Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wobbly Times number 16

Carl Schmitt was a German Catholic authoritarian who hated liberal democracy and ended up supporting the Nazis. He was born on July 11, 1888. He was 29 years old when World War I ended in 1918. He didn't participate in the war.

Schmitt was disturbed by what he saw during the aftermath of 'The Great War'. What he saw was the breakdown of capitalist and aristocratic authority and with that decline, a transference of political authority from God to the secular, democratic State, a continuing assertion of working class interests, the expansion of democratic rights and the rise to power of the newly established Stalinist State in the wake of the Russian Revolution. To Schmitt's mind, these historical turns signalled a disastrous descent into decadence. Like his contemporary Heidegger, Schmitt feared an eventual victory of the working class and godless socialism in Germany and beyond.

Schmitt's solution to what he perceived as the decadence of the bourgeois democratic Weimar State was developed in his theory of political theology. Schmitt claimed that all moves away from a theocratically based State, such as those ruled by kings ('Dieu et mon droit') were steps in the direction of chaos, anarchy and the dissolution of civilisation. In the modern age, it seemed to Schmitt that the best cure for the decay of central, religiously sanctioned authority was fascism.

Fascism demands hierarchical, political obedience to the authority of the leader. What was demoralizing and decadent in the liberal democratic Weimar Republic was the lack of a 'Fuehrerprinzip' (leader principle). For Schmitt, the old feudal systems of kings invested by God had gradually been replaced by States based on the 'will of the people'. Thus, obedience to God's will, manifested through the sovereign king, had been replaced by a secular, democratic State of conflicting human wills and this was, in his view, the reason why Weimar was so culturally and politically decadent.

Hobbes' LEVIATHAN (1651) had profoundly influenced the young, reactionary Schmitt as had his authoritarian, Catholic upbringing. After all, the Pope was a kind of kingly servant of God who ruled his flock through divine authority and was infallible in terms of the orders he gave and actions he blessed. As for Hobbes, his philosophy argued that monarchy was the best form of government, the only one which could guarantee peace between human beings, who, if left to their own devices, would return to a state of Nature and a condition of constant war amongst themselves, for, as the BIBLE told him, humans were naturally sinners. Thus the need for authority, especially the divinely sanctioned authority of a monarch and Schmitt's own synthesis of Hobbesian philosophy and Catholic Church doctrine into 'political theology' was just the philosophy to fill that need. In fact Schmitt claimed that ALL political philosophy was at bottom based on theologically inspired notions.

Schmitt's views represent the roots of socially conservative, right-wing thinking: human nature is evil and ordinary humans need to be controlled by authorities who are not godless. His views coincide with the social psychology which is engendered within class societies, a social psychology which results in the social formation of an authoritarian personality character structure. Socialist humanists like Eric Fromm have developed a dialectically opposite position from Schmitt and reactionary philosophers like Heidegger. As opposed to right-wing, conservative thinking, Fromm found that human nature was instinctually connected to an urge for freedom, an urge which had to be continually tampened down within the political power hierarchies of class, sex, race and so on, so that the power of rulers and their ideas could remain in charge of the majority, the wealth producers of society, the working class of the modern world.

Carl Schmitt died on April 7, 1985. Like Heidegger, Schmitt never renounced his Nazi connected past.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wobbly Times number 15

Wealth is power

Time is money

Political power is measured by the amount of others you can tell to produce wealth for you

Free-time is the true measure of a person's wealth

Freedom is having control/power over the wealth you produce

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wobbly Times number 14

Capitalist economists have no theory of capital. Where does capital come from? Most capitalist economists would say that capital comes from sales. Capitalists sell things on the market and people buy these things and voila! capital exists. If capitalists can't sell the stuff they own, no capital can come into existence. But, where do these things which capitalists sell come from?

They come from Nature and labour. Labour produces things and capitalists sell these things. Labour puts VALUE into goods and services and these goods and services are owned by those people who hire workers for wages. They sell these things at their value i.e. the amount of socially necessary labour time embodied in them. Labour time has to be in the commodity for it to have value. The value of commodities is not expressed in socially necessary labour time but by money prices. Money is the universal equivalent within whcih all commodities are measured. Money is itself a commodity. Money represents crystalized and crystalizing values being and potentially being produced within a class society. Thus, money itself is a commodity which is used to circulate commodities in markets, to sell them and is a measure of value which is created through the employment of workers producing goods and services during their eight or more hours of work. Prices are in turn subject to supply and demand in the marketplace. If there is not demand for the thing being produced, it has no use-value and cannot be sold for its exchange-value (the amount of socially necessary labour time embodied in it) and as the capitalist economist points out, no new capital/wealth comes into existence. So, the capitalist economist knows where capital is realized, in the sale; but not from where it originates, in the production process.

