The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

A proposed outline for Professor Varoufakis’s next book

This tweet just crossed my timeline:

Now he has resigned @yanisvaroufakis can get back to what really matters, heterodox microeconomics ( via @McCaineNL )

Nov_1948_strike_negotiations_AAD-5595The reference is to the post-referendum resignation of the wildly popular finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis. I guess he is supposed to get back to churning out stale academic writing no one reads because this is so much more important than discussing how his approach — fixing capitalism — worked in practice.

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Are communists aiming to be better managers?

Here is an interesting discussion of the strategy for abolition of wage slavery in Canada, by the Communist Party, “What is the Role of Private Production in Getting to Socialism?” The 2010 paper, by Asad Ali, examines the role of the market in such a transition and focuses on whether the continuation of private ownership is compatible with a socialist transition.

project_managementAli’s discussion is a particularly interesting look at ideas for a post-capitalist organization of society from a conventional Leninist perspective. It should be compared to similar discussion of Mondragon, participatory economies, workplace democracy, cooperatives and lessons from now defunct “market socialist” economies like Yugoslavia.

Ali cites two questions he thinks are relevant to the discussion: First, should there be a unified plan for the national economy? Second, should production on the basis of exchange value be allowed to continue? These are, of course, absurd questions for an advanced country like Canada, but are addressed in response to another writer, CJ Atkins of the Communist Party, USA, who, apparently, argues:

“[Using] a socialist market economy to get to socialism can be traced to the policies Lenin introduced in the Soviet Union.”

The discussion figures as well on the diagnosis of the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. According to Ali, “some have even suggested that some socialist countries abandoned the market too quickly”. Additionally, Ali argues this was an on-going debate in the defunct Soviet Union and other European ‘socialist’ countries that later collapsed.

“Some in the Communist movement say this is partially because their economy was too centralized and was not run on a profit basis.”

Unfortunately, although taking this view of the facts to task, Ali never asks the question whether the task of an advanced country like Canada can be the same as that of Lenin’s Russia in 1917. As always, it is Lenin whose discussion forms the basis for the debate on what socialism would look like in two countries that could not be more unlike Russia in 1917, the United States and Canada. This is a peculiarity of the Leninist school, where every discussion begins not with the concrete conditions at hand, but is channeled through Lenin. What possible similarity Ali finds between Russia in 1917 and Canada or the US today such that anything Lenin wrote in that period would be relevant is just screaming out for an answer. Does either Ali or Atkins believe communism in North America today is still some sort of workers’ state plus electrification? By what criterion should the critical tasks of a socialist transition to communism be measured? Are we really still so backward in the United States and Canada that the development of the productive forces even figures in the mix?

In his critique of the Gotha Programme of the German Social Democratic Party, Marx made an argument that should be familiar to Leninists:

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”

This argument by Marx cuts both ways: Yes, it is not possible to initially enjoy a higher level of communism than is already given in the development of the productive forces previously accomplished by capitalism. But Marx’s argument also has significant relevance to the discussion of what a socialist transition looks like in the United States, Canada and Mexico as well as for Europe for the simple fact that here development has long since eclipsed Russia in 1917 or Germany in 1870.

Where Germany in 1870 and Russia in 1917 could be characterized by great insufficiency of means of production and subsistence, Marxists in both North America and Europe today are discussing another problem: The massive expenditure of entirely superfluous labor in their respective national economies. By some estimates, this expenditure accounts for 65% of all labor expended by the working class. (See Harman) How does development of the productive forces in North America still figure as significant when the public sectors of Canada and the US (which produce nothing) account for at least 40% of the economy and require continuous deficit spending to maintain any capitalist growth at all? The state in the advanced countries literally has to create jobs to maintain full employment! Apple, the largest capitalist firm in the United States by valuation, is sitting on $170bn of excess capital it can find any use for. Labor force participation in the United States has been falling since 2001 and shows no signs of reversing — now lower than it was in 1977.

As Keynes put it, since 1929 the chief concern of the state has been to find new uses for a laboring population that is wholly superfluous. What are you going to do? Centralize the production of birthday emails and staff meetings?

We know capital reduces the labor time required for production of commodities, but we also know it does this only to lengthen labor time. It seems most Marxists have a beef with capital that it does not do enough of the latter; their complaint seems to be that not enough labor is being artificially created by the existing state and they promise to redouble this effort

Further, we know for a fact that the issue of the 21st century is not “centralization versus decentralization” of the economy, because the entire economy has already been “centralized” under the control of the state and managed through its economic policies. The state literally sets prices and interest rates through its economic policy tools, determines critical production decisions, controls national trade through so-called trade deals, etc.

