“There is no alternative” (for Marxists): Costas Lapavitsas Edition

by Jehu

“There is no alternative”, is the famous aphorism coined by Margaret Thatcher in reply to her critics. According to the Wikipedia, TINA means, “economic liberalism is the only valid remaining ideology.” Economic liberalism is generally taken to mean dismantling of the social welfare state that emerged after World War II and collapsed into disarray beginning with the 1970s depression. However, in a recent interview, Costas Lapavitsas essentially argued that, for Marxists another sort of TINA TINAreigns: Because of a lack of policy tools drawn on labor theory, Marxists had on alternative but to make use of the very same Keynesian policy tools that produced the rampant stagflation of the 1970s depression. In this post, I take exception with Lapavitsas’ argument.

My argument is not only that Marxists have no need to rely on Keynesian policy tools for their short-run program, Keynesian policy tools have the same aim of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policy tools and run counter to the aim of communism. Instead, Marxist should drawn directly on labor theory to produce a set of immediate demands. Labor theory, according to my reading, argues Marxists should not seek to “exit” the crisis of capitalism, but should take as their starting point the limits imposed by production for profit on the production of material wealth. Our immediate program should be to push the production of material wealth beyond the limits imposed on it by production for profit.

1. A staggering admission

One argument advanced by Costas Lapavitsas against labor theory is that while Marxism provides an essential framework for understanding the long-term trajectory of capitalist society, Keynesian policies are essential to devise practical immediate measures to address crisis:

“Let me come clean on this. Keynes and Keynesianism, unfortunately, remain the most powerful tools we’ve got, even as Marxists, for dealing with issues of policy in the here and now. The Marxist tradition is very powerful in dealing with the medium-term and longer-term questions and understanding the class dimensions and social dimensions of economics and society in general, of course. There’s no comparison in these realms.

But, for dealing with policy in the here and now, unfortunately, Keynes and Keynesianism remain a very important set of ideas, concepts, and tools even for Marxists. That’s the reality. Whether some people like to use the ideas and not acknowledge them as Keynesian is something I don’t want to comment upon, but it happens.

So I cannot blame Varoufakis for that, for associating himself with Keynesians, because I’ve also associated myself with Keynesians, openly and explicitly so. If you showed me another way of doing things, I’d be delighted. But I can assure you, after many decades of working on Marxist economic theory, that there isn’t at the moment. So yes, Varoufakis has worked with Keynesians. But that isn’t really, in and of itself, a damning thing.”

Behind his defense of SYRIZA finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, Lapavitsas revealed an ugly truth that for too long has lain undiscussed within Marxists circles: Short of the complete overthrow of capitalism, Marxism has no short-term measures to propose to address capitalist crises. Instead, what Marxists have relied on since the 1930s are a set of policy proposals drawn on Keynes’ neoclassical arguments.

First, I am going to show why this argument is not only not true — why it is essentially incoherent and untenable — but also that it is wrong and, moreover, Lapavitsas, who fancies himself a Marxist, should know it is wrong. Second, I am also going to show why labor theory has a clear set of policy recommendations that arise organically from its theoretical model of capitalist crises. Finally, I will identify these policies and show them to be capable of immediately addressing the crisis that has gripped Greece since 2008.

2. Greece, Inc.

While much of the attention on the Left is today focused on the struggle between SYRIZA and the European Union over austerity, the so-called humanitarian crisis and the repayment of Greece public debt, these problems are generally considered only the superficial expression of the lack of competitiveness of the Greece national economy within the world market and in the EU in particular. The cause of the deeper problem can be summarized in the phrase “labor costs”.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF):

“In Europe, for instance, several countries are currently faced with the challenge of having to regain competitiveness to boost growth. Because eurozone membership implies that the nominal exchange rate cannot be devalued and interest rates cannot be adjusted in an individual country, and because productivity increases only take hold over time, improving competitiveness may require a reduction in costs, including labor costs.”

Since 2008 or so, one Greece government after another has attempted to directly imposed vicious reductions in the real consumption of the working class, in hopes to reach a level of labor costs that will make Greece competitive within the eurozone. However, as this strategy implies, the reduction of labor costs means nothing more than an effort to raise the rate of profit in the Greece economy.

There is nothing mysterious or particularly complex about this strategy: as with any capital, the Greece national capital has sought to address its uncompetitiveness by cutting the wages of its workforce. This is essentially the same approach taken by both GM and Boeing to raise the rate of profit of those two capitalist firms. Greece is first and foremost a giant capitalist firm, a national capital masquerading as a country, for which the laws of the capitalist mode of production apply as completely as if it were a private firm.

