— Angela Marie Davis (via zorascreation)
— Angela Marie Davis (via zorascreation)
A strong belief in a hands off approach to economics is tightly linked to the rejection of scientific facts such as climate change, according to research published in Psychological Science in late March.
“The conspiracist ideation that all of the world’s scientific academies have conspired together to create a hoax known as global warming has found traction in American mainstream politics,” Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia and his colleagues wrote in their study.
In particular, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has alleged that thousands of scientists working independently over decades are actually part of “the greatest hoax” to increase regulation on businesses and individuals.
The study of 1,377 people who visited climate change denial blogs found endorsement of laissez-faire free markets predicted the rejection of climate science and other established scientific facts, such as that HIV causes AIDS or that tobacco smoking causes lung cancer.
“The pivotal role of personal ideology in the rejection of climate science has been repeatedly demonstrated,” Lewandowsky and his colleagues explained. “We highlighted the magnitude of this effect among climate-science blog denizens, who have a strong interest in the issue, and we additionally showed that endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of two other well-established scientific facts.”
Those who rejected climate change appeared to be more accepting of conspiracy theories in general. Belief that the moon landing was actually staged on Earth, that the government allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur so they could invade the Middle East, and other conspiracy theories predicted rejection of climate change.
“This finding suggests that a general propensity to endorse any of a number of conspiracy theories predisposes people to reject entirely unrelated scientific facts,” Lewandowsky and his colleagues said.
The study was co-authored by Klaus Oberauer and Gilles E. Gignac.
Originally published on PsyPost
True, we have a higher gun violence level, but overall, muggings, stabbing, deaths — those men raped that woman to India to death with an iron rod 4 feet long. You can’t ban the iron rods. The guns, the iron rods, Piers, didn’t do it, the tyrants did it. Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns, and I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn’t matter how many lemmings you get out there in the street begging for them to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand?
Of all the most common arguments used by the Right in the US to defend their helter skelter view of the Second Amendment, none stands more dishonest than their indictment of socialist leaders like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro as ‘tyrants who take guns’.
The argument goes something like this. First, throw out the names of some political leaders demonized in the United States. Second, claim that they banned guns and confiscated firearms from the population and that this act more than anything else facilitated their rise to power. Finally, liken gun control advocates and liberals to these leaders and argue that regulation of gun ownership is a slippery slope towards ‘tyranny.’
Incidentally, this argument has gotten a lot more press coverage in the last week. The now-infamous Alex Jones-Piers Morgan interview was only outdone by a Drudge Report headline from January 9th, which featured pictures of Stalin and Hitler above a caption that read, “White House Threatens Executive Orders on Guns.”
It’s all nonsense, of course, starting with the premise that the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, warrior of the highest escalations of capital, has anything in common with revolutionary leaders like Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Chavez. Then there’s the bloated death totals we hear quite often in the corporate media and Western academia, parroted most recently by Jones, who claimed that Mao “killed about 80 million people because he’s the only guy who had the guns.”
However, a closer examination of the historical record reveals that the entire argument is based on distortions or outright falsehoods. Guns were not summarily banned in any of these countries – including Nazi Germany, as a matter of historical note. Although firearm ownership took a distinctly different form than the Wild Wild West policies in the United States, which favor individual rights and vigilante justice over social and class rights, guns remained an important part of defending socialism from imperialist aggression.
Before we go any further, I want to make one point very clear: Return to the Source has already published a piece on the Marxist position on gun control, to which people ought to refer back. We have no interest in defending liberals and gun control advocates like Piers Morgan, whose position is just as much a part of bourgeois class oppression as the right-wing’s gun fanaticism. We also have no interest in beating a dead horse by calling attention to Alex Jones’ bizarre antics and combative demeanor.
Instead, our focus is on the allegations that socialist government is predicated on the confiscation of firearms. History runs completely counter to this claim by the right-wing, and the record in most socialist countries reflects that the people generally retained the right to bear arms socially as a class, while also retaining benign individual gun rights related to hunting and sports.
