We have to change the terms of the debate on jobs and debt. We need to insist a job is nothing more than wage slavery and we don’t need Washington’s effort to create more of it adding to this wage slavery even with more debt slavery. It is not like we have to argue existing jobs need to go away; why is Washington creating more of them, when existing hours can be reduced to solve the problem of unemployment rather than more debt?
1. Fiscal policy, or how to create one job on Main Street by borrowing five jobs from Wall Street
In 2011, a congressman made the argument that Obama’s stimulus program had produced jobs at the cost of $278,000 per job. Although the charge was nothing new, it made its rounds on the conservative GOP talking points circuit, and even ended up in the congressional record. This number, of course, was so outrageous by any measure of efficiency that it had to be analyzed by what we might call “clear thinking persons with no agenda”, i.e., the news media.
One “news source” in particular known for its ability to vet these things is PolitiFact.com, and it went after the congressman’s charge. PolitiFact established that the congressman, a Republican, was deliberately distorting facts against Obama’s stimulus program.
At $666 billion, the bill was estimated by the White house to have “saved or created” between 2.4 to 3.6 million jobs. What the congressman did, was employ the low end of the number of jobs “created or saved” and apply it to the total of the bill.
The Obama administration responded that this was unfair, since the money went to more than just creating jobs, it also invested in infrastructure, energy, education etc. Which is an odd response, since obviously the administration included those “investments” in its estimate of jobs “created or saved”. The Associated Press made the further argument that,
“Any cost-per-job figure pays not just for the worker, but for the material, supplies and that workers’ output — a portion of a road paved, patients treated in a health clinic, goods shipped from a factory floor, railroad tracks laid,”
So what AP is stating is that a job created by economic stimulus must account not just for the labor power directly expended, but also the constant capital used up in the course of this expenditure. But then AP performs an almost unnoticed sleight of hand and counts everything twice. So we count the money spent to build a road in terms of wages and materials, then we count the road as a finished product; we count the wages and material employed to build a clinic, and then we count the clinic as an operating concern.
Once we remove the misleading double counting from our calculation in the argument in the AP version of this story, how this differed from what the congressman said, is unclear. Indeed his criticism was later refined by one conservative media outlet this way:
“He says he never said that $278,000 per job went to salaries, but ‘rather that each job has cost taxpayers $278,000.’”
Five dollars of debt to produce one dollar of wages
So what the worker actually receives of the $278,000 spent to create her job is one thing, and the cost of creating that job is another. Assuming the worker received an average hourly wage of around $19, she would have an annual wage of $38,760, minus taxes. But to receive this $38,760 minus taxes in wages, the taxpayer must pony up $278,000 minus the taxes paid by the worker.
Which is to say, it roughly takes about 7 dollars of spending to create 1 dollar worth of wages using fiscal stimulus. Moreover, this fiscal stimulus must be newly created money, through debt, and, therefore, created out of nothing. If we take the administrations preferred figure of $185,000 per job, this still amounts to 5 dollars of new debt to produce 1 dollar of wages.
Between the GOP and the Democrats, then, there is agreement that it takes somewhere between $5 and $7 of debt to create $1 of wages. For some reason, despite the general validity of the congressman’s claim, PolitiFact.com decided it was not true on a technicality:
“Contrary to Dewhurst’s statement, the cited cost-per-job figure was not aired by the Obama administration. At bottom, his statement leaves the misimpression that the money went solely for jobs rather than a range of projects and programs, including tax breaks. We rate his claim False.”
There is, of course, another way of looking at this from the point of view of Wall Street banksters. From their point of view, it only takes 1 dollar of wages to create 5 dollars of new debt. Since the banksters are only interested in the accumulation of debt, which sits on his book as an asset, this is a fine ratio.
If the fascist state wants to create one job, it has to borrow the equivalent of five jobs to create this one job. The accumulation of the public debt outruns the income of the members of society who must eventually pay off the debt with their income. For every dollar they get in increased income, their debt obligation increases by five dollars. They must work to pay off this debt, requiring a further extension of wage slavery beyond what is required just to satisfy their needs.
Since after the housing market meltdown citizens can no longer be relied upon to accumulate this debt on their own (they have all become subprime borrowers) the state now takes on this obligation on their behalf, and raises the funds to service it by slashing their retirement and health benefits, reducing their access to public services like education, and inflating the prices of commodities by depreciating the currency.
This is how the scam works, folks!
You vote for Obama and the Democrats, and they mortgage your life and labor to banksters. They call this mortgaging of your life “progressive fiscal policy”, and sell it to you as a benefit.
However, since the congressman hails from the GOP, an avowed political opponent of the democrat president, he failed to add this additional fact: The argument does not change if, instead of democrat spending, we substitute GOP tax cuts, except that tax cuts are even more inefficient at “creating jobs” than fiscal spending. With GOP tax cuts, as the research suggest, the actual relation between the debt accumulated and the jobs created is aimless and dispersed and rather a bit more difficult to assess. Rather than aiming at some specific form of wage slavery as the democrats do, GOP tax cuts aim solely at subsidizing all wage slavery.
Tax cuts only have some definite targeted effect to the extent they increase the deficit and the flows of state expenditures into the coffers of banksters. While both spending and tax cuts result in a massive expansion of the public debt, in general, the less targeted the accumulation of the public debt, the more it directly favors only the banksters, who, in any case, underwrite this debt. The question is only one of degree, not result.
With democrat spending, the accumulation of debt takes a specific form — a road, a school, or an industry. It is targeted, and, therefore, can be more precisely applied, no matter that is still wasteful. What’s more, as Democrats and Republicans alike already know, the produced product can now be renamed the Obama Bridge-Tunnel Highway to Nowhere, or the Obama Elementary School, or the Obama Green Energy Research Park, or, as is always inevitable, no matter which party incurs the debt, the USS Obama.
If the outrageous cost of creating unnecessary jobs by fiscal policy is staggering, just wait until I next explain what knowledgeable insiders are saying about the cost of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.
Tags: Barack Obama, budget deficit, Depression, economic policy, Employment, Federal Reserve, financial crisis, political-economy, shorter work week, stupid economist tricks, Stupid progressive tricks, stupid Washington tricks, The Economy, Trickle Down Economics, unemployment, Wall Street
Capitalism uses investment as a the crux of the claim of property or ownership of a collective. Collectives are a reality. The company you work for is a collective. To be liberated we must end the claim of property over the productive association of the workers. Workers must stand up and claim the product of their labor which is stolen by the capitalist.
Those who oppose this often respond by pointing to the investment made to claim dominion over the workers. This assumes we are still functioning in a system of capitalism where the investment is made by an individual and this gives them dominion over the worker. The worker submits to the dominion of the capitalist out of necessity because of scarcity that capitalism creates. Surplus is simply what the capitalist calls the stolen product of the workers labor. This is the right of increase Proudhon spoke of.
By eliminating the right of increase workers owning the means of association organized and distributed necessities and products through a federation instead of through a market monetary system we find that resources can be obtained through the federation of freely associated workers. Federations of mutually beneficial exchanges and access to services will be able to provide to enable the worker to begin a new venture in production or service.
Through the federation the people will have direct power over their economies and needs. Without a diversity of federations we shall have tyranny of democracy. Free association of a diversity of federations is a necessity.
Those who oppose this and claim investment as the crux of ownership of property ignore the reality that it takes privilege of wealth to produce. It maintains the current rule and maintains a class divide. To produce you must already have a claim to the ownership of the means of production, in a capitalist society this is money or wealth. Wealth is found through dominion over the labor of others. Wealth had been maintained by the exploitation of workers, slaves, genders, races and other class divides. This claim to property is enforced through the state or in some cases wage labor and privatized versions of the state. This power is maintained by ones claim to resources and the power this gives them over others. To have access to basic necessities one must submit to the proprietor to have access to the resources the proprietor claims dominion over.
Investment by a proprietor as a basis for production must be abolished. Resources must be liberated from the capitalist rulers and delivered to the people so that we can be liberated.
Some of you may know that there is an atheist concept known as ‘Last Thursdayism’ - an idea intended to mock and satirise creationists who claim that the world was created 6,000 years ago with the appearance of it being billions of years old. According to this logic, the idea goes, you could just as well claim that the world was actually created ‘Last Thursday’ rather than 6,000 years ago based on the same reasoning.
Of course, it’s an amusing satire of the idiocy of creationism, but it got me thinking, particularly in conjunction with a quote by Murray Bookchin in his legendary essay, ‘Listen, Marxist!’:
When the hell are we finally going to create a movement that looks to the future instead of to the past?
Bookchin was mostly attacking Marxists, as well as some anarchists, who constantly look back to previous revolutions as guides to how revolutions ‘should’ proceed. However, I believe his words have a more important message than that; let’s build a society where we live in the present and in the future, not to the past. This is where ‘Last Thursdayism’ comes in – if your entire system of social relations is dependent on things that were started and finished longer ago than Last Thursday then you’re doing it wrong. If we want a free society, our reasons for relations must be in the moment.
To pick an easy first target that also makes the concept simpler to explain, the propertarian concept of ‘homesteading’. Under the logic of this theory, being as authoritarian as you like on your own property, even to the extent of acting exactly like a state is totally OK, as long as you ‘homesteaded’ it. The state doing the same thing on it’s territory isn’t OK because it didn’t. This fails the ‘Last Thursday’ test pretty conclusively. If the entire world was actually created Last Thursday with the appearance of being older, then no-one has ‘homesteaded’ anything. Yet we’re in the exact same situation.
But I’m not just bashing the propertarians here, this goes for everyone. Specifically, it goes for the many anarchists who unfortunately have picked up the propertarians’ bad habits. While the propertarians claim that human relations regarding objects is a black and white issue (i.e. something must be ‘private property’ with the proprietor holding the right of absolute and exclusive control over it, or ‘unowned’ in which no-one has any right of control over it), many anarchists now play the ‘possession’ card against them. This basically claims that ownership relations can be either of the two already mentioned, but also a third category, known as possession, which basically just means private property but without the economic exploitation of surplus value, interest, rent, etc. But this is still too rigid and restrictive. It’s replacing black and white with black, white and one shade of grey in between. There have always been shades of grey throughout history, such as the ‘Right to Roam’, which existed as convention long before it was enshrined in state law. What a truly free society must be able to have are infinite shades of grey. Rights regarding things must be flexible, always with the potential for exceptions due to need.
