Revisiting value and exploitation

Jun 7, 2011 by     20 Comments    Posted under: economy, essential reading, theory

Revisiting value and exploitation

by

Prairie Fire

(llco.org)

When her father died in 1883 Eleanor Marx wrote an article celebrating her father’s achievements. At the heart of these was “his theory of value, by which Marx explains the origin and the continued accumulation of capital in the hands of a, thereby, privileged class.” (1) What was seen as so important at the time of his death has fallen by the wayside over a century later among the majority of those calling themselves “Marxist.” So-called Marxists today are content to forget Marx’s true theory of value because of the embarrassing fact that it would, if taken literally, preclude most First World workers from being exploited. It would count them outside of the proletariat,  outside the revolutionary class.  It is the mark of a scientific theory that it has a higher degree of explanatory and predictive power than its competitors. Whether Marx’s theory of value is the most scientific theory today is still an open question. However, Marx’s actual theory, in its best version, is far more scientific than the kind of butchered “Marxist” theories so often put forward by First Worldists. Not only does Marx’s theory gives us the tools, the language, to account for the rise of the mall economy of the United States and other First World countries, it helps us predict and explain the lack of revolutionary sentiment amongst the vast majority of those in the First World. Marx’s theory of value is the astronomy to the astrology of the First Worldist soothsayers.

Eleanor Marx describes the origin of value under capitalism:

“The sum thus entering the pocket of the capitalist Marx calls surplus-value. It is not all profit, but includes the employer’s profit. He has to share it with others: with the Government in the shape of rates and taxes, with the landlord for rent, with the merchant, etc… Thus, all of the classes of society not composed of actual and immediate producers of wealth… all classes, from kings and queens to music-masters and greengrocers, live upon their respective shares of this surplus value. In other words, they live upon the net producer of the surplus labor which the capitalist extracts from his work people, but for which he does not pay. It matters not whether the share of surplus-labor falling to each member of society not actually a producer is granted as a gift by Act of Parliament from the public revenue, or whether it has to be earned by performing some function not actually productive. There is no fund out of which they can be paid, but the sum total of the surplus value created by the immediate producers, for which they are not paid.” (2)

According to both Karl and Eleanor Marx, the value that makes society run has only one source, the “immediate producers of wealth.” In the England of Marx’s day, most of this class would have been industrial, waged workers — this would include workers on industrial farms since peasant direct producers were passing from the scene. Marx predicted that the trends that he witnessed in Western Europe would occur globally. He thought that society would become polarized into two great classes, the industrial capitalists and their workers. Thus, as capitalism advanced, the paradigmatic direct producer would come to be represented by the industrial worker. He saw the industrial working class as the proletariat, the revolutionary agent. Marx thought competition and development would even out from country to country. Thus revolution was a matter of “workers of the world, unite!” However, things did not work out exactly the way Marx foresaw.

It is always important to note that many of Marx’s conclusions were arrived at because he extrapolated from abstract models just as economists do today. This and a good deal of teleology  informed his views. However, the real world is more complex. Global society has not polarized exactly in the way that Marx foresaw. Instead, there exist different configurations of class society across countries. In some countries, there are very few direct producers at all. These are First World mall economies. Factories no longer dominate the lives of First World peoples. Only a small percentage of people in the First World work in factories anymore. A far greater number are employed in management, services, etc. This can be described in Marx’s terms as a decline in the percentage of the population engaged in productive labor, labor that adds to the total social product. Many First World economies can be described as a mall writ large.  Nothing, or very little, is produced at the mall. Yet people are employed managing, transporting, securing, etc. goods that are produced elsewhere but are sold at the mall.  It is the influx of goods from outside the mall that keeps the mall afloat. Production is going on outside the mall, in the Third World. It was the evaporation of direct production, and along with it the evaporation of revolutionary consciousness, that caused Friedrich Engels to write of the bourgeoisification of the English working class on the back of India and the world. Of English workers, Engels writes, “workers merrily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the colonies and the world market.” Even though Marx may have been wrong on unitary development and about the polarization of class, his theory of value does account for today’s world.

