Reformism or Revolution: Marxism & Socialism of the 21st Century
By Alan Woods
“A Modern Marxist Classic”
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FROM THE PUBLISHER:
The declarations of Hugo Chavez in favor of socialism have sparked an important debate in Venezuela and internationally. However, some have concluded that the "old" ideas of Marxism are no longer valid and that it is necessary to invent a completely new and original theory of "Socialism of the 21st Century." This book is a reply to that view - expressed by Heinz Dieterich among others - and a defense of the fundamental ideas of Marxism and scientific socialism against these revisionist arguments.
Alan Woods' new book sharply criticizes the ideas of reformist writers like Dieterich, who assert that socialism can be built simply by carrying out reforms within the confines of the capitalist system while maintaining the structures of the bourgeois state apparatus.
Reformism or Revolution explains that it is impossible to reform capitalism, that it is necessary to build the revolutionary party, mobilize the working class, dismantle the bourgeois state apparatus and nationalize the key levers of the economy.
The book also explains and defends the views of Marxists on: Philosophy and Science, Historical Materialism, the English and French Revolutions, Marxist Economics, the Economics of Socialism of the 21st Century, the question of Socialism vs. Stalinism, the State and Revolution, the Permanent Revolution, the Future of the Cuban Revolution, the Venezuelan Revolution and more.
I think I should make a guilty admission here at the onset of this review of REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION & confess that I have never managed to read any of Marx’s major works from cover to cover. It’s not that I’m dumb (?)—I just don’t have the dedicated attention span required—or interest in economics (until recently, that is.) It’s true that over the years I’ve learned a lot from the shorter articles of Marx & Engles, snippets from the larger works, discussions, etc. As appropriate to the subject, I’ve learned most from direct involvement with Marxist organizations—2 Trotskyite, 1 CP “front,” and, of course, the ephemeral “single issue” groups. Oh, yes—I almost went to Guyana with People’s Temple!
In the course of his book, Woods explains the most complex of Marxist ideas that I found personally invaluable for filling in the ideological gaps that my self-education lacked—and he does this in a clear, non-intimidating and informative style. As the title suggests, the primary focus of the book is to illustrate the fundamental differences between the revolutionary philosophy of Karl Marx with those of contemporary reformists who claim that capitalism can somehow be reformed from within. Alan Woods also illuminates many of the most crucial political moments in human history from a Marxist, historical materialist viewpoint. In so doing, Alan Woods reveals himself to be a master craftsman of the polemical technique.
My personal criticism of certain ideas Woods presents (or more aptly, fails to present) dovetail almost completely with the views of the early Gnostic Christians. I bring Gnostics into the review for 2 reasons. 1-Gnosticism is an important component to this website, and 2-I can visualize how Gnostics represented a sort of “Left Opposition” of the early Christian movement. The more I study them, the more I see these Gnostics as being early anarchists with decidedly communist leanings.
For early Gnostics, The Word made flesh is Gnosis.
For Marxists, it is Dialectical Materialism.
Both seek to overthrow the status quo of a corrupt social order.
REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION is a monumental testament to the continual viability of “orthodox” Marxist philosophy today.
This epic Marxist document could inspire an entire shorter book of commentary & review. Obviously we can’t attempt that here, so I will focus on the first 3 Chapters: Methodology, Philosophy & Science, Dieterich & Historic Materialism. The concluding essays of the third chapter, Christianity & Communism and Was Jesus Christ a reformist? may be of special interest to a number of our readers who have a Gnostic orientation. There is also a section on Liberation Theology that provides timely information as well.
The publication of REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION at this particular juncture in human history couldn’t be more appropriate. Just about everybody with even a rudimentary interest in current events must be aware that the human race & the environment stand at possibly the most critical crossroad in their often tortuous existence. It is certainly a defining moment: Will we learn from our past mistakes in order to reach a saner, collective & behavior-modifying response to the challenges of our life on the earth? Or will we continue to follow the capitalist road of greed that can lead only to destruction on a global scale? Socialists advocate a collective option, but while they may share a similar vision of the goal, they are not at all in agreement as to how to get there.
