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In last week's Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up, northsylvania described a wonderful example of non-alienated labor among a community in Britain whose citizens join together freely into neighborhood clubs to create extensive Guy Fawkes Day celebrations, expending hundreds of hours throughout the year in building parade carts for the festival to raise money for local charities.  Democratic decision making rules in these endeavors, and the participants derive great personal satisfaction from their communal creations.

This principal of "freely associated labor" is fundamental to Karl Marx's vision for the truly human, organization of an economic system which liberates all individuals to be able to not only meet their basic survival needs but develop all their talents and skills.

Freely-Associated Labor Made Real.

"Freely associated labor" has been made a reality by the workers at the Grafitos factory in eastern Venezuela.  Here's their story.

When, in 2009, the private owners of the Grafitos factory in eastern Venezuela refused to bargain with its workers' union and threatened to remove the machinery from the factory and close it, the union members physically occupied the plant, stopped the removal of the machinery and won official permission from the Venezuelan government to re-open and run it themselves.

Now the plant, which supplies materials to the large nationalized Sidor Steel factory, is being run by its workers, to the economic and social benefit of themselves, their local community and the larger movement in Venezuela towards a human, egalitarian and socialist economic democracy.

Ewan Robertson, writing in "Revolutionary Democracy in the Economy? Venezuela’s Worker Control Movement and the Plan Socialist Guayana" published by www.venezuelanalysis, reports that:

"A workers council was installed, which from September 2010 debated how to organize the  workers’ control of the factory.  Escalon and the other workers described to me how at first they  had been unprepared for self-management. One of the mistakes that had been made was the attempt to make every decision in a factory assembly with all the workers, which is the “sovereign” decision making body at Grafitos. This proved inefficient and “wore out” workers,  with Escalon emphasising that “holding an assembly to agree to buy a screw, no, that’s falling into the abyss”.  Yet, in the process of debating and trying different models “we learnt as we went along”
.

Equal Pay and Equal Opportunity for Job Duties, Profits Shared.

The key decisions are made in the assembly, and every worker has a voice and a vote. Cited examples of decisions taken include making an investment into buying a bus to provide transport for the workers, and agreeing on costs upon which the graphite parts the factory produces will be sold to the nationalised Sidor steel plant, Grafitos’ main client. “It’s to say that here, nothing is done without the workers, all the workers have a minimum or maximum level of participation,” explained one of the committee members, Cesar Barreto. Also, every worker is paid the same (before, the factory boss earned 15 times that of a worker), from the “president” to the cleaner, and workers can change positions if they wish, helping to overcome the division between manual and intellectual labour.
New Sense of Fellowship and Cooperation Among Workers.
Yet more than just material benefits, there have been value-based gains and an increase in the  quality of the working environment, including a growing sense that the workers are part of a common project linked to the wider industries of the region. “We no longer come just to sell our labour power for eight hours. We’re part of a hub that boosts the production of the basic industries [of Guayana]…we have raised consciousness, and gained a sense of belonging,” said Escalon. Cesar Barreto conveyed how the relationship between workers had changed, saying “before there was persecution by the boss. Now there is freedom. The sense of fellowship, in comparison with other companies, has been strengthened”. To illustrate their point the workers gave me the example of when one of their colleagues suffered an accident in
November 2011. All workers gave two days salary to help him with his recovery, a gesture “from the heart,” as one worker present put it. In the opinion of Barreto “this solidarity and comradeship that’s been constructing itself is really valuable and important” for working life in the factory.
Without Democracy in the Work Place, No Democracy At All.
A last question I had for the workers regarded their views on whether it was possible to have a democratic society without democracy in the economy. Cesar Barreto offered to answer, stating:

"I think that historically in our countries we’ve been sold a false idea of democracy, a democracy where the minority take the economic decisions that affect the great majority. I believe that socialism comes to democratise the economy, that is to say, where everyone is involved in decision making over resources, of the state and its institutions: not continuing to be managed by a minority that takes advantage of the resources produced by the majority. Right now we see in Spain, in Europe, resentment in society against the cases of “democracy” that exist there. Here in Venezuela we’re making an important effort to substitute these relations, the old democracy, with a much more democratic system: so that the decisions are transmitted above from below,
not imposed downward from above. I think this is the key to truly begin to change things”.