But let’s link this back to Last Thursdayism. You might have thought while reading this that capitalism actually corresponds fairly well to the idea, as wage labourers are by definition the people who don’t accumulate capital, and so do indeed live with regard to the present. But no. Even if we ignore the importance of debt to keeping people as de facto serfs through wage labour, the reason workers are in the situation they are in is capital accumulation. Capitalists, while always seeking to accumulate more and so looking to the future, must always look back when they get to that future, in order to justify their position. So if we live true to the ‘Last Thursday’ test then accumulation must go out the window too. And to the mutualists: if we’re going to get rid of capital accumulation and non-labour income, why on earth would we want to keep the market system that enables it? If ownership is to be based on use, how can one ‘buy’ anything, given neither the seller nor buyer can be the exclusive and absolute owner at any time?
A society based on Last Thursdayist principles means a society where people live in the present, not in the past. If something can be put to use then put it to use now. We live in a world where we have millions of unemployed people (not to mention those employed in useless bureaucracy) and millions of uninhabited houses. Where overproducing companies are actually incentivised by the market to destroy surplus goods rather than give them away. Where the state routinely spends up to 5% of GDP on weapons, something with the sole purpose of destruction. And yet people still talk about ‘scarcity’?! When all productive facilities are utilised, when everything that can be used to satisfy wants is put to that use, then we’ll find out about scarcity.
Now, some of you might be a bit disappointed reading this, as what I’m advocating here just seems to be communism, a gift economy. And yes, you’d be right, that is what I’m talking about. But why do we want communism? Is it because we think it is more ‘efficient’? Possibly, though probably not, as communistic societies do not have the drive for constant unending growth that capitalistic ones have. Is it because we value community? Possibly, but there are those that want to keep themselves to themselves, and communism must accomodate them as well. Is it because we think it to be the ‘freest’ form of society? Yes, but what does that mean? Freedom means your freedom to your everyday life. To be able to live for then, no need to justify your freedom now based on the past. So what better an idea than to base it around the idea that, for all we know, there may be no past, and so we should live as such?
Someone wondered the other day why I would ever want to identify as an individualist. Unfortunately, “individualism” is a term that today is very misunderstood and sometimes maligned. So what does it mean to me to be an individualist anarchist?
It means that:
Like Benjamin Tucker, I advocate artisanal socialism. I believe in the law of equal liberty, that “interest is theft, rent robbery, and profit only another name for plunder.”
Like Federica Montseny, I advocate the liberation of women in a world dominated by men, and believe that the “emancipation of women would lead to a quicker realization of the social revolution.”
Like Emile Armand, I stand for the right of those whose sexuality and gender identification is outside the established norm to pursue love and happiness in their own way free from the oppression of the state and society.
Like Joseph Labadie, I stand for Labor against capitalist domination and advocate social change through trade and industrial unionism.
Like Enrico Arrigoni, I think there’s a time when you try to pop Fidel Castro, just because he fucked with your friends. There’s a time to say, ‘fuck it, I’m a keep throwin’ rocks!’ And there’s a time when you stroll in like ya own the place, even though you don’t have your “papers”, because you can.
Like Max Stirner, I believe that people only have as much liberty as they are willing to take.
Like Han Ryner, I am an anti-racist, believing that race is “a dangerous idol”, “…especially when it is allied to religion”.
Like Maria Lacerda De Moura, I am an anti-militarist.
My main reason for rejecting state socialism is, as Miguel Giménez Igualada said, “[t]hat which we call capitalism is not something else but a product of the State, within which the only thing that is being pushed forward is profit, good or badly acquired. And so to fight against capitalism is a pointless task, since be it State Capitalism or Enterprise capitalism, as long as Government exists, exploiting capital will exist. The fight, but of consciousness, is against the State.”
Echoing Adeline Champney, I ask, “For who is society but myself and yourself and all selves? And what is human joy but my joy and your joy and the joy of each? And every joy of mine and every joy of yours and every joy that you or I can bring to any, all are so much added joy in the world. For how shall humanity rejoice while you and I are sad? ”
Like Rachel Campbell, I don’t believe in state marriage.
Like Voltairine De Cleyre, “Sometimes I dream of this social change. I get a streak of faith in Evolution, and the good in man. I paint a gradual slipping out of the now, to that beautiful then, where there are neither kings, presidents, landlords, national bankers, stockbrokers, railroad magnates, patent right monopolists, or tax and title collectors; …”
Like Luigi Galleani, I see communism as the final fulfillment of individualism.
And like the countless individualists of yesterday and today, who are out there practicing individual reclamation, smoking pot, breaking “dress codes”, black-blocking, dodging the draft, squatting, hoboing, going topless at the beach as a post-op transwoman, and otherwise thumbing their nose at “The Man”, I know that individual acts of disobedience create political instability, which in turn creates pressure for social change.
That’s what it means to be an individualist.
Don’t hate, appreciate.
I have a feeling a lot of people won’t like this, but I hope it opens up dialogue.
Rape denial is common in a rape culture. Perpetrators are often aided by silence or denial. The victim is kept in hir place by siding with the perpetrator. We side with the perpetrator directly or indirectly. Silence is easy because we do not address the difficult situation of rape. It is a way to side with the perpetrator. Nothing benefits the perpetrator more than silence. Silence is empowering for the perpetrator. It allows the perpetrator to victimize while society responds as if it is not happening.
In the case of Junian Assange I have found that I want this man to be the hero. I am excited when I see what he does and I have chosen to remain silent and not to address the issue of rape that is being brought up. I have chosen the easy path that empowers the rapist. I find that I quickly dismiss any accusations pointing to the state as a villain. I find that I am quick to dismiss the charge of rape. I realize that if this were a senator or a president I would be the first to crucify them and jump on with attacking them and siding with the victim, but when it is someone I respect I have turned a blind eye.
Silence is only one way we empower the perpetrator. The other is outright defending the actions of the perpetrator or denying the claims of rape which is defense. I am quick to side with short denials and have not chosen to further challenge them. I now see that my choice is problematic. We are quick to throw out the claims completely. I see that I am also still being hesitant to claim Assange is a rapist because my resistance is strong in this. All of this is problematic. It all reflects the reality of how we empower rapists and support a rape culture.
Many of us anarchists, socialists, libertarians and radical politicos seem to be responding in a text book manner to rape in this case. We seem to not want to hold someone accountable and we seem to be quick to deny any wrong doing. We are taking the easy way out and avoiding the difficult path that we need to be walking. This needs to be challenged and we need to really look at this much more seriously than we have.
It was easier for us all to say that he’s being persecuted by the state. In the long run we have chosen to not go down the path of looking at sexual assault. I think it’s time we re-examined how we are responding to this situation.
I have gone through a philosophical journey of self discovery and exploration here on Gonzo Times. I started the site a capitalist libertarian party libertarian. I evolved from there to a rothbardian anarcho capitalist and then on to rejecting capitalism in favor of socialism and anarchism. Much of this journey I was reading and operating in a realm of economics and logic. Through the journey I picked up other issues I stood for such as the liberation of the LGBT community, feminism and the plight of the migrant. In the realm of feminism I was exposed to types of intelligence that may not necessarily fit nicely with those of economics and all so called logic. Emotional intelligence I have learned is a valid form of intelligence that I am sadly lacking in.
I hope that I can delve further in my emotional intelligence, nurture it, feed it and grow more attached to it. I have seen that often men are socialized to reject emotional intelligence. I believe this is an element of gender dominance and often feeds into the mindset that perpetuates forms of hierarchy within society. Emotional responses and reactions or understandings can be seen as less than or just naive. I now see that the rejection of emotional intelligence is done out a lack of intelligence. What is an emotional anarchist? I want to understand anarchism through the lens of emotional intelligence and begin to embrace it through a new perspective with a new knowledge.
I am now asking myself what Emotional Anarchism is and what it looks like. I am now wanting to see anarchism with a new set of eyes to examine it and pick it apart through new forms of intelligence. Howard Gardner proposed the theory of nine types of intelligence:
- 1 The multiple intelligences
Can we look for anarchism in each of these types of intelligence? How can someone who is stronger in one specific area here begin to frame and understand anarchism? I would love to hear from some who are stronger in specific areas of intelligence and how that intelligence may impact anarchism for them. How can we frame anarchism within emotional intelligence as well as the nine types of intelligence? Are there still many new approaches to take to reach our conclusions?
Lately I have been reading more Kropotkin and Bookchin. Both of them have elements of post-scarcity found in their visions for anarchism. I have always perceived this as a utopian ideal that I liked. Post-Scarcity: is a hypothetical form of economy or society in which goods, services and information are free, or practically free. This would require an abundance of fundamental resources (matter, energy and intelligence) – Wikipedia. In looking at the concept I have been trying to understand it on a level I find real and practical. I have been trying to see how this non-market system would work, how it is implemented in a real world situation. I am, not rejecting it, I am not claiming it is possible, I am simply trying to gain an understanding of it and see how it might be possible.
Saturday was hot. I don’t have central air and it has been getting into the hundreds around here. My spouse and I decided to get out of the ghetto and go somewhere there is air conditioning so we drove out of the city to the exurbs to walk around the mall. I have not been to a mall in years. As we walked around this vast structure of non-essential commerce we grew jaded. Store after store of the same crap. I could not believe how much stuff there was. There was stuff made for the sole purpose of selling stuff. Most of it served to fill no real need whatsoever. This massive monstrosity of mindless shopping and endless commerce just got under my skin. Nobody actually needs a misogynist t-shirt that says ‘I have the dick so I make the rules’. Everything being bought and sold was surplus. It was all non-essential goods being marketed to create a need within the mind of the consumer. As much as I love books and I love to read I walked in to the book store and saw the very same thing. It was discouraging.
As I looked around I began to see something I have not seen before. I began to see potential in all of this. Lots of mass manufactured crap made in China and sweat shops by slave labor I saw as potential. It began to become painfully obvious to me that this much surplus production has potential to lead to a society of post-scarcity. The problem I started to see is a problem of property and ownership. It became more clear than ever just how capitalism as the ownership of the means of production was blocking access go goods while claiming the wealth and paying workers nothing to perpetuate this mindless consumption. Holy shit. I saw the potential of post-scarcity in the suburbs.
I saw that supply and demand was not actually working. It doesn’t work in the ghetto and it is obvious. Take housing. There is supply and demand but the supply is not getting to the demand. If it were there would not be people sleeping on streets while so many houses and buildings sat unoccupied. Go to this middle class neighborhood and the real illusion is present. Everything is okay, buy this popular item. Capitalism has become the opiate of the masses. Endless bikini women, rock stars and cell phones serve to distract as we piss away the product of our labor so that the capitalist can buy a second home in the Hamptons. The private security worked with the police to keep out the desperate and to keep the peaceful illusion that everything is fine so that you could go about your way consuming and throwing wealth to the capitalist.
