« Adapted from “The criticism of social reformism »
Written by Hassan Abbasi
In the fourth chapter of “Capitalism and the Catastrophe of Environmental Pollution “, Volume I, we had a brief review and critique of the views of bourgeois reformist environmental theorists such as John Bellamy Foster, Andre Gorz and others. There, we did not address the root and basis of their opinions, especially the American sociologist Foster. But now is the time for us to deal with this matter, not only from the perspective of environmental issues, but also especially the class roots of their ideas about capital and the relations of capitalist production and socialism.
First of all, it is necessary to mention one point about Foster, and that is that this sociologist does not have any special idea and thoughts of his own in any of the mentioned cases. He is very active and follows the words and ideas of the theorists of bourgeois socialism, and in order to publish and expand them in various publications, including the one the « Monthly Review » that he is the editor of. For this reason, we will not only deal with the perceptions and what he expresses from others, but we will also refer to the original owners of the ideas. It is necessary to explain that here we will not go after the group known as market socialists or the founders of the formation and revival of the model of social democracy under the false name of Marx, mostly because they don’t have any environmental ideas, and at least in this particular realm, they are not a direct danger to deviate the proletariat. One of the famous figures of the eco-socialist who has a great influence on others is Micheal Löwy. In his writing “Eco-Socialism and Democratic Planning “, he tries to collect and make available to the readers the general lines of what, in his own words, other socialists have advanced on environmental issues. For example, he quotes Richard Smith in his article ” Environmental Collapse Machine “: ” If capitalism cannot be reformed to make profit a function of human survival, what alternative is there but to move toward a nationally and globally planned economy… so, what other way is left but to think of a real alternative, that is, environmental socialism? “
Or, he quotes James O’Connor as follows: ” The goal of environmental socialism is a new society based on environmental rationality, democratic control, social equality and the priority of consumption value over exchange value ” and then Michael Löwy by himself concludes that ” I must add that these goals require the following three things.
1. Collective ownership of the means of production (collective here means general, is a cooperative and group ownership)
2. Democratic planning that allows society to determine investment and production goals
3. The new technological structure of the productive forces, in other words, the revolutionary social and economic transformation. “
The points that are mentioned here from these socialist thinkers such as ” democratic planning “, ” subordinating of profit for survival of humans and the environment “, ” priority of consumption value on the value of exchange in environmental socialism “, ” public and cooperative ownership ” and ” new technological structure ” should be remembered, because these are terms and categories that are not only constantly repeated in most of the writings and advertisements of these thinkers, but also carry the entire content of what they call socialism. As Bellamy Foster has proudly called this the organizing of the environmental revolution. A revolution that deserves this name at the level of the planet and can be within the framework of a wider social revolution and ” I emphasize that socialism will regulate the relations of united producers and metabolism between man and nature in a rational way.” It should be noted that they are trying to draw boundaries with the official green parties, and for this reason, they say that the green currents do not pay attention to the inherent contradictions of capitalism, the expansion of capital and the accumulation of profits on the one hand, and the environment on the other hand, and that’s why their efforts do not go beyond reform. At the same time, eco-socialists are trying to separate their lineup from social democracy and camp parties. In this regard, Michael Löwy writes, “Any change in the forms of ownership that does not lead to democratic management and new organizing of the production system, it can only lead to a dead end “. This is the only point that not only separates the ranks of eco-socialists from all other colorful socialists, rather, it is the most important means that socialist thinkers such as Istvan Meszaros and Ernest Mandel emphasize in criticizing the Soviet camp and presenting a plan of their own socialism. We will examine in detail the works and opinions of Istvan Meszaros, because he has had a very deep impact on others. First of all, we go to the ” democratic planning ” intended by this group. In defense of “democratic planning”, Michael Löwy says: ” Free market advocates point to the failure of planning in the Soviet Union and see it as a reason to reject any idea of a planned economy. Without going into the discussion about the achievements and failures of the Soviet experience, we can consider that experience as a form of dictatorship over needs. That