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Book club: The ABC of Communism

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 22 Dec 2012, 23:02
OK, so this will be the first book discussion of our new Communist book club. The text chosen was Nicolai Bukharin and Evgeni Preobrazhenskii's seminal "The ABC of Communism", which was written as a didactic tool to explain the new party program adopted by the Bolsheviks in 1919.

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The first part is the theoretical aspects tackled by Bukharin, while the second part (chapter 6 and onwards) was written by Preobrazhenskii, except for two chapters written by Bukharin.

The text is mostly available at the Marxist Internet Archive:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukhari ... /index.htm

You can also hit the "Shop" button on the top of this site, and from there go to Amazon, where you can find various paper versions for sale, many very cheap.

We'll study the first half, and then decide if we want to move on to the second part, and if so, which parts.

I had proposed we start with the Introduction (our program), and the first part of the first chapter (up to and including point 9: "Contradictions of production under capitalism"). Does this sound OK, or is it too much or too little?
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Apr 2007, 18:04
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Post 23 Dec 2012, 12:15
I suggest we do as Indigo proposed, and read until and including chapter 3. It's not an extremely long read.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Jun 2011, 08:37
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Post 23 Dec 2012, 14:36
Fine by me. This was actually the text I used to introduce my wife to basic concepts of communism, though I had skipped the party program.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 27 Dec 2012, 07:38
Well, I started reading it the other day shortly, and today I came back to it and decided to read it from the start until the end of chapter 1.

I'll read 2 and 3 tomorrow, I hope.

I took notes while I read. I think they might be a bit long. I'll post them as they are. I'll trim them down in the future, or just post impressions.



Introduction:

Material interests will manifest themselves through political struggles; different classes will be represented by different parties.

The party doesn”t include the whole class, but only it”s most active part, which fights for its interests (Leninism 101)
(A question arises: In the case of bourgeois parties, this is clear, but in workers party; the representatives are not necessarily fellow workers, which complicates the issue).

The aims of the party will change as class struggle changes, as the level of confrontation and as sucesses or defeats pave the way for bolder or meeker aims. (The quid of the matter then is to correctly diagnose conditions so as to correctly express immediate and long term aims).

Jab at utopian socialism: The point is not to paint a pretty picture of how things could be, but to start from where we are and from there see how we can move towards a better tomorrow..

Chapter 1:

A commodity is something produced explicitly for the market (indirect social production). A market economy is when social production consists mainly of commodities, which presupposes private property.

Capitalism requires in addition to a market, a dispossessed workers class and a capitalist class with monopoly over the means of production.

Third requirement: Wage labor. «Free» workers who sell their labor-power, their capacity for work, in exchange for their means of subsistence.

A market economy conceals the social dimension of production. People can only establish production relations through things; because of this, it is as though these things establish social roles, meaning that people are not free to live as they want, but are enslaved by these thingified relations.

The role of the capitalist is to produce for profit; not for social need.

The value of a commodity is that of the average labor time necessary to produce said commodity. The value of labor-power (as a commodity) is the value of the fulfilment of the needs necessary for the continued existence of the workers.

Example: 30 workers employ 30 hours for a given production. The total value of the commodity is 900 (labor) plus 600 (instruments).

The capitalist will pay for the 600 of the instruments, but only a fraction of the 900 of the labor: just the value of the labour-power for the time employed.
This is because the amount of labor necessary for the maintenance of a workers is lower than that worker”s capacity for labor.
The difference between the labor produced, and the value paid for this labor, is what”s known as surplusvalue.

PURE GOLD:
«The capitalist class hires the working class, the latter being numerically of enormous size. In millions of factories, in mines and quarries, in forest and field, hundreds of millions of workers labour like ants. Capital pays them their wages, the value of their labour power, with which they unceasingly renew this labour power for the service of capital. By its labour, the working class does not merely pay its own wages, but it creates in addition the income of the upper classes, creates surplus value. Through a thousand runnels, this surplus value flows into the pockets of the master class. Part goes to the capitalist himself, in the form of entrepreneur's profit; part goes to the landowner; in the form of taxes, part enters the coffers of the capitalist State; other portions accrue to merchants, traders, and shopkeepers, are spent upon churches and in brothels, support actors, artists, bourgeois scribblers, and so on. Upon surplus value live all the parasites who are bred by the capitalist system.

