The Real Movement

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GOP Senator previews our dystopian capitalist future: 100% unemployment

This morning, Senator Ben Sasse broached the subject no one wants to talk about: Wage slavery is going away and there is nothing that can be done to prevent this. I aggregated his tweets to summarize his major points:

“Morning news pretends there’s a simple political solution to the declining # of manufacturing jobs. It’s not true. We should tell the truth. Automation–even more than trade–will continue to shrink the number of manufacturing jobs. This trend is irreversible. Politicians are not good at telling the truth. We should tell the truth, even when it is unpopular – for example, about coming job changes. We should be honest that there will be more, not less, job change in the future. We should be encouraging prep for disruption & retraining. US economy is adding approximately 2 million jobs per year. It’s not nearly enough.

In thinking about manufacturing job change, consider history of agriculture:

1790: 90% of workers were farmers
1840: 69%
1900: 38%
1960 8%
1980s: 3%

Important reality

US manufacturing output continues to be strong. But it’s with fewer people (as in agriculture). [This is because we’re] more productive.

Imagine being a powerful bourgeois politician in the most powerful nation on the planet, but you have to openly admit there is nothing you can do to keep wage slavery from going away.

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Trump’s victory: Why it may be much worse than you think

Why did Trump win?

This is the question a number of writers from all points on the political spectrum have been trying to answer since the presidential election. Some have sought the answer in demographics. Others in issues peculiar to the rust belt regions of the United States. Still others in the language of identity politics; a triumph of racism, misogyny homophobia, etc. There are those who have even broached the long ignored problem of the criminal behavior of the Clinton Cartel and the tin-ear of corporate Democrats to the party’s base.

Each of these explanations has a certain ring of truth. All who hold to one or another of these explanations can point to valid empirical evidence (especially polling) to support their claims.

However, to really answer the question in any meaningful fashion requires something more than a list of real or imagined defects of the usual suspects involved. It requires a comprehensive hypothesis of the present moment: a task that is no easy undertaking.

A hypothesis is useful because it attempts to account for what we are observing and link our observations to forces we cannot observe. The best hypotheses reveal hidden connections between things we previously believed to be unrelated or demonstrate that things we previously believed were related are not related after all — although on the surface they appear to be the same.

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A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (3)

NOTE THREE: “A vast machine for the provisioning of soldiers”

If you follow my blog you know I have been reading David Graeber’s “DEBT: The first 5000 years”. As I tried to show in the two previous posts, Graeber provides evidence, drawn on the findings of anthropologists, for several conclusions. The written record indicate that by the time of the emergence of Mesopotamian civilization a commodity, silver, had already emerged as money. For the most part, this money did not circulate as the currency but was held in hoards by the temple and palace complexes of it time.

What made it money is not that it functioned as currency, but that, even at that time, it functioned as the material in which the value of other commodities were denominated by the population of Mesopotamia.

In actual transactions, Graeber argues, the population employed what he calls a ‘running tab’; a form of virtual or symbolic currency. In actual day to day transaction, it appears the problem of coincidence of wants was resolved by an early form of pre-capitalist credit money. To use Graeber parable, if Henry wanted shoes from Joshua, Joshua extended his shoes ‘on credit’. The transaction was recorded with Henry’s IOU, which he later had to make good by providing another commodity of his own at a later time. Payment did not commonly take place in a money commodity, but was in-kind. Henry might later satisfy his debt to Joshua by ‘paying’ in barley, goats, or another use value.

This sort of in-kind payment is today commonly referred to as “barter”, more accurately, in Marx’s labor theory of value, commodity production and exchange.

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Jill Stein and Gary Johnson must be removed by their parties’ memberships

a55a99ce-5500-11e6-aa48-03c7558ca05e-1020x785Here is the (admittedly uninvited) opinion of someone on the outside looking in, someone who thinks all electoral politics are illusory.

Ignore it if you already realize capitalism cannot be reformed.

If the Greens don’t remove Jill Stein from a leadership role in the Green Party and the Libertarians don’t remove Gary Johnson, they have learned nothing from this election. The Greens and Libertarians need to renounce their 2016 disastrous campaigns and take a comprehensive look at their respective approaches to winning political power.

*****

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Trump, Neoliberalism and the humiliating demise of the Radical Left

With Trump taking a massive section of the working class in his run up to office, what possible reason to exist does the radical Left have?

I have been reading this short Foreign Affairs article: “Trump and American Political Decay”. Excuse me while I quote an extensive portion of it below, because it reflects the standard boilerplate currently being repeated to American voters:

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A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (2)

NOTE TWO: Our Own Coin?

In my last post I showed why I think David Graeber’s book has been generally misread. Contrary to the predominant view Graeber clearly provides evidence that, even 5 millennia ago, silver, a commodity, was already firmly established as money. This money, according to Graeber’s own evidence, was mostly held in large hoards by temples and palace authorities. Despite sitting mostly idle in hoards, silver was nevertheless employed to express the values of other commodities.

