Forum Replies Created
robbo203 wrote: “My point is simply that becoming aware of them involves empirical investigation to establish what these facts are.”
And Marx’s point is that the ’empirical’ only ‘exists’ after the active producer has produced it. That is, there are no ‘facts’ until they are produced.
Your method, as you say, is to seek out already existing facts. And once you’ve discovered them, you pass on the ‘knowledge’ of those ‘facts’.
My point is that you’re employing a different method to Marx.
If you consciously want to do that, it’s fine with me, and I’m just pointing out that your method differs from Marx’s.
The key difference is that your method doesn’t require the active production of your ‘facts’ by the unaware, but only your active discovery and dissemination to the passive unaware. It’s a method suitable for an ‘elite’, who are keen to enlighten the mass. That is, suitable for a Leninist Party, or a bourgeois scientist, or a Christian priest – in short, an elite that has an interest in preventing democratic controls by the mass.
An active elite, and a passive mass. As Marx said, society divided into two, with one part dominating the other.
Bijou Drains wrote “[LBird wrote:] There isn’t a ‘something’ which ‘exists’, which can simply be ‘pointed out’ by a well-meaning ‘someone’ who is already ‘aware of it’, and thus enlightens the other ‘someone’ who was ignorant of the ‘something’ until it was pointed out by the well-meaning enlightener.
Surely that is what you are attempting to do with your posts here with regards to “Marx’s Method””
No, I’m not pointing out an ‘empirically demonstrable fact of reality’ which supposedly ‘already exists‘. It is not ‘material’ or ‘matter’.
It is a method, a ‘theory and practice’, a choice, not a necessity.
And I’m openly saying it requires Marx’s politics, to make it a choice worth choosing. There might well be other methods suitable for the proletariat to employ in building socialism, and it’s open to anyone here to argue for those other methods.
As it is not an ’empirical reality’, because it doesn’t yet exist, it remains a theoretical construct, still awaiting its practical application, by the proletariat.
Further, it requires both consciousness and activity. Since this is so, it probably won’t appeal to a ‘materialist’ like you BD, who is waiting for ‘matter’ to convince workers’ consciousness. [that is meant as a joke, not a jibe, BD 🙂 ].
robbo203 wrote “Not being aware of something does not mean being incapable of being aware of it“. [my bold]
No, you’re completely correct, robbo.
All it needs is someone to point out this ‘something’, and then someone else will be ‘aware of it’.
That’s fine, as far as it goes. But… (and you knew there’d be a ‘but’)…
… it’s not Marx’s method.
If one has no time for Marx (and many socialists don’t), then fine, again.
But if a socialist claims to be following Marx’s views, about building socialism, then there is a problem.
That is, Marx’s method is that a someone produces the ‘something’ that they are aware of.
For this method, the ‘something’ can’t pre-exist its production by its ‘aware producer’.
This is the whole point: the social producer (for Marx, the proletariat) has to produce its awareness of its own products itself.
There isn’t a ‘something’ which ‘exists’, which can simply be ‘pointed out’ by a well-meaning ‘someone’ who is already ‘aware of it’, and thus enlightens the other ‘someone’ who was ignorant of the ‘something’ until it was pointed out by the well-meaning enlightener.
Once more, for Marx, the ‘active side’ is the proletariat, itself, and not a ‘well-meaning enlightener’ who is not ignorant, and who sees themselves as the ‘active side’, and not the majority.
Again, it’s easy to see why someone interested in politics, and who wants to ‘do something’, now, would have no time for this method. For them, the ’empirically demonstrable facts of reality’ are as plain as the nose on one’s face, and merely need pointing out to those ignorant of that ‘reality’.
Fair enough, one might say, but this method of a knowing elite producing enlightenment in the masses, hasn’t worked, isn’t working, and will never work – if one desires the self-emancipation of the proletariat.
Even more condemning, is that this ‘knowing elite’ method, is the theory and practice of Lenin. It requires an ‘active elite’ (ie. a party), rather than a class-conscious class for itself.
robbo203 wrote “…the contradiction exists in reality as an empirically demonstrable fact even if some of us may not be aware of it…“.
This statement is a perfect example of what Marx argued against, robbo.
The separation of those who know a ‘reality of empirically demonstrable fact’ and those ‘not aware of it’ who don’t know.
