The Real Movement

Communism is free time and nothing else!

Tag: David Graeber

Can the state prevent the collapse of capitalism by printing currency?

Tom Cutterham seems to believe to the answer to that question is, Yes. Cutterham’s review of Paul Mason’s book, Postcapitalism — Forget Wikipedia — is a common enough response by some activists to any mention of communism:

“Again and again, those who predicted imminent collapse were proved wrong. There were always new ways for the system to adapt to its inherent contradictions and crises, always new markets to pry open and new forms of labour to exploit.”

Capitalism, this argument goes, is apparently capable of almost infinite adaptation. The response usually does not deny that capitalism is prone to crises, nor that these crises may trigger some political event like a social revolution. However short of a social revolution, (triggered usually by an alteration of consciousness secondary to a crisis), there is nothing inherent in capitalism driving it toward its self-annihilation.

The current iteration of this argument, which among Marxists seems to date back to Tugan-Baranowsky, is now defended by the value-form school and almost all Marxists today. This school includes very influential Marxist writers like Michael Heinrich in Germany, John Milios in Greece and David Harvey in the United States.

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Husson’s and Treillet’s call for labor hours reduction: Important but seriously flawed

I just finished reading this article by Michel Husson & Stephanie Treillet on the significance of labor hours reduction, Liberation Through Vacation. I want to offer some thought on why I think it is, on sfweek29ethe whole, as important as it is disappointing. I make these points, not because I disagree with what I think was the intended thrust of their article, but because certain folks will go after Husson’s and Treillet’s argument. For instance, A. Kliman has already taken David Graeber and others to task for their weak arguments on labor as just another attempt to rebrand social democracy. (See Kliman’s, Post-Work: Zombie Social Democracy with a Human Face?) My point here is to expose weaknesses in their argument because Husson and Treillet’s main thrust is, after SYRIZA’s election, the most important development to emerge from the crisis in 2015.

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Part 2: How the Khoikhoi taught the labor theory of value to European merchant capital

Subjectivity and early fixed exchange systems

Under the conditions Graeber posits — simple commodity exchange among potentially hostile neighboring groups that are themselves internally bound by moral relations —  the determinants of the fixed exchange ratio schedules anthropologists find are not likely to be subjective. And this is for the same reason that the exchange ratios between differing products of labor are fixed in the first place: to avoid conflicts that could spill over into war between communities.

khoe-jjIf, in the middle of a gathering for purposes of exchange between hostile groups of hardened combatants, individuals had to sort out their subjective arguments for why, say, eighteen, and not fourteen, arrow heads should exchange for one canoe, and if these subjective arguments differed among individuals on both sides of the dispute, what is the likely outcome of this process? How long could any given fixed exchange ratio be relied upon to remain fixed should a dispute break out?

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Part 1: Some thoughts on David Graeber, barter and the invention of money

I have been reading Engels “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” — and it is fascinating. To accompany it, I looked for recent works that more or less critique it, employing scientific information available after the book was written.

ancient-mesopotamian-inventions-3My first stop was this very good David Graeber response to the bourgeois economist, Robert F. Murphy, On the Invention of Money.. It is pretty good to have a communist who can call bullshit on everyone in the room on the basis of scientific expertise. Graeber, for instance, make this observation of the explanation for money offered by mainstream economics:

“Just in way of emphasis: economists thus predicted that all (100%) non-monetary economies would be barter economies. Empirical observation has revealed that the actual number of observable cases—out of thousands studied—is 0%”

Ha! I wish I had wrote that line.

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The Left will come to deeply regret its cowardice on basic income

prijem-2Peter Frase wrote an interesting piece in 2011, Stop Digging: The Case against Jobs. The essay was pretty popular and was re-blogged widely on various sites. In the article, Frase challenged a consensus that has emerged on the Left without much debate which places jobs at the center of demands:

“Much of the left has, mostly without debating it, coalesced around “jobs” as a unifying political demand.  The motivation for this is clear: one of the biggest problems the country faces is that there are 20 million people who are unsuccessfully seeking full time employment.  But while it may seem obvious that the solution to this problem is to create millions of new jobs, this is not in fact the only possible solution — and there are major drawbacks to a single-minded focus on increasing employment.  For one thing, it may not be feasible to create that many new jobs.  Moreover, it’s equally debatable whether, from a socialist perspective, it is desirable to create these jobs even if it is possible.”

