the demagogs are all just dishonest motherfuckers, without exception

The DSA: Providing a pseudo-left cover for a right-wing Demagog Party
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Jul 21 2018

Under conditions where the Demagog Party is openly aligned with the CIA, FBI and other natsec agencies in a McCarthyite campaign, charging the Trump White House with being an outpost of the Kremlin, the pseudo-left group Demagogic Socialists of Pindostan (DSA) are seeking to provide a “left” cover. Leading Demagogs and their media apologists have sought to use the Jun 26 primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a DSA member who defeated incumbent Demagog Rep Joseph Crowley, to give the impression that the Demagog Party is moving to the left and embracing positions of unheard-of radicalism on health care, education, immigration and the minimum wage. Ocasio-Cortez has made the rounds of Sunday television interview programs, cable programs, late night network television and by her own account received more than a thousand requests for interviews from print, television, radio and on-line media. The DSA itself has also been the subject of much media flattery, as in a Jun 29 Yahoo News profile headlined, “The Demagog Socialists of Pindostan show their muscle in New York congressional upset.” The report noted that more than 100 DSA volunteers worked on the Ocasio-Cortez campaign, adding:

She isn’t the first candidate to score a dramatic upset with the help of the leftist organization. And if they have their way, she won’t be the last.

It later cites DSA or DSA-backed candidates for state legislative races in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The corporate media gave wide publicity to Bernie Sanders’ announcement that he would travel to Kansas this week with Ocasio-Cortez to campaign for James Thompson and Brett Welder in the Demagog primaries for Congress set for Aug 7. Given the usually vicious anti-socialist bias of the media, the coverage given the DSA, and especially to Ocasio-Cortez, has been friendly. There has been no demonization of the DSA as espousing an “alien” philosophy, or as an advocate of “class warfare.” The NYT, in an editorial after the primary, went so far as to hail Ocasio-Cortez as “a bright light in the Demagog Party who has brought desperately needed energy back to New York politics.” In part, of course, that is because both the candidate and the DSA itself are a million miles away from genuine socialist politics. They don’t frighten the bourgeoisie in the slightest. But there is something else at work: the legitimization of a specific brand of extremely mild social-reformism, for the purpose of applying a new coat of paint to the dreary and discredited signboard of the Demagog Party. This is a necessity to maintain the political monopoly of the corporate-controlled two-party system in Pindostan, in which the Demagog Party is supposed to be the “left” political alternative. After a half century in which the Demagog Party has completely abandoned any serious proposals for social reform and has worked actively to slash jobs, cut wages and make conditions of daily life worse, such a facelift is of critical importance for the ruling class.

The DSA does not represent the emergence of socialism, nor is it even a legitimate expression of a growing radical upsurge. As with the campaign of Bernie Sanders, it is a defensive reaction of the Demagog Party and the ruling class motivated by fear of a genuine movement of the working class. Nothing in the Ocasio-Cortez/DSA platform would have raised any eyebrows in the Demagog Party of the 1960s and early 1970s, which had to strike an occasional “left” posture under conditions of the mass radicalization of workers and youth in that period. The DSA wish-list, “Medicare for all,” free college education, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, says nothing at all about the socialist transformation of the pindo and world economy: not a word about public ownership of the means of production, or the confiscation of the massive wealth accumulated by the billionaires. And most tellingly, not a word about foreign policy: the DSA’s version of “socialism” is completely compatible with the defense of the interests of pindo imperialism around the world. This is the most critical point, under conditions of ferocious infighting between rival factions of the ruling elite over foreign policy, particularly in relation to Syria and Russia.

