Readers may have noticed that I have not been posting articles lately.The reason for this being I have decided to leave Gonzo Times for political reasons that I will explain further.
First, allow me to say that I will not stop writing, in fact I will continue to write on a Marxist-Leninist site that all are welcome to visit.
Second, let me say I am only grateful for the opportunity to have written on such a great medium and how supportive and helpful everyone in the Gonzo community has been. I hold no ill will against anyone who writes for or reads the great stuff that comes out of Gonzo Times.
From my studies of Marxism, Maoism-Third Worldism seems to the be the logical conclusion following an honest analysis of the class struggle and consistent application of Marxist theory.
But, like many, I was initially hostile to Maoism-Third Worldism. I thought it was ‘anti-white’, divisive, and ignorant.
I even tried critiquing it from a Marxist position, to which I intended to write an article at some point.
My change came only after I tried to pick apart M-TW from a Marxist position. The more I read the more I came to the same conclusions as the very people I was trying to criticize. At first it was frustrating, and then I began to become critical of my own positions and truly attempt a completely objective analysis that was properly scientific and void of any undue bias.
“Communists must always go into the why’s and wherefore’s of anything, use their own heads and carefully think over whether or not it corresponds to reality and is really well founded; on no account should they follow blindly…” – Mao Tse Tung
What I found was this: not only is Maoism-Third Worldism a completely legitimate and logical reassertion of Marxism, but also answers many questions contemporary Western Marxism has failed to answer.
Questions like who are the proletariat? Who are the exploiting classes? What does it mean to be exploited? What is the relationship between the ‘First’ and ‘Third’ worlds? What does it mean to be ‘anti-imperialist’?
All of these questions answered scientifically within the context of our modern age of global capitalism.
Clearly, with the short time given, I cannot sufficiently elaborate all that should be elaborated upon. However, I can give a few examples and provide resources for further study.
E.g. ‘what does it mean to be exploited’?
According to Marx, exploitation comes from being paid a wage below the value of labor for the purpose of the private accumulation of capital. Essentially surplus value as it is classically understood.
No one should be surprised by this.
But what does this mean today as compared to 160 years ago when Capital was first drafted?
The Western left has actually drifted away from this understanding of exploitation or at least its scientific understanding. This is because many of the ‘workers’ in the First World not only perform unproductive labor, as it is termed, but are not even exploited. This is because many ‘workers’ in Amerika and Europe already receive wages above the value of their labor. This phenomena has created not only a labor aristocracy (the higher rungs of the working class), and a false consciousness, but a labor nobility. Meaning ‘workers’ who, by definition, are net-exploiters. Their lavish standard of living is quite literally built on the exploitation of the global proletariat. This difference in the price of labor power is what is called ‘imperialist rent’. Meaning these ‘workers’ within the imperialist nations are direct beneficiaries of capitalist exploitation and in fact may hold little material interest in an actual world socialist revolution.
Now, upon hearing this, many people, even socialists, may get offended. No one here is implying that those in the First World do not “work hard”. For the most part First Worlder’s take pride and effort in their work. The question is not one of effort, it is the question of contradiction. The contradiction between the core and periphery nations. That the price of labor power with identical productivity is significantly lower in the periphery than in the core. As we know, profit is made not at exchange, but during the labor process. Meaning that if one group of workers are receiving more, others are receiving less. This is a contradiction that socialist revolution would solve in the most proletarian of ways: by compensating labor to a wage conceived under a common plan. This entire analysis is illustrated below:
This is only one example of how M-TW answers questions that the establishment Western Marxists have left untouched.
Now, regarding some of the more common criticisms of M-TW coming especially from the Western Marxists. The assertions of racism, chauvinism, and revisionism surrounding M-TW are simply baseless.
First, the perceived ‘anti-White’ analysis of M-TW is not some racial supremacy garbage but a factual understanding of how Whiteness functions socially and the ‘White proletariat’ are privileged above international non-’whites’(see this for more information). It is factual, not racist, to point out that ‘white’ families have as much as ten times the net worth of Black families in Amerika. It is correct, not biased, to point out that ‘whites’ comprise a vast majority of the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois in Amerika. These claims of racism are reactionary defensive mechanisms based on a false conscious; ignoring material conditions, class struggle, and accepting a completely bourgeois identity rather than realizing a proletarian solidarity. The real racism comes from trying to make Amerikan ‘whites’ into the exploited masses; creating an entirely false racial identity and class character.
Second, there is no chauvinism in M-TW. There is chauvinism in suggesting that a select minority of the worlds populace should live lavishly while the rest of the world anguishes. The opulent life-style of the Amerikan consumerist cannot be safely replicated internationally. Suggesting that the worlds resources serve the use-values of the world’s toiling masses is not chauvinism but actual socialism. The idea that some First World college students are the center of revolutionary potential while half the world lives on 2 USD a day is complete and utter nonsense. To accept this bourgeois individualism means rejecting proletarian internationalism.
Third, M-TW is not revisionist, rather it is only a reassertion of the already established Marxist-Leninist line. Fundamentally there are no new contributions brought out by Maoist-Third Worldists. Maoism-Third Worldism should properly be called Marxism-Leninism or simply Maoism as it only reanalyzes the contemporary world under the same line; paying close attention to the class struggle and the inner mechanisms of global capitalism-imperialism. The goal remains the same. To promote proletarian internationalism, national liberation, and socialist revolution. With all of this said, M-TW can be understood as the truly consistent and non-revisionist application of Marxism.
If you were skeptical as to the nature of Maoism-Third Worldism, hopefully I have at least piqued your interest. If you are lamenting my change in position, all I can give you is an apology. However, I remain convinced to the legitimacy of Maoism-Third Worldism and the resulting conclusions.
I know that Gonzo Times is a self-described ‘anti-authoritarian’ website and I respect this disposition and that of the readers. I realize that my political stances are becoming increasingly “authoritarian” and this is why I want to carry on my work elsewhere. In any sense, I appreciate all the support I have had over the past several months.
Check out my future writings as well as those of Comrade Klaas, and Comrade Josh on our website.
Also check out Comrade Nikolai Brown and his website that remains the most enlightening in the realm of Maoism-Third Worldism and Anti-Imperialism.
In an attempt to build upon PunkJohnnyCash’s previous articles surrounding the anarchist alienation of the working class, its important to analyze the state of the working class today.
In short, the condition of the working class is not preferable. Much of the working class has fallen into the trappings of neoliberalism and right-wing authoritarianism. In the United States, where the working class was guided by openly socialist trade unions, we now have an disorganized, cannibalistic, and reactionary labor aristocracy that only alienates the working class which is becoming evermore and object of Capital.
So, what happened; and is the situation salvageable?
To immediately answer the latter question, yes. If I did not believe the situation was salvageable I would not waste time attempting to reconcile these failures.
This only begs the question. Why are we where we are now? The answer is simple: we tried to fix what wasn’t broken. In almost every way imaginable, the Old Left of radical labor unions, worker organizations, and parties was far more successful than this New Left of academic fetishism and infantile “movements”.
Sounds brutal, but it its truly nauseating having to deal with these lifestyle “revolutionaries” who think smashing windows before the block party every Thursday at the frat house is “radical”.
Here are three simple reasons why the Imperialist parties and their bourgeois ideologies are dominating the working class:
1. They’re on the ground; in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the school systems, in churches, at community events. The right-wingers are able to recruit the working class simply through association. The fact is that our numerical deficiency only compounds our duty to be out in the community; being involved in the social processes that bring awareness to political issues. We once had a clear advantage in the work place through labor unions that were dominated by socialist left propagandizing. We allowed ourselves to be undermined in the unions by moderates and liberals and now, if relevant at all, the left branches of labor are only shells of former influence.
2. They can relate. The fact is when most working class people turn on the television to find black clothed juveniles creating havoc in the city they don’t cry: “wow, I should be out there too!” Most, including myself, will simply sigh at the mess they will be cleaning up Monday morning. The right-wing pundits have a way of making themselves out to be populists; fair minded working men and women, just looking out for their best interests like you and I. The Left is painted, partly due to our own accord, as distant psuedo-intellectuals, idealists, and childish provocateurs who cannot relate to the average working person. What a sad reality this is.
The situation is so desperate some among the radical left are calling for us to abandon the working class, cut our losses, and focus on some sort of autonomous movement against the state and oppression.
I cannot fathom a worse idea. There is no way to inspire an anti-capitalist revolution without inspiring those who are most exploited by said capitalist property relations. If we cannot empower the working class to throw off her chains, then to whom shall we empower? I would rather not be a Communist and accept a completely passive existence than hope to inspire some non-working class autonomous “revolution” of likely middle class egoists.
3. They can deliver. Face it, although we now have some allies in the academia, the New Left has simply not delivered like the Old Left; and even our allies such as Chomsky and Zizek, become increasingly irrelevant and passive as time goes on.
The right-wingers, as well as liberals, make excellent use of politics. They campaign on the simplest improvements for the life of the average worker, and when those improvements are made, they ride that cow until election day. Clearly, these careerist politicians could care less for the struggle of the worker, but with their mastery of politics they are able to effectively secure their power and influence by feigning sympathy for working class struggles. How can we hope to deliver as such when we hardly attempt to influence the mainstream policy as much as the bourgeois politicians?
All of this builds into a strong allegiance to the right-wing (including the Democratic Party) among the working class.
What Can We Do?
To be fair, the situation looks grim. Far grimmer the more you take time to examine it. So what can we do?
First, get organized. This should be our foremost duty as revolutionaries. We must become an organized and popular front against capitalism. Organize your friends and local sympathizers into community action groups for workers interests and popular causes. Join an authentic socialist organization, association, or party. If there are several splinter groups, try to bring them together. Sectarianism at this point, especially among possible comrades, is our greatest enemy. Every attempt must be made to reconcile our differences and accept a reasonable and appealing program against capitalism and the capitalist political hegemony.
Do not let the call for a popular front be confused with a call for allying with the liberals or individualist, egoist, or bourgeois groups. The Popular Front should be a collective effort of communists, and non-communists; marxists and non-marxists, against capitalism. It should be lead by the most advanced in theory and those strongest revolutionaries within the working class.
Second, develop a program and stick to it. While it is very clear that our revolutionary movement has the goal of crushing capitalism, this is not an achievable goal at the moment. Possibly not in the next decade. What is possible is organizing the working class and its allies, and winning strategic victories over the capitalist class. Therefore, a program of socialists should be developed around winning these strategic victories, but not at the compromise of political subordination as has happened with the CPUSA. The revolutionary Left should not become henchmen of the Democratic Party or liberal politicians; nor should we place our faith in these bourgeois puppeteers.
The importance of strategic victories runs parallel to the importance of class consciousness. By creating a list of short-term goals, battles that can be won, we can create an illustration of our struggle. Tangible and visible achievements that can inspire the working class to take even bolder action against their oppressors.
We must find the strength among our own power to implement our program and win the battle against the capitalist class.
If one can take anything from this message it is a call for urgency. We are losing the battle. Even if the financial oligarchy were to tank tomorrow, there is no guarantee the working class could take power for itself. The organization, the theory, the consciousness, is just not there.
We cannot look to anyone but ourselves for the solution. We must be that solution to the problems we at least partially created.
Comandante Chavez, hasta siempre. Todos somos chavez.
The word authoritarian is thrown around in leftist circles quite frequently; and, for good reason. The presence of authoritarianism is quite prevalent throughout all class societies; whether it manifests as a genocidal “National Socialist” party or the United Fruit Company.
However, there also exists an equally prevalent hatred for an abstract conception of authoritarianism; this detest for authoritarianism, as an abstraction, became especially obvious following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
In the hours following the Comandante’s death, anarchist circles such as r/anarchism and various online groups were pouring out condemnation of Chavez as an authoritarian tyrant, not fit for the support of socialists. This presents an interesting question to the socialist left:
What does it mean to be ‘authoritarian’ and in what way do we apply this to our critical theory?
Before I attempt to answer this question with some relevance, allow me to be frank. I brutally detest this condemnation of Chavez as an ‘authoritarian’. Even on the most objective level, looking at the facts of Venezuelan democracy, we know this condemnation to be baseless. Venezuela has begun to establish a proletarian democracy in the truest sense of the phrase. Local and direct participation from the masses of working people are developing Venezuelan anti-capitalism in a way never seen before. Tens of thousands of cooperatives and community councils have been established as the power organs of this Bolivarian Revolution, yet, the bourgeois individualists are not satisfied. This is because the Chavistas realize, as revolutionaries before have, that the democracy of the working class must exclude the democracy of the exploiters. The national and international bourgeois who seek to exploit Venezuela’s rich resources must be crushed and the revolutionary democracy must reflect this necessary exclusion.
