The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

21st Century partisan warfare for an aggressive new SYRIZA government

According to @NickMalkoutzis on twitter, “The one question SYRIZA needs to answer” is a must read analysis of the difficulties the new SYRIZA government in Greece will face once it takes power.

Greece has a primary surplus of 3 billion euros, but 21 billion in debt obligations. It is locked out of credit markets and living on handouts. Thus, according to @YiannisMouzakis,

“The maturities of bonds in July and August seem to place in front of SYRIZA a hard stop,  allowing just enough time for its government to be left to stew before it is forced to concede under the pressure of a potential  default on the bonds held by the ECB.”

Syros_El._Venizelou_ErmoupoliIf @YiannisMouzakis is to be believed then, SYRIZA plainly has been set up to fail by the Samaras government, the IMF and the ECB. Samaras, the IMF and the ECB will then blame SYRIZA for the economic disaster that follows. As the crisis spirals downward, Samaras supporters will take to the streets in a replay of the color revolutions plaguing Europe. Greece will be economically strangled by creditors and the streets will appear to be gripped by popular outrage. Eventually, the army (NATO) will step in to ‘restore calm’ and, with a junta in firm control, and US/EU economic advisers running the state, the small country will face draconian Chile-style ‘reforms’.

SYRIZA has a chance to change this scenario, but only if it acts aggressively and smartly. First, the leaders of the party will have to realize @YiannisMouzakis is correct: There will never be enough money to employ the 27% of the labor force that is unemployed, put an end to poverty and reverse the austerity that currently burdens the country. So, SYRIZA will be forced to think outside the box if it hopes to succeed.

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International Labor Organization report on hours, wages, productivity (and the abolition of wage slavery)

The International Labor Organization’s report, “Working Time Around the World” (2007), demonstrates that the barbaric policy of the  capitalist class and fascist states of overworking their japans-suicide-salarymen-are-dying-for-work-1413283959935-crop_mobilerespective working classes to the point of physical exhaustion is a quite common practice in countries at all levels of economic development. Unlike economic reports written for domestic consumption in the advanced countries, the report confirms Marx’s observation on the relation between wage, productivity and hours of labor and points to reduction of hours of labor as the global path for accelerating the development of the productive forces and realizing the abolition of wage slavery in its entirety.

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Mule-headed Marxists and Hours of Labor

Donkey CarrotCertain mule-headed Marxists in the Socialist Equality Party have made an argument against reducing hours of labor that they know or should know is complete bullshit.

That argument is that any reduction of hours of labor must lead to a fall in the material subsistence of the working class. They know or should know that this argument violates every assumption in labor theory of value,  but they insist on spreading it among the working class. Why they insist on spreading this complete fabrication is beyond me, but I am now going to educate them. At the end of my refutation, these “Marxists” will either concede they are completely wrong, or turn tail and run.

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Yes, labor hours reduction will lead to a fall in wages: But so what?

Several Marxists who oppose my argument, and even some who support it, express the concern that reducing hours of labor stock_chartwill reduce profits. While they have no objection to this in and of itself, they point out the capitalists will respond to such a fall in profits by trying to slash the wages of the working class. The reasoning behind this objection seems to be mostly political: the working class might be strong enough to impose a reduction of hours on the owners of capital, yet unable to defend its material living standards from a capitalist offensive.

Although this reasoning seems a bit far-fetched to me, we can ignore it for now because the opponents are correct even if their reasoning is not: once hours of labor fall, money wages will fall as well.

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Three reasons why my argument for reducing hours of labor may suck big time

There seems to be three major categories of objections to my argument on hours of labor:

First, what material impact will a reduction of hours of labor have on the operation of the capitalist mode of production?

chair-on-the-beach-1082-2560x1440A fall in the rate of profit produced by shorter hours will cause bankruptcies in a lot of marginally profitable industries. The capitalists will not simply respond to a fall in profits by paying workers more.  When hours are reduced, the capitalists will unleash an assault on the living standards of workers. Thus, a reduction of hours of labor will lead to an offensive against the social conditions of the working class.

