Originally published: International Viewpoint by Jan Malewski January 16, We have taken the liberty of substituting the original English for a long passage by MR editor John Bellamy Foster which was translated into French and then retranslated into English in the article. He actually lied about his age, claiming to be sixteen, in order to be accepted by the factory. The considerable difference between their weekly earnings was his first and most tangible experience of the particularly severe exploitation of women by capital. I always risked being expelled from the university by attending his seminars. They repressed what was then very far from being counter-revolutionary.
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Originally published: International Viewpoint by Jan Malewski January 16, We have taken the liberty of substituting the original English for a long passage by MR editor John Bellamy Foster which was translated into French and then retranslated into English in the article.
He actually lied about his age, claiming to be sixteen, in order to be accepted by the factory. The considerable difference between their weekly earnings was his first and most tangible experience of the particularly severe exploitation of women by capital. I always risked being expelled from the university by attending his seminars.
They repressed what was then very far from being counter-revolutionary. Without a strategic view of problems, there are no everyday solutions. So I tried to analyze problems systematically, because they cannot be treated simply at the level of an article dealing only with what is happening at the time of writing, although there is a great deal of temptation to do so. On the contrary, it must be done in a historical perspective. Since my first substantial essay was published in a literary magazine in Hungary in , I have published and worked hard as much as I could.
As modest as it may be, we make our contribution to change. His contribution to Marxist thought was considerable. His criticism of parliamentarism was severe.
In the same way, he discussed with Cuban leaders, trying to convince them, in order to prevent Cuba from following the Soviet or Chinese road.
He was also excited when Syriza won the elections in Greece and when in the Spanish state a new leftist party, Podemos, appeared. Lessons from the Soviet system He was not a Trotskyist, but he was neither a sectarian nor a Stalinist.
But the Soviet system was very much dominated by the power of capital: the division of labour remained intact, the hierarchical command structure of capital was maintained Capitalism is a relatively easy object in this endeavour because you can, in a sense, abolish capitalism through a revolutionary uprising and intervention at the political level, the expropriation of the capitalist. You have ended capitalism, but you have not even touched the power of capital when you did it. Capital is not dependent on the power of capitalism and this is important also, in the sense that capital precedes capitalism for thousands of years.
Capital can survive perfectly, not for thousands of years, but when capitalism is overthrown in a limited area, the power of capital continues, even though it is in a hybrid form.
You can overthrow the capitalist but the factory system remains, the division of labour remains, nothing has changed in the metabolic functions of society. Indeed, sooner or later, you find the need to reallocate these forms of control to personalities, and this is how the bureaucracy begins to exist.
Bureaucracy is a function of this command structure in changing circumstances where, in the absence of the private capitalist, you have to find an equivalent to this control. The bureaucracy itself requires explanation.
How is it that this bureaucracy appears? When you use it as a kind of deus ex machina, which explains everything in terms of bureaucracy, if you get rid of the bureaucracy, everything will be fine.
But you do not get rid of the bureaucracy unless you attack the economic and social foundations and devise another way to regulate the metabolic process of society so that the power of capital is first reduced and, at the end, it ends up disappearing completely. Capital is the controlling force, you cannot control capital, you can suppress it only through the transformation of the whole complex of metabolic relations of society, you cannot just touch it at the margin.
Either it controls you or you get rid of it, there is no middle road, and this idea of market socialism could not work from the beginning. Opposing those who claim that the working class has been integrated into the system, he makes it clear that this is a systemic impossibility even in the wealthiest capitalist states, and at most extends to the trade union leadership The working class remains everywhere an alienated power, the indispensable agent of potential revolutionary change.
Interviewed on this subject, he explains: The state as such cannot reshape the social reproductive order of capital because it is an integral part of it. The great challenge for our historical time is the necessary eradication of capital from our social metabolic order. And this is inconceivable without eradicating at one and the same time the state formations of capital historically constituted in conjunction with the material reproductive dimension of the system and inseparable from it.
But it does not claim that the stated requirement will inevitably be achieved. History is open, for better or for worse.
The private capitalist property relations of a given state can be overthrown, but that is not a solution in itself. Capital, labour and the state as such are deeply related to the organic ensemble of the historically constituted social metabolism.
Making the change that is required calls for the radical transformation of the social reproductive metabolism in its entirety and in all its deeply interconnected constituent parts. And this can only be done successfully in accordance with changed historical circumstances, within the limited framework of our global home.
This is the meaning of the socialist alternative to the social metabolic order of capital, now dangerously overwhelmed and dangerously wasteful. Inevitability must be left to the law of gravity by which the stones thrown by Galileo from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa were to reach the ground with certainty. And this is also offered as a criterion and measure of its possible success.
Especially when the magnitude of the task presents itself as the need to radically change the social reproductive metabolism as a whole, from an order of substantial inequality to a substantial state of equality. And the historic challenge of achieving a substantial order of equality is not a question of the last few decades.
Their demand was totally incompatible with the order of consolidation of capital, and they were executed for it. But the historical challenge did not die with them, since it involves the whole of humanity. Marx never did it. At that time, capital still had the potential for a conquering global expansion, even if its mode of functioning could never overcome the problematic characteristics of what even its best advocates in the field of political economy described as creative or productive destruction.
Because destruction was always an integral part of it, in view of the growing waste that is inseparable from the inexorable impetus of self-expansionism, even in the ascending phase of the historical development of capital. This ecological dimension is central in his most recent works But his work will long remain a source of inspiration for critical thought, for the elaboration of the socialist alternative and for the critique of capital.
One can only hope that his writings will finally be translated into French. Ibid, p.
His dialectical inquiry into social structure and forms of consciousness—a systematic critique of the prevailing forms of thought—is unequaled in our time. He took this challenge seriously, resulting in The Necessity of Social Control. The role of this foreword is to help to put his system of thought as a whole, and this book in particular, in their historical contexts, while illuminating some of the distinctive concepts governing his analysis. Among these were comprehending the much deeper relation between the Hegelian and Marxian philosophical traditions that these works made evident. Hegel recognized from the beginning that the dominant philosophical concepts of the Enlightenment were in the main reified expressions that is, abstracted from their material basis and given an artificial, ideal life of their own of the underlying production and exchange relations of bourgeois society. It was this recognition that lay behind the extraordinary importance that Hegel gave to the concept of alienation in his philosophy. Here the inalienable truths of Enlightenment philosophy were given their ultimate justification: as the unfolding of reason the absolute spirit in history.
István Mészáros (1930-2017)
And as its history has shown, this social order exhibits remarkable social cohesion. While it is generally true that they do not want to fight. Jesse marked it as to-read Feb 15, Capitall their obvious willingness to call the police for assistance should be proof enough. So, if we are to believe that where there is domination there is resistance, and that people in the US interested in social pratice must place cadre with care whenever isfvan, just where is it that cadre should go? The revolutionary object is never simply to displace one of these or seize merely a part of the system—the commanding heights of the state, for example—but to transcend the alienated capital-labor metabolism altogether, creating a society of substantive meszagos.