The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Shorter John Cunningham …

“I have no fucking idea”:

Apparatuses reproduce a more uneven terrain of struggle that includes but can’t be reduced to production as a site of contestation, corresponding to the everyday and potentially blocking insurrection. This aporia will only be resolved through a praxis that disables the entire reproductive cycle of capital and what that would be remains an open question.
Make Total Destroy, John Cunningham

This took 18 pages to say.

More later.

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Class struggle and the abolition of wage labor: Did 20th century Socialism have it backwards?

I know I said I would review Nicole Pepperell’s essay next, but I still haven’t figured out what the fuck her argument is, yet. I apologize for that. I will keep at it until I have something relevant to say about it.

In the meantime, one of the more interesting takes on the notion of communization as a strategy is offered by Jasper Bernes’ “The Double Barricade and the Glass Floor”. Bernes explains how really difficult it may be to produce a strategy based on communization theory. I think he is right. Communization theory seems to get the relation between the class struggle and the immediate abolition of labor exactly backwards.

Trying to produce a strategy based on the premise that class struggle leads to the abolition of wage labor may not just be difficult, it may be impossible.

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Has Toscano ever actually read Capital?

Continued from here

The abolition of wage labor in 20th century socialism

I think it’s a mistake to think communization theory offers anything new to replace the old strategy of the Communist Manifesto. The idea communists gathered around Marx and Engels in the middle of the 19th century were not committed to the idea of immediately abolishing wage slavery is silly.

This is all communization means.

Is Toscano seriously trying to argue that the men and women who produced and adopted the Manifesto did not fully intend to immediately put an end to the buying and selling of labor power if they successfully gained state power?

But Toscano may not be the only person operating under this misapprehension. Theorie Communiste ran into it when they tried to explain how communization differed from 20th century socialism. (See, The suspended step of communisation: communisation vs socialisation) TC was unable to explain exactly how communization theory differed substantially from the old socialism of the 20th century, so they contented themselves with the observation that communization does everything the old socialism did, but more thoroughly:

“If the action of communisation is the outlet of class struggle in the revolutionary crisis, the same act of seizure could be, as we have seen, either communisation or socialisation. Any action of this type can take one or the other form; it all depends on the dynamic and on the context, constantly in transformation. In other words: everything depends on the struggle against capital, which either deepens and extends itself or loses pace and perishes very quickly. Everything also depends on the struggle within the struggle against capital. The constitution of communism is embroiled with the constitution of one last alternative socio-economic capitalist form. Until communisation is completed there will be a permanent tendency for some entity to be constituted which strives to make the seizure of material means into a political and economic socialisation.”

Since any actual communist revolution can end in the cul-de-sac of 20th century socialism until it is completed, how do we complete the revolution? For TC, the answer seems to depend on the self-abolition of the working class. There is only one way the proletarians can abolish themselves as a class: the buying and selling of labor power must be abolished.

Everyone knows that the the revisionists around Bernstein abandoned this aim almost immediately after the death of Engels. Their ideas were based on the Lassallean conception of socialism, which equated the bourgeois state to the workers own association. The revisionist school did not just deny production based on exchange value would collapse, they also denied socialism required abolition of wage labor.

But the Second International was not the only variant of 20th century socialism that never quite around to abolishing wage labor. We need only read Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism, written a full 33 years after the revolution in 1950, to see the Third International failed to abolish wage labor as well.

According to Stalin, the buying and selling of labor power still continued in the Soviet Union despite state ownership of the means of production and planning:

“As a matter of fact, consumer goods, which are needed to compensate the labour power expended in the process of production, are produced and realized in our country as commodities coming under the operation of the law of value. It is precisely here that the law of value exercises its influence on production. In this connection, such things as cost accounting and profitableness, production costs, prices, etc., are of actual importance in our enterprises.”

Even after 70 years the SU hadn’t put an end to the practice of buying and selling labor power. Even by the miserable standards of the Second International, the SU was a failure.