It is important to assert the foregoing in order to strip off (abstract from) all of the particularities of Greece national history. Only in this way can we ignore the various purely local mystifications that only serves to cloud the real material relations of production. We have to think not of Greece, the nation of people with some definite history, but Greece, the capitalist firm trying to become competitive in a rough and tumble market beside other national capitals to whom it relates as brothers in a hostile fraternity. This is the Greece the IMF program of reform is designed to salvage — the Greece whose only logic is the ceaseless self-expansion of value.

This Greece knows nothing of that other (historical) Greece and cares not one whit for it in any case. Greece, the capitalist firm, knows nothing of Greece’s history, politics, architecture, philosophy, music, food, poetry, love, except insofar as these can be converted into commodities to sell into the world market. Thus, our analysis can take no notice of these things as well, except insofar as they have already become commodities and, therefore, have already fallen under the ruthless criticism of the law of value.

The only history we are concerned about is the history of the world market; the only love is the narcissistic love of capital for its own self-valorization; the only philosophical question that concerns us here is “How much will the market bear?”

From here on out, when I speak of “Greece”, I mean by this, “Greece, Inc.”, a fully self-owned national capital that exists only for its self-expansion as capital and has no other purpose. Greece, Inc. encompasses the total national capital of Greece, the country, where the laws of Greece, the state, are alone considered sovereign. Greece, Inc. is managed by the Greece state, headquartered in Athens, and its management team is the governing coalition of the Greece Parliament. Since January 26, 2015, the management team for the national capital has been a coalition led by SYRIZA.

So let’s dump the sentimental bullshit and begin to examine Greece for what it is: General Motors with all the powers of national sovereignty.

3. Keynesian policies: There is no alternative … for Marxists?

Greece, Inc. has a big problem, according to the IMF:

“Unit labor costs―a key measure of competitiveness―increased by over 35 percent in Greece during 2000-10, compared to less than 20 percent in the euro area as a whole. At end-2011 Greece’s minimum wage was substantially higher than that of its closest competitors—50 percent higher than Portugal, and 17 percent above Spain, for instance. This is one of the reasons why Greece’s exports amount to only about 14 percent of the goods it produces. To help restore competitiveness, the minimum wage was reduced by 22 percent in February 2012, with a further 10 percent reduction for youth. In addition, the IMF-supported program targets a budget-neutral reduction in non-wage costs by 5 percentage points.”

The IMF is rightly insisting the problem of Greece is the problem of labor costs. But what are labor costs? As defined by the IMF, they are simply the price paid for labor power — money wages. Of course, the IMF doesn’t exactly come out and say: “Greece wages must be slashed until the rate of profit of Greece national capital has reached the average for the eurozone.” Instead it draws our attention to “labor costs”, arguing these costs must be reduced to restore the “competitiveness” of Greece’s national capital. But, clearly, the IMF fact-sheet can have no other meaning than increasing profits.

However, the IMF explains the problem both Greece national capital and SYRIZA run into: As the eurozone is currently constituted, member states no longer can address crises with the Keynesian tools that were popular after World War II. Thus Greece, as a member of the eurozone, must tackle “high labor costs” by directly slashing the subsistence of the working class. Whatever it lacks in competitiveness against its eurozone partners must be made up in the short-term by cutting wages:

“As a member of the eurozone, Greece cannot devalue its currency. This means it needs to close its competitiveness gap by other means until reforms to improve productivity produce results.”

We have, until this point, assumed Greece is like, “General Motors with all the powers of national sovereignty”, but, it turns out, Greece lacks national sovereignty in one critical respect given its problem of ‘high labor costs’: it no longer enjoys sovereign control of its national currency. If it had this control, says the IMF, it could address the problem of ‘labor costs’ by nominal exchange rate devaluation and adjusting interest rates.

As everyone knows, these are the preferred policy tools of Keynesian state economic management; tools that are not available to SYRIZA because Greece national capital uses the euro as its domestic currency and no longer has control over the exchange rate of the currency nor interest rates for capital borrowed in the currency.

And this is what Lapavitsas finds so very frustrating now that SYRIZA is the governing party in Greece and effectively the management team for Greece, Inc. According to Lapavitsas, it is unacceptable  for Marxists to pursue the sort of vicious wage cuts imposed by the IMF. Yet, after 30 years of anti-neoliberal opposition, Marxists still have no viable alternative policies to offer except a return to Keynesian fiscal and monetary policies. Thus, for Lapavitsas, an effective alternative strategy requires Greece to exit the eurozone and adopt its own national currency.

