[OPE-L:2687] Re: More on abstract labour

McGloneT@aol.co (McGloneT@aol.com)
Sat, 20 Jul 1996 18:25:30 -0700 (PDT)

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I agree with Duncan's view that abstract labor is a specifically capitalist
phenomenon. I do not agree with Allin and Paul's view that equates abstract
labor to human labor in general through different social formations,
including a future socialist society. Allin finds quotes which he bellieves
could be ambiguous; either supporting the interpretation that labor is made
abstract through market exchange or through production. I don't think it is
a question that is resolveable by culling isolated quotes. The whole sense
of Marx's analysis of value production is that labor is made abstract through
the process of production itself and it is these exploitative, oppressive
relations at the point of production which must be abolished by freely
associated workers.
On the history of economic thought of this issue: the "Marxist"
orthodoxy prior to 1943 was that value was not operative in a socialist
society (see the Outline of Political Economy texts by Leontiev). In 1943
an article "On the Teaching of Political Economy..." appeared in Russian
which was translated and commented on by Raya Dunayevskaya in a 1944 issue of
the American Economic Review. Oscar Lange, Leo Rogin, and Paul Baran debated
against Dunayevskaya's contention that this marked a revision in Marxist
teaching of political economy or in some cases they argued the revision was a
good idea. One of Dunayevskaya's main contentions was that the concept of
Value was inseparable from the production of surplus value in Marx's analysis
and to make Value transhistorical and apply it to a socialist society was to
justify continuing exploitation of labor. Because abstract labor is the
substance of value, and value categories imply surplus value production, the
existence of abstract labor in a "socialist society" would also mean
exploitation continued in so-called "socialism." I think Dunayevskaya won
that debate although most Marxist Political Economist followed the revision.
It is not surprising to me to see that workers in the former USSR and
Eastern "Bloc" countries manifested a decades long resistance to state
planned value-production. The appropriate theoretic category for such
societies that are planned from above is state capitalism. What Paul and
Allin seem to be advocating is a form of state capitalism.
I noticed that Allin seemed to use idealism as a negative adjective a
few posts back. I don't think the crucial issue is idealism vs. materialism
today. I think we need to appreciate the contributions of Hegel's idealism
to Marx's humanist concept of dialectic self-movement in the development of
revolutionary history. Enough for now.