What is the Fetishism of Commodities?

Things are not always as they appear. In proving this old proverb, Karl Marx explained some key features of capitalism that remain relevant today. Towards the end of the first chapter of Das Kapital, after having established the validity of the labor theory of value, Marx presents a section on the Fetishism of Commodities. Understanding that section can help us apply its lessons to our times and also see why socialism is necessary.

A commodity looks simple enough, says the pro-capitalist economist. Most such economists say a commodity is any object with a use value that somebody wants and is willing to pay for, and its value is determined by supply and demand. Nothing drives such a common sense economist more to distraction than reading Karl Marx who says a commodity is “a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” What can Marx mean? Economics is a science, even a mathematical science, what has it got to do with metaphysics and theology?

Take a wooden table, says Marx. It is just wood that human labor has turned into a table and taken to market. Wood + Labor = Table. Where is the mystery? When it gets to the market, the table finds itself in the company of the stool and the chair. All three have use values, are made of the same wood and may be in equal supply and equal demand — yet each has its own different price.

Why these different prices? Same wood, same demand, same supply. They are all the products of human labor. What is the difference among them that justifies different prices? The prices are reflections of the underlying values of the products. Could the values be different? What does Marx say determines value? It is the different quantities of socially necessary labor time embodied in the commodities.

The table, the stool and the chair are three “things” that are related to each other as the embodiment of the social relations and necessary labor of human beings that created them. Human social relations have been objectified as the relations between non human things. The chair may be more valuable than the table, but the reason is now hidden away from the perception of people.

“A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing,” Marx writes, “simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relations of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour.”

To find an analogy Marx tells us we have to turn to the “mist-enveloped regions of the religious world.” In that world, the inventions of the human mind take on an independent existence and humans begin to interact with their own fantastical creations as if they were really independently existing objective things. This is similar to the Fetishism of Commodities. All the commodities we see about us are part of the sum total of all the socially produced objects and services created by human labor in our society. People all over the world are making things which are traded, shipped, sold, resold, etc. But their use values cannot be realized until they are sold — i.e., exchanged, especially exchanged for money. But why are some more expensive than others? Why do some have more value than others? Supply and demand has a role to play in setting price, but it merely causes price to fluctuate around value.

The fact that we know that value results from the socially necessary labor time spent in making commodities “by no means,” Marx says, “dissipates the mist through which the social character of labour appears to us to be an objective character of the products themselves.”

This is because we are so used to how the market operates under capitalism, how prices fluctuate, commodities rise and fall in prices, working people, as consumers, naturally just think the values (which we usually don’t differentiate from prices) are products of the natural world, that is, are functions of the things for sale or barter themselves. This is why “supply and demand” seems to be the basis of the value of things. We often fail to see it’s all really the result of the socially necessary labor time expended in the labor process that is the determining factor in value

This confusion of price and value leads Marx to say, “The determination of the magnitude of value by labor time therefore is a secret, hidden under the apparent fluctuations in the relative values of commodities.”

We are reminded that to understand the real nature of a social formation we have to reverse our knowledge of its historical development. We begin with the full-fledged capitalist system and try to figure why the prices of things are the way they are. Looking at the mature system, we don’t really see its primitive origins. In the same way many religious people looking at a human being fail to see an ape in the historical background.

Marx continues: “When I state that coats and boots stand in a relation to linen, because it is the universal incarnation of abstract human labor, the absurdity of the statement is self evident.” This has been remarked upon both by the most astute of thinkers (Bertrand Russell) and the most pedestrian (Ayn Rand).

The problem is that pro-capitalist ideologues look upon an historically transient economic formation, its own, as an eternally existing social order. Of course prices are set by supply and demand. What is that crazy Marx talking about? As the economist Brad Delong said, he had never known anyone who thought that way.

Well, let’s look at something other than the full-blown capitalist system at work. Marx says, “The whole mystery of commodities, all the magic and necromancy that surrounds the products of labor as long as they take the form of commodities, vanishes therefore, so soon as we come to other forms of production.”

