The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Month: December, 2014

SYRIZA cannot save Greece’s social welfare state

Here is an essay by Costas Lapavistas in which he tries to explain why the anti-austerity struggle as it is currently being waged makes sense — it doesn’t.

According to Costas Lapavitsas:

“Syriza’s anti-austerity programme is more sensible than radical, and what Greece needs. But the EU is far from convinced”

In his essay, Costas Lapavistas never explains why what we refer to as austerity may be far more historically significant than the capitalists simply trying to starve the working class once again.

There is definitely the element of a crisis wherein the capitalists are trying to pass the costs of the crisis along to the working class inGreece; and so far, it has succeeded, with the working class

With is desire for Grexit, the Left is flirting with the fascists and this will backfire

With its desire for Grexit, the Left is flirting with the euro-fascists and this will backfire

incurring staggering social costs. However, to put this simply: the Greece social welfare state is dead and has to go away. Nothing can save the European social welfare state and no amount of anti-austerity struggle by the working class will reconstitute Greece as a sovereign state with the means to direct economic development.

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Four questions on reduction of hours of labor

clock-newI received a comment on my blog regarding hours of labor that raises four questions that deserve answers. I am taking them slightly out of order, since it is easier for me to answer them that way.

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21st Century partisan warfare for an aggressive new SYRIZA government

According to @NickMalkoutzis on twitter, “The one question SYRIZA needs to answer” is a must read analysis of the difficulties the new SYRIZA government in Greece will face once it takes power.

Greece has a primary surplus of 3 billion euros, but 21 billion in debt obligations. It is locked out of credit markets and living on handouts. Thus, according to @YiannisMouzakis,

“The maturities of bonds in July and August seem to place in front of SYRIZA a hard stop,  allowing just enough time for its government to be left to stew before it is forced to concede under the pressure of a potential  default on the bonds held by the ECB.”

Syros_El._Venizelou_ErmoupoliIf @YiannisMouzakis is to be believed then, SYRIZA plainly has been set up to fail by the Samaras government, the IMF and the ECB. Samaras, the IMF and the ECB will then blame SYRIZA for the economic disaster that follows. As the crisis spirals downward, Samaras supporters will take to the streets in a replay of the color revolutions plaguing Europe. Greece will be economically strangled by creditors and the streets will appear to be gripped by popular outrage. Eventually, the army (NATO) will step in to ‘restore calm’ and, with a junta in firm control, and US/EU economic advisers running the state, the small country will face draconian Chile-style ‘reforms’.

SYRIZA has a chance to change this scenario, but only if it acts aggressively and smartly. First, the leaders of the party will have to realize @YiannisMouzakis is correct: There will never be enough money to employ the 27% of the labor force that is unemployed, put an end to poverty and reverse the austerity that currently burdens the country. So, SYRIZA will be forced to think outside the box if it hopes to succeed.

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International Labor Organization report on hours, wages, productivity (and the abolition of wage slavery)

The International Labor Organization’s report, “Working Time Around the World” (2007), demonstrates that the barbaric policy of the  capitalist class and fascist states of overworking their japans-suicide-salarymen-are-dying-for-work-1413283959935-crop_mobilerespective working classes to the point of physical exhaustion is a quite common practice in countries at all levels of economic development. Unlike economic reports written for domestic consumption in the advanced countries, the report confirms Marx’s observation on the relation between wage, productivity and hours of labor and points to reduction of hours of labor as the global path for accelerating the development of the productive forces and realizing the abolition of wage slavery in its entirety.

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Mule-headed Marxists and Hours of Labor

Donkey CarrotCertain mule-headed Marxists in the Socialist Equality Party have made an argument against reducing hours of labor that they know or should know is complete bullshit.

That argument is that any reduction of hours of labor must lead to a fall in the material subsistence of the working class. They know or should know that this argument violates every assumption in labor theory of value,  but they insist on spreading it among the working class. Why they insist on spreading this complete fabrication is beyond me, but I am now going to educate them. At the end of my refutation, these “Marxists” will either concede they are completely wrong, or turn tail and run.

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Yes, labor hours reduction will lead to a fall in wages: But so what?

Several Marxists who oppose my argument, and even some who support it, express the concern that reducing hours of labor stock_chartwill reduce profits. While they have no objection to this in and of itself, they point out the capitalists will respond to such a fall in profits by trying to slash the wages of the working class. The reasoning behind this objection seems to be mostly political: the working class might be strong enough to impose a reduction of hours on the owners of capital, yet unable to defend its material living standards from a capitalist offensive.

Although this reasoning seems a bit far-fetched to me, we can ignore it for now because the opponents are correct even if their reasoning is not: once hours of labor fall, money wages will fall as well.

