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Dave B
Joined: 07/01/2015


This subject gets increasing complicated the more you go into it.


Although GDP as a metric is flawed it has some value for general purposes of comparison.




There is some interesting data on GDP per capital below.




It is obviously skewed in places due to the actual technical Marx surplus profits available from increased profits that can be obtained from more productive mineral extraction due the reduced amount of labour required to extract it etc.


Karl went into that fascinating topic under differential ground rent in volume III.


I guess there is a skew  in ‘finance’ as well.


There is another set of ‘Mason’ Data looking at it more historically going back 100+ years.


That we looked at or I presented on libcom a few years ago.


It was due to the nonsense about Russia being the 5thlargest economy in the world in 1905 or whatever.


Which wasn’t Lenin’s position as he took the position that Russia was one of the most backward.


Which was closer to the truth when you looked at the per capita data as then Russia slid right down the scale on that; below Mexico for instance and not far off China.


Tarriffs makes things even more complicated not to mention bounties where the state will pay exporters or subsidise the cost.


When looking at tarrifs it is probably more interesting to look at commodities that can be produced by both the exporting and importing countries like sugar or beet sugar versus say cane from the ‘third world’.


Thus I think the world spot price for sugar is 50%? of that of the ‘production’ price in Europe, northern Europe or the UK or whatever.


Thus all other things being equal, which a big thus, you could argue perhaps that third world farmers labour power is 50% that of first world farmers?


Sticking with food production for the moment several years ago there was a series of tv programmes by the BBC.


They took ordinary UK workers and sent them off to work in typical third world food processing factories around the world, rather than just farms.


As that was the subject which was more about do you know what goes into making your Kentucky fried chicken thing.


I don’t think there was anything more politically subversive than that.


Some of the third world factories were quite modern and capital intensive; I remember a chicken processing plant in somewhere like Thailand I think.


And got them to live of the income or wages etc.


The results were fairly predictable and the conclusions all too obvious; they were working a lot harder and longer for less.


The only one that shaped up to any extent so happened to be young fit looking ‘white’

male UK agricultural worker from Essex of all places.



To make things even more complicated re tariffs as it has a ‘famous’ Manchester school precedent from the 1800’s.


If raw materials and consumer products for the working class like coffee, sugar and bread or wheat are being sold at inflated prices due to tariffs sections of the capitalist class who aren’t interested in that kind of thing will have to pay their workers extra for them to be able to purchase it.


And that will eat into their surplus value.


Thus in the 1800’s the manufacturing capitalist complained that bread prices were inflated and that getting rid of it would lower the price of bread.


And of course only being concerned about the workers they would have more money to spend on other stuff.


The real idea according to Fred was the opportunity for the manufacturing class to cut wages to levels where the workers would just be able to buy the same amount of bread as before.


And thus the manufacturing capitalist class could reap the benefit.


The landowning class would be stunked but so what.



This stuff can be quite important and relevant re the American civil and the bollocks about it being about slavery etc.


Paul Craig Roberts did an interesting article on it recently.


The North wanted to put tariffs on British manufacturing goods to force the Southerners to pay more for northern produced spades, finished textiles and furniture etc.


The southerners didn’t like that idea very much and feared retaliatory tariffs on cotton from elsewhere etc so it was a lose, lose for them.


The real metric for measuring value and the value of labour power is basically objectified subjective graft and effort.


Time is just a convenient metric assuming everything else is equal.


If someone is getting more stuff for their objectified subjective effort, like a computer programmer versus a taxi driver, then you switch, if you can.


If everything else is OK then you get an equalising supply and demand effect in the labour power commodity market.


That is what all this economic migration is about, a notion that first world unskilled, semi skilled or skilled workers are getting more for their objectified subjective effort than they are where they are.


It works differently at different ends of the pay scale.


If you take skilled computer programmers on 30K the capitalist class don’t like that very much as they are getting paid too much.


So if look at some software house computer companies you see something somewhat unusual.


Lots of people from outside the EU from all sorts of strange places like South America, non passport holding Pakistani’s and even Cuban’s.


So will advertise a job for 30K that in the past UK programmers wouldn’t get out of bed for.


In fact it was an insult and even on principle they would refuse to take it and go on a pay strike.


And sit it out on their ill gotten £80 per hour contract savings for which they paid no income tax.


They called themselves a company and paid themselves a minimum wage; so £70 per hour was the company profit subject only to the lesser capital gains tax.


There were additional benefits to that if you decided to loaf about and do nothing for 6 months of the year.