The world economy is made up of chains of economic interaction. Each commodity has a point where it was produced. Before a commodity finally leaves circulation it might be exchanged several times. Let’s say a commodity was produced at point A. It was bought by a middleman company and transported and sold again at point C. After being sold at the department store, the commodity leaves circulation. This chain can be represented thus:

A->B->C

At each stage of the commodity’s journey profit may be obtained. Let’s suppose profit is obtained when the commodity is sold from the factory at A to the middleman at B. Profit is obtained when the middleman company B sells it to the retail store C. And profit is also obtained when the retailer C sells the commodity to the consumer. Even though profit is obtained at each point in the circulation chain, surplus value can only be produced by the direct producer. Even though profit is obtained by the middlemen and distributor, this profit is not produced by the workers employed by either the middleman B or the retailer C.  This allows Marx to make the point that the merchant does not get rich by cheating his clerks:

“We must make the same distinction between him and the wage-workers directly employed by industrial capital which exists between industrial capital and merchant’s capital, and thus between the industrial capitalist and the merchant. Since the merchant, as mere agent of circulation, produces neither value nor surplus-value.. it follows that the mercantile workers employed by him in these same functions cannot directly create surplus-value for him.. In other words, that he does not enrich himself by cheating his clerks.”  (3)

When Marx is at his most consistent he extends this point very broadly. There is no reason we cannot extend Marx’s point about clerks to all of those outside production. Even if Marx isn’t always clear, and sometimes contradictory, one has to make this generalization to be consistent with the Labor Theory of Value. Direct production is the origin of value and the original source of all profit in the Marxist Labor Theory of Value paradigm. Thus, as Eleanor Marx points out, the value that is obtained by all classes has its origin in the direct producers. This is true not just of  true of the traditional ruling classes, but also of those who are employed but are not direct producers or part of direct production. These workers may help realize value but they do not produce it as the direct producer does. A bank does not create its profit by squeezing value out of its tellers. A bank obtains its profit by receiving a share of the total social product produced by direct producers. Banks obtain their share through investments and financial manipulations, but the origin of that value lies in direct production. The same is true of supermarkets. It isn’t like they grow the lettuce in the store parking lot. Santa’s elves are not toiling away in the back of the Toys ‘r’ Us.

Because of the tremendous productive capacity of capitalism, these unproductive sectors have expanded significantly. These unproductive sectors have come to dominate whole national economies in the First World. Walmart, for example, is the biggest employer in the United States, with over 1 million employees. (4) The total population of the United States is 309 million. Of the 145 million people who are employed (this includes the undocumented too) within the United States, roughly 26 million are employed in those sectors of the economy that loosely (since we are relying on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data) correspond with direct production.  (5)  However, it is important to note that many of those employed in these sectors are not the direct producers themselves. Many in these sectors are management, etc., even if they are employed in the direct production sector of the economy. It is a conservative estimate that at least 10% to 30% of this sector can be considered to not be direct producers in a literal or extended sense.  We can generously say that 23.4 million to 18.2 million people in the United States can be counted as direct producers in the loosest sense of the term. By contrast, 126.8 million to 121.6 million in the United States are employed but are not direct producers. (6) This tremendous lopsidedness is why the United States’ economy can be described as a mall economy. As great as the productive forces may be, 23.4 million to 18.2 million people cannot account for the sum of the incomes of the 145 million employed plus the incomes of those  tens of millions who are not employed but still have incomes, i.e. capitalists, the petty bourgeoisie, the unemployed, those on  welfare, retirees, students, etc. Rather, it stands to reason, the value that allows for this tremendous lopsidedness has to be coming from outside “the mall,” from the Third World. It is, of course, no accident that the increase of this lopsidedness in the United States corresponds to the rise of the United States as the supreme imperialist power after World War II and the decline of inter-imperialist rivalry. Imperialism aided this lopsided development, and continues to maintain it. The lopsidedness is production, but also in wealth and power, after World War II, is why Lin Biao noted that revolution in the First World had halted even while revolution was bursting on the historical stage in the Third.

“Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously.” (7)

Another assumption Marx made was that the incomes of the direct producers under capitalism, which for Marx mostly meant the industrial workers, would be reduced to subsistence or sub-subsistence. This is because in a pure model competition between capitalists results over time in equalization of technique. So, the only way left for a capitalist to increase profits is to reduce wages. So much did Marx think this an inevitability of capitalism that Marx identified the value of labor-power with the bare minimum necessary to keep the worker reproducing his labor from day to day. Although this immiseration of direct producers does bear out in much of the Third World, it hardly characterizes any worker in the United States except perhaps some negligible undocumented workers at the very edges of the economy. Often, this does not even characterize the situation of prisoners who are forced to produce. Even those who produce in the First World obtain a wide range of incomes, all of them well above the value of labor-power as set by Marx. Their incomes and standard of living are so high as to make them generally happy with their lot within the system. They align with the imperialist system. Even though Marx was wrong about the exact details of immiseration, this view of value allows for what is seen today. Under Marx’s model, it is possible for value to be transferred from direct producers to others.  It is  also possible for value to be transferred from direct producers to direct producers. In other words, First World direct producers can obtain a share of the surplus that originates in the Third World. Even if a direct producer in the First World is adding to the global social product through his labor, at the same time, he is subtracting from the global social product the same way that other exploiters do. He is obtaining a share of value from the Third World. This offsets whatever value he produces. This makes him a net-exploiter, just like  members of other exploiting classes.

Marx’s theory of value allows for these possibilities that go a long way in explaining current reality. The claim by First Worldist that if profit is being obtained by a particular business, then there is exploitation by that business of its workers does not follow. An epistemological problem arises: how do we know whether a worker is an exploiter or not? Because value can be transferred in so many ways from one person to another, from one direct producer to another, it is necessary to establish a way to measure who is and who is not exploited. Either it is necessary to assign a value to labor-power or it is necessary to find another way to measure exploitation. Today virtually the entire world’s economy is integrated into one giant imperialist formation. The production of a commodity may take place across several countries. To complete a commodity it is not unusual for producers across vast distances to have contributed to its completion. To maintain that the labor-power of First World producers is different than the labor-power of Third World producers is pure chauvinism, especially since economies are so globalized today. Any approach to solving this problem should apply to workers everywhere. Comrade Serve the People has advanced a solution to the problem that establishes a rough estimate for the value of labor-power:

“Comrade Marx pointed out that labor is the substance of value. He said that the number of hours of average abstract socially necessary labor needed to produce a commodity represents its value. That means labor of average productivity under the given working conditions for the specified type of work. Therefore, if traded at value, one hour of labor put into harvesting parsnips is exchangeable against one hour of assembling washing machines (if the labor in both cases is of average productivity).

The nominal GDP of the entire world was $31.9 trillion in 2002. This figure represents everything produced in the world, including services (which tend to be overvalued), in a year’s time. The population is about 6.4 billion people. Assume that 2/3 of them work full time on a typical US schedule of 2000 hours per year. Then the value of average labor is $7500 per year, or about $3.75 per hour. (Slightly higher, actually, since the world’s population was a bit lower in 2002 than it is today.)

Elsewhere I have seen estimates from the UN that the world’s nominal GDP in 2005 is about $36 trillion. That would put the value of labor at $8400 per year, or $4.20 per hour. What is the implication? In the US, the minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, and even higher in some states and cities. If average labor is worth $4.20, then even people making the minimum wage are overpaid on average by about 23%. The average wage in the US is about $18 per hour, which is more than 4 times the value of labor.” (8)

Let’s look at another, stronger, less orthodox solution. In her characterization of her father’s theory of value, Eleanor Marx discusses the distribution of  the global social product under capitalism. Her father’s theory of value implies certain distributions are capitalist ones, other distributions are socialist ones. Eleanor characterizes the society of her day as a capitalist one with a distribution where those who do not contribute to the global social production receive shares from it. In fact, the majority of the shares of surplus-labor are distributed to non-producers of various kinds under capitalism. It is correct to criticize the distribution of the social product to reactionary  non-producing classes. However, any contemporary socialism has to direct distribution toward not only producers, but also the vast destitute stagnant, non-working poor across the Third World. The non-working destitute are a very significant, potentially explosive, class that is coming into its own as a class in the slums of Third World cities. Had the world polarized as Marx suggested, then a socialist distribution aimed at producers, to near exclusion of others, makes sense. However, this is not our world today, or our socialism. Our problem is that given that, under Marx’s scheme, value can be transferred from producers to both non-producers and to other producers, a bar needs to be set to establish who is and who is not exploited. I have advanced another possible solution to this problem that moves away from Marx’s theory of value, but can be said to be implicit in the Marxist criticism of imperialism:

“Some might object that a socialist distribution is not an egalitarian distribution. Rather, a socialist distribution is one where wealth is spread out, not evenly, but to those who do the work and those nations who do the work: she who does not work, shall not eat. Whereas the labor theory of value may be necessary for explaining the mechanics of exploitation, the distribution principle associated with it is not adequate to rectify the problem of inequality between countries that has been generated by imperialism. Such a distribution principle does not address the problem of underdevelopment. Surely populations in the most underdeveloped parts of the Third World, that have been rendered unproductive by imperialism, should not continue to remain in dire poverty under a global socialism. Whole countries of the “industrial reserve army” in the Third World may not currently be productive, but should not resources and development be directed to such populations under socialism? According to demographers, very soon, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s populations will be living in cities. The new “global countryside” as the base areas of the global people’s wars may very well be the ghettos of Third World megacities. These ghettos are less sites for production then blights that show just how capitalism’s anarchy of production has failed to bring huge segments of the human population into production. Surely socialism must speak to these vast populations that will be the soldiers of the people’s wars over the next century.

The global economy is a causal nexus where value in various forms is transferred around the globe from one person to another. So, if one person is receiving more than an equal share, then somebody else is receiving less somewhere in the causal nexus. Likewise, if someone is receiving less, someone else is receiving more. Imperialism has created a world order where those who receive less and those who receive more correspond to populations in the Third World and First World respectively. Using egalitarianism as a regulative idea, one is exploited when one does not receive an equal share. One is an exploiter when one receives more than an equal share. A country is exploited when its population is largely made up the exploited who have less than an equal share. A country is an exploiter when its population is largely made up of exploiters who have more than an equal share. Implicit in the Marxist critique of imperialism is the idea that countries of the world should exist side by side as equals. The opposite relationship to the imperialist one is a relationship based on egalitarianism and self-determination.” (9) (10)

Marx avoided the problem by ascribing historical necessity to the trends he saw around him.  Even though Marx’s real theory of value is largely forgotten, it is much better than anything advanced by First Worldists today. We must start from, but also go beyond, Marx’s theory of value in order to answer what Mao called the question of first importance, the question of class: “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” Global society looks very different today than in Marx’s day.  Lenin writes, “Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.” (11) Today this division has evolved such that whole countries lack the proletariat as the revolutionary class. This is why the world revolution has taken a very different shape than that in Marx’s day. Lin Biao writes:

“[T]he contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (12)

Today’s revolution is the Global People’s War of the Army of the Leading Light.

Notes.

1. Marx, Eleanor “Marx’s Theory of Value,” in When Karl Marx Died ed. Foner, Philip S. International Publishers. USA: 1973 p. 230
2. ibid. p 235
3. Marx, Karl Capital Vol. 3 Chapter XVII
4. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2003-11-10-walmart_x.htm
5. Data extrapolated from BLS statistic from 2009 and 2010 http://www.bls.gov/cps/faq.htm#Ques8 and ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/suppl/empsit.cpseea21.txt
6. The method here is to add up all industries that can loosely be considered “direct production.” We do the same for other sectors. Also, 10% to 20% is subtracted in order to roughly account for those employed in the direct production sector, but who are not themselves direct producers, i.e management, etc. The numbers are from the employment charts at the Census Bureau.
7. Lin Biao Long Live the Victory of People’s War! http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm
8. Serve the People A Rough Estimate of the Value of Labor. http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2008/07/06/blast-of-the-past-from-irtr-a-rough-estimate-of-the-value-of-labor/    *The minimum wage in the US is now $7.25 per hour.
9. Prairie Fire Real versus Fake Marxism on Socialist Distribution. http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/real-versus-fake-marxism-on-socialist-distribution/
10. Prairie Fire Global Inequality or Socialist Equality. http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/global-inequality-and-socialist-equality/
11. http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/mt/imp97/imp97b1.html
12. Lin Biao Long Live the Victory of People’s War! http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm

20 Comments + Add Comment

  • Have you read Samir Amin’s “the Law of Worldwide Value?” (I haven’t yet, although I’m about to start.)

