GOP Senator previews our dystopian capitalist future: 100% unemployment

by Jehu

This morning, Senator Ben Sasse broached the subject no one wants to talk about: Wage slavery is going away and there is nothing that can be done to prevent this. I aggregated his tweets to summarize his major points:

“Morning news pretends there’s a simple political solution to the declining # of manufacturing jobs. It’s not true. We should tell the truth. Automation–even more than trade–will continue to shrink the number of manufacturing jobs. This trend is irreversible. Politicians are not good at telling the truth. We should tell the truth, even when it is unpopular – for example, about coming job changes. We should be honest that there will be more, not less, job change in the future. We should be encouraging prep for disruption & retraining. US economy is adding approximately 2 million jobs per year. It’s not nearly enough.

In thinking about manufacturing job change, consider history of agriculture:

1790: 90% of workers were farmers
1840: 69%
1900: 38%
1960 8%
1980s: 3%

Important reality

US manufacturing output continues to be strong. But it’s with fewer people (as in agriculture). [This is because we’re] more productive.

Imagine being a powerful bourgeois politician in the most powerful nation on the planet, but you have to openly admit there is nothing you can do to keep wage slavery from going away.


The problem, as stated by the senator, is simple: 97% of labor in agriculture eliminated in about 200 years and the capitalist weren’t really even trying. And this means wage labor is dead. After abolishing almost all labor in agriculture, industrial and service labor amounts to a  mop up operation. People who continue to insist on full employment policies are like the last guy in business making wagon wheels.

Communism is 100% unemployment and nothing else. The enemies of communism declare communism will destroy the economy. They are right. Under communism no one will have a job, no one will have any wages, there will be nothing for sale on the shelves in the stores. This is why communism terrifies not only the bourgeoisie, but even the most ardent communists. Not even an avowed communist can imagine a world where unemployment is 100% and no one can sell their labor power. Which is bizarre because we all know you can’t even get to communism until no one can sell their labor power, wages are zero and everyone is unemployed.

But let’s not dwell on what communists think — no one gives a shit what they think. Just imagine trying to convince an ordinary worker that 100% unemployment, no wages and nothing for sale in stores is a benefit to them. Trump has stated he does not believe in a minimum wage, Clinton resisted supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Voters were scandalized by these views. Imagine coming behind Trump and Clinton and telling workers you think no one should be paid wages. How do you make that argument without sounding like a political Neanderthal, somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan?

Is there a way to repackage communism so that 100% unemployment sounds enticing? I really don’t thinks there is. Today it is impossible to get people to even acknowledge that less work might be good, much less 100% unemployment. And I don’t for a minute think this is because people are misled or indoctrinated by bourgeois ideology. I certainly don’t have an answer for this, but I do want to point out that no communists are talking about it. Every communist knows communism has no labor, money or state, yet they completely ignore this fact. They can’t tell you how we go from a society with labor, money and a state to one with no labor, money or a state. They want to pretend this problem does not exist: that you can sell 100% unemployment to society where almost everyone lives by selling  their labor power.

This denial takes two forms:

a. Pretend communism is not 100% unemployment: There are a whole bunch of communist who want to pretend communism is just better management of capitalism — full employment. These are the sorts of communists who produce their blueprints for a capitalism without unemployment, poverty, depressions or crises. They may even call this sort of capitalism ‘socialism’, ‘market socialism’ or just a centrally planned economy, but it is just capitalism with a human face.

b. Pretend communism will be solved in the future: And there are a whole bunch of communists who acknowledge communism is more than that but we can’t know until we get there. The problem with not knowing until we get there is that we won’t know when we actually do get there, because we have no objective measure of “there”.

If the objective measure of “there” is “100% unemployment”, this is a big problem. Do we just wait until unemployment reaches 100% when all will be revealed to us? That seem rather dangerous to me. Nothing more frightening than a society full of unemployed workers who can’t sell their labor power. The last time that happened on anything approaching those numbers, the 1930s, 100 million people were exterminated. Communists simply do not want to talk about how society gets to 100% unemployment — they are terrified at the very possibility of a replay of the 1930s on an even greater scale. What they should be terrified about is the prospect of the catastrophe that awaits us at levels of unemployment well below 100%.

One hundred percent unemployment is not really a problem for communists: if everyone is out of work, money, and the state disappear as well. The problem for communists is trying to go from ten percent unemployment to 99% unemployment — that is the sweet spot where unthinkable catastrophes occur; the point where labor has already mostly been rendered obsolete, but wages remain the singular condition for consumption.

This disjuncture between production and consumption means there is a vast and growing mass of the population who have no possibility to sell their labor power, but the sale of labor power remains the condition for their subsistence — a condition that amounts to a death sentence for a large mass of the working population.

Communists need to talk about this; and they need to talk about it in a way that does not fudge what communism means. Communism means everyone, without exception, is unemployed and receives no wages or other income. It means nothing can be sold because no one has any means — wages or other income — to buy it. It means the entire world economy has disappeared into a black hole from which it can never again emerge. We need to talk about communism in these terms to keep from deluding ourselves that communism implies the continuation of any category  we today take to be normal.

If we discussed communism this way, it would be obvious there is no way to get from capitalism to communism without a catastrophe.

Since we cannot avoid that catastrophe, we must embrace it. A catastrophe is an event causing great and sudden suffering or damage to some person or institution. The person in this case is the wage worker and the institution is wage labor. We must,  in other words, bring about the catastrophic end to both. Communists must embrace the catastrophe with which the wage worker is already threatened. We cannot delude ourselves for one instance that this is not our aim. Instead, our declared goal should be to abolish both the wage worker and wage labor.

What capital does inadvertently, we should aim to do deliberately. The weapons capital employs to get rid of living labor relatively, we should employ to get rid of it absolutely. When capital sets free living labor from production, we should make that setting free permanent. When capital attempts to increase employment, we should do everything in our power to prevent this.

Only by embracing this catastrophe can we then discuss how to make sure it works to the advantage of the great mass of society.