Re: [OPE] questions re transition

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Sun May 31 2009 - 23:40:15 EDT

Hi Paul,

The questions you ask are decisive. On the one hand, I think the answers
are not rocket science -- if we start with the double separation, we can
come up pretty immediately with things that make significant practical
sense. But on the other hand working out democratic forms of collective
control over production is utterly new so maybe a good deal more complicated
than rocket science.

The separation of the worker from the conditions of production is completely
perverse. No creatures stays long separated from the conditions of its
survival. In the drama of capialism it inverts the relationship between the
worker and the means of labor. The worker doesn't use the machine, the
machine, as value, controls the worker so that the process of production
augments value. So change this in a thousand ways; stand the relationship
right side up. Put the worker, now associated, in control of the machine.
Ensure that the worker is not a machine appendage -- ensure the worker
advances the line, not keeps up with it. Etc.

Other things. Guaranteed employment. Equal access to land. An actual
tranformation of hierarchy -- deans and faculty do manual staff worker,
vacuming, etc., and staff workers take time for technical training.
Scientists work with workers who operate the machines they design, remodel
and repair with them; overcome the division of mental and manual labor.
Ensure actual participation of working people in management, not just be
election of representatives, but by actual decision making. Ensure
management participation in manual work. Ensure that the people who carry
out decisions help make them and those who make them help carry them out.

Incidentally, I disagree with the proposition that whereas capitalism grew
up within the womb of feudal society there must first be a revolution before
there can be socialist shoots. If you start with a causal structure that
requires transformation, then you can use modifications of instances of that
structure to measure steps in the direction of transformation now. For
example, in the U.S. employment is still primarily employment at will.
Abolish that. That contributes to overcoming the separation between the
worker and the conditions of production. Thinking in terms of a causal
structure to be transformed also takes the measure of outrageous conclusions
such as those of David Schweikart in the Market Socialism Debate collection
where if there is consumer sovereignty, citizen control of investment, and
worker election of managers, there is worker control of production that
satisfies Marx's vision. But consumer sovereignty means social labor cannot
be directly compared but is compared through the intermediary of products,
citizen control of investment is consistent with the reproduction of M-C-M',
and ballot box elections do not always ensure social transformation.

Overcoming the separation of productive entities means socialist
cooperation. Imagine best practices widely shared. If you've got a bunch
of firms in the same industry, let a thousand wikis bloom. Have workers
consult, actually connect collectively across firms, share ideas, decide how
work might be better divided up among firms in the same line of work, share
expertise, capital resources, collaborate on consumer inquiries, etc. Again
this need not be an after the revolution thing. Mondragon has offered
important examples of collaboration. Community supported agriculture
develops on a small scale producer consumer links and some CSAs as they're
called have formed coaltions to extend their capacities in common rather
than developing competitive autonomies. Of course market relations persist
and capitalism is reproduced -- we're talking steps in the direction of
transformation in anticipation of revolution. Community gets built.

Conscious control of production, Marx's idea, which some have abandoned --
modern life is too complicated; we need the spur of forces we don't control
to drive us -- means not just workplace democracy but democratic development
of the productive forces. This requires dissolving the enterprise form.
One way of doing this is making units of production centers of community
life -- places to hold meetings, concerts, drama, teaching, training,
laundry, child care, eating, recreation, etc. Evaluate externalities and
fashion production taking them into account. Work out forms for
collaborating politically about a community's productive life. Reports of
participatory budgeting from Puerto Allegre, Brazil, suggest good examples
of a way for a communtiy to increase its control of its productive life
(examples transferable to the workplace, also). Not only was provision made
for neighborhood participation in municipal budgeting -- actual decision
making authority was conferred -- but also provision was made for training
in public speaking, accounting, etc., so that poor and working people could
comfortably and effectively intervene.

