The Real Movement

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Month: April, 2016

The TSSI school has completely capitulated to the value-form school

In a surprisingly abrupt about face, it looks like the TSSI school has capitulated to the value-form school of Michael Heinrich and company on all the important points of controversy between the two schools.

Of course, the TSSI school is the least ethical of all Marxist schools, because they want to drop Marx while pretending to defend him. The value-form school at least has enough principles to admit they think Marx was wrong, but not the TSSI school. Expect the TSSI school to continue pretending they uphold an orthodox interpretation of Marx’s labor theory of value.

In any case, we now have it in black and white, courtesy of Michael Roberts, who, in his review of Fred Moseley new book, Consistent, realistic, verifiable, argues that Marx labor theory of value basically examines the capitalist mode of production, “[from] the capitalist point of view, [where] money advanced must lead to more money, or forget it.”

I have no words to describe my reaction to this statement.

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Empirical evidence that fewer hours of labor increases wages

As can be seen in the chart below, longer hours of labor does not increase the wages of the working class, nor do shorter hours of labor depress wages.


Empirical evidence for an inverse correlation between hours of labor and wages among euro-zone countries (Source: OECD)

In the euro-zone, as hours of labor fall (x axis), wages rise (y axis). The euro-zone is a good case study for the empirical relation between hours worked and wages, because the common currency means there is no need to adjust for currency exchange rates.

The data, provided by the OECD, shows that Greece, with the longest hours of labor, has among the lowest wages of the euro-zone countries, while Germany, with the shortest hours of labor, has among the highest wages in the euro-zone.

There is a definite inverse correlation between hours and wages.

Marxists who argue a reduction of hours of labor leads to a fall in wages have no empirical or theoretical evidence for their argument. They are just regurgitating the usual simpleton bourgeois nonsense that wage slavery is good for the working class.

Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 4

Is a fully developed communist society possible right now?

047I want to illustrate my point from the last post that to bring the labor reserve into production and so reduce hours to a minimum for everyone in society requires a much larger reduction than may be generally assumed in the literature on the subject. To do this, I will be using actual data drawn on the United States. As I will show, under present conditions in the United States the reduction of hours of labor now required to absorb the labor reserve into production may be so large as to effectively bring us to the threshold of a fully developed communist society.

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Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 3

Labor reduction and the horrific conditions of the labor reserve

I have made several important points about hours of labor reduction in the first two parts of my series “Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies”

The first point is that, according to labor theory, a reduction of hours of labor can drive the rate of profit to zero without any impact on productive employment and wages. This is an extremely important point, because much of the objection by Marxists and other workers to reducing hours of labor rests on their assumption that reducing hours will reduce wages. In fact, of all economic theories, labor theory alone suggest this cannot happen. Labor hours reduction has no impact on employment of productive workers and their wages.

thuglifeSecond, I have shown in part two of this series that when there is significant waste in employment of labor power in the economy, a reduction of hours of labor should actually increase both the number of productively employed workers and wages generally. When a significant portion of the existing employment of labor is wasted, reducing hours raises the wages of the working class.

If labor hours reduction does not negatively affect labor that produces value and surplus value, and if labor hours reduction forces capital to reduce the unproductive employment of labor power, can labor hours reduction actually eliminate unemployment altogether? To be more specific, to what extent is unemployment, underemployment and an entire body of workers who are today “unemployable” solely the product of the present 40 hours work week?

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Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 2

Steps the capitalists can take to counter a reduction in hours of labor and their effect when hours of labor are reduced

In the first part of this series, I showed that a reduction of hours of labor has no impact on wages and productive employment so long as this reduction does not actually encroach on the socially necessary labor required to produce the value of the wages of the working class. In this part, I will show why, under certain circumstances, a reduction of hours of labor will actually increase both wages and productive employment.

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Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 1

How exactly does hours of labor reduction work?

I have to say that I honestly have no idea how the minds of Marxists work — all of them, almost without exception. I have, by turns, alternately been accused of being reformist and ultra-Left for advocating hours of labor reduction. So, I thought I would show people how labor theory actually works in practice and why the struggle to reduce hours of labor is neither reformist nor ultra-Left, but a means to progressively abolish wage labor completely. It is the only real means of realizing a so-called ‘post-capitalist’ society.

