a totality.

It is true, that has been a use of Marxism, but it's hardly the only such totalising narrative. There are competitors, be they religious, evolutionary, they might write the history of the world as one of technical progress, or of functional differentiation.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 08:33 AM
But it's important (IMO) to view states as not being unitary & discrete entities, that the actions of states are generated by the various pushes and pulls that come from within states.

That sentence is ambiguous. Do you mean that the actions of states are should or should not be seen as being generated by the various pushes and pulls that come from within states? I guess you mean the former, in which case my question would be why to assume that forces from within a state are more important than those from without?

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 08:42 AM
I think that the phenomenon of rigged elections is also interesting. Why, if the outcome is rigged, would you bother holding elections?

To increase one's national and international credibility, and to create the illusion of mass support, which is the root of power.


I see institutions as prime -- the creators of an incentive structure that provide the range choices that political entities choose from.

Of course creating such desirable institutions is a hard problem. Much easier to organise an election. Countries that have such institutions are probably never poor. Interestingly, the other way round doesn't work, corrupt states can treat their citizens well.


On a related (but perhaps controversial) note: the Cold War was pretty good, no? If you take (and I presume that everyone does) stability to be more important than justice, the Cold War balance of power and strategy of nuclear deterrence / MAD was nothing if not successful. Thoughts?

I would say that the need for MAD/a cold war itself shows that humanity was not successful. That said, MAD has been preventing a lot of bloodshed if you ask me, although during the cuban missile crisis we came awfully close to a nuclear exchange. This leads to a terrible conundrum: should we see nuclear proliferation as a good thing then, or should nuclear weapons be rolled back, or should we stay with the status quo?

vimothy
09-09-2008, 10:32 AM
To quote myself from earlier in this thread: "I disagree, one can disentangle various features of Marx analysis: a theory of monetary value, a theory of history, an account of the dependency of economic on scientific progress, a theory of politics, ideology, revolution, preproduction of inequality, epistemology ... " None of these contributions are anchored in the LTV.

Isn't it the theory of exploitation (that arises from the LTV) which is the base on which all (or most) of these things lie, though?

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 10:43 AM
Isn't it the theory of exploitation (that arises from the LTV) which is the base on which all (or most) of these things lie, though?

I dont' see why/how for example Marx ideas about the political process or the function of masses and revolutions depend on the LTV.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 10:45 AM
I dont' see why/how for example Marx ideas about the political process or the function of masses and revolutions depend on the LTV.

I mean the theory of exploitation, really, not the LTV. Where is Marxism without exploitation?

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 10:55 AM
I mean the theory of exploitation, really, not the LTV. Where is Marxism without exploitation?

Yes, that's true. Marx develops the LTV in part to explain exploitation under industrialised capitalism. But the fact of exploitation came first, and the LTV is an explanation of this fact.

I do think that exploitation is a fact, and that the political ramifications can be salvaged w/o subscribing to the LTV. Moreover, value does have a labour component, clearly.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 11:27 AM
Yes, that's true. Marx develops the LTV in part to explain exploitation under industrialised capitalism. But the fact of exploitation came first, and the LTV is an explanation of this fact.

Scientific proof!


I do think exploitation as a fact, and it's political ramifications can be salvaged w/o subscribing to the LTV.

Yes, but the issue of exploitation is more complicated than Marx and the Marxists' theory.


Moreover, value does have a labour component, clearly.

To the producer(s), definitely. Less sure about the consumer, though.

josef k.
09-09-2008, 01:24 PM
Yes, that's true. Marx develops the LTV in part to explain exploitation under industrialised capitalism. But the fact of exploitation came first, and the LTV is an explanation of this fact.

I do think exploitation as a fact, and it's political ramifications can be salvaged w/o subscribing to the LTV. Moreover, value does have a labour component, clearly.

As I understand it, Marxism depends on the idea that labour (under capitalism) is exploitation, no more and no less. The LTV theorizes this, by explaining how surplus value is extracted, Matrix-like, from the bodies of the workers ("living labour") and added thereby to the "dead labour" of capital. On this fundamental "fact", the entire political and historical Marxist edifice is constructed - the reason why the proletariat is the subject of history and the instigators of the future great communist revolution, is not just because they are less well-off then the bourgeois, but because all labour in the universe is fundamentally their labour... Take away the LTV, and this idea disappears: exploitation remains, but the idea that Exploitation is the essential human condition in the capitalist situation ceases to hold.

But Jameson doesn't really talk about either exploitation or the LTV, or the proleteriat much at all. He's more interested in theories of reading, and narrative - and he calls his own theory Marxist for reasons that perhaps deserve to be configured into bearing the status of real enigma.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 01:35 PM
To the producer(s), definitely. Less sure about the consumer, though.