The argument is self-evidently stupid: If there is no alternative to Keynesian economic manage policies, which require control of the national currency, what the fuck is the IMF doing? Is it not implementing a set of policies without any reliance on Keynesian economic policy tools? And what are the measures the IMF seeks to impose with its policies? The IMF simply proposed to cut the minimum wage by 22 percent and reduce non-wage costs by 5 percentage points.

So, to raise the rate of profit, without recourse to Keynesian policy tools, the previous governments simply slashed workers’ wages as has been the habit of the capitalists since capitalism experienced its first general crisis. This is an undeniably crude operation; amounting to 19th Century surgery on a patient whose senses have only been slightly dulled with whiskey. And, as Keynes points out, this butchery is “seldom or never of an all-round character”. But, contrary to Lapavitsas, there is no indication here that Keynesian policies are the only alternatives available. Greece may lack fiscal and monetary sovereignty, but its does not lack the tools necessary to increase profits

4. Keynesian policies are no alternative to austerity

Further, as Lapavitsas himself concedes, Keynesian policies only accomplish through currency devaluation what the IMF-inspired policies do crudely and ineffectively. To continue with our surgery analogy, where the IMF embarks on chopping off labor costs of a drunk but still conscious patient, with Keynesian policies the patient is administered a strong sedative — she is, therefore, unconscious before the surgeon begins his surgery.

Thus, the distinction to be made between Lapavitsas’ preferred Keynesian tools and IMF butchery is simply whether the patient has been rendered unconscious prior to the surgery. The radical reduction in wages will be accomplished in any case, but, if Lapavitsas has his way, the wages of the working class will be devalued in such a way as to keep them unconscious of it as long as possible.

Lapavitsas essentially holds to the idea that we have no alternative but to ‘improve’ capitalism, ‘rescue it from itself’, in the short term. We do this, he argues, so that, in the long run, we can get rid of it altogether. He thus recognizes that short term, Keynesian, policies run counter to the aim of Marxists in the long run:

“Of course there’s a gulf between them, and it’s pretty much as you have said. Marxism is about overturning capitalism and heading towards socialism. It has always been about that, and it will remain about that. Keynesianism is not about that. It’s about improving capitalism and even rescuing it from itself.”

However, as Keynes observed himself, “in the long run, we are all dead.” What matters is the short-run, immediate policies that can be implemented today, by SYRIZA, when Greece, Inc. is suffering its worst crisis in history.

Lapavitsas argument for Keynesian policies is wrong because, if nothing else, no means exist today within the euro to implement them and there is no support in Greece for exiting the euro single currency; it is untenable because, as Lapavitsas himself admits, the aim of Keynesian policies, like those of IMF policies, are absolutely opposed to the avowed aim of Marxism, i.e., the emancipation of society from labor; and it is incoherent because, even if Lapavitsas is correct that Marxism provides a long run solution to capitalism, the long-run never arrives: we are always dealing with capitalism and its crises in the short-run.

Lapavitsas argument can never be anything more than a indefensible political bait and switch scam perpetrated by Marxists against the working class; in which Marxists promise to emancipate society from labor only to covertly impose ever greater demands for labor on society.

5. ‘Labor costs’ and profit

Any sensible person would think the problem Greece faces, ‘high labor costs’, could be addressed in a straightforward manner without driving the working class into poverty. If we want to reduce labor costs, the most rational means to effect this is to simply reduce the labor contained in the commodities Greece produces. All else held equal, to the extent less labor time is expended during the production of commodities, the cost of labor incorporated into the production prices of these commodities would be reduced as well. Thus, both the material standard of living of society would be increased and the social producers would enjoy more time away from labor.

The total output of Greece, Inc. for any given period is, in first place, given in the expenditure of some definite labor time required to produce this output. In second place it is expressed in the prices of production of that output. This expenditure may be high or low, but, to whatever extent living labor enters into the production process, it reappears as some portion of the prices of the goods sold in the market.

This is the first instance of what the IMF means by use of the term ‘high labor costs’: The total quantity of labor expended in some period of time reappears in the prices of the sum of commodities produced during the same period. According to the OECD, Greece requires about 2,037 hours of labor per worker to produce the annual total product of Greece GDP. This 2013 figure compares to Spain, at 1,665 hours; France, 1,489 hours; Germany, at 1,388 hours; and the Netherlands, at 1,380 hours.

