[OPE-L:6906] Re: value-form

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Apr 05 2002 - 08:13:07 EST

Reply only to sections of Rakesh's [6902]:

>  To focus on circulation is precisely to gloss over
> the essential nature of the capital-labor relationship, extinguishing
> its differentia specifica. Which is the production of surplus value
> and capital.

If one wants to comprehend class relations under capitalism, one's
focus must be on *both* the spheres of production and circulation
since the reproduction of capital requires a unity of the processes
of capitalist production and circulation.

> My reading of Marx's articles and correspondence on the American
> Civil War do not turn up references to the Southern slave system as
> non-capitalist.

Marx -- in brief -- held the position that slavery constituted a barrier to
further development of capitalist relations in the US.  It was for this
reason -- rather than support for the humanitarian goals of the
abolitionist movement alone -- that he supported the war  against the
Confederacy and deemed it to be "progressive".

> >(by which I mean that the measure of labour
> >by time and intensity is a 'formula' peculiar to the capital-labour
> >relation; also, Marx, vol.1, ch.1).  Slaves and surfs are not 'exploited'
> >in this sense.
> This is not true as a matter of fact. On what studies are you relying
> to reach the conclusion that intensity or squeezing out as much
> effort per unit of time were not root concerns of slave owners or
> employers of formally unfree laborers (which let's not forget
> includes millions of Asian indentured servants or "coolies" after
> slavery was abolished in the Caribbean and many former slaves
> attempted to become peasants)?

As a matter of fact,  the form in which labor intensity is increased
under capitalist and slave conditions is typically quite different. Under
slavery,  a form of direct control over slaves is required -- typically,
overseers are employed who threaten -- or do -- inflict physical pain
or withhold 'privileges', etc.).  Under capitalist relations, there is a
more indirect control over wage-earners by managers who threaten
the loss of job and all that entails.  Within _all_ class societies,
the ruling class attempts to extract work from the producing class,
but the form that this takes varies varies depending on the specific
characteristics of the mode of production.

> It is fine and quite important to study a pure capitalism--a
> capitalism in which all products take the form of commodities and are
> all produced by the formally freest wage labor.

I think it is important to recognize that "commodity" can have two
meanings:  in a trans-historical sense it might mean a "product
which is produced in order to be sold" (this is the mainstream
definition) and the _specific_ meaning of commodity under
capitalism which Marx explained. Thus, from Marx's perspective
under capitalism it is not enough that a product have a use-value and
an exchange-value for it to be a commodity -- rather it must also
have the characteristic of representing value.

> But real capitalism is not, has not been and never will be Marx's
> pure capitalism the theoretical nature of which is most interestingly
> discussed by Robert Albritton and other Unoists.
> I think the mistake made here by both you and Jerry is the mistaking
> of Marx's model of reality for the reality of the model.
> The consequence of such overformalist Marxism is the cutting out of
> huge swaths of capitalist history in the periphery and millions of
> the human victims of capitalism in the past and even the present
> (though vagrancy laws were used to provide capital with a formally
> unfree European labor force in early capitalism as well).
> This overformalism thus feeds the racism and Eurocentrism of Marxism.

One doesn't fight racism by ignoring the real divisions among producers
and the working class.  Indeed, a pre-requisite for building unity and
solidarity internationally is recognizing and over-coming in practice those
divisions.  Whether slaves produce surplus value is a matter of irrelevance

in terms of whether other workers support their emancipation. Similarly,
whether unpaid domestic workers in households in nuclear families
produce surplus value is not an essential question from the standpoint
of whether the working class supports feminist demands.  Similarly, whether
the "deproletarianized" (Brass) in the "petty commodity sector" (Drakakis-
Smith and many others)  produce surplus value is not essential in terms of
how an effective international solidarity movement with these sisters and
brothers can be built.   To identify the specific conditions under which
value is created under capitalism is therefore neither "overformalist" nor
does it -- in any way -- feed into the "racism and Eurocentrism of
Marxism".   Indeed, it has historically been those Marxists who have
insisted that "class" is the only question that have been the ones who have
fed racism.  Thus,  Black workers were told in the US by the CPUSA
that they should not demonstrate during WW2 not only because it would
"disrupt the war effort" but also because it would "divide the working
class". Similarly,  feminists have been told by other Marxists that they
shouldn't press feminist demands for the same reason -- i.e. that it
would allegedly divide the working class. Real class unity, however, is
only possible when these demands are recognized and championed by
the entire class.   This is the case irrespective of the position that one
takes in terms of who produces surplus value.

In solidarity, Jerry

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