3 Body No Problem:

What do you think of this? Do you think that the amount of labour hours used in the production of any given object affects your valuation of it? What if we compare the value of two identical goods (Good A and Good B), where Good B requires (for whatever reason -- produced in a country with lower total factor productivity, e.g.) twice the amount of labour time in its production. Is the value (to consumer or producer) different? Is labour value some sort of ordinal measure, or is it more concrete?

IdleRich
09-09-2008, 01:51 PM
"What if we compare the value of two identical goods (Good A and Good B), where Good B requires (for whatever reason -- produced in a country with lower total factor productivity, e.g.) twice the amount of labour time in its production. Is the value (to consumer or producer) different?"
Well, people are generally willing to pay more for something that is hand-made than an equivalent that was factory-produced so there is some kind of increase of value there. I suspect that that is a luxury that might get sacrificed if times were hard however.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 02:02 PM
Well, people are generally willing to pay more for something that is hand-made than an equivalent that was factory-produced so there is some kind of increase of value there. I suspect that that is a luxury that might get sacrificed if times were hard however.

But I mean goods identical in every way save for the amount of labour time that went into producing them.

For instance, two identical ball point pens: Pen A takes half as many labour hours to produce as Pen B; does it therefore have half the value? Less value generally?

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 02:04 PM
As I understand it, Marxism depends on the idea that labour (under capitalism) is exploitation, no more and no less. The LTV theorizes this, by explaining how surplus value is extracted, Matrix-like, from the bodies of the workers ("living labour") and added thereby to the "dead labour" of capital. On this fundamental "fact", the entire political and historical Marxist edifice is constructed - the reason why the proletariat is the subject of history and the instigators of the future great communist revolution, is not just because they are less well-off then the bourgeois, but because all labour in the universe is fundamentally their labour... Take away the LTV, and this idea disappears: exploitation remains, but the idea that Exploitation is the essential human condition in the capitalist situation ceases to hold.

Why? As long as labour input has some bearing on prices, one can speak of exploitation in the Marxian sense. The problem with the LTV is that it is only based on labour input, with other factors like risk being ignored. If one were to account for these factors in a novel theory of value, labour input would still matter. The connection between prices and exploitation is less immediate than Marx though. The importance of labour content might also be different in different kinds of products and societies. Agrarian societies of unskilled labour make variants of LTVs more plausible than industrial societies with a high degree of labour and skill differentiation (which makes labour input hard to compare).

Moreover, one can base a critique of a form of organising the economy on things other than exploitation. After all, Marx slogan "From each according to ..." describes a society where some people (the strong, the able-bodied) put in more than others (the sick, the weak), i.e. the latter 'exploit' the former. The very concept of exploitation is tied to a notion of fairness, justice which is relevant only in societies of scarcity. The Marxian utopia of plentiful communism though scarcity would wither away.

PS: Please bear in mind that Marx didn't claim that his version of the LTV does explain all price fluctuations one sees in markets: The relevant Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_theory_of_value) explains it quite well: According to Marx's theory, actual prices will virtually always diverge from 'values' defined as units of labor-time. In Marx's thinking, after 1860, the relationship between 'value' and observed market prices is somewhat analogous to the relationship between 'mass' and 'heaviness', or between 'heat' and everyday awareness of temperature. Marx's 'value' is purportedly necessary to explain price, but it does not correspond to price or equilibrium price (often not even roughly) and therefore obvious disparities between value and price are not seen by Marx as refutations of his theory, though they are seen as contradicting the simple models employed in the early stages of expounding his theory in Volumes I and II of "Capital".

IdleRich
09-09-2008, 02:11 PM
"But I mean goods identical in every way save for the amount of labour time that went into producing them.
For instance, two identical ball point pens: Pen A takes half as many labour hours to produce as Pen B; does it therefore have half the value? Less value generally?"
I think that some people probably would pay more for Pen A in some circumstances (for example if it was hand made rather than just built by a slower machine) but I agree that it is some kind of reflection of the value it represents to the producer rather than an actual increase in value for the consumer.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 02:13 PM
What do you think of this? Do you think that the amount of labour hours used in the production of any given object affects your valuation of it? What if we compare the value of two identical goods (Good A and Good B), where Good B requires (for whatever reason -- produced in a country with lower total factor productivity, e.g.) twice the amount of labour time in its production. Is the value (to consumer or producer) different? Is labour value some sort of ordinal measure, or is it more concrete?

