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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Jan 2008, 19:10
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Post 02 Mar 2014, 16:25
Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage, #1) by Brian McClellan

Fantasy isn't my cup of tea, but I've always been intrigued by the idea of the serfs rising up in one of these Fairytale Kingdoms. So I was curious to see a book described as French Revolution with Wizards. It has some of the features that make Game of Thrones so popular, adding Machiavellian realism to the fantasy world. It was very interesting to see the rise of Early Modern values set against the backdrop of Fantasy. Traditionally, it seems like the Middle Ages are going to last forever, but here we see the emergence of gunpowder, printing press, and modern science. Those with magic powers are called 'Privileged' and there is definitely an aristocratic element to it, with them despising the abomination of gunpowder.

Its actually more of a Left-Bonapartist coup by the Field Marshal, rather than a genuine popular revolution from below. But there is the mass Guillotining of the aristocracy on Election Square. And Festivals of Liberty, in which all men are citizens, rich and poor alike. Trade unions play a major role, with the Labor leader being a member of the Ruling Council, and developing early ideas about labor internationalism. I would say the Revolution is described more in the style of Thomas Carlyle than a class analysis.

http://booktionary.blogspot.com/2013/04 ... -epic.html
Last edited by heiss93 on 02 Mar 2014, 17:38, edited 1 time in total.
Kamran Heiss
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Post 02 Mar 2014, 16:35
heiss93 wrote:
Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage, #1) by Brian McClellan

Fantasy isn't my cup of tea, but I've always been intrigued by the idea of the serfs rising up in one of these Fairytale Kingdoms. So I was curious to see a book described as French Revolution with Wizards. It has some of the features that make Game of Thrones so popular, adding Machiavellian realism to the fantasy world. It was very interesting to see the rise of Early Modern values set against the backdrop of Fantasy. Traditionally, it seems like the Middle Ages are going to last forever, but here we see the emergence of gunpowder, printing press, and modern science. Those with magic powers are called 'Privileged' and there is definitely an aristocratic element to it, with them despising the abomination of gunpowder.

Its actually more of a Left-Bonapartist coup by the Field Marshal, rather than a genuine popular revolution from below. But there is the mass Guillotining of the aristocracy on Election Square. And Festivals of Liberty, in which all men are citizens, rich and poor alike. Trade unions play a major role, with the Labor leader being a member of the Ruling Council, and developing early ideas about labor internationalism. I would say the Revolution is described more in the style of Thomas Carlyle than a class analysis.

http://booktionary.blogspot.com/2013/04 ... -epic.html


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Post 02 Mar 2014, 17:25
A great novel on the clash between rising modern values in the midst of Medieval superstition is Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Eco is a great master of critical semiology, and wrote his Phd on the Aesthetics of Aquinas. He has a deep understanding of the Medieval mind, and its the greatest novel ever written by a literary critic. The hero William of Baskerville is based on Sherlock Holmes and William of Ockham. And he has many of Ockham's proto-communist and materialist ideas.

It was a time of great upheaval when the Fraticelli https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraticelli had risen up denying the right to private property. They were the extreme leftwing of the Franciscan movement, who were the most progressive force of the day. William of Baskerville and the Monastery he is staying at represent a more reformist strand of the Spirituals, maintaining the right of Franciscans to maintain their communistic community without owning private property but not advocating violent revolution. The Monastery has become something of a refuge for the defeated heretical communists. There is to be a great debate held on whether Francisans should hold property.

A conservative literary magazine described it this way:

Quote:
This, I think, is one reason why The Name of the Rose has achieved a vast success in Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, where a broadly based Left is experiencing confusion and uncertainty. Established parties like the PCI have stalemated themselves in their search for a “third way” between the tepid reformism of the social democrats and Soviet-style Communism. Meanwhile, the hopes raised by the radical movements of the late Sixties and early Seventies have withered away as those movements have subsided into invisibility or random violence. One might risk a certain vulgar allegorization to make the parallel explicit: the Franciscans represent the Left, divided between reformists and those who wish to maintain a revolutionary stance even within the parliamentary system (in the novel’s terms, the Church); the heretics are the extra-parliamentary radicals, the revolutionary sects that spawned the Red Brigade. The confession of one of the abbey’s hidden heretics as he faces the Inquisition rivals the modern-day rhetoric of terrorism for arrogance and desperation:

And we burned and looted because we had proclaimed poverty the universal law, and we had the right to appropriate the illegitimate riches of others, and we wanted to strike at the heart of the network of greed that extended from parish to parish, but we never looted in order to possess, or killed in order to loot; we killed to punish, to purify the impure through blood .... We had to kill the innocent as well, in order to kill all of you more quickly. We wanted a better world, of peace and sweetness and happiness for all, we wanted to kill the war that you brought with your greed ….


http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cf ... urder-6303
Kamran Heiss
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Post 02 Mar 2014, 17:44
heiss93 wrote:
A great novel on the clash between rising modern values in the midst of Medieval superstition is Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Eco is a great master of critical semiology, and wrote his Phd on the Aesthetics of Aquinas. He has a deep understanding of the Medieval mind, and its the greatest novel ever written by a literary critic. The hero William of Baskerville is based on Sherlock Holmes and William of Ockham. And he has many of Ockham's proto-communist and materialist ideas.

It was a time of great upheaval when the Fraticelli https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraticelli had risen up denying the right to private property. They were the extreme leftwing of the Franciscan movement, who were the most progressive force of the day. William of Baskerville and the Monastery he is staying at represent a more reformist strand of the Spirituals, maintaining the right of Franciscans to maintain their communistic community without owning private property but not advocating violent revolution. The Monastery has become something of a refuge for the defeated heretical communists. There is to be a great debate held on whether Francisans should hold property.

A conservative literary magazine described it this way:


http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cf ... urder-6303


A fantastic book, and a solid film to boot if I might add. I always wondered when reading it why Eco was giving me something that read exactly like a historical-materialist class struggle line, and I'm pleased I wasn't the only one to pick up on this.

I also recommend his book Baudolino if you want to shit yourself laughing.
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Post 02 Mar 2014, 18:00
Its interesting that in someways the attempt to understand Magic in Early Scientific terms, as described in the Fantasy World in someways actually took place in our own world. The Marxist historian, Christopher Hill has a great essay on the relationship between Renaissance Natural Magic and Science. The goal of Magic is in many ways the goal of science, to use Knowledge to transform and control Nature for the benefit of man. Its the dirty little secret of the Whig History of Science. The patron saint of Empiricism- Francis Bacon- called for the experimental study of magical methods. Many of the most Progressive scientific thinkers of the Renaissance dabbled in hermeticism, astrology, alchemy, kabbalah, numerology against the great opposition of the Church. Newton's theory of gravity uniting the heavens and earth, reflected the Hermetic principle 'as above so below'.

http://books.google.com/books?id=Nw5rTP ... ne&f=false
Kamran Heiss
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Post 18 Mar 2014, 03:08
MIA recently added excerpts from Wang Ming's Mao's Betrayal. Wang Ming is traditionally portrayed in Maoist historiography as representing the line of slavishly following the USSR and ignoring Chinese conditions as well as Right Opportunist cooperation with the KMT. Well, in this book Wang Ming gets to layout his side of the story, in which he accuses Mao of laying the foundations for a restoration of capitalism in China. Rumor is that had the USSR invaded China, they would have installed Wang Ming as Mao's replacement.

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archi ... /index.htm

I'm also currently listening to Bob Avakian read from his memoir:
From Ike to Mao… and Beyond:
My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist


While I don't agree with the current direction of the RCP, its an interesting period piece about coming of age in the 1950s, and becoming disillusioned with the lies of racism and imperialism. Bob comes off as a regular guy, and not the God-cult the RCP has recently been building around him.

http://bobavakian.net/audio3.html
Kamran Heiss
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Post 28 Mar 2014, 19:56
Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.

My interpretation of the historical Jesus has largely been influenced by the image of Jesus as a revolutionary communist as stated by Kautsky and the later Marxist and liberation theology tradition and the vision of Jesus largely agreed on by academic historians such as Bart Ehrman, of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet making far less grandiose claims than later theologians claimed for him. Not necessarily mutually exclusive beliefs as there is a rich tradition of apocalyptic communist uprisings.

The main thing that convinced me about Ehrman's approach is the criteria of embarrassment, he looks at material from the earliest sources that go against what early Christians are trying to preach.