That issue has already been decided by history and it is unlikely to be reversed. How much more centralized can production be without the state actually telling each factory what to produce? The only reason why the state doesn’t do this last is that it is the national capitalist and as such is not the least bit concerned with production of use values. The state as capitalist is only concerned with the production of surplus values, not use values. It is no surprise that the state doesn’t micro-manage each factory’s production, because it is concerned about the production of surplus value as a whole. It treat the whole of the national labor force as a single undifferentiated labor power, from which it extracts surplus value.

Ali’s discussion raises the question of whether communists have completely lost their focus. Are we not ultimately concerned with the abolition of wage labor or are we concerned with being better managers of production than the capitalist? According to Ali,

“The view of the Communist Party of China is that Marxism is, above all, about production and out-producing the old capitalist system”

Ali is correct to reject this argument. Even if we accept this formulation, it could only ever apply to China and countries in a similar situation, where 30-40% of the population is still engaged in farming. Raising the productiveness of agriculture labor and improving the lot of the farmers is an important aim for China, but what about the US, where less than on half of one percent of the population is engaged in agriculture? Almost half of all US farm production is concentrated in a thin slice of California and is almost entirely accomplished by machines.

Really, folks — wake up. We are not some backward, rural society looking forward to introduction of the light bulb as the next killer app. Even Mexico, the least developed of the 3 North American countries, is decades in development ahead of Lenin’s Russia in 1917.

With sufficient development of the productive forces the material basis for communism is basically achieved. The relevant question for communists in the advanced countries today is whether the productive forces are sufficiently developed to realize this. I have seen no credible argument suggesting this is not already the case today at least in North America (including Mexico) and Europe. What possible reason would there be to retain commodity production in the advanced countries when the state is forced to intervene in the economy to prevent deflation?

What does it mean when the state intervenes to prevent deflation? Doesn’t this mean prices are trying to go to zero? Doesn’t this mean commodity production is being propped up? The aim of communists is to get rid of labor, but the state intervenes to create jobs. Why? The aim of communists is a society based on the principle of “To each according to need”, but the state is trying to prevent deflation. Why?

The answer to all of these questions is that the state is desperately intervening in the economy to prevent the realization of communism, i.e., the abolition of labor.

“We state” (Universal competition, i.e., the praxis of capitalist society)

In part one of my post on the state and the abolition of labor, “We state”, I made six assertions regarding the relation between the two:

  • First, since historical materialism purports to be a scientific explanation of society, it imposes on us a requirement for proof that with the end of labor all forms of social domination come to an end.
  • Second, all forms of social domination, including sexism and racism, can be theoretically condensed into a single category, the state.
  • Third, condensing all form of social domination into the state broadens our definition of the state, so that the state is no longer a disembodied thing hovering over society, but becomes the actual praxis of its members, i.e., “We state”, meaning the state is first and foremost our activity.
  • Fourth, the state has a real history: it arises out of the actual praxis of society and conforms to this praxis, so that the specific character of the capitalist state conforms to the specific praxis of capitalist society. Capitalist society did not invent the state or commodity production, nor did it invent sexism, racism and other forms of domination.
  • Fifth, the capitalist state is first and foremost not a thing, but the praxis of capitalist society, it exists first in the activity of society and can be explained solely by this activity.
  • Sixth, the capitalist state is the first state in history that can be constituted solely by the activity of the exploited class itself.

Jim-crow-segregation-fepc-black-discrimination-employmentThe capitalist state, unlike all preceding states, requires no exploiter class and can be explained solely as the activity of the exploited class. The idea the capitalist state can be constituted by the exploited class alone will be repulsive to all of us, since it essentially blames the victim for their own oppression. If the existing state is in fact solely constituted by the activity of the proletariat, how is this horrific condition to be explained?