    • Great, perhaps you can review it. Samir Amin, although there is a Third Worldist thrust to his work, is a First Worldist. He has criticized the global people’s war line also. He was never able to make the jump to Leading Light Communism. He recently participated in a forum with Slavoj Zizek where he predicted Europe’s decent into doom and gloom and revolution. This isn’t to say there are not things to learn from his works, but he does not seem that different than any number of those that almost make it to Third Worldism, but then pull back into First Worldism.

  • The predictions of doom and gloom in the First World are indeed pretty pretty pathetic. Not because it’s impossible – the 30s happened, after all – but because leftists have been predicting it nonstop. Of course a 3Wist could claim the same for the global periphery and be entirely correct – the disaster has been unfolding for centuries.

    I can’t guarantee that I’ll have anything worthwhile to say, but if after reading it I do I’ll be sure to send along a review.

  • I wank to thank all of the leading lights especially comrade prairie fire for his great contributions. I dont think we would be where we are without his outstanding work. i am turning over a new leaf. i want to serve this cause. this is something that is really worth living for. i am a student but i will try to make a contribution as soon as i can. i need to know if there is a LLCO group in my state. thank you

    • Comrade, thanks for your words. It’s great that you are eager to contribute your abilities, time, and energy to the international communist movement.

      We don’t talk publicly about where LLCO groups may or may not be located. As an organization that threatens the existing social order, we face heavy repression from the pigs and therefore must pay a great deal of attention to our security. Contact the LLCO, and we’ll let you know how you can work with us.

      Clenched-fist salute!

  • Inter-imperialist rivalries have not declined, they are sharper than ever, from 2000 on at least. And you don’t have to look at US and EU in order to understand rivalries, all it takes is find a country that is big and also has a very low share of FDI, unlike Great Britain for example were FDI stood at 44% in 2008

    As of today there are only 2 countries that are both exporters of capital and relatively independent of foreign capital through a low share of FDI- these countries are Japan and Russia, the only difference being that Japan completely lacks a powerful military. So there remains Russia, the only capitalist power besides the USA that can truly stand on its own two feet. Its share of FDI is 2% as of 2008, its number of nukes 11 000, and Russian export of capital through companies like Severstal, RusAl, LukOil, Gazprom is growing fast. Looking at EU and Japan in order to understand inter-imperialist rivalries is quite misleading.

    • We have to look at the whole picture here. If inter-imperialist rivalries were that significant in our time, why would the EU and NATO even exist? Time and time again, the First World imperialists have, for the most part, allied against the Third World. Look at the history of military struggles by the First World against the Third World since the second World War and you will see that it was usually a case of a First World coalition imperialist force (usually lead by the United States) against a lone Third World country. Some imperialists may have their rivalries, and the United States may bully the other imperialists at times, but at the end of the day, the principal contradiction is the First World versus the Third World, and the First World imperialists will unify under one banner in order to secure their oppressive and exploitative grip on Third World peoples.

      • Well, I explicitely stated that looking at EU and Japan in order to understand inter-imperialist rivalries can be “MISLEADING”, that’s what I said. The main inter-imperialist rivalry as of today is between the US-led camp and RUSSIA. Britain cannot be a serious rival of the United States since FDI makes up 44% of the GDP. Russia, on the other hand, with 2% FDI can constitute a rival. Britain’s GDP far exceeds that of Russia yet it LACKS the consistency of the Russian GDP since more than 44% goes to foreign capitalists and British capitalists own, on average, LESS shares in their companies compared to Russian capitalists, to the point we may not even know whether a British Corporation is “truly British” or not. Russia is the ONLY Imperialist power that is independent enough of foreign capitalism since its share of FDI is only 2% of its GDP and Russian capitalists generally own more than half of shares in their companies. A British Corporation may well be not British at all so how could Britain or Germany or Freance or Japan rival the United States if these countries’ capital LACK THE CONSISTENCY of Russian capital?