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Three reasons why my argument for reducing hours of labor may suck big time

There seems to be three major categories of objections to my argument on hours of labor:

First, what material impact will a reduction of hours of labor have on the operation of the capitalist mode of production?

chair-on-the-beach-1082-2560x1440A fall in the rate of profit produced by shorter hours will cause bankruptcies in a lot of marginally profitable industries. The capitalists will not simply respond to a fall in profits by paying workers more.  When hours are reduced, the capitalists will unleash an assault on the living standards of workers. Thus, a reduction of hours of labor will lead to an offensive against the social conditions of the working class.

Second, is a reduction of hours of labor incompatible with, or opposed to, the conventional Marxist argument that the working class must seize political power?

My argument exudes a hostility toward the working class seizing political power. My proposal for reduction of hours of labor treats the capitalist mode of production as an abstraction from the class struggle. Marx insisted that objective economic processes were an expression of class forces. The idea that reduction of hours of labor can lead to communism on its own is economism. Essentially, ending capitalism means abolition of private ownership of the means of production, and the capitalist nation-state system. In isolation from the seizure of state power and nationalization of private property, proposals for changes to the mode of production, like reduction of hours of labor, are reformist.

Third, will the working class itself support a demand for reductions of hours of labor?

Workers believe reducing hours of labor will reduce their income. Hours of labor reduction might result in a shift in such that most workers will actually see their wages fall; although some rise. With a reduction of hours of labor, wages might increase relative to profits, but still fall overall. A reduction of hours under capitalism will only intensify the social crisis of the working class.

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I’m pretty sure that does not exhaust the list. But they are interesting arguments anyways. Question 3 really is the killer, because if workers think they will be poorer they will never support it. Oddly enough, this was never a problem in France’s 35 hours law. Also average hours of labor in the US right now is about at 34.6 hours per week. Depending on the industry, hours of labor in October varied from 45 hours per week (mining) to 26.2 hours per week (leisure/hospitality). Retail, for instance, regularly runs a work week of less than 32 hours. Most people in the private service sector never see 40 hours per week.

I will probably address these three objections separately in the near future.

Racism, the working class and wage labor: A reply to S.C. Hickman

lynchingHere is a post that is critical of my reaction to the Michael Brown grand jury: On Jehu’s recent post on Michael Brown Verdict. (I am not sure the outcome should be called a verdict as that term is commonly understood, since the cold blooded murderer, the killer cop Darren Wilson, never stood a trial for the killing and thus never was acquitted.)

In any case,  the author, S.C. Hickman, makes a statement that caused me some confusion:

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Killing capitalism without replacing it with something else

Wolfgang Streeck has written a fascinating essay titled, “How will capitalism end? I think it is a must read for anyone who wants to shake the cobwebs of routine thinking from their head and open up a bit of room for thinking differently about the present crisis and its ultimate outcome. There are four outstanding observations in particular that I wish to draw attention to:

  • “I suggest that we learn to think about capitalism coming to an end without assuming responsibility for answering the question of what one proposes to put in its place.”
  • “[There] is today no political-economic formula on the horizon, left or right, that might provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime of regulation, or régulation.”
  • “[Disorganized] capitalism is disorganizing not only itself but its opposition as well, depriving it of the capacity either to defeat capitalism or to rescue it.”
  • “[Capitalism’s] defeat of its opposition may actually have been a Pyrrhic victory, freeing it from countervailing powers which, while sometimes inconvenient, had in fact supported it.”

Interesting enough, although his argument is fascinating, Streeck can’t seem to take his eyes off purely superficial expressions of the crisis. There is stagnation, inequality, private appropriation of the public sphere, corruption and a breakdown in the Post-World War II order.  Examined closely, it would appear this isn’t a critical examination of the process of capitalistic collapse; it is a series of mainstream media headlines. Thus, Streeck offers a very interesting observation — capitalism is killing itself with its own success — based on paltry, almost banal, evidence.

While Streeck argues there is no political-economic formula to provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime; he never investigates the possibilities for a path outside political-economy. Capitalist political-economy, argues Streeck, is shaking itself apart and anti-capitalist political-economy seems, at best, only to mediate the process. But, in the end, all Streeck has told us is that no political-economy (capitalist or anti-capitalist) offers a way out of the present crisis. He leaves it here, as if he has thoroughly investigated every possible future.

But suppose we do not aim for a new regime of regulation? Suppose we neither want to defeat capitalism nor rescue it? Suppose, as Landian accelerationism proposes, we do not wish to act as a countervailing power, but an accelerating one? And suppose, in acting as an accelerant to capitalism, we do not intend to put anything in its place?

The very idea that we should be solely concerned to accelerate capitalism headlong into its inevitable demise without any concern for what comes after it is sure to loosen the bowels of our Marxists imbeciles, but what comes after capitalism is not foreshadowed by anything we imagine today.