The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

I have begun work on a guide for activists interested in the complete abolition of wage slavery

Those who are interested can access the text on Google Docs here: “Getting beyond “radical political change”. Comments and suggestions on the text are appreciated.

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Just to be absolutely clear on why hours of labor has continued to grow …

Excerpt from President Truman’s State of the Union Address in 1951:

The size of the present targets for national security programs is not sufficiently great to call for an all-out labor effort of the peak World War II magnitude, nor to give absolute guides as to the extent to which we should seek to draw into the labor force additional people beyond those who would enter on the basis of normal population growth. Nor is the extent to which we should rely on lengthened working hours, as an alternative to expansion of numbers, determined in the present situation. If, however, our national security programs are to be fulfilled, and if, in addition, we are to increase our productive strength and maintain civilian consumption at reasonable levels, it is clear that a labor input substantially above the level of the past few years will be required. (My emphasis)

Any goddamn Marxist academic who pretends it is some sort of mystery why wage slavery continues to grow today clearly is a charlatan or worse — a knowing or ignorant agent of the fascist state. People who are unfamiliar with Truman’s argument have nothing to add to the discussion. They either have not done their homework or are trying to bury history.

David Spencer spreads more academic myths about why wage slavery continues to grow

A new academic monograph on the problem of labor time and its stubborn growth despite the tendency toward technological unemployment that is inherent in capital has been posted on Reddit. The paper is, Fear and hope in an age of mass automation, by David A. Spencer. Spencer argues that,

“[Work] will likely persist, despite and indeed because of the wider use of new technology. The threat to workers from technology is seen to come more from the erosion in the quality of work than from the loss of work. The paper argues that a better future for work and workers ultimately depends on broader changes in ownership.

Work is what Spencer calls wage slavery — apparently chosen for its neutral, even ambiguous meaning. Can’t call it wage slavery, now can we?

Spencer argues the Keynes got it wrong: the constant improvement on the productivity of social labor — Spencer cites studies that estimate labor today is 15 to 18 times more productive than in the mid-18th century — is leading not to the end of wage slavery as Keynes predicted, but to increasingly repulsive employment conditions and a longer working day. Spencer attributes this paradox to two factors: consumerism and declining worker bargaining power.

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Some remarks on Pecunity’s “Rejoinder” on the one commodity model

Another blogger, who goes by the pen name of Pecunity, recently took issue with me on my discussion of the so-called one commodity model in a blog post, “Rejoinder to the Real Movement’s Critique of Sraffa”.

He finds my discussion to be sloppy, to say the least, and most of all wildly wrong.

Let me say at the outset, my discussion may indeed have been sloppy and wrong, however, in my defense, I was trying to highlight issues that I think are relevant to a host of problems that can all be gathered together under the subject of the so-called transformation problem.

—– begin snoozing here —–

I think the transformation problem is extremely important, because, when properly understood, it can be shown that, for Marx’s labor theory of value, this problem predicts the eventual collapse of the capitalist mode of production.

A lot is hanging on any reading of Marx in relation to this issue, as should be obvious.

Marx’s approach to the problem of how labor values are converted into capitalist prices of production is very controversial. Even apart from the claim that Marx made substantial mistakes in his actual exposition, many claim he fundamentally flubbed the answer with his approach.

Bohm-Bawerk, for instance, was the first to claim Marx basically threw out volume one of Capital as he began to describe the process of conversion of labor values into capitalist prices of production in volume three. Others have made similar allegations of inconsistency against Marx. Still others have tried, through various methodologies, to reproduce Marx’s results through arguments which, in my opinion, significantly differ from Marx’s core argument.

The problem in large part shared by all of these efforts for or against Marx’s approach is that they all seem to agree Marx was trying to ‘solve’ the problem of how labor values are converted into prices. It is my contention that Marx was actually trying to show why labor values could not be converted into capitalist prices of production. What Marx was trying to show, I contend, is that capitalist prices of production inevitably lead to the complete collapse of capitalism — to the breakdown of production based on exchange (labor) value.

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“We’ll get back to you on that later.” –Benanev and Clegg

This is the final part of this series. I know you are as happy to hear this as I am to say it. I want nothing more than to put these unethical charlatans behind me.

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How the geniuses at Endnotes buried the critical role of the state and crippled the argument for communization

In the next two sections of their essay, titled, respectively, Surplus Populations Under Deindustrialisation and Surplus Capital Alongside Surplus Populations, Benanev and Clegg must now explain how technological unemployment did not lead to the collapse of wage slavery as Keynes predicted. They have to show, why, despite growing surplus capital and a growing surplus population of workers, capital still managed to create hundreds of millions of new wage jobs world wide after 1973. Somehow we have to get a mass of excess capital and a mass of technologically unemployed workers to combine into millions of shiny new fast-food jobs and favelas.

Simple enough, right?

I thought so too. So, imagine my shock when, having not yet even begun to offer us an explanation, Benanev and Clegg summarily throw in the towel and tell us,

“Unfortunately we will be able to do little more that touch on this subject matter here, leaving a more extended treatment to Endnotes no.3.”

I was so disappointed.

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Empirical evidence for the proposition that production based on exchange value has collapsed

Whether production based on exchange value has broken down is subject to rather formidable objections from almost all Marxist theorists. So far as I can tell, not a single Marxist today thinks such an event could happen, much less that it has already happened.