One exception to this rule of average labour time producing the wealth of nations, is Nature. Nature is not produced. Nature is there. If a capitalist owns some part of Nature e.g. a piece of land, the capitalist or landlord can sell that piece of land for a price which has no value. Nothing in the way of socially necessary labour time is embodied in some land which is owned within Nature by capitalists and landlords. On the other hand, some land does have average labour time in it in terms of buildings and the like. But lots of Nature is owned and sold for a price even though there is no labour time embodied in it, although the potential for producing wealth out of the owned land can and most often does come into play in terms of calculating the price of its sale e.g. mining interests.

So, there are two sources of wealth: Nature, as an owned commodity, and human labour time invested in the production of commodities which are owned by capitalists. The sale of a commodity legitimizes the need for it within the market. The market is a gathering of human beings who need goods and services. The market does not produce value rather, human beings validate the production of a good or service by consuming it, by expressing their need for the use-value embodied in the good or service commodity in the marketplace. They do this with their money.

What happens when the price of a commodity is way out of touch with its value? What happens when a commodity is selling for way more than its value?

We have seen what happens just recently when $8 trillion of housing wealth was wiped off the books of various holders. This is what a bubble is. It is a bubble because price has increasingly become separated from value through market speculation. A bubble is an inflated price with insufficient value to back it up. For example, when real estate speculators and bankers sell property wealth as collateralized debt obligations (cdos) and these cdos are backed up by home buyers with insufficient wages to pay off their property loans, the ones which have been bundled into said cdos, you have a bubble waiting to burst.

Wealth comes from labour and Nature, not from financial speculation and the consequent market manipulation of price. Wealth is created when M(money) is used by capitalist to buy C (capital) and has more wealth is produced M'(money) and realised after sale: M-C-M'. C is composed of fixed, circulating and variable capital. Variable capital is the labour time and skill purchased with money capital by people who own capital i.e. capitalists. Variable capital varies in the sense that a capitalist buys it for wages, after which the producer creates more value than what was expressed in her/his value. Labour is a commodity too, bought on the labour market. The price of labour time is expressed in money as wages. Capitalists own their money capital from selling the wealth which workers have created for sale in the marketplace earlier.

If wealth as measured in money is garnered from speculative bubble making, the middle C is missing or mostly missing and no new wealth is created by workers using the means of production (fixed capital) and elements from Nature e.g. coal, gas and other forms of circulating capital. What you have with bubbles is M-M'. You also have a lot of unemployment, suffering, poverty amidst plenty and lots of the other assorted social problems of the wages system.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wobbly Times number 13

We're stressed in Australia! Hard to believe isn't it? How could we be stressed? We live in 'the lucky country'. Could it be wage-slavery getting us down? As it turns out, the answer is, "Yes".

Nine out of ten Australian workers attribute their high levels of stress to work. On top of the insecurities which abound about whether an Australian is going to be able to continue slaving away for the employing class (after all, how else to make a living than by having your boss buy your skills and time?), Aussies are also stressing themselves out by working overtime--FOR FREE!:

“A survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that almost three million of the country's eight million employees regularly work extra hours and
most do not get paid for it.”

Don't organise with your fellow workers in the One Big Union. No, no, no, no, no. Shake hands with your boss and look wise. Class collaboration is the way. Listen to your pollies and responsible leaders on TV. They know what's best for you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wobbly Times number 12

