Red Planet
Forum for the anti-capitalist left.

Home » Forum » Theory and History » Marx & Marxism (a thread for general discussion)
Show: Today's Messages :: Show Polls :: Message Navigator
Switch to threaded view of this topic Create a new topic Submit Reply
icon1.gif  Marx & Marxism [message #243] Thu, 14 February 2019 05:31 Go to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
Use this thread to ask questions and discuss Marxist theories of history, philosophy, economics, etc.

I'll start with a couple of quotes that help explain the basic Marxist worldview:

Base and Superstructure according to Marx
"In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

"In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society."

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-po l-economy/preface.htm

Base and Superstructure according to Engels
"According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure -- political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas -- also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible), the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_ 09_21.htm

[Updated on: Thu, 14 February 2019 13:30]

Report message to a moderator

Re: Marx & Marxism [message #248 is a reply to message #243] Fri, 15 February 2019 19:40 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
What was Marx's vision of communist society?
Let us now picture to ourselves, by way of change, a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community. [...] The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion amongst them is consequently necessary. The mode of this distribution will vary with the productive organisation of the community, and the degree of historical development attained by the producers. We will assume, but merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities, that the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour time. Labour time would, in that case, play a double part. Its apportionment in accordance with a definite social plan maintains the proper proportion between the different kinds of work to be done and the various wants of the community. On the other hand, it also serves as a measure of the portion of the common labour borne by each individual, and of his share in the part of the total product destined for individual consumption. The social relations of the individual producers, with regard both to their labour and to its products, are in this case perfectly simple and intelligible, and that with regard not only to production but also to distribution.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm

A comprehensive essay on Marx's vision of communism:
Discusses in great detail Marx's ideas regarding communism and transitional measures.
https://www.nyu.edu/projects/ollman/docs/class.php

Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme:
Section one includes descriptions of 'lower phase' and 'higher phase' of communist society. Discusses labor certificates, the division of labor, and criticism of "vulgar socialism".
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/

[Updated on: Fri, 15 February 2019 20:40]

Report message to a moderator

Re: Marx & Marxism [message #279 is a reply to message #248] Fri, 22 February 2019 03:51 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
Marx & Engels on politics
"No great movement has ever been inaugurated without bloodshed. The independence of America was won by bloodshed, Napoleon captured France through a bloody process, and he was overthrown by the same means. Italy, England, Germany, and every other country gives proof of this, and as for assassination, it is not a new thing, I need scarcely say. Orsini tried to kill Napoleon; kings have killed more than anybody else; the Jesuits have killed; the Puritans killed at the time of Cromwell. These deeds were all done or attempted before socialism was born. Every attempt, however, now made upon a royal or state individual is attributed to socialism."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/bio/media/marx/79_01_0 5.htm

"Someday the worker must seize political power in order to build up the new organization of labor; he must overthrow the old politics which sustain the old institutions, if he is not to lose Heaven on Earth, like the old Christians who neglected and despised politics. But we have not asserted that the ways to achieve that goal are everywhere the same.

"You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries -- such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland -- where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/09/08.htm

"The question then arises: What transformation will the state undergo in communist society? In other words, what social functions will remain in existence there that are analogous to present state functions? This question can only be answered scientifically, and one does not get a flea-hop nearer to the problem by a thousand-fold combination of the word 'people' with the word 'state'. Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04. htm

(From a postscript written by Engels)
"Against this transformation of the state and the organs of the state from servants of society into masters of society an inevitable transformation in all previous states the Commune made use of two infallible expedients. In this first place, it filled all posts administrative, judicial, and educational by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, with the right of the same electors to recall their delegate at any time. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.

"Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-f rance/postscript.htm

"...the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves, that the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule..."
https://www.marxists.org/history/international/iwma/document s/1864/rules.htm

(From an introduction written by Engels to one of Marx's works)
"The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organization, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for [with body and soul]. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-strug gles-france/intro.htm

(From a report based on a speech by Marx at the 7th anniversary of the International)
The last movement was the Commune, the greatest that had yet been made, and there could not be two opinions about it -- the Commune was the conquest of the political power of the working classes. There was much misunderstanding about the Commune. The Commune could not found a new form of class government. In destroying the existing conditions of oppression by transferring all the means of labour to the productive labourer, and thereby compelling every able-bodied individual to work for a living, the only base for class rule and oppression would be removed. But before such a change could be effected a proletarian dictature would become necessary, and the first condition of that was a proletarian army. The working classes would have to conquer the right to emancipate themselves on the battlefield. The task of the International was to organize and combine the forces of labour for the coming struggle.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/bio/media/marx/71_10_1 5.htm