Part of the surplus value is, however, used over again by the capitalists. They add it to their capital, and the capital grows. They extend their enterprises. They engage more workers. They instal better machinery. The increased number of workers produces for them a still greater quality of surplus value. The capitalist enterprises grow ever larger. Thus at each revolution of time, capital moves forward, heaping up surplus value. Squeezing surplus value out of the working class, exploiting the workers, capital continually increases in size.»

And from here we get capital: value of such a kind that serves for the production of new value.
Capital changes form, but always with the purpose of further expansion, something that sets capitalist exploitation apart from other forms of domination: it will always intensify and always expand.

Why do the workers tolerate this? «The bourgaoisie owns even the minds of the workers»
The state=tool for class opression. It acts on behalf on the whole of the exploiters, and sometimes acts against a particular capitalist or in favor of workers, but always as a means to maintain explointation, always for the benefit of the exploiters on the last instance
It also concedes certain policies for the workers to avoid revolution, though it will always seek to win them back.
State apparatuses: violent (army, police, court system) ideological (schools, churches, press).

Contradiction of the capitalist order:
Its production is anarchic, which leads to rises
Its endless need for expansion means war and plunder.
it generates irreconciliable class contradictions
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 28 Dec 2012, 02:00
I agree with what you've written Prax. My own additions on Chapter 1 are as follows.

What Bukharin is doing is giving a very condensed version of the key points of Capital, vol. I in layman's terms. I feel some of the language is perhaps not the best ("anarchic" production? He could have expanded on crises of overproduction and the downward pressure on wages as a contributing factor.) I think it is also important to point out his writings on the bourgeois state. Marx intended to write further volumes for Capital which included the state and I believe he would have come to conclusions similar to this.

Also he cites (in my copy it appears to be uncited which is rather worrying) a series of paragraphs which explain that the bourgeoisie issue factory legilsation and improve healthcare and housing for the working class purely for their own interest - i.e. they don't want disease spreading to the bourgeois parts of town. While I would agree that all acts like this are ultimately in the interest of the bourgeoisie, this can actually boil down to the fact that a healthier and happier worker is a more productive (and less revolutionary) worker. Therefore, the improving of workers' housing is not just to try and prevent disease epidemics spreading to the bourgeois parts of town. They are in fact improving the quality and thus productivity of their variable capital (labour).

One final aside that is not particularly relevant. I noticed how Bukharin says that a commodity economy is one whereby all goods are produced for the market and not for the individual producer. This got me thinking about art under capitalism and how, as an artist, even if you don't intend to sell your work on the market, surely you make it with the market as viewer in mind? Therefore, art under capitalism is produced with the capitalist market in mind, at least as critic.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 30 Dec 2012, 08:58
Agreed fully on improving living standards as a way to improving productivity.
It also ties very neatly to the bourgeois ideology of the panopticon (to borrow that word from Foucalt), in that it seeks to bring absolute transparency to all of society so as to better control it, as if it were a machine.

On art, I think that it's inevitable that ideology will shape your work, and so bourgeois values will appear to a degree since these values are shared by the artist. The desire to communicate or to say something to the viewer also means that it will use these values, since they are what is appreciated by the audience/critic.
Still, not selling the art, not hoping to make it a commodity, gives a larger freedom to the artist. In fact, seeking for ways to stop something from becoming a commodity is a challenge for many artists. I don't know what exactly you have in mind with artists who don't intend to sell their work, though. Even experimental films are often made to "sell" the artist himself for further productions.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 30 Dec 2012, 15:24
Quote:
On art, I think that it's inevitable that ideology will shape your work, and so bourgeois values will appear to a degree since these values are shared by the artist. The desire to communicate or to say something to the viewer also means that it will use these values, since they are what is appreciated by the audience/critic.
Still, not selling the art, not hoping to make it a commodity, gives a larger freedom to the artist. In fact, seeking for ways to stop something from becoming a commodity is a challenge for many artists. I don't know what exactly you have in mind with artists who don't intend to sell their work, though. Even experimental films are often made to "sell" the artist himself for further productions.


