Manifesto for Praxis-Ostenle

Mon, 9 Mar 1998 23:59:35 -0800
Clayton Bagwell (cbagwell@island.net)

Hello to the group,

I am very happy to continue to take part. I enter the discussion as a
supporter of Marxism, that is, scientific socialism. My criticisms are not
personal, but an attempt to help us as we grope through this period of human
and ecological global crisis.
I enjoyed the first reading of Ostenle's manifesto. I thought it
extended the truths of the original by using modern phraseology descriptive
of today's world, but I had difficulty with the way the paper concluded with
a list of items intended to solve the inequalities of the globe. Ostenle's
manifesto concluded with a list of reforms as opposed to the original that
called for the
workers of the world to unite and overthrow the bourgeoisie. What a huge
difference+ACE- So I went back to find how Ostenle could describe the
conditions and causes of the global crisis, the systematic subjugation of
the proletariat (a class, the existence of which he doesn't deny) and poor
of the world for the benefit of capitalist markets, and so on, but conclude
with a list of reforms. How can his attempt to extend the relevance of the
Manifesto result in a list of reforms?

Part One, of Ostenle extols the freedom that capitalism has brought to
the oppressed people of the world. It tells how even those at the bottom
of social caste, race, and gender can rise to the top (of the corporate
ladder, I guess.) After extolling this freedom conferred upon people, for a
paragraph or two he laments the enslavement of national capital to
transnational capital. Hmmm....the people have been freed, it is just
national capital that has been enslaved. And the people? They have been
freed to starve in the midst of overproduction. Ostenle's concern for the
well-being of national capital in the face of transnational capital is not
shared by the authors of the original.
In Part One, Para. 19 of the Manifesto we read:
+ACI-The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given
a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To
the great chagrin of reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of
industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established
national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They
are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death
question for all civilized nations...+ACI-
In light of the new Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) and how
that treaty proposes to change the relationship of government towards its
citizens and transnational capital, I marvel at the accurate foresight and
the complete understanding of capitalism by the authors of the original.
However, Marx-Engles don't lament the passing of national bourgeois
dominance to international capital. Marx and Engles didn't foresee the
structure of transnational capital that we have, but the formation of
transnational capital has developed upon technological advances in
communication that no one foresaw in the mid-nineteenth century. Although
they did not see the structure of transnational capital they did clearly see
its function and purpose.
Ostenle, then, has a concern for national capital. Is there an underlying
wish for the simpler days, when capitalism was small and local? Is there a
belief that we can find respite in the good old days when our exploiter
lived in the same town? Here is the beginning of the desire in Ostenle's
manifesto to put a leash on the beast of global capital.

In Part One, Ostenle describes how workers are +ACI-lured+ACI- into wage paying
jobs. I
would posit they are not lured but forced into the role of wage labor in
order to produce capital. See Part One, Para. 52 of the Marx-Engles
version:
+ACI-The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the
bourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital+ADs- the
condition for capital is wage labor...+ACI- See also Para. 29:
+ACI-In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the
same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed - a
class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find
work only so long as their labor increases capital.+ACI-
I feel this is an important distinction. In Ostenle's manifesto, the
workers choose to associate themselves with capital as wage earners, and
could chose not to do so if they were not lured. Ostenle's is a free
association of equals, just that one is smarter and capable of luring the
other. In the Communist Manifesto no such equality exists. Wage labor is
the essential condition for the accumulation of capital. The two manifestos
are divergent early on, a presentiment of the divergent conclusions.

In Part Three of Ostenle's manifesto, the next to last paragraph says,
+ACI-The fact is that capitalism is vastly superior to all the economic systems
which preceded it in human history...yet its potential for solving the
ancient problems of hunger, poverty, disease and oppression is crippled by
its slavish devotion to private ownership, private profits and private
enjoyments of its bounty.+ACI- That is to say that capitalism is crippled by
its very nature because the ills enumerated by Ostenle are the relations of
production that define and distinguish capitalism itself. What is
capitalism without bourgeois ownership of the means of production, the
private acquisition of social wealth, the use of socially produced
technology and wealth to extend and solidify the rights of the bourgeoisie?
Yes...it is capitalism itself that is the great plug blocking the
development of humankind. Here the two manifestos agree.

At the start of Ostenle Part Four, it states, +ACI-Yet these great benefits
from private ownership and from the free market system are not distributed
equitably to all peoples on earth who work in it+ADs- who believe in it and who
give their lives, their families and their sacred loyalties to it.+ACI- I must
ask, +ACI-What benefits from private ownership?+ACI- In the paragraphs immediately
preceding this one Ostenle correctly pointed out that private ownership was
the great stumbling block to unleashing the full potential of human
productivity and creativity. One cannot have it both ways.

