The Real Movement

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Left Accelerationism as product re-branding

Indian_call_centerWhat makes Land’s Accelerationism the purest and only valid existing expression of Accelerationism today?

Well, at least in part, it is because Land’s self-styled critics, such as, for instance, Alex Williams, write shit like this:

Where Deleuze and Guattari ultimately counseled caution, to accelerate with care to avoid total destruction, Land favored an absolute process of acceleration and deterritorialization, identifying capitalism as the ultimate agent of history. As Land puts it, “Capitalism has no external limit, it has consumed life and biological intelligence, [and it is] vast beyond human anticipation.” Here, the deregulation, privatization, and commodification of neoliberal capitalism will serve to destroy all stratification within society, generating in the process unheard of novelties. Politics and all morality, particularly of the leftist variety, are a blockage to this fundamental historical process. Land had a hypnotizing belief that capitalist speed alone could generate a global transition towards unparalleled technological singularity. In this visioning of capital, even the human itself can eventually be discarded as mere drag to an abstract planetary intelligence rapidly constructing itself from the bricolaged fragments of former civilizations. As Land has it, through the acceleration of global capitalism the human will be dissolved in a technological apotheosis, effectively experiencing a species-wide suicide as the ultimate stimulant head rush.

Marxists look at Land and they are scandalized by his writing; writings that violate their petty bourgeois sensibilities.

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“Capitalism Harder!”: Accelerationism as Marxism’s mirror

Left accelerationists have to show why they are not simply repackaging a discredited Marxist political strategy — a charge Nick Land makes forcefully here. The reason I say this is simple: a vulgar interpretation of Marx’s theory would suggest that as the conditions of the working class screen-shot-2012-12-30-at-9-48-52-pm-01-14-57deteriorated, they would be goaded into a socialist revolution. Some variant on this idea regularly becomes very popular among Marxists in the middle of economic downturns.

Of course, this idea is not as blunt as I put it. For instance many  simply assume deteriorating conditions push people into struggle with capital and requires the additional intervention of some sort of advanced or vanguard element to raise the political consciousness of the class. This seems to be the thinking behind the more polished argument made by Michael A. Lebowitz in this passage that crises produces conditions for socialist education:

“But, they are merely open to this understanding. All those actions, demonstrations and struggles in themselves cannot go beyond capitalism. Given that exploitation inherently appears simply as unfairness and that the nature of capital is mystified, these struggles lead only to the demand for fairness, for justice within capitalist relations but not justice beyond capitalism. They generate at best a trade union or social-democratic consciousness—a perspective which is bounded by a continuing sense of dependence upon capital, i.e., bounded by capitalist relations. Given that the spontaneous response of people in motion does not in itself go beyond capital, communication of the essential nature of capitalism is critical to its nonreproduction.”

But it was (and still is) generally held that when conditions deteriorate the working class is pushed in a heightened level of at least defensive conflict with the capitalists and thus become more open to “socialist education”.

Accelerationism simply asks a perfectly reasonable question: If deteriorating conditions allows the working class to become more open to going beyond capitalism, why try to prevent conditions from deteriorating? Why fight for piecemeal reforms that only prop up existing society by maintaining the illusion it can be fixed? If the capitalists are only concerned to push their brutal exploitation of the class to ever more extreme limits, why not welcome this?

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By way of reply to the author of the essay “So, Accelerationism, what’s all that about?”

apple_ceo_steve_jobs_holds_the_new_ipad_during_the_launch_of_the_new_tablet_computing_device_in_san_francisco_wednesdayThe post mentioned in the title of this blog post has a rather different take on Nick Land’s Accelerationism (because, in any case, Land is the boogeyman we should all fear) and its Leftist expression. In this view, no Left accelerationist advocates accelerating capitalism because it will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Any such idea is a straw man.

“Not even Nick Land? No. Not even Nick Land. He likes capitalism. He wants to accelerate it, but not because it will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. What about Deleuze and Guattari? No. According to them ‘nothing has ever died of contradictions’, and so whatever deterritorialising force they aim to accelerate, and whatever end they aim to accelerate it towards, neither is a contradiction or its inevitable collapse. What about Srnicek and Williams? No. Much of what they do can be seen as breaking with D&G (and a fortiori with Land), and returning to a much more Marxist position, but they explicitly refuse to see the transition between capitalism and post-capitalism as a dialectical sublation brought about by the intensification of contradictions.”

“Well, what about Marx then?!”, the author asks. Not surprising, at this point the author wants to change the subject:

“Just how much Marx is invested in a substantive notion of contradiction as the metaphysical driving force of history is a question up for debate, and I’m not about to stumble into that particular hermeneutic hornets’ nest.”