It has all gone pear shaped for them now importing eager third world workers who if they stick it out over here of 5 years can get a residency permit passport for first world wages.


Some of them will stick it out just for that and their employers like it as well as if they walk they haven’t got long before they get kicked out; a couple of weeks I think.



At the other end of the scale things are a bit different.


So there is interest in driving down the price of expensive labour power.


But there already a floor at the other end with the minimum wage.


But they can increase the standard intensity of work for minimum wage work.


That is what is hurting the low paid end of scale workers; what you are expected to do for your crappy £7 per hour as the youthful, energetic set that standard.







Joined: 06/11/2011

Dave B wrote:


That we looked at or I presented on libcom a few years ago.


It was due to the nonsense about Russia being the 5thlargest economy in the world in 1905 or whatever.


Which wasn’t Lenin’s position as he took the position that Russia was one of the most backward.



Dave I  am curious as to why you say it is "nonsense"  that Russia was the fifth largest economy in  the tsarist times - a claim I have come across myself as well.  In per capita terms, yes, Russia was backward but in aggregate terms, given the sheer size of the population,  the claim seems reasonable.  In fact, Russia had some of the largest and technologically advanced factories in the world  at the time  - like the giant Putilov works.  After the disaster of the Crimean war, there was quite a serious push to industrialise the economy

Dave B
Joined: 07/01/2015



The argument was or inferred by neo Leninists that they could have had communism in Russia in 1914 or whatever because it was a large economy or the 5th largest etc.


And was thus not a backward country.


That was not Lenin’s position incidentally around the time and somewhere he said Russia as regards economic backwardness was like that of China.


Regarded as the baseline for economic under development etc.


That was a bit of an exaggeration but not far off?


The argument which was Lenin’s explicit own in his ‘Two tactics’ in 1905 was also Karl’s in 1874 were Bakunin also said you could have communism in Russia, thus.


Works of Karl Marx 1874

Conspectus of Bakunin’s
Statism and Anarchy



Schoolboy stupidity! A radical social revolution depends on certain definite historical conditions of economic development as its precondition. It is also only possible where with capitalist production the industrial proletariat occupies at least an important position among the mass of the people. ………………..But here Mr Bakunin's innermost thoughts emerge. He understands absolutely nothing about the social revolution, only its political phrases. Its economic conditions do not exist for him. As all hitherto existing economic forms, developed or undeveloped, involve the enslavement of the worker (whether in the form of wage-labourer, peasant etc.), he believes that a radical revolution is possible in all such forms alike. Still more! He wants the European social revolution, premised on the economic basis of capitalist production, to take place at the level of the Russian or Slavic agricultural and pastoral peoples, not to surpass this level [...] The will, and not the economic conditions, is the foundation of his social revolution.


Which is interesting because Karl seems to suggest the possibility of regional or European social revolution communism in 1874?


 Undoubtedly there were pockets of highly industrialised and thus developed/ productive manufacturing in Russia.


Some of was as quality was equal to that in the West as it was modern and not so much internally developed but the result of large scale capital investment from abroad, or foreign ‘imperial’ investment.


But taken generally it was ‘diluted’ down when looked at as whole when considering the ‘Russian Empire’.


The or a metric if you like for the possibility a communist revolution is the productivity of labour power which is enhanced by the accumulation of increasingly productive capital which capitalism pursues vigorously albeit not with that end in mind.


In 1914 Lenin and the Bolsheviks advocated and supported a bourgeois revolution and the development of capitalism in Russia as necessary apriori established pre condition for communism there.




 The economic development of Russia, as of the whole world, proceeds from feudalism to capitalism, and through large-scale, machine, capitalist production to socialism.


Pipe-dreaming about a “different” way to socialism other than that which leads, through the further development of capitalism, through large-scale, machine, capitalist production, is, in Russia, characteristic either of the liberal gentlemen, or of the backward, petty proprietors (the petty bourgeoisie). These dreams, which still clog the brains of the Left Narodniks, merely reflect the backwardness (reactionary nature) and feebleness of the petty bourgeoisie.


Class-conscious workers all over the world, Russia included, are becoming more and more convinced of the correctness of Marxism, for life itself is proving to them that only large-scale, machine production rouses the workers, enlightens and organises them, and creates the objective conditions for a mass movement.

When Put Pravdy reaffirmed the well-known Marxist axiom that capitalism is progressive as compared with feudalism, and that the idea of checking the development of capitalism is a utopia, most absurd, reactionary, and harmful to the working people, Mr. N. Rakitnikov, the Left Narodnik (in Smelaya Mysl No. 7), accused Put Pravdy of having undertaken the “not very honourable task of putting a gloss upon the capitalist noose”.


