Sunday, August 11, 2013

Smooth.....And By The Numbers, Part 1

1.  When Marx speaks of "monopoly," he is speaking of the monopoly of capital, the monopoly by capital of the means of production.  He is speaking of the organization of those means as private property of the capitalists.   His critique of capital applies to that monopoly.  Whether there is one capital or 101 capitals is immaterial to Marx's critique as it is immaterial to the inherent dynamics of capital accumulation.

There is, and is always, the monopoly by capital.  There is almost never monopoly capital.  And where and when there is, it isn't for long, and it doesn't matter.  Competition is the external expression of capital's internal compulsion to expropriate surplus value; to accumulate, accumulate, accumulate; to exchange as much as itself with labor-power for as little as possible.

Monopoly by capital, producing concentration and centralization of capitals can no more supersede or suspend the dynamics, forces of its own reproduction, its own laws of value than a human can jump over his or her own head while firmly grasping both ankles. 

2.  The "vulnerability" of capital, the limit to its reproduction, is not that capital becomes incapable of  "expanding the means of production;" that it can no longer amplify the productivity of human labor.  "Historical limits" are not time-clocks, or "sell-by" dates.  Historical limits are the boundaries of a specific social organization of labor.  Historical limits are posited, absorbed, repeated, reproduced throughout capital's existence.

These limits do not suddenly appear when capital has "fulfilled its purpose, its so-called historic mission" because indeed capital has only had a single purpose, the expansion of value through the expropriation of surplus value.  It's only historical mission has been the reproduction of capital.  "Progress" is an ideological obfuscation of value, and has no meaning to capital apart from value.    

Because capital does not lose its need for self-expansion, the limit to that expansion must be in its origin-- in the accumulation of the means of production as expanded value; as the condition of labor in opposition to labor itself.  The historical limits of capital move through its history, erupting at the moments, during the periods when the very expansion of the means of production as capital has impaired their continued valorization.  The labor process and the valorization process, the labor process as the valorization process becomes the mode of destruction.

"Progress," "stages," "development" have no meaning apart from this conflict between the labor process and the valorization process, a conflict where each recognizes itself in the other as loss..

Capital is  at the very least not necessarily more "progressive" or more "productive" than the modes it demolishes. 

Value is more destructive, of that there is no doubt.

3. It's the real accumulation of real assets that provokes, excites the conflict between means and relations of production, between production and valorization, not the proliferation of securities; not some explosion of speculative debt instruments; not asset-backed securities.  The movements in these markets are derived, derivative, from the revalorization of accumulated capital.  Assets, after all, maintain their value only to the extent that they give their value up incrementally, transfer it, in the valorization process; in the expansion of production.  Assets maintain value only to the extent that profitability outpaces devaluation. 

The original, the mother, the grand-daddy of all asset-backed securities is.....the bank.

4. "Things" are beginning to look up for capital, according to the reports in the bourgeoisie's favorite journals.  Industrial production is recovering, even in Europe, although overproduction in the auto industry has hardly been remedied.

"Getting better" can mean the rate of deceleration has slowed; it can mean the rate of deceleration has gone to zero; it can mean some sectors see some improvement; it can mean some countries have seen some improvement.

It can also mean the attacks on wages, on living standards, on employment, liquidating the savings and assets of the once and now again poor have produced a revenue stream, a cash flow, just capable of re-floating, just for the moment, the good ship Lollipop.

It can mean that 2014 is going to be a very important year; when the debt embodied in commercial real estate mortgage backed securities cannot be repaid, not refinanced.  It can mean that the decline in commodity prices, providing a bit of boost to industrial production, becomes a collapse in prices.  It can mean the expansion of oil and gas production which has driven energy prices down becomes yet another threat to the rate of return on production and investment for the major petroleum companies... and we know what happens after that. 

It can mean that 2014 is the year when the overproduced chickens come to their underwater homes to roost.

It can mean, The Shirelles to the contrary notwithstanding, that the darkest hour is just after the hint of dawn.

S. Artesian


  1. Anonymous5:24 AM

    1 or 101 capitals? Doesn't matter to Marx? Huh?

    "Conceptually, competition is nothing other than the inner nature of capital, its essential character, appearing in and realized as the reciprocal interaction of many capitals with one another, the inner tendency as external necessity. Capital exists and can only exist as many capitals, and its self-determination therefore appears as their reciprocal interaction with one another."

    Where did I read that?

  2. I don't know where you read it, but I read it in the Grundrisse.

  3. Anonymous7:59 PM

    I'll post two comments. This one has to do with monopoly and competition.
    In The Poverty of Philosophy, chapter two, section 3 under Competition and Monopoly MARX says

    "In practical life we find not only competition, monopoly and the antagonism between them, but also the synthesis of the two, which is not a formula, but a movement. Monopoly produces competition, competition produces monopoly. Monopolists are made from competition; competitors become monopolists. If the monopolists restrict their mutual competition by means of partial associations, competition increases among the workers; and the more the mass of the proletarians grows as against the monopolists of one nation, the more desperate competition becomes between the monopolists of different nations. The synthesis is of such a character that monopoly can only maintain itself by continually entering into the struggle of competition."

    Majority on the left believe in monopoly capitalism and that is frustrating. It's a good idea to post more articles likes this.


  4. Anonymous8:22 PM

    I agree with you that the year 2014 is going to be a very important year. I saw your prediction on Roberts' blog and I said great that's exactly what I think. Your comments there are valuable.

    You brought the commercial real estate mortgage backed securities to my attention. which I'll look into it.
    Looks like you're predicting deflation ahead and I agree. For one thing China's policies has and will result in tremendous overproduction. Yes 2014 will be one "helluva" year. Scary though. Will the labor rise to the occasion? Class war or world war?


  5. Cameron,
    Don't know when you submitted this comment (and the other one in part 4) but they just showed up today for some reason... maybe the US Govt. shutdown? Maybe the NSA didn't have enough money to pay for reviewing comments before forwarding, so Google just decided to hold them in limbo.