Really? You’re shitting me, right?

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Marxist Accelerationism, (Nick) Land, Capital and Labor

Say what you want about Nick Land, but he has Marxists figured out.

Dark-Enlightenment-Nick-Land2334683534Marxists have attached themselves to every new trend emerging out of social movements in the past 80 years only to suffocate and destroy them. When black workers were burning cities in the 1960s, Marxists suddenly discovered racism.; when this morphed into a broader critique of privilege, Marxists declared “classism” was the central privilege; when anarchism and libertarianism experienced a mild resurgence, Marxists said they had the ability to change the world without taking power; and when the Soviet Union collapsed and China followed Deng to get rich, Marxists swore they did not know this Jesus.

Now, as Nick Land explains, Marxist have attached themselves to the hyper-radical critique of Landian Accelerationism. However, as Land warns, as in the previous vampire-like efforts, Marxism raises the banner of Accelerationism only to back into a more recognizable Marxian framework.

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The Left will come to deeply regret its cowardice on basic income

prijem-2Peter Frase wrote an interesting piece in 2011, Stop Digging: The Case against Jobs. The essay was pretty popular and was re-blogged widely on various sites. In the article, Frase challenged a consensus that has emerged on the Left without much debate which places jobs at the center of demands:

“Much of the left has, mostly without debating it, coalesced around “jobs” as a unifying political demand.  The motivation for this is clear: one of the biggest problems the country faces is that there are 20 million people who are unsuccessfully seeking full time employment.  But while it may seem obvious that the solution to this problem is to create millions of new jobs, this is not in fact the only possible solution — and there are major drawbacks to a single-minded focus on increasing employment.  For one thing, it may not be feasible to create that many new jobs.  Moreover, it’s equally debatable whether, from a socialist perspective, it is desirable to create these jobs even if it is possible.”

Frase questions whether it was possible to create that many jobs, but he goes further to ask why should the Left be demanding this sort of job creation. He gives 3 reasons why the Left might demand job creation:

  1. People need income and job provides that.
  2. Work gives dignity
  3. Things need to be done that won’t get done unless someone is paid to do them.

Frase points to the apparently irresolvable paradox the Left encounters whenever it tries to go beyond its limited demand for jobs: the real problem of the unemployed isn’t their lack of jobs, it’s their lack of money. If the real problem is not a lack of jobs but a lack of money, why can’t we just handout money to everyone? This argues Frase, is why some on the left are coming around to the idea of just giving people money whether they have a job or not.

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Why Read Capital At All? (Where almost all introductions to Capital go wrong)

I have been reading this essay by a writer at Unity and Struggle on chapter 1 of Capital, but I am not sure what his/her intent was. The writer asserts that if you don’t understand Marx’s concept of labor in its philosophical dimensions you cannot grasp his concept of the human being and therefore his notion of freedom and liberation.

The commodity is therefore not a thing, but a social relation. It is the relation between the labor for use and the labor for exchange. For Marx social relations are relations of labor and the commodity is the form of labor in capitalist society. Marx argues that the dual character of the commodity is also, at the same time, the dual character of labor in capitalist society.

However, before we get into the dual character of labor, the commodified form of labor, it is worth taking a step back for a moment and looking at what Marx exactly means by “labor.” This is critical because if you don’t understand his concept of labor in its philosophical dimensions you cannot grasp Marx’s concept of the human being and therefore his notion of freedom and liberation.”

warwick-harveyThe problem with this approach to Capital, as I see it, is not with any of the points the author makes in the essay, but with her/his project itself. Grasping Marx’s concept of the human being, freedom and liberation might be entirely appropriate for a course at a university, but, frankly, Marx’s concept of human beings, freedom and liberation is not the least bit relevant for a worker at Wal-Mart.

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VI: Kliman’s staggering 2009 admission that the rate of profit did not fall before the financial crisis

Can state deficit spending be used to artificially add to the mass of profits? And if so, would deficit spending account for the rather ambiguous (even contradictory) results labor theorists’ produce when they try to empirically substantiate Marx’s thesis on the falling rate of profit?

In his 2013 paper, the Australian labor theorist, Peter Jones, provided a persuasive argument that the fascist state can indeed augment or subsidize the rate of profit through its deficit spending. And he argues this capacity can explain much of the ambiguous results labor theorists have produced over the last three decades as they attempt to empirically demonstrate or disprove Marx’s argument on the role played by the falling rate of profit in capitalist crisis.

According to Jones, government borrowing mystifies economic relations by making it appear as if the state can consume surplus value without reducing either profits or wages. If labor theorists do not account for this false appearance, they are implicitly accepting the Keynesian assumption embedded in mainstream economics that government borrowing can create new surplus value.

