The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Category: General Comment

Capital and communism…

Jasper Bernes has written an essay that I have reblogged here. Much of it I find of great interest. However, this passage, in particular, I take great issue with for obvious reasons:

There is also in Marx a tendential theory alongside the heuristic theory. The light of communism revealed for Marx a directionality to capitalist production, one that pointed toward its ruin but also its overcoming by communism. The tendencies identified are numerous and complexly entangled: mass proletarianization, immiseration, and increase in superfluous populations, concentration and centralization of capital, globalization of trade, rising organic composition of capital, falling rate of profit, depletion of the soil, colonization, and imperialism. Chief among all these tendencies, however, was the tendency for capitalism to produce its own gravediggers in the rising, militant proletariat. The tendencies are also, it should now seem needless to say, illuminated by a future communism. This is because, first, the rising proletariat is already practically oriented toward communism, and second, tendencies within capitalism lead inexorably toward communism. Tendencies are directional, and directions are not neutral, but stained with the dye of class struggle, progressive and reactive.

Much of the tendential theory has not held up, at least if read strictly, and in some instances, it must be admitted, Marx was badly wrong. But the fact that any of it has held up, despite the fact that the communist revolution has not occurred, and capitalism soldiers on long after Marx could have thought such a thing imaginable, counts as no small feat. None of his contemporaries fare better. The tendential theory must, in any case, always return to the facts of the world, of class struggle, for confirmation. But it also must know what it’s looking for, where it hopes history will lead. Here again Marx can appear most grandiose when he is in fact being most modest. He need not proselytize and inveigh, draw up battle plans and programs, for the tendencies of capitalism are already doing the work of forming a resistance adequate to it. The tendential analysis is not prescriptive, but diagnostic, highlighting limits and opportunities. But these are opportunities that, for Marx, the working class must come to understand one way or another. It is class struggle itself which brings these opportunities to mind for Marx—his work is to clarify and refine political tendencies, the communist movement principally, already in the process of formation.

While I would agree that Marx saw in capital a directionality (is this a word?) of sorts that points to its own ruin (I prefer the term “self-negation”), I am not so sure I agree with Bernes’ phrasing of capital’s relation with communism. In particular, I don’t think I like the phrase, “its overcoming by communism.” Rather, I would stick to Marx’s characterization that capital unconsciously creates the material requirements of communism.

The material requirements of communism have absolutely nothing to do with classes or class struggle, nor do they seek class struggle for confirmation. They are material requirements. The class struggle is merely political. Even if there were no class struggle or, as at present, the class struggle were severely attenuated, capital would remain no more than a historically limited mode of production, creating the material requirements of communism. The class struggle has nothing at all to do with this. It has absolutely no impact on the nature of capital.

To say this another way: The proletarians do not and cannot put an end to capital. Capital negates itself. The proletarians can speed up or retard this process of self-negation only. If capital does not negate itself, there is nothing the class struggle can do to put an end to capital since both classes constitute the relation.

JAMIE MERCHANT: Another asshole who thinks he knows more about what Marx wrote than Engels

As a self-identified non-Marxist who probably doesn’t know better, but who clearly knows Capital better than Jamie Merchant, I felt it necessary to point out how much of a complete charlatan Jamie Merchant is by throwing a really fucking long quote from Engels in his face that completely contradicts him on just about every fucking point he made in the following footnote.

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House Managers’ theory of the case:

This guy wanted everyone to listen to his evidence that his reelection was stolen.

So he sent this guy to chase Nancy Pelosi around the Capitol so no one would listen to his evidence that his reelection was stolen.

Yeah, keep voting.

BREAKING: It is the position of the Democrat majority of both houses of Congress that the following Republicans can still be impeached for their known high crimes and misdemeanors, although they no longer hold office…

George W. Bush, former President of the United States
Richard Cheney, former Vice-President of the United States
Colin Powell, former Secretary of State
Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense

For their roles in planning and implementing the deliberate lies to Congress, which led to United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents Iraqis and American service persons.

The so-called “progressives” in Congress need to get right on that.