The current economic slump is rooted in the wages system. Under the wages system, a producer is obliged to sell his or her labour power in the marketplace for commodities for a price in order to make a living. Your skills are commodities as is everything else for sale within the capitalist system.
CEOs also sell their skills; but more often than not, CEOs already own so much wealth that they don't need their salaries to make a living. They make a living from the already accumulated wealth which they legally own and which they usually invest in stocks, bonds, real estate and other commodities, including financial instruments like hedge funds and other nations' currencies. Yes, money is a commodity too. Hence, CEOs are not workers; they are capitalists. Capitalists live from the wealth they appropriate from the workers through the everyday operation of the wages system. This appropriation is backed up by contract law: you sell your skills for a wage in exchange for the employer owning the product of your labour. Contract law is backed up by the power invested in the State: police, prisons, armies, navies and other forms of coercion.
Like all other commodities, the price of one's skills is tied to the amount of socially necessary labour time which is embodied in them. In this case, the commodity for sale is located in one's mind and body and expressed as skills. This socially necessary labour time comprises the labourer's exchange-value. The price or wage which the worker gets for his or her skills fluctuates around the value which is embodied in the worker's acquired skills. The fluctuation of the price/wage is determined by the supply of and demand for that particular skill set on the labour markets of the world.
Capitalists never buy (or employ, if you will) workers' skills unless they can make a profit from selling the product (good or service) which the worker (almost always in combination with other workers within an industrial division of labour) can produce. Thus, workers produce new values during the eight more or less hours which they are employed; all of which leads to the creation of new embodiments of socially necessary labour time, which in turn, always amount to more value than the value which workers' skills embody and sell for on the labour market. The price of the goods and/or services which are produced exceeds the wages which workers' skills are bought for. Capitalists make profits from selling these goods and/or services in the global marketplace for commodities. If there are lots of buyers, then more workers' skills are purchased. It there are fewer buyers then, fewer workers' skills are purchased and the unemployment rate goes up.
Meanwhile, workers' productivity has gone up, up and up over the years; it never goes down. For example, even though there are fewer workers producing new values in the non-financial industries of the USA today than there were in the 1980s, there has been a marked increase total output of goods and services. At the same time, real wages (wages adjusted for inflation) have stagnated. As productivity (output per worker) has increased, the socially necessary labour time embodied in the new values being created has dropped and with that drop has come a drop in the prices of many commodities, if one measures those prices in terms of real, inflation adjusted money. Still, the fact that workers' real wages have stagnated has had a profound effect on sales of new values being produced by them on the world market and that fact has led to insufficient demand in the market and to a consequent contradiction.
How to get the workers of the world, especially in the industrialised States to buy more of the goods and services they produce for capitalists to sell and make more profits?
Credit, loans and so on. Most workers have turned their union cards in for credit cards. It's no accident that 60% of the personal bankruptcies in the USA of recent date can be traced to credit card debt.
Where do capitalists invest all the wealth they've appropriated from their hired producers when it is apparent that the workers cannot produce sufficient demand?
What if this debt has no value to back it up? What if there is no worker producing a concrete value to back up the debt which is being bought and sold on the world financial market? What if this debt, which promises huge percentage of return on investment, turns out to be empty of value? What if a bunch of housing is marketed to increasing amounts of workers who cannot afford to buy, except by incurring debt levels which their meagre, stagnating, real wages cannot absorb?
Investments by various capitalists go bust! An $8 trillion housing bubble has burst. Thus, workers must be laid off because they are too productive and cannot buy all the stuff that they can make. Workers can make housing. Workers can make all the things that they need; but they must lose their means of making a living because the wages system needs some structural adjustment.
Don't worry. Be happy wage-slaves. Study your horror-scopes and pray to your deities. The glaciers are melting and the system is broken. But just wait awhile and let the invisible hand of the market work and all will be well....for there's pie in the sky when you die and the banks are made of marble.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wobbly Times number 11 answer to the question, "What did you do in the war, daddy?" , I have the following answer, to be found here.

"War? What is it good for?" Well that depends, mostly on which class you're in. All wars are fought by workers and peasants for their masters in the ruling class. It's in the class interests of those who control the State to maintain the power of that State and yes, to project it into other States; to defeat other States and, if possible, to take control of all or part of the wealth through war. That's what war between States is about....mostly. There are also working class concerns in winning a war which their rulers send them out to fight in. For example, it was in workers' class interests to have the fascists lose the battle for world hegemony aka WWII. Of course, we got the Cold War and the continuance of class rule and threat of nuclear annihilation (all of which continues today, although the names have been changed to promote an innocence); but we avoided the worst of the excesses of capitalist dictatorship gone mad with social Darwinist ideas and actions. I mean, learning Japanese would be an honourable, difficult, admirable thing for an Australian to do these days; but think about what a Japanese victory in WWII would have meant in terms of having to learn the Japanese language. Thanks to the workers of the world who were on the side of the anti-fascists in WWII!
War within States, civil wars are usually competitions between rival ruling classes in conflict. Again though, we need to be careful in totally condemning them all e.g. the U.S. Civil War. This war resulted in ending chattel slavery in the USA and therefore was in the interest of the workers to see the Union defeat the Confederacy. In the Spanish Civil War, it was in the class interests of the workers of the world to see Franco's undemocratic Nationalists defeated.
But, for the most part, wars, including civil wars tend to be good for, "Absolutely Nothing!" from a class conscious worker's point of view.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wobbly Times number 10

