The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism (5)

Sidebar: Understanding the concept of labor time density

I received two comments to my last post that raise questions about my approach. The first comment is from Noa, who thinks my employment of the concept of superfluous labor time ignores capitalism’s drive to constantly reduce socially necessary labor time and eliminate unnecessary expenditures of labor in production:

“Wouldn’t that be a typical apologetic argument in favor of capitalism? Perhaps you’re thinking only of a few particular cases (like in the Simpsons episode where Homer replaces himself at work by a drinking-bird-mobile pushing a button). But on the other hand, perhaps more normal, take a look if you can at some car assembly line today, the worker literally becomes a cog of the machine, sitting in an machine-chair to speed up his every movement. That intensifies their labor. And I think the labor can be intensified not necessarily only by increased productivity due to a shorter working day, but also by cutting staff, increasing the workload of the remainder.”

The second, related, comment is from Коммунист, who wonders why the state’s currency printing, combined with capitalist greed, would not result in hyperinflation:

“I will probably be asking this question also on behalf of all bourgeois economists or at least people who base their everyday logic on these charlatans’ understanding of the economy. If the government start directly buying produce from capitalists with its printer “paper”, why won’t the capitalists just start increasing the prices, seeing that there is now suddenly a demand for their products? These prices can be increased in proportion (even ad infinitum) to the volume of issued “paper”. Isn’t this exactly what the typical bourgeois economist would quip at your ideas?”

My argument that there is a declining density of labor time does not in any sense imply that the worker becomes lazier or that her labor becomes less onerous. I assume a very high intensity of labor and that the capitalist maintains the intensity of labor by eliminating all superfluous or redundant staff while paying the strictest attention to costs of production. Further, I assume state currency printing will force capitalists to offset the declining ‘purchasing power of the currency, by increasing their prices. My argument about the density of labor time thus assumes no unnecessary social labor is employed in the production of commodities — capital continues to function exactly as we have come to understand it from Capital. I do not wish to invoke any other mechanism to explain the declining density of labor time than are already explicitly given in the definition of capital as described by Marx.

Despite this, as I will show, there is without a doubt a declining density of labor time in the aggregate social labor day.

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Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism (4)

4. Full employment, or the deferral of communism

In my last post, Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism (3), I showed that the duration of the social labor day is no longer confined to the socially necessary labor time required for production of commodities. A distinction must now be made between the actual duration of the working day and that duration of the working day that would be considered socially necessary according to Marx’s definition of value. It was exchange value that constrained the duration of the actual working day to be no longer than was socially necessary for the production of commodities. With the breakdown of production based on exchange value, i.e., the collapse of the gold standard, this connection between the two durations of labor time no longer exists.

Between the actual duration of the social working day and the duration of the working day required for production of commodities, a new category of labor time emerged that Moishe Postone calls superfluous labor time. This superfluous labor time is labor time that cannot be employed productively, it is superfluous to both wage labor and capital. In a socialist society, this labor time could only be set free to make room for free disposable time for everyone. In the capitalist mode of production, however, this labor time cannot be set free because, as superfluous labor time, it is now the essential condition for its opposite, socially necessary labor time.

The emergence of superfluous labor time, time that adds neither to the productive capacity of society nor to its consumption power, is made possible by the replacement of commodity money by debased valueless fascist state tokens. These tokens express the value of commodities, including labor power, as zero. As I explained in a separate blog post, the fascist state can, therefore, “buy” any commodity simply by printing up the requisite quantity of currency, without actually paying for with real exchange value.

The state can, in other words, buy without selling, without first acquiring the means to purchase by offering a commodity in return, and without taxing or borrowing.

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Why Marxist academics are charlatans — all of them, without exception

The argument that needs to be explored is that between 1867 and 1971 an essential category of Marx’s Capital disappeared. In 1867 money was a commodity with value, transactions involving money were exchanges of value, exchanges of socially necessary labor times; by 1971 this was no longer true. Its disappearance was predicted by Marx’s labor theory of value, but has not been recognized by the Marxist school of political economy.

The Marxist school have refused to recognize this change, its cause and its implications. For the life of me, I cannot understand why they are so stubborn on this. Even if you don’t agree with my view on this, it is a testable counterfactual: the dollar in 1867 was pegged to gold, today it is not. Both gold and the dollar continue to exist today. We know gold is money. And we know why it is money. The question is whether currency is money apart from its relation to gold.

To test the counterfactual that currency in circulation today is not money, all you have to do is compare dollar prices since 1867 to gold prices since 1867. If the relation between the two is unchanged since 1867, my counterfactual argument is falsified. Not a single Marxist who has challenged Marx’s theory of money has ever provided any empirical proof for their claim. They will provide charts and graphs to prove any assertion except the one that says fiat currency behaves like gold.

Mind you the implications of debased fiat currency are staggering: if my counterfactual is falsified, Capital Volume 1 can be thrown in the trash. There is no more Marx’s labor theory of value. And no need to ever speak of it again. All it takes to completely discredit Marx is a single empirical demonstration that fiat prices and gold prices behave the same way.

