There is a lot of talk in policy circles and among speculators on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve will begin to ‘taper off’ its wholesale counterfeiting of fiat dollars before the end of the year. Whether or not this happens, I think any attempt to taper off counterfeiting dollars will have to be reversed in short order.
The reason why tapering will likely not happen is not to be explained by any lack of hyperinflationary risks associated with the insane counterfeiting of dollars Bernanke is engaged in — the risk of hyperinflation is actually quite high. But this risk of hyperinflation is dwarfed by the even greater risks associated with not insanely counterfeiting: outright deflation that threatens the very existence of the mode of production itself.
Christina and David Romer have declared that the argument from some policy quarters that Federal Reserve monetary policy doesn’t matter is “the most dangerous idea in Federal Reserve history”.
Let’s see why this might be true.
Tags: absolute overaccumulation, Ben Bernanke, capitalist breakdown, Christina Romer, David Romer, fascist state economic policy, Federal Reserve Bank, Henryk Grossman, John Keynes, john weeks, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, neoclassical economics
Barbarism, Fascism or the American System
I am still looking for a good formulation of the idea that Washington is using the dollar to control all capital in the world market.
And it ain’t easy.
I think the elements of the basic argument can be found in Anitra Nelson’s, Claus Germer’s and Suzanne de Brunhoff’s chapters in “Marx’s Theory of Money“. The three together establish that insofar as labor theory is concerned the dollar is not money; doesn’t behave like money; and doesn’t serve any of the functions of money. At best the dollar can be considered a token of money with the caveat that tokens do not behave like money, nor do they fulfill any of the functions of money beyond that minimum required as medium for the circulation of commodities.
The first point is obvious: the dollar is not a commodity, nor does it possess anything more than a negligible value of its own. This fact is aggravated by such glaring problems as that a sheet of one dollar bills requires no less time for production than a sheet of twenty, fifty, or one hundred dollar bills. The problems is further aggravated by the instantaneous creation of any quantity of dollars at a computer terminal. (During the recent crisis, for instance, Bernanke showed the television audience that he simply created the currency to bail out the banks at a computer terminal.) This suggests not only is the labor time required for the creation of a dollar negligible, it is, in addition, indeterminant.
The second argument — the dollar does not behave like money — is equally easy to establish. In labor theory, the circulation of money is merely a reflex of the circulation of commodities. This reflexive movement is not the least bit true for any fiat currency at present, including the dollar. Although this might seem to be a small point, it is, in fact, quite significant, since it implies the dollar is not a medium of circulation. As medium for the circulation of commodities, money no more explains the movement of commodities than water explains the movement of fish. This argument, of course, does not deny that money, like water itself, is subject to forces that influence the movement of commodities, as water might for fish, but it suggests the effect on their movement is secondary. It is altogether the opposite with fiat dollars otherwise how could fascist state monetary policy exist at all?
The third argument is that fiat dollars neither can serve as measure of value nor standard of prices as money does in labor theory. I would argue that it is not as if these two core functions of money are separate: no money can serve as a measure of value if it cannot serve as a standard of price. Although as measure of value the function of money is merely an ideal one, this ideal function must be grounded in some actual relationship between the socially necessary labor time contained both in the money and in the commodity.
Assuming for the sake of this argument that these three problems of fiat currency are settled in labor theory, what then is fiat currency? I would argue 99% of the problem Marxist academics encounter with fiat money in labor theory is that they have no explanation for it if fiat dollars are not money. We are, in effect, dealing with an economy that functions entirely without money — which appears absurd. So far as labor theory is concerned, a moneyless economy is incompatible with capitalist relations of production. Since we are apparently dealing with a capitalist economy, the default theoretical position must be that fiat dollars are money unless proven otherwise.
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Tags: "Socialism or Barbarism", Anitra Nelson, association, barbarism, Claus Germer, commodity money, fascism, fiat, Frederick Engels, functions of money, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Rosa Luxemburg, soviet union, Suzanne de Brunhoff, theory of money
In the first part of this series, I make the following statements:
- The role of a commodity money in labor theory analysis is not determined by the material the state designates as money in the territory under its control, but by society.
- Gold (commodity monies generally) still performs the function of measure of value and standard of price despite this function not being recognized by any state within the world market.
- It is critical to labor theory analysis that commodity money is recognized as the only money that can serve as measure of value in analysis.
- There is an institutional bias, however, within Marxist scholarship, produced by decades of empirical research based on the mistaken idea fiat dollars are money in the full sense of the term and can serve as money in labor theory analysis. This fallacy serves to block recognition of commodity money as the only measure of value appropriate to labor theory analysis.
- Thus there has been a complete failure on the part of Marxists academics to recognize the significance of the collapse of Bretton Woods in 1971.
- Even a cursory examination of the empirical data using gold as measure of value and nominal measures of economic activity produce starkly different results that have yet to be explained by Marxist academics.
