Archives for posts with tag: Marxism

At the beginning of Part I there’s a list of what we’ve accomplished during this century.
I’m going to remind you now some of the mistakes we’ve made.
Genocide, atomic bomb, global warming, widespread pollution… basically, we’ve turned the tables upon ourselves.

I had the first inkling of what’s going on when I started to compare what’s currently going on in Syria with the Spanish Civil War.
NB, even the name we use for this kind of conflict is an absolute aberration. War is, by definition, the opposite of civility. Why on Earth any of us might consider that war waged between co-nationals can be expected to be more ‘civil’ that the ‘regular brand’…

Spain and Syria have evolved in eerily similar manners. Multiple ethnic groups of multiple religious convictions have been forced by geography to coexist and to evolve together. Each of them had passed through very similar stages, albeit following different time-tables. The whole thing culminated with both of them passing, during the last century, through ‘revolutionary’ episodes. There are two small differences though.
Spain’s ‘revolution’ had taken place at the end of a turbulent period and had produced a dictatorship – Franco’s, while the Syrian one is the consequence of a dictatorship and has not yet yielded a clear result.

And why is any of this of any interest when analyzing the entire century? Except, maybe, that the two atrocious episodes have marked the start and the beginning of the said century?

Well, it’s how the rest of the world have chosen to react in each instance which I find extremely interesting.

First of all, let me remind you the broad picture in both cases.

Spain’s took place shortly after the end of WWI and immediately after the Great Depression. The most important ‘disruptive ferment’ was militant marxism and although not all of those fighting on the side of the revolutionaries adhered to this ideology the presence of the marxists had decisively shaped the reaction of the democratically elected governments of the world. They had chosen to basically stay out of it. Despite the fact that Franco was leading a rebellion and that the Republican Government had been dully elected to office.
At the beginning, France’s first socialist PM, Leon Blum, had assisted the Republicans but recanted shortly afterwards, “under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and more right-wing members of his own cabinet”. Which, in a way, made some sense. Western Europe was frightened that communism might spread westwards and many of the Spanish Republicans were of communist persuasion. “Baldwin and Blum now called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. A Non-Intervention Agreement was drawn-up and was eventually signed by 27 countries including the Soviet Union, Germany and Italy. However, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini openly ignored the agreement and sent a large amount of military aid, including troops, to General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces.” Stalin also ignored the agreement and send some help to the Republicans but got bored and by 1938 he practically forgot about the whole thing.
In the end, the conflict had been won by the side supported by those seeking revenge for being defeated during WWI – and for the harsh conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.
That had been the ‘institutional’ reaction.
On the popular side, despite the ‘hang-over’ produced by the WWI and the Great Depression, some 60.000 volunteers from all over the world had joined the ‘fight for freedom’. The fact that they were organized by the Comintern didn’t help in the end, on the contrary, but the population at large looked at them with sympathy. Proven by the success enjoyed by the literature and art produced by some of the volunteers/sympathizers.

Guernica

 

 

 

‘We already know that, why are you bothering us?’

“labour-power can appear upon the market as a commodity, only if, and so far as, its possessor, the individual whose labour-power it is, offers it for sale, or sells it, as a commodity”

“labour is not a commodity”

OK, reconcile these two declarations… The first belongs to Marx himself while the second is an integral part of the 1944 Philadelphia Declaration made by the International Labor Organization… And if any of you has any doubts about the ILO thinking not being heavily tainted by Marxism please check this out: “the war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within each nation, and by continuous and concerted international effort in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoying equal status with those of governments, join with them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare.” Not exactly the Communist Manifesto itself but too close to it for my comfort.

So is it or is it not?

No it isn’t. Not even Marx ever thought it was.

When Marx speaks of labor power as a commodity he only wants to demonstrate the need for the worker to be free in order for the system to function. For him this is the difference between feudalism – when the peasant (the worker of those times) was heavily dependent on the land owner – and capitalism – where the possesor of the labour power is free to sell ‘his commodity’ to the higher bider – is the existence of the free market where commodities – including ‘labour power’, which is traded as if it was a commodity – are exchanged. And the fact that the market is free also determines individual freedom of both the worker and the capitalist, seller and buyer of the labour power.

But this trading of labour power as if it was a commodity doesn’t transform it into a real commodity.

In fact labour is more a form of communication than anything else.
By labouring the worker transforms something into something else, usually in a way that is not so easily reproduced, not even for low skilled jobs. Had it been possible to automate the working process we would have used exclusively robots or morons. Do you really think a robot or a moron could flip burghers at McDonald’s? Are you sure you’d like that to happen?

Confused?
It’s not that complicated. Marx had an insight – that human history is nothing but the story of the individual man enjoing more and more autonomy – and then blew it. He took it upon himself not only to speed up the history of the mankind but also to lead us (even against our will) where he thought that we should finally arrive (communism). Rather arrogant, don’t you thing?
In time that arrogance seems to have mellowed somewhat (or became more conceited?) but it is still very much alive: ‘the war against want requires to be carried…to the promotion of the common welfare’….

What is that ‘the common welfare’? Can something like that ever be determined? Even in a ‘democratic’ way?!?

Had Marx refrained himself at studying the effects of increased individual autonomy on the workings of the human society he would have been considered the undisputed thinker of the second millennium and we’d have been sparred from witnessing (or experiencing) the horrors of communism…  I know, I know, counter-factual history is not acceptable… just saying…

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