Marx's Dialectic At Work.

This story exemplifies, not only Marx's vision of "freely associated labor',  but its development from an abstract idea to a living reality through the dialectic movement.

Had the private owners of the Grafito factory not refused to bargain with their workers, the workers would not have been impelled to fight for their rights.  Had the private owners not threatened to remove the machinery from the factory and close it, the workers would likely not have occupied the factory.  It is equally likely that in the process of occupying the factory, the workers had many debates with each other about the best course of action to take to preserve their jobs, out of which came the idea to organize themselves to actually run the plant and keep it open.

Today, the Grafito workers have made their ideas into reality.  Let us hope that the power of this idea will take currency throughout the world so that we can build a new economic system which truly liberates all human beings from the tyranny of capitalist production and its devastating alienation of individuals from their own humanity.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

    by Justina on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:00:04 PM PDT

  •  Workers of the World Unite! (5+ / 0-)

    Excellent diary, because one of the most important tasks for socialists in all eras is to counter the hegemonic fiction that only capitalist social relations of production are capable of successfully running things.

    Obviously, there's a big leap to be made from worker control of a single factory lucky enough to have single customer in the State to worker control of an entire industry or national economy, but we have to start somewhere.

    Bravo to the workers of Grafitos, and bravo to you for spreading the word about them.

    "When Adam delved and Eve span, Who then was a gentleman?" Fr. John Ball (1381)

    by Le Gauchiste on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:22:23 PM PDT

    •  Damn Straight! (4+ / 0-)

      When, years ago in Hawaii, I met a group of workers who were protesting the shut-down of their sugar processing plant, I suggested that they should, as a group, buy the old plant and run it themselves.  They laughed on this as a preposterous idea.

      Now there are more and more plants in the same situation in the U.S., but the idea of workers opening them up and running them themselves is no longer so preposterous.  I understand that this may be happening at the Republic Glass plant in Illinois.

      With the internet, stories about workers running their own plants are gaining currency, as the idea spreads, more and more workers will likely adopt it.  

      Of course, it is much easier to do here in Venezuela where there is government support, but human creativity will find a way even in the belly of the capitalist beasts.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:12:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "sold a false idea of democracy". Indeed. (6+ / 0-)

    I love that they're learning this. That when you just vote for a few people to make all the decisions, that is not democracy. Nor is renting your labor hours for someone else to exploit.

  •  diary schedule for the anti-capitalist meet up (3+ / 0-)

    We have great pieces coming up:

    August:

    19th: bigjacbigjacbigjac
    26th: Geminijen

    September:

    2nd: Le Gauchiste
    9th:
    16th:Isabelle Hayes (?)
    23rd:
    30th:

    As you can see we have a number of openings, we need someone to cover the 9th of September pretty urgently. Can we get some volunteers to write a piece?!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:29:18 PM PDT

    •  Please if people can respond here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina

      and/or send me a private message at dkos, we would really appreciate it. We need people's contributions to keep this series going and we need all the different perspectives of the various members of our group so that we can share idea, discuss them and learn from each other. Please if you have the time or an idea contact me, Justina , Tpau or geminijen. Thanks fellow travellers!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:45:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Possibly. . . (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justina, NY brit expat, northsylvania

        My post for 9/2 could become a 2-parter, just because I tend to be a bit prolix.

        "When Adam delved and Eve span, Who then was a gentleman?" Fr. John Ball (1381)

        by Le Gauchiste on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:48:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is a personal fantasy that you write something (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justina

          about Lochner vs NY; so quite honestly any time you want to do a two-parter or write something, please just choose a date. If you want to do a two-parter, that would be amazing! :)

          Yes, my personal fantasies are really weird!

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:16:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this excellent post Justina! (4+ / 0-)

    This is an incredibly important topic and is  very relevant for a number of discussions that we have had in the ACM, specifically with respect to cooperatives and job protection for working class people during a period of economic crisis and transitional movements towards workers empowerment.

