IT AIN’T YOUR FUCKING STATE: So stop whining about the GOP shutting Washington down!

by Jehu

If you look at the whole of the world market, the ruling classes of nearly every nation now is locked in deep political crisis and paralysis. The shutdown in Washington is not exceptional in this regard; it simply means that crisis has reached the core of the fascist world.

shutdownOne of the things the US had going for it in its “fight against deflation”, according to Bernanke, is that it had no political crisis. His argument was that Japan was unable to implement good monetary policy to prevent deflation because it also suffered a political crisis. This turned out to be untrue, once the depression began to be fully expressed in the US, a crisis in the ruling class emerged along with it just as had been the case in Japan.

The crisis stems from the fact that, from the point of view of capital, wages are both too high and too low. With regards to employment of labor power for the purpose of production of surplus value, wages are too high and must fall. However, with regards to the realization of this surplus value in exchange as profits, wages are too low and must rise. The ruling class is split on how to address this perplexing problem, but of course, this is not a problem of wages at all. The fact that wages appear both too high and too low at the same time means the problem is not wages but profits. Which is to say, no matter which problem they try to address, it cannot fix the problem that the rate of profit has fallen to zero.

The report by the IMF on Greece graphically displays this: slashing wages in various ways initially appeared to work, but its effectiveness soon dissipated and proved completely illusory. According to the IMF that aim was to realize a 20%-30% reduction in wages to boost profits. However, it quickly became obvious that, although the target was reached, the financial system failed and a prolonged depression emerged.

“Market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30 percent of its deposits, and the economy encountered a much-deeper-than-expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment. Public debt remained too high and eventually had to be restructured, with collateral damage for bank balance sheets that were also weakened by the recession.  Competitiveness improved somewhat on the back of falling wages, but structural reforms stalled and productivity gains proved elusive. “

No matter how deeply the Troika and Greece’s ruling class cut the wages paid for labor power the production of surplus value collapsed with it. It is like the capitalist class had to learn the lesson of the Great Depression all over again, to prove to itself slashing wages can’t work.

If slashing wages can’t work to end this crisis, what about increasing wages? There are a whole school of activists who think, following Kalecki, that increasing wages must increase profits and restore “balance”. These folks look only at one side of the ledger, when the worker takes her wages to purchase the wages goods she has produced. But this argument rests on the notion, smuggled into their argument and not admitted, that profits have already been reduced by the increase in wages themselves. And since it is profit, not wages, that is the spur of production in this mode, any effort that reduces profits reduces employment. Although the average wages of the working class may have increased as individuals, the employment of labor power overall suffers.

In this case if the working class should successfully increase its wages by political means, it will be compelled to seize the total capital. It will have to do this because capital will respond by tossing the class into the streets. The working class will be increasingly cut off from the means of production and must take steps to secure those means. This is a point Kliman makes, even if he does it in a ham-handed fashion: attempts to raise wages produces a reflexive response by capital. For this reason, the measure is economically insufficient, and requires additional steps. There is nothing to say here that wages cannot be raised, only that this increase cannot also raise profits as Kalecki argued stupidly.

While one wing of the ruling class proposes to outright slash the subsistence of the working class in Washington, the other wing has another tack: It proposes to reduce the wage goods that the wages of the working class can purchase, while leaving nominal wages intact. This notion held by the dominant wing of the ruling class is based on Keynes’ notion of the difference between real and nominal wages.

But what are real wages and what are nominal wages? Nominal wages is simply the currency paid out to the worker in exchange for her labor power, denominated in dollars or another currency. Real wages, by contrast, is the actual basket of wages goods — physical commodities — needed by the worker to maintain her condition as a worker. The exchange value of labor power in a transaction consists of these two forms: the nominal, or apparent form and the real, or material, form.

These two forms are split into two phases of the circulation of commodities as described in chapter two of Capital vol. 1. In the first phase, the worker sells her commodity, labor power, for a sum of currency and the capitalist takes ownership of the labor power. In the second phase, the same capitalist sells the worker the commodities she need to reproduce herself in exchange for the sum of currency. We have a complete circuit of the commodity as Marx described it: C-M-C.

But notice: labor power has its own value and the wages goods have their own value, however the currency between them has no value. In an inconvertible fiat currency regime, the currency has been debased from a commodity money. It no longer represents this money in circulation even symbolically, but has replaced it entirely. From the point of view of the circulation of commodities, therefore, we do not have C-M-C, but C-(X)-C, where X is an unknown. In other words, the value of the commodities the worker can purchase with her currency wages is unknown, since the currency itself has no value.

