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Ecology. In 1871 a German biologist, Ernst Haeckel, coined the word ‘ecology’. It derives from the Greek word ‘oikos’ meaning ‘house’ or ‘habitat’ and can be defined as the study of relationships between organisms and their environment or natural habitat.

Under the present economic system production is not directly geared to meeting human and environmental needs but rather to the accumulation of profits. As a result, not only are basic needs far from satisfied but also much of what is produced is pure waste. For instance, all the resources involved in commerce and finance, the mere buying and selling of things and those poured into armaments. Moreover, capitalist states, industries and even individuals are encouraged by competition in the market to externalise their costs (‘externalities’ as economists call them) by dumping unwanted waste products into the environment. The whole system of production, from the methods employed to the choice of what to produce, is distorted by the imperative to accumulate without consideration for the longer term and global factors that ecology teaches are vitally important. The overall result is an economic system governed by blind economic forces that oblige decision-makers, however selected and whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and waste.

If we are to meet our needs in an ecologically acceptable way we must first be able to control production - or, put another way, able to consciously regulate our interaction with the rest of nature - and the only basis on which this can be done is the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production solely for human and environmental needs. (See also GREENS; ZERO GROWTH.)

Reading

Paul Burkett, Marx and Nature, 1999

David Pepper, Eco-socialism, 1993

 

Economic Calculation Argument. The claim made by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) and others that, in the absence of market prices, a socialist society would be unable to make rational choices concerning the allocation of resources. But as Robin Cox points out, this argument merely amounts to the tautology that ‘only a market economy is able to perform economic calculations couched in market prices’ and that it is ‘reading into socialism the functional requirements of capitalism’. In reality it is the wasteful, destructive and exploitative capitalist system that is incapable of rationally allocating resources. That is why the Socialist Party exists and constitutes the case for socialism.

Socialism will be a system of production for use in direct response to needs, without the need for society-wide planning for all production. The operational basis for this system would be calculation in kind (e.g. tonnes, kilos, litres) instead of monetary calculation. (See also ABUNDANCE; ECONOMICS; PRICE.)

Reading

Robin Cox, The “Economic Calculation” controversy: unravelling of a myth, 2005

(online at: www.cvoice.org/cv3cox.htm)

 

Economics. The study of the production and distribution of wealth in capitalist society (also known by its older and more accurate name, political economy). Under capitalism wealth production is governed by forces based on exchange value which operate independently of human will and which impose themselves as external, coercive laws when people make decisions about the production of wealth. In other words, the social process of wealth production under capitalism is an economy governed by economic laws and studied by a special discipline, economics.

Socialism will re-establish conscious human control over wealth production; therefore, socialism will abolish capitalism’s economic laws and so also ‘the economy’ as the field of human activity governed by their operation. Hence socialism will make economics redundant. (See also MARKET; SOCIALISM.)

Reading

Sarkar B. & Buick A., Marxian Economics and Globalization, 2009

MIA Glosssary of Economics:

www.marxists.org/glossary/subject/frames/basic-economics.htm

 

Engels, Friedrich (1820-1895). Born in what is now called Wuppertal, Germany, the eldest son of a textile capitalist. Engels was trained for a career as a merchant, but in 1841 he went to Berlin and became closely involved in the Young Hegelians, a group of left-wing philosophers with whom Marx had also been involved. In 1842 Engels became a communist (before and independently of Marx) and went to Manchester to work in his father’s business. In England he became interested in Chartism and the struggles of the English working class. His researches, and his socialist conclusions, were recorded in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844). Engels and Marx agreed to produce a political satire: The Holy Family (1845) marked the beginning of a life-long collaboration. Engels and Marx began writing The German Ideology in November 1845 and continued work on it for nearly a year before it was abandoned unfinished, as Marx put it, to ‘the gnawing criticism of the mice’ (teeth marks of mice were subsequently found on the manuscript). This work contains an attack on the Young Hegelians (the German ideology in question) and in so doing they set out the basic principles of the materialist conception of history. Engels helped Marx to write the Manifesto of the Communist Party, published by the Communist League in 1848. To some extent, this work derives from a piece Engels wrote in catechism form the previous year, Principles of Communism. Engels and Marx then became active in radical journalism during the upheavals that followed the revolutions of 1848.

In 1850 Engels re-joined the family firm in Manchester, where he stayed until 1870, helping Marx financially and journalistically. Engels also developed his own lines of interest, especially in the natural sciences, and one result of his studies was published in 1927 as Dialectics of Nature. In 1878 he was able to retire and move to London. As Marx became less politically active due to ill health, so Engels took on more responsibility for setting out 'our joint position.' In 1878 Anti-Duhring appeared, and three chapters from it were published as Socialism, Utopian and Scientific in 1880. This latter work proved to be immensely popular within the growing socialist movement as a general exposition of Marxism. Engels continued to pursue his own lines of interest and in 1884 The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State was written and published. And in 1888, in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Engels explained his philosophy of nature and history. However, after Marx’s death in 1883 Engels spent most of his time editing Marx’s notes for volumes two and three of Capital, published in 1885 and 1894 respectively. Engels also spent his last few years acting as an adviser to the parties of the Second International, before dying of cancer in 1895. (See also MARX; MARXISM.)

Reading

M. Steger & T. Carver, Engels After Marx, 1999

Rubel on Marx and Engels: http://marxmyths.org/maximilien-rubel/article.htm

 

Equality. Socialism will be a system of society based on the common ownership of the means of production. Common ownership will be a social relationship of equality between all people with regard to the control of the use of the means of production. This establishes a classless society. Socialism does not mean equality of income or reward, nor does it mean equality by a re-distribution of personal wealth.

Contrary to popular myth, Marx and Engels did not frame their arguments for socialism in terms of material equality. In fact they rejected demands for levelling down as ‘crude communism’. As Allen Wood has pointed out, they did not criticise capitalism because poverty is unevenly distributed, but because there is poverty where there need be none, and that there is a privileged class which benefits from a system which subjects the majority to an artificial and unnecessary poverty. And in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), Marx argued that communism would run along the lines of ‘From each according to ability, to each according to needs’. This is not an egalitarian slogan. Rather, it asks for people to be considered individually, each with a different set of needs and abilities. (See also COMMON OWNERSHIP.)

Reading

Allen Wood, Karl Marx, 2004

 

Exchange value. A relative magnitude which expresses the relationship between two commodities. The proportion in which commodities tend to exchange with each other depends upon the amount of socially necessary labour-time spent in producing them. Commodities actually sell at market prices that rise and fall according to market conditions around a point regulated by their value and, more specifically, their price of production. (See also LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE; PRICE OF PRODUCTION; VALUE.)

 

Exploitation. A morally neutral term, as used by socialists, to denote the historically specific form of the extraction of surplus labour. Feudalism was based on the appropriation of surplus labour as feudal tribute (in the form of money, produce or labour services) from the peasantry. Capitalist enterprises buy workers’ labour power for a wage or a salary which is more or less equal to its value but extract labour greater than the equivalent of that wage or salary. This surplus labour takes the form of surplus value and is the source of profit. But it is important to remember that, because surplus value is socially produced, an employee is not just exploited by their particular employer. Exploitation is a class relationship only: the capitalist class exploit the working class. (See also CLASS; LABOUR POWER; SURPLUS VALUE.)