Re: Marx on civil liberties and justice

From "brian turner" <>
Date Wed, 20 Oct 2004 03:46:57 +0000

>>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.

Notice the word "pure".  In societies with more equality like Canada or 
France, the degree is considerbly less than in Brazil, though I don't 
disregard the bargaining power and state privileges associated with wealth 

>> constructed upon an edifice of inequality (exchange of 
>>non-equivalents) but wrapped in the packaging of equal exchange (the wage 

Don't you read Marx as arguing for the centrality of highly unequal 
bargaining power in explaining the harsh exploitation of labor in early 

>>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 

Egalitarianism, powerful labor unions empowered with legal protections, 
powerful labor parties, free elections, public subsidy of co-ops, etc.  This 
is moving in the direction of more legitimately voluntary exhanges, no?  
Engels said in "Principles of Communism" (forerunner to the Manifesto), that 
state owned companies (and by this I take it he meant owned by a democratic 
government dominated by a labor party or coalition of labor parties) and 
worker cooperatives existing in a market economy would raise wages and 
working conditions in the private sector, because the presence of 
alternative choices (i.e. more bargaining power) forces them to do so.  Of 
course regulation is another route to a similar result, requiring labor to 
hold political power to enact and enforce such laws.

>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.

Well, sure. He believed private property was an impediment to the 
achievement of TOTAL human freedom. I disagree with Marx in that I think his 
intermediate vision is superior (in that it's realistic) to his ultimate 
utopian vision (no scarcity anarcho-communism). But going back to the 
original issue, he regarded civil liberties not just situationally 
strategic, but having inherent worth.  He just found them insufficient 
because of the private property issue.

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

There is heirarchy right?
Best:  economic justice and civil liberties
Next best economic justice and no civil liberties or economic injustice and 
civil liberties
Worst:  economic injustice and no civil liberties

>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 

Who cares what they say?  Is free speech better than state mandated speech? 
Yes or no?  Is free association better than its opposite?

>>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.

What explicitly is the opposite of liberal socialism?  Leninist-Trotskyist 
socialism?  How does one square Marx's jublilent praise of elections, free 
labor presses, free association, multiple parties, etc. with Lenin's foaming 
at the mouth denunciations of said things (independent of any war time 

You could argue Marx is a syndicalist revolutionary socialist like Rosa 
Luxemburg, but Rosa herself heaps praise on civil liberties, so the 
difference with other democratic socialists is more with the form of 
economic organization, gradual extension of cooperatives and public 
companies vs. instant syndicalist radicalism.

re: the issue of justice, the Manifesto notes the "crying inequalities of 
wealth" in early European capitalism.  And Engels descriptions of the 
English working class seem to permeate with implicit calls for justice.

In Marx's vast writings on Russia in the last 10 years of his life, economic 
determinism is out the door and talk is how a more equitable humane 
development path might occur in Russia, via rural co-ops.

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