Re: Marx on civil liberties and justice

From Alex Day <>
Date Wed, 20 Oct 2004 12:18:45 -0700 (PDT)
In-reply-to <>

--- brian turner <> wrote:
> I do acknowledge the influence of economic
> inequality on politics.  I'm 
> simply arguing for a heirarchy of preferences, and
> the advancement of civil 
> liberties is something to cheer and not be dismissed
> as worthless or 
> meaningless.  Right-liberals say good enough, stop
> there.  I say no.

I don't think anyone is saying that they are worthless
in this discussion, just as in China no one argues
that as far as I know.  

> "Formal equality" means equality before the law,
> right? I'm speaking of 
> economic egalitarianism.  Relatively equal
> distribution of capital.  I don't 
> regard equality before law as sufficient to make
> exchanges fully and 
> authentically voluntary as right-liberals do.

Again, I'd say you are partaking in some of the
liberal myths put forth in China.  How is it possible
to have a "relatively equal distribution of capital"? 
Capitalism is founded upon the separation of people
from their means of subsistance so that all they have
to sell is their labour power.  Without this
separation (in which two classes are constructed)
there can be no capitalism.  This process is called
primitive accumulation or the accumulation of
dispossession (see David Harvey on the last term).  If
there is a "relatively equal distribution of capital"
there is no capitalism, for there are no dispossessed
workers that have to sell their labour power; thus,
there is no productive process to invest in and
extract surplus value from.  So what is this social
system you are talking about that has a "relatively
equal distribution of capital"?  

More to the point, perhaps: if you are talking about
economic egalitarianism (which I didn't notice you
were) then the bourgeois freedoms you discussed
earlier (the most foundational of which is the
"freedom" to control one's private property--i.e. that
largely accumulated through the primitive accumulation
process) are in cintradiction to this egalitarianism. 
How do you have a system of rights based in private
property and the ability to maintain a separation
between those who own and those who are dispossessed
on the one hand, work in concert with a system of
economic egalitarianism?  

Alex (earlier):
> >'the awesome
> >power of bourgeois freedoms' comes to stand outside
> >and before struggle--classical idealism; freedoms
> are
> >a-historical universals and are "human freedoms",
> >unrelated to power-relationships or pre-power; such
> >"human freedoms" must be established first, before
> >social equality is possible.
Brian:> Well what alternative is there?  

Alternatives to idealism and universalism????   Well,
I would say that we need to understand these
"freedoms" as rooted in particular, historical social
relations.  They can't simply be extracted from that
history to become universals.  And when they are they
are acting as the worst ideology--as they are being
used in the Mideast today by the US.  The point isn't
that these "freedoms" are morally "bad" or "good", but
that they are historical and can't be separated so
easily as you contended earlier.

Yeah, Mao or Tito
> can redistribute the land 
> and create equality and economic justice without
> giving freedom, so it can 
> happen.  But is that really the best way?  Look how
> easily Deng and Jiang 
> took the tools of Mao's autocratic state and
> destroyed the economic social 
> justice.  And now what are they left with?  Once the
> land reform is totally 
> reversed, India will look better (and in someways
> already does).

Seems like you are saying There Is No Alternative.  I
don't believe that.  Certainly we need to be critical
of past attempts to surpass the separation that
produced capitalism, but that doesn't mean we have to
give in to it either.



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