To help explain, Marx gives the example of Robinson Crusoe. He chooses the fictional character Robinson because he was a popular example used in the texts of the day. Robinson has to make everything for himself, obtain his own food, and provide his own shelter. Obviously, the things that are most important for his survival are those he expends most of his labor time upon and are consequently the most valuable to him.

Marx then says we should consider a community of free people working together cooperatively to make all things necessary for their society. Whereas Robinson was just making use of values for himself, in this community a social product is being created. The people have to set aside part of the product for future production, but the rest they can consume. How would they divide it in a fair manner? They would divide the product in proportion to the labor time each individual had contributed to the joint production of the social product.

This is how barter went on in the Middle Ages. Peasants knew precisely how much labor time was involved in making cheese, for example, and in making a pair of shoes. If it took twice as long to make a pound cheese than a pair of shoes, no one was going to trade more than a half pound of cheese for his shoes. It is only in the complicated processes of commodity production, especially in capitalism, that the Fetishism of Commodities begins to manifest itself and the true nature of the source of value is lost.

The loss of knowledge about value produces generally a confused consciousness in our world. Our alienation from our own social product, the effects of commodity fetishism, and the continuing influence of religion all work together to keep us confused and off guard. But seeing what our condition is with respect to such mental blights also tells how far along the road to liberation we are and how far we have to go (quite a distance I fear).

The world is reflected in these distorted forms of consciousness. “The religious world,” Marx tells us, “is but the reflex of the real world.” And, for our capitalist society where all human relations, and relations of humans with the the things they create, are reducible to commodification based on the value of “homogeneous human labor,” the best form of religion is Christianity. (And since Catholicism represents a pre-bourgeois view of human nature more suitable to feudalism, at least in a Western or European framework, it is the Protestant form that is more congruent with capitalist conceptions.)

Why is this? Marx says it is because the idea of “abstract man” is the basis of the the religious outlook of these systems. A religion based on an abstract view of “human nature” is just the ticket for an economic system that capitalist ideology says is also based on “human nature.” The religion reinforces the basic presuppositions of the capitalist view of abstract humanity.

As long as humans are alienated and confused about how capitalism works and are mystified by their relation to the objects of their labor they will never be free, or free from the spell of religion, according to Marx. “The religious reflex of the real world,” he writes, can only vanish “when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature.”

The next two sentences from Marx are extremely important as they explain, in very general terms, the failure of the Russian Revolution and the downfall of the socialist world system. The first sentence served as the basic idea for the Bolsheviks many years after it was written: “The life processes of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan.”

This is certainly what was attempted — first by war communism, then the NEP and then by the five year plans, forced collectivization and industrialization. But why the failure? Where were the “freely associated” people?

To pull off this great transformation, the goal of communism, Marx wrote “demands for society a certain material ground-work or set of conditions of existence which in their turn are the spontaneous product of a long and painful process of development.”

In other words, the seizure of power was premature. The material ground-work had been insufficiently developed. If Lenin represented the negation of the Czarist regime, Gorbachev and Yeltsin represented the negation of the negation — brought about by the failure of that long and painful process of properly developing production by freely associated people. For all its efforts, the socialist world still belonged to that world in which the processes of production had the mastery over human beings and not the other way around. So we must still put up with the Fetishism of Commodities for a while longer.

The present crisis gives us an opportunity to think about the Fetishism of Commodities as it applies to the real world. General Motors is about to be 70 percent owned by the US government, and the UAW will have a stake of about 17.5 percent. This leaves 12.5 percent in the hands of the capitalists. The commodities that the workers make (vehicles) don’t have a life of their own. Their value is determined by the socially necessary labor time it takes workers to make them. They are extensions of the being of the working people rather than capitalists who have proved themselves totally incompetent.

The working people of this country far out number monopoly capitalists — both industrial and financial. The UAW and the AFL-CIO as well other unions should demand that the government represent the interests of the working class majority. Ideally, the 87.5 percent joint government-worker control of GM would not be used to return control to private interests, but to rationalize the auto industry by means of worker control, eliminate the capitalists and the Fetishism of Commodities that keeps people thinking private interests have a role to play in production.