Second, is a reduction of hours of labor incompatible with, or opposed to, the conventional Marxist argument that the working class must seize political power?

My argument exudes a hostility toward the working class seizing political power. My proposal for reduction of hours of labor treats the capitalist mode of production as an abstraction from the class struggle. Marx insisted that objective economic processes were an expression of class forces. The idea that reduction of hours of labor can lead to communism on its own is economism. Essentially, ending capitalism means abolition of private ownership of the means of production, and the capitalist nation-state system. In isolation from the seizure of state power and nationalization of private property, proposals for changes to the mode of production, like reduction of hours of labor, are reformist.

Third, will the working class itself support a demand for reductions of hours of labor?

Workers believe reducing hours of labor will reduce their income. Hours of labor reduction might result in a shift in such that most workers will actually see their wages fall; although some rise. With a reduction of hours of labor, wages might increase relative to profits, but still fall overall. A reduction of hours under capitalism will only intensify the social crisis of the working class.

***

I’m pretty sure that does not exhaust the list. But they are interesting arguments anyways. Question 3 really is the killer, because if workers think they will be poorer they will never support it. Oddly enough, this was never a problem in France’s 35 hours law. Also average hours of labor in the US right now is about at 34.6 hours per week. Depending on the industry, hours of labor in October varied from 45 hours per week (mining) to 26.2 hours per week (leisure/hospitality). Retail, for instance, regularly runs a work week of less than 32 hours. Most people in the private service sector never see 40 hours per week.

I will probably address these three objections separately in the near future.

Racism, the working class and wage labor: A reply to S.C. Hickman

lynchingHere is a post that is critical of my reaction to the Michael Brown grand jury: On Jehu’s recent post on Michael Brown Verdict. (I am not sure the outcome should be called a verdict as that term is commonly understood, since the cold blooded murderer, the killer cop Darren Wilson, never stood a trial for the killing and thus never was acquitted.)

In any case,  the author, S.C. Hickman, makes a statement that caused me some confusion:

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Killing capitalism without replacing it with something else

Wolfgang Streeck has written a fascinating essay titled, “How will capitalism end? I think it is a must read for anyone who wants to shake the cobwebs of routine thinking from their head and open up a bit of room for thinking differently about the present crisis and its ultimate outcome. There are four outstanding observations in particular that I wish to draw attention to:

  • “I suggest that we learn to think about capitalism coming to an end without assuming responsibility for answering the question of what one proposes to put in its place.”
  • “[There] is today no political-economic formula on the horizon, left or right, that might provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime of regulation, or régulation.”
  • “[Disorganized] capitalism is disorganizing not only itself but its opposition as well, depriving it of the capacity either to defeat capitalism or to rescue it.”
  • “[Capitalism’s] defeat of its opposition may actually have been a Pyrrhic victory, freeing it from countervailing powers which, while sometimes inconvenient, had in fact supported it.”

Interesting enough, although his argument is fascinating, Streeck can’t seem to take his eyes off purely superficial expressions of the crisis. There is stagnation, inequality, private appropriation of the public sphere, corruption and a breakdown in the Post-World War II order.  Examined closely, it would appear this isn’t a critical examination of the process of capitalistic collapse; it is a series of mainstream media headlines. Thus, Streeck offers a very interesting observation — capitalism is killing itself with its own success — based on paltry, almost banal, evidence.

While Streeck argues there is no political-economic formula to provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime; he never investigates the possibilities for a path outside political-economy. Capitalist political-economy, argues Streeck, is shaking itself apart and anti-capitalist political-economy seems, at best, only to mediate the process. But, in the end, all Streeck has told us is that no political-economy (capitalist or anti-capitalist) offers a way out of the present crisis. He leaves it here, as if he has thoroughly investigated every possible future.

But suppose we do not aim for a new regime of regulation? Suppose we neither want to defeat capitalism nor rescue it? Suppose, as Landian accelerationism proposes, we do not wish to act as a countervailing power, but an accelerating one? And suppose, in acting as an accelerant to capitalism, we do not intend to put anything in its place?