Let’s start with Cuba. If Fidel Castro’s goal was to confiscate all private firearms in Cuba, one has to conclude from the data that he’s done a poor job. According to GunPolicy.org, there are an estimated 545,000 privately owned guns held by civilians in Cuba, meaning that approximately 4.8 people per 100 own guns. It’s not as high as the staggering 88.8 guns per person in the US – a grossly inflated statistic that doesn’t account for at least 48% of all gun owners having more than four guns – but it patently disproves the assertion by Alex Jones, the Drudge Report, and the right-wing fanatics that “Fidel Castro took the guns.”
Of course, there are regulations for firearm ownership in Cuba, but even this reflects the very different meaning of ‘the right to bear arms’ in a socialist country. Chapter 1, Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba enshrines this right:
“When no other recourse is possible, all citizens have the right to struggle through all means, including armed struggle, against anyone who tries to overthrow the political, social and economic order established in this Constitution.”
At first glance, this horrifies the gun fanatics, who argue that one only has the right to bear arms in Cuba if they are doing so in defense of the existing government. Indeed, that is exactly the case. Arms for hunting and personal protection in some cases are allowed, again according to GunPolicy.org, but the chief function of the right to bear arms in a socialist country is to defend the class power of the workers.
The lunacy of the anti-communist gun argument is accentuated further though by a look at Cuban history. After taking power on January 1, 1959, Castro and the July 26th Movement set to work expropriating the property held by oligarchs, corporations, wealthy land owners, and bankers in Cuba. This angered the US and those elements loyal to the Batista government, who sought to restore capitalism to Cuba through an invasion. Castro, well-aware at the foreign plots to bring down the Cuban revolution, “universally armed all of its workers, including women, for the defense of their country,” according to the Cuba History Archive.
Castro put it this way in a 1960 speech entitled ‘Establishing Revolutionary Vigilance in Cuba‘. After a bomb went off nearby the place he was speaking, Castro defiantly proclaimed, “For every little bomb the imperialists pay for, we arm at least 1,000 militiamen!” His words received thunderous applause.
To best exercise the right to bear arms collectively in defense of the revolution, the Cuban people organized themselves and formed popular citizens militias to defend themselves and the revolution, which was immediately under attack. After US planes bombed three Cuban sugar mills in October 1959, “Cubans form[ed] a popular militia” to rebuild. By September 1960, the CIA was funding rogue forces within Cuba to sabotage industry and stage terrorist attacks aimed at bringing down Castro’s government. The people responded in the form of popular citizens militias again, who promptly put down the imperialist-instigated unrest.
From the same speech, Castro described the role of these militias, which would later go on to form the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, as follows:
“The imperialists and their lackeys will not be able to make a move. They are dealing with the people, and they do not know yet the tremendous revolutionary power of the people. Therefore, new steps must be taken in the organization of the militia. Militia battalions will be created throughout Cuba. Each man for each weapon will be selected. A structure will be given to the entire mass of militiamen so that as soon as possible our combat units will be perfectly formed and trained.”
Of course, the largest and most trying test for the new revolutionary government and the Cuban people was the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, organized by Eisenhower and executed by Kennedy. An armed band of Cuban exiles were to invade Cuba from the Bay of Pigs, establish a foothold in the country, and with US military support, create “a new Cuban government under U.S. direction.” The Cuban History Archive describes the initial moments of the invasion:
Shortly before 3 a.m. on Monday morning, a civilian member of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution spots the U.S. warships, just yards off the Cuban shores. Less than 20 minutes later, the entire Cuban government is informed about the invasion, and their response is immediate. Castro tirelessly coordinates defense of the island; first the civilian population is immediately alerted about the invasion: for the past months the Cuban government had begun an aggressive program of giving weapons to the entire Cuban population and training their people in basic military tactics to defend the island in case of invasion.
