The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Month: May, 2018

Empirical evidence for the proposition that production based on exchange value has collapsed

Whether production based on exchange value has broken down is subject to rather formidable objections from almost all Marxist theorists. So far as I can tell, not a single Marxist today thinks such an event could happen, much less that it has already happened.

Fair enough. I will prove they are wrong.

Warning: This post is even more tedious and unreadable than usual.

*****

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How Benanev and Clegg tried to obscure the role of the post-war state in maintaining wage slavery (Part 1)

I want to emphasize two points about what the Endnotes collective is trying to accomplish with this essay, before moving on with the rest of this useless economic argument for communization. In this post and the next, I want to set up an argument that will be important for what follows.

That argument can be stated as follows:

The continuous intervention of the bourgeois state in the economy is now essential to the maintenance of the system of wage slavery.

This is what the Endnotes collective is trying to conceal with their blatant bastardization of Marx’s theory. This bastardization is premised on two essential arguments:

First, Benanev and Clegg, writing on behalf of the Endnotes collective, strip Marx’s theory of its fundamental categories, value and surplus value. This reduces Marx’s theory to a description of a technical process of production. In this technical description, worthy of a first year introduction to microeconomics textbook, technical changes in in methods of production lead inevitably to scarcity of wage employment. As Keynes puts it, technological development leads to technological unemployment; the means of economizing on the employment of wage labor in production outruns the pace at which capital can find new uses for wage labor.

Second, having throttled Marx’s theory with this purely technical description of the capitalist process of accumulation, Benanev and Clegg offer historical evidence that Marx has been refuted. Wage employment did not become scarce, say these two academics. Marx’s theory was an incomplete description of process of capitalist accumulation:

What Marx did not foresee, and what actually occurred in the 1890s, was the emergence of new industries that were simultaneously labour and capital absorbent, and which were able to put off the decline for more than half a century. The growth of these new industries, principally cars and consumer durables, depended on two 20th century developments: the increasing role of the state in economic management, and the transformation of consumer services into consumer goods.

In this post, I want to address these two allegations level by the Endnotes collective against Marx’s theory in reverse order. In the next post, I will provide supporting empirical data for my argument.

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Where Marx went wrong — according to Benanev and Clegg

I am continuing with my examination of the Endnotes collective’s economic argument for communization. This argument is outlined in Endnotes 2, in an essay, titled Misery and Debt, by Aaron Benanav and John Clegg.

In two sections of their essay, respectively titled “The crisis of Reproduction” and “From Re-industrialization to De-industialization”, these meatheads summarize the alleged defects of Marx’s theory of accumulation this way: Marx identifies a shift from labor-intensive to capital-intensive industries. This results in a fall in the demand for labour in new industrial lines as well as old. At first, the unemployed wage workers thrown off by this shift, tend to be reabsorbed into the circuits of capitalism. But, In time, they tend to outgrow this function and become absolutely redundant. Capital thus tend to produce a population of wage workers who become absolutely redundant to the needs of capitalist production. Left unchecked the relative decline in labour demand becomes absolute. At first, this prediction by Marx was born out by the evidence available in his time, say the writers.

Over time, both a growing population of workers and a growing mass of capital would be unable to find a place in the production process. In this way, the proletariat as a class progressively is locked out of all productive employment. Capital proletarianizes the small producers, but these newly created proletarians cannot sell their labor power because, by gaining employment, they undermine their own material conditions of existence. Wage-labor is inseparable from the accumulation of capital, but the rising productivity of social labor reduces the demand for wage labor. Thus, in a society based on wage-labor, the reduction of socially-necessary labor-time expresses itself in a growing scarcity of jobs.

All good, right? Marx predicted the end of capitalism based on the growing scarcity of wage employment?

Well, not so much.

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How Endnotes’ Benanev and Clegg deliberately crippled Marx’s argument on the abolition of wage labor

The economic argument for communization made by the rockets scientists from Endnotes is weakened because, despite their assertion that, “Communism necessitates the abolition of a multifaceted relation that has evolved over time”, they appear to think that, “to abolish it simply means that we cease to constitute value, and it ceases to constitute us.”

Now, I may be missing some subtlety, but this idiocy is stated as if 7 billion people can simply flip a switch and abolish all present relations, replacing them with new communist relations. In other words, if communism and capitalism were represented in a Venn diagram, the categories, communism and capitalism, do not overlap. The brainiacs at Endnotes tells us that this is now the only way we can conceive of the transition from capitalism to communism.

In my opinion, communization is posed this way by our friends at Endnotes most likely not to theoretically facilitate a communization movement, but to obscure Marx’s fundamental theoretical argument. This is a strong charge, I know. But I will demonstrate it by examining the argument made by Aaron Benanev and John Clegg, in their essay, On the Logic and History of Surplus Populations and Surplus Capital.

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The Endnotes collective makes the economic case for communization. Hilarity ensues.

In 2010, the Endnotes collective tried (and failed, badly) to assess the implications of the 2008 financial collapse for the long run viability of capitalism. Would the massive devalorization of capital, experienced by society in that crisis, give way to a new golden age of wage employment similar to the one we experienced following World War 2 — roughly between 1945-1971?

The question remains important because the communization tendency (of which Endnotes is said to be a part) argues that it is no longer possible to imagine a transition to communism on the basis of a prior victory of the working class as working class. The proletarians cannot seize political power and wield it for their emancipation; rather, they must immediately put an end to themselves as a class.

The Endnotes’ argument for this proposition is murky, perhaps deliberately stated in an ambiguous fashion. I will spend some time trying to understand why.

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Apologies, but I’m just going to post this right here, without comment

Christina Aguilera announces new single ‘Accelerate,’ album called ‘Liberation’

H/T hamburger hoopla

For Moishe Postone

Must read …

communists in situ

797StarnbgBarbaraMoisheHarold600pxw.jpg Barbara Brick, Moishe Postone, Harold Marcuse, 1979, after Herbert Marcuse’s death

by Jacob Blumenfeld

I first encountered Moishe Postone‘s work on antisemitism in the early 2000s but it wasn’t until 2008-9, when the United States was in the grips of a financial crisis, that his thinking on Marx, capitalism, and value really began to hit home. I remember making zines out of his essay, “Critique and Historical Transformation“, and distributing them in New York City to students, activists, and friends, in the hopes of starting a more critical conversation on the crisis. The point was to go beyond superficial analyses of “crony capitalism” and to see the totality of capital as a self-mediating, crisis-prone dynamic of value which cannot simply be opposed to labor. Furthermore, Postone’s critical theory challenged those of us who became politicized in the ‘anti-globalization’ movement and the anti-war movements of the late 90s and…

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