The production that occurs is surplus. The labor is non-essential except for the fact that those who do labor do so out of desperation so that they can attempt to meet basic needs because the product of labor is owned by another. I began to see quickly that this amount of surplus production could easily be redirected if it were no longer hindered by the rule of the capitalist. I began to see exactly where we could begin to build a society of post-scarcity.
Posts are always one of us anarchists or communists telling you what the problem is or what the solution is. I want to know from our non-anarchist readers why you are not anarchists. I thought of asking the same of the non- communist, socialist, syndicalist etc… but I am scared that will become just another ‘voluntary’ discussion. I want to know what objections many have to anarchism.
I am not asking to teach, respond or school you. I simply wish to know why you might reject the ideas of anarchism, a stateless society or an egalitarian society.
So please leave comments that might help me understand why you are not an anarchist. It is my asumption that if you read Gonzo Times you grasp concepts like anarchism, communism or property rights etc… So please help me understand your view.
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breaches or fraud by the others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.
I have touched on many reasons part of this quote from Rand is wrong on many posts, but I wish to point to the area that this quote is right. ‘the courts, to protect your property’. Rand disdained the state for it’s intervention in her vision of unfettered capitalism. Throughout her writings she never seeks protection or answers for much violence or ‘crime’ outside of the state. In her world it would be near impossible to find such outside of a state, so under the conditions she proposes the entire paragraph is correct.
To maintain property you must maintain a state. If the state is abolished you can only reach this unfettered capitalism by abolishing the state in name alone. You must privatize the functions of state. This simply is renaming the state and allowing various land lords or property owners to to have the dominion of these arms of the newly privatized state.
The debate over property can only be ended once we have reached a pure anarchist communist society. Until then there will be a debate. Property will continue to be maintained by either a state or a state cleverly disguised as a ‘free market’ state. Ayn Rand realized that property is defended by the state. She repeats this over and over. While property is considered an extension of the property owner the other problems that rise in this paragraph will be intertwined with the issue of property. This will mean that at the least a minarchist or pseudo state will be required to enforce the concept of property of the ruling class. The power of this ruling class over the worker is the power of the state.
The proper use which protects ‘mans rights’ is the right of the property owner or the ruling class. The rights the state protects are the right of dominion of the ruling classes. This physical violence is the physical violence that is not really physical violence. We have options to deal with that in reality. The physical violence is the violence invented by the capitalist which is infringement on property. The retaliatory force can then be used against the worker who tries to claim the bread they made because the bread is the property of the capitalist. It is the right to deny resources or even the product of ones labor.
The anarchist portrait project is underway, and I am excited to show off the first round of portraits. I am planning on revealing the first round in July. Until then we need support. You can help the project by purchasing a painting or donating. You can donate here. Or scroll through the paintings below and click on the one you want to purchase it. The money from the paintings will be going to the project. We need studio space and a great deal of materials to move forward. Please help by purchasing a painting or donating today.
So far We have started on Kevin Carson, Paula Carter, Punk Johnny Cash and Matt D. Harris.
We have many other anarchists who are going to be started soon including Gonzo Times own Jehu.
There are many who are still up in the air. I have contacted Noam Chomsky and Starhawk also. Both have responded, but neither has confirmed that they are in yet. There are many other names to be added to the list officially soon though and hopefully Noam Chomsky and Starhawk will be listed among them. We have IWW members, Catholic Workers and more. If you are interested in being in the project please contact me.
An exert from her essay Anarchism:
Property, the dominion of man’s needs, the denial of the right to satisfy his needs. Time was when property claimed a divine right, when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion, “Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!” The spirit of Anarchism has lifted man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face toward the light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring, devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike the monster dead.
“Property is robbery,” said the great French Anarchist, Proudhon. Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber. Monopolizing the accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast. Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create enough to satisfy all needs. The A B C student of economics knows that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far exceeds normal demand a hundredfold. But what are normal demands to an abnormal institution? The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly boastful of her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with hope and joy gone, a homeless, soilless army of human prey.
It is generally conceded that unless the returns of any business venture exceed the cost, bankruptcy is inevitable. But those engaged in the business of producing wealth have not yet learned even this simple lesson. Every year the cost of production in human life is growing larger (50,000 killed, 100,000 wounded in America last year); the returns to the masses, who help to create wealth, are ever getting smaller. Yet America continues to be blind to the inevitable bankruptcy of our business of production. Nor is this the only crime of the latter. Still more fatal is the crime of turning the producer into a mere particle of a machine, with less will and decision than his master of steel and iron. Man is being robbed not merely of the products of his labor, but of the power of free initiative, of originality, and the interest in, or desire for, the things he is making.
Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to live in. But if man is doomed to wind cotton around a spool, or dig coal, or build roads for thirty years of his life, there can be no talk of wealth. What he gives to the world is only gray and hideous things, reflecting a dull and hideous existence,–too weak to live, too cowardly to die. Strange to say, there are people who extol this deadening method of centralized production as the proudest achievement of our age. They fail utterly to realize that if we are to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete than was our bondage to the King. They do not want to know that centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.
When Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin were writing the beginning writings that anarchism would grow to follow there was no acceptance of capitalism. Capitalism was not an option for anarchists. Anarcho-Capitalism is no within the scope of these philosophies nor is it anarchism by those original definitions. I have a laundry list of issues with Anarcho-Capitalism.
All of this aside, I realize once we have achieved some form of large scale functioning anarchism I do not believe these people will vanish with their ideas. The question is often asked if anarcho-capitalists are anarchists. My answer is yes. I know many will not like that. I do not see Anarcho-Capitalism as anarchism, but I will not deny one their claim to being an anarchist if that is how they define themselves.
I believe Anarcho-Capitalism clings to many forms of hierarchy and privileged and forms of rule that I reject. I also believe that we are all blind to the privilege we do hold, all of us, even myself. I do believe there are forms of hierarchy and privilege we all have that we can not see. I will not rule out other anarchists because they may have some beliefs or assumptions based in this unseen flaw therefore I will not rule the individual anarcho-capitalists out either.
Or, why Zizek believed, ‘We must not succumb to the temptation to act’
Between Kliman’s critique of the Occupy movement, Ollman’s critique of Marx on working class consciousness and Zizek’s critique of Negri, I notice something of a pattern. Ollman in his piece, which I examined in my last blog, argues “between determining conditions and determined response is the class consciousness of the actors”. Action without this class consciousness is insufficient to accomplish the revolutionary project.
Similarly, in his 2001 critique of Negri, Zizek warns us not to yield to the temptation to act without questioning the hegemonic ideological coordinates because, as he argues,
“If, today, one follows a direct call to act, this act will not be performed in an empty space”.
The space within which we act is dominated by the “liberal-parliamentary consensus” where the only rule is “say and write whatever you want-on condition that what you do does not effectively question or disturb the predominant political consensus.” To act against existing social relations without calling into question the political expression of these social relations is not sufficient.
Zizek makes a point with which it is hard to raise an objection: democratic politics is by its very nature always ready to listen to and accommodate the political demands of the working class, thus depriving them of their proper political sting. Liberal parliamentary democracy is willing to accommodate even a demand for its own abolition as a discrete political position within itself. Capital as a totalizing social process must, of course, include even the possibility of its own abolition as a part of this process. Zizek makes the quite convincing argument that between our experiences and our action we must insert critical thought that questions the limits of the liberal parliamentary consensus. Zizek demands a “serious attempt to imagine a society whose sociopolitical order would be different.” It is this imagining which should precede our actions within a space dominated by the ideological hegemony of liberal democracy. This, Zizek argues, is the failure of Negri’s analysis in Empire.
But, Zizek fails to explain why an attempt by society to imagine itself in a form that does not as yet exist would be an improvement. Against Negri’s demands that “fluctuate between formal emptiness and impossible radicalization” he proposes his own pre-Marx alternative: A radical slogan that is both empty and impossible:
The first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to directly intervene and change things…
Zizek is not shy about this demand. He fully admits this statement reverses Marx’s Theses — privileging thought over action. Unlike Ollman, who does the same (yet blames Marx for it), Zizek has the strength of character not to accuse Marx of inconsistency. He simply accuses Marx of being an anachronism, by quoting Lenin:
About this, Marx and Engels said not a word.
Which is to say, up until 1914 the whole of human history was essentially practical critical activity of society but no longer. With the “politico-ideological collapse of the long era of progressism in the catastrophe of 1914″ Lenin stepped forward to reinvent history. That, for Lenin, this reinvention does not appear as a reinvention but a restatement of Marx’s Theses, doesn’t appear to concern Zizek. And this is the question posed by Zizek inadvertently: Was Lenin’s ideas a “restatement” of Marx’s Theses — as Lenin himself believed — or a “reinvention”?
If we could channel Lenin’s ghost to pose this question, he would no doubt respond:
Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902),
Clearly Lenin sides with Ollman and Zizek against those who act without the aid of a critical analysis of the limits set by liberal democratic politics. By contrast I have yet to find a single quote in Marx where he stated: “You have to understand my theory to make revolution.” If Zizek, Ollman or any other member in good standing within the Marxist Academy knows of such a citation I would be glad to read it — until then, kindly take your fucking critical theory and shove it up your ass.
Perhaps no one is better equipped to undertake this empty and impossible “radical” task than our Professor Andrew Kliman, who, in his recent critique of David Graeber, confirmed his reputation for what one tweep called “tedious sectarianism”. I have to confess I really tried to understand Kliman’s point on “prefigurative politics”, but failed miserably.
In the proper sense of the term, “prefigurative politics” refers to practices that foreshadow and anticipate a different world a world that does not exist.
However, according to Kliman, Graeber’s prefigurative act,
… refers to practices that make believe that this different world already exists in embryo within the existing one.
Let’s parse this stupidity.
In Kliman’s sense of this term, we are imagining or acting on ideas having no concrete material reality, while, according to the professor, Graeber’s argument at least has the validity of acting on something he believes does exist, however embryonic this existence. Professor Kliman prefers to “foreshadow” the non-existent, and derides Graeber for asserting the thing foreshadowed in action already exists in embryo. The thing said to exist only in imagination in Kliman’s sense, but actually already present in embryo in Graeber’s sense is “freedom”. And, on this point, Kliman appears to have scored points against Graeber: In the first place, we are no more “free” than the African slave. In the second place we are not free in relation to the circumstances within which we act, which are historically given. In either case, pretence to freedom is a fallacy that can only result in catastrophe.
It is on these grounds Kliman concludes,
The Zuccotti Park occupation was a dismal failure. The functioning of Wall Street was not disrupted. Occupy Wall Street never occupied Wall Street. Even Zuccotti Park was “occupied” only with the consent of the mayor of New York City, and it was cleared out the moment he withdrew that consent. In the end, no autonomous space was reclaimed. The effort to remake society by multiplying and weaving together autonomous spaces is back to Square One. Even worse, precious little progress was made during the occupation in articulating and working out what the movement is for, or how to solve the serious social and economic problems we now confront.