Coordinating with the newly assembled Cuban Armed Forces, the armed Cuban populace repelled the US invaders handily. A pledge of support by the Soviet Union discouraged Kennedy from fully committing to US air support for the rebels. When Kennedy did finally authorize overt US military intervention, it was too late. One last time, we look to the Cuban History Archive:
All planned support by the U.S. Air Force is called off, and the 2506 Brigade is left stranded to fend for itself in Cuba. The battle was going poorly for the U.S. invaders, not able to gain an inch on the beach they had been deserted. In the face of utter defeat, Kennedy continues to maintain that the U.S. is not involved in the invasion. After two days of intense fighting, Kennedy momentarily reverses his previous decision with his stomach full of regret, and orders the U.S. Air Force to assist the invasion force in what way they can. Four American pilots are killed, shot down by people who months ago had known little more about the world than harvesting sugar.
Let’s call it what it is: the Alex Jones/Drudge Report argument against gun control is a flat-out lie. The Cuban people were widely and universally armed, and they received their guns from Castro’s government, no less.
Jones was right about one point, though. Guns and an armed population were essential to resisting the rise of tyranny. Without an armed population, there’s a chance that the Bay of Pigs invasion would have re-installed the corrupt, mafioso Batista regime for the profit of US corporations and banks. Instead, the Cuban people exercised their right to bear arms collectively – thus democratically – and defended the Cuban Revolution, free from foreign rule or dominance. They were successful, and their experience is a testament to the role of guns in a socialist society.
This isn’t uniquely true to Cuba, either. The People’s Socialist Republic of Albania’s Constitution guaranteed the right of its citizens to own firearms, for which military training was a necessity. Even before the right was enshrined in the 1976 Constitution, Chairman Enver Hoxha said this in a 1968 conversation with Ecuadorian leaders:
“All our people are armed in the full meaning of the word. Every Albanian city-dweller or villager, has his weapon at home. Our army itself, the army of a soldier people, is ready at any moment to strike at any enemy or coalition of enemies. The youth, too, have risen to their feet. Combat readiness does not in any way interfere with our work of socialist construction. On the contrary, it has given a greater boost to the development of the economy and culture in our country.”
In her book Albania Defiant, Jan Myrdal describes the tremendous scale to which Socialist Albania armed its people:
The entire Albanian people are armed, but the navy, the air force, and armored units are—naturally enough—not particularly strong. In May 1961 the Soviet leaders tried to undermine Albania’s defenses by giving their officers orders to steal Albania’s eight submarines. Naturally, this theft irritated the Albanians. But it hardly undermined Albania’s defenses, which are based on the ability of its totally armed population to defend its mountains.
Chinese support is important, but crucial to Albania’s defense is that the entire Albanian people are armed, have weapons. There are weapons in every village. Ten minutes after the alarm sounds, the entire population of a village must be ready for combat. There has never been any shortage of weapons in Albania, but never have the people been as armed as they are today. (Source)
Other socialist states like the former Yugoslavia and nationalist states like Libya guaranteed widespread gun ownership. In the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact countries, military-grade education that included the assembly and use of guns was mandatory for all students in middle school onward, according to Joseph S. Roucek’s October 1960 article, ‘Special Features of USSR’s Secondary Education’.
The People’s Republic of Poland went a step further and maintained a citizens militia called Milicja Obywatelska until its fall in 1990, which any citizen could join and receive indoor firearm training and bear arms. Some kind of collective outlet for gun use and ownership existed in most socialist countries, not unlike Cuba’s own Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Like all capitalist countries, the socialist countries adopted different laws and had different levels of regulation, but the overarching trend was that the right to bear arms was to be exercised socially and collectively. While this won’t satisfy the cravings of fanatics like Jones, it provides leftists with a more democratic way of understanding the right to bear arms.
Different material conditions require different responses, though. Jones’ claim that Venezuela has “taken the guns” under Hugo Chavez is dishonest for a number of reasons. It is true that Venezuela has discontinued the legal right of citizens to purchase firearms from state manufacturers for private use, but this came after international outrage at the unusually high murder rate in the South American country, with nearly 18,000 murders annually. About 70% of murders in South America are linked to guns – versus just 25% in Western Europe – so the Venezuelan government has taken the logical step of ending the widespread sale of firearms to curb crime.
