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

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sun Sep 28 2003 - 02:12:01 EDT

         I think Paulo has raised interesting points in relation to the 
extensive conflicts between capitalists and workers at the level of 
appearances. These are conflicts which clearly are class conflicts and in 
which class subjectivity is present. It is here that capitalists are 
conscious that their rule depends upon their ability to divide workers 
(although that can hardly be said to be a 'secret').
         In the absence of the 'secret' that Marx revealed in CAPITAL, 
however,--- the demonstration that capital is the result of exploitation, 
the above struggles occur within a framework in which capital is viewed as 
separate from workers, as an independent source of productivity and as 
necessary. Thus, they are struggles against unfairness (in wages, working 
conditions, etc), struggles for that fair day's work for a fair day's pay. 
To coin a phrase, in the absence of the understanding of the essence of 
capital, those conflicts at the surface of society yield in themselves only 
a trade union or social democratic consciousness.
         in solidarity,

At 15:37 24/09/2003 -0300, you wrote:
>Thanks for the repply Jerry.
>Conflict between capital and labor does not manifest itself as a conflict 
>over surplus value but as a conflict over cost, remembering that for the 
>capitalist c+v are just costs; it manifests itself also as a conflict over 
>the control of the labor process and its intensity among many other ways. 
>This are instances in which the conflict appear in the surface of 
>relations. It is at this level that capitalists are aware. Your question 
>then ("at what point is class subjectivity introduced?")  could be answer 
>thus: it can only be introduced at the level of the appearances since all 
>categories Marx develops mistify the essence! Is there anything wrong in 
>interpreting capitalist rule through manipulation of class divisions as a 
>rule over cost, control,etc.? The rule over the working class through what 
>appears in the surface of relations is still rule and domination.
>P.S. By the way Jerry, I am changing my address to How 
>should I proceed?
>gerald_a_levy wrote:
>>Paolo -- you raise some interesting questions.  In examining 
>>the"Illusions created by competition" or exposing the Trinity 
>>Formula,Marx did not hold that capital was consciously aware that 
>>theillusions were illusions.  Yet, in the letter in question -- 
>>immediatelyafter writing "It is the secret by which the capitalist class 
>>maintainsits power",  he adds "And of this that class is well aware." To 
>>whatextent then is capital, and are individual capitalists, aware of 
>>thenature of its/their own rule?  In developing a layered theory, at 
>>whatpoint is class subjectivity introduced?  Can we fully comprehendclass 
>>behavior, divisions, and awareness so long as class membersare presumed 
>>to be wearing "character masks" ? In solidarity, Jerry
>>The book, "Persistet inequalities", by Botwinick, was an attempt to lay 
>>down the theory of competition upon which to understand that divisions 
>>within the working class are a necessary result. These divisions 
>>systematically created by the process od competition, divisions which set 
>>one segment of the working class against another, much in the way 
>>described by Marx (think about southern italians workers laboring in the 
>>north), clearly become part of the domination of the proletariat by the 
>>There is however another level of analysis which should be related to 
>>intra-class divisions and this is the ideology proper to the capitalist 
>>social relations.
>>All colleagues in OPE-L know: 1. the capitalist producrion process is a 
>>process among things bought by capital. As a result the product and 
>>productivity of labor appear as an attribute of capital; 2.Original 
>>capital as a result of labor; 3. Profits as springing from total capital 
>>rather than by its variable part alone; 4. Profits as salaries of 
>>management; 5.Wages as payment for labor and not for labor power. These 
>>are all aspects of the social relations which Marx tried to de-mystify 
>>exactly for the reason that these were appearances which couvered the 
>>exploitative nature of the system.
>>How should we relate this to Marx analysis of the Irish case? Is there a 
>>continuos of analysis? How could this more general and abstract level be 
>>interwoven with the more concrete analysis presented in Marx´s quotation?
>>>>"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).

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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