The Real Movement

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Tag: left accelerationism

RE-Inventing Srnicek and Williams’ ‘Future’

The remarkable thing about Srnicek and Williams’ book, Inventing the Future, is that it brings together technology, labor and income into a concise political program for the Left. The defect of the book is that it attempts to do this in a superficial (merely political) way that neglects the inner relation between the three elements.

Technology, for instance, is not an isolated factor in political economy but influences both labor time and income distribution in the capitalist mode of production. The authors seem to vaguely understand this, but their grasp of the subject is limited.

In a passage I cited in my last post, Srnicek and Williams explain that automation of production reduces the demand for labor. They then explain a reduction of hours of labor reduces the supply of labor available for capitalist production. However, and oddly, at this point, Srnicek and Williams pull their punch: they never go on to explain the demand for the complete automation of production is, at the same time, a demand for the complete abolition of wage labor; nor do they explain that with the complete automation of production and the complete abolition of wage labor, all income — both wages and profits — must fall to zero.

This means the demand for complete automation of production called for in the book is identical with a demand for the complete abolition of wage labor. It also means that, in the long run, technical progress, wage labor and wages are not simply loosely related elements of a purely political program, but three different expressions of one and the same thing.

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The Poverty of Left Accelerationism: A review of Srnicek and Williams, “Inventing the Future”

Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams have written a book, Inventing the Future, proposing the complete automation of production and a reduction of hours of labor. The proposal is fascinating and stands head and shoulders above the gruel typically on offer on the Left.  Nevertheless it is poorly argued and in serious need of additional theoretical development.

The meat of the book can be found in chapter 6, where the authors discuss the Holy Grail of Left Politics, non-reformist reforms — reforms that, of themselves, have revolutionary implications, that force society to go beyond existing capitalist relations. To this end they propose four demands they believe are necessary, “to start building a platform for a post-work society.”

These demands are:

1. Full automation of production
2. The reduction of the working week
3. The provision of a basic income
4. The diminishment of the work ethic

I will spend some time reviewing it here.

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How Robert Jackson demolished the Left Accelerationism school

In his groundbreaking essay, Ordinaryism: An Alternative to Accelerationism. Part 1 – Thanks for Nothing, Robert Jackson asks us to consider the things we take as entirely ordinary. So I went through his essay and pulled a number of quotes I found particularly interesting.

Bear with me as I tediously enumerate the most significant of them by stringing together significant sections of Jackson’s argument:

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For Marx’s Accelerationism – against Post-war Marxism

I didn’t see this post in April when it was first published but I should have: “Against Accelerationism – For Marxism”, by reidkane. According to the writer, accelerationism aims to force down the wages of the working class and thus goad them to organize and fight back:

“‘Acceleration’ is ambivalent; it is regressive in that it is the mechanism by which the conditions of the working class are forced downwards, but progressive to the extent that this is mediated by political radicalization.”

This a quite wrongly stated, at least insofar as the idea can be traced to Marx and Engels.

The accelerationist project as Marx and Engels explained it

szwPygbHere is what I do understand about Accelerationism, and it is all taken from a couple of sentences in the Communist Manifesto, written, as you probably know, by the original accelerationists, Marx and Engels — a couple of guys I tend to trust when it comes to historical materialism because they invented it:

“We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

The first part is probably uncontroversial: the proletariat aims to displace the bourgeoisie as the ruling class of society. We can agree with this idea, at least insofar as it implies the previous ruling class is pushed off the stage and forced to get a real job. Leaving aside whether Marx and Engels could get a quorum for this idea is another question, as well as whether this made sense. In any case, they thought it might be nice for the working class to organize itself as the ruling class of society as it first step. They thought this — there is no controversy about this; no one suggests Nick Land came up with the idea of seizing political power on his own.

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