Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Venezuela Expropriates Cargill Plant

Written by Patrick Larsen
Friday, 03 April 2009

Throughout 2007 and 2008, scarcity of basic food products has been part of everyday life for millions of Venezuelans. Sometimes it has been coffee, other times sugar, milk, rice, cooking oil or beans that were unavailable on the shelves of super-markets and shops. This has created a potentially dangerous situation which could undermine support for the Bolivarian government.

The inability of the Venezuelan government to solve this problem played a key role in the defeat in the referendum on Constitutional reform in December 2007, where three million Chavez supporters abstained from voting. That explains why, at the beginning of 2008, a campaign was launched on the direct initiative of Chavez to solve the problem. This involved the use of the National Guard to confiscate hidden reserves of food and stop the smuggling of food into Colombia, where speculators can sell the food products at much more favorable prices.

The campaign demonstrated that food scarcity was the result of hoarding, speculation and smuggling on a massive scale. However, no effective measures were taken to deal with the root of the problem at that time. Private property of the food-producing sector was left untouched. As we warned at the time: “The seizure of food stocks by the National Guard and other bodies can temporarily ease the problem, but cannot solve it in the long term. Relying on the institutions of a state apparatus which is still a capitalist state to solve the problems of working people is like putting a fox in charge of guarding hens.”

In February, the government conducted a number of investigations of private companies in the food sector. In a rice processing plant in Guarico state, owned by the country’s largest food producer, Polar, it was revealed that the plant was only working at half capacity. Furthermore, the plant was adding artificial flavoring to 90 percent of its rice in order to get around the price controls decreed by he government, which only apply to essential, unenhanced food items.

On Saturday, February 28, Chavez decreed state intervention at the rice processing plant in Guárico, which is to run for 90 days. The workers at the plant have supported this measure with great enthusiasm and have begun to produce 100 percent unmodified rice. This shows that it is entirely possible to mass produce cheap rice as long as it is done under the control of the working class.

Having discovered this deliberate sabotage, Chavez emphasized that this was only the tip of the iceberg. On his TV program, Aló Presidente, on March 1, he threatened the capitalists in the food sector. If the sabotage continues, he said, “we will expropriate all of their plants, and convert them from private property into social property.”

Then on Wednesday, March 3, Chavez announced the expropriation of the rice plants of Cargill, a U.S.owned multinational food company. It was revealed that this rice-processing plant in Portuguesa was adding artificial flavoring to all of its rice to get round the price controls. Apart from that, INDEPABIS found approximately 18,000 tons of non-modified rice stored in the plant’s warehouse.

Chavez signed the official decree of expropriation of Cargill’s rice plants on March 6. In the same speech he stated that in the past, the oligarchy had been making the laws but that this era had now ended and “Now Venezuela has a government that only abides by the constitution and the people”. On Sunday, March 7, during his weekly Alo Presidente programme, Chavez replied to the criticisms on the part of Polar group owner Lorenzo Mendoza, and warned, “my hand will not shake when it comes to expropriating the whole of the Polar group if they are found to be breaking the law. Let this be a warning to the bourgeoisie as a whole: my hand will not shake,” adding, “And I would have the full support of the people.”

In what was a very radical speech, president Chavez also dismissed those who advocate the need to conciliate with the ruling class. “Some are trying to tell a tale that we have a technical draw, that we are neck and neck [with the opposition], this is completely false” and added, “with this story they want the revolution to surrender and that I should put my foot the brake and say: we cannot go forward, we need to reach agreements.” To these ideas he replied: “The revolution must charge ahead. There cannot be any agreement with the oligarchy or agreements at the top with anybody; I will make sure that we put our foot down on the accelerator of the Revolution.”

He continued: “We have an absolute majority” in the National Assembly, he said. It is now time to “dismantle the old bourgeois state, before it dismantles us.” This is completely correct, but it is also the responsibility of the workers’ movement and its leadership to take the initiative. Many opportunities have been wasted in the past. It is time to take decisive action.

The most striking feature of the recent developments in the struggle against food scarcity is the movement of the workers. Once the ice was broken with the state intervention in the rice-plant in Guárico, workers from the food industry all over Venezuela began to organize and call for action against the sabotage of the capitalists.

More than ever before, the Venezuelan revolution is clashing head-on with private property of the means of production. Private property is an obstacle to national sovereignty in the field of food production. In order to accomplish the basic tasks of the national-democratic revolution, the working class – leading the peasantry behind it – must put itself at the head of the revolution and smash the remnants of private property and the old bourgeois state apparatus. Only in this way can an effective agrarian reform and industrialization of agriculture be introduced, which would give a huge impetus to domestic food production. And in so doing, the national-democratic revolution will grow over into the Socialist revolution. In that sense the Venezuelan revolution will become “permanent”. This is the real lesson of the present dispute over the rice fields.