There is no ‘reality’ for the majority who don’t ‘know it’.
Marx said that this ideology would be forced to divide society into two, with one dominating the other. Bourgeois materialism is a classic ‘ruling class ideology’.
Put simply, any ‘reality’ is a social product. The ‘reality for the majority’ is ‘reality’ for them.
Whilst socialists continue to insist that an ’empirically demonstrable factual reality’ is simply waiting to be discovered, it will remain outside of the active social production of the majority. And our wait will go on.
We have to argue for building reality, a reality for us. This reality doesn’t exist, and there isn’t a minority who already know it.
Socialism is a creation, not a discovery. Just like any ‘reality’ that society knows.
alanjjohnstone wrote: “But to stick to the point…we don’t have socialism because people don’t want it because they are imbued with the capitalist ideology, ruling class ideas prevailing …and so far the contradictions created by the capitalist system which TWC expects to break down this hegemony of ideas are not sufficiently experienced or expressed enough. So do we wait?”
No ‘contradictions’ will ‘create’ anything, because, for Marx, humanity was the ‘creator’.
‘Waiting for contradictions’ will lead to, as it always has, ‘waiting’.
We’ll continue to ‘wait’, until we become ‘the active side’. And that won’t happen, whilst the ‘waiters’ are told to ‘wait’ for ‘contradictions’ (or its synonym ‘material conditions’), without which, it is argued, being ‘active’ is simply a waste of time.
alanjjohnstone wrote: “Yes, and Dietzgen and Pannekoek suggested much the same that ideas are as part of the material world as physical matter. Or am i mistaken?“.
No, you’re not mistaken, you’re correct. Dietzgen and Pannekoek were simply following Marx, who himself said that he’d unified ‘idealism’ and ‘materialism’. That’s why it’s incomplete, to one-sidedly say “ideas are as part of the material world as physical matter” – it’s just as accurate to say “physical matter is as part of the ideal world as ideas“.
It’s probably best to say ‘ideas and physical matter are as part of the ideal-material world‘. Marx was interested in social production (‘idealism-materialism’), which requires conscious human action to change its objective world.
There is no subject without object, and no object without subject. If you want to term this ‘unity’ as ‘material’ alone, you’re likely to forget the other aspect, which is why I always suggest, if the term ‘material’ is insisted upon, that the term ‘ideal’ is also insisted upon.
It makes more sense to call this ‘social productionism’, but if ‘material’ must be a part of the phrase, then ‘idealism-materialism’ fits the bill better than ‘materialism’ alone.
We socially produce the ‘physical-for-us’ and the ‘idea-for us’. As Marx said, any part of a supposed ‘nature’ which is not for us, is a nothing for us.
alanjjohnstone wrote: “We have all the objective material conditions for socialism. What is missing is the will to establish it…“. [my bold]
I’d argue that you’re being contradictory here, alan.
It’s only when democratic socialists (Marxists) realise that ‘the will’ is an ‘objective material condition’ for socialism, that we’ll make any progress.
Whilst those who regard ‘material’ as meaning ‘non-conscious stuff’, and that as the force behind ‘the will’, hold sway, we’ll continue to miss Marx’s point about ‘the active side’, and remain waiting.
It’s humanity that is consciously active, not ‘all the objective material conditions’ which exclude our conscious actions.
Ahhh, I thought you’d struggle to keep it civil, YMS – nice to be proved right, once again!
Anyway, as you simply echo what’s already been said:
YMS wrote: “Productive and unproductive are useful concepts when discussing useful work versus useless toil, and especially when we can show that productive labour is useless,” [my bold]
I’ll simply ask once again, who defines ‘unproductive’ as ‘useless toil’?
Surely even thinkers with your ideological views can see that calling any worker’s work ‘useless toil’ is making a moral judgement about their labour, which can only alienate them from socialist politics?
I was going to write ‘from our politics’, but I’m not convinced that you are a democratic communist. You never mention either ‘democracy’ or ‘communism’ in your discussions. I’m inclined to think that you see yourself as some sort of ‘expert academic’, who has an access to ‘reality’ (like supposedly ‘unproductive labour’) which can’t be done by an ordinary worker.
If you are one of these ‘experts’ (sic), no wonder my questioning annoys you!