This is no mere battle of words or opinions either.
Author Alan Woods explains: The declarations of Hugo Chávez in favor of socialism have sparked off a serious debate in Venezuela, where socialist and Marxist ideas are being enthusiastically discussed in every factory and village…This is not the usual word spinning of intellectual circles in universities…what is involved is not a doctoral thesis but a question of life and death…socialism has come out of the scholar’s study and entered the light of day. [Chapter 1, Methodology, p. 2]
To that I say, Amen! The world of ideas has been dominated by “post-modernism” intellectual regurgitation, capitalist apologia, New Age escapism & right wing rant—suffocating all in a torrent of endless metaphor & deliberate ambiguity. We need a clear vision of the goal & a coherent, effective road map for the journey in these days of extreme danger—and opportunity.
…The worker’s voice is drowned out by the chorus of the “clever” people who have lost all will to fight themselves and are anxious to persuade the workers that revolution brings only tears and disappointment. [P. 4]
In the United States, at least up to now, the pundits on the endless talk shows have laughed off the class struggle & social revolution as some kind of zany fantasy poor old, irrelevant Karl Marx believed in—whose philosophy provided a platform for “crazies” & thugs to dupe the poor, ignorant masses. Well, with the stunning escalating decay of modern capitalism impossible to ignore, the talking heads aren’t laughing so loudly any more. The highly paid capitalist cheerleaders are the contemporary version of the hapless underlings of French aristocrats—who also found themselves severely out of step with the social revolutionary process—and we all know what happened to them.
◄Click on image of “The National Razor” & uncover a fascinating site, Décolleté: Guillotine: The French Kiss Archives.
Woods sets his polemical sights not so much on the media (one of my personal favorites), but rather focuses particularly on the ultra-reformist ideas of academic Heinz Dieterich.
Professor Dieterich claims patent rights (well, more or less) for the concept “Socialism in the 21st century.” Apparently he has made some hay out of the ongoing revolutionary process in Venezuela. Wood’s dialectical treatment of HD is bitingly sarcastic, often referring to him as “Our Heinz” in parody of the Professor’s alleged familiarity with South American leaders Castro and Chávez—as well as to draw attention to HD’s complete convolution of Marxism. This consistent mocking tone is so consistent as to almost make the reader feel sorry for poor Dieterich—and the operative word here is almost.
[As a sort of aside remark, there is a person with a single page web site “Trans-humanist Socialism,” apparently eager to lay claim to that term. The only definition given is that “Trans-humanist socialism” will be achieved through nanotechnology. There is no further explanation to be found & no replies to email. It is a concept that deserves more exploration.]
I found many of Wood’s initial general observations downright refreshing, such as this one on P. 14:
…The standards of intellectual life today are even more miserable than it was in the past—at least in the social sciences. Most modern bourgeois philosophy is simply not worth reading. The postmodernist nonsense…reflects the despair of the bourgeois intellectuals in the period of the senile decay of capitalism.
Oh, god, yes!
The post-modern intelligentsia is a phenomenon that basically exists outside the United States, as there really is no intelligentsia in the U.S. Also, unlike the majority of countries outside the USA, there has never been a Communist Party in the US with any significant membership. For most countries, the term “Centrist” basically refers to non-Communist socialists & liberals. In the US it refers to “liberal” Democrats. The US political pendulum is so far to the Right that not any whiff of “socialist” debate is allowed in the mass media or any other influential, public venue.
In Wood’s well-argued refutation of Dieterich—and other reformists—the author explains not only how they distort Marxism, but also, in so doing, the author illustrates an effective strategy as how to circumvent them.