These starkly different results demonstrate that state issued fiat money does not behave at all like commodity money and, moreover, there is no research (nor could there ever be research) that demonstrates state issued inconvertible debased fiat created out of nothing (“fiat” for short) can ever behave like commodity money for the ridiculously simple reason that while no institution in society determines what serves as money, the state alone creates fiat and forces it into circulation.
Money does not simply manifest the production relations of individuals engaged in a certain sort of social production, it implies those production relations are outside the control of the individuals creating them. Because the production relations individuals enter into are not mastered by them, these relation’s manifest themselves as an independent force standing over against them in the form of money.
It follows from this that gold did not formerly play a role in managing national or international transaction, as Caffentzis argues, but, rather, expressed the fact the relations of production and exchange were entirely unregulated.
1. Was Marx fundamentally wrong in his theory of money
Does the end of Bretton Woods and of the gold standard invalidate Marx’s argument on money? (When I say ‘gold’ in this case, of course, I mean any commodity serving in the role of money.) This is the question raised by George Caffentzis, in a 2009 paper, Marxism After the Death of Gold. Caffentzis writes:
“Marx clearly argues that gold is necessary for the functioning of capitalism; but since Nixon’s decision to “shut the gold window” on August 15, 1971, gold has played a peripheral role at best in the managing of national or international transactions. The last thirty-seven years have seen many crises in capitalism without, however, a crisis of capitalism (to use Lebowitz’s distinction) (Leibowitz 2003). Capitalism is surviving without the working class’s “cross of gold” in the same way it survived the end of chattel slavery. What might have seemed essential at one point in capitalist history has been shown to be a mere “accident” in the case of chattel slavery.(1) Does the same error apply to gold as money? I.e., does the end of gold (and indeed of any precious metal) as the money commodity constitute the crucial negative experimental test of Marxism?”
This begs a question for labor theory analysis of post-1971 economic events: Who said gold was no longer a commodity money? It is by no means unprecendented to have an entire territory where an inconvertible debased state issued fiat created out of nothing serving as the currency of that territory. Indeed, inconvertible fiat dates at least to 13th century China.
“The most famous Chinese issuer of paper money was Kublai Khan, the Mongol who ruled the Chinese empire in the 13th century. Kublai Khan established currency credibility by decreeing that his paper money must be accepted by traders on pain of death. As further enforcement of his mandate, he confiscated all gold and silver, even if it was brought in by foreign traders.”
Did the establishment of inconvertible paper currency in China displace gold as a money commodity? Of course not. So the argument Caffentzis makes in his paper must be that because all nations have dispensed with commodity money, somehow this makes gold no longer a commodity money. Nothing happened to gold in the interim, the only change was what nation states defined as currency in the territories they control.
Restated, the argument that gold is not money means the fascist state determines what is money. This proposition is not consistent with labor theory. Mr. George Caffentzis, however, thinks labor theory must be ‘stretched’ to include the possibility of non-commodity money. He does not explain why this has to be done, however.
At the start of this series I noted that, according to Elmar Flatschart, wertkritik states the abolition of labor is not the same as social emancipation. In his view, the abolition of value is only a condition of social emancipation, but social emancipation itself is a more complex problem.
At first glance this conclusion might be seen as very pessimistic, since it implies that even in the absence of any material need for labor, the great mass of society might still be trapped in compulsory labor and the debilitating division of labor to the sole benefit of an ever diminishing group of exploiters.
This is not a minor point. The concept of the abolition of labor is central to Marx’s and Engels’ theory. Uri Zilbersheid calls the abolition of labor one of Marx’s most important ideas; he notes the concept is central at least in “his early writings and to some degree in his later writings”. Yet, Zilbersheid observes, the abolition of labor receives little attention from Marxists:
“the radical Marxian vision—the abolition of labour—has not gained due recognition. Marxian thought is devoted to liberating humanity from all kinds of servitude, and the abolition of labour constitutes a major aspect of this liberation.”
Certain Marxists have their own weasel words to cover their statist inclination. Unless pressed to demonstrate it, they routinely refer to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (as one person stated to me) as “a ruling class’ instrument of the suppression of class enemies”. The employment of coercion against the capitalists, they assert, means the association of the working class is a working class state.
This idea is not to be found in Marx or Engels writings and it isn’t even in the anarchist criticism leveled against Marx by Bakunin.
This really makes it appear as if the difference between working class association and a bourgeois state is who gets suppressed by violence. It poses the problem of association in a way that isn’t even close to understanding how association differs from the state.
In one of my earlier posts, I accused some Marxists of being fascists. Needless to say this did not go over well with those Marxists who might fall into the category of people who, although claiming to be communists, nevertheless believe any attempt to actually dismantle the present state amounts to a neoliberal assault on the so-called ‘social safety net’ allegedly provided by some fascist state spending.