Will it work? Time will tell. The point, though, is that Chavez didn’t “take the guns” to consolidate ‘tyranny’. In fact, he’s stood for eight elections, most recently in October 2012; an elections process that former US President Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world.”
All of it goes to say that Alex Jones and the Drudge Report are guilty of outright falsifications. It’s not that we expect better from these two fringe right-wing sources, but we are concerned that many people will hear these outlandish claims and associate socialism with gun control.
The right to bear arms means something different in socialist countries, but it still exists. Instead of the individual bourgeois right as it exists in the US – resulting in the vigilante murder of Black and Latino people from Reconstruction to the present day – gun ownership becomes a social right of the working class to exercise in defense of the revolution. And regardless of the lies and distortions that the right-wing puts out, that socialist exercise of the right to bear arms makes it a fundamentally more democratic right than we have in the US.
- Posted by vincesherman on “Return to the source”
Ron Paul’s son libertarian “Rand Paul” intimidated and attempted to destroy Abby Martin’s career for asking him a question. This is the freedom and liberty libertarians are always on about in action I guess.
The DPRK does not view marijuana as a drug. Also, there is no taboo around smoking or cultivating it in north Korea.
“There is no taboo around pot smoking in the country – many North Koreans know the drug exists and have smoked it. In North Korea, the drug goes by the name of ip tambae or…
Maybe this will help win some Ron Paul supporters back over to the left…
Capitalism is synonymous with “liberalism” if, by this we mean not the beneficent image that the “liberal” label frequently brings to mind, but the plain and total exercise of the domination of capital, not only over work and the economy, but over all aspects of social life. There can be no “market economy” (a vulgar expression for capitalism) without a “market society.” Capital stubbornly pursues this distinct objective — money; accumulation for its own sake. Marx, and after him other critical thinkers like Keynes, understood this perfectly. But not our conventional economists, including many of those ostensibly on the left.
This model of total and exclusive domination by capital was imposed ruthlessly by the ruling classes throughout the previous long crisis until 1945. Only the triple victory of democracy, socialism, and the national liberation of peoples in innumerable struggles made possible the replacement for a time of this capitalist ideal. From 1945 to 1980, it was supplanted by the conflictual coexistence of three socially regulated models: the welfare state of Western social democracy; the “really existing” socialism in the East; and the popular nationalisms in the South. The demise and collapse of these three models made possible the return of the exclusive domination by capital, this time described as the neoliberal phase of capitalism."
— Samir Amin, Seize the Crisis!
It is important to realize that the recent turn toward economic understanding of our situation within counter-culture may be an important step, and it is perhaps inevitable that the analysis must once against traverse through Proudhonist and populist vulgarity before developing into a thorough analysis. My experience in prodding answers from those who advocate economic solutions such as time banks, local currencies, returning to the gold standard, or those who maintain that we should simply shift the value basis of currency to something new, has led me to the conclusion that these asinine ideas are at least a first step for those beginning to think about political economy. The type of meta-manipulation fix being advocated is certainly a step beyond the former leftist phraseology, which merely decried having an economy at all, or looked at it as wholly separate from political struggles, but it still has a distance to travel. I want to discuss some of the misconceptions that lead people into these well worn pot holes of bourgeoisie economics, historically locate them, and to try and steer the critique into a more positive direction.
