I-P: Capitalism vrs. commies

Luis Villa louie@ximian.com
08 Mar 2002 14:15:38 -0500


Just as a FWIW, Marxists and Marx scholars tend to see the Communist
Manifesto as trite propaganda that was penned under pressure and without
the foresight and planning that typified the rest of Marx's work. So...
it shouldn't exactly be looked to as a guideline for What Marx Would
Think. Generally, he was much more nuanced than the Manifesto, and often
in some fairly crucial ways.
Luis

On Fri, 2002-03-08 at 14:03, Gordon Mohr wrote:
> Ian Welsh writes:
> > Perhaps.  But perhaps the key points of the Communist Manifesto have
> > already been achieved.  Take a look at the demands in that pamphlet.
> > If I recall correctly, all but one of them have been met in most
> > western democratic states.  Amusing.
> 
> Seems like you recall incorrectly. This is the web, there's no excuse for
> such uninformed hand-waving.
> 
> In fact, going to the source -- The Communist Manifesto -- it seems I've been
> too generous in allowing you to romanticize "Marx's original vision".
> 
> You stated:
> 
>   * "centralized control of markets and politics is not what Marx and
>     Engels called for"
>   * "those names [Communism and Marxism] have been hijacked to justify
>      totalitarian centralization"
> 
> Let us go to the source; The Communist Manifesto, section 2:
> 
> # We have seen above that the first step in the revolution by the working
> # class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win
> # the battle of democracy.
> #
> # The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree,
> # all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of
> # production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized
> # as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as
> # rapidly as possible.
> #
> # Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of
> # despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of
> # bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear
> # economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the
> # movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old
> # social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing
> # the mode of production.
> 
> There you have it; Marx himself wanted "to centralize all instruments of
> production in the hands of the state" via "despotic inroads". You can't
> argue that the nations which have called themselves "Communist" didn't
> try that, for exactly the rationalizations Marx provided.
> 
> Their most-specific list of their program conveniently follows directly, so
> we can also evaluate your claim that "all but one" of the Manifesto's
> "key points" have been met in "most western democratic states".
> 
> Let's look at its 10 most-specific prescribed measures:
> 
> # These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.
> #
> # Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty
> # generally applicable.
> #
> #   1.  Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of
> #       land to public purposes.
> #
> #   2.  A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
> #
> #   3.  Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
> #
> #   4.  Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
> #
> #   5.  Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a
> #       national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
> #
> #   6.  Centralization of the means of communication and transport in he
> #       hands of the state.
> #
> #   7.  Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the
> #       state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the
> #       improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
> #
> #   8.  Equal obligation of all to work.  Establishment of industrial
> #       armies, especially for agriculture.
> #
> #   9.  Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual
> #       abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a
> #       more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
> #
> #   10. Free education for all children in public schools.  Abolition of
> #       children's factory labor in its present form.  Combination of
> #       education with industrial production, etc.
> 
> We still have private property in land and private rents in all
> Western countries. So no on (1).
> 
> How heavy is "heavy"? America's maximum progressive rate is under 50%.
> So (2) is dubious.
> 
> I know of no Western country with 100% inheritance tax. In many countries
> rates have been recently lowered. So (3) is dubious.
> 
> Thankfully, we allow emigrants and dissidents to own property and bring
> it here. So no on (4).
> 
> National bank, yes -- exclusive monopoly, no. So no on (5).
> 
> The FCC and DOT are annoying, but seem to leave most decisions in the hands of
> competing private owners. No on (6).
> 
> (7) is worded vaguely enough to say, yes, modern Western states meddle in the economy.
> There's not really a "common plan", though -- even though that was tried by the
> Communist world.
> 
> There is no legal obligation to work in the sense Marx wanted in (8). You *can*
> live off capital as long as you'd like. Maybe if you squint really, really hard you
> could call prison labor "industrial armies" but that's pretty far from original
> intent. The most clear examples of "industrial armies... for agriculture" were the
> forced collectivization of agriculture in the USSR and China which resulted in the
> deaths of tens of millions.
> 
> Forced relocations according to a master plan have been a hallmark of "Communist"
> regimes, causing much misery. Most western nations let people move as they choose,
> and in fact sometimes population disperses and sometimes it chooses greater
> urbanization. So no on (9).