Yes I agree. With artists who don't intend to sell their work, I am referring to the fact that even then they still intend to show their work to others (even if they don't actually get around to showing it!). I mean, would you really create a piece of art just so you and only you could ever look at it? Art is very much a social expression and thus aimed with an audience (i.e. a plurality of people) in mind. Therefore, the images created confront this audience within the confines of the capitalist mode of production because this audience is a potential market. Therefore these pictures, even if not intended to be sold, become potential commodities.

I'm ready to do chapter 2 and 3 if you (and anyone else reading) is.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Jun 2011, 08:37
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Post 01 Jan 2013, 16:42
I apologize for the delay, work got hectic, but I will comment more in depth on chapters 2 and 3.

One thing that always strikes me about the text is that it was intended as introduction to a fairly illiterate and under educated population, yet while things are explained in a straight forward manner, they are not "dumbed down".
I think the present day has a burning need for an updated, contemporary counterpart to present the concerns of capitalism and present concrete solutions, adapted to our times.

Reading this is extremely inspiring though.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 02 Jan 2013, 23:47
Chapter 2 - The Development of the Capitalistic Social Order

This gives the basic account of the development of capitalism and its productive forces and the dialectic of its own demise (or at least a basic crisis theory). I have quite a few issues with this chapter which are as follows.

Bukharin says the number of workers always exceeds the requirements of capital due to the decay of the middle classes. The issues I have with this is that, while the middle class (petit-bourgeoisie) are certainly driven into the ranks of the proletariat due to competition from big business, history actually shows an overall rise in middle class growth under the development of capitalism. With a rise in wages due to increased labour demands and assuming prices fall or remain constant, workers have more spending power and thus can increase their consumption. This allows some workers to rise into the ranks of the middle classes (a rather vague term here) including the petit-bourgeoisie. China today is trying to boost its domestic consumption because its middle class has grown so rapidly over the last few decades.

I would argue the main cause the industrial reserve is technological innovations constantly making labour redundant because the machinery (and thus the labour operating it) becomes much more productive.


I also think Bukharin's explanation of crises could go into more detail. Where is the link between pressure on wages and overproduction (i.e. inability of workers to purchase sufficient quantities of the commodities on the market?) Perhaps he could also have mentioned how the tendency of the rate of profit to fall means large businesses are at risk of a bigger crash (they stand to lose more) because they have to invest so much capital to make a certain amount of profit.


Again with the middle class issue. Bukharin claims that as capitalism develops the contradiction between the capitalists and the proletariat intensify. Yet in the developed world today, many people have been elevated into the ranks of the middle class (at least ideologically). Welfare states provide relief from crushing poverty. What Bukharin has neglected here is that imperialism allows for this stemming of the proletariat's biggest grievances and replaces their tendency for revolution with reformism.


Finally, he claims that workers become increasingly alienated from capital and the capitalist class. While this is true that they will always be alienated to some degree, has it decreased as capitalism has developed? Many workers adhere to bourgeois ideology in some form because the ranks of the middle class are a more realistic goal for them these days.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 May 2008, 14:59
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Post 03 Jan 2013, 01:02
Sorry to be late to the party. But I've gotten through the first two chapters.

It's an old document, so having issues with the views of crises of capitalism is probably a good thing. You've brought up some good issues.

gRed Britain wrote:
The issues I have with this is that, while the middle class (petit-bourgeoisie) are certainly driven into the ranks of the proletariat due to competition from big business, history actually shows an overall rise in middle class growth under the development of capitalism.


This I only partially agree with. I believe Bukharin's position on this is based on a more Malthusian line of argument that demonstrates a bad prognotication of the future of capitalism. However, I wouldn't say that there there is a steady trend of increase in the petit-bourgeois population, nor do I believe this is mainly due to innovation in the production process, even though that is a key part of it. Rather, I think it fluctuates with the general economic climate which is also widely variable in a consistent manner.

gRed Britain wrote:
Bukharin claims that as capitalism develops the contradiction between the capitalists and the proletariat intensify. Yet in the developed world today, many people have been elevated into the ranks of the middle class (at least ideologically). Welfare states provide relief from crushing poverty. What Bukharin has neglected here is that imperialism allows for this stemming of the proletariat's biggest grievances and replaces their tendency for revolution with reformism.