[Updated on: Fri, 22 February 2019 04:55]

Report message to a moderator

Re: Marx & Marxism [message #282 is a reply to message #279] Fri, 22 February 2019 05:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Purged
Messages: 115
Registered: January 2019
In dialectics what will be an individual dialect?
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #285 is a reply to message #282] Fri, 22 February 2019 17:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
What do you mean?
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #287 is a reply to message #285] Fri, 22 February 2019 21:51 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Purged
Messages: 115
Registered: January 2019
Forget about it, I was just dumb.
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #309 is a reply to message #287] Wed, 06 March 2019 06:21 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
Marx & the method of political-economy
"It would seem to be the proper thing to start with the real and concrete elements, with the actual preconditions, e.g., to start in the sphere of economy with population, which forms the basis and the subject of the whole social process of production. Closer consideration shows, however, that this is wrong. Population is an abstraction if, for instance, one disregards the classes of which it is composed. These classes in turn remain empty terms if one does not know the factors on which they depend, e.g., wage-labour, capital, and so on. These presuppose exchange, division of labour, prices, etc. For example, capital is nothing without wage-labour, without value, money, price, etc.

"If one were to take population as the point of departure, it would be a very vague notion of a complex whole and through closer definition one would arrive analytically at increasingly simple concepts; from imaginary concrete terms one would move to more and more tenuous abstractions until one reached the most simple definitions. From there it would be necessary to make the journey again in the opposite direction until one arrived once more at the concept of population, which is this time not a vague notion of a whole, but a totality comprising many determinations and relations.


"The first course is the historical one taken by political economy at its inception. The seventeenth-century economists, for example, always took as their starting point the living organism, the population, the nation, the State, several States, etc., but analysis led them always in the end to the discovery of a few decisive abstract, general relations, such as division of labour, money, and value. When these separate factors were more or less clearly deduced and established, economic systems were evolved which from simple concepts, such as labour, division of labour, demand, exchange-value, advanced to categories like State, international exchange and world market. The latter is obviously the correct scientific method.


"The concrete concept is concrete because it is a synthesis of many definitions, thus representing the unity of diverse aspects. It appears therefore in reasoning as a summing-up, a result, and not as the starting point, although it is the real point of origin, and thus also the point of origin of perception and imagination. The first procedure attenuates meaningful images to abstract definitions, the second leads from abstract definitions by way of reasoning to the reproduction of the concrete situation. Hegel accordingly conceived the illusory idea that the real world is the result of thinking which causes its own synthesis, its own deepening and its own movement; whereas the method of advancing from the abstract to the concrete is simply the way in which thinking assimilates the concrete and reproduces it as a concrete mental category."

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-po l-economy/appx1.htm#205
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #383 is a reply to message #309] Thu, 21 March 2019 08:08 Go to previous messageGo to next message
dalma
Messages: 30
Registered: January 2019
If I wanted to venture out and read modern/contemporary Marxists, who should I go for? Is Gramsci any good?
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #385 is a reply to message #383] Thu, 21 March 2019 16:57 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Purged
Messages: 115
Registered: January 2019
Gramsci is super good, the stepping stone between Lenin and all other western marxists.
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #387 is a reply to message #383] Fri, 22 March 2019 00:37 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
dalma wrote on Thu, 21 March 2019 08:08
If I wanted to venture out and read modern/contemporary Marxists, who should I go for? Is Gramsci any good?
Well, among contemporary Marxists in the Anglosphere I'd recommend:

Michael Roberts
https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/

Paul Cockshott
https://paulcockshott.wordpress.com/

Sam Williams
https://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/

Andrew Kliman
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Kliman

Richard Wolff
https://www.rdwolff.com/

Bertell Ollman
https://www.nyu.edu/projects/ollman/

Alan Woods
https://www.marxist.com/
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #392 is a reply to message #387] Sat, 23 March 2019 08:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Pato
Messages: 17
Registered: January 2019
I haven't read Richard Wolff but someone told me he isn't really worth reading, what book of his you recommend?
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #396 is a reply to message #392] Sat, 23 March 2019 16:24 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
Wolff (and his co-author Stephen Resnick) have written interesting books but it's very theory-heavy. I'm skimming New Depatures in Marxian Theory and it seems like it would be a good intro to his work since it covers some of his bigger ideas (class-qua-surplus, overdetermination, relative vs absolute truth).