One person on reddit who might fit the description of a statist communist responded to my argument this way:
1. That’s a lie; 2. Even if that were true, that analysis is bollocks.
Congratulations, you have posted something which does not actually raise any questions but instead goes on about Communists being fascists without any material analysis of what either is.
And aside from all that, all the article really does is state a fact, a fact that we are well aware of and spend our time actually analysising in a Marxist framework. The article does not analyse it in any framework, it just states it and rubbishes Communism at the same time. Absolutely useless.
Here’s a criticism: you are full of shit. Fuck you, fuck off.
Okay fine. I guess this writer and I aren’t going to find any common ground soon.
5. Capitalistically Determined, Materially Determined and Superfluous labor times
If I understand Postone’s argument in his book Time, Labor and Social Domination, (and he can speak to this if I am misreading him) in the capitalist mode of production value (i.e., ‘socially necessary labor time’) appears in not one, but two distinct, historically determined forms. So far as I know, Postone is the first theorist since Marx and Engels to show how these two forms of labor time are embedded in the capitalist mode of production itself. He defines the two forms of value for us as,
“the total labor time determined as socially necessary by capital, on the one hand, and the amount of labor that would be necessary … were material wealth the social form of wealth, on the other”.
There is, as Postone explains, a duration of socially necessary labor time that arises from the material needs of the social producer, the combined body of all workers engaged in social production, and a distinct and separate duration of socially necessary labor time that arises from the needs of the capitalist mode of production itself. I will refer to the total labor time of society as the capitalistically determined labor time and the amount of labor that would be necessary if material wealth were the social form of wealth as the materially necessary labor time.
There is nothing to say that these two durations of socially necessary labor time must be the same. In fact, the recurrent crises of the capitalist mode of production is nothing more than the forcible adjustment of these two durations of socially necessary labor time. Moreover, as Postone shows in his reconstruction of Marx’s category of superfluous labor time, the aim of capitalist production is the constant and ever increasing extension of labor time beyond that duration required for the needs of the social producers. Which is to say, the aim of the mode of production is to maintain and increase, by all means at its disposal, an imbalance between the two durations of socially necessary labor time — to constantly generate labor that is completely superfluous to society.
3. The problem of identifying economic waste in a capitalist economy
As I argued in the previous section of this series, if we are going to set as our aim the complete abolition of labor, there is a big question posed by the problem of a capitalist economy. To reiterate it briefly: In an economy based on directly social labor, particular forms of concrete labor appear as abstract homogenous labor. The labor of the doctor, the janitor, the autoworker or the soldier do not appear in these concrete forms but only as wages, salaries, etc. The same is true for the various sectors of the economy — industrial, services, agriculture and the state. Finally, whatever waste might be present in the economy, and which would serve as the material basis for a reduction of hours of labor, appear in the economy as just another cost.
One expenditure of abstract homogenous labor is exactly identical in every way to every other expenditure of abstract homogenous labor
There is, therefore, no way to tell industrial production from industrial waste, medical care from murdering civilians simply by going through the North American Industry Classification System and cherry picking what labor is useful and what labor is not. If medical care is useful, is it still useful when it is being used to return a soldier to the battlefield? If industrial production is assumed to be useful, is it still useful when the product is military materiale? Is the industrial labor producing military boots more or less useful than the labor expended bussing a table in a restaurant? We can make moral judgments on this, but Obama’s morality is different than mine.
Tags: Chris Harman, commodity money, commodity production, currency, gold, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Moishe Postone, Money, socially necessary labor time, superfluous labor time, surplus value, value
At a recent conference sponsored by the Platypus group, Elmar Flatschart spoke of the most important abstraction existing in our society today, value, and stated:
“Marxism shouldn’t be understood as an identity-giving, wholesome position, which history proved to be erroneous, but should be reduced to a theoretical core that can help us to understand society, via a negative critique, even if it does not necessarily provide us with a way out. The call for the abolition of labor does not have immediate ramifications for Marxist politics.
There is no new program or a master plan for emancipation that can be developed out of the abolition of value. Rather, it can be seen as a condition of emancipation from value and the abstract system of oppression it represents. How emancipation will be achieved is a more complex story. We know what will not work: much of what the Old Left proposed as Marxist politics. A lot of that should be abandoned because, essentially, abstract domination cannot be abolished through the imposition of some other kind of direct, personal domination. If we are to critique the abstractions of the economic forms, we similarly have to target the political form itself. While Marx and Engels suggested as much by their formulation of the state eventually “withering away,” I think we need to be a lot more radical. Emancipation ultimately has to mean the abolishment of the political as well. This is contradictory in the present political situation, but we should not try to postpone this task until after the revolution. We should see the constraints and the fetishizations immanent to the political form as something we want to get rid of now.”
This was an oddly ambiguous statement, with which his two co-speakers took issue. In response to Flatschart assertion, Alan Milchman stated: “The division Elmar drew between the domain of politics and that of Wertkritik is highly dubious.” Jamie Merchant also argued against Flatschart assertion, value criticism “have certain implications for politics.”