Rick Kuhn on Henryk Grossman on Karl Marx on the break down of production based on exchange value…

There is this game called Chinese Whispers (not to be confused with the Trumpian China Virus), better known to American children as Telephone. According to Wikipedia, the game appears in countless cultural iterations around the world:

  • In Turkey it’s called kulaktan kulağa
  • In France, it is called téléphone arabe (Arabic telephone) or téléphone sans fil (wireless telephone).
  • In Germany the game is known as Stille Post (Silent mail).
  • In Malaysia, this game is commonly referred to as telefon rosak
  • In Israel as telefon shavur
  • In Greece as spazmeno tilefono
  • In Poland it is called głuchy telefon, meaning dead call.
  • In Medici-era Florence it was called the “game of the ear”
  • The English give it various names, including Russian Scandal, Russian Gossip and Russian Telephone
  • The United States names include Broken Telephone, Gossip, and Rumours

Marxists have a name for this game too.

They call it Marxism.

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Can someone tell Francesco Boldizzoni that if he is going to diss Marx, he should at least get his theory right…

This is the crap that passes for a serious restatement of Marx’s labor theory of value:

Marx believed that the value of commodities depends on the quantity of labor they embody. Yet any attempt to deduce market prices from “values”—the so-called transformation problem—has failed, beginning with Marx’s own attempts. Orthodox economics could thus easily maintain the alternative thesis that prices are determined by the relation between the utility and scarcity of goods. It is clear that if labor is not (the only element) involved in the process of valorization, the possibility of profits being affected by exploitation, on the one hand, and by the substitution of machinery for labor, on the other, becomes much less plausible. But critics who overfocus on these aspects miss the point. The conclusion that prices can (entirely or in part) be explained in terms of utility and scarcity does not disprove the claim that exploitation and the appropriation of surplus value underlie the wage-labor relation. Indeed, a modern Marxist can argue that “workers … do not create value, but they create what has value… What raises a charge of exploitation is not that the capitalist gets some of the value the worker produces, but that he gets some of the value of what the worker produces.”

Foretelling the End of Capitalism: Intellectual Misadventures since Karl Marx, Francesco Boldizzoni, Chapter 1

Frankie, baby. Give a dead guy a break. Marx obviously believed that the value of a simple commodity depended on the quantity of socially necessary labor time (not just ‘the quantity of labor’) it contained. However, Marx also showed that this was not true for any capitalistically produced commodity.

The difference between the two types of commodities is so pronounced that Marx’s transformation function predicts a commodity, like, for instance, a taxicab ride in a self-drive cab will have the same market price as a taxicab ride in a cab that is manned by a cab driver, although the latter employs human labor and the former doesn’t.

The surplus value created by the manned cab capital must be shared with the self-driven cab capital. Another way to say this is the self-driven cab capital realizes excess (or additional) profits by eliminating human labor in its operation.

And stop fucking reading Sweezy and Baran; those idiots knew nothing.

(Note: It would appear that the price of a cab ride in the self-driven Waymo or Tesla taxi, once the cost of the constant capital involved is subtracted, should be zero, if, as Frankie assumes, the price of a commodity was equal to the socially necessary labor time incorporated in its production. But this would ignore the law of the average rate of profit, which distributes what surplus value there is among capitals in proportion to their magnitude. Thus even a capital employing no labor power at all enjoys an average rate of profit calculated on the total mass of capital of society and distributed among capitals in proportion to their aliquot share of this total mass. Which is to say, capital is still fucked, despite Frankie’s own intellectual misadventure here.)

Trump in Valdosta…

The alleged ‘loser’ of the November election went to Georgia and thousands of his supporters turned out to greet him. Some United States senators running for office in Georgia came along for the ride, but the crowd basically ignored them and shouted them down with screams of “Fight for Trump.”

States of the Union are now at each others’ throats.

The Dutch writer’s response to our Open Letter

The writer of the Dutch critique makes the following points:

1. Jehu predicts, if working time is not drastically reduced, this will lead to barbaric competition between workers for jobs. By this, Jehu does not mean the loss of control of the owners over the means of production and communism. Jehu argues instead that the outcome will be “Unnecessary suffering of the working class of every country”. This is utopian socialism in its entirety, criticism of what is seen as the excesses of capitalism, preservation of the capitalist relations of production by humane actions of intellectuals who want to do something for the workers.

2. The author refers to Jehu’s call for an immediate reduction of hours of labor, a “Trotskyist transition requirement”.

3. The author says, Jehu’s call for immediate formation of mutual aid committees between employed and unemployed shows that “Jehu’s understanding of the history of the workers’ movement has stalled” in the 19th century.

4. Jehu says capitalism is dead, but capitalism is a production relationship that exists in both in times of full employment and times of massive unemployment. Capitalism can only be broken by the worker’s struggle that overthrows the state. Only after the state is overthrown does the transformation of capitalist relations of production begin with the elimination of wage labor.