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Žižek On Moishe Postone: Marxism Today


Žižek On Moishe Postone: Marxism Today

Originally posted on dark ecologies:


Of course Moishe Postone known for his revisioning of Marxian theory in Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory, as well as his staunch thinking on modern anti-Semitism which among other things brings back that oppositional thinking between abstraction and the concrete in that for him the key to capitalist discourse is its reliance on abstraction, invisibility, automation, and impersonal domination.1

Even Slavoj Žižek will tell us that Moishe Postone is among those rare theorists who pursue the “critique of political economy,” with his attempt to rethink the actuality of Marx in the conditions following the disintegration of the Communist regimes in 1990.2 He will go on to say that Postone’s main reproach to “traditional” Marxist theory is that, at its heart, it relies on a transhistorical—and commonsensical—understanding of labor as an activity mediating humans and nature that transforms matter in a goal-directed manner and is…

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For Marx’s Accelerationism – against Post-war Marxism

I didn’t see this post in April when it was first published but I should have: “Against Accelerationism – For Marxism”, by reidkane. According to the writer, accelerationism aims to force down the wages of the working class and thus goad them to organize and fight back:

“‘Acceleration’ is ambivalent; it is regressive in that it is the mechanism by which the conditions of the working class are forced downwards, but progressive to the extent that this is mediated by political radicalization.”

This a quite wrongly stated, at least insofar as the idea can be traced to Marx and Engels.

The accelerationist project as Marx and Engels explained it

szwPygbHere is what I do understand about Accelerationism, and it is all taken from a couple of sentences in the Communist Manifesto, written, as you probably know, by the original accelerationists, Marx and Engels — a couple of guys I tend to trust when it comes to historical materialism because they invented it:

“We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

The first part is probably uncontroversial: the proletariat aims to displace the bourgeoisie as the ruling class of society. We can agree with this idea, at least insofar as it implies the previous ruling class is pushed off the stage and forced to get a real job. Leaving aside whether Marx and Engels could get a quorum for this idea is another question, as well as whether this made sense. In any case, they thought it might be nice for the working class to organize itself as the ruling class of society as it first step. They thought this — there is no controversy about this; no one suggests Nick Land came up with the idea of seizing political power on his own.

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Third-Worldism: How to stop communism with a 2% wage increase

I’m reading a fascinating book: “Divided World, Divided Class” by Zak Cope that was recommended to me by Justin Wooten (@justinwooten on twitter). It’s completely wrong, but the writer exhaustively lays out the case for a bribed first world working class.

This is the labor aristocracy theory explanation for why the class struggle in the advanced countries is muted. Cope introduces his argument for the theory this way:

“This book began as an attempt to understand the regularity and intensity of racist and imperialist attitudes and beliefs within the working class of the advanced capitalist nations in order to explain the evident disinterest and disdain with which it greets revolutionary socialist ideas.”

maxresdefaultYou see, if the working class rejects the self-evident truth of ‘revolutionary socialist ideas’, they must somehow be defective. If we could just figure out what this defect is, we may be able to remedy it. If we can’t remedy it, then we should turn our attention to workers who don’t have this defect. Those less bribed workers, of course, are located in the oppressed countries of the world market.

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“We state” (Does the end of labor mean the end of the state?)

1. Is v= 0 a formula for the end of the state as well?

What is the impact of the end of the capitalist mode of production on the state itself. That is, what happens to the state when v = 0? How does the abolition of labor relate to the abolition of the state? What about other forms of social domination like sexism and racism? Do these disappear simply because v = 0?

we stateV, of course, is the notation used in labor theory to denote the employment of living human labor in the production of material wealth. When v = 0, the employment of living labor in the production of material wealth has ceased. In the extreme scenario (although this might not be necessarily true), production is now carried on entirely by machines. With living labor no longer involved in the production of material wealth, value and surplus value are no longer being produced and the capitalist mode of production collapses.

The argument Marxists have made for years, and for which they have been criticized, is that with the abolition of labor in the production of material wealth the state itself disappears. The argument is extended to other forms of social domination like male and white supremacy often on basis of the argument that these are no more than expressions of the general domination of labor by capital.

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James Petras and the dying Cult of the Three Saints

James Petras has an article in which he tries to describe what he calls the rise of the non-leftist Left, The Rise of the Non Leftist Left
The Radical Reconfiguration of Southern European Politics.

By the non-leftist Left, Petras means the new players in Europeans politics, like SYRIZA and Podemos, who defy “traditional” Left politics. According to Petras, these new elements, “no longer are qi52893be9based on class conscious workers nor are they embedded in the class struggle. With the decline of unions in the advanced countries, he argues we are witnessing the emergence of a “middle class radicalism”. This middle class radicalism is accompanied on the Right, by escalating state repression instead of state economic intervention. The repressive intervention of the state aims to completely dismantle the social welfare programs that emerged immediately after World War II. The non-leftist Left that has emerged to resist this sort of state intervention advocates a horizontal-style but practices top down politics aimed at securing state power. On the Right, the fascists no longer pursue national autarky, but willingly strip their countries of national sovereignty.

