F*ck Communists! Long Live Communism!
I will try to keep this brief.
Do you want to get rid of wage-labor? Do you want to get rid of the state? Yes? Good! Do no more! All those other prerequisites you think are necessary to “be” a communist are as superfluous as the labor bound up in the world economy. All of the debates surrounding “what is to be done?” were made superfluous, as well, when the state flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED on non-essential workers and businesses, doing what no other communist movement has ever achieved: grinding capitalist accumulation to a halt.
Communists had absolutely nothing to do with this economic fallout, but anyone wanting to exit capitalist social relations and bury wage-labor and the state can help realize their aims immensely by continuing to prolong and make painful the drought of surplus-value capital — nor the state — can exist without.
Presently, communists crudely think their ruthlessness lies in their outspokenness about killing or eating individual capitalists — or their fierce apologetics of mustachioed 20th century revolutionaries. However, I think our true ruthlessness lies in how well we’re able to mirror and go beyond capital’s own ruthlessness.
- If capital needs something — we deny it vehemently and without conscious.
- If capital has a weakness — we exploit it.
- If capital has tendencies — we exacerbate them.
- If capital is wounded — we finish the job.
The last point is very relevant here because communists, by and large, do not view the pandemic as a unique opportunity to actually keep capitalism dead. Rather, they see people’s disenchantment in the system, and the inadequate systemic response to the virus, as merely conditions to a gateway for recruiting souls to their cause.
Despite effete communist posturing and obsession over partyism and workerism, capitalism is actually mortally wounded right now and dragging its bleeding-out carcass to safety until it can make a Lazarus-like return. I’m just not confident that communists are up to the challenge of stalking it and “finishing the job.” Their assessment of the pandemic and its effect to the survival of capitalism and the state; their apparent lack of awareness that the state has setup a penultimate showdown between itself and the working-class; and their failure to optimize a strategy which is as precise as it is merciless has left me without much confidence in a Left to be viscerally fearful of.
Yes, it’s pretty tough talk. But what might a merciless attack to capitalism and the state look like?
First, it would be characterized by the mindless (but not illogical), unrelenting, and non-negotiability of capital’s own drive for the unnecessary.
From the Grundrisse:
“Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth. Hence it diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition — question of life or death — for the necessary.”[my emphasis]
LIFE OR DEATH. Read it again. Capital is not fucking around. And neither should we. We know this callous process’s personification in the figure of landlords, CEOs, corporations, and in our politicians themselves. We have to be more callous. We have to be outright hostile and threatening to the “living conditions” of capital.
Capital is a limitation to itself as much as it is a limitation to the working-class, as even the largest capitals or institutions cannot evade the law of value. Once the superfluity of labor in the economy — an existential must for capital — was purposely withdrawn by the state, and all at once, it left capitalism searching for oxygen. A concerted effort to continue to withdraw labor, prevent shuttered industries from reopening, and converting superfluous labor into free, disposable time for the recently unemployed is the same thing as asphyxiating capitalism until it chokes on the gluttony of its own premises.
Second, this kind of activity would be leaderless and anonymous. In fact, it doesn’t work any other way. We can’t consciously enact abolition of labor in the form of more labor. People have to want to convert their superfluous labor into free-time. Logically, we cannot control what each individual does with their free time and any plan or organization around this premise would fail. All we can do — since we still exist under the law of value — is prevent, or re-direct, capital from crafting an end-around to its current predicament, and deny any re-connection to the production of surplus-value— which it either will or will not be successful at in the coming year.
In doing so, no one would be particularly special in that regard (least of all, the whole underwhelming academy of leftist theorists). No one is saying creativity wouldn’t be essential to communist strategy — this is not an extinguishing of personality and individuality. But because the decrease in socially necessary labor time in the production of labor-power has not resulted in its realization as “freed” time for human consumption, human emancipation, we are still forced to throw abled bodies at the problem — all those teens and college-aged students supposedly less susceptible to the virus, for example, who could be causing utter chaos right now for the state. (Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have a future after all this is said and done!)
Lastly — and not without pause for reflection of the stakes — people are going to die during this transformation. Whether there was a pandemic or not, casualties would be unavoidable. Communists can’t offer an alternative on how to manage, nor actually manage, the pandemic and kill capitalism at the same time. Just as capital can’t save itself and all the people who will die from this pandemic, and pandemic-related issues, at the same time. Management of the pandemic is an unnecessary step and one that capital would never undertake — and certainly not for the appearance of better ethics.
We are not trying to win a PR campaign. Instead, the working-class — whether it wanted it or not — is forced to make a conscious choice: drastically reduce their own hours of labor or wait for the state to mediate this dissolution, stimulus package by stimulus package; down to the average milligram of food it takes to keep a person alive (just as they’ve been doing under neoliberalism for 40 years). Optimist that I am, though, I happen to believe less would die if we moved swiftly, broke our shelter in places (safely), kept everything shutdown indefinitely, and watched the capitalists shed blood racing to automate themselves into oblivion.
The litany of preconditions, initiations, beliefs, and acts communists think need to be internalized — even performatively— is now a burden to our ability to act at all — and worse, it’s left us without any of the concentrated blunt viciousness required to surpass a threshold that capital can never cross: the complete and total abolition of wage-labor. No vanguard, no critical consciousness, no better understanding of theory, and no better opportunity may present itself than this pandemic to do the last job I hope there will ever be: ruthlessly, unapologetically, killing capitalism.
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