He blames this failure, not on the occupiers themselves, but on the “leadership” of the occupation. Blaming the failure on the occupiers, would, of course, treat them as adult men and women capable of making their own decisions including who they look to as their leadership. However, in the Marxist paradigm, they are not adult men and women making their own decision, they are hopelessly retarded children who must be led by a self-annointed vanguard sufficiently theoretically developed to uncover the path mankind must take to freedom. Every other ruling class has succeeded to power through its own actions, but proles are imbeciles incapable of discovering their own wants.
The point to be made here is not whether Graeber is wrong, but that the occupiers must be wrong to have chosen him as their leader and suffered a defeat as a result. Ultimately, the failure of the Occupy belongs to them, not Graeber; despite Kliman’s weak ass attempts to separate the two. Kliman’s argument comes down to this: the proles pretended they were already free in embryo, and appointed Graeber to express this delusion. Since we must operate with the assumption that proles are not retarded children incapable of making their own decisions, this is where the blame lies. Kliman is being disingenuous when he tries to ascribe the “failure” of the Occupy movement to Graeber. If, as Kliman argues, the Occupy has failed, it is the fault of the occupiers, and Kliman should “man up” and tell them so. His attempt to lay the blame on Graeber is bullshit and Kliman knows this.
If we try to scale up Kliman’s argument to explain other historical failures of working class political activity, we would be trying to explain Auschwitz in terms of the failure of German Marxists. Kliman treats failure as some personal moral deficit, when in fact the political action of the proletariat is always supposed to fail. Even the most successful union negotiation is all about the terms and conditions of the enslavement of the workers. The fucking fallacy in the negotiation is that the workers approach it as if they are free to negotiate the terms and conditions of their enslavement. In fact, they are not free; they are slaves. Even when they win, they remain slaves. Even when they impose their will on the capitalist, they remain his willing slaves. On the basis of Kliman’s “radical” critique of our unfreedom, the workers should not even enter negotiations. Every political action rests on this fallacy, not just the Occupy — and it does not take an overt defeat of the class to be an essential defeat. In the same Graeberian sense that Occupy acts as if they are free, every fucking union acts as if it is free.
So what the fuck of it? Should the proletariat now stop fucking acting as if they are free because fucking Kliman doesn’t approve of the logical fallacy of this position?
I am trying to imagine Kliman writing “Class Struggle in France”, or “Civil War in France” — I just don’t see it. All we would be able to glean from his argument is that the communards were imbeciles for following the Prudhonists. The Commune ended in catastrophic defeat after barely 60 fucking days and got a lot of people killed — in the end the association had to submit to the state.
Overlooked in this “history” is the fact that the Commune, even led by the Prudhonists, demonstrated a new form of social organization of society. The Communards acted as they should have acted: not imagining a new social organization of society in theory, but creating it in practice. And they could create this new social organization of society, not because they had already perfected it on paper, but, as Marx observed, they were already this new social organization of society themselves.
So, yes. In the Graeberian sense of prefigure, Occupy was already “free” of the class divisions of society, not because they could abolish the other classes in society by fiat, but because they already are a class that is no longer a class in any meaningful sense of that terms.
What Kliman, Zizek, Ollman and the rest of the academy seem to be unable to get through their thick skulls is that all politics is bourgeois. The working class is in itself already constituted as the new society, it does not need politics no matter how illuminated by theory. If Marx had never written a damn word, this class would still make its revolution, because, as Marx stated: this is what the Proletariat is. It is not revolutionary because Marx said it is, Marx said it was revolutionary because it already was.
You fucking Marxists need to take your goddamned books and burn them all.
Darwin did not invent the laws of evolution. Einstein did not create the laws of the physical universe. And Marx did not create the laws of the social revolution. Proletarians do not need to ask permission from Kliman, Ollman, Zizek, or the rest of the fucking Marxist Academy to act.
So, FUCK YOU, Professor Kliman! And fuck Zizek too. Fuck you all and the fucking horse you rode in on.
This May Day, as in all previous May Days going back almost to its establishment, will be marked by the indifference of the working class, at least in the United States, to its arrival. The odd thing about this is that May Day was born here in the United States as an expression of working class power and its determined struggle for the reduction in hours of labor. Yet here, more than in any other country, it passes almost unnoticed by the very class that created it through its own independent power. That it should be met with indifference here in the country of its birth is a paradox that requires explaining — if for no other reason than it points to a fundamentally troubling aspect of communist theory in its orthodox Marxist and anarchist variants: the apparent failure of the working class to rise to its historical mission as gravedigger of capitalism, to acquire what is commonly referred to as a class consciousness.
Part of this paradox can be explained by visiting a paper recently published by Alberto Toscano on the problem posed by Post-Workerism interpretations of Marx’s and Engels’ argument in which a worker, Nanni Balestrini, complains:
Once I went to May Day. I never got workers’ festivities. The day of work, are you kidding? The day of workers celebrating themselves. I never got it into my head what workers’ day or the day of work meant. I never got it into my head why work should be celebrated. But when I wasn’t working I didn’t know what the fuck to do. Because I was a worker, that is someone who spent most of their day in the factory. And in the time left over I could only rest for the next day. But that May Day on a whim I went to listen to some guy’s speech because I didn’t know him.
As I stated in a recent interview:
What I find interesting about this quote is that, obviously, May Day does not “celebrate work”, but celebrates a victory in the working class’s struggle for a reduction of hours of labor. What began as a celebration of a victory marking a step toward the abolition of labor became, over time, redefined as the celebration of the thing to be abolished, labor. But what is equally interesting about the quote is that the worker quoted, while apparently ignorant of this history, recognizes the idiocy of celebrating wage slavery. Even without realizing it, the worker reestablishes the original significance of the day.
This is an observation that seems lost on the critics of the Occupy and Tea Party movements.
Anarchism, my beloved anarchism. Will it exist in my lifetime? Yes. Does it exist anywhere? Yes. It is everywhere. Many start to tell how we can’t have anarchism because the biggest meanest gang will take over and hold power. No. That is what has happened. It’s not why we can’t have anarchism. Anarchism is the most natural state. The idea that the biggest group will bully everyone around and take power has happened. It’s not a fear of it happening. Anarchism is the idea that we need to stop the biggest bully with the most guns from taking power. It’s that simple.
These days, it seems like everybody’s concerned about internet security. From firewalls to virus scanners, and SSL-encrypted login pages to more secure ways to create and store session data in cookies, there’s a breadth of information, software, and services available to the consumer to help with securing their computers and internet connections from attackers. Certain types of attackers, that is. What about when the attacker in question, though, is the user’s own ISP or the government they live under?
With ever-increasing state and corporate surveillance and censorship of the internet connection you’re already paying for, a VPN on top of it has become pretty much essential. Just see this article about what’s going on in the US starting this July, or the plans the UK government has for their residents. And this is just what’s public in the news media. For every story we hear, there are dozens of National Security Letters, warrantless wiretaps, and other abuses. How can you defend yourself?
There are large, public networks like Tor and I2P which offer various solutions to various problems. Tor encrypts your content and hides your origin very effectively when used correctly. It creates a tunnel using several nodes, none of which know the actual origin of the connection. The problems with Tor are two-fold, however. For one thing, you can’t always trust the exit node which delivers you to the internet, meaning you need to rely on other forms of endpoint authentication and encryption protocols (like SSL) to make sure you’re not made the victim of a man in the middle attack. The other big problem with Tor is speed. Anyone who has used it knows that the biggest price of good anonymity on the internet is that your internet experience is going to be slow, and some things – like large file downloads or peer-2-peer connectivity – are just not going to work. At all. I2P on the other hand isn’t really designed to access the regular internet. While it provides a gateway to its own “eepsites”, connectivity in a more secure manner to websites like google, facebook, or porn sites just isn’t going to be possible using I2P.
Another option, and one which better meets the needs of most users, is a VPN. VPNs do not provide anonymity as strongly as Tor or I2P, but they provide fast and reliable internet connectivity to the websites and other internet services you use on a daily basis. The Red Triangle Technology Collective is now offering low-cost VPN services for users around the globe. For many US internet users, a US-based VPN from RTTC may even increase internet performance, while simoultaneously evading censorship, connection hijacking, and data mining that US consumer ISPs are more and more frequently routinely inflicting upon their own customers. If you use Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, or any other major consumer cable or DSL internet provider in the US, you need a VPN. For those also concerned about state surveillance with regard to users in the US, the collective’s Russia-based offerings provide a service hosted in Moscow, beyond the jurisdiction of the FBI and the NSA.
For greater “signal to noise ratio” a Tor service can be run on the VPN system, making surveillance even more difficult. For the ultimate in security, one can opt to have a Tor exit node running on the same IP as their VPN, which means that the user has plausible deniability for any and all traffic coming through their VPN. The unfortunate downside of running with a Tor exit node is that many sites may automatically block you. No other VPN provider is currently offering this functionality or this level of overall security. Backed by RTTC – an organization with radical values – you can be sure that your internet connectivity is safe with a Red Triangle Technology Collective VPN service.
In today’s environment of increasing surveillance and censorship, can you really afford not to? Sign up today!
Well if they agree to it voluntarily, what it what problem?
Some would go as far as saying that slavery is okay if it’s voluntary. The problem is that many times people choose a lesser of evils to survive. This Passage from The Peoples History Of The United States was one thing that got me thinking about the age old voluntaryist comment ‘well if it’s voluntary’. The problem is sometimes we voluntarily choose something harmful out of desperation thus submitting to rulers and tyrants. This is historically seen in indentured servitude. By some some definitions this could be defended by a defense of private property.
The servants who joined Bacon’s Rebellion were part of a large underclass of miserably poor whites who came to the North American colonies from European cities whose governments were anxious to be rid of them. In England, the development of commerce and capitalism in the 1500s and 1600s, the enclosing of land for the production of wool, filled the cities with vagrant poor, and from the reign of Elizabeth on, laws were passed to punish them, imprison them in workhouses, or exile them. The Elizabethan definition of “rogues and vagabonds” included:
… All persons calling themselves Schollers going about begging, all Seafaring men pretending losses of their Shippes or goods on the sea going about the Country begging, all idle persons going about in any Country either begging or using any subtile crafte or unlawful Games … comon Players of Interludes and Minstrells wandring abroade … all wandering persons and comon Labourers being persons able in bodye using loytering and refusing to worke for such reasonable wages as is taxed or commonly given….
Such persons found begging could be stripped to the waist and whipped bloody, could be sent out of the city, sent to workhouses, or transported out of the country.