Fair enough. I will prove they are wrong.

Warning: This post is even more tedious and unreadable than usual.

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How Benanev and Clegg tried to obscure the role of the post-war state in maintaining wage slavery (Part 1)

I want to emphasize two points about what the Endnotes collective is trying to accomplish with this essay, before moving on with the rest of this useless economic argument for communization. In this post and the next, I want to set up an argument that will be important for what follows.

That argument can be stated as follows:

The continuous intervention of the bourgeois state in the economy is now essential to the maintenance of the system of wage slavery.

This is what the Endnotes collective is trying to conceal with their blatant bastardization of Marx’s theory. This bastardization is premised on two essential arguments:

First, Benanev and Clegg, writing on behalf of the Endnotes collective, strip Marx’s theory of its fundamental categories, value and surplus value. This reduces Marx’s theory to a description of a technical process of production. In this technical description, worthy of a first year introduction to microeconomics textbook, technical changes in in methods of production lead inevitably to scarcity of wage employment. As Keynes puts it, technological development leads to technological unemployment; the means of economizing on the employment of wage labor in production outruns the pace at which capital can find new uses for wage labor.

Second, having throttled Marx’s theory with this purely technical description of the capitalist process of accumulation, Benanev and Clegg offer historical evidence that Marx has been refuted. Wage employment did not become scarce, say these two academics. Marx’s theory was an incomplete description of process of capitalist accumulation:

What Marx did not foresee, and what actually occurred in the 1890s, was the emergence of new industries that were simultaneously labour and capital absorbent, and which were able to put off the decline for more than half a century. The growth of these new industries, principally cars and consumer durables, depended on two 20th century developments: the increasing role of the state in economic management, and the transformation of consumer services into consumer goods.

In this post, I want to address these two allegations level by the Endnotes collective against Marx’s theory in reverse order. In the next post, I will provide supporting empirical data for my argument.

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Where Marx went wrong — according to Benanev and Clegg

I am continuing with my examination of the Endnotes collective’s economic argument for communization. This argument is outlined in Endnotes 2, in an essay, titled Misery and Debt, by Aaron Benanav and John Clegg.

In two sections of their essay, respectively titled “The crisis of Reproduction” and “From Re-industrialization to De-industialization”, these meatheads summarize the alleged defects of Marx’s theory of accumulation this way: Marx identifies a shift from labor-intensive to capital-intensive industries. This results in a fall in the demand for labour in new industrial lines as well as old. At first, the unemployed wage workers thrown off by this shift, tend to be reabsorbed into the circuits of capitalism. But, In time, they tend to outgrow this function and become absolutely redundant. Capital thus tend to produce a population of wage workers who become absolutely redundant to the needs of capitalist production. Left unchecked the relative decline in labour demand becomes absolute. At first, this prediction by Marx was born out by the evidence available in his time, say the writers.

Over time, both a growing population of workers and a growing mass of capital would be unable to find a place in the production process. In this way, the proletariat as a class progressively is locked out of all productive employment. Capital proletarianizes the small producers, but these newly created proletarians cannot sell their labor power because, by gaining employment, they undermine their own material conditions of existence. Wage-labor is inseparable from the accumulation of capital, but the rising productivity of social labor reduces the demand for wage labor. Thus, in a society based on wage-labor, the reduction of socially-necessary labor-time expresses itself in a growing scarcity of jobs.

All good, right? Marx predicted the end of capitalism based on the growing scarcity of wage employment?

Well, not so much.

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How Endnotes’ Benanev and Clegg deliberately crippled Marx’s argument on the abolition of wage labor

The economic argument for communization made by the rockets scientists from Endnotes is weakened because, despite their assertion that, “Communism necessitates the abolition of a multifaceted relation that has evolved over time”, they appear to think that, “to abolish it simply means that we cease to constitute value, and it ceases to constitute us.”

Now, I may be missing some subtlety, but this idiocy is stated as if 7 billion people can simply flip a switch and abolish all present relations, replacing them with new communist relations. In other words, if communism and capitalism were represented in a Venn diagram, the categories, communism and capitalism, do not overlap. The brainiacs at Endnotes tells us that this is now the only way we can conceive of the transition from capitalism to communism.

In my opinion, communization is posed this way by our friends at Endnotes most likely not to theoretically facilitate a communization movement, but to obscure Marx’s fundamental theoretical argument. This is a strong charge, I know. But I will demonstrate it by examining the argument made by Aaron Benanev and John Clegg, in their essay, On the Logic and History of Surplus Populations and Surplus Capital.

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The Endnotes collective makes the economic case for communization. Hilarity ensues.

In 2010, the Endnotes collective tried (and failed, badly) to assess the implications of the 2008 financial collapse for the long run viability of capitalism. Would the massive devalorization of capital, experienced by society in that crisis, give way to a new golden age of wage employment similar to the one we experienced following World War 2 — roughly between 1945-1971?

The question remains important because the communization tendency (of which Endnotes is said to be a part) argues that it is no longer possible to imagine a transition to communism on the basis of a prior victory of the working class as working class. The proletarians cannot seize political power and wield it for their emancipation; rather, they must immediately put an end to themselves as a class.

The Endnotes’ argument for this proposition is murky, perhaps deliberately stated in an ambiguous fashion. I will spend some time trying to understand why.

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