Animal rights is a human concept. Humans are animals too. Humans create contemporary conceptual systems of morality which reflect their own sense of decency and they do this within already constructed systems of morality which have come to them historically through the cultures in which they have been born. Inevitably, there are clashes between people creating new conceptual systems of morality and those for whom the old systems seem quite adequate. Animal rights represent such a clash of moral conceptualisation.

Some in the animal rights movement contend that non-human animals also have the conceptual tools to become moral. They point to an animal's ability to mourn, for instance. But, mourning, I would argue, is more a recognition by an animal of an emotional lack, a hole in one's life left by the death of a significant other. This recognition is not based on a moral system of concepts. Other animals don't write TEN COMMANDMENTS or respect eating codes like those followed and thought up by the Jains in India or vegetarians in general. If a non-human animal is a vegetarian it is not the result of that animal following a moral or culturally based culinary code of conduct.

Most people today are not animal rights advocates. To many of those who are animal rights advocates, it seems that most humans are 'speciesists', a pejorative term aimed at people who are perceived as being not as morally advanced as those in the animal rights movement at best and immoral or evil at worst. This stance leads to a kind of sectarianism which can be observed between peoples of varying religious doctrines. As with all sectarianism, the people of one ideological persuasion see people of another ideological persuasion as inferior and sometimes, outright 'evil'. Evil is a pejorative term which is often used to describe people who are under the influence of another ideological tradition. Of course, 'evil' must be stamped out, condemned and avoided at all costs, lest one become corrupted. Corruption is a term most often used by people who are immersed in an Idealist philosophical perspective. Idealists put form before content. The material world is usually seen as a corruption of the form of perfection, the Ideal. For the most part, animal rights ideologists are Idealists.

Animal rights advocates don't see animals, other than humans, as being evil. Why are other animals not capable of being evil? Many animals kill other animals and eat them. If human animals eat other animals they are considered to be violating the AR code of conduct. The implicit conclusion one must come to is that animal rights advocates really don't believe that non-human animals are capable of creating moral codes to live by. Thus, other animals are exempt from moral condemnation.

The historical evolution of moral codes shows that advances in ethics become possible when advances in the social relations of production come about. Where once, human beings viewed cannibalism as natural, even demanded by their religious moral codes, it is now considered 'evil' and 'backward', practiced by deranged, psycho killers who put ads in Berlin newspapers for masochist volunteers, volunteers to become food. The same is true for chattel slavery. Where once an intellectual, a philosopher, as advanced in his thinking as Aristotle, could argue the case for slavery, it is now considered an 'evil' which is universally condemned by all civilised cultures.

Perhaps, as humans are able to change the mode of production from one based on the exploitation of humans by humans into one which is based on the condition of political equality between humans who administer the means of production for their own use and need, the moral codes which could evolve out of that condition could very well include the notion of not consuming, caging or otherwise exploiting animals. Until then though, the animal rights movement seems condemned to pursue the path which all of their Idealist brethren and sisters have done throughout history, the path of cajoling their 'less morally enlightened' fellows from the monasteries and nunneries of their own moral high ground.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wobbly Times number 9

Unemployment in the USA now (7/3/09) stands at 9.5%. That's over 14.7 million workers.

From "Hallelujah I'm a Bum"

I worked overtime

like a big greedy slob

now the warehouse is full

and I'm out of a job

Hallelujah I'm a bum

Hallelujah bum again

Halleluha give us a hand out

to revive us again

Shorter work time with no cut in pay would solve the problem of unemployment, drive wages up and give workers a better crack at organising unions to protect their living standards from encroachments by their employers. You have to take responsibility, get yourself organised in the IWW and add your voice to the call for, THE FOUR HOUR DAY WITH NO CUT IN PAY.

You have to stand up for yourself or the bosses will ride roughshod over you. If you want to remain a wage-slave, just keep your mouth shut, shake hands with your boss and look wise.

Mike B)