[OPE] Michael L replies to JB re Venezuela & socialism

From: GERALD LEVY <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>
Date: Sun Sep 26 2010 - 09:44:12 EDT

------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Jurrian's latest
From: "michael a. lebowitz"
Date: Fri, September 24, 2010 4:41 pm
To: "Gerald Levy"

Hello friends,
I don't have time to participate on the list these days but do
check the archives whenever I can. I was amused to see Jurriaan's latest
contribution, which begins:

> I leafed through Prof. Michael Lebowitz's latest missive yesterday,
> called The Socialist Alternative. If you read that you will see that
> there is not a word about workers getting the "full value" of the
> labour-hours they work. Instead, he talks specifically about "extracting
> surplus value" which can be used for the benefit of society. He couldn't
> be much clearer than that really. The reason why the "extraction of surplus
> value" is not regarded as exploitation in this case is, because the
> Marxist-Leninist bureaucrats are extracting it, instead of the nasty
> capitalists, and they're redistributing it for the benefit of society.
> What exactly this has to do with Marx's own theory, I have no idea.

      Frankly, I'm not surprised he has 'no idea' about the link to
Marx's theory not only because of his past contributions but also because
he appears not to be capable of getting off his own hobby-horses in order
to read and understand what s written. Anyone who bothers to read my 'latest
missive' will see that this is not at all what the book is about and that
I make very explicit brief critiques of the soviet and yugoslav
models and conclude the book with an obvious critique of the familiar
Marxist-Leninist party. As for my presumed defense of exploitation, not
only can that not be found in The Socialist Alternative but it is quite
distant from my view as demonstrated from the following
extract from a chapter recently written for my 'missive-in-progress',
'The Conductor and the Conducted: essays in the contradictions of
'real socialism"':

> The completion of the organic system of vanguard relations of
> production, though, points to its inadequacies from a socialist
> perspective. For one, this organic system is a system of exploitation.
> Despite the vanguard's view that the existence and extent of extracted
> surplus is simply a technical division on behalf of the working class
> between meeting their present and future needs, the workers
> /themselves /have no power to make this choice. Rather, it is made for
> them by those who know better. Thus, this surplus product is the
> result of what Mészáros (1994: 661) called the 'political extraction
> of surplus labour'. And the ultimate destination of that surplus
> cannot change what it is. Even if workers were to be the sole
> recipients of this surplus product (i.e., consumed everything that was
> first extracted), that surplus is still the result of the particular
> exploitation inherent in this vanguard relation.

     This incidentally is not a new position--- see my article, 'Kornai
and the Vanguard Mode of Production', years back in the Cambridge Journal of

      As for Jurriaan's comments about Venezuela [with his reliance upon
opposition and imperialist sources], his profundity is revealed by the

> Venezuela cannot even feed its own people, it imports two-thirds of
> its food needs, including a third from the US. I don't regard that as a
> responsible policy,

     As I can say is--- SCHMUCK! As if this were a 'policy' [!] as
opposed to an inherited disaster that much of the government's efforts
are directed to ending and which is not easily resolved when almost
all yesterday's peasants are living in the hills outside the cities.
Perhaps he can use his practical skills to (a) determine how many
agricultural producers there are in the countryside, (b) propose
practical measures to end this situation and (c) explain how this
differs from what the government is doing.


Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Home: Phone 604-689-9510
Cell: 778-230-6137
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Received on Sun Sep 26 09:45:30 2010

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