Thursday, February 12, 2015

Study Guide For those applying to the School of Anti-Economics



Rumor has it that our GameBoy, Yanis Varoufakis, Minister of Finance and VIB (very important blogger)  somewhere said something like:
" Marx’s first error, the one that I suggest was due to omission, was that he was insufficiently dialectical, insufficiently reflexive. He failed to give sufficient thought, and kept a judicious silence, over the impact of his own theorizing on the world that he was theorizing about. His theory is discursively exceptionally powerful, and Marx had got whiff of its power. How come he showed no concern that his disciples, people with a better grasp of these powerful ideas than the average worker, might use the power bestowed upon them, via Marx’s own ideas, in order to abuse other comrades, to build their own power base, to gain positions of influence, to bed impressionable students etc.?

To give a second example, we know that the success of the Russian Revolution caused capitalism, in due course, strategically to recoil and to concede pension schemes and national health services, even the idea of forcing the rich to pay for masses of poor students to attend purpose-built liberal colleges and universities. At the same time, we also saw how the rabid hostility to the Soviet Union, with a series of invasions as the prime example, stirred up paranoia amongst socialists and created a climate of fear which proved particularly fertile for figures like Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot. Marx never saw this dialectical process coming. He just did not consider the possibility that the creation of a workers’ state would force capitalism to become more civilised while the workers’ state would be infected with the virus of totalitarianism as the hostility of the rest of the (capitalist) world towards it grew and grew.

Marx’s second error, the one I ascribe to commission, was worse. It was his assumption that truth about capitalism could be discovered in the mathematics of his models (the so-called ‘schemas of reproduction’). This was the worst disservice Marx could have delivered to his own theoretical system. The man who equipped us with human freedom as a first order economic concept; the scholar who elevated radical indeterminacy to its rightful place within political economics; he was the same person who ended up toying around with simplistic algebraic models, in which labour units were, naturally, fully quantified, hoping against hope to evince from these equations some additional insights about capitalism. After his death, Marxist economists wasted long careers indulging a similar type of scholastic mechanism, ending up with what Nietzsche once described as “the pieces of mechanism that have come to grief”. Fully immersed in irrelevant debates on the transformation problem and what to do about it, they eventually became an almost extinct species, as the neoliberal juggernaut crushed all dissent in its path."
Look, if I thought what this self-aggrandizing, superficial, strutting, pompous fuck said about Marx made a milligram's worth of difference in the class struggle, I would be really, really, really upset. 

But it doesn't, and he doesn't. He's playing a part in the recuperation, the re-composition of capitalism by the loyal pretend-opposition.  He flaunts his ignorance of Marx as "Marxist economics" when in fact Marx's work is the end of "economics," as it was the end of "philosophy."  He thinks he, the minister to finance, embodies the prospects for an "enlightened capitalism" when he embodies the oxymoron that "enlightened capitalism" is, was, and always will be.  

Somebody who takes this former economist-in-residence for the Cartoon Network or  Casino.Com, or whatever it was, more seriously than I do might ask him what exactly he means not by "insufficiently dialectical," but rather what he means by "dialectical"?  What are the expressions, components, features that identify things, thoughts, relations as "dialectical"?   What expressions, components, features that identify things, thoughts, relations as "dialectical" are present, utilized, and demonstrated in Marx's critique of capital?  

Somebody who took GameBoy for something other than he what he is might ask him what constitutes the "dialectic" of capital, and where is it located, in the critique of capital or in the actual processes and relations of accumulation, of the production of value?   That's just for starters.

Then somebody might point out to GameBoy that rather than being silent or indifferent to what his "followers" did or might do, Marx's correspondence, his work in the International Workingmen's Association, his programmatic writings are in fact reports of his battles with those who would "abuse other comrades, build their own power base, to gain positions of influence..."   Wait a minute... did GameBoy, our fresh-faced Minister of Finance,  really criticize Marx for the actions of those who use Marx's name and claim allegiance to Marx's work in order to "gain positions of influence" ?

Like maybe getting a top position in a government ministry?

Yes, he did:  "Karl, you procrastinating bastard. You undialectical son-of-a-bitch.   You didn't anticipate what I would do. It's your fault. I'm all your fault."

But Yanis isn't done.  Marx after all didn't see the coming of the "welfare state," the "workers state" (deformed, degenerated, or otherwise; with or without peasants); Marx didn't see how the creation of the "workers state" "would force capitalism to become more civilized."

Right, Marx was not clairvoyant, and he did not foresee events 34 to 132 years after his death.  But "more civilized" after the creation of the "workers state"?    I don't know what GameBoy counts as more civilized in his auditing of capitalist development, but let's see: after 1917 we have-- the massive slaughters and population "exchanges" in Greece and Turkey; we have the Great Depression; we have Japanese capitalism's assault on China; we have World War 2; we have the immolation of millions; we have nuclear immolation of hundreds of thousands; we have famine in India; we have famines in Africa; we have the Contras against Nicaragua; we have Rios Montt in Guatemala; we have death squads in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa; we have crack inflicted upon African-American communities in the US; we have Yeltsin; we have the "Natasha trade;" we have Israel expelling and terrorizing Palestinians; we have failed states.  We've got pretty much everything but none of it amounts to capitalism becoming "more civilized."

Clearly, GameBoy doesn't know what he's talking about.  He doesn't have to know, because his trade, his profession, his business, has been and is now to keep others from knowing.  So we get GameBoy's next "criticism" of Marx: namely that Marx crippled the struggle for...(what? more civilized capitalism?) by his use of schemes of reproduction.  Somehow this dependence on mathematics made blunt the razor of Marx's critique of capital.  Except...except Marx never published his schemas of reproduction.  Marx never utilized schemes of reproduction to prove the specific, historical conditions that gave rise to capitalism, and that capitalism had to recreate in its every process. Marx utilized schemes of reproduction to examine the problems that beset capitalism as a mode of reproduction that had to expand itself in order to survive.   

These problems were in fact expressions of the conflict, the opposition at the core of capital; the conflict that gave capital its very existence and therefore determined its every limitation; the conflict between labor and the condition of labor; the conflict between labor as the means, the relations, for the development of social beings through the satisfaction and creation of needs and labor-power compelled to exist as a commodity; as a value, as value-producing, having no other use for the laborers than as a means of exchange for subsistence. 

GameBoy, knowing nothing, conflates Marx's schemes of reproduction with the "transformation problem" that became an issue of debate for other professors of economics.  He can then blame all-- Marx, Marxists, Marxist economists-- for the triumph of so-called "neo-liberalism." (See previous comment about not knowing but only needing to prevent others from knowing). 

As if... as if it wasn't Pinochet's coup that crushed the working class in Chile,  as if it wasn't the crushing of the working class that gave the Chicago Boys a field to play on; as if it wasn't the refusal of the UP government to break the military discipline by introducing class struggle into the very core of the armed forces that allowed the military to function of, by, and for the bourgeoisie.  Nope, it was the fault of "Marxist economists" worried about the transformation problem. 

Well, here's a newsflash, GameBoy, not a single economist in the Unidad Popular government was worried about the transformation problem.  Many of them were quite worried about the cordones industriales acting outside the control of the government.  Many of them were quite concerned about "alienating" the "middle class."  

The real "problem"  Yanis has with Marx isn't about dialectics, or "civilization," or expanded reproduction.  For Marx there is no "economics."  There are no "problems of economics" that can be resolved outside the emancipation of labor and without class struggle.  That's Yanis' problem.

February 12, 2015



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