Fully assimilated liberal drivel
mcm_cmc has been think about life after capitalism, and, apparently, it is not all abundance and partying naked on the beach:
“I will argue that it fails to deal with various very real limitations on automation, increased consumption and the fulfilment of desires. Furthermore, in attempting to think in a utopian manner about possible post-capitalist societies it is necessary to consider questions of changing social relations and relations between humanity and nature that the luxury communism vision avoids.”
The phrase, “fully automated luxury communism”, is an interesting attempt to describe a vision of communist society that is not (a) founded on an egalitarian shared poverty; and, (b) a state regulated workhouse.
Whether this idea succeeds or not is not the point, since it apparently began as a joke in the UK Left.
Communism, of course, is simply a state of society where people and nature no longer exist as means, but become ends in themselves.
In any case, cmc_mcm, has decided to take the joke seriously and subject it to critique. So let take a look at the writer’s objections to the idea itself.
1. Luxury implies scarcity and poverty
First, the writer argues that the very concept of luxury requires scarcity:
“One point that challenges the luxury communist notion is the way in which conceptions of goods as luxurious are often tied up with exclusivity. For example, a Cartier watch isn’t valued for its superior timekeeping abilities as compared to other watches or for its staggering beauty (they are often quite ugly) so much as that they are known for being expensive and thus owning one confers the status of being able to buy something other people cannot afford. ‘Cartier for everyone’ would thus make it meaningless as a status symbol and destroy the very reason it was viewed as a luxury in the first place.”
So, luxury items are only luxury because they are unattainable to the vast majority of people. Yes. So what?
Electricity was once a luxury item. And before that it was unthinkable science fiction: machines powered by invisible electrons; food maintained in conditions where they did not rot for months, even years.
Lenin called communism soviet power plus electrification — can you imagine a state of society where the light bulb is communism.
Today, electricity is ubiquitous and no one even gives a thought to the fact that only decades ago no one even imagined it could exist. The development of the productive forces transformed electricity from something out of science fiction into something we take for granted.
Yes. It is true that luxury items become non-luxuries by becoming ubiquitous, but this is hardly an objection to the idea of FALC.
2. The earth can’t afford communism
The second objection is that our world contains limited resource that could be threatened by uncontrolled development:
“Our reliance on maintaining the earth’s environment for our very survival means that sustainability is a key concern to any future vision whilst the new technologies of late capitalism, … In addition, the limited quantities of materials available for production must inevitably act as a limitation on productive expansion. Thus environmental concerns must limit this promise of ‘luxury for all.’ Older limitations of scarcity may have been overcome, but the problem of environmental scarcity is more pressing than ever before.
Yes. Although the planet is very large in relation to our needs, the development of the productive forces themselves have made it possible for us to do great harm well beyond that required to satisfy our needs. The productive forces themselves have been turned into destructive forces that pollute the earth and our bodies. This is indeed a critique of the capitalist mode of production, but what application does it have to communism of any sort?
Capitalism is production for the sake of production, relentless expansion for the sake of expansion; it is a mode of production that serves no purpose but its own self-expansion. It is, in a phrase, development run wild. Moreover, this unconstrained development begins, not with environmental destruction but with the constant extension of our labor beyond the poiknt where labor provides any reasonable satisfaction of our needs. Already in the extension of hours of labor beyond the needs of the producer, capital has damaged nature, because we are part of nature! Labor performed for no material need is immediately nature consumed for no material need. It doesn’t take a genius to look at the Gulf and see a process reproduced that already occurs in society on a daily basis: The unnecessary damage done to the Gulf was caused, in first place, by reducing it to mere means of production for the unnecessary labor of the worker.
It is absolutely not true that the natural environment limits productive expansion and serves to limit luxury for all. In fact, capitalistic development pushes production beyond the limits of both nature and worker and produces a mass of superfluous capital, on the one hand, and a mass of superfluous labor, on the other. The writer should at least admit the assumption the natural enviorment is a limit on productive expansion is unproven at least until unproductive capitalistic uses of nature has been ended. Although nature is the ultimate source of all material wealth, society applies science and technology to increase the abundance of nature; it is society and existing social relations, not nature, that limits luxury for all.
3. Robots don’t care about your kids
Finally, let’s put an end to this notion of “care work’; this abysmal invention of 21st century radicalism. Even a moron should be able to figure out that so-called “care work” is the invention of a fascist society that seeks to constantly extend both the notion of labor and hours of labor. The notion of “care work” is nothing more than a thinly veil effort to realize the absolute commodification of all human relations.
Raising children, caring for the elderly and the sick — and even one’s self — is reframed as commodified labor. All of this is, of course, raised under the banner of liberating women from domestic drudgery.
“What is being focused on is the abolition of work in terms of privileged ‘male’ forms of industrial and ‘productive’ work, whilst the female dominated ‘private’ work of care and social reproduction which is harder to eliminate is largely overlooked insofar as it is even acknowledged as work at all.”
Rather than freeing parents from wage slavery to raise their kids, the ideal is that we turn our kids over to robots. Wage slavery is, somehow, white and male, although most workers are brown women in third world countries. It is not wage slavery that is “gendered”, but your fucking conception of the working class that is racist. Women and men slave away in sweatshops of the third world, while their children go unfed, uneducated, and uncared for; or worse, they work beside their parents picking tomatoes in California. The REAL luxury of capitalist society is to be able to feed your kids, educate them, care for them. This luxury is unattainable for most of the working class, who are slaving away in sweatshops, performing mind-numbing tasks, because their labor is so cheap it does not pay the capitalists to invest in machines.
4. Communism as a cure for unhappiness
According to the writer, we need to “rethink” what we mean by communism. And here, mcm_cmc tries to smuggle in his/her unabashedly fascistic vision of “public affluence”. According to this fascistic vision, luxury communism focuses too much on satisfaction of individual needs:
“Luxury communism focuses on the fulfilment of privatised, materialistic desires as they exist now through technologically created plenty. This approach has the benefit of clearly resonating with popular demands without telling people what they ‘should’ want, however if this plenty is limited then we need to look more carefully at the transformation of social relations and how desires are constructed.”
Freeing society from wage labor, says the writer, may resonate with people who are unhappy with work, however … whut? WTF does that even mean? Are we trying to free society from labor because people are unhappy at work? What sort of dumb argument is this? Listen, if you are unhappy with your job, find another fucking job. No one has ever suggested ending wage slavery because people are unhappy at work — NO ONE!
We seek to free society from labor because labor itself produces poverty. Really, how dumb do you have to be not to notice the long standing correlation between labor and poverty? In the 21st century is it still a mystery why people who live by their labor live in abject poverty? Do you still think poverty causes labor? Are you that fucking naive? Poverty doesn’t cause us to labor; our labor creates our poverty even as it produces unprecedented material wealth! This has been known for 200 years. If we still have to explain this to ourselves, our situation is beyond hopeless!
And, mind you, this article is not appearing in the New York Times, but on Libcom — people who should at least already grasp this. WTF? Even the most advanced thinkers among the working class write like idiots. You write like you have spent too much time watching the evening news or CNN. You should be ashamed of yourself. This is the kind of liberal drivel I would expect to read on Firedoglake, not Libcom. What chance does communism have politically among the working class, if even the class conscious workers write bullshit like this?
The writer ends with this note: “My thanks to everyone who provided help and feedback.” I have a better idea to everyone who helped and gave feedback: Get a stick, find a stranger, and pay her ten dollars to beat you about the head until she knocks some sense into you.