Every reformist has dreamed of moving step by step toward socialism, of a peaceful social transformation, without clashes, shocks or unpleasantness…It is not possible to jump straight from capitalism to socialism…before we can take a…step towards socialism it is…necessary to carry out a decisive break with capitalism. It is necessary to expropriate the landlords, bankers and capitalists.
When in 1917 the Bolsheviks implemented just this strategy in Russia, it sent “shock & awe” around the world & rattled capitalist cages from St. Petersburg to Washington. Until recently, a person advocating this position in the US would be labeled a “radical extremist nut case.” As difficult as it may be, times have changed and a call to expropriate the big capitalists no longer sounds so “foreign” to American workers.
The bourgeois critics of Marxism…have…concentrated their attacks on dialectics…A key part of this attack is the assertion that Engels based himself on old-fashioned science, the science of the 19th century…entirely displaced by the discoveries of modern science…this…assault against the basic principles of Marxism is entirely false. In the first place, Marx and Engels were by no means uncritical of the science of the 19th century…and in many ways were ahead of their times. In the second place, the results of modern science have…vindicated the dialectical approach.
[Philosophy & Science, p. 32]
I’ve been guilty of this too, tagging “orthodox” Marxism as “mechanistic.” This faulty argument is increasingly being raised in the US too where everything—including religion & philosophy—has to be “new & improved” in order to be deemed “real.”
Obviously I see it now as being a false perspective.
…Reactionary ideas can be expressed in science…reactionary theories in genetics that…provide a scientific basis for racism. Marx explains that the ruling ideas of every epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. But in every epoch are the ideas…that express the aspirations of the revolutionary class…The fact that the bourgeoisie in the first decade of the 21st century has exhausted its progressive role and has become a brake on the development of civilization is precisely expressed in the poverty of bourgeois culture…the complete absence of any school of bourgeois philosophy worthy of the name…the bourgeois comes to the conclusion that no great truths are possible.
On the following page, Woods states the basic Marxist/Existentialist view on material (for them the only) reality.
…The best example of false consciousness is religion…based on a completely alienated and distorted idea of the relationship of humankind with nature. Idealist philosophy is also a form of false consciousness (in fact, all forms of idealism eventually lead back to religion).
I believe this statement perfectly illustrates the fundamental problem most people have with Marxism. It’s basically a philosophy that condemns all forms of inner consciousness into oblivion. This may not be such a bad thing, but it is a source of one of the major points of antagonist reaction masses of people feel in relation to what they perceive as an authoritarian, nihilist philosophy of life. It suggests a sort of tunnel vision that rejects individual subjectivism. Trotsky put it something like this: Marxism solves the material struggles in life: Food, Clothing, Work and Shelter (and certainly Health Care would be included here). Spirituality is left to the individual. I personally believe that the majority of people in the world will always be drawn to inner reality as a source of inspiration and to explore how the subjective realm interacts with the outside, physical world. Trotsky himself was drawn to art & he was more sensitive to individuality than most Bolshevik leaders.
In refuting Heinz Dieterich’s assertion that matter and energy are two different things, Alan Woods explains the elementary basis of Unified Field Theory and its possible connection with dialectical materialism.
…Einstein’s theory of special relativity states that energy and mass are in reality equivalents. This is a striking confirmation of the fundamental philosophical postulate of dialectical materialism—the inseparable character of matter and energy…Matter and energy are…one and the same substance…it is quite wrong to say that matter “disappears” when it is changed into energy.
Pop Psych Icon, Carl Jung, phrased this same concept as applicable to human psychology.
Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are contained in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable (sic), transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.
“On the Nature of the Psyche”
The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche
Vol. 8 Collected Works (1981)
On pgs. 56-60 In order to counter Heinz Dieterich’s fuzzy “scientific,” Woods paints connections of dialectical materialism to contemporary science with a very wide brush. Some of his observations (…the Big Bang theory is something that would never be acceptable in any other field of physics. Yet it uncritically accepted…) are right on the mark; others (…the only dark matter that exists is to be found in the brain of Heinz Dieterich…) smacks of ideological conceit.