- This reply was modified 6 days, 23 hours ago by LBird.
Thanks for your reply, YMS.
YMS wrote: “To go back to Charlie’s original concept…Now, part of that may have been an attempt on Marx’ part to demonstrate…“.
As I suggested earlier, one form of reply to my question would be to argue from authority. And I’ve already given my reply.
LBird wrote: “My reply would be … If he did, Marx was mistaken…”
I think Marx is very useful, but in the 21st century, nearly 137 years after his death, and with us socialists having had no success whatsoever in building socialism amongst the proletariat, I think it is necessary to critically engage with Marx’s ideas. Sometimes he is plain wrong, sometimes he expresses himself very unclearly, sometimes he contradicts himself, and sometimes he is right, but needs re-writing for a modern audience. I’m sure you can think of other reasons to do this.
YMS wrote: “This is attractive to those who want to talk of a ‘middle class’…“.
So, are you saying that the political purpose of employing the term ‘unproductive labour’ is to persuade academics, who regard themselves as ‘middle class’, to change their political and ideological views?
That is, the audience for the concept ‘unproductive labour’ is not workers? If so, again, that’s fine by me.
But… why would robbo, and anyone else employing this term, spend their valuable time arguing with academics who aren’t going to agree with democratic socialists, whose main categories are ‘proletariat’, ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘petit-bourgeoisie’ (non-property owners, big property owners and small property owners), about our views of a ‘middle class’ (a Weberian, not a Marxist, category, which Weber intended to obscure ‘class’ as an exploitative relationship)?
Why wouldn’t robbo just challenge Cope’s categories (and underlying, often unconscious, political assumptions, theories, methods, philosophy, ideology)?
I still don’t see the political purpose of the category ‘unproductive labour’. It’s usage can only damage our political efforts.
robbo203 wrote: “LBird, the political purpose of saying that some workers do not produce surplus value but are financed out of surplus value is to show that there are structural limits to what reformism can achieve.” [my bold]
Thank you for an answer to my question, robbo.
But you’ll already know that I’ve said a number of times on this thread that I agree with you ‘that there are structural limits to what reformism can achieve‘.
My point is that this political purpose can be achieved much more simply and closer to ‘ordinary sense’ by simply using the analogy of the operation of a pair of lungs, with which every worker is already physically familiar.
That is, simply say ‘Keynesian reformism can’t work because capitalism always contracts, and so reforms are removed‘. That is, the ‘structural limit’ is the working of capitalism.
Neither you nor any other poster has explained why this simple explanation needs to be replaced with a far more complex ‘explanation’ involving, not just unfamiliar terminology, but downright contradictory, non-intuitive, complex terms like ‘unproductive labour’ (which even youse here say is productive – but which just isn’t productive for yet another concept which is not commonly used). Plus, ‘unproductive’ is morally-loaded, no matter what your protestations are.
My other main question, which also hasn’t been answered, is: ‘Who is the audience for which this concept of ‘unproductive labour’ is aimed?‘.
If you simply answer ‘academics’, that’s fine by me.
But then, I’ll just ask ‘Why?’.
‘Why academics and not workers, who are supposed to be who socialists are interested in influencing?’
Wez wrote: “ALB and robbo have made a clear and coherent explanation…“.
If you can point that out, Wez, I’d be glad to read it.
Wez wrote: “Is it ever possible that you can be mistaken?“.
Of course it is! I was a member of the SWP, and used to believe all their Leninist crap about ‘materialism’! 😛
We seem to have come to the usual end to a critical discussion with the SPGB. A resort to personal insults, which go unpunished by the moderators, and a refusal to engage with questions.
But.. if I answer Wez with the same insulting tone, I’m banned.
Perhaps there is still a member (or even just a sympathiser) who reads these threads, and can explain why no-one in the SPGB can answer questions like “what is the political purpose of calling some workers ‘unproductive’?“, and why this failure is always accompanied by personal insults, like Wez’s post?
It’s probably best that we bring this particular exchange to a friendly halt, robbo. 🙂
I’ve read your (and others’) arguments, and I fully understand that youse don’t regard ‘unproductive labour’ as ‘derogatory’, and that youse regard it as ‘productive’ in the ‘ordinary sense’. You’ve said this several times, but ignored the actual questions that I’ve asked.
