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Archive for December, 2010

For 2011: Five practical demands on which anarchists, libertarians, and Marxists should agree

December 31, 2010 1 comment

While it can be argued that anarchists, libertarians and Marxists have a huge ideological chasm  between their various views and visions of a future society, it is obvious that on significant issues they share a common perspective. One question for the new year, and the run up to the 2012 elections, is will these diverse ideologies continue to allow their difference to stand in the way of real practical common action on those things which they agree?

Libertarians have elected several of their supporters in the last election cycle; Ron Paul is poised to take an important chairmanship in the house; and, the GOP is vulnerable to a libertarian challenge in the 2012 presidential sweeps. Marxists have committed disciplined cadre capable of playing a significant role on the ground should they find some common points of agreement with the libertarian rebellion now unfolding within the Party of Wall Street. Anarchists have the extraordinary ability to move between these two factions while remaining relatively free of the ideological prejudices of either group.

Can the strengths of each be turned to a singular focus on a set of demands that move progressive and conservative majorities in both parties along a different path? I am not sure, but I offer these demands below in hopes that a discussion can begin among libertarians, anarchists and Marxists toward some practical cooperation in 2011:

End the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan; and withdraw all US military forces from overseas.

This demand is simple enough: we want all United States military forces withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan and all bases operating in foreign countries dismantled and the troops brought home.

End all Washington fiscal and monetary stimulus; and, reduce the work week until everyone who wants to work has a job.

We want Washington to end its wasteful and incompetent attempts to stimulate the economy to generate job creation and economic growth. There is enough work at present to go around if the work week is reduced until unemployment is eliminated. All fiscal and monetary stimulus is nothing more than the imposition of hidden taxes on society by Washington, and its attempt to grab more resources for itself at the expense of society.

End all Federal, state and local deficit spending and accumulation of public debts.

Public deficit spending and the creation of new debt through bond issues are another form of hidden tax on the population. By issuing new debt, government at all levels is able to garnish the future income of its citizens to enlarge itself at their expense. We should demand all levels of government spend only the revenue they raise through taxes to end the hidden accretion of government power.

Abolish the Federal Reserve Bank and the fractional reserve system; end the bailout of the too big to fail banks.

This is a no-brainer: the control of the nation’s money, its supply of currency, and its monetary policy should never have been delegated to a private cartel of banking interests in the first place. Washington must also end the ongoing bail out of the too big to fail and shut them down immediately.

End the prosecution and imprisonment of all persons convicted of nonviolent offenses; dismantle the Department of Homeland Security; and, abolish the Patriot Act and other repressive laws.

Again, another no-brainer: The growth of state power is clearly evident in the swollen population of American prisons and clogged courts as state authorities prosecute and imprison thousands of people each year for nonviolent offenses from drug possession to illegal entry into the United States. Additionally, our movements are being subjected to constant state surveillance, routine invasive searches of our persons, tracking of our correspondence and public and private conversation.

*****

Is it possible to gather such diverse voices as those within the libertarian, anarchist and Marxist communities into a single chorus around these or a similar list of demands? I would imagine there is not a single true libertarian, anarchist or Marxist who disagrees with the above list, but getting to “Yes” on any common set of demands runs into heavy opposition from the forces of the State, who do not want to see such a coalition, and from petty disagreements among these diverse groups who have their own agendas for what comes next.

We must make an effort however, and I pledge to fight for unity among all libertarians, anarchists and Marxists on these issues during 2011.

Categories: General Comment

Can Capital survive the abolition of the State?

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently came across this excerpt from a short paper by the Marxist writer, Raya Dunayevskaya. The argument is a very dense consideration of a fundamental point of Marx’s theory. If it appears obscure and incomprehensible, that is okay; I offer it only as a reference for those familiar with the more arcane points of Marx’s theory. For everyone else, you can skip below, where I will address it directly in a way that makes its import both obvious and rather astounding:

Let me state right here that we have greatly underestimated Volume III of CAPITAL, which deals with these transformations. It is true that we caught its ESSENCE when from the start we put our finger on the spot and said the DECLINE in the rate of profit is crucial; the average rate of profit is completely secondary. Look at the mess we would have been in if we had not seen THAT and suddenly found ourselves, as did the Fourth [International], tailending the Stalinists’ sudden “discovery” (which had been precisely the PERVERSION with which the Second International PLANNERS had long ago tried to corrupt Marxism) that it was the AVERAGE rate of profit which was the “law of capitalism.”

Good, we saw the essence, but that is insufficient, and because that is completely insufficient, we were incapable of being sharp enough even here. For it is insufficient merely to state that the decline [in the] rate of profit, not the average, is crucial for understanding VOLUME III. The full truth is: JUST AS MARX’S THEORY OF VALUE IS HIS THEORY OF SURPLUS VALUE, SO HIS THEORY OF SURPLUS VALUE IS IN REALITY THE THEORY OF THE DECLINING RATE OF PROFIT.

Why couldn’t we state it this simply before? It is because we have been too busy showing that profit is only a disguise which surplus value wears and must be removed, again to see “the real essence”: exploitation of labor. Because the opponents we were facing were Workers Party underconsumptionists, we had to overemphasize this EVIDENT truth. But to overemphasize the obvious means to stand on the ground the opponents have chosen. Freed from these opponents and faced with PLANNERS WHO ARE NOT UNDERCONSUMPTIONISTS the greater truth of what Marx was saying suddenly hits us in the eyes with such force that now we can say: How could we have not seen what Marx was saying? It is all so clear: Since the realization of surplus value IS the decline in the rate of profit, the poor capitalist MUST search for profits.

