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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #280 - The usefulness of Marxian criticism for libertarians (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sun, 4 Mar 2018 10:34:52 +0200

After the death of Bakunin, the anarchist movement has adopted a project of communist society which, in broad outline, remains relevant. But this positioning would have been stronger if he had relied on Marx's theory of crises rather than on moral or ideological arguments. ---- Libertarians have been very good at imagining elaborate social projects, some of which can even be put into practice, at least partially, in history. But most of the time, it missed them a failure a solid objective criticism of the contradictions of the capitalist system. ---- Marx, for his part, was not far in terms of the social project, but left us a dense and solid study of the devastating contradictions of capitalism as a system. But it is by joining systemic criticism to the utopian aspiration that a libertarian communist society can truly be thought of.

Proudhon and Marx
From the point of view of criticism of political economy, Marx is both a continuator and critic of Proudhon. The latter had in fact already developed a criticism of the property, the report of exploitation, the spoliation of surplus value by the capitalist proprietors, declaring thus: " Property is theft ! Proudhon was also a virulent critic of the banks and the state.

However, the criticism of Proudhon has several limitations. On the one hand, property, banks and the state are analyzed not as elements of a dysfunctional system, but rather as structures invested by ill-intentioned individuals (bourgeois class, bureaucracy). Technical progress, on the other hand, is interpreted as harmful because it disqualifies the worker and the worker while Marx analyzes it as a suppression of the source of value, pillar of capitalism.

On the other hand, there are sometimes confusions between the libertarian socialist activist's point of view and that of a small liberal entrepreneur, hostile to taxes, technical progress and big industry. From these shortcomings follows the weakness of Proudhon's proposals. His ideal society, from the economic point of view, could be summarized as follows: a trading society without bosses or exploitation, composed of mutuals and cooperatives, and a people's bank delivering loans at zero rates, and whose aim would be to limit competition and the formation of monopolies.

No illusion on mutuellism
The criticism of Karl Marx will reveal the limits of this project and open the way to an overtaking. The contradiction between the social character (the goods are made available to the whole society) and the deprivation of production (the producers produce on the basis of private property, according to private interests, and their individual fate depends on the sale or not of the goods they produce) regularly leads to a series of negative consequences for society and the individual. For society, it's about economic crises. For the individual, it is about income cuts, the bankruptcy of his activity, unemployment, misery.

These reflections are absent in Proudhon. The latter mainly studies the problem of inequalities, between those who have power and money and those who do not. Marx, while integrating this dimension, also studies, through a deep analysis of the crises, why capitalism is a system of impersonal domination where dominions as dominated can end all and all losers, by the play of their unthinking actions. and disordered, in a system that they do not understand and control. The general idea of Marx would therefore be to replace private property, competition and the commercial relationship by a collective and democratic management of production and distribution. It remains to specify the forms and institutions that are conducive to such a society.

By his own admission, Bakunin was not a treaty man. He was a man of action. To compare Marx's work with Bakunin's pamphlets would therefore be irrelevant. Bakunin was in favor of economic collectivism: a complete socialization of production managed democratically, from below, according to the federalist principle. From this point of view, Bakunin made a synthesis of the best of Marx and Proudhon. However, this is a political position and a series of proposals for social organization rather undeveloped, and not a detailed and in-depth analysis.

Collectivism or Communism ?
After Bakunin, the libertarian movement split into two streams: the collectivists and the communists. If they agreed on the necessity of socializing production, they diverged on the question of the distribution of the social product.

The collectivists were for the maintenance of wage labor, merit pay, and a market distribution of production ; the communists were for the abolition of wage labor, the distribution according to the needs and the " catch with the pile ". If the Communists still won in this debate at the time, it is unfortunate that they have held to moral or ideological arguments, and have not resorted to arguments stronger, such than Marx's theory of crises, to justify their positioning. Particularly bad, because the backsliding were recurring in the libertarian movement - for example, the relation to the currency and the market at Pierre Besnard, (The libertarian Federalism, 1946) and Georges Fontenis,(Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, 1953) - and still exist today.

Cafiero, who was a member of the communist current, has certainly only drafted a summary of Capital (validated by Marx himself), reduced to Book I (which lacks the developments of Books II and III as well as Grundrisse ), however, in this debate, he seems to have omitted Marx's analysis of the accidental realization of value and the possibility of crises, present in book I.

Read the review of L'Abrégé du Capital in Alternative Libertaire , February 2009.
Kropotkin sinks into a primary anti-Marxism, certainly understandable for the time, but very tainted with bad faith (evidenced by his incapacity, in The Conquest of Bread , to understand correctly the meaning of the concept of overproduction). Kropotkin's antimarxism is highly damaging since its contributions could be an essential complement to Marx. To the analysis of the latter would thus be grafted " the social physiognomy ", as a radical overcoming of political economy, as well as a possible way of organizing the social relations of production and distribution, rid of class domination and forms of impersonal domination of Capital.

For the libertarians, to be interested in Marx's work on the critique of political economy is to provide himself with indispensable tools to think both of the criticism of the capitalist system and logically deduce the optimal organizational bases of production and distribution relationships necessary for a society of politically free individuals joining forces to produce according to their needs.

Floran Palin (AL Marne)

His blog: Espritcritiquerevolutionnaire.revolublog.com
In summary:
Alain Bihr (sociologist): " Even insufficient, Marx remains necessary ! "
Political economy: The usefulness of Marxian criticism for libertarians
Basics: Capitalist logic in eight basic notions
the value
the work force
domestic work
the capital gain
the trend decline in the rate of profit
Marx or Keynes ? The development of capitalism is no longer epoch

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