Remember that the capitalism Bukahrin is refering to is different than the capitalism of today. He's making a classical Marxist arguement here, which is not due to his neglect of certain issues, but simply because they just didn't exist during his day and he didn't have the foresight to predict their occurance. It was orthodoxy, which he parrots, that the rise of Socialism was going to be inevitable because these contradiction would necessarily intesify.

It's actually great that you point this out, since I think raises one of the more important issues of Marxist theory. Partially because of what you outlined above, we can no longer be justified in believing that socialism will inevitably arise from the irreconcilable contraditions between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, nor that these contradictions will necessarily intensify as time goes on.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 03 Jan 2013, 21:32
[quote=Indigo]This I only partially agree with. I believe Bukharin's position on this is based on a more Malthusian line of argument that demonstrates a bad prognotication of the future of capitalism. However, I wouldn't say that there there is a steady trend of increase in the petit-bourgeois population, nor do I believe this is mainly due to innovation in the production process, even though that is a key part of it. Rather, I think it fluctuates with the general economic climate which is also widely variable in a consistent manner.[/quote]

Well a problem with the piece is that Bukharin says "middle class" which I think is too vague a term. The petty-bourgeoisie are a sub-section of the middle class but it encompasses other professions too. You are right in that it fluctuates according to business cycles. There is also the issue here (which I think is particularly relevant today) of Marxian (i.e. objective) class system vs Victorian (i.e. subjective) class system. Marxian classes are defined by one's social relation to the means of production. A Victorian class system is more how you and others perceive your social status based on a variety of professional, social and cultural indicators. Many people today consider themselves middle class in the Victorian sense but are in actual fact (and unbeknown to them) working class in the Marxian sense.

Quote:
Remember that the capitalism Bukahrin is refering to is different than the capitalism of today. He's making a classical Marxist arguement here, which is not due to his neglect of certain issues, but simply because they just didn't exist during his day and he didn't have the foresight to predict their occurance. It was orthodoxy, which he parrots, that the rise of Socialism was going to be inevitable because these contradiction would necessarily intesify.


Yes but Lenin had already written and published Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism where he blames it for dulling the revolutionary tendencies of the first world proletariat through bribes generated from 'super-profits.'

Quote:
It's actually great that you point this out, since I think raises one of the more important issues of Marxist theory. Partially because of what you outlined above, we can no longer be justified in believing that socialism will inevitably arise from the irreconcilable contraditions between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, nor that these contradictions will necessarily intensify as time goes on.


I don't think we need to draw these conclusions. The contradiction still exists and still has the potential to intensify. The problem is capitalism has used imperialism as a means of softening the contradiction by essentially separating the source of labour from the sphere of circulation and consumption. A combination of commodity fetishism and nationalism in the first world countries means proletarian consumers do not associate the commodities they consume (both through purchase and welfare distribution) with the exploitation that they themselves were subject to within the past 50 years. They therefore simply accept they have a higher standard of living than people in the third world and thus see little reason to upset this established order.

The problem with this is that imperialist investment tends to develop third world countries. If we look across Asia and parts of Latin America now there are many countries which are displaying huge levels of growth, even during a global downturn. In China wages are rising which means Chinese labour is becoming less and less the cheap producer of commodities that imperialism originally embraced it for. If China and these other countries develop into fully fledged first world countries there will be two problems facing imperialism: (1) the supply of cheap Asian labour will have dried up and its will have established increased labour rights limiting its exploitation. (2) Asian capital will itself be part of the imperialist system which will be scouring the world for an ever-dwindling supply of cheap labour. Should this continue then we may well see a huge global crisis as capitalists try and exploit more and more out of an ever dwindling supply. They may have to turn to their own "privileged" workers who will resent these sudden new levels of exploitation being foisted upon them.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 11 Jan 2013, 17:46
Reading chapter 2 also.