The alignment of the DSA with Pindo imperialism is intrinsic to its political DNA. The organization was founded in 1982 through the merger of two moribund and anti-communist organizations: the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee of Michael Harrington, and the New American Movement, one of the more conservative remnants of the New Left radicals of the 1960s. Harrington and DSOC were political descendants of Shachtmanism, the right-wing breakaway from the pindo Trotskyist movement in 1940, which became the launching pad for many careers in anti-communist politics. Max Shachtman himself, after backing pindo imperialism in the Korean War, ended his days as an adviser to AFL-CIO President George Meany and a fervent supporter of the Vietnam War. Harrington followed only a slightly less reactionary trajectory. He was aligned with that section of the Demagog Party and the AFL-CIO bureaucracy that came to oppose the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s, because they regarded it as undermining the global interests of Pindo imperialism, as well as destabilizing Pindostan politically. The union officials kept the DSOC/DSA afloat financially, and Harrington in turn covered up their betrayals of workers’ struggles, as when William Winpisinger of the International Association of Machinists, a DSOC member, isolated and sabotaged the PATCO air traffic controllers strike against Reagan in 1981. The DSA today is still heavily backed by a section of the AFL-CIO officialdom, and acts as their political apologist and “left” cover.

In the wake of the 2016 elections, in which the Sanders campaign revealed a vast audience for socialist politics, something which profoundly shocked the pindo ruling elite, the decision was made to bring forward the DSA as a catchment area to trap leftward-moving young people and contain them within the framework of capitalist politics and the two-party system. Ocasio-Cortez, a Sanders organizer and not a DSA member in 2016, personifies this policy. There is little doubt that since her victory in the primary, Ocasio-Cortez has been “taken in hand” by politically more experienced elements in the Demagog Party and the capitalist state, and informed that a bit of radicalism is all right, but there are definite areas where she must not rock the boat. The newly-minted Demagog candidate for Congress has quickly complied, abandoning several of her more “left” statements from the primary campaign, including the call to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and her very occasional and tepid criticisms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. In a remarkable appearance on PBS Firing Line, Ocasio-Cortez was almost struck speechless when conservative host Margaret Hoover cited some of her tweets on Israel, including one calling the shooting of unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza by IOF soldiers a “massacre,” which it clearly was. The first words out of the candidate’s mouth were:

I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution.

She went on to declare, referring to the November election:

And for me, it’s not, this is not a referendum, I think, on the state of Israel.

She was unable to explain what she meant by referring to “the occupation of Palestine” by IOF, literally throwing up her hands and saying with a nervous laugh:

I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue. I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words. I know this is a very intense issue. I’m willing to learn and evolve on this issue.

It is not just on Israel where Ocasio-Cortez is “willing to learn and evolve.” There was literally zero foreign policy content to her campaign against Crowley. She did not in any way appeal to the deep antiwar sentiments of working-class residents of her district and across the country. As for the DSA, the organization itself, the magazine with which it is affiliated, Jacobin, and the broader pseudo-left milieu which promotes the DSA, are fully integrated into the foreign policy consensus of Pindo imperialism. They applaud the supposed Syrian revolution, which is a right-wing Islamist insurgency financed by the CIA and armed by the Toads. They denounce Russia and China as “imperialist” powers and generally back pindo efforts to confront these rivals. As the WSWS has previously explained, the dominant feature of the 2018 congressional campaign is the influx of dozens of former military and intelligence operatives seeking Demagog Party nominations, many of them recruited and heavily promoted by the DCCC and other Demagog leadership groups. There is an intrinsic connection between the personnel which the Demagog Party seeks to place in the next Congress, and its political platform. The Demagog leadership has based its critique of the Trump administration on the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. A pro-CIA and pro-military orientation lends itself naturally to the recruitment of dozens of ex-CIA and ex-military operatives to run as candidates for Congress. If the Demagog Party regains control of the House of Representatives on Nov 6, military intelligence candidates, not former Sanders’ supporters like Ocasio-Cortez, will hold the balance of power. The political outlook of these elements is summed up in a column by E J Dionne of the WaPo published Jul 16 in which one of the CIA Demagogs, former State Dept official Tom Malinowski, now the Demagog candidate in New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District, made the following remarkable summation of the Demagog program. He told Dionne:

We’re now the party of fiscal responsibility in Pindostan. We’re the party of law enforcement in Pindostan. We don’t vilify the FBI every single day. We’re the party of family values. We don’t take kids from their parents at the border. We’re the party of patriotism in Pindostan, that wants to defend this country against our foreign adversaries.