I don't know what you mean by ordinal here. The consumer cares about the price. The price does not talk (directly) about labour input. But labour input matters to producers, and the producer will reflect that cost of labour in the cost of the product. Hence, indirectly, the consumer is affected by labour input.

But the amount of labour input depends on the product. Consider the following two examples.

1 hour consultation with a lawyer.
A gambling contract: a random number between 0 and 10000 is generated. If that number is below x, the other party pays you $1000000, if it is equal to or above x, you have to pay $1000000. Clearly that contract involves the same amount of labour, regardless of the choice of x, but the price you would pay to play this game depends totally on x.


These examples indicates one devastating critizism of the LTV, that it does not take into account the element of risk in economic transactions.

The second -- and more well-known -- critizism is that with complicated goods, it seems impossible to talk about the labour input of a product without references to prices of other goods. What is the labour input in the work of a pilot, say, who has to go through years of training? In simple, agrarian societies, there is a somewhat stronger connection between prices and labour input. On the whole Marx analysis makes more sense when one understands it as an analysis of a very peculiar form of capitalism, not of capitalism as such.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 02:45 PM
I like your second example. Clearly the expected value, time frame under consideration (i.e. present value of pay-off) and standard deviation (and hence price) are unrelated to a labour input.

But I was thinking of your statement,


Moreover, value does have a labour component, clearly.

And trying to think how this works in practice, if indeed it does. It suggests to me that more labour = more value. If so, on what level of measurement does this increase in value take place (e.g. ordinal)? Personally, I'm not convinced. I'm not sure that production has anything much at all to do with the valuation of a good, which is subjective and conditional.


In simple, agrarian societies, there is a somewhat stronger connection between prices and labour input.

Even here I'm not so sure. When a farmer takes his crop to market, what sets price is supply and demand for his crop, not the amount of labour that goes into it. For example, last year our farmer took his crop to market during a blight: supply was down, demand was up and he made a fortune. This year he goes to market during a bumper harvest: supply is up, demand is down and he is ruined. Yet the amount of labour used in these two years need never change.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 02:57 PM
I think that some people probably would pay more for Pen A in some circumstances (for example if it was hand made rather than just built by a slower machine) but I agree that it is some kind of reflection of the value it represents to the producer rather than an actual increase in value for the consumer.

I mean really identical, as in the same model, made by the same company but in two locations, one with, say, higher total factor productivity (maybe workers are happier or more commited or healthier or whatever) or capital intensity so that it requires less labour hours to produce pens there. Both pens are exactly the same (not hand made) but one has a higher value based on the amount of labour that went into it?

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 03:02 PM
I mean really identical, as in the same model, made by the same company but in two locations, one with, say, higher total factor productivity (maybe workers are happier or more commited or healthier or whatever) or capital intensity so that it requires less labour hours to produce pens there. Both pens are exactly the same (not hand made) but one has a higher value based on the amount of labour that went into it?

In Marx LTV it is not the actual amount of labour time that matters, but the average labour time that a given society takes for this product. A copout because the average labour time is even harder to measure.

Mr. Tea
09-09-2008, 03:04 PM
I'm pretty out of my depth here as far as the economics goes, so forgive me if this is a stupid or facile point, but: is it worth pointing out that any amount of money that is spent by anyone on anything ultimately ends up as someone's wages? In other words, there is actually no such thing as a 'raw material' cost in the final analysis, because what one person buys as a raw material has been produced by someone else's labour. So it would seem that the (market) value of something is determined ultimately by the intersection of just two things: how hard it is for a producer, or a whole chain of producers, to produce, and how badly the consumer wants it.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 03:07 PM
I like your second example. Clearly the expected value, time frame under consideration (i.e. present value of pay-off) and standard deviation (and hence price) are unrelated to a labour input.

But I was thinking of your statement,


Moreover, value does have a labour component, clearly.

And trying to think how this works in practice, if indeed it does. It suggests to me that more labour = more value. If so, on what level of measurement does this increase in value take place (e.g. ordinal)? Personally, I'm not convinced. I'm not sure that production has anything much at all to do with the valuation of a good, which is subjective and conditional.

Well, determining the amount of labour that goes into a product is not easy, that is one of the key problems of the LTV.

The reason that labour time must be part of the price is indirect:



For some products one can compare the price for a product with the amount of one's own labour time, and might decide to produce a good oneself, rather than buy it.

Producers try and minimise labour input wherever possible to lower prices and be more competitive. There would be no reason to do that if labour input would be immaterial.




