> What I am saying is that the value of something is the amount of labour
> that goes into it. To replace an arbitrary price based on chance and the
> market with an arbitrary price based on a commissar's rule of thumb does
> not suspend this rule.
Yes but you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Marx
started with labour under capitalism, and proved that the political
economists had falsely abstracted 'labour' as a historical property
from capitalism and then surreptitiously reapplied it to prove that
labour value was natural and universal. With this false
assumption, they could not show how the value of labour could
account for profits other than by a deduction from wages since
the wage was held to be the value of labour. Marx showed that under
capitalism it is the 'socially necessary labour-time expended' that
determined value i.e. the amount of 'labour-power' used up in that
time. The only reason that this could happen is if the capitalist can
employ workers for a longer period than is necessary to reproduce the
value of the labour-time used-up, i.e. the value of labour power,
constituting a period of surplus-labour time and suplus value.
This could happen only under capitalist social relations where the
workers were dispossessed (during the process of primitive
accumulation) of the means of production and forced to work ("unfree"
because forced to work for someone else or starve) but also "free" as
Marx says i.e free as an equal exchanger of their commodity
labour-power at its value (more or less).
The 'socially necessary labour time' which determines value is itself
the result of the law of value operating through the market to make
capitalists invest in labour-saving machinery to increase labour
productivity. Only those commodities that represent the least
SNLT will be sold forcing less efficient produces to close down
or tool up. That has the effect of developing the forces of
production and increasing the relative rate of exploitation. It also
sets in motion the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, which is
the most powerful manifestation of the fundamental contradiction
between use value (forces) and exvchange value (relations).
Thus as soon as the bourgeois state puts limits on competition then
it distorts the LOV. As soon as a workers state replaces the market
with administered prices, then 'socially necessary labour time'
ceasees to be the mechanism of value determination. But there is a
qualitative difference between capitalist planning and socialist
planning. In the former, values are still formed by the LOV, but
distorted as the state can tax and direct capital into areas other
than productive investment which slows down the development of the
forces. The value of constant capital and variable capital does not
reduce as fast as it could. This exacerbates the TRPF which can be
partly offset for a period by cheapening of both C and V. That is why
the temporary solution to the TRPF is the vicious 'return' of the
Under socialist planning we are no longer talking about value in the
capitalist sense at all. Labour time goes into producing goods, but
the 'value' of these goods is not set by the LOV, SNLT etc but by
either the democratic decisions of producers as Hugh says, in which
case value is 'socialist needed labour time' defined as meeting the
needs of consumers by the production of useful goods, or in a
bureaucratically deformed workers state, by the interests of the
bureaucrats to survive as a caste on the backs of the workers.
This discussion began with China. The point about getting the LOV
right is that it allows us to recognise that once the LOV is
suspended the potential is there to replace it with a healthy workers
plan that can escape the use/exchange value contradiction
and allocate productive resources in advance to produce use-values.
What we have seen in China is unfortunately so far not only a failure
to achieve that, but an impending full restoration of capitalism in
which the LOV returns with all its brutality as we are seeing in
Not to think in these terms, but to say that China was always some
form of capitalism, is to miss the whole historically progressive
upsurge that resulted from the Russian Revolution, and which can
still be recovered by workers who have this understanding and
revolutionary struggle to guide and inspire them.
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