It is an instructive political fact that there is not the slightest contradiction between the Demagog Party putting forward a cadre of new members of the House of Representatives drawn from the military intelligence apparatus and the Demagog Party embracing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the DSA. Ocasio-Cortez will enter the House of Representatives after the November election, and if the Demagogs win the majority, she will be arm in arm with newly-elected colleagues whose previous experience was as CIA agents, military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan or war planners at the Pentagon, State Dept and White House. This fact underscores the real character of the DSA and its entire effort to “reform” the Demagog Party. Ocasio-Cortez and the DSA are propping up one of the two parties of pindo imperialism, while seeking to block the emergence of an independent movement of the working class directed against the capitalist system and all its political defenders and apologists.

David Harvey’s Jacobin interview on Marx’s Capital
Nick Beams, WSWS, Jul 21 2018

Jacobin Magazine, which functions as a kind of house journal for the middle class pseudo-left milieu, in particular the Demagogic Socialists of Pindostan, has published an interview with the academic David Harvey, purporting to show why Marx’s Capital is “still the defining guide to understanding and overcoming the horrors of capitalism.” Harvey, variously described as a social theorist, a historical-materialist geographer and sometimes a Marxist, has attracted a wide following over the past decade in the wake of the global financial crisis due to his online lectures on Capital and a number of books critical of capitalism and its irrationalities. The interest in his writings and lectures, particularly from among younger people and students, is an expression of the growing hostility to capitalism, increasingly regarded as having failed, and the growing receptiveness towards socialism, coupled with a turn to Marx in the search for answers to the mounting problems and crises caused by the ongoing breakdown of the capitalist order. But as with all of Harvey’s work, this interview does not provide a clarification or guide to Marx but serves to prevent an understanding of his masterwork, seeking to render him suitable to the political and lifestyle sensibilities of a middle-class “left” audience. This emerges from the very outset of the interview. Asked to give an overview of the three volumes of Capital, Harvey says:

Marx is very much into detail and it’s sometimes hard to get a sense of exactly what the whole concept of Capital is about.

This has been a recurring theme virtually since the day Capital was published: that it is too difficult and too dense to be comprehended. Capital is certainly no easy work, but that difficulty arises not from Marx but from the fact that capitalism is the most complex form of socio-economic organisation in the historical development of mankind. However,  as Harvey well knows, Marx provided a very clear explanation of the essential thread of his theoretical labours. In the postface to the second edition of Capital, Marx favourably cited a Russian reviewer of the first edition published in 1867 who had set out the objective logic of his analysis. The reviewer had begun by citing Marx’s famous Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859, in which he set out the materialist basis of his method. There Marx had written:

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. … At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing social relations of production … From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.

Basing himself on this explanation, the Russian reviewer concluded:

Karl Marx concerns himself with one thing: to show, by an exact scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social relations, and to establish, as impeccably as possible, the facts from which he starts out and on which he depends. For this it is quite enough if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over.

In other words, Capital was the application of the theory of historical materialism worked out by Marx and Engels in the late 1840s, to the analysis of capitalist society in which the central social relation of production was the buying and selling of the labour power of the new social force, the working class, which this society had brought into being. It was aimed at demonstrating how the very development of the productive forces to which this new social order had given rise inevitably came into conflict with the social relations on which it was based, leading to social revolution and the transition to a new and higher form of society. While Capital was grounded on a thoroughgoing scientific analysis of capitalist society, it was not an academic treatise. It was written with the aim of providing the working class, its historical gravedigger, with the theoretical weapons necessary for its overthrow and the transition to a higher socio-economic order, international socialism. It is highly significant, therefore, that in Harvey’s interview on Capital and its significance, the words “social revolution” and “working class” never appear.

