The Real Movement

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Month: August, 2014

Marxist Accelerationism, (Nick) Land, Capital and Labor

Say what you want about Nick Land, but he has Marxists figured out.

Dark-Enlightenment-Nick-Land2334683534Marxists have attached themselves to every new trend emerging out of social movements in the past 80 years only to suffocate and destroy them. When black workers were burning cities in the 1960s, Marxists suddenly discovered racism.; when this morphed into a broader critique of privilege, Marxists declared “classism” was the central privilege; when anarchism and libertarianism experienced a mild resurgence, Marxists said they had the ability to change the world without taking power; and when the Soviet Union collapsed and China followed Deng to get rich, Marxists swore they did not know this Jesus.

Now, as Nick Land explains, Marxist have attached themselves to the hyper-radical critique of Landian Accelerationism. However, as Land warns, as in the previous vampire-like efforts, Marxism raises the banner of Accelerationism only to back into a more recognizable Marxian framework.

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The Left will come to deeply regret its cowardice on basic income

prijem-2Peter Frase wrote an interesting piece in 2011, Stop Digging: The Case against Jobs. The essay was pretty popular and was re-blogged widely on various sites. In the article, Frase challenged a consensus that has emerged on the Left without much debate which places jobs at the center of demands:

“Much of the left has, mostly without debating it, coalesced around “jobs” as a unifying political demand.  The motivation for this is clear: one of the biggest problems the country faces is that there are 20 million people who are unsuccessfully seeking full time employment.  But while it may seem obvious that the solution to this problem is to create millions of new jobs, this is not in fact the only possible solution — and there are major drawbacks to a single-minded focus on increasing employment.  For one thing, it may not be feasible to create that many new jobs.  Moreover, it’s equally debatable whether, from a socialist perspective, it is desirable to create these jobs even if it is possible.”

Frase questions whether it was possible to create that many jobs, but he goes further to ask why should the Left be demanding this sort of job creation. He gives 3 reasons why the Left might demand job creation:

  1. People need income and job provides that.
  2. Work gives dignity
  3. Things need to be done that won’t get done unless someone is paid to do them.

Frase points to the apparently irresolvable paradox the Left encounters whenever it tries to go beyond its limited demand for jobs: the real problem of the unemployed isn’t their lack of jobs, it’s their lack of money. If the real problem is not a lack of jobs but a lack of money, why can’t we just handout money to everyone? This argues Frase, is why some on the left are coming around to the idea of just giving people money whether they have a job or not.

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Why Read Capital At All? (Where almost all introductions to Capital go wrong)

I have been reading this essay by a writer at Unity and Struggle on chapter 1 of Capital, but I am not sure what his/her intent was. The writer asserts that if you don’t understand Marx’s concept of labor in its philosophical dimensions you cannot grasp his concept of the human being and therefore his notion of freedom and liberation.

The commodity is therefore not a thing, but a social relation. It is the relation between the labor for use and the labor for exchange. For Marx social relations are relations of labor and the commodity is the form of labor in capitalist society. Marx argues that the dual character of the commodity is also, at the same time, the dual character of labor in capitalist society.

However, before we get into the dual character of labor, the commodified form of labor, it is worth taking a step back for a moment and looking at what Marx exactly means by “labor.” This is critical because if you don’t understand his concept of labor in its philosophical dimensions you cannot grasp Marx’s concept of the human being and therefore his notion of freedom and liberation.”

warwick-harveyThe problem with this approach to Capital, as I see it, is not with any of the points the author makes in the essay, but with her/his project itself. Grasping Marx’s concept of the human being, freedom and liberation might be entirely appropriate for a course at a university, but, frankly, Marx’s concept of human beings, freedom and liberation is not the least bit relevant for a worker at Wal-Mart.

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VI: Kliman’s staggering 2009 admission that the rate of profit did not fall before the financial crisis

Can state deficit spending be used to artificially add to the mass of profits? And if so, would deficit spending account for the rather ambiguous (even contradictory) results labor theorists’ produce when they try to empirically substantiate Marx’s thesis on the falling rate of profit?

In his 2013 paper, the Australian labor theorist, Peter Jones, provided a persuasive argument that the fascist state can indeed augment or subsidize the rate of profit through its deficit spending. And he argues this capacity can explain much of the ambiguous results labor theorists have produced over the last three decades as they attempt to empirically demonstrate or disprove Marx’s argument on the role played by the falling rate of profit in capitalist crisis.

According to Jones, government borrowing mystifies economic relations by making it appear as if the state can consume surplus value without reducing either profits or wages. If labor theorists do not account for this false appearance, they are implicitly accepting the Keynesian assumption embedded in mainstream economics that government borrowing can create new surplus value.

In his 2012 paper, “Could Keynes end the slump? Introducing the Marxist multiplier”, Gugliemo Carchedi discussed how Keynesian deficits spending works and, like Jones, concluded this deficit spending cannot create money (or, more accurately, value) out of nothing. However, he went one step further: Carchedi argued that once the state began to repay its debt, it would have to raise taxes for this purpose. Whatever additional ‘demand’ the state created by deficit spending during an economic downturn would turn out only to be deferred taxation on the population. Essentially, since the state is not a producer of commodities, it could only bring spending forward; this credit funded ‘prosperity’ would have to be repaid at some point by higher taxes.

Carchedi’s argument may or may not be correct in the long run, but Jones’ paper suggests Washington has been able to run deficits — and, therefore, artificially prop up profits — over a fairly long period of time without running into the need to balance its budget. For more than thirty years, the US has been able to spend more than it takes in without apparent difficulty or obvious limits.

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V: How Peter Jones demolished Andrew Kliman’s book in 22 brief pages

Does the collapse of the gold standard and the switch to commodity money have any implications for labor theory? The Brazil labor theorist, Paulani argues it does not:

“when, historically, the umbilical cord that linked the money form to the commodity form was cut (in 1971), the dollar value of goods shifted in relation to other currencies, but they kept between themselves the relations which their labour values (prices of production) produced earlier, backed in gold…”

According to Paulani, then, the prices of commodities may have no longer been convertible into gold after 1971, but they did not shift relative to each other. If, before the collapse of the gold standard, four candy bars exchanged for one pair of teatssocks, this much remained unchanged afterwards. Whether this is true is not the point, since, stated in this simplistic form, it can easily be disproven; however, many such changes can be written off to supply and demand “shocks” of one sort or another. Since any such shock is accidental, Paulani’s argument can be reduced this: whatever change did occur, they were accidental and did not result from the collapse of the gold standard. In fact, since relative prices fluctuated constantly even before the collapse of the gold standard, this is a reasonable explanation.

However this argument by Paulani in her 2014 paper is directly challenged by Peter Jones in his 2013 paper, The Falling Rate of Profit Explains Falling US Growth”. Jones argues the collapse of the gold standard directly explains the difficulty labor theorists are having substantiating Marx’s falling rate of profit thesis.

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