Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Eye Suspiciously
Just finished reading the article by a former Occupy person in the most recent Rolling Stone, “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For”. The article shows the potentially perverse results that can happen when the argument of the Left ignores the question of association of the working class.
It should be clear that most of the proposals in Jesse Myerson’s article are not fascistic in and of themselves. Actually, many of them appear directly drawn from the proposals in the Communist Manifesto — for instance, public ownership of land, means of production, and finance. Thus his proposals can be rightly considered a continuation of a long tradition of communist advocacy for radical social change.
The problem, however, is that in the Manifesto, we are not dealing with a set of proposals for measures to be undertaken by the existing state, but what an association of social producers will accomplish — the Manifesto is clear on this point:
“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.”
Only on assumption the proletariat has replaced the existing state with its own association can the measures detailed in the Manifesto follow as measures undertaken by this proletarian power, not the present state. The implications of these same measures if undertaken by the present state — the capitalist state — have to be understood separately from the same measures if the association of social producers undertook them.
So what are the implications of these measures under existing political-economic relations?
If the state is now the national capitalist, as I have argued, the measures Myerson suggests mean all the instruments of production are now being centralized in the hands of this national capitalist, not in the hands of the proletariat’s association. I want to emphasize that this does not suggest the measures do not represent an advance in the mode of production — in fact one has taken place. But the advance is not as benign as might be expected simply by comparing Myerson’s proposals to the proposals of the Communist Manifesto.
Let me give an example.
The first and second proposals mentioned by Myerson are for a national jobs guarantee and a basic income: The first proposal states it should be the responsibility of the fascist state to provide everyone who wants to work a job; and the second proposal states it is the responsibility of the fascist state to provide everyone a basic income.
Not bad, right? Well, not so fast.
Together, these two proposals mean, among other things, the fascist state should compel everyone to have a job and should be their paymaster.
Is this a far-fetched conclusion?
In the wake of the Clinton welfare reforms of the 1990s, I do not think this conclusion can be disputed by anyone with a healthy suspicion of Washington’s motives in its management of the economy. Although Myerson quotes Kathi Weeks on the communist paradise that might emerge once basic income gives everyone “time to cultivate new needs for pleasures, activities, senses, passions, affects, and socialities that exceed the options of working and saving, producing and accumulating”, the more likely outcome is a regime of forced labor managed by the fascist state.
Again, is this just my paranoia?
Even if we ignore the changes made to public assistance during the Clinton administration, we have to remember we have been here before, in the form of the laws of the late Soviet Union which made not working illegal. Rather than inaugurating an epoch of free time for individuals and self-directed activity, this proposal seems more likely to complete the fascist state as manager of the entire process of production. Side by side with the nationalization of land, means of production and finance, Myerson’s proposal must lead to the nationalization of the labor market, with the sum of all production relations now concentrated in the hands of the fascist state — i.e., the national capitalist. This is exactly the opposite of the results Myerson and Occupy aimed at.
The central place of an association of producers — a global, not national association — cannot be over-emphasized when thinking about a society after capitalism.