Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Two Short Pamphlets by Marx

The first of the was Eleven Theses of Feuerbach.  He is dismissive of Feuerbach for thinking abstractly, whereas reality is only concrete.  I know nothing of Feuerbach, so can't comment, beyond the point of noting that the man who has the grandest of all unifying abstract "sciences" should find fault with someone for talking abstractly.

The second is Wage Labour and Capital.  This work was originally by Marx and brought into an updated edition by Engels.  There is much that corresponds simplistically with economic views of supply and demand.  Marx seems to be making the case for a "living wage", since the fact that a wage can be insufficient for a family to survive is highlighted.  Engels adds a preface to this edition because it was produced after Marx's death from previous articles.  In this preface, Engels explains that the point to be noted is that, whereas the fair price should go to the value of the labor (errr, labor power) + the inputs, there always seems to be a markup, which is related to the corruption of the Bourgeoisie.  Marx notes that the markup can be negative as well as positive, so it isn't clear to me that Engels and Marx are on the same page.  This work was originally a series of articles published in the Rheinische Zeitung, which was closed by the government before the series was completed, so we really aren't in an easy position to say what Marx's aim was.

I haven't been keeping score, but will note that Marx, along with Burke and Paine who I have read recently, all use "Jew" as an insult.  Or so I have heard each one of them do this at least once.

9 comments:

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

Marx was a confused Jew and, usually, confused Jews hate other Jews, hate themselves, hate the world and militate against Jews and the world alike. It's a mess.
My problem with Marx's kind is that they pretend to be so rational, so intelligent, so this and that and in the end...they reveal nothing but irrationality and lack of wit. My other problem with contemporary Marxists is that their "master's" theory has already been proven wrong and yet they insist on failed theories and systems. I don't get it.

Cheers

Looney said...

I hadn't looked to see if Marx was a Jew or not, but that would be consistent with my prejudices!

The listening has now moved to the longest work, Das Kapital (translated to English). So far I haven't encountered anything that would qualify as a "theory", even as a lame attempt. It reminds me of Darwin, whose theory of evolution if put into plain English would simply claim that "shit happens" is the fundamental law of biology that explains everything. In Marx's case, it is the notion that capitalism equals disorder, so by destroying capitalism we are destroying disorder, which can only result in order! One reason that both Marxism and Darwinism are so resilient is that as soon as we claim that the theories are "wrong" we have already conceded the existence of a theory, which leaves us in a hopelessly inconsistent position that cannot stand in a debate. But envy and the poor will be with us until the end of time, thus, so will Marxism.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

I think the fact that you read/listen to people's thoughts without caring about their background may be considered honourable, as you are simply interested in their mind (not their colour, not their ethnicity, nationality etc). I, on the other hand, make it my business to know these things; so perhaps I am less honourable than you, who knows.

There's a difference between saying the theory is wrong without experimentation and concluding the theory is wrong after the experiment has been done and proven a failure; wouldn't you say?
Marx's thoughts are a theory in a sense that they are nothing more than a conjecture, than an abstract, based more on prejudice and envy than on true knowledge.
You may be right "But envy and the poor will be with us until the end of time, thus, so will Marxism."

Cheers

Rummuser said...

Why are you interested in Marx, Engels etc, now?

Looney said...

@Max,

There are different ways to process things which have their pros and cons. My preferred way is to read multiple articles by the same person at different periods of their life in order to get a first hand picture of them. I listened to perhaps 200 hours of other works as preparation, however, so that I would be better able to enter into the mindset of the period, which was done deliberately so that I might have a picture of Marx and Engels that was minimally tainted by what came afterwards.

Regarding theories, before we can discuss whether a theory is right or wrong, we must first identify the theory. A theory is a restricted form of a statement with a subject and verb that has the property of being either true or false. The theory differs from the statement in its need for precision and the use of terms that are widely understood, specific in meaning, and not subject to change. None of the works I have listened to so far by Marx or Engels, including the Communist Manifesto, state what it is that they intend to set up. They want to abolish monogamy, but what relations do they propose instead? We abolish Bourgeois property, but what relations should then come into being? There are no statements as to what is to be achieved, and without statements I am at a loss as to what the theory is that Marxism represents.

Or to put it another way, if someone writes 100,000 pages explaining that he does not like apples, I cannot thereby conclude that he is a proponent of oranges. Marxism seems to only exist as a condemnation of capitalism, but it affirms nothing, so cannot be a theory. Thus, the apologists for Marxism will take all the supposed instances of "failure" and immediately claim that the example cited wasn't a case of true Marxism. In this sense I will agree with them, because Marx never defined a system!

Looney said...

@Rummuser,

Why now???

I had set this goal out last October after reading Trotsky's works, but as mentioned to Max, I wanted to do a lot of preparatory work to lay the ground for the studies. As to why, I can give three reasons:

1. It is a form of self-flagellation directed at the brain. Especially Das Kapital, which I am going through now. Most zealots restrict themselves to physical forms of flagellation, and I feel that this is quite inadequate.

2. Given that my country has the most anti-capitalist leader in the world who was just given powers to negotiate a secret international free-trade pact, I am searching through the classic writings looking for any insights into what the possible outcome of such a peculiar arrangement might be!

3. I am a teacher of high school and college kids at my church, with several each year heading off to Ivy League schools, it is my duty to study incessantly and provide answers to their questions that I can support. Not that they will listen, but at least I have done my part!

Max Coutinho said...

Looney

Allow me to explain myself then: by theory, in Marx's case, I mean "speculation, abstract reasoning". Marx's opinions are mere speculations although I do identify one clear statement: "The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property." (Karl Marx)

But you are right: Marx and his followers are professional whiners. They dislike this and that but never offer an alternative. It's sad that over 100 years have passed and Marxists still display the same proclivity.

"Thus, the apologists for Marxism will take all the supposed instances of "failure" and immediately claim that the example cited wasn't a case of true Marxism. In this sense I will agree with them, because Marx never defined a system!"

All right, if Marx never defined a system what is then "true Marxism"?

Looney said...

Max,

"The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property." Yes, this is a statement, but once the "private" is abolished, then what? There remains an infinite number of possibilities, from exterminating the human race to placing the planet in perpetual trust with the Federation of Galactic Greens. Marx speaks favorably of the American Indian's method of collective ownership of hunting grounds, which is a bit like what we have in modern Oakland, California, but fails to note that they maintained their squaws and their favorite scalping knife as private property. So all we know is that Marx's system doesn't include private property and the Bourgeoisie, but we know nothing of what his proposed system is. That is why I said that Marxism doesn't exist as a theory.

A corollary, which we likely agree on, is that the sum total of Marxism is whining. I would add that they never whine unless they have come up with a scheme to make the situation worse. So "true Marxism" is whining about capitalism. Nothing more and nothing less!

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

I concede: your argument is extremely valid *bowing*.

'So "true Marxism" is whining about capitalism. Nothing more and nothing less!'

Hear, hear!

Whining and speculation keeps Marxists busy. It's a shame that they have to bother half the world in the process...

Cheers