I think Petras missed the opportunity to coin a useful term here. In place of “non-leftist Left”, I would have called it the neoliberal Left. Same letters could be used “NLL”, but “neoliberal Left” like its predecessor “social-fascism” more accurately describes what is taking place. The term, social-fascist, was self-explanatory: fascist economic policies advocated by the socialist parties of the Second International. In the same way, “neoliberal Left” describes the neoliberal policies of a rump collection of Third International political formations.

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A policy framework that kills capitalism, rather than fixing it

albert-einsteinI am in the process of reading a book with a very long title, Black hole: how an idea abandoned by Newtonians, hated by Einstein, and gambled on by Hawking became loved by Marcia Bartusiak.

According to Bartusiak,  few scientists believed Einstein’s theory had any practical use before mid-century. Einstein’s theory wasn’t even taught in most universities and Newton’s theory was thought to be adequate:

“After the flurry of excitement in 1919, when a famous solar eclipse measurement triumphantly provided the proof for Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the noted physicist’s new outlook on gravity came to be largely ignored. Isaac Newton’s take on gravity worked just fine in our everyday world of low velocities and normal stars, so why be concerned with the minuscule adjustments that general relativity offered? What was its use? “Einstein’s predictions refer to such minute departures from the Newtonian theory,” noted one critic, “that I do not see what all the fuss is about.” After a while, Einstein’s revised vision of gravity appeared to have no particular relevance at all. By the time that Einstein died, in 1955, general relativity was in the doldrums.”

As I read Bartusiak’s book it occurred to me that much the same is true of Marx’s theory. Marx’s labor theory of value, although a giant step beyond the classical theorists of his time, and despite initially producing a huge wave of revolutionary fervor, has mostly been ignored at least since the 1930s.

The depression that never ended

In his own book, Austerity, the history of a dangerous idea, Mark Blyth argues that Marxists in Germany in the 1930s assumed the Great Depression be like any previous crisis– it would devalue excess capital and establish a basis for a new expansion. Although Blyth is only speaking of the SPD he may have a point. Every previous crisis had unfolded that way. Why would the Great Depression be different? No one at the time knew things had changed forever, nor how they had changed forever. Most of all no one seems to have realized that only with the Great Depression did Marx’s theory really become relevant to policy.

Most economists, even Marxist economists, are not accustomed to thinking about labor theory as a policy framework. Even for self-identified Marxists like SYRIZA in Greece or the SWP in Britain Keynes not Marx provides the policy framework. This leads to the sort of theoretical contradictions highlighted by SYRIZA MP and Marxist economist Costas Lapavitsas that the Keynesian policies he advocates are designed to save capital not kill it:

“Keynes is not Marx, and Keynesianism is not Marxism. Of course there’s a gulf between them, and it’s pretty much as you have said. Marxism is about overturning capitalism and heading towards socialism. It has always been about that, and it will remain about that. Keynesianism is not about that. It’s about improving capitalism and even rescuing it from itself. That’s exactly right.”

Hence in an ironic turn of a phrase usually applied by Stalinists to Trotskyists, Marxists appear to oppose capitalism everywhere but where it exists. If you ask Marxists what they would actually do once elected they could hardly give you anything more Marxist than SYRIZA’S Thessaloniki programme. The program that Marxists run on in elections is not their complete program, of course, and they will emphasize this, but it is their ‘immediate’ program to ‘address the crisis'; while their full program is overthrow of capitalism.

I would argue this sort of division between immediate and full program is what became obsolete in the 1930s.

The breakdown of marginalist school theory

How does this relate to Bartsiak’s insightful observation about Einstein’s theory? When scientists began to test the limits of Newton’s theory its limitations became apparent and Einstein’s theory became necessary. Bartusiak observed that Newton’s theory was good enough to get us to the moon and back, but broke down after that. In a similar sense, marginalist theory worked up until the Great Depression, but proved incapable of addressing the sort of mass unemployment that erupted in the 1930s.

