Posts Tagged ‘human costs of empire’

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.

Forget about unemployment coming down in your lifetime…

December 8, 2010 1 comment

Zero Hedge: Unemployment projections to 2015

Forget about unemployment coming down through fiscal and monetary stimulus in your lifetime. There isn’t enough money in the world to fix this problem.

Above is a chart created by the blog Zero Hedge with a chilling projection on when employment will return to pre-recession level.

The chart starts at the National Bureau of Economic Research’s officially designated date for the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The NBER asserts the recession ended 18 months later in June 2009 — when, as you can see on the chart, employment had not only not recovered, but was still falling unchecked.

In the dotted line on the chart Zero Hedge projects that the total number of people employed will reach the 2007 level again about five years from now. They also note, for the record that this total will not include all the new people who will come into the labor force during that period.

This means, even when employment reaches its pre-recession peak, an unemployed population equal to all the people who entered the labor force in the eight years between 2007 and 2015 will still be unemployed.

To put it another way: even if we get back to pre-recession levels by 2015, an additional 16 million people will have been added to the unemployment rolls.

Sixteen million additional unemployed is larger than the total number of jobs lost in this recession.

It gets worse: according to Spencer England at the blog Angry Bear, the average length of an expansion after a recession since 1950 has been 52 months. This means, based on the NBER’s call, we should be going into recession again sometime in 2013 — when employment will not have recovered even to its 2007 level.

Your congressperson and senator need to know these figures.

And, you need to know when they are going to sponsor legislation to reduce hours of work so it can be fixed.

Banality has another name: AFL-CIO

December 4, 2010 1 comment

So, we don’t know what to make of this, and thought we would let you decide. Below are two videos — the first, from Christian Children’s Fund; the second is from the AFL-CIO. See if you can spot the common theme:

Christian Children’s Fund:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
AFL-CIO: Lifeline
Vodpod videos no longer available.
The website Firedoglake calls the second video, “a heartbreaking video of unemployed workers from all walks of life, all of whom are about to run out of their unemployment benefits.”

They continue:

These are the people President Barack Obama is using as a human sacrifice in order to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the incredibly wealthy, just to avoid being accused of “raising taxes” in 2012.

Congratulations to the AFL-CIO for a phenomenal video – go write to Congress on their site now.

Our first reaction was anger at a seedy, sophomoric attempt to sensationalize the plight of some two million who have lost their unemployment benefits as Washington democrats and republicans demagogue the federal budget for their own perverse ends and those of their bankster bosses.

Our second reaction was disgust with the AFL-CIO — an organization of working people so corrupted and compromised by its involvement in, and subservience to, Washington politics that it deserves only to be dismantled.

This video is an obscenity, we think. But, we could be over-reacting.

So, Obama supporters, how is that recovery going?

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Collateral Murder…

July 22, 2010 4 comments

What the Fuck are you doing Mccord!?” It was my platoon leader. “You need to quit worrying about these Fucking kids, and pull security!” he screamed. “Roger that, sir” I said and immediately went to a roof top to pull security. While on the roof, one of the soldiers took a picture of me, I didn’t realize that the blood of the two children was all over me.


Website supports whistle blower Bradley Manning

June 17, 2010 3 comments

There is now a website supporting Bradley Manning, the American hero who exposed war atrocities in Iraq. It provides a postal address where direct messages of support can be sent to the soldier.

Bradley Manning broke no laws, since it is the lawful obligation of every soldier to report evidence of war crimes.

The Golden Grimace (Part Nine: Gold, the dollar, and superfluous work)

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The price-form, however, is not only compatible with the possibility of a quantitative incongruity between magnitude of value and price, i.e., between the former and its expression in money, but it may also conceal a qualitative inconsistency, so much so, that, although money is nothing but the value-form of commodities, price ceases altogether to express value.

