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A blog of Post-Capitalist critique in general, economic, philosophical and political analyses, Post-Capitalist poetry and prose, Post-Capitalist philology, book reviews, Postcapitalist news, interviews, praxis, art and much more! For the record, Davide Ferri is a Postcapitalist, who graduated with a B.A.Economics(Honours) degree from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University, India. He currently lives and works in Mumbai.




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Saturday, 2 July 2011


MARXISM AND THE LIBERAL LAW (one of the earliest writings of Davide Ferri)

Capitalism sees the human being on the one hand as an object (one of the many commodities available in the realm of exchange) and on the other hand the man as a subject (self-determining or free individual)
Hence, the bourgeoisie dualistic theory of a man sees the man as an object and as a subject at the same time.

The "commodification" of the worker is allowed by the fact that the worker — so as to survive in Capitalism — can do nothing but selling his/her own labour power in the labour market for the sake of Capitalist's profit. It goes without saying that the Liberal law does not give a fig about unmasking the real politico-economic imbroglio behind the inherent contradictions of Capitalism, namely Capital and Wage-Labour. Least of all, it 'recognises' such contradictions. Some liberals would label the coexistence of two antithetical poles as a 'paradox'. However, as Hegel would put it, the paradox does not lie in the co-existence of "contradictions" within the framework of their unity but conversely in the belief that such unity must necessarily be regarded as the eternal truth for the mankind. [1]

The Liberal Law — with its blind acceptance of commodity production and its non-human consequences — implicitly considers the human being as an object whose ability, potential and powers can be alienated, and at the same time sees him/her as an individual enjoying 'equality' with the other people; by law.

Equality in Capitalism, as portraited by the fancies of Liberal Law, is a pure abstraction and hence non-real. It is not the equality of concrete (real) people, but that of 'ideal' and abstracted-on-paper human beings, whose abstract labour, that is to say, average quality-less socially necessary labour, is marketed and underpaid in the process of exchange [2]

Concrete human beings are certainly unequal in their powers, capacities and opportunities; insofar as they belong to different classes, possess unequal resources and therefore have different information sources.
The differences in the way people acquire information are due to the endless contradictions of the system, the allocation of resources and e.g. — on an extremely minimum scale — biological differences of temperament:
whereby modern-day apologetic 'scientists' postulate their dull 'ideas' about natural 'self-evident biological fulcra' of societal differences, without providing us with any dignitous analysis upon the inherent inequalities of commodity production which flatten the impoverished people's potential to a 'quality-less' degree.

Biological differences e.g. are regarded by the most philistine ideologists of commodity production as the explanatory 'deus-ex machina' of individual inequalities, from economic to psychological ones.
In liberal academic circles, the "pro-active" innate behaviour of workers is "given", self-evident and determinant in society, as if Capitalism hadn't already done away with the workers' personal contribution by means of the labour market, wherein the workers' labour-power is bought by the Capitalist as a commodity. Such an innate behaviour appears to these folks as "determinant", as if 
the 'economic factors' did not shape the societal features — from commodity fetishism, consumerism and postmodern idiocy to egotism and humanistic indifference.
"To each according to his ability!", all the inherited politico-economic factors (ownership and established social roles) to be accepted and not questioned: this is the motto of modern neo-liberal political economy.

People, by nature, certainly have heterogeneous temperaments that lead them to have heterogenous 'choices', but — unlike what the Liberal law (and some vulgar post-Marxist) may think — such 'choices' are not completely 'genuine'. "Free" will does not exist. Will
 are strictly correlated to the dominant economic base and productive forces as well as the dominant superstructure (as modelled by the mode of production) of one society. People certainly 'choose' with their own 'subjectivity', but this subjectivity is strongly influenced by the way people make a living and relate to each other through their material surroundings.
People choose between a pre-arranged set of choices, whose quantity and quality is determined by the abundance/scarcity of one mode of production and the past unproductive/productive inheritance, in material and 'psychological terms' [3]

Capitalism is plainly based on the frank motto 'to each according to his ability' whereas Socialism on 'from each according to his contribution, to each according to his work'; both ontologically legitimise the initial endowment in their 'application of (ideal) justice'. Conversely, the motto of Communism as postulated by Marx [4] is 'from each according to his contribution, to each according to his need'. 
In this regard we should point out that Marx — unlike Lassalle, who saw the communist nay socialist individual as a mere 'worker' [5] — goes 'beyond' Socialism. I shall hereby cite his lines at length:

[...] But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement.
This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labor.
It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right. Right, by its very nature, can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal standard insofar as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only [..] To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal. [6]