This book challenges many of those assumptions, and is many ways a prolegomena to his future work questioning the historicity of Jesus, mainly focusing on his Bayesian approach to historiography. As a Marxist, I'm interested in any attempt to make history more scientific. And the Bayesian process of updating posterior beliefs in light of new evidence, is in some ways a useful mathematization of the waves of Praxis, Mao describes.

I'm not sure if this book has actually convinced me Jesus is a myth, and there is little direct argument on this ground, as it is more about Bayesian historiographical methodology in general. But he does do a Bayesian analysis of several of the Gospel of Mark stories that supposedly embarrass the Church, and makes a fairly convincing case that there is a high probability that they fit into the mythology Mark was creating at the time. None of this necessarily disproves Jesus. But if you can demonstrate that there is a high probability that every single story of Jesus was a myth, then there isn't much of Jesus left. Similar to how negative theology removes every single one of God's particular properties leaving him empty.

But there is a danger in an over-skeptical view of history that can prove nothing. A French Legitimist in the 1800s wrote a parody using similar methods, that claimed to prove that Napoleon never existed. But its a fair point that historians always implicitly assign subjective Bayesian probabilities to their claims, and it can only make it more objective to drag it out into the open and quantify.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringo ... story.html
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Post 31 Mar 2014, 08:06
I don't really care for Jesus. I suppose I might read some Renan just because of cultural importance, but I just can't get worked up about this subject.

Right now I'm reading:

Carlos Marx - Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

[Yes, "Carlos" is how he appears in the edition I have, which was pretty standard until the 70s, I think. My copy of Capital puts hm as Karl, but Revolution and Counterrevolution names him Carlos.
(heh, I went to check and most of his lesser works, which are published by small prints, name him Carlos, but his major stuff, out in FCE or Siglo XXI, names him Karl. Progress Publishers puts him as...(drumroll).. Karl! China's Foreign Language Editions puts him as...Carlos).]

Anyways, I went ahead beyond the preface and found an extended version on the chapters on commodity and money. At least, I think that's what this amounts to. I assume he continued working between this and Capital (because, he always did; if he'd lived on two more decades we'd have to contend with seven, not just four versions of Capital), but I don't know if that leads to substantial revisions. After all, this came after Grundrisse, which is just about his biggest theoretical turn in what is mainly a gradual evolution.

Minor details aside, this is really rewarding, because the overexplaining he does here helps drive the point, and with such delicate subject matter, this is very appreciated.

One of the parts where I had an "aha" moment was on the opposition between real and the ideal. Having an ideal exchange value prior to sale is not a mere formality, it shows the vast divide between real and abstract labor, and shows just how wrong are those who understand Marx saying that labor-time is directly "embodied" in a commodity.

For instance here (arguing against such a conception):
Carlos wrote:
Every commodity is immediately money; this is Gray’s thesis which he derives from his incomplete and hence incorrect analysis of commodities. The “organic” project of “labour money” and “national bank” and “warehouses” is merely a fantasy in which a dogma is made to appear as a law of universal validity. The dogma that a commodity is immediately money or that the particular labour of a private individual contained in it is immediately social labour, does not of course become true because a bank believes in it and conducts its operations in accordance with this dogma. On the contrary, bankruptcy would in such a case fulfil the function of practical criticism.


Or here:
Carlos wrote:
Commodities now confront one another in a dual form, really as use-values, and nominally as exchange values. They represent now for one another the dual form of labour contained in them since the particular concrete labour actually exists as their use-value, while universal abstract labour time assumes an imaginary existence in their price. ..


The salto fatale of commodities, the change from an imaginary price to actual money, is more than the confirmation of its value, but the birth of value when viewed in a macro-scale. Like temperature, we're dealing with equilibrium states.

This in turn, this makes me appreciate Rubin's interpretation of value even more, and of political economy as a study of social structure; of people, not of things. That's because value becomes a regulator of production and, what's more, of social roles.

I think I've quoted the following before, but here it is again.

