[OPE-L:3667] RE: Operationalization of Marxian theory

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Thu, 14 Nov 1996 02:00:27 -0800 (PST)

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>More big questions:
>1) Weren't those debates an outgrowth of workers' movements themselves and
>didn't they reflect important political differences among Marxists in
>countries that had strong mass Social Democratic and revolutionary parties
>and traditions? Today, most researchers are academics and theorists rather
>than revolutionaries. Hasn't the academic environment itself had an effect
>on what we research, how we conduct research, and how we write and who can
>understand what we write?
You are dead right.

>2) What do you (and others on the list) view as the "larger political
>economic issues" that *should be* discussed and developed?
I consider that for marxist economists in general the over-ridingly important
task is to construct a theory of how to run a socialist economy successfully.
After the defeat of the socialist block in the cold war it has now come to be
accepted that socialism as a way of organising an economy simply does not work.
Right wing politicians can then justify any measure that favours employers over
workers with the simple assertion that there is no alternative.

It will not be possible to construct a new revolutionary socialist movement
unless the participants in that movement are convinced that there is a viable
alternative. This does not mean that every participant in a new socialist
will have to understand all the details of how to refute the Hayekian
critique of
socialism, anymore than that every participant in the Social Democracy
every point of Marx's critique of capitalisms 19th century appologists. But just
as the rudiments of the labour theory of exploitation were generally grasped, so
too must the rudiments of a modern defence of socialism against the theory
of market self regulation be grasped. That in turn means, that the critiques of
the best bourgeois thinkers leveled against the socialist system have to be
met at their own level or above. The mass of a social movement gets its ideas
from popularisers and journalists, and unless these people are convinced that
they have read a serious response to the critiques of the right, then they
will be unable to project a popular version.

If marxist economics is unable to answer these questions, it will condemn itself
to political irrelevance.

At a second, more reformist level, a key political question is what
government measures
should the labour movement push for in order to avert the scourge of

If in the long term it is the disappearance of the socialist future that has
harmed the labour movement politically, nothing has so paralysed it economically
as the very much higher levels of unemployment in the last 15 years or so.
It is my belief, that this is as much due to a concerted political strategy
by the international capitalist class, as it is to any imutable operation of the
laws of the market.

This has obvious political implications. If the unemployment is the result
of the iron laws of political economy rather than being due to a particular
political policy, then again there is no alternative and no possibility of
a labour movement fighting for an alternative.

To discuss these issues will tend to bring out even more sharply the political
differences that already exist between the participants on the list,
between communists and anti-communists, between reformists and
revolutionists etc.

Paul Cockshott