Why should we socialists give a single damn about how the bourgeois are being systematically crushed in Venezuela? This appeal to some ‘individual liberty’ being stolen from the Venezuelan bourgeois is straight from the depths of liberalism.
So, can we conclude Chavez was an authoritarian?
Absolutely. To the bourgeois who seek to create a fortune subjecting millions of Venezuelans to deplorable conditions, Hugo Chavez was a ruthless authoritarian. To the petty bourgeois who did not wish to embrace the class struggle but remain indecisive about the brutality of imperialism, he was the devil incarnate. This the paradox of authoritarianism.
Truth be, all class systems are authoritarian in some way. As Marx pointed out, in the early stages of socialism, the class system will still exist. However, the Dictatorship of the Bourgeois will be replaced by the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The influence of the capitalist class will be ripped from the power organs and replaced by the interests of the toiling and oppressed peoples. This important distinction is one that is either misunderstood or blatantly rejected by many ‘anarchists’.
The idea that we can somehow successfully resist authoritarianism in the abstract is simply infantile. When one begins to understand the class nature of society, one understands that the class struggle pervades every crevice of socio-political existence.
Many will point out how proper anarchism resists all forms of illegitimate authority, especially within state organs. This is no doubt true, but the material reality of the situation is often reflected through history. Take for example, the anarchist movement in the Spanish Civil War. Were these anarchists authoritarian? In some sense, no doubt. The anarchists were violently hostile towards the fascist capitalist class as well as its allies within the clergy. But is this authoritarianism “bad”? From a Marxist position, absolutely not. More power to them! The bourgeois were rightly crushed and the interests of the Spanish worker were finally realized through the power organs established by the anarchists of Spain. Understanding how authoritarianism is also subject to the class nature of social relations is essential to move beyond this infantile naivety which rests not in proletarian theory but bourgeois liberalism.
With this understanding, let us return to the original question.
Answering the Question
“What does it mean to be ‘authoritarian’ and in what way do we apply this to our critical theory?”
If we are going to be intellectually honest we must conclude that we socialists of the Left are indeed authoritarian. We wish to rid the world of capitalism, imperialism, and all manner of alienation against the interests of the propertied classes. To those privileged classes, we are the epitome of authoritarianism. Thus, to be an ‘authoritarian’ is a fact of the conditions; a fact of the class struggle.
There are plenty of discussions to be had about possible ethical differences between ‘authoritarian’ and ‘non-authoritarian’ socialists but at the end of the day we are socialists. We are united against the hegemony of Capital and stand strongly with Labor. Our differences in ethical preferences cannot supersede our solidarity as revolutionaries.
Instead of of dividing ourselves between ‘authoritarians’ and ‘non-authoritarians’, I encourage the socialist Left to have fruitful discussion about praxis and the ethics of such revolutionary action without creating more enemies. There is nothing wrong with having a preference towards one form of socialist action than another. It is, however, wrong to make enemies of fellow socialists because of these preferences, which, are usually determined by material conditions more so than free will.
For ‘anarchists’ to condemn Chavez as a tyrant and likening him to a dictator is frankly embarrassing What good does it do to draw even more arbitrary lines in an already sectarian and marginalized movement? The fact that a socialist thread does not meet your narrow and dogmatic definition of “socialist” does not make it “bad” or “authoritarian”; it simply reconfirms the fact that as individuals we all hold personal preferences.
It pains me to see the anarchists who once fought for the liberation of the working class to be tainted by bourgeois liberalism to the point of petty sectarianism.
comrade, work and fight for the revolution
We must ask ourselves, where do we stand? For what class do we fight? Are we socialists or ‘anti-authoritarians’ in the abstract? Above all else, I am a socialist. My allegiance will forever be with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world. To crush the capitalist as a class and begin an era of liberation from every type of alienation.
If you are truly against authoritarianism, as it exists abstractly, you must dedicate yourself to the class struggle. Only once the capitalist property relations that condemn the vast majority of the world to poverty and alienation are removed can the class system begin to dissipate. Only once the class system has been forever banished and tossed onto the trash heap of history can authoritarianism, as an abstraction, truly be non-existent.
Hecho en memoria de Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias. Viviras en nuestros corazones para siempre. Hasta siempre, Comandante. Descansa en poder.
Growing up in the United States public education system, one is taught to revere the philosophies and days of old. In every classroom, the walls are decorated with pictures of the founding fathers and with posters of the “core democratic values”. Children sing songs commemorating the ideology of liberalism and patriotism. We were taught the importance of the constitution and looked at its writers as almost god-like figures; held to a standard above reproach.
Even in the adult realm of social theory and political economy, it seems as though the Enlightenment principles and philosophies, to which we broadly consider as becoming Liberalism, dominate every aspect of our socio-politics.
Certainly, there are many things about the Enlightenment that we can all feel warm and fuzzy about. The Enlightenment gave birth to ideas of a representative government, of freedom of speech and religion, and of the right to assembly and petition. Enlightenment philosophers also developed the epistemology of rationalism and empiricism, which have grown to encompass all of our scientific and academic advancement.
More importantly, the Enlightenment took a unique class character, one of the early bourgeoisie. It was this class character which, at the time, was termed by the landed aristocracy as “new money” that would in the next century swallow Europe in a period of industrialization and rapid economic growth never before imagined. This bourgeois thought also challenged the existing institutions of class suppression such as the Catholic Church; and would eventually destroy absolutist monarchy and feudalism in its quest for social domination.
So what about the Enlightenment is not properly understood or applied in the West particularly?
First a quick lesson in Marxism: Through Dialectical Materialism we understand the nature of how social forces moving and conflicting develop new social orders. Through Historical Materialism we understand the sum of history can be understood as a class struggle. With these understandings, we can view the Enlightenment as taking a specifically bourgeois class character. The West would like to paint the Enlightenment as a fixture of human advancement, owning no character but instead representing the timeless virtue of a liberal state. This, as we have come to understand, is completely fictitious and contradicts what we understand as Dialectical Materialism.
All of this begs the question: why is this important?
Well, similar to how the bourgeois dominate the legal interpretations of property and more importantly, physical property relations; bourgeois thought also dominates social discourse. We have allowed Enlightenment principles to impede our own judgement and prevent the development of new and revolutionary thought systems based on an ever-changing material condition. Rather than analyze a situation freely we have trapped ourselves in the intellectual stalemate of identifying the proper Liberal analysis and then applying it as if it was our own.
Let us take a rather simple example, study this photo for a moment:
What are some of the first things that come to your head? If you were raised anything like me, then you would first jump to criticize this picture as implying there is something wrong with income inequality (and we all know the importance of social inequality!). But why would we do this? The reason is we have been educated into a fixation with the idea of “individual liberty”, whether or not this concept makes sense, whether or not it applies to the hedge fund manager making billions of dollars, we immediately assume this must be an attack on his individual liberty; and then we make the even more peculiar conclusion that this is “bad”.
A very interesting question to ask would be, why should I care about his “individual liberty”? Why would it be “bad” if we were to seize all of his assets? If the ethics of capitalism produce a system where one man can hoard enough wealth to feed millions, then that interpretation of “individual liberty” is essentially useless to me; and until anyone proves otherwise, it should be considered useless as a priori ethics should have no weight without good reason.
Also, note how the picture ends with a very petty bourgeois punchline. It begins with what seems to be a critical inquiry into the ethics of inequality, and ends with a DNC slogan about capital gains tax. This is another example with our contemporary fixation with the Liberal principles of the Enlightenment, one of them being the nature of taxation in a republic. Why can we not criticize the system that allows him to pile up so much wealth without acting within that system’s framework?
If we truly want to find solutions, we must ask tough questions. Perhaps ”individual liberty” can be founded on something other than private property and the right of increase? Perhaps “individual liberty” can adopt a revolutionary and proletarian character; one that adopts an interpretation of “liberty” that does not encompass the freedom to exploit? Perhaps we could have a discussion about the nature of inequality itself without having to end that discussion with a Liberal punchline?
Essentially, the Western fixation with Liberalism (in the classical sense) has destroyed the audacity we need to develop truly powerful answers to our toughest questions. Answers that may go outside what is deemed “acceptable” by the establishment politics. If we do not crush these sentiments towards Liberalism then we cannot ever hope to have an honest discourse with any fruitful results.
Debunking Liberal Ethics
Locke’s Austrian bastard child
Back on the issue of the picture above, what would be a genuine liberal (right-libertarian in the US) response to that image?
While we do not have a case-specific response, we can deduce an answer by examining the following*:
“The key to the theory of liberty is the establishment of the rights of private property…”Crime” can then be defined and properly analyzed as a violent invasion or aggression against the just property of another individual.” – Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
In a phrase, more of the same. It is wrong to talk about action against income inequality because that means violating a person’s property, which is a violation of self-ownership etc. etc.
Allow me to dispel a Liberal myth for a moment, one that is vaguely implied by the excerpt above. This myth is that “liberty” gave birth to capitalism. That, essentially, an ethical framework that protects “liberty” produced what we now consider capitalist social relations and this is why current property relations are A) inevitable and/or B) justified in someway. Think back, even to your schooling, if you were raised in the United States this most likely resonates strongly as this is what is drilled into children. That “liberty”, as a principle, will produce what we now call capitalism.
This is entirely false and hinges on some non-materialist almost quasi-spiritual interpretation of the word “liberty” as if it were the one ethical principle to rule them all.
The truth is that capitalism has no ethics, it has no morals, it has no reason or judgement. It is a system. A system defined by exploitation of the inequality of exchange and perpetuation through capitalist property norms. A system where half the world anguishes in unimaginable deprivation to create market value for a select few. What we now consider “capitalist ethics” is merely an attempt to morally justify what was already taking place at an alarming rate in the late 18th century.
Thus there should be no intellectual qualms about discussing “unethical” remedies to the situation when the ethics in violation are about as redeemable as any other ethics.
What we must understand is that there is no objective definition of “freedom”. There is no right or wrong way to interpret “individual liberty”. There is nothing wrong with strongly criticizing the idea of bourgeois democracy in a “republic” and analyzing a contemporary situation outside of the intellectual box invented two centuries ago. In fact, we must struggle against bourgeois thought; it is an inevitable and incredibly important component to the class struggle.
In the same way that the capitalist transformation of the means of production produced bourgeois thought, socialist transformation of the means of production will produce proletarian thought. Socialist thought that will provide an answer to the questions I asked earlier; and every person dedicated to a new social order must become a catalyst for this new thought. What we cannot be is enslaved to the Enlightenment, we must realize that Liberal intellectual conceptions are not timeless tools of socio-political measurement, but a bourgeois tool of dominance; a tool we must resist.
Liberation begins when you realize you’re a slave.
The question of Women’s Liberation has always been one of a strenuous nature. Even amongst the broader Left, the role and function of Women’s Liberation has varied greatly. I will set the record straight by first not using the phrase ‘Women’s Rights’; I find this terminology highly frustrating because it tends to assume that women can reach some form of social worth within the existing capitalist framework. Functionally, this is not possible. As capitalist social relations serve to exploit and commodify the toiler, so do they women. Thus, the question is not one of furthering Women’s Rights but achieving Women’s Liberation.
First, let us establish what we mean by Women’s Liberation. What are they being liberated from? Similar to how Labor has been subjected to Capital, women have been subjected to the interests of men; for the former, the course of capitalist social relations, however, the latter has been a subjugation for millennia.
“Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality. But, in fact, it screens the non-freedom and inferiority of women, the non-freedom and inferiority of the toilers and exploited.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
“Worst of all, it is women who usually have to do, usually alone, all the dirty work of the kitchen and household, work that is unimportant, hard, tiresome, and soul-destroying” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
The alienation experienced by literally billions of women today is difficult to swallow. Skeptics will point to the relative advances of women in the 1st World, ignoring the brutal conditions that exist for women in the vast majority of the Earth. Even with these relative advances the position of women still remains one of subservience to male interests in much of the world. World politics, social commentary, and economic action is largely dominated by white wealthy men. Although women perform around 60% of the world’s labor, they own about 1% of the world’s property (source: UNIFEM). This incredible inequality is only compounded upon the dredging social position women are chained to.
Women, throughout history, have largely been treated as little more than glorified cattle by the establishment males. Even the Bible illustrates stories of how women were traded as property between men, married off in the young teens, and victims of horrible sexual atrocities during war and peace time. To be a woman in this world is a daunting task.
