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 Post subject: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2017 8:03 pm 
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‘The Democratic Mirage’ is an article published by a new blog, PostProletariat:

https://postproletariat.wordpress.com/2 ... blog-post/

I found it to be a very interesting contribution on the subject and recommend checking it out.

Early on, the text uses a quote from Camatte’s The Democratic Mystification to frame the topic (something which I enjoyed since I recently used the same quote as a starting point to examine the subject of ‘proletarian democracy’ in Labor’s Republic, a supplement to Class, Bureaucracy and the Union-Form).

The article challenges the affirmation of democracy as a perceived element of labor’s class struggles and the revolutionary movement; something that cannot be stressed enough, particularly in light of recent political developments around the world.

There are two quotes on the subject of democracy that I’m fond of repeating at every opportunity:

I “We are a democratic organization. . . but we are democratic in proportion to the results obtained” – Delegate John Bookjans, Local 237, Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, 1927 Convention

II When the first American trade union delegation to the Soviet Union arrived in 1927, one of its members asked Mikhail Tomsky of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions if the method of voting by a show of hands could lead to intimidation and stifle trade union democracy—he replied that, “Our workers are not meek and cringing. They know how to vote, not only with one hand, but with two fists if necessary”

Practical experience from the most acute moments of labor’s class struggles and particularly when the question of power was posed directly—1871 and 1917—bequeathed a legacy which is often interpreted as experiments in ‘real democracy’, as though the working-class was attempting to put into practice the most radical ideologies espoused by the liberal bourgeoisie (when it was historically revolutionary).

The lived experience of proletarian revolution suggests that the opposite was true: for example, in the mandated delegates subject to immediate recall of the commune and the councils was an eager willingness by the revolutionary proletariat to suspend democracy based on the immediate needs of an increasingly acute class struggle.

Liquidating democracy is a function of the proletarian revolution; communism cannot exist as long as democracy continues to.
It’s in that spirit that I found the header for PostProletariat’s conclusion gratifying: “Democracy or Communism?”

On the immediate political questions raised by the article, the relation of communists to the traditional lesser-evil-complex is certainly topical. The blanket rejection in the article for those who seek to uphold liberal and ‘left’ candidates and parties as an opposition to populist, ultra-nationalist and fascist forces, whether implicitly or explicitly, was equally gratifying.


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2017 9:47 pm 
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Read the article, also, and enjoyed much of it, but.......if we are going to trace "democracy" and the stability of democracy, to private property and the stability of private property, then we really can't address our appeal to workers and.....farmers. Farmers are capitalists; perhaps a "harder-working" variety; a sector where size determines survival; subject to tremendous stress by markets... but capitalists nonetheless.

There is not, and won't be, any "workers and farmers" alliance.


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:32 pm 
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I missed that, you're right:

Quote:
This is how democracy has led the working class and working farmers away from seizing the means of production and taking political power for themselves.


It's inclusion brings up a lot of other tangential questions, starting with: is it necessary to separate and categorize the 'other' working strata which encompasses all non-traditional forms of wage labor as a catchall for those that, for a variety of reasons, aren't generally considered working-class-- or, are those kinds of distinctions functionally meaningless?

"subject to tremendous stress by markets" is an excellent way to describe the middle classes, be it [small? family-owned?] farmers, owner-operator truckers, professionals confronted with and subject to proletarianization...


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:41 pm 
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It may be worth referencing a very lengthy post ZeroNowhere once made here that Arty commented on some time ago.