As we may deduce, Marxist Communism intends to overcome both the shamefulness of Capitalist contradictions and Socialist economic 'scarcity', wherein all the individuals - each with psychological and physical different capacities - are remunerated according to their work and the social inheritance of Capitalistic 'forms' is still present and kicking [7]
But he has to do that via a development of productive forces, after assuring the protection of material and immaterial alienable working class [8] and warding off philistine bureaucratic degenerative tendencies which are typical of a post-capitalist society [9]

Whilst trying to define at which extent the natural temperament is 'flattened', repressed and curbed by the material scarcity of a mode of production, Marxism does recognise the 'biological' differences amongst the individuals. Exactly because it does, Marxism seeks to arrange the systemic resources so as to 'abolish' such differences in social and economic terms within Communism, therefore in the long run, once resource abundance is achieved through Socialist production. Communism, unlike meritocratic Socialism, focuses on the realisation of needs, on the human happiness.
Everybody may be endowed with different abilities, yet everybody shares the same categories of needs, which need to be satisfied for individual pleasure and happiness. Communism is the ultimate produce of human society; a produce for itself and its people.

In brief, Marxism recognises that Socialism, just like Capitalism, is by no means a system of 'equality', although it represents a necessary dialectical advancement apt to achieve Communism in the long run.
In discordance with what reactionary socialists à la Mao 'believed', Marx and Engels e.g. have never endorsed an a-priori investor-friendly two-stage theory [10] [11], which sees the blind strategy of implementing by hook or by crook a Capitalistic development in a backward society to achieve Socialism to then pass to Communism
These 'bureaucratic Socialists', nostalgic of the political failures of People's Republic of China, regard Marx's historical materialism as a theory of praxis which craves for Capitalism, whereas Marx simply outlined a general sketch of Western historical development, even suggesting a different path for Tsarist Russia [12] and largely dealing with historical different paths of development, like those witnessed by Southeast Asia [13]

The political and economic prerequisite is the development of productive forces and the abolition of all the inherent contradictions of Commodity production, whereof the Liberal law is the apologetic form/superstructure whilst the reproduction and accumulation of Capital are the content/base.

Conversely, the mere isolated 'social change' cannot do anything sustainable if not accompanied by 'material praxis', unlike what post-Marxism (and Social Democracy) with its rejection of dialectics believe. It's the economic factor to determine the general social relations and not the contrary [14]

The Communist goal, in brief, is to abolish the 'ideal' equality of Capitalism, replacing it with a real one, after having dismantled commodity production as well as the Socialist apparatus and eventually warded off any reactionary and anti-marxist stalinist "investor-friendly-in-the-long-run bureaucracy".
Noteworthy is the negative example of the USSR degenerate workers' state and the 'socialist' countries which followed the example of Moscow in Africa, Southeast Asia and East Europe, like the 'fake socialist' regimes of Siad Barre, Castro, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Nasser, Gaddafi et al [14.1] in which the workers have never had real economic and political representation, least of all opportunity to march towards Communism from their material condition of "post Capitalism" or merely "Social Democracy".

It is important to point out that the Liberal Law is only 'one' of the various 'possible forms' of Capitalism (as the world already witnessed those of Fascism, 'modern' theocracy, Nazism etc.), which has to be dismantled along with the 'content' if we wish to achieve real justice.
The 'fake' equality of Rights sponsored by the Liberal thought — which does not even have the 'scent' of real 'scientific' equality — is a mere political device to mask and legimitize the social and economic inequalities given by the socially accepted contradictions such as those of Capital and Labour  Use-Value and Exchange Value, private interest and public interest, whose the ultimate truth is their abolition. 
On account of these contradictions, typical of commodity production, there will always be one owning class which self-enriches at the detriment of a property-less class which — due to the forced inhuman maintaining of their separation — are cyclically thrown into unemployment and immiseration or, in the best 'aristocratic' western case, does not receive by principle 'the full produce of its own labour'. Cyclical crises, in Capitalism, are a produce of the separation between use-value (that of need realisation) and exchange-value (socially necessary labour expressed as "price" in monetary terms).
The Capitalist is interested in the exchange value. He does not give a fig about the 'social need'; he cares only about the surplus value which he can appropriate in the form of profit-maximisation from the realisation of his sales on the market.
Capitalism, by splitting the unity of value into two antithetical opposites, experiences crises as these two contradictions try to assert themselves in a violent way in the process of becoming 'unity', though they can't do it insofar as they're hindered by the contradictions of Capital and Labour [15]