    I remember that Geminijen had raised the increase in this possibility during a crisis but but also noted that once the company has been stabilised, it is often the case that the factories are then sold by the workers after the crisis has passed. It is essential that this type of ownership be maintained outside of economic crises in order for this to become more of a transitional formation. However, even if only for an economic period, the alteration in how people learn to relate to each other, how cooperation rather than competition can achieve results, how maintaining incomes is possible if profits do not have to be the basis of production decisions.

    This is a direct contradiction to the ideology that it is the private sector that is the only job creating sector. Governments can help by making it easier for workers to take control over their failing businesses and offering subsidised credit; not like this will happen with neoliberalism as the supreme economic ideology; but it is something that even bourgeois democratic governments should consider to keep jobs afloat in economies that are crashing. Thanks for this excellent piece of work, it really has cheered me up!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:38:27 PM PDT

    •  Here In Venezuela, The Government Supports.... (6+ / 0-)

      the creation of cooperatives with start-up funding and technical assistance.

      The 1999 Constitution passed over-overwhelmingly by a national referendum, specifically guarantees the right to form cooperatives.  This right has been implemented through laws which provide for cooperative funding and assistance.  There are now thousands of cooperatives in existence here.

      Many factories have been nationalized by the Chavez government, but not all enjoy worker control of the enterprises.  There is a push for more and more worker control which, I expect, will eventually win out.  Even in parts of the left,  there are those who lack faith in the ability of workers to run their own companies.  The success of operations such as Grafitos will likely open the door to more worker-controlled factories, even in the biggest industries.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:00:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is exactly what needs to be done (4+ / 0-)

        worker's empowerment and control over their labour and ownership of any surplus produced shifts the whole nature of the equation and undercuts the claims of capitalists of their "essential" role in production and the eternal nature of capitalism.

        I am wondering if the left does not trust workers to own and control their own businesses or whether they are unsure about the co-existence of socialist and capitalist modes of production where the former do not turn into the latter. Many Marxists following Marx's critique of utopian socialism accept his criticism; I think he was a bit premature and saw the cooperativists as a threat for the organisation of the working  class. Many great ideas were prematurely abandoned to the detriment of the left and the working class. Cooperatives cannot compete with capitalist production methods, but there is no reason that they have to do so.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:23:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The essential behavior of exchange and trade (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justina, Larsstephens

    is give and take.  This sequential behavior is what distinguishes economies from the mode of the predator -- creatures which only take/kill without giving anything back.
    Humans, being symbolic creatures, have been able to engage in virtual or vicarious predation by utilizing a medium of exchange or an intermediary step.  That is, instead of killing and taking directly, they exact a portion, staking a claim and calling it profit, of what others produce. In a sense, behavior that we have been induced capitalism, is merely an extension of animal husbandry, which milks the cow instead of slaughtering it.
    Capitalism is to save for future use.  The question that's often overlooked is who produces and who uses.  When the agents are different, it's likely that the "saving" is actually exploitation.  And that's true, whether what is saved are real goods or virtual products -- i.e. money/symbols.

    Romney and Ryan are vicarious or symbolic predators.  They don't actually or directly destroy their prey, because it is useful to keep them producing.  But, when they are no longer productive, they are to be dispatched -- again, not directly, but by letting microbes and disease organisms have their way.

    Does this attitude make Romney/Ryan a bad person?  Not necessarily. Other predators destroy to preserve their own lives.  What makes human predation on their own kind, whether direct or vicarious, peculiar is that other species don't prey on their own kind. Which suggests that, while the species has evolved to engage in mutual support and exchange and trade over both distance and time, for some humans predation seems to be the default.  Perhaps it's because they have no creative skills for which others want to trade.
    But, what the lucky ones seem to have is the gift of gab, which allows the talentless to pretend.

    Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

    by hannah on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:43:21 PM PDT

    •  Hannah can you clarify your point for me please? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina, Pluto

      It sounds as if you are advancing the idea of capital as deferred consumption which was an apologetic argument originally advanced by James Mill and then develop by Nassau Senior as a justification of the right of capitalists to obtain profits. Capital is not deferred consumption, instead it is  deliberately produced means of production introduced in the capitalist economic system in the hopes of deskilling labour and combatting rising wages to maintain profits by decreasing the amount of time spent on producing workers consumption goods.

      While you talk about trade and exchange, the most important thing is production of goods and services and ownership of land and capital by the select few in the capitalist system. This was not brought about due to deferred consumption but due to primitive accumulation in which common land was privatised and ownership transferred to the wealthy. It is a system based upon inequality of ownership and hence exploitation of working people, not due to the introduction of an intermediate person in the exchange process which demands a portion of output for that role; they have the right to a portion because laws of property in this system sustain this property right not because they serve an important or essential role. They are parasites who money and power came by disempowering others and use that power to maintain that property right. Perhaps I have misunderstood your point, can you clarify?

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:02:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Her comment reminds of something (3+ / 0-)

        ...I wrote in an email this week, about an essay I have written and my decision not to post it at Daily Kos:

        The melancholy reality of America's immediate cultural dilemma cannot be discussed there, for it places responsibility for one's destiny squarely in one's own hands, empowering each to act independently (and post-nationally) in one's own best interest. Looking at the survival instinct that brought them to America in the first place is a topic taboo.

        And [the reality essay] dis-empowers the illusion of the government "security" that they cling to -- much like abused children still cling to the parents that beat them. It's all they have in the world.

        Americans seem to regard their lives as disposable -- each content to be just another breeding and methane-producing cell in a complex multi-celled organism (their government) -- which is using up their lives for its own alien, inhuman needs.

        The people forgot their past that brought them here, so they have no future.


        A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

        by Pluto on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:04:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Now that makes sense to me and is (4+ / 0-)

          beautifully written as well ... but I cannot see how it relates to Hannah's comment. I really think that is a discussion that we need to have, but capitalism is not a system of exchange, that removes the heart of the nature of the system from the discussion. Exchange has existed throughout human history, but human history is not solely capitalistic. The capitalist does not intersperse himself in the exchange process, that is the role of a merchant. Capitalists are not merchants, they are far more than merchants whom transfer revenue between people. The basis of profits lies not in exchange but in production. They are realised in exchange IFF goods are sold at a price so that the surplus value is realised, but they come about because workers work more hours than they are paid for in production as wages only represent a portion of the total value of the product; this argument precedes Marx and can be found in Ricardo and Smith in their arguments that the source/foundation of value is labour

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:33:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes. I was resonating (3+ / 0-)

            ...with the predator/prey relationship between the American Colonists and their Overlords.

            Which of course fits with what you are saying, as well.

            And, your point seems perfectly stated to me, as well, especially in the described end goal, which might actually confer true commonwealth citizenship upon the Colonists who toil under the current structural system that was set up 1700s to benefit slave-holders.

            My approach to triggering this financial equality evolution differs a bit from yours, as I explain in a comment further down the page, but the destination is largely the same.


            A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

            by Pluto on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:58:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The capitalist, as generally defined, does (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NY brit expat, Larsstephens

            insert himself to assert an unwarranted claim on the supposed "profits" of enterprise. Via financial engineering the claim is virtual or vicarious.  Instead of a pound of flesh, he claims a pound sterling or ten dollars for every hundred.  The human brain enables man to behave symbolically and to use symbols to coerce the behavior of others. But, the bottom line is that humans lacking in creative or procreative talents have to cajole or coerce support for themselves. The hunter/gatherer existence may look ideal, but both hunting and gathering skills have to be learned and, if a particular brain can't comprehend process and the connection between cause and effect, the owner of that brain can't learn to hunt, even if there's someone to instruct him.

            Take another example.  Why do we have so many people killed in car crashes?  Because some people simply can't learn to drive so as to avoid crashing.

            Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

            by hannah on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 03:20:14 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Let me just suggest that some people do (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, Larsstephens

          not know where their interest lies. If they did, they would not become obsessive, possessive and addicted to hallucinogens. Some people are instinct-driven and their instincts lead them wrong.  They respond to prompts based on misperceptions and exist in a sea of confusion. Their only hope of surviving past adolescence rests on being obedient to someone who means them well.  For some people, the culture of obedience is a life saver.

          Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

          by hannah on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 03:25:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes. Of course. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NY brit expat, Larsstephens
            Their only hope of surviving past adolescence rests on being obedient to someone who means them well.  For some people, the culture of obedience is a life saver.
            Such is the destiny of livestock. And they, too, have a role to play. Fortunately for them, they do not see far into their futures.


            A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

            by Pluto on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 03:36:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No doubt, human husbandry has evolved (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Pluto, NY brit expat, Larsstephens

              for practical reasons.  But, I'd say that it's because predating one's own species is self-defeating.  Better to "milk" them as long as possible.  But, even that's self-defeating in the long run because subjugation and coercion negate human creativity and innovation on which the survival of the species depends.
              I'd go so far as to argue that many "extinctions" are the result of species "eating themselves out of house and home," so to speak.  Humans, being able to anticipate, should be able to avoid that.  On the other hand, we may just be too darned clever for our own good and extinguish all organic existence on the surface of the planet at one fell swoop.  Then life will have to come out of the oceans again.

              Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

              by hannah on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 03:48:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Agreed that many do not know where their (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hannah, Larsstephens

            interest lies, we can see that quite clearly in voting patterns where people will vote directly against their own personal interests for the sake of preserving some sort of perceived privilege "I may be miserable, but there is still one person lower on the ladder than me" scenario. Trying to explain how racism and sexism have survived even when they really do not suit the needs of the majority relates exactly to this sort of phenomena.

            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

            by NY brit expat on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 07:22:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I think we have to distinguish between (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, Larsstephens

        intent and function.  What people intend is not necessarily what happens.
        Capital is accumulation for future use in production. However, the source of what's accumulated is what I dispute.  Instead of seeing capital as the result of depriving the actual producers of their just deserts, I'd say it is a naturally occurring that either gets saved or goes to waste. Waste is a category that is totally overlooked in economic analysis.
        Now, if we consider production as a material transformation enhanced by human intelligence, then the creation of a surplus is almost certain.  But, as in so much else, there are more than two alternatives to its disposition.  Surplus can be saved, go to waste or be claimed by an envious non-producer. It's this (unwarranted) claim which the theory of capitalism seeks to justify.  Non-productive, talentless humans have figured out an argument for why they should have, without providing any effort, what others have produced. Why do they need to do that?  I suspect it's simply because, other than the gift of gab, they are talentless. Why do they ascribe to others their own deficiencies?  Facing reality is probably just too depressing.

        Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

        by hannah on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 03:10:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ok, now I understand what you are saying, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justina, Larsstephens

          thank you. The question is what is accumulated for future use in production. If capital is labour that is used for producing intermediate products or means of production, that is the work of the labourers.

          One of the biggest lies or justifications that was advanced when they realised that they did need to justify the right of the capitalists to earn profits was that capital derives from deferred consumption on the part of the capitalist, so that unlike the workers that consumed all of their incomes, the capitalist became virtuous in that he did not consume all of his income. This absurd idea which ignores where capital really comes from, has survived the initial apologists that advocated the argument and has been embodied in modern economic discussions. In the intertemporal equilibrium model, capital is treated as goods at different points in time, where you order goods in time 1 to receive them in later periods and you earn interest on deferred consumption (or you get a discount price, you may recognise these terms if you look at futures markets). However, that is not what capital is at all.

          I understand what you are saying, this justification is then maintained through legal means to justify this unearned income or property. I realise that we are using different terms to describe similar things; it is a bit more than that as it is not something that I would describe on an individual level, but rather a systemic one.

          Thanks for clarifying!