Expanding this critical examination of “accepted” scientific theory (or the author’s view of it), Woods comments on a wide range of subjects from postmodernism to genetics (always poses a tricky challenge). There are some hits & few misses.
On page 70 we find,
…In the future, we may even become masters of our own genes and determine…our biological evolution. This can have important implications for such things as space travel and the survival of the human race in changed conditions, as the planet becomes a less hospitable place to inhabit.
Woods has apparently written out the possibility that scientific socialism can be applied to save the planet. This attitude is reinforced in another section when the author dismisses vegetarians as people who can’t reconcile themselves to the fact “that tigers don’t eat lettuce.” Without going off on a tangent, I do feel a need to defend vegetarianism & the ecological controversy. I think most vegetarians are cogent of the difference between tigers & humans: humans can decide what they eat, tigers consume nothing but meat. Actually it’s the second sarcastic remark Woods makes at the expense of vegetarians—and, being one, I resent it & find the attitude unnecessary & offensive. Woods interpretation of Marxism has an “us vs. nature” slant to it that lumps the ecology movement (and vegetarianism) into the “utopian socialist” classification.
And I have a few words to say about that as well.
First off, if the human race fucks up the environment to the point where it becomes uninhabitable, then I for one say we’ve lost the right to take our pollution problems to outer space. Second of all, a transition to vegetarianism is something people can do to alter the food chain to a healthier, more sustainable level. It is also a way to lower the cruelty & torment level worldwide. Woods apparently has no concern about the plethora of suffering in the world, particularly where non-human animals are concerned. Thirdly, a Marxist organization so out of touch with ecological concerns & sensitivity in general, will fail to take advantage of the heightened awareness created by the environmental crisis.
For the world’s more full of weeping
than he can understand.
Incidentally, any environmental policy that fails to aggressively promote reducing human reproduction is also certainly doomed to failure. The drain & demands humans make of the environment are unsustainable at current levels. A socialist society would have to seriously address this problem. China—not exactly a shinning star of socialism—has attempted to enforce a 1-Child limit for families. It has not been very successful. The desire to reproduce is as instinctual as eating. Population control is an enormously complex issue, but it is not being raised in most environmental debates, and is not being addressed as a major ecological concern.
Maybe the early Gnostics had a vision of our future. Most sects practiced vegetarianism and, although many supposedly engaged in ritual sex, they were a-creationist; that is, they did not biologically reproduce. Of course this non-reproductive philosophy meant that new members would have to be recruited from without the inner circle. This could take the form of Gnostics deliberately “crashing” a mainline Christian assembly, speaking out against whatever gospel was being preached, thereby trying to “split” the main group, and gain new members from dissidents. This reminded me of the Trotskyites “intervention” tactics I have encountered. Some Gnostic groups allegedly used sex as bait to lure in new recruits too.
For more analysis of Gnosticism see,
Chapter 3 Dieterich and Historical Materialism is almost like a Marxist crash course. For the benefit of people who have no idea what historical materialism means, I’ll need to quote from Marx—the same quote Alan Woods uses to introduce the subject & Chapter 3 on page 73.
The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or order is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social change and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.
(Marx & Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 133)
This is the most explicit & complete definition of historic materialism you’ll probably find anywhere. In fact, in the process of reading through it several times, I had an idea for somebody’s academic thesis (assuming it hasn’t been used already): Apply this definition of historical materialism to the events surrounding the ancient Egyptian “Heretic King” Akhenaten. This New Kingdom pharaoh moved the capitol from Thebes to the entirely new city of Armana, banned the worship of the old gods, broke the power & wealth of the priests, and promoted the monotheist worship of the Aten Sun Disk. Akhenaten (formerly Amenophis IV) placed himself (naturally) at the head of this revolutionary (and fiercely hated) cult. The breaking of the polytheist priests’ wealth is reminiscent of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, theologically separating England from Rome, and placing himself as the head of the nationalist Church of England. Of course the big difference is that where Henry’s theological revolution was successful, Akhenaten’s was not.
