Home > General Comment, shorter work time > How to kill the Fascist State in one easy lesson

How to kill the Fascist State in one easy lesson

In response to my article, “Open letter to 99ers: ‘Stop whining and start fighting intelligently‘” Matt posed a series of questions/objections to my line of reasoning:

Just make everyone work less is your magic solution? First of all, how would you force employers to lower working hours? By pointing guns at them?

Further if I were to work 20 hours a week instead of 40 in order for it to cost nothing then I’d have have to take a 50% paycut. Oh wait that costs me something, not nothing. This means I can no longer afford to live where I live and still feed my family.

This is a pretty poorly thought out solution. I expected more intelligence from Gonzo times.

In a later comment Matt added:

Why would anyone other than unemployed people voluntarily agree to do any of these things?

Obviously if i could work 20 hours a week and make the same amount of money, I would do that. However I think I would have a difficult time convincing my employer that they should pay me the same amount of money to do half as much work.

Are you saying that employers should be forced to pay overtime for any work over 20 hours a week? Who would force them to do this? the government? the unemployed? if the work could be easily be shared between an employed person and an unemployed one then current workers have no leverage since they could simply be replaced completely by one of the masses of unemployed.

No one is using force to keep people employed, anyone can quit anytime they wish. They are only slaves voluntarily.The use of force to stop people from interacting in a voluntary manner is the domain of government. If that’s what you want then just be honest about it.

The unemployed could start competing businesses if governmental regulatory/licensing anti-competition laws were removed. This would be a better solution than pointing guns at employers who employ people on a voluntary basis. If you threaten employers you’ll probably end up with less of them.

A comment from Neverfox ran along the same lines:

Call me cynical but I can’t imagine a scenario in which the Fascist State takes any action to reduce labor hours by decree and I don’t particularly like the idea of using state violence to enforce such a limit on labor hours. I’m not even sure that’s what you are suggesting must be done. So my question to you is what can anarchists, libertarians and Marxists do, outside of the state and a reformist mindset, to bring about this reduction in labor hours? What kind of direct action might strike at the root of this problem?

In response to my answer, Neverfox added:

Call me cynical, but it seems you are saying wage slaves should remain wages slaves because ending their slavery involves forcing their exploiters to observe a 20 hour work week consistent with an end to the horror of unemployment?

I didn’t say anything of the sort. There is quite a difference between an argument that force is justified and an argument that a) the state should be the source of that force and b) getting them to do that is even a remotely effective strategy.

What do you expect an anarchist to say when you suggest that the solution to their problem is the state? The entire point of anarchism is the idea that the state isn’t needed to effect change and certainly isn’t to be trusted to do the right thing. Surely we can come up with something better than “pass a law and send in the popo” or whatever. If we can thank an anarchist for the 40-hour week, could we not end up thanking one for the 20-hour week?

Opposing the Wage Slavery Reduction Act means opposing ending wage slavery? It just ain’t so.

What I need to know from you is whether the use of force is always impermissible?

Of course not. Pacifism is the very denial of rights. But why should I go to my Fascist slave masters to get them to defend me?

I clearly have my work cut out for me.

As an unrepentant anti-statist, I must make an argument precisely for an application of statist coercion on the issue of hours of work. I cannot, and should not be allowed to make a pragmatic argument here that statist action is the line of least resistance on this issue. Nor can I be allowed to argue that state action in this case is a general exception to my otherwise staunchly anti-statist position. Finally, I must show why statist action of the type I am proposing is precisely an anti-statist position — that it, of necessity, leads to the abolition of the Fascist State, and is the only path available to the abolition of the Fascist State.

I must prove, in other words, that this statist action is the basis for a humanist anti-politics that leads directly to voluntary association. So here goes nothing.

*****

First, if it looks to you like I have painted myself into a corner, I should state at the outset, I agree with this assessment. I have deliberately gone out of my way over the past year to rule out any easy answers to addressing the problem of taking on and bringing down the Fascist State. I have argued against the idea that wage slavery is the forcible exploitation of the working class by showing how Marx’s and Engels’ theory of exploitation rests entirely on the voluntary sale of labor power — a sale which offers material advantage to the worker as well as the capitalist.

I have also argued that this voluntary relationship alone explains the emergence of the Fascist State itself, and, in contrast to various theories of manufactured consent, made the argument that the Fascist State could not exist on the basis of universal suffrage without continued support or apathy from the vast population of proletarians, who, despite the obvious disadvantages to themselves by maintaining such a state, find the Fascist State to be an essential condition for the sale of their labor power to Capital. The proletariat does not support the Fascist State despite its role in exploitation; rather, they support it because state intervention in the economy is absolutely necessary to continue this exploitation.

