>       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 
naked LOV.

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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