The argument Dunayevskaya is making here is simple: Marx proposed that capitalism would be increasingly hamstrung by a decline in the rate of profit. This decline was not an accident or aberration, since it rested on a fundamental feature of the economy: On the one hand, the capitalist was always seeking to maximize his profits by reducing labor costs. This drive leads businesses to produce more output with fewer workers. On the other hand, the source of profits were the unpaid labor time of the employed workers. Thus, even as the capitalist tried to maximize profit by reducing its work force, its success at reducing its work force reduced the pool of unpaid labor time that was the source of its profits.

So far, not much of interest, right? Just another cat fight among the followers of Marx over interpretation of his theory; and Marxists are, if anything, more prone to cat fights than a bag of wet cats. But, then Raya does something jarring: she throws in that sentence at the end and changes the entire nature of the argument:

Since the realization of surplus value IS the decline in the rate of profit, the poor capitalist MUST search for profits.

Let me perform an intellectual shortcut here: Although it may not be obvious what she has just done, Raya has just stated that Marx is setting the reader up, not for an explanation why prices of goods reflect the values of those goods, but why they can never reflect the values of those goods. On a micro-level, Marx is explaining why that $600 iPad you got for Christmas probably cost no more than $3 to manufacture in China.

To put this another way: Marx was describing why the actual labor time expended in a capitalist economy must always and increasingly be greater than what is socially necessary. The tendency built into a capitalist economy toward a secular decline in the rate of profit produces its opposite: a mad scramble on the part of each capital, and all of them together, to find every avenue to maintain profitability in the face of this tendency; and this tendency can only be countered by effort to extend the social work day beyond what is actually required by society. As we have argued elsewhere, if Marx is correct in his analysis, there is a vast pool of superfluous labor within existing society that can be abolished without touching on the material living standard of society.

To put it bluntly, Marx’s law of the tendency toward a fall in the rate of profit predicts that if total debt, total consumption and total hours of labor don’t constantly increase capitalism will collapse. The social relation is not only incapable of achieving equilibrium, but it becomes increasingly self-disequilibrating as the productivity of labor increases. Assuming Raya was saying what I understand her to be saying, I think this self-induced, self-reinforcing, disequilibrium results in, at least, the following 5 symptoms:

  1. The Market for output must constantly expand.
  2. Total employment must always rise more quickly than productive employment. And, total hours of labor must always increase more quickly than productive hours of labor.
  3. Because of the above, total consumption must always increase more rapidly than necessary consumption (i.e., production). Which is to say, waste and unnecessary consumption becomes a matter of life or death for the economy.
  4. Since waste becomes a permanent feature of the economy and the rising cost of wasted effort must be borne by society, total prices must always increase more rapidly than total value.
  5. Since, wasted effort itself produces no new value, exchange itself is increasingly founded on debt; hence, the financial sector must always increase more rapidly than the industrial sector, and debt more rapidly than equity — leverage, which is, at root, only the relation between the sum total of social labor to the sum total of productively employed labor, must always increase.

Assuming I am correct about Raya’s comments about Marx’s third volume of Capital, and, that she is correct in her reading of the volume — two very big ifs, I admit — in his third volume of Capital, Marx is setting us up to understand how the State becomes an absolutely critical and absolutely necessary feature of capitalist society — a matter of life and death for capital. Each of the five symptoms of modern society I cited above are no more than functions taken on by the State to manage capitalist society through its increasingly devastating cycles of booms and busts.

Marx’s law of the tendency toward a decline in the rate of profit is, in reality, a theory of the State. To extend Raya’s statement: Marx’s theory of value is the foundation for his theory of surplus value; his theory of surplus value is the foundation for his theory of the decline in the rate of profit; and, finally, his theory of a decline in the rate of profit is the foundation for his theory of the modern State.

Powerful support for my interpretation of Raya’s argument can be found simply by looking at the title of the paper from which the above quote was drawn: “The despotic plan of capital vs. freely associated labor”. In this paper, Raya counterposes the modern State to the free association of individuals, explicitly arguing that planning arrived at by free association is completely incompatible with the various forms of State management of the economy with which we are familiar: everything from the centralized planning of the Soviet type to the fiscal and monetary levers of neoliberal political-economy. In 1950, with the ink still drying on National Security Council Report 68, Raya was making the argument that, in her words, “If the order of the factory were also in the market, you’d have complete totalitarianism.”

Effort by the State to manage the economy, as envisioned by the Truman administration, had to lead to an increasingly totalitarian reorganization of society. This, apart even from consideration of the aim of that management — which, for Truman, was a means of accruing the resources for a long-term conflict with the Soviet Union — implies the subjugation of the whole of social relationships to the despotism of capital.

Marxists and progressives who see in the increasing entanglement of the State in the economy — as borrower, lender, consumer and employer of last resort — some realization of the possibility for a humane society are not only wrong, but dangerously misguided in their approach to every social issue from the present intractable unemployment, to poverty, to every form of inequality, the environment and global relations. They are trying to use as a solution the very instrument of society which maintains those evils and makes their continuation possible.

Six reasons why Marxists and progressives need to oppose unemployment compensation

December 21, 2010 2 comments

I received this response to my post, What help for the 99ers? (Part four: It’s not personal), yesterday on GonzoTimes:

Turn your soul off. Turn your humanity off. Turn your brain off. And voila, you’ve turned into a Republican “pro-lifer” who says “screw the poor”. Genius!

The comment was a bit cryptic to me. Is the writer saying I have become a Republican pro-lifer who hates the poor? I could not be sure so I responded with this gem in a moment of anger:

If your cryptic comment is directed at me, I take offense — not with your remark, but with the phony humanitarianism hidden behind it. Giving the unemployed $300 a week does nothing to address the causes of unemployment, which is Washington itself. If you are moved by the plight of the 99ers, as I am, I suggest you link up and find ways to support them on an authentic basis, rather than mailing your support in via your taxes. But, more important, I hope you will be moved to fight to reduce hours of work to abolish unemployment and the system that creates it permanently.