is, an undemocratic and authoritarian system that handed over the monopoly of decision-making on all matters to a small oligarchy of techno-bureaucrats. It was not only planning that led to dictatorship, rather, the increasing restrictions that were applied to democracy in the Soviet country and after the death of Lenin, the establishment of a centralized bureaucratic power led to a system of planning that was increasingly undemocratic and authoritarian. “As can be seen, all intellectuals and theorists of this spectrum summarize their entire border with camp – socialism ! and all their criticism of this pattern of socialism ! in the absence of democracy and democratic planning of the economy in Soviet society. They have nothing to say about the type of knowledge and analysis of Bolshevism and Lenin and then the Left Camp about capitalism, socialism and the evolution of the socialist economy, conditions and political economic and social requirements of negation the process of separation of worker from work and the product of labor, and also other basic issues of class struggle. That the based relation of sale & buying of the labor force was the foundational political – economy and social existence of the Soviet community, and the root of the lack of the most basic freedoms and human rights must be sought in the stinking depth of the existence of capital, or in the relation of wage labor, all of these undeniable facts are not accepted by these Intellectuals and theorists of this spectrum. In this regard, when they present their pattern for the future human society, they are not supposed to have the least trace of Marx’s critical education in their criticism of what happened after the October Revolution and its next fate in their views and beliefs. What they consider ideal and propose to the global working class is a society such as the Soviet community with the miracle of democracy !!! Now, let’s see what relations were ruling in the Soviet community and what changes will be done by adding a democratic miracle to it. I postpone the deep critique of the October Revolutionary failure to the writings of « Nasser Paydar », and especially one of his valuable writings, under the name of ” Communism of abolition of wage labor and the reformism of militant leninism ” !
in which all the roots of the defeat of the October Revolution, deeply are analyzed. Michael Löwy and all of his contemporary theorists are well aware that the basis of the new economic plan that Lenin presented under the title of NEP was in fact paving the way to establish state capitalism. Note that we emphasize the process of preparation of conditions and paving the way for establishing state capitalism, otherwise, what Lenin was directly pursuing was the use of effective levers of control of the state over the private ownership of small and medium size of capital. Lenin saw the passing through this phase as the implementation of the state’s all -encompassing ownership of the entire social capital of the country. What Lenin was calling socialism, a type of socialism that was homogeneous in all aspects with the narrative of the Russian Social Democratic Party and its entire previous practice and the remaining teachings of the Second International regarding this phenomenon. One of the obvious forms of scientific management of the Bolsheviks, which the current socialists so much sanctify, was the Taylorism system. A terrifying and dehumanizing capitalist organization of work, in which the masses of sellers of labor power based on a division of labor corresponding to the production of maximum surplus value, that according to their scientific and specialized capabilities, are embedded and distorted and frozen in a special hierarchy. The managers, elites and superiors do plan the entire work and production or actually the order of the production process of surplus value, and the workers execute the ordered planning against their own will and without having any right to interfere in any realms. The Bolshevik Party considered the application of this method mandatory in all work and production centers, and Lenin was praising that method in a very stunning and useful way. Trotsky went even further and called for Taylorism to be combined with a terrifying garrison order under the supervision of Red Army commanders. The Communist Party and the ruling political power in the Soviet Union until 1939 took the help of American experts to continue the implementation of this system and to make it more effective between 1920 and 1930. The Bolsheviks, under the influencing pressure by the teachings of the Second International, saw the mere planning as an indicator of socialism and in conflict with the existence of capitalism!!! It was in this direction that Lenin announced the NEP program as a huge gateway toward socialism and was writing a lot about it. There is nothing more vulgar than to tie the existence and non-existence of capitalism or socialism to something called planning. The plan and concentrating on production is one of the inevitable requirements of the development and expansion of capitalism. Today, with the continuous modernization and wide application of technology, no process of production and circulation of capital is possible without planning. After all, the use of technology and planning is the most effective weapon of