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Statistics and Socialism (Paul Mattick, Jr., 2016)

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On Otto Neurath

Paul Mattick Jr. (presentation at Anton Pannekoek conference, Amsterdam 2016) PDF

One of the preconditions of the creation of socialism, Otto Neurath wrote in 1925, is that society ‘must know from which conditions it starts at a certain moment and what it can undertake.’ To have such information, ‘above all the labour movement needs a statistics of the conditions of life. Its object should not be to establish total consumption or average consumption—these are of little significance—but the ‘standard of life’ of the main social groups and classes.’[1] Of course, it is not ‘society’ that will create this new order: ‘Socialism in practice … will be brought about by the political victory of the proletariat …’[2] hence ‘Statistics is a tool of the proletarian struggle! An element of the socialist economy, the delight of the advancing victorious proletariat and, not least, a foundation for human solidarity.’[3]

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Marxism: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Mattick, 1978)

"Iconographic encyclopaedia of science, literature, and art."

by Paul Mattick (1978)

From Marxism: Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie? by Paul Mattick, edited by Paul Mattick Jr., published by Merlin Press, 1983

In Marx’s conception, changes in people’s social and material conditions will alter their consciousness. This also holds for Marxism and its historical development. Marxism began as a theory of class struggle based on the specific social relations of capitalist production. But while its analysis of the social contradictions inherent in capitalist production has reference to the general trend of capitalist development, the class struggle is a day-to-day affair and adjusts itself to changing social conditions. These adjustments find their reflection in Marxian ideology. The history of capitalism is thus also the history of Marxism.

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Class and Capital (Paul Mattick Jr., 2002)

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by Paul Mattick Jr. Download PDF 

[originally published in The Culmination of Capital: Essays on Volume III of Marx’s Capital ed. Martha Campbell and Geert Reuten, 2002; republished as Chapter 9 in Paul Mattick Jr.’s Theory as Critique, Brill 2018]


The concept of class has never remained a harmless concept for very long.

Ralf Dahrendorf

Dahrendorf gave a common view dramatic form when he wrote, ‘Marx post­poned the systematic presentation of his theory of class until death took the pen from his hand. The irony has often been noted that the last (52nd) chapter of the last (third) volume of Capital, which bears the title “The Classes”, has remained unfinished. After a little more than one page the text ends with the lapidary remark of its editor, Engels: “Here the manuscript breaks off”’. Unfortunately, the colourful picture this suggests, of the pen dropping from the hand of the dying Marx as he was on the point of completing his masterwork, isn’t ours to keep: the draft containing this chapter was completed, as is fairly well known, before Marx turned to the preparation of Volume I for publication. Nev­ertheless, some have taken Marx’s delay in returning to the chapter – until it was too late – as an admission in actu of failure, attesting to a basic flaw in his theory. Engels’s explanation is less dramatic: Marx liked to leave conclusions ‘for the final editing, shortly before printing, when the latest historical events would supply him, with unfailing regularity, with illustrations of his theoretical arguments, as topical as anyone could desire’. Reopening the question of the relation of Marx’s final page and a half to the rest of Capital, I wish to explore what Marx’s willingness to leave the matter in so sketchy a state might indicate about the nature, or even the existence, of a Marxian theory of class. [Read PDF]


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Cured Quail vol 1. (review)

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Cured Quail, Glasgow, 2018. 224pp., £12, reviewed by J. Harvey

Against a backdrop of widening climate catastrophe and incessant war, representation appeared as focus of popular outcries in the so-called era of post-truth and new media. Cured Quail is a Marxist journal of critical aesthetics, self-published in 2018, that takes seriously the appearance of a generalized crisis of representation, truth and culture afflicting contemporary capitalist societies at the edge of disaster. In a society profoundly unable to represent anything other than its fragmented self, the very universality of language becomes threatened. Far from employing a deconstructionist or relativist approach, Cured Quail levels the charge of illiteracy against this society. The notion of illiteracy utilized here is similar to Adorno’s concept of the “speechlessness” of a new type of human being: that of a people who speak concretely and without illusion, but in the voice of a radio announcer, and who are ipso facto unable to openly express how the world could be any different. In their opening statement, the editors of Cured Quailshow an awareness that these solipsistic pitfalls are equally present in the academy, gallery, pamphlet and newsfeed. Cured Quail’s intervention is necessarily immanent as it does not proclaim to be external to these conditions.

