[OPE-L:8354] Re: Re: Michael Eldred's law

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Fri Jan 17 2003 - 12:56:06 EST

I  must protest at  the  misinterpretation of Marx you give below. You must
know pervfectly well Marx never had any truck with justice and certainly
never regarded the LTV as its foundation. More detail below.

>For there to be individual freedom in a society, there has to be individuals.
The being of an individual socially is tied essentially to relations of free
exchange (intercourse in the broadest sense, including the exchange of
views and
also the abstract relations of commodity exchange). Marxism is antithetical to
such individualism insofar as, on the basis of the LTV, it pronounces all
exchange of labour for wages to be _essentially_ unjust, the injustice
purportedly residing in the fact that the worker creates surplus-value for the
other party (the capitalist), who appropriates the surplus without giving
anything in return. This is one aspect of what I mean by Marxism being
metaphysically impoverished. In ascribing value-creation to labour, which turns
out to be wage labour, it makes all else worthless, literally non-productive.
Value-creation is pronounced to be a function of labour-time expended, from
which a claim to a portion of the product is derived. This is the kind of
thinking worthy only of planning bureaucrats.

The conflation you first make between different kinds of exchange is
unhelpful; as it reads it seems you might think free individuality is
necessarily rooted in market exchange. That is pure bourgeois ideology of
As for the LTV stuff this is a classic case of shooting the messenger for
the bad news. It is bourgeois society that is ontologically impoversished,
it is bourgeois society that declares non-productive activities worthless.
It is bourgeois society that not only subsumes individuals under class
identities but provides even its beneficiaries with an impoverised
individuality. You should read Oscar Wilde on 'The SOul of Man under
Socialism' where he looks forward to socialism making possible true
Any unprejudiced reader of Marx should see that his critique of PE is
directed against such bourgeois relations and their implications.
I don't deny the experience of Stalinism was a set-back, just as the
experience of the Terror and Napoleon was a set-back for the hopes of the
bourgeois revolution. But we can learn and go forward. Certainly the
violence of the market cannot be the only option.

>Perversely, and motivated unconsciously by resentment and envy, Marxism
>individual differences in material wealth in themselves to be socially unjust.
>Genuine justice, which "avoids" all the "Missstaende" (unacceptable states of
>affairs) accepted as just in bourgeois conceptions of justice, is
>proclaimed to
>be "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."
>(Kritik des Gothaer Programms MEW19:21) Here is where Marx's impoverished
>metaphysics of human being becomes visible, since, in truth, needs only arise
>from the usages of how each of us lives, not conversely. Marx himself
>points to
>this: "One worker is married, the other is not; one worker has more children
>than the other, etc. etc." (MEW19:21) In this "etc. etc." is hidden the entire
>gamut of possibilities of individual ways of living.
>Since these usages, i.e. these customary ways of living _from_ which needs
>arise, are to serve as the measure for a just claim on the social product, a
>communist society would also have to prescribe _how individuals live_.
>"need" would be a function of 'bourgeois' individual caprice and
>Whether I could become a philosopher or an artist would have to be decided by
>some committee somewhere, not by my individual resolve to cast my life in a
>particular direction and scrape toegether the material means for doing so
>by all
>sorts of circuitous routes. The committee (which hasn't a clue about
>or art) may decide that philosophy is socially superfluous/dangerous and
>that I
>should establish a family instead because of the demographic "needs" of
>I would then have to bribe some committee member or other, etc.
Marx never ever said individual differences were unjust as such. The whole
point of the first part of the CGP is to vindicate these differences
against all conceptions of justice which necessarily group people into
definite classes. The whole point of the slogan, if you read the context
carefully, is precisely to get away from any rules of justice externally
imposed on individuals and leave them free to determine for themselves
their needs and abilities. This is nothing to do with bourgeois caprice
because we are thinking of a comunist society in which sociality is a
feature of our lives. One great advantage would be precisely that the
individual would not have to 'scrape together' but would have a secure
basis for existence.
That is Marx. Of course he could be criticised on the ground that he is
presupposing a society of abundance and, short of that, external measures,
however 'fair', would have to ration resources, and likewise if some work
is still unpleasant some sort of social norms requiring some measure of
contribution may be needed. Finally the demographic is a worry but in the
opposite sense to what we have seen in the USSR, namely overpopulation may
require pressure for 2 child families as in China. But these are problems
for us all and it is unfair to blame Marx for not having the answer.


17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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