On the other hand, such conception of dialectics appears difficult to grasp for the apologists à la Bohm-Bawerk and Spivak (the latter a self-proclaimed 'Marxist', alas!). Spivak e.g. — as a 'marxist' who doesn't understand and give a fig about dialectics — does not even recognise the dialectically necessary dichotomy of Use-Value and Exchange value. [16].
These big professors, very much likely, haven't read a single page of Theories and Surplus value, or at least of the chapter on Crisis in Vol II, where Marx perceptively and clearly explains some of the many possible reasons for the crises of Capital to occur; which are necessarily related to the 'value' split.
In this regard, I shall cite Marx's words at length:

The same phenomenon (and this usually precedes crises) can appear when additional capital is produced at a very rapid rate and its reconversion into productive capital increases the demand for all the elements of the latter to such an extent that actual production cannot keep pace with it; this brings about a rise in the prices of all commodities, which enter into the formation of capital.  In this case the rate of interest falls sharply, however much the profit may rise and this fall in the rate of interest then leads to the most risky speculative ventures. The interruption of the reproduction process leads to the decrease in variable capital, to a fall in wages and in the quantity of labour employed.  This in turn reacts anew on prices and leads to their further fall. It must never be forgotten that in capitalist production what matters is not the immediate use-value but the exchange-value and, in particular, the expansion of surplus-value. This is the driving motive of capitalist production, and it is a pretty conception that—in order to reason away the contradictions of capitalist production—abstracts from its very basis and depicts it as a production aiming at the direct satisfaction of the consumption of the producers [17]

One system which legitimises surplus accumulation, crises, free competition and above all "the inheritance of social conditions" is a system which does not intend at all to provide the individuals with any socio-economical equality, and which ends up privileging the upper classes in the most anti-human possible way; that is to say, at the detriment of human potential and social objective need in general. No wonder why e.g. such system finds support in the philosophical alienation of the mainly religious dichotomy of "Good and Evil", objectified by the religious dialectical conception of history; which becomes similar to the opportunistic - and not only idealistic - liberal one, with all its social consequences.

This kind of "dialectics" by no means aims at terminating the Capitalist anti-human contradiction of the scarcity of basic needs fullfilment, which makes Humans become "non-Humans", when pauperised individuals impulsively rebel against their inherited material scarcity (which is a produce of capitalistic, feudalistic, slave society and primitive historical stages and different endowments in general). Pauperised individuals are left in their critical status of "psycho-biological emergence".

It goes without saying that this lack of fulfillment in the basic needs (hunger, thirst, shelter, nakedness, protection etc) may cause irrational desperation and violent reactions from the poor individual against the others, after his/her survival instinct.

This religious and idealistic conception of history ends up legitimating the socioeconomic material conditions of the "victims" of Capitalism.
The religious or idealist intellectual does not even intend to go deep into the analysis of a 'violent state of emergency' of the poor, by inquiring about the material Cause and effect. As for the cause, he merely limits himself by dwelling about fancies like Free Will, while not taking into account lack of basic needs realisation. As for the effects, he ends up considering Evil as the deus ex machina of the analysis, and not a non-human reaction in front of Non-Human material conditions, which may be analysed scientifically and prevented with Marxism.

Moreover, the common religious consciousness, apart from discouraging the common petty bourgeois believer to analyse the dialectical dynamics of cause-effect in the peripheries, ward off an impoverished religious victim to even rebel rationally with violence e.g. against a dictatorship, since within the framework of religious eschatology s/he'd be idealistically afraid of not getting salvation.

It goes without saying that the conception of Right is in its nature bourgeoisie.The bourgeoisie class tries to give the workers the illusion of equality, by blows of surplus appropriation and appeasing tries to give the mirage of a capitalism "with a human face".... and in the end has to deal with the historical contradictions too, which arise from the same Capitalism; objectified by material scarcity and individuals who are permanently radicalised in the Third World and cyclically "awaken" by the crises in the more opulent imperial centres.

Marx argued that the concept of Right, on which the entire Liberal Law is grounded (a system of 'gewgaws'  as Marx would put it!) has little relevance in a Communist society, insofar as scarcity is replaced with material abundance and men are fully social.

Infact, unlike that Capitalism, the purpose of communism lies in making the individuals cooperate, instead of setting them out against each other through free competition, praise of individualism, accumulation of capital, spread of Good/Evil-based pious historical conception and so on and so forth..

Marx was not against the concept of individuality in itself. He merely rejected the bourgeois conception of isolated egotist individual as well as the opposite collectivistic view whereby the individual is an indissoluble part of the social organism.
Infact, his Historical materialism, reorganized by his friend Engels, portraits the collectivistic society as "tribal" and as "the first stage" of the human history, while Communism - deprived with contradictions of ownership like the tribal society - has the privilege of achieving such a status of things at 'a higher dialectical level' of productive development.