Another pertinent quote from Selected Works on page 75,
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under it under self-selected circumstances; but under conditions existing already…the tradition of all dead generations weighs like an Alp on the brains of the living…
In a general sense this is fairly self-evident. On a strictly personally level, I concur with the Hellenic view: Character = Fate. However, it is true that the individual actor plays her/his part on the collective stage with historical materialism as the backdrop. Problems arise when Marx is the sole Producer/Director, and Dialectical Materialism the only script.
Woods illustrates the connection between historical materialism and Marx’s other great theory of scientific socialism.
As opposed to the utopian socialist ideas of…Robert Owen, Saint-Simon and Fourier, Marx is based upon a scientific vision of socialism…the key to the development of every society is the development of the productive forces…Each new social system—slavery, feudalism and capitalism—has served to take human society forward through it’s development of the productive forces.
Perhaps no other Marxist concept has been as hotly debated as the term “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” It’s like a double whammy for people who oppose Marxism. The word “Dictatorship” raises specters of Stalin and Hitler, and “Proletariat” seems like a hidden, lurking menace from the Industrial Age.
In The Communist Manifesto…the question of the state…and the question of the concrete forms of a worker’s state (“dictatorship of the proletariat”) is not dealt with out all. Marx did not did not invent a project for an ideal worker’s state, but derived his theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat from the actual experience of the worker’s of Paris in 1871. The Paris Commune was the concrete basis upon which Marx developed his theory in the transition from capitalism and socialism.
…the kind of worker’s state that Marx has in mind had nothing to do with…monstrous totalitarian and bureaucratic regimes…the word dictatorship did not yet carry the kind of connotations that it does today, after the nightmare totalitarian regimes of Hitler…Mussolini…Franco and Stalin, Pinochet and Videla. He (Marx) based his idea on the Roman Republic, when in time of war, special powers were granted to the “dictator” for a period of year.
During the time of Julius Caesar, Rome was in state of virtually constant war, both Civil and territorial. The two most powerful factions vying for control of Rome (and consequently control over a vast area of the world) were represented by the powerful generals Julius Caesar and Pompeii. Pompeii sought needed material resources in Egypt, where he was assassinated. At the time, the Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egyptian and was under the “protection” of Rome, i.e. indebted to Rome. While in Egypt Caesar intervened in the Egyptian Civil War and placed Cleopatra on the throne. On returning to Rome, Caesar pressed the Senate to more or less proclaim him Emperor. The Senate was split between Caesar’s supporters, and the Republicans who wanted to maintain the Republic (that is, all political power in the hands of Senators). Caesar had the support of the army and the backing from a large segment of the old aristocracy. In order to placate him, the Senate awarded Caesar the compromise title “Dictator for Life.” This meant that the Senate would maintain the power to veto. This was not enough for Caesar (who wanted to be declared Emperor & receive official deification). His relationship with Cleopatra (who had born him a son) eroded support & eventually Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate. It’s said that he died at the foot of a statue representing Pompeii.
Now we approach what I feel is the most controversial & questionable portion of REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION? These are the concluding pages of Chapter 3 that present what amounts to a new Marxist line on religion in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular.