Anonymous said...

How dare those nasty capitalists not sell their rice for less than they paid to acquire it. The nerve!

SecondComingOfBast said...

Price controls never work, so that was a dumb idea to begin with. Now he's taken the route that would seem to be the next logical progression to his fallacious policies, and its going to snowball from there, to a situation where food production is going to be run and managed by people that don't know jack shit about food production or business management.

This is going to be a disaster for the Venezuelan people, who will be held captive between the government and its scarce food supplies and black market forces with their exhorbitant prices.

Why do they call this a Bolivarian revolution? Was Bolivar this big a dumb ass?

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: Your writing always starts out interesting, than you blow it with smartass remarks.

FJ: I told you before that to understand Venezuel now, you have to know about Heinz Dieterich.

Marxism believes exploitation takes place at the point of production. Class struggle is struggle for the surplus value created by workers. Dieterich believes in "equal exchange." Exploitation occurs with exchange of commodities.

Under capitalism the cost of labor and machinery, combined with price and demand determine price. That is true to a large extent under socialism.

I think the price controls, are a nod to Dieterich's junk, but support the expropriation of Cargill.

Ducky's here said...

Price controls are a recipe for shortages. The left needs to learn this and adjust.

Anonymous said...

Class struggle is struggle for the surplus value created by workers.

But the surplus value is not "created" by the workers. It's an artifact derived from the division of labour (Adam Smith, "Wealth of Naitons").

It's very "white" of Hans to propose an "equal exchange" and sharing of the "surplus value", but in this particular case of Venezuelan food production, the "surplus value" is NEGATIVE.

Anonymous said...

Adam Smith, "Wealth of Nations"

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture; but one in which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving, the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them. I have seen a small manufactory of this kind where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day; that is, certainly, not the two hundred and fortieth, perhaps not the four thousand eight hundredth part of what they are at present capable of performing, in consequence of a proper division and combination of their different operations.

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: I'm not at home, and couldn't analyze what Smith said.

Dieterich doesn't think surplus value matters. He believes in equal pay for all, skilled and unskilled. That is not Marxism. Marxism says the cost and time of training a skilled worker, is unmequal to an unskilled. Dieterich believes commodities should be labeled with the work time. I think that is absurd.

Ducky: Price controls come from Heinz Dieterich's ideas, not Marxism.

Anonymous said...

Dietrich sounds like an idiot. There a vast difference between "productive" and "unproductive" labor. And paying "more" for the less productive kind by "work time" sounds like the quick road to less plentiful and shoddier goods. But hey, what do I know? Ask people today, and ninety percent will say consumerism has gone too far. I doubt a single one of them would prefer the options available to poor Venezuelan consumers over ours, though.

Frank Partisan said...

Dieterich is found in Apporea often.

Actually capitalism is the first system with equal exchange. Money has specific value. It is fairer than you're thirsty and I have a bottle wine, and I'm cold and you have a beaver skin.

I'm sure Dieterich lost influence, since he allied with Baduel.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Cargyle very well might and probably does deserve to have a regulatory regime imposed on it, but to actually step in and expropriate it is bad business all the way around. It's bad for any future potential investment there might have been. I don't see what's so difficult for socialists to comprehend about that.

In the real world, investors don't put their money in a business in the hopes that someday if a socialist government takes it over they will make their money back. They do it in the hopes of making either short-term or long-term profits, in some cases both.

The only flaw in this system is with CEO's who have sometimes enormous pressure put on them to increase those profits, and are awarded obscene payment in the form of stock options and bonuses in order to keep it going, in addition to already considerable yearly salaries. Sometimes it actually becomes a Ponzi scheme of sorts, one that is perpetrated on gullible investors at actually the expense of the company's long-term health and vitality.

It's in situations like this where government has a legitimate right, and even a duty, to step in and pull in the reins on the excesses. After all, we are talking here about something that has a long-range and pervasive affect on national economies in a way that transcends the principals involved at the initial stages.

At the very most, in extreme situations, a government might arguably have the right to take over companies, and perhaps break them up and sell them to qualified bidders, in addition to imposing a regulatory regime. All of these things are problematic and require some degree of oversight, but for a government to actually expropriate a business with the intention of exercising total dominance on that aspect of the economy is just begging for disaster.

Graeme said...