Even here I'm not so sure. When a farmer takes his crop to market, what sets price is supply and demand for his crop, not the amount of labour that goes into it. For example, last year our farmer took his crop to market during a blight: supply was down, demand was up and he made a fortune. This year he goes to market during a bumper harvest: supply is up, demand is down and he is ruined. Yet the amount of labour used in these two years need never change.

Sure, but there is a point where it would no longer be lucrative for the producer to produce or for the consumer to consume a good. So labour input ought to show up in the constraints of what prices a market based pricing mechanism can achieve.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 03:13 PM
I'm pretty out of my depth here as far as the economics goes, so forgive me if this is a stupid or facile point, but: is it worth pointing out that any amount of money that is spent by anyone on anything ultimately ends up as someone's wages? In other words, there is actually no such thing as a 'raw material' cost in the final analysis, because what one person buys as a raw material has been produced by someone else's labour. So it would seem that the (market) value of something is determined ultimately by the intersection of just two things: how hard it is for a producer, or a whole chain of producers, to produce, and how badly the consumer wants it.

This is a good point, a modern economy is circular, the price of a good depends on ... the prices of other goods ...

The way out of this conundrum is to see that markets evolved historically out of barter economies (and robbery).

At some point in time, humans decided that one gold coin is worth 6 hours of fisherman's work. This reflected not so much a metaphysical constant, but the inbalances of power at the time. But once money-based exchange got established with relatively constant (if arbitrary) prices, it continuted to function in this way.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:17 PM
In Marx LTV it is not the actual amount of labour time that matters, but the average labour time that a given society takes for this product. A copout because the average labour time is even harder to measure.

Ok, so including that in my (pedantic, I admit) question (and explaining the differences in average labour time as differences in total factor productivity), is the value of the two identical goods the same or different?

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:19 PM
So it would seem that the (market) value of something is determined ultimately by the intersection of just two things: how hard it is for a producer, or a whole chain of producers, to produce, and how badly the consumer wants it.

Pretty much spot on, I would say.

Mr. Tea
09-09-2008, 03:20 PM
This is a good point, a modern economy is circular, the price of a good depends on ... the prices of other goods ...

And always has, hasn't it? You can't walk into a field, throw a pile of money at the ground and hey presto, you've got a ton of wheat, can you? You either pay someone to grow it for you, or you grow it yourself, and then - in any economic system worthy of the name - sell (at least some of) it to someone. That was a true in Roman times as it is today, no?



At some point in time, humans decided that one gold coin is worth 6 hours of fisherman's work.

Isn't it more likely that humans decided one gold coin was worth a hundredweight of fish? How long it took the fisherman to catch that much fish was up to him (and, of course, the weather, available fish stocks etc.).

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:21 PM
This is a good point, a modern economy is circular, the price of a good depends on ... the prices of other goods ...

And prices equal... infomation.

Mr. Tea
09-09-2008, 03:21 PM
Pretty much spot on, I would say.

I put the '(market)' in there because it seems to have a rather different meaning from how it's used in Marx's LTV - is this the case, would you say?

IdleRich
09-09-2008, 03:23 PM
"I mean really identical, as in the same model, made by the same company but in two locations, one with, say, higher total factor productivity (maybe workers are happier or more commited or healthier or whatever) or capital intensity so that it requires less labour hours to produce pens there. Both pens are exactly the same (not hand made) but one has a higher value based on the amount of labour that went into it?"
You mean not just identical but made identically (except more slowly) - in that case then I concur that you would be a fool to think that the one that had been made more slowly was better. I'm not disagreeing with you anyway - I think that the labour time might be proportional to some sense of value in the producer and when it appears to be of value to the consumer then it is probably some kind of affinity with or reflection of how it affects the producer.


"Producers try and minimise labour input wherever possible to lower prices and be more competitive. There would be no reason to do that if labour input would be immaterial."
Well obviously labour is a cost to the producer so he tries to minimise it because it will affect the price that he needs to sell it at to make a profit. What Vimothy is saying is that if it takes longer to make that doesn't actually make it have a higher value. If I make something and my feckless workers take weeks to do it for me at a wage of x pounds per hour and then I take it to the market offering it for sale at a price that will more than recoup the money I've spent on wages I will be in trouble if someone else has made the thing more efficiently and can sell it cheaper - the people buying stuff at the market aren't going to say "I'm going to buy the expensive one because it was made by slower workers".


"At some point in time, humans decided that one gold coin is worth 6 hours of fisherman's work."
I don't think that decided is the right term here is it?

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:28 PM
I put the '(market)' in there because it seems to have a rather different meaning from how it's used in Marx's LTV - is this the case, would you say?