Part Five, Para. 3 of Ostenle, +ACI-Global Capitalism and the Class System,+ACI-
has this remarkable statement: +ACI-The various classes within a given country
are more and more equalized, in proportion as globalization obliterates all
distinctions between wages, salaries, rents and profits of particular
persons.+ACI- Now global capitalism is seen as the great leveler, the equalizer
of society. Confusion is starting to set in. In the remainder of Part
Five, Ostenle describes how the proletariat is growing as a result of
petit-bourgeois and professionals being squeezed out by transnational
capital and forced into the proletariat. This does not sound like a growing
equality between the classes.

The next to last paragraph of Ostenle Part five states:
+ACI-All previous historical movements were movements of minorities in the
population of a country. The proletarian movement was the self-conscious,
independent movement of the immense majority of a given nation, it acted in
the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum
of a fully globalized economy, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up in a
globalized economy without all strata in all countries joining it to tame
this newly made monster marching toward Bethlehem to be born.+ACI-
It is in this statement that one can find the final clue as to the
intention of Ostenle's manifesto: to preserve the bourgeoisie. Compare the
above quotation to the original from Part One Para. 48 of the Communist
Manifesto:
+ACI-All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in
the interests of minorities. The proletarian movement is the
self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the
interests of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of
our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole
superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.+ACI-
This is the beautiful heart of the Manifesto. This is what makes hope
for humanity. That people themselves in a self-conscious association with
one another, that the great mass of humanity has the role of ushering in a
new human era without exploitation is the vibrant thesis of the Manifesto.
Ostenle's manifesto denies the proletariat this role. For Ostenle, the
purpose of the proletarian movement is to tame the capitalist beast+ADs- for
Marx and Engles the purpose is to destroy it. Ostenle's manifesto shows us
over and again how the structure of capitalism strangles human effort, but
the heart of his manifesto quivers when the time comes to emancipate the
race.

I found Part Six of Ostenle particularly confused. The phrase +ACI-class
struggle,+ACI- is thrown about to describe everything from sex to kleenex. The
introduction of new products on to the market is even described as class
struggle. By the time he finished, class struggle has no meaning
whatsoever. He calls the efforts of the bourgeoisie to wrest markets from
each other +ACI-class struggle.+ACI- Ostenle must give some consideration to the
notion that class is the set of social relations arising from the ownership
of the means of production. If I may quote from the contribution of Charles
Brown, +ACI-Classes are groups that associate in a division of labor to produce
their material means of existence.+ACI- In capitalism the owners of the means
of production are the bourgeoisie. Their contribution to the productive
effort is to use their capital to amass more capital. Virtually everyone
else in the capitalist state is without capital and their contribution to
production is the sale of their labor. It isn't instructive to go about
inventing a myriad of +ACI-classes+ACI- and to ascribe all manner of human
intercourse to +ACI-class struggle,+ACI- as Ostenle has done in this section of his
manifesto.

Part Seven, Ostenle, +ACI-Social Democratic Programs for the Twenty-first
Century,+ACI- clearly separates Ostenle's manifesto from the original. Marx did
not bother to describe the parameters of a future socialist state. He
thought such descriptions would depend upon where and when. Ostenle's
manifesto is not so modest. It even contains a proposed set of percentages
for tax structure. It goes on with many measures, a tweak here, some praxis
there in the attempt to design a society that is good for everybody
including the bourgeoisie. It is something that social democrats always
try.
My preference is for an emergence of working-class consciousness, that
will lead the proletariat to political power. The abolition of bourgeois
property will commence. The forms and structures of the society will be
determined by the political expression of the working class, the new ruling
class. For Marx, this starts the process of the dissolution of the state.
Sounds good to me.
In the Communist Manifesto, Part Four, section 2 it says: +ACI-A part of
the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to
secure the continued existence of bourgeois society....
+ACI-The socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social
conditions, without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting
therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its
revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie
without a proletariat....
+ACI-A second and more practical, but less systematic, form of this socialism
sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working
class, by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the
material conditions of existence, in economic relations, could be of any
advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this
form of socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the
bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be effected only by
a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence
of these relations+ADs- reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the
relations between capital and labor, but, at best, lessen the cost and
simplify the administrative work of bourgeois government....
+ACI-The socialism of the bourgeoisie simply consists of the assertion that the
bourgeois are bourgeois - for the benefit of the working class.+ACI-

The original manifesto projects no such illusion.

Respectfully,
Clayton Bagwell