This has to be clear, in order to grasp what this section of the ruling class is doing: the currency has no value and represents nothing. The currency does not represent the value of the labor power (not even symbolically) and it does not represent the value of the wage goods. Once the workers has exchanged her labor power for wages in the form of fiat, she has nothing but paper in her hands. And the value of this paper is, like all commodities, equal to its socially necessary labor time: in this case, virtually zero. Moreover, if you take an ounce of gold and divide it into 100 pieces, each piece will represent 1/100th of the value of the ounce. If you take a 100 dollar bill and divide it into 100 pieces, each is not worth 1 dollar — it is worthless. Finally, a single dollar, a ten dollar bill or a hundred dollar bill require exactly the same amount of labor time; however there is a huge difference in the purchasing power of a stack of georges, and a stack of benjamins.

The result of my reasoning is this: there is absolutely no connection between the value of labor power and the value of wage goods under a fiat currency regime. It was precisely to sever this relationship between labor power and wages goods that the currency was severed from commodity money. With the relation between the value of wage goods and the value of labor power severed, the subsistence of the working class can be reduced, while nominal wages need not fall.

Thus while one wing of the ruling class in Washington wants to slash the subsistence of the working class outright and end up like Greece, the other wing proposes to reduce the subsistence of the working class in such a way that nominal prices are not affected. Since the problem of any depression is overproduction of capital and its necessary devaluation, i.e., deflation of price this wing proposes deflation can be avoided by a monetary cheat of some sort.

So, the Left is incorrect to imply that Obama and Boehner are at odds in any way over reduction of the real subsistence of the working class. What they both agree on is precisely that the real subsistence  of the working class must be reduced and, moreover, they have no choice in this matter. It is not a question whether there are food stamps or not, Social Security or not, ACA or not. Even if we assume all of these programs are ultimately saved, the aim is still to devalue the real subsistence of the working class. The Left has fallen for a pure and simple monetary cheat — a cheap book-keeping gimmick — and they can’t get up. They keep looking at the valueless pieces of scrip the fascist state counterfeits and ignoring the real devaluation of wages.

You do this because you are just the sort of morons Keynes spoke of in his General Theory: You will fight over any reductions of valueless paper currency wages but completely ignore how the real subsistence of the class is devalued. His entire theory relies on you being distracted by fucking food stamp programs or WIC, while your real wages are devalued. If you don’t fucking believe me, read his fucking book and show otherwise. Don’t tell me what you read from John Bellamy Foster, or some other idiot — read the fucking book, people! You don’t have to understand a single word of Capital or anything about labor theory to understand Keynes when he writes this:

“it would be impracticable to resist every reduction of real wages, due to a change in the purchasing-power of money …”

You don’t need to know anything about Marx, Engels, labor theory, the law of value, or even think that shit is useful to activists. All you have to do is READ HIS FUCKING WORDS. The only thing your fucking precious food stamp program does is spread the pain of poverty over a greater number of workers. The only thing your precious fucking Obamacare program does is force healthy young people to subsidize Eli Lilly’s bottom line.

This is not based on my interpretation of political events, it is not some Left punditry you can get from Richard Wolff or John Bellamy Foster, nor the “moderate” argument of a Doug Henwood, or some other idiot demanding “green Keynesianism”. These are the unedited words of the bourgeois simpletons themselves. Both sides in this conflict in Washington agree that real wages must fall, they have no choice in this matter since wages must go to zero in any case. What they disagree over is whether nominal wages should fall even as real wages fall. This has no significance to us whatsoever, since we do not eat paper dollars. If we ate dollars or gold, instead of simply using these money forms to buy wage goods, then it would make a difference. But we don’t so, for us, the only thing of significance is the real wage — which, again, must go to zero.

This is what causes paralysis among the Left: wages must go to zero, but the Left can’t wrap their heads around this inevitability. They cannot move from the conception of the class struggle as a struggle to increase wages to one where the struggle is to abolish wages. And, in reality, it appears there is no way to get there conceptually. But rather than accept that wages must go to zero, that wage labor must be abolished, they engage in choosing side among the ruling class factions. Choosing side between factions of the ruling class does not in any mitigate the fact that wages must go to zero, since both sides agree that the real wages must fall.

And it is not as though there is one law of value for capitalists and another for the working class — both classes must accept this reality. The distinction between the two classes is this: the working class can live quite well without wages, but capitalism must die. Which is really fucking odd, since, as a practical matter, it appears exactly the opposite: the working class is hurt by falling wages, not capital. The working class, therefore, resists every fall in its wages, while the capitalist pursues every opportunity to reduce wages.

The process cannot be properly understood if we confine ourselves to the logic of capital, where workers fight reduction in wages and the capitalist tries to reduce them still further. Within this context the abolition of labor cannot be the aim of the working class, no matter its likely result. People will look at you like you are an idiot if you tell them, “Oh, fuck it, we don’t need wages anyway.” I know this because you tell me so all the time.