Marx’s theory certainly predicted the emergence of mass unemployment, but this prediction, although interesting, was irrelevant until capitalism reached a certain point in its development. Up until that point, economists could ignore the contradiction between production on the basis of exchange value and production for profit. Which is to say, they could ignore the contradiction between values of commodities and their capitalistic prices of production. Even if this contradiction existed, as a practical matter the mode of production was motivated by profit, not by exchange value. As a practical matter, if you want to transform values into prices, said Paul A. Samuelson:

“It’s easy, you erase [Marx’s labor] values and replace them with prices of production”.

This is how things stood until the Great Depression, when, as former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke put it, the gold standard mysteriously “malfunctioned”; transmitting the shock of absolute overaccumulation throughout the entire world market. Capitalism, in short, had gone to the moon and back, but it was now on the frontier of an economy where marginalism was inadequate.

Why would Marx’s theory be particularly relevant beginning with the Great Depression? First, because in Marx’s theory capitalism constantly reduces the socially necessary labor time required for production of commodities. The reduction of the socially necessary labor time required for production of commodities is the reduction of the values of commodities. Second, and simultaneously, capitalism constantly extends the labor time of the social producers so as to maximize its profits. With the values of individual commodities declining, and the total labor time of society increasing, the mass of commodities produced during the labor day grows phenomenally.

It is true that new consumer needs are created by, and new export markets open up to, this massive torrent of commodities, but eventually, as Keynes observed, the growing productive capacity of social labor outstrips any and all new uses for labor. Commodities can no longer be sold at their prices of production, because the average rate of profit has fallen to zero. The capitalist mode of production has reached the limits of the expansion of capital, of production of surplus value, production for profit.

In Marx’s labor theory, the capitalist price of a commodity is some duration of living labor, divided into necessary and surplus labor time. This gives us the mathematical expression, v+s. This is opposed to the simple labor value of a commodity, whose price is mathematically expressed as v. The capitalist commodity production price is maintained by extending the labor of the worker beyond the point necessary given the technological development of the productive forces. This extension is mathematically expressed as s — i.e., surplus value or surplus labor time. So long as the labor time of the social producers can be extended beyond what is necessary for their material need, surplus value is created.

Thus, at the point where capitalistically produced commodities can no longer be sold at their prices of production, the labor time of the social producers can no longer be extended beyond that duration necessary to satisfy their material needs. The surplus labor time of the social producers, no matter how great or materially necessary, produces no new value. Since capitalist production is the production of surplus value, it halts, and must of necessity halt, at the point where labor no longer produces value.

Animal spirits versus labor time

This cessation of production is not a subjective phenomenon; the result of animal spirits, or inadequate demand; nor is it the result of malinvestment, overproduction of commodities or too little money or some other nonsense. The source of the collapse of capitalist production is too much capital, i.e., the production of surplus value, production for profit. Capital suffocates on its own capacity for self-expansion. So soon as capital has successfully reconstructed society in its image, the means by which it overturns the old society — by extending the labor time of the producers and increasing the productivity of labor — becomes a weapon turned against itself.

Like Einstein’s theory in the natural sciences, Marx’s theory only proved significant when society had actually crossed the threshold of absolute overaccumulation. Until that time, capitalist production went through crises, but these crises were simply momentary forcible adjustments that paved the way for new capitalist expansions. When the Great Depression hit, everyone thought it would end up the same way — a short-term forcible readjustment of capitalist production. In fact, the depression never ended; it just went on and on without any let up. As in the case of Greece today, no one realized something had changed permanently with the way capitalism worked.

When it comes to policy, Marx’s argument is not well understood even by Marxist economists and certainly not by anyone else. To understand why this is true, doesn’t take much analysis. We can all agree that Marx essentially called for the abolition of wage labor. This call by Marx is typically cast in a political context: The working class must seize political power and employ its position as the new ruling class to work out its emancipation. There is, in fact, nothing about this political interpretation of Marx’s theory that is wrong or even misunderstood, per se.

However, what most people overlook is that Marx did not make this argument out of the blue, i.e., he was not describing his peculiar blueprint for society, nor a vision of the future that could be imposed by political measures. For Marx, capitalism was already in the process of abolishing labor by developing the productive forces of society. The proletariat could not abolish labor unless, simply because it wanted to end wage slavery, any more than slaves could abolish slavery simply because they wanted to be free.

