Study Circle 21 of 2019 – What Drives History?

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twenty first study circle of this year yesterday. We completed reading Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism by J. Stalin.

In the second half of the essay, Stalin talks about what the chief determining forces of the development of society are. He considers and dismisses the idea that geography or population growth determine societal development. He then shows that the mode of production of material values – food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. – which are indispensable for the life and development of society – is the chief determining force of societal development. 

The mode of production includes the means of production as well as the relations of production: the technology and apparatus used for producing, as well as the relations of people to this technology and apparatus, and consequently to each other.

He then elaborates on two features of production: the constance of change, and the fact that change always begins with changes in the productive forces. From the essay:

The first feature of production is that it never stays at one point for a long time and is always in a state of change and development, and that, furthermore, changes in the mode of production inevitably call forth changes in the whole social system, social ideas, political views and political institutions – they call forth a reconstruction of the whole social and political order. 
The second feature of production is that its changes and development always begin with changes and development of the productive forces, and in the first place, with changes and development of the instruments of production.

We talked about what this means for philosophical determinism; whether socialism is inevitable because of the development of productive forces, or whether barbarism is a possibility; and the relationship between changes in religion and changes in the mode of production in Rome, the USSR and in India.

Next week, we will likely continue reading on Marxist philosophy.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 19 of 2019 – Is Fascism Imminent?

DYFI CUC organised the nineteenth study circle of the year yesterday. We concluded our series on fascism by reading “Is Fascism Imminent?” by P. M. S. Grewal.

The article analyses the current political system in India to understand whether it is fascist or whether fascism is on the anvil. It refers to the Communist International’s understanding of fascism as the ‘most terroristic dictatorship of capital.’ It goes on to show how our parliamentary system is working quite well at furthering the interests of the Indian ruling classes and so, in essence, they do not have a need to bring about fascism. The article speaks of examples of pre-WWII and post-WWII fascist regimes. The former consisted of countries with a well established developed monopoly bourgeoisie (Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan) while the latter came about in the form of imperialist intervention as well as a section of the indigenous bourgeoisie, in response to a perceived threat of growing mass support for the communist party and elected left government in Indonesia and Chile respectively. In both these cases large scale massacres of leftists occurred.

The question of whether fascism has overtaken all Indian institutions is important because it determines what the Left parties should do in response. If the regime was truly fascist, a united front of all anti-fascist parties and forces would be necessary. The article argues that in India today such a strategy does not make sense, because Left parties have to fight both communalism and neoliberalism, and allying with neoliberal (and even communal) opposition parties weakens the fight against conditions that create fascism. That does not mean, however, that the RSS is not a fascistic organisation.

We discussed strategies in overcoming the barrage of imagined threats, divisive rumours and exploitative superstition being promulgated by the propaganda machinery of dominant parties. We discussed the importance of using newer forms of organising workers, unemployed people, and the pervasiveness of caste. We spoke of the role of social media and what the Left ought to do about it, and debated about whether most Indian people were really secular as the article claimed – and what this would mean for how the Left understands secularism.

Next week, we will read more about Marxist economics.

Study Circle 16 of 2019 – The Abolition of the Wages System

DYFI CUC organised the sixteenth study circle of the year yesterday. We completed reading Value, Price and Profit with Chapters 12-14.

Marx ties his arguments together and demonstrates how they work on a macro scale as well. He lists four main cases where fighting for wage increases is necessary to even maintain the worker’s own labouring power: 

1) If there is a decrease in productivity, wage increases are required for the worker to be able to afford the increased price of necessities. With an increase in productivity, wage gains help compensate for the worsening of relative social position of workers caused by an increase in the rate of profit.

2) A change in the value of money makes real wages depreciate and hence wage increases are necessary.

3) There is a constant pressure to prolong the working day and to intensify the work done in a given working day. To compensate for these tendencies, as they cause labouring power to deteriorate, wage increases are necessary.

4) During downturns in the business cycle, wages are decreased. As labour power is a commodity under capitalism, it should be treated like any other commodity and compensated with a more than proportionate increase in its price (wages) during upturns, to maintain the same average wage through a complete business cycle.

Thus we see that demands for wage increases are only reactions to actions undertaken by capital interests. However, Marx underlines that greater political struggle is required for the maintenance of any kind of concessions made for workers. And we must not lose sight of the actual goal: the abolition of the wage system itself. 

The conclusions are best summarised by Marx himself:

  • Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.
  • Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages.
  • Thirdly. Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.

Next Sunday, we will begin a series of study circle meetings on fascism: what it is, how it has been dealt with in the past, perspectives about how to deal with it now. Do attend, because we expect lots of discussion!

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 15 of 2019: Why does profit exist?

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the fifteenth study circle of the year yesterday, and we had the most intense discussions we’ve had in a while. We continued reading Value, Price and Profit and completed Chapters 8-11. 

The chapters elaborate on the difference between labour and labouring power, and on how the appropriation of surplus value reproduces the capitalist as a capitalist, and the worker as a worker.

