[OPE-L:4757] Re: Re: Re: RE: Re: Re: Re: SV and the F of D

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 10 2001 - 19:01:37 EST

This continues the discussion with John E, who writes:

>For the sake of those attempting to follow  our discussion, I've
>reproduced your post at the end of this one.  Let me state my
>agreement with your idea that a necessary condition for capitalism
>is the existence of a class without property or, more exactly,
>without the means of production.  Here both of us follow Marx.
>Further,  I think we agree that if everybody has, say, 40 acres
>and mule with which he or she can produce enough to meet his or her 
>needs capitalsis would, at least, find it difficult to find workers.
>This is more or less the sense of the Wakefield passage below.
>But once capital accumulates things change.  That is, it is
>easy to imagine each of us owning and using his or her own 
>means of production in a society that is more or less in a 
>precapitalist state.  But once capitalism has revolutionized 
>the means of production, how do we even imagine an equal 
>distribution of the means of production?  Hence, I find
>it difficult to grasp your idea that because capitalism 
>requires a propertyless people, distributing property 
>"equally" would end capitalist exploitation.   Spefically,
>I have no idea what that distribution would look like 
>given that the means of production are those of the 
>period of "modern" or "large-scale" industry.  

As I've suggested in my response to Paul C., redistribution would have to
take the form of altering ownership shares in given productive assets.
This could take one of two forms:  worker ownership in something like the
sense of Schweickart, or public ownership in something like Roemer's vision
of market socialism.  Let's take the former case for the sake of
illustration:  in much the same way that the farmer with 40 acres and a
mule might elect not to sell labor power to a capitalist, might workers in
an employee-owned enterprise elect not to supply labor to a capitalist-run


>Gil's Post
>In response to this passage from me,
>>D) As noted before, the key systemic basis for surplus value is capital 
>>scarcity. **Marx puts this point even more strongly in Ch. 33 of Volume I: 
>>if workers own their own means of production, then the capitalist mode of 
>>production is impossible (see pages 933 and 940).** This has a number of 
>>powerful implications, but note just one: the contrapositive of Marx's 
>>claim is that capitalist exploitation can be eliminated simply through 
>>sufficient wealth redistribution. [Emphasis added]
>John writes:
>>My comment:   Wait a sec.   Isn't Marx speaking of the ability of 
>>capitalism to take root?  I think so.  Hence,  I'm unwilling to quickly
>>accept those "powerful implications" concerning the  elimination of
>>capitalist exploitation.  That is,  it's unclear to me that *merely*
>>redistributing the wealth of a developed capitalist society puts an
>>end to capitalist exploitation.   As long as the drive to accumulate
>>for the sake of survival exists, there's seemingly nothing to prevent
>>workers from hiring other workers with their redistributed wealth.   
>I'd say the same thing, John, which is why I characterized Marx's version
>of capital scarcity as "stronger" than the sense I understand to be
>minimally required for the existence of capitalist exploitation.  But
>you've gone me one better, because I must agree it's at least plausible
>that Marx's Ch. 33 conclusions about the role of wealth distribution  in
>Ch. 33 apply *only* to the conditions required for "capitalism to take
>root,"  as you say.  Under this reading, it is certainly hasty at best to
>xinfer that mere redistribution would eliminate capitalist exploitation.  
>But I think this point demands further exploration.
>1)  First, concerning the impact of distribution on exploitation: doesn't
>Marx indicate in V. I, Ch. 6, without any caveat, that a *necessary*
>condition for capitalists to find labor power for sale is that there exist
>a propertyless class?  And if so doesn't this indicate that Marx also
>thinks the indicated connection between distribution and exploitation holds
>even *after* capitalism has taken root?
>2)  Next, aside from what Marx says in Ch. 6 or elsewhere, why *wouldn't*
>his Ch. 33 assessment of the connection between distribution and
>exploitation also apply *after* capitalism has taken root?  What's
>fundamentally different?
>3)  Next, you say "...there's seemingly nothing to prevent workers from
>hiring other workers with their redistributed wealth."
>I agree.  But suppose those other workers had wealth as well--that is,
>let's suppose perfectly equal wealth distribution for the sake of argument.
> Under this condition, would you still insist that the existence of capital
>or labor markets implied the existence of capitalist exploitation in the
>sense Marx intended?  If so, why? 
>>Gil continues:
>>That is, it's *Marx* who has insisted that this stronger version of capital
>>scarcity is required for the existence of  
>>capitalist exploitation.  So let Marx answer your question, again from Ch.
>>33 of Volume I:
>>"It is the great merit of E.G. Wakefield to have discovered, not something
>>new *about* the colonies, but, *in* the colonies, the true about capitalist
>>relations in the mother country....'If,' says Wakefield, 'all the members
>>of the society are supposed to possess equal portions of capital...no man
>>would have a motive for accumulating more capital than he could use with
>>his own hands.  This is to some extent the case in new American
>>settlements, where a passion for owning land prevents the existence of a
>>class of labourers for hire.'   So long, therefore, as the worker can
>>accumulate for himself--and this he can do so long as he remains in
>>possession of his means of production--capitalist accumulation and the
>>capitalist mode of production are impossible." [pp 932-33].
>>My comment:  Marx's statement makes my case again.   He's talking about
>>getting capitalism started and not giving us clues about how the end it.
>Well, he doesn't *quite* make your case.  I agree that the explicit context
>of his remarks concerns the *onset* of capitalism.  But nowhere in the
>passage does he insist that this conclusion categorically *doesn't* hold
>once capitalism has taken root.  
>For myself, I would only note that this is not a definitely settled issue,
>and therefore worthy of theoretical discussion.  Rakesh wanted to know what
>the point of my Ch. 5 critique is, and this is a part of the point.  That
>is, I'm only trying to say that there is a serious theoretical problem in
>need of resolution, not that I've figured out the ultimate resolution. 

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