Moreover, I have argued the Marxist idea of a political overthrow of the Fascist State is lacking an essential condition necessary for its realization: a class of proletarians with sufficient consciousness of the necessity for this revolution to effect it in voluntary association. Capitalist society, in Marx’s theory, is characterized by a severe Hobbesian competitive environment of all against all, in which the individual finds herself in an all-sided competition, not only with the class of capitalists, but, more important, within her own class as each battles to sell his or her labor power under condition of absolute over-accumulation of, not simply means of production and subsistence, but also a population available to be exploited. Her conditions of life appears altogether accidental and fortuitous, her relations are completely atomized — the emergence of a political awareness of her historical role in putting an end to Capital arising out of this environment seems improbable to me, and becomes more improbable with each passing day.

The prospects for the emergence of some political consensus among proletarians to put an end to its own exploitation and the political relations founded on this exploitation, and to replace these relations with its own voluntary cooperative association appear dismal at best. I think this explains not only the political antipathy and passivity of a large section of Anarchism, but also the political opportunism of both Libertarianism and Marxism — each of which clings submissively to one of the two main parties, unable to establish their own independent position against the Fascist State. Direct revolutionary action seems hopeless, and social revolutionaries seem doomed to complete apathy or some sort of opportunistic reform within the limits of the present state.

To paraphrase the Joker, “Communism needs an enema!”

We need to completely overturn our conception of political activity, by reconceiving this political activity as an anti-politics. That is, we should be prepared to use the levers of Fascist State politics to dismantle the Fascist State itself — an effort directed at encouraging the proletariat to use its effective monopoly of political power to abolish political power completely. Is this an incoherent, self-contradictory idea? Probably, given the way I have just phrased it — perhaps a better way of stating the idea can be found, but the idea itself is a valid response to the paradox inherent in Marx’s theory that the working class voluntarily creates, recreates and ensures the continuation of the conditions of its own exploitation, yet must be the agent of the abolition of all exploitation, including its own. He was not a person given to easy solutions to the complexities of modern society. Simply stated, Marx’s theory can only lead us to the conclusion that the Proletariat must abolish, not the rule of a tiny handful of capitalists, but its own political monopoly, and the material conditions bound up with this monopoly — it must, by its own hand, bury its own state, and with this state, all political rule.

Second, it cannot be argued that communists are always against the use of state power to effect social change: no communist can make a credible argument against the use of state force to end slavery in the Civil War, nor could they make a credible argument that the use of state power to end a century of state enforced segregation and systematic suppression of African-American suffrage was morally wrong or somehow in contradiction to anti-statist principles. In both of these cases, state coercion was employed precisely to dismantle existing forms of exploitation based on state violence and coercion. Having employed state power to dismantle these forms of exploitation, the argument that the Proletariat should not now employ the very same means on its own behalf is suspect to say the least. It is particularly suspect given that the very target of this state force is the Proletariat’s own political rule, and the exploitation which this political power makes possible through its own suffrage. To argue the Proletariat should not employ state coercion to dismantle its own political rule is questionable at the very least. Marx’s theory suggests the only rational way to view the Fascist State is as a state established through the political power of the Proletariat to enforce the conditions necessary for its own exploitation. Given this, I argue all bets are off: the Fascist State is entirely the creation of the Proletariat; killing it by whatever means are available to the Proletariat through its own action is entirely consistent with its historical mission to realize a society founded directly on voluntary association.

Third, I think no one can make the argument use of state force is impermissible as an answer to various present day problems. What communist would argue against abolishing customs, tariffs, limitations on the free movement of commodities, money, individuals between nations, and even abolishing borders between states altogether. No communist would argue against laws ending political interference and involvement in education, culture, medicine and science. No communist would argue against laws ending discrimination in marriage laws, or elimination of laws criminalizing recreational drug use, prostitution, sodomy, and other non-violent, victimless entirely voluntary “offenses”, nor laws demanding complete pardon for all offenses of these types, with the immediate release of prisoners who are currently serving sentences for these alleged infractions against society.

I would also assume no communist would be displeased by impeachment and prosecution of the present and former presidents for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Iraq, and countless overt and covert acts of war against nations who have not engage in, nor are even contemplating, acts of war against the United States; unlawful invasion of the privacy of Americans, deliberate subversion, entrapment and illegal detentions of Americans; and violations of various conventions on treatment of prisoners of war, genocide, etc. Nor would any communist oppose legislation aimed at compelling the withdrawal of U.S. forces from all military bases on foreign territories, dismantling of the vast national security apparatus operating within the United States or overseas, ending all contracts for purchase of war materiale, private security and intelligence contractors, and the like — not to mention renouncing all debt obligations incurred by, and undertaken to effect, the above crimes.