Anyone interested in Marxism and in the experience of the international working-class movement would do well to pander over this! One rarely meets with such amazing ignorance of Marxism as that displayed by Mr. N. Rakitnikov and the Left Narodniks, except perhaps among bourgeois economists.


Can it be that Mr. Rakitnikov has not read Capital, or The Poverty of Philosophy, or The Communist Manifesto? If he has not, then it is pointless to talk about socialism. That will be a ridiculous waste of time.


If he has read them, then he ought to know that the fundamental idea running through all Marx’s works, an idea which since Marx has been confirmed in all countries, is that capitalism is progressive as compared with feudalism. It is in this sense that Marx and all Marxists “put a gloss” (to use Rakitnikov’s clumsy and stupid expression) “upon the capitalist noose”!


Only anarchists or petty-bourgeois, who do not under stand the conditions of historical development, can say: a feudal noose or a capitalist one—it makes no difference, for both are nooses! That means confining oneself to condemnation, and failing to understand the objective course of economic development.


Condemnation means our subjective dissatisfaction. The objective course of feudalism’s evolution into capitalism enables millions of working people—thanks to the growth of cities, railways, large factories and the migration of workers—to escape from a condition of feudal torpor. Capitalism itself rouses and organises them.

Both feudalism and capitalism oppress the workers and strive to keep them in ignorance. But feudalism can keep,   and for centuries has kept, millions of peasants in a down trodden state (for example, in Russiafrom the ninth to the nineteenth century, in China for even more centuries). But capitalism cannot keep the workers in a state of immobility, torpor, downtroddenness and ignorance.


There is a secondary and correct ‘Marxist’ argument that people working collectively and thus in forced co-operation in the factory system provides the ‘cultural’ and ‘intellectual’ preconditions for communism?


There is an early chapter in Volume one on it; you can take or leave it as with the other stuff.


I am laying out ‘Marxist theory’ as I believe it is correctly interpreted rather than expressing my personal opinion on it.




This absurd idea boils down either to the hoary Narodnik theory that a bourgeois revolution runs counter to the interests of the proletariat, and that therefore we do not need bourgeois political liberty; or to anarchism, which rejects all participation of the proletariat in bourgeois politics, in a bourgeois revolution and in bourgeois parliamentarism. From the standpoint of theory, this idea disregards the elementary propositions of Marxism concerning the inevitability of capitalist development where commodity production exists. Marxism teaches that a society which is based on commodity production, and which has commercial intercourse with civilized capitalist nations, at a certain stage of its development, itself, inevitably takes the road of capitalism. Marxism has irrevocably broken with the ravings of the Narodniks and the anarchists to the effect that Russia, for instance, can avoid capitalist development, jump out of capitalism, or skip over it and proceed along some path other than the path of the class struggle on the basis and within the framework of this same capitalism.


page 44


All these principles of Marxism have been proved and explained over and over again in minute detail in general and with regard to Russia in particular. And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class. The bourgeois revolution is precisely a revolution that most resolutely sweeps away the survivals of the past, the remnants of serfdom (which include not only autocracy but monarchy as well) and most fully guarantees the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism.

    That is why a bourgeois revolution is in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat. A bourgeois revolution is absolutely necessary in the interests of the proletariat.


Lenin in 1905 said introducing socialism in Russia like the SR’s and anarchists wanted to would result in failure and predicted that if social democrats {bolshevikss} went in for that they would make fools of themselves.


On spontaneity etc he was probably having a pop at Trotsky’s permanent revolution which he completely dished in the middle of 1917; still.






The Revolutionary-Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry



This argument is based on a misconception; it confounds the democratic revolution with the socialist revolution, the struggle for the republic (including our entire minimum programme) with the struggle for socialism. If Social-Democracy sought to make the socialist revolution its immediate aim, it would assuredly discredit itself. It is precisely such vague and hazy ideas of our “Socialists—Revolutionaries” that Social-Democracy has always combated. For this reason Social-Democracy has constantly stressed the bourgeois nature of the impending revolution in Russia and insisted on a clear line of demarcation between the democratic minimum programme and the socialist maximum programme. Some Social-Democrats, who are inclined to yield to spontaneity, might forget all this in time of revolution, but not the Party as a whole.


It is just ironic that he ended up adopting much of the theoretical ideas of the SR’s



The historical gdp per capita data is here I think and you have play around with it to sort it from the top tags etc ?

