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The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

SCHOLARLY REFLECTIONS


I realize that I ought to be riveted to my TV set, absorbing the non-stop bloviating about the Impeachment Trial now officially launched, but there is a limit to my interest in the inner workings of what passes for the minds of Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander, and Susan Collins, so I have been making final changes to my January 27th lecture in my Marx course.  This one is on the 1848 Manuscripts and the Manifesto.  After marking for discussion the Maniesto’s ten point program for the Communist Party, I thought to compare it with the Platform adopted sixty years later by the Socialist Party of the United States, of which my grandfather was a leader in New York City.  Note that clause 12 of the Platform calls for the abolition of the Senate.  This was 5 years before the Constitution was amended to make Senators elected by the people.

What fascinates me is how many of the secondary proposals of both documents have been adopted or else superseded by events.  Save for the seven words that are never uttered in American public life [“collective ownership of the means of production”], these documents, suitably updated, could form the platform of a moderately progressive 2020 Democrat!


Communist Manifesto  10 Point Program

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.


THE PLATFORM OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY.
Adopted by the National Convention in Chicago, May, 1908.

GENERAL DEMANDS.

1 The immediate government relief for the unemployed workers by building schools, by reforesting of cut-over and waste lands, by reclamation of arid tracts, and the building of canals, and by extending all other useful public works.  All persons employed on such works shall be employed directly by the government under an eight-hour work-day and at the prevailing union wages.  The government shall also loan money to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of assisting their unemployed members, and shall take such other measures within its power as will lessen the widespread misery of the workers caused by the misrule of the capitalist class.

2-The collective ownership of railroads, telegraphs, telephones, steamboat lines and all other means of social transportation and communication, and all land.

3-The collective ownership of all industries which are organized on a national-scale and in which competition has virtually ceased to exist.

4-The extension of the public domain to include mines, quarries, oil wells, forests and water power.

5-The scientific reforestation of timber lands, and the reclamation of swamp lands.  The land so reforested or reclaimed to be permanently retained as a part of the public domain.

6-The absolute freedom of press, speech and assemblage.

INDUSTRIAL DEMANDS.

7-The improvement of the industrial condition of the workers.(a)By shortening the workday in keeping with theincreased productiveness of machinery.(b)By securing to every worker a rest period of not less than a day and a half in each week.(c)By securing a more effective inspection of workshops and factories.(d)By forbidding the employment of children under sixteen years of age.(e)By forbidding the interstate transportation of the products of child labor, of convict labor and of all uninspected factories.(f)By abolishing official charity and substituting in its place compulsory insurance against unemployment,illness, accidents, invalidism, old age and death.

POLITICAL DEMANDS.

 8-The extension of inheritance taxes, graduated in proportion to the amount of the bequests and to the nearness of kin.

9-A graduated income tax.

10-Unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women, and we pledge ourselves to engage in an active campaign in that direction.

11-The initiative and referendum, proportional representation and the right of recall.

12-The abolition of the senate.

13-The abolition of the power usurped by the supreme court of the United States to pass upon the constitutionality of the legislation enacted by Congress.  National laws to be repealed or abrogated only by act of Congress or by referendum of the whole people.

14-That the constitution be made amenable by majority vote.

15-The enactment of further measures for general education and for the conservation of health.  The bureau of education to be made a department.  The creation of a department of public health.

16-The separation of the present bureau of labor from the department of commerce and labor, and the establishment of a department of labor.

17-That all judges be elected by the people for short terms, and that the power to issue injunctions shall be curbed by immediate legislation.

18-The free administration of justice.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

You might find this interesting (I've copied it from an article in a local Maine newspaper. The Morning Consult original is available on-line:

"A new poll ranks U.S. Sen. Susan Collins as the least popular senator.

"The poll, released Thursday by the Morning Consult, found a 42 percent approval rate for Collins and 52 percent disapproval rate among Maine voters surveyed.

The fourth quarter ranking represents a 10 percent drop in Collins’ net approval rating."

Robert Paul Wolff said...

From your mouth to God's ear

Anonymous said...

It would be an easier task to get two hungry dogs to share a meaty bone than get humans to share. Its just not in our nature.

s. wallerstein said...

Socialism isn't about sharing: it's about workers being paid the full value of their labor and owning the means of production.

Anonymous said...

Collective ownership=sharing. The Bonobos were on the wrong side of the river.

David Palmeter said...

The Socialists of 1908 had much more faith in the electorate than I do. Paragraphs 13 and 14 are particularly unwise—eliminating judicial review of legislation for constitutionality, amending the Constitution by regular Congressional legislation, and making the Constitution amenable by majority vote. The thought of what the Republicans could have done in the past half century without those restrictions is frightening.

Dean said...

Private equity and stock ownership=sharing (hence, "shares"). Are NYSE and NASDAQ antithetical to human nature?

Dean said...

Benjamin Franklin thought that the "Legislature should consist of one house, to be composed of an equal number of delegates from each state, with decisions to be by the majority of individual members voting." Likewise, William Paterson argued that "there should be only one house with equality of state suffrage."

Apropos of David Palmeter's skepticism about the electorate, see this NYT story about business owners who claim to "lean...liberal," but worry about Sanders or Warren: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/business/economy/economy-democrats-business.html It's pretty discouraging. Here, for example, is one CEO's take: "Trump may be a loose cannon on international stuff, but domestically Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are loose cannons on restricting business... Giving things away for free is a slap in the face for people who played by the rules. Where does it stop? Are we going to start paying off mortgage debt?"

Jon said...

David Palmeter,
But 1908 was a different time. State legislatures were enacting progressive legislation, while courts were striking that legislation down, calling it unconstitutional interference with the free market. In Jacobs (1885), New York's highest court had struck down a state law protecting cigar workers by prohibiting cigar manufacture in tenement houses. In Godcharles (1886), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had struck down a law requiring that workers be paid in cash rather than company scrip. In Lochner (1905), most famously, the US Supreme Court struck down a state law prescribing maximum hours for bakers. In Adair (1908), the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a federal statute making it illegal to fire a worker for his union activity. It would be thirty years before the Supreme Court (and constitutional law) stopped being a deeply anti-worker force.

LFC said...

Even if Trump is defeated for re-election, he has filled the federal courts w tons of right-wing judges w lifetime appointments and thus left a permanent and highly negative stamp on the federal judiciary. (An institution that, on balance and over the entire course of U.S. history, has at best a decidedly mixed record as a force for progress, or so I wd suggest w/o writing a long comment about it, which I started to do and then thought better of.)

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

David,,
I agree with your thinking on judicial review. but those restraints have not prevented the damage done to the functioning of every branch of government by the republicans. No branch of government is functioning as designed. The court has been packed and can reasonably be expected 1) to dump stare decisis in favor of fundamentalist morality, and 2) establish constitutional protection for 'religious liberty' which is nothing more than than allowing discrimination in public accommodation based on religious belief.

My point is simply this: there are no restrictions, constitutional, legal or normative, that will restrain the neo-fascist right. The damage that has already been done to the functioning of democracy is extensive. DOJ now functions to defend the president, the state department has been gutted, and executive agencies has become playgrounds for the private interests they were designed to curb. I should stop here because I promised myself not to go off on a rant.

I have a question for you: what do you make of Dershowitz's claim that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense?

LFC said...

Stare decisis has never been an esp strong constraint on a Sup Ct doing what it wants. That's been true both for conservative Justices and for the relatively short periods when there has been a progressive Sup Ct majority. Or such is my impression; not an expert.