I can add a p.s. To struggle against capitalism and to struggle for
socialism is to struggle for unity. As Ian suggested, we often think that
if we had a good design of what we're after, then this would help. No doubt
it can. But those efforts can also be a lot like having a motorcycle repair
manual (when only the crudest of motorcycles have ever as a matter of the
given 'historical conjuncture' actually been cobbled together) and then
realizing there isn't a chapter or design for the problem you happen to
face. A different approach is possible. We can identify causal structures
that account for the persistence of capitalism and work out the way they
would have to be transformed. That's the point of starting with the double
separation and asking the questions you do. They give us a way to evaluate
transitions and also to evaluate reforms.


howard engelskirchen
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 8:31 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

> Howard, all of this is very familiar to me from my reading of Calcule
> Economique when it came out. My beef with B is that he never went any
> further than that.
> What example does
> "the domination of socialist relations of
> production over the productive forces;"
> mean in practical terms? Lenin believed it meant electrification under
> Soviet Power, Kruschov thought it meant taxis instead of private cars, and
> the development of space technology, Mao thought it meant the use of
> inter-harvest labour power in the construction of irrigation schemes.
> What does it actually mean to overcome the 'double separation'?
> How does the separation of units of production one from another get
> overcome?
> How can the immediate producers in one place of production be in control
> and at the same time subject to the constraints of the plan?
> Questions are hinted at but not properly asked nor answered.
> howard engelskirchen wrote:
>> Hi Paul,
>> Thanks for the link below to the critique you and Allin offer of
>> Bettelheim.
>> I promised I'd comment on this. I think it's fair to say you do not do
>> Bettelheim justice. Overall you accuse him of a lot of handwaving -- he
>> does not present a coherent economic theory of socialist society, or the
>> laws of motion of communist society (!), or an account of capitalist
>> ownership as a social rather than a juridical category, or an account of
>> the
>> contradictions the USSR failed to resolve, etc. But your attentions are
>> different and you miss the force of his analysis.
>> For one, B would cheerfully agree that he was no bourgeois hero of theory
>> riding in with a six shooter to set everything to rights. He thought of
>> himself, I'm sure, much more as a theoretical worker engaged with others
>> in
>> making provisional advances in function of facts on the ground on what
>> was
>> largely unplowed ground. By all means correct and revise. But a
>> methodological point or two if you're to understand what he's about.
>> Like
>> Marx, he's pretty explicit about being engaged in a project of what we'd
>> call today 'scientific realism' -- he wants to locate underlying
>> relations
>> beneath surface manifestations that can both reveal and conceal. This
>> goes
>> also to the form/content point: an apple has the form of an apple; if a
>> given form has new content, then you must specify how the underlying
>> relations say Bettelheim specifies have been transformed. This kind of
>> thing can be done, for example, with either the feudal forms of rent or
>> contract -- in both cases the term came to refer to a quite different set
>> of
>> social relations than was the case in the middle ages.
>> So Bettelheim looks past capital as a juridical category -- and socialist
>> titles of ownership too -- to underlying social relations. What are
>> they?
>> He's explicit but you don't follow him there. Capital is characterized
>> by a
>> double separation -- the separation of productive entities from one
>> another
>> and the separation of direct producers from the conditions of production.
>> This entirely shapes his account. It defines his idea of what the
>> transition to socialism must accomplish. Socialist revolution means a
>> seizure of power and a transformation of forms of ownership. It is much
>> harder for it to mean a stable transformation of the social relations of
>> the
>> double separation, and thus socialist relations can be dominant but not