hegels-formal-wills-and-democratic-principles-t316.html

I'll quote a few highlights that have similarities with the article in the OP

ZeroNowhere wrote:
In that case, we once again appear with a dichotomy of form and content. Democracy thus far appears as essentially form without content, and this content appears as something external to it and excluded from it. Hence, we have a duality of form and content; on the one hand, the unity of wills taken as equal and hence as united, the side of the single, social will, but on the other a multiplicity of actual, determinate wills, which appear as ‘given’ and hence as external to democracy and the social will as such. We have on the one side the united, social will, in which all individuals appear as essentially free wills dissolved in the single social substance, political existence, and on the other hand we have their existence and will as determined externally to democracy, hence from their democratic freedom of will and rather in the material world outside of it. Heavenly existence on one side, in which all are united through the state, and earthly existence on the other, where the individuals exist as discrete and conflicting, and atomization is the reigning principle. The former is the sphere of the political, the latter the sphere of civil society; as such, we here have the division of political and economic, one which did not exist in full when the economic power was identified with political power and personal hierarchy, bloodlines, etc. It is only because all of the individuals count as equal, free individuals that the political is able to separate from them in the form of the democratic state, which hence here forms the highest form of alienation. On the other hand, this abstract unity is established only through the atomization of individuals on the economic field, within civil society; only because of this do they enter onto the state in a form appropriate to this form of democracy, and from this arises all of its apparent conundrums.

...


The democratic principle, then, is essentially form without content, and in order to exist for itself must raise itself above economic man and take on a seemingly autonomous development and interest, just as capital must do in order to rise above use-value. Under capitalism, capital represents man’s social essence, his existence for society and the social nature of his labour, while labour-power itself appears as private and divided into innumerable atoms of use-value which find their sociality only in capital. This social nature of capital proceeds to feel not only individual labour, but also the separation of industries undergoing collective labour, to be a fetter, and develops past it through the credit system and the mobility of capital established therein and targeted towards the universal interests of capital via the equalization of the rate of profit. Capital thereby proceeds to become increasingly concrete, as we supercede the various stages of abstraction by which it is analysed only in particular industries, etc., in the same way that value supercedes the fetters of atomized private interest only through collective labour (of course, for us as Marxists, this motion of the productive forces in fact forms the basis of capital rather than the other way around; on the other hand, this perspective of things occurring due to value’s own self-development has some degree of validity for a time, inasmuch as it is indeed capital which brings together labour rather than the labourers who congregate and therefore establish capitalism. This form of development, capital as subject, is for a time in unity with the development of the productive forces, and hence has a temporal validity and truth, by which capital comes to represent the social interest of society. However, its negation is always inherent in it. As per usual, truth is historical.)

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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 1:23 am 
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Yeah, that was a great contribution by Zero, really great.

As for the "other categories"-- I don't know that we have to categorize all other forms of labor, from the getgo. The article itself is dealing with abstractions, don't forget-- democracy, being a big abstraction, and attempts to show in the concrete the linkage of democracy to private property. So it's when engaging in the concrete, the class nature, that it is important to point out the "unrealizability" of farmers as proletarians.

The history of the New Left through the 1960s and 1970s was all about trying to find some substitute for wage-workers as the nexus of anti-capitalist struggle and overthrow; and even find some substitute for conflicts inherent in capitalism-- overproduction, declining profitability-- by replacing capitalist production with the "fiscal crisis of the state" "stagnation" and the favorite by a mile, "third worldism/national liberation as the limits to capitalism.

The answer gets delivered concretely, with declining profitability, OPEC, Pinochet, asset stripping, leveraged buy outs, attacks on wages, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:58 pm 
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I didn't care for the apparent concession to the communisateurs and co.; the approvingly cited quote from Endnotes.

The apparent endorsement of the Endnotes quote contained in PostProletariat's text softly suggests that the problem of the 'lower phase of communism' was a conceptual holdover from the 'young Marx' of 1844—and yet it was on this topic that Marx would later outline what the concrete means by which democracy would face its extinction event: the proletarianization of humanity through the generalization of wage labor--

"Hence, equal right here is still in principle -- bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange exists only on the average and not in the individual case.

In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor."
--Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875)


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:31 pm 
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Hello to everyone and thanks for taking the time to start this discussion surrounding the article I drafted from a number of great theses written by Eden Sauvage.

I consider myself to be an anarchist and communist and can tell you upfront I'm indeed interested in so called communization.

Yeah, I've got a tiny bit of criticism over using that Endnotes quote. To be clear about where my sympathies lie, I see most of communization theory to be somewhat...hehe, infantile...but still see it as very much having value today and thinks it deserves serious consideration. One thing that was certainly not meant to be emphasize was this whole young vs old thing, yes people live and their personal outlooks evolve but I hate to assign this strict linear progression to it.

