Thesis on competition within the working class

Theses on competition

What are the prospects for social emancipation when the progressive abolition of labor is called unemployment and treated like a disease? competitionThe capitalist mode of production can only present the abolition of labor in the form of unemployment.

This is a feature of competition: labor going away leads to competition between classes over who will bear the burden of it going away. The capitalist class does not want to bear this burden, so it seeks to push it off on the working class. If labor can no longer be employed profitably, the solution sought by capital is to idle a mass of workers, to save profits.

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There is no “American economy” anymore: The Left must act globally

The Economic Populist blog has a post written by Robert Oak that is very good, “Corporations Hoard Cash While Americans Go Without A Job”. The main aim of the post is to show how American corporation are using various means to fatten their bottom lines. The subtext of the post, however, is that, contrary to the assumption of most Leftists, there is no longer such a thing as an “American economy”.

child-labor-2Much of the time Leftists spend in discussions and activism focuses on how Washington policy can influence the “American economy”. However, if Oak is to be believed, much of what might be called an “American economy” is simply a local pool of labor in a much larger labor market. That pool of labor is being “arbitraged” against other pools of labor in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to the disadvantage of all workers globally.

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A brief note on bitcoin and labor theory

I am throwing this out as notes toward a more comprehensive look at digital currencies in the future from the perspective of labor theory. I am not sure any of the points I am making here will stand up to further scrutiny. I only offer it because some folks have asked me for my opinion on it. –Jehu

bitcoin-minerAmong a certain section of anti-statists there is something of an obsession with the “digital currency”, bitcoin. Bitcoin is supposed to have everything going for it that would make for an anti-statist wet dream: it is said to be decentralized, not subject to government regulation — although this will change — “produced” under the control of a program that imposes strict control over its creation, etc.

The last point in particular seems to be a selling point for the “currency” among some of its proponents. With every central bank on the planet pumping counterfeit fiat into their respective national economies and the world market, Wikipedia notes:

“Some have suggested that Bitcoin is gaining popularity in countries with problem-plagued national currencies, as it can be used to circumvent inflation …”

Actually, looking at the literature, it occurs to me that one of the most egregious errors in thinking by the critics of bitcoin is the possibility its scarcity will collapse, because of the emergence of imitator “digital currencies”. In these notes, I want to show why I think this may not at all be true. For reason that will become clear, I believe it is the scarcity of bitcoins that may be the most critical weakness of so-called “digital currencies”.

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Robert Kurz, David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs” and the collapse of capitalism

In section 3 of the Apotheosis of Money, Robert Kurz takes on a problem that has been discussed by Marxists for almost 80 years. The discussion is important because, I believe, its conclusions will have more to say about what a post-capitalist society actually looks like than any of the issues typically raised by the Left:

“it is clear that, taken as a whole, the share of those unproductive workers (viewed from the perspective of surplus value production) who only represent social consumption, that is, “overhead costs”, is constantly increasing.” way to state this is that an ever increasing share of the total labor time of society is being wasted on unproductive labor —   an issue raised by David Graeber in his recent essay, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.

Kurz’s essay is significant to me, because if, as I think, communism is free time and nothing else, society seems to be preparing for just this possibility. The collapse of capitalism will likely appear, as it did in the Soviet Union, as a crisis in the form of massive unemployment, which locks billions out of the labor market, making it possible for the social producers to eliminate most work in a single stroke. The preparation for a society founded on free, disposable time for the many, who can use this free time for self-activity in whatever way they want, may just be taking the form of an ever increasing quantity of labor time that is being unproductively expended by capitalist firms.

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Chris Cutrone’s masterful take down of post-war Marxism

Chris Cutrone and James Turley engaged in a debate over Lukacs in which only Cutrone ever laid a glove on his opponent.WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIES If you have not read it, you can find the entire series of exchanges here.

Of course, Cutrone’s point is so deeply buried in his argument, you will need a backhoe to excavate it. It is a complex, (almost unintelligible for me), argument about the applicability of classical Marxists ideas to our own present situation. Cutrone basically asks: Do the ideas, strategy, tactics of the post-Engels Marxists regarding social emancipation apply directly to the era of fascist state political-economy.