In the 1600s and 1700s, by forced exile, by lures, promises, and lies, by kidnapping, by their urgent need to escape the living conditions of the home country, poor people wanting to go to America became commodities of profit for merchants, traders, ship captains, and eventually their masters in America. Abbot Smith, in his study of indentured servitude, Colonists in Bondage, writes: “From the complex pattern of forces producing emigration to the American colonies one stands out clearly as most powerful in causing the movement of servants. This was the pecuniary profit to be made by shipping them.”
After signing the indenture, in which the immigrants agreed to pay their cost of passage by working for a master for five or seven years, they were often imprisoned until the ship sailed, to make sure they did not run away. In the year 1619, the Virginia House of Burgesses, born that year as the first representative assembly in America (it was also the year of the first importation of black slaves), provided for the recording and enforcing of contracts between servants and masters. As in any contract between unequal powers, the parties appeared on paper as equals, but enforcement was far easier for master than for servant.
The voyage to America lasted eight, ten, or twelve weeks, and the servants were packed into ships with the same fanatic concern for profits that marked the slave ships. If the weather was bad, and the trip took too long, they ran out of food. The sloop Sea-Flower, leaving Belfast in 1741, was at sea sixteen weeks, and when it arrived in Boston, forty-six of its 106 passengers were dead of starvation, six of them eaten by the survivors. On another trip, thirty-two children died of hunger and disease and were thrown into the ocean. Gottlieb Mittelberger, a musician, traveling from Germany to America around 1750, wrote about his voyage:
During the journey the ship is full of pitiful signs of distress-smells, fumes, horrors, vomiting, various kinds of sea sickness, fever, dysentery, headaches, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and similar afflictions, all of them caused by the age and the high salted state of the food, especially of the meat, as well as by the very bad and filthy water.. .. Add to all that shortage of food, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, fear, misery, vexation, and lamentation as well as other troubles…. On board our ship, on a day on which we had a great storm, a woman ahout to give birth and unable to deliver under the circumstances, was pushed through one of the portholes into the sea….
Indentured servants were bought and sold like slaves. An announcement in the Virginia Gazette, March 28, 1771, read:
Just arrived at Leedstown, the Ship Justitia, with about one Hundred Healthy Servants, Men Women & Boys… . The Sale will commence on Tuesday the 2nd of April.
Against the rosy accounts of better living standards in the Americas one must place many others, like one immigrant’s letter from America: “Whoever is well off in Europe better remain there. Here is misery and distress, same as everywhere, and for certain persons and conditions incomparably more than in Europe.”
Beatings and whippings were common. Servant women were raped. One observer testified: “I have seen an Overseer beat a Servant with a cane about the head till the blood has followed, for a fault that is not worth the speaking of….” The Maryland court records showed many servant suicides. In 1671, Governor Berkeley of Virginia reported that in previous years four of five servants died of disease after their arrival. Many were poor children, gathered up by the hundreds on the streets of English cities and sent to Virginia to work.
The master tried to control completely the sexual lives of the servants. It was in his economic interest to keep women servants from marrying or from having sexual relations, because childbearing would interfere with work. Benjamin Franklin, writing as “Poor Richard” in 1736, gave advice to his readers: “Let thy maidservant be faithful, strong and homely.”
Servants could not marry without permission, could be separated from their families, could be whipped for various offenses. Pennsylvania law in the seventeenth century said that marriage of servants “without the consent of the Masters .. . shall be proceeded against as for Adultery, or fornication, and Children to be reputed as Bastards.”
Although colonial laws existed to stop excesses against servants, they were not very well enforced, we learn from Richard Morris’s comprehensive study of early court records in Government and Labor in Early America. Servants did not participate in juries. Masters did. (And being propertyless, servants did not vote.) In 1666, a New England court accused a couple of the death of a servant after the mistress had cut off the servant’s toes. The jury voted acquittal. In Virginia in the 1660s, a master was convicted of raping two women servants. He also was known to beat his own wife and children; he had whipped and chained another servant until he died. The master was berated by the court, but specifically cleared on the rape charge, despite overwhelming evidence.
The General Assembly is direct democracy. Some feel that the occupy movement needs to reach outside of this to the rulers and try to talk the rulers into being nice to us or making their laws to suit their subjects, but this is simply utopian thinking. The occupy needs to begin to teach and educate one another. The organization of the GA needs to be built upon. This needs to begin to seep into the everyday lives of all.
Can the GA be seen as a federation or as the roots of a federation of syndicates? Can this be used to create the roots of the type of organization of society we see with a concept of federalism?
The catch in this is that the coops, syndicates, unions and more need to begin to rise up and use this as such. What would that mean? Simple, organizing through the formation of syndicates or the use of unions like the IWW to organize within the movement and outside the movement. This can lead to a better organization of workers as well as a stronger presence in the world.
Theoretically we could see the root of anarchism in this if the right steps are taken.
So, I got feedback from three people who, in one way or another, say they don’t understand my last post on my conversation with Andrew Kliman. One person posting on Reddit, complained it was too dense; another wondered if I was advocating a return to the gold standard; a third person, who I asked to read it and give me feedback, began to have difficulty with it about halfway through it. Specifically that person had difficulty understanding my discussion of the “transformation problem”.
This is three more examples of my “tin-ear”, which expressed itself in my disagreement with Andrew. I have not been able to explain “my point” in a way that is not abstract, or explain the relevancy of the various statements I make to real events within society. Part of this is because I am a “Marxist” in the same way I could be considered a “Darwinist” — I am not an expert on either. The theory makes sense to me, and I accept it as a reasonable explanation for how the world works.
But, if someone argued a eugenics distortion of Darwin, I could not argue against that person by quoting Darwin. And, if someone argued a Keynesian distortion of Marx, I probably could not argue back using quotes from Marx. Until recently I was more a leninist than a “Marxist”; having read a lot of Lenin, but little more of Marx himself than the Communist Manifesto. And, neither of them had I read for more than two decades.
What got me interested in Marx again was my interest in reducing hours of work, and being handed a copy of Moishe Postone’s, “Time, Labor and Social Domination“. (PDF) Until I read that book, I considered reduced hours of work a nice idea for relieving the stresses of overwork and providing a little more vacation time, but not much else.
By the time I got to the end of it, I realized everything I had understood about communism was complete garbage.
To this day, I’ll bet I understand less than 25 percent of Postone’s argument; but it was enough to convince me getting rid of labor was not just a neat idea, but the entire point of the social revolution. I never knew this before I read Postone’s book — and it was very difficult for me to understand it even after I read it. But once armed with the idea when I returned to reading Marx again (really for the first time), evidence of this idea was all over his writings.
So, when I made the rather innocent suggestion to Andrew Kliman that he take a look at gold, I was pushing an agenda. And, that agenda can be framed by the question:
“Is the dollar really money?”
However, behind the innocent question is the entire point of the social revolution: the abolition of labor — in Marx’s sense of the term, that is, productive activity that creates value.
For several years now Fred Moseley, who I mentioned in my last post, has sponsored as small gathering of Marxists to discuss what money is. The question is typically framed as,
“Can the dollar do what gold does?”
Within Marx’s theory, of course, the dollar can do some of the things gold or another commodity money can do. For instance, it can serve as medium for circulation of commodities, for the purchase of the commodities we use every day. And, according to Marx, even when gold serves as money in an exchange, it is just like the dollar — a mere token of money.
Everyone at these gatherings seems to agree on that dollars can work just as well as money to buy groceries, but the controversy is whether it can act as measure or store of value;
and, thus, whether it can serve as the standard of prices of groceries.
But, framing the question this way is backward. It is not whether dollars can do what gold can do, but can gold do what dollars can do? The real question here is:
“What can dollars do that gold can’t do?”
The answer to that question is staggering: gold cannot under any normal circumstance represent a quantity of labor time that is not socially necessary.
Gold, in other words, cannot represent labor time that is wasted, unproductive, and does not create value. Marx insists on this limitation in his theory:
As materialised labour-time gold is a pledge for its own magnitude of value, and, since it is the embodiment of universal labour-time, its continuous function as exchange-value is vouched for by the process of circulation.
The limitation on gold is that it cannot express labor time expended by society that is materially unnecessary to the satisfaction of its needs. Marx’s theory does not work if this argument is thrown out. If dollars were a pledge for their own value in stead of completely worthless scrip, dollars would be money — but they do not have value and cannot stand as a pledge for the value of anything else. So, what does this mean for society?
It means gold cannot serve as money in a society where there is a lot of unnecessary, wasteful, and unproductive work. Eventually, the circulation of gold in such an economy will halt, and a credit crisis will ensue. I believe this is exactly what happened in the Great Depression, and is why the dollar was debased from gold.
Fred Moseley disagrees and argues dollars can represent socially necessary labor time. As I quoted Moseley previously, he states:
…money does not have to be a commodity in Marx’s theory, even in its function of measure of value. The measure of value does not itself have to possess value. Inconvertible paper money (not backed by gold in any way) can also function as the measure of value. In order to function as the measure of value, a particular thing must be accepted by commodity-owners as the general equivalent, i.e. as directly exchangeable with all other commodities.
I want to state for the record that Moseley’s argument is neoclassical economics masquerading as Marx’s theory. I want to call Fred Moseley out on this, because it is not Marx’s theory. To assume worthless dollars can serve as measure of value, is to assume the value of a good is its price. As the Wikipedia states:
In neoclassical economics, the value of an object or service is often seen as nothing but the price it would bring in an open and competitive market. This is determined primarily by the demand for the object relative to supply. Many neoclassical economic theories equate the value of a commodity with its price, whether the market is competitive or not. As such, everything is seen as a commodity and if there is no market to set a price then there is no economic value.
In Marx’s theory, the price of a commodity expresses the value of the commodity but is not identical with it. In neoclassical economics price and value are the same thing. However, this is not just a geeky debate over the interpretation of something a dead guy wrote 150 years ago. It has real world consequences: the neoclassical identity of the value of a commodity with its price basically states everything with a price tag is socially necessary! So, if you want to recruit Guatemalan teenagers under the DREAM Act to kill Afghan mothers, the labor time required to do this is necessary because it has a price. Marx’s theory, on the other hand, states the purchasing power of gold can only reflect labor time that is actually socially necessary and killing Afghan mothers is not socially necessary by any stretch of the imagination!
The difference in the quantity of labor time dollars can represent and the quantity of socially necessary labor time gold can express is the sum total of superfluous labor time of society, that Postone deduced from Marx’s theory. Postone writes:
The difference between the total labor time determined as socially necessary by capital, on the one hand, and the amount of labor that would be necessary, given the development of socially general productive capacities, were material wealth the social form of wealth, on the other, is what Marx calls in the Grundrisse “superfluous” labor time. The category can be understood both quantitatively and qualitatively, as referring both to the duration of labor as well as to the structure of production and the very existence of much labor in capitalist society. As applied to social production in general, it is a new historical category, one generated by the trajectory of capitalist production.