Marx explains that the entirety of profit is the unpaid part of the labourer’s value addition. Industrial profit, rent, and interest are only ways to distribute surplus value amongst employing capitalists, landlords and moneylenders. Importantly, wages and profit change in opposite ways: when general wages increase, the general rate of profit declines, and vice versa.

In other words, profit exists because wages are less than value addition; and so, commodities are sold at prices equivalent to their value, not above it. 
We discussed the value added by management, and whether capitalists add value to production by taking risks – we talked about how they are able to take the risk only because they have the capital, and this capital has been accumulated through enclosure and capture of resources.

We also spoke of how digital platforms, along with venture capital, fit into this analysis, and from whom the surplus value is extracted in these businesses. 
Next week we will finish the remaining chapters.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 14 of 2019: Value, price, and profit

DYFI CUC organised a few study circles in this interim, but we unfortunately do not have updates – hence we are counting today’s study circle as the fourteenth of this year. After having completed Wage Labour and Capital, today we read the first six chapters of Value, Price and Profit.

The book consists of speeches delivered by Marx at the First International, in response to John Weston’s arguments against a general increase in wages. Weston posited that if workers fought for a general increase in wages, the increase would simply be transferred by the capitalist to commodity prices. An increase in commodity prices would mean that the real wages of the workers would remain the same, given that their purchasing power would decrease.

Marx shows that this reasoning is based on several flawed assumptions. That wages determine prices is not a given, and that a certain general level of profit is required for production to continue is also not. Weston is unclear about whether there is a universal economic law about the level at which general wages should remain, or whether this depends on the will of the capitalist – if the former, the law is not presented and defended; if the latter, wages can be made to change against the will of the capitalist as well. In any event, there is a constant downward pressure on wages, that does not affect commodity prices in the opposite direction – meaning that the rates of profit and rent change, are not cosmically determined. Marx shows that, in fact, a general increase in wages would mean that either that commodity prices remain unchanged as the rate of profit declines, or that an increased demand for necessities and decreased demand for luxuries causes a temporary rise in the prices of necessities, which is fixed as capital moves to increase the supply of necessities to match demand. Marx uses historical examples to validate this.

At the heart of Weston’s argument is an erroneous theory of value, and the idea that profit arises at the point of exchange. Marx shows how this is impossible, and develops the labour theory of value. 

Next week we will continue reading the remaining chapters. 

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 13 of 2019: Wage, Labour and Capital

DYFI-CUC organised the thirteenth study circle of this year yesterday. We read the first five chapters of ‘Wage Labour and Capital’ (WLC) by Karl Marx — a pamphlet introducing some basic concepts in Marx’s critique of classical political economy.

It consists of lectures delivered by Marx before the German Workingmen’s Club of Brussels in 1847, and was first published in 1849 as an (incomplete) series of articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the German newspaper published by Marx between 1848-49. 

WLC (as retrospectively edited by Engels after Marx’s death to conform to Marx’s ideas as they had changed and crystallised in later decades) begins by explaining what wages are. It is commonly assumed that wages are what the capitalist employer pays a worker in return for a certain amount of labour for a certain amount of time (time-wages) or for a certain task (piece-wage). In other words, classical political economy assumes that the capitalist buys the labour of the worker and pays wages in return. 

However, the text clarifies that what the capitalist buys is not labour, but the labour-power of the worker. It goes on to explain that labour-power is a commodity — just like any other commodity that is produced for the purpose of exchange and thus has an exchange-value. This exchange value estimated in money is called its price. 

Wages, therefore, are simply the price of labour-power.

Next, Marx talks about the factors determining the price of any commodity — competition between sellers, competition between buyers, competition between buyers and sellers, and the laws of supply and demand under capitalism. However, the text makes it clear that a price can be said to have ‘fallen’ or ‘risen’ only in relation to the cost of production of the commodity — supply and demand merely cause the price to fluctuate either above (rise) or below (fall) this cost of production.  The price of a commodity expresses (in the form of money) the ratio or proportion in which one commodity can be exchanged for another commodity. If the price of a one commodity rises, then the price of some other commodity can be understood to have fallen in proportion to the rise in price of the first commodity. 

The cost of production of commodity is determined by raw materials, wear and tear, etc. as well as the labour-time necessary for the manufacture of the commodity.

Just like the price of any other commodity, the price of labour-power — or wages — is determined by the cost of production of the labour-power. 
This cost of the production of labour-power consists of the minimum necessary costs for the maintenance of the worker (social reproduction) so that the worker can continue to sell her labour-power, besides the cost of training the worker, if there is any.

Next, Marx talks about the nature and growth of capital. Capital, he says, consists of the raw materials, the instruments of labour and the means of subsistence that are used in production of new raw materials, new instruments and new means of subsistence. However, all of these components of capital are products of labour over periods of time in the past — or ‘accumulated labour’. 

But this accumulated labour becomes capital only when worked upon by ‘living’ labour (that is, when the exchange of labour-power takes place), which preserves and multiplies the exchange value of this accumulated labour, producing yet more capital.

Next week, we shall continue reading Wage Labour and Capital, and finish the remaining four chapters.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi