When we first began this blog, we stated the following as our aim:
This is a blog dedicated to the critique of the most important category of democratic thought: The People.
Several years have passed since then. During that time we have grown, and our understanding of forces determining the abstraction know as The People has been clarified in our minds.
It is high time for this abstraction, The People, which has never for even one instant actually embodied real living people, to meets its demise along with the social forces to give it life. Mankind has passed the point where an abstraction can stand in place of the real living individuals it purports to represent.
Let’s have an end to it and all abstractions.
For those who are interested, the complete archive of this blog can be found here: https://t.co/cLB2BES0Ox
I will continue to post at The Real Movement
TRIGGER WARNING: If you think your opinion is the only possible legitimate opinion on the subject of Privilege, you probably should stop reading this post now.
I grew up in a family that had a color line. One of my brother’s is relatively darker than the rest of us, and another of my brother’s is somewhat lighter than the average. Being typical children who can always find ways to taunt and humiliate our peers, we often called my fairer brother “honkie” — although, when my parents were in earshot, we called him “hink” — he still has that nickname today.
On the other hand, my grandmother, who was as fair as Hilary Clinton, and looked a lot like her, once called my brother and sister and myself “you little niggers”, when we pissed her off. I have a family member who has been challenged or otherwise assumed to be white in social situations that were awkward to say the least — for instance, in a room full of black women, who were discussing issues of relevance to black women, and once, when picking out a black doll for her daughter, when she was redirected to a white version of the same doll by a “well meaning” (read, “racist”) white woman.
To Mr. Tsipras of the Greece party, Syriza,
I read your letter to Angela Merkel today the Guardian and was not impressed. Frankly, I expected a guy who just might be running Greece next year to have a better argument than the one you gave. You stated:
As Angela Merkel visits Athens on Tuesday, she will find a Greece in its fifth consecutive year of recession. In 2008 and 2009, the recession was a spillover from the global financial crisis. Since then it has been caused and deepened by the austerity policies imposed on Greece by the troika – of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the European Central Bank – and the Greek government.
These policies are devastating the Greek people, especially workers, pensioners, small businessmen and women, and of course young people. The Greek economy has contracted by more than 22%, workers and pensioners have lost 32% of their income, and unemployment has reached an unprecedented 24% with youth unemployment at 55%. Austerity policies have led to cuts in benefits, the deregulation of the labour market and the further deterioration of the limited welfare state that had survived a neoliberal onslaught.
Yes. The financial crisis and austerity is taking its toll on Greece, but is that piglet Merkel unaware of this? Is she living in a cave? She knows exactly what the toll is on the population — she intends that austerity take that toll. So whining about it like some emoprog is not helpful in the least.
What the fuck are you prepared to do about it?
It is nice to know that Syriza, “respects the ordinary European taxpayer who is asked to shoulder loans to countries in distress, including Greece.” The question, however, is how Syriza proposes to end this burden, since Greece is now Europe’s AIG — a convenient pass-through account for a backdoor bailout of Europe’s banking system. In this shell game, Greece gets all the blame and the banksters get all the fucking money. How do you propose to end this fucking shell game?
And what are you offering to Greece as an alternative to participating in this monstrous scam?
What would you do different?
Europe, you state, “needs a new plan to deepen European integration”, but how does your idea of integration differ from the idea of removing fiscal control completely from the Greece state and handing it to an as yet undetermined new authority? Moreover, how does this differ from “neoliberalism” agenda that is already stripping European nation states of fiscal and monetary sovereignty?
You had a lot of rhetoric about placing priority on the needs of workers, pensioners and unemployed but — really — what does this mean? Do you or do you not intend to let the banks fail? Please, spare us all the Leftist rhetoric about “placing priority on the blah blah blah…”, and “popular struggles radically blah blah blah…”
I mean, really ARE YOU GOING TO LET THE FUCKING BANKS FAIL OR NOT! And if you let them fail, how do you propose to protect the Greece public from the effects of the financial system’s collapse? All in all, your message to Merkel is meaningless trash and bizarre given the fact you will actually have to run the country shortly.
Let me say this to you: the European Left are just a bunch of pussies. To put it in the words of Mobb Deep, an American rap group:
“You’re all up in the game and don’t deserve to be a player.”