        Therefore it’s safe to say the ONLY imperialist country strong enough to rival the United States is neither France nor Britain nor Germany but RUSSIA. And once you recognize this you must also recognize the right of people oppressed by Russia to SIDE WITH THE UNITED STATES the same way we recognize the right of peoples oppressed by USA to SIDE WITH RUSSIA. Just because Chechens side with America and Chavez sides with Russia does NOT mean the Global People’s War is held back. Just because Chechens side with USA and Palestinians sides with Russia does not mean that imperialists divide the Third World, what it really means is the opposite, it means it’s the THIRD WORLD that divides Imperialists.

  • It looks like pockets of Third World proletarians inside the USA include MORE than just “undocumented migrants”

    Consider this:

    The Pine Ridge “Indian” Reservation. Unemployment exceeds 80%, which is more than 3 times worse than US general unemployment during the Great Depression at a time most US workers WERE indeed proletarian Infant mortality is 3 TIMES THE US NATIONAL AVERAGE. More than ONE THIRD of Pine Ridge homes lack running water or electricity. Roughly HALF the Pine Ridge population over 40 years old is diabetic. Life expectancy currently stands at 50 YEARS, which is WORSE THAN IN SOME THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES!- certainly worse than anywhere in Eastern Europe except among Gypsies

    Source: The Guardian- “Obama’s Indian Problem”, January 11, 2011

    I mean come on, if a 50 year average life expectancy is not proletarian then I don’t know what is. Downtrodden Native Americans such as the Pine Ridge people should definitely be included in what is reffered as “The Proletarian Camp”

    • It is obvious, Florian, that First Nations peoples are oppressed and live in inexcusably horrible conditions. Some First Nations peoples benefit from imperialist superprofits. Others live like Third Worlders, or near the conditions of Third Worlders. The Leading Light is not in the business of denying facts. However, the First Nations peoples of America are too few and far in between to constitute a revolutionary social base. They cannot compare to the numbers, and often the conditions, of Third World peoples.

    • You don’t know what the proletariat is. And you don’t know what our line is either. If you bother to read our literature, we do not say there are not people with shitty lives living within the borders of the United States. We do not even say there is no proletariat within the United States. We say, and if you bother to read our literature, you would know this, there is no *significant* proletariat in the United States.

      Just being “unemployed” does not necessarily mean that one is impoverished. Also, being unemployed does not mean not having an income. Many people in the United States, for example, receive unemployment benefits — that is usually what “unemployed” means in most contexts. These benefits are fairly high by world standards — although this often depends on one’s previous income. In fact, if the wealth were evened out, some of the “unemployed” in the United States would lose out. It also, in the American context, does not mean the same thing as not working. You are posting information without knowing or clarifying what it means.

      That said, let’s assume you are right about Pine Ridge. Pine Ridge is known as being the poorest area within the United States. Mao called this kind of thing “one finger against the many.” In a country of 300 million, your example of a “proletariat” is a few thousand of the most extremely marginalized. Instead of pointing to the typical within the United States, you point to the most atypical. You point to the exception that proves the rule. You don’t deal with the heart of our argument, instead you nitpick. As though a few thousand of the most marginalized on Pine Ridge could constitute a reliable and significant social base in a country of 300 million.

      Overall standard of living, poverty, is the best overall indicator as to who is or who isn’t proletarian, but it is not the only thing. It is a necessary, but not sufficient condition. Simply being poor does not mean a person is part of the proletariat, part of a reliable and significant social base that can be mobilized for revolution in a real way along class lines.