Marx merely saw the human beings as interacting and cooperating individuals who could abandon economic competition to focus on intellectual, moral and social growth [17.1]; giving a realistic socio-economic model of society through which the workers - in indirect and direct production - could get rid of any form of indirect and direct exploitation: intellectual and economic one.

Whomever argues à la Max Stirner that 'everybody will end up earning the same in Communism', erroneously exhanges Communism for Proudhonian Anarchism. Marx on the matter says:

Saint Max here again displays the most ordinary and narrow-minded bourgeois views as “his own” “penetrations” into the essence of communism. He shows himself fully worthy of the 
honour of having been taught by Bluntschli. As a real petty bourgeois, he is then afraid that he, “who is very resourceful”, “should have no advantage over one who is resourceless” — although he should fear nothing so much as being left to his own “resources”.  [18]

Firstly, Socialism intends to remunerate all the immaterial/material workers on the basis of quality/quantity of their work [19]; and secondly, such person does not grasp that Communism, with the development of productive forces, intends to abolish the 'inequality of individual differences' once the abundance of society allows that;
since in real terms 'equality of Rights' is not real equality, as it accepts the 'natural inequality' and its consequences, though not as big as those of Capitalism.

Besides, whomever argues that 'Communism' intends to abolish one person's individuality, s/he does it thinking of his/her own individuality as determined by merely 'being a Bourgeois', as Marx would put it [20].
S/he would therefore exchange 'individualism' and 'economic surplus appropriation' for 'being a human being', instead of 'being an egocentric individual'.

In this case yes, Communism intends to abolish the Bourgeois indifferent and individualistic attitude towards society, as well as the contradictions of his/her ownership [21] of means of production.

Davide Ferri
[1] R. Sewell et al — "What is Marxism"
[2] P. Osborne — "How to read Marx"
[3] Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. (Karl Marx - The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon)
[4] K. Marx — Critique of the Gotha Programme
[5] But "all members of society" and "equal right" are obviously mere phrases. The kernel consists in this, 
that in this communist society every worker must receive the "undiminished" Lassallean "proceeds of 
Let us take, first of all, the words "proceeds of labor" in the sense of the product of labor; then the 
co-operative proceeds of labor are the total social product. 
From this must now be deducted: First, cover for replacement of the means of production used up. 
Second, additional portion for expansion of production. Third, reserve or insurance funds to provide 
against accidents, dislocations caused by natural calamities, etc. (Ibid.)
[6] K.Marx — Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] K. Marx — Grundrisse. See the considerations on immaterial labour and indirect production In "Exchange of labour for labour rests on the worker's propertylessness"
[9] K. Marx — Critique of the Gotha Programme
[10] K.Marx — Letter to the editor of the Russian paper Otetchestvennye Zapisky, 1877:
"(...) If Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation after the example of the Western European countries, and during the last years she has been taking a lot of trouble in this direction - she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians; and after that, once taken to the bosom of the capitalist regime, she will experience its pitiless laws like other profane peoples. That is all. But that is not enough for my critic. He feels himself obliged to metamorphose my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into an historico-philosophic theory of the marche generale imposed by fate upon every people, whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself, in order that it may ultimately arrive at the form of economy which will ensure, together with the greatest expansion of the productive powers of social labour, the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon. (He is both honouring and shaming me too much.)"
[11] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels — Manifesto of the Communist Party, Preface to the Russian edition.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Kimio Shiozawa — Marx's views of Asian Society and his asiatic mode of production
[14] K. Marx — Critique of the Gotha Programme:
"And is it not, in fact, the only "fair" distribution on the basis of the present-day mode of production? Are economic relations regulated by legal conceptions, or do not, on the contrary, legal relations arise out of economic ones? Have not also the socialist sectarians the most varied notions about "fair" distribution?"
Also: "Right can never be higher than the economic structure 
of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby."
[14.1] Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Castroism and the Politics of Petty-Bourgeois Nationalism, 7 January 1998 
[15] K. Marx — Theories of Surplus Value, Vol II
[16]David Bedggood. — Saint Jacques: Derrida and the ghost of Marxism © 1999 by Cultural Logic, ISSN 1097-3087, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1999.
[17] K. Marx — Theories of Surplus Value, Vol II, chapter 17
[17.1] J.R Ozinga — Communism: the story of the idea and its implementation 
[18] K. Marx — The German Ideology
[19] K. Marx - Poverty of philosophy
[20] K. Marx — German Ideology
[21] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels — Manifesto of the Communist Party

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