This alienation has created a learned helplessness in so many women; where “male leadership” becomes the normative route of escape for many alienated women. This can lead to a life filled with chronic depression, general anxiety, and no hope for self-actualization. In this sense women, even if they in the 1st World have reached some level of material comfort above their 3rd World counterparts, are still normally treated as property of men and suffer the mental and emotional damage that comes with being viewed as a commodity and not a human being.
Now that we recognize the oppressive conditions to which so many women are subjugated, we must begin to explore the nature of this liberation from said conditions. No doubt this means the destruction of gender roles as we know them today. Gender roles must be replaced with a cooperative arrangement of social stewardship and childcare that maximizes effective techniques and respects the equality of men and women.
The key to liberation, whether from capitalist property relations or gender roles, requires us to understand the forces that necessitate these relationships. Similar to feudalism, capitalism established a very dominant male role within society to ensure its own survival. Why male dominance? There are a few reasons for the establishment of male dominance, especially in early industrial capitalism. First, so that property and property rights could be passed through a patrilineal scope. Second, so that the male could be freed to do more labor for the capitalist (and also so the wealthier wives of capitalists could manage the affairs of the household for the male.). And thirdly, so that the means of sexual reproduction could be externally controlled in the favor a comfortable labor supply. All of this begins to explain why as society’s become more ‘affluent’, the clamor for women’s liberation begins to grow. The role of patriarchy within capitalism has degenerated with the course of the Law of Value. Production is no longer so reliant on an expansive growth in labor, namely large families; thus women are beginning to find freedom outside of these gender roles that have dominated their lives for centuries.
Some will say this analysis trivializes the situation of women to be a symptom of socio-economic relations. This criticism, although perhaps partially true, ignores a couple critical elements. First, ALL systemic exploitation within the realm of capitalism can be attributed to the functions of capitalist property relations. Second, the idea that women’s liberation is actually a quest for sexual control illustrates women as static monoliths of history that can only be consumed by a single-issue. This fixedness upon the sexual nature of women is an intellectual dead end. Women must be liberated FROM the defining nature of their reproductive organs in the same way that workers must be liberated FROM their function as cogs within the capitalist machine. This crucial understanding paints the goal of Women’s Liberation to be as vital to the revolutionary movement as the liberation of the working class.
“There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be “equality” between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the exploited and the exploiters. There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be real “freedom” as long as there is no freedom for women from the privileges which the law grants to men, as long as there is no freedom for the workers from the yoke of capital, and no freedom for the toiling peasants from the yoke of the capitalists, landlords and merchants.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
Understand, this does not mean we wish to replace the female reproductive process with some ludicrous pseudo-science as is portrayed in the dystopian Brave New World. Rather, we wish to reinvent the process of childrearing and stewardship, functions of the female gender role, as cooperative and just processes that reflect the socialist nature of the productive reorganization of society. A reorganization that smashes gender roles and looks upon men and women as human beings, not machines, embodied with a social value that exists outside of their alienating functions within gender fixedness.
The ‘Agent’ of Liberation?
Obviously the question must arise as to who shall do the liberating? As the goal of workers and women’s liberation’s are uniquely related, so is the nature of this agent. In the same way that the toiling class must be the engine of their emancipation, so must women be at the forefront of Women’s Liberation. This should not mean that women fall prey to the Liberal fixation on reproductive rights. There is no doubt, that matters of abortion, contraception, and family planning are of incredible importance to the movement. Yet, women must seek to advance themselves in all points of society, especially in socio-economic relations. This begins with the ultimate goal, the destruction of capitalism.
The importance of women in their liberation cannot be stressed enough. More than a practical point of organizing and mobilizing, the struggle of women, for women, ensures that there is no presence of bourgeois male ‘heroism’ as we saw for so long (and still see) in the sexist Disney movies. Where the heroic and courageous man saves the helpless, ‘damsel in distress’. How disgusting. This false ‘heroism’ must also be resisted in all liberation movements for marginalized peoples. Including depictions of Black Liberation, especially in recent movies such as Spielberg’s Lincoln where the black population is depicted as static and helpless in the face of white oppression; where only white people could save them.
Although, this does not mean that the male feminist has no role in his female comrade’s campaign. The male feminist finds himself in an important position as well. He must not only support women in their liberation, but fight for the original premise of feminism, the equality of the sexes; thus, he must set out for the destruction of gender roles. The male feminist, then, must embody this spirit of cooperation and solidarity in a collective struggle with his female comrades against women’s exploitation; in all facets of society, including his personal life.
Thus the most controversial aspect of Women’s Liberation arises: how personal relationships function within the umbrella of the movement?
Some have suggested polyamory and similar “free love” movements as appropriate models for this movement. The decision to identify with the “free love” community or a polyamorous relationship is a personal one and one that should be respected like all other relationships between consenting adults. However, the fallacy here is to believe that “free love” and polyamory are by nature, aligned with the movement for Women’s Liberation. Similarly, not all monogamous relationships are identified against the Women’s Liberation movement. Let us not confuse a very intimate and personal choice between consenting adults with an attitude towards revolutionary change. Polyamorous men can still be manipulative and oppressive, men in the “free love” community can still be misogynist and sexist. A guiding principle for the male feminist should be the famous quote, “women hold up half the sky” (and according to world labor reports, a bit more than half). The way a male feminist treats his female comrades should always be tempered with the same respect that he treats his male comrades. Especially in an emotional relationship. An attitude of bilateral (or multilateral) cooperation should always supersede some machoist conception of “male leadership”.
What we cannot accept is this tongue-in-cheek mocking of Women’s movements by those on the Left; especially by the so called “manarchists”.
What a joke. A bunch of coffee-shop revolutionaries who come together to discuss how men are so unfairly dominated by a sense of “male disposability”, forgetting the literal millennia of oppression women have faced: socially, economically, politically, and legally.
There is no question that the male gender role must also be destroyed, but the neo-social conservatism of these “manarchists” is detestable. They have taken the right-’libertarian’ stance against social justice and concluded that all feminist movements must be dominated by “white knights” and misandry. This is not the proper way men should articulate arguments against male gender roles. Rather than find solidarity with the feminist movement they would engage in all sorts of subtle misogyny like “slut shaming”. Disgusting.
But unlike the “manarchists”, the traditional social conservatives actually hold influence outside of 4chan.
This is where the fight for Women’s Liberation begins, the social arena. It is the duty of all feminists to bring gender roles into the general public discourse and to propagate the values of a cooperative and truly emancipated society. More so than discourse, grass roots action against misogyny must be waged in every strata of socio-economic and political life. This is the struggle that lays ahead of us and must only be intensified.
“Freedom and equality for the oppressed sex! Freedom and equality for the workers, for the toiling peasants! A fight against the oppressors, a fight against the capitalists…That is our fighting slogan, that is our proletarian truth, the truth of the struggle against capital, the truth which we flung in the face of the world of capital with its honeyed, hypocritical, pompous phrases about freedom and equality in general, about freedom and equality for all.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
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
As Murray Rothbard explains in his Ethics of Liberty, complete self-ownership is absolutely essential to a propertarian ethics. This is precisely why I extend on my criticism against propertarian (specifically anti-state pro-capitalist) ethics on the point of self-ownership.
“If a man has the right to self-ownership, to the control of his life, then in the real world he must also have the right to sustain his life by grappling with and transforming resources; he must be able to own the ground and the resources on which he stands and which he must use. In short, to sustain his “human right.” – Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
“something, something, markets, something”
So from a Marxian perspective, what is troublesome about the concept of self-ownership? After all, isn’t it axiomatic, as Hoppe and other Austrian theorists would contend?
As with all things, context matters. If the concept of self-ownership is applied to argumentation then a more acceptable standard would be not an axiomatic condition of self-ownership, but rather a recognition of self. I cannot own my arm because my arm is me. It is one part in a unique composition of physical elements and properties that define my being.
The real problem with self-ownership lies in the word ownership. I cannot technically ‘own’ my arm or any other part of myself because it is myself. Even on the most basic level, there is no agent to hold the ownership. In addition to the logical inconsistencies of self-ownership, it opens up a realm of ethics where even the most obvious and detestable exploitation can be masked by ‘rational’ self-interest. The foundation of self-ownership allows Austrian theorists to construct a palace of socio-economic oppression and alienation and with a bit of moral ‘wiggle room’. Perhaps it is not the fact that Austrians seek to explain the nature of capitalism and all its strata that sparks my distaste for them. In this sense alone, their mission is not all that dissimilar from an individual who seeks to explain capitalism from a Marxian perspective (ignoring the completely different philosophical underpinnings). The threshold of my distaste is reached when Austrians try to justify the brutal nature of capitalism even to the point of moralizing the economic structure and its elements as ‘just’ and ‘natural’ (precluding naturalistic fallacy) or how they enshrine the entrepreneur as a hero among idlers. This twisted reasoning is why I have taken to describing all the branches of propertarian thought as suffering from the ‘poverty of ethics’. This attempt to understand human action divorced from context and material reality can only produce a blanket of petty moralization’s and lofty ideas.
It’s all smiles at self-ownership inc.
Let’s look at the self-owning folks over at Foxconn. Despite the brutal work conditions, terrible pay, and incredible alienation, it is still a sought after position to work in such a sweatshop. Why? Rational self-interest, of course. I say this in complete seriousness. It is clearly the most rational option (acting within the given framework) for the laborer at Foxconn to accept his meager existence day after day.
This does NOT mean there is not terrible exploitation afoot; there most definitely is. The obvious problem with my analysis above is that it ignores any contextual factors that produce this rationality. If we seek to understand why a person acts a way he/she does and what this means for ethics, we must first understand material conditions. The laborer seeks to better themselves, more importantly, to eat and help his/her family eat. To achieve this he/she must sell their labor-power to a capitalist in order to make a wage and reproduce their existence. They must do this due to a preexisting inequality of exchange rooted in capitalist property relations. Where the capitalist owns the means of production and thus the dominant social device by which an individual produces his/her existence. Thus, the most rational option is to sell ones labor-power to the highest bidder. On face value, however, this explains nothing. It only reaffirms what we already know. Reason is only a form of epistemology or in the realm of political economy, the most rational course of action. Rational self-interest can only determine a route of action given an existing framework, it does not at all explain the condition in which that decision exists let alone provide a moral justification for exploitation. Only a dialectical materialist understanding of human relations and material conditions can begin to describe, with accuracy, the course of socio-economic action and postulate on ethics.
In the Austrian realm, however, self-ownership displaces the nature of an action entirely within the agents acting. This a wholly reductionist methodology that ignores all the crucial context of that action. The concept of self-ownership only helps to “blame the victim”.
We all know this is just a depraved and awkward attempt to shame the toiler into accepting his/her conditions as inevitable. Material conditions are not defined by rational self-interest, rational self-interest is defined by material conditions. This important sequence is one that is not fully absorbed by the Austrian community.
Back onto meaning of ‘ownership’ in self-ownership, the clever usage of this word denotes something rather alienating. If it is possible for me to own my body, this means that my body may be treated like property: used and abused. If my body can be owned by myself, it does not take much time before institutions such as slavery are developed, where persons can be owned by other persons; or in relation to capitalism, wage slavery. This means that labor-power is not valued as an extension of ‘being’, but something that can be rented or sold. Effectively in self-ownership, humans become things, things to be owned by themselves, but in more cases, by others. Things that can be traded on the market, rented in the workplace, and sold to others. More importantly, humanity which produces ‘things’, becomes subjected to ‘things’. Thus begins the long history of capitalism and capitalist social relations. Where physical relations between people become social relations between things. Where a human life can be weighed, valued, or thrown away. Where dead labor decides the course of living labor. Where pieces of paper carry the weight of life and death.
Ultimately by owning oneself, oneself may be owned.
This is the dangerous path that Austrian ethics marches down. Perhaps it is not so much a danger as it is a justification for the brutality that already exists. Capitalism already subjects a vast majority of the world to toiling in alienation for no more than the minimal existence that can be afforded. Ideas such as ‘self-ownership’ only insult those exploited persons who have spent a life time being shuffled from one master to the next.
All of this begs the question, if one does not own oneself, who does?
At the risk of delving too far into humanist philosophy, I will say humans should not be owned by anyone. Ownership is a condition of privilege, extreme privilege. The privilege to use or abuse as one sees fit. In this sense, ownership of humans by themselves or other humans can only be an oppressive relationship. One that exploits existing inequalities or the intrinsic nature of one agent for the benefit of the other. Self-ownership really means that we can sell or rent our labor-power to others. It grants no benefit unto us. Even the light conception of ‘freedom’ or ‘individualism’ granted by Austrian ethics, founded upon self-ownership, is completely illusory. Thus, a possible Marxist antithesis to self-ownership might be a ‘free development of self’. So that humans might be able to associate and develop among each other but not own each other. The primary difference beyond the obvious antithesis would be that the ‘free development of self’ is inextricably tied to social production and material conditions in a dialectical manner; as are most things.