> 
> Yep, (10) they got right: western nations HAVE taken the wrongheaded-step of
> making education like the worst kind of regimented factory floor, and placed
> way too much of it under inefficient state control. Hopefully the pressures of
> the modern economy will reverse this ugly trend.
> 
> I see one, *maybe* two or three Manifesto key points "achieved" -- and except for
> #10, they have not been achieved in either the manner nor to the extent wanted.
> 
> There are lots of other looser demands in that document -- like the "abolition
> of the family" -- on which the track record for success has been even worse.
> 
> So which "key points" were you referring to in your broad claim?
> 
> - Gordon
> 
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Ian Welsh
> To: fork@xent.com
> Sent: Friday, March 08, 2002 2:08 PM
> Subject: Re: I-P: Capitalism vrs. commies
> 
> 
> Perhaps.  But perhaps the key points of the Communist Manifesto have already been achieved.  Take a look at the demands in that
> pamphlet.  If I recall correctly, all but one of them have been met in most western democratic states.  Amusing.
> 
> 
> From: "Gordon Mohr"
> To:
> Subject: Re: I-P: Capitalism vrs. commies
> Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 19:41:49 -0800
> If Marx and Engels get to pick some idealized future, that exists
> and perhaps only can exist as an intellectual exercise, and say
> only that is a true manifestation of their vision, why can't Cato
> Institute wonks or anarcho-capitalist writers do the same?
> Class conflict was also a historical fact before Marx and Engels;
> nothing springs fully-formed from anyone's head.
> Why has communism become synonymous with centralization,
> totalitarianism and poverty in common parlance?
> You might suggest it's just bad PR, that there is no necessary
> relationship between Marxism and those specific policies and outcomes,
> and the perceived relationship is due to a combination of bad luck
> (Marxism claimed where it didn't exist) and capitalist propaganda.
> But the defenders of private property and capital always predicted
> that the pursuit of Marxist goals would lead to shortages and
> oppression. Looks to me like they called it right.
> Meanwhile, either the Marxists found it very easy to behave
> in totalitarian ways, or totalitarians found it very easy
> to twist Marxism to their purposes. Either way, Marxism-as-a-
> program seems to have shown an affinity for totalitarianism
> that capitalism-as-a-program has avoided.
> If there are some interesting raw ideas from the original
> work of Marx and Engels you think deserve a fairer shake,
> it's time to rebrand them something other than Marxism or
> Communism. No matter whose fault it is, those dogs don't hunt.
> - Gordon
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Ian Welsh
> To: fork@xent.com
> Sent: Friday, March 08, 2002 2:50 AM
> Subject: Re: I-P: Capitalism vrs. commies
> There's a big difference between "capitalism" and "communism" as the terms are used in the last 100 years or so. Irrespective of
> what the Cato institute blithers on about Capitalism didn't spring from someone's head like Athena from Zues's. It is a historical
> fact that various people try to understand and to manipulate. Economic thinkers who understand the real world understand that modern
> apitalism is intertwined and completely dependent upon government and always has been. Modern capitalism is literally impossible
> without government support.
> Communism and Marxism were the intellectual children of two men: Marx and Engels. The fact that those names have been hijacked to
> justify totalitarian centralization does not make those totalitarian regimes "Communist" except in the strictly technical sense that
> "communism" in America now means "totalitarian centralized states that use versions of Marxist ideology to justify themselves".
> Leaving aside the Marxist ideology part of that definition there have certainly been totalitarian states before Marxism and there
> will be totalitarian states after. (For a totalitarian state before, long before, I invite people to take a look at the policies of
> the first Chinese Emperor.)
> From: "Gordon Mohr"
> To:
> Subject: Re: I-P: Capitalism vrs. commies
> Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 18:35:31 -0800
> At this same level of dry abstraction, there has never been a fully
> "capitalist" society, without all sorts of legacy nonmarket oppression.
> No one's vision ever gets fully realized.
> So, dreamy theories about what might be possible after industrialization
> notwithstanding, the terms "communism" and "capitalism" have practical
> real-world meanings. Under those meanings, people much prefer capitalism,
> because with it they eat more and get murdered less.
> - Gordon
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Ian Welsh
> To: fork@xent.com
> Sent: Friday, March 08, 2002 2:24 AM
> Subject: Re: I-P: Capitalism vrs. commies
> Much as the debate is tedious and I don't want to open up a can of worms this thread demands the simple comment that centralized
> control of markets and politics is not what Marx and Engels called for and that according to the central tenets of Marxism itself
> the Soviet Union and China and Cuba were not and never could be communist nations because you must go through industrialization and
> capitalism first. And none of them did.
> The torturers of the Spanish inquisition might have called themselves Christian but Jesus would not have recognized them. Nor would
> Marx have recognized Stalin as a true Marxist.
> (Ironic Marx quote: "I am not a marxist.")
> P.S. And yes, Marxism is flawed, for various reasons, but that doesn't change the facts above.
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