At least Farmer John still, I'm assuming because of his AS quote, adheres to the labor theory of value. Marx demolished the classical economists, giving them every benefit of the doubt, 150 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Actually Graeme, I'm a Xenophonian Economist and believer in the original and "natural" male-female dialectical division of labour.

Xenophon, "Oeconomicus"

Soc. The same things, in fact, are wealth or not wealth, according as a man knows or does not know the use to make of them? To take an instance, a flute may be wealth to him who is sufficiently skilled to play upon it, but the same instrument is no better than the stones we tread under our feet to him who is not so skilled . . . unless indeed he chose to sell it?

Crit. That is precisely the conclusion we should come to.8 To persons ignorant of their use9 flutes are wealth as saleable, but as possessions not for sale they are no wealth at all; and see, Socrates, how smoothly and consistently the argument proceeds,10 since it is admitted that things which benefit are wealth. The flutes in question unsold are not wealth, being good for nothing: to become wealth they must be sold.

Yes! (rejoined Socrates), presuming the owner knows how to sell them; since, supposing again he were to sell them for something which he does not know how to use,11 the mere selling will not transform them into wealth, according to your argument.

Crit. You seem to say, Socrates, that money itself in the pockets of a man who does not know how to use it is not wealth?

Soc. And I understand you to concur in the truth of our proposition so far: wealth is that, and that only, whereby a man may be benefited. Obviously, if a man used his money to buy himself a mistress, to the grave detriment of his body and soul and whole estate, how is that particular money going to benefit him now? What good will he extract from it?

Crit. None whatever, unless we are prepared to admit that hyoscyamus,12 as they call it, is wealth, a poison the property of which is to drive those who take it mad.

Soc. Let money then, Critobulus, if a man does not know how to use it aright—let money, I say, be banished to the remote corners of the earth rather than be reckoned as wealth.13 But now, what shall we say of friends? If a man knows how to use his friends so as to be benefited by them, what of these?

Crit. They are wealth indisputably, and in a deeper sense than cattle are, if, as may be supposed, they are likely to prove of more benefit to a man than wealth of cattle.

Soc. It would seem, according to your argument, that the foes of a man’s own household after all may be wealth to him, if he knows how to turn them to good account?14

Crit. That is my opinion, at any rate.

Soc. It would seem, it is the part of a good economist15 to know how to deal with his own or his employer’s foes so as to get profit out of them?

Crit. Most emphatically so.

Soc. In fact, you need but use your eyes to see how many private persons, not to say crowned heads, do owe the increase of their estates to war.

Crit. Well, Socrates, I do not think, so far, the argument could be improved on;16 but now comes a puzzle. What of people who have got the knowledge and the capital17 required to enhance their fortunes, if only they will put their shoulders to the wheel; and yet, if we are to believe our senses, that is just the one thing they will not do, and so their knowledge and accomplishments are of no profit to them? Surely in their case also there is but one conclusion to be drawn, which is, that neither their knowledge nor their possessions are wealth.

Soc. Ah! I see, Critobulus, you wish to direct the discussion to the topic of slaves?

Anonymous said...

Somehow I doubt Marx was EVER able to trash THAT particular "classical" economist, as most "Moderns" tend to reckon wealth in terms of money. Smith did contrive that money was merely a proxy (exchange mechanism) for labor, but he also held that real "wealth" consisted of the ownership of land.

Adam Smith "Wealth of Nations"

WHEN the division of labour has been once thoroughly established, it is but a very small part of a man's wants which the produce of his own labour can supply. He supplies the far greater part of them by exchanging that surplus part of the produce of his own labour, which is over and above his own consumption, for such parts of the produce of other men's labour as he has occasion for. Every man thus lives by exchanging, or becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what is properly a commercial society.
The word value, it is to be observed, has two different meanings, and sometimes expresses the utility of some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one may be called "value in use"; the other, "value in exchange." The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; and, on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use. Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce anything; scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any value in use; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.
EVERY man is rich or poor according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessaries, conveniences, and amusements of human life. But after the division of labour has once thoroughly taken place, it is but a very small part of these with which a man's own labour can supply him. The far greater part of them he must derive from the labour of other people, and he must be rich or poor according to the quantity of that labour which he can command, or which he can afford to purchase. The value of any commodity, therefore, to the person who possesses it, and who means not to use or consume it himself, but to exchange it for other commodities, is equal to the quantity of labour which it enables him to purchase or command. Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities.

Anonymous said...