capital, and capital owners in increasing work productivity. The relative and permanent reduction of dependence on labor force by capital, is one of the main weapons of capital, not only in terms of reducing production costs, but also is for reducing the level of livelihood of the working class as much as possible. The continuous expansion of economic planning, whether in the range of production and circulation of goods or at the general level of society, for example, government’s planning has become a reality, which on the one hand polishes the mechanisms of accumulation of capital and rises its capabilities against crisis, and on the other hand, it provides a means of playing a role by a wide range of so-called left academics, parties and required factors which is needed to bury the Marxian communism and the anti-capitalist movement. For this simple reason, in their socialism, there is no words about the abolition of wage labor, the destruction of capitalism and the determinative role of the anti-capitalist councils of the working class, because the board of elected technocrats of companies, offices and governments are supposed to be the founders of socialism. They should be given good news that now, based on the social division of work by capitalism, some companies have appeared in the world that not only plan in various realm of investing of capital, but even for capitalist governments, and for economic planning and current issues or for dealing with economic crises and imposing of the effects and consequences of them on the working masses, are enough powerful and efficient. Companies such as ” The Boston Consulting Group ” and ” McKinsey & Company ” etc., with huge funds and monthly reports, are involved in guiding production, financial and the capitalist governments in some cases for more than 130 countries of the world. It was not without reason that Keynesian economics and its economic management coincided with the labor movements of the early 20th century, and the main substrate for its emergence should not be seen as unaffected by what was called the NEP plan of the Soviet Communist Party. All of these came out of the circumstances that required economic planning in the process of production and circulation of capital and the creation of a new role for the state of capital. The Bolshevik Party with a firm belief that considered the mere control of the state over the entire private sector of social capital as a big step on the road towards socialism and had understood this necessity much earlier than of the rest. ” Besides, it should not be forgotten that the state capitalism intended by Lenin was just the same.” Therefore, Michael Löwy is absolutely rightful who does not consider the essence of economic planning to be in conflict with capital, because we also consider science, technology and planning as factors that both the bourgeoisie can use to intensify the more brutal exploitation of workers and the proletariat can take advantage of them in the process of abolition of wage slavery and establishing of socialism. The discussion is about the social – class nature of planning, and as long as it is the mechanism of capital accumulation and surplus value increasing, it is only against the proletariat and in the line of the intensification of the exploitation of the working class, and by that it enables the relative and absolute increase of surplus value. For this reason, Michael Löwy has no choice to prove his opinions, in spite of a long speech and debate on the advantage of his desired socialism, with the index of democratic planning, reveals the bourgeois content and essence of his words. Michael Löwy, quoting from the book of Claudio Katz of Argentina, entitled « About Socialism », says that “democratic planning that is from below and under the supervision of the majority of the population, it is not accompanied by absolute centralization, complete statehood, war communism, or an economy planned according to an order. Therefore, the transition process is the priority of planning over the market and not the elimination of the variables of the market, the combination between both examples should be adapted to any situation and any country. However, the goal of the socialist process is not to maintain a comprehensive balance between the program and the market, rather, move into gradual decay of the market. ” The whole effort of this left spectrum, that the market can be a mechanism for social justice and equality, is derivative from the basis of a deeply bourgeois attitude. According to this left spectrum, the exploitation of the working class is in the field of circulation and not in the cycle of commodity production. Even though Marx deals with this issue and shows it in his numerous works in criticism of political economy, such as Capital, Grundrisse and Poverty of Philosophy, that the foundation of the worker’s separation from work and the product of work, and depriving of any right to determine the fate of work and production, are laying in the relations of capitalist production and in relation of sale & buy of labor, commodification labor power. Nevertheless, people like Michael Löwy, not that they don’t know and are ignorant of the point, but it is deliberately to mislead the proletariat, who bring forward discussions such as production based on consumption value.!!!