Can't say there is much agreement on my part with the poster sartesian regarding the blanket categorization of "farmers are capitalists." There are like ten or twenty states in the US today where an acre or two of land won't cost you more than a used Honda sedan. Are workers who own cars potentially capitalists as well because they can potentially work chinese food delivery?

Farmers are not all capitalists. Well over 50% of all land in the world is owned by small family farms by every statistic I've seen, but I don't intend to get in a numbers war 'cause science today (like art) is bourgeois as hell. In the modern working climate, in the age of the contractor, and subcontractor, and subsubcontractor and subsubsubcontractor, where everyone is a proletarian only in the atomized individual sense..."cleaved off from society" like Eden said...plenty of people whos labor sartesion could perhaps describe as "farming" are "proletarian" in the traditional Marxist sense.

One thing I tend to disagree with via a brief and immediate google-based search which probably paints this milieu too broadly is the analysis of the American civil war. I'd presume some of this extends into an anaylsis of certain events of the Russian civil war as well? Don't want to get too far OT but my bottom line is that the "working" portion of what Marxists consider "the peasantry" can be very revolutionary. Don't get me wrong though, the stuff happening with the Zapatistas and the Kurds is nationalism and capitalism through and through.

Hope this answers some initial inquiries and opens this for further discussion. I know I share some very important disagreements with many of you all but support any discussion away from the typical compromised websites like Facebook, Reddit, Libcom/RevLeft, traditionalist left communist forums, etc.


All the best and thanks again for the discussion.

Dankston


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:39 pm 
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Thanks for the response Dankston. I'll have to come back to post a proper reply, for now just wanted to say welcome to Red Marx


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:54 pm 
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Dankston,

Thanks for the reply. To the issue of farmers:

Quote:
Can't say there is much agreement on my part with the poster sartesian regarding the blanket categorization of "farmers are capitalists." There are like ten or twenty states in the US today where an acre or two of land won't cost you more than a used Honda sedan. Are workers who own cars potentially capitalists as well because they can potentially work chinese food delivery?

Farmers are not all capitalists. Well over 50% of all land in the world is owned by small family farms by every statistic I've seen, but I don't intend to get in a numbers war 'cause science today (like art) is bourgeois as hell. In the modern working climate, in the age of the contractor, and subcontractor, and subsubcontractor and subsubsubcontractor, where everyone is a proletarian only in the atomized individual sense..."cleaved off from society" like Eden said...plenty of people whos labor sartesion could perhaps describe as "farming" are "proletarian" in the traditional Marxist sense.


No, workers who own cars are not capitalists because they can "work" chinese food delivery. However, if individual workers who own the cars now hire others to drive the cars for wages while delivering chinese food, then those individuals are no longer workers, they are capitalists hiring workers.

Similarly, the era of the "family farm" as an economically significant unit in the US is long gone. A "subsistence farmer" isn't a capitalist, and really isn't a farmer, producing for his/her own subsistence and with only a tangential contact with the markets of capitalist exchange. Peasants are not farmers. Black sharecroppers and tenant farmers in the South were neither farmers nor a peasantry, but actually an agricultural proletariat, a source of ready, and restrained labor, with their status as workers being hidden or veiled in the sharecropping arrangement (and in certain states of the South it was actually illegal to refer to them as "workers," but workers they were).

As for "plenty of people whos labor sartesion could perhaps describe as "farming" are "proletarian" in the traditional Marxist sense"-- I don't think so. The traditional Marxist sense of "proletarian" refers to a class which is stripped, both as individuals and as a collective category, of the means of providing for his/her/their own subsistence EXCEPT for the ability to exchange their labor power for values equivalent to those means.

I understand you may not want to take "numbers" as provided by the USDA, or FAO, or the Statistical Abstract of the US (unfortunately now privatized out) as gospel, but it's not wise to ignore the actual data of how, where, who, agricultural production is actually performed in capitalism, advanced and "developing."

