The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Month: October, 2014

Part 2: How the Khoikhoi taught the labor theory of value to European merchant capital

Subjectivity and early fixed exchange systems

Under the conditions Graeber posits — simple commodity exchange among potentially hostile neighboring groups that are themselves internally bound by moral relations —  the determinants of the fixed exchange ratio schedules anthropologists find are not likely to be subjective. And this is for the same reason that the exchange ratios between differing products of labor are fixed in the first place: to avoid conflicts that could spill over into war between communities.

khoe-jjIf, in the middle of a gathering for purposes of exchange between hostile groups of hardened combatants, individuals had to sort out their subjective arguments for why, say, eighteen, and not fourteen, arrow heads should exchange for one canoe, and if these subjective arguments differed among individuals on both sides of the dispute, what is the likely outcome of this process? How long could any given fixed exchange ratio be relied upon to remain fixed should a dispute break out?

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Part 1: Some thoughts on David Graeber, barter and the invention of money

I have been reading Engels “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” — and it is fascinating. To accompany it, I looked for recent works that more or less critique it, employing scientific information available after the book was written.

ancient-mesopotamian-inventions-3My first stop was this very good David Graeber response to the bourgeois economist, Robert F. Murphy, On the Invention of Money.. It is pretty good to have a communist who can call bullshit on everyone in the room on the basis of scientific expertise. Graeber, for instance, make this observation of the explanation for money offered by mainstream economics:

“Just in way of emphasis: economists thus predicted that all (100%) non-monetary economies would be barter economies. Empirical observation has revealed that the actual number of observable cases—out of thousands studied—is 0%”

Ha! I wish I had wrote that line.

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“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die to get there”

If you ever want to make a good case against communism to a worker, tell her that communists want the following things:

  • Everyone is unemployed
  • No one has any income
  • Democracy no longer exists
  • No one can own anything

The paradox of communism is that it appears to involve conditions that are absolutely unacceptable to any rational person. Who in their right mind wants to give up having a job that pays a decent wage, the right to vote and control over means of production? And why would anyone who claims to fight for social emancipation stand for these sorts of things.

NEW_EARTH_9Yes, you can try to clean this shit up by saying, “Oh, I don’t mean everyone is unemployed; what I meant is no more wage labor”, but people are not dumb. They know that when you write  “No more wage labor”, what you really mean is  “100% unemployment.” They know that communist want to put everyone out of a job — which, if you communists ever succeed, will kill the economy and, in most scenarios they can imagine, plunge us all into poverty.

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Labor Theory and Accelerationism by the numbers

In my last post I showed why an accelerationist interpretation of historical materialism was understood by Marx to be embedded in his theory. However, the criticism leveled by Ben Noys might still be considered valid by some Marxists who refused to acknowledge my references.

Nick Land accelerationism as seen through the writing of Ben Noys

First, those criticisms include the charge that Marx’s own writings might lend themselves to “a religious, even apocalyptic, interpretation of historical materialism.” This is a difficult charge to counter simply by referencing the texts alleged to be prone to apocalyptic interpretations. Almost anyone dumb enough to take Noys argument seriously on this point is not likely to dissuaded of it by any references to the actual texts written by Marx.

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Marx’s big error

post-work2I came across this comment by JD Taylor on accelerationism, in a post that seems to adopt Ben Noys’ argument in toto:

“Secondly, a tactic like Accelerationism acts either as a ludicrous and fatalistic defence of Capital, or a strategy that is just too vague to implement and which, in whatever small cases it is worked, will mainly serve to alienate others and get that person sacked, making the Left look even more obscure and confusing.”

There is, says the writer, some big problems with accelerationism:

“There’s some clear flaws with Accelerationism. The Marxist logic itself, for one. Ok, we defeat Capitalism (hurrah hurrah implied, but why would we want to do this though?) by pushing its inherent contradictions – it’s gonna blow anyway, with a religious redemptive revolution at the end of it, let’s push it faster, exacerbate the conditions for revolution! So does that mean, as local govt employees, we actually strive to make living conditions worse?”

And this conceals an even bigger set of problems:

“Secondly, why do we assume history is on our side? This is something Alex Williams is particularly guilt of in his dual-analysis of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ accelerationism, in another post on his blog, Splintering Bone Ashes. Weak Accelerationism drives capitalism towards point of communist revolution by foregrounding its internal contradictions, which in real terms means making things worse, which presupposes that the proletariat might not just rise up against their middle-class and marginal left-wing overlords who are acting to manipulate the markets and criticise trade unionism. Strong Accelerationism in contrast poses whether accelerated processes of Capital itself might fundamentally alter them, and in doing so alter subjectivity towards the inhuman, beyond any revolution.”

The problems posed by the writer points to a huge error Marx probably had not anticipated in his theory:

Marxists would be too dumb to figure anything out on their own.

They would, instead, simply circle around the same old arguments over and over again until capitalism just finally collapsed on its own without their help.

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Apocalypse, accelerationism and the unscrupulous argument of Ben Noys

I.

aggIn his essay, “Apocalypse, tendency, crisis”, Ben Noys begin innocently enough by appropriating the anti-communist charge that several well known Marxists have a religious, even apocalyptic, interpretation of historical materialism. However, he explains, he isn’t going to hold it against them:

“I’m not concerned with the old Cold War trope that Marxism is really a form of religion with its own eschatology.”

After which, bizarrely enough, Noys goes on to accuse these Marxists of being just that:

“I am, however, critiquing the remnants of a religious model of providence, in which we suppose history is necessarily on our side.”

I like how, in the opening paragraph of this essay, Noys employs the words of the anti-communist author, Norman Cohn, to accuse Marxists of having “apocalyptic desires”. It really is a nice touch to see a Marxist editor of the journal, Historical Materialism, basically accuse Marxists of being moonies while slyly distancing himself from the charge.

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Srnicek’s horrifying glimpse into the Left Accelerationist future

If I am reading his essay Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics in an Age of Crisis correctly, it seems that Nick Srnicek thinks increased application of technology and art can help the Left to visualize global productive activity as a Nasa-Control-e1376606139231totality and thus render the Left’s politics more coherent and viable.

If I understand his argument correctly, (and I want to emphasize this caveat, because he has told me he doesn’t recognize his argument in my first comments on twitter), he appears to believe that it may have been once possible for the Left “to make our own world intelligible to ourselves through a situational understanding of our own position”, but this is no longer the case:

“Jameson argues that at one time the nature of capitalism was such that one could potentially establish a correspondence between our local phenomenological experiences and the economic structure that determined it.”

However, with a globalized economy:

“We can no longer simply extrapolate from our local experience and develop a map of the global economic system. There is a deficiency of cognitive mapping, that is to say, there is an essential gap between our local phenomenology and the structural conditions which determine it.”

Why would this be a problem for the Left? Again, following this guy Jameson, Srnicek argues it becomes increasingly difficult to develop a socialist politics without the ability to conceptualize the social totality.

“With globalised capitalism having become unbound from any phenomenological coordinates, this possibility for a socialist politics has become increasingly difficult.”

Srnicek thinks it helps explain why, although neoliberalism is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions, the Left has not been able to exploit this collapse to realize an alternative vision of society. There is an “abyssal void at the heart of alternative political thinking”, expressed in the “woefully inadequate” Occupy movement and a regressive longing to return to fascism’s Golden Age of the 1960s.

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