More recently Chávez advised the heads of the Catholic Church to read the works of Marx and Lenin as well as the Bible. We do not know whether they have taken his advice but as dialectical materialists, Marxists do not believe in the existence of either heaven or hell…Our aim is to fight for the socialist transformation of society on a national and international scale. We wholeheartedly welcome the participation of every progressive person in the struggle, no matter what his or her beliefs…
This is very much like the Stalinist myth of a progressive bourgeoisie. Not only this, but a pro-clerical line led to absolute disaster during the Iran Revolution, and the homophobic implications of similar tactics as applied to Cuba and the Sandinista cause in Nicaragua. Homosexuals in “the Movement” have always been pretty much told not to say a word about their sexual orientation so has not to offend the delicate sensitivities of Roman Catholics south of the border. Woods pulls out little homilies from the New Testament, defending the misconception that the historic Jesus was some sort of international socialist. He was not. The earliest Christian movement was not Christian at all; it was a militant Judaic sect with ties to the Essenes, and whose sole purpose was to drive the Roman Occupation out, and to reinstate a “purified” Kingdom of Israel. This is where David Koresh of the ill-fated Branch Davidians got his inspiration & game plan.
The Disarming Myth of the Liberal Bourgeoisie
The Roman Catholic Church is the most oppressive & enslaving institution the world has ever seen. It represents 2,000 years of murdering Gnostics because they were Gnostics, burning women because they were women, killing Jews because they are Jews—and persecuting any person who significantly disagreed with their program of lies, extortion, torture, sexual molestation, genocide & land grabs. The Church (along with leading Protestant denominations) literally blest the evil regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. The Church continues to condemn the whole concept of birth control. There’s nothing “progressive” about it, and if a few priests and a single bishop (P. 101) appear to support the people’s movement, they’re probably spies. To pretend that there are “good Catholics” who are unaware of the sinister history of the religion they support is 1. to have a faulty view of Roman Catholic education/indoctrination, or 2. to ignore the reality of “Liberation Theology.” It’s like recruiting skinheads just because most of them are working class.
I thought that the “Liberation Theology” movement had pretty much petered out in the 1980’s. Many of the North American clergy went quietly back into the arms of The Church. Many others dropped out of The Church altogether. They became cynical and bitter, exercising their social consciousness by manning thrifts shops, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Expecting the Church will reform itself is just like thinking capitalism will reform itself.
It ain’t gonna happen.
The class struggle finds its expression in the church, and this is particularly true in Latin America. It is reflected in the Theology of Liberation and similar progressive tendencies in the church. Marxists regard this as a most important phenomenon. We regard it as our duty to enter into a friendly discussion with this trend and to encourage the evolution of Christians towards socialism and Marxism.
Not only is this policy extraordinarily paternalistic, it reflects the Cold War tactic of deep entry (Marxists getting into positions of authority, usually in the labor movement, without disclosing their true political affiliation). It also reflects another Gnostic tactic similar to the “intervention” tactic mentioned above. In this tacit they didn’t barge into mainline Church meetings, but actually joined the group without revealing their true religious affiliation. Once in the door they formed cliques before the big blowout, and when they were finally expelled, they took other members of the clique with them.
To conclude this review, I’ll point out a few crucial passages in chapters following the first three. Let me just preface by saying it’s difficult to zeoro in on just a few passages—because of the wealth of material covered in the book. There are little gems & loaded hand grenades on just about every page.
In Socialism Utopian or Scientific, Woods indicates the error of reformism in Latin America.
…there are some people who imagine themselves to be…modern revolutionaries…far superior to Marx and Engels…They argue that it is not necessary for workers to take power…instead recommend the masses to take power locally…that will by-pass the capitalist state…altogether…thus unwittingly repeat the mistakes of Robert Owen—almost two centuries later!
…Marx and Engels approached the matter in an entirely different way. For the first time they explained that socialism was not just a good idea but the product of the development of society…a scientific-materialist explanation of socialism, not a utopian-idealistic one.
This presents the situation quite nicely. I have found that a number of (non-socialist) people refuse to accept that Marxism-Leninism is, in fact, at least on the same level as, for example, Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution. They fail to understand that Marx based his theory on the analysis of economy and class society (also well documented in REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION). Socialists who deny this point are either just bending to social pressure, or they are intellectually lazy.
…Marx and Engels…explained that the development of the productive forces and the socialization of labor under capitalism created the material conditions for the working class to transform society along socialist lines.