Until this historical stage of capitalism, according to Marx’s analysis, socially necessary labor time in its two determinations defined and filled the time of the laboring masses, allowing nonlabor time for the few. With advanced industrial capitalist production, the productive potential developed becomes so enormous that a new historical category of “extra” time for the many emerges, allowing for a drastic reduction in both aspects of socially necessary labor time, and a transformation of the structure of labor and the relation of work to other aspects of social life. But this extra time emerges only as potential: as structured by the dialectic of transformation and reconstitution, it exists in the form of “superfluous” labor time. The term reflects the contradiction: as determined by the old relations of production it remains labor time; as judged in terms of the potential of the new forces of production it is, in its old determination, superfluous.
I did not invent this; Postone deduced it from Marx’s discussion of superfluity of labor time. It is on page 374 of his book.
What this implies, as I stated to Andrew, is that eventually the price of every single commodity in our society is far higher than its value! Or, to put this another way: the labor time exchanged for every single good in dollars must be greater than the socially necessary labor time required to produce it in gold. Although, on the surface, I appear to violate Marx’s law of value, in fact this “violation” is necessary to posit the existence of superfluous labor time. I have, in fact, no more violated Marx’s law of value, than he does by saying capitalism is doomed — a declaration that requires the actual, and not simply theoretical, overcoming of the law of value.
It is true, Marx states the value of a commodity expresses the labor time socially necessary for its production. And, it is true to state there is an equalization of the rate of profit. But, to imagine these two laws sit together tanning themselves under a bright Caribbean sun, in loving embrace is a fantasy. They are antagonistic forces, each seeking to overthrow the other, and engaged in a life or death struggle within Marx’s theory. Marx declares, the law of the average rate of profit must win out, and thus destroy itself along with the law of value. Social labor in the form of capital, wins out over the market, only to destroy the very premise of its own existence.
What practical bearing does this have on the struggle today?
The practical bearing is that it makes the rift between Marxism and anarchism moot. If, my reasoning here can stand up to challenge, almost all labor time in our society is unnecessary. But, the entire difference between Marx and Bakunin consisted of the necessity for labor owing to the relatively low development of the capitalist mode of production in the late 19th Century and does not apply to us today. Marx’s criticism of the Gotha program was all about necessary labor time, as well. However, if, as gold measure of GDP suggests, at present almost all labor time expended in our society is superfluous, the higher stage of communism is immediately or almost immediately attainable. Which, itself implies the state can be done away with in its entirety. The state is, and has always been, nothing more than the necessity for labor imposed by one section of society on another. Even the proletarian dictatorship is nothing more than making necessary labor a compulsory requirement for everyone in society — including the former owners of property.
If labor at this point is almost entirely superfluous, so is compulsory labor for any and all.
For this reason, it is obvious why creating work has become the over-riding preoccupation of the fascist state. Without more hours of labor in ever increasing quantities, the entire edifice of class society must collapse. Without fascist state economic policy to “promote job growth”, the state itself cannot exist. In the final analysis, directly or indirectly, the growth of the state is the only means to keep capitalism alive. The fight against the state, on the one hand, and the fight against capital, on the other, comes down to the fight against overwork. It comes down to freeing society forever from the burden of labor, and the stultifying impact of being treated as draft animals.
Superfluous labor time is the expenditure of human labor that does not create value; that does not, directly or indirectly, satisfies human needs. Unnecessary labor neither produces things that satisfy real human needs or the things necessary to produce those things. We can, as an example, point to military expenditures, subsidies for agribusiness (to be really concrete). But, superfluous labor is far more nuanced than just these gross and obvious examples: the entire state apparatus — more than 50% of GDP — falls in this category. As does the entire financial industry.
My list cannot be exhaustive, since the point is that what is necessary must be decided in association by the members of society together. And this association has an incentive to minimize necessary labor to its smallest amount since absolute freedom only begins where necessary labor time ends.
In association, there is altogether different incentives with regards to hours of labor: instead of finding work to do, people have incentive to minimize labor. A communist political program, I think, would call for an immediate reduction of hours of work by some definite amount — say, 20 percent — and would encourage people to figure out what expenditures of labor time beyond this are also not necessary, in order to further reduce hours. Because the incentive of society is to end all necessary labor and enjoy free time to pursue whatever interest we want.
Unlike bourgeois politicians, communists can genuinely run on a platform of really smaller government and mean it. Communists are the only politicians who can really get elected promising a government that does less, and spends less — and can actually realize this promise in practice. This turns the entire debate on government spending and deficits on its head in a way that is unexpected by the two fascist parties. Moreover, it is a demand that cannot be duplicated or co-opted by bourgeois politicians in either party.
Now, if you cannot make a communist program out of that, and appeal to the mass of society, you just don’t deserve to call yourself a communist. Anarchists and Marxists can continue playing their silly little sectarian games with each other, or they can actually accomplish something. If you are not focused on getting rid of the state, capital and wage labor, you might as well shut the fuck up, stop writing your useless books, and get the fuck out of the way.
Because, frankly, you’re just using up precious oxygen.
Tags: Andrew Kliman, Bohm-Bawerk, boom and bust, contraction phase, Depression, devaluation of the dollar, Executive Order 6102, Federal Reserve Bank, Fred Moseley, gold measure, great depression, history of the great depression, Moishe Postone, monetary policy, Paul Samuelson, recession, roosevelt administration, state monopoly, transformation problem
Here is something I culled from Marx’s paradox of capitalist price — i.e., the so-called transformation problem — that all present variants of critical communist theory rejects (and, by all variants, I mean the usual suspects: libertarianism, Marxism and anarchism). All conflict in society is directly or indirectly a struggle over the length of the social working day. We could call this Marx’s basic theorem of social development. Marx stated his theorem this way:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.
But, this class struggle has always more or less directly or indirectly revolved around the uncompensated labor of one portion of society.
All three variants of communist consciousness have advanced their petty demands, while remaining mute on this pivotal issue. However, there is not a single demand advanced by any of them that does not touch on the length of the social working day. The libertarian complaint on taxes, the anarchist complaint on force, and the Marxist complaint on profit all come down to this. Moreover, each variant’s hostility toward the other is wholly rooted in the struggle over working time. It seems logical to assume since all three are only divided by which function of the state they oppose they must all share an ignorance regarding the premise of this state.
That common ignorance can be stated as follows: Each cannot imagine that the premise of the state is the uncompensated labor time of society. Each, therefore, imagines it possible to abolish the present state of things without abolishing its premise — uncompensated labor. Each imagines it possible to ignore abolition of uncompensated labor time, or reduce it to a mere byproduct of the state’s own abolition. Engels made the clearest argument against this ignorance in his argument against Bakunin:
Bakunin has a peculiar theory of his own, a medley of Proudhonism and communism. The chief point concerning the former is that he does not regard capital, i.e. the class antagonism between capitalists and wage workers which has arisen through social development, but the state as the main evil to be abolished. While the great mass of the Social-Democratic workers hold our view that state power is nothing more than the organization which the ruling classes-landowners and capitalists-have provided for themselves in order to protect their social privileges, Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created capital, that the capitalist has his capital only by the grace of the state. As, therefore, the state is the chief evil, it is above all the state which must be done away with and then capitalism will go to blazes of itself. We, on the contrary, say: Do away with capital, the concentration of all means of production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall of itself [fällt von selbst]. The difference is an essential one: Without a previous social revolution the abolition [Abschaffung] of the state is nonsense; the abolition of capital is precisely the social revolution and involves a change in the whole mode of production. Now then, inasmuch as to Bakunin the state is the main evil, nothing must be done which can keep the state-that is, any state, whether it be a republic, a monarchy or anything else-alive. Hence complete abstention from all politics. To commit a political act, especially to take part in an election, would be a betrayal of principal.
Uncompensated labor, Engels is arguing, is the essential precondition for the state. Marxists have used this quote as the dividing line between it and all other variants of communist consciousness. But, Marxists no more grasp it than either of the other two — hence, not a single Marxist sect raises demands on the working day. Even when they might, on occasion, weakly argue for it, it is nevertheless accompanied by a demand for money wages to remain unchanged. As if the question is not the uncompensated labor, but the worthless paper dollars exchanged for necessary labor.
In fact, paper money is a worthless token having no relation whatsoever to the real compensation the worker receives for her labor power — the only measure of the value of labor power is gold or another commodity money. Currency was debased precisely to make sure there would be no relation between the value of labor power and its price (wages). Keynes says this very thing in his “General Theory”, and I have pointed out the paragraph in which he makes his argument to Marxists time and again without penetrating their dull brains.
Though the struggle over money-wages between individuals and groups is often believed to determine the general level of real wages, it is, in fact, concerned with a different object. Since there is imperfect mobility of labour, and wages do not tend to an exact equality of net advantage in different occupations, any individual or group of individuals, who consent to a reduction of money-wages relatively to others, will suffer a relative reduction in real wages, which is a sufficient justification for them to resist it. On the other hand it would be impracticable to resist every reduction of real wages, due to a change in the purchasing-power of money which affects all workers alike; and in fact reductions of real wages arising in this way are not, as a rule, resisted unless they proceed to an extreme degree. Moreover, a resistance to reductions in money-wages applying to particular industries does not raise the same insuperable bar to an increase in aggregate employment which would result from a similar resistance to every reduction in real wages.
In other words, the struggle about money-wages primarily affects the distribution of the aggregate real wage between different labour-groups, and not its average amount per unit of employment, which depends, as we shall see, on a different set of forces. The effect of combination on the part of a group of workers is to protect their relative real wage. The general level of real wages depends on the other forces of the economic system.
Thus it is fortunate that the workers, though unconsciously, are instinctively more reasonable economists than the classical school, inasmuch as they resist reductions of money-wages, which are seldom or never of an all-round character, even though the existing real equivalent of these wages exceeds the marginal disutility of the existing employment; whereas they do not resist reductions of real wages, which are associated with increases in aggregate employment and leave relative money-wages unchanged, unless the reduction proceeds so far as to threaten a reduction of the real wage below the marginal disutility of the existing volume of employment. Every trade union will put up some resistance to a cut in money-wages, however small. But since no trade union would dream of striking on every occasion of a rise in the cost of living, they do not raise the obstacle to any increase in aggregate employment which is attributed to them by the classical school.