*****

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Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism (3)

3. Capitalism without exchange value, or superfluous labor time

In part one of my essay, “Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism”, I proposed a narrative to make sense of Luxemburg’s slogan, “Socialism or Barbarism”. That narrative goes this way:

  • a. Marx and Engels predicted the collapse of production based on exchange value;
  • b. this collapse would result in the abolition of capitalist private property;
  • c. either the proletariat would accomplish this, or the bourgeois state would be forced to do it itself; and,
  • d. this would set the stage for a final confrontation between the proletariat and the state, which would become the national capitalist after the abolition of capitalist private property.

In part two of the essay, I proposed that the collapse of production based on exchange value was the partial collapse of capitalism. This collapse basically resulted in an apparent absurdity: capitalism without exchange value. For production of surplus value to continue, the values of commodities, particularly labor power, could no longer be expressed as exchange values. The development of the new forces of production bound up with capitalism had finally and irreversibly pushed the rate of profit to zero. According to Grossman, the production of surplus value after this event essentially depended on the ability of the capitalist to purchase labor power below its value. This condition was satisfied by the collapse of the gold standard and replacement of gold by valueless debased state issued currency.

*****

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Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism (2)

Average daily wage (in gold) - 1964-2010

CHART: Decline of the real wage after the collapse of the gold standard (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

2. Breakdown of production based on exchange value and the collapse of wages

As I stated in the previous post, my hypothesis depends on the claim that the conditions of production based on exchange value are fundamentally incompatible with the conditions of the new forces of production bound up with capital (i.e., the conditions of social labor). To restate this in a way that may be more obvious: the condition of commodity production, where producers carry on their productive activities separately and only enter into definite relations during the act of exchange, are not compatible with the conditions of directly social labor that have grown up under the capitalist mode of production. Taken together, of course, the two sets of conditions constitute what we mean when we refer to the capitalist mode of production, but they stand in an antagonistic relation to one another within the social form.

What we witnessed in the 1930s depression was the realization of Marx’s prediction that production based on exchange value would collapse; that event is now in our rear view mirror. With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight we can confirm the validity of Marx’s labor theory of value, which posits a fundamental antagonism between the conditions of individual production, characteristic of simple commodity production, and the conditions of directly social production, characteristic of capital.

What remains for us to determine, however, is the nature of the period we are now passing through. Luxemburg called it barbarism, the fascists gave it the name, Fascism. But what has almost never been done is to describe the political economy of this strange animal, capitalism without exchange value. It has seldom occurred to most Marxists that barbarism, (fascism), far from being a mere political ideology, may actually constitute a distinct phase of capitalism with its own political economy. In fact, few Marxists even realize that we have passed through Marx’s predicted collapse of production based on exchange value. Thus few Marxist theorists have seen the need to ask a critical question:

Assuming a proletarian revolution was unsuccessful after the collapse of production based on exchange value, what does capitalism now look like?

*****

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Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism

1. The ambiguity of capitalist collapse in Marx’s theory

I want to propose a hypothesis to describe what happens when capitalism finally collapses premised on the assumption that this collapse can occur in two separate and distinct phases: a lower phase, which we can refer to as the collapse of production based on exchange value; and a higher phase, which I will call the collapse of production based on wage labor. These two phases more or less reflect the dual character of capitalist commodity production: that capital is a form of commodity production which specifically aims to produce surplus value.

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A response to Karl Thisell

This essay, by Karl Thisell, Capital Without Organs, raises two important questions about the state, money and capital in my writings on the subject:

“a) Is there really a necessity for money to be tied to the gold-standard for it to be a universal exchange commodity? Is it not rather so that it’s exactly that it’s character of universal exchange that makes it valuable as a commodity?

b) The very idea that money is today controlled by the state. This I believe to be an underestimation of the force of capital itself, and an idea with perhaps dire consequences for Jehu’s own theories.”

The writer says he does not intend to refute my argument but only intends to brainstorm, i.e., raise significant questions about my approach. I think the questions are important and tried to avoid addressing them for a few days until they had time to ferment in my head so to speak.

*****

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How does fascist state fiat affect capitalist accumulation?

fiatvgold

An important question was raised about my last post that goes to the heart of labor theory.

“So what is the M that becomes M’? What is the medium through which value is valorized?” –R

Well, it turns out I have a hypothesis about this.

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Whoever said fascist state fiat was money?

My name was recently dropped during a podcast where two Marxist were discussing the labor theory implications of modern money theory (MMT). You can find the episode here

Without getting too deep into the woods — you can listen to it yourself — I did want to comment on several points that podcast ignores in my opinion:

  1. Marx said money has to be a commodity, but he never said there had to be money.
  2. Money is the phenomenal expression of the fact that society lacks of control over its production relations, right? So, what happens when the state controls the thing serving as money in that society?
  3. Does a debased state issued fiat currency, (by which I mean a currency that is no longer tied to a definite quantity of a specific commodity), behave like a commodity money?

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#NoBanNoWall or “No Borders”

“[I have] said it before, but the real mega-war is between those confirmed as belonging to the state, and whoever is regarded as stateless” –Tweep

“The working men have no country.” –K. Marx and F. Engels

Communists have to decide how they see the next few years unfolding: Are we simply against Trump or the system that made Trump possible as well. The Democrats, who control the movement at present, want to limit the aims of the movement to an anti-Trump agenda. Communists need to sharpen their critique of Trump to go beyond the merely superficial differences between Trump and Pelosi/Schumer.

We need to make it clear that we consider Trump, Pelosi and Schumer to be the same despite their superficial differences: they both seek to control the labor power of the working class

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