What the proletariat had that slaves did not is that the capitalist mode of production itself was already headed toward abolition of wage slavery — something that was never true of slavery. The proletariat could accelerate the process already under way in the capitalist mode of production, because the way capital accomplished the abolition of labor periodically created obstacles to that historical result. Properly armed with theory, the working class could remove those obstacles and emancipate itself. Simply removing the obstacles to the development of social labor was sufficient to accelerating the process.

Every crisis is a crisis of overwork

The biggest obstacle to development of the productive forces was the tendency toward overaccumulation of capital. But the overaccumulation of capital resulted solely from the extension of hours of labor of the social producers beyond that duration socially necessary for production of commodities. Marx’s theory states that the solution to any crisis of capitalism is simply to reduce hours of labor.

Perhaps, he got this wrong; perhaps he dropped a stitch somewhere. In that case, those who accuse Marx of getting it wrong have to explain why every crisis is accompanied by a general social demand for Keynesian stimulus to achieve full employment. If hours of labor are not the problem, why does the fascist state have to create jobs to maintain full employment? Why does every crisis generate political calls for job creation or a subsistence stipend for those without jobs? Why do even the opponents of the working class drape their proposals in the flag of job creation?

If Marx’s theory is correct, the only policy any Marxist needs to advocate “to address the crisis” is a reduction of hours of labor. But the reduction of hours of labor is itself only the progressive abolition of wage slavery itself. Thus, the immediate program of Marxists to “address the crisis” is EXACTLY the same as their full program; there is no longer the contradiction of an immediate program to address a capitalist crisis that saves capitalism rather than killing it.

Why must the organization of the proletarians be global?

Here is a question directed to me from Due to space limitations, a portion of my answer was cut off, so I am publishing in full here:

“can you expand on your idea that class is a totality (assuming global) and not national?”

This is determined by the proletariat itself, its material conditions of existence, and in first place, by the material requirements of directly social production. Uniquely for the proletariat, the productive forces employed by it only exist as a totality within the world market. For this class, as opposed, for instance, to the peasant, the means of production cover the entire globe and can only be set in motion by the combined effort of the entire class together.

The producer here is not the individual workers each employing her own means of production, but the collective body of workers, who are compelled to cooperate to employ what is essentially a single gigantic machine which operation must be coordinated as if under a single will although it is spread out over both time and space. In this highly developed mode of social labor, no single act of labor is complete in and of itself, but only appears as a link, or stage, in a chain of much larger and more sophisticated act of production. The workers are bound together in an act of social production in which their own actions are inseparable from the acts of billions of others

workers-unite-tag1This imposes unique constraints on the proletariat that are unprecedented in all of human history. The action of a worker in Shanghai, must be coordinated with the actions of workers in New Delhi, Durban, Oslo, Bogota and Chicago. And these separate acts of production are separated not only in space over the face of the globe, but perhaps by months or years in time.

The global character of the means of production created by capitalism necessarily must be reflected in an association of producers that is itself global in nature. The association of the social producers must, by definition, extend beyond every border where the mode of production has already extended modern trade. This is because the labor of the social producers is a single act of production although composed as it is of billions of separate acts. A single machine requires a single will to set it in motion, i.e., a mass of individuals who cooperate according to a predetermined plan. It requires, in other words, that the totality of production be brought under the conscious control of the individuals concerned.

How can this be achieved? How is it possible to subordinate the productive activities of billions of individuals to a single will? It just doesn’t seems possible without some sort of despotic power over these individuals, right? This implies not social emancipation, but converting all of society into a miserable work house.

This is usually as far as most “socialists” get before they throw up their hands or let their imaginations take flight with fantasies of “market socialism”. The contradiction between the material needs of production (which are not and cannot be subject to debate and democracy) and the self-activity of individuals appears irresolvable. This contradiction is indeed real and can only be resolved on the basis of a very high level of development of the productive forces. It requires, in first place, that the material needs of production can be satisfied in very little time.

So long as the needs of production consume the greater portion of the time of individuals, society is condemned to poverty and the despotism. This poverty is not simply (or even primarily) the lack of means to satisfy wants, but the lack of opportunity for self-activity and self-development. Only when directly social production appears on the stage, does it become possible for the material needs of production to be so reduced that self-activity and self-development become ends in themselves. The measure of this state of society is the free disposable time enjoyed by all members of society.

A global association of the producers, therefore, sets as its immediate aim the constant expansion of free disposable time away from labor. But the constant expansion of free disposable time is nothing but the abolition of labor, the working class itself and classes generally.


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