The very idea that we should be solely concerned to accelerate capitalism headlong into its inevitable demise without any concern for what comes after it is sure to loosen the bowels of our Marxists imbeciles, but what comes after capitalism is not foreshadowed by anything we imagine today.

Go ahead, seize political power: Who is stopping you?

srp-i-cekic_zHere is a brief reply to the members of the Socialist Equality Party, who have decided to teach me historical materialism.

First, let’s begin with some pertinent facts about existing political relations in the form of the Socialist Equality Party’s political influence among the working class. I do this in the form of election returns for that party since 1984:

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After Ferguson: Labor, competition and the long ugly history of American white working class racist mob violence

As expected, a mostly white Grand Jury declined to indict the murderer of Michael Brown, who was gunned down without provocation on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. This is in keeping with 1599a long history of racist mob violence that has been directed at the black working class by their white counterparts dating back at least to the early 19th century. As Justice Taney argued in his Dred Scott decision nearly 160 years ago, the grand jury decided that African-Americans were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The time for mere political protest is past, we are confronted by the necessity to overthrow the regime of white supremacy and the capitalist mode of production which daily, hourly, constitutes this white supremacy and provides the material basis for its continuing existence. Like any difficult venture, this effort must be undertaken based on a sober examination of how white supremacy is constituted by capitalist relations of production in order to demonstrate why nothing short of the abolition of the capitalist mode of production itself will put an end to white supremacy. I hope to demonstrate this very thing in the essay that follows and thus provide radical activists with material for agitation for the complete overthrow of capitalism and white supremacy.

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The ‘reformism’ of less work and the dull stupidity of Marxists.

Here is a comment on my blog post that was posted to Reddit’s socialism subreddit:

REDORDEAD: hmm yes in the age of austerity, in which an out of control falling rate of profit is causing massive reduction in work hours, automation of labor and mobilization of the world reserve army of labor the solution is the reformist demand for shorter work hours. what century are you living in?

WORKThe comment was fascinating to me, not just because I have heard it before, but also because I had no idea what it means. Reduction of labor is reformist? How so? On what basis does the redditor make this charge? Intrigued, I asked for clarification:  “Can you tell me what is reformist about demanding the end of wage labor?”

REDORDEAD: Thats not what you’re demanding. You’re demanding a reduction in the working day which capitalism already accomplishes through the rising organic composition of capital. Even Marx point out in Capital Vol. 1 that the movement for the 8 hour work day saves capitalism from itself by regulating the coercive laws of competition which cause the abuse and long-term exhaustion of the working class.

That’s not to say it can’t be a revolutionary demand given the right economic conditions, almost anything can be linked to the revolutionary demands of socialism given a mass party and disciplined mass line. But it seems worse than most, especially given the conditions today. Not sure why it’s significant at all, though it is time to think about tactics and less about theory.

This clarification had a lot of features in common with another comment posted to Reddit regarding the same blog post:

“It is thoroughly reformist. Your whole strategy is to simply fight for shortened work hours, increased hourly wages, etc. Nothing here about the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism by the proletariat… Congratulations, you’ve discovered economism.”

It appears that, in the thinking of these two critics, the reduction of hours of labor isn’t revolutionary because it doesn’t involve the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism by the proletariat, a direct demand for socialism, and a political party dedicated to this demand that practices a method of leadership that seeks to learn from the working class.

And this argument has some validity and much historical accuracy: both the ten hours day and the eight hours day were won without any fundamental alteration in the capitalistic nature of political relations. I am fascinated by this argument because, when all the dogmatic assertions are set aside, it suggests real material changes in the mode of production aren’t real without the right politics.

The problem with this reasoning is that capitalism is the production of surplus value; self-expanding value, etc. In their debates with the anarchists, Marx and Engels were stubbornly insisted on the primacy of economic relations over political relations.

Moreover, Marx almost never discussed capital without reiterating his definition of the mode of production, as he does, for instance, in chapter 15 of volume 3 of Capital:

“The purpose of capitalist production, however, is self-expansion of capital, i.e., appropriation of surplus-labour, production of surplus-value, of profit.”

