Re: [OPE-L] Keynes and Marx (German)

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Jan 02 2007 - 09:00:07 EST

I have a bit more time now so let me try and explain in more detail. I am not saying that the only two alternatives before us are Hayek and Keynes, though from the 40s to the 90s these did represent the dominant poles of debate with social democracy initially favouring Keynes and the conservatives later seeking support from Hayek to undermine this. If one looks at the political economy of the British Labour Party in the late 1920s and compares it with that in the 1940s, there had been a significant advance.


I was talking in earlier emails about the history of political economy as it affected the then existing labour movement. Since the 1990s the labour movement has had no clear political economy of its own, having ceded ground to the Hayekians over the role of the market and the need to restrict the role of the state in the economy. This creates an intellectual vacuum that is both a danger and an opportunity. The danger is that there will be no more than a revival in Keynesianism, the opportunity is that we can establish a radical alternative vision of 21st century socialism that goes well beyond the reforms of 20th century social democracy and also avoids the ultimately fatal weaknesses of the Soviet model.


In this context I think that whilst demands for a steeply progressive income tax and for a shorter working week are certainly in the interests of the working class, they suffer from the limitation of being much the same as what European Social Democracy has done in the past. British and Swedish social democracy both introduced steeply progressive income taxes. Chancellor Healey talked of squeezing the rich until the pips squeaked with his high rates of income tax. These income taxes even distinguished between 'earned' and 'unearned' income, taxing property income more steeply than earned income. French social democracy  since the 30s made the restriction of the working week a key plank of its program. The enactment of the 35 hour week in France was certainly a progressive step and we could argue for its extension across the continent. However unless it is combined with stringent controls on capital movement, there is no guarantee that it would reduce unemployment.


Instead of these sorts of measures we have to go back to Owen and focus on the basic wage/money relationship and attack the institutions of money and wage labour with the policies that we advance. Owen had the right idea in proposing labour vouchers since so long as workers are paid less than the value they produce all the other evils of capitalist society follow. This I believe has to be central focus of our popularization of Marxist political economy. We have to bring home to people how much they would benefit by were the full value they added by their labour to paid back to them. To give an idea of what it would mean, consider the fact that one hour of average labour in

Germany currently creates a value of 32 Euro. This means that the purchasing power of a one hour labour token would be the same as 32 Euro, and that the average pay (before tax) would thus rise to the equivalent of 32 Euro per hour. How many people get paid that well today?




From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Dogan Goecmen
Sent: 01 January 2007 21:28
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Keynes and Marx (German)




I have difficulties to follow this logic. The way you make the point seems to put us before an alternative between Hayek and Keynes, between neoliberal parties and social democrats. But are these two positions (parties) real alternatives we have to accept? Or do we need to establish a third front that of real socialist movement based on Marx's critique of political economy. Think of Owen. He criticised Malthus and laissez faire policies. though he also developed ideas about how to reform capitalism in favour of working classes. Particularly, in his later writings he always referred to the concept of socialism to highlight the fact that there is a needs for essential change in the property relations of the means of production. The socialist and working class movement lost this last mentioned project just becase they thought capitalism was reforming itself and there was no need for revolutionary changes.






In einer eMail vom 01.01.2007 22:10:14 Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK:

        I would agree with the point that you make below about co-option, but in the
        process the interests of finance capital and the colonial bourgeoisie had to take second place.
        But you should not deal with the state in the abstract, abstracting from 
        real political parties, their class basis and their programatic aims. Keynes ideas
        provided to social democracy a form of political economy that enabled them
        to at least carry out some progressive measures. If you contrast the political
        economy of Macdonald to that of Atlee you can see the significance of the change
        brought about by Keynes.
        Paul Cockshott

        -----Original Message-----
        From: OPE-L on behalf of Dogan Goecmen
        Sent: Mon 1/1/2007 8:30 PM
        Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Keynes and Marx (German)
        It is also necessary to take into account the circumstances of the  class
        struggle at the international level. Doing so, it is possible to  argue
        that the alliance you suggest was not directed against finance capital  but
        against the (revolutionary) socialist movement worldwide, at a time  when
        the USSR had defeated nazism and the communists in the countries  occupied
        by the Nazi army had been among the main forces that fought the  invadors.
        Communism all over the world and the Communist parties in many  Western
        European countries increased very significantly their political  influence.
        Thus, it was highly necessary for the capitalist class to coopt  their
        I find your remarks above extreemly interesting. This is exacly the point  
        that explains the success of Keynesianism. This is also the point I was trying  
        to make in the passage below.
        >> Der Keynesianismus, der ein englisches Produkt  ist, ist auch in
        >> diese Tradition einzuordnen und sein Verhältnis zum  Marxismus ist
        >> im Lichte dieser Entwicklung zu sehen. Seinerzeit  musste schon der
        >> zynische liberale John Stuart Mill, der zuerst die  in England
        >> geboren Idee des Sozialismus, zum Fremdkörper erklärte,  musste
        >> unter dem Druck der Straße, ohne seinen eklektisch liberalen  Geist
        >> aufzugeben, an Marxismus Zugeständnisse machen. Doch nach  der
        >> Oktoberrevolution half all das nicht mehr. Da musste  eine
        >> konservative Theorie mit einem linken 'Anschein' erfunden  werden.
        >> In der Wirtschaftstheorie entspricht der Keynesianismus  diesem
        >> Bedürfnis.


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