On the Edge of History

Introduction

Society is undergoing a leap from one base — production with human labor — to another — production without human labor. Leaps have always occurred in history, and are the means by which qualitative change occurs. Yet the leap today is epochal in its nature, more akin to the leap from a classless society — an epoch that lasted tens of thousands of years — to private property — a period which has lasted over 2000 years. Electronic production has introduced a radically new means of production into the economy, not only destroying the current stage of private property, “capitalism,” but, creating the possibility of a break in the continuity of private property itself.

As one society crumbles, another must be made anew. In whose interest will the new society be constructed? This is the essential problem of all historical “moments” of transition. All manner of forces emerge in the battle for resolution. History shows that the class that understands its independent interests, that has a vision of the desired outcome, and that organizes its forces to achieve the political means to enforce those interests in favor of that outcome creates the means to politically enforce its class interests. Preparing the class of growing dispossessed to take on this historic role constitutes revolutionaries’ work in this time of epochal transition.

Discussion Points & Questions: 

  • Discuss the importance of an epochal change. Why is that more significant than what the news is calling  the “greatest crisis since the great depression”?
  • Describe and discuss the “radically new means of production” introduced into the economy?
  • What does this mean for our class; how does this influence the role of the League?

 

Capitalism, a Stage of Private Property

The economy is the base of society. The economy is made up of two aspects — production and distribution. Upon this base arises a superstructure that expresses the nature of the base, and that in turn acts back on to that base. Capitalism arose on the basis of industrial production, and the mode of exchange is buying and selling of labor power, with workers constituting the market for the commodities they produce. The source of all value under capitalism — the exchange relation between things — is human labor. A superstructure arose that expresses this relationship, and the state exists to defend and protect and facilitate these productive relations.

As the means of production develop and change, it becomes necessary to adjust the social relations in order conform to the needs of the economy. The demand for reform arises within the clash of the new productive forces and the existing productive relations. Quantitative changes in the means of production bring about the motion for social reform; qualitative changes in the means of production give rise to a motion toward revolution. The outcome is determined, on the one hand, within the parameters of the level of development of the means of production, and, on the other, from the clash of wills of the combatants, their consciousness of class interests, and their ability to organize to enforce their will against those of their adversaries. Society has moved through its different stages in this way both within stages (quantitative) and between stages and epochs (qualitative).

Regardless of the economic content or the political form, these changes in their general application constituted stages in the development of private property, one stage growing out of and connected to the previous one. Private property is an epoch of history, punctuated by different stages of development. Capitalism is one of these stages, as was feudalism. In each stage of development, a superstructure — including state forms — were developed that protected the productive relations and with it, the dominance of one class over another. In each of these stages, advances in technologies made human labor more productive, but did not eliminate its place in production.

Today, electronics is eliminating human labor, destroying the source of all value, and ending that which makes capitalism what it is: a system of buying and selling based on the exploitation of human labor power, and the expropriation of the profit from the surplus value created from that labor power. Without the exploitation of labor power, profit cannot be realized, and without profit, capitalism cannot survive as a system. In this sense, capitalism no longer exists as it once was, and something new is struggling to be born.

Discussion Points & Questions: 

  • What is the “base” of capitalism? Describe the two aspects of the capitalist economy. What is the source of all value under capitalism?
  • Describe quantitative and qualitative changes in the economy. Discuss the implications of each.
  • In spite of the capitalists telling us that capitalism can only change into more capitalism (albeit: new; more; better; or just different), discuss why private property is just an epoch, and capitalism is just one stage of that epoch.
  • Why have the conditions been set for it’s destruction?

 

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