Re: Marx on civil liberties and justice

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Date Tue, 19 Oct 2004 10:43:40 -0500
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brian turner wrote:

> I note that your discussion focuses only on political freedoms. 'Dull 
> economic compulsion' is for you not force?
> I think pure compulsion exists only in the third world (the 
> economically marginalized, near or below subsistence, that have no 
> bargaining power due to competition among themselves in conditions of 
> concentration of wealth)

Well then we'll have to disagree here.

> , but to the degree it exists in the developed world it is separable 
> from civil liberties.  I don't regard civil liberties as more or less 
> valuable depending on whether they exist along side other things.  For 
> example, somewhat more equal treatment of women in communist China 
> under Mao is really good and admirable despite the obliteration of 
> other things I regard as admirable, necessary, just and valuable.

>> If you happen to believe that the entire edifice of bourgious society 
>> ...
> I've never known what is "bourgeois society", except historically when 
> merchant classes overthrew feudal or religious based ruling classes.  
> I don't get the modern relevance.

If you've grown up in the US, then you have an intimate knowledge of 
what bourgeois society is. Private property, contracts, 'free' labor, 
non-political surplus extraction, etc.

> constructed upon an edifice of inequality (exchange of 
> non-equivalents) but wrapped in the packaging of equal exchange (the 
> wage form),...
> So does it follow to you (as it does to me) that such exchanges CAN 
> happen in a meaningful way under conditions of relative equality and 
> equal bargaining power?

Of course. But we disagree under which conditions such exchanges could 

>> You may think that 'the awesome power of bourgeois freedoms' has 
>> significantly improved the position of various oppressed/subordinated 
>> groups, but I happen to think that it was the struggles of those 
>> groups and individuals, rather than the power of an abstraction, that 
>> accounts for the gains.
> But how could they act in the first place?  These norms and 
> institutions gave them a certain protection. 

> That many groups appropriated the discourse of bourgeois freedoms and 
> rights seems unsurprising given the location of those groups.
>> And how do you deal with the most central of the core bourgeois 
>> freedoms: private property? Is this most holy of bourgeois freedoms 
>> consistent with your understanding of freedom?
> Yes, if under conditions of relative equality.  In the real world, the 
> situation is often that of those who have long used the state to 
> develop wealth then preaching laissez-faire to protect these state 
> augmented gains.  So the issues of pure private property and voluntary 
> cooperation never arises.

You're entitled to your opinion, but I think it's a bit difficult to use 
Marx to support your idea that private property is consistent with human 
freedom. Call me crazy.

Again, your stress is only on the extra-economic. And we will thus 
continue to differ.

> Yes, much more can be done, you're absolutely right. That's why unions 
> in the US fight against Taft-Hartley, so that the nominal freedom of 
> association can be realized in practice. If this is a bourgeois 
> freedom, why isn't the bourgeois supporting it?
> I don't like the Marxist term bourgeois freedoms.  They are human 
> freedoms.

Well, that's what the bourgeois says. "You want what rights? Ha ha ha. 
My private property is a human right! Get back to work." Where equal 
rights prevail....

>> Weak argument. Of course Marx didn't intend that. The appropriation 
>> of Marxism by particular groups has to be grasped through an 
>> understanding of the groups doing the appropriation. Bourgeois 
>> freedoms have been used to justify lots of nasty shit too, should we 
>> thus abandon them?
> I don't follow.  I don't abandon Marxism I embrace large parts of it.  
> I have been writing a paper on the origins of Mao's political thought 
> off and on for a few years and in the process my view of Mao fell and 
> for Marx rose considerably.  I now see Marx as on the side of liberal 
> socialism and even a mixed economy.

I wish you the best of luck trying to jump over the core of Marx in 
order to turn him into a liberal.