What I find puzzling is that Marxists don’t seem to be able to do this very simple thought experiment on their own using Marx’s labor theory of value. The only real objection to reducing hours of labor is that Marxists don’t really want to kill capitalism in the first place.

One of the biggest problems I encounter when discussing hours of labor reduction with Marxists is not the dismissal of the idea as reformist or ultra-leftist. Rather, the problem is far more mundane and substantial. Marxists fear hours of labor reduction will plunge the working class into poverty as wages collapse with hours of labor.

This is an extremely important objection to reducing hours of labor, because it reflects what I think is a valid and extremely powerful fear among the working class. Since we live by selling our labor power, we must be suspicious of any proposal the seems to threaten that sale. However, there is no theoretical basis for this fear in labor theory as I will now show.

If you are a follower of value-form Marxism, don’t try this at home. It will only hurt your brain.

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Is there a political path to communism?

I got this question on my

“In a recent post you said you didn’t think there is a political path to communism. Can you elaborate on that some? What might a non-political path look like?”

The answer to this question has to begin with the basic premise of historical materialism taken from the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. “

In my reading of this statement, I can only come to the conclusion that communism as a political movement can only arise if the real movement (trajectory) of society ends in communism. To put this another way, a political path to communism is only an expression of real historical changes in the mode of production. Communist politics are nothing more than an expression in political relations of material changes in the mode of production.

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Why Thatcher’s neoliberalism was the continuation of Keynesianism

I received this question on my page:

“I’ve noticed that you hold a quite controversial position regarding Thatcher, when you say she was right. Do you mean that you endorse her policies? Wouldn’t it be insane for communists endorsing or proposing extreme Thatcherite policies? If not, would you mind explaining it a little better please?”

Not a problem, let me give some context for why in a certain sense, I argue Thatcher was correct about TINA:

In 1980, Margaret Thatcher argued “There is no alternative” to the policies she was pursuing. In the 36 years since she made her TINA speech, those words have been repeated on the Left as a declaration of class war. While the Left has been rightly outraged by her speech, assuming, as it does, that her neoliberal policies were a historical necessity, little or no context for her words have ever been provided by her Left opponents.

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Schrödinger’s Capital: How the value-form school bet on a dead cat bounce

NOTE 27: Avoiding empirical proof at all costs

As I showed in my last post, the classical theorists prior to Marx held that the rate of profit had a definite tendency to fall. Since the capitalist mode of production is essentially production for profit, this immediately raised the question whether capitalism has a definite shelf-life beyond which it must collapse.

A falling rate of profit is inherently incompatible with the indefinite continuation of the capitalist mode of production for the rather obvious reason that the capitalist mode of production is production for profit. If the capitalist cannot realize a profit on his investment, he has no incentive to invest.

Marx had two tasks regarding this alleged tendency: first, to establish whether it in fact existed and why; second, to establish that the falling rate of profit in fact actually limited the life-span of the capitalist mode of production.

The value-form theorist, Michael Heinrich, has produced a critique of Marx’s effort in an essay published in Monthly Review, Crisis Theory, the Law of the Tendency of the Profit Rate to Fall, and Marx’s Studies in the 1870s, in which he argues Marx’s theory is not scientifically valid. Read the rest of this entry »

Growth, Stagnation or Collapse: A short comment on Anwar Shaikh’s new book

Here is a quote from Anwar Shaikh in the lecture series based on his new book:

“Capitalism is a growing system. Any analysis of capitalism must build into it from the start that it is growing.”

Shaikh’s statement is really rather incomprehensible given what he says is his starting point for analysis of the capitalist mode of production: the framework provided by classical theorists and Keynes.

How can he claim to base his argument on the classical economists and Keynes when, contrary to both of those schools, he characterizes capitalism as a growing system? In Keynesian theory the system tends toward stagnation; while in classical theory, the mode of production tends toward conditions that must lead to collapse, a falling rate of profit. Read the rest of this entry »