You might also consider Badiou’s critique of phony humanitarianism in his book, Ethics.

I am not satisfied with this response. It was driven as much by defensiveness as by any positive statement on the situation of the 99ers. It, therefore, does nothing to convince those who really support the cause of the 99ers to take another look at their assumptions.

Am I a renegade? The question asked, of course, demands a complete response — not first to the commenter, but to myself. Am I on some slippery slope to the renegacy decried by Badiou? Definitely time for an attitude check, and a deep examination to make sure my humanity was still in working order.

I come away from this moment of self-reflection even more sure of my position and a more fervent opponent of unemployment compensation than before. I do not think my view is one of a renegade or heartless conservative, but one who remains committed to the aims I have stood for since I was a teenager and first encountered the idea of communism. I put forth below six reasons why I think it is the classical communist position to oppose unemployment compensation:

The question I asked myself is this: Would Marx have supported unemployment compensation in his day? And, my answer to that was, “Yes.” Without a doubt he would have advocated for it, and considered it a demand consistent with the aim of communism — a measure designed to protect the working class from the vagaries and misery of the business cycle. So, why am I advocating against it? This is not Marx’s day. In his day periodic crises were common enough and no more than temporary lulls between periods of expansion during which the productive capacity of society was being augmented by capital. The scale of production was being increased, and the numbers of laborers moving from agriculture into industry was, however subject to fluctuations and sudden fits and stops, progressively converting the labor process from that of solitary farmers into massive engines of immediately social production. The process was not pretty, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was moving society generally in the direction of the abolition of labor.

Today it is otherwise. Society is drowning in its own productive capacity and we face a State that, for its own purposes, seeks to drive us under altogether. This requires we rethink all our assumptions. So here are my thoughts:

First. Today’s crises are not the mere interruption of an otherwise revolutionary reconstitution and enhancement of the productive power of labor. They are  failures of State measures to facilitate the constant expansion of completely superfluous labor. Supporting unemployment compensation today, when unemployment is no longer a temporary condition but a permanent feature of an economy drowning in a surplus population of able-bodied workers, and when the only effective policy to reduce this surplus population is to reduce hours of labor, is a travesty.

Second. Just as this crisis is not a momentary cessation between periods of expansion of capital, so it is not an accident, defect, or aberration. It has been established by economists that we are facing a long-term secular decline in Washington’s capacity to force the creation of new jobs. Washington’s tools of fiscal and monetary policy are gradually becoming ineffective in stimulating superfluous economic activity. It is also requiring more aggressive measures to produce the same effect — much like in the case of a junkie requiring larger doses of his preferred substance to achieve the same high. Washington is now creating massive amounts of new debt each month in a desperate attempt to keep this ugly Ponzi scheme right side up. The declining effectiveness of job creating measures stems not from lack of serious effort on Washington’s part, but on the very goal of the effort itself: to create work where there is no need for work.

Third. The strategy adopted by Washington to create unnecessary work was predicted to fail by many economists during the housing bubble; and at least as early as 1993, Hyman Minsky predicted a financial disaster was unfolding before our eyes. He warned of just the kinds of Ponzi schemes that Washington was facilitating in its deregulation of financial activities in its desperation to lengthen the working day by encouraging working families to accumulate unprecedentedly large personal debts. Despite these warnings, Washington, under the Clinton administration, and again under the Bush II administration, facilitated this accumulating family debt and even put in place measures to prevent working families from declaring bankruptcy to relieve themselves of it. Fully two thirds of all job creation during that period resulted from such debt accumulation.

Fourth. Beyond this, Marx and many other writers warned that a collapse of capital was inevitable. The growing output of industry resulting from improvements in productivity of social labor, Marx explained, was running into declining demand for productive employment of labor resulting from this improvement. In its drive to accumulate surplus, capital was making the ever increasing employment of superfluous labor into the necessary condition for the employment of productive labor. In time it would, he argued, become a matter of life or death for capital to find some means to increase the absolute waste of human labor in order to support profitable investment. That time arrived during the Great Depression when every industrialized nation suffered a catastrophic economic failure, and the State stepped in as the ultimate consumer of commodities and labor power rendered superfluous by overly long hours of work. Efforts by many to reduce hours of work during that period were defeated in Washington, which went on to erase the possibility of less work time from political-economic conversation.

Fifth. Despite all of the above, an argument could be made that we are nevertheless forced to support unemployment compensation because we have no power to change the situation in the short run. I think this argument is specious and even misleading: Unemployment compensation is exactly the wrong measure to pursue at present because it asks people to identify with the very cause of their unemployment. It is the political equivalent of asking people to lobby Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for handouts to ease their poverty. This “progressive” solution to the problem of the ever lengthening work day, which is the entire basis for the present unemployment, is to ask the very institution in society responsible for unemployment to ease the impact of the problem it created in the first place. We have to wake up to the fact that Washington is not a neutral actor in this play: it is the largest single consumer of surplus value in the society — and in human history; beside it, every other consumer — all “the rich” taken in their entirety — run a poor second. Washington not only knows the consequences of its policies, it fucking intends to create those consequences! The whole of its policies are designed to press the consumption of the mass of society to the lowest possible level in order that it may feed on the resultant surplus.

Sixth. We should be completely offended by the very concept of State aid for unemployment in any case. The entire argument for it, as offered by progressives and Marxists, rests on the image of the unemployed as helpless victims who must be protected from the vagaries of economic forces. As Badiou might argue, this image is completely isolated from its social context. The image of the suffering victim does not ask us how this pathetic creature came to be in her circumstance, nor does it seek to identify who caused her suffering. We are left with the need to do something — anything — to end the suffering. But, what? It is all too easy to write your congressperson or senator demanding an end to the suffering, and then sit comfortably at home watching the progress of the bill on the Rachel Maddow Show — self-satisfied that you did your part, and outraged at those who didn’t.