The first instinct people seem to have when they start thinking seriously about economy is that what we have isn’t working, so the solution will be somehow implementing an alternative. Even at this beginning point we have the foundation of reformist mentality, which takes for granted that our society is democratic to such an extent that we will be able to just propose a solution, advocate for it, and make the switch to fix the problem. Otherwise it is suggested that we can simply move to an isolated commune, practice our idea, and cross our fingers that the rest of the world will do the same. All of the ideas I am going to be talking about to some degree rely on these assumptions. Even those who advocate revolution often assume that economy is something which is instituted, and thus can simply be altered after we rid ourselves of those who are actively imposing capitalist economic relations on us. We need to understand Capitalism historically, and dynamically, materially, and socially if we are going to seriously discuss overcoming it. To begin developing that kind of deep understanding, we must approach capitalism from an evolutionary perspective. Capitalism is a social dynamic; there is no hard science that can find the atoms of value which designate exchangibility. However, this isn’t equivalent to saying that value is merely something that occurs when people collectively conclude it exists. Some resources are more scarce than others of course, and some things are so abundant that one could not reasonably trade them. Money develops due to a need for a universal medium of exchange: a substance that I can trade you for, and be relatively sure I can trade again for what I want. Money also attempts to resolve the contradiction between use value (the demand for the item itself) and labor value (the labor-power congealed in the finished commodity). When making an exchange, we are claiming that the time it took for the buyer to earn the money, is equal to the labor time socially necessary in the production of the commodity we are buying. So money always has a dual function: as a measure of abstract labor value, and as the actual medium of exchange between two commodities (i.e. labor time as a commodity exchanged for a wage, and then this money/wage exchanged for another commodity). This is of course before we complicate it with other considerations such as credit, but I only bring this up to stress that the labor value behind money is not the same thing as what the currency itself is, nor is it equivalent to how it is “backed” (such as when we were on the gold standard). Understanding this is crucial to explaining how value circulates and why money developed.
I want to start off talking about Baltimore’s bnote (an alternate currency that can only be exchanged in Baltimore). The fact that something like the bnote can carry on at any capacity is because it doesn’t operate at the level where real value is generated, in the production of goods, or in the extraction of natural resources. To exclude production from your economic analysis is the same as to assume the underlying relation of production, and thus to reproduce the core of the capitalist relationship. Backing the bnote on real dollars is almost no different than if we were to start calling a dollar 100 cents; it is merely a nominal replacement of the same exchange value. It is important to remember that actual value is not generated by exchange in any way, because exchange only sifts the value already created between different buyers and sellers. The bnotes website claims that bnotes will “Strengthen the community” because they “provide built-in incentives for money to flow into the local economy and to continue circulating there, without being drawn out by national corporate chains.” Firstly, it should be obvious to anyone that locally owned businesses are only locally run. The coffee shops buy their beans internationally, and the electronics are assembled in sweatshops. This would be true even in a situation where all local exchange took place with bnotes (good luck growing coffee in Baltimore). Secondly, the circulation of money locally does not produce any local wealth, as the process of exchange takes place between equivalent values (when considered in the social total). You are not going to pay 20 bnotes for what is worth 15, the value simply changes hands, it doesn’t create itself anew. Thirdly, the reason why people increasingly decide to buy things online and from far away places is because its often cheaper and more convenient—- captivating consumers to local shops will be more expensive for them then at larger businesses, and the extra money spent will just siphon off to petite-bourgeois business owners. This does nothing to alter the way we think about social reproduction in general.
The idea that a “local economy” is somehow more “ethical” is a delusion that cropped up originally in right-wing populism, and crept its way into liberalism through the recent “buy local” craze which developed with the so called “green” or “responsible” capitalist mentality. The goal of this ideology, whether one realizes it or not, is to shift the blame off of the capitalist class and the anarchic state of global trade, and say that the problem lies with importing and exporting goods from other countries. This same line of thought assumes the problem with job loss in America is due to off-shoring, contributing to the populist xenophobia around immigration which blames Latino workers for taking our jobs, rather than the corporations that hire them. In reality, industrial production in the United States is still among the highest in the world; assembly and light production in industries like clothing are outsourced because they are not profitable enough enterprises for American capitalists, who can simply force a few workers harder and harder to produce things like military equipment, cars, and other heavy industry. The problem is not that trade is international… this is actually a positive thing in many respects.