The problem has to be conceptualized from the point of view of future society, not the present. But even here, we cannot substitute our imagination for what can be demonstrated at present. Which is to say, we can only assume what we can theoretically demonstrate: since wages must go away, we must be able reproduce ourselves as humans without wage slavery. How this future society might look is not the issue, but that it must happen is already given by the fact wages must go to zero.

So when we say wages must go away, we are only stating society will not be organized around labor in any form. We can put aside all the things associated with labor itself, with production, and with the organization of production. None of that shit is important, since, if it was, wages would not go to zero. Wages cannot go to zero if production and the organization of production was the determining problem of present society. Yet, on the Left, the description of a post-capitalist society always begin with how labor will be organized — this is fucking silly. Empirically, wage labor cannot go away, no matter how much we demand it does, if the problem of organization of production persists.

So stop fucking perseverating on this, people.

Who gives a fuck how labor is organized since the organization of labor is not an issue in the first place. You already know this unconsciously, since every time you contemplate the problem of organization of production, you can’t get rid of wages. Wages continue to loom as a necessary feature of society. This is not because wages are a necessary feature of society at present, but because you assume they are. Which is to say, you think labor must have some imposed necessary form of organization. Once you start from the premise that the activity of individuals must be imposed on them by some means, you reproduce the wage relation in whatever form — money wages or central planning.

To put this in simple terms: we cannot win by making this a fight over wages. In any case the wages of the working class must go to zero.

NOTHING CAN PREVENT WAGES FROM GOING TO ZERO FOR THE VERY SAME REASON NOTHING CAN PREVENT PROFITS GOING TO ZERO.

Now you can try any way you want to refute me on this, but you are only fooling yourself. If you want to fool yourself, there is nothing I can do to stop you — help yourself. Go for it. Stamp your feet like fucking spoiled children and scream at the top of your fucking lungs. The law of value cannot be dismissed with words. To win this conflict we have to be demanding precisely that wages go to zero, i.e., the abolition of labor itself. We can survive without wage labor, wage labor is going away, and the end of wage labor is the end of capital.

If you cannot make an argument to the working class about what a life without compulsory labor looks like, you are worthless as an activist. You might consider pursuing another line of work — preferably in a cubicle answering email and phone calls.

I can almost hear you thinking:

“But, who will build the roads? Who will take out the garbage? Who will grow the food?”

Who gives a fuck? Really? Do you actually fucking think wage slavery persists because no one will grow food or collect the garbage on your block unless they are threatened with starvation? The human race grew food for thousands of years before wage slavery. It is not part of that picture. You only prove you are in the wrong line of work when you raise these sorts of silly arguments.

GO. GET. A. FUCKING. JOB. IN. A. CUBICLE.

The Left needs to change its argument to the possibilities of a life without labor and abandon the phony struggle over the level and forms of subsistence. So long as the Left focuses its attention on subsistence under capitalism, it must lose the debate. Not because the capitalists are better organized, or have the media and a host ideologues on their side. But because the law of value leads only to this conclusion and even the ordinary worker senses this. This is evident whenever, as the Left sometimes puts it, the worker sides with the capitalist “against her own interests”.

I say all of this to explain why I think the longer Washington stays shutdown the better for us. And I say this fully knowing the GOP has deliberately focused the shutdown on services “vital” to the subsistence of the working class. It is not as if the shutdown would be “better” if it aimed at the military and security apparatus. This simply a matter of political preferences and has nothing to do with the actual result of the shutdown. The shutdown, whatever form it takes, will increase the pressure on the profits of capital and force it to further reduce wages. From a historical point of view, I could give a fuck how capital is forced to abolish labor. It makes absolutely no difference to me.

Protecting the working class from this assault, whatever form it takes, must be the act of the working class itself, not political preferences of the fascist state. It has to organize itself to respond, since, in any case, any reduction is fascist state expenditures, no matter the source, will hurt it. Who the fuck do you think composes the very military you hope to abolish?

And let me be clear before one of you accuse me of it: I am not so simple-minded as to believe austerity leads to the working class getting its shit together. History proves this is not the case — austerity only leads to a breakdown in solidarity within the class. How many times has this fact been proven by events?

Overcoming this tendency toward fragmentation and division arising from competition between groups of workers must be the explicit and conscious aim of the working class — it will not happen “naturally”. The fucking capitalists are not going to fix the problem the Left has articulating a vision of new society for them simply by slashing to material living conditions of the working class — that is not how it works.

We will have to do this our fucking selves. So, all you fucking whiners, fuck you. Stop your stupid bleating about the poor workers suffering from austerity and the shutdown and figure it out. Your fucking whining about the GOP partially shutting the government down only disgusts the working class and proves you have no idea how to make a revolution.

Advertisements