Flatschart statement was ambiguous because it is unclear whether he is speaking about a politics after the abolition of value, or a politics arising from the critique of value. If as a literal reading of the statement suggests Flatschart means there is no politics after the abolition of value, I think he is correct. But it is odd that both of Flatschart’s co-speakers seemed to think this was not at all what he meant. They appear to interpret his statement as meaning labor theory offers no guide to action on the question of social emancipation of the individual.
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Tags: Alan Milchman, Andre Gorz, Elmar Flatschart, empirical consciousness, Frederick Engels, Jamie Merchant, Karl Marx, Max Horkheimer, Mikhail Bakunin, Moishe Postone, negative critique, Platypus, Robert Kurz, socially necessary labor time, Theodor W. Adorno, value, wage labor
Part Two: (Nick) Land, Capital and Labor (Theory)
Clever Monkey’s argument against the accelerationists seems to rest on a precise formulaic incantation repeated over and over: the only accelerationism possible is Nick Land’s accelerationism. Thus accelerationism itself is merely a virulent subform of neoliberalist ideology that advocates commodification of all human relations. Which is to say all talk of accelerationism must lead us to embrace anarcho-capitalism, the Thought of Murray Rothbard, and the good folks at the Mises Institute.
Tags: accelerationism, Anarcho-capitalism, “Wertkritik”, benjamin noys, Bertell Ollman, Deleuze, Frederick Engels, Guattar, Joshua Johnson, Karl Marx, Keynesian economics, Labor theory of value, lyotard, neoliberalism, nick land, Occupy the Marxist Academy, ray brassier, shorter work time
Part One: The Grammar of Left Fascism
Twice in the past couple of weeks I Have been accused of being infected with an ideology known as accelerationism. To be honest, I had no idea what accelerationism was and never heard of it until the accusation was made. Nevertheless, I do accept the argument that ignorance of an ideology is no proof of innocence — at least insofar as people will make the accusation based on their criteria, not mine.
It turns out accelerationism is the idea that capitalist development can be sped up and the entire epoch brought to a close more rapidly than it would otherwise by pursuing measures designed to the end. Intrigued by this idea, I spent a few days trying to understand the concept, poring over the criticisms of those who oppose it, and thinking about the relation of this ideology to anything remotely suggested by labor theory.
What follows is my first take on the notion of accelerationism through the argument of one of its fiercest critics, Benjamin Noys, an editor at the venal academic paywall, Historical Materialism.
Part One: “… the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution”
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx writes:
“Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views, and conception, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?”
In this statement Marx is arguing changes in material existence and social relations must produce changes in consciousness.
Based on his argument, we can assume when, in the German Ideology, he and Engels wrote capitalism gives rise to,
“a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness”,
they were making the argument capitalism gives rise to changes in material existence, social relations and social life that produces a communist consciousness.
I ask this, because I certainly don’t want to be accused of “stringing quotes together”. I want to be sure these two concepts — one from the Communist Manifesto, the other From the German Ideology — actually are related. I want to be sure the two arguments form a discrete, coherent and continuous line of reasoning going through their life’s work. This is so when I ask dumb fucking vanguardist groupuscules (like, e.g., the SWP (UK)) why they exist, I am on solid ground. But. more important, I want to make sure I am on solid ground when I begin looking at the arguments of both Kautsky and Lenin on the issue of working class consciousness. I don’t want any silly mindless vanguardists to say I am taking Engels or Marx out of context when I rip Kautsky and Lenin new assholes.
An interesting question from George Magnus of the banking giant UBS via Zero Hedge: “Why Are The European Streets Relatively Quiet?”
To understand the background of Magnus’s question we have to go to 2010. At that time, the economist Michael Pettis predicted Europe would have three years or or so to impose its “labor restructuring” before all hell broke loose and national politics descended into chaos:
“I don’t in any sense pretend to be an expert on the subject, but one of the things that surprises me is that as far as I know (perhaps because I am looking in the wrong places) and in spite of very clear historical precedent, very few analysts, even the greatest euro-skeptics, are wondering about the changes in electoral politics that are likely to take place in Europe over the next few years as a consequence of the euro adjustment. For example Wolfgang Munchau has an excellent article in the Financial Times in which he concludes, like I did in my post last week, that:
The eurozone is manoeuvring itself into a position where it confronts the choice between two alternatives considered “unimaginable”: fiscal union or break-up.
Obviously I think he is right, but I would add that the window for that choice is a small one. If Europe doesn’t move quickly, within two or three years it will probably be very difficult, if not impossible, to engineer fiscal union. By then domestic politics are likely to be too unstable for the European political elite simply to arrange union over the heads of the citizenry.”
But here we are five years after the outbreak of the global crisis and almost three years after Pettis wrote his words, yet still European working classes are offering only limited resistance — nowhere near the sort of political chaos the bourgeois apologist Pettis imagined.
