Simon writes, 

> Dear all,
>       Stop me if you've heard this before - but surely, all capitalism plans
> extensively? To argue that an economy is planned does not stop it from
> being capitalist. And on the suspension of the Law of Value - you can
> suspend prices, if you like, and pretend that they don't exist, but you
> can't suspend the law of value because workers are still working for a
> wage! 

Capitalist planning like the welfare state distorts the market and 
therefore the operation of the LOV. It doesnt suspend it. The workers 
states did suspend the LOV by replacing the market as the mechanism 
of allocating prices, fluctuating around value, with administered 
prices which bear  no relation to the socially necessary labour time 
required to produce goods and services under capitalism.  The 
critical point, is that the LOV does not operate historically outside 
capitalism because labour power is not a commodity. Workers can be 
paid a wage in a workers state, but that does not signify that their 
labour-power is being sold as a commodity.  For labour power to be a 
commodity its value must be set by the socially necessary labour time 
required to reproduce it. This is determined like the value of all 
other commodities by the LOV i.e. the mechanism of the market, no 
matter how distorted by state interevention etc. Value and the LOV is 
specific to capitalism. This is what allows capitalism to develop the 
forces of production as capitalists compete to reduce necessary 
labour time. This is not the case in the degenerated workers states, 
despite the surface forms of wages, exchange and what you call 
"value".  It is because value is absent in the degenerated workers 
states (since by definition their degeneration removed the role of 
democratic workers planning allocating labour time efficiently to 
overcome scarcity and because they necessarily  degenerated and 
collapsed) that the bureaucrats/bourgeois were despearate to 
re-establish the LOV. 

And peasants are still making payments at the farm gate that, even if
> paid in wheat and pigs, are based upon their value. Or even if you removed
> money entirely, commodities would still be produced and have value, as per
> classic Marxism.

Except this simple commodity capitalist production was not an actual 
historical stage in the development of capitalism, rather a logical 
stage in the development of capitalism. It cannot be  capitalism 
because it lacks  generalised commodity production (wage labour as 
commodity). Petty capitalist production especially in agriculture 
like the NEP in Russia did not mean that the dominant character of 
the economy was driven by capital because the plan determined prices 
not the LOV.  That is why the pressure to restore capitalism in China 
is itself an acknowledgment that the suspension of the LOVcould not 
develop the forces of production. Failing a political revolution 
which puts workers in power, the bureaucrats are forced to rejoin the 
global capitalist economy and allow the biggest TNC's in 
communications, banking, insurance etc to buy up massive chunks of 
the state sector. When this happens to the point that these TNC's 
demand that China converts its currency (allowing the LOV to set 
prices across the whole of China) provide insurance and commercial 
law to protect investment, then we can say the LOV rules. 

> I went back to read the section in W,P +P on this.
> "We arrive, therefore, at this conclusion. A commodity has value, because
> it is a crystallisation of social labour...The relative values of
> commodities are, therefore, determined by the respective quantities or
> amounts of labour, worked up, realised, fixed in them." (Wages, Price and
> Profit)

Note that Marx talks of "social labour".  This does not mean all 
societies throughout history. It means commodity producing society 
which for him means only the society that is characterised by 
"generalised production of commodities"  capitalism. 

> There is nothing in here which requires the price mechanism, which is
> effectively one way that the ruling class divides up the surplus between
> themselves in an "agreed" upon manner. In a system where relationship to
> society's surplus is political, then that society will focus more on these
> ties and less on prices. In this case, access to the vanguard party is the
> means to the surplus.

Better to read Capital where its clear that value cannot be realised 
except as a price.  Nor does this mean that the ruling class can 
suspend the LOV to "agree" on dividing surplus value (profits in 
practice) and remain capitalist. It it does this by definition means 
that its rule is not by means of the ownership of the means of 
production, but through political control of them, and this makes 
them not a class but a caste. Where the caste defines itself in terms 
of a vanguard party, this is clearly not what a revolutionary calls a 
vanguard party. 

> If a Chinese worker produces three bicycles a day, and takes (alowing for
> all other economic inputs, expressed variously) the equivalent of two
> bicycles home, he has been exploited to the tune of one bicycle. Bear in
> mind that under the truck system most workers didn't see their pay anyway:
> it was a calculation of equivalents, hideously distorted by the employer
> who offered the goods.

Marx never claimed to discover necessary labour time. The Chinese 
worker you describe could be a labourer under the Asiatic mode (The 
Chinese invented gunpowder they may also have invented bicycles), a 
feudal mode, a simple commodity economy (where in history did they 
exist?) a degenerated Workers state (especially today in Russia where 
restoration has left workers having to barter what they produce) , or 
a healthy workers state (unlikely since the division of labour would 
not see workers being paid in the goods they produce) where one 
bicycle worth of labour is surplus-labour appropriated by the 

> The real point of the law of value is that human labour has a value as a
> commodity.

As I argued above value is value only as a commmodity under 
capitalism. Therefore it is not "human labour" which is an 
ahistorical concept, but labour power whose value is  established by 
socially necessary labour time under capitalism. Without this 
conception, it is not possible to understand why capitalism developed 
out of feudalism, and why socialism will develop out of capitalism. 
You equate any production process in which producers have part of 
their product deducted as a surplus as commodity production and 
therefore capitalism. This is to turn Marx's method on its head. He 
started by isolating what was specific to capitalism, commodity 
production, and could then isolate past and future social forms, and 
make trans-historical generalisations. By starting with what is 
specific to capitalism, it becomes clear why the workers states wre 
not capitalist, and it also explains why it was necessary to have a 
revolution and a counter-revolution to overthrow capitalism and to 
restore it. And that in the current period we are living through, it 
is the counter-revolutionary victory over the workers states that 
shapes the struggle and sets the tasks of revolutionaries today.


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