What then is the essential content of the interview? It is the dressing up in Marxist-sounding terminology of the politics of the middle class pseudo-left, focusing on protests against some of the irrationalities and outrages of the capitalist system, concerned not with its overthrow but “life-style changes.” Its role is to seek to divert those seeking answers away from a real grappling with and understanding of Marx’s masterwork. Harvey presents the three volumes of Capital as something of a jumble, that Marx was saying “in volume one, I deal with this, in volume two I deal with that and in volume three I deal with something else.” Harvey goes on to say that Marx has in mind “the totality of the circulation of capital” but then points to a problem because Marx did not complete volumes two and three (they were edited by Engels from Marx’s drafts) and so they “aren’t as satisfactory as volume one.” The upshot of this focus on circulation is twofold. First it leaves the impression that there is no inherent logic to Marx’s presentation. Second it downplays the centrality of capitalist production, dissolving it in the process of circulation, a move which, as we shall see, forms a key foundation of Harvey’s political perspective. Contrary to Harvey, Marx is very clear on the logic of the three volumes, which he sets out at the beginning of volume three. There he explains that the investigation in volume one concerns the process of capitalist production itself, leaving out the external secondary influences on this process. But as he notes, the analysis does not complete the life cycle of capital and so in volume two he considers how the process of production is supplemented by the process of circulation. In volume three the issue is to “discover and present the concrete forms which grow out of the process of capital’s movement considered as a whole.” In it, Marx wrote [1]:

The configurations of capital, as developed in this volume thus approach step by step the form in which they appear on the surface of society, in the action of different capitals on one another, ie in competition, and in the everyday consciousness of the agents of production themselves.

The materialist method employed by Marx is to ascend from the most abstract forms to the concrete. Capital, therefore, begins with the cell-form of the capitalist economy, the commodity, in which the product of human labour, the basis of all society, presents itself in the social form of a product produced for exchange. The significance of this starting point was noted by Lenin [2]:

In his Capital, Marx first analyses the simplest, most ordinary and fundamental, most common and everyday relation of bourgeois (commodity) society, a relation encountered billions of times, viz. the exchange of commodities. In this very simple phenomenon (in this ‘cell’ of bourgeois society) analysis reveals all the contradictions (or the germs of all the contradictions) of modern society. The subsequent exposition shows us the development (both growth and movement) of these contradictions and of this society in the summation of its individual parts, from its beginning to its end.

From the analysis of the commodity and its value, Marx reveals the origin of money as the material expression of value. The analysis of money discloses the nature of capital as self-expanding value. The most decisive breakthrough made by Marx was to discover the source of this self-expansion. The issue which had tortured the minds of Marx’s classical predecessors in the science of political economy, in particular its two leading representatives, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, was how, on the basis of market relations in which equivalents exchange for equivalents, could a surplus arise? In particular, how out of the most important exchange in commodity-capitalist society, could profit rise, if equivalents were exchanged for equivalents according to the laws of the market. Marx established that the commodity that the worker sold to the capitalist was not his or her labour, as had previously been maintained, but the capacity to work, or labour power. Like every other commodity its value was determined by the time taken to reproduce it, that is, it was determined by the value of the commodities needed to sustain the worker and enable the raising of a family to produce the next generation of wage workers. The surplus value appropriated by the capitalist owner of the means of production, to whom the worker sold his or her labour power, arose from the fact that the value of labour power was less than the value created by the worker in the course of the working day. That is, while it may take, say three hours, for the worker to reproduce the value of labour power, the working day extended for much longer and this additional, or surplus, value fell to capital. This epoch-making discovery had vast political implications. Marx was by no means the first socialist. Others before him had trenchantly criticised the operations of the capitalist system and pointed to its irrationalities, the increasing exploitation of the working class and widening social inequality. But as Engels explained [3]:

The socialism of earlier days certainly criticised the existing capitalistic mode of production and its consequences. It could not explain them, and, therefore could not get the mastery of them. It could only simply reject them as bad.