It is with this understanding that one might realize why Marxists favor cooperation over competition, democratic processes over private forms of unilateralism, mass participation over mass pacification.
All of these ideas help us formulate what a liberated humanity could look like, but more importantly, the path we take to arrive there. Bourgeois ideas like self-ownership can be of no use to a revolutionary. They only help to justify brutality, mask the chaos, and displace the fault. Self-ownership is useless bourgeois sophism that bears no weight to the vast majority of the planet’s population. This is, once again, the poverty of ethics. What is a phrase like ‘self-ownership’ to a man with nothing to eat? Empty words fall deaf on an empty stomach.
Full disclosure: I have known Lauren Smith, one of the subjects of this blog post, for over five years. We are online friends, and I first “met” her through a feminist community I once co-moderated.
An estimated 22 anti-capitalist protesters were arrested on Saturday after police clad in riot gear violently disrupted their march against colonial genocide, which is celebrated each year on Columbus Day. This was the second day of four days of action deemed, “decolonize the new world,” which is aimed at disrupting Columbus Day celebrations.
More than 100 people gathered at Bradley Manning plaza at around 2PM, before taking the streets of San Francisco’s deserted financial district at around 3PM. In between chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Columbus Day has got to go!” and “No justice, no peace! Fuck the police!” officers were splattered with paint. — Political Fail Blog
According to San Francisco police, members of the group were threatened with arrest because they did not ask for permission to protest on public streets and members became violent. (“Officers arrived in the area and were immediately struck by projectiles thrown by members of this group. One officer was struck in the head and sustained non-life threatening injuries.” — SFPD press release) Sympathetic sources argue that the police instigated any violence that occurred during the protest. Personally, I am far more inclined to agree with the protestors than with the cops. Even assuming that some of the protestors were lobbing rocks at the police, it appears that many — if not all — of the cops were wearing riot gear. They were more than protected from a few pebbles or paint in Ziploc bags. As per normal, the police responded with physical violence against the protestors, many of whom were protected only by sunglasses and bandannas.
But hey, it makes sense to me. Rocks win against helmets, while bandannas form an impenetrable forcefield against nightsticks and pepper spray, amirite?
Yes, it is very easy to find out Lauren’s Twitter info and our mutual friend’s info, but I’ve redacted it for my own reasons.
In between then and now, the police and the DA’s office are in the process of fighting with Twitter to get Lauren Smith and Robert Donohoe’s information, tweets released to them, as well as the political affiliations of everyone they are affiliated with, have ever contacted on Twitter, etc. As Lauren tweeted in the above screencap, this is an obvious ploy to create a network of information to use as a tool of political repression against anarchists, anti-capitalists, and other political dissidents.
Crazy talk, amirite?
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is, of course, skirting the real issue at hand, claiming that, “I don’t think that you have a right to privacy when you’re engaged in that type of criminal behavior.” (Because it’s not like that is a pretty fucked thing to say when you work in the damn criminal justice system.)
Smith and Donohoe have filed to quash the subpoena. In the meantime, a support group (Support the ACAC 19) has provided a form fax/email and a script for phone calls. That info is accessible right here. Please, share this link and fax, call, or email the SF DA’s office to pressure them into dropping the charges against the ACAC 19; also, if you have any cash to spare, you can donate to legal funds right here.
(Addendum: You can also email the Misdemeanor Managing Attorney at Wade.K.Chow@sfgov.org and this guy, James.E.Thompson@sfgov.org, who is handling the case for Laura Claster while she’s out of town.)
Whether you are a market anarchist, a communist, or a two party person, I’m sure you can see the frightening implications here. This is a clear move by the state to frighten people out of associating with dissidents, let alone subscribe to those views themselves. This is the exact type of shit that we — as Americans — like to tell ourselves doesn’t happen. Not here, not in this country. We live in a free country, damnit, not Communist China! I’m not somebody who typically shrieks “police state” every time I turn around, but can you really blame someone for thinking we live in a police state?
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.
‘Hitler was a National Socialist. Get that? Socialism is Nazism.’ - generic Jim, the right-wing nut
Without a doubt, any individual with a rudimentary knowledge of history could tell you that Hitler co-opted the socialist movement to seat himself in power. The right-wing obsession with the word “socialism” in National Socialism has become more apparent to me as time goes on. Lacking any critical inquiry into the nature of Nazi Germany, they jump to the conclusion that socialism must be related to Nazism. Thus, if you are a socialist (marxist or otherwise), then you are no better than a Nazi.
Pretty ridiculous right?
The reason I address this issue is because yet another “Anarcho” – Capitalist cretin tried claiming that advocating voluntary forms of socialism is no better than advocating for “voluntary nazism”
Difficult to see, more for provable documentation.
How common is this gross misconception among the right-”Libertarians”? It is difficult to say with certainty. However, what can be said is this sort of misconception has fallen over the fence of ridiculousness and now swims in a sea of absurdity.
Before, I believed it was totally unnecessary to draw obvious distinctions between Marxism and Nazism; now it seems that the utter historical negligence from the right-wing will force me to do so.
A clear understanding of Nazi theory would illustrate the clear hatred for Marxism as a ‘weak ideology’ of ‘Jewish’ elites. Furthermore, a basic understanding of Nazi policies would show that Marxists and other socialists were the first members of Hitler’s concentration camps. In addition, there are absolutely no similarities between Nazi “ethics” and what is proposed by Marxists. Nazis were able to justify mass murder and genocide by clinging to a far-right ideology of domination where one race of humans was inherently superior to another. Marxism has always been of the internationalist paradigm and has criticized racism, nationalism, and all other reactionary conceptions as ideological weapons wielded by the propertied classes.
Perhaps I will extend more on the issue if some believe it is necessary but for now I will let readers feast on this episode of absent minded rhetoric.
Keynesian economic policies don’t work, but fighting for these policies will?
Guglielmo Carchedi’s essay on the so-called Marxist multiplier has me bugging. He is handing out bad advice to activists in the social movements and telling them this bad advice is based on Marx’s labor theory of value. The bad advice can be summed up concisely: Keynesian policies do not work and cannot work, but the fight for these policies (as opposed to neoliberal policies) can help end capitalism:
From the Marxist perspective, the struggle for the improvement of labour’s lot and the sedimentation and accumulation of labour’s antagonistic consciousness and power through this struggle should be two sides of the same coin. This is their real importance. They cannot end the slump but they can surely improve labour’s conditions and, given the proper perspective, foster the end of capitalism.
Frankly, Carchedi’s advice is the Marxist academy’s equivalent of medical malpractice. (For the record, Michael Robert’s has his own take on the discussion raised by Carchedi’s essay.)
Tags: budget deficit, capital, debt, Depression, economic policy, Employment, falling rate of profit, financial crisis, great depression, Guglielmo Carchedi, inflation, Karl Marx, Keynesian economics, Marxism, neoliberalism, political-economy, unemployment
video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_F3oev06i
I am sure by now most of you have seen the video from which the image above is cited. The video depicts all sorts of heavily edited footage by the far-right Christian fundamentalist and comedian Steven Crowder as he attempts to rile up some of the union protesters outside of the Lansing capitol building in my home state of Michigan. The video shows Crowder engaging in his usual sophistry, until one gentleman clearly has had enough with Mr. Crowder and gives him a stiff one-two that left Crowder whining on twitter for hours; demanding the assailant be apprehended.
Having watched Crowder’s YouTube videos for quite sometime (even before I became a Marxist) I am not surprised this has finally happened to him. He has quite a knack for poking the bear. Anyone who watches any of his videos regularly will understand this. Moreover, the exact context of this fight is yet to be understood. Could the union man simply be upset? Quite possibly, and understandably so. Was Crowder provoking the man? Easily as possible as the former. Unfortunately, because the Cult of Breitbart has no intention of ever honestly editing video it is unlikely we will know for certain the entire context of the scuffle. What is important is that Crowder got what he deserved.
Severe battle wounds sustained whilst battling the evils of organized labor.
Before the hordes of cretins pile upon me for supporting aggression, I view this more as self-defense.
Mr. Crowder came to that event hoping to inspire outrage. That is his motive with these videos. He does not fly to the working class regions of Michigan, away from his cozy suburban existence, so he can reach a level of fraternity with the locals. He goes to upset, to agitate, and to provoke. The working man depicted in the video was only striking back against what he felt was an unacceptable aggression from the yuppie Crowder.
On a deeper level, this conflict is just a more personal expression of the ongoing conflict in Michigan, the United States, and across the globe. It is a conflict between conscious labor and their advocates against bourgeois reactionaries. Crowder is a disgustingly obvious yuppie and a bourgeois reactionary who takes pride in subjecting other humans to a calculating political economy that he moralizes through ‘compassionate conservatism’. He has not the faintest idea what it means to be alienated (in the proletarian sense), to be exploited, and to struggle for what is yours.
What Mr. Crowder hopefully learned is this: life is brutal, and class struggle is real. The nature of the market is not defined by elegant nothings and lofty notions, it is defined by bloody and physical struggle in a cold land with all forms of emotion. Market mechanisms do indeed exist outside of a Reagan quote book, they exist in the mind of every worker who felt detached, every mother who struggled to feed her child, and every revolutionary who ever lived. The impacts of neoliberal policy leave a physical mark on a material world. I doubt if Mr. Crowder could ever really understand this. To him, and so many other bourgeois proponents, life is just a game where the winner is certain, the rules are clear, and the wrong is wrong. They cannot begin to imagine the material pressure these market forces exert on working people so far as to drive them into the streets in protest.
The conservatives will call us hateful for stating the obvious and thugs for acting on our principles. What does that make them then? The bourgeoisie have oppressed the working class for centuries; we seek only to end that. The capitalist social order has produced a world of starvation as Steven Crowder sips a latte, going on about about ‘union thugs’; we seek only to correct this. The vast multitude of humanity anguishes in unimaginable conditions, whilst bourgeois apologists like Mr. Crowder champion the ideals of this twisted system. Who really is hateful? Who really is destructive? The strongest quality of a revolutionary is love, and our love of humanity lead us to move against this lust of the almighty dollar.
Mr. Crowder will draw upon popular quotes, ones of inspiring language like those of “liberty” and “justice”. What is liberty to a woman who has to choose between baby diapers or a warm meal? What is justice to the man who has lost the job he worked tirelessly for? Words are only words when applied like cheap makeup to the grotesque nature of capitalism.
It is with this that I wish Mr. Crowder a farewell. He is not welcome in working class communities or the state of Michigan. The working people of Michigan have spent enough time on their knees, now they fight back. I urge all working people reading this to rise against their oppressors. Drive out the bourgeois. We are workers, we built this world and all the wealth it holds, it is time that we seized the hour and crushed the organs of our oppression.
The only thing we have to lose is our shackles.
By: Zak Drabczyk | Dec 10, 2012 The Commune
I want to take a moments break from the theory and debate to issue a strong message of solidarity with those workers who will be gathering in the Michigan State Capitol of Lansing tomorrow.
Being a Michigan native I know the price that is paid when unions are smashed, wages plummet, and jobs are shipped to more easily exploited states and nations. My father was a union member and it is because of his adequate compensation that I was able to live a fairly comfortable life and get the education that I use today.
This is a fight for workers rights and it extends deeper than the plots of the fascist Rick Snyder and anti-labor pundits. This is a global fight for the working class that should resonate with every person who has ever had to sell themselves to make a living or fight for what is theirs. This is that moment where we stand up and say “Ya Basta!”. Enough already! We are sick of bending over backwards so that the fatcats can get fatter while those of the working class are left to anguish. Its time for the working people of Michigan and the world to take their future into their own hands!
Fuck Rick Snyder, solidarity with Michigan workers and workers around the world! Workers of the world, unite!
I received plenty of feedback in my last article (See: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principle), some positive, some negative. A popular request was to review a few Austrian (I use ‘Austrian’ here as a popular reference to the Austrian School of Economics) works which challenge the Marxist interpretation of classes and exploitation. I accepted the request.
This is a critical response to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis (all excerpts used are directly quoted from the work).
Time Preference and the Austrian Critique of Marxist Analysis
Hoppe’s intention for his work is demonstrated quite simply in the introduction:
“I want to do the following in this paper: First to present the theses that constitute the hard core of the Marxist theory of history. I claim that all of them are essentially correct. Then I will show how these true theses are derived in Marxism from a false starting point. Finally, I will demonstrate how Austrianism in the Mises-Rothbard tradition can give a correct but categorically different explanation of their validity.”
