Thursday, January 2, 2020

Marx’s concept of socialism — Peter Hudis

Marx of course supports collective ownership of the means of production. But by this he does not mean simply transferring ownership deeds from private to collective entities, but rather ensuring that the working class owns and controls the means of production. He makes this clear in writing, “When one speaks of private property, one is dealing with something external to man. When one speaks of labour, one is directly dealing with man himself. This new formulation of the question already contains its solution” (MECW 6: 281). The abolition of private property is a step towards liberation only if it leads to the transformation of human relations at the point of production.
This is further underscored by Marx’s statement, “Private property is thus the product, the result, the necessary consequence of alienated labour” (MECW 3: 279). It may seem that Marx has it backwards. Does not private ownership of the means of production cause workers to become alienated from their labour? His point is that so long as workers are alienated from the very activity of labouring, an alien group or class must exist that compels them to labour. Private property in the sense of class property—of a class other than the workers controlling the means of production—will continue to exist so long as alienated labour exists.
This emphasis on the priority of social relations of production over property forms carries through all of Marx’s later work, especially Capital. He there reiterates his early criticism of the notion that collective or state-owned property represents the new society:

Capital … now receives the form the social capital … in contrast to private capital, and its enterprises appear as social enterprises as opposed to private ones. This is the abolition of capital as private property within the confines of the capitalist mode of production itself. (Marx 1981: 567)….
Marx views "public" or "social" as the opposite of "private," that is, worker control and not state control, as is often misconstrued. This did get misconstrued in the supposedly necessary "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a transition phase, or perhaps better hijacked than misconstrued.

Monthly Review
Peter Hudis

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