Such actions might lay the ground work for future nationalizations of basic and vital industries, and, by extension, a more socially planned and democratically determined distribution of the benefits of our labor.

Thomas Riggins is currently the associate editor of Political Affairs online. Read other articles by Thomas.

26 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on June 1st, 2009 at 1:11pm #

    It’s not that the communist (and not socialist!) seizure of power was premature but that the fact that a seizure of power was necessary discredited the whole enterprise because it proved that there were no “freely associated peoples”. By seizing power, the communists, in effect, painted themselves into a corner and thereby made their own ultimate failure inevitable. Without freedom, there was nothing “social” and the whole thing thus degenerated into an enormous, corrupt pork barrel, with the party fat cats siphoning off vast sums from the public purse for their own middle class lifestyle and repressing working class opposition via the police state. That wholly non-ideological situation brought them down. By the time the communists were overthrown in Europe, nobody, least of all the communists themselves, believed in communism.

    The socialists have been more successful because they started from the idea that “freely associated peoples” have first to exist and once they do, socialism happens almost by accident. Thus, they built on the ideas of the 19th century liberals: personal freedom, human rights, equality etc. By seeking, not to build on 19th century liberalism, but to abolish it and go back to 18th century absolutism, the communists shot themselves in the foot. For that reason, communism should be regarded, not as a form of socialism, but as the first (and last) of the various forms of fascism that developed in post-WWI Europe in reaction to the triumph of liberalism. How transposable any of this is to places other than Europe is, of course, another debate.

  2. Jeff said on June 1st, 2009 at 2:51pm #

    Have we any lands left to discover which we can eviscerate? Seems only the human mind is left to overcome. May the last standing learn from all this madness. Doubt that though.

  3. Francisco Franco said on June 1st, 2009 at 3:12pm #

    Monsignor Kenny, you took the words out of my mouth! Your articulation of our Falangist view of history approaches the Papal level!

  4. lichen said on June 1st, 2009 at 3:27pm #

    The USSR failed because they were right wing communists – a left economic system without any other attributes of the modern left–such as participatory democracy, environmentalism, gay rights, children’s rights, the results of the sexual revolution, anti-militarism…they had none of these things, and Marx had none of these things with him either. There are still some right wing communists that want to push off the entire left to bring right-wing poor people along with their mission.

  5. Deadbeat said on June 1st, 2009 at 3:41pm #

    such as participatory democracy, environmentalism, gay rights, children’s rights, the results of the sexual revolution, anti-militarism…they had none of these things, and Marx had none of these things with him either

    Please back up your claim with evidence that Marx “had none of these things”. The hallmark of Socialism is ecomomic democracy. Without that you cannot have political democracy. Therefore solidarity among workers is the primary aspect of winning Socialism and thus the ability to achieve all that you mention are “lacking” with Marx.

    Marx and others in the Marxist tradition clearly spoke out against racism, sexism and environmentalism so please show me where Marx and Marxism “[has] none of these things”.

    Thanks.
    DB

  6. Barry99 said on June 1st, 2009 at 3:54pm #

    Lichen – I would say that the Soviet economy was right-wing, centrally -controlled, and state-centered – that it was not communism. As Deadbeat mentions, Marx spoke out against oppression as well as exploitation. I don’t know where the Soviet Union went off the rails – was it Lenin’s vanguard approach or Stalin’s totalitarian rule. Either way, the USSR was neither leftist nor communist.

  7. Jeff said on June 1st, 2009 at 4:43pm #

    Canada seems to be accused of being socialist. Were it not for its’ location geographically in the world, Canada may have been a utopia or a hell hole. What actually is it right now? Close but no cigar on both counts.

  8. lichen said on June 1st, 2009 at 5:22pm #

    Yes, actually, Deadbeat, those things were lacking in Marx; the evidence is that he lived in the 1800′s and the developments of these movements had not come about yet, did not feature in his philosophy and thus he could be used by fanatic right wing ideologues to do terrible things. Thankfully us modern left have a wide variety of philosophies and ideas and can focus on specific policies and not latch onto 19th century dogma; we can see that acheiving solidarity amongst other people and the human race as a whole will bring about these things.