Regarding the argument that “orthodox” Marxism inevitably leads to an anti-democratic regime, Wood states:
For Marx and Engels, and above all for Lenin and Trotsky, the abolition of capitalism requires the active participation of the majority of the population—that is, the working class. Socialism is democratic or it is nothing…when Marxists speak of democracy we have in mind, not the caricature of bourgeois formal democracy but a genuine democracy where industry, society and the state are controlled by the working class.
This is true—in theory. After being a fairly good political observer of American society from the vantage point of two major wars (Vietnam, Iraq), I question if the majority of working class people would willingly become active participants in the social revolutionary process on a sustained basis. I would welcome having this doubt disproved.
On page 161, Woods does what I think he does extremely well—explains some of Marx’s most complex theories & terminology. In this case, he begins by quoting a segment from Trotsky’s Introduction to The Living Thoughts of Karl Marx, published as Marxism in our Time, Pathfinder 1970.
The quoted passage explains the economics and history behind Marx’s central theory of class struggle.
This is Alan Woods’ explanation in considerably less arcane, technical terminology:
While the great classical economists…based themselves on the law of value, it was Marx who refined the theory and discovered the dual character of labor power and thus the real secret of capitalist economy. All surplus value arises from the labor of the working class. The working class…sells its labor power, which, while sold at its full value, is capable of creating new values greater than its own. Therefore, capitalism is to be understood not from its exchange of labor-time equivalents but from the capitalist’s appropriation of surplus value. The class struggle is nothing more than a struggle over the surplus value.
Woods completes the paragraph with another quote from Marx: An increase in wages…reduces the surplus value, while a lengthening of the working day and an increase in the intensity of labor add to it. (Marx, Capital)
This is explains why the stock market is nothing more than an enormous pyramid scheme & why the Obama bailout of the capitalists is a swindle. A stock goes up when the workers receive lower than standard pay and/or the consumer pays more than its value. The trillion$ of bailout $$$ represents the surplus value that either the workers earned and/or $$$ that should have been invested in modernizing the infrastructure & programs benefiting the working class—not the Capitalist Oligarchs who directly profited from exploiting the working class & stiffing consumer complaints. The whole thing is a fraud that bets against the workers and against the consumer.
Today in all the main capitalist countries the big monopolies are closely linked to the state. Although they constantly complain about the state, taxes and government interference, the capitalists are paid lavish subsides by the state, which relieves them of the need to pay for the education and health of the workers, pays for the police who defend their property and the armies that fight their wars for access to foreign markets, raw materials and spheres of influence, all while reducing taxation on the rich and passing the bill to the working class and the middle class. The next logical step is therefore the nationalization of the big banks and monopolies, under the democratic control and administration of the working class.
I’m going to wrap things up by posting one of my favorites passages in the REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION:
The first question we need to ask is: why are private capitalists necessary at all? In Marx’s day the factory owners played a direct role in production, as managers in their own factories. But that has long since disappeared. The modern owners of industry play no role at all in production, other than providing capital for investment, and this they do exclusively to obtain profits exclusively to obtain profit from the unpaid labor of the working class. The factories owned by Ford could not function for a single minute without workers, but the same factory could function very well if Henry Ford and all the capitalists vanished from the face of the earth.
Gee, a sort of Rapture of Capitalists? I like that.
The passage sort of illustrates why I think Marxists should substitute “Capitalists” or “Capitalist Oligarchy” for Marx’s “bourgeoisie.” The latter refers to “Middle Class,” and is not really an appropriate designation for today’s primary class antagonist. Someone said to me (when I used the term), “It’s bourgeois to say bourgeois.” I don’t exactly agree with that, but I do feel dropping it would modernize Marxist terminology without making any ideological compromise. Just a thought.
An Index added to future issues of REFORMISM OR REVOLUTION would be of great benefit to readers.
This is definitely a contemporary Marxist Classic.