Hoppe then goes onto make fairly accurate descriptions of core Marxist beliefs surrounding historical materialism, the labor theory of value, and class antagonisms. He then tackles the issue of surplus value and its exploitative properties with a criticism of Marx’s analysis:
“What is wrong with this analysis? The answer becomes obvious once it is asked why the laborer would possibly agree to such an arrangement! He agrees because his wage payment represents present goods while his own labor services represent only future goods-and he values present goods more highly. After all, he could also decide not to sell his labor services to the capitalist and then reap the “full value” of his output himself”
The classical answer to any Marxist conception of surplus value/labor: time preference. Hoppe continues to expand upon his previous criticism:
“…he [Marx] does not understand the phenomenon of time preference as a universal category of human action.’ That the laborer does not receive his “full worth” has nothing to do with exploitation but merely reflects the fact that it is impossible for man to exchange future goods against present ones except at a discount. Unlike the case of slave and slave master, where the latter benefits at the expense of the former,the relationship between the free laborer and the capitalist is a mutually beneficial one. The laborer enters the agreement because…he prefers a smaller amount of present goods over a larger future one.”
Hoppe’s criticism rests firmly on two conjectures. Firstly, time preference as an explanation as to why surplus value exists within the realm of ‘clean capitalism’. Secondly, the relationship between the laborer and capitalist is ‘mutually beneficial’, void of any exploitation.
Let’s start with time preference. First, Hoppe’s commits the fatal error of ignoring context. As I pointed out in my previous article, the greatest failure of any libertarian philosophy surrounding socio-economic action is that it divorces action from the material conditions it exists in. The only way to understand why a person acts is to understand the environment which shapes that action. Thus, time preference can only be seen as a valid explanation if you presume the legitimacy of private ownership.
Marx’s entire premise regarding capitalist property relations is that they exist to reproduce a material condition which legitimize private property. Giving birth to the circular logic of Capital. Time preference can only exist because the laborer exists in a property relation where his only choice is to sell his labor-power. The material conditions of depravity that pressure the laborer to sell his labor-power do not affect the capitalist who owns the means of production (aside from the obvious duty of a capitalist being to produce and sell commodities). The capitalist class is the sole class with any feasible sense of flexibility as they exclusively access the means by which one may subsist. Therefore the statement that “After all, he could also decide not to sell his labor services to the capitalist and then reap the “full value” of his output himself” is utterly nonsensical.In capitalism, time is money and the worker cannot afford to wait. To reproduce his existence, he must sell his labor-power; even if this means being exploited. With this understanding it becomes obvious that there is little ‘decision’ to be made. The choice of Capitalism is illusory. Where before the slave/serf would be bound to a master/lord, the laborer is only bound to material conditions which force him to hunt for a capitalist in which he can sell his labor-power.
Capitalism is based on an inequality of access and economic actions within its realm only serve to reproduce the existing conditions. Therefore, the principle of time preference is an insufficient attempt to legitimize (and trivialize) an inherently unequal and exploitative property relation.
Next, there is the issue of “mutual benefit”. Hoppe draws distinction between capitalist property relations and those that existed in forms of feudalism and chattel slavery. As I stated above, there are clear distinctions. However, to suggest that capitalism somehow uniquely proposes mutual benefit compared to previous property relations, is ridiculous. Capitalist property relations are mutual only insofar as they allow the capitalist to prosper and provide the worker with subsistence, paid piecemeal. This is not wholly different than previous forms of property relations where the slave/serf was (meagerly) fed and subsisted in a life of servitude to the master/lord. Engels points out the differences between the social existence of slaves and workers:
“The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence. This existence is assured only to the class as a whole.” – Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism
In this sense, the system of capitalism can hardly be considered “mutually beneficial” as Hoppe might intend the phrase. The entire property relation and all action therein (including conceptualizations such as time preference) is based on a system of brutal inequality and deliberate exclusion from the means of production. Therefore, the system of capitalism is still a system of exploitation.
‘Socialized Production’, Ownership, and Capital
“Under a system of socialized production, quite contrary to Marx’s proclamations, the development of productive forces would not reach new heights but would instead sink dramatically…”
A classic Austrian objection to social ownership of the means of production. He continues:
“For obviously, capital accumulation must be brought about by definite individuals at definite points in time and space through homesteading, producing, and/or saving…”
Let’s see how he attaches this to his objection against social ownership:
“In the case of collectively owned factors of production, an actor is no longer granted exclusive control over his accumulated capital…for him of the expected income and hence that of the capital goods is reduced.”
Hoppe presents a rather interesting criticism of social ownership, different from the cliche ‘calculation problem’.
First, let’s unpackage the language of his argument. He starts by identifying the source of wealth, or capital accumulation, as individual action. He does this so he can use ‘libertarian’ philosophy, posited by this interpretation of individual action, as a legitimization of private property. His mistake is in the subtle acceptance of the ideal abstraction of labor that overemphasizes individual production of capital; which can then be interpreted as an individual product. The real nature of capital is described by Marx and Engels:
“..capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society,which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character.” – Capital Volume III, Chapter 48, The Trinity Formula
Hoppe’s entire objection revolves around the idea that capital accumulation and the value of capital goods can be interpreted solely through an individual’s exclusive ownership, and likewise that this subjective interpretation holds the key to productive forces (which there is no reason or analysis given as to why). The truth is much different. The entire system of capitalism is based on a social context, an interrelated conundrum of values and productive units. In fact, exchange value, the locomotive of market interaction, is dependent on society as it is a social expression. This is because the exchange value of commodities is impossible to determine unless contrasted against other commodities. All production in capitalism is social, and likewise so is all consumption.
Ergo, the entire premise of Mr. Hoppe’s objection falls flat on its face. If we can recognize accumulation as a consequence of social production we can destroy any reasoning behind a “sinking” in productive capacities under social ownership because of a lack of “exclusive control”.
Moreover, Hoppe misinterprets the entire structure of social ownership. Genuine social ownership seeks to empower the worker by including him in a direct control over the product of his labor and the fixed capital he employs. The course of production, consumption, and the fate of his labor will be firmly in the hands of the worker, defeating any logic about there being a lack of “control” (especially when realizing all production as social production, see above).
Austrian Theory of Exploitation
“The starting point for the Austrian exploitation theory is plain and simple…Exploitation occurs whenever a person successfully claims partial or full control over scarce resources he has not homesteaded, saved, or produced, and which he has not acquired contractually from a previous producer-owner.”
It is interesting that Hoppe’s definition of exploitation readily includes so called ‘clean capitalism’ before the insertion of the phrase “acquired contractually from a previous producer-owner”. We know that in capitalism, the worker labors, the capitalist subtracts. If we were to simply remove the phrase in question, a much more agreeable definition of exploitation might be reached. The moral livelihood of capitalism hinges on the the interpretation of words such as “voluntary” and modifiers like “contractually”. So much so that these words and modifiers must first be divorced from a social context as to eliminate any doubts about the honesty of their application. The Austrian theory would like to paint billionaires as victims of exploitation via taxes or sweatshop owners as victims of unions or some other bourgeois interpretation of what it means to ‘aggress’. Which is really the cornerstone of Austrian ‘ethics’, being bourgeois reaction (see: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principle). The propertied classes need to redefine the meaning of ‘ethics’, or rather, co-opt its usage to protect private property and the right to it. This pandering is a natural political necessitation coming from a class that exists through and for the leverage of property.
Another interesting point here is the inclusion of the conjunction “and”; as if the property barons of today not only obtained their power through socio-economic coercion (I mean contractual agreement) but also through their own personal saving, producing, or homesteading. Such a nonsensical interpretation of capitalist accumulation really draws Mr. Hoppe’s perspective into question.
Nature and Development of the State
“And in the course of economic development, just as producers and contractors can form firms, enterprises, and corporations, so can exploiters create large-scale exploitation enterprises, governments, and states. The ruling class…is initially composed of the members of such an exploitation firm.”
Hoppe here is referring to the development of a state or a similar tool of suppression. Notice the distance he draws between your everyday, average, ‘nothing-to-see-here’, producers (bourgeoisie) and the ‘ruling class’. Interestingly enough, this is a common theme among Austrians. Precisely so because Austrian theory would have observers believe that capitalist property relations can exist separate of a form of institutionalized violence (e.g. the state). Admitting that the same bourgeois, drawn here as distinguished from the ruling class, are indeed the ruling class, would be catastrophic to Austrian theory. This is, however, the historical truth on the matter. The state is a tool of suppression, having evolved in modern society as a institution the capitalist class utilizes to suppress opposition and enforce their privilege. The bourgeois property rights proposed by Austrians, is the same property rights that necessitated the existence of a state.
“…with a ruling class established over a given territory and engaged in the expropriation of economic resources from a class of exploited producers, the center of all history indeed becomes the struggle between exploiters and the exploited.”
Once again, we see the same attempt at distancing property holders from the ruling class. Now, Hoppe goes as far as to mimic Marx’s famous “history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle” with his reinvented “center of all history…the struggle between exploiters and exploited”. A bold claim indeed, but does it stand true? In the blunt reading of the phrase, yes. With an actual analysis of what Hoppe means by “exploited” and “exploiters”, using the Austrian theory of exploitation, the answer is no. Hoppe is almost likening himself with modern day GOP pundits by painting the chilvary of private business against the tyranny of the state. The truth is much different. The state serves to protect the interests of the capitalist class, not exploit them. A quick reading of US Presidential history will make that very clear. Even small business interests are not exactly pitted against those of the state. Many small business owners enjoy a predictable rate of profit and market stability. The state through its suppressive functions helps maintain both a constant pool of uneducated and unemployed persons, as well as a stable market environment with minimal competition. All the factors necessary for a moderately successful capitalist enterprise. Austrians will point to the ‘red tape’ and excessive regulation coming from the state as proof of this antagonism, this is no proof at all. Given, some grievances exist about the quality of state administration, no grievances exist about the actual existence of these functions. This is why even the petit bourgeois anarcho-capitalist still supports private institutions of violence such as ‘private defense forces’ against none such institutions at all. This is because they recognize, subconsciously perhaps, the need for a violent and suppressive tool which can essentially mimic most of the functions of the modern state; only then more tailored to their preference. Thus, Austrian theory cannot clean the house, only reorganize the mess.
“While productive enterprises come or go because of voluntary support or its absence, a ruling class never comes to power because there is a demand for it…”
Perhaps this is only my rudimentary understanding of modern economics speaking, but for something to be produced, must not there be a demand for it? The demand is clear and present, and my analysis has shown that this demand comes precisely from the propertied classes.
Now Mr. Hoppe goes onto describe a society free of exploitation:
“Contrary to Marxist claims, this society will not be the result of any historical laws…Nor will it be the result of a tendency for the rate of profit to fall with an increased organic composition of capital…Just as the labor theory of value is false beyond repair, so is the law of the tendency of the profit rate to fall, which is based on it…”
The Labor Theory of Value is such an incredibly spacious concept, as its its conflict with Austrian theory, I will not elaborate too much on this final point.
The disagreement I will draw is with the denial of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall is a critical measure of understanding the internal contradictions within capitalism and attempting to denounce it in a brief conclusion did Hoppe no good. Without anymore analysis, allow me to cite some empirical evidence to the contrary:
Also, an interesting paper on the subject:
Overall, Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis was an entertaining read. Despite all the false interpretations, misperceptions, and the predictable assortment of Austrian theory punch-lines, it was one of the more polished criticisms of Marxist theory I have read. Marxist theory, however, far exceeds Austrian theory in class analysis and I hope every reader may come to understand this.
Comment, like and share this article! Drop me a message on Facebook or on Reddit (communistcritic).
Tags: Anarchism, Anarchist, Anarcho-capitalism, Austrian Economics, Capitalism, communism, communist, hans-hermann hoppe, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Marxism, marxist and austrian class analysis, mises, Rothbard, socialism, voluntaryism
Disclaimer: This post references the usage of offensive and racist language.
This weekend I was poised to release a detailed and critical response to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis; that was before my Facebook account was banned.
I awoke yesterday morning to an unpleasant message telling me that my email belonged to no existing account and I was unable to login. According to many of my friends, my account is still visible to some extent, but I have no way of accessing it.
Which leads me to two theories. A) My account has been summarily banned by Facebook or B) I was hacked and the hacker changed my password and email.