It was necessary, Engels continued, to present the capitalist mode of production as necessary during a given historical period and also to present the inevitability of its downfall and to lay bare its essential character. The critics had attacked its evil consequences rather than reveal the secret of the thing itself. This was revealed by the discovery of surplus value. With these two great discoveries, he concluded, the materialist conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalist production, socialism became a science. The next step was to work out the details. Marx’s discoveries revealed that not only was the working class an exploited class but, in laying bare the source of that exploitation in the social relations of capitalism itself, established that it was a revolutionary class. That is, to secure its own emancipation the working class had to overthrow the entire system of social relations deriving from wage-labour on which capitalism was grounded.

One of the most important “details” to which Engels referred was the way in which the contradiction between the growth of the productive forces under capitalism and the social relations based on wage-labour, the contradiction that was the driving force of social revolution, manifested itself in the capitalist economy. This was discovered by Marx in his analysis of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. He demonstrated that this tendency, the nemesis of the capitalist mode of production whose driving force is profit, arose from the very development of the productive forces to which it gave rise. The sole source of surplus value and profit, the basis for the self-expansion of capital, is the living labour of the working class. But the more capital grows the greater must be the extraction of surplus value from the working class in order to expand it yet again. To the extent that the extraction of surplus value fails to keep pace with the growth of capital, the rate of profit tends to fall. This leads to a crisis to which capital responds by reorganising production, in order to intensify exploitation in order to continue. But the very development of these crises, growing ever more serious, drives the working class into struggle against the capitalist system and its ruling class. This is the source of the realities of “everyday life” as Marx put it, in which we see the vast accumulation of wealth and an enormous growth in the productive forces and the social productivity of labour on the one hand and the growth of poverty, misery and degradation, accompanied by ever widening social inequality on the other. The discovery of the secret of surplus value as the basis of the capitalist accumulation process and the contradictions arising from it, had, as we noted, far-reaching political implications. It concretised, as Marx had set out in in his early writings, the revolutionary role of the working class. He wrote [4]:

It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation, as well as in the whole organisation of bourgeois society.

The key to Harvey’s politics is his rejection of and outright hostility to the analysis made by Marx of the revolutionary role of the working class which is central to Capital. Therefore, as far as his “socialism” is concerned it is clouded in the mists of pre-Marxist conceptions. He says in the Jacobin interview:

Capital has built the capacity, technologically and organisationally, to create a far better world, but it does so through social relations of domination rather than emancipation. This is the central contradiction, and Marx keeps saying, why don’t we use all of this technological and organisational capacity to create a world which is liberatory rather than one which is about domination?

Here Harvey follows the road taken by previous “social theorists” who, while identifying some of the irrationalities of the capitalist mode of production, separated Marx’s scientific analysis of capitalism from its central purpose, that is, the arming of the working class for the revolutionary struggles in which it is driven by the crises of the profit system. The Frankfurt School, for example, sought the agency for social transformation in the “cultural criticism” of the irrationalities of capitalism and “consumerism,” insofar as it had not completely abandoned such a perspective. Paul Sweezy, the “independent Marxist”, writing in the 1960s, wrote off the working class in the advanced capitalist countries and glorified the national liberation movements in what was then known as the Third World.

