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.

Continue reading “RE-Inventing Srnicek and Williams’ ‘Future’”

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.

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

The “socialist” argument for Universal Basic Income

karikatur-das-verhaeltnis-arbeiter-unternehmer-559b3ce83fafbd59048b4567Every movement that hopes to be embraced by society at large must be translated into the specific class consciousness of each of the various classes prevalent in that society. This was once true for socialism, and it is no less true for Universal Basic Income. UBI has become the elephant in the room that a motley collection of blind wise men are each trying to describe to their followers in words appropriate to their particular worldview.

Here is an interesting set of talking points for UBI someone developed for socialists, which invokes Marx and equates UBI to the free universal public education he proposed in the Communist Manifesto.

Continue reading “The “socialist” argument for Universal Basic Income”

UBI: Why print money to buy groceries, when you can buy the farm?

In the National Review, another call from the fascists for the latest Leftist-failure-in-the-making known as Universal Basic Income. I have been holding it back, intending to do a piece on it at some point, but I never got around to it. This morning, however, @socialismical asked an interesting question about how to stop capital flight:

Socialismical: “Should the state subsidise a business to prevent it from moving elsewhere?”

Here is the problem: the loss of jobs owing to capital flight has a horrendous impact on communities like Detroit. In principle, communists should be standing for free trade and no barriers to the movement of workers and capital between countries; on the other hand, communities are devastated when a plant shuts down and moves to Mexico, China or wherever.

Moreover, as we have seen, fascists like Trump and social-fascist reformers like Sanders take advantage of this to fuel their own rise to political power.

Can communists offer a viable alternative that is consistent with free trade?

Yes and, unfortunately, No.

Continue reading “UBI: Why print money to buy groceries, when you can buy the farm?”

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.

Continue reading “The Left will come to deeply regret its cowardice on basic income”

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.

Continue reading “How the basic income scheme could become the Left’s worst nightmare”

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.

Continue reading “When Charles Murray met David Graeber”

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.

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

The Left needs to take a timeout

I have been thinking about universal basic income and the demand for a jobs guarantee – two ideas floated by, among others, a former Occupy activist, Jesse Myerson; and the relation between labor, money and goods like food, clothing, shelter. My thinking about the relation between these three was triggered by two comments from a tweep:

“There simply is not a one-to-one correspondence between labor under capitalism and use-values like food.”

Later he made an assertion that is incontrovertibly true:

“Currency, use-value, & labor are all separable.”

I like these statements because they get to the heart of my problem with UBI, a jobs guarantee and the discussion of issues related to both.

I am pretty sure no one would take exception to the idea that, no matter the type of society we consider, the members of that society always need, among other things, food, paycheck-for-allclothing and shelter. We, of course, need more than this basic stuff, so I don’t want to suggest that my list here is exhaustive or could ever be. Rather, let’s assume food, clothing and shelter, stand in for a host of concrete needs that must be satisfied by the means provided by nature. These needs require some definite level of interchange with nature, which are the source of the material means to satisfy them. And to appropriate these means to life from nature, requires some definite expenditure of human effort — labor.

So here is the thing:

Continue reading “The Left needs to take a timeout”

Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Eye Suspiciously

Just finished reading the article by a former Occupy person in the most recent Rolling Stone, “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For”. The article shows the potentially perverse results that can happen when the argument of the Left ignores the question of association of the working class.

FORCEDLABORIt should be clear that most of the proposals in Jesse Myerson’s article are not fascistic in and of themselves. Actually, many of them appear directly drawn from the proposals in the Communist Manifesto — for instance, public ownership of land, means of production, and finance. Thus his proposals can be rightly considered a continuation of a long tradition of communist advocacy for radical social change.

Continue reading “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Eye Suspiciously”