Perhaps some of my rhetoric violated the community guidelines, but take a look around. I was in highly politicized groups alongside open racists and degenerates who used all sorts of extreme language but were untouched by Facebook administrators. What is the purpose of this? Calling for socialism and revolution is violent and unacceptable but using horribly offensive and demeaning words like “nigger”, “spic”, “zipperhead”, and “faggot” are totally acceptable? Fashbook, as it should be properly known, is an embarrassingly apologetic corporate agent that sees more of a threat in activists than racists.
The whole issue is very frustrating because I use Facebook as a genuine means of communication with many comrades from all over the internet. This is pivotal to writing articles that can be quickly circulated and organizing in general. Although I have no evidence, I do find it quite ‘coincidental’ that after I write easily my most controversial article I am banned/hacked out of my Facebook account.
In any case, this derailment is that, a derailment. I have a new account, which all those reading can add just search “Zak Drabczyk” and look for the account with an incredibly low amount of friends and little personal information. My account will be more developed hopefully by the end of this week and I hope to release my latest article sometime this week as well. Thank you for your support.
Ethics is defined as:
“a system of moral principles.”
“the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular classof human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.”
The question is, what role should ethics play in human interaction and the human experience? Ethics has an important place in directing human interaction towards mutually beneficial and cooperative engagement. However, there are clear and poignant reasons why property based ethics or ethics enshrined as absolutely objective should be rejected if not contested.
The Non-aggression Principle
A common ethical point, the Non-aggression Principle (NAP), briefly mentioned in my previous article (see The Free State Project: The Future of White America), has become a centerpiece of the bourgeois moral framework in the ‘Liberty Movement’. The NAP has been praised by modern Voluntaryists such as Stephan Kinsella and others within groups like the Free State Project.
Murray Rothbard, a leading theoretician among ‘Anarcho’ – Capitalists and Voluntaryists writes of the NAP:
“No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” – War, Peace, and the State
Proponents of the NAP
Proponents of the Non-aggression Principle will laud around a few benefits that might exist in a world absent of how they define ‘aggression.
First, there is the issue of victim-less crimes. Proponents would argue that in the world where everyone adheres to the NAP, illegitimate coercion could not exist and the modern corrupt ‘justice’ system would be done away with. What is important to realize is that this is only partly true. The NAP does not seek to eliminate ‘force’ but simply change the agent(s) of force and redefine what it means to ‘aggress’. Victim-less crimes like squatting could be considered heinous trespasses in the world of the NAP and the property owner would have every right to dispose of those who would trespass on his property. This also extends to the use of absentee land or resources. If an individual were to use water from a river ‘owned’ by Mr. Voluntary, that resource is an extension of himself and Mr. Voluntary would be in his right to deal quick ‘justice’ to any of those who use ‘his’ property.
Proponents also suggest the NAP could solve (or rather, mitigate) the social constraints inflicted by the state. Many of these restraints include taxes, excessive regulation, cronyism etc. The real issue here is that the NAP focuses only on the symptoms, not the disease. The institution of the state is only a tool used to enforce class dominance. It was the bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th early 19th centuries that gave birth to the regulatory state we know today. Only by tackling the estrangement of humans through dismantling capitalist property relations can we hope to rid ourselves of the state and its mechanisms of suppression. Unfortunately, the proponents of the NAP are entirely ignorant of this and thus possess no way of actually solving for the oppression in the status quo.
As seen before in history, as long as Capitalism exists in some form, so will a way to enforce private ownership. The abject rejection of the state will only transform current state mechanisms into more socially acceptable, yet equally brutal, tools of class domination.
So in all actuality, NAP proponents do not seek to change the social structure, but rather reinterpret what it means to ‘aggress’ and shift the weight of institutionalized violence to more private and subtle agents.
Overall, the NAP is a heavily loaded concept. Allow me to unpack the NAP in a Marxian fashion.
First and foremost, there is the issue of property. In ‘Libertarian’ philosophy, private property is considered an extension of self-ownership, which is key to rational self-interest wherein lies the locomotive of all other ‘Libertarian’ discourse. The reality of private property is much different. Private property, or the exclusive holding of productive means or instruments, is the cornerstone of Capitalism. Thus, the entirety of the NAP can be broken down into a clear and obvious reaction towards tenets of social ownership or those that preclude expropriation.
This is essential to understanding the classes that benefit from the NAP; clearly, the capitalist and bourgeois classes that already have a strangle hold on the means of production. The NAP is just a tool for them to exert their class dominance over those who lack capital and must sell their labor-power to subsist. The anti-state reductionism only distracts observers from the real genus of social antagonisms, which is the capitalist property relations. The NAP legitimizes such unconscionable exploitation (or all action that is considered ‘voluntary’) by separating socio-economic action from the context of material conditions. In doing so, the physical resistance to the hellish alienation perpetuated by Capital Hegemony, the only rational conclusion in this brutal class conflict, is made the ‘other’.
This is the poverty of ethics.
It simply becomes a tool for class dominance. Obviously, there is a clear need for ethics, but an ethics that recognize property as equally valuable to human life, is one that will only serve to enslave humanity. The subordination of people to ‘things’ is the absolute pinnacle of capitalist alienation and is only made moral through ethical interpretations like the NAP.
This does not mean to say there is no moral or ethical duty to non-aggression. In a dialectical sense, the point of Communism is to realize a stateless and classless society without the alienation of previous systems. This would have to preclude some sort of condemnation for unwarranted aggression. The difference lies in the nature of a Marxist or liberation ethics vs. property ethics. A Marxist ethics would presume a dialectical nature. Meaning that the goal of human liberation would be unchanging, the axiom of ‘good’ whereas interpretations of ethical action outside of that axiom would necessarily fluctuate to accommodate the change in material conditions. The context of this ethics is supremely important as well as the philosophic foundations from which it emerges.
E.g. Murray Rothbard was a chief proponent of the NAP, he also co-founded the CATO Institute with billionaire Charles Koch who continues to use both CATO and libertarian ethics to justify things like sweat-shops.
One reason why Marx spent so little ‘moralizing’ (besides the subtle denouncements of alienation and exploitation) was because it easily distracts observers from the genus of ‘wrong’.
The primary goal of a revolutionary should be not to interpret the world, but to change it. To change the material conditions and social structures that dominate the landscape. This means destroying Capitalism and with it the source of most of the ‘wrong’ and social excess that exists today.
A world without aggression would certainly be a better one. A world without ‘aggression’ as interpreted by the capitalist class looking to preserve their privilege is one that cannot be much different (or better) than the status quo.
The primary message of this article should be don’t be distracted by a bourgeois attempt to detract from the moral imperative of resisting Capitalism.
The NAP more than any ethical point I have seen, expresses all the familiar nuances of class domination and legitimizing overt oppression. It is for this reason that I wish to denounce the NAP as being no more than a tool of the capitalist social order. A social order which seeks self-preservation even if it means adopting a cloak of ‘liberty’ and ‘voluntary exchange’ which will always be alien in the universe of private property.
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” – Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
The Left today is a broad conglomeration of socialist, liberal, and socially democratic groups and tendencies. Deep within the Left lurks a tendency most would believe to be dead. The truth is that Stalinism is still alive and well within the Communist Left. Given, at least most of the modern day Communists are either critical of Stalin or non-associative towards his ideas, there are some who still cling to this backward tendency.
I am not one for sectarianism. I have said this many times before. The reason I reject Stalinism is because I see it as a reactionary tendency that does not deserve to be grouped with the Left.
The point of this article will be to demonstrate why Stalinism is patently non-Marxist and in fact, reactionary. Allow me to begin with the ‘achievements’ of the Soviet Union under Stalin.
1) Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union and turned it into a prosperous country.
No doubt, under Josef Stalin the Soviet Union successfully reached the point of being considered an industrialized nation. The problem herein lies in the way it was accomplished, and the quality of this ‘achievement’.
First, the industrialization of the Soviet Union is a hard thing to measure without looking at the quality of that being industrialized. Most of the Soviet Archives measure the industrialization in Rubles. The obvious problem here is that the Ruble was a highly inflationary currency that struggled to maintain any sort of value. Even if you measure the industrialization in tons of output, the quality of that output was not on par with what it could have been. Consumer goods still lagged far behind those of Western nations. But more importantly, the living standard of the average worker stagnated or fell while his work week piled on.
Is that the ‘achievement’ of a ‘socialist’ nation? That industrialization brutally subjugates the working class to intensive and menial labor while their living standard stagnates?
This is not much of an achievement, especially when considering that the entire process of central planning and factor production had to be reorganized around a caricature of capitalist social order. The elected managers of the factories, or the elected directing boards were replaced with appointed single-man managers who answered directly to the bureaucracy and were tasked with quotas all but achievable.
As Trotsky puts it in his Revolution Betrayed the difference between the capitalist and the bureaucracy to the average worker was nil. Both were unaccountable and uncontrollable slave drivers, one just called itself ‘socialist’.
2) Stalin helped women gain more freedom.
This is decidedly false. Women under the early Bolshevik state were granted the right to abortion and fault-free divorce. Anything good for Women’s Rights that happened under Stalin’s regime was already in place before he took power. There were some large changes for women under Stalin, however.
Women, who under the Bolshevik state, were given access to quality childcare and permitted to stay at home and raise their children were now compelled to serve in a stratifying and dangerous factory. Also, a woman’s right to an abortion was severely curved under Stalin who practiced a policy of rapid population growth. Effectively women became more commodified as tools of the state under Stalin than anytime in Soviet history.
In addition to his commodification of women, Stalin was a homophobe and his policies reflected that. Under the early Bolshevik state, homosexuality was legalized. Under Stalin, homosexuality was outlawed and homosexuals could face a 5 year prison sentence. Stalin was clearly a social conservative who viewed social relations not as a liberating point of the human experience but a tool of the bureaucracy that could be manipulated to supposedly enhance productive capabilities.
3) Stalin turned the Soviet Union into a socialist country!
Perhaps the most audacious claim could also be considered the most dishonest.
The 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union, engineered by Stalin and the party bureacracy, boldly claims that
”The socialist system of economy and the socialist ownership of the means and instruments of production firmly established as a result of the abolition of the capitalist system of economy, the abrogation of private ownership of the means and instruments of production and the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, constitute’ the economic foundation of the U.S.S.R.”
Socialist? In an economic system where factories are run by capitalist-styled, unelected managers, peasants are forced into bureaucratically ordered collectives, and the whole of society is subjected to the will of a minority, how can this be Socialism? The Stalinists will defend this with their subtle redefining of “socialism” as “the abolition of the exploitation of man by man”.
Even if we accepted this partially true understanding, the Soviet Union, under Stalin, did not meet the criteria. Even if there was no Capitalist class, there was a class of opportunist, unaccountable, and unelected bureacrats who prospered off the backs of the working class. The working people saw little material or social improvement in their lives and commodity production was never abolished. If this is the criteria for a “socialist” society then even some of the most backward fascist regimes, like Nazi Germany, might also qualify as “socialist”.
Stalinists will also bring up the electoral provisions of the 1936 Constitution as further evidence of the Socialism that existed under Stalin. These provisions included an expansion of ‘democracy’ (meaning many former kulaks, capitalists, or Tsarists could vote) and the implementation of a secret ballot.
Let’s get two things straight about these electoral provisions. First, there is absolutely no evidence that Stalin had anything to do with these provisions and in fact there was no mention of them from him up until after the ratification of the constitution. Second, these provisions were largely inconsequential. Stalin would go on in 1936-1939 to purge the Party of a majority of the original Bolsheviks as well as any dissenters (including those who had supported Stalin initially, like Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev) . It mattered not who voted, because in the end there was only one choice on the ballot. The bureaucracy’s candidate. There was no room for criticism or question. Stalin’s rhetoric about “fighting bureaucracy was just that, rhetoric. There was plenty of talk in the Soviet Union about getting tough on the privilege and bureaucracy but ultimately nothing was done about it. The degeneration was in full swing and this ugly and deformed worker’s state went onto its destruction.
Now that we have debunked some common myths about Stalin, let us examine how his practice and theory culminate into a heap of un-Marxist drivel.
“Socialism in One Country”
Central to Stalinism and later Stalinist leaning regimes was the idea of “Socialism in One Country.”
The theme here is that international revolution is not needed, that socialism can be built in one country and exist in the same world as capitalist nations. For revolutionaries, living in the post-1919 failed German revolution, this could seem promising. There are, however, serious pitfalls to this theory that lead to even more tragic practical consequences.
First, a focus on building socialism in a single country inevitably breeds fascism and hyper-nationalism. This can be seen in Stalin’s glorification of the “Russian character”. This hyper-nationalism is totally incompatible with a Marx who said “the proletariat has no country”. The struggle for socialism, the struggle for communism, is not one to be waged by a national party from a single country. It is a concerted effort for international socialism that recognizes the insignificance of bourgeois conceived nationalism and embraces the centrality of proletarian internationalism. Stalin’s “socialism in one country” represented a decided shift away from this Marxian concept towards a more conservative, and nationalistic approach.