Part 4: History as a continuous process
One of the real difficulties Holloway’s thesis on the crisis of capitalism poses to a critical analysis is that his very incisive critique of the failings of post-war Marxism is buried under his own terribly flawed grasp of labor theory. For instance, Holloway rightly criticizes the dominant Marxist view of capitalist crises as a potential trigger for a political revolution:
Part 3: History as a hall of mirrors
What I find really interesting about Holloway is his determination to carry his argument to its final conclusion, no matter how it appears to conflict with decades of accumulated Marxist dogmas and even his own poor grasp of the basics of labor theory. His attitude can be best summed up by his scathing response to a critique of his book by Daniel Bensaid:
“Spit on history. History is the history of oppression told by the oppressors, a history from which oppression conveniently disappears, a history of Heroes, of Great Men.
Spit on history. History, even our history, is a history in which the struggle against oppression is invaded by the categories of the oppressors, so that it too becomes the history of Heroes, of Great Men, of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao.
Spit on history, because it is the great alibi of the Left, the great excuse for not thinking. Make any theoretical or political argument about revolution and the response of the Revolutionary Left is to bring you back to 1902, to 1905, to 1917, to 1921. History becomes a whirlpool, sucking you into the details of lives long dead. Present political differences become translated into disputes about the details of what happened in Kronstadt over eighty years ago. Anything to avoid thinking about the present, anything to avoid assuming the terrible responsibility that the future of the world depends on us and not on Lenin or Trotsky.”
Not to be misunderstood by his critic, Holloway adds this gem:
“Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead. Yes. First your cart: show disrespect for the dead, for they have bequeathed us a world unworthy of humanity, a world of exploitation and of mass murder in the name of democracy.
And then your plough: plough the bones of the dead into the soil of revolt. Plough their legacy of struggle into the ground to make it fertile. Honour the dead by showing them disrespect.
Do not build mausoleums, or monuments, or even put gravestones for the dead, just use their bones directly as fertiliser. The disappeared are the great heroes of communism: not just those who have been disappeared by state repression, but all of those unseen, unheard people who struggled to live with dignity in a world which negates dignity, the knitters of humanity. The history we need is not so much that of the great revolutionaries, but of those who did their washing and played with their children.”
If History for post-war Marxism has become a hall of mirrors in which we are continually trying to separate the real and reflected images of history, Holloway set out deliberately to smash all the mirrors in this great hall of mirrors.
Part 2: Throwing Marx and Engels under the bus
In the first part of this series, I noted that one of the peculiar difficulties of Holloway encounters in his main thesis is that almost all of the criticisms he directs at post-war Marxism seem to equally apply to Marx’s and Engels’ own advice to the working class to fight for and within bourgeois democracy. In his attempt to show why Marxism has failed, Holloway throws Marx and Engels under the bus as well.
A decades ago John Holloway shook up the Marxist academy with the publication of his book, Change The World Without Taking Power”. Holloway’s argument was that the Marxist preoccupation with taking power was not only obsolete, it was counterproductive, serving only to divert energy and time to a quixotic effort that leaves Marxists banging their heads bloody against the brick wall of capitalist relations of production. Said Holloway:
The world cannot be changed through the state. Both theoretical reflection and a whole century of bad experience tell us so. ‘We told you so’, say the satisfied ones, ‘We said so all along. We said it was absurd. We told you that you couldn’t go against human nature. Give up the dream, give up!’
A decade after it was published, I think it an examination is called for, the purpose of which is to see how Holloway’s critique of post-war Marxism stands up to time.
Update: Personal obligations have kept me at bay, temporarily preventing me from extending upon my series of articles against Austrian Economics. Rest assured, these articles will return in the following week.
The history of the Communist Party is one as fluctuating as the history of the Left itself. The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was once a militant and working class party devoted to proletarian internationalism and class struggle. Now the CPUSA is not even a shell of its old self. Whether through deliberate liberal hijacking or simple naivity, this once great organization is now an embarrassment to the Socialist Left everywhere.
Before those on the Right accuse me of the ‘No True Scottsman’ fallacy, lets put things into context. There are many militant socialist organizations present in the United States. Yet, because of the simple fact the CPUSA has the most recognizable name, it attracts the most attention. Even though the ‘party’ itself has blatantly given up on the idea of world revolution and armed struggle. In fact, there is nothing remotely Marxist about the party, and I say this with a great deal of shame. Almost every ‘congress’ this party holds is actually just a Democratic Party fundraiser and the ‘party’ might as well rename itself the Political Action Committee for Democrats Who Like the Color Red.
I do not want to come across as petty or juvenile in my criticism of the CPUSA. All of my criticisms are based on strong convictions towards Marxism and my conclusion that the CPUSA only damages the image of actual socialists. This is why an open denunciation, such as the title of this article, is necessary.
right-wing extremists from the NRA
In one of my previous articles I wrote against the idea of Gun Control from a Marxist perspective (see Marxism Against Gun Control: Why Marxists Should Oppose Gun Control) .