–Karl Marx

The relationship between the two measures of GDP is this:

The debasing of the dollar allowed a quantitative disparity to emerge between the prices of commodities and their values. This divergence of price from value not only emerged in the price of individual commodities, but also in the sum of all the prices of all commodities taken together. Because fiat dollars cannot measure the values of commodities, value no longer determines prices.

At first glance, this might not seem surprising since the value of commodities is something invisible to us – we do not and cannot know the value of anything we buy or sell. The value of a commodity is only expressed over a period of time through the apparently random fluctuations of the price of the commodity. It is something only apparent to us in the movement of these prices.

So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is this:  what was once true for any specific price of a commodity (that any price paid for it might not actually coincide with the value of the commodity) is now absolutely true even for the average of the fluctuations in the price of any specific commodity. And this is also true for all commodities taken together – no commodity’s prices ever reflects its value, and the aggregate prices of all commodities no longer reflect their aggregate value as well.

In other words, the dollar measure of GDP does not, in any way, reflect the value created by economic activity in the U.S. economy.

But, the value of a thing is only the expression of the socially necessary labor time required for its production expressed in some quantity of gold (or, another metal) money. So, to say this another way, in our society the actual work done in the economy is no longer determined by the socially necessary labor time required for the production of commodities. When the quantitative disparity emerged between the prices of commodities and their values, a disparity also emerged between the amount of work we do and the amount of work that was socially necessary to maintain our current standard of living.

Work was now determined by the fiat dollars rushing into the economy.

This absolute quantitative incongruity between price and value has profound implications for our present crisis. The value of a commodity is only a measure of the labor productively employed on it taken as an average of all the individual labor times employed on all the commodities of its type for which society has a need. If more labor is employed in producing the good than is on average necessary, or, if more of the good is produced than is necessary (supply and demand), these disparities would have been signaled by a fall in its price.

This no longer occurs.

The chart below displays the total output of United States GDP from 1929 to 2009 as measured in dollars. As such it measures only the growing total aggregate of dollar transactions – of the exchange of useful things for dollars, and the circulation of these useful things – over time. These use values are not, and cannot be, measured by dollars as values, because, as we have stated, the aggregate measure shows only the dollar demand for the goods and not their socially necessary labor times, neither individually nor as an aggregate.

The chart, therefore, measures the sum of the social labor process – the sum of use values in circulation to satisfy human need – but only insofar as this human need takes the form of money demand. It is a measure of the ever increasing raw productive power of social labor expended on disparate things of great value to us – things like food, houses, schools, medical care for disabled veterans of the genocides in Iraq and Afghanistan, and  research into cancer cure. It also measures destructive things of no value to us whatsoever – cluster bombs, depleted uranium shells and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a measure of dollar denominated activity, it even includes bizarre things of altogether contradictory value – such as all the economic activity that led to the BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster AND the dollar cost to clean it up. Both the money spent creating the disaster and the money spent cleaning it up after are registered on the above chart as GDP! Every transaction is represented in aggregate, with no indication as to how much society benefited from it or was impoverished and damaged by it.

This next chart measures that same aggregate output in terms of the dollar price of a billion ounces of gold. This chart does measure the aggregate socially necessary labor of the total social product in circulation over time – the amount of labor actually productively employed over the period.

The chart does not, and cannot be a measurement of the value of the individual use values within this circulation, but only the measure of all of them in aggregate. Even if we knew the dollar price of any object in this aggregate, we could not extrapolate from this dollar price to how much socially necessary labor time it embodies, because the dollar price of the good conveys no information about that labor time. (Remember, Washington can create as much money out of thin air as it needs to purchase anything it wants.) We also cannot know how much time we actually spent at work when this value was produced, because there is no definite relationship between the amount of work we do and the value we produce.

Gold can only measure the amount of work we HAD to do to produce the value; and, the dollar only measures the amount of work we actually did. When the dollar was on the gold standard these two measures were one and the same. But, now that this relationship is broken we have to perform an extra step: Only by dividing the annual dollar denominated GDP by the price of an ounce of gold for that year can we arrive at some idea of how much of the work we were doing was actually necessary.

