Re: T.I.N.A.?

From "brian turner" <>
Date Fri, 22 Oct 2004 05:09:44 +0000


>From: Alex Day <>
>Subject: Re: Marx on civil liberties and justice
>Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 12:18:45 -0700 (PDT)

>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"?

There have to be institutional practices, cultural habits, 
rules/regulations, taxes/spending or other conditions that don't lead to 
concentration of capital.  There are historical examples of this, at least 
not extreme concentration.  Whether this is good or not is a debate 
question, but I think it's clear egalitarianism (or avoidance of extreme 
concentration) is possible under various institutional arrangements, either 
socialist, mixed, capitalist.

>Capitalism is founded upon the separation of people
>from their means of subsistance so that all they have
>to sell is their labour power.

That is the aspiration of some, and in certain contexts forces push that 
way.  In other contexts the process is counteracted by other forces or 
deliberate policy choices.

>Without this
>separation (in which two classes are constructed)
>there can be no capitalism.

Fair enough, but then what label would you give to a bunch of small to 
smallish-medium private proprieters with relatively equal capital holdings, 
no market power for any one, all interacting in markets?  Pre-capitalist?  
You might say that's just a stage that would lead to concentration, but what 
if policy choices are deliberately made to counteract it?  Again, I'm not 
expressing a preference.  (Though I have mine).

>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; ...

Workers might choose to sell their labor power for reasons other than 
survival desperation.  In mty view of a just society, such would be the case 
nearly always.  Maybe they are risk averse and prefer a steady wage to the 
up and down of being a sole proprieter or partner or member of a co-op.  
Maybe they don't want to put in the number of hours necessary for that, etc.

>thus, there is no productive process to invest in ...

Why not?

>...and extract surplus value from.

They can't make a profit by adding value to raw materials or providing 

>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.

Perhaps so, yes.  Right-libertarians do howl with anger at social-democratic 
policies almost as much as socialist policies.

>Brian:> Well what alternative is there?
>Alternatives to idealism and universalism????

Alternatives to free speech, free elections, free association, free press.

>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.

I don't see why that's the "worst"?  In the current post-Hussein Iraq, the 
Iraqi people have freedoms but are getting ripped-off economically.  Under 
the Hussein family they got ripped off even MORE, and suffered hideous 
torture, murder, repression, and humilitation.  But crucially, the Iraqi 
people no longer have to stand for Bush's economic BS, they can struggle 
against it (as they are), sharply UNLIKE under the Husseins.  Does that not 
indicate the value of these rights independent of economic justice?

As I see it, there is a tendency towards socialization and equality (albeit 
more potential than reality so far).  Before the regime change, the 
resources of Iraq were the private property of the Husseins.  Now, despite 
Bush's antipathy to it, many resources will be socialized (state companies), 
or at least the Iraqi gov't expresssed a wish to do so, and I expect after 
the elections, which should be won by a coalition of Shiite clerics and 
communists, there will be a stronger push in this direction.

Thus, the intervention may soon lead to the socialization of more resources 
-- contra Bush's cynical intentions (but perhaps not Blair's).  So Bush 
himself may be going to learn a lesson that you can't always have your cake 
(civil liberties) and eat it too always (plutocracy).  Then we'll see if his 
professed belief in civil liberties is real or a charade.  Given the 
reaction to Hugo Chavez' victory, perhaps the latter.  We'll see.

> >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.

Depends on what you are asking.  TINA to what?  TINA to elections (for 
example), right? If so what? Hereditary succession? secret backroom 
selection? coup d'etat? Self-appointed vanguards?  Theocratic clerical 
selection?  Marx took it for granted TINA to elections.

Those who most often say TINA mean TINA to laissez-faire capitalism, which 
is hilarious in that that has only existed a couple of special cases in 
history, and is probably impossible.  So they are saying TINA to something 
that can't even exist.  If they say TINA to actually-existing capitalism in 
the third world, that's preposterous, I agree with you.

Perhaps where we'd disagree is I think TINA to markets (not necessarily 
capitalist markets as you see and augmented--are 
applicable to all sorts of institutional arrangements).  Central planning is 
an alternative to markets, but not really a desirable one as an overall 
system (for parts of the economy, sure).  The alternaties to BOTH central 
planning and markets is hazy territory indeed.  The only sincere attempt I 
ever read is the PARECON idea (participatory economics, Michael Albert).  I 
agree with one socialist author who called that idea "quite mad".  That 
system would surely evolve into something very similar to central planning, 
unless you want to spend your whole life in meetings arguing with your 
fellow countrymen about why you should be allowed to have a new t-shirt this 

>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.

I agree.

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