I am sorry, but I do demand you do something — something real, something authentic! I demand you go out of your house and find 99ers, create a network of support among folks in your community to support all 99ers. Make their plight your own in voluntary association with others. And, demand Washington cease to exist.

Veterans for Peace White House Civil Disobedience to End War

December 20, 2010 2 comments

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Categories: Uncategorized

Challenging The Paradigm: A reply to PunkJohnnyCash

December 20, 2010 2 comments

In his thought provoking essay, Capitalism vs. Communism Challenging The Paradigm, I think PunkJohnnyCash has posed exactly the right question for our times:

Can the Capitalism vs. Communism paradigm be challenged just as so many of us have found the flaw in a left-right paradigm?

To my mind, this is the most important question of the year as it closes and we begin 2011.

What I have tried to argue in my posts, What help for the 99ers?, and on my blog for some time, is that the demand of the Left for the abolition of Capital and that of the Right for abolition of the State are the mirror forms of the same demand for the abolition of unnecessary Labor. Capital is a mode of production of surplus value based on the continuous extension of labor time beyond that duration necessary to satisfy human need. The State is nothing more than this same mass of superfluous labor time congealed into the form of a repressive, expansionist machinery of political, economic, legal and military coercion.

In economic terms, the State is the necessary companion of Capital, because it provides the types of superfluous expenditures which become increasingly important to Capital. As the mode of production achieves an extraordinary high level of development, the unprecedented productivity of labor itself becomes a barrier to profitable investment. The enormous and growing quantities of goods issuing from industry rests on the productive activity of an ever shrinking number of productively employed laborers. At the same time, an ever increasing mass of laborers are utterly cut off from any productive employment, and would be cut off from all employment were it not for the direct and indirect expenditures of the State.

At the same time, in Capital, the State — long a vile, unspeakably filthy, grotesque pustule on the body of human society — found a new source of superfluous economic nourishment on which it could feed; enlarging itself, establishing new tentacles deep into the interior of society and reaching beyond its local place of birth to feed on an ever widening circle of nations with the establishment of military bases, gained through uninterrupted imperialist adventures — at once, gorging itself on the superfluous labor of society and expanding the scale of its production. With the increase in the productivity of labor resulting from Capital’s desire to maximize profits, an even more rapidly increasing portion of all economic activity fed this parasite on society. Millions of laborers who would otherwise be unemployable found positions in the State as functionaries, bureaucrats and paper-pushers of every conceivable sort — rivaled only by the domestic industry of advocates, lobbyists and frauds, who daily discover new threats, domestic or foreign to the national interest; new, previously unknown, social maladies that require urgent government intervention; new reasons to tax some substance or regulate it, or require a prescription for it, or jail those who use it; new reasons to raid the public coffers, shake down the taxpayer, or further expand the nation’s debt to the banking houses on Wall Street, and, of course, a massive cottage industry of defense, police, intelligence, and penal contractors, manufacturers, and support services.

As PunkJohnnyCash has pointed out the Capitalism versus Communism paradigm is as false and misleading as the Left-Right paradigm. Capitalism offers nothing to society but more of what I have described above, and communism has no positive vision of a new society: understood properly, and not in the caricature of the vulgar Marxist, “Philosophically,” states the French philosopher, Alain Badiou, “communism has a purely negative meaning.”

Marx, in his own words, simply described communism as an event — a revolutionary movement of society — an “alteration of men on a mass scale” …  “in which, further, the proletariat rids itself of everything that still clings to it from its previous position in society.” He offered little on what society would look like in the aftermath of such an event beyond this:

Only at this stage does self-activity coincide with material life, which corresponds to the development of individuals into complete individuals and the casting-off of all natural limitations. The transformation of labour into self-activity corresponds to the transformation of the earlier limited intercourse into the intercourse of individuals as such. With the appropriation of the total productive forces through united individuals, private property comes to an end. Whilst previously in history a particular condition always appeared as accidental, now the isolation of individuals and the particular private gain of each man have themselves become accidental.

What would this society look like? To the ill-placed frustration of many, Marx never speculated on this question, only that this event marks both the ridding of the old “muck of ages”, and the founding of a new society. Moreover, he decidedly separated himself from those who constructed plans or schemes for a new society.

And, there is a reason for this: under the conditions described by Marx, there are no longer any external constraints — natural or man-made — on the actions of the individual. This would be true for two reasons: first, assuming sufficient development of the productivity of labor, we are freed from the requirement to work — which becomes a matter of personal preference, and, therefore, expresses only the innate human need to be productive and creative. On the other hand, with the end of unnecessary labor, the State is entirely discarded and replaced with the free, voluntary, association of individuals.

Under these circumstances, there are no necessary principles on which to found our relationships with other members of society — in the sense of a set of external economic or political laws or constraints on our activities and relationships — and, thus, no possible way of conceiving what society might look like in the aftermath of such an event.

Although I can be very wrong on this, what I have concluded from Marx’s writings on communism is this: far from being the anti-pole of capitalism, in the writing of Marx, at least, communism is not a “new society” that can be counter-posed to capitalism, as the Soviet Union was counter-posed to the United States as great powers during the Cold War, communism is, instead, the concluding event of capitalism itself — an event in which the members of society put an end to the State, Labor, and Capital; and replace them all with their voluntary association.

I am very eager to hear what others have to say on this.

Challenging The Paradigm: A reply to PunkJohnnyCash

In his thought provoking essay, Capitalism vs. Communism Challenging The Paradigm, I think PunkJohnnyCash has posed exactly the right question for our times:

Can the Capitalism vs. Communism paradigm be challenged just as so many of us have found the flaw in a left-right paradigm?