Here, I do not take into account the composition or size of the various economies. This is of no concern to me at all: no matter their relative size or the composition of their national product, each of these countries must produce this product to satisfy their needs through some definite expenditure of labor time. I am only concerned about the labor time expenditure, which varies from one country to the next and which constitutes the average per worker labor cost of each.

But there is a complication here: The labor cost of Greece, Spain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands includes both the labor time expended to reproduce the wages paid to the worker and that labor time expended for production of surplus value, of profit, for the capitalist. While the IMF is concerned about the labor costs of Greece commodities in general, it is specifically concerned about the labor costs embodied in wages. The total labor time expended in each of these countries minus the total labor time spent on the reproduction of wages is the total profit of each national capital.

In the final analysis, the IMF is solely concerned with increasing profits — that portion of total labor expenditures beyond reproduction of wages. It follows that since Lapavitsas’ much loved Keynesian policies have the same aim as the IMF’s policies, they too are only concerned with profit. Thus, whether we are speaking of the IMF’s austerity policies or Lapavitsas’ Keynesian policies, the focus is on how to reduce wages so as to increase profits. On this premise the problem that in Greece it requires 2,037 hours of labor to produce the annual GDP, while in Germany it only requires 1,388 hours of labor, is not really a problem.

And this requires some explaining. The problem in Greece is not just that it requires an inordinate amount of labor time to produce the annual GDP — depending on the level of development of the productive forces, many countries within the world market require a relatively high duration of labor to produce their GDP. The problem for Greece is that, even with this inordinate amount of labor time, the profit rate is still too low to be competitive within the eurozone. Despite the fact Greece workers labor 2,037 hours annually just to produce the total product of labor, even with this god-awful expenditure the total product cannot be brought to the market with at least an average profit.

What actually matters both for the IMF and for Lapavitsas’ much loved Keynesianism is not that hours of labor are too long, but that the rate of profit is too low. The IMF did not undertake its reform program in Greece to reduce the time it takes to produce Greece GDP, but to increase the rate of profit. Thus, despite the fact that Greece takes what is by European standards a jaw-dropping amount of labor to squeeze out its rather poor material standard of living, the IMF has also pushed for policies that increase the total labor time of society — for instance, by increasing the retirement age. So long as Greece workers pump out the required surplus value, it is of no concern to the IMF that this is done in 2,037 hours, 1,388 hours or even 3,000 hours.

It should be clear from what I have stated previously that the IMF is not at all concerned with the total labor costs actually incurred to produce Greece GDP, but only that portion that accrues as wages, or, stated alternately, to maximize that portion of actual labor expenditure that accrue as profit.

6. Labor costs redefined

Here I have modified the term ‘labor cost’ to mean, in first place, the amount of labor that is actually expended on average by the workers during the course of the average working day in Greece relative to that of Germany. For the purpose of this post, I offer this definition of labor costs in place of the one employed in bourgeois simpleton economics.

In my definition, ‘labor costs’ means the cost to the worker in terms of labor she must perform in order to produce some given annual GDP. The labor costs of this annual GDP exist, first, in the form of labor time imposed on the worker — the time the worker must actually spend on production — and only after this do they take the form of prices of production of the product of this labor. To reduce this latter, ‘money labor cost’, the IMF doesn’t expect, initially at least, to reduce the living labor content of commodities but only the wages paid to the worker.

This much is stated in the IMF fact-sheet, from which I quoted earlier: A reduction in the real expenditure of labor time by the workers is only realized over time. In the short run, the IMF proposes to simply reduce the wages paid to the workers:

“[Productivity] increases only … over time, [thus] improving competitiveness may require a reduction in costs, including labor costs.”

Thus, the IMF argues wages must be reduced first to lower money ‘labor costs’. If this can be done successfully, over some period of time the productivity of labor will adjust itself to match this reduction in wages. The hidden assumption here is, of course, that, first, the profits accruing to capital will be increased in order to encourage increased productive investment.

As is to be expected from the IMF, this assumption that profits must be increased first to bring about an improvement in productivity is smuggled into the IMF fact-sheet and never clearly argued directly for obvious reasons: It is basically a reiteration of the so-called “trickle-down” theory of neoclassical ideology. By increasing the profits of the capitalist class, in due time investment will increase, leading to a general expansion of ‘the economy’. Just because this tactic to resolve a crisis is pejoratively referred to as ‘trickle down’ does not in any way mean it doesn’t work. In fact, until the Great Depression, it worked rather well.