Thus, if 20th century socialism failed, in both of its most important variants, as communization theory suggests, it wasn’t because of the Manifesto strategy. The Manifesto strategy called for the immediate abolition of wage slavery. Twentieth century socialism failed because it never put and end to wage labor.

The abolition of wage labor and strategy

According to Toscano, communization theory faces all the difficulties that were previously faced by the old socialism of the 20th century. What communization lacks, however, is a strategy that addresses these difficulties:

When communization theorists address the question of politics, which is to say of revolution … they do so on the basis of a curious presupposition: to wit, that a struggle which is directly and uncompromisingly targeted at the abolition of capitalist value-relations is the only kind capable of bringing about communist victory. This anti-strategic strategy – which consciously repudiates the entire panoply of strategic reflection in the communist camp, from class alliance to tactical retreat, from united front to seizure of power – seems to me to confuse a historical judgment with a theoretical proposition.

According to Toscano, an example of the sort of confusion communization theory suffers is its failure to explain how revolutionary communizing movements will cope with,  “highly centralized and differentiated martial and repressive apparatuses with seemingly limitless capabilities for organized violence”.

In plain English, communization has no strategy for dealing with the bourgeois state.

The difficulties posed by fascist state violence are obvious. And it has become something of a boogie-man to scare those who argue for a strategy that does not focus on taking state power. [See, for instance, this debate between Holloway and Callinicos.]

The capacity of the fascist state to mobilize violence against the proletarians engaged in a conflict with capital is well-known and understood. This capacity can and will be deployed against the proletarians for as long as classes and the existing state continues to exist.

The problem of state violence is even worse than it was in the 19th century, when Frederick Engels declared barricade fighting obsolete. The limitless capacity for organized violence on the part of the state actually increases with the development of the forces of social production.

Over time, as the organic composition of capital and the production of surplus value increases, so do the revenues of the state and its capacity for organized violence. As the history of Nazi Germany and the U.S. Department of Defense show, there is no more profitable industry than supplying the existing state with all the instruments of violence it requires. Add to this a massive surplus population of workers who, denied all access to the means of life, enlist in the police and military to secure “three hots and a cot.”

As the empirical data on the growth of the state sector over the last 80 years suggests, the enormous increase in the productivity of social labor is accompanied by the monstrous swelling of the fascist state with its effective monopoly on the most horrific instruments of violence.

However, Toscano knows that this is not a problem peculiar to communization theory, nor even to movements and parties wedded to the old socialist strategy: entire nation states stand by helpless today as Washington routinely violates their territorial sovereignty and even arrests their leaders.

Given these facts, are a handful of disorganized communist activists — or even well-disciplined communist parties — supposed to accomplish what the formidable military forces of Russia, Syria or the People’s Republic of China has proved unable to do?

Surprisingly, my answer to this question is, “Yes.”

What Toscano clearly doesn’t know about abolition and strategy

The reason why communization should be able to answer, “Yes”, to this question is that strategy largely depends on mobilizing one’s strengths against your opponents’ weaknesses.

Communization movements cannot approach the problem of fascist state violence the way Russia, China and Syria approach it. These states address Washington’s capacity for organized violence by mobilizing the surplus value under their control to counter Washington’s mobilization of surplus value under its control.

The result, as two world wars demonstrate, is decided by the fascist state that can bring the largest mass of surplus value, in terms of industrial capacity and armaments, to the conflict. Today, this appears to be the United States. (This might change tomorrow, but it’s not tomorrow, yet.)

By contrast, communization movements have no surplus value to mobilize against any state, but what the proletarians do have is their labor power — the source of the surplus value mobilized by Washington, Russia, China and Syria. Proletarians thus should seek to put an end to the buying and selling of labor power and the production of all surplus value.