To my mind, this is the most important question of the year as it closes and we begin 2011.

What I have tried to argue in my posts, What help for the 99ers?, and on my blog for some time, is that the demand of the Left for the abolition of Capital and that of the Right for abolition of the State are the mirror forms of the same demand for the abolition of unnecessary Labor. Capital is a mode of production of surplus value based on the continuous extension of labor time beyond that duration necessary to satisfy human need. The State is nothing more than this same mass of superfluous labor time congealed into the form of a repressive, expansionist machinery of political, economic, legal and military coercion.

In economic terms, the State is the necessary companion of Capital, because it provides the types of superfluous expenditures which become increasingly important to Capital. As the mode of production achieves an extraordinary high level of development, the unprecedented productivity of labor itself becomes a barrier to profitable investment. The enormous and growing quantities of goods issuing from industry rests on the productive activity of an ever shrinking number of productively employed laborers. At the same time, an ever increasing mass of laborers are utterly cut off from any productive employment, and would be cut off from all employment were it not for the direct and indirect expenditures of the State.

At the same time, in Capital, the State — long a vile, unspeakably filthy, grotesque pustule on the body of human society — found a new source of superfluous economic nourishment on which it could feed; enlarging itself, establishing new tentacles deep into the interior of society and reaching beyond its local place of birth to feed on an ever widening circle of nations with the establishment of military bases, gained through uninterrupted imperialist adventures — at once, gorging itself on the superfluous labor of society and expanding the scale of its production. With the increase in the productivity of labor resulting from Capital’s desire to maximize profits, an even more rapidly increasing portion of all economic activity fed this parasite on society. Millions of laborers who would otherwise be unemployable found positions in the State as functionaries, bureaucrats and paper-pushers of every conceivable sort — rivaled only by the domestic industry of advocates, lobbyists and frauds, who daily discover new threats, domestic or foreign to the national interest; new, previously unknown, social maladies that require urgent government intervention; new reasons to tax some substance or regulate it, or require a prescription for it, or jail those who use it; new reasons to raid the public coffers, shake down the taxpayer, or further expand the nation’s debt to the banking houses on Wall Street, and, of course, a massive cottage industry of defense, police, intelligence, and penal contractors, manufacturers, and support services.

As PunkJohnnyCash has pointed out the Capitalism versus Communism paradigm is as false and misleading as the Left-Right paradigm. Capitalism offers nothing to society but more of what I have described above, and communism has no positive vision of a new society: understood properly, and not in the caricature of the vulgar Marxist, “Philosophically,” states the French philosopher, Alain Badiou, “communism has a purely negative meaning.”

Marx, in his own words, simply described communism as an event — a revolutionary movement of society — an “alteration of men on a mass scale” …  “in which, further, the proletariat rids itself of everything that still clings to it from its previous position in society.” He offered little on what society would look like in the aftermath of such an event beyond this:

Only at this stage does self-activity coincide with material life, which corresponds to the development of individuals into complete individuals and the casting-off of all natural limitations. The transformation of labour into self-activity corresponds to the transformation of the earlier limited intercourse into the intercourse of individuals as such. With the appropriation of the total productive forces through united individuals, private property comes to an end. Whilst previously in history a particular condition always appeared as accidental, now the isolation of individuals and the particular private gain of each man have themselves become accidental.

What would this society look like? To the ill-placed frustration of many, Marx never speculated on this question, only that this event marks both the ridding of the old “muck of ages”, and the founding of a new society. Moreover, he decidedly separated himself from those who constructed plans or schemes for a new society.

And, there is a reason for this: under the conditions described by Marx, there are no longer any external constraints — natural or man-made — on the actions of the individual. This would be true for two reasons: first, assuming sufficient development of the productivity of labor, we are freed from the requirement to work — which becomes a matter of personal preference, and, therefore, expresses only the innate human need to be productive and creative. On the other hand, with the end of unnecessary labor, the State is entirely discarded and replaced with the free, voluntary, association of individuals.

Under these circumstances, there are no necessary principles on which to found our relationships with other members of society — in the sense of a set of external economic or political laws or constraints on our activities and relationships — and, thus, no possible way of conceiving what society might look like in the aftermath of such an event.

Although I can be very wrong on this, what I have concluded from Marx’s writings on communism is this: far from being the anti-pole of capitalism, in the writing of Marx, at least, communism is not a “new society” that can be counter-posed to capitalism, as the Soviet Union was counter-posed to the United States as great powers during the Cold War, communism is, instead, the concluding event of capitalism itself — an event in which capital concludes its development by abolishing itself.

I am very eager to hear what others have to say on this.

A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

From here

PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch.

His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length. 

The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet.

The guards at the confinement facility are professional. At no time have they tried to bully, harass, or embarrass PFC Manning. Given the nature of their job, however, they do not engage in conversation with PFC Manning.

At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up (on weekends, he is allowed to sleep until 7:00 a.m.). Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.

He is allowed to watch television during the day. The television stations are limited to the basic local stations. His access to the television ranges from 1 to 3 hours on weekdays to 3 to 6 hours on weekends.

He cannot see other inmates from his cell. He can occasionally hear other inmates talk. Due to being a pretrial confinement facility, inmates rarely stay at the facility for any length of time. Currently, there are no other inmates near his cell.

From 7:00 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., he is given correspondence time. He is given access to a pen and paper. He is allowed to write letters to family, friends, and his attorneys.

Each night, during his correspondence time, he is allowed to take a 15 to 20 minute shower.

On weekends and holidays, he is allowed to have approved visitors see him from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.

He is allowed to receive letters from those on his approved list and from his legal counsel. If he receives a letter from someone not on his approved list, he must sign a rejection form. The letter is then either returned to the sender or destroyed.