If Marxists can’t grasp the significance of these paragraphs for fascist state political-economy, what hope is there for those who imagine wages can be exchanged for labor power without wages slavery? The struggle against the state is nothing more than a struggle against the theft of uncompensated labor by the state in whatever form. If we cannot grasp this, we will continue to wander around as tiny little isolated sects, or sink further into lonely pessimism: The economic policy of the fascist state is nothing more than a device for compelling increasing quantities of uncompensated labor time from society.
(Or, more importantly, why should anarchists, libertarians and Marxists be as well)
So, has any reader of this blog heard that economists have conceded Marx was right after all? Have you at any time during the past 40 years heard an economist admit that Marx was correct in his transformation argument? I am really confused by this, because although Paul A. Samuelson declared Marx’s labor theory of value irrelevant in 1971, it is still being studied by BIS economists today. If I told you Marx’s theory was being studied by economists because Samuelson was a bald-face liar and a practiced dissembler, you would probably just yawn.
Of course, he was lying — he’s an economist. Economists are paid to lie and distort reality. They are employed by Washington not to explain economic processes, but to obscure them. To call an economist a bald-face liar, is simply to state he is breathing — nothing more.
But, to understand why Samuelson was lying, and why it was necessary that his lie stand unchallenged for forty years, we have to figure out the problem posed by Marx’s so-called “transformation problem”.
Marx’s transformation problem could be called the “paradox of capitalist price”, and we could state it thus:
Simple commodity price is an expression of the value of the commodity, but capitalist profit is the expression of surplus value wrung from labor power. To realize the surplus value wrung from the worker, the realized price of the commodity in the market has to include both the quantity of value created when it was produced plus a quantity of surplus value wrung from the unpaid labor time of the worker — capitalist price is the cost of producing the commodity plus the capitalist’s profit.
However, in the classical labor theory of value, the price of the commodity can only express the value of the commodity alone, not surplus value. Thus, for the price of the commodity to include both its value and a quantity of surplus value wrung from the worker, the capitalist price of the commodity must, of necessity, exceed the value of the commodity. The law of value is thus violated by the realization of capitalist surplus value — capitalist prices of commodities must always exceed the socially necessary labor time required to produce them.
The realization of capitalist profit violates the basic rule of classical economic theory: equal exchange of values in the market — but, as we shall see, this is far from a merely theoretical violation.
Now, Marx provides a number of caveats that work to stabilize the capitalist process of production — he called them “countervailing tendencies”, and they include things like the export of capital, etc. If we ignore all of these countervailing tendencies, however, the result is that prices of commodities must rise above their values, or alternatively money must exchange for these commodities below its value. (By money, I mean here only commodity money, i.e., gold or some other metal.)
What must occur when this happens is that money fails to circulate — the economy experiences a so-called credit, or financial, crisis. So, Marx’s labor theory of value explains why the dollar was debased in 1933 by the Roosevelt administration. It explains why your currency today is worthless pieces of paper or dancing electrons on a computer terminal. Marx’s transformation predicts and explains the debasement of the dollar and all other currencies on the planet.
Given this, how does Samuelson say Marx’s theory has no market predictive power? Because he was an economist — not a scientist, but a propagandist on behalf of the fascist state. I thought we already answered this — are you paying attention?
Eventually, Marx’s labor theory of value stated, gold could no longer serve as money because its function as measure of value conflicted with realization of the surplus value wrung from you — the unpaid labor time you work in addition to the value of your wages. At a certain point, the realization of surplus value — converting this surplus labor into profits — becomes incompatible with commodity money. Prices can only increase to reflect the average rate of profit if the currency is removed from the gold standard.
Samuelson once famously declared Marx’s theory could not explain the American and European economies between 1937 and 1971 — but, I just did, so fuck Samuelson!
Moreover, Marx’s transformation states you now work as many as 36 more hours per week than is necessary. The labor theory of value shows 90 percent of the current work week is being performed solely to maintain the rate of profit. Another way to understand this: essentially the labor time that is necessary under a regime of capitalist prices is about ten-fold that needed if capitalism is abolished.
On the other hand, maintaining such a long work week is the sole cause of inflation in our economy — it is labor wasted on a vast scale. This is why in this crisis the sole concern of Washington has been to maintain or increase the rate of inflation. The conversion of surplus value into profits demands the constant increase in the total hours of labor by the working class. While the unpaid labor time of the working class is the sole source of surplus value, the realization of this surplus requires still more unpaid labor time.
Based on the above, we can make four general statements — which can be empirically substantiated — about the implications of Marx’s labor theory of value and the paradox of capitalist prices. If these turn out to be true, Marx’s theory is vindicated and anti-statists have a weapon with which to change the terms of political debate.
If Marx is right, we should be able to prove:
- prices have generally increased faster than value for the past 40 years — this implies not simply that there was inflation, but that this inflation did not in any way result from an increase in the value of commodities, but increased despite a general decline in the value of commodities.
- total hours of work have increased faster than was socially necessary for the past 40 years — this implies the additional hours of work per person did not result from any cause necessary from the standpoint of social needs, but despite growing social needs.
- total employment has increased faster than productive employment in the past 40 years — this implies the employment of labor has become less efficient over time,despite increased addition of labor saving techniques to production. It also suggests growth has been in those part of the economy where productivity is impossible to measure.
- total output has increased faster than total wages in the past 40 years — this implies output has increased most rapidly in precisely those commodities that do not enter into the consumption of the working class.
Basically, these four general statements come down to one thing with regards to the great mass of society: In the past 40 years, people have had to work more hours, and more of them have been forced to work, even as they have become poorer. We should, in other words, be able to demonstrate beyond question that labor no longer adds any value to the economy, and the increase in output, in hours of work, and in additional jobs, does not increase the living standards of the great mass of society. The more work performed, the greater the increase in poverty.
The “paradox of capitalist price” is the paradox of more work for less real income. The paradox suggests only those measures which reduce the size of government can increase the living standards of the mass of working people. Of course, because, this argument is counter-intuitive — since, theory is only necessary when things are not as commonsense suggests they should be — making this argument requires it be buttressed with considerable empirical support from the anti-statist community.
Moreover, Marx’s labor theory of value has an additional aspect which recommends it even over what I just stated. Since, in Marx’s labor theory of value, socially necessary labor time is the material barrier to the realization of a classless, stateless society — which has been the avowed aim of communists for nearly two hundred years — his theory is also the concrete measure of the extent to which the productive capacity of society has developed to make this aim a realistic possibility. Contained in the labor theory of value is also the material measure of the possibility of society to immediately achieve a stateless and classless society on the basis of the principle of “each according to his need.”
I think every anarchist, libertarian and Marxist should understand Marx’s transformation of surplus value into profits and the paradox of capitalist prices, because in it is the entire argument against the existing state, and all the ugly mess bound up with it.
Tags: bank for international settlements, bieri, Bohm-Bawerk, Depression, economic collapse, economic policy, Federal Reserve, financial crisis, great depression, international financial system, Karl Marx, labor theory, monetary policy, necessary labor, Paul A. Samuelson, political-economy, recession, stupid economist tricks, transformation problem, unemployment, Wall Street Crisis, werner sombart
I had a conversation with Tim (@timthesocialist) last night which was really interesting. I have not debated a Marxist about Marx in some time. I am really trying to understand the Marxist argument on the state — at least the leninist wing of Marxism. As a Marxist by history this should be easy for me, but surprisingly it is not. I am looking for some distinction between anarchism and Marxism on the state — but it is quite difficult to find one.
Both anarchists and Marxists insist Marx’s theory involves something called the “worker’s state”, that replaces the present state. They both insist on this despite the lack of any reference to such an abomination in Marx’s own writings. Marx does indeed insist that had there been a successful revolution during his lifetime, the result would have been a “revolutionary dictatorship”. But, there are many curious features of his argument.
First, his example of this “dictatorship” was the Paris Commune. The commune, however, was clearly an association in his argument, not a state in any formal sense. Moreover, it was managed by anarchists, not Marxists. While Marxists and anarchists both agree on the significance of the Commune, they each seem to argue this was not Marx’s idea of dictatorship.
Of course, because both sides in this ongoing fratricidal conflict are as dishonest as can be, they do not make this argument directly — since that would be patently against his own explicit statements on the subject. Instead they each redefine and twist the concept, not the Commune itself, to suit their ideological prejudices. And, they both agree on this subtle redefinition of the term “dictatorship”, so that, for both, it becomes a “state”, not an association of the members of society. In other words, in a rather perverse fashion, distorting Marx’s own views is what anarchism and leninism have in common. They each have made quite a cottage industry of this deliberate distortion. Each for their own reasons have insisted Marx argued for some new form of state to replace the existing state.
This is, in fact, a baseless lie and indefensible mischaracterization of Marx’s argument on the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The coincidence of this common distortion among both anarchists and Marxists is in my opinion evidence of their common sectarian motives. Despite lies and gross distortions of both leninists and anarchists, Marx never pointed to any other form than the Commune as an example of his idea of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” — and both sides know this to be true. And, since the Commune was created and managed by anarchists, what leg do either variants of communism have to stand on?
Second, Marx stated this Commune-form had two significant features: a. it was not political, and b. it abolished the working class as a class. How could this so-called “working class state” be a working class state in Marx’s view if, as he argued, there were no working class? And, how could this be a political form if it was founded on association?
The only argument either anarchists or leninists have in this regard is that the Commune-form would not be based on voluntary association. So, what do they offer as their evidence, based on the experience of the Commune? Nothing, of course — they just ignore the Commune.
Bakunin, who puts forth the basic argument of BOTH anarchists and leninists, argued that Marx’s insistence on the non-state nature of the Commune-form was impractical. Everyone could not manage the affairs of the commune together, he countered. Since everyone could not manage the Commune-form together, day to day management would require the know how of representatives and technocrats who would evolve into a political class. This political class would, over time, make itself felt as exploiters of labor in its own right.
The anarchists state this proves the Commune-form of association is unworkable; the leninists state this proves the Commune-form of association must be guided by a vanguard party. Both accept Bakunin’s argument that association is unworkable under the Commune-form, and, each offer their own alternative to association and the Commune-form. Anarchists offer “revolution from below”; while leninists offer “revolution from above”, i.e., the party-state.
The leninist argument for the party-state is pretty simple: the capitalist mode of production creates a merely commercial consciousness among the working class. This commercial, or trade union consciousness understands its relation to capital as a struggle over wages, working conditions, etc. To acquire a socialist consciousness, however, the working class has to be taught the scientific reasoning of the middle (bourgeois) class.
In his work, “What is to be Done”, Lenin makes this argument by employing the writings of Kautsky. Kautsky makes the argument grasping the laws of capitalist development is a science, and science is the purview of the bourgeoisie. Science, he alleges, is not a natural product of working class life. Hence, this science of society has to be brought to the working class from outside.