The two charts above begin in 1929, before the dollar was debased from gold and are presented in absolute values. However, if we convert them to percentages, using 1929 as the base year, we can align them to see what happened when the dollar was debased. As you can see from the chart below, there is a fairly sharp divergence between the two measures of GDP after the dollar was debased by gold in 1933. This period is shown in the chart below.

US GDP (1929-1939) in gold (yellow) and dollars (green) as a percentage of 1929 levels

The chart shows the sudden sharp divergence of the prices of transactions in the US economy as measured in dollars (the green area) from these same transactions as recorded in the price of billions of ounces of gold (the yellow area). The dollar was not simply debased from gold, it was also devalued against gold – reduced from $20.67 per ounce to $35 per ounce. This was an overnight 41 percent reduction in the value of the wages of working families – a brutal material assault on their standard of living carried out by that puppet of Wall Street, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The fact that Roosevelt went on to be reelected three times after this monstrous economic calamity – and, to this day, enjoys almost universal adoration – does not, in any way, change this material fact. Recovery from the depression began only after Washington engineered a massive collapse in the real wages of working people.

This assault was, simultaneously, a sharp divergence of the actual labor time of working people from the socially necessary labor time required for the production of commodities. In every year after the debasement of the dollar, actual labor time exceeded its socially necessary requirement by 40 percent – meaning the country was increasingly awash not only in worthless dollars, but also a superfluity of work – unnecessary, superfluous labor that was the material precondition for the military buildup leading to the catastrophe of World War II.

The two measures of GDP, therefore, record the emergence of labor in its purely superfluous form – in the form of labor that neither results in any increase in the material wealth of society, nor in the means to create that material wealth.

If we extend this chart to 1980, we can see that this newly emerged superfluous labor expands even further to absorb a greater portion of actual labor time:

US GDP (1929-1980) in gold (yellow) and dollars (green) as a percentage of 1929 levels

Superfluous labor expanded dramatically between World War II and 1970 – growing from 40 percent of all work performed to more than 50 percent of all work performed. However, the Great Stagflation of the 1970s imposed such an unimaginably harsh reduction on the living standards of working families that by 1980 superfluous labor expanded to include more than 95 percent of all work performed. No more than five percent of the work day was necessary!


Let us repeat that, because you obviously did not hear what we said:


US GDP in gold (yellow) and dollars (green) as a percentage of 1929 levels

In the ten years since 2000, even this insignificant level of necessary work was cut in half – dropping to no more than 2 percent of all work performed. At the same time, economic activity, as measured in dollars, exploded in bubble after bubble, These bubbles were no more than the desperate actions of Washington and the gang of sociopaths residing on Wall Street trying desperately to maintain some semblance of economic activity through an explosion of debt,  financial instruments, and every sort of sordid Ponzi scheme to maintain their grip on the social power they wield over you, and which is embodied in your own self-enslavement to them.

Below, we show the divergence between the labor process measured in dollars, and that same labor process measured by socially necessary labor time, as the percentage of the total labor day embodying socially necessary labor time. This is the actual percentage of the present labor day required to satisfy human need.

Based on what we have presented here in this series, that chart indicates that no more than 2-3 percent of the current labor day is required to satisfy the total needs of society.

It also indicates that if the self-expansion of capital falters, for whatever reason, as now seems to be happening , economic activity will disappear in a massive catastrophic implosion.

Work is dead, folks. You’re all gonna have to get a life!

The is an old skool collection from some guy who sets up a hidden cam and captures his antics with a series of anonymous women in his home and at the office. For the most part, the faces are deliberately obscured, and his face is never shown. The guy initially sold the tapes, but also posted them in short clips on the usenet around 2000-2002.