He is allowed to have any combination of up to 15 books or magazines. He must request the book or magazine by name. Once the book or magazine has been reviewed by the literary board at the confinement facility, and approved, he is allowed to have someone on his approved list send it to him. The person sending the book or magazine to him must do so through a publisher or an approved distributor such as Amazon. They are not allowed to mail the book or magazine directly to PFC Manning.

Due to being held on Prevention of Injury (POI) watch:

PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day.

The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.

He receives each of his meals in his cell.

He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets. However, he is given access to two blankets and has recently been given a new mattress that has a built-in pillow.

He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.

He is only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read in his cell. The book or magazine is taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep.

He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.

He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.

When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.

The full story by Glenn Greenwald

Categories: Off Blog, Uncategorized

AnonOps Communications: Tell us USA, Who Is The Terrorist?

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

This video has been removed from YouTube because they do not want you to see what your government doing in its wars.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Categories: Uncategorized

What help for the 99ers? (Part four: It’s not personal)

December 19, 2010 2 comments

I did not mean to go on this long on the dire future of the 99ers. I wanted only to show the connection between their demand for assistance and the demand for the abolition of the State — and, of Washington, which is the headquarters of the machinery of State, its coercive machinery of repression and imperialist adventures. Nevertheless, I am drawn to extend this thread by things which occur to me in the course of considering the 99ers, who are our family and friends, neighbors and buddies, and who, without some bold step by us all, will become the fulcrum to impose a devastating austerity on us all.

“The law, in its majestic equality,” says, Anatole France, “forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” In this elegant sentence, France encapsulates the entirety of the relation between the individual and modern society: the State exists as an immediate totality; ideally, its laws are meant to apply to all equally without regard to the circumstances of any particular individual. Seen in the most favorable light, all we can hope to achieve under the conditions of modern society is the equal application of State laws over a society composed of individuals who are anything but equal in their actual circumstances, wants, needs or desires. To actually function as the representative of a society gripped by such vast inequality as our own, Washington essentially must be indifferent to that inequality, to presume no more than the typical circumstances. Only by being indifferent to the manifold miseries of its citizens can Washington truly represent them.

And, this is also true for unemployment: insofar as Washington is concerned, the unemployed worker is a devastating insult to the Puritan Ethic — it is the tool of Satan’s workshop, a potential source of civil unrest and Bolshevik militancy, an existential threat to the existing order. But, this worker as constituted by capital are not the actual living breathing individual workers as they really exist. but only the collective mass of these immediately social laborers, which mass exists as a totality and only within this totality. This collective worker is, of course, composed of individuals of varying demographic characteristics which are to each, on the one hand, advantages — such as education, skills, and social, familial, ethnic relationships, etc. — and, on the other hand, disadvantages — skin color, national origin, sexual orientation, language, etc. Position within this hierarchy of the collective laborer, thus, appear altogether arbitrary and at once the result of certain fixed prejudices within the society or the result of certain “objective” qualities — education, skills, etc.

The State, for its own purpose, as representative of society, may enforce laws preventing discrimination against certain individual characteristics, or promote the development of certain skill sets or level of education, but, to the extent it pursues these goals, it does not do so because of its desire to improve the lot of the individual worker, but to perfect the collective worker as a collective worker — that is, as a body capable of producing surplus value.

Washington’s indifference to the fate of the 99ers should not be confused with an indifference toward unemployment in general; Washington is keen that the collective worker should work as many hours as can be squeezed into a single social workday and seeks to maximize those hours through its fiscal and monetary policies. Its goal, whether unemployment be high or low, always is to work this collective body to the legal limit of the workday. It is, by contrast, only indifferent to which individuals composing this collective body actually work and which starve. Washington’s indifference to the 99ers, to quote Tom Hagen, “is business not personal.”

The indifference of Washington to the fate of the 99ers is only a reflexive expression of its hostility to reducing the legally mandated limit on hours of labor. Since the aim of the State is always and under all circumstances to maximize its enlargement, it must, of necessity seek to extend the work day not merely beyond the time needed to produce the commodities required by the collective body of workers, but also beyond that required to the collective body of capitalists to expand the scale of production. Since, capital’s hunger for profit knows no bounds, the State knows no limit to its own enlargement. Thus, the State’s ceaseless stimulation of profitable economic activity results in the ceaseless expansion of the State itself. Washington decries unemployment, but only to the extent that employment reaches what it calls “full employment” — a euphemism for that level of employment where additional State action produces no additional surplus value. It is the task of a vast army of economist functionaries, public, private and academic, to determine by any number of measures where precisely this level is — and, it is the subject of much controversy, which, to the uninitiated, can be confused with an actual interest in the conditions of the working class as individuals, but, in fact, it is just business.

Even if we assume, as does the progressive or vulgar Marxist, that the expansion of the State is necessary for the general improvement of the population of workers who are under increasing financial distress, and suffering misery, it cannot be denied that this expansion must come at the expense of the workers themselves. Their polite demands for laws to be passed to improve the lot of working families amounts — although the progressive would be horrified at the suggestion — to a demand for confiscation of the property of “the rich”, and the assumption by the State of the role of social capitalist. Indeed, it is the self-evident implications of their own demands that cause progressives to pull back from this implicit logic and submit themselves to meekly following in the wake of the Party of Washington — being entirely satisfied with whatever meager realization of their demands against the existing order can be achieved in the cloakroom of Congress. They are reduced to a mere lobby, another one of the special interests with their hands in the pockets of the taxpayer fishing through them for spare change.