Freddy Perlman wrote:
According to economists whose theories currently prevail in America, economics has replaced political economy, and economics deals with scarcity, prices, and resource allocation. In the definition of Paul Samuelson, “economics or political economy, as it used to be called, is the study of how men and society choose, with or without the use of money, to employ scarce productive resources, which could have alternative uses, to produce various commodities over time and distribute them for consumption, now and in the future, among various people and groups in society.” According to Robert Campbell, “One of the central preoccupations of economics has always been what determines price.”[2] In the words of another expert, “Any community, the primers tell us, has to deal with a pervasive economic problem: how to determine the uses of available resources, including not only goods and services that can be employed productively but also other scarce supplies.”

If economics is indeed merely a new name for political economy, and if the subject matter which was once covered under the heading of political economy is now covered by economics, then economics has replaced political economy. However, if the subject matter of political economy is not the same as that of economics, then the “replacement” of political economy is actually an omission of a field of knowledge. If economics answers different questions from those raised by political economy, and if the omitted questions refer to the form and the quality of human life within the dominant social-economic system, then this omission can be called a “great evasion”.

The Soviet economic theorist and historian I.I. Rubin suggested a definition of political economy which has nothing in common with the definitions of economics quoted above. According to Rubin, “Political economy deals with human working activity, not from the standpoint of its technical methods and instruments of labor, but from the standpoint of its social form. It deals with production relations which are established among people in the process of production.” In terms of this definition, political economy is not the study of prices or of scarce resources; it is a study of social relations, a study of culture. Political economy asks why the productive forces of society develop within a particular social form, why the machine process unfolds within the context of business enterprise, why industrialization takes the form of capitalist development. Political economy asks how the working activity of people is regulated in a specific, historical form of economy.

The contemporary American definitions of economics quoted earlier clearly deal with different problems, raise different questions, and refer to a different subject matter from that of political economy as defined by Rubin. This means one of two things: (a) either economics and political economy are two different branches of knowledge, in which case the “replacement” of political economy by economics simply means that the American practitioners of one branch have replaced the other branch, or (b) economics is indeed the new name for what “used to be called” political economy; in this case, by defining economics as a study of scarcity, prices, and resource allocation, American economists are saying that the production relations among people are not a legitimate subject for study. In this case the economists quoted above are setting themselves up as the legislators over what is, and what is not, a legitimate topic for intellectual concern; they are defining the limits of American knowledge. This type of intellectual legislation has led to predictable consequences in other societies and at other times: it has led to total ignorance in the excluded field of knowledge, and it has led to large gaps and blind spots in related fields of knowledge.


And yes, that definition of economics, as the study of scarce resources vs endless needs is what I got in high school. What a load of BS.
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Post 31 Mar 2014, 18:45
Quote:
The salto fatale of commodities, the change from an imaginary price to actual money, is more than the confirmation of its value, but the birth of value when viewed in a macro-scale. Like temperature, we're dealing with equilibrium states.


I would say it is the objectification of value, but I wouldn't call it the birth of value. It is the development of value from the ideal to the real. To say it is the birth of value would imply that value is created in the process of exchange, not labour.

I wish Marx had talked more about supply and demand and price. I'm currently reading Smith's Wealth of Nations. Marx borrowed heavily from it but seemed to reference it only when he criticised it. There was plenty in it that he agreed with but failed to mention.
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Post 01 Apr 2014, 01:21
You are right. I stand corrected. I meant in a macro scale, but that's empty and superfluous. Funnily, Rubin also has a theory on Marx "shielding" Capital from such a critique.


Oh, Marx mentioned Smith a lot on his 1844 manuscripts. as far as I remember.


The book I'm reading also briefly summarises him:

Carlos wrote:
Various kinds of concrete labour, such as agriculture, manufacture, shipping and commerce, had each in turn been claimed to constitute the real source of wealth, before Adam Smith declared that the sole source of material wealth or of use-values is labour in general, that is the entire social aspect of labour as it appears in the division of labour. Whereas in this context he completely overlooks the natural factor, he is pursued by it when he examines the sphere of purely social wealth, exchange-value. Although Adam Smith determines the value of commodities by the labour-time contained in them, he then nevertheless transfers this determination of value in actual fact to pre-Smithian times. In other words, what he regards as true when considering simple commodities becomes confused as soon as he examines the higher and more complex forms of capital, wage-labour, rent, etc. He expresses this in the following way: the value of commodities was measured by labour-time in the paradise lost of the bourgeoisie, where people did not confront one another as capitalists, wage-labourers, landowners, tenant farmers, usurers, and so on, but simply as persons who produced commodities and exchanged them. Adam Smith constantly confuses the determination of the value of commodities by the labour-time contained in them with the determination of their value by the value of labour; he is often inconsistent in the details of his exposition and he mistakes the objective equalisation of unequal quantities of labour forcibly brought about by the social process for the subjective equality of the labours of individuals.* He tries to accomplish the transition from concrete labour to labour which produces exchange-value, i.e., the basic form of bourgeois labour, by means of the division of labour. But though it is correct to say that individual exchange presupposes division of labour, it is wrong to maintain that division of labour presupposes individual exchange. For example, division of labour had reached an exceptionally high degree of development among the Peruvians, although no individual exchange, no exchange of products in the form of commodities, took place.