The fetishization of small subsistence-based production models comes from a lack of historical understanding about why that type of production was no longer desirable after a certain point. My personal knowledge base on this subject revolves around Russia, so I will use that as my reference point, but I believe the implications are true of most places that struggled through a period of rural subsistence-based farming. It is important to understand that to a certain degree capitalism was a progressive development for the world, though progressive here is not a synonym for “good” or for “inevitable”. This isn’t to pose a master historical narrative, but just to talk about what actually happened. Small scale production at a subsistence level was extremely problematic, even outside of the feudal relationship that controlled it, and capitalism created solutions for this alongside its own problems. Crop failure was common due to resources which simply were not available to isolated farming communities, such as medicine, or appropriate scientific knowledge of agricultural production. Before (and after) the Russian Revolution, the peasant commune was the most detrimental factor to economic development, and forced proletarianization became a brutal truth for dealing with the chronic backwardness of the economy in a global market. Competing on this global scale as it emerged was a necessity for survival during this period of rabid imperialism and colonization. The peasants problem wasn’t simply that a rich landlord or industrial capitalist exploited them: they needed tractors, electricity, medicine, and education. The future Pol Pots of the primitivist camp have two main answers to this argument: more commonly they will maintain their rosy utopian vision of pre-agrarian society, claiming the problem stems from the advent of agriculture, or they will argue that such death is necessary for population control, adhering to the romantic era ideology that nature is a static and separate entity from “civilization” , and perhaps more dangerously that this “nature” itself is wholly self regulating (see the documentary “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” part 2 for a more in-depth critique of this type of thought).
But to get back to my main point, localism is nothing but an apology for capitalism with a nice liberal face. Economic crisis and job loss are not a result of people buying cheaper crap from overseas (an idea which I believe has racist, and certainly right-wing origins), but are due to ever increasing exploitation at the point of production, simultaneous with the concentration of wealth and power by the boss class. A socialist perspective is about understanding that our problem is international, and so our solution must be too. This means the expansion of global trade, but the destruction of the core of the problem; namely, that those working and creating global wealth don’t collectively control where and how wealth is allocated. When you take this power out of the hands of the small class of people who are only concerned about wealth insofar as they are able to generate more of it, we have something closer to a solution. If we are not thinking on this scale, we are not actually thinking about economy at all, and we are certainly not posing any threat to it.
Next I want to talk about the trend of time banking, which I thought had been proven absurd in the 19th century, but has recently been advocated in places like U.S. Social forum, and among proponents of alternative currencies. Time banking generally falls in to all of the flaws of localism that I have already talked about, but seems almost more dangerous in a sense because it does address the problem at a deeper level by evaluating labor. The vulgar-economist and anarchist Proudhon is the first source I am familiar with who advocated for an economy based off of labor chits, which were physical representations of an hour of actual labor. The obvious critique is that the unit being traded here is an hour of time, and not the labor involved. The bourgeoisie economists before Marx’s Capital adhered to a similar type of logic, claiming that labor itself was the foundation of all value. However, contrary to the popular conception that Marx makes this argument, Capital is a critique of the labor theory of value. Marx contends, rather, that the value of labor in a commodity is set by the socially necessary labor time required to produce the commodity; thus we need to consider the technology implemented, the state of class struggle in the culture where the commodity is produced, the resources involved in the labor process, and even things like the ideologies at play in society. What the capitalist buys is not the labor itself, but the workers labor-power (the capacity to do work rather than the actual work being done). As Marx explains it: “Labor itself, in its immediate being, in its living existence, cannot be directly conceived as a commodity, but only labour-power, of which labor itself is the temporary manifestation.” Making these distinctions not only avoided some of the problematic formulations of working with labor as a process in relation to value, but provided an essential window into the crux of capitalist production: the extraction of surplus-value. These distinctions may same like hair splitting, but the implications make them absolutely crucial. It is not a surprise that those who believed in the labor theory of value could also only suggest very simplistic solutions, such as suggesting that collapsing the unit of exchange and the value it represents to be sure people are adequately remunerated. Marx responds to this on page 136 of the Grundrisse saying: “The market value is always different, it is always above or below the average value of a commodity. Market value equates itself with real value by means of its constant oscillations[reflex value], never by means of an equation with real value as if the latter were a third party, but rather by means of constant non-equation of itself” and further on 139: “The time-chit, representing average labor time; i.e. the amount of labor time objectified in a commodity would never command a quantity of labor time equal to itself, and vice versa, but would command, rather, either more or less.” Thus calling the medium of exchange by the same name as its source of value (labor), doesn’t remove the real difference between price and value.
