Friday, January 07, 2022

How They Lost Both Houses of Congress


Week: July 27-August 2 2020                        

Number ICU beds (US): 72,068

Percent ICU beds occupied: 69%

FEMA provided hospital beds 2020: 22,000

Week: January 3-9 2022                                    

Number ICU beds (US): 81,090                        

Percent ICU beds occupied:  81%

FEMA provided hospital beds 2021: None reported

FEMA funeral assistance 2021: $1.47 billion



Thursday, September 19, 2019

What's Good For the Price of Oil.......

1. Staggering under the weight of its overproduction, capitalism spies in the visage of its recent savior, China, the image of its once and future enemy, China.  Every thing that was the producer of "recovery," "growth," "expansion," -- fracked oil, microprocessors, corn, soybeans, smartphones, flat screens, container ships, becomes a relation of relapse, decline, contraction.

Behind the trade-wars, the tariffs, the jingoism; behind this grotesque chorus line of little Bonapartist-Rockettes, high-kicking their way through the club version of " My Way,"  are the entrepreneurs, the investors, the capitalists, trying to parlay nothing into something in a world of negative interest rates.
Behind all of this is the impairment and disruption of the dance where time partners money, where time becomes money.   Everywhere, every capitalist trembles with anxiety and anticipation, knowing it's time to change partners.

This is the  always immanent trajectory of capital, a trajectory programmed by the conversion of labor into labor-time, labor-time into value, and value into profit.

2.  In 2014, jacked on the juice, the juice being the tight oil cracked and squeezed from the Permian Basin in Texas and the Bakken fields in North Dakota,  US manufacturing's operating income improved some 8 percent from the previous year.  The operating income ratio, operating income as a portion of net plant, property, and equipment (PPE)  reached 35.3 percent, which would prove to be a high for the decade.

Money talks, for sure, but most of the time it says "Good-bye."  Operating income for manufacturing fell back in 2015; fell again in 2016 , the year of the shadow recession (Good-bye to you Barack); and recovered modestly in 2017.  In 2018, operating income finally broke the 2014 ceiling (Welcome, Donald!), only to fall back again in the first half of 2019 (check that welcome).

Through all those ups (and downs), however, the operating income ratio to net plant, property, and equipment never reached the 2014 level. Through 2015, 2016, and 2017, the rate declined to an average 31.3 percent  Even the 2018 ratio barely met the 2015 mark before declining in the first half of 2019.  Operating earnings couldn't keep up. (Rates calculated from the data published in the US Commerce Department's Quarterly Financial Reports)

Where the story was one of modest swings in operating income and ratios for all of manufacturing, it was a different story for the petroleum industry itself.  There operating income fell by 45 percent in 2015, disappeared almost completely in 2016,  reappeared in 2017 at half the size of 2013, rang the bell in 2018 with a mass 25% greater than 2014, only to tumble 47 percent in 2019.  Operating ratios measured:
(2014)  8.5%; (2015)  4.3%   (2016)  .09%;  (2017)  3.8 %;  (2018)  9.4%  (1/2 2019) 4.9%

Even in its "best" years, the petroleum industry's operating ratio, the return on its net PPE, is barely 30 percent of the return for manufacturing as a whole.  While the petroleum industry's net PPE accounts for 24 percent of the total net PPE for US manufacturing, its operating income amounts to......only 6 percent of the total.

3. As with all things capital, and crude,  risk is enshrined as the gateway to reward, as long as that risk can be laid off on other people, other money, other people's money.  The volatility of Bakken crude was just such a risk to be laid off on others, until it couldn't, until the Bakken crude blew apart Lac Megantic.  After that, North Dakota imposed regulations requiring the stabilization of the crude, removing the volatile compounds, prior to shipment, just as had always been done with the oil fracked out of the Permian Basin.

Nothing, however, could be done to stabilize the price of the fracked oil when the very mode of its production depended on its instability, on the immense variation of price from value; when the very process of producing because of and for a target price moved the target, and down; because price is the mechanism by which particular capitals claim a piece of the general pie, the general surplus value, but production always, and always must, throw into the markets more value than it takes out, than can be realized, reproduced,  over time.

Overproduction is the default condition of capitalism.

So in aiming at the target price of $114 a barrel,  the tight oil producers brought the price down to $70, and then $60, and then $40, and then their dreams were  haunted by the waking reality of another go-round of $20 per barrel prices, something which hadn't occurred since 2002.  "What the hell did we invade Iraq for if the price of oil is going to plummet to $20 barrel?  Was our noble sacrifice of other people's lives all for naught?  Is their no progress in this world?"

