[OPE] Understanding value (reply to Michael Heinrich)

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Wed May 06 2009 - 04:49:42 EDT

Jerry wrote:

"A demand to "abolish value" is the same as a demand to abolish capitalist
social relations of production."

I agree with Ian Wright on this. It does not make sense.

Why? My reasons are:

(1) The existence of value is not conditional on capitalist social relations
of production
(2) So long as humans must work to live, it is impossible to abolish
economic value.

Even if you abolish the objectification of value by destroying the trade in
products and the cash economy, a la Pol Pot, and thus effectively destroying
market institutions completely, you still confront the brute physical
necessity of allocating labour-time in a way that needs are met, according
to valuations which cannot be purely subjective. In that case, more likely
"value comes out of the barrel of a gun".

Marx himself says explicitly: "...after the abolition of the capitalist mode
of production, but still retaining social production, the determination of
value continues to prevail in the sense that the regulation of labour-time
and the distribution of social labour among the various production groups,
ultimately the book-keeping encompassing all this, become more essential
than ever." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch49.htm

This shows clearly that the autonomist jabbering about "abolishing value"
mistakes Marx's more subtle argument (actually, the utter primitivism of
much contemporary leftist and Marxist thinking about this, to me is an
abomination which makes me cringe with shame, insofar as I have anything to
do with Marx at all).

I cannot find any explicit argument in the Critique of the Gotha program in
favour of a labour-token economy. What Marx does argue is this:

"Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of
production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little
does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these
products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to
capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion
but directly as a component part of total labor."

I assume that this is really what Jerry is referring to.

Note, however, that Marx does NOT say that the labor employed on the
products "does not appear as the value of these products", BECAUSE the
producers "do not exchange their products". That is the crude, illiterate
forgery I am protesting against. What Marx says is, that if individual labor
is organised as directly social labor, it is no longer organised via the
nexus of product-values such that labour activities are dictated by the
value of their products. Effectively, you might say, the whole society
becomes one "multinational corporation" of sorts, and labour is organised
directly according to its social utility.

According to the New Marxist Exploiting Class, the parasitic bureaucrats,
however, markets and value are intrinsically evil, you have to smash them
and destroy them. In Marx's own view, however, the proliferation of market
connections in fact functions to develop the objective socialization and
equalization of production, and market progress is evaluated accordingly.
Marx's theory has nothing to do with Pol Pot's theory of anti-market autarky
or Stalin's national-socialism.

In terms of general value theory, as I have argued before, value has its
origin in the ability of living organisms to prioritize their own behaviours
according to consciously chosen options (autodeterminism), which, in an
evolutionary sense, is powerfully developed through cooperative human work.
Thus, humans were already "valuing subjects", long before they started to
trade their products, and they recognized that their products had value
because those products objectively represented labour effort, long before
they started trading them.

Surprisingly, all this is denied by Jerry, who argues like national
accountants and shopkeepers that value arises out of exchange. In that case,
why bother with Marx at all? Why bother with a theory of relations of


PS - in case you think the reference to Pol Pot is too extreme, remember
that Samir Amin, who in his Maoist days supported Pol Pot, published a whole
book on the law of value in which he manages to get almost everything wrong
about Marx. So there is a direct link between cranky anti-Marx economics and
genocidal barbarism. Many Marxists are like boys who want to drive a car
before they have been trained how to drive. Initially, they manage to drive
the car away, so it seems that they can do it, but would you go and sit in
that car? I wouldn't! Moreover I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else

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