” In a socialist planned economy, consumption value is the only criterion for the production of goods and services, with significant long-term economic, social and environmental results.” Michael Löwy then quotes the following from Joel Kovel and his book «The Enemy of Nature » that ” Reforming and strengthening the value of consumption and rebuilding the needs related to it in this case more to becomes the social regulator of technology, until the transformation of time into surplus value and money, as it is done under the rule of capital. “ Here, Michael Löwy exposes his very wrong understanding of the functioning of the laws and ordinances of the political economy of capital. Michael Löwy, following other veteran socialists, tries to play a historical role in the field of economics and declare the superiority of the consumption´s value of goods over the exchange value of it!! He is unable to understand this simple fact that capitalist productive relations, despite any planning, nevertheless do not operate outside of its economic laws, and it is not supposed to act even on the basis of the command of super-genius technocrats either. As long as capitalism exists, it has its own rules of planning, process and organization of work. The form of this planning, whether the private, stately or cooperative form of ownership of capital, with the democratic or dictatorial or fascist political approach of the state of capital, even, how the lever of competition works, etc., all of which are the mechanisms of the relation of surplus value production with its political, social and legal and securance superstructures that can undergo some changes, but these changes do not absolutely question the existence of capital and the relation of sale & purchase of labor force and its production relations. It is not the planning and whether it is democratic or not, which determines the existence of capitalism, but on the contrary, it is the capital that provides all these as long as it exists in accordance with the requirements of the process of producing surplus value, expansion and permanent development in accordance with the necessary arrangements and organizing. Michael Löwy knows very well that he is deceiving people and his words are very misleading, vulgar and ridiculous, and pretends that the proletariat, relying on the balance between consumption value and exchange value, and pretends that the proletariat, relying on the balance between consumption value and exchange value, it will gradually convince capital into wisdom, that must end to its being capital and turns into socialism with adjustments. !!! He seems to think that the problem of the proletariat is to adjust the balance between consumption value and exchange value in capitalist production relations.!!! We have to ask Michael Löwy what he means about the consumption value.! A component under this title in the relations of capitalism is simply due to the condition that the goods have an exchange value. According to Marx, in order for a commodity to have exchange value, it must have consumption value, that’s it. Because what is effective and decisive is the exchange value of goods, it is obvious that Capitalist production is the process of production of surplus value and as long as there is a sign of that, it is based on the foundation of production of surplus value, and the relation of sale & purchase of labor power.
Michael Levy should explain what his model of socialism is supposed to do with this relation, with the relation of surplus value production? In addition, if he really accepts the eradication of this relation, he must very precisely explain how the process will be done. These are the same undeniable facts that expose the deception and misguidance of all the different leftist spectrums and false socialists in the world, ” from Second International “, “Leninist”, “Camp”, “Maoist and Trotskyist” to the likes of Michael Löwy and Meszaros and thousands of their associates, partners and sympathizers.”
But let’s see what Marx says in « Criticism of Political Economy, Chapter One – Commodity » about the consumption value and production of goods: ” The wealth of the bourgeois society at first glance appears as a huge accumulation of goods, and its unit is commodity. Any commodity, in any case, has two aspects, the consumption value and exchange value.” Then, in further explanation of these two components, Marx continues as follows: Indeed, “ the necessary condition of a commodity is its consumption value, while consumption value is not necessary for it to be a commodity or not. Since consumption value is inherently independent of a specific economic form, it is therefore outside the scope of political economy. Consumption value is included in this realm only when it has a certain form. Consumption value is the physical essence that is necessary to express a certain economic relation, that is, exchange value.”
Marx does not consider the discussion about consumption value to be the task of political economy. For this clear reason that consumption value is not a meaningful indicator of any particular economic formulation. In order for the product of human labor to be a commodity, it must have consumption value, but the existence of consumption value in itself is no reason for the product to be a commodity. Marx states that for this reason, consumption value is included in the scope of political economy only when it is used to express exchange value.
Marx adds that: “In addition, different consumption values are the product of the activity of different people, and therefore each of them is the product of a different form of labor. But as an exchange value, it represents the same work (that is, the labor in which the individual characteristics of the workers are ignored) in this way, the labor that creates the exchange value is the general abstract work.”
