The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

A response to Karl Thisell

This essay, by Karl Thisell, Capital Without Organs, raises two important questions about the state, money and capital in my writings on the subject:

“a) Is there really a necessity for money to be tied to the gold-standard for it to be a universal exchange commodity? Is it not rather so that it’s exactly that it’s character of universal exchange that makes it valuable as a commodity?

b) The very idea that money is today controlled by the state. This I believe to be an underestimation of the force of capital itself, and an idea with perhaps dire consequences for Jehu’s own theories.”

The writer says he does not intend to refute my argument but only intends to brainstorm, i.e., raise significant questions about my approach. I think the questions are important and tried to avoid addressing them for a few days until they had time to ferment in my head so to speak.

*****

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How does fascist state fiat affect capitalist accumulation?

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An important question was raised about my last post that goes to the heart of labor theory.

“So what is the M that becomes M’? What is the medium through which value is valorized?” –R

Well, it turns out I have a hypothesis about this.

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Whoever said fascist state fiat was money?

My name was recently dropped during a podcast where two Marxist were discussing the labor theory implications of modern money theory (MMT). You can find the episode here

Without getting too deep into the woods — you can listen to it yourself — I did want to comment on several points that podcast ignores in my opinion:

  1. Marx said money has to be a commodity, but he never said there had to be money.
  2. Money is the phenomenal expression of the fact that society lacks of control over its production relations, right? So, what happens when the state controls the thing serving as money in that society?
  3. Does a debased state issued fiat currency, (by which I mean a currency that is no longer tied to a definite quantity of a specific commodity), behave like a commodity money?

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#NoBanNoWall or “No Borders”

“[I have] said it before, but the real mega-war is between those confirmed as belonging to the state, and whoever is regarded as stateless” –Tweep

“The working men have no country.” –K. Marx and F. Engels

Communists have to decide how they see the next few years unfolding: Are we simply against Trump or the system that made Trump possible as well. The Democrats, who control the movement at present, want to limit the aims of the movement to an anti-Trump agenda. Communists need to sharpen their critique of Trump to go beyond the merely superficial differences between Trump and Pelosi/Schumer.

We need to make it clear that we consider Trump, Pelosi and Schumer to be the same despite their superficial differences: they both seek to control the labor power of the working class

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How Trump will force the Radical Left to regret their anti-globalist agitation

Donald Trump is the ultimate refutation of Lexit politics advocated on the Left and they will come to rue ever promoting the idea. Broadly defined, Lexit is a theory you can improve the conditions of the working class of a country by erecting barriers to the world market. No one has ever demonstrated why this would be true; it is simply accepted as a premise.

The idea actually comes in two flavors: the full-bodied Soviet model and the more watered down Keynesian model. The Soviet model requires direct state ownership of the means of production and management of the actual production process. The watered down KeynesIan version requires only state control of the object serving as money. Unlike the Soviet version, the KeynesIan model does not attempt to manage the actual production process but only the accumulation process. The capitalist accumulation process begins and ends not with a commodity but with a sum of money controlled by the fascist state.

Both models are subject to the limitation that each is difficult to maintain in what is referred to as an open economy. Both models more or less require state controls over movement of capital and labor. Both therefore are more or less resistant to the sort of global arrangements we associate with neoliberalist institutions like the EU.

Here we encounter a jarring paradox: the fascist state that has been the most vociferous in breaking up closed economies and remiving all barriers to freest possible movement of capital is also the one best suited to pursuing the sort of Keynesian policies that the advocates of Lexit favor.

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#J20 and the future of communism

“I can’t help but feel like the left is once again rud­der­less and adrift, as it was dur­ing the Bush years.” —@rosswolfe

The message from yesterday is that Trump is likely going down as the most unpopular president in history. We’re talking Hollande levels of disapproval among voters. Everyone who didn’t support him hates him. And his base is skeptical of his ability to deliver on his promises.

The Democrats are the natural beneficiaries of Trump’s likely disaster; they proved this beyond all possibility of dispute by mobilizing 2 to 3 million marchers yesterday according to media estimates I have read. There is no third force to challenge the complete hegemony of the Democrats within the opposition to Trump and communists don’t matter politically.