Mind you, Kaustky makes this idiotic argument even though a worker — Josef Dietzgen — was cited by both Marx and Engels as having independently discovered historical materialism.
Nevertheless, this idiotic argument was the basis of Lenin’s Iskra-model of organization: a focus on spreading the science of socialism among the working class and avoiding simply becoming caught up in the “commercial” contest between capital and wage labor.
Since scientific knowledge of the laws of motion of society is necessary for successful creation of communist society, Lenin argued, a party composed exclusively of theoretically developed cadre is essential to the entire process — both before and after the social revolution.
If I am wrong on any of this, Leninists feel free to correct me — just try to prove me wrong, please.
“What is to be Done” was the bible, chapter and verse of Marxism-Leninism in the old days. Everybody employed the Iskra-model of building an organization around a newspaper of one sort or another. The Iskra-model, however, is founded on the proposition — Bakunin’s no less — that the working class could not manage its own affairs. Running a modern society was too technically difficult and would need some mass of technocrats who would come to dominate the process. The leninists, via Kautsky, incorporate this dumb argument into their own on behalf of a small vanguard to “lead” the working class
Anarchists, on the other hand, never solved the contradiction at the heart of this ideological nonsense. In that sense, perhaps, they did not run into their own Stalinist abomination — instead they just endlessly loop around it. The anarchists argument requires the state be abolished all at once, and by a simultaneous uprising of the entire working class together. In no case is there to be any intermediate stage between capitalism and a classless society. It is absolutely necessary this be done all at once and together in order to avoid any possible rise of a technocrat-political class.
Somehow, in all of this nonsense, Marx’s own view gets labeled “statist” by the anarchists, and “anarchistic” by the leninists. Which is to say, the Commune-form, created by anarchists, gets rejected by both sides in their meaningless internecine warfare. And, paradoxically, both embrace the actual Commune, in proportional measure to their rejection of it as a model for a new society.
Both have to embrace it because 1. anarchists created it, and 2. Marx gave it the kiss of legitimacy. But, in practice, both have to reject it, because it renders all their dumb theories moot.
In Paris at the beginning of the Commune, capitalist production was of asmaller scale, more scattered, and far less developed than at present. The general cultural and educational level of society was far lower, than even the least developed nations today. Yet, despite these obstacles, a crude, mostly uneducated population, bound by impossible circumstances, managed to teach the meaning and power of association to the world for sixty short days.
Frankly, I think both anarchists and leninists are simpletons, who have yet to grasp what an illiterate population did 140 years ago. Nobody needs your fucking theories or your silly blueprints and schemes — you and all your stupid arguments are past tense. Marx’s argument was, from the first, even before he worked out his theory of capitalism, that the social revolution was entirely empirical.
The working class did not need theories or schemes — not even his.
To understand the significance of the Occupy and Tea Party movements to anti-statism, look at their predecessor movement, the Lollards of the 14th and 15th Century England. This movement, which arose in England during the period leading to the Great Reformation, imposed its will on the state and the church in a fashion similar to the way our own Occupy and Tea party movements are making their power felt in politics today.
The Lollards were a dissident sect within Catholicism who argued there was an “invisible” church as well as a visible one. The visible church was the Catholic hierarchy, the invisible church, however, was composed of the entire body of believers. According to the Wikipedia, the movement attacked the authority of the church and its priests. They insisted lay persons could as well perform the religious functions as well as any priest.
According to the Wikipedia: “A Lollard blacksmith in Lincolnshire declared that he could make ‘as good a sacrament between “… ii yrons as the prest doth upon his auter (altar)’”
Lollard, Lollardi or Loller was the popular derogatory nickname given to those without an academic background, educated if at all only in English, who were reputed to follow the teachings of John Wycliffe in particular, and were certainly considerably energized by the translation of the Bible into the English language. By the mid-15th century the term lollard had come to mean a heretic in general. The alternative, “Wycliffite”, is generally accepted to be a more neutral term covering those of similar opinions, but having an academic background.
The term is said to have been coined by the Anglo-Irish cleric, Henry Crumpe, but its origin is uncertain. The Oxford English Dictionary has no doubt:
- from “M[iddle] [Dutch] lollaerd, lit. ‘mumbler, mutterer’, f[rom] lollen to mutter, mumble”.
- Three other possibilities for the derivation of Lollard have been suggested:
- the Latin name lolium (Common Vetch or tares, as a noxious weed mingled with the good Catholic wheat);
- after the Franciscan, Lolhard, who converted to the Waldensian way, becoming eminent as a preacher in Guienne. That part of France was then under English domination, influencing lay English piety. He was burned at Cologne in the 1370s;
- the Middle English loller (akin to modern, albeit semi-archaic, verb loll), “a lazy vagabond, an idler, a fraudulent beggar”; but this word is not recorded in this sense before 1582. It is recorded as an alternative spelling of Lollard.
The Dutch derivation is the most likely. It appears to be a derisive expression applied to various people perceived as heretics — first the Franciscans and later the followers of Wycliffe. Originally the word was a colloquial name for a group of the harmless buriers of the dead during the Black Death, in the 14th century, known as Alexians, Alexian Brothers or Cellites. These were known colloquially as lollebroeders (Middle Dutch), ‘mumbling brothers’, or “Lollhorden”, from Old German: lollon, meaning “to sing softly,” from their chants for the dead. The modern Dutch word is lullen, meaning to babble, to talk nonsense.
Church propaganda of the time portrayed the lollardy as unscrupulous foxes who were out to seduce the Church’s vulnerable flock:
Lollards were represented as foxes dressed as monks or priests preaching to a flock of geese on misericords. These representations alluded to the story of the preaching fox found in popular Medieval literature such as The History of Reynard the Fox and The Shifts of Raynardine (the son of Raynard). The fox lured the geese closer and closer with its words until it was able to snatch a victim to devour. The moral of this story was that foolish people are seduced by false doctrines.
Does this characterization sound familiar? How often have you heard someone from the Tea Party characterized as ignorant, or someone from the Occupy characterized as filthy, uneducated and lacking both useful work skills and a job? Lollardy was a pejorative term applied to the crude folk who imagined they could replace the elites with their own self-activity. Like the Occupy and the Tea Party, the lollards were “uneducated” common folk, who had the nerve to confront elites in the church and the state.
In an 1885 introduction to Fortescue’s “The Governance of England”, Charles Plummer wrote:
“Henry IV came to the throne as the representative of the ‘possessioned’ classes–to use a contemporary expression. The crude socialism of the Lollards, as the barons saw, and as the Churchmen were careful to point out, threatened the foundations not merely of the Church, but of all property.”
(Fucking anarchists and socialists screwing things up even in the Fifteenth Century.)
The Lollards movement is interesting in itself, but Plummer’s commentary is just as interesting. Plummer points out the anti-clerical and anti-property character of the lollards, but he also points out how the dissent expressed in the lollard movement effected the monarchy. The crown, as the general representative of property, was under duress for the whole of Henry IV’s reign, by the commons. Henry IV was dependent on Parliament to raise the taxes necessary to defend property interests, “against foreign and domestic enemies.” It was this dependence on the Parliament, that Plummer cites as one of the chief sources of trouble during Henry IV’s reign.
“But the causes of his weakness are plain enough. He was weak through his want of title, weak through the promises by which he had bound himself to those whose aid had enabled him to win the crown, weak most of all through his want of money.”
Henry IV’s own want of money was not merely his own, but a general monetary crisis perhaps traceable to political causes as Plummer argued:
“This scarcity of money was due partly to the general want of confidence in the stability of the government which succeded the brief enthusiasm in Henry’s favour, and which led people to hoard their gold and silver, so that not only was none forthcoming to meet the demands of the government, but capital, which ought to have been employed productively, was withdrawn from circulation, thus causing for the time a general diminution of the resources of the country.”
Fortesque argued, the crown needed its own independent source of income and standing that was not dependent on the periodic challenges of economic and political events. I think it is fair to state from Fortescue’s time to today the over-riding impulse of the state has been to acquire an independent existence from society as representative of the interest of property within society.
And, I think it is no accident that Adam Smith’s masterwork of economics is not titled, “The Wealth of Individuals”, but “The Wealth of Nations”. The subject of contemplation for economists has never been “the economy” as we might imagine — it is the state and how to manage the economic activity of society on behalf of the state. Seeking its own independent existence as a form of property has always been the aim of the state and this has led it into conflict with society.
I think it is necessary to clear up the standing misinterpretation, widespread among anti-statists, that the state is either neutral, or at worst, a representative of some particular property interest in society. Fortescue’s argument demonstrates the state is, and has always been, a distinct interest in society — in particular a distinct property interest hostile to other property interests in society. It is a player in the economy, and by no means, just a corrupt refereee among economic players in the great game.
For Marxists who might object to this argument, I offer none other than Marx himself, who deliberately characterized the capitalist as only the personification of the relation between capital and wage labor. The popular caricature of the lone Koch Brother type capitalist lording it over his private empire of dependent wage slaves is not necessary to the relationship, and, moreover, is not even an accurate model of Marx’s theory but a crass vulgarization.
First, as Marx himself clearly stated, the worker is entirely capable of acting as her own capitalist, and has not the slightest need for the capitalist to accomplish this disgusting task. Second, he and Engels noted by the late 1800s the personification itself was being socialized through the emergence of joint-stock companies and cartelization. Finally, Engels argued it was inevitable the state would become the national capitalist.
The ultimate exploiter of labor power is not Mr. Moneybags, but Barack Obama; which is to say, the modern executive branch of the state, whose lineage is directly traceable to the crown, not the much praised and condemned private entrepreneur. Properly understood, the state is not corrupted by property interests in society, it is both the general form of these property interests within society and an interest its own right.
This is the background to the Occupy and Tea Party movements, a general social discontent with this independent and unaccountable social power among all classes and strata within society. The fascist state is an unaccountable social power made all the more so by the modern money system, which frees the state from any dependence on taxes and debt, and, which has allowed it to become entirely “self-financing”, so to speak. With the capacity to print money into existence, the state achieved a degree of independence hitherto unequaled in the history of the state. It has acquired the monetary and practical means to commit the nation to war on any pretext whatsoever; it has expressed absolute hostility to every form of property that it cannot make subordinate to its own interest as property. Most of all, it has become the largest and most ruthless exploiter of labor power in the annals of history — actually converting other national capitals into mere means of its own self-expansion.
The absolutism of the fascist state, its totalitarian character, has brought the category of state to its most perfect expression: it is, at once, both the perfection of the state and the perfection of capitalist relations in one social body. Against this absolutist power is arrayed nothing more than a rebellion of the ignorant — those who are so uneducated and uncultured only they can see through the silly mystifications of fascist state ideologues.