*Adam Smith writes for instance – “Equal quantities of labour, at all times and places, may be said to be of equal value to the labourer. In his ordinary state of health, strength, and spirits; in the ordinary degree of his skill and dexterity, he must always lay down the same portion of his ease, his liberty, and his happiness. The price which he pays must always be the same, whatever may be the quantity of goods which he receives in return for it. Of these, indeed, it may sometimes purchase a greater and sometimes a smaller quantity, but it is their value which varies, not that of the labour which purchases them.... Labour alone, therefore, never varying in its own value, is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can ... be estimated.... It is their real price...." [Wealth of Nations. Book I, Chapter V.]


I suppose his Theories of Surplus-Value might have what you're looking for (might, for I haven't read that).
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Post 01 Apr 2014, 18:34
Yeah I've read Theories of Surplus-Value and this is where he mentions Smith a lot; but often to criticise. Throughout Capital he adheres to Smith's notion of pricing and supply and demand but fails to refer to its Smithian origin. So far Wealth of Nations (I haven't got very far) is reading like another re-write of Capital (but with an inconsistent theory of value and without a theory of surplus-value)!
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Post 01 Apr 2014, 23:43
The thing to remember with Marx as a writer is that he was a philosopher first and an economist second. Because of this, he takes Smith's writings as a priori Quran, Bible, Talmud and Bhagavad Gita. Then he uses those writings as a basis for his understanding of economics, comparing them against each other for theoretical inconsistencies and conclusions that can be made in the really dense chapters of Capital (and against the present world with competing political economists and current as well as historical events in contemporary sources). Otherwise, in the academic standards of philosophy (which are regrettably absent from economics as a field), he would just be talking out of his ass.
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Post 02 Apr 2014, 00:06
Well it is interesting to pinpoint where Marx abandons his philosophy and ends up with pure economics. Certainly Capital (1867 onwards) is his most "economical" of his economic works while Grundrisse (1858) still contains many aspects of Hegelian philosophy. However, Theories of Surplus-Value was written in 1862 and does not contain this philosophy (admittedly, being a critical review of previous economic works by other authors, there is no reason why it should).

I think it is important to realise that only the economic aspect matters. Philosophy is entirely redundant here and this is apparent when one reads Capital and notices how devoid it is of the old Hegelian references that littered Grundrisse and Marx's previous economic works (1844 Manuscripts etc).
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Post 06 Apr 2014, 05:12
Dialectics of the Ideal: Evald Ilyenkov and Creative Soviet Marxism

http://books.google.com/books?id=Yj2PAg ... ov&f=false

It includes a brief history of the development of Soviet DiaMat in the 1920s. A provocative line for me is "Lenin's line won in politics, but Plekahnov's line won in philosophy." And it is true that Deborin was a student and follower of Plekhanov and published his textbook on DiaMat in the 1910s before the Revolution, a work Lenin was fairly critical of.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/ ... s/ch03.htm

Against the rigid economic materialism of Plekhanov, Alexander Bogdanov proposed the more subjectivist Empirocriticism, which was seen as more compatible with Bolshevik voluntarism. Lenin famously defended Plekhanovite Materialism against this charge. Alexander Bogdanov rejected dialectics in favor of Tektology, a precursor to Systems Cybernetics. He is thus associated with the Mechanistic school against the Deborin dialecticians.