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 07:20:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is a wholly artificial situation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens
    Now the plant, which supplies materials to the large nationalized Sidor Steel factory, is being run by its workers
    You're not talking about worker self-management under capitalism, you're talking about it under socialism or state capitalism or whatever you want to call it.  Grafitos sells to one buyer which does what the government wants it to do, and right now the government wants it to keep Grafitos viable as a WSM enterprise.  That's fine and dandy but it makes no wider point because the workers-owners-deciders of Grafitos are still subject to a pretty concentrated and whimsical logic of other people; it just happens not to be the capitalist market, but rather a state-run monopsony.

    Mitt Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 03:58:08 PM PDT

    •  Worker Control of Production Is Critical. (7+ / 0-)

      This is the new stage of economic organization, in which those who actually do the physical work also do the intellectual work in determining what is produced, how it is produced, and most important, under what day to day working conditions.

      Obviously, external conditions such as finding markets for goods, will be an important factor in the decision-making, but those decisions will made by all the workers involved, not by a few capitalist managers.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:05:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  To me, worker ownership of the work product (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, Sandino, Larsstephens

        ...in a fair proportion to the shares of the shareholders -- is what is important. It is what protects them from their own mistakes in market timing at the global level and it empowers them to move freely between different kinds of work and different pursuits. Or even to stop working and retire, making room for another.

        Let the CEO types, who are good at big-picture trade and contracting do what they do best. As long as a share of the "work-product" profits go into the workers' pockets, who cares who owns the factory and sells its product? If the CEO doesn't perform, the workers and shareholders will replace him. Meanwhile, the workers' will be building wealth to make themselves independent.

        In my mind, that would be the easiest transition from the predatory capitalism of the present to the shared national wealth that the future demands if there is to be national stability and security.


        A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

        by Pluto on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:19:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not artificial (7+ / 0-)

      Your point about monopsony is correct, as far as it goes, and indeed I made the same point above. However:

      1. The Grafitos situation is no more "artificial" than it would be if they were selling on the "market." Remember that markets are not "natural;" they are sustained by particular legal and cultural norms without which they would fail. Capitalist corporations are creations of law, not the market, and could not exist for 2 minutes without the "artificial" support of the legal system, which grants them , inter alia, limited liability for shareholders.

      2. The wider points are

      (a) worker control can succeed where the legal & cultural system provides the preconditions for success. Imagine what would happen if worker co-ops got the kind of state support that corporations do; and

      (b) worker controlled entities are in the nature of experiments, and when they succeed, they become a school for workplace democracy and worker empowerment, which are critical to building a new system of property & wealth creation to replace capitalism.  

      "When Adam delved and Eve span, Who then was a gentleman?" Fr. John Ball (1381)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:14:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes! "School for Workplace Democracy". (4+ / 0-)

        You describe it very well.  There is no stopping an idea whose time has come and the time for this idea is now!

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

        by Justina on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:30:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Was it a "wholly artificial situation" (5+ / 0-)

      when the company was "privately" owned and operated?

      If the workers are able to successfully manage the operation (as well as do the work) what is the economic function of the "owner" parasites?  Why should they get anything ? ? ?

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:39:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Trillions in Stolen Loot. (5+ / 0-)

        Time to expropriate the "owner parasites" and take back that which has been stolen from the productive workers.

        The trillions of dollars that the 0.01% are hiding over-seas to avoid taxes to support social welfare programs and community services in the U.S. are all the fruit of previous thefts of the labor time of workers.

        Indeed, all the money now in the hands of the big banksters are the fruit of similar thefts.

        Time to restore the fruits of honest labor to the working class which created it and, indeed, to the whole human community.

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

        by Justina on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:51:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think that's the point. (4+ / 0-)

      The regulated socialist system in Venezuela is stable enough to allow worker owned and run businesses to grow and flourish better than under unfettered Capitalism, which privileges a predatory owner/worker relationship that reflects its own aggressive foundation.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 04:51:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary (6+ / 0-)

    The point of my diary last week was to show that it is quite possible to run a complex operation cooperatively and democratically, and that it can serve as a model for workplace organisation as well. Thank you for giving a concrete example.
    I suspect that one of the advantages the workers at Grafitos enjoy is the lack of social division between one form of labour and another. When people consider themselves equal to one another, arrogance and the resulting envy and resentment become less of a problem.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:08:17 PM PDT

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