>> consolidated. There are patterns of behavior that perist and do not
>> spontaneously disappear. They take conscious, political transformation.
>> (You seem to miss the significance of the political in his account.)
>> Real social appropriation, the result of a long historical process, means
>> working people taking immediate and common control over their processes
>> of
>> production and their results. He's looking for evidence that moves in
>> that
>> direction. He wants evidence of socialist cooperation as an indication
>> of
>> efforts to transform the separation of productive entities and evidence
>> of
>> workers participating in management as evidence of overcoming the
>> separation
>> of laboring producers from the means of production. He's looking for
>> evidence of a new unit of production -- capitalism replaced the feudal
>> manor
>> with the industrial enterprise; socialism will replace the enterprise.
>> With the formal subsumption of labor to captial, all capital did at first
>> was step into a relationship of authority. The same here. Social
>> appropriation is formal. You have the opportunity to use political power
>> to
>> transform the two separations so that workers actually begin to take
>> control
>> over the production of their common wealth. But the material foundation
>> of
>> this opportunity is a complicated ensemble of social relations, old and
>> new.
>> The reproduction of the double separation persists. Both consciously and
>> without any real consciousness of the matter agents/traeger of that
>> reproduction can form themselves into classes that function to block
>> efforts
>> to transform capitalist forms of reproduction. A minority can
>> appropriate
>> control.
>> Whatever its successes, and they were considerable, Bettelheim suggests
>> that
>> the USSR did little in the way of moving to a real social appropriation.
>> Rather than the continuation of class struggle designed to transform the
>> persistence of capitalist structures, the USSR announced that socialism
>> was
>> consolidated. But managerial authority was top down and concentrated in
>> a
>> minority. Workers did not participate in management. Enterprise
>> relations
>> were largely external and conducted by contract; it was rarely a matter
>> of
>> workers connecting with workers. There was little in the way of
>> political
>> initiatives whereby the masses of workers monitored effectively either
>> political or economic managment.
>> By the way you are wrong to suggest that Bettelheim was dismissive of
>> planning. He argues that the efficacy of socialist transformation
>> depends
>> on it. You confuse this point with his challenge to examples of planning
>> that mimic or anticipate the market. Without doubt such parallel
>> planning
>> is possible, can make capitalism more efficacious, and is possible during
>> a
>> period of transition. But putting a plan in place does not in itself
>> ensure
>> a transformation of social relations in the direction of a real social
>> appropriation.
>> Also, in Economic Calculation he defines a socialist mode of production
>> in
>> footnote 20 to chapter 2: "the domination of socialist relations of
>> production over the productive forces;" the precision presupposes an
>> ensemble of competing structures where, though not fully consolidated,
>> socialist relations are dominant.
>> howard
>> howard engelskirchen
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
>> To: <>; "Outline on Political Economy mailing list"
>> <>
>> Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 5:26 AM
>> Subject: Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels
>>> I can not speak for Jurrian here, who is evidently very able to express
>>> his
>>> own views, but I must say that my own opinion of Bettleheim went down
>>> over
>>> time. I was impressed with him as an undergraduate, but as the 70s
>>> progressed and successive volumes of his work on the USSR came out and
>>> seemed to tell me little that I did not know from other sources, and as
>>> he
>>> showed the same obssession with the very early years as one gets with
>>> Trotskyist historians or with Carr, I became disenchanted. I had been
>>> hoping for a good historical treatment of the 40s to the 60s and found
>>> very
>>> little of substance.
>>> Allin and I made some brief criticisms of him in our critique of
>>> Ambedcar
