Re: (OPE-L) the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Tue Sep 16 2003 - 03:29:27 EDT

At 10:13 15/09/2003 -0400, jerry wrote:
>A lot of reasons have been advanced for the continued
>persistence and dominance of capitalist relations of
>Writing in 1870 (April 9 letter to Meyer and Vogt),
>Marx disclosed what he believed to be "the secret by
>which the capitalist class maintains its power":

>"This antagonism [between Irish and English workers] is artificially kept
>alive and intensified by
>the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the
>means at the disposal of the ruling classes. It is the secret
>of the impotence of the English working class, despite their
>organization.  It is the secret by which the capitalist class
>maintains its power.  And of this that class is well aware."
>(Marx-Engels, _Selected Correspondence_, pp. 289-90).
>This raises some interesting questions for discussion:
>1) If Marx believed that working-class division was  "the
>secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power",
>why didn't he make the same point in _Capital_?  I think
>I know the answer Mike L would give to that question. What
>other answers are there?

         While the concept of the degree of separation of the working class
plays a significant role in my argument (much more so in the new edition)
and its absence is attributed to the limited object of Marx in CAPITAL, I
think it is important to stress that this is far from being the only
significant point about capital's power not made in CAPITAL. Eg. note
Marx's statement in the Grundrisse (Vintage, 287) that the creation of new
needs for workers is the moment on which 'the historic justification, but
also the contemporary power of capital rests.' If this is important, why no
discussion of the creation of new needs for workers?


>4) Is it accurate to say today (i.e. re contemporary
>capitalism) that working-class division is the "secret by which
>the capitalist class maintains its power"?
         I'm afraid that I would say 'no'--- no more than in 1870 when Marx
wrote his letter. The premise is that a united working class in itself
would be sufficient to take away that power. However, insofar as the
wage-form in itself is the basis for 'all the notions of justice held by
both the worker and the capitalist, all the mystifications of the
capitalist mode of production...' and insofar as the mystification of
capital means that all social productivity and wealth appear to be the
result of capital, there is a more fundamental reason for capital's power
than the lack of organisation of workers. We have to remember why Marx
wrote CAPITAL.

         in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office Fax:   (604) 291-5944
Home:   Phone (604) 689-9510

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