If we don’t drive our own wages to zero, capital can do it for us

by Jehu

On twitter @housetrotter made this extremely pertinent observation:

We make jokes about “after the revolution,” but the fact is I don’t know how we get to revolution and it scares the shit out of me.

Here is the problem:

This statement:

  1. Capitalism
  2. ???
  3. Communism

Practically translates into this statement:

  1. Capitalism
  2. Wages go to zero
  3. Communism

And this statement:

  1. Capitalism (Jobs, jobs, jobs!)
  2. 100% unemployment
  3. Communism

It’s real easy to figure out how we get to communism when capitalism does all the dirty work. It’s that middle part, when wages go to zero and unemployment goes to 100%, that bothers people, I guess. People have a really hard time imagining a future where no one has a job or wages.

Fine. If we can’t figure out how to drive our own wages to zero, capital can do it for us.

The problem with this is that that’s also the definition of communism. People know, of course, that under communism no one has a job or wages, but they just can’t see how to get there without a huge bother. So, they try to figure out a way to get to communism in such a way that everyone will still have a job and good wages. They keep running into this brick wall and become despondent.

No need to be despondent: capitalism is going to take all of your jobs and all of your wages and leave you with nothing. If you can’t figure out how to discard your own jobs and wages, capitalism will do it for you. Getting rid of your jobs and wages is all capitalism does. Capitalism is very good at it. Of course, you probably won’t like how capitalism does this — but it gets the job done.

If we do not figure out how to get rid of our own jobs and wages, more people will turn to fascists like Trump who promises to create jobs. And Trump will do this by expelling migrants, pumping more fossil fuels into the atmosphere and stripping labor of it protections. All because you want to cling to jobs and wages. There is no way to create jobs without expelling migrants, pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere and stripping labor of its protections. If you don’t want to expel migrants, pump fossil fuels into the atmosphere and strip labor of its protections, stop demanding jobs. Demand less jobs and lower wages, instead.

Counter-intuitive, I know, but you have no choice if you want to get to communism.

It’s almost as if jobs only serve capital and wages only serve to constrict subsistence. How could that be? How could it be that jobs and wages only serve capital, not wage labor. I mean, isn’t it called “wage” labor? Doesn’t that mean it serve the wage worker? Why would they name it that if it served capital. Capitalism is so bizarre. Who would have imagined wage labor serves capital, not workers? Seems just wrong that that happens.

If there was any justice in the world, wage labor would make workers rich, not non-workers. Who could have imagined its the exact opposite? Who could have imagined that the more we work, the poorer we get and this because our own labor impoverishes us?

If our own labor impoverishes us, is it just possible that less labor might slow or even reverse our impoverishment?

Nah! That’s silly.

How can you end poverty by working less? How could you increase your subsistence by lowering your wages? Everybody knows two dollars buy more groceries than one dollar; which is why six times higher wages today means we have lower real income than in 1970 … wait, wha…? That’s not right. Our wages have gone up for fifty years, but our real income has dropped? How did that happen?

More people working more hours and earning more dollars equals a lower standard of living than in 1970, when productivity has increased at least four-fold over that period?

Could this possibly be because more people working more hours doesn’t raise the standard of living, but lowers it? Could it be that we only think more work means more income because, like imbeciles, we look at the pretty pieces of paper we are paid? But when we actually look at what we can afford with those pretty pieces of paper, we actually make less than a minimum wage worker in 1970.

More people working more hours with greater productivity only creates more poverty — you won’t find that in Piketty. The capitalists are reducing your real wages to zero, while the amount of pretty pieces of paper in your wallet increases.

Everybody is wondering why the poverty level is rising and no one looks at the real culprit: labor. And this is because no one can imagine that more labor actually creates more poverty — it just can’t be true. And it certainly can’t be true that working less eliminates poverty, can it? Can our precious, wholesome labor actually be the cause of our poverty?

But if we work less, won’t we get fewer of those pretty pieces of paper? How can there be less poverty if there are fewer pretty pieces of paper in our wallet?

Because working less is deflationary, of course. When we work less, prices fall and our real income rises even though we have fewer pretty pieces of paper in our wallets. Getting more pretty pieces of paper in your wallet since 1970 did not mean you can afford more things, so why do you think fewer pieces of paper means you can afford less? Are you really as dull-witted as Keynes said you were? He said you could not figure out how inflation was being used to rob you. He said you were too dull-witted to even understand how the scam works. And here you are proving him right by clinging to pretty pieces of paper when your real income is collapsing.

If your real income can fall even as the pretty paper in your wallet increases, your real income can fall even as your labor increases. The increasing amount of pretty paper in your wallet conceals the fact that the more labor you contribute the poorer you become. No matter how hard you work, you never get ahead. And you can’t explain why you never get ahead because you keep looking at the pretty pieces of paper in your wallet. The paper distracts your attention from the fact that your labor is making you poorer. As total hours of labor increase, poverty increases with it. This is true even if you work yourself to an early grave.

By working yourself to an early grave you can, of course, increase your individual wages in the short run, but you will only reduce them in the long run. To understand why this is true imagine what happens if everyone tries to work more hours. They will only force down wages through increased competition for jobs. On the other hand, less labor per worker reduces competition, making possible a general rise in wages and the capacity for organizing. Increased organization facilitates the additional pressure for wages to rise.

But rising wages is a problem right? I mean, we want communism and that means wages must go to zero. How can an increase in wages lead to communism, where wages are zero?

Simple: the rise in wages adds pressure to profits and forces the capitalists to employ less labor in production. In this case, however, they cannot get away with cutting wages. Instead, they have to replace living labor with machines. The capitalists response to fewer hours of labor is always and everywhere to introduce more and better machines to squeeze more profits out of the workers in less time.

When you reduce hours of labor, wages fall to zero because less labor is employed, not because individuals hourly wages are slashed. Wages in aggregate fall to zero, but the living standard of each worker improves. Fewer hours of labor means less pretty paper in your wallet, but each piece of pretty paper has a higher purchasing power.

In any case, if communists cannot sell an obviously simple strategy like fewer hours of labor to the working class, it will be okay: capitalism will make them an offer they don’t refuse.

To summarize then:

1. Capitalism
2. Fewer hours of labor until wages and employment reach zero
3. Communism