Moreover, Keynesian theory, which makes a distinction between real and nominal wages, is essentially only a set of ‘trickle down’ policies as well. The distinction to be made with regards to Keynesian policies is that the policies focus on the real wages paid to the workers, while leaving nominal wages unchanged. So long as the real wages, i.e., the real consumption power, of the working class is reduced, what happens to nominal wages is unimportant.

Another way to put this: The IMF does not really propose to reduce the labor time content of all commodities and thus improve the competitiveness of the Greece national capital; it propose to reduce the labor time content of only one commodity: labor power, the single commodity that is absolutely essential for capitalistic self-expansion. By reducing the labor time content of labor power — i.e., by forcibly reducing wages — it proposes to raise the rate of profit and thus investment. This, the IMF argues, will eventually make Greece’s output competitive within the eurozone.

7. Defining ‘competitiveness’

This, I think, requires us to redefine what the term, ‘competitiveness’, means. Typically, the focus of most discussion in on the ability of a national capital to find a market for its goods within the world market. Each national capital competes against all other national capitals to sell its commodities in various national markets throughout the eurozone and must deliver its commodities at a price that is competitive.

However, to emphasize competition to sell commodities within the world market is to overlook that the national capitals do not compete for sales in first place, but for profit like any other form of capital. In particular, national capitals are not concerned with the production of commodities, but with the production of surplus value. In forcibly reducing wages — whether by Keynesian (currency) devaluation or internal devaluation (the IMF has done both as appropriate) — the IMF is trying to attract new capital investment that makes economic growth possible. The competition, in other words, is not a competition for commodities, but for capital and this competition hinges on the rate of profit.

In this sense, Lapavitsas is entirely correct to argue, “devaluation would not work simply, or mostly, through exports. It would work through the domestic market, more than exports.” The aim of policy, whether Keynesian or IMF austerity, is to make Greece attractive for investment. In either case, both policies require a reduction in the real consumption of the working class. And this is what Lapavitsas means by his statement, “there isn’t [any alternative to Keynesian economic policy] at the moment.”

This lack of alternatives does not hinge on the methods employed to reduce the subsistence of the working class; rather, Lapavitsas really is arguing that there is no way to escape the present crisis without forcibly reducing working class subsistence. Starving the working class, Lapavitsas basically argues, may go counter to the aim of communism, but, in the short run, Marxists have no alternative short-term policies to propose.

8. An important question

Which, for any communist, should raise a far more interesting question than those raised by a search for an alternative to neoliberal and Keynesian policies:

Why are communists looking for a way to exit the crisis of capitalism?

I know this question might seem a little bizarre, but if you bear with me, I believe I can show you why it is relevant.

Think about it this way: If exiting the capitalist crisis requires the working class to voluntarily cut its own wages and hand the difference over to the capitalists, why would SYRIZA or any Left party advocate this? It is the capitalists’ crisis, not the working class. We are under no obligation to fix their crisis for them. The only basis for accepting this sort of resolution of the crisis would be that there is no alternative to it; no other solution. And this is indeed the argument that both Costas Lapavitsas and Margaret Thatcher have made — each in their own way and for their preferred set of policy prescriptions.

In first place, it apparently never occurred to Lapavitsas as it doesn’t to most Marxists that communists should not aim to end capitalist crises, but to end capitalism itself. For some god-awful reason, Marxists seem to think that offering an alternative to the IMF-inspired austerity means they have to offer an alternative way out of the capitalist crisis. In fact, there is no reason at all to believe this.

It is critical to point out here that we are talking not about a crisis of the production of material wealth in general, but a specific sort of crisis: a crisis of production of material wealth for profit, i.e., a capitalist crisis. A capitalist crisis does not in any way imply there is a barrier to the production of material wealth in general, but only to the historically specific form of capitalist production. And, as even a newbie Marxist eventually learns, capital is a constant barrier to its own further expansion precisely because profit is both “the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production”.

Simply stated: The capitalist crisis is a crisis for capitalism not because it becomes impossible to produce material wealth, but because it becomes impossible to produce material wealth at a profit.

In chapter 15, volume three, of Capital, Marx makes the following points about capitalist crises that should serve as the starting point of any communist program:

First, in a capitalist crisis, there is not overproduction in proportion to the existing population; rather, too little is produced to satisfy the wants of the great mass of social producers.