After discussing the value of exchange as (socially necessary labor hidden in the commodity ) and emphasizing labor time as the basis for determining this value, Marx continues : “From the analysis of the exchange value, we conclude that the work conditions that create the exchange value are among the social categories of labor or the categories of social labor. Of course, socially, not in its general concept, but in a special concept that indicates the existence of a special type of society. The simple work of a form, first of all, indicates that the labor of different people is equal. And in fact, their labor is treated the same by handing them over to similar work. The work of each person has this social characteristic of equality as far as it appears in exchange value, and its manifestation in exchange value is only to the extent that it is placed equal to the labor of all other people.”
In this way, with the emergence and development of commodity production, i.e., production for sale and its rise to the most evolved state, the capitalist mode of production emerged, a new phase characterized by the commodification of labor force. The phase in which capital, that is, the dead labor of the worker, outside the scope of worker´s intervention and in the form of a force dominating the existence of the worker, alive work, or workers and work power that can be bought and sold, is that unique source of capital production, it will be used to produce extremely more and more capital. Therefore, in this system, separating the exchange value from the consumption value of commodities, and preferring one over the other, is only possible in the minds of thinkers such as Michael Löwy and his associates in their absurd fantasy world.
Those labor conditions, which create an exchange value, are beyond the scope of the will and authority of the producers, i.e., the workers. As long as the workers produce under the producing conditions based on sale and purchase of labor power, even if the ownership of the means of production is in the hands of the government, cooperatives or even workers’ representatives, in the process of exchange value of the entire product and its performance, that means seize the worker’s surplus work as surplus value and the transforming of surplus value into capital and its accumulation in the form of additional capital, will not create any change.
The basis of this process, as stated by Marx, has not changed. “The General time of labor is only a general criterion that represents a social criterion….and finally, one of the clear specifications of the labor is that it proves the exchange value, that this exchange value, in its turn, makes people’s social relations look like relations between objects in a misleading way. The labor of different people only through comparing one consumption value with another consumption value by exchange value are getting equivalent to each other and are treated as general labor…. two commodities that have different consumption values but contain an equal amount of labor time have the same exchange value. In this way, exchange value appears as a social determinant of consumption values, a determinant that is appropriate to their kind and thus gives them the ability to be in some determined proportions with each other in the process of exchange.” In this way, not only the relations of human beings in the production relations of capitalism becomes a relation between objects, but it is these objects and their production process that dominates the human being and for this reason, it is only in the imagination of theoreticians who imagine that with a command it is possible to dominate the consumption value over the exchange value without putting an end to the basis of these relations, that is, the production of capitalist goods. This is only possible with the abolition of capital as a social relation and at the same time the abolition of wage labor. If the workers want to get out of the domination of objects and commodity relations and free human life from the domination of the laws governing on the relations between the objects that have been produced by the workers themselves and as free people who are controlling their own destiny, and they should be creators of their own history, have no choice but to abolish their living conditions, which forcing them to sell labor power as a commodity. Even the participation of workers in the management of production units, circulation and commodity services, not only does not bring the workers even a step closer to liberation, but also diverts the path of their class struggle, because the participation of workers in the administration of these institutions only means confirming the productive relations of capital and giving up the class struggle. The same thing that all social-bourgeois intellectuals try to induce to the workers with deception and propaganda as the way towards socialism.