Given the massive military capacities of modern states, what possible reason is there for not immediately putting an end to wage labor if this can be accomplished? We all know that wage labor is the source of the surplus value that forms the revenues of the bourgeois state. Putting an end to wage labor in the shortest possible time is the only means at our disposal for countering state violence.

Toscano’s reservation against immediate communization of society, i.e., the immediate abolition of wage labor, cannot be sustained on the excuse that state violence is a threat. The ever increasing capacity of the modern state for violence, guaranteed by the ever increasing productivity of wage labor, is in fact an argument against any prolongation of the transition process a moment longer than is necessary.

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Anyways, on to, “Capitalism: Some Disassembly Required”, by Nicole Pepperell. I have committed myself to finish this bullshit book, so I have no choice.

Vanguardists continue to ban me on Reddit

As if this will fix what is wrong with their weak shit.

Can Communization Work as a Strategy? Alberto Toscano is skeptical

In this critique of British cultural critic, social theorist, philosopher and translator, Alberto Toscano’s essay, Now or Never, I am examining his various reservations with communization theory.

For the purpose of this critique, I assume that communization means the direct and immediate abolition of wage labor by the proletarians is all that is required to realize a fully communist society. Although many communizers may not hold to this view, I do not feel bound by their lack of recognition of the implications of their own theory.

In the course of answering Toscano’s reservation I hope to show why my definition of communization, as the direct and immediate abolition of wage labor, is the only rational reading of communization theory.

This post is a bit long, so I will divide it into two parts.

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A brief hiatus while I translate Alberto Toscano’s Newspeak into Ebonics

In my last post, I argued that communization is identical with the immediate abolition of wage labor. Alberto Toscano, however, has defined communization as “intransitive, anti-strategic varieties of communism.”

I am sure he has good reasons for this definition. I hope to find out what the phrase means at some point.

But I thought this argument was funny:

“Even if we accept that all transitional strategies are doomed, this does not in any way suggest that intransitive, anti-strategic varieties of communism have any better chances of dislocating the domination of the value-form – far from it.”

What I find so funny about this argument can be seen if we substitute the phrase, “intransitive, anti-strategic varieties of communism”, by the much less vague phrase, “immediate abolition of wage labor”, so that the statement now reads as follows:

“Even if we accept that all transitional strategies are doomed, this does not in any way suggest that the immediate abolition of wage labor has any better chances of dislocating the domination of the value-form – far from it.”

Without in any way suggesting either that all transitional strategies are doomed or that we can immediately abolish wage labor, I want to ask if there is any reason to believe the domination of the value-form can survive the abolition wage labor?

What is the value-form? Money, right? Specifically, fascist state fiat currency. Can someone tell me how money outlasts the abolition of wages? If wage labor is abolished — i.e., if wages are no longer being paid out — what role does money …uh, the value-form now play?

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Okay. I’ll get back to work trying to figure out what the fuck Toscano is saying.

Communization is identical with the immediate abolition of wage labor: A reply to Leon de Mattis, et al

I am continuing with my examination of a series of essays on communization published by Clever Monkey in the book, Communization and its discontents. The book presents the idea of communization through the lens of writers who, allegedly, embrace the idea.

The essays raise several questions regarding communization, the answers to which should cause anyone reading them to take pause.

Where do we begin communizing society?

We begin, of course, with an idea of communism.

What does the term communism mean?

It means a society without classes, property or the state; a society characterized by the principle, “to each according to need.”

Simple enough, right? Why then does the idea of communization cause so much confusion among communists? The reason may be found in the answer to a third question:

Is communization possible?

We don’t know.

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How Theorie Communiste tried to rebrand 20th century socialism

I have been reading a lot of communization literature of late. I am impressed by the implications of the argument for communization, but if you have been keeping up with my blog, you know I am terribly disappointed.