>>> B.R.Bapuji wrote:
>>>> While referring to Charles Bettelheim and Paresh Chattopadhyay, Jurrien
>>>> used certain expressions which should not have found place in the
>>>> discussions of the list. While recognizing the fact that he has the
>>>> right
>>>> to differ with any one including Marx, Jurrian should not have used
>>>> such
>>>> expressions as 'Marxists Priests', 'Intellectual tyrants' and
>>>> 'ideological rubbish'.
>>>> If Jurrien wants to dismiss the analyses of Bettelheim or Chattopadhyay
>>>> he should demonstrate, not simpy assert, how they went wrong in their
>>>> analyses.
>>>> Without doing so, if Jurridian resorts to such unwarranted comments,
>>>> the
>>>> said expressions will only apply to him.
>>>> We would like to register our protest against such comments.
>>>> Ranganayakamma,
>>>> Bapuji.
>>>> B.R.Bapuji, Professor ,
>>>> Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies [CALTS] ,
>>>> University of Hyderabad, Central University post office,
>>>> HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone: 040-23133655,23133650 or 23010161).
>>>> / Residence address: /
>>>> 76, Lake-side Colony, Near Durgam Cheruvu, [End of Road opp:Madapur
>>>> Police Station] , Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033.
>>>> (Phone: 040-23117302)
>>>> --- On *Sun, 5/10/09, Jurriaan Bendien /<>/*
>>>> wrote:
>>>> From: Jurriaan Bendien <>
>>>> Subject: [OPE] question re published letters Engels
>>>> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list"
>>>> <>
>>>> Date: Sunday, May 10, 2009, 11:25 AM
>>>> I cannot trace a bona fide source for this quotation from a letter
>>>> Engels wrote
>>>> to Kautsky. Joseph Green who cites this quote
>>>> also cannot
>>>> locate
>>>> its source.
>>>> The letter by Engels to Kautsky of 20-9-1884 available in the MIA
>>>> is
>>>> about a
>>>> completely different subject.
>>>> Charles Bettelheim is not a reliable guide to Marx and Engels, and
>>>> for example,
>>>> like Paresh Chattopadhyay, he retrospectively suddenly changed his
>>>> mind about
>>>> the nature of the Russian revolution, so that what he had
>>>> previously
>>>> described
>>>> as a proletarian revolution, in one fell swoop became a
>>>> full-fledged
>>>> "bourgeois" revolution, even although the Russian bourgeoisie was
>>>> expropriated and disempowered, and in not a few cases exterminated.
>>>> These
>>>> Marxist priests are intellectual tyrants, and if reality does not
>>>> fit
>>>> with their
>>>> moralistic and spiritual schematism, "reality has to take a hike".
>>>> Personally, I don't want anything to do with that sort of
>>>> ideological
>>>> rubbish.
>>>> But suppose that Engels really did say what he allegedly said in
>>>> that
>>>> letter,
>>>> then it would certainly be very close to what Marx believed (cf.
>>>> Cap.
>>>> Vol. 1,
>>>> pp. 171-173 Penguin edition) except that for Marx, there were many
>>>> gradations
>>>> of evolution from "value fixed by custom" to "value fixed by
>>>> abstract labourtime" and "value fixed by conscious collective
>>>> decision". These subtleties are of course lost on the vulgar
>>>> Marxists.
>>>> Apart from a few mostly rather trivial differences in formulations,
>>>> in my
>>>> judgement the views by Marx and Engels on value were in substance
>>>> exactly the
>>>> same - both of them however spoke of value and its forms rather
>>>> loosely, on
>>>> quite a few occasions. Presumably Marx would never have entrusted
>>>> Engels with
>>>> the challenge of editing his manuscripts, if he had not believed
>>>> that
>>>> Engels -
>>>> an intimate friend through four decades - was competent to do an
>>>> excellent job
>>>> on them, in the intended spirit.
>>>> Substantively I think what Marx means is, that with the development
>>>> of
>>>> commodity production, the value-content of the product of labour,
>>>> namely the
>>>> quantity of abstract labour it represents, becomes an objectified,
>>>> autonomized
>>>> economic force, which begins to organise and regulate the labour
>>>> (this is a bit
>>>> different than jabbering about "the market").
>>>> In that case, it is not that the organisation of work has to
>>>> conform
>>>> to the
>>>> (personally held) values of human beings, but rather that the
>>>> structuration of
>>>> work and its valuation has to conform to impersonal, objectified
>>>> economic value.
>>>> Work becomes just work, a quantity of hours which indeed may not