*****

So, when I make the argument that the crisis of unemployment today calls for a general reduction of hours of labor, suggest this general reduction must be on the order of half of the present official work week — some twenty hours — and should be enforced by sanctions amounting to triple or quadruple the normal wage of workers, I am not really breaking any ground on the use of state power against the state itself. By making this argument, I am simply proposing to do all at once, what is being attempted piecemeal in all of the examples I cited above — dismantling the coercive power of the Fascist State.

Both unemployment and the Fascist State presuppose the same thing: a mass of workers who cannot be productively employed under existing relations of production — a mass of labor powers that are locked out of productive employment, and, who must, therefore, be employed directly or indirectly by the Fascist State, left to immediately starve to death, or provided some minimum of subsistence as to effectively amount to a slow starvation unless they show a willingness to accept any wage offered in return for their labor power.

This labor power can be left to starve, as above, or it can be employed by the Fascist State for whatever purposes it determines to be “in the national interest” — they can even be employed as cops to arrest and lock up the remaining portion of the mass of unemployed labor powers on pretext of engaging in some entirely voluntary transaction involving recreational drug use, legitimate political action, etc. Taking into consideration the estimated nine percent of the population now officially counted as unemployed, and the 40-45 percent of the economy now presently directly expended on Fascist State operations, I think it is a safe conservative estimate that more than half of the workers available to be employed in the economy are presently idle or directly/indirectly employed by the Fascist State.

The total supply of labor presently available in the labor market to work, however, is not simply a function of the absolute number of individuals who must sell their labor power; it is also a function of the limitations imposed on the hours to which these labor power can be forced to work in return for their wages. If the number of hours are held constant, the labor supply increases as the number of workers increases, and decreases as this number decreases. But, if the number of workers is held constant, the labor supply increases with the number of hours of work, and decreases in proportion as the number of hours decreases. We can, therefore, reduce the total supply of labor available in the labor market by reducing the number of hours each worker can be compelled to work per week.

This reduction would have a direct impact on the amount of labor available to the Fascist State to engage in its nefarious efforts. First, it would deny the Fascist State the massive over-population of labor power in the labor market that is necessary for it to continue to absorb more than fifty percent of all economic activity. Second, it would greatly reduce the competitive pressures within the working class to sell their labor power under conditions of massive over-supply. This would not simply reduce competitive pressures among the class of proletarians, it might also undercut the Hobbesian atmosphere that operates against formation of class consciousness. Third, the effects of a supply shock delivered to the labor market via a reduction in the available supply of labor must drive wages dramatically higher, reducing inequality generated by Fascist State expenditures themselves — expenditures that divert social resources from satisfaction of human needs to satisfaction of state demand in the form of national security expenditures and public debt service. Fourth, reduction of hours of work itself reduces the need for massive Fascist State efforts to stabilize economic activity brought on by faltering demand for labor power. By aggressively contracting hours of work, insufficient demand produced by weak employment can be eliminated. Last, the impact of a reduction of hours of work on wages itself adds to the pressure on Capital to adopt improved machinery to utilize available labor powers more efficiently. This effect on productivity was observed by Marx at least as early as 1868. Consequently, reducing hours of work has the effect of reducing still further dependence on direct labor, which brings a promise of the elimination of necessary work altogether.

I conclude from my analysis of a reduction of hours of work using Marx’s labor theory of value that a reduction of hours of work is precisely the measure necessary to abolish the Fascist State in its entirety and will, if pursued vigorously, lead to a society of cooperative members whose labor is founded on voluntary association alone.

Have I made a convincing argument? I am willing to hear otherwise. Did my argument live up to the three conditions I initially set forth for it?  You decide.

It is likely I have produced as many questions from readers as I tried to answer. The effort, whatever its flaws, however, should have this result: to force critical communism in its Anarchist, Marxist and Libertarian forms to think creatively about ways to avoid the pitfalls of both self-righteous passivity and embarrassing political dependence in the face of overwhelming support for the Fascist State. We need to figure out how to be the fucking monkey in the wrench or admit our complete irrelevance.

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  1. Kirsten
    July 11, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I think I need to under stand the details and full consequences of your proposal. A couple of initial questions:

    You propose a cap on labor of 20 hours/week. If I now work 40 hours/week at $10/hour, can I then work 20 hours/week at $20/hour and 20 hours/week at $0/hour? Or is there also a corresponding cap on compensation?

    You propose that the 20 hour cap should be enforced by sanctions amounting to triple or quadruple the normal wage of workers. Who is the sanction against- employer or employee or both? Who specifically enforces this and how?