Joined: 06/11/2011

Dave B wrote:



The argument was or inferred by neo Leninists that they could have had communism in Russia in 1914 or whatever because it was a large economy or the 5th largest etc.


And was thus not a backward country.


That was not Lenin’s position incidentally around the time and somewhere he said Russia as regards economic backwardness was like that of China.





Sure, I understand the point you are making,  The neo Leninists you refer to would be dead wrong to infer that  socialism was possible in Russia back them  because in terms of aggregate output the Russia economy was the fifth largest in the world at that time (even assuming you can have "socialism in one country" which you can't).  This would be to overlook that what counts as far as the "objective preconditions" for socialism are concerned is  not aggregate output but the per capita output - or per capita productivity,  The evidence I have come across suggests this was on the low side both for industry and agriculture  (Tsarist Russia had to resort to large scale wheat imports at times) and certainly, not enough to sustain a socialist society.  Neverthlesss, that doesnt invalidate the point that Russia at the time was the 5th largest eonomy if only becuase of its huge population, relatively speaking

Joined: 06/11/2011

robbo203 wrote:




I recommend  you read Charlie Post on this subject of superprofits and the supposedly "bribed" labour aristocracy in the so called First World

As far as capitalists based in the First World are concerned, the proportion of total capital invested abroad - and even more so, in the Third World - is actually remarkably small by comparison with what is invested at "home".  According to Post:

Imperialist investment, particularly in the global South, represents a tiny portion of global capitalist investment. Foreign direct investment makes up only 5% of total world investment - that is to say, 95% of total capitalist investment takes place within the boundaries of each industrialized country.  Of that five percent of total global investment that is foreign direct investment, nearly three-quarters flow from one industrialized country - one part of the global North - to another. Thus only 1.25% of total world investment flows from the global North to the global South. It is not surprising that the global South accounts for only 20% of global manufacturing output, mostly in labor-intensive industries such as clothing, shoes, auto parts and simple electronics. ("The Labor Aristocracy Myth" , International Viewpoint Online magazine : IV381 - September 2006



These figures are a little dated and describe the situation  prior to 2000; they dont fully take into account the rapid growth, since then, of transnational corporate investment in China, in particular.  However, even if we update the figures, the overall picture still remains essentially the same: only a tiny fraction of global investment flows takes - or ever took -  the form of Direct Foreign Investment (FDI) by the global North in the global South




I have been doing a bit of reading around since writing the above and have since  come across Steve Palmers rebuttal of Charlie Post's piece on "The Myth of the Labour Aristocracy".  It appears that the figures Post cited on the extent of foreigin direct investment (FDI) may be quite wrong and by quite a large margin


Post's point was that since only a tiny fraction of total FDI goes to the Global South,  the superprpfits made there by the "imperialist countries" must be correspondingly tiny - and hence even more so the "bribe" that the  Labour Aristocracy supposedly  receives out of these superprofits (according to Lenin).  In fact even if one could meaningfully talk about this as being a bribe, it would be negligible and thus sociologically irrelevant.

However the figures cited by Palmer changes the argument somewhat....


Also, it worth pointing out  that different witers differ as to the mechanism by which this supposed bribe is supposed to be effected.  Some argue  that it is effected through the state taxing the capitalists making those superpofits (some of which will  no doubt, have been secreted away into offshore accounts to avoid being taxed)  which then goes to fund the social wage - welfare reforms.  This  particular argument has important implications for the socialist argument that such reforms tend to have a downward pressure on wages by way of compensation for the capitalists having to pay for such reforms.  Meaning we are talking about a zero sum game in the long run.  But at any rate, since the reforms are said to benefit workers generally, it is the working class as a whole in the imperialist countries that are said to constitute the labour aristocracy vis-a-vis to the workers of the oppressed countries who are said to be generally  paid below the value of their labour power.  Hence the superprofits made there.


In other words, imperialism has had the effect of mitigating or even cancalling out, on balance, the exploitation of workers in the so called rich World who have become  co-partners of the capitalists in exploiting the  poor world - the  so called "embourgeoisement" thesis. Presumably then, since we workers in the rich world are no longer exploited we have no reason to get rid of capitalism other than out of charitable concern for workers in the impoverished backwaters of global capitalism.   Or so it would seem...


I think, bottom line, that the argument is bolllocks but at the same time it is important not to caricature it or combat it with incorrect data as Post appears to have done.  There is more to it than meets the eyes and its quite a slippery argument to pin down

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