    And yes, Marxism is a rigid, dogmatic ideology for many people, having nothing whatsoever to do with a genuine concern for other people, the earth, or equality; just labels and going-nowhere theory. Get out of your lazy cocoon and perhaps you will find that ‘evidence’ yourself; but oh yes, you expect a mythical “left” to do everything for you, to bow at your feet with long, flattering explanations.

  9. lichen said on June 1st, 2009 at 5:29pm #

    Actually, I don’t give a damn about what Marx did or did not say, do, or have; I do not buy into worshipped demagogues. My point was that the rise of right wing communism in the USSR, China, and other places, as well as the the rise of right wing social welfare states, however big or small they might have been in places like the US, etc, were also flawed because they were absolutely not coupled with any of the twentieth-twenty-first century developments that I mentioned. And pursuing marxism alone without bothering to mention anything else will not magically bring you those things; only open, bold pursuit will.

  10. Barry99 said on June 1st, 2009 at 6:58pm #

    What happened in Russia bears little relationship to Marx – who DID have a lot to say about America’s ‘Negro Question,’ as well as colonial exploitation elsewhere – and the condition and status of women. It has been Marxists who have been in the front lines of American labor struggles. In fact, there is no liberal movement today in America that does not count Marxists among its ardent advocates. I don’t think Marx however, could be considered an environmentalist – he was more concerned with who owned the factory than whatever contents its spilled into the earth and sky. But a Marxian analysis CAN include the environment. That is basically a left-green position.

  11. Tennessee-Chavizta said on June 1st, 2009 at 7:23pm #

    it is sad that this nation which was an economic powerful nation, has been destroyed by the corrupted plutocratic Democrat and Republican Parties, along with the different corporate lobbies, with the zionist lobby, and with the capitalist philosophy that has been the main culprit, the great ideology in the essense of America. The Free Market egocentric, selfish ideology of Ayn Rand, Adam Smith, John Locke, John Stuart Mill and other bourgeoise thinkers and egoists.

    We must burry that ideology as failed and wrong and give way toward Leninist, Marxist, Christian, humanist and socialist, collective ideology and doctrine.

    USA was a very developed nation producing a lot of wealth, and statibility for most US citizens compared other poorer countries and to third world nations with more corrupt governments.

    USA has never been a socialist nation, however the capitalist-welfare american system provided stability for most americans thru the a “trickle down capitalist welfare system”.

    Unfortunately, thanks to the mafia-cartels of both capitalist parties (Democrats and Republicans)this ‘trickle down welfare capitalist system’ which has provided stability for most of americans is coming to an end ending !!

    THE MAIN REASON OF WHY USA CITIZENS ARE NOT REVOLTING, IS THAT THE US CENTRAL BANK (FEDERAL RESERVE) IS PUMPING DOLLARS INTO THE US ECONOMY WITHOUT END, AND BACKING THOSE DOLLARS WITH LOANS. HOWEVER SOONER OR LATER THE US ECONOMY WILL GRIND TO A HALT !!

    IN OTHERS WORDS THE US CITIZENS ARE NOT REVOLTING BECAUSE USA IS NOT AT A REVOLUTIONARY OBJECTIVE SITUATION YET !!

    Sooner or later this ‘tricke down welfare capitalist system’ will not provide bread for all, and will morph a plutocratic corporate capitalist system that can only provide stability, food and wealth for the upper bourgeoise classes of America.

    when that time comes we will see a revolutionary situation, when the proletariat take the bull by its horns and overthrows the corporate corrupted capitalist system for complete emancipation of the workign classes of this country

    HERE ARE THE MAIN 3 TRAITS OF A REVOLUTIONARY SITUATION IN USA:

    # 1 – When it is impossible for the rich people of this country (like Bill Gates, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise, Donald Trump, Al Gore, Ross Perot, Dick Cheney, etc.) to maintain their wealth without any change; when there is an economic crisis, in one form or another, among the rich people, a crisis in the policy of the rich ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of middle and lower classes of America burst forth. For a socialist-revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for the middle and lower classes not to want to live in their old comfortable and stable way; it is also necessary that the rich upper millionaire class should be unable to live in their old comfortable way.