The Golden Grimace (Part Eight: The Dollar)

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

The utility of a thing makes it a use value. But this utility is not a thing of air. Being limited by the physical properties of the commodity, it has no existence apart from that commodity. A commodity, such as iron, corn, or a diamond, is therefore, so far as it is a material thing, a use value, something useful. This property of a commodity is independent of the amount of labour required to appropriate its useful qualities.

–Karl Marx

When we considered what happens to gold when it is exchanged for dollars we saw that an odd thing occurs: measured in dollars, the value of one ounce of gold is the same as two ounces of gold, or, even a metric ton of gold; and, a bag of groceries has the same value as the total volume of China’s exports to the United States for the year 2009. We could extend this bizarre anomaly further: the salary of a doctor, has no more value than the wage of an employee at at McDonald’s. The sum of the salaries of two doctors and the wage of one employee at McDonald’s has no more value than that of the McDonald’s employee alone.

The sum value of all of these things amount to zero, because the value of the dollars for which they are exchanged is zero.

This anomaly is explained: Dollars do not, and cannot measure the value of anything because it has no value itself. It is created out of thin air by Washington and injected into the economy for whatever purpose Washington sees fit. The dollars, therefore, do not reflect the labor time of the goods and labor power purchased by Washington. Washington is not concerned with the value of anything, because, whatever the value in the objects, it can create and exchange its worthless fiat for them in whatever amount is required. Washington is not concerned, for instance, about the value consumed when its troops kill pregnant Afghan mothers, it just wants to maximize the quantities of bodies. No matter how much it costs in terms of social labor, the Messiah just prints up the required quantity of dollars to get it done.

Dollars do not measure things as values, but only measures them as use values – as quantities of useful items. Two ounces of gold counts as twice one ounce of gold when measured as useful things, and one metric ton of gold counts as 35274.6 times one ounce of gold.

But, we cannot extend this reasoning any further.

Since every useful thing is useful in its own particular way, the dollar price of an ounce of gold cannot be compared to the dollar price required to kill ten humanitarians on a ship running the Zionist blockade off Gaza. Murder is one type of useful labor, gold production is quite another. It is, therefore, impossible to compare, for instance, the salaries and bonuses of Goldman Sachs’ traders to the education budget of a fairly large city, since we are considering things of such unlike qualities as can only be compared to murder and gold production.

Any comparison between the dollar prices of these things must stumble over the fact that they are completely unlike as useful things and cannot be compared. Shoes are useful and so are condoms, but no amount of shoes can be said to equal any amount of condoms as useful objects. Usefulness is like that – totally dependent on the human need they satisfy. We might, for instance, substitute sandals for shoes, or birth control pills for condoms, but not one class of useful things for another. And, this substitution only works to the extent some one thing can really fill the role of another – no one wears sandals in snow, and BCs can’t protect against venereal disease.

This, of course, was the whole point of debasing the dollar in the first place: once debased, there was no longer any standard by which things could be brought into a comparative relationship with each other. Since you could not compare the value of your wages to the value of your groceries, rent, and other products, the value of your wages could quietly be inflated away with worthless fiat.

Without gold as the standard for prices, nothing was comparable to anything else – cluster bombs to classrooms, armaments to automobiles, financial services to neurosurgery. How things acquire a price, and the price they acquire, appear totally arbitrary and subject to incomprehensible forces. Prices rise in tandem as if lifted by some malevolent force. Bubbles emerge in one sector after another, driven, it seems, by an eruption of avarice, greed, and wild speculations. Dollars for things of great need vanishes, while things of little need, or even things that are altogether destructive, are flooded with dollars.

The entire concept of what is useful is transformed in this process: It becomes not something which satisfies human needs, but something which satisfies money demand. Use value, when measured by dollars, is completely stripped of any actual specific usefulness. Which is to say,  we are not concerned here that the labor power we are purchasing appears in the form of a soldier, a doctor, or a hamburger flipper at McDonald’s. Nor, are we concerned that the product of labor appears in the form of a classroom, a barrel of oil, or a cluster bomb. All of these things can be purchased with dollars, and they are all just so many forms this money demand can take in the continuous labor process.