In his 2012 paper, “Could Keynes end the slump? Introducing the Marxist multiplier”, Gugliemo Carchedi discussed how Keynesian deficits spending works and, like Jones, concluded this deficit spending cannot create money (or, more accurately, value) out of nothing. However, he went one step further: Carchedi argued that once the state began to repay its debt, it would have to raise taxes for this purpose. Whatever additional ‘demand’ the state created by deficit spending during an economic downturn would turn out only to be deferred taxation on the population. Essentially, since the state is not a producer of commodities, it could only bring spending forward; this credit funded ‘prosperity’ would have to be repaid at some point by higher taxes.

Carchedi’s argument may or may not be correct in the long run, but Jones’ paper suggests Washington has been able to run deficits — and, therefore, artificially prop up profits — over a fairly long period of time without running into the need to balance its budget. For more than thirty years, the US has been able to spend more than it takes in without apparent difficulty or obvious limits.

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V: How Peter Jones demolished Andrew Kliman’s book in 22 brief pages

Does the collapse of the gold standard and the switch to commodity money have any implications for labor theory? The Brazil labor theorist, Paulani argues it does not:

“when, historically, the umbilical cord that linked the money form to the commodity form was cut (in 1971), the dollar value of goods shifted in relation to other currencies, but they kept between themselves the relations which their labour values (prices of production) produced earlier, backed in gold…”

According to Paulani, then, the prices of commodities may have no longer been convertible into gold after 1971, but they did not shift relative to each other. If, before the collapse of the gold standard, four candy bars exchanged for one pair of teatssocks, this much remained unchanged afterwards. Whether this is true is not the point, since, stated in this simplistic form, it can easily be disproven; however, many such changes can be written off to supply and demand “shocks” of one sort or another. Since any such shock is accidental, Paulani’s argument can be reduced this: whatever change did occur, they were accidental and did not result from the collapse of the gold standard. In fact, since relative prices fluctuated constantly even before the collapse of the gold standard, this is a reasonable explanation.

However this argument by Paulani in her 2014 paper is directly challenged by Peter Jones in his 2013 paper, The Falling Rate of Profit Explains Falling US Growth”. Jones argues the collapse of the gold standard directly explains the difficulty labor theorists are having substantiating Marx’s falling rate of profit thesis.

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IV: Simon Mohun’s unproductive effort to identify productive labor

As I explained in my last post, substantiating Marx’s falling rate of profit as the cause of capitalist crises, and, in particular, as the cause of the so-called great financial crisis of 2008, runs into the difficulty that Marx made his argument on the basis of values. The difficulty this poses for analysis is that, since 1971, the various categories of analysis employed in measuring the rate of profit are denominated in inconvertible fiat dollars. Fiat dollars are not money in themselves, but tokens — 2007-10-20-77368474placeholders — for commodity money. Prices denominated in this inconvertible fiat, therefore, are not values in the sense Marx employs this term throughout Capital.

Thus, in order to construct an empirical proof of Marx’s thesis on the causes of capitalist crises using the empirical data, labor theorists are forced to convert inconvertible fiat prices into Marxian values. This is a new problem that did not exist before the period between 1933 and 1971 when the gold standard began to come unraveled. Since the dollar was pegged to some definite quantity of gold, dollars prices represented some definite quantity of gold as well. After the collapse of Bretton Woods in 1971, however, this relationship was severed and the dollar’s exchange rate with gold was allowed to float.

The question immediately arose whether Marx’s theory applied in the case where the currency used in daily transactions no longer had any fixed and definite relation to commodity money. Since the quantity of fiat in circulation has always been determined by the state, not by the values of the commodities in circulation, was it not the case that the socially necessary labor time required for production of commodities (value) no longer determined how a capitalistic economy functioned?

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III: How Fred Moseley MELTed Kliman’s argument on the falling rate of profit

One of the little discussed problem with Andrew Kliman’s attempt to empirically verify Marx’s falling rate of profit thesis is that he is working with inconvertible fiat dollars (dollars which no longer can be redeemed for gold) and dollar prices — in the form of GDP, wages, profits, etc. — and these prices are not labor values as Marx defined the term. How Kliman handled this problem in his analysis of the empirical data is a story in itself.

7351347-crisis-finance-the-dollar-symbol-in-melting-ice-devaluated-money-image-symbolizing-the-bankruptcy-1024x939In his paper, “The Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit as a Theory of Crises”, Gugliemo Carchedi answered critics who argue the falling rate of profit thesis cannot be empirically substantiated because Marx was discussing values not prices in his thesis. Fiat prices, however, are not values and have no relation to the values or socially necessary labor times required to produce commodities.

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