The muthafuckas behind the crisis have been running Europe since the days of Rome. Do you seriously believe you are going to appeal to their humanity? These muthafuckas slaughtered 1,000,000 Iraqis — you think they care about Greece suffering? Frankly, Mr. Tsipras, I can’t understand it. Folks on the European Left think there are rules and keep calling for the ref. You are dumb fuckers. Let’s here what the guys behind the scenes think of your rules:
“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.” –Spokesperson for the Bush administration
If that is not enough, Draghi told you today what the rules are:
RULE NUMBER ONE: “Revitalizing the cycle of debt is crucial to recovery.”
RULE NUMBER TWO: “It is necessary to reassure banks over the quality of their assets.”
What part of “Fuck You” don’t you folks on the European Left get? You just let that horrid little fucking piglet waltz into Greece like she is visiting one of the provinces. And your only fucking response is,
“This plan will succeed only if popular struggles radically change the balance of forces. These struggles have started already and have led to the rise of left and resistance movements throughout Europe. They keep alive democracy, equality, freedom and solidarity, the most important values of the European political tradition. These values must prevail. Otherwise Europe will regress to a dark past we thought gone for ever.”
What fucking balance? What fucking plan? Holding your fucking dick in your hand and jerking furiously is not a fucking plan. These muthafuckas got a plan for Greece — and it ain’t “democracy, equality, freedom and solidarity”.
Which is to say, Mr. Tsipras, we all know how this ends, if Washington has its way. Frankly, you will be dead or in hiding six months after you take office; so whatever the plan, it better be quick, painful as hell for capital and irreversible. That means, no matter what, you kill the banks first, and divide their carcasses among the population — you have to keep Germany, France, Britain and the US busy trying to save those fuckers on Wall Street, while you wipe out unemployment. It only takes two steps to do this:
- Renounce all Greece’s debt, public and private, and
- reduce hours of work by half.
Those two moves will immediately trigger the collapse of stock and bond markets world-wide and send those fuckers scrambling. You have to make these fuckers think they are staring into the face of GOD — and that she is pissed beyond all belief. Your aim should be a 1000 point loss on the SP500 the first fucking day in office.
Then you immediately turn to the question of producing contagion — the crisis cannot be limited to Greece; it must spread to Spain and Portugal, Ireland and Italy. Every time they think things can’t get any worse, you have to fuck them again. If a big stick will work in this situation, then you have to use a fucking sledgehammer.
Getting rid of public and private debt is absolutely critical to killing the banks — not one bank should survive anywhere. So, repeat after me
- RENOUNCE THE DEBT,
- SLASH HOURS OF LABOR,
- CREATE CONTAGION
That’s a fucking plan.
The entire point of bourgeois misdirection in this crisis is to convince us that our choices are between debt or unemployment — that is between “growth” and “austerity”, and between taxes and reductions in our pensions, social security, and wages; that is, a choice between “kicking the can down the road”, or “taking our medicine now”.
It is important that the debate be framed this way, because these are the only two options consistent with existing relations of production. Since these choices are both consistent with existing capitalist relations of production, the fascist state does not care which option you choose. Just as Washington does not care whether Obama or Romney wins the next election, it does not care whether this crisis is resolved by debt or unemployment. You are free to make your choice based on what feels right to you — letting people go years without a job, or piling up the public debt.
Your choices are posed in this way because it is assumed you have already accepted the premise of these choices: It is assumed you have accepted the idea that this crisis can only addressed at your expense. You have, therefore, accepted the premise that you must either take the hit to your standard of living now, or in the future. Whether you take the hit now or in the future, you accept that this is the only way forward.
This is why there are so many people running around trying to stock up on guns, beans and gold — assuming the big hit is coming. It is just a matter of time, we are told — shit is going to get funky.
It is absolutely necessary that you never question this premise, and everything is aimed at preventing you from ever questioning this premise. This is not just the message coming from Washington and its servile agents in the media and economics profession; it is also the message delivered on the Left and the Right. On the Right, it is expressed in a demand to end the deficits no matter what the cost, on the Left it is expressed in a demand to end austerity no matter how this ends in more public debt.