Western scholars have traditionally seen Ilyenkov as a revival of the Hegelian-tendencies of the Deborinists, reopening the debates that Stalin had closed in the 1920s. But some Russian philosophers have challenged that conclusion. They argue that in fact Deborin was a continuation of the simplistic materialism of his master Plekhanov. Ilyenkov was a return to the genuine dialectics of Lenin. And Ilyenkov frequently quotes from Lenin's philosophy and not just for political affect.
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Post 06 Apr 2014, 16:14
Kirov wrote:
The thing to remember with Marx as a writer is that he was a philosopher first and an economist second. Because of this, he takes Smith's writings as a priori Quran, Bible, Talmud and Bhagavad Gita. Then he uses those writings as a basis for his understanding of economics, comparing them against each other for theoretical inconsistencies and conclusions that can be made in the really dense chapters of Capital (and against the present world with competing political economists and current as well as historical events in contemporary sources). Otherwise, in the academic standards of philosophy (which are regrettably absent from economics as a field), he would just be talking out of his ass.


It was a brilliant move on Marx's part to take the ruling capitalist economics of his day, and draw the obvious inferences from the labor theory of value to socialism. Today LTV is remembered as a kooky Marxist idea, and the mainstream economists forget that all their heroes Locke, Franklin, Smith, Ricardo, all advocated it. Marx is in this sense the true Smithian.

I have always liked the Austrian School's Murray Rothbard's essay on Adam Smith. He demonstrates the ways in which Smith is clearly the property of Marxists and not Capitalism. It is a great irony that he is today worshiped as the father of capitalism.

http://mises.org/daily/2012

Smith's advocating for LTV is often excused as the early error of a pioneer. But as Rothbard points out, the Subjectivist Theory of Value was actually already gaining steam 1st among the Spanish Scholastics and then in France. Thus Smith was not a misguided forerunner, but the revolutionary overthrower of STV. Rothbard attributes this division between LTV and STV to a Protestant-Catholic division. STV is popular among the Catholic nations of Spain,France, Austria, while the Protestant Calvinist work ethic worships labor. Without accepting this quasi-Weberian argument, I agree with Bukharin that STV is the economic theory of the leisure classes who do nothing but consume. Thus it makes sense that the rising industrial bourgeoisie of Britian would embrace LTV, while the decaying Feudal Catholic aristocrats would cling to STV. And STV was only revived as the general Neoclassical theory, after Marx had written Das Kapital. Marx had proven that the reigning capitalist value theory was actually a stringent critique of capitalism, so they had to pull the rug out from under him and make it solely his idea.

Also James K. Galbraith points out that Smith's most famous free trade idea that the 'invisible hand' promotes growth for everyone, was actually an argument that protectionists only looking out for the gains of their own industry, would through the invisible hand, benefit the entire nation. Thus in context the invisible hand means the exact opposite of what capitalists claim. That industrial interests employing the hand of the State to limit trade might serve the entire wealth of the nation.

Quote:
By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.


On the relationship between Smith and Hegel, I would reject any crude divisions between Smith the economic scientist and Hegel the abstract philosopher. Hegel was like Aristotle, in that yes he has his overall system, but he did volumes of empirical research to come to it. Hegel was actually heavily influenced by Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment. In Phi of Right, Hegel uses Smith to critique the alienation of the division of labor in ways that will prefigure Marx. Thus dialectics is much more than a phraseology, but a concrete method of analyzing society.

Lukacs has an excellent chapter on the Smithian influence on Hegel

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/ ... kacs35.htm
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Post 06 Apr 2014, 17:36
Thanks for the post and article Heiss, super interesting and I agree 100% Very useful for countering claims of non-lolbertarians that Smith did not advocate LTV
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Post 10 Apr 2014, 16:46
The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 by Norman Stone

Stone is a Tory Thatcherite, so I was aware of his biases going on. The start was pretty boring for me, being a straight traditional military history of x army moving here, y army moving there etc. But it got much more interesting when we got into the socioeconomic problems of Russian society as a whole. He makes clear that the Bolshevik revolution, and not just the Kerenskyist revolution was inevitable. The book really shows the contradictions between the modernizing capitalist tendencies in Czarist Russia and the backward autocracy. Many of the same problems of Ancien Regime France.