It may be of some use to the public by affording an easy proof of the prosperous condition of the country. If the rise in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing altogether to a fall in the value of silver, it is owing to a circumstance from which nothing can be inferred but the fertility of the American mines. The real wealth of the country, the annual produce of its land and labour, may, notwithstanding this circumstance, be either gradually declining, as in Portugal and Poland; or gradually advancing, as in most other parts of Europe. But if this rise in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing to a rise in the real value of the land which produces them, to its increased fertility, or, in consequence of more extended improvement and good cultivation, to its having been rendered fit for producing corn; it is owing to a circumstance which indicates in the clearest manner the prosperous and advancing state of the country. The land constitutes by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of the wealth of every extensive country. It may surely be of some use, or, at least, it may give some satisfaction to the public, to have so decisive a proof of the increasing value of by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of its wealth.

Anonymous said...

Marx was a "slave" thinker.

What of people who have got the knowledge and the capital required to enhance their fortunes, if only they will put their shoulders to the wheel; and yet, if we are to believe our senses, that is just the one thing they will not do, and so their knowledge and accomplishments are of no profit to them? Surely in their case also there is but one conclusion to be drawn, which is, that neither their knowledge nor their possessions are wealth.

Soc. Ah! I see, Critobulus, you wish to direct the discussion to the topic of slaves?

Anonymous said...

For a "real" discussion of economics, I doubt anyone can beat Xenophon's Oeconomicus, although Plato's (spurious) Hipparchus isn't bad.

Graeme said...

Jesus dude. I get it. You're 'out-there' and 'off the beaten path' but I'm not going to read all that. But I will take up the suggestion that surplus value is created by the division of labor. The DOL means absolutely nothing without the word LABOR. Far from creating surplus value, it creates alienated workers whose creativity has been stifled by a mundane task. The capitalist division of labor, like Taylor's scientific management, is simply a way to squeeze as much surplus value out of labor as they possibly can.

Ducky's here said...

Farmer, are you trying to push us back to an agricultural society with all this talk about land and growing corn?

Anonymous said...

The problem is, Graeme, that without a division of labor THERE IS NO SURPLUS VALUE. You might not LIKE the division of labor, you might believe it's not FAIR (and you'd be right), but as Socrates so aptly stated in Republic, it does result in the 2nd best possible case... an "enfevered" nation that allows "luxury" to exist...

Plato, "Republic"

Where, then, is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part of the State did they spring up?

Probably in the dealings of these citizens with one another. I cannot imagine that they are more likely to be found any where else.

I dare say that you are right in your suggestion, I said; we had better think the matter out, and not shrink from the enquiry.

Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn, and wine, and clothes, and shoes, and build houses for themselves? And when they are housed, they will work, in summer, commonly, stripped and barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed and shod. They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war.

But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their meal.

True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a relish—salt, and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and herbs such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs, and peas, and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them.

Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?

But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.

Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.

Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever-heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of life. They will be for adding sofas, and tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes: the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.

True, he said.

Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music—poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women's dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now? They must not be forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them.


And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before?

Much greater.

Anonymous said...

The life of the "farmer" followed the "natural seasonal" division of labour that nature intended, mr. ducky. Plant in the Spring, harvest in the fall. Weed, water and feed in between.

Anonymous said...

No one argues about the "division of labour" when nature makes the division. After all, mother nature is generous and does most of the work. It's when "men" CHOOSE to make the division, THAT'S where the "injustice" and "alienation" come in and people start complaining about "greedy capitalists".

Ducky's here said...

Are we talking about "division of labor" in the simple sense of Henry Ford's assembly line or Durkheim's arguments against laissez-faire and non mobile class societies (contemporary America) which do not allow people to specialize and lack much choice of employment?

Anonymous said...


For in making a division of labor, you immediately trespass into areas of Kantian "categorical imperatives" and "universal morality" through the imposition of positive liberties and duties upon societies other members.

People become, "means to ends" rather than "ends unto themselves".

Anonymous said...

A "natural" division of labor does not involve "morality" (as in forcibly imposing one's will upon another) at all.

Anonymous said...

The "advantage" that laissev faire has is that it does not involve the "forcible" imposition of any individual will upon others. It creates "opportunities" that others may voluntarily choose to conform to OR not. One of the disadvantages I see in the Chinese system, for example, is that if you score high on an intelligence test, you are assigned your vocation (doctor/ engineer), which if you refuse will bring social retribution in the form of denial of higher education (or worse). The "state" has a veritable monopoly on the "means of education".