This is not an accident.

Since the social power of the sociopaths who dominate society is only concerned with its own self-expansion – the process by which it grows ever larger and embodies ever greater quantities of social wealth – the forms of useful things this social power takes at any given moment are no more than generic, interchangeable, expressions of this self-expansion. It is, therefore, this self-expansion, and not the specific useful forms assumed by it, that is the impulse behind these alternations.

The pathology of social power is that it is insatiable, and must, therefore, assume whatever forms that allow it to realize its self-expansion. It has no material internal or external limits. And cannot be regulated by society, since society is nothing more than this self-expansion realized as the ever increasing activity of its members. It must realize this self-expansion in the expanded activity of society or collapse entirely.

It follows from this that, for example, energy policy inevitably comes down not to conserving energy, or avoiding the despoiling of the environment, but to the constant search for new sources of energy, and the feverish exploitation of existing sources. If this exploitation results in massive catastrophes that threaten to destroy entire ecologies so much the better, since profits can also be made cleaning up those catastrophes.

The dollar is no more than the incalculable power of social production turned in on itself – a relentlessly destructive force threatening humanity and nature with an unregulated ungovernable process of catastrophic self-destruction.

The dollar is an extinction level event in progress.

– no mater how much it cost into terms of social labor, the Messiah just prints up the required quantity of dollars to get it done

The Golden Grimace (Part Seven: Gold)

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Human labour power in motion, or human labour, creates value, but is not itself value. It becomes value only in its congealed state, when embodied in the form of some object.

–Karl Marx

Up to this point we have only considered the issue raised by the two measures of GDP from the standpoint of value – i.e., from the standpoint of gold – and discovered, based on this point of view, that you are a slave, and that all the workers of every nation that exchanges its goods for dollars are slaves as well, to the most predatory sociopaths in human history.

Gold is the physical embodiment of social wealth, and, therefore, the incarnation of social power to convert the labor of others into the personal power of a handful of sociopaths.

“As cold an entity as history has ever produced,” gold denominates economic activity by its own unique standard – as the equivalent of itself, which is to say, as a fixed product, congealed into a hoard and resting lifelessly on the sunless floor of some central bank, or in the safe deposit box of some oligarch.

Once gold is debased from money, however, the value of your capacity to work (as measured by gold in the form of your dollar wage) disappears, as does the value of your bag of groceries, and even the value of the total exports of China to the United States for the last year. All of this incredible material output suddenly counts for nothing.

Indeed, the very fact that gold has a price, that it freely circulates in the economy and can be bought and sold for dollars, implies that its value has dropped to zero as well!

This may seem to be altogether ridiculous, since it appears to violate physical laws. For example, it still takes twice as long to produce 2 ounces of gold as it does to produce 1 ounce of gold. The fact that 1 ounce of gold can be exchanged for – say – $1200, means 2 ounces of gold can only be had for $2400. This, however, blinds us to the fact that the value of any quantity of dollars is always zero – no matter how large the quantity. Circulating as a simple commodity, one ounce of gold, therefore, has exactly the same value as two ounces of gold – or a metric ton of the metal.

ZERO – goose egg, nil.

This implies that your enslavement is not “a thing”, but a process with no beginning or ending points. It is a continuous, unceasing, process of self-enslavement, under which the alternation of work and rest, production and consumption, purchase and sale, private and  public life are no more than successive moments of your own uninterrupted existence as a slave.

The entire content of your civic life, your laws, your morality, your expressions of love, your culture, your art, your ethics – the sum totality of all the ways in which human beings have intercourse with one another, and with the natural world (without which human life itself is impossible) – all of these are merely the various modes through which you express your inexhaustible devotion to your own enslavement.