List of books written/co-written by Wolff:
Understanding Marxism (2018)
Capitalism's Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown (2016)
Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (2012)
Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism (2012)
Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian (2012)
Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It (2009)
New Departures in Marxian Theory (2006)
Class theory and history: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR (2002)
Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy (1989)
Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical (1987)
Rethinking Marxism (1985)
Economics of Colonialism: Britain and Kenya, 1870-1930 (1974)

[Updated on: Sat, 23 March 2019 18:36]

Report message to a moderator

Re: Marx & Marxism [message #397 is a reply to message #396] Sat, 23 March 2019 17:46 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019

How to read Marx
But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.
- Marx, letter to Arnold Ruge

There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.
- Marx, 1872 preface to Capital

"There are two ways to look at Marx and Engels: as the creators of a brilliant, but in its deepest essence, thoroughly critical, scientific method; or as church fathers of some sort, the bronzed figures of a monument."
- Roman Rosdolsky

Marx's thought was always highly critical and scientific in the broadest sense. He did not believe in dogmas or sacred doctrines. This critical attitude is present in all of his work and, in fact, is a major theme which caused him to embrace ideas like biological evolution and historical change. The attitude, or thinking process, which dominated Marx's thought during his lifetime seems to have been mostly abandoned during the 20th century with a few exceptions.

The attitude which came to dominate Marxism in the 20th century unfortunately has more in common with the latter view mentioned by Rosdolsky: religious thinking. During the 20th century the dominant interpretation of Marxism came to see Marx and Lenin as prophets bringing the word of God from Mount Sinai. They see Marxism as a set of doctrines & dogmas that are meant to memorized and "upheld." It's not uncommon to see "Marxist-Leninists" and Maoists talk about the need to "uphold Lenin" or "uphold Mao" as if these individuals were standard-bearers of a new religion. Marx turned Hegel upside-down, and the Marxists did the same to Marx.

The question is: why exactly did this happen?

It's a bit easier to understand if we begin with a materialist approach. It is no coincidence that the deformation of Marxist theory followed the deformation of revolutionary movements in the 20th century as they were isolated and contained within the shell of culturally backward and economically undeveloped countries like Russia and China. The mismatch between the vision and the reality of these situations laid the foundation for transforming Marxism into a kind of religion.

A quote from Alexander Bogdanov sums up the basis of religious thinking:
"Religious thinking is inextricably linked with authoritarian labor relations (leadership -- execution or power -- submission), of which arose and reflects them. It is characterized by the creation of power fetishes and the demand from people for obedience, obedience to them. These are idealized images, generated by fantasy based on the real domination of the "authorities" over people in their social life. In a word, religious thinking is authoritarian, and only."
...
Hence, the static nature of religious thinking -- with its unchanging and immobile, stopping along the path of cognition and practice -- clearly arises. Faith, not allowing criticism of one form or another of life, one truth or another, giving them absolute value, does not allow, therefore, their development, and even more so - a radical change, a higher substitution. This is a particularly important feature of religious thinking, which makes it possible to recognize it in all disguises. And it resorts to disguise very often in our times, in an era of unprecedented victories of scientific thinking.
(from Faith & Science, 1910)

In the above quote we see a very enlightening materialist explanation for religious thinking. Quite simply, it should be argued that many interpretations of Marxism (i.e. the dogmatic variety) were propagated by authoritarian states. The hierarchical nature of these states was itself derived from material conditions and historical necessity. In a country with limited economic development and low levels of cultural advancement it is possible to make historical progress only by using the more advanced elements in a leadership role, but these material conditions create the basis for their own ideological justification in the form of authoritarian dogmas and religious thinking. Only if we begin to recognize religious thinking within Marxism can we begin to return it to its critical and scientific roots.
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #480 is a reply to message #243] Sun, 31 March 2019 02:25 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
My next few posts will be about Marxist economic theory and the labor theory of value. I'll probably write them up during the week. Smile
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #505 is a reply to message #480] Sat, 06 April 2019 15:46 Go to previous messageGo to next message
ted_burbclave
Messages: 23
Registered: March 2019
Karl wrote on Sun, 31 March 2019 02:25
My next few posts will be about Marxist economic theory and the labor theory of value. I'll probably write them up during the week. Smile
I look forward to it.
Re: Marx & Marxism [message #604 is a reply to message #505] Sun, 12 May 2019 16:43 Go to previous message
Karl
Messages: 87
Registered: January 2019
So I kind of disappeared for a month. Oops.
But I plan to post about Marx's LTV here shortly. Just need to collect my notes.
  Switch to threaded view of this topic Create a new topic Submit Reply
Previous Topic: Zizek general
Next Topic: Leftist arguments against immigration?
Goto Forum:
  

-=] Back to Top [=-
[ Syndicate this forum (XML) ] [ RSS ] [ PDF ]

Current Time: Sun Aug 18 18:58:13 UTC 2019

Total time taken to generate the page: 0.04026 seconds