>>>> have
>>>> anything
>>>> to do with the worker in a personal sense, and exists as an
>>>> abstract
>>>> object,
>>>> independently of the worker.
>>>> The point of the distinction between "value" and "exchange
>>>> value" is, that for Marx, "value regulates exchange value", even
>>>> although it observably seems to be exactly the other way around.
>>>> It seems to the "valueform theorists", for example, that "the
>>>> market" dictates the nature of labour activities, but in reality,
>>>> it
>>>> is the
>>>> sum total of labour activities of society as a whole, which
>>>> dictates
>>>> the
>>>> particular labour activities, via market-exchange as the
>>>> intermediary
>>>> or nexus.
>>>> If commodity exchange is abolished in favour of other allocation
>>>> methods, this
>>>> objectified force of value disappears, and therefore exchange value
>>>> can no
>>>> longer be regulated by value. But this does not mean:
>>>> (1) that human beings stop making value comparisons between
>>>> products,
>>>> (2) that they no longer think that their products have (customary)
>>>> values.
>>>> (3) that exchange value necessarily disappears completely.
>>>> It just means that the conscious value judgements people make
>>>> "about
>>>> the
>>>> allocation of economic resources of society as a whole" begin to
>>>> control
>>>> the allocation of society's resources directly. Valuation does not
>>>> become
>>>> less important in this, but becomes more important, albeit in a
>>>> different form:
>>>> instead of a reified, objectified value exerted on subjects, a
>>>> socially aware
>>>> valuation by human subjects themselves.
>>>> Friedrich von Hayek knew all this very well, but his criticism is
>>>> simply, that
>>>> if you remove the "objectified force of value asserted through
>>>> markets", goods will be misallocated and human beings malformed,
>>>> because
>>>> self-interested economic actors are incapable of allocating goods
>>>> such that
>>>> their self-interest and the social interest are reconciled; the
>>>> only
>>>> objective
>>>> criterion of social utility is market demand, and the only just
>>>> rewards and
>>>> penalties for economic action are delivered by the market.
>>>> The result of non-market allocation will be all kinds of
>>>> uneconomic,
>>>> oppressive
>>>> and bureaucratic relationships which can only be repaired, if you
>>>> "let the
>>>> market pick the winners". You need that market discipline, because
>>>> if
>>>> you
>>>> don't have it, people will just pursue self-interest at the expense
>>>> of
>>>> society.
>>>> But scientific economics (as distinct from ideological economics,
>>>> whether
>>>> Marxist or Hayekian or American) is very aware that the
>>>> misallocation
>>>> of
>>>> resources can occur equally because of market allocation, or
>>>> because
>>>> of
>>>> non-market allocation methods, and indeed that what is regarded as
>>>> a
>>>> misallocation, is itself partly an ethical judgement, linked to a
>>>> (class-determined) perception of economic purpose.
>>>> The conclusion of all that is, that reconciling self-interest and
>>>> social
>>>> interest is simply not something that can be achieved by economic
>>>> engineering
>>>> alone, at best economics is an "aid" to it.
>>>> All this is lost on the "valueform theorists" and the
>>>> fascist-parasitic New Marxist Exploiting Class, who want to "smash
>>>> value" and destroy markets, in order to impose their bureaucratic
>>>> dictatorship over the proletariat. These tyrants seem rather benign
>>>> imbeciles,
>>>> while they are just waffling about "commodity", "value",
>>>> "dialectical materialism" etc. but they become brutal dictators
>>>> when
>>>> they acquire real power. Consequently, we must be very much on
>>>> guard
>>>> against
>>>> these Marxist enemies of human progress, and cut them down before
>>>> they get real
>>>> power.
>>>> Jurriaan
>>>> You say you'll change the constitution
>>>> Well, you know
>>>> We all want to change your head
>>>> You tell me it's the institution
>>>> Well, you know
>>>> You better free your mind instead
>>>> But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
>>>> You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow
>>>> - The Beatles, "Revolution"
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>>>> Database version: 5.10260
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