Capitalism is a mode of production under which the process of labor becomes continuous, universalized, and totalized. Capital, in the process of its self-valorization (the process by which it becomes ever larger), alternately appears successively as money then commodity then money then commodity then money, yet assumes no fixed form in this alternation.

The goal of this series of alternations is not to become a larger stagnant hoard of useless metal, but to make every sphere of human activity into a mere mode of its own self-expansion, and every region of the planet into its home territory.

In this hypothesis, a worthless piece of linen and cloth suffices as money, since each transformation of commodities into money is simply an instant wherein the conversion of the commodity into money is immediately succeeded by the conversion of the money back into a commodity. The exchange of commodities by and among individual producers is overtaken by the continuous flow of the elements of a single social product between the various hands of a single social producer on an ever expanding scale.

The purchase and sale of the elements of the social product in fact disguises what has taken place here – that not only money, but exchange itself exists only as a formality: the worker, as a worker, has no choice but to enter into this relationship, and, therefore, her subsistence – which is the product of a single all-encompassing labor process, and only comes into existence through this labor process – is a necessary condition for her subsequent sale of her labor power.

The whole of the process of production and consumption, and of the process of circulation and exchange of the product of that process, exists here as the production, circulation, purchase and sale, and subsequent consumption of labor power, both in its complete form, or as the elements required for its continuous presence. There is only a singular labor process, carried on by a singular labor power, producing a singular social product.

Within this continuous labor process value does not, and cannot, exist.

Capital, however, is value in motion, and the self-expansion of this value on an ever greater scale. Its natural expression is found in gold or some other precious metal. We are faced with a bit of a conundrum, therefore, when trying to explain why gold loses its value.

When gold is severed from money, it more or less immediately acquires a dollar price. It proves by this dollar price that it is no longer money, since it is impossible for money itself to have a price. Price was simply the value of another product of labor expressed in so many definite units of gold or another precious metal.

The debased dollar, on the other hand, is only a fictitious money, since it is now incapable of reflecting the value of another commodity in so many units of itself. (To use an example: A one dollar bill has the same value – the same socially necessary labor time required for its production – as a one hundred dollar bill, i.e., a negligible value approaching zero. And 100 one dollar bills have the same purchasing power as 1 one hundred dollar bill, despite the fact that the former requires 100 times the labor of the latter.

The fictitious quality of the debased dollar is demonstrated so soon as the wage slave – who imagines herself to be a free person – promptly proves she is free by selling herself into wage slavery – an act that can only be performed by a free person – for a worthless piece of linen and cotton – better yet, by the entry of so many key strokes on a computer.

The price of gold proves that it is not money, and, at the same time, that is has no value. On the other hand, gold as the actual physical embodiment of value for several eons, proves in its own physical self, which required the extensive exertions of a large number of workers to bring into human society, and which is now permanently severed from money, that the dollar replacing it has no value.

Within the normal daily transactions of society, gold, like every other commodity, is priced in dollars and, therefore, has no value; but, as a hoard sitting on the sunless floor of a Federal Reserve vault, dollars have no value.

Each is segregated to its own sphere of existence – the dollars as one pole of a ceaseless process by which capital enlarges itself, and gold, which measures this self-expansion in its own image: as a lifeless, stagnant hoard of bullion that embodies the social power of a gang of sociopaths, who rule not only over this nation, but are, at the same time, the global despots of a dollar empire.

The Golden Grimace (Part Six: The Dollar as a system of global despotism)

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

Steven Wright

This is the whole mystery of paper money: it is worthless, yet it is readily accepted in exchange for things of value – even things of great value.

China, for instance, routinely ships large quantities of goods to the US in return for dollars. These dollars have no value whatsoever. Even large quantities of dollars – quantities of a scale that can only be seen in the trade between nations – are, no matter how large, absent any value at all. One hundred billion of a thing which has no value is equally without value – it is, in fact, a very long string of zeroes.

This is important.