It is not just that these contradictory demands appear as polar wings of politics, it is that the demands themselves must be posed as an unbridgeable contradiction. In fact, there is nothing that prevents the Left from adopting the Right’s demand against deficits as well as its own against austerity. And there is nothing that prevents the Right from adopting both a demand against deficits and a demand against austerity. But if this phony contradiction is not maintained, there is no Left or Right — and the point of politics is that there should always be a Left and a Right.
I think this is the revolutionary significance of the Occupy movement’s idea of addressing debt; it breaches this false contradiction. Occupy, which has already clearly taken on austerity, is now adding the question of debt to its argument. With a movement that opposes both austerity and debt, the phony opposition between Left and Right will be ended. Combining a demand against austerity with a demand against debt, announces working people will not pay for this crisis now or in the future. It throws down a gauntlet to Washington and Wall Street in the form of a demand that is not consistent with capitalism or the state.
The significance of these two modest demands against austerity and debt, when combined, are far greater than it may look on the surface. For instance read this quote from David Graeber:
“One realization really startled me when researching the book: that is, the realization that throughout human history, most people have been in debt. Think about it for a second. Could the majority of the human race really be improvident failures unable to manage their affairs, and thus justly dependent on the rich? Of course not. Rather, states and elites have always colluded to ensure that their subjects become debtors; not least, because debt is the easiest way to take a relation of violent inequality, of violent extraction, and make it seem not only moral, but make it seem like it’s the victim who’s to blame.”
How does this describe euro-austerity and the continuing argument that Greece “deserves” austerity now because of its past public profligacy? The fact is the public debt Greece accumulated in the past was just the inter-temporal shift of austerity and nothing more.
And not only private debt, but public debt more so, since Washington can, through its inflationary monetary policy, extend the impact of this austerity throughout the world market. Washington can, therefore, under the pretext of increasing its own debt, impose an austerity on every nation trading in dollars.
Debt, Inflation, Unemployment and Austerity
Consider the problem of debt and austerity from another perspective: In an austerity, unemployment rises, wages and pension are slashed. An increase in debt now is nothing more than the inter-temporal transfer of these same effects over some period of time going forward — wages and pensions are gradually slashed over time. This is accomplished through inflation, and can be made to appear as the result of “natural” forces rather than deliberate policy.
Employment growth slows and persistent high level of unemployment can last for a decade or more. What is accomplished all at once in an austerity regime is, with debt, accomplished over a period of time. All the effects of austerity are still felt by the mass of society, but the torture is extended sometimes a decade or longer.
The state must impose this austerity on behalf of capital because it nothing more than capital organized as the state, but the question is whether the population will accept it all at once, or whether it must be stretched out. This is politics — how much pain can the proles take, and it is a practical question. If people surround the government and demand it resign, this government can be replaced by one “committed to growth”, i.e., the accumulation of even more public debt.
Although this new government only promises to stretch austerity over a decade, instead of imposing it all at once, it is sold as compassion. Twenty five percent unemployment now, or ten percent over the next decade; slashing wages and pensions now, or inflating away their value and compelling people to work longer — make your choice, folks. In either case, the mass of society suffers the effect of unemployment and reduced subsistence through state policy.
Occupy is taking on precisely this policy in both of its possible manifestations. It is combating both an immediate imposition of an austerity regime and an inter-temporal imposition of this regime through debt.
We have to consider also the relationship between unemployment and wages: the reduction of wages is the aim and unemployment is the means. In a market where there is low unemployment, there is less competition among the working class — it has the opportunity to organize itself. Moreover, even where there is some unemployment this occurs against a backdrop where this unemployment is unevenly distributed — in specific sectors or regions of the world market the demand for labor power may even exceed the supply. The impact this has on profits is obvious, and the capitalist class responds to this with all the means at its disposal — introducing new machines, reducing wages, layoffs.
What Keynes explained to the capitalist class is that its typical response to this condition — slashing wages — is counterproductive. Since the Great Depression, profitability cannot be restored simply by slashing wages — as Greece and Spain is demonstrating graphically. What is gained by slashing wages, is lost when the working class goes into the market to purchase goods. The state, Keynes argued, can accomplish the task far more efficiently than capitalists in slashing wages. This is because the method employed — debt — has the effect of subsidizing profits even as the purchasing power of wages fall.
Of course, Kurz explains, this results in the accumulation of debt that cannot be paid off — but that is the can that must be “kicked down the road”. In the long run the debt cannot be paid off, but in the interim it can transfer the product of labor from wages to profits. And, as Keynes observed, in the long run you will be dead after having slaved your entire life away to service that debt.
