the historical limits of capitalism

Just as feudalism was historically limited, so too capitalism, writes duvinrouge.

The rise of capitalists and their taking power from the nobility was a reflection of the changing economic conditions as manufacturing became more important than agriculture. Looking back, it’s quite easy to understand how the increasingly economically powerful capitalists seized power. The case for the workers taking power isn’t so obvious though. Many seem to think that capitalism will continue forever unless a political party can persuade working people of a better alternative. Such a subjectivist position shows a lack of understanding of how capitalism works and what Marx was getting at in Volume III of Das Kapital.

‘The Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit’ is part three of Volume III. To understand the importance of this requires a good understanding of how capitalism works, what value is and in particular, the difference between absolute and relative surplus value. Value is essentially labour time. Not necessarily the sum of all actual labour time that has gone into all commodities produced, but the market-determined ‘socially necessarily’ labour time; not all commodities taken to market are bought at prices that cover their costs and return a profit because the capitalist has to anticipate demand. (Don’t worry if you don’t fully grasp ‘socially necessary’ labour time, the key point is values (prices) reflect labour time).

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marx, bakunin and the question of authoritarianism

David Adam casts doubt on the traditional narrative regarding the question of authoritarianism in the Marx-Bakunin conflict

Historically, Bakunin’s criticism of Marx’s “authoritarian” aims has tended to overshadow Marx’s critique of Bakunin’s “authoritarian” aims. This is in large part due to the fact that mainstream anarchism and Marxism have been polarized over a myth—that of Marx’s authoritarian statism—which they both share.1

Thus, the conflict in the First International is directly identified with a disagreement over anti-authoritarian principles, and Marx’s hostility toward Bakunin is said to stem from his rejection of these principles, his vanguardism, etc. Anarchism, not without justification, posits itself as the “libertarian” alternative to the “authoritarianism” of mainstream Marxism. Because of this, nothing could be easier than to see the famous conflict between the pioneering theorists of these movements—Bakunin and Marx—as a conflict between absolute liberty and authoritarianism. This essay will bring this narrative into question. It will not do this by making grand pronouncements about Anarchism and Marxism in the abstract, but simply by assembling some often neglected evidence. Bakunin’s ideas about revolutionary organization lie at the heart of this investigation. Continue reading “marx, bakunin and the question of authoritarianism”

the communist manifesto: an overview

A presentation given to a recent London meeting of The Commune.  The original Communist Manifesto can be read here.

by Sharon Borthwick

In 1847 Marx and Engels joined The League of The Just, a working men’s association made up initially of exclusively German workers, the majority membership being tailors and woodcutters. This was “unavoidably a secret society” according to the political conditions before 1848, as Engels tells us in his preface to the 1888 English edition. This edition was translated by Samuel Moore and approved by Engels. It continues to be the English translation most read to date and we’ll use it here for this overview. The first English translation of the Manifesto, by Helen Macfarlane, was published in the Chartist journal, The Red Republican in 1850.

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the london commune: introduction to marx’s communism

This spring The Commune in London will be holding a series of educational discussions on the communism of Karl Marx as part of our organising meetings.

On each of the following Mondays (separated by three week intervals) we will have an hour’s discussion on a theme or text followed by an hour of planning for movement events and organising in the capital. See below for the list of dates and texts. Continue reading “the london commune: introduction to marx’s communism”

what will communist society look like?

The first of a series of communist discussion meetings in Sheffield. From 7pm on Tuesday 19th January at The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, Sheffield S1 2BS.

Recommended reading for the meeting includes: William Morris – News From Nowhere chapters xii, xv and xvii; Cornelius Castoriadis – On the content of socialism; Karl Marx – Critique of the Gotha Programme parts iii and iv, as well as The Paris Commune from Civil War in France.

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the jab of tragedy, the righthook of farce

David Broder reviews First as tragedy, then as farce by Slavoj Zizek

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profane (Marx, Communist Manifesto)

As we reach the end of the ‘noughties’ this month, there is much scope for reflection on the events of the last decade. There remains a crisis of alternatives to capitalism, yet together with the current dark spectres of recession and ecological crisis, two events bookmarking the decade disrupted the ideology of ‘the End of History’. The September 11th terrorist atrocities in New York shattered the illusion of the invulnerable American military hegemon, while last October’s financial meltdown has fatally undermined the gospel of free-market economics. George W. Bush’s speeches on each occasion were the same, of course: ‘action’ was needed to defend ‘our way of life’. As Slavoj Zizek acerbically comments, this brings to mind Marx’s quip that “History always repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce” Continue reading “the jab of tragedy, the righthook of farce”