Before 1933, if your employer gave you $100 in wages in return for your capacity to work, and you then exchanged this very same $100 for a bag of groceries, the end result was that $100 of value moved from the hand of your employer to yours, and then from your hand to the grocer’s. Gold was not, and is not today, an easy thing to get one’s hands on – some mines today extend two miles down into the crust of the Earth. It takes many hours of intensely stressful work, under inhospitable conditions, to produce a very small quantity of the metal.

The movement of money from your employer’s hands to yours, and then from your hand to your grocer’s was serious business. Aside from normal fluctuations in the supply of and demand for labor power, by exchanging $100 of gold for your labor power, you and your employer were agreeing that the work required to produce that sum of gold was equal to the work required to produce your labor power. By exchanging $100 of gold for groceries, you and your grocer were agreeing that the work required to produce your labor power and the work required to produce that sum of gold were each equal to the contents of the bag of groceries.

If we now perform this same thought experiment with paper money, an incredible incongruity results: now the value of your labor power is equated to 100 paper dollars that has no value of its own, and the value of the groceries are equated to the value of this same 100 paper dollars, namely, zero. This also implies that the value of the total exports of China to the United States last year is no more than that of your bag of groceries!

No one before 1933 would have argued that the work required to produce $100 of gold, the work require to produce your labor power, and the work required to produce a bag of groceries were equal to the value of the total exports of China to the United States in 1932 – however small this value might have been that year. The exchange of paper dollars for Chinese exports, however, implies that, in fact, this must be true.


As we stated before, you are a slave made to dance to the tune of your slave-masters.

But, you could not pick their names out of a telephone book if your life depended on it – even if they were presented in bold print with a big red circle and an arrow pointing to them. Picking them out would, of course, require that you realize you are a slave in the first place. But, on this count, you are a hopeless failure.

Unlike previous civilizations, our own requires, above all, that slaves actually believe they are not slaves. And, it is as equally important, that this illusion be materially true. The slave must not only think she is free, she must, of necessity, actually be free, precisely because her freedom is the materially authentic form of her enslavement.

But, before we get accused of spouting some metaphysical bullshit, let us say this directly: As a free person, selling yourself into slavery must be a rational choice, and it must be rational to view this self-enslavement as freedom. This necessary condition of our particular mode of slavery is expressed in paper money. Even were you to accept the argument that paper money stamps you as a slave, this recognition of the significance of paper money in no way changes your circumstances: namely, that your very physical existence requires this worthless piece of paper.

Further more, the fact that gold is freely bought and sold, yet remains a mere commodity, no different in this regard than, for instance, toilet paper or the conscience of your congressperson, and incapable of displacing a worthless symbol of itself in order to resume its station as money, presupposes the absolute necessity of your self-enslavement – that your very capacity to convert the natural world into the means of life is now intimately and irretrievably bound up with the collective productive capacity of humanity and no longer has an independent existence. There is no longer any possibility of a separation between your individual productive capacity and that of mankind as a whole – that, in any case, this capacity is useless to you unless it is united with the collective capacity of society – this fact is demonstrated by the debasement of money.

What is true for your own case must, therefore, be true for China – and Greece, Spain, Italy, Brazil. To the extent that these nations accept dollars as the world reserve currency, and routinely exchange their national products for it, these goods are the product of a single global labor power. That national currencies can and must be exchanged for dollars – that it, in fact, serves them as the necessary vehicle currency between all the other national currencies of the world – presupposes that the national governments who issue these are completely subordinated to a handful of oligarchs on Wall Street.

The dollar, in its role as reserve currency, is, therefore, not only the completion of the debasement of the labor of one country – its absolute subjugation to the most mercilessly predatory gang of psychopaths in one nation – it is the Full Spectrum Dominance of this murderous clique over every country where it holds sway, and of the sum total of all labor in all nations at once and absolutely.

With this condition, the use of gold as money is a redundancy – a superfluous anachronism.