It is not just private debt that transfers the product of labor from one class to the other, state debt has this very same effect. Your take home pay doesn’t change, but the prices of what this take home pay buys spirals out of sight. In the choice between austerity and debt, debt is actually the preferred option because the state doesn’t provoke people into the streets. As Keynes explained in his General Theory, unions will fight a cut in their wages, but not one imposed through debt and inflation.
“Thus it is fortunate that the workers, though unconsciously, are instinctively more reasonable economists than the classical school, inasmuch as they resist reductions of money-wages, which are seldom or never of an all-round character, even though the existing real equivalent of these wages exceeds the marginal disutility of the existing employment; whereas they do not resist reductions of real wages, which are associated with increases in aggregate employment and leave relative money-wages unchanged, unless the reduction proceeds so far as to threaten a reduction of the real wage below the marginal disutility of the existing volume of employment. Every trade union will put up some resistance to a cut in money-wages, however small. But since no trade union would dream of striking on every occasion of a rise in the cost of living, they do not raise the obstacle to any increase in aggregate employment which is attributed to them by the classical school.” (my emphasis)
I bet you could count the number of major demonstrations against inflation in the past forty years on a single hand — I know of no strikes produced by it. Nobody ever surrounded the congress to demand a reduction in inflation nor fought the police in the streets with firebombs because of it. As a matter of fact, the prima facie silliness of the euro-austerity regime in Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal etc., suggests the states and ruling classes of those nations are now trapped and cannot employ debt to meet their aims.
By taking on the issue of debt Occupy is in fact taking on one of the most powerful tools in the state’s arsenal for imposing austerity — debt. Occupy is showing that it is not just a matter of austerity versus debt, but also of austerity through debt. The debt campaign is big because it calls bullshit on both the Democrats and the GOP and can appeal to whatever healthy elements remain in the Tea Party.
As a side note I also want to point out that not one Marxist critic of David Graeber was able to uncover this hidden connection between debt and austerity that Occupy has discovered purely through its practical activity alone. This includes that asshole over at Jacobin, Mike Beggs; that “humanist marxist” Andrew Kliman; Dean, Deseriis, and a host of other imbeciles. Nor does it appear in the writings of Marxists who feel an obligation to repair capitalism, such as Dumenil, Levy, Saad-Filho and that sorry lot.
What good is a goddamned theory if the people using it are idiots.
Oh yeah. And fuck Zizek too!
In Marx’s and Engel’s manuscript (not published in their lifetimes), The German Ideology, they set out what must be a surprising argument if you read the typical member of the Marxist Academy, because that argument is still not taken seriously by Marxists, who insist the social revolution is a political event — the seizure of state power.
Marco Deseriis and Jodi Dean have opened their sectarian Marxist pie holes to argue Occupy is unable to address “division within the movement”. Their nonsense is posted to Kasama Project here.
Their trash is titled, “A movement without demands?”; but its real complaint can be better stated as “A movement without politics?”. Since Marxists can only conceptualize a movement of society as a political movement, Occupy’s refusal to raise political demands is confusing.
There is, Deseriis and Dean explain, a division within Occupy that many want to deny. However, to become more than a protest movement, Occupy will have to “acknowledge division, build alternative practices and organizations, and assert a commonality.” I think this is a bold assertion, since, so far as I can tell, neither of these two idiots has any accomplishment building anything.
I mean, when I was just a dumb kid, I went on a trip to China as guest of the Communist Party of China — it was a big deal to me. Here I was going to the place only just recently presided over by the great Chairman Mao himself. Surprisingly, although this party had in fact liberated China from the sphere of US hegemony, reorganized society along completely different lines, and turned the capitalist class into docile toadies, never once did anyone there say, “This is how you do it.” They had done it, but never once acted as though their practice had any particular significance for our own. They even emphasized that Mao’s ideas were only “Marxism-Leninsm adapted to the conditions of China” and did not have global significance.
But, Mr. Deseriis and Ms. Dean, who have never built a thing in their lives apparently think this lack of accomplishment sets the stage for them to “educate” the Occupy on how “to metamorphose from a protest movement into a revolutionary movement”. The fucking arrogance of these two imbeciles is just breathtaking.