I agree in that it has some shortcomings. The prediction of the end of the petit-bourgeois is certainly inaccurate, though the whole argument he gives is almost flawless. Yes, there is a tendency for the expansion of large industry into small-industries and artistanship. Yes, competition will favor larger capital.

But, while there is the tendency for the disappearance of petit-bourgeois production, there will always be certain "cracks" or barriers where they will continue existing. One of them is mentioned: they may only nominally be "independent", but are really just an appendage of capital. You have franchises, contractors, consultants, outsourcing, etc, etc.
Another factor, though, is that a petit-bourgeois does not necessarily need to obtain surplus value (from his own labor). They just need enough to survive (a profit, but one that's below the realization of surplus value). This means that there will be fields that are deemed unprofitable for large capital (like a cornershop in a small suburb) and where petit-bourgeois can continue to exist.

Unemployment as an wage-labor reserve is undeniable, I think. It is a fact that many countries have the capacity to pursue a zero-unemployment program (Keynesian economics), yet they CHOOSE not to. That is because the interest of the capitalists outweigh those who are starving and desperate for work.
We're told that too much employment creates inflation, and so we deny people who want to work their income, their development, their peace of mind. Maintaining a stable value of money is the number one priority in a capitalist system with such a heavy banking system, where any instability might mean the dissapeareance of hundreds and thousands of these money-claims.

Also, the pauperization of the working class is a seriously outdated thought. We are not poorer in any absolute sense, but the question is if we're poorer in a relative sense; that is, if our "share" of the total social production has increased or decreased...
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 11 Jan 2013, 20:37
Quote:
But, while there is the tendency for the disappearance of petit-bourgeois production, there will always be certain "cracks" or barriers where they will continue existing. One of them is mentioned: they may only nominally be "independent", but are really just an appendage of capital. You have franchises, contractors, consultants, outsourcing, etc, etc.
Another factor, though, is that a petit-bourgeois does not necessarily need to obtain surplus value (from his own labor). They just need enough to survive (a profit, but one that's below the realization of surplus value). This means that there will be fields that are deemed unprofitable for large capital (like a cornershop in a small suburb) and where petit-bourgeois can continue to exist.


All true. I take it you are happy with his term "middle class" referring simply to the term petit-bourgeoisie?

Quote:
I think. It is a fact that many countries have the capacity to pursue a zero-unemployment program (Keynesian economics), yet they CHOOSE not to. That is because the interest of the capitalists outweigh those who are starving and desperate for work.


It is an interest of the capitalists to have (a certain proportion of the population) starving and desperate for work (to keep wages down). However, this brings me to an interesting point. Why do some governments offer social welfare benefits to the unemployed that actually match (or even supercede) what they recipients would receive working a minimum wage job? This prevents people going into employment because it is easier for them to just claim the same amount of money on benefits and not have to lift a finger. Yet this is obviously reliant on the taxpayer and is not popular amongst conservatives and neo-liberals who want a smaller government and less state expenditure on benefits.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 12 Jan 2013, 09:58
gRed Britain wrote:
I take it you are happy with his term "middle class" referring simply to the term petit-bourgeoisie?


No. I was talking of economic classes, proper, not of income distribution. Petit-bourgeois refers to those who are self-employed, at least understood in a Marxian way.
A class should refer to different production relations, of how we are inserted in a given mode of production. The reason this is important is that our ideology, taken in general, derives from this class afiliation.
I mean, even if you are a cabbie and are barely making ends meet, the way you earn money will give you a different idea than if you were getting a wage.
Income distribution is something that should be looked at to complement class analysis, but it shouldn't be conflagrated with classes, otherwise you'd get a fluid scale that will missdiagnose class struggle. Classes aren't monolithic, in any case, and these different income levels could be seen a strata within a class.
Perhaps the low middle and upper classed do line up to a certain extent to classes, but this shouldn''t be assumed.
Nicos Poulantzas wrote a book on petit-bourgeois and class strata (classes in contemporary capitalism) and he extends this class to include Gramci's organic intellectuals (engineers, overseers). That makes a lot of sense, but I don't know if it's correct or not.