Herbert Marcuse, the darling of the New Left in the 1960s, maintained that the working class had been completely integrated into advanced capitalist society, and was even a potential basis for fascism, and found the agency for social change in the marginalised sections of society. On the basis of his historical materialist analysis, Marx was well aware of the fact that the advancement in the productive force under capitalism had created the basis for socialist society, free of class exploitation and domination “in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” But he rejected as utopian any perspective which sought to bring about this transformation by drawing out the contrast between what was possible under a different form of social organisation and what presently existed in capitalist society. Such a perspective made the socialist transformation a question of the criticism of capitalist society by so-called enlightened individuals. The crucial question for Marx was what was the social material force, the class created by capitalist society itself which would be the agency, the driving force, of this transformation. Today, the point at issue is not that socialism will somehow be more advantageous for humanity, but that it is an historic necessity if human civilisation is to survive and progress. The contradictions of capitalism are not, as Harvey attempts to portray them, the contrast between what would be possible under socialism as compared to present reality, but are rooted in the inexorable drive of the profit system towards the impoverishment of the working class, the development of authoritarian forms of rule and war, threatening the very destruction of human civilisation with a relapse into barbarism.

For socialism to become a reality and not simply a dream of human advancement, there must be a social force in capitalist society whose material interests drive it forward to its realisation. That force is the working class, the class separated from the control and ownership of the productive forces which is compelled in order to sustain its existence to sell its labour power. One of the most significant historical developments of the past three decades has been the transformation of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population into proletarians, forced to sell their labour power. Hundreds of millions of peasants in China, India and elsewhere have been transformed into wage workers while in the advanced capitalist countries hundreds of millions of people, employed in what were once considered secure “middle class” occupations have discovered through relentless job cuts, downsizing and cuts in their incomes that they are proletarians with nothing to sell but their labour power, no less than the millions engaged in the factories. In his criticism of the utopian socialists of his day, Marx pointed to their dreams of experimental realisation of their social utopia as they opposed all political action by the working class. It is therefore significant that Harvey says nothing in his interview about the resurgent movement of the working class, manifested in the widespread teachers’ strikes in Pindostan, the strike movements in Europe and in countries such as India after decades of suppression by the trade unions and the social democratic and labour parties, and focuses attention on “life-style” movements, writing:

Now, there are revolts against certain things that are happening. People are beginning to say, ‘look, we want something different.’ I find little communities all around the place in urban areas, and in rural areas, too, where people are trying to set up a different lifestyle. The ones that interest me most are those which use new technologies, like cell phones and the internet, to create an alternative lifestyle with different forms of social relations than those characteristic of corporations, with hierarchical structures of power, that we encounter in our daily lives. To struggle over a lifestyle is rather different than struggling over wages or conditions of labour in a factory.

Of course Harvey does not leave matters there. He would rapidly lose all credibility in the eyes of those who consider him to be an interpreter and a guide to Marx if he did. And so he maintains that those who are struggling over lifestyle issues, or race, or the environment need to recognise from the standpoint of the totality of capital the relationship between those struggles and how they are related to the forms of production. Putting them all together provides a picture of what a capitalist society is all about “and the kinds of dissatisfactions and alienations that exist in different components of the circulation of capital, which Marx identifies.” Harvey recognises the struggle of the working class, though it is not so much as mentioned in the interview, but he identifies it as purely the struggle over wages and conditions within a given factory, and thus purely within a trade union perspective. But as workers are coming to realise, on the basis of their experiences, even struggles which begin on this limited basis rapidly extend to embody broader political issues. Workers fighting for improved wages and conditions are immediately confronted not just with the management of the individual corporation or firm within which they work but the apparatuses of the trade union bureaucracy and behind them the capitalist government and the state. Every struggle of the working class, whether it begins over wages, social conditions, health, pensions or today the increasing use of internet censorship to try to prevent them organising themselves, places them more and more directly in conflict with the entire capitalist organisation of society and raises the question of political power, that is, which class is to rule. As Marx put it, every class struggle is a political struggle. The political aim of Harvey’s work now comes into clearer focus. It is aimed at subordinating the struggles of the working class to the politics of the pseudo-left and middle classes concerned with questions of sexual orientation, lifestyle and individual, not class, identity. This political orientation makes clear why Harvey, insofar as he deals with questions of political economy and the structure of Capital, seeks to downplay the centrality of production and dissolve it into the question of the circulation of capital. He maintains that if one really wants to understand Marx’s conception of capital:

You can’t just understand it as just being about production. It’s about circulation. It’s about getting it to the market and selling it, then it’s about distributing the profits.