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Capital 150: Marx’s ‘Capital’ Today Conference

Marx-Capitalism

The Department of European and International Studies (School of Politics & Economics, King’s College London), along with the www.thenextrecession.wordpress.com blog, organised a major international conference – titled Capital.150: Marx’s ‘Capital’ Today – to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s text Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. The conference took place on 19-20 September, 2017.

It attracted from around the world some of the leading scholars and research networks in the field. There were lively debates among speakers and audience on the roots of the global economic and financial crisis, contemporary imperialism, and the prospects of global capitalism. David Harvey and Michael Roberts debated how to map the terrain of anti-capitalist struggles in the plenary of the evening of September 19. The same topic re-emerged throughout the conference as participants investigated the nature of the present political conjuncture and the prospects for the labour movement.

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The Withering of the State

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by Paul Mattick

These days, critics of electoral politics can sit smugly and enjoy the deepening disarray of the political parties; the worries of the 1%, who really want little more from their governments than low taxes, high subsidies, social peace and quiet, and just enough military action to keep the world safe for democracy; and the panicked musings of the political pundits trying to make sense of it all and reclaim their lost function of predictors and explainers. Of course, when (as is most likely) Bernie has finally been done in by the Democratic machine and “progressives” are asked to hold their noses—as they now must do in every election—to vote for the hated Hillary in order to stop the dreadful Donald, it will seem like just one more dreary step downhill, the apparently inevitable result of electoral efforts not to sacrifice the good for the impossible best.

But there does seem to be something special this time. For one thing, both of the most dynamic contenders, Trump and Sanders, apparently entered the lists without expecting to win, and were only moved to give it the old college try when they discovered an unexpected level of response among the voting public. This is another side of the fact of the nearly complete absence of believable contenders beyond those two (and Clinton, of course, but without Sanders she would have been the only one on her side). The Republican field featured an astonishing array of nitwits and nonentities; the fact that Cruz—a man so obnoxious in policy and personality that he is the most hated official in his own repulsive political camp—was the last non-Donald standing says it all. This reflects the absence of any political content to Republican politics but the most simple-minded fealty to the richest Americans combined with assurances of devotion to the emotional needs of increasingly dispossessed white working- and lower-middle-class people.

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Human history is not a very cheerful affair

Paul Mattick Jr dropping science

Brandon Jourdan: I can’t really remember—oh, so there was, really, one kind of fun moment for me at the conference  in the Q&A, when you were asked: “What do we have to do?”—and so I’m just going to ask you that again.

Paul Mattick: The question was what would I like to see happen—and my answer was the abolition of wage-labor and the destruction of the state, which is of course a kind of a flippant answer.  But what I mean to say is that I really think there is no solution to these problems, but one which is as fundamental as that.  Now it seems like a weirdly old-fashioned thing to say, but that might just be because of my age, maybe now for many younger people it isn’t old-fashioned anymore: to say, “You really have to get rid of capitalism.  Capitalism cannot deal with these problems.”  Even if capitalism manages to grow again, I do not think that the economy will be able to grow at a rate which will make possible high enough employment levels to sort of afford lives to people that workers got used to in the developed countries in the 1950s and 60s and even 70s.  So I think from the economic point of view, the medium- and long-term perspectives are very bleak, and I think from the ecological point of view, the medium- and long-term perspectives are catastrophic, and there simply is no possibility to get out of this without actually changing the social system.

And that means that you must end the ownership and control of the productive system on which human life depends by that minority of humans who control it, and for whom everybody else has to work if they are lucky enough to be able to do so.  There is no way out of it.  So that’s why, when somebody said at the conference “But what, short of that, could you do?”, the only thing that I could think of to say was: then you have to try to get a job, because other than that you have to survive as well as you can.  Those are the choices: either on an individual basis or on a national basis or a group basis, you know, if you are white people, or men, or Europeans, or Northern Europeans, you can try—maybe you can do better than some other group.  Or as a particular individual, you might be able to live better than another individual.  So you can try to do as best as you can for yourself as an individual, or you have to somehow, together with other people, fundamentally alter the existing social system.  And by alter, I mean really destroy it and create a new system: a system of a radically different type, which would be based on the collective democratic control of the interaction of human beings with nature—that the economists call “production”, but which you could also call the “daily life.”

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