I think that 3 body no problem and josef k clearly know a lot more about Marxism than me so I'll defer to their judgement, but as far as I know, for Marx 'value' is inherent in a commodity (commodities 'embody' labour value) and its relation to actual 'market value' (i.e. price) is there somewhere, but Marx isn't sure where exactly. Wherever it is, though, the difference between labour value (whatever that might actually be) and 'market value' (price) is surplus value, which is the exploited cream that capitalists skim off everything.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:30 PM
Producers try and minimise labour input wherever possible to lower prices and be more competitive. There would be no reason to do that if labour input would be immaterial.

Doesn't that depend on the price of labour relative to the other factors of production (i.e. capital)?

Mr. Tea
09-09-2008, 03:35 PM
Wherever it is, though, the difference between labour value (whatever that might actually be) and 'market value' (price) is surplus value, which is the exploited cream that capitalists skim off everything.

We're assuming here that market value > labour value. It could of course be the other way round: consider the struggling artist who takes many tens of hours to produce a painting, really pouring his soul into it, but no-one wants to buy it, so its market value is zero.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:35 PM
You mean not just identical but made identically (except more slowly) - in that case then I concur that you would be a fool to think that the one that had been made more slowly was better.

Basically, yeah, although I can also imagine a situation in which one pen factory is in, say, the US, where capital is cheaper than labour, so the factory uses lots of machines as substitutes for people, and one factory is in India, where labour is cheaper than capital, so the factory uses lots of labour and less machinery. The finished products are identical, and therefore so is the value (surely). What is different is the mix -- the amount of labour hours relative to everything else in the production process. But that doesn't determine value as I see it.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 03:37 PM
We're assuming here that market value > labour value. It could of course be the other way round: consider the struggling artist who takes many tens of hours to produce a painting, really pouring his soul into it, but no-one wants to buy it, so its market value is zero.

Indeed. Or the ruined farmer who takes his coffee crop to market in a bumper harvest, only to see the price drop below his costs of production.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:00 PM
Ok, so including that in my (pedantic, I admit) question (and explaining the differences in average labour time as differences in total factor productivity), is the value of the two identical goods the same or different?

According to Marx LTV yes.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:03 PM
Isn't it more likely that humans decided one gold coin was worth a hundredweight of fish? How long it took the fisherman to catch that much fish was up to him (and, of course, the weather, available fish stocks etc.).

But there's an exchange rate between fish and gold coins where it is no longer viable for the fisherman to sell fish (e.g. when the grain he can buy with the money from fishing is so little that he's better of farming himself, or eating all his fish), then he will stop selling and do something else. Alternatively, he will have to be forced to hand over fish for a given exchange rate. In both cases, the market ceases to exist. Hence the fisherman's labour time comes in as a constraint on possible exchange rates.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:06 PM
And prices equal... infomation.

Yes, that's another dimension that missed by the LTV. Interestingly, prices themselves are a form of communication: prices aggregate other market participants purchasing behaviour.

IdleRich
09-09-2008, 04:19 PM
"But there's an exchange rate between fish and gold coins where it is no longer viable for the fisherman to sell fish (e.g. when the grain he can buy with the money from fishing is so little that he's better of farming himself, or eating all his fish), then he will stop selling and do something else. Alternatively, he will have to be forced to hand over fish for a given exchange rate. In both cases, the market ceases to exist. Hence the fisherman's labour time comes in as a constraint on possible exchange rates."
Is that really the market ceasing to exist? Isn't it better to say that the market still exists and but fish aren't available at all - so their price will rise and someone else will go and pull them out of the sea?

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:21 PM
I don't think that decided is the right term here is it?

That's true. I was having a date with P. Licence!

Mr. Tea
09-09-2008, 04:24 PM
But there's an exchange rate between fish and gold coins where it is no longer viable for the fisherman to sell fish (e.g. when the grain he can buy with the money from fishing is so little that he's better of farming himself, or eating all his fish), then he will stop selling and do something else. Alternatively, he will have to be forced to hand over fish for a given exchange rate. In both cases, the market ceases to exist. Hence the fisherman's labour time comes in as a constraint on possible exchange rates.

Ah, I getcha - so really what you meant was "The fisherman decided his labour is worth one gold coin per six hours". I don't mean to imply you phrased it badly, I just meant I interpreted 'humans' as 'people looking to buy fish', i.e. from the demand side, rather than the supply side.

So yeah, the value of the fisherman's time is determined by how hard it is to catch fish, and how badly people want to eat (his) fish - the latter of course being modulated by how many other fishermen there are in the area. So we've got a very simple model of supply-and-demand market forces at work. But the LTV says a given amount of fish has an intrinsic (or semi-intrinsic) value based only on the fisherman's labour and *not* on how badly people want to eat fish, is that right?