In addition, a lack of an international sentiment and paradigm means that the revolution is more susceptible to corruption. The more concentrated the politics, the more likely that they will reject external criticism, ignoring the conditions of all oppressed peoples and hiding behind a thin veil of self-criticism that never materializes. One needs only look at the list of ‘socialist’ nations that have embraced this theory. Most of them have become isolated hermit kingdoms that restrict even elementary freedoms of Capitalist nations just to maintain a position in international power relations.
This is not socialism. This is not proletarian internationalism. This is petit bourgeois nationalism that will inevitably produce fascism.
Stalin’s conceptualization of class struggle meant that even after a revolution took place, there was an intensification of the class struggle between the bourgeois and the proletariat.
This theory is more or less adhoc reasoning for the incredible amount of suppression that went on in Stalin’s Russia and other Stalinist regimes. The open, democratic, and transparent socialist systems envisioned in the early 20th century gave way to secret police, torture, intimidation, and violent suppression of dissenters. This is the legacy of Stalinist conceptions of class struggle.
Beyond the obvious practical consequences of such a position, it is also not grounded in Marxist philosophy. The revolution, the point at which the Proletariat seizes power, is the point at which classism begins to subside as the socialist transformation begins.
Will the bourgeois exist after the beginning of an international revolution? Of course.
It is unlikely, however, that this class struggle will ‘intensify’ like the Stalinists claim. For their to be a revolution in the first place there must be significant mass support. In addition, the point of revolution is the expropriation of state power and the means of production. If the bourgeois are seized of what makes them, bourgeois, it is hard to imagine that the class struggle could intensify much beyond the peak points of said revolution.
The whole reconceptualization of class struggle is designed to allow Stalinists to commit horrible crimes against dissenters in an effort to consolidate power masked under the veil of socialist transformation.
This does not mean there is not room for suppression in a Proletarian Dictatorship. There most certainly is. The difference is that this process of rooting out counter revolutionaries and bourgeois influence must be a transparent and democratic process that rests control firmly within the Proletariat. Stalin’s purges were none of that. They were deliberately hidden and undemocratic operations designed to consolidate political power into a small and privileged bureaucracy.
Class war remains a central theme to the revolutionary struggle but the way in which Stalinists revise this theme is incompatible with Marxism.
The history of Stalinism is one riddled with opportunism, bureaucracy and political maneuvering To answer all of the myths put out by Stalinists would be impossible for the sake of time.
What is obvious is that what Marx, or even Lenin, envisioned for Socialism, was not what Josef Stalin brought to the Soviet Union. Marxist criticism was stifled, party democracy was stamped out, proletarian internationalism gave way to bourgeois nationalism factories became modeled on the Capitalist West and the working class took a back seat to the state apparatus. This is not Socialism, and it does not represent Marxism.
Debunking Stalinism will continue in Part 2
Disconnection from the current relations of production is easier said than done in Kurz’s opinion. It is not a matter of simply seizing a single factory, a retail outlet, an office or a school, nor even of seizing all the factories, retail outlets, offices and schools altogether in a simultaneous uprising in all countries at once. These institutions evolved within the context of commodity production and exchange and are fit only to function within this mode of production. It is not simply a matter of laying hold to them on the day after “the revolution” and employing them for the cause of social emancipation. Says Kurz,
The difficulty consists in the fact that the capitalist form of the functional division of society, as in the case of the capitalist structure of use value, cannot be assimilated, without alterations, into an emancipatory reproduction.
If this argument sounds familiar to you, it should; it is precisely the difficulty the communards faced in Paris when they took control of the old machinery of the state. They were compelled to dump that entire structure and create a new one on the fly to suit their specific needs. Marx concluded from that experience that the working class could not simply lay hold of the existing machinery of state and wield it for its purposes — that machinery had to be broken. Kurz is extending Marx’s argument well beyond the state to encompass the entire economic mechanism bound up with the capitalist mode of production. And he gives several pretty convincing reason for his conclusion.
Tags: anti-economics, anti-politics, commodity fetishism, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Marxism, Occupy the Marxist Academy, political-economy, Politics, Robert Kurz, shorter work time, shorter work time Tags: anti-capitalism, social emancipation, social revolution, Statism
In the first section of his essay, Kurz examined the limitations of 20th Century Marxism that, he argued, was incapable of theoretically superseding capitalism except by means of a proposed future event, the proletarian political revolution, which, would solve all of capitalism’s ills and manage society in some undisclosed fashion. To address this theoretical failure, in section two of his essay, Kurz returns to the basic schema of Marx, the link between the forces and relations of production. Kurz proposes the technologies associated with the digital revolution renders living, value producing, labor increasingly superfluous to production. Kurz concludes the significance of the new technology is not to be found in its production, but in its utilization by society. This technology cannot be employed to mobilize the massive labor armies of the Fordist era.
I argue, following Kurz, the impact of the digital revolution on the ‘economy’ appears to us in its phenomenal or perceptible form as a growing potential for social collapse and regression to a primitive state of simple survival. This survivalist fear is simply the result of the conditioning of our consciousness by commodity production itself — since we have been conditioned by bourgeois society to take its relations as the “natural” form of society, we experience capitalism’s potential for collapse as the potential for the collapse of civilization itself, when it is actually otherwise. In fact, as Kurz seems to argue, the potential inherent in this technology for the collapse of commodity production must actually be the premise of our conceptions of social emancipation; because this technology makes possible a decentralized organization of society without the necessary fulcrum of the state and commodity fetishism generally.
Tags: anti-capitalism, anti-economics, anti-politics, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Marxism, Occupy the Marxist Academy, political-economy, Robert Kurz, shorter work time, social emancipation, social revolution, Statism
The nightmare scenario typically presented by bourgeois thinkers to the possibility of the collapse of capitalism can pretty much be summed up in six words:
“Buy guns, gold and beans! Now!”
In this view, the passing of capitalism is equated with the complete breakdown of civilization and a regression to some primitive state. Without market forces and the centralized control of the fascist state, we are warned, society must splinter into roving gangs of murderous, zombie-like, scavengers.
Tags: anti-capitalism, anti-economics, anti-politics, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Marxism, Occupy the Marxist Academy, political-economy, Robert Kurz, social emancipation, social revolution, Statism
I am reading Robert Kurz’s “Anti-economics and anti-politics: on the reformulation of social emancipation after the end of ‘Marxism’”.
It appears to me, at first glance, that this 1997 piece is a continuation of his 1995 prediction of a devaluation shock that would bring an end to capitalism. As I stated in my reading of that work, I found it inexplicable that Kurz did not take his analysis to its logical conclusion. That analysis pointed to hours of labor as the central problem of our time and the only real solution to the capitalist crisis. However, Kurz did not go there in his 1995 work, but made an attempt to nail down how to “supersede” capital in this 1997 piece.
I am going to take on section 1 of Part One today, which focuses on the failures of mainstream Marxist praxis at the turn of the century.
I want to recommend everyone read John Weeks’ paper, “The theoretical and empirical credibility of commodity money“, because he presents a key to the analysis of neoclassical economic theory that unlocks its inner logic. I missed the juicy goodness of his argument in my first read because I have an aversion to mixing math with social criticism. However, in his math Weeks uncover why money is not a commodity-money in neoclassical theory, and why it cannot be a commodity-money.
Weeks tries to make sense of a troubling rejection by neoclassical economic theory to admit to the obvious internal consistency of Marx’s commodity-money theory:
Th[e] theoretical superiority of commodity-based monetary theory has had little practical impact because of a perceived empirical absurdity of the commodity money hypothesis.
I came to my understanding of fascist state issued fiat money based on one closely held idea that neoclassical economics is not irrational, capitalism is. Yes, capitalism is as irrational as it has been declared by Marxists to be, however no one but an idiot would buy into the neoclassical argument unless it made sense in the context of fascist state economic policy. Since capitalism itself is irrational, a rational person looks like an idiot when he buys into its propositions; on the other hand, accepting the irrationality of capitalist relations of production as the basis for formulating fascist state economic policy is rational.
Tags: Andrew Kliman, Bailout, commodity money, Depression, economic collapse, economic policy, ex nihilo currency, ex nihilo money creation, Federal Reserve, financial crisis, Fred Moseley, Frederick Engels, Henry Paulson, Jonh Weeks, Karl Marx, Marxism, MELT, monetary policy, neoclassical economics, noeclassical money theory, otma, stupid economist tricks, The Commune, Wall Street Crisis
I want to take a moment to sum up some of my thoughts regarding Marxism that has occurred to me during my occupation of the Marxist Academy. This is only a rough outline of those ideas and I welcome comments on them from readers of this blog.
Wayne Price’s “Marx’s Economics for Anarchists” makes the fatal error of treating Marx’s Capital as a description of how the economy works. This mistake Price makes is on the order of treating Einstein’s Theory as a description of how H-Bombs work. I suppose, in some limited fashion, Marx does give something approaching a description of “how capitalism works.” But, this was neither his project, nor even the most significant aspect of his life works. Even from the point of view of an anarchist like Price and his audience, what Marx explains in Capital of economic interest is insignificant.
As Anitra Nelson points out, Marx ignores significant features of Capitalism even in his own day. Already in Marx’s time the credit system was of far more importance in the economy than gold (commodity) money. Although Marx argued credit money was a “higher form” of money than gold, he almost entirely ignored it, and its technical details. If his project was to explain how a capitalist economy worked, this fact would be completely inexplicable.
To understand what Marx’s project was in undertaking Capital, you have to look at the questions Marx was trying to answer before Capital. Marx was solely concerned about the historical process by which “man returns to himself.” To try to yank Marx analysis of the process of capitalist production and exchange from this context is to grasp hold of the shit end of his project. I want state at the outset that I do not mean to imply his theory as written in Capital isn’t relevant. I am just trying to explain why Marx wasn’t an economist. Wayne Price makes the argument that Marx is relevant to anarchists because of his economics, not his politics, but this is an error. Actually, Marx’s relevancy has nothing to do with his economics or his politics. His real contribution was to lay out the historical process by which we regain ourselves as social creatures.
One common form of misunderstanding of Marx’s Capital goes like this:
“Marx proved/showed how the capitalist exploited the worker.”
This statement is something akin to the myth that folks in Columbus’ day thought the earth was flat. It was, in fact, common knowledge in Marx’s that labor was the source of wealth. Marx did not need three volumes of Capital – perhaps more – to explain that the capitalist gained his profits from the labor of the worker. Surplus value or Profit were not all that much of a mystery. (In fact, Marx theory was reproduced independently by a self-educated worker, Joseph Dietzgen.)
Marx’s object with Capital was not to lay out a detailed description of how a capitalist economy works nor did he intend simply to explain to the worker how she was exploited. Rather, his intent was to examine the historical process by which we as human beings would regain ourselves as social individuals. Wayne Price although providing, I think, a service to his anarchist audience by offering a review of the laws of capital Marx disclosed, perhaps does a greater disservice to them by taking Marx examination of Capital from its context.
Anitra Nelson, who, in the introduction to her book, Marx’s Concept of Money, rejects Marx as inadequate, actually does a greater service to the reader by detailing what she believes is the inadequacy of Marx’s concept of money. One statement in particular that I like of Nelson’s argument is that Marx’s concept of money is less a technically useful analysis of money, and more a philosophical-political argument lacking technical details — a lack she thinks continues through his entire works. Nelson writes:
Marx’s perception and analysis of money is conducted at a very high and all- encompassing level of abstraction.
At another point she states:
It seems easier to relate to a quasipolitical and esoteric Young Hegelian intellectual context than to ordinary economic theories of money or finance.
Nelson believes she is calling Marx’s analysis of money into question in this passage; but, what she is really calling into question is the accepted interpretation of Marx’s intent in his examination of money. This accepted interpretation is expressed in the two schools of thought regarding Marx’s argument about money: nominalist versus commodity. The first school holds to the idea that Marx’s argument on money must lend support to those who think money is an idea, whose value is determined by value consciousness. The second school holds that money for Marx is a commodity — gold or some other commodity.
Because Marx’s writings are so vague, sociological and philosophical here, one can only say at this point [the middle 1840s] that he could develop a nominalist theory of money without contradicting much of what he has already said about it. Equally he could say all that he already has and still regard ‘proper’ money as a commodity, say gold.
She concludes, erroneously:
What seems most probable is that he has adapted Young Hegelian phraseology without at this stage being conscious of its rather nominalist tone. He is not yet steeped in the traditional economic literature of monetary theory which is divided between nominalist and commodity theories of money.