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“The real fruit of their battles …”

This is part three of a three part series. Part one can be found here; part two can be found here

3. “What Marxists once meant by ‘class consciousness’ is no more.”

wotwuIn the previous section of this essay, I argued, properly understood, Marx and Engels assumed the proletarian social emancipation does not take the form of a conflict with the ruling class. To say this has implications for the present crisis is an understatement. I think it goes a long way toward explaining why the most remarkable feature of the present crisis is the lack of a class struggle — which absence has been puzzled over by both bourgeois ideologues and by Marxists.

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“The consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution …”

This is part two of a three part series. Part one can be found here.

Part 2: Bourgeois Consciousness versus Proletarian Consciousness

In part one of this series, I claimed that, in the German Ideology, Marx and Engels argued that the proletarian revolution quote-marxism-is-essentially-a-product-of-the-bourgeois-mind-joseph-schumpeter-165264does not play out the way the bourgeois revolution plays out and it cannot play out that way for very specific reasons. Given this claim, I have to answer the obvious question: If the proletarian revolution is not an assertion of a proletarian class interest against the ruling class, as Marx and Engels themselves asserted, what is it?

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Proletarian Class Consciousness and Social Emancipation

This is part one of a three part series

1. Social Emancipation in the imagination of Marxists

If asked about social emancipation, the typical Marxist will state walmartstarvesandexploitssomething to this effect: At some point the working class will acquire something that can be called a class consciousness — a recognition of its interests as a class and of its position in society. It will then undertake a political revolution that consists of the assertion of this interest against the other class, a revolution, in which the other class is overthrown and the proletariat sets out to reorganize society according to its interest.

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Reformist Reforms, Revolutionary Reforms and Capitalism

I read this  from Douglas Edwards (@SebastosPublius) and it triggered some thinking on the problem of reform versus revolution:

“What’s really needed is a grand unified theory of non-reformist reforms, how they’re supposed to lead to real change…”

I thought One interesting aspect of Peter Frase’s essay on UBI was his brief discussion of reform versus revolution. There is, according to some activists “reformist-reforms” 16612892-reforma-o-revolucion-eleccionand “revolutionary reforms”. For instance, there is probably common agreement that universal basic income or a jobs guarantee are reform. The question we are asked to consider is whether these reforms are reformist or revolutionary. There even appears to be a third category of certain reforms that not quite “revolutionary”, but are “utopian”.

Frase recounts how a dispute arose over whether UBI is “utopian” enough. One of the parties to the dispute  defines utopian as a measure that “proposes to dramatically overhaul society into an entirely unprecedented structure that will usher in a nearly perfect world.” As might be obvious to our “Revolutionary Left”, this sort of debate happens on the pink fringes of communism, where people “think globally, act locally” and mostly “vote Democrat.”

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The Left needs to take a timeout

I have been thinking about universal basic income and the demand for a jobs guarantee – two ideas floated by, among others, a former Occupy activist, Jesse Myerson; and the relation between labor, money and goods like food, clothing, shelter. My thinking about the relation between these three was triggered by two comments from a tweep:

“There simply is not a one-to-one correspondence between labor under capitalism and use-values like food.”

Later he made an assertion that is incontrovertibly true:

“Currency, use-value, & labor are all separable.”

I like these statements because they get to the heart of my problem with UBI, a jobs guarantee and the discussion of issues related to both.

I am pretty sure no one would take exception to the idea that, no matter the type of society we consider, the members of that society always need, among other things, food, paycheck-for-allclothing and shelter. We, of course, need more than this basic stuff, so I don’t want to suggest that my list here is exhaustive or could ever be. Rather, let’s assume food, clothing and shelter, stand in for a host of concrete needs that must be satisfied by the means provided by nature. These needs require some definite level of interchange with nature, which are the source of the material means to satisfy them. And to appropriate these means to life from nature, requires some definite expenditure of human effort — labor.

So here is the thing:

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