Quote:
It is an interest of the capitalists to have (a certain proportion of the population) starving and desperate for work (to keep wages down). However, this brings me to an interesting point. Why do some governments offer social welfare benefits to the unemployed that actually match (or even supercede) what they recipients would receive working a minimum wage job?


I don't know, but we should consider that the capitalist fear of wage-push inflation has led to the stagnation of what is legally a "minimum wage" bellow what is actually the average low paying job (which isn't decided in Congress, but through class struggle). This is what some call the "living wage" and it is the amount that realistically a government should provide in terms of unemployment benefits, a concession which is also the result of class struggle.

(In Mexico, for example, minimum wage is a joke. It is used as an economic measure (for fines, morgages, government fees, you name it). What this means, of course, is that for the stability of the value of money, minimum wage was allowed to drop to levels that are far bellow what should realistically be minimum wage (unconstitutionally so, it has been said). In terms of actual wages, the effect of this is limited, though, because most workers don't really earn minimum wage.)

Quote:
This prevents people going into employment because it is easier for them to just claim the same amount of money on benefits and not have to lift a finger. Yet this is obviously reliant on the taxpayer and is not popular amongst conservatives and neo-liberals who want a smaller government and less state expenditure on benefits.


Well, I'm not too sure about that. People on welfare will seek to stay on it sometimes not because of lazyness, but just because of how terrible a lot of these jobs are. It's risky to generalize, though.
And capitalist hawks will always want to take away the consessions that the system has been forced to give to the workers.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 12 Jan 2013, 16:29
Quote:
No. I was talking of economic classes, proper, not of income distribution. Petit-bourgeois refers to those who are self-employed, at least understood in a Marxian way.
A class should refer to different production relations, of how we are inserted in a given mode of production. The reason this is important is that our ideology, taken in general, derives from this class afiliation.


Yes it does (in theory). However, many people in the first today increasingly subscribe to a petit-bourgeois ideology even though they are not necessarily part of the petit-bourgeoisie. "Middle class" often extends beyond income distribution to things such as cultural praxis. Many people aspire to these middle class cultural ideals whilst (unknowingly) remaining in the upper strata of the working class.

This definition issue of class is something that I found presented problems in chapter 3.

Quote:
I mean, even if you are a cabbie and are barely making ends meet, the way you earn money will give you a different idea than if you were getting a wage.


What about salaried employees?

Quote:
And capitalist hawks will always want to take away the consessions that the system has been forced to give to the workers.


Yeah I guess this. Benefits are gains made by the labour movement in the constant fight to maintain them vs the capitalists who want to reduce them, we find an aspect of the class struggle. Trouble is, it is usually bourgeois labour parties who represent the workers here, not a genuine workers' party.
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Post 16 Jan 2013, 00:22
Chapter 3

This paragrpah provides the somewhat tantalising and valuable insight as to what communism might actually look like. The fact that Marx and Engels left so few descriptions of communism proved to be very frustrating to many people as it meant the movement can often be seen as lacking a clearly defined goal. Some may say that it wasn't for Marx and Engels (or anyone else for that matter) to describe how communism would/should look. However, I think the movement can benefit from a few insights such as those that Bukharin gives in this chapter.

Obviously he talks about increased production due to the liberation of energy from the class struggle as well as the fact that people will have more than one job and be rotated amongst these jobs. This way not only will they be prevented from working in the same boring job every day, they will also no longer be stereotyped and defined by the job they do (which is what happens under capitalism). At this point I think he could have also mentioned how under communism there will be more people than jobs so working hours will be divided by the number of workers. This means drastically reduced working hours leaving people with much more leisure time. He also dispels a lot of the bourgeois myths and criticisms of communism that it involves just "sharing everything" and won't involve any administration or organisation.

My main issues with this chapter are the following:

1. His descriptions of communism tend to verge towards the utopian. He says that there will be no need for prisons but communism will still see people who try and harm other people. There will still be drunks, psychopaths, child molesters, etc. These people cannot be allowed to simply wander around society and continue to do harm. One off breaches of public order will also require punishment of an appropriate level.

