[OPE-L:5872] [JURRIAAN] Re: Hello and Kliman's cat

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 19 Dec 1997 16:06:13 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 19:47:00 +0100
From: jurriaan bendien <Jbendien@globalxs.nl>

Jerry writes:

> If the domestic mode of production is distinct and separable from the
capitalist mode of production, then the characteristic features of the
domestic MOP can be eliminated (or eroded to mere vestiges) under the
capitalist MOP. If, however, domestic labor and patriarchy are
integrally connected to the reproduction of *capitalist* social
relations, then this is not possible so long as the capitalism MOP is

I don't think that domestic labour or patriarchy are integrally part of the
capitalist mode of production, although you could say in the certain phase
of capitalist development they are part of the "regime of accumulation".
Witness the growth of fast food stores, the automation of household tasks,
one-parent families, the sexual revolution, changes in attitudes towards
property/matrimonial rights and inheritance, the erosion of the family
wage, and the growing number of people living alone. At issue really is
the persistence of the nuclear family, a theme or ideal still strong in
bourgeois ideology. I think the crucial point is that because of their
child-bearing function, most women are at some point in their lives in a
situation of dependence. But what form that dependence exactly takes is
not structurally determined by the nature of capitalism as a mode of
production. All sorts of arrangements are conceivable, and have been

>From the standpoint of Capital as a whole, economically considered, the
activities involved in reproducing the collective worker (I mean the
household labour, raising children, education etc.) are a COST. The
question is then, who pays for that cost, who carries the burden of that
cost ? At the same time, from the standpoint of Capital the family
structure is an important factor in social stability and social
conservatism, and it is a politically sensitive issue among workers as
citizens with (formally) equal rights. The way then that problem of
reproducing the labour force (collective worker) is specifically tackled is
an outcome of social, political and class conflict and debate, in the
context of a given level of development of the productive forces.

Obviously, if Capital had to pay for all the "private overhead costs" and
private labour of the worker as well, in wage payments, then this would be
a big deduction from surplus-value. As it stands, the employers are
attacking the "social wage" (including social security contributions) as an
unnecessary cost on capital. It is obviously more beneficial to capital if
workers fund their own social security through private insurance schemes.
Because then (1) capitalists can make private profits out of it, (2) they
no longer have to pay the cost of social security in respect of workers to
the state, introducing the possibility of reducing taxes. So the
capitalists gain that way on both sides of the balance-sheet. In the
context of the United States, Shaikh and Tonak have argued that, in
monetary terms, the workers get fewer benefits out of the state qua
"reproduction payments and services" than they pay to the state in taxes -
a portion of taxes paid by employees in respect of wages is simply
surplus-value appropriated by the state (which is also what sections of the
capitalist class argue; they want to appropriate this surplus-value

Gerry writes:

> An interesting political question is the relation between demands and
> movements for reform, what Trotsky called "democratic demands", and
> demands that would require the abolition of capitalism to be met, called
> by Trotsky "transitional demands." Bolshevik slogans are an interesting
> case study. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not demand "Communism Now!" in
> 1917. Rather, more limited - but very powerful - slogans, such as "Land,
> bread, and peace" and "All power to the Soviets" were advanced.

The point is that "land, bread and peace" were transitional demands in
1917-18 because although they struck a popular chord and were reasonable
demands from the standpoint of workers, they could not be met by the
provisional government. Which sort of critiques and demands are
"transitional" depend on the political situation, they are linked to a
specific political analysis and a particular view of building a radical or
revolutionary organisation. It does not help very much at that point to
regurgitate what Trotsky said in 1938, that seems more an inability to come
to grips with real political life on the part of some Trotskyists. The
origin of the concept of a transitional demand was actually in the critique
by the Communist International of the traditional social democratic
bifurcation of socialist politics in terms of "immediate demands" and "the
final goal of socialism", the latter which tended to drop off the agenda.

Ralph Miliband in his book Marxism and Politics drew a useful distinction
between "reformism" and calling for "reforms". A curious view persists in
radical circles that "calling for reforms"="reformism" but that isn't the
case. The call for a reform must be placed in a specific political context
and related to a specific political project. Calling for progressive
reforms (for example in relation to immigration or racism) may in fact be
the most revolutionary thing you can do in a non-revolutionary situation.
Here in Holland, a party which quite successfully practices that sort of
approach is the Socialist Party, which has 18,000 members, as compared to
the orthodox Trotskyists who have parties of maybe 50 or 150 members.