5. Jehu accepts the notion of “essential production”. He thus accepts the idea “that weapon production is ‘essential,’ luxury production for the wealthy is ‘essential,’ and police, security, and military perform all ‘essential services’.

6. According to Jehu, capital flight is beneficial to weaker national capitals. Perhaps this is so, but in making this argument Jehu clearly believes that his solutions presuppose the survival of capital.

7. Jehu claims that higher labor costs will give automation a powerful boost that will undoubtedly spur the development of productive forces. This is the sort of technocratic and productivist approach to the problem of the elimination of scarcity that we find in more Communists.

8. Unlike Jehu, Marx never had an approach to historical crisis that expected communism from further capitalist development.

I think these are an accurate restatement of the Dutch writer’s concerns. I will try to address them briefly later today.

*****

Additionally, the writer, Fredocorvo, has thoughtfully forward us a copy of an English translation of his critique, which I print in full below:

Hi, I’m ‘the Dutch writer’. I understand you made up your idea about my critique on the basis of a machine translation. Here follows my translation of the complete critique into English. However this translation will neither be perfect:

Fortunately, there is no lack of manuals on what to do in the current pandemic. One of the worst examples of this is this Open Letter, which I will use as an opportunity to outline how a real alternative to capitalism can come about and how it can be promoted. I do not pretend to be able to summarise the contents of the Open Letter. In the absence of scholarly lectures in Das Kapital, the Grundrisse and Marx’s Notebooks, I confine myself to a number of solutions that Jehu puts forward.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

First of all, the pompous appeal to unspecified ‘communists’ all over the world, i.e. from precursors that English called utopian socialists, via the libertarian anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, via Trotskyists, Titoists and various Communist Lefts, to the Stalinists who may or may not have defended or still defend various terrorist regimes in Russia, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba, etc. as ‘real existing socialism’. Jehu clearly does not wish to place himself within the history of the workers’ movement and its bourgeois afterbirths, but for those who do like labels, I put the stamp ‘Communisator’ on it. In doing so, I do injustice to the innumerable variants within this movement, namely equal to the number of individuals who call themselves Communisators, many of whom will not be happy with the Call.

At first reading, however, I felt so addressed in my vanity by the addition of ‘prominent’ and the noun ‘thinkers’ that Jehu sticks as a tail on the rather vulgar sounding ‘communist’, that I diligently read his flaming appeal further. And what do I see? A call for a drastic reduction in working hours. Finally, someone who wants to bring back the ‘labour’ under which I suffer when I cut my coupons, and maybe even wants to abolish wage labour, of which I have been an opponent all my life. And Jehu predicts, if working hours are not drastically reduced to the current number of hours for “essential production”, a barbaric competition between workers for jobs threatens a total class or class war. Jehu is extremely vague about its content. But every right-thinking citizen is clear about the horrors of the class war, i.e., eh now, of course, not talking about the loss of control by the owners over the means of production and thus the wealth produced, but: “unnecessary suffering of the working class of each country”.

See, that is utopian socialism, criticizing what is seen as excesses of capitalism, maintaining capitalist relations of production by humane actions of ‘intellectuals’ who want to do something for the workers.

I also recognize only too well the Trotskyist transition demand of the reduction of working hours with which social democracy and the trade union movement organized “struggles” in the late 1970s and early 1980s that led to the reduction of wages. Jehu expresses some distrust of the trade unions, but the ‘mutual aid funds’ he mentions as the only means of struggle are in fact nothing more than a re-establishment of trade unions from the time when Marx was writing Das Kapital, and where Jehu’s understanding of the history of the workers’ movement has got stuck. Jehu probably never heard of the insight of the German and Dutch Communist Left, among others, that in the 19th century these strike and support funds only worked for the wage-earners as long as the entrepreneurs were in competition with each other and only an outside leadership was effective. Around the change from the 19th to the 20th century, this ‘leadership policy’ out of self-preservation of parliamentary parties and trade union movement turned against the workers and against what became known as the ‘mass struggle’ and finally the appearance of the workers’ councils as the organs of that mass struggle.

Jehu assumes that the old production relations with today’s suddenly exploding mass unemployment have been broken and that those in power are striving to restore them. But capitalism, wage labour, is a production relationship that exists both with (an imaginary) full employment and with mass unemployment. Capitalism can only be broken by massive and independently organized workers’ struggles that paralyse, overwhelm and shatter the bourgeois state. Only then does the transformation of capitalist production relations begin by abolishing wage labour, i.e. by establishing a direct relationship between worker and product through the hour of work, rather than, as hitherto, through the market and/or the state. (See First Edition of ‘Fundamental Principles’ GIC 1935).