Here is what I have learned from the Communization School so far:

  • In Clever Monkey’s opinion, it appears communizers have no idea who is doing the communizing, nor exactly any idea of what it is they are trying to communize.
  • From Theorie Communiste, I have learned that communizers have been unable to explain how communization differs from what we used to call socialism.
  • The Endnotes collective insists communization is not on the agenda at this time, despite arguing that the proletariat is superfluous to the production of material wealth.

This last point is very important, in my opinion. Both Theorie Communiste and the Endnotes collective argue that communization is not a call to immediately communize anything.

Let me focus in on this critical defect in the argument of both the Endnotes collective and Theorie Communiste (TC).

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It seems to me that the direct communization of the social forces of production is only possible if, effectively, labor has been rendered superfluous to the production of material wealth already. We should expect that the production of material wealth requires so little living labor that society could rely on the voluntary contribution of each individual in production.

Absent this condition, communization is a silly unrealistic slogan.

On the other hand, if labor actually has been rendered superfluous by the development of the social force of production, why would we not demand immediate communization? What is the purpose of communization than a call for immediate abolition of wage labor and realization of a society founded on the principle of to each according to need?

Communization explicitly states that communism is at least technically possible right now. However, in their essay, Communization in the Present Tense, TC offers a polemic against what they call “communism as immediatism.”

Essentially, Theorie Communiste argues “Wage labor may indeed be superfluous, but now is not the time for communization.” This view is not based on the technical problem of what we can achieve right now, but a political assessment based on a highly dubious view of the present state of the class struggle — a view that overestimates the objective position of the enemy relative to the working class.

I will briefly examine their assessment now.

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Like the Endnotes collective, TC argues that communization and communism are not on the agenda today, but it must emerge sooner or later:

In the course of revolutionary struggle, the abolition of the state, of exchange, of the division of labor, of all forms of property, the extension of the situation where everything is freely available as the unification of human activity in a word, the abolition of classes are ‘measures’ that abolish capital, imposed by the very necessities of struggle against the capitalist class. The revolution is communization; it does not have communism as a project and result, but as its very content.

Communization and communism are things of the future, but it is in the present that we must speak about them. This is the content of the revolution to come that these struggles signal in this cycle of struggles each time that the very fact of acting as a class appears as an external constraint, a limit to overcome. Within itself, to struggle as a class has become the problem it has become its own limit. Hence the struggle of the proletariat as a class signals and produces the revolution as its own supersession, as communization.

TC’s definition of communization is shorthand for a communist revolution. However, in TC’s definition, communization does not aim to create communism; rather, communism is the actual content of the revolution itself. In this revolution, the material conditions of existence of the proletarians as a class, as wage laborers, appear as an external limit that they also must abolish. The real movement of society, communization, does not begin until the proletarians encounter this external limit. Which is to say, to communize society, the proletarians must put an end to wage labor.

However, rather than stating this requirement clearly, TC, like Endnotes, seems to opted for simply rebranding the failed project of 20th century Socialism in order to make it palatable to a new generation of radicals.

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The tip-off comes when TC begin their argument with the typical boilerplate of socialist-minded radical Keynesianism. According to TC, there was this period before 1970 or so when the working class was mostly satisfied with the newly emerging post-war fascist order. TC adds there own twist to this narrative, but it remains consistent with the narrative of the radical Left:

“Until the crisis of the late 1960s, the workers’ defeat and the restructuring that followed, there was indeed the self-presupposition of capital, according to the latter’s concept, but the contradiction between proletariat and capital was located at this level through the production and confirmation, within this very self-presupposition, of a working class identity through which the cycle of struggles was structured as the competition between two hegemonies, two rival modes of managing and controlling reproduction. This identity was the very substance of the workers’ movement.”

So, according to TC, workers were comfortable with the social welfare state, despite the fact it accorded with the interests of capital … and then everything went to shit.

The golden age of the social welfare state gave way to an all out assault on the working class by their own capitalist classes: restructuriing of the labor process, globalization, austerity, yadda yadda yadda:

“With the restructuring that was completed in the 1980s, the production of surplus-value and the reproduction of the conditions of this production coincided.”