He makes the prescient comment that autocracies suffer from too little not too much government. I think that is especially relevant today against any Right-Libertarian conceptions of freedom. The worst oppressions in history have come from 'small government' tyrannies. Due to its unpopularity and reliance on corrupt elites, the Czarist regime was unable to utilize the full power of the modern state in carrying out its war aims. Stone repeatedly contrasts the future Red Army of the Civil War to the idiocy of the Czarist army. He points out that the younger, progressive, technocratic wing of the Russian Army would form the nucleus of the Red Army.

If I could sum up the book, it is the classic Leninist thesis of the contradiction between advancing capitalist economic base against the feudal superstructure holding it back.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter of Brusilov, the most brilliant general of WW1, who developed the infiltration tactics that broke the trench stalemate, and laid the groundwork for blitzkrieg and Deep Battle. Stone contends that Brusilov's staff formed the future core of Trotsky's Red Army. He makes it very clear why all advanced elements even with the Czarist Army would welcome the Bolsheviks. The Red Army finally unleashed all the potential energy latent within Russia. Brusilov himself later became Cavalry inspector for the Red Army.

As a follow up I started reading The Military Writings of Leon Trotsky on How the Revolution Armed, as it spiked my interest on how the decrepit Czarist Army was transformed into the revolutionary Soviet Army. Certainly there is much of the feel of the Jacobin revolutionary zeal of 1793, but on a higher proletarian level. Whatever my feelings on Trotskyism, I think it is a useful 1st hand history of the Russian Civil War.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/#a1918
Kamran Heiss
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
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Post 11 Apr 2014, 06:01
Nice. Eric Hobsbawm also made the argument that the Bolshevik revolution was inevitable. Not only because of how untenable the current situation was, but because Lenin's party was the only one with the power to lead.

And yes, the "small government" lie is exactly that. It's disingenuous considering how selective this really is ("small" only when it would hurt the bourgeoisie, but large in its oppressive appendages).
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 05 Feb 2014, 00:36
Komsomol
Post 13 Apr 2014, 16:12
Man, you read the best books. I've bee following some of these and reading bits and pieces, or entire works, and all have been enlightening for personal Marxist education.

@praxicode - which Hobsbawm is that in? Might want to get it from the library
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Jan 2008, 19:10
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Komsomol
Post 21 Apr 2014, 04:10
EROL has posted some texts which are relevant to the current Maoist debate about Third Worldism and the Labor Aristocracy.

Letter to Central Committee of the Communist Party of China [1968]
Letter to Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Copenhagen [1969]

“Communist Working Circle” of Denmark challenged the GPCR-era CPC on there positions on the exploitation of European workers. They claimed that the exploitation of Danish workers could not be stated in the same terms as those of Latin America and Indonesia as stated in the Peking Review.

Quote:
Actualy there is an abyss of difference between the economic conditions and the
material and spiritual life of the broad masses of the working people in our
capitalist-imperialist countries, and those of the broad masses of the working
people Indonesia and of Asia, Africa and Latin America as a whole. They cannot and
they should not be treated or described alike.
The belts of our working class are not too tight already.
Our monopoly capitalists are not bleeding the working class white.
That is what imperialism and local exploiters are doing in Indonesia, yes, in India,
yes – but not in Denmark, not in Sweden, not in France, not in Great Britain.


http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/de ... wc-cpc.pdf
http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/de ... mbassy.pdf

From the wikipedia article it seems that this leader Gotfred Appel advocated some early versions of 1st world labor aristocracy, so it is interesting to see these accusations lobbed directly at the 1960s CPC which very much advocated the revolutionary potential of European workers.

Quote:
Piggybacking State Theory
KAK developed in the late 1960s in an increasingly self-direction, and the Board drew up the so-called parasitic state theory, which argues that the working class in Western Europe and the United States is in a dual situation: it is used in production and add value, but bribed the same time as its standard of living and thus its economic and cultural requirements and professional standards are based on several decades of participation in the imperialist world colonial and neo-colonial exploitation. Bribery factor is the dominant of the two, and this was according Appeals cause of revisionism prevented the revolutionary movement in Western Europe. Only when the third world had freed themselves from imperialism and thus removed the basis for the rich countries' super profits, there would be a breeding ground for revolution in Western Europe. The theory is strongly reminiscent of the theory of false consciousness .

This unorthodox theory created conflict with the Chinese and led to the creation of a more China-faith organization called the Communist Confederation - Marxists-Leninists (KFML), this organization went Appeal not in.
Kamran Heiss
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