Dr Henry Jeffrey’s column captioned ‘Freedom’ (Stabroek News, July, 5) makes for interesting reading and introduces some new insights in the rather complicated writings of Karl Marx as embodied in his publication Das Kapital.
This year marks 150 years since the publication of Das Kapital and a discussion forum was organized at the National Library on July 1 where several participants shared their views and perspectives on the relevance of Marx’s contribution to political economy in contemporary society. The event was sponsored by the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre in collaboration with the Guyana Peace Council and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union.
Dr Jeffrey in his contribution to the discussion drew attention to an interpretation by Marx where work was seen as a form of alienation. Such alienation, it should be noted, was premised only on a particular production mode, namely a class divided capitalist system of production and distribution, one in which the fruits of human labour were appropriated and siphoned off not to satisfy the material and cultural needs of the worker, but for private accumulation. In other words, the socialized nature of production comes in open conflict with private appropriation of surplus value which leaves the worker increasingly estranged not only from himself but also from the product of his labour.
True freedom can only be realized when the socialized nature of production is in congruence with the socialized manner of expropriation as embodied in the principle ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’. In such a scenario, classes will disappear and the worker will finally be ‘liberated’ from the tyranny of work. Only then will there be total and true freedom.
All of that, as correctly pointed out by Dr Jeffrey is purely theoretical but it does suggest an alternative to the current system of capitalism which is characterized by high levels of inequity in the distribution of goods and services produced by human labour. As to whether or not Marx’s prediction of the self-destructing tendencies of capitalism constitute an ‘absurdity’ as posited by Dr Jeffrey, in my humble view, can only be answered by the long march of time.