On the other hand, their craven cowardice when facing the implications of their own demands, leads them to turn on the workers themselves and chastise them for over-consumption, gluttony and spoiling the planet. The worker is now transformed from a vulnerable victim needing the protection of the State into a greedy malevolent hedonist caring only for his own satisfaction and the world be damned. The logic of the demands require the State erect protection of the working class at their own expense, hence, consumption must be curtailed and taxes raised so that the State, having impoverished the worker, can now rescue him from his impoverishment. In this regard we see a slew of new and increased taxes on the substances commonly consumed by the population of workers that can be labeled as “sinful” — taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, etc. — to fill the ever widening black hole that is government’s need for new sources of revenue.

Progressives completely miss the point here: for government expenditures to have an economic effect, i.e., a stimulative effect on employment, they must be entirely superfluous both to the consumption of the working class, and to the requirements of capital as such; that is, to the productive employment of labor and the expansion of the means to productively employ labor. But, the phrase, “the consumption of the working class”, includes the consumption of both those workers who are productively employed and those workers who are unproductively employed, as well as those who are altogether unemployed and living on government assistance. Simply put: to render “aid” to the 99ers by political means, the State must be indifferent to them and their daily increasing misery; it must do precisely those things which offer no assistance to them, impoverish them still further, and meet no human need, whatsoever.

It’s not personal; it is just the way the mode of production operates.

What help for the 99ers? (Part three)

December 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Why is Washington so implacably hostile to a reduction of hours of work as the solution to unemployment? And, why has it abandoned the 99ers to their fate?

The answer to these questions is simple: Washington depends on the unpaid hours of labor wrung from the working population as much as capital itself. Washington is not a neutral party when it comes to hours of labor; it is, without exception, the largest single consumer of surplus labor time in society. The entirety of its revenues amount to the unpaid labor of society either directly, in the form of taxes, or indirectly, in the resources it controls through debt or money printing.

This fact is never admitted by progressives, nor even by vulgar proponents of Marx’s theory. The argument made by the Marxists against the current State amounts not to a recognition that the machinery of state shares with capital the total pot of surplus labor time, and, as a result, must be interested in the longest possible duration of unpaid labor, but only that this machinery is under the control of capital and should instead be controlled by the working class. The progressive critique of the State amounts to a demand that this unpaid labor time be devoted to the “improvement of society”; the typical vulgar proponent of Marx differs from this only in that he proposes this be under the direction of a working class party. Neither raises the demand for the abolition of all unnecessary labor, and with it, the state in its entirety.

When the Great Depression erupted Washington suddenly had access to billions of hours of unpaid social labor which it, along with the other great powers, immediately set about throwing into preparation for World War II. Government, already the largest single consumer of unpaid labor time in society, expanded monstrously – consuming perhaps as much as 40 percent of national output. But, in the aftermath of that horrible conflict, we really see its voracious hunger, and insatiable lust for surplus as the Truman administration conceived of and implemented a policy of a permanent war footing: The Cold War.

In his annual message to the Congress, delivered January 12, 1951, Truman opened with these words announcing the birth of the national security state:

We face enormously greater economic problems, as I transmit this fifth annual Economic Report, than at any time since the end of World War II. Although our economic strength is now greater than ever before, very large new burdens of long duration are now being imposed upon it.

The United States is pledged and determined, along with other free peoples, to cheek [sic] aggression and to advance freedom. Arrayed against the free world are large and menacing forces. The great manpower under the control of Soviet communism is being driven with fanatic zeal to build up military and industrial strength. We invite disaster if we underestimate the forces working against us.

The economic strength of the free peoples of the world is, however, superior to that of their enemies. If the free nations mobilize and direct their strength properly, they can support whatever military effort may be necessary to avert a general war or to win such a war if it comes. The resources are on our side. The only question is whether they will be used with speed and determination. The answer will depend upon unity of purpose and of action–unity among the free nations, unity here in the United States.

Unity is imperative on the economic front. On this front, under the American system, everybody is involved–every businessman, worker and farmer; every banker and scientist and housewife; every man and woman. We can win our way through to ultimate triumph if we all pull together. Decisive action, essential to our safety, should not be halted by controversy now.

Truman, in his report, explains the implications of a conflict with the Soviet Union of a very long duration:

These manpower needs will call both for increasing our labor force by reducing unemployment and drawing in women and older workers, and for lengthening hours of work in essential industries. These manpower requirements can be met. There will be manpower shortages, but they can be solved.

For those readers whose critical facilities have been dulled by countless hours of exposure to American Idol, what we have here are the words of a craven hustler — a two-bit con artist trying to sell you something you don’t need. Washington is in the business of selling security and its sales methodology is the practice of sowing fear of chaos, terror, and the unspeakable strange unknown. This sales strategy required the creation of an adversary to the “American system”, as well as its domestic avatar buried deep within the populace, to create a pervasive sense of vulnerability and distress among the population. It doesn’t matter that this adversary is Soviet communism or “Islamofascism”, nor that its domestic avatar appear in the form of a devout Muslim citizen or communist trade union activist; what matters is that the threat be, at the same time, pervasive and discrete, universal and particular, potentially life-threatening and merely strange.

This impeccably crafted direct appeal to the collective lizard brain of society, which paralyzes critical thought as our painfully slow brain tries to calculate the odds that the Sikh gentleman sitting in front of us on the bus might be strapped with explosives — renders critical thinking useless, and, therefore, a mere impediment to the apprehension of our empirical circumstances, reduces each of us to a suggestible sheeple, and set us up for acquiescence to the burden of providing Washington with ever greater hours of unpaid labor.

On the one hand, this “service” provided by Washington is very profitable to capital in its own right, since it requires enormous amounts of otherwise unprofitable output in the form of every imaginable thing from paperclips to the most advanced spy satellites, and launchers to put them in orbit. On the other hand, the demand for these products are the very kinds of superfluous expenditures that become increasingly necessary for the continuation of this social form of production.