Although I disagree with the general characterization here, I think Nelson is correct to state Marx was neither a nominalist nor a believer in commodity money — he really did not give a fuck. What served as money was not his interest at all — money itself was his interest: What role did money play in the social process of man returning to himself as a social individual?
This historical process had to go through money, because only by passing through money did the private activity of individuals become social. People did not directly exchange their labor, they exchanged the products of their labor, and money was the mediator of this exchange. The emergence of the social individual, an individual who engaged in directly social labor, passes through money as a historical phase. Money becomes the god of practical activity, because only through money do the material advantages of social cooperation get realized. The historical process, as Marx observed in the German Ideology, is continuous: money arises out of exchange, and becomes a power ruling over society with its conversion into Capital — self-expanding value. All of this insight is lost if we take Marx out of context and treat him as just another economist, no matter how infamous or extraordinary.
At another point, Nelson points out the lack of technical detail in Marx’s treatment of the credit system:
[Marx] fails to treat or recognise some of the special characteristics of credit or credit monies, regarding only a pure paper currency as possible, and not a pure paper money.
What I find so interesting about this statement is that Nelson rightly calls into question Marx’s entire notion of money in this observation. Marx argues money must, in the final analysis, be gold or some other commodity; yet not one significant money today is based on a commodity. Marx really looks like a clown on this one — a rank amateur who got one of the most important categories of political-economy wrong.
The other possible conclusion is quite breathtaking: money was actually abolished during the Great Depression by all nations within the space of a couple of years; which is to say, money no longer exists.
This is a dividing line: either Marx was a clown and got money wrong; or money no longer exists. You cannot have it both ways on this subject. Yet, folks who call themselves Marxist economists treat the dollar as if it is money. And, they try to twist Marx’s statement to fit the reality of modern post-Great Depression currencies. So, which is it? Okay, so let’s not rush into any conclusion on this — perhaps there is the third choice, I don’t know about.
Well, then we have to look at another observation of Marx regarding money: in a money system the real need to be satisfied is money. Nelson writes:
Money ‘mediates’ between the need and its fulfilment, between the natural and the social, between one [person] and another.
She also states:
As the means to purchase, money gives access to all objects and becomes the ‘only’ and the ‘true need produced by the economic system’.
While people engaged in a collective act of production to meet their needs as individuals, the use of money as mediator of their activities has the effect of turning the billions of discrete particular individual needs into the single over-riding general need in society for money. On the one hand, all individual need becomes, as a practical matter, the need for money; not food clothing or shelter, but money to buy them. All the particular needs of individuals, which are really singular and incommensurable become, in money, values relative to each other. The particular useful qualities of these objects serve no role or function in the economy, but exist for the economy only as exchange values. In their place is one need ruling over the actions of all individuals: MONEY.
But, at a certain point in history this money is replaced by an instrument of exchange controlled exclusively by the state and monopolized by it. In the money system all real, material, specific and noncomensurable needs of individuals is reduced to its most abstract form: money need. In the post-Great Depression system, this money need is further reduced to the rule of a totally capricious and arbitrary political regime.
Anyone who misses this implication of Marx’s theory, knows nothing of the argument he is making. When Marx argues money must be a commodity he is not simply making an argument about money, but also about the implications of its abolition: the abolition of money within the confines of the capitalist mode of production converts money need into an unregulated fascist state power. This is not a power that can be regulated or constrained by society through mere political means, since is presupposes absolute dependence of society on the very power it is trying to regulate and constrain.
So, in the 1840s, before he has become an anarchist, before he has become a communist and before he has become enshrined as the founder of that complete waste of human effort known as “Marxism”, Marx has already explained everything about capitalism that is necessary to understand about it: the premise of the worker’s existence is her absolute dependence on the very thing that destroys her as a human being.
Antistatists who base their argument against the state on moral grounds of “opposition to coercion”, don’t really understand the problem posed by the fascist state in this regard. The problem is not coercion, but the universal dependence of society on this indifferent, impersonal, power that determines the material premise of society. Even if we assume no employment of coercion in the exercise of political power, the state would not be a whit less of an intolerable power.
Remove the police, remove the military, remove all regulatory functions from the state, and this power will still be intolerable.
This is because the intolerable power is not and has never been constituted by force — although coercion often accompanies it in history. Anarchists like Wayne Price who want to discount Marx’s pre-Capital insights, and his post-Capital arguments with anarchists like Bakunin will simply never understand this: the intolerable power is constituted by the individual herself; it is the content of her activity. It is not imposed on her, it is not forced on her, it does not insert itself into her life from outside — the intolerable power is her own activity, which has become intolerable to her.
This is why she makes the social revolution — not to overthrow the state, property, money, corruption, etc.; but to overthrow her own previous mode of activity, wage labor, which daily and hourly constitutes and recreates the former. This is what is so significant about the Tea Party and the Occupy movement: we are looking for forms within which our self-activity is directly social; of association based on individual needs
I think Wayne Price has done a lot of good by publishing his book, and I applaud it — I urge folks to read it at Anarkismo.net. If it gets anarchists to take another look at Marx, this cannot be bad. However, it should be read while keeping in mind what I have stated above.
“What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?” –Slavoj Zizek
Zizek was never so completely wrong as in his recent post on the problem of analysis posed by the London riots:
“Today’s left faces the problem of ‘determinate negation’: what new order should replace the old…”
In fact, London shows there is no determinate negation!
“who will succeed in directing the rage of the poor? Who will translate it into a political programme…”
Unfortunately, this is absolute crap. Heinous! Zizek needs to stop calling for a blueprint for the new society, and see what society is actually doing. Everyone wants to render the riot more profound — Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. There are no stand-ins in this act. The riot did not lack “a strong body able to reach quick decisions and to implement them with all necessary harshness…” We already have such a body in the executive of the fascist state — the object is to abolish it, not replace it.
Zizek shows the limitations of his philosophy — it seeks THE answer. There is no THE answer, only 6 billion individuals. The only TRUTH is the dollar — it is morality, ethics, and law. The point is not to replace this TRUTH with another one, but to abolish it once and for all time. The moment Egypt became preoccupied with what should replace the masses in the street, the revolution was doomed. There is no plan for the future of society, only the management of things — dead objects we created that must be treated as such.
Everybody wants a new Golden Calf — and communists are like Aaron trying to satisfy this silly demand.
Although the riots in the UK were triggered by the suspicious shooting of Mark Duggan, everyone agrees that they express a deeper unease – but of what kind? As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver. (There is a clear contrast with the massive student demonstrations in November 2010, which also turned to violence. The students were making clear that they rejected the proposed reforms to higher education.) This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’, those outside organised social space, who can express their discontent only through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence – what Hegel called ‘abstract negativity’.
Which is to say, the rioters of London made no demands on the existing state. From Zizek, it is clear that because London did not deliver a political demand, analysis of it escapes Marxist critical thought. The limitation must be assigned to Marxist critical thinking: it is incapable of conceiving of any but political and economic demands. When confronted by a movement that makes no demands on the existing state, Marxism must, fall back into outmoded and thoroughly discredited Hegelian notions.
From Zizek we find out this about London:
The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas. The fact that the rioters have no programme is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we inhabit, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?
The lack of political and economic demands by the rioters on the existing state, says Zizek, “is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted” Are our existing options limited to political conformity within the existing state and “blind acting out” against it? One has to wonder how Zizek manages to arrive this close to the heart of the matter, without tripping over it. Empirically, opposition to the existing state cannot be articulated in the form of political program, or utopian vision; but only in “blind acting out.” Which is to say: the riot placed no demand on the state except that it go away. To the inherently political Marxism, this can only appear as “enigma”, as “blind acting out.” Marxism, which wants nothing more than to replace the existing state with its own “workers’ state”, cannot absorb this message. To demand the state just go away is nihilism, “(self-)destructive violence”.
It never occurs to Zizek, that there is no political demand against a state founded on universal suffrage except its abolition. Just as there is no economic demand against Capitalism except the abolition of wage slavery. The fascist state can accommodate any demand except its own abolition, and this demand appears irrational and can only appear this way; since, politically, it is asking for the abolition of universal suffrage itself. Politically, the demand for the end to government by consent of the governed can only be satisfied by the absolute indifference of the fascist state. The larger context of the riot, therefore, is the indifference of the fascist state to the rioter — who seeks only to abolish this indifference. How Zizek manages to miss this is completely fucking beyond me.
Taking from Badiou, Zizek proposes: capitalism is empty of content of its own, “there is no global ‘capitalist worldview…”
Okay, fine. So what now?
Zizek proposes that all critiques of London that begin in the premises of capitalism are inadequate. The conservative view holds the riot was unjustifiable. Zizek argues by contrast, that the riot was not man reduced to beast but the beast itself. The liberal blamed the failure of social programs to fix society’s ills. Zizek argues this failure does not explain the riot itself; the cynical response of the rioter might be to blame society for an act he himself already knew was inappropriate: “He knows what he is doing, then, but is doing it nonetheless.” If Zizek can acknowledge this consciousness of the inappropriateness of the riot, he can only weakly defend it as an entirely appropriate conscious response to the inappropriateness of existing social relations. He wants to play the worldly disinterested observer of events occurring under his own nose. Indeed, his objective here appears no more than to insert himself as necessary interpreter to us of our own actions.
Having disposed of the riot as the blind acting out of the beast, he can now admonish both Right and Left of their failure to grasp the significance of this beast in their midst. It never occurs to him to state boldly that, from premises of communist society, the riot is nothing more than a blind attempt to abolish property.
Despite his shortcomings thus far in the essay, however, Zizek’s insight into the sudden appearance of the “vigilante units” is surprisingly good:
It is meaningless to ponder which of these two reactions, conservative or liberal, is the worse: as Stalin would have put it, they are both worse, and that includes the warning given by both sides that the real danger of these outbursts resides in the predictable racist reaction of the ‘silent majority’. One of the forms this reaction took was the ‘tribal’ activity of the local (Turkish, Caribbean, Sikh) communities which quickly organised their own vigilante units to protect their property. Are the shopkeepers a small bourgeoisie defending their property against a genuine, if violent, protest against the system; or are they representatives of the working class, fighting the forces of social disintegration? Here too one should reject the demand to take sides. The truth is that the conflict was between two poles of the underprivileged: those who have succeeded in functioning within the system versus those who are too frustrated to go on trying. The rioters’ violence was almost exclusively directed against their own. The cars burned and the shops looted were not in rich neighbourhoods, but in the rioters’ own. The conflict is not between different parts of society; it is, at its most radical, the conflict between society and society, between those with everything, and those with nothing, to lose; between those with no stake in their community and those whose stakes are the highest.
Zizek rightly warns us not to take sides in this internecine conflict, but misses the fact that the whole of political relations are only these two conflicting sides writ large. There is, in reality, a massive population of “those with nothing” to lose, facing a negligible residual of “those with everything” to lose. In fact, all conflict within present day society are fought out within the greater population, while the latter is rarely or ever glimpsed. “The rioters’ violence was almost exclusively directed against their own” because there isn’t anyone else against whom it can be directed. The entire capitalist class has been reduced to a tiny handful of parasites clipping coupons and engaged in speculation, just as Engels predicted. The capitalist class is merely kept alive on life support by the franchise of the vast proletarian majority. For purposes of analysis, it is possible to assume the capitalist class does not exist at all; which clarifies the dilemma facing Marxism:
What is the fascist state?
Once we begin asking this question we can go beyond Bauman, who “characterised the riots as acts of ‘defective and disqualified consumers’” Bauman’s argument only allows Zizek to pass himself as the uniquely disentangled observer decrying, “envy masked as triumphant carnival.” I am sorry, but that view is unacceptable for a communist.
Zizek then links the riot to terrorism and the failed Arab uprisings — the latter having now sunk to a rivalry between the CIA and the Muslim Brotherhood. I am not sure this works, since clearly Egypt and Islam have a different relationship with universal suffrage. Terrorism is an attack on universal suffrage from the outside, while Egypt is only trying to realize a local instance of it. To place the three in the same basket only confuses things, and makes it difficult to understand what is unique about London itself.
I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me this is why Zizek follows this invalid linkage with a demand for a “determinate negation.” The “determinate negation” of Mubarak’s regime is limited government; the “determinate negation” of the insults which led to 9-11 is US exit from Islam’s holy lands. Both of these “determinate negations” is limited in relation to the state.
London, on the other hand, is directed at the existing state itself, at universal suffrage and government by consent of the governed — it is, therefore, neither limited, nor determinate by its very nature.