Let us look at a somewhat absurd, but I think relevant example. If a clerk needs to regularly purchase certain clothing that is nicer, and generally more expensive than that of someone who works construction, assuming all other needs as constant, the relationship between the value of their labor hour itself becomes asymmetrical. To keep it simple, lets say the time of production of the clothing for the clerk is 1 hour longer than what it takes to produce the uniform for the construction worker, this would mean that the clerk’s total work value at the end of the day is proportionally reduced relevant to that of the construction worker, even if they worked the same amount of time. The expenses of the clerk here are above the socially normalized standard of commodities necessary to reproduce the labor hour. The 1 to 1 correlation is immediately debauched by thousands of such considerations, the reason being that the actual worth of the labor is specific to the type of labor and its societal circumstance, and so in the process of exchange it must becomes abstract. The various independent values are run through the filter of social availability of specific types of labor, the degree of qualification required to do the job, and infinite other factors.
Now, more local-level time bank advocates probably understand that this isn’t a wide scale solution, but rather a nice small scale thing that can help people who want to do an hour of dishes in exchange for an hour of babysitting. I don’t really think there is a problem with trading chores with friends, or even centralizing and organizing these exchanges a bit, but when it is put forward as a economic idea or worse an economic solution, a problem quickly develops. The language and approach lead to a mystification and abstraction of concrete labor practices, which serve to veil the core relationship of the production of value in terms of labor under capital: the extraction of surplus value. There are of course other ways to obtain value, such as plunder of natural resources and the commons, or forced expropriation of sovereign resources; but the fundamental element, and the one that accounts for the majority of wealth generated since the advent of capital comes from buying labor-power from a worker for an increment of time, and balancing the wage paid for that time so that it is always less than the income generated by the sale of the commodity produced in aggregate. Essentially this means not paying the worker for a portion of the time they have worked. In most places, and for most of history, the wage given is equivalent to the minimum bundle of commodities that will keep the worker alive. Considering exchange for work in terms purely restricted to the time (usually one hour) is not possible on anything but the lowest scale, and can only account for artisanal type production. As soon as you introduce the type of work that really matters for people affected by class antagonism, this “answer” becomes unintelligible.
Another example to show the complexity of the problem: If a machine that produces needles has embodied however many hundreds of hours or labor for its own completion, plus the hours considered in the design of the machine, how do you compensate someone who operates the machine, producing a needle every so many seconds in relation to the hours in which they have worked? If a machine embodies already completed labor hours, then working on them will wildly effect the real value of the factory labor in relation to other areas such as artisanal labor, or domestic labor, as the labor time required for production is reduced by others labor. We must also factor in the dual function of labor which preserves congealed values while producing new ones. And I wont even start on the simpler facts such as that different workers produce at different speeds. Basically what I am trying to say is that keeping the direct correlation is impossible. To fix the rate between the hours being traded and their actual labor value would simply reconstruct the problem of regular money— there is no way to collapse the price and value in a unit of exchange.
The final thing I want to cover is more of a real world solution, but it stems from and feeds into the same type of delusional logic as the other quick-fix economic solutions I have covered; the reinstatement of the gold standard. One prevalent reason why people believe this is an answer is because they sincerely believe that money is not backed by any real value since there isn’t a tangible object like gold behind it. Money not backed by something as palpable gold is called fiat money, and its exchangeablity and production come from the government. This is why delusional libertarians are up in arms about returning to the gold standard, because their abstract individualist ideology plasters itself over every nuance, and must categorically reject any government intervention. The difference between the gold standard and fiat money is not as extreme as people like Ron Paul make it out to be, since the price of gold which formally backed the dollar was also subject to great fluctuation and government control. Historically the scarcity of gold has been extremely detrimental to the world economy, and perhaps being one of the biggest factors in the great depression. It is a fact that capitalism is based on the accumulation of surplus value, which means increasing stores of value are generated. If the total social aggregate of value is ever increasing, where is the gold going to come from to compensate for the increasing amount of value and currency in circulation? There are only two places in the world that can output gold at a level even close to the degree of value in circulation, and those places are Russia and South Africa. Whatever capitalist monopoly has the lock on the extraction of gold from those places would probably be thrilled at the power and wealth they would amass in trying to output enough to supply backing for the entire planets means of circulation.
