Book Reviews: ‘Marx’s Das Kapital for Beginners’, ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Reality’

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    Following is a discussion on the page titled: Book Reviews: 'Marx’s Das Kapital for Beginners', 'The Atheist’s Guide to Reality'.
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    Professor Wayne writes:i do think Marx’s theory of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall is important – it is the expression at the level of economics of the profound problem that capitalism cannot universalsie its productive potential to the benefit of all.on Lenin – it would not have been appropriate to have simply made a doctrinal point (Lenin is bad or good) on a matter of such complexity in a page in a book which is not about Lenin.Gramsci of course is a less divisive figure and important in my view. Experience alone is not enough as you imply in my view, experience has to be integrated into theory (the basis of praxis) and intellectuals (like Marx and Gramsci) have an important role to play in that – their job is to make the specialist division of labour which makes their access to education and theory possible – redundant; Gramsci’s aim was to develop organic intellectuals from the working class – an absolutely necessary transformation for socialist change.on the length of time it would take – a very complex and difficult question – my hunch is that it would take a long time – why would every country undergo a process of change in sync? Revolutionary change is a difficult and complex matter – having seen how complex and difficult it is even in one country after spending a year in Venezuela, it seems likely to be a long process rather than an event. I don’t see why though that is pessimistic. Capitalism took many generations to develop and it certainly co-existed with feudalism for generations. But who knows for sure? I do know that getting to the ‘majority’ on a global scale is not an easy task, nor can socialism be ‘enacted pure and simple’. Reconstructing an entire global political economy on the basis of use value rather than exchange – that is not going to be simple.Anyway, thanks for the review which on the whole is positive and more importantly appreciates what the book was trying to do



    I completely agree with MichaeI  Wayne’s commentI do know that getting to the ‘majority’ on a global scale is not an easy task, nor can socialism be ‘enacted pure and simple’. Reconstructing an entire global political economy on the basis of use value rather than exchange – that is not going to be simple.This, I presume, was in response to the passage from the book review as follows@In fact, once we have a majority who understand that capitalism has outlived its usefulness, the change from capitalism to socialism will be enacted, pure and simple. You just cannot have the co-existence of socialist and capitalist relations of production in the world for any significant period of time, and certainly not for generations. This should be clear to Wayne and his readers from every observation throughout the rest of his book about the all-encompassing global nature of capitalism and, by extension, of the very different system which must replace it.What the reviewer misunderstands is that there is a difference between abstractly talking about socialism as a socio-economic system as a whole and talking about “socialist relations of production” in particular..  Socialism as an economic system cannot co-exist  with capitalism but socialist relations of production most certainly can – at the sub-systemic level. Engels, for example, long ago pointed to the existence of communistic utopian communities in North America as evidence of the feasibility of communist (socialist) principles of production and distribution inside capitalism. .  In fact, if socialist – or perhaps one should say,  socialistic – relations of production as they might be called in the sense that they entail work that is unpaid and voluntarily undertaken outside of the market, then something over half all productive work undertaken today can be deemed socialistic,  according to United Nations statistics.  Wage Labour, in other words, constitutes less than half the work we do today and it is wage labour that is the defining characteristic of capitalism.There is a further point to bear in mind. Granted that the movement to establish socialism will tend to grow in a more or less balanced or even fashion across the world, there is still  likely  to be a period of  time between when a socialist majority first captures power and  when the last remaining residual capitalist state succumbs to this democratic socialist takeover.  The idea of a simultaneous  majoritarian socialist revolution happening everywhere literally  at the same time is inconceivable and absurd.This intervening period  interests me for several reasons but I don’t think the SPGB has ever really properly theorised this period – or, if it has,  I haven’t seen any real evidence  of this  and, in which case, a link would be appreciated.If the SPGB rightly  rejects the whole dictatorship of the proletariat nonsense which I assume it does since it can only imply the continuation of capitalism, then what happens after the first capitalist state has succumbed to a majoritarian socialist takeover and capitalism along with the state is eliminated? How does this incipient socialist area organise its practical economic relationships with the surrounding residual capitalists states?I would contend that  insofar as it cannot produce everything it needs,  the only realistic candidate on offer is some kind of barter arrangement for the time being. . Nevertheless , this does go to show that the issue is far more complex than might originally be thought .  Michael Wayne is quite right to suggest that it is not quite as simple  as some in the SPGB think it might be. 

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