However, the opposition to Trump is itself challenged by certain economic realities that most of the people mobilized by the Democrats do not recognize. Let me list them:

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Is the proletariat the only revolutionary class in society?

This essay by Ben Noys, “Apocalypse, Tendency, Crisis”, got me thinking about that question. If we could extrapolate the accumulation process of the capitalist mode of production indefinitely into the foreseeable future where would it end up?

One huge problem is that there is nothing in Marx’s theory that says the accumulation process necessarily results in a proletarian revolution. Why is this a problem? Most people think communism requires a proletarian revolution. If the accumulation process doesn’t end in a proletarian revolution, there is this big black theoretical hole where we don’t know what happens if accumulation continues but a proletarian revolution never happens. We just don’t know where this process ends up. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Letter to David Harvey: “Um, about that alternative you said you had …”

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“Revolutionary transformations cannot be accomplished without at the very minimum changing our ideas, abandoning cherished beliefs and prejudices, giving up various daily comforts and rights, submitting to some new daily life regimen, changing our social and political roles, reassigning our rights, duties and responsibilities and altering our behaviors to better conform to collective needs and a common will. The world around us – our geographies – must be radically re-shaped as must our social relations, the relation to nature and all of the other moments in the co-revolutionary process. It is understandable, to some degree, that many prefer a politics of denial to a politics of active confrontation with all of this.”

 , Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist Transition

As I was re-reading this essay by Harvey it occurred to me how full of shit the radical Keynesians are. I thought I would direct my reservations to one of the preeminent Marxists in the United States, David Harvey, who wrote of the need for an alternative to the present system almost a decade ago..

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Getting to Zero Employment: Why “full employment” policies actually limit employment and output

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In the first two parts of my post (here and here), Getting to zero employment, I tried to establish three important points:

First, mainstream economic policy-makers admit the tools they use to ensure so-called full employment are of limited effectiveness. These tools are effective only insofar as they add to output, defined as an increase in aggregate prices of production of all the commodities produced during a given period, aka GDP. Efforts to expand employment beyond this limit by conventional policy measures add to prices, but add nothing to real output. A simpler way to say this is that conventional policy measures produce inflation, but do not increase the production of real goods — cars, houses or shoes. The point where conventional policy fails has been called NAIRU: non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment: However, NAIRU is not an actual number, corresponding to some definite level of unemployment — like 10% or 5% or even 1% unemployment. Rather, it is a theoretical construct, a crutch, employed by simpleton economists to explain why, at some point, conventional policy fails.

Second, mainstream economic policy-makers admit the tools they use to ensure so-called full employment leaves a huge population of unemployed wage workers — perhaps 100 million or more — unable to sell their labor power. At the same time they insist (to one degree or another) that in our society the normal expectation is that each person must earn wages to access the means of life. The state can step in to offer limited support to “the deserving poor”, like those who, through no fault of their own, are laid off from a job, but the state should not be in the business of providing long-term, permanent income in lieu of a job.

Third, it is characteristic of the American system that the social safety net is meager and leaves the huge population of unemployed in dire economic straits. The American state will literally watch its citizens die on the streets without intervening. Some might find this indifference disturbing, yet they are only moved by the extremity. They never question the fact that the mode of production itself is premised on this extremity, wage labor means labor motivated by threat of hunger and homelessness. If, occasionally, a wage workers should actually freeze to death, this only tells the rest of the proles to get back to work or they may be next.

In addition to leaving a massive population of almost 100 million workers unemployed, I want to show why current full employment policies actually reduce employment and output, and make society poorer.

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Getting to Zero Employment: The problem of unemployment is far worse than you imagine (or they admit)

Shown above is the labor force participation rate since World War II. The signs are not good. All the gains in labor force participation since the mid-1970 have been erased. Labor is going away. (St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank)

This is the second part of my post, “Getting to zero employment”, a critique of a 2013 book by Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein, Getting Back to Full Employment.

In the first part, I showed that neoclassical economic theory admits there is a very large mass of unemployed that fascist state economic policy tools cannot help using conventional Keynesian (broadly defined) state deficit spending. Baker and Bernstein dispute the size of this problem and the extent to which present unemployment is structural, but they do not dispute the neoclassical assumption that some measure of unemployment is immune to conventional policy. This means even under the most optimistic assumption a fairly large population of unemployment would remain.

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