Fiat money doesn’t mean the government can arbitrarily assign value to its units of exchange; if they could simply produce as much value as they liked out of thin air, then all of our problems would be solved. The value of money is checked against factors like the social circumstances of production, the limiting of currency in circulation, and the cost of the production of the units of exchange themselves (it is costly and labor intensive to produce even relatively counter-fit proof currency). Fiat money is a necessity of the anarchic conditions of production and circulation in late capitalism, and its flexibility is essential to economic circumstances prone to regular crisis. The need for it developed from a preexisting condition of grand indebtedness. Fiat money can allow for more manipulation around circumstances that are not under human control. Whereas fiat money evolved to accommodate for a situation of massive debt (such as after the Civil War, World War 1, and Black Friday), the original contradictions of capital accumulation continue.The problem with fiat money is not that it is arbitrary based or that it is state controlled, but rather that under capitalism, private interests can interfere with it, and manipulate it in the service of profit instead of long term stability. This isn’t to make the utopian assertion that we can once and for all come to total stabilization by public sector control, but rather that we create a society that at least has stabilization and general welfare as a goal, and work from there toward a society where the only economic imperative is “from each according to ability, to each according to need”.
So in conclusion, the economic solutions I have been hearing are positive in that they show people are at least concerning themselves with the way a society reproduces itself, and trying to think about the ways it could be done differently. The traces of bourgeoisie thought in general are apparent in these early considerations, be it the romantic belief in nature or the market’s self regulation. Approaching economy can be daunting: the language is jargonistic and the method practiced seems rigidly scientific, but this type of mystification perpetuated in economics departments across the world really begins to crumble when approached through the lens of dialectic materialism. Whether or not one buys Marx’s account, without trying to understand perhaps the most cohesive and rigorous critique of bourgeoisie economy to date, one is bound to repeat some of the corrected mistakes, (especially if one comes from a bourgeois background like most people who have time to try to start up a new monetary system). Understanding is an essential link to changing economy, and Marx gives us an excellent basis and method for approaching economy from a political and scientific angle. Until we understand economy in an evolutionary and historical way, our solutions are doomed to be mere fantasies.
. I am not even considering here that people are given 10% more bnotes than dollars in the exchange rate, which will obviously facilitate the currencies debauchery by not backing the 10% with a real value. Also, if you just dump another 10% on top of the exchange value between the two currencies, this simply means that the bnote is worth 10% less than a dollar, and the vendor looses out when it is exchanged. Perhaps the producers of the money do front that 10% through donations or something? It can’t be as absurd as it sounds…
. For instance, again from the bnote webpage: “Local currency is real money that fulfills the original purpose of currency: to facilitate commerce. It is not for accumulation, speculation, or any of the dynamics that can lead to increased inequality and societal instability.” The employment of these terms is utterly nonsensical. Commerce refers to the total social context in which exchange is facilitated, which means capitalism, which implies at the very least accumulation. Perhaps by “original purpose” they are referring to some pre-capitalist form of exchange that they want to pretend can exist now? In this statement they also make the claim that the currencies’ ability to be accumulated and used for speculation is what “leads to increased inequality and societal instability”, which is as clear cut an example of fetishization as I can imagine. From where does the currency obtain its mystical quality of being accumulable? The argument rests on pretending that currency in itself has these powers as qualities, which essentially ignores the political and social circumstances of capitalism. A business exists in a capitalist context: if it doesn’t make profit, it will cease to be a business. The whole purpose of creating the bnote is to force consumers to buy from local businesses, which means they are realizing the value, and accumulating without producing the value they accumulate.
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