    # 2 – When the suffering and the needs of the middle and lower working classes of this country have grown more acute than usual

    # 3 – When, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the middle and working classes, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in peace time, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis *and by the upper classes themselves* into independent historical action.

    Let other people you know learn about socialism! Spread the word… the more people who know the truth, the greater the force against the capitalist system! Resistance forever!

    …………………../´¯/)
    ………………..,/¯../
    ………………./…./
    …………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
    ………./’/…/…./……./¨¯\
    ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
    ………\……………..’…../
    ……….”…\………. _.·´
    …………\…………..

    STICK UP YOUR MIDDLE FINGER TO US IMPERIALISM AND CAPITALIST OPPRESSION!

    .

  12. Tennessee-Chavizta said on June 1st, 2009 at 7:26pm #

    barry99: True if it wasn’t for socialists and leftists, the US minimum wage would be like 2 dollars an hour, and there wouldn’t be any public schools, and any food-stamp program. Socialism is so good that it is the only ideology i know that proposes a higher minimum wage than capitalist parties. Most American Socialist Parties propose a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour, and also workers-control of corporations.

  13. Tennessee-Chavizta said on June 1st, 2009 at 7:35pm #

    lichen: you are the one who lives in a coocoon, druged by TV. But wake up, USA is really poor with the capitalist system. Most americans are poor. With the capitalist system 5% of US citizens own 90% of USA’s wealth, what more slavery you want? even worse than USSR.

    USA has lots of people sleeping in cars, tents, 40 millions in extreme poverty and about 1 out of 6 children in hunger.

    Then there are the other capitalist countries, like Mexico, UK, China, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Haiti, Peru, Colombia, Philipines. etc. face in capitalist systems the majority are slaves and beating the bullets, while a few concentrate lots of wealth and live like kings.

    What we need in USA is a socialist system, in order to increase the living standards of americans.

    Socialism is so good that it open new opportunities for americans, like going to a doctor, going to college.

    Socialism would include millions of americans into the wealth and joys that USA produces. Right now millions of americans are alienated and banned from participating in the wealth of this country.

    Because the damn capitalist laws enables a few to own all the oil, gold and wealth of this country.

    We need socialism electorally or thru a revolutionary coup de etat.

    .

  14. lichen said on June 1st, 2009 at 7:52pm #

    TNC, you are a spamming, screaming, incoherent troll of the lowest grade; an ideologue so possessed by ignorance that you can’t see that someone can promote economic equality, indeed, a grade of it far more equitable than regurgitated industrialist19th century phrases ever dreamed of, without advocating the tired rhetoric or ideology of marxism in order to get there. It is extremely amusing how you constantly call for ‘unification’ and ‘solidary’ of the people in this country but you refuse to admit to the existence of people with similar views but which don’t define themselves as ideologues. I see people like you and deadbeat never bother to comment on articles like the recent one about the practical ways to start a cooperative society in the US, but you jump all over irrelevant ‘left luggage’ articles that aren’t even about this country. I have said countless times in my posts what I think, as I will copy/paste below.

    I support a complete end to all wars, all tensions, military bases, and nuclear weapons held by the united states; I support an energy policy that powers the entire planet with only tidal, solar, wind, and geothermal power; I support economic justice, full employment with democratic workers cooperatives where everyone makes an equal, living wage; free college education, free healthcare, guaranteed housing, organic food and clean water. I believe, further, that there is ultimately a better solution than party/parliamentary politics, and that is direct, decentralized participatory democracy. Otherwise, real democracy needs to take place with strong social movements making and winning demands no matter who is in office or how entrenched the political status quo is; representative-voting is not enough. I hold that children deserve the same, equal rights and protections as adults; that corporal punishment, male genital mutilation/circumcision, and all forms of emotional and physical mistreatment should and must be banned in order to create a peaceful world.

    If you choose to see me as your enemy because I refuse to use outdated, archaic labels and worship Marx, than do so; the communist revolutions are over, and you will win no new converts.