    • July 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      All such sanctions are in the form of overtime pay. The point is to force the owners to improve productivity. As to how pay works out — this can only be determined in general: if you reduce the supply of something, its market price go up. Reduce the supply of labor, and wages must rise.

      The focus, however, is not on productive capital at all — a reduction of hours should have no impact on productive employment. Reduced hours work by squeezing out government spending and debt, which is pure waste.

      • Kirsten
        July 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm

        I’m not sure I understand, so let’s take some examples. Let us say that I hypothetically work right now for 40 hours/week at $10/hour.

        Example 1: My hours are cut back to 20 hours/week at the same pay rate. I now make $200/week instead of the $400/week I earn now. My employer would like me to work more. I think what you are suggesting is that my employer should then be forced by government to pay me 4X my hourly rate for each hour I work over 20/week. So to maintain my 40 hour work week my employer gets now, he pays me (20 hours X $10/hour) + (20 hours X $10/hour X 4) = $1000/week. Is that what you are proposing?

        Let us say that my employer doesn’t like this idea so he tries to find some loopholes.

        Example 2: What’s to stop my employer from cutting my rate of pay? This is simple algebra:
        (20 hours X $x/hour) + (20 hours X $x/hour X 4) = $400
        Solving for x, we get a new hourly rate to maintain my previous weekly total compensation for my previous work hours as $4/hour. What prevents my employer from simply cutting my pay rate by 60%?

        More questions later, but I’ll start with these.

      • Kirsten
        July 13, 2011 at 1:43 am

        To add to my Example 2, I will also say that I think offering me $4/hour for the first 20 hours plus $16/hour for the second 20 hours for a total of $400/week works out well for my employer in any week where I am unable or unwilling to work the full 40 hours. Instead of getting $200 for a 20 hour work week, I will get only $80 for a 20 hour work week in this scenario.

      • July 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

        I placed this answer to your question at Gonzo Times:

        Kirsten,

        Hehe. Your approach to this is entirely to granular. You could as easily ask me the opposite question: “What if my boss, in a sudden fit of generosity, decided to double my wages?”

        The thing about the response to a sudden reduction of labor supply is that we can, theoretically, only foresee the general tendency, not the result in any given case. In your specific case, your boss must figure that you are not an idiot and will immediately go looking for work elsewhere in what is now a very tight labor market. If he does decide he can do without your services, he likely will say this upfront. In the meantime, there are thousands of employers who will need additional labor to fill their orders. You will be able to tell you employer to kiss your butt.

  2. Jefferson
    July 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I understand the halving of the labor supply if hours are reduced by 50%. If this happened, I would suddenly find myself with 20 free hours now. What’s to stop me from filling the increased demand for labor and hiring in at the competitor’s place for the other 20 hours?? There goes the labor drought, no?

    • July 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      Nothing would stop you, Jefferson. Just as nothing stops you from working 120 hours now by holding down three jobs. There are quite a few folks who do this. I think it is fair to say, as is now the case , that some will want to work more hours and some fewer hours. But, in general, the reduction in hours combined with the dramatic increase in wages should allow most folks to meet their needs without holding multiple jobs. In fact, an important contributor to the practice of holding multiple jobs right now are the poor wages created by too many hours of work.

      What do you think?

      • Jefferson
        July 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

        yep. you got me. I didn’t think it through enough. The demand is increased because labor supply is suddenly halved.
        I can’t recall but i assume the wage increase is due to the same sudden demand for labor so yea, crap, if I suddenly was making 50% more at my job for half the hours, I guess I would stay home and garden and go boating. Maybe in winter I’d pick up an extra job to make even more moolah :).

        But to start this whole ball rolling, we somehow need to make the (fascist) State enact rules/laws dictating that we all now work for half the time? Why would any of the corrupt enablers want to help pass that legislation?

        Please excuse my lack of recall for details at the moment, I read this last night and then lots of FOFOA (not sure if you know that blog) since then and could be mixing things in my head. I’m going to re read this. thanks for the reply and discussion.

      • Jefferson
        July 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

        ok, well I about repeated exactly those persons you quoted from. dooh!
        Yes, I think you made a good argument. It makes much sense IMO. Very crafty and outside the box. I guess where I’m havin trouble is envisioning this moving forward. The so called evil empire would see this for what it is. I just don’t know how you’d get this ball rolling.

        the other thought bouncing in my head is where does the money come from. If my work was suddenly told it needed to double it’s workforce AND pay more for the current workers and these new workers, where would the money to pay them come from? This would be going on country wide so I guess then this means money is printed. Demand for money is then very high which means the velocity is low which means it’s not hyperinflating and i guess fiscally things would be heading in a better direction…..hmmm…i’m rambling. looking forward to your thoughts.

  3. July 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    loved the post and your new blog theme!

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