I’m asking why you employ such a confusing term. By your own argument, it’s likely to confuse any worker using ‘ordinary sense’.
I suspect that your answer would be either: a) an argument from authority: ‘Marx used it, so, so do we’; or, b) that ‘unproductive labour’ really exists as an ‘objective reality’, and that your concept merely reflects that ‘reality’.
My reply would be either: a) If he did, Marx was mistaken; or b) how do you have access to this ‘reality’, if ‘ordinary sense’ doesn’t/can’t?
As I’ve tried to make clear, I’m asking a political question – why baffle workers? What’s the political point of the category ‘unproductive labour’?
Put simply, robbo – Cope mightn’t give a shit about being understood by the masses, perhaps he isn’t a socialist, or is a career academic, but surely the SPGB has an interest in explaining the world we live in, in familiar terms.
Who benefits from ‘unproductive labour’? And I mean the concept.
Please don’t reply, just to reiterate what’s already been said on the thread. I know that. Thanks anyway, I’ll just remain baffled.
robbo203 wrote: “If Keynesian reformism worked why did it end in such dismal failure? The whole point of the exercise was to moderate and even eliminate the capitalist trade cycle which it singularly failed to do.”
Yes, I pointed this out to you – that the attempt to ‘eliminate the capitalist trade cycle’ always ‘ends in dismal failure’.
robbo203 quoted LBird: “After all, Keynesian reformism does work… but only in the expansion phase of capitalism. The reforms must come to an end.”
The point is – it’s to do with the workings of capitalism, ie. expansion and contraction.
This would happen whether or not some concept termed ‘unproductive labour’ was present or not.
This is my ‘whole point’ – why should workers be told some of them are necessarily ‘unproductive’?
What is the political purpose of employing the term ‘unproductive labour’?
It’s almost as if an elite seems to think it knows better than workers themselves, what terms and concepts to employ, when analysing and describing the workers’ own reality to them.
I’m afraid I’d vote to remove ‘unproductive labour’. Then, if it was carried by democratic methods, any workers’ delegates would have to analyse without that concept. I’m sure that the academics who have invested so much wasted time and effort in this concept will be pissed off to be told they can’t use it anymore, but… democratic revolutions, eh?
YMS wrote: “…from the POV of the owners of capital, that which does not make them a profit is unproductive…”.
But that requires them to define their terms.
Who determines what counts as ‘makes a profit’? An individual capitalist? The capitalist class as a whole? A sector of capital? A nation? These would all have differing views, depending upon their varying interests.
And why would any socialist accept a bourgeois definition?
You’re still not giving any clear political reason why workers should accept that any of the members of their class should be deemed ‘unproductive’. It’s certainly not any ‘objective’, ‘real world’, ‘true’ concept, which reflects a ‘thing’.
For me, marcos earlier hit the nail on the head, with his mention about US policies, which were clearly intended to strengthen capitalism, even though there was an outcry from some US capitalists about ‘unproductive state spending’.
It’s clear to me that what’s ‘unproductive’ for one, is ‘productive’ for another.
It’s a bit like the ‘terrorist/freedom fighter’ label.
I can’t take seriously any political argument provided to workers, that doesn’t (or can’t) define its terms. The again, perhaps the politics aren’t aimed at workers, but those academics already ‘in the know’. Good for them, eh?
- This reply was modified 1 week, 1 day ago by LBird.
marcos wrote: “Do workers care about this? What is the importance of workers knowing about this? The only thing that workers care is about producing enough money to support their family and they do not care if they part of the productive or the unproductive sector. Personally, for me, Karl Marx is more than enough“.
I’d argue that workers do have to care and know about these issues, marcos.
If they want to themselves build socialism. They are the ‘active side’, to quote Marx, they must ‘self-determine’ their world.
Where I do agree with you is about the pointlessness of many academic debates, which play no part whatsoever in developing workers’ consciousness of their own abilities and tasks.
But, nevertheless, workers themselves must be able to win ‘academic debates’ – just the ones that they determine are worth winning. And workers must determine, not ‘academics’ for themselves.
Most workers, given half a chance, can run rings round the most educated academic. Our role is to ‘give half a chance’, but only they can grasp this ‘half’ and make it a ‘full chance’ of success.
- This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by LBird.