Means of Production: Capitalism versus Socialism

“In fact, the realm of freedom does not commence until the point is passed where labor under the compulsion of necessity and of external utility is required. In the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of material production in the strict meaning of the term. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature, in order to satisfy his wants, in order to maintain his life and reproduce it, so civilized man has to do it, and he must do it in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. With his development the realm of natural necessity expands, because his wants increase; but at the same time the forces of production increase, by which these wants are satisfied. The freedom in this field cannot consist of anything else but of the fact that socialized man, the associated producers, regulate their interchange with nature rationally, bring it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power; they accomplish their task with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most adequate to their human nature and most worthy of it. But it always remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can flourish only upon that realm of necessity as its basis.”

Karl Marx Capital Volume III

For most people, those who qualify as vulgar Marxists, means of production means economic production, that is, things like factories, machines, and natural resources used in production likes iron and coal. However, as is clear from the quote above from Marx, the means of production go way beyond economic production to include things like ideas, religion, and other aspects of culture/society that we consider necessary. For a really good look at what I’m talking about, I suggest reading Marshall Sahlins Culture and Practical Reason. Sahlins discusses specially the production of advertising in Marxist terms. Very interesting!

The relevance of all this to what is going on in this year’s presidential election campaign is that too many people are vulgar Marxists in this country and somehow equate Marxism with the Nazis and/or the Communists. In reality, Marxism can be applied and used in any political structure although as the quote above points out, the more freedom the individual has, the more control over the means of production labor is able to achieve and that is the point of Marxism. Capitalism, on the other hand, wants to keep the means of production in the hands of those with money and it by its very nature exploits labor. If you do not want to read a very dry analysis of the worst of capitalism as presented in Marxist works, then I suggest you read almost any of the novels of Charles Dickens. Dickens is very sympathetic to the plight of the working poor and makes their plight very clear. In modern capitalism, the plight of labor/working poor is not as extreme as in Dickens time. However, the plight of the working poor is still one of them being exploited by capitalists, although this exploitation is much more subtle and is deeply entwined with issues like feminism, sexism, racism, ethnic discrimination etc. etc. The issue with the Academy Awards is a prime example of this kind of exploitation of labor. Actors, no matter how much money they make, are considered labor. Even professional athletes, who make as much or more than actors, are labor. contrary to the bullshit spouted by the professional sports owners.

Point that I want to make here is that the symbolic/idea means of production is probably the most important area of production in modern capitalism. Control of the media, control of the educational system, control of religion, and even control of mental health are all ways that the capitalists exploit labor in this country. Contrary to the myth perpetuated by the capitalists, the United States really does not have a very strong middle class. That is because small business does not really exist or survive for very long in this country, contrary to the hype perpetuated by the conservatives, who may or may not actually be capitalist but have fallen under the mind control of the capitalists of this country. I could go on for pages and pages describing exactly how this mind control works, but I fear I would bore you to tears if I did(and that goes double for my son Michael lol!). Many people who invest in the stock market as a means of saving up for retirement or something along that line’s feel that they are capitalists that they own at least a portion of the company. To a certain extent that may be true, but in reality their ownership is negligible and really has no effect on company policy. The only way small investors can have any influence at all on a company is if they were to organize themselves into a union. Whether Americans want to admit it or not, their economic reality is that they are working class not middle-class. As I said earlier, most small businesses get swallowed up by big business very quickly.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the reality that we are working class and we need to think of ourselves that way and to push for the empowerment of the working class. That was what the unions were originally for. However the unions got co-opted and became big business in their own right. That’s the problem with unions in a capitalist society. They to get swallowed up by the capitalists about I really don’t know what can be done to prevent this, maybe nothing.

In a socialist society, like that Poland in the early 1980s, unions became very important in bringing about political reform. Notice I said political reform, not economic reform. Although Poland has undergone some economic reform, as far as I can tell it is still pretty much a socialist country although now it is democratic socialism rather than totalitarian socialism. In in fact, most of Europe is now Democratic and socialist. Even Germany! Socialism does not necessarily equate with totalitarianism.

I’m going to end this post here, but in my next post I will talk about why socialism is so conducive to a Democratic political system and what is required of the people of that society of that country. As far as the 2016 presidential election, as of right now given the candidates running officially, I am supporting Bernie Sanders because he is a socialist and once a Democratic Socialist United States.

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