2. His descriptions of the superior productivity of socialism/communism to capitalism do not necessary correspond to history. The socialist countries, while often more productive than they were pre-revolution, were always outperformed by industrialised capitalist countries. Consumer goods were in constant short supply and levels of consumption and production themselves often lagged behind the west. Planned economies were cumbersome and lacked the dynamism of market economies.

3. This was the most glaring point for me and tied in with the party programme at the beginning of the text. Bukharin says that the state (dictatorship of the proletariat) will be used to crush the resistance of the former exploiters. But what about the resistance of those who aren't former exploiters? He mentions the (unspecified) "terror" as a weapon (and we saw what happened there: workers were shot by the Cheka). This is the issue of class that I mentioned. The state is only supposed to crush the resistance of the former bourgeoise and landlords. Yet, because the state was never actually in the hands of the workers or peasants, it ended up crushing the resistance of anybody who resisted the communist party, no matter what the form of resistance or how mild it was. This was not a dictatorship of the proletariat but a dictatorship of the communist party over the proletariat and all other classes.

If you look at the party programme at the beginning of the text you see it chimes in well with this chapter as they both share the same ambiguity - who leads the proletariat in the seizure of power and the organisation and leadership of the new state: the communist party or the soviets? It should have been the soviets but it ended up being the communist party.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 09 May 2008, 14:59
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Post 16 Jan 2013, 00:43
I've unfortunately not gotten farther than halfway through chapter 3, so I'll be a while before I discuss.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 23 Jan 2013, 08:00
Lots of goodies in this chapter. I'm still not finished (I'm at the "communist party" section), and it has already covered a multitude of issues.

It starts out naming the advantages of a Communist (not socialist) organization, and, that considered, I agree largely with what gRed Britain has already said.

Marx said in his Preface that a given mode of production becomes a hindrance to progress, and when that happens, people come in conflict with it and so abolish it.

I think that progress, or development, has to be understood not from a bourgeois perspective (capitalist accumulation, i.e. economic growth or "job creation" or however you want to spin it), but fulfillment of social needs; and in that sense, capitalism and it's frenzy of creating more and more worthless commodities is really a hindrance to this.

Bukharin states it clearly in that it will be a planned, conscious production, with the freedom to choose what we need; no gimmicks, no fake needs implanted through advertisement, no barriers to production because of lack of profitability.

But this is in a high socialist or communist order. In direct competition with capitalism, their obsession with innovation instead of fulfilling the basic material and spiritual needs of the many might put socialism "behind" capitalism in terms of "development" (in the capitalist sense). It's a thorny issue for sure, and one which any future socialist government will need to debate fully and openly, and not hide behind the mantra of being superior just because.

To address the questions made:

gRed Britain wrote:
Chapter 3
1. His descriptions of communism tend to verge towards the utopian. He says that there will be no need for prisons but communism will still see people who try and harm other people. There will still be drunks, psychopaths, child molesters, etc. These people cannot be allowed to simply wander around society and continue to do harm. One off breaches of public order will also require punishment of an appropriate level.


I think that this is one of the problems of viewing a communist order. Our own mentality will be different. "Punishment" is just an ideological justification and has no room in communism. No doubt, people may/will want to harm others, but how this is handled will be something very, very different from our current disciplnary system.

We don't need to bring up Foucalt to talk about the prision or the school system as being bourgeois state apparatuses. Plenty of communist thinkers have provided throughough critiques of this. The problem might be that we need a positive picture of how social behavior might be regulated (if it is regulated at all!). I don't know, but, like with Marx and communism, you can get an idea from how it will NOT be.

Quote:
2. His descriptions of the superior productivity of socialism/communism to capitalism do not necessary correspond to history. The socialist countries, while often more productive than they were pre-revolution, were always outperformed by industrialised capitalist countries. Consumer goods were in constant short supply and levels of consumption and production themselves often lagged behind the west. Planned economies were cumbersome and lacked the dynamism of market economies.


Agreed, see above.