Christ, I haven't had any lunch and this talk of fish is driving me mad. I'm going to get some sushi, back in a bit...

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:26 PM
I think that 3 body no problem and josef k clearly know a lot more about Marxism than me so I'll defer to their judgement, but as far as I know, for Marx 'value' is inherent in a commodity (commodities 'embody' labour value) and its relation to actual 'market value' (i.e. price) is there somewhere, but Marx isn't sure where exactly.

That's mostly right, except that for Marx "[t]he labor value of a commodity is amount of socially-necessary abstract labor time embodied in that commodity. " From here (http://www.dreamscape.com/rvien/Economics/Essays/LTV-FAQ.html#Capitalism). Hence labour value is something like average time it takes to produce a product. Marx introduces other forms of value (exchange value, use value ...) but it doesn't really work fully.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:31 PM
Ah, I getcha - so really what you meant was "The fisherman decided his labour is worth one gold coin per six hours". I don't mean to imply you phrased it badly, I just meant I interpreted 'humans' as 'people looking to buy fish', i.e. from the demand side, rather than the supply side.

So yeah, the value of the fisherman's time is determined by how hard it is to catch fish, and how badly people want to eat (his) fish - the latter of course being modulated by how many other fishermen there are in the area. So we've got a very simple model of supply-and-demand market forces at work. But the LTV says a given amount of fish has an intrinsic (or semi-intrinsic) value based only on the fisherman's labour and *not* on how badly people want to eat fish, is that right?

Yes and no. The LTV never speaks of "intrinsic" labour value because that depends on the available technology.

Also the labour value is different from the exchange value (market price).

Also the labour value does <i>not</i> depend on "how badly people want to eat (his) fish", that's relevant for the exchange value.

3 Body No Problem
09-09-2008, 04:32 PM
Doesn't that depend on the price of labour relative to the other factors of production (i.e. capital)?

Totally.

vimothy
09-09-2008, 04:42 PM
I suppose my point really is that labour is only a constraint on production rather than a source of 'value'. Obviously, if the same thing is made by both robots and humans, the value of the good is not different in those two cases simply because the later takes more man hours. In fact, it seems to me to be the case that amount of labour required to produce any given good has little impact on the value (though obviously some impact on the price), in that it's irrelevant to me what ratio of labour to capital was used making my ball point pen, only that it works and that I need one (or two or three, but not thousands).

EDIT: Also, note that if labour really does determine value (to any extent), as industries -- and societies -- increase capital usage and therefore productivity, total value decreases!

vimothy
09-09-2008, 04:54 PM
But at Gates' level, Microsoft shares are not liquid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_liquidity). If he sold all his shares in one go, the share price would collapse.

Interesting Krugman column (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/opinion/08krugman.html?hp) the other day:


As Paul McCulley of Pimco, the bond investor, put it in a recent essay titled “The Paradox of Deleveraging,” lately just about every financial institution has been trying to reduce its leverage — but the plunge in asset values has nonetheless left these institutions with more debt relative to their assets than before.

Mr. Tea
09-09-2008, 05:01 PM
Yes and no. The LTV never speaks of "intrinsic" labour value because that depends on the available technology.

Also the labour value is different from the exchange value (market price).

Also the labour value does <i>not</i> depend on "how badly people want to eat (his) fish", that's relevant for the exchange value.

Of course, these were all points I was making - I suppose the technology available is one of the 'environmental' factors affecting how hard or easy it is to produce a certain good, in the wider sense of the word 'environment'. And the difference between labour value and market or exchange value is what I was getting at, too.

josef k.
09-09-2008, 08:27 PM
Basically, yeah, although I can also imagine a situation in which one pen factory is in, say, the US, where capital is cheaper than labour, so the factory uses lots of machines as substitutes for people, and one factory is in India, where labour is cheaper than capital, so the factory uses lots of labour and less machinery. The finished products are identical, and therefore so is the value (surely). What is different is the mix -- the amount of labour hours relative to everything else in the production process. But that doesn't determine value as I see it.

There is a possible Marxist response to this argument, which runs as follows: machines, technologies, capital etc, are in themselves the sedimentation of labour; thus, considered over the long term, the labour cost of the pen will in fact be the same in both cases... Any takers?

3 Body No Problem
10-09-2008, 10:09 AM
There is a possible Marxist response to this argument, which runs as follows: machines, technologies, capital etc, are in themselves the sedimentation of labour; thus, considered over the long term, the labour cost of the pen will in fact be the same in both cases... Any takers?

