The Real Movement

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Category: communization

“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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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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A questionable proposition: Theorie Communiste’s bizarre theory of exploitation through the social product

1933: Beginning with the Great Depression, the fascist state began the practice of buying and slaughtering livestock and paying farmers subsidies not to plant crops.

As you probably have already noticed, I have been reading a lot from communization theory. After ignoring the tendency, it suddenly occurred to me that it is actually important. I have no apologies for my late turn. Sometimes I get it and other times things just go over my head. To make up for my previous error, I have been poring over a number of documents from the school.

One tendency I have noticed in the school is the stubborn avoidance of anything that smacks of Marx’s alleged ‘determinism’; which is to say the communization school is trying to argue for communization without invoking Marx’s labor theory of value. Like most Marxists today, TC seems to reject Marx’s labor theory, while trying to retain the power of his critique of the capitalist mode of production.

This approach appears to stem from the idea that Marx’s labor theory of value cannot account for the observed facts of post-war (and, in particular, post-1971) capitalism. The insistence on a non-deterministic critical approach leads to the sort of silly formulations as Theorie Communiste offers of a working class that can be “exploited through the product of their labour and not the sale of their labour-power.”

What TC is trying to account for with this bizarre formulation is the notion of Postone’s superfluous labor time. I figured I would give them some help. Hence this rather overly long post.

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Maya Gonzalez and the Global Failure of Twentieth Century Socialism

Let me say that I am reluctant to speak on the issues of gender. It is not that I am unfamiliar with the issues; rather, it is no more my place to state my opinion on the question of gender than it is the place of a white person to define white supremacy or a colonizer to tell the colonized what they are fighting for.

Nevertheless, here is an interesting formulation of communization from Maya Andrea Gonzalez, taken from her essay, Communization and the Abolition of Gender, in Clever Monkey’s anthology, Communization and its Discontents:

Communization describes a set of measures that we must take in the course of the class struggle if there is to be a revolution at all. Communization abolishes the capitalist mode of production, including wage-labor, exchange, the value form, the state, the division of labor and private property.

This set of measures, we are told, are not a revolutionary position, a state of society to be established after the revolution, a strategy, a tactic, an organization or a plan. It is the form the revolution itself must take owing to the nature of the class struggle today.

If I understand Gonzales, based on the peculiar characteristics of the class struggle today, the revolution must immediately put an end to the capitalist mode of production, including wage labor, exchange, money, the state, the division of labor and property. To this, Gonzalez adds gender and all divisions within social life. We cannot wait until after the revolution to accomplish all of this: presently, this is the revolution – the complete eradication of all existing social relations.

Frankly, this is a rather tall order that makes me wonder if communizers are actually serious about communization.

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Evan Calder Williams on communism: “We’ll Know it when we see it.”

For a guy who has remarkably little to say about communization theory and strategy, in his essay, “Fire to the Commons”, Evan Calder Williams proves that  he can just drone on and on, while saying nothing.

Williams’ essay was published as part of Clever Monkey’s stubbornly silly anthology, “Communization and Its Discontents”.

It is more than three-quarters of the way through the essay when Williams reminds us that he has not even mentioned the term, communization, much less discussed it. Apparently concerned to leave this surprising streak unbroken, Williams tells us this was his intention all along:

Despite the specificity of the volume, I have not yet spoken of communization, for the simple reason that I have not yet spoken of transition. My concern has been how we understand the position in which we find ourselves and how that relates to our discontinuous instances, what might chain them together, what forms of thought could aid that work.

In other words, communization only concerns the actual transition to communism; Williams first had to explain to us where we are situated within this transition. But even this definition of communization may be too broad, Williams tells us: communization doesn’t mean we have actually begun a transition to communism simply because the limits of capital has been reached, nor does it mean we can begin the transition right now through our praxis.

Instead, communization calls into question the very notion of a revolutionary transition itself.

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Evan Calder Williams asks, “Is that all there is?”

Evan Calder Williams’ essay is my next target from Clever Monkey’s 2012 anthology, Communization and Its Discontents. William’s asks:

“do common things, having things in common, and what is common amongst us have to do with communism?”

I am looking forward to his answer, since, apart from expropriating capitalist property, most Marxists propose no other specifically communist measure than common ownership of the means of production. But then again, hypocrisy has always been the strong suit of Marxists.

John Cunningham: What praxis disables the entire reproductive cycle of capital remains an open question …

It literally took John Cunningham more than 6000 words to tell us what he could have told us in a single sentence, namely that he has no idea what communization means.

I feel cheated. I will never get back the time I spent poring over his essay, “Make Total Destroy,” from the anthology produced by Clever Monkey, Communization and its Discontents.

It is actually unfortunate that Cunningham makes this admission, since he appears to come closest to actually establishing a realistic communization strategy. I will try to show why I think this, but first let me summarize what I think is Cunningham’s argument.

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