Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friedrich Engels on Why Marx supported Free Trade

In a particularly insightful explanation of why Marx supported not only free trade but also economically and socially destructive free market economics:
“The question of Free Trade or Protection moves entirely within the bounds of the present system of capitalist production, and has, therefore, no direct interest for us socialists who want to do away with that system.

Indirectly, however, it interests us inasmuch as we must desire as the present system of production to develop and expand as freely and as quickly as possible: because along with it will develop also those economic phenomena which are its necessary consequences, and which must destroy the whole system: misery of the great mass of the people, in consequence of overproduction. This overproduction engendering either periodical gluts and revulsions, accompanied by panic, or else a chronic stagnation of trade; division of society into a small class of large capitalist, and a large one of practically hereditary wage-slaves, proletarians, who, while their numbers increase constantly, are at the same time constantly being superseded by new labor-saving machinery; in short, society brought to a deadlock, out of which there is no escaping but by a complete remodeling of the economic structure which forms it basis.

From this point of view, 40 years ago Marx pronounced, in principle, in favor of Free Trade as the more progressive plan, and therefore the plan which would soonest bring capitalist society to that deadlock.”
Friedrich Engels, “On the Question of Free Trade,” Preface
And Marx and Engels were middle class, bourgeois intellectuals who wanted the working class to suffer viciously just to get their imagined revolution: for Marx and Marxists, human beings and the working class are just means to an end in the most brutal, callous way, not ends in themselves.

Or to put it another way, if even Liberalism or Social Democracy can – to some extent – sometimes treat people as a means to an end, at least this has been strongly historically tempered by the concern for reasonable individual rights and the understanding that collectivism has limits.

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  1. Ouch. What an eye-opener. Marx also was Anti-Gun Control.

  2. Note on the possibility of communism

    Part One

    If something is possibly possible, then it is really possible. But if something is possibly impossible, then it is not really impossible. If something is necessarily impossible, on the other hand, it cannot be possibly impossible, for it would mean to be both possible and impossible. Thus an argumentation that derives possibility from necessity is questionable.

    Marx has derived his discourse of historical determinism and metaphysical necessity of communism from Hegelian historicist Logic of „Becoming“ and found it superflous to demonstrate the possiblity of communism in addition to that. Here is what the great mathematician Kurt Gödel says about this type of logic:

    „Independently of Hegel's primitive terms [which begin with being, nothing and becoming], the process is not in time nor an analogy with history. It is right to begin with being, because we have to have something to talk about. But becoming should not come immediately after being and nothing: this is taking time too seriously. It is very clear that possibility is the synthesis between being and nothing. It is an essential an natural definition of possibility to take it as the synthesis of being and nothing. – Possibility is a weakened form of being.“
    Hao Wang: A logical Journey, from Gödel to Philosophy, Cambride, Massachusetts 1996

  3. Part Two

    There is a strong case made against mechanistic causality thinking by Quentin Meillassoux, Jean-Pierre-Voyer, George-Spencer-Brown and others. It follows from that, that Karl Marx should rather have demonstrated the logical (mathematical) possibility of communism instead of sustaining its metaphysical (historical) necessity.

    Such a demonstration, after all, is possible. A communist society is a society where the profit motive is replaced by cooperation. That demands not more altruist motivation than any kind of goal-seeking. Because goals in general can only be achieved if we have a criterium fort them being achieved. This implies that you cannot pursue a goal which is already achieved (self-preservation), it would be contradictious. You can always opt out of goal-seeking behaviour, but that ist the only way of truly acting selfishly and it is only possible due tot he fact that it happens withouth reason, when it happens. Whether one beliefs in the possibility of communism depends entireley on the question if one beliefst hat conscious goal-seeking is preferable to accepting the status quo as it is. But that question is undedicadble, because neither is contradictory and there is never sufficient reason to act. However, if the question wheter communism is possible or not is undecidalbe, then communism must be possible. Beause if something is undecidably possible, it is necesserily possible.

    It could be said then, that Karl Marx dialectical scientific method contradicts his political programm in a way that wasn’t well understood in the 19th century. Marx should have choosen a strictly diagnostic-prescriptive approach based on the law of non-contradiction, not a descriptive-prognostic approach based on the law of sufficient reason. The french philosopher Quentin Meillassoux has developped to some extent such an approach, directed both against idealist correlationism and mechanist realism. The Law of-Non-Contradiction must absolutely be maintained, because something contradictious cannot be contingent, it would be everything at once.

    „Consequently, according to me, it is possible to refute the correlationist refutation of realism, which is based upon the accusation of performative contradiction: because I discover a performative contradiction in the correlationist’s reasoning: his fundamental notions- for-us and in-itself- are grounded upon an implicit absolutization: the absolutization of facticity. Everything can be conceived as contingent, depending on human tropism: everything except contingency itself. Contingency, and only contingency, is absolutely necessary: facticity, and only facticity, is not factual, but eternal. Facticity is not a fact- is not one more fact in the world. And this is based upon a precise argument: I can’t be sceptical towards the operator for every skepticism.“ (Meillassoux, Time without Becoming)

  4. Part Three

    The mathematician George-Spencer-Brown has developped „imaginary truth values“ to denote possibiliys of understanding the world as opposed to truth and falseness. This can be put it analogy with Gödel’s reception oft he Hegel logic, and also, of course, with number theory. imaginary numbers imply self-referential definitions which Gödel, as opposed to Russel and Whitehead, thougth to be legitime in a „dynamic logic“ modelled after Leibnitz Monadology. The monads are unbound by the laws of causality, because they are all in prestabilized harmony and principally open to any kind of decision according tot he Law of Non-Contradiction. Further, the artist Mario Wingert has developped an alternative, non-mechanist view of Quantum Physics which eliminates both the role oft he conscious observer and the atomistic principle and replaces it with holistic fields. And the psychologist Elisabeth Dägling sheds light on the question oft he subjective causality illusion: how it is engendered by our human brain. Finally, french postsituationist theoretician Jean-Pierre-Voyer has put forth against mechanism and constructivism that „appereances as such never appear“. You cannot see the seeing, listen the listening. Therefore, although there are logical laws which limit that which can appear to an individual, there is never a sufficient reason for perceiving something rather than something different. Put different, any appearance is a miracle. We all witness miracles in permanence and there is no need for ridiculizing Marx Utopianism.

  5. An excellent post. Fortunately proto-socialist ideas had a long history prior to Marx, extending back through Morris and Owen, the Diggers and Wat Tyler and all the way back to the resistance to the Norman invasion of England. Marx made some useful observations about the appropriation of surplus value, but his ideas need to be considered in the context of history and in light of new threats to working people that have emerged since his time.