[OPE-L:2122] Re: Re: Re: Re: Why is Malthus correct on unproductive labor, according to Marx?

From: Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 18:41:56 EST

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Hi Paul
>Here one could diverge into the most abject appologetics. An argument can
>always be found for why some form of labour has social utility, be it
>the work of parsons or soldiers.

Likewise an argument can also always be found why some form of labour is
"productive", so you aren't really saying anything new. Central in the
socialist valuation of labour is whether the product of that labour
satisfies some social need, what need that is, and how it figures in the
priorities of the society as established through a multiparty socialist
democracy. I am using "social utility" in this sense. It wasn't my
intention to start a round of apologetics, nor was I suggesting that (1)
the transition to socialism is the same as socialism (soldiers and parsons
will be necessary in the transition), or that (2) the categories necessary
product and surplus product cease to be relevant under socialism. I only
stated previously my view that under communism surplus-labour disappears.

But relabling things does not help
>in reality. A society that transfers too much of its labour into unproductive
>activities imperils its economic growth and even its reproduction.

I would say the modern working class has a very good understanding of what
"productive activities" are, and are able to express this politically very
well also. And I personally have a lot more faith in the economic
understanding of a million workers than I have in one petty bureaucrat who
thinks he is standing on the shoulders of Karl Marx directing the course of
history. The distinction between "productive" and "unproductive" activity
made in the Stalinist "material product" accounts must be rejected as
arbitrary and undesirable, although an output-based sectoral presentation
of economic life obviously remains essential. More importantly, the
Stalinist growth model, with its "extensive" industrialisation emphasising
the development of heavy industry at the expense of working class
consumption must be categorically rejected (leaving aside the ecological
implications), for reasons cited in one of the most important sections of
Ernest Mandel's 1960 work Marxist Economic Theory (chapter 16 - the economy
of the transition period, "maximum and optimum rates of accumulation", p.
621f. in the Merlin Press edition; the sections after that on "the
economic function of socialist democracy" etc. are also important; the
points made developed some more in further articles of his on Soviet
economic reforms etc. to which I can supply references if required).

Incidentally, did anyone ever compare the relative sizes and the consumer
privileges of the bureaucracy in the USA and in the USSR ? I seem to recall
Al Symanszki (spelling ?) saying in his book on the political economy of
the USSR that in the 1960s there were more bureaucrats relative to the
whole (working?) population in the USA than in the USSR.

I'm shot, taking a break.



Basically with you Paul I always get the idea you see the transition to
socialism emerging out of a war. But there are different kinds of wars, and
some novel ways to fight wars these days. So the model of economic planning
in World War 2 may not be so relevant anymore.

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