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Category: communization

“Capital’s Lapdogs”: How communization theory also misreads the proletarian revolution

This is part two of the notes I made on the text, Revolution: program or communization?, which purports to be a primer on communization theory. Part one can be found here.

NOTE: The original text is in French. I have based this critique on an English translation, supplemented with a web-based translation service. Where necessary, I have edited the text and placed it [in brackets] to make it more comprehensible to me. It is possible some parts of the authors’ argument has been mangled in the process and I apologize for this.

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“Capital’s Lapdogs”: How communization theory misreads the proletarians

I apologize for this to my readers, but I cannot help myself. I have been reading another of these trashy anonymous communization manifestos — this one, titled Revolution: program or communization?, which purports to be a primer on communization theory.

Unfortunately, even by the standards of communization theory writings, it is ghastly. But since I come across very little in the way of critical engagement with the underlying argument of communization theory, I am forced to wade through this shit.

This primer in particular stinks of warmed over Open Marxism.

NOTE: The original text is in French. I have based this critique on an English translation, supplemented with a web-based translation service. Where necessary, I have edited the text and placed it [in brackets] to make it more comprehensible to me. It is possible some parts of the authors argument has been mangled in the process and I apologize for this.

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The SCUM Manifesto and the Abolition of Wage Slavery

As I was banned on r/communization last night, I accused of parroting Valerie Solanas, author of the SCUM Manifesto in 1967. I had never heard of this person before last night, so I went to read it. I was actually surprised both by the manifesto and by the accusation that I was parroting many of Solanas’s ideas.

If you are familiar with Solanas and her SCUM Manifesto, my surprise may not be what you think it is. I was very impressed with her argument.

Here are some of her choice quotes:

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.

This is certainly more profoundly revolutionary sentiments than anything I have ever read on r/communization since I joined it, or any communization screed with which I am familiar.

Solanas also wrote this in 1969:

There is no human reason for money or for anyone to work more than two or three hours a week at the very most. All non-creative jobs (practically all jobs now being done) could have been automated long ago, and in a moneyless society everyone can have as much of the best of everything as she wants.

And, finally, this gem:

What will liberate women, therefore, from male control is the total elimination of the money-work system, not the attainment of economic equality with men within it.

This manifesto was decades ahead of its time on a number of fronts and addresses issues communists still grapple with today.

The text is highly controversial: did Solanas mean it to be taken literally or was it satire on the level of Jonathan Swift? Solanas (and many who knew her) at times appears to take either side of this controversy. In any case, I am going to spend some time examining it. I hope to write something about it in the next few days.

The Human Strike Revisited

As I said, I distrust all anonymous manifestos like Human Strike Has Already Begun & Other writings by Claire Fontaine. My skepticism, however, doesn’t stop me from reading them like some manifesto-junkie looking for a quick fix. So, despite my misgivings, I spent some time absorbing the unnecessarily dense nonsense of this sect.

Claire Fontaine — a group, not a person, who nevertheless prefers to go by the pronoun, ‘she’ — appears to align with Tiqqun in the communization milieu. As a member of that school of thought, it is necessary that they bury their argument in an unintelligible language as is on full display in the essay, “Existential metonymy and imperceptible abstractions”.

As near as I can tell, “existential metonymy” is a nonsense phrase invented to make the rest of us think Claire has something profound to say.

This is their opening statement:

‘Human strike’ designates the most generic movement of revolt. The adjective ‘human’ in this case doesn’t have any moral connotation, it is just more inclusive than ‘general’, because every human strike is an amoral gesture and it is never merely political or social. It attacks the economic, affective, sexual and emotional conditions that oppress people.

The interest and the difficulty of this concept lies in the fact that it is a concept that thinks against itself. And thinking against ourselves will be the necessity of the revolts to come, as desubjectivisation (taking distance from what we are, becoming something else) will be the only way to fight our exploitation. In fact our new working conditions see us being exploited as much in the workplace as outside of it, as the workplace has both exploded and liquefied and so gained our whole lives.

Thinking against ourselves will mean thinking against our identity and our effort to preserve it, it will mean stopping believing in the necessity of identifying ourselves with the place we occupy.

Basically, the human strike is the idea of thinking against ourselves, because the ability to conceptually separate from ourselves will be the only way to fight our exploitation.

Fair enough, but we could restate this idea in far less metaphysical terms:

The human strike are actions directed against our position as wage slaves within the present mode of production and against our own activity, which reproduces that position. We strike against ourselves because this is the only way to fight our exploitation. The human strike means we must no longer act within the roles we play in the present mode of production.

It follows from the above that we cannot judge the results of the human strike by the standards of present society, because the human strike aims to sweeps away present society including the position from which we presently perceive it — that of wage slaves. The result cannot be measured in terms of employment, wage increases or increased consumption. To the casual observer of present society, the result of the human strike necessarily resembles nothing less than a catastrophe.

 

I distrust all anonymous manifestos like this one…

Six points on Kontra Klasa’s “Notes on the Transition”

I have been reading this interesting piece by Kontra Klasa, Notes on the transition to communism. The essay, reprinted in the July 2018 issue of INTRANSIGENCE, tries to update communist strategy to meet the conditions of the 21st century. I thought it had some ideas worth considering, so I will highlight them here in a short note.

There has also been a reply to this piece which I am in the process of reading. I will post some notes on that reply at a later time.

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“We’ll get back to you on that later.” –Benanev and Clegg

This is the final part of this series. I know you are as happy to hear this as I am to say it. I want nothing more than to put these unethical charlatans behind me.

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How the geniuses at Endnotes buried the critical role of the state and crippled the argument for communization

In the next two sections of their essay, titled, respectively, Surplus Populations Under Deindustrialisation and Surplus Capital Alongside Surplus Populations, Benanev and Clegg must now explain how technological unemployment did not lead to the collapse of wage slavery as Keynes predicted. They have to show, why, despite growing surplus capital and a growing surplus population of workers, capital still managed to create hundreds of millions of new wage jobs world wide after 1973. Somehow we have to get a mass of excess capital and a mass of technologically unemployed workers to combine into millions of shiny new fast-food jobs and favelas.

Simple enough, right?

I thought so too. So, imagine my shock when, having not yet even begun to offer us an explanation, Benanev and Clegg summarily throw in the towel and tell us,

“Unfortunately we will be able to do little more that touch on this subject matter here, leaving a more extended treatment to Endnotes no.3.”

I was so disappointed.

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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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