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: This is from AWL, a socialist group 05/06: Engels wanted to trace the prehistoric roots of women's oppression, so he could prove wrong those who claimed women's inferior status was 'natural'. Drawing on the work of anthropologist Lewis Morgan, Engels argued that a 'predominancy of women generally obtained in primitive times'. Its 'material foundation' was the 'communistic household' headed by women.
In these times, descent could only be traced with certainty through the mother, since women were not tied to any one man, and indeed, men's role in procreation was for a long time unknown.
This household became threatened, according to Engels, when domestication of animals developed. The breeding of herds meant that human groups no longer had to live hand to mouth. They could now possess fixed wealth, in the form of animal herds.
'But to whom did this wealth belong? Originally, undoubtedly, to the gens (kin group). But private property in herds must have developed at a very early stage... On the threshhold of authenticated history, we find that everywhere the herds are already the property of the (male) family chiefs.'
Wealth came into these men's hands because of a sexual division of labour that had existed previously. A division of labour by sex alone does not mean oppression will follow. Probably the earliest divisions of labour occurred for reasons of convenience —men and women did different jobs because of different physical capacities.
But, 'according to the division of labour then prevailing in the family, the procuring of food and the implements necessary thereto, and therefore, also, the ownership of the latter, fell to the man... Thus according to the custom of society at that time, the man was also the owner of
the new sources of foodstuffs—the cattle. ..'
The fact that human labour could produce a surplus above what was necessary for bare survival also gave an impetus to making slaves of prisoners taken in war. These slaves belonged to the men who had captured them, thus further raising their status and power.
This power gave men more status than women in society. The desire by men to pass on their wealth and power to their descendants led to men's overthrow of the female order of inheritance in favour of father to son inheritance.
Engels saw this overthrow of 'mother right'—inheritance through the female line — as 'the world historic defeat of the female sex. The man seized the reins in the house also, then woman was degraded, enthralled, the slave of man's lust, a mere instrument for bearing children'.
Women thus became the world's first oppressed class.
'However, within this structure of (primitive) society based on ties of sex, the productivity of labour develops more and more, with it private property and exchange, differences in wealth, the possibility of utilising the labour power of others and thereby the basis of class antagonisms... until, finally... the old society, based on ties of sex, bursts asunder in the collision of the newly developed social classes; in its place a new society emerges, constituted as a state... a society in which the family system is entirely dominated by the property system...'
'Recorded history—the history of class struggles—shows the continuing effects of the "world historic defeat of the female sex" interweaved with and subordinated to class relations of exploitation.'
Engels was aware that there were gaps in his account. He could not explain how 'mother right' had been replaced by domination by the father. His work can also be corrected on at least three other points.
Later researches by Marxist and other anthropologists alike have established that a system of tracing descent through the mother does not necessarily mean female dominance over men. Most researchers now think that no period of female dominance over men ever existed.
The development of society from primeval horde to kin group to family is also unsatisfactorily explained by Engels. Following Johann Bachofen, Engels saw this as primarily brought about by women, who found sex with many different men 'degrading and oppressive', and who thus wanted marriage with one man only. This seems to be a case of applying contemporary morality retrospectively. After all, biologically, women's capacity for sexual enjoyment is greater than men's.
Engels also cannot explain why the sexual division of labour developed the way it did, or even at all. All known societies have some division of labour, though what it is, and how rigid it is, varies. But the point is— why have one at all? Engels cannot explain it.
Later writers and theorists have tried to fill in the gaps and have come up with different theories. What distinguishes Engels's account is that he tackled it to prove that women's oppression was not 'natural'.
He wasn't just trying to increase the store of human knowledge for the hell of it. He was trying to arm people with knowledge they could use to fight back against oppression.
Later writers have built upon that work and gone further. But if they have seen further, it was because they stood on the shoulders of a giant— Engels's pioneering work pointed the way.
The emergence of men's domination may never be clearly understood since the evidence available for study is so fragmentary, and is often clouded by the prejudices and beliefs of those interpreting the data. But Engels's work did establish that women's oppression is not dictated by nature.
He also showed that it was not the result of of a male conspiracy or of a cataclysmic sex war, as some people would like to believe even today. He showed that women's oppression arose out of the development of early societies in the same way that classes states, and private property emerged from those developments.
ince then, class and sex oppression have been so closely intertwined that teasing out the strands has become impossible. For sure, the underpinning of women's oppression in most societies has been the family plot of land, handed down from father to son. The woman is an indispensable part of the family, for childrer1 are an economic necessity, but her role is a secondary one.
Jewish Hindu, Chinese and Christian ideologies all defined women as subordinate. Traditional Chinese usage bound women's feet. Ancient Greece was particularly ruthless at imprisoning women in the home.
Ancient codes of law punished female adultery severely, while not touching male adultery.
Probably feudal Western Europe was, of all major pre-capitalist civilisations, the least harsh in its oppression of women. The sexual division of labour was not rigid. Women workers were frequently paid the same as men for the same work. Women, though their economic activity was more centred on the home, played a large role in social life.
Women dominated important trades, such as ale brewing. A widow could engage in trade as the equal of men. Women at the head of convents were important people.
Still, women were clearly subordinate. They could not hold any public office. Generally, they could not appear as independent persons in court. Rape, for example, was not treated as a crime against a woman's body, but as a crime against a man’s property. Lords could rape peasant women with impunity.
Women's property was likely to be seen as dowry to attract a husband. The household was headed by the father. Women were advised to try to get a 'good' husband as the best available course for them. ~ ..
Oppression does not always mean rebellion and women's oppression in feudal times produced no womens' rebellion. There was no arena where women could gather collectively. Instead of rebellion, oppression of women meant women sought consolations for their lot, such as the mediaeval cult of the Mother of God.
The growth of industrial capitalism did not abolish women's household drudgery. But it changed the nature: of it. The home became a sphere sharply cut off from social labour. In earlier times, the household was the: basic economic unit, with most production done in or around the home. In the new capitalist order, the factory became the centre of production, and it brought together people from thousands of different households.
Capitalism continued women's oppression, but it changed it. Women were brought into the work force as independent individuals. However underpaid or overworked the woman factory or office worker may be in the workplace, she is not part of any man's household, but an individual, independent worker. In this way capitalist laws have given a slight measure of forrnal equality with men.
Capitalism did not create women's oppression, but it did create the conditions for the rise of the women's liberation movement Women now had an arena for organising collectively, so the possibility of winning equality through change in society became realistic.
Women will never be liberated while class oppression exists, since so many women suffer from class oppression as well as sex oppression. Middle class women do suffer from general sexism too, but their compensating class privileges — greater wealth, better access to education and health care, freedom through wealth from sole responsibility for child care or housework — forces them to side with their class rather than with working class women struggling for liberation.
The knowledge that women's oppression has not always existed, and thus that it can be overthrown, may seem old hat today; we may take it for granted. But many women today draw the wrong conclusions from that knowledge, so it is important to reiterate the ideas first expounded by Engels, so that we can use those ideas positively, to fight for change
Many women today still blame men solely for women's oppression. They see the answer in men voluntariIy giving up their power over women. Others see the only solution as living in complete separation from men. Even more drastically, some women conclude that women's oppression can only be ended by the 'final solution' of eliminating men altogether.
Simone de Beauvoir thought that was a bit drastic, and she was right. All the above 'solutions' provide no way for women to fight back against their oppression. Waiting for men to give up their power is passive (and utopian). Lots of women don't want to live separately from men. And mass extermination of men is not an option.
The ideas of Engels state that women's oppression comes from societal structures. These can be fought. Women are oppressed in this society, and have been oppressed in earlier societies, because it suits society economically that it should be so.
To change that, we have to change society.

