Re: [OPE] capitalism as a * * * system

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Fri May 27 2011 - 12:36:52 EDT

Hi Jerry,

First, "no competition among capitalists." Value in operation is
manifested through competition. If you don't have competition, then you
don't have value and if you don't have value you don't have capitalists or

Second, "full employment." The idea of associated workers exercising
common control over the conditions of production is not captured by saying
there is full employment. If we refer to full employment we've said
nothing about subordination, we've said nothing about control. I can own a
corporation and also be an employee of the corporation. But as employee I
am employed by a separate entity. Employment presupposes separation in a
way ownership doesn't.

Third, "right to work." Same. Rights of any sort presuppose separation --
that is why we can look to a continent beyond the narrow horizon of
bourgeois rights. If I say I have a right to work, this means that I am
separated from the conditions of living but am protected in my separation by
a right. The point is to get beyond the separation that makes protecting me
in that way necessary.

The point is to get beyond the separation that makes the bridge of
employment necessary.

Behind the double freedom of the worker is a double separation: the worker
is negatively free from the conditions of production, i.e. separated from
them, but positively free as the owner of labor power and thus separated
from other commodity owners and free to participate in the exchange of her
product in the market. (Important that what she sells is control over her
life activity itself -- she is free to enter a relationship of subordination
and control, ie of unfreedom, to whatever entitity it is that buys her

To be able to say "this is not capitalism" means getting beyond these
underlying separations. A condition where there is full employment and the
right to work together with an organic coordination among producers would
likely describe a circumstance of transition between capitalism and
socialism, that is, a circumstance with both the potential to move forward
or to slide back.

Two footnotes on the first point. One way of conceiving of no competition
among capitalists is Stalin's view that commodity circulation would be
replaced by one all embracing production sector with the right to dispose of
everything -- "a system of production and exchange under which the central
government or some other socio-economic center might control the whole
product of social production in the interests of society." I suggest in
Capital as a Social Kind that this looks like capital's dynamic of
concentration and centralization carried to a particularly uninviting

Also, competition is not the problem -- separation is. If you have
association where the flourishing of each is a condition for the flourishing
of all, competition can be a very positive feature of social life. Lenin
appealed to socialist competition.


----- Original Message -----
From: "GERALD LEVY" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 9:08 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE] capitalism as a * * * system

> Hi Howard, Michael W, and Paula:
> Free labor, as you know, has a dual meaning. One side of free labor
> is the freedom that capital has to 'free' the wage-worker from
> employment. A further consideration of this question shows that it
> is linked to the relative surplus population (the industrial reserve
> army) and is a reality which shapes the form of control over the
> direct producers under capitalism, i.e. it is a reality the existence
> of which leads to the specific form of control required under
> capitalism to pump surplus labor out of workers. If there is no
> competition
> among capitalists and if there is constant full employment where
> everyone has the right to work, how can this be said to be capitalism?
> In solidarity, Jerry
>> Still too hasty. Make that selling labor power as a commodity!
>> The second point was too hastily done. The free worker gives you the
>> possibility of selling labor as a commodity and thus the division
>> between necessary and surplus labor. The reproduction of capital
>> requires the appropriation of the surplus product as value by
>> non-producers rather than control of the surplus by associated
>> workers. Non-producers must be free to appropriate surplus value from
>> laboring producers.
>> Michael, I think your point is wrong. Capital, at least in Marx's
>> sense, is value that increases itself. But there is no value, again in
>> Marx's sense, without 2. Recall the analysis of section 3 of Chapter
>> 1 of Capital. You cannot have a single producer and have value. This
>> shows the importance of not conflating juridical forms with the
>> underlying relations of economic life. Even were the state to own
>> everything -- and Stalin himself claimed there were two separate
>> sectors that had to exchange commodities with each other, state
>> factories and state farms (as well as foreign trade which produced
>> commodities for export) -- but even were the state to hold everything
>> in a single juridical form, we would still have to determine whether in
>> economic reality there were separate producers producing independently
>> for exchange. And of course in the ussr and eastern europe there
>> were. Overcoming the separation that characterizes value is no small
>> As for the freedom to exploit labor Paula, yes -- Marx is clear in his
>> discussion of the buying and selling of labor power that without the
>> free worker, you don't have capitalism.
>> howard
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Michael Webber
>> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
>> Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 7:17 PM
>> Subject: Re: [OPE] capitalism as a * * * system
>> well, paula, it seems that capital didn't always appear as many
>> capitals. if we accept that stalinist ussr and eastern europe were
>> state capitalist, then they had single capitals. [of course, there
>> were different states...] so your question could be posed: what did
>> state capitalism fail? i'd venture the view that many-capitals
>> capitalism was technically more dynamic and became able to out-compete
>> single-capital capitalism.
>> michael
>> On 26 May 2011 08:58, Paula
>> > wrote:
>> Howard wrote:
>> "actually Marx is pretty clear that the concept of 'capital in general'
>> does
>> not extend to any consideration of competition".
>> We should also point out that, even at this level of abstraction, capital
>> has certain freedoms - crucially, the freedom to exploit labor. This
>> freedom
>> is also not absolute, it has limits that are biological, cultural,
>> political, etc. Nevertheless it's real and important.
>> The really interesting and difficult question is whether the freedom to
>> compete (also real and important, though limited) is already contained in
>> germ within this more abstract concept of 'capital in general'. Or, to
>> ask
>> the question in a different form, why does capital always appear as 'many
>> capitals', even in the era of imperialism, when monopolistic tendencies
>> and
>> state regulation are at their most developed?
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