An Introductory Note

Against Dogmatic Marxist Strategy

Arup Baisya

The staticity of mind-set in Marxist praxis emerges from two mutually exclusive theoretical underpinnings. Marx explained the laws of motion of modern society as both the laws of motion that produce society and the laws of motion produced by society. But the practising Marxists either end up being mechanistic or constructivist by positioning themselves on one side or the other. Marxism is neither Newtonian natural law nor Hegelian dialectical law.

While analysing Capital as social relations, one of Marx’s historical abstractions is the law of value. From this Marxist understanding of the law of capital on the production of surplus value, it is presumed that in a capitalist system, wages are at least equal to the value of labour-power and this is valid for every historical moment. But in the history of capitalism as a global system, it is seldom found that the capitalist production system follows this formulation. Marx also indicated that “we must stop for a moment to examine” how this presumption is negated in the historical unfolding of capital. The law of value and its negation form a ‘unity of opposites’ whose motion determines the actual social reality in every moment of time.

In Capital, Marx emphasised that competition is the fundamental characteristic of a capitalist production system. Due to this competition, the ‘organic composition of capital increases and thereby causing both over-production and profit rates to fall. Capital then moves from one space-time continuum to another where the organic composition is low and the pre-capitalist relation of production is predominantly present. But the movement of capital from its core entails that the social relation that signifies capital is already set free in the periphery where capital moves in the form of money, machine, or technology. Capital as dead labour engages the living labour to extract surplus value from the living labour and as such, it transforms all hitherto existing pre-capitalist social relations as a global system of uneven and combined development. The dynamics of capitalist expansion set the labour doubly free, free from all previous bondages, and also free to die. But with its fundamental category of competition inherent in the capitalist mode of production, capitalism cannot sustain itself without the presence of pre-capitalist relations transformed to be under the dominant role of capital, and even without the support of the state. In reality, there is no laissez-faire economy. This dynamic movement of capital to arrest the falling rate of profit is directed toward transferring more value to the core than the value it transfers to the periphery. The mechanism that transfers value in such a fashion gives rise to a dependent economy within capitalism as a global system. This also indicates that capitalism is inherently imperialistic from its birth.

The dialectical unity of opposites of the law of value and its negation and its motion in time determine the form of capitalism. As Marx said, “We must stop for a moment to examine”, in today’s world, this dialectical relation is ubiquitous with diverse forms of capitalism in developed and dependent economies. The diffusion of new finance-led growth regimes creates among developed and less developed economies, contradictions that are linked to the diversity of capitalism. A school of practising Indian Marxist revolutionaries cites the presence of pre-capitalist social relations as a mark of a society that is not capitalist. Thus they distort Marxism as a static formulation and ignore the dynamics of capitalism as a unity of opposites in motion. Keeping an eye on the ground will enable followers of Marx to notice that the development of capitalist social relations from within and the influence of penetration of capital from above has transformed the character of pre-capitalist relations like the caste system in India in such a way that these have changed to burn their bridges and cannot go out of the domination of capital without a revolutionary change under the leadership of working class to do away with capitalism per se. The Indian caste system which exists within an institutional underpinning of the family cannot be dismantled even if India becomes a developed capitalist country.

Marx expected that large factory production will eventually eliminate all small and petty manufacturers and producers, but it was a mere expectation, he did not indicate it as a thumb rule of capitalism. This has not happened in reality. In Marx’s economics, sectors such as manufacturing or services are not the basic categories of analysis. Marx divided commodities between Department I and II, depending on whether the commodity is a capital good or wage good; however, he discussed manufacturing at some length, particularly in the context of the production of relative surplus value. The proposition of further development of Marx’s analysis of Capital and a new law of value that can analyse the present moment of time should not be left out in the cold. When observations become so large that existing laws cannot explain them, there becomes a paradigm shift in natural science, why it should not be in social science too? But even if the new law is developed, it also becomes a ‘unity of opposites’ with its negation.

The Communist Manifesto derided the bourgeois discourse on traditional family ties. He wrote, “The big industry by dissolving the foundation of the traditional family and corresponding family labour has also dissolved the traditional family ties”. Far from holding the family division of labour as an institution fixed forever, Marx emphasises that “it is naturally as absurd to hold the Christian–Germanic form of the family as absolute as it is to hold the old Roman, the old Greek or the old Oriental form of the family as absolute–capitalism has become the radical dissolvent of the hitherto existing family.” According to Marx, exchange value-producing labour is abstract labour and use value-producing labour is concrete labour. Marx considered use value-producing labour as real labour and the process of producing new use values with existing use value by useful concrete labour is the real labour process. Health and education are the two important sectors where the struggle for creating new use value of labour outside the purview of the market for exchange can be envisioned as an immediate goal to achieve.

The feminist discourse gives an insight into the question of women’s labour and rights, but their criticism of Marx for considering women’s domestic labour as unproductive is unfounded. Furthermore, a section of the revolutionary left who considers the pre-capitalist mode of exploitation based on family structure and caste-division of labour as a static category and formulates a strategy of struggle against caste and women oppression and exploitation as political and cultural and the struggle against capitalist relations as economic is completely against the basic tenet of Marxism which rests on the premise of motion in time. The proponents of promoting diversity as a form of struggle for systemic change also do not delve into today’s reality where such struggle is not fundamentally anathema to capitalism that promotes diversity in form that Marxism does not rule out as a possibility of capitalism as it unfolds in time. But it is not extravagant to think that the law of value of the capitalist mode of production does not include the additional value which is expropriated by the capitalist as profit in the exchange process of wage-labour from domestic and caste and identity-based labour. The women and the oppressed castes are doubly oppressed and exploited in the capitalist mode of production itself. A strategy needs to be evolved for generating class-struggles against capitalism in its entirety.


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Vol 55, No. 39, Mar 26 - April 1, 2023