I thought that the evidence I provided, including a direct quote from Marx himself, would set the record straight. Unfortunately, I awoke yesterday to find a news headline about the CPUSA’s support for Gun Control and especially President Obama’s recent measures. I knew that the CPUSA was increasingly becoming a schill organization for Obama, but I had not known the true depth of this revisionist idiocy.
On January 18, Rick Nagin of the People’s World, the press arm of the CPUSA, published the following: Fight to end gun violence is key to defending democracy. The name alone piqued my interest and after reading it several times I decided it was necessary to take the time to fully chastise the position of this article.
See the article here
First, let us just examine the title and the intended connotations behind it. Fighting gun violence is certainly something worthwhile. Fighting all needless violence, especially that brought about by systemic inequality, is a noble cause. However, this does not need to imply gun control. Many highly educated and peaceful societies also allow the free access of the common man to firearms. If you want to truly fight gun violence, we should eliminate the conditions which make gun violence inevitable. Conditions which put millions of uneducated and unemployed persons into a state of desperation, where violent crime becomes a course of survival. This, at least, would be the proper way to go about reducing gun violence; not the gun control proposed by the revisionists at CPUSA.
These people need to realize they are a threat to our children.
Now, let us examine the second part of the title, the ‘key to defending democracy’.Perhaps more so than the first phrase, I find the second quite troubling. The necessary implication here is that democracy exists in the United States. What a slippery slope the CPUSA has set itself upon. If we exist in a real democracy then what is the need for revolution, or a revolutionary programme? The fact is that the United States is not a democracy, not even in the bourgeois sense. It is a constitutional republic. Thus, the entire premise that the CPUSA sets forth is either intentionally dishonest or unintentionally false.
With all of this said, let us examine the actual content of the article. The article reads like a New York Times editorial, not surprising given the recent path of the CPUSA. The article paints Obama as the rational warrior against the right-wing extremists of the NRA and their neocon allies. Some of this may be true. The NRA is for all intents and purposes, a fringe organization that has, in the past, supported racist legislation. Is there some truth to the idea that the fringe right-wing is manipulating the original intent of the Second Amendment to propagate their idiocy? Perhaps. However, the history of the Second Amendment, to a supposedly Marxist organization, should be irrelevant on the issue of gun control. The goal of any Marxist or revolutionary organization should be to empower the working class and all oppressed peoples; one of the means for such empowerment is to ensure that they are armed to protect their class interests as well as their individual well-being.
“The amendment was adopted as a means to enable the new American republic, lacking a standing army or state national guards, to muster militia to put down domestic uprisings, including slave revolts, to repulse any attempted return by the British and to deal with clashes with Native Americans on the expanding frontier. These issues vanished long ago…”
Most of this is definitely true. Yet, Mr. Nagin goes onto write,
“The Second Amendment is obsolete and now has been twisted to threaten the basic safety and security of all Americans… No government, especially one that is new and fragile, has ever authorized citizens to arm themselves against it.”
His following paragraph makes a couple critical errors. First, it assumes that if the Second Amendment is ‘obsolete’ that means the right to possess firearms is irrelevant; this is a complete non-sequitur. Even if much of the original intent of the second amendment to the Constitution is irrelevant now, that does not mean that we should campaign against gun ownership.
Secondly, the phrase ‘No government…has ever authorized citizens to arm themselves against it.’ is at least partially false and most definitely obtuse. Early workers’ states such as Cuba and Mao’s China armed the masses as a means of preserving the revolution. The intent was that if the workers’ state was to ever be corrupted, or the revolution threatened, that the masses could rise to defeat the reactionaries. So in a sense, no, no government ever handed out guns saying “shoot us if something goes awry” but the principal intent of a Working Class movement should be to empower the masses to carry on the revolution and defend it from reactionaries, internally and externally.
Look at the hatred and ignorance in their eyes.
Once again, we see the CPUSA’s elitist demeanor displayed in their subtle disgust for working class militancy. If we are for mass power and the power of the toiling classes, then why strip them of a critical tool in waging struggle?
“It is not only, as Vice President Joe Biden said, “a moral obligation.” We must rally behind President Obama to protect our safety and security and our basic democratic rights.”
What a dumbfounding declaration. It is our ‘moral obligation’ to support Captain Capitalism in his quest to marginalize the power of the working class? How disgusting. President Obama is a man who has rather openly continued Capital’s struggle to retain political, economic, and military hegemony in the world. In fact, there is not a sphere of influence in which he has advanced the interests of the proletariat. At the very best, he has helped entrench the discourse in a battle between petit bourgeois ‘ethical capitalism’ and fringe right-wing Laissez-Faire; and at the worst intensified the struggle against working class power, domestically and abroad. For the CPUSA to suggest we rally around this man to ‘protect…our basic democratic rights’ is frankly shameful.
They should just call the police.
