Two issues: affirmative action, and the transition between capitalism and communism

(from Communist Voice #22,. October 9, 1999)


To: CVO circles
From: Mark, Detroit

RE: Sal's comments of 1/15/99 (1)
January 17, 1999

. The reports from local areas have been useful in helping develop a collective discussion on issues we are trying to deal with. We in Detroit look forward to seeing the reports issued by Sal, Frank and Phil in Seattle. And we appreciate the feedback we get on the views expressed by comrades here. In the interest of furthering discussion, I'd like to comment on some things raised by Sal in his report on the Dec. 6 meeting of the SMLSG.

. In his report, Sal raises that his views are distorted by other comrades and mainly goes into Phil's alleged distortions of his positions.

. Sal objects to the characterization of his views on affirmative action as it "makes no difference to Sal, one way or another." I do not know Sal's full views on the subject, but in his objections he states that if one has a position either pro or con on the subject, this means "to tacitly accept" the limitations of capitalism and not to take into account capitalism's inability to provide full employment or full educational opportunities. Therefore, "the duty of communists is not so much to take either position, but rather to point out the irrationality of the conflict in the first place."

. Sal's position as stated here means that the conflict over affirmative action is irrational, which is another way of saying exactly what Phil said, namely, that it "makes no difference to Sal" whether one is for or against affirmative action.

. Sal's balking at support for affirmative action is based on the idea that it inherently creates illusions in capitalism. In fact, the struggle against racism and discrimination against women and gays has resulted in knocking down certain unjust barriers. True, so long as capitalism exists, it will engender racism and discrimination. But that doesn't mean that nothing can change short of the socialist revolution. So if the objection is nothing can change, it's just not so.

. But the immediate struggle against discrimination does not merely mean that the specially oppressed group will have more rights, it is essential for the working class struggle as a whole.The singling out of one section of the masses for sub-human treatment always drags down the condition of the workers as a whole. And when the workers' movement takes up the fight against discrimination, it helps overcome the divisions among our class that the capitalists use to keep us disunited, weak and diverted from our common enemy.

. Should we then fear that maybe if we win some victories in this fight that everyone will fall in love with capitalism? Not at all. First, such a fight can provide a great training ground to see who really stands against discrimination, the workers or the capitalists. All the really profound class movements clash with the capitalist establishment and provide a wealth of lessons that can help shatter illusions not only in the capitalists, but in their reformist hangers on. Secondly, the more that discrimination is eliminated, the clearer it becomes for the masses that their problems do not stem merely from certain outrages, but from class exploitation itself. Thirdly, it is perfectly possible to fight discrimination today while making clear to the workers that all victories under capitalism will be partial and subject to reversal. Thus, their ultimate salvation lies in the elimination of the capitalist system. However, shying away from the struggle against discrimination on the grounds that it will create illusions will have the opposite effect. It will assure that the bourgeois liberals will have free sway to create every illusion about capitalism among the masses who want to fight discrimination.

Sal also claims that Phil has distorted his positions on the transition period between capitalism and communism. What's striking is that Sal doesn't really reply to the issue raised by Phil of what is the difference between a society really run by the workers or one in which a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats lord over the workers. The only hint of dealing with this is that Sal remarks that in the transitional society profit will be used to "focus on the needs of the proletariat" rather than "for the sake of profit." But by leaving things at this level, Sal draws no distinction between revisionist state-capitalism where "the needs of the proletariat" are decided by a new class of parasites, or one in which the workers really decide things. Phil raised that without the workers more and more administering society, there was no way to make the transition to a socialist economy. Sal does not reply to this, but rather gets upset with Phil for raising that Sal does not deal with the question.

. In trying to explain his views about the transition period, Sal deals with various questions of economic theory. To begin with, he contrasts profit from employing constant and variable capital to "money (not necessarily value) obtained from investment," and "influenced hitherto by all the variable effects of competition, interest, etc. -- that is to say, bourgeois capitalism." So in bourgeois capitalism, investment of money and competition lead to profits, whereas Marx also talks about another type of profit that originates in the production process which evidently is not really at the heart of bourgeois capitalism. But in fact the dividends given to investors originates in the utilization of variable capital, i.e., wage slavery. Likewise, the "utilization of variable capital" by the capitalist is the source of money to invest. I don't understand Sal's argument here, nor do I understand what this is supposed to demonstrate in his overall arguments about the transition period. <>


(1) The title to Mark's statement has been added by CV. For Sal's comments of Jan. 15, which Mark is replying to, see page 14.--CV (Return to text)

The October 1999 issue of CV contained the following other contributions to this debate:
* Debating the significance of the state sector in the transition to socialism -- Iintroduction by Joseph Green
* On affirmative action and on the economics of socialism (an extract from Sal's report of Jan. 15, 1999 on the discussion of the Seattle Marxist-Leninist Study Group of Dec. 6).
* The transitional society and profit by Pete Brown (Jan. 19, 1999)
* State capitalism in the preliminary phase of socialism, by Sal, Seattle, March 1999
* State ownership is not sufficient to define the transitional economy (Reply to Sal) by Joseph Green, July 11, 1999

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