Frase questions whether it was possible to create that many jobs, but he goes further to ask why should the Left be demanding this sort of job creation. He gives 3 reasons why the Left might demand job creation:

  1. People need income and job provides that.
  2. Work gives dignity
  3. Things need to be done that won’t get done unless someone is paid to do them.

Frase points to the apparently irresolvable paradox the Left encounters whenever it tries to go beyond its limited demand for jobs: the real problem of the unemployed isn’t their lack of jobs, it’s their lack of money. If the real problem is not a lack of jobs but a lack of money, why can’t we just handout money to everyone? This argues Frase, is why some on the left are coming around to the idea of just giving people money whether they have a job or not.

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How the basic income scheme could become the Left’s worst nightmare

So, let’s do a thought experiment just for the hell of it.

WARNING: This exercise is definitely not recommended for the fainthearted nor for those trapped in the social democratic delusion that the fascist state is a neutral field for competition between classes:

generation-basic-income-1024x682In my last post I asked if basic income can be employed to maintain wage slavery in face of chronic overproduction of capital. I explained, in this regard, the fact the basic income was incompatible with wage slavery has no place in the discussion, because chronic overproduction itself is already incompatible with wage slavery.

This means chronic overproduction itself should have already brought down wage slavery whether a system of basic income existed or not. Given this fact, the task is to explain why chronic overproduction did not bring down wage slavery and how  the capitalists managed to prevent this from happening.

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When Charles Murray met David Graeber

charlesmurrayOne of the great difficulties Leftists who support the idea of basic income have is trying to explain why some of the most notorious Rightists in post-war United States have, at one time or another, embraced this idea themselves.

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Response to David Graeber: If basic income is so good, why not start with the Koch Brothers?

Par7731873This Graeber article, “Why America’s favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves”, is just chock full of the most egregious bullshit on the basic income issue possible.

There are two possible directions for the Left to take at this point and both are said to achieve the same goals. The first is basic income and the second is reduction of hours of labor. For some reason, David Graeber has suggested the working class should be fighting for the first, not the second.

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Robert Kurz, David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs” and the collapse of capitalism

In section 3 of the Apotheosis of Money, Robert Kurz takes on a problem that has been discussed by Marxists for almost 80 years. The discussion is important because, I believe, its conclusions will have more to say about what a post-capitalist society actually looks like than any of the issues typically raised by the Left:

“it is clear that, taken as a whole, the share of those unproductive workers (viewed from the perspective of surplus value production) who only represent social consumption, that is, “overhead costs”, is constantly increasing.” way to state this is that an ever increasing share of the total labor time of society is being wasted on unproductive labor —   an issue raised by David Graeber in his recent essay, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.

Kurz’s essay is significant to me, because if, as I think, communism is free time and nothing else, society seems to be preparing for just this possibility. The collapse of capitalism will likely appear, as it did in the Soviet Union, as a crisis in the form of massive unemployment, which locks billions out of the labor market, making it possible for the social producers to eliminate most work in a single stroke. The preparation for a society founded on free, disposable time for the many, who can use this free time for self-activity in whatever way they want, may just be taking the form of an ever increasing quantity of labor time that is being unproductively expended by capitalist firms.

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‘Marxist Economists’ and Simpleton Trolls

“The dominant political economy Marx engaged with in his critique was a very different beast.” —Mike Beggs

I have come to the conclusion that anyone calling themselves a “Marxist economist” can safely be dismissed as an idiot.

The very idea of defending historical materialism from bourgeois simpletons is offensive to me. The idea of setting Marx on par with ideologues like Samuelson and Keynes, as though Marx was braddelonginterested in “the economy” is disturbing. There is nothing in Marx that can be said to even distantly resemble a description of “How the economy works”. Marxists are “Marxists” precisely because they suffer the delusion Marx was, in turn, an “economist”, a “sociologist”, or a “philosopher, depending on which field the person talking about him belongs.

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