  15. lichen said on June 1st, 2009 at 7:55pm #

    An ideology is responsible for the crimes committed in it’s name, just like a religion is; it does not matter any more what Marx, or Milton Friedman, or jesus “really said,” or if you feel their ideas haven’t “really” been applied yet. The free market, communism, and christianity are culpable for the crimes committed in their name, and what is real and what has happened is more true than what theoretically was supposed to happen.

  16. Tennessee-Chavizta said on June 1st, 2009 at 8:36pm #

    lichen: haha of course you are not enemy. I am not a Republican who gets angry with people, just by debating. I think you are mistaking Stalinism, and centralist-dictatorships like Mugabe with socialism. Real socialism is freedom for the majority. Real socialism is where workers are the rulers of the country and the owners of wealth. It is extreme, individualist democracy.

    By the way the Russian Revolution got betrayed by Stalin. Go here to read all about it, before you generalize like you do:

    http://www.trotsky.net/trotsky_year/rise_of_stalinism.html

    .

    .
    .

  17. Tennessee-Chavizta said on June 1st, 2009 at 8:37pm #

    Lichen: Go here to read the truth about Lenin and Trotsky:

    http://www.marxist.com/LeninAndTrotsky/

  18. bozh said on June 2nd, 2009 at 5:52am #

    lichen, you have given us a good list of our needs and our rights.
    and you haven’t used label for our wants/needs/rights.
    it is a good thing not to label our rights.

    and throughout panhuman history despotic people knew that but not most of the people subjugated by them.
    recent election and massive rejection of nader proves that 98% of amers are spurning their needs/rights.

    so, the way to break the chains is to educate people about their rights.
    we on DV add a few drops to the pond of knowledge. In time, US governance might change to the degree that everybody wld receive their inheritance.
    we are just starting to educate people. About 2 to 3% of amers already know their rights. That is almost 2mn people. Slowly will grow in numbers.
    i do affirm that we need a political party that opposes uncle sam’s party. tnx

  19. lichen said on June 2nd, 2009 at 4:49pm #

    Yes, Bozh, you are right, many people are not aware of their just human rights and how they need to be enforced; about how wrong it is to setup communities without them. With a lot of electoral and media reform and constitutional reform, education and direct action with those of us like minded, we can start to change things and put a different system into place.

  20. Ian said on June 2nd, 2009 at 5:32pm #

    Wow this is some indoctrinated stuff. Do you guys really believe that everyone should get the exact same amount of everything regardless of how hard they work or how talented they are? What is the possible incentive to work hard in that society? It is completely incompatible with human nature and is only possible through tyranny. Democracy is by definition majority tyranny. This is why there is not one truly democratic nation on earth. Look at California’s prop 8 for your example of democracy. While there are certainly abuses in our system this tyrannical call for absolute socialism is both naive and dangerous.

    Now verbally flog me as you will

  21. ajohnstone said on June 2nd, 2009 at 9:49pm #

    “Such actions might lay the ground work for future nationalizations of basic and vital industries, and, by extension, a more socially planned and democratically determined distribution of the benefits of our labor.”
    Fraid this is a cul de sac that many on the Left have gone down . Here in the UK we have had nationalisation advocated for decades by the Labour Party and the 57 assorted varieties of Leninists. Certainly , it is not the “production by freely associated men” which you desire .
    Under Capitalism, relations between human beings within production necessarily present themselves as relations between things (money and commodities). “Only the conventions of everyday life,” Marx writes in Contribution, “make it appear commonplace and ordinary that social relations of production should assume the shape of things, so that the relations into which people enter in the course of their work appear as relations of things to one and another and of things to people.”
    People are so used to the relations of commodity production that they find it difficult to imagine social relations of production that are not mediated by the exchange of commodities and money, which is one reason that reformist ideas manage to seem so pragmatic. Reformists have trouble understanding that commodities and money only exist under specific relations of production, and this also accounts for their inability to imagine fundamentally different social relations where there is no need or room for those economic forms to exist.
    Indeed , the failure of the Russian Revolution can be described as premature – the material ground-work had been insufficiently developed , one of the pre-conditions required for Socialism . However let us not over look while this obstacle no longer applies in the modern world , the other pre-requisite remains , the need for majority understanding and the desire for Socialism.
    Only the vast majority, acting consciously in its own interests, for itself, by itself, can create socialism , democratically achieved through force of numbers . Even if we could conceive of a leader-ridden working class displacing the capitalist class from power as in the case of 1917 such an immature class would be helpless to undertake the responsibilities of democratic socialist society.

