Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts On The New Red Scare

The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the bourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

This is a central point of Marx and Engels. The bourgeoisie (ownership class) finds it to their advantage to treat the proletariat (workers) as a commodity and to arrange the economy institutionally so that workers compete for scarce jobs. This allows owners to ensure a supply of low wage workers through a competitive market in the same way as non-human resources are traded. Indeed, it has been compared with the way that slaves were traded, too. This "commoditization of labor" is an essential aspect of "the free market."

Part of the "free market" myth is the myth of Horatio Alger, that is, that anyone can raise himself or herself from the bottom to the top, although for women, this is largely presumed to be through marrying well. Thus, the potential for achieving freedom is social mobility. As a result, a great deal of attention is placed on promulgating this myth as a cultural meme. the corollary is that is one is not free, then it is one's own fault. Since social mobility is so low presently, it has been augmented with the lottery, which has been successfully incorporated into the myth.

What would act against this institutional arrangement is worker association through trade unions to increase the bargaining power of labor. Through their association to further their common goals, including increasing labor share as well as improving working conditions, individual competition for scarce jobs is reduced and the so-called free market is undermined in the estimation of owners of means of production aka capital.

In order to realize such goals through association, several things are necessary. First, workers must become aware of the potential for association and its possibilities. At the time Marx and Engels were writing, this was far some understood by workers, let alone a practical reality in the work place. This education of workers would take many decades.

Secondly, owners could not be expected to sit idly by and watch workers kill the goose that lays the golden eggs for them. They would respond with whatever it might take to prevent this from occurring, and that is just what happened historically.

It was not until the time of the Great Depression, when owners where actually afraid of socialism and even communism coming to the fore in the West as it had in Russia, that they relented their opposition to some extent. Moreover, favorable legislation was enacted under a more liberal political climate.

Since then, and especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall that signalled the end of the red threat, owners again mounted the fight against worker association. In addition, more conservative governments rescinded previous worker-friendly legislation and past new limits on organizing the workplace and restrictions on association.

That is where we are now, and given the economic situation, workers are again pushing back. The push back has been more forceful in europe than in the United States so far, but the situation is dire some countries there. However, the Arab spring in MENA was not only political but also economic, and it began for economic reasons rather than for political ones.

This is entirely consistent with the analysis of Marx and Engels, who reasoned that it is not ideas that lead history but external conditions, and the conditions that are most motivating are economic.

According to Marx & Engels, since workers so greatly outnumber owners worldwide, continued oppression of workers depends on a low level of collective consciousness of workers. Thus, it is to owners advantage to see that institutional arrangements, education in particular but also media, contribute to maintain the myth of the market.

I surmise that this may explain a lot of the otherwise "crazy talk" about the "Democrat Party" (sic) and President Obama being socialists and even communists.

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