And what exactly does Mr. Nagin mean by ‘our basic democratic rights’? The right to participate in the ongoing left/right political masquerade? The right to live in a police state? The right to forever be subservient to Capital? The incredible amount of bourgeois liberalism seeping out of the People’s World is truly frustrating.
Perhaps the most upsetting part of this ordeal is the fact that the CPUSA is seen as the American representative of the Marxist/Socialist/Communist movement. This could not be farther from the truth. I have yet to personally meet a single socialist/marxist/communist who associates with the CPUSA. Beyond that, as I mentioned earlier, the CPUSA has forfeited the idea of world revolution and armed struggle(which came with their abandonment of Leninism). So what exactly are they? Who knows. They seem to be a body of naive bourgeois liberals but I like to think that deep inside the ‘party’ lies a group of actual Marxists/Socialists. If that is the case, I encourage them to seize control of their party and begin to actually represent the Working Class once again.
In the meantime, I urge all of our comrades to distance themselves from and denounce the CPUSA. It is crucial to educate the public on real revolutionary movements and not this liberal ‘reformist’ nonsense. We rally behind the Working Class, behind revolution, justice, and equality; not President Obama.
“no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
In 2011, Leo Panitch wrote a piece, The Left’s Crisis, examining the Left’s response to the present crisis. He noted the Left’s response could be broken into two types: “irresponsible” and “fundamentally misleading”. In the irresponsible group, he puts those who called on Washington to let the banks fail, which, he asserted, gave no thought to the consequences of such an event. In the fundamentally misleading group he put those who called for tighter regulation of banks, which he asserted are already the most regulated in the world market.
Part Two: “Lies, damned lies and statistics”
In part one of this series I made four points:
- Critical socialism is not the same thing as socialism proper: the first is a political criticism of capitalism, the second is a process created by capitalism itself.
- Socialism proper is nothing more than a transition from individual production and exchange to directly social production and results from the historical action of the capitalist mode of production itself on the conditions of labor.
- As against Mises’s argument that inequality of talents and abilities among the members of society is the precondition and determining force of social life, Marx argues the development of the productive forces obscures religious, social, intellectual and individual differences.
- When confronting this universal leveling power of the productive forces, the old dying order makes futile attempts to check or break it by political means, i.e., by employing the state power to protect its privileges.
In this part, I will show how Mises falsified empirical evidence, misrepresented Marx’s theory of capitalist concentration and centralization of capital, and some thoughts on why I think the Austrian school as a whole serves only as ideological cover for the apologists of the fascist state. The Austrian school provides these fascists with a conveniently pessimistic model of the real state of society in the absence of the state that is employed solely to discourage the working class from recognizing the need for its abolition. In short, Austrian theory reinforces the argument that there is no alternative to the fascist state.
Since Zak Drabczyk has been having a lot of fun stomping on the basic and sacred arguments of the Austrian-school-type regressive anarchist trend centered on the Mises Institute, I thought I would pile on and get in a few punches on my own. So, at the request of an anarchist on twitter, @adamblacksburg, I wrote up this two part critique of Ludwig von Mises’ SOCIALISM. I will post the second part of this critique by Friday.
In his dissertation, “Marx’s concept of the transcendence of value production” Peter Hudis levels an interesting criticism at Moishe Postone:
“Since Postone thinks that capital is the subject of modern society, and not the workers or other forces of liberation, he is led to argue that the alternative to capital will ultimately emerge not from the development of human agents like the proletariat but rather from capital itself.”
The criticism is based on Postone’s interpretation of Marx’s argument, in the words of Hudis, that
“Capital takes on a life of its own because the subjectivity of workers is subsumed by abstract labor.”
The problem of “The Revolutionary Subject” is a big one for Marxists academics because they just can’t figure out who the fuck is actually making this damn social revolution. And without being able to identify a subject, it is rather difficult to figure out to whom communists should be speaking.
The fundamental problem of fascist state data
Interesting argument by Andrew Kliman in his book, “The Failure of Capitalist Production”: the rate of profit tends to fall; but this tendency is “reversed” by the destruction of capital. I keep looking at this statement because it seems suspiciously widely accepted by Marxists all of a sudden. Kliman states it this way:
“The rate of profit—that is, profit as a percentage of the amount of money invested—has a persistent tendency to fall. However, this tendency is reversed by what John Fullarton, Karl Marx, and others have called the “destruction of capital” —losses caused by declining values of financial and physical capital assets or the destruction of the physical assets themselves.”
I am not questioning the idea the rate of profit tends to fall nor that this fall leads to crises. The problem I have here is with destruction of capital and Kliman’s definition of profit. First, a lot of people have looked at this profit thingy, and some agree with Kliman, while others disagree. My problem is not whether one group is right and the other wrong — it is how can any of this be determined based on fascist state data on corporate profits.
The horrific tragedy that took place on Friday, December 14th 2012 cannot be expressed in words. The actions of one gunman forever altered the lives of countless families and the discourse surrounding gun control in the United States.