According to Deseriis and Dean, apparently the objection to turning Occupy into a political movement arise from three different arguments within the movement. These arguments state that political demands are by definition not representative; that they reduce the autonomist character of the movement; and that they subject the movement to threat of being co-opted.
Deseriis and Dean take each of these three objections in turn, based on …what? Experience? No. It actually results from Deseriis’s and Dean’s diagnosis that what really bedevils Occupy at this point in its evolution is that it refuses to acknowledge the principle problem faced by the movement is not the state, but Occupy itself.
“The problem is that the objection as it has been raised in the movement misconstrues the location of the division that matters.”
Really? How so?
“The co-optation objection presents the problem as between the state and the movement rather than as a division already within indeed, constitutive of, the movement itself.”
According to Deseriis and Dean, then, the problem is not Wall Street, but Occupy Wall Street; the problem is not the one percent, but the 99%. The resistance of Occupy to reconfiguring itself as a mere political movement suggests it wants to suppress divisions within itself and these divisions are expressed in an aversion to raising political demands. But this aversion is entirely misplaced, Deseriis and Dean explain,
“First, we can make demands on ourselves. Second, demands are means not ends. Demands can be a means for achieving autonomous solutions. When demands are understood as placed on ourselves, the process of articulating demands becomes a process of subjectivation or will formation, that is, a process through which a common will is produced out of previously divergent positions. Rather than a liability to be denied or avoided, division becomes a strength, a way that the movement becomes powerful as our movement, the movement of us toward a common end.”
This argument appears quite rational — indeed it looks all dialectical and shit, Hegelian even — on the surface. But, let me ask Deseriis and Dean one question: Is not the state itself already this “subjectivation or will formation” that naturally emerges out of the divisions of society? And why must we replace the existing “subjectivation or will formation” of the existing state with just another form of “subjectivation or will formation”?
Is the social revolution simply the replacement of one form of impersonal subjectivity with another? Or is it the abolition of all impersonal subjectivities?
If one is looking for a process unequalled by “which a common will is produced out of previously divergent positions” we already have one: the bourgeois democratic state. The periodic elections within the state, with its cesspool of corruption and parasitic collusion, gives us the opportunity to forge a “common will” every four years.
If this is what the Occupy should aspire to be, in the opinion of Deseriis and Dean, no matter how much this is framed in the form of obligatory references to “the commons” — that sacred institution of Marxist dogma — it is not just a dead end, but ignores the fact that every socialist state in the 20th Century was based on common ownership of the means of production.
And every one of them proved to be a horrific failure.
Does my argument deny the existence of divisions within the Occupy movement? Of course not. But these divisions cannot be overcome with some barbaric and regressive attempt to create a common will out of previously divergent positions; rather, it requires the end of circumstances by which individual wills are compelled into a state of absolute dependence and universal competition with one another.
Deseriis and Dean are deliberately confusing the need for associative management of common resources, with the needs for a common will. This is based on a fundamentally flawed Marxist analysis of the problem facing mankind. The problem is not that the common resources of society are not subject to a common will, but that the will of each individual has been subjected to the control of common resources.
Whatever form this control takes — individual, cooperative, or state ownership — the individual has always been subject to this form. It is always the commons of society that acquires subjectivity at the expense of the members of society. In the social revolution it is otherwise, the individual achieves true subjectivity, and the commons is reduced to mere means. Wal-Mart is just a place to buy toilet paper to wipe your ass after a satisfying shit — there is no reason it should be dominating our lives in any incarnation — individual, cooperative or as the common property of society.
My reply to Deseriis and Dean, therefore, is the same as my reply to Kliman:
“Fuck you and fuck Zizek too!”
I have been reading Stathis Gourgouris “A Quick Assessment of the Electoral Situation”, which is a very interesting take on the outcome of the election in Greece. It is interesting because, for some reason, Gourgouris wants to analyze the events solely within the realm of politics; which is to say he places the events in Greece entirely within the limits of a dying domestic parliamentary democracy. No doubt most people see this as a mere “election outcome”, so the piece is useful in that sense as meaningful political analysis; but it is also disappointing as it brings nothing new to the table. For me, it is an example of mainstream punditry worming its way into social criticism — focusing our attention precisely on the least important aspect of what has occurred.