Reading “The Critique of the Gotha Program, Part 1″ by Marx, Part 2

The first part of this series is here.   Let’s go to the next part of the first section of The Critique of the Gotha Program: 

2. “In present-day society, the instruments of labor are the monopoly of the capitalist class; the resulting dependence of the working class is the cause of misery and servitude in all forms.”

This sentence, borrowed from the Rules of the International, is incorrect in this “improved” edition.

In present-day society, the instruments of labor are the monopoly of the landowners (the monopoly of property in land is even the basis of the monopoly of capital) and the capitalists. In the passage in question, the Rules of the International do not mention either one or the other class of monopolists. They speak of the “monopolizer of the means of labor, that is, the sources of life.” The addition, “sources of life”, makes it sufficiently clear that land is included in the instruments of lab.

One forgets that land-owners, the preoccupation of the American Georgists, is vital. The ownership of land is also a primary function and the ownership of land almost always comes into being by the enclosure by one class on another in a given society. Forgetting this one gets into a new series of problems.  Any platform that obscures this is obscures the primary function of the way most societies actually work.

What is “a fair distribution”?

Do not the bourgeois assert that the present-day distribution is “fair”? And is it not, in fact, the only “fair” distribution on the basis of the present-day mode of production? Are economic relations regulated by legal conceptions, or do not, on the contrary, legal relations arise out of economic ones? Have not also the socialist sectarians the most varied notions about “fair” distribution?

To understand what is implied in this connection by the phrase “fair distribution”, we must take the first paragraph and this one together. The latter presupposes a society wherein the instruments of labor are common property and the total labor is co-operatively regulated, and from the first paragraph we learn that “the proceeds of labor belong undiminished with equal right to all members of society.”

“To all members of society”? To those who do not work as well? What remains then of the “undiminished” proceeds of labor? Only to those members of society who work? What remains then of the “equal right” of all members of society?

Again, we see how the these semi-cognitive and prospective-driven slogans don’t lead anywhere? Reading this one is see the current liberal rallying over a “fair wage” is actually quite deceptive. This rhetoric is easily co-opted by both the generic “right” (GOP, reactionaries, even anti-capitalist reactionaries) and capitalist movement itself.

Another notion we see in that society, even though it is produced from labor, cannot be defined by it.  Society defined by labor will not be able to survive technological removal and reduction of the need of the labor processes.  This is clear and obvious if one looks at the mechanization of the factory, something that was implied in Marx’s even though he was at the beginning of the industrial era.

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About El Mono Liso

Por una civilización de la pobreza.

Posted on December 22, 2011, in ideology, Marxism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. “Society defined by labor will not be able to survive technological removal and reduction of the need of the labor processes.”

    What is meant by “defined by” in this sentence? Are you writing of a society under Capitalism (which after all is defined by labor in so much as exchange value is produced by labor) or a socialist society defined by or run by a dictatorship of the proletariat? If you mean the later then it is not at all obvious that technology would in any way threaten such a society. As to the former, the removal of labor by technology puts the society into crisis but it is a crisis that can be resolved through the destruction of abstract capital.

  2. Technology is a threat to such a society as mechanization decreases the need for labor, but there are no new grounds in which people defined themselves. A socialist society is run by a dictatorship of the proletariat that still “defined itself” by labor, then it would degenerate into a new class structure and produce a new group in the position of the former proletariat. It would do what “communist” societies would have already done.

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