The US is more subtle, with its tracking system for high school students, one track to college, the other vocational. In China it's a Bonapartist government policy, not related to capitalism or socialism.

Ducky: FJ is talking about the Ford like division of labor.

Graeme: Sandwich artists are part of TEAM SUBWAY, with all of the obligations, and none of the rights. The team system makes workers exploit themselves.

Pagan: Chavez's nationalizations aren't Castro 1959. I read he will come to a mutually agreeable conclusion with Cargill. That report came from the Council on Foreign Relations.

SecondComingOfBast said...


I just don't see how that's possible without the state doing no more than merely becoming a majority shareholder in the company, assuming its a publicly traded company. If its not, then this might well be overblown, but at the same time I've known of other cases where he's pulled this same stunt involving publicly traded companies.

They could and should make certain concessions, but to hand the company over to him for the current market price is not going to sit well with what investors the company might have, unless of course he allows them to retain their holdings in the company and pay them the same dividends or better. Of course if he runs the company into the ground what good is that?

I don't think you grasp the implications of this. This is going to make Venezuela off limits to any company, public or private, that might otherwise be willing to invest there, for the simple fact no companies shareholders will be willing to go along with it. The majority stockholders will balk and vote down any such suggestion. Otherwise, they would just get out while the gettin's good, as they say, resulting in the companies stock value taking a plunge.

The next thing you know you have a revolt of the companies boards and the potential for a hostile takeover as the companies balance sheets reveal its utter worthlessness. Of course no company ran by any sane people would go down that route, and so what you have as a result is an entire country that is bypassed by companies that could otherwise help speed its developments.