Once the identity of interest between capital and the State in the longest possible extension of hours of labor is established, it is possible to understand not only Washington’s hostility to work time reduction as the means to end unemployment, but also its imposition of the regime of global competition on the American economy, its facilitation of companies moving industrial facilities and service jobs off-shore, and its hypocritical promotion of amnesty for undocumented immigrants: the capitalist state is a state that must operate according the laws of capital because it is founded entirely on the consumption of the surplus labor created by capital.

It also helps us explain the abandonment of the 99ers to their fate, the impending evisceration of the social safety net and the brutality of the austerity regime now being prepared by Washington. Far from merely falling under the control of Wall Street, Washington itself wants and needs this brutal assault on the living standards of Americans because all other methods of increasing the extraction of surplus value have failed.

What help for the 99ers? (Part two)

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

In my rant yesterday, What help for the 99ers?, I made an argument why folks who support the 99ers should nevertheless oppose extension of unemployment compensation beyond 99 weeks. That argument made what might be considered an obscure connection between the unemployed and the large body of “public servants” who compose the state machinery of repression, totalitarian control and imperial expansion.

Let me add a few remarks to clarify how I see this connection.

To do this, we have to look at Karl Marx — not the infamous icon of Marxism, but the real guy, the writer and, to some extent, anthropologist of capitalist society — Often the two get conflated, so that, for instance, the utterances of any knucklehead running around with a copy of the Communist Manifesto sometimes is mistaken for the actual words written down on paper by the original person.

In Marx’s model of capitalist society, the unemployed worker is not an accidental occurrence and should not be treated apart from the labor force itself. The unemployed worker is a reserve force available to capital for those periods where new profitable opportunities or requirements for additional labor suddenly open up. The idled worker makes it possible for these new areas to be exploited by providing the additional labor capacity necessary to take advantage of them. This reserve also serves a function of depressing wages during times of depressions, when capital rationalizes its operation to resume profitable expansion by pressing wages below their cyclical average.

Thus, unlike economists, who treat unemployment as an aberration, a defect, or failure of the market, Marx believed a relative surplus population of workers was essential to the functioning of the capitalist system of production itself. The constant expansion and contraction of the labor reserve is consistent with his comprehensive model of capital in which, for example, the price of a good had to fluctuate according to the laws of supply and demand, and only reflected the value of the good through the moving average of these fluctuations. Capitalism is a social system of production carried on by millions of individuals acting privately — unless the system itself had flexibility to adjust to billions of differing and even contradictory decisions each day it would soon break apart.

In times of unusually vigorous expansion, and even for war, the great mass of this population of unemployed would be “called up” (both metaphorically and actually in the case of the military draft) to fill needed positions in industry or on the battlefield. Thus, the “liquidity” of the reserve source of labor power is not simply a matter of business concern, but also a matter of state. So, for example, it is not a surprise to see a statement by White House in the debate over the DREAM Act explaining why the act would be useful for its ongoing military operations:

Secretary of Defense Gates has written to DREAM Act sponsors citing the rich precedent of non-citizens serving in the U.S. military and stating that “the DREAM Act represents an opportunity to expand [the recruiting] pool, to the advantage of military recruiting and readiness.

The size of the reserve labor force is not determined by the means available to expand the scale of productive activity, but to expand activity that creates profit and for purposes of State. But, this purely cyclical movement in unemployment is not of the least concern to us, because it merely masks a longer term trend identified by Marx: the conversion of this reserve labor force from a relative oversupply of labor into an absolute oversupply of labor.

Over time the improvement in the productive capacity of labor — by augmentation with new types of machinery, new methods of organizing work, application of new scientific knowledge, and technology — is increased to such an extent that the relative proportion of workers who can be employed productively shrinks and a permanently unemployable reserve of labor emerges. (Today, this unemployable reserve consists not only of the 99ers, but also a massive hidden population of young people who have never entered the labor force and who, in addition,  compose the largest part of the swollen prison population.) This permanently unemployable reserve — a growing stratum of the labor force rendered entirely superfluous by the advance of industry — loses its opportunity to engage in productive labor and is reduced to serving only as a market for the output of the productively employed labor force.

Along with the emergence of a permanently displaced population of workers we find the emergence of the fascist state — a peculiar type of state organism combining both a permanent war footing with an extensive social safety network of state provided services. Although this state is typically identified with German Nazism and Italian Fascism it is not limited to them, but emerges in all the industrialized nations during the Great Depression, and is the essential feature of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The social basis of these fascistic entities is the general clamor among all classes in capitalist society for state action to preserve the conditions of existence of the society; namely, the purchase and sale of labor power. It is for this reason the fascist state appears on the scene as the embodiment of the national interest and asserts the populist idea of a national rebirth through a pan-class coalition.

The charge of this state, as imposed by general social demand on it, is to employ the unemployable, and hence, to provide the demand for the output of industry. From this point, political-economy becomes concerned with the problem of consumption of the massive and ever growing output of industry. The fact that the emergence of an absolute oversupply of labor implies the possibility of a drastic reduction in hours of labor for all in society, and, therefore, the awareness of the possibility that society might be entirely freed from labor and the system of domination inherent in the division of labor is, from this point, not only ignored, but actively suppressed. Thus, we see, from the end of World War II, that discussion of the idea improving productivity would lead to the abolition of labor disappears from economic textbooks — to be replaced by the phrase, “the lump of labor fallacy”.

The erasure from economic textbooks of the idea that a reduction and ultimate abolition of labor was the probable outcome of improving productivity foreshadowed last night’s news that the House of Representatives had abandoned the 99ers to their fate. As we showed in the case of the Obama administration, Washington is not merely unaware that unemployment can be wiped out by drastically reducing hours of work, it is hostile to the idea.

Why is Washington ignoring the 99ers, and why is it hostile to the great question of work time reduction? We will answer this in the next post.