      Please read what we actually say, not what you imagine we say: http://llco.org/again-are-there-any-groups-in-the-first-world-with-revolutionary-potential-at-all

      • Class consciousness does not come out of thin air. It was not the case in China, it was not the case in Russia, it’s certainly not the case withPine Ridge residents. Just because Pine Ridge “Indians” have no sense of solidarity with Third World Proper does not mean they are closer to First World from an OBJECTIVE standpoint. A 50 years old life expectancy is still a 50 years old life expectancy, not matter how remote these people may think they are from Egypt Yemen Nigeria etc. Rather than looking from class conscious proletarians you sometimes need to CREATE a class consciousness even if that requires punishing people for refusing to be who you want them to be. You should look more closely into the relation between Base and Superstructure to understand that there are instances in which you need to build from the Superstructure up rather than the other way around if you wish to arouse class consciousness, that there are instances where a good Marxist propaganda helps you more with class consciousness than “objective conditions” do. Go to Pine Ridge, give its residents a good deal of propaganda, use FORCE if need be, act as if you were the ones who know what’s good for them and who knows in a couple of years they could be more AntiAmeriKKKan that the Taliban. There is such a possibility and it’s certainly better than no class consciousness at all. Lysenkoism is better than Dogmatic Marxism will ever be.

        • I feel the need to repeat the words of Comrade LL:

          “Please read what we actually say, not what you imagine we say.”
          On class consciousness, I will link you to the following article:
          http://llco.org/first-worldism-and-popper%E2%80%99s-challenge

          LLCO has not said anything about the First Nations peoples of Pine Ridge being closer to the First World elites than Third Worlders, nor has LLCO said anything about the peoples of Pine Ridge having no solidarity with Third Worlders.

          • What LLCO says about Popper and class consciousness is 100% true. Still, it wasn;t me who brought up class consciousness. I thought LL did when he said “being poor does not mean a person is part of the proletarian”, this is why I thought it appropriate for me to bring up class consciousness. What the LLCO says about class consciousness being related to class, what the LLCO says about First World workers NOT being braiwashed prefectly stands. That however does not mean Pine Ridge people are not proletarians. Just because there are First World workers who are OBJECTIVELY bourgeois, irrespective of their class consciousness, does NOT mean anyone in the First World who lacks a class consciousness is necessarily bourgeosi, from an objective standpoint. Just because there are people who lack a proletarian consciousness and belong to the bourgeoisie does not mean the Pine Ridge people are in this situation.

            Sorry for the misunderstanding

  • Life expectancy doesn’t necessarily correlate with class. Some residents of inner city Glasgow have lower life expectancies than people in Iraq, for example.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/jan/21/health.politics

    Needless to add, the low life expectancy of these Glaswegians is a sad fact and ought to be remedied, as indeed it will be once socialism is established upon the corpse of imperialism. But venture into Glasgow with a genuine revolutionary communist program and you will likely either be laughed at or forcefully disabused of your naievete.

    • Class consciousness and class are not necessarily the same thing. Class is class and class consciousness is a BYPRODUCT of class which comes about mainly because of INTELLECTUALS as Lenin pointed out in “What is to be done”. Assuming there are people in Glasgow with lower life expectancies than Iraqis then it’s the job of intellectuals to get them on the correct road

  • R. Florian wrote: “Just because there are First World workers who are OBJECTIVELY bourgeois, irrespective of their class consciousness, does NOT mean anyone in the First World who lacks a class consciousness is necessarily bourgeosi, from an objective standpoint.”

    This is a total non sequitur. Nobody is saying that it is lack of class consciousnes that makes people bourgeois.

    It is true: proletarian class consciousness does need to be imparted… to proletarians!

  • “This is a total non sequitur. Nobody is saying that it is lack of class consciousnes that makes people bourgeois.”

    There is no such thing as not having a class consciousness. There is such a thing as not having a PROLETARIAN class consciousness.

    Indeed, most of the 3rd world does not have a proletarian consciousness; this is why the Naxals and even the [revisionist] Nepalese standout as much as they do in a sea of 3rd world bourgeois nationalists and Wahabist Muslims.

    Right now, sadly, the majority of both 1st world workers and 3rd world proletarians seek to become “amerikkkans”, “europeans”, “gangsters”, or “God-fearing [insert monotheistic sect here]“.

    There are MATERIAL reasons for this, beyond economics exclusively; which no one has yet been able to speak to effectively, in a way that makes a difference.