I understand the problems faced here, but there are better ways of dealing with these problems than expropriation, is what I'm saying.

SecondComingOfBast said...

By the way, as far as Engels goes, he must think ancient people were pretty stupid to not understand the role of men in procreation. Ancient people might not have been capable of grasping a lot of things we take for granted today, but they weren't that dumb. It's just that there was no way of proving paternity beyond any doubt, and so descent was determined matrilineally, which proves absolutely nothing so far as the actual status of women in ancient times.

Engels did make one good point though. Communism might well work fine, so long as it is not hindered by certain other factors-such as civilization, for example.

Anonymous said...

What distinguishes Engels's account is that he tackled it to prove that women's oppression was not 'natural'.

In other words, he wasn't interested in learning the truth. He went into the investigation to prove a pre-determined position.

Except that woman's "oppression" is PERFECTLY natural. Have you never heard the expression, "Might makes Right?"

Is it fair? No. It isn't Justice, it's Just-is.

There is no justice in "the natural" animal kingdom. The warrior, the "fighter", the man who can DEFEND his possessions ergo the physically stongest, makes the rules. In humans, as with other primates (horde, not herd animals), the primordial father is the boss. Why? Because no one else can lick him (Freud, "Totem and Taboo" and "Civilization and its' Discontents").

The only natural (and therefore inalienable) "rights" a man (or woman) really has is those that others CANNOT physically take from them. All other so-called "rights" are an illusion.

Anonymous said...

Ducky: FJ is talking about the Ford like division of labor.

No. I'm talking about BOTH the original division and the consequences that result when one either formally chooses to optimize either the stability of those divisions OR the surpluses that those divisions will generate.

Anonymous said...

Marx and Engels problem is that they seek to establish "moral" rights. "Moral" rights are by definition "un-natural" human errors.

And since many artificial "divisions of labor" are possible, they should acknowledge that they are attempting to make "moral" choices.

For as Nietzsche says in "Gay Science":

The Four Errors. Man has been reared by his errors: firstly, he saw himself always imperfect; secondly, he attributed to himself imaginary qualities; thirdly, he felt himself in a false position in relation to the animals and nature; fourthly, he always devised new tables of values, and accepted them for a time as eternal and unconditioned, so that at one time this, and at another time that human impulse or state stood first, and was ennobled in consequence. When one has deducted the effect of these four errors, one has also deducted humanity, humaneness, and "human dignity."

The thinker is now the being in whom the impulse to truth and those life-preserving errors wage their first conflict, now that the impulse to truth has also proved itself to be a life-preserving power. In comparison with the importance of this conflict everything else is indifferent; the final question concerning the conditions of life is here raised, and the first attempt is here made to answer it by experiment. How far is truth susceptible of embodiment - that is the question, that is the experiment.

Ducky's here said...

Well Farmer, if you end up tracking some of Hegel's thought processes, it’s a guaranteed thrill ride and you’ll soon realize that Hegel is looking at history as very volatile and proves that there is no terra firma in Man’s epic journey.

Long live the dialectic.

Nietzsche, philosophy's first Dr. Phil, has little to offer.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding mr. ducky? It offers the essential truth of what the "baseline" human condition is, a "will to power." And anything that attempts to reach "beyond" that baseline into the "art-ificial" realm of "the moral" requires not "knowledge" or "truth", but something more akin to a "leap of faith"

Genealogy of Morals

To look at nature as if it were a proof of the goodness and care of a god, to interpret history in such a way as to honour divine reason, as a constant testament to a moral world order and moral intentions, to interpret one’s own experiences, as devout men have interpreted them for long enough, as if everything was divine providence, everything was a sign, everything was thought out and sent for the salvation of the soul out of love—now that’s over and done with. That has conscience against it. Among more sensitive consciences that counts as something indecent, dishonest, as lying, feminism, weakness, cowardice. With this rigour, if with anything, we are good Europeans and heirs to Europe’s longest and bravest overcoming of the self. All great things destroy themselves by an act of self-cancellation. That’s what the law of life wills, that law of the necessary “self-overcoming” in the essence of life—eventually the call always goes out to the lawmaker himself, “patere legem, quam ipse tulisti” [submit to the law which you yourself have established]. That’s the way Christianity was destroyed as dogma by its own morality; that’s the way Christendom as morality must now also be destroyed. We stand on the threshold of this event. After Christian truthfulness has come to a series of conclusions, it will draw its strongest conclusion, its conclusion against itself. However, this will occur when it poses the question: “What is the meaning of all will to truth?” Here I move back again to my problem, to our problem, my unknown friends (—for I still don’t know anything about friends): what sense would our whole being have if not for the fact that in us that will to truth became aware of itself as a problem? . . . Because this will to truth from now on is growing conscious of itself, morality from now on is dying—there’s no doubt about that. That great spectacle in one hundred acts, which remains reserved for the next two centuries in Europe, that most fearful, most questionable, and perhaps also most hopeful of all spectacles . . .