This is a reasonable answer, but there is an equivocation in the use of value here that's confusing. In discussing Marx LTV one needs to distinguish



Labour Value, which is defined as the average (relative to a given level of technological
development) time needed to produce something.

Exchange Value, aka price.

What's important is that the exchange value is observable, while the labour value is not directly observable. Marx use of the LTV has two functions.

To give a scientific foundation to the concept of exploitation. Marx though, correctly, that some people are not getting as much out of their labour input as others, and that that's something that ought to be rectified.
To explain the prices (exchange value) of goods under equilibrium capitalism (NB Marx did not believe that the capitalism he was familiar with was under equilibrium, it was more a theoretical challenge he was trying to meet). Marx though that exchange value would converge towards labour value under equilibrium conditions.

swears
10-09-2008, 04:10 PM
I do have a test today. that wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European. I don't plan on being European. So who cares if they're socialists? They could be fascist anarchists. It still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car.

D84
12-09-2008, 04:52 PM
It seems that we're back onto this argument/discussion about the Labour Theory of Value, which I have to admit mystifies and bores me: how does this relate to the Class System or Imperialism or the industrial meat-grinder we still call War. Aren't these infinitely more interesting topics?

What do people in sweatshops or call centres think about exploitation and the Labour Theory of Value?

Isn't the point of sharing capital (ie. the machines that make things so you don't have to) all about working less not more? I want to live in Iain M Banks' SF Utopia!

What's wrong with politics being "utopian" anyway? If I plan to throw a party I usually have "utopian" ideals about how it'll turn out: and when it's only half as good as my dreams, well that's still pretty good... ;)


josef k

There is a possible Marxist response to this argument, which runs as follows: machines, technologies, capital etc, are in themselves the sedimentation of labour; thus, considered over the long term, the labour cost of the pen will in fact be the same in both cases... Any takers?

No because the people who worked to make them etc are dead and cannot enjoy any of the "value".

Maybe this is why copyrights use to expire only a couple of decades after the creators died. Now they expire 75 years later so Disney Corp. can keep milking Mickey Mouse.



To be more specific - for Marxists, the problem with capitalism is not simply that it is a flawed system (arch-conservative non-Marxists, such as Winston Churchill, are fully capable of admitting this too) but that it is itself, in some sense, the source of all of the flaws that exist in society.

Surely nobody said it was the source of all the flaws just many of the big ones :)

Anyway, we don't live in a purely "capitalist" society - it's a bit of a mish mash of systems. I note that England, for example, along with many other "capitalist" European countries still has a monarch as the head of state. I think the Americans are trying for something similar..

Pestario
12-09-2008, 05:01 PM
I do have a test today. that wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European. I don't plan on being European. So who cares if they're socialists? They could be fascist anarchists. It still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car.

Then stop posting and go take your friend's dad's car out for a spin.

TWIST AND SHOOOOUUUUT!!!

vimothy
12-09-2008, 05:06 PM
It seems that we're back onto this argument/discussion about the Labour Theory of Value, which I have to admit mystifies and bores me: how does this relate to the Class System or Imperialism or the industrial meat-grinder we still call War. Aren't these infinitely more interesting topics?

Perhaps. I agree that we have reached something of an impasse, but I am still interested in the LTV, whether or not it can be set aside, and what remains of Marxism if it is.


Isn't the point of sharing capital (ie. the machines that make things so you don't have to) all about working less not more? I want to live in Iain M Banks' SF Utopia!

Yes, but the contemporary problem seems to be that the rewards go to capital, not to labour. Consequently, the less skilled do indeed work less or just for less money. I wouldn't describe it as "utopia", though.


There is a possible Marxist response to this argument, which runs as follows: machines, technologies, capital etc, are in themselves the sedimentation of labour; thus, considered over the long term, the labour cost of the pen will in fact be the same in both cases... Any takers?

Is there any evidence of this actually happening?

D84
12-09-2008, 05:18 PM
Yes, but the contemporary problem seems to be that the rewards go to capital, not to labour. Consequently, the less skilled do indeed work less or just for less money. I wouldn't describe it as "utopia", though?

But do the less skilled actually work less? Have you worked in a factory? Or a shop or a bar? Do you think your butcher would agree with your statement? How about his or her employees?

How about temps, who get paid a tiny bit more but can't pay their bills if they want to take a break or get sick - are they just having a lark?

vimothy
12-09-2008, 05:33 PM
But do the less skilled actually work less? Have you worked in a factory? Or a shop or a bar? Do you think your butcher would agree with your statement? How about his or her employees?

How about temps, who get paid a tiny bit more but can't pay their bills if they want to take a break or get sick - are they just having a lark?