    • Well, we could toss out all the same data that the IMF and CIA uses about material conditions of the Global South vs. the Global North (to perfect the science of oppression) into the garbage, because your implication is that “First World, Third World, doesn’t matter… Everyone is hopelessly bourgeois in the realm of ideology.”

      If this is the approach you think we should take, you are effectively asking us to toss materialism and pray to a mystery spook for the liberation of billions.

      Sure, the relationship of “material being to ideological consciousness” is certainly not a one-to-one ratio. If it were, then there would be no need for Leading Light Communism, because the international proletariat would “spontaneously” and “naturally” row the boat to the shores of revolution on their own. You can certainly say that there is (as Antonio Gramsci called it) a global “hegemony” of bourgeois ideology that affects all people’s thinking on the planet at this time.

      Material reality is material reality. The global “rivers of value” (as Comrade Prairie Fire called it) flow from the world’s oppressed and exploited majority, mainly residing in the Global South, to that privileged minority of the Earth’s inhabitants in the Global North. In the Global North, most matters relating to class exploitation are (and have been) resolved through reforms to the current global system, with revolution being only a slightly visible option on the table. In the Global South, where the world’s exploited majority exists, revolution is visibly the only solution for people there. For most First World people, “power over one’s boss” is as simple as securing a good retirement pension and company stock options, or keeping government entitlements coming while keeping “budget cuts” at bay. For the majority of humanity in the Third World, “power over one’s boss,” more often than not, is the equivalent to a life and death struggle for a brand new power –the New Power of the exploited for building a communist society with no classes. This is materialism.

      “Who is getting more, and who is getting and less of the global social product?” And the question follows, “Who has the least to lose from the destruction of capitalism-imperialism, and who has the most to win?” There is no getting away from this. Well-intentioned folks in the First World who are trying to organize for a “May Day Global General Strike” ought to consider this before they (again) get mired in a bourgeois global labor aristocratic union’s “struggle” for a “better deal” (union contract) under this system. In the First World, it is far more productive to appeal to the “head and heart,” rather than the “stomach and pocket.” In the Third World, it is possible to win exploited people over on the basis of all four; “stomach, pocket, head, and heart” –immediate material needs, as well as bringing them to proletarian, communist consciousness to sweep away the empire and all its vestiges from the planet. Matter matters.

      Again, there is a reason why the CIA, IMF, the WTO, and World Bank use the data that they use. They need material economic data to be able to predict and explain global events, in the service of imperialism. If it were simply a matter of conducting a worldwide poll, we could then use that poll data as a guide to focus “communist public relations” work in changing opinions about revolution, regardless of the global realities on the ground. However, it is not that simple. We live in a real world, with real deprivation, immiseration, oppression and exploitation of billions –primarily located in the Global South. The material differences between the Global North and South are important. They provide us with a window into where the mass social base for communist revolution will arise. With that window, we can then be most effective with our work to raise the sights of the wretched of the Earth, to see that this is certainly not the “best of all possible worlds.”

      Understanding these very real material differences on the planet is important, if we are to avoid getting burned out on hitting our heads on the wall when trying to win bourgeois “workers” in the Global North away from the liberal Democratic or Labor parties.

  • Proletarian means propertyless. It is a Latin term employed to denote those lacking the property to embark on individual productive ventures. Engels defines the proletarian as one who is forced to accept compensation at less than their contribution as a result of this lack of property. While the development of post-industrial or “mall” economies has been founded on immiseration in the periphery and has raised workers standards of living in the core, the fundamental gap is private property ownershir has not been rectified. Now don’t get me wrong, western wealth is built entirely on imperialism, but that does not eliminate the proletarian character of employment for the masses in the “first world.” Exploitative labor is accepted because it must be. Furthermore, the “consumerization” of society is actually quite detrimental to the consumers as well as the producers. Of course the ailments of the producers are worse, but the “consumerized” proletarians still have to deal with commodified social relations, creative alienation, precarity and even poverty. Perhaps most importantly, what is it that makes a social group revolutionary? Its interests! Of course peripheral workers have a substantially greater interest in the reorientation of society, but that does not mean that core workers do not share similar, dialed down interests.

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