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

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Jan 02 2007 - 16:37:07 EST

I have a few questions about what you propose:

1) Are you suggesting that a reformist way to socialism is possible in the
leading capitalist countries like Britain? I understand that the mesures
you propose require progressive legislative majorities in order to
introduce the adequate laws. Don't you agree that the historical records
of the feasibility of such a project are unfavorable?
These have to be open questions since the only instance we have of socialism
being established in a previous bourgeois democracy is in the Czechoslovak republic
in 1948, and there the existence of powerful workers militias and the 
inability of the existing bourgeois state forces to act against them because of
the presence of the Red Army was obviously important.

We have no historical records other than this about transition to socialism
in a developed capitalist parliamentary state. In this context the book by
Dorothy Douglas on the Czech transition is interesting.

The proposals I am putting forward have come up in discussion in Solidarity a
new socialist party in scotland, and are put forward in the context of the 
establishment of an independent republic here rather than in Britain as a whole.
I would see the prior establishment of a radical democratic constitution as 
essential including features like : the right of the population as a whole to 
propose and vote on new legislation by plebiscite, the selection of at least
half  of the legislative body by lot on the Athenian model.  The measures would
thus require majority popular support to go into effect, which is why one must
have measures that clearly benefit the majority.

The idea of a participative democratic constitution preceeding socialist change
seems to be the Venezuelan model.

2) you propose 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". Do you
mean to say that the take over of political power by the bolsheviks
through the overthrow of the bourgeois order is one of the weaknesses of
the Soviet model?

I would say that the Party State established by the Bolesheviks was historically
a dead end, and bound to lead back to capitalism, it was a form of aristocracy
and as Aristotle teaches, all aristocracy leads ultimately to oligarchy.

3)the proposition of wages equal 'the full value added by labour' before
tax, through labour vouchers implies that profits are squeezed to zero and
that at least a part of the present surplus value is collected by the
state. Doesn't this require that the state takes the decisions to invest
since it is the state who has the control of the surplus? And doesn't this
also imply that private property has to be abolished?

Not immediately, but that is certainly the long term evolution that is 
implied. In the shorter term only three forms of private property would
be compatible with what I am advocating:

1. Small scale self employed firms.

2. Workers co-operatives or worker managed firms

3. Public not for profit companies.

As to the surplus, co-ops could, and on past evidence would, set aside a part of
the turnover as an investment fund. The state or the state bank would have to be
a crucial conduit for the funding of many large scale investment projects.

As one moved towards explicitly calculating labour values rather than infering them
from prices one would at the same time be building up the computational network that
would allow democratic planning. 
Claus Germer.

> 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)
> Paul,
> 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.
> Cheers
> Dogan
> 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
>         workers.
>         Claus,
>         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.
>         Cheers
>         Dogan

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