Storage and Accumulation of Human Activity
The spring illustration is kind of wanting and the sort of thing that would draw criticism of us as idealistic. Particularly this bit is troublesome:
>with the expenditure of relatively little energy, the people of this imaginary society will be able to harness the springs to most of their necessary tasks, and also to the task of winding new springs for coming generations.
I realize this is an abstraction and not meant to illustrate conservation of energy, but this does sound a bit like a utopian thinking technology will allow us to violate conservation of energy. It’s a simple fix – just include something about drawing energy from the earth or the sun. Not a huge point but this is exactly the kind of pedantic thing anti-communists will seize on and repeat despite being debunked (much like people confusing what “dictatorship of the proletariat” means).
The basic attitude exemplified here of optimism has largely come under attack by anti-communism and isn’t all that relatable to today’s proles anyway. It’s probably more useful for us to take a pragmatic attitude and talk about real material changes that can be made and point toward historical successes. If anything we should attack utopianism and idealism, as those have become associated with neoliberal capitalism. “Innovation will deliver us from systemic problems” is the (empty) promise of capitalism.
>However, if people did not dispose of their own lives, if their working activity were not their own, if their practical activity consisted of forced labor, then human activity might well be harnessed to the task of winding springs, the task of storing surplus working time in material receptacles. The historical role of Capitalism, a role which was performed by people who accepted the legitimacy of others to dispose of their lives, consisted precisely of storing human activity in material receptacles by means of forced labor.
This bit is just problematic. Societies all over the world accumulated wealth without capitalism, and probably without even class. Humans have a hoarding instinct to begin with, and if accumulating wealth for future generations becomes a common practice, people would continue it for the sake of their children. Societies that do this more effectively increase their chances of success, so from an evolutionary perspective, this behavior should be expected to spread and be maintained. Coercion through class merely makes the process more efficient, which incidentally is why revolution must be global.
>The power of Capital does not reside in money, since money is a social convention which has no more "power" than men are willing to grant it; when men refuse to sell their labor, money cannot perform even the simplest tasks, because money does not "work."
This bit really comes across like “dude if nobody paid taxes, the government would collapse!” It’s almost complete, but it needs one last bit. It’s not enough for men to refuse selling their labor. They must also “regard the product of labor as theirs and enjoy it,” (Pic related). On top of that, they must co-operate to do labor for one another as peers instead of for an employer as subordinates. If workers simply stopped selling their labor, they might deprive capital of the value they would create, but they do not gain for themselves a replacement for the wage that sustains them. Workers who only cease to work for an employer are soon coerced back into doing so or else become destitute. The workers must not merely cease selling labor, but labor for each other outside the realm of money. This is true whether you are starting a co-op, organizing a revolutionary force, or engaging in communization.
<Buyers for old and new products are created by any and all available means, and new means are constantly discovered. "Open markets" and "open doors" are established by force and fraud. If people lack the means to buy the capitalists' products, they are hired by capitalists and are paid for producing the goods they wish to buy; if local craftsmen already produce what the capitalists have to sell, the craftsmen are ruined or bought-out; if laws or traditions ban the use of certain products, the laws and the traditions are destroyed; if people lack the objects on which to use the capitalists' products, they are taught to buy these objects; if people run out of physical or biological wants, then capitalists "satisfy" their "spiritual wants" and hire psychologists to create them; if people are so satiated with the products of capitalists that they can no longer use new objects, they are taught to buy objects and spectacles which have no use but can simply be observed and admired.
Good quote to illustrate the all-encompassing nature of commodification, best combined with an explanation of capital accumulation. The bit preceding paragraphs do that, but in an overly general way. Perlman does an ok job of explaining the concept, but I think you need to illustrate it with math a la Marx to drive the point home.
Another element that would work well here is that commodifying everything isn’t just a tendency but an inevitability. Capitalism creates monopolies, and once you are one, you have to find something else to expand into. Even if you vertically and horizontally integrate to the fullest extent, you still have an incentive to grow and accumulate capital. At a certain point it becomes easier to invent new and useless products than it is to take over existing market share, and businesses compete over whose crap the proles waste their disposable income on.
>Poor people are found in pre-agrarian and agrarian societies on every continent; if they are not poor enough to be willing to sell their labor when the capitalists arrive, they are impoverished by the activities of the capitalists themselves. The lands of hunters gradually become the "private property" of "owners" who use state violence to restrict the hunters to "reservations" which do not contain enough food to keep them alive. [etc]
This clashes a bit with the earlier point:
>Capital is neither a natural force nor a man-made monster which was created sometime in the past and which dominated human life ever since.
The synthesis of these ideas would perhaps be that a market or a business is a monster created at a particular time that forces laborers to submit themselves to the purpose of sustaining it. Describing capitalism as actively reproduced by daily life’s labor is empowering to workers because it gives them the consciousness that their actions build the world, and could possibly build a different sort of world. But given that capitalism did and does have an inception here or there, understanding it as something imposed rather than voluntarily made is a useful concept as well. This analysis runs into problems when dealing with imperialism. Within the core, it may be reasonably within the power of the workers to withhold labor from capitalists for the benefit of themselves and other laborers. In the colonies, this is more readily met with conquest, coups, and so on. Workers in e.g. the United States may be violently suppressed when trying to organize, but if ground is gained (political footholds especially) it’s more difficult for the empire to upend that than if it were happening in the third world. A socdem president in Latin America may be targeted by a coup with some ease (since the fallout and instability threatens the CIA somewhere between very little and not at all), whereas attempting a coup domestically if Sanders won the election would cause political turmoil that very directly threatened the empire and organs like the CIA. Although it’s hard to fault Perlman for the oversight considering this was written in 1969 and those coups didn’t really kick off until the 1970s.
There’s some very useful stuff here, but pretty serious limitations that need to be worked with. Something that really jumped out at me about this was how many lines are useful to anti-communists, and the importance of composing our material with opposing ideologies (and their counterarguments) in mind.