An exchange with a Left Accelerationist
I had a short exchange with a Left Accelerationist, @nervemeter, on Twitter this week. It was an interesting discussion, so I am publishing it here. The original context is on my twitter account. I have made some edits to it for clarification.
Nervemeter: I don’t think [Nick Land] thinks the “blind process” is at all communism-bound. & I don’t think he thinks we can drive it there.
Jehu: And you accept that conclusion?
Nervemeter: Well, not entirely, but that there is one of the major dividing lines between [Right and Left Acelerationism]. I’m skeptical about the 1st part, but generally agree with the second. We can (I hope) find ways to steer blind cosmic-scale processes. But I don’t quite think capitalism is a machine fated to produce communism of its own momentum. It might create *conditions* for communism, that is, it might make communism *possible*, but never *necessary*. That’s my very sketchy take on it, anyway.
Jehu: And what do you think is the missing element?
Nervemeter: There isn’t a unique, magic missing element (like “political will!”, or whatever). Just a lot of engineering to be done. The providential manifestation of communism out of capitalism as a “blind process” just sounds like a miracle.
Jehu: Of course there is. The Communist Manifesto still holds as point of departure for any variant of Accelerationism .
Nervemeter: Okay. I’m good with that. I thought you were holding some sort of “Rightist Deviation” (in Lenin’s sense).
Jehu: Yeah, I get that a lot. This is why it is critical to understand Land’s argument on labor and exploitation. Marxists just want to kick it aside, but Land refuses to let them do this.
Nervemeter: Want to sketch it out for me?
Jehu: Sure: Communism is free time and nothing else. If capitalism is creating the material conditions for communism, it is simply creating the material conditions for emancipation from labor itself. The leap in consciousness required is simply to grasp that this is a reality now. When the fascist state has to create jobs, labor is obsolete.
Nervemeter: This is all it takes: for people to realize that labor is obsolete right now. OK couple questions: 1) “obsolete” implies that there’s some end that labour no longer serves. Whose end? What is it? If the end is “the production & distribution of wealth”, that’s not the end that keeps labour going. Value is, if [LTV is correct]. So, does capital seek to augment the flow of value or the flow of wealth? If the former, how can labour be obsolete? 2nd question: what would this “realization” involve? A mass flash of insight? Or (I’d figure) systematic restructuring of the wealth economy (& abolition of the “value economy”, if these can be dissociated, as LTV suggests)?
Jehu: The second question is the easier of the two questions to answer: It involves a transnational movement of the working class to press for immediate reduction of hours of labor. It must be transnational (global) to prevent workers from being drawn into competition with each other. And it must be global because this reduction must lead, in first place, to the collapse of the state. The demand for reduction of labor is not just anti-capitalistic, it is also anti-statist. The answer to your first question is that most labor today produces no value at all. Most labor today is performed solely to maximize the surplus value of the productively employed workers. Since, no matter the mass of productively employed workers, their surplus value can be maximized by maximizing their hours of labor, hours of labor for all workers must be extended to this limit as well. This is not just because this maximizes the production of surplus value but it also maximizes unproductive consumption of the excess capital. So, it is both the production of surplus value and its unproductive consumption that must be maximized. The obvious beneficiary of this is Wasington, which can spend the equivalent of all other nation together on military. For overproduction of capital to be sustained requires an enormous expansion of unproductive consumption by the state.
Nervemeter: Srsly, though, I’m with you on this. But if the programme is anti-state, what sustains the nonlabourers? It seems like some other platform has to be constructed before we all have the luxury of not working. The state might be pushing obsolete labour by fiat, but they’re also the means of redistributing wealth. Not the best possible means, of course — they bandage the same wounds they’re gouging — but the means. So what’s to stop them stymieing the reduction of labour hours with a reduction, say, in welfare?
Jehu: First, the only ‘non-labourers are the capitalists. Those without work are not ‘non-laborers, but a labor reserve. They have been mostly rendered superfluous to productive employment. This population are not just youth in most advanced countries but a huge portion of the less advanced. And this population has been rendered superfluous only with regards to employment for purpose of producing surplus value. With the reduction of hours of labor generally, these folks will find a place in the production because their employment is no longer dependent on them producing profit for capitalists. Their addition to productive employment will enable a still further reduction of hours of labor. Moreover, to increase the rate of profit, the capitalists are forced to introduce improved machinery to compensate for a shortage of labor generally — this leads to a still further need to reduce hours. Reducing hours of labor thus require still further reduction of hours of labor both because unproductive labor is reduced and because the capitalists introduce technical changes to recover their profits. Reducing hours of labor forcibly drives technological improvements that accelerationism champions. But it does this by emancipating society from labor, not by subordinating it to capital. Labor, by its very nature, is subordinated to capital. To emancipate society from capital, you have to emancipate it from labor. Labor has always been subjugated to exploiters and always will be.