Following the restructuring of 1970s and 1980s, argues TC, the proletariat can no longer act as a class without confirming its complete subordination to capital.

Simply stated, today when the working class struggles against capital, they put their own survival at risk. Thus they are forced to make concessions to capital to safeguard their survival as workers. The existence of the workers as mere workers now forms a limit on the class struggle.

There is so much wrong with this silly radical Leftist narrative, I barely know where to begin.

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For the moment, please note that TC, like all of their peers, manage to miss the most important single event in the 20th century: the complete breakdown of the premises of capitalist production at the start of the 1970s. How is it that no one notices the complete collapse of production based on exchange value — or, as it is commonly known, the collapse of Bretton Woods?

Moreover, TC ignores the fact that the collapse of production based on exchange value came on the heels of two rather devastating inter-imperialist wars, where the proletarians of every nation gaily followed their own bourgeoisies into battle to fall on their fellow workers in bloody combat, not once but twice. This doesn’t really sound like rival hegemonies. It sounds like wage slaves killing themselves atthe behest of their masters.

Thus, between 1914 and 1971 — a short sixty year period — we have an inter-imperialist war that cost 20 million lives, the rise of fascism, the Great Depression — an unprecedented economic collapse that brought world commerce to a standstill — another inter-imperialist war that cost another 80 million lives, the emergence of a new global hegemon, all capped off by the collapse of production based on exchange value?

Perhaps, it was not the working class that met the limits of its existence as a class, but the bourgeois mode of production itself that met its limit.

In fact, TC offers no rational reason for why the brief post-war fascist social welfare utopia, which they characterize as “two hegemonies, two rival modes of managing and controlling reproduction”, suddenly and without warning gave way to the all out global assault by capital on the working class in the 1970s and 1980s.

The problem with TC’s discussion of the golden age of fascism and the one-sided class war that followed is not just that it fails to provide any real explanation for the sudden collapse of the so-called social compromise following World War II; this boringly familiar Leftist narrative completely misreads the relation between capital and the working class after 1971.

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What TC offers here is a complete inversion of the actual relation between capital and labor. In this telling, the working class has its back against the wall and finds its options as a class limited by its objective position in the mode of production. In fact, the breakdown of production based on exchange value means that even if the capitalist paid the worker no more than the absolute value of her labor power, and not a penny more, this wage would still be incompatible with the production for profit.

Production for profit is no longer possible based on the essential premise that labor power is purchased at its value.

This places the working class in a rather strong position: to plunge the capitalist mode of production into complete economic chaos, all the working class has to do is defend the value of its wages. This advantage is missed by TC because they missed both the collapse of production based on exchange value (which Marx directly predicted in the Grundrisse) and the implications of this collapse for the capitalist mode of production (which Henryk Grossman addressed in his restatement of Marx’s theory in 1929).

Really? On Endnotes’ “Communization for Dummies”

I have been reading Clever Monkey’s 2009 anthology of writings from the communization school, Communization and its Discontents. The first essay in the anthology, “What are we to do?”, is provided by the Endnotes collective.

The essay appears to be a polemic against another collective that is more or less grouped around the journal, Tiqqun. But it seems to me to be nothing more than an failed attempt to leverage communization in much the same way Mason, Srnicek and Williams tried to hijack accelerationism.

Perhaps, I am wrong, but let me continue and you be the judge.

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Communization or Accelerationism — or both?

On the surface, I can’t imagine two more irreconcilable ideas than communization and accelerationism. While communization has often been labeled an extreme ultra-Left variant of communism, accelerationism has been called the very grammar of neoliberalism by no less than the person who coined the term, Ben Noys.

I think there are reasons to say this view may be wrong. Far from being opposites, in my opinion, the two extremist radical variants of communism are  ideal complements to one another.

To understand why, let’s look at each idea in turn.

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