Michael Löwy is among the intellectuals of this spectrum of intellectual representatives of capital. As he says: “ It should also be emphasized that planning does not conflict with the self-management of workers in production units…The democratic nature of planning is not incompatible with the existence of experts because their role is not to make decisions but to provide opinions, which, if not contradicting the democratic process of decision-making, are often different from it. As Ernst Mendel has pointed out : governments, parties, planning boards, Scientists, technocrats, or anyone who can make suggestions and try to influence people…but in a multi-party system, such proposals are never agreed upon by everyone, that is, people can choose between coherent alternatives, and the right to power and decision-making is in the hands of the majority of producers, consumers, and citizens, and no one else.” (Money and Power. Mandel. E)
Bourgeois democracy, which has been dominant in Europe and America for almost two hundred years, and the result of which we have witnessed until today and is praised in a new narration and called socialism, does not need any astrolabe to understand their class intention. Soviet State Capitalism and combining it with the bourgeois democracy and indoctrinating it as socialism to the working masses, just need a little impudence. The impudence of John Bellamy Foster goes beyond this, in one of his books under the title « Marx and Environment », he regularly is talking about Marx. Without documenting the quotes, he writes that Marx said this or that, about nature and the environment in this way, and thus selling his own ideas under the name of Marx. In the mentioned book, Foster goes so far as to say that “ Marx argued that the proper purpose of agriculture, contrary to the general spirit of capitalist production, which focuses on immediate profit and money, indeed, agriculture is helping to provide all the various and permanent basic needs of life that mankind needs from generation to generation.” Where and in what relation Marx said this remains mysterious throughout Foster’s article. That the agriculture, like any other realm of work and production, in the process of historical changes and replacement of one form of production relations with another, undergoes a change in its nature and accepts the properties of the new production structure. Even this fact also has no credibility at all for Bellamy Foster. The fact that Marx never subjects such judgement like Bellamy Foster, because the mechanized agriculture of capitalism, which its starting point to the end point of that is about capital, in any way does not bother Bellamy Foster’s ethics and research conscience. He is only seeking to prove the validity of a model of socialism that others have proposed, and he is also in love with it. In this regard, Foster justifies any incorrect point and misduidence, and distorts everything that is true, including the words of Marx.
Foster continues that “Thus there was a complete contradiction between the short-sighted capitalist use of the earth’s resources and the long-term nature of truly sustainable production.”!! and Marx repeatedly emphasizes that in a society of free and interconnected producers, economic progress takes place without jeopardizing the natural and global situation on which the welfare of future generations depends. This is exactly the description that is given today of the concept of sustainable development of capitalism and it is seen more clearly than anywhere else in the Brundtland Commission report entitled (Our Common Future ). Development that meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. “
That shamelessness is indescribable. They induce, the sustainable development of capitalism of the intellectual representatives of the bourgeoisie, to the workers as Marx’s socialism of abolition wage labor. We should not forget that Bellamy Foster’s Sustainable Development is the message of the European bourgeois environmental movements in the 70s, and the content of the Brundtland Commission Report entitled « Our Common Future » in 1987 and finally the basis of the work of the United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The thesis of Sustainable Development of capital found its enthusiastic supporters in Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, presidents of Venezuela and Iran. But Bellamy Foster is still stubbornly trying to prepare a fake Marxi socialist identity for the horrible misleading programs of bourgeois researchers. He says, “Marx and Engels did not limit their discussions to environmental issues related to soil, but also delved into many other issues in the field of sustainability….in addressing the issue of industrial waste, Marx spoke of an economy based on the prevention of waste production, that means reducing production waste to a minimum and direct use of all raw and auxiliary materials needed in production. “
In this way, according to Bellamy Foster’s claim, Marx was writting the environmental versions for the sustainable development of capital and capitalism too.!! Bellamy Foster concludes that “Marx and Engels in the amount of emphasis they put on the natural conditions of production and also in accepting the fact that a stable economy requires a stable relationship with nature on a global scale, had a unique situation and in this sense, the acceptance of natural limitations was an essential part of their reasoning.” It goes without saying that Mr. Foster enjoys an exceptional situation. He, who holds the title of a professor at one of the prestigious American universities, takes full advantage of this position and attributes everything he has in his mind to Marx, even without an address at all. Bellamy Foster is not only active in environmental issues, but also tries to promote the opinions and theories of his teachers and veterans by publishing books and articles, especially in the magazine under his own editorship. He is a disciple of Istvan Meszaros. Someone ( Meszaros ) who is heavily influenced by the ideas of Paul Baran and Paul Swayze. With this work, Bellamy Foster helps to spread the delusions of Meszaros and Ernst Mendel. Foster’s writings, which´s been sometimes translated into Persian, are many, but their current articles and discussions are the ones that Meszaros has addressed more seriously and expressively in his works.
For this reason, we also do not see the need to deal with Bellamy Foster’s articles more than what has been said here.