I will not spend any time trying to dissect the motives or nature of the gunman; I am not a psychiatrist. It would be futile for me to attempt to do so.
So many innocent lives were taken so quickly all we can do is hope that such horrible atrocities are never seen again. I can only give my condolences to all those effected by such an awful tragedy which brought incalculable pain to so many.
The rifle most likely used by the gunman.
One issue, however, is getting more press coverage than ever: gun control. Following the massacre in Aurora, we saw a surge in discussion over possible gun control measures. Now, many individuals with good intentions are wrongly pursuing such policies once more.
Allow me to clarify a few issues before I elaborate further. First, no one wants to see his children grow up in a world of AR15′s and AK47′s. The sheer volume of death machines in the United States is frightening on any level. A world without any weapons is easily preferable to one so dominated by death and its instruments. The truth of the matter, however, is that at least 270,000,000 guns exist in the United States. Effective gun control would be impossible in these conditions and the only persons that would be affected would be working families who do not want to risk their livelihood by breaking the law.
Second, I am not a ‘gun-nut’, a member of the NRA, or even remotely conservative. I do not believe that guns have mystical qualities or that they grant the owner access to abstract conceptions of honor, courage, or bravery. Guns are only tools of death. A tool I would not want to be monopolized by the capitalist state.
The above statement easily summarizes my entire position. A position founded upon a recognition of class war and the extent of that struggle. To base the protection of gun ownership on a principle of ownership is to set your foundation in erosion. These lofty abstractions are meaningless; especially when they do nothing to challenge the material existence of the status quo. Talking aimlessly about natural rights of gun ownership only reaffirms the poverty of ethics. At most such abstractions are petty bourgeois talking-points with no sense of direction, and thus can be of no service to a revolutionary.By allowing the bourgeois state to monopolize the ownership of these tools, we only hurt the working class. The liberation of the working class must be our utmost priority, for without it, a truly ethical system is unreachable and humanity will forever be subjugated. It is for this reason, not for a love of guns, that Marx writes:
“… the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition… Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. ” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
Marx realized that class struggle means giving the working class every possible tool to ensure its victory. By concentrating the ownership of firearms into the propertied class, or its state organs, one is only stacking the odds against the working class. It will be argued that this quote from Marx is outdated and refers specifically to the conditions of the workers in Britain. Such an analysis fails to realize that the class war has not yet been won. Yes, times have changed, the mode of production has evolved, but it still remains firmly in the hands of the capitalist class. Any hint of socialist policies progressing in our society is illusory. Any concessions made to labor have only reaffirmed the victory of Capital and made more resolute the bourgeois position against social revolution.
Capital remains firmly in command.
As long as Capital dominates property relations, so too will bourgeois interests dominate the socio-political realm. This brings me full circle to a previous article of mine (see: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principe). My primary argument being that socio-political action divorced from a contextual understanding of property relations will always serve to reproduce those same relations. Meaning (at least in this context), it is nearly impossible for a conscious directive from the bourgeois state to damage the interests of the capitalist class. This is one of the primary reasons why reformist actions have only served to re-entrench the bourgeois as the dominant class and co-opt the genuine class struggle.
Historically, this is becomes even more obvious. From a historical materialist perspective, gun control, among other weapon bans, has been utilized by the ruling class to consolidate power and crush resistance. Nearly every fascist leader has restricted gun ownership of the working class and used such leverage to execute unspeakable atrocities against those who would stand in resistance to their tyranny. Likewise, a gun ban or severe gun controls in the United States could only hurt revolutionaries and working class people, by making resistance to neoliberal policies illegal and violence against the masses impossible to mitigate.
Thus, the whole of the Marxist position on gun rights can only be a pragmatic one that exists to move the working class towards victory. This is also an important difference between a Liberal (as known in the American political realm) and a Marxist. A Marxist seeks to liberate humanity, to change the world. A Liberal seeks to propel bourgeois abstractions, to reinterpret the existing world. Unfortunately, petty bourgeois principles that ignore material conditions are just that, petty.
A completely separate question is whether or not such a wide possession of firearms will exist in a socialist society. To give my brief opinion, yes; however, in a much different circumstance and purpose than that possession exists today. Today, gun possession should be utilized to protect the worker from exploitative advances. In a socialist society, gun ownership would be maintained by the organized proletariat as a socially necessary tool to remain firmly in power. Gun controls might also be introduced, in a socialist society, against counter-revolutionaries, fascists, or belligerent class enemies who seek to restore capitalism. This, however, is a totally different issue for a totally different article.
In truth, no one want to see more children die. No one wants to see more innocent lives lost. Yet, we must recognize that gun control is not the answer, and as Marxists, resist such attempts to hurt the working class. Only then can we realize a truly safe world. Safe not only from crazed gunmen in our schools but from the masked insanity of capitalist accumulation that threatens the well-being of our entire reality.