Second, there is not overproduction of the means of production produced to employ the social producers. Instead, a large portion of the social producers are not really able to work, are forced live on the labor of others, or in jobs that can be considered employment only under “a miserable mode of production”.

Third, moreover, not enough capacity is produced to permit the employment of the entire able-bodied population under the most productive conditions, so that hours of labor could be shortened.

Fourth, at the same time, too much industrial capacity and necessities are produced to permit them being employed as capital, as means for production of surplus value, for profit. Too many commodities are produced to be sold at a profit.

In Marx’s view, capitalist crises erupted not because, “too much wealth is produced. But at times too much wealth is produced in its capitalistic, self-contradictory forms.” Which is to say, so much material wealth has been produced it makes capitalist production, i.e., production for profit itself, unprofitable.

Marx’s argument in volume three of Capital suggests SYRIZA should ignore the low profitability of Greece’s capitalist firms altogether since production for profit itself is the actual barrier in this crisis. To ignore profit means, in first place, that SYRIZA should not attempt to reduce wages, but should dramatically raise them. To ignore profits means, in second place, that SYRIZA not try to raise the rate of profit either through austerity or Keynesian devaluation, but should make it progressively more difficult for individual firms to produce for profit under the prevailing stage in the development of the productive forces of Greece.

And why would this be true? In first place, and at a minimum, SYRIZA should not try to raise the rate of profit or reduce wages for the very obvious reason that it should be trying to forcibly shakeout those capitals that are too small or too backward to be competitive within the eurozone. Beyond this, as indicated by Marx in the above passage, the problem is not that the subsistence of the working class is too high, but that too little is currently being produced to satisfy human needs. Under conditions necessary for production at a profit, a large portion of the population is now permanently locked out of productive employment, forced into substandard jobs or forced to subsist on state handouts and private charity.

Further, under present conditions of profit-driven production, the most efficient employment of the laboring population, allowing for the most efficient use of productive resources and a general reduction of hours of labor to the minimum necessary, is not possible. Thus a very large portion of current individual labor time that could be returned to the working class to enjoy as their personal disposable time remains locked in the wages system.

At the same time, the capitalist mode of production operates in such a way that production comes to a sudden halt long before the needs of the social producers are satisfied. We face a situation where, perversely, although there is too little productive capacity available to serve as means of production, too much capacity is produced to be employed for the production of surplus value; although not enough is produced to satisfy human needs, too many commodities are produced to be sold at a profit; although society remains trapped in poverty, too much of the wealth of society is produced as capital.

And this perversity has finally driven Greece’s economy off a cliff.

9. Conclusion: A short run program for communists

Based on the above, it is possible to at least outline a short run program for communists to offer that is consistent with its long term aims.

The program begins where it should: not with efforts to end the crisis of capitalism but to move society beyond production for profit. Since the crisis of capitalism is simply the crisis of the production of material wealth in the form of capital, labor theory suggests we should aim to push the boundaries of the production of material wealth beyond the limitations of the capitalistic form within which it has developed until this time.

The problems this short run program should address, therefore, follow from an analysis of the problems of capitalist crises themselves, which is that production of material wealth is constrained by production for profit in such a way that it becomes materially impossible to ever satisfy the human needs of the vast majority of society. A communist program, therefore, takes as its starting point precisely the limits of capitalist production itself, i.e., precisely where production for profit comes to a halt, the crisis. They can include the following measures:

  1. Reduce the labor day to permit the employment of the entire able-bodied population under the most productive conditions and free up a progressively growing mass of free disposable labor time for all members of society;
  2. Discourage employment that does not meet basic humane standards by legally mandate minimum wage and benefits package, including safety and other vital conditions of employment;
  3. Provide access to the means of production to every member of society who wants it, without regards to whether this employment is profitable;
  4. Promote the development of direct worker management of enterprises;
  5. Promote the production of material wealth without regards to whether this production is profitable; and,
  6. Promote the production of commodities that do not aim at realization and conversion into new value.

Above all else, point 1. is critical to a Marxist alternative to both Keynesian and neoliberal policy prescriptions. There can be no possibility of expansion of the production of material wealth beyond the limitations of the system of production for profit until the members of society have the free disposable time away from labor for pursuit of creative activity without regards for economic considerations. Such a possibility hinges on progressively reducing the labor day until wage labor no longer constitutes the principal source of material wealth.

The aim of communists should be to move society beyond production for profit by moving the production of material wealth beyond the constraints of production for profit. And this can only mean the progressive abolition of wage labor itself.

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