Jehu also makes important concessions to the lie of ‘essential production’, with which capital suggests that those who have to continue working at the risk of their own lives do so in the interests of the elderly and the weak. But apparently, arms production is also ‘essential’, production of luxury for the rich is ‘essential’, and the police, security services and army provide all ‘essential services’, we hear from the state, and Jehu … is silent about this.

There is more nonsense to be found in the proposed solutions. For example, capital flight is presented as beneficial for the weaker national capitals. Maybe so, but Jehu is clearly saying that his solutions presuppose the survival of capital. In the same vein, Jehu claims that higher labour costs will give robotization a powerful boost that will undoubtedly bring about a leap in the development of productive forces. This is a technocratic and productivist approach to the problem of the elimination of scarcity that we find in more Communisators. All this beauty appears on a blog that calls itself “the real movement” with reference to a quote from Marx’ and Engels’ writing The German Ideology.

“For us, communism is not a situation to be brought about, not an ideal to which reality should be directed. Communism we call the real movement that abolishes the present conditions.”

For what I have understood from historical materialism, the real movement is that of capitalist society, especially at times of economic crisis, such as today, and the movement of the workers for independent class goals as its consequence. Marx understood very well that the moments of an economic crisis in his time were extremely limited by further possibilities of development of capitalism on a global scale. But he seized every opportunity that arose, and which set workers in motion, to drive this movement further by revealing its true meaning: particularly during the European Revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune in response to the Franco-German war. Never has Marx used this kind of historical crisis, in which we now find ourselves, to call for the prevention of class war … , and never at those historical moments, he expected communism to result from further capitalist development. On the contrary, Marx called for what could then still be seen as “historically necessary” (to use a word from Hegel) suffering of the working class, to shorten it with the revolution and to take the path towards socialism.

Jehu, Open Letter to Communists of The Whole World: Total Class War Is Coming, (The Real Movement)

How did Newton properly analyse the transcendence of gravity in 1666?

Not to speak ill of the dead, but Wright was an idiot.

Erik Olin Wright, MaxPo Lecture:

“I don’t give any particular reverence to anything Marx had to say about anything because it would be quite astounding that someone in the middle of the nineteenth century would have properly analysed the contradictions of capitalism in the 21st century to understand what the dilemmas of its transformation and its emancipatory transcendence might be.”

NASA:

“The motion of a rocket from the surface of the Earth to a landing on the Moon can be explained and described by physical principals discovered over 300 years ago by Sir Isaac Newton. Newton worked in many areas of mathematics and physics. He developed the theories of gravitation in 1666, when he was only 23 years old. Some twenty years later, in 1686, he presented his three laws of motion in the ‘Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis.'”

The issue of who is African American is not as simple and straightforward as you think

When Elizabeth Warren claimed to be the descendant of native Americans, everyone naturally scoffed.

When Barack Obama claimed to be African American few questioned his claim despite the fact everyone knew he was not the descendant of African slaves, but a descendant of a gentleman from Kenya.

To be clear, I do not mean in any way to disparage Barack Obama’s father. Nor Barack Obama himself, beyond what he deserves based on his own history, not that of his father. I simply point out that Barack traces his lineage to Africa in a different way than I and millions of Black People do. And this is important to keep in mind.

What I do mean to point out is that it is a peculiarity of racism in America that a people, African Americans, descendants of Africans brought here in chains as slaves and forced to build this country, are always conflated with the color of their skin. They and the millions of other African immigrants, who, like Obama’s father, came to this country after slavery had long ended, have been subject to racial antipathy that attaches itself to this conflation of a people with a skin color.

Black is not a skin color. My mother was black. She could have passed for white on any street in America.

The result of this conflation is that someone like Barack Obama, who has no direct connection to the experience of African Americans, can be sourced as a reference allegedly to speak for African Americans, although his actual connection to African Americans is through his mother’s family to slave masters:

“You know, once again I find myself in the same position as President Obama, we both oppose reparations, and both are the descendants of slave holders,” McConnell said, after he was asked if a report from NBC that his relatives were slave holders changed his views about reparations.

Barack Obama is completely entitled to his opinion on reparations. He is an American and his opinion counts the same as Mitch McConnell’s.

He is not entitled to have a part in our debate as African Americans, nor is that pig, Kamala Harris.