Category Archives: Marx

Outline of Raymond Williams

Outline: Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature pp 75-89

I. Base & Superstructure

Two propositions:

  • Determining base and determined superstructure
  • Social being determines consciousness

Drawn from Marx’s Preface:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Continue reading

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La Teoría Comunista De Marx

My comrade Parce and I are working on translating a number of pieces from the Unity & Struggle blog into Spanish. We recently finished up the following piece, “The Communist Theory of Marx,” which is part of a longer document engaging with communist theory and revolutionary organization. Read below or visit here for the Spanish version, click here for the original in English.

La Teoría Comunista De Marx

Como siempre, si encuentras un error gramatical o en la traducción te agradeceríamos tu ayuda en corregirlo para mejorar nuestro trabajo.

Traducido por L Boogie y Parce

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La siguiente entrada representa una parte de un proyecto mayor sobre la teoría comunista y organización revolucionaria que se inició el verano pasado. Es un proyecto en curso que no sólo fue diseñado para proporcionar un esquema de referencia para nuestra propia agrupación. En términos más amplios, está destinado a ser una contribución a las discusiones en curso y debates sobre la teoría y práctica comunista, que, en nuestro momento histórico, no puede y no será el producto de cualquier grupo individual. Continue reading

Private Property and Communism (Passages)

Passages from Marx’s “Private Property and Communism” from the 1844 Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts. Page numbers correspond to the 1964 McGraw Hill edition but the full text can also be found online here.

“But labour, the subjective essence of private property as the exclusion of property, and capital, objective labour as the exclusion of labour, constitute private property as the developed relation of the contradiction and thus a dynamic relation which drives towards its resolution.” [152]

“Finally, communism is the positive expression of the abolition of private property, and in the first place of universal private property. In taking this relation in its universal aspect communism is, in its first form, only the generalization and fulfillment of the relation.” [152-153]

“in this natural species-relationship man’s relation to nature is directly his relation to man, and his relation to man is directly his relation to nature, to his own natural function. Thus, in this relation is sensuously revealed, reduced to an observable fact, the extent to which human nature has become nature for man and to which nature has become human nature for him. From this relationship man’s whole level of development can be assessed.” [154]
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The Class Individual and the Social Individual

Trying to understand the social individual, cuz I’m trying to understand what Marx meant by universality, cuz I’m trying to understand what the hell is communism. What follows are some passages from Part 2 of the American Worker pamphlet (written by Phil Singer and Grace Lee Boggs).

(Page numbers correspond to the Bewick/Ed edition, 1972; emphasis mine unless otherwise noted)

“The American worker today makes in practice the distinction which Marx made nearly a hundred years ago in theory – the distinction between abstract labor for value and concrete labor for human needs. Marx denied that the essence of value production was the search for profits by the individual capitalists…Marx was concerned with the activity of the workers. By value production he meant production which expanded itself through degradation and dehumanization of the worker to a fragment of a man. The essence of capitalist production is that it is a dynamically developing relation by which the dead labor in the machine, created by the workers, oppresses and degrades to abstract labor the living worker which it employs. Abstract labor is alienated labor, labor in which the worker ‘develops no free physical and spiritual energy but mortifies his body and ruins his spirit.’ Concrete labor for needs, on the other hand, is not merely nor even essentially the labor which produces butter rather than guns. It is the labor in which man realizes his basic human need for exercising his natural and acquired powers.” [46]

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Six Degrees of Separation, Alienation & Imagination

I recently watched Six Degrees of Separation for the first time. How is it that I’ve slept on that movie for so damn long? What a great film. I’m not sure if this was the director’s intent but the film is a critical and humorous attack on the shallow decadence of the ruling class and how it relates to the working class. It portrays an attempt by a young black proletarian, played by Will Smith, to flee the alienation and mediocrity of day-to-day life by attempting to become part of the elite through imitating them. Needless to say, he is ultimately unsuccessful. By the end of the film he is unable to distinguish what is really his life and what is not, sinking into a new kind of alienation that merely replaces the one he previously lived. Meanwhile, a wealthy woman is seemingly liberated by his psychological self-mutilation. A twisted ending, the meaning of which I’m still mulling over.

Side note: how come every time I’ve ever heard someone mention this movie they always say, “Isn’t that the flick where Will Smith played a gay dude?” Uh, yeah, but that’s a minor element of the story. No one ever mentions I Am Legend and says, “Hey, that’s the movie where Will Smith played a hetero dude!”
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The Relationship of Race & Class

From Charles Denby’s Indignant Heart (which I discussed briefly here):

“Three years ago the lunch wagon owned by an outside chain company, brought food into the plants to sell to the workers at lunch time. They raised the price of their food after a few weeks. The workers felt this was too much to pay and put up a holler so the union decided to boycott all the lunch wagons. The stewards were to see to it that no one bought anything. The first day no one came near the wagon. The second day five Negroes went to the wagon and began getting food.

The white chief steward yelled and said, ‘Put down that damn stuff.’

The Negroes looked around, very angry, and continued to pick up food.

The steward rushed to me and said, ‘What I say about your people is true, they won’t cooperate. Go over and see if you can stop them.’

I went over and before I could speak one said, ‘Matthew, we want to cooperate but yesterday we went outside and the restaurant where we can eat was packed. There was a long line waiting and half of us didn’t get anything to eat. We were so hungry in the afternoon we had to check out early. We just couldn’t make the day without eating. All the whites ate because they can go in any restaurant. We can’t bring lunch because we don’t have wives to fix them.’

All the restaurants around the plant are jim crowed, there are only three places where Negroes can eat, and there are about three thousand Negroes working on my shift. I went to the white chief steward and told him the story.

I said, ‘If you can get some white workers tomorrow, I will get some Negro workers and we can go out and break these restaurants discriminating around the plant. We will see that the restaurants serve all of our union members. I will stand guard every day after that and guarantee that no one will buy off of this wagon.’

This stunned him. He said he couldn’t do it. He would have to take it up with our union officers and that would take some time. The Negro fellows continued to eat from the wagon and pretty soon all the workers came back to eat there too. The lunch wagon kept selling at a high price which hurt both Negro and white workers.” [148-149]