The issues related to circulation and the distribution of profits are, of course, vital to an understanding of the capitalist economy, its movement and contradictions. But the key point at issue is this: what is the essential determinant of the structure of society, its political relations and state apparatus and the driving force of its development.
In volume three of Capital, Marx directly addresses this question as follows [5]:

The specific economic form in which the unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the direct producers determines the relationship of domination and servitude, as this grows directly out of production itself and reacts back on it as a determinant. On this is based the entire configuration of the economic community arising from the actual relations of production and hence also its specific political form. It is in the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the immediate producers in which we find the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social edifice, and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state.

As Marx goes on to point out, the same economic forms can display variations and gradations in the political forms of rule, depending on a series of external factors and historical circumstances. But there is no question that the essential content of these various political forms is the mode in which surplus labour is pumped out of the immediate producers. Volume one of Capital is concerned with the way in which under capitalism, a specific historical mode of production, this unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the immediate producers, the working class, through the system of social relations based on wage labour to yield surplus value. Harvey wants to deemphasise or outright dissolve this fundamental structural foundation by pointing out that there is more to capitalism than simply the production of surplus value; there is also the process of realisation, detailed in volume two and distribution in volume three. However, the essential foundation of capitalism is in production, not the production of commodities as such or of the means of production, nor the production of the material needs of society as a living organism, but the production of surplus value which forms the essential driving force of this society. Volume two is concerned with the relationships pertaining to realisation. But this, it must be emphasised, is the realisation of the surplus value, its transformation from the commodity form back into money so the process of surplus value extraction can begin again. Likewise, volume three is concerned with the distribution of this surplus value among the various owners of property in the form of profit, interest and rent. In his recent writings, Harvey has drawn out the connection between his focus on the process of circulation and realisation and his downplaying of the centrality of the production of surplus value and his political perspective. In his latest book, Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason, Harvey writes [6]:

Struggles at the point of valorisation inevitably have a class character … Those at the point of realisation focus on buyers and sellers and trigger fights against the predatory practices and accumulation by dispossession in the market place … Such struggles are not well theorised. In the field of social reproduction issues of social hierarchy, gender, sexuality, kinship and family and the like become much more predominant and the primary political focus shifts to the qualities of daily life rather than the labour process. These struggles have often been ignored in the Marxist literature.

What follows from this dissolving of the centrality of the production of surplus value within the capitalist system is this:

The social and political struggles against the power of capital within the totality of capital circulation take different forms and call for different kinds of strategic alliances if they are to succeed.

There is no question what kind of “strategic alliances” Harvey has in mind: alliances with sections of the radical petty bourgeoisie and its concern for lifestyle politics and even sections of the bourgeoisie itself. This is done on the basis of a misrepresentation of Capital, implying that it was not directed to politically and theoretically arming the working class for social revolution but was aimed at merely drawing out the irrationalities of capitalist society. By this means, Harvey is seeking to misdirect those who are turning to Marx and have followed his own work in the hope that it might provide a guide. He seeks to divert them away from a struggle in the working class, to mobilise it as an independent revolutionary force, and channel them into the milieu of pseudo-left and middle-class radical politics and there to fight for “strategic alliances” that ensure the continued domination of the bourgeoisie and capital.

[1] Marx, Capital Vol 3 (London: Penguin, 1991) p 117
[2] Lenin, Collected Works Vol 38 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1961) p 360
[3] Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969) p 38
[4] Marx, The Holy Family (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975) pp 44–45
[5] Marx, Capital Vol 3 (London: Penguin 1993) p 927
[6] David Harvey, Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason (NY: OUP, 2018) p 48

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