What is original about MIM’s political economic theory

February 17, 2008

What is original and what is not in MIM’s political economy 

Although MIM is known for original work on gender topics, the question of the labor aristocracy shocks but found expression by Lenin and Sultan-Galiev long before MIM. Sometimes controversy appears not from the concept but the application.

Hitler himself believed that parasitism goes beyond the capitalist class and so there is nothing all that exciting in putting out a vague concept that parasitism exists. The bourgeoisie can handle that. What it cannot handle is an accurate demarcation between exploiter and exploited that the exploited can use to rally themselves.

Recently, a patriotic youth website tried to criticize MIM for a statement on a discussion board by someone else who explicitly said MIM never signed off on the statement. It was a typically vacant criticism of MIM, that the concept of surplus-value is just that, a concept that MIM supposedly does not know.

The critic showed no evidence of having read any MIM Theory magazines on the topic. For the critic, Marx’s concept of surplus-value had only ideological significance, no question of scientific content to it. Bourgeois teachers often teach concepts in this manner, without showing the difficulties of application.

The contested essay in question was looking at global income, not to match a definition of surplus-value but to answer a question that applying the concept raises–which is how much surplus-value could there be and where is it going? The pro-MIM reader had gone beyond reading the concept of surplus-value and wanted to know what percentage of the world’s production is surplus-value? Such a question does not interest the workerists of identity politics. For them everything is a matter of what makes them feel good ideologically. They are pre-scientific.

MIM’s originality is mostly in trying to apply the concept of surplus-value since most are content to teach it and leave it on the drawing board. Instead MIM showed that we need to know how much new wealth there is in a year to understand the extent of various classes.

On the theoretical plane, MIM undertook one major innovation or revision depending on one’s point of view. That innovation was to say that  thus far in the imperialist era, socialist leaders are structurally capitalist. MIM called it “capitalist mediation” or “mediation by the capitalists.” This idea was not in Mao, who held that political and ideological line is decisive, but did not say that he and Stalin were “capitalist.”

Stalin and Mao kept their countries on the socialist road thanks to their own bourgeois scientific integrity and class pressure from below. The restoration of capitalism proves that as one might expect, relying on a state of mind for the advance of socialism is not a strong enough reed for the proletariat to lean on. When leaders such as Khruschev no longer wished to live in fear of repression by the proletariat, they simply rigged up capitalism via Liberalism for the leaders like themselves.

It was MIM that summed up that the grocery co-op movement, the kibbutz, council communism, the anti-globalization movement and Titoism all failed in their economistic goals of directly confronting the exploiters without capitalist mediation. What happens is that any successful proletarian leader in the imperialist era becomes capitalist at minimum and imperialist at the maximum. So the hippies put together their granola food co-operatives in hopes of opposing capitalism in some vague way and they ended up giving birth to the “Whole Foods” mega-corporation instead. The lies by anarchists, council communists and other ultra-democrats against scientific communists amount to denial that no one has managed to get beyond capitalist mediation of the class struggle.

The idea of capitalist mediation of class struggle occurs in Lenin, Sultan-Galiev and Mao, but not as explicitly as MIM has stated it. Mao’s Three World’s strategy in particular concedes that capitalist leaders end up leading the proletariat. MIM would say that any leader able to serve as glue to unite millions becomes powerful and therefore subject to imperialist bribery, regardless of line.

In his last years, Mao also took up discussion of the theory of productive forces, but it was MIM that tied it to the labor aristocracy question and capitalist development. Deng Xiaoping essentially believed that in his visit to France, the wealth he saw was the product of an attitude toward technology lacking in his own country, not super-exploitation. It was MIM that tied this back to the original Marx discussion of the theory of productive forces as actually applying to the advanced capitalist countries, not the developing countries such as China. Although Marx counted horses as forces of production, he derided the idea that the finding of packs of wild horses in nature or equivalent examples was the significant force driving forward the economy. Likewise, real upholders of the labor theory of value and Marx’s theory of surplus-value are not to be found saying that technology is class neutral or any kind of dynamic element by itself. Technology appears in capitalist accumulation and appears thus dynamic to some people used to improper “vivification” on behalf of bourgeois interests. The bourgeoisie has always justified its position because of its “smarts” and technology is one of them.

Mao was working on these issues as he was dying. He put forward the Three Worlds strategy to drill some reality into his comrades’ heads regarding the class content underlying global politics. Implicit in the Three Worlds strategy was a theory of capitalist mediation of class struggle in the imperialist era. At the same time, the Three Worlds strategy was not somehow separate from Mao’s attack on the theory of productive forces.

Drawing the connections among super-exploitation, Three Worlds strategy and the theory of productive forces is what makes MIM appear to be original. The Three Worlds strategy pointed people like Deng Xiaoping at the main global exploiters. Likewise, Mao tried to tell the world’s Deng Xiaoping’s that the origin of wealth was not class neutral, as in appreciation of technology or search-missions for natural resources. Mao instructed people that where they see wealth they saw exploitation too and he only did not go far enough with this point to tie in an accurate assessment of the global labor aristocracy. Yet an accurate appreciation of the labor aristocracy bolsters Mao’s Three World’s strategy and also uncovers the European roots of Mao’s concern with the economistic theory of productive forces.

The original MIM cell became imperialist, because MIM line was serving as enough glue to hold together the exploited that MIM line became dangerous. MIM was that successful and Mao was even more successful in achieving socialism while retaining his own class as capitalist, regardless of his own intentions. It was not up to him that the imperialists would find him worthy of bribery. That could only stop when imperialism had been taken down enough notches so that it no longer had the capability to buy off the leaders of the proletarian movement when it needed to.


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