  22. Deadbeat said on June 3rd, 2009 at 1:09am #

    An ideology is responsible for the crimes committed in it’s name …

    Yeah right what an asinine concept. This means that since the U.S. is a “democracy” then “democracy” is GUILTY for all U.S. crimes. Therefore according to lichen there should be no striving for justice or democracy.

    This lack of ideology and fallacious reasoning is a major reason for the lack of solidarity and is unfortunately commonplace among the so-called “Left”. It a real pity and until the “Left” embrace ideology of solidarity and justice and truth and trust it makes building a real movement extremely difficult.

  23. bozh said on June 3rd, 2009 at 6:03am #

    ian,
    one does not chose to be born nor the wiggler that enters an ovary.
    that’s how a new life starts.
    not all wigglers are hard working, smart, honest, etc; some are ‘lazy’, ‘dumb’, etc.
    actually, nature does not give a damn about human categories such as ‘stupidity’, ‘ laziness’, etc; it never makes the same mistake twice.
    no, nature is not a fool for inventing a genetic pool.

    laziness, as we said before, is a human invention. Probably invented by nobility/clergy; to use as weapon against people who produced less than others.
    and they produced less for various causes: asthma, hypertension, diabetes, brain injuries of all kind, cancer, flus, kidney failure and a host of other illnesess that nobody wanted but some people got because the wrong wiggler entered the wrong ovary at the wrong time.
    so, in final analyses, the nature is also mean. tnx

  24. bozh said on June 3rd, 2009 at 6:36am #

    the word “democracy” can be found on the last rung of a ladder that stretches towards the moon.
    but once we alight on earth, nowhere can we find any rule of the people for the people.
    we do find, broadly, a minority of people, ruling over a majority of people.
    as always and in all lands/empires, and for millennia, the rulers are patricians and ruled-over are peasants.
    and, whatever one labels the situation in US and elsewhere, about 2% or less of the people rule the rest.
    in short, in most lands the patricians have set up a fascist structure of society.
    much better structure of society for peasants wld be a gregarious/social structure of society in which basic human rights wld be granted to all citizens.

    how much talent we may be wasting by not educating all people who want to be educated. I am talking about an enlightening education governed by also peasants and not solely by clero-political ‘elite’ [read, please, deceivers]
    but even healthcare owned by all people wld probably cost less while at the same time making people feel more secure/happy.

    but the ruling class will never allow thses basic human rights; because if peasants ever tasted them, they wld clammor for more rights.
    and the ruling class runs on scared; scared to death of losing its lofty status with its lofty right: right to speak; while only they speak. tnx bozhidar balkas vancouver

  25. Garrett said on June 3rd, 2009 at 9:18am #

    Dogma and solidarity are like oil and water.

    “When it gets to the market, the table finds itself in the company of the stool and the chair. All three have use values, are made of the same wood and may be in equal supply and equal demand — yet each has its own different price.”

    Perhaps that’s because there is more wood in the table than in the stool and chair.

  26. Deadbeat said on June 4th, 2009 at 3:10am #

    Let’s maintain the original context …

    The table, the stool and the chair are three “things” that are related to each other as the embodiment of the social relations and necessary labor of human beings that created them. Human social relations have been objectified as the relations between non human things. The chair may be more valuable than the table, but the reason is now hidden away from the perception of people.

    The author did say that what is lost with differing prices is the social relationship that it took to create the those products. Your response Garrett supports the author’s point about the fetishism of commodities. You are more concern with the amount of wood used to build the table than the social relationship that it took to build the table or the chair. The point is that the object “wood” is more important to you than social relationships and interactions.