Now, what has to be grasped is that, this old fart had already spent two fucking volumes of Capital defining and discussing capital yet he wants to emphasize — again — what he means by the term. In other words, after having already spent two volumes of Capital and 15 chapters of a third volume discussing capital, Marx feels the need to again reemphasize exactly what capitalism is!

Since capital is the production of surplus value, and since the production of surplus value varies with the length of the working day, how can the reduction of hours of labor be economism? It really can’t be economism and no amount of micro-sectarian ranting can make it economism. So, what is intended by activists who slap that label on reduction of hours of labor? What is intended by folks who call reduction of hours of labor reformist or economism?

I really think it is meant to draw attention to the fact it doesn’t necessarily involve the dictatorship of the proletariat, the association of laborers. People who make that charge really are trying to say I am neglecting the need for association of producers. I really have no answer to this charge. I just wanted to open my ears and for once understand why folks keep saying it. Implicit in this charge is the view that any measure, no matter how far reaching its implications, is a mere “reform” unless it is linked to the political rule of the working class.

This sort of view may in fact be valid for any measure you can imagine — except reduction of hours of labor. To understand why, simply think of a reduction of hours of labor carried to its extreme limit: hours of labor equal zero. Can capitalism exist on this basis?

Now, the argument might very well be that we can’t get to zero with a capitalist state — but that is a completely different argument. That is an argument that has nothing to do with the measure itself, but with the resistance of the capitalists and their state. Since the folks running the show today have always resisted less work for the producers, I don’t expect them to suddenly have a change of heart. Their resistance, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with reduction of hours of labor itself. They will just as viciously fight against higher wages, basic income or any other measure that appears to threaten the appropriation of surplus labor.

The difference, however, is that no matter how high wages go, they will never create communism; no matter how many food stamps you hand out or how high you raise the minimum wage or how good your health care system is — none of this can lead to communism. Because none of these measure touches on the heart of the problem: Labor itself.

However, reduce hours of labor to zero — and you will have communism before you ever even reach zero. The reduction of hours of labor is not like any other reform because no other reform touches on the critical role labor plays in the mode of production.

You can nationalize private property all day long; replace the existing state with an association of producers; or turn money into worthless labor chits — none of these measures directly touch on labor itself. Reduction of hours of labor alone can do this. The logic of my argument follows directly from Marx’s definition of capital as the “appropriation of surplus-labour, production of surplus-value, of profit.”

This is the problem we face, the conceptual obstacle post-World War II Marxism seems unable to surmount: How can the proletariat work out its own emancipation without turning back to the failures of 20th century political parties? How can the working class continue to focus on the seizure of state power, when the development of the productive forces themselves — expressed both in the form of globalization and its attendant neoliberal ideology — are undermining the very capacity of nation states to implement sovereign management of their own national capitals?

The political parties of the 20th century were based on the concept of what is today called accelerationism by some. This strategy is stated simply in the Communist Manifesto:

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

The vision Marx and Engels evoked in this passage is that of a political power held in the hands of this class who basically would do what capital has itself done over the last 170 years: create the material conditions for communism. Going back to the political parties of the 20th century is not only impossible, it is unnecessary.

If Marxist writers like Postone, Kurz, Hudis, Harman, Kidron, Mohun, Sheikh, Tonak, etc. are correct, capitalism has already converted the largest portion of the labor day into superfluous labor time. At this point the proletariat need only to complete the process: convert the superfluous labor time into free disposable time for themselves. Marxists often assert that capitalism, even if it generates its own collapse,  is incapable of creating a communist society; yet, they have never once been able to describe what this latter act of creation consists of.

What is it that only the proletariat can accomplish? It certainly is not creating the material condition for communism — according to Marx in Capital, volume 3, capital itself does this without any assistance from proletarian political rule.

“Development of the productive forces of social labour is the historical task and justification of capital. This is just the way in which it unconsciously creates the material requirements of a higher mode of production.”

So, what can the proletariat do that the bourgeoisie cannot? Since of all classes in modern society, the proletariat alone gains nothing by expenditures of unnecessary hours of labor, it can convert the surplus labor time of society into free disposable time for all.

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