To take those questions one at a time: yes, yes, yes, no idea, no idea, and I don't know what you mean.

The point I was making is that as economies move up the value-chain, capital replaces labour, creating downward pressure on wages for the less skilled and upward pressure on wages for the more skilled, leading to the popular contemporary issue of increasing inequality. If, as a factory owner (say), you can replace workers with more reliable machines... well, where do you think all the cobblers and tailors have gone?

So, everyone works less in two senses:
There are less jobs, because there is more and better capital
There is less 'work' within jobs because there is more and better capital

Mr. Tea
12-09-2008, 08:36 PM
Not to mention the fact that you're presumably more likely to be unemployed altogether if you have little in the way of skills and qualifications.

Pestario
15-09-2008, 03:08 PM
Also, if capital makes doing a certain job easier, then you are probably expected to do more of that job. Sort of like how the vacuum cleaner, washing machine etc saves us time in doing certain jobs but at the same time the general expectations of cleanliness have increased.

D84
18-09-2008, 11:36 AM
I just hope what you guys are not saying is that the lower paid (I have trouble with this concept of "low skilled" - I've had middle-class managers who could have been classified as "hardly skilled") don't make much money because they don't work hard, when in fact they work the hardest of anybody in the economy - as you would know very well from working in a factory, building site, what have you...

Here's an article I looked at yesterday - "Working Harder to Fall Behind: the American Dream is dead" (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/98930/working_harder_to_fall_behind%3A_the_american_drea m_is_dead/) - which neatly summarises the facts of life for a large proportion of the population.

Some quotes:


Even before the current economic crisis took hold, workers were working harder for less and carrying big debts to compensate for falling income. Record numbers of workers endured long and fruitless searches for employment, while those who had jobs are plagued with insecurity over their employment, health care and retirement.

Employers routinely violate labor laws, combining 21st century surveillance technology that monitor workers' every movement with 19th century management practices like locking in workers on the night shift at Wal-Mart, and forcing them to work off the clock.

...

Together, the books portray a society in which class lines are more rigid than the nations of Western Europe, once dominated by a wealthy aristocracy. Some 26.4 percent of U.S. workers receive poverty wages, and in the economic expansion just ended workers' productivity grew by 11 percent, while real wage gains (after inflation is taken into account) amounted to nothing.

At the other end of the spectrum, the richest 1 percent has seen its share of annual earnings almost double from 7.3 percent in 1979 to 13.6 percent in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available. And the top 0.1 percent did far better -- its annual earnings increased 324 percent from 1979 to 2006, to more than $2.2 million.

The liberal writer Thomas Frank wrote about this trend earlier this year: "The landmark political fact of our time is the replacement of our middle-class republic by a plutocracy."

...

The lack of jobs -- particularly good-paying ones -- has contributed to a rise in poverty compared to the 1990s. According to U.S. government statistics, 12.3 percent of the population, or 36 million people, were under the poverty line in 2006. But the State of Working America, relying on a more realistic measure, says that the real poverty rate was actually 17.7 percent -- another 16 million persons.

Being poor doesn't necessarily mean being unemployed, as Greenhouse points out in The Big Squeeze, "The annual pay for Wal-Mart's full-time hourly employees averaged $19,100 in 2007 -- some $1,500 below the poverty line for a family of four."

Mr. Tea
18-09-2008, 01:54 PM
Not everyone who makes lots of money has been handed everything on a plate, though; I doubt whether the average self-made millionaire could be accurately described as a 'slacker'. Though it seems that a willingness to take calculated risks is perhaps even more important than hard work if you want to make a lot of money.

That said, there are clearly also people who have been handed everything on a plate (generally by inheriting either a large estate/fortune or a senior position in a corporation) and equally clearly a lot of people who get paid a pittance for doing a very important job.

swears
18-09-2008, 04:45 PM
You don't get paid according to how hard you work, you get paid for how rare/valuable your skills are.

IdleRich
18-09-2008, 04:55 PM
"You don't get paid according to how hard you work, you get paid for how rare/valuable your skills are."
That's the theory but I think that we would all agree that there are lots of people who have got into positions where they are able to make money without displaying any particular skills. Maybe getting there took some skill (not always) but it's far too simplistic to say that the people with the rarest and most desirable skills are always making the most money.

Mr. Tea
18-09-2008, 05:11 PM
You don't get paid according to how hard you work, you get paid for how rare/valuable your skills are.

That's not true if you get paid per hour, or even if you receive a basic salary that can be supplemented by doing overtime. Or even if you compare part-time and full-time positions of the same job description.

It's also probably untrue if you're self-employed.