Quote:
3. This was the most glaring point for me and tied in with the party programme at the beginning of the text. Bukharin says that the state (dictatorship of the proletariat) will be used to crush the resistance of the former exploiters. But what about the resistance of those who aren't former exploiters? He mentions the (unspecified) "terror" as a weapon (and we saw what happened there: workers were shot by the Cheka). This is the issue of class that I mentioned. The state is only supposed to crush the resistance of the former bourgeoise and landlords. Yet, because the state was never actually in the hands of the workers or peasants, it ended up crushing the resistance of anybody who resisted the communist party, no matter what the form of resistance or how mild it was. This was not a dictatorship of the proletariat but a dictatorship of the communist party over the proletariat and all other classes.


I don't know enough to put it in the simple terms you just have, but in part, the issue is you don't physically exterminate a class, you crush their power... but, if we consider that we need their engineers and officers and so on, then things get complicated.

One way to fight against this is maintaining a healthy party structure (purges and class connection), another, and maybe more effective, is closing the gap between intellectual and manual labor. This creates a divide that can become the grounds for new exploitation.

Fortunately, we now have the experience of the USSR, and so these very real problems, can be examined fully and honestly, something they could not.
It's like with Lenin and the Second International: If it hadn't fallen into chauvinism and reformism the way it did, Lenin wouldn't have revised his views on party structure and strategy.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
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Post 24 Jan 2013, 23:57
Quote:
I think that progress, or development, has to be understood not from a bourgeois perspective (capitalist accumulation, i.e. economic growth or "job creation" or however you want to spin it), but fulfillment of social needs; and in that sense, capitalism and it's frenzy of creating more and more worthless commodities is really a hindrance to this.


Yes this is true. The problem that traditionally plagued socialist countries is that materially they were always outperformed by capitalism (especially in terms of consumer goods). This provided a nasty contradiction in that the people were told that their system was superior to capitalism and yet the material results implied the opposite. I feel that one of the greatest ways for a socialist country to stay in power is to demonstrate that it is materially superior to capitalism. This means lifting everybody out of poverty and allow them to all have levels of consumption on parity with the middle classes of capitalist society.

However, what do you mean by worthless commodities? If they are sold on the market this implies they have a demandand they contain socially necessary labour.

Quote:
But this is in a high socialist or communist order. In direct competition with capitalism, their obsession with innovation instead of fulfilling the basic material and spiritual needs of the many might put socialism "behind" capitalism in terms of "development" (in the capitalist sense). It's a thorny issue for sure, and one which any future socialist government will need to debate fully and openly, and not hide behind the mantra of being superior just because.


I think innovation does need to be encouraged under socialism. Innovative commodities such as iPads and smartphones are a powerful ideological weapon for capitalism. It is in the USA that commodities like these are invented and the USA often trumpets its capitalist model as the cause for such life-altering innovations. If socialism can come up with new commodities like this then they will have their own ideological weapons to counter the remaining capitalist states.

I know motive for such innovation is traditionally bound up in profit but I think people see their own reward in such things. Many do get a genuine satisfaction out of just inventing the new innovation. The problem though would be these people wanting to move to countries like America where they could make an individual fortune out of patenting their ideas for production.

Quote:
another, and maybe more effective, is closing the gap between intellectual and manual labor. This creates a divide that can become the grounds for new exploitation.


Agreed, everyone should have multiple jobs and they should include both physical and mental labour.

I think also that genuine workers' democracy should be implemented. In the USSR the communist party never gave the workers the reins of power because they felt they were not educated enough. However, in first world countries today where workers are educated to a far better standard this would be a lot easier.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
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Post 27 Jan 2013, 11:19
gRed Britain wrote:
However, what do you mean by worthless commodities? If they are sold on the market this implies they have a demandand they contain socially necessary labour.


I'm talking about luxury goods and artificially generated demand (via e. g. marketing). As you say, if they are sold, it means that they are deemed "necessary" by society. I'm talking about the role of marketing in shaping what is deemed necessary.

For example, some products are bought for a higher price for the simple reason that they have a higher price; this way you can establish your social status by advertising your t-shirt or phone or whatever, regardless of its basic social role.
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