Ducky's here said...

Sorry Farmer, he was the first feel good, self help, philosopher. A fascist Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Tertiary syphilis is pretty debilitating.

Anonymous said...

"Feel good, self help". BWAH-HA-HA-HA!

That's funny ducky. You should do stand up. "The Anti-Christ" is a polemic which no one could EVER label a piece of "feel good, self help" philosophy.

Are you sure you're not the one exhibitting symptoms of tertairy syphilis?

Craig Bardo said...


I'm proud of you! Tell Chavez and Obama that price controls don't work. Why Obama? Salary control is a form of price control.

What's a 5 letter word for expropriation? LOL

Craig Bardo said...


I'm proud of you! Tell Chavez and Obama that price controls don't work. Why Obama? Salary control is a form of price control.

What's a 5 letter word for expropriation? LOL

Frank Partisan said...

Craig: The price controls in Venezuela, are inspired by an intellectual who Hugo Chavez follows named Heinz Dieterich. Marx believed price under capitalism is determined by labor and machinary costs, and supply and demand. Marx believed that was equal exchange, while Dieterich has wild theories about price. Still there should be some price help for the poor.

Obama is showboating, with the salary control business. A diversion from real issues.

Ducky: Hegel brought the dialectic forward, except for his personal idealism, related to mechanical stages of development.

Farmer: Marx and Engels were hardly moralist. What do you think dialectical and historical materialism is about? It is not about idealism as morality. I think we're using the term the same way.

Pagan: Engels did make one good point though. Communism might well work fine, so long as it is not hindered by certain other factors-such as civilization, for example. Makes no sense.

By the way, as far as Engels goes, he must think ancient people were pretty stupid to not understand the role of men in procreation. Ancient people might not have been capable of grasping a lot of things we take for granted today, but they weren't that dumb. It's just that there was no way of proving paternity beyond any doubt, and so descent was determined matrilineally, which proves absolutely nothing so far as the actual status of women in ancient times.

You're reading things into the quotes.

From what the CFR says, the Cargill nationalization was limited. Chavez isn't going to nationalize every holding in Venezuela.

SecondComingOfBast said...

"From what the CFR says, the Cargill nationalization was limited. Chavez isn't going to nationalize every holding in Venezuela."

That might well be true, but how is any given company supposed to know they won't be the next one to be expropriated? Is he going to give his word that if company x invests there, he won't do that? Is his word worth anything at this point?

Besides, as time goes on, it might be less and less safe to be there. Soaring crime rates in the capitol city isn't much of an inducement either. That might not be all his fault, but its still an important factor, one he seems unable to bring under control.

By the way, business expropriation is a recipe for the spread of corruption. You have businesses run basically by bureaucrats whose major skill would seem to be graft, just like the tax system in the US, and prior to that, the tariff system, all of them reservoirs of bribery and extortion. Where taxes or tariffs are necessary evils to a degree, business expropriations don't have even that quality. Just an added government expense that by its nature has to be bureaucratic, and thus by its nature inefficient.

Anonymous said...

It is not about idealism as morality.

It's not? Then why should anyone give a flying 'F about the dumb, stinking proletariat or who should derive the benefits from the surplus values generated from the division of labor?

THAT is purely a "moral" issue.

Frank Partisan said...

FJ: If it was idealist, revolutions wouldn't have occured. Even the Marxist concept of the state took place in Marx's lifetime (Paris Commune 1871).

Pagan: Even coops develop bureaucracy at times. All forms are just that, forms. There is possibility for abuse with any form.

Anonymous said...

FJ: If it was idealist, revolutions wouldn't have occured.

So you admit, it's ideological backing for a purely moralist cause.

Larry Gambone said...

Cargill should be expropriated everywhere, not just Venezuela.

Frank Partisan said...

There is a dialectic between objective and subjective.

I admit you need a subjective factor.

Anonymous said...

...unless it's truly objective (in which case ALL would agree).

Anonymous said...

Finding harmonics between the "one" and the "all" gets harder and harder w/o allowing for ANY intermediate "classes". You end up with a much more "polarized" dialectic, don't you, when compromise that would establish "classes" are ruled out a priori.

You end up w/choices like "heaven or hell?"

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