The function of silver as the universal expression of the values of commodities, however, is not the same as its function as means of exchange, for the circulation of commodities, as currency. While there was indeed some limited circulation of silver as means of exchange, the role of currency was mostly filled, as Graeber explains, by an early form of pre-capitalist credit money — what Graeber refers to as a running tab. This running tab seems to have been largely settled in kind by a wide variety of other commodities, i.e., according to its common definition, by what is generally referred to as barter.

In ancient Sumer, in other words, we see a fairly complex ‘money’ system has already emerged based on a commodity money, silver, which is already being used to express the values of other commodities. An early form of credit has emerged based on this commodity money; debts are calculated in this commodity money, but settlement still largely takes the form of in kind payments or barter. Currency, Graeber explains, comes only much later.

I am not sure I have stated all of this in a manner that is consistent with the evidence Graeber provides us. However, absent his objection or that of another expert in the field, I will proceed on the basis of the above assumptions.

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A critical review of David Graeber’s “Debt” (1)

I have been avoiding David Graeber’s book, DEBT: The first 5000 years, on the assumption I was not qualified to address an issue so steeped in concrete historical evidence. Only now do I feel I have a credible basis for examining the book.

bill_of_sale_louvre_ao3765After reading chapter 2 of the book (which is as far as I have gotten so far) I am surprised to find out it is not quite what I expected. It turns out, contrary to much of the hype with which this book has been greeted, Graeber has already acknowledged money and commodity exchange already existed as far back as ancient Sumer — some 5500 years ago. What Graeber is instead trying to show in his book is that a form of credit money emerged into general use long before the coining of currencies — which is an altogether different argument.

The argument, although convincing, leaves as many questions as it answer, as I will show in the next few posts.

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Can the Greens and Libertarians strike a “Grand Bargain of The Radical Fringe”?

How far apart are the programmatic differences between the Libertarian Party, typically characterized as far Right, and the Green Party, typically characterized as far Left? Could these two parties, the largest formation of what we could call the radical fringe of American politics overcome their philosophical differences and present a united front against the Washington consensus by creating a unified platform?

With the overwhelming majority of the voting population in this election cycle clearly expressing a distaste for the nominees of either of the two major parties, but lacking any realistic alternative to them, this is a question those who see in electoral politics a means for radical change just might want to consider. The closest thing advocates of radical political change have to an alternative to the two fascist parties are radical fringe parties, Libertarians and Greens, who alone have been unable to break through the clutter of lesser-evilism.

To be sure, I do not want to overstate the extent to which these two parties break with the conceptual political framework of existing fascist parties: to put these two parties in some perspective, in comparison to the Marxist and anarchist varieties of communism, the Libertarians don’t go so far as to call for the complete abolition of the existing state; while the Greens don’t go so far as to demand the complete abolition of private property. Both parties implicitly or explicitly accept the continuation of these fundamental categories of bourgeois society. The Greens and Libertarians are radical in relation to the two big fascist parties, but fall well short of a complete break with the assumptions of those parties — they compose a radical fringe of bourgeois politics, not its abolition.

Still within the limits of bourgeois politics, can these parties together accomplish what neither of them has been able to accomplish on their own — break through the clutter of two party politics?

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Game Theory and Clinton’s Lesson for The Left

In October of 2013, Hillary Clinton gave an interesting talk to Goldman Sachs investors on the global political situation. This talk has since come out in the recent Wikileaks publication — the so-called Podesta emails. Very little so far has been written on that talk, but never to be one to let a capitalist political crisis go to waste, I thought it might be interesting to see what Clinton said in those talks.

I think the reason the talk, although widely anticipated, has received less attention than expected is that people may have been expecting some sort of gotcha moment, where Clinton revealed her secret ties to the illuminati or something. It turns out the talk was mostly what we might think of as a pre-campaign town hall with an exclusive group of finance capitalists; filled with the sort of self-promoting one would expect from any presidential hopeful.

The talk, however, is not simply boilerplate by a person putting together a run for the presidency. Clinton is discussing a recent government shutdown provoked by Ted Cruz in a failed attempt to get rid of Obamacare. She shows why this attempt might have failed and why Cruz overplayed his hand in his own bid to become president. As such, it contains some lessons for radicals who still hold out hope for a political path to the end of capitalism.

If Clinton is correct the Cruz shutdown threatened the most important advantage the US has enjoyed since 1971 and the collapse of Bretton Woods: the world reserve currency status of the dollar.

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Mapping the coming split on the radical Left

This paper by Dominic Heilig, Mapping the Left in Europe, has really got me thinking we may be watching the final disintegration of working class political parties. If you follow all the splits in the working class movement since the 1st International, as Heilig suggests, it soon becomes obvious the working class movement is not recombining on a new basis after each split, but only splintering further. The anarchists/Marxist split, the splits within social-democracy that produced the third International, the split within post-WWI communist parties beginning in the 1950s, etc., seems only to deepen the fragmentation of the working class movement; leaving it still less capable of effectively employing political power to emancipate itself from wage labor.

Heilig’s argument in this essay suggests the European Left is about to undergo still another disastrous split in the wake of the SYRIZA catastrophe.

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