No agricultural producer, much less a farmer, has ever, ever, ever been able to subsist on an acre or two of individual production, not in Egypt in the 18th and 19th century, not in Mexico in the 16th century, not in Bolivia in the 20th century-- nowhere. In fact the "ownership" of small plots was part of the process of keeping the agricultural worker impoverished such that he and she had to be available whenever the large landowner required their labor. Didn't make the large landowner capitalist either, but certainly did make the large landowner commercial.

Farmers as farmers have to engage in commercial production to the point where all product, not just surplus, has to be realized as value in the market in order to provide for the farmer's reproduction. Once that process is initiated, the farmer must expand, and that expansion requires the employment of wage-labor, of agricultural workers. There are very few, if any, commercially viable farms in the US that do not employ workers, a rural proletariat. That proletariat may be migratory, foreign, or "native-born" but to be a economically viable unit in the US, to [i]farm [/1] is capitalize the labor of others, to convert product into value.

I would be interested in your analysis of the US Civil War.


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 Post subject: Re: 'The Democratic Mirage'
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 9:40 pm 
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Quote:
Thanks for the response Dankston. I'll have to come back to post a proper reply, for now just wanted to say welcome to Red Marx.


Thanks for the warm welcome.

Sartesian wrote:

Quote:
Thanks for the reply.


Nah no problem at all. I will say however it's a busy weekend and I'm currently responding on a mobile device which always makes me feels as if half of my brain is turned off.

There's no point in knitpicking with you here my friend because I mostly agree. When I say farmer I mean someone who grows food, in order to distinguish from gardener. Sartesian, your definition is perhaps a bit more restrictive but I agree with your categorizations fundamentally. I just think saying "farmer" or working farmer is better than agricultural proletariat, or peasantry.

Regarding the USDA, presuming their numbers are accurate which is a big presumption, the numbers I referenced were in regards to the global perspective. I can link to up to three studies that claim between 50-75% of the worlds land is still owned by subsistence farmers. And here we go with the numbers hehe.

Quote:
No agricultural producer, much less a farmer, has ever, ever, ever been able to subsist on an acre or two of individual production.


Not true.

Without even getting into indoor and greenhouse production, I highly recommend folks look into intensive outdoor farming. Been around since the Han dynasty but only just now gaining attention commercially in the face of monocropping and mass global extinction events. There are a number of petty capitalist farmers like Eliot Coleman and Jean Michael Fortier who are grossing about 150k USD a year on less than three acres. I'd say that's easily enough to feed a small community of a handful of families. In the US, there's a bit over a half acre of arable land per person. A family would have two or three acres no problem.

I think that at every period during capitalisms development when there has been a major agricultural and food crisis, like the very time of Marx himself (whose study of soil and "metabolism", the rental of farming land and other things regarding the "town-country" seperation led to his theories of value), capitalism has both faced serious communist opposition and evolved in a structural manner. I need to write more about this in fact, like for the blog or something.

Quote:
Farmers as farmers have to engage in commercial production to the point where all product, not just surplus, has to be realized as value in the market in order to provide for the farmer's reproduction. Once that process is initiated, the farmer must expand, and that expansion requires the employment of wage-labor, of agricultural workers. There are very few, if any, commercially viable farms in the US that do not employ workers, a rural proletariat. That proletariat may be migratory, foreign, or "native-born" but to be a economically viable unit in the US


Yes, I like this formulation quite a bit. It is exactly the type of thing I'm interested in avoiding, and that groups like the EZLN and MST have fallen victim to. Money is the worst. Seems to corrupt everything and I even got a paper cut from a bill once :o :x :oops: :cry:

Again, I'd like to highlight the length the modern proletariat has to go to reproduce itself and the generalized individualization of labor today.

My analysis of the US Civil War isn't totally formulated but IIRC there's wayyy too much sympathy for the confederacy and an undervaluation of Black reconstruction among the traditionalist left communists. We've seen overcapitulation to racist and backwards reactionary elements of the "white" US working class manifest quite strongly again in the post-Trump's election era haven't we? (Jesus tapdancing christ it hasn't even been four weeks.)


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