In 1991, of course, in the midst of a recession where oil prices collapsed, taking the US savings and loan industry with it, the US led the noble crusade to liberate poor little Kuwait, and coincidentally, get the price up to $40 a barrel.   When prices collapsed again in 1998, again under the weight of overproduction fed by the application of horizontal drilling, 3D seismic imaging, and other additions to the technical composition of the exploration and lifting processes, the US bourgeoisie could be heard muttering about the 3 million barrels a day Iraq was still putting into the markets.

Friend turning to friend, the US turned to Saudi Arabia for the help it needed in the worst way.  And it got it.  Saudi Arabia went that extra nautical mile to help its great friend, taking steps to restrict the supply in 1999,  and seconding 17 of its favorite sons to abbreviated crash courses at US aviation schools:  "Skip the landing part, captain.  We're a little pressed for time."

The downturn of 2001 was reflected in the 2002 price of oil, $20 a barrel, and the US was on its way to Iraq, again.

4. Sometimes, a capitalist or capitalists appear(s) content with the lower return, arbitraging at higher than higher speeds the smaller margins, the pennies massaged out of thousands and thousands of trades each second.   Arbitrage is the dilettante's butter on the manufacturer's bread.  Sometimes.  And sometimes accumulation, the allocation of accumulated surplus value,  lives not by bread and butter alone.

Marx maintained that there was only a single rate of profit, a general or average rate of profit that every industry achieved.  The petroleum industry, apparently, never got that news, operating at rates of return below that of the average for manufacturing.   As with all things Marx, the "average" the "general" is an abstraction, a measure of the totality of capital relations and exchanges that is in fact a product of all the concrete deviations and variations-- a product established through competition, predatory pricing, muscle, corruption, fraud,  debt, credit, subsidy, "excessive exuberance,"  inflation, chronic depression, through violence-- all the things that give capital it's human face, if the human has the face of Dorian Gray.

Which gets us where we are today-- with claims that half of Saudi daily production has been removed from the world markets after drone strikes, cruise missile attacks, directed against Aramco's Abqaiq processing facility and the Khurais field.

[ Which gets us, by the way,  where we are today-- to a point, a condition,  to conditions less than, and worse than  accumulation without reproduction, where profit comes at the expense of reproducing the basis for social labor,  a condition perfectly expressed at home, in homes, in the mass marketing of opioids to a population deemed disposable]

The US is convinced, but unconvincing, that Iran is the source of the attack. After all, the other two-thirds of the "axis of evil" are now parts of the US boys' club, with the US doing banana flips to absolve Iraq, in particular, of any responsibility, since the regime in Iraq, or lack thereof, is the direct product of the previous US crusades on behalf of elevated oil prices.

Every generation, and regeneration of capital, needs its 9/11, even if it's a poor copy of the dismal original, with drones instead of wide-body commercial jets; even if it's a Saudi processing plant with no structure greater than 30 meters in height instead of 1000 feet tall towers.

Every generation, and regeneration of capital, needs its 9/11, its Gulf War, its operation Ira(q,n)i Freedom.

Every generation, and regeneration of capital, needs its shock and awe, even when its unsurprising and insipid.

Every generation, and regeneration of capital, needs its own military officer as Secretary of State, acting out Goebbels' principles of lying,  boldly, repeatedly and baldly.

Every generation, and regeneration of capital, needs its surge, its smart bombs and cruise missiles, its live streaming of targets acquired, targets dispatched.

Every generation, and regeneration of capital, needs to rescue profitability from its obsolescence, its abolition, its overthrow. 

S. Artesian
September 18, 2019

Monday, December 17, 2018

Problems of Value Production (2)

The Productivity of Labor

1.  Funny

Evaluating the work of Pierre Proudhon, Marx writes that Proudhon had "a natural inclination for dialectics."  However, as Proudhon never truly comprehended real "scientific dialectics," Proudhon "never got any further than sophistry."  Marx  identifies this sophistry, this substitute for dialectics, as an attempt at "balancing" opposing characteristics, through a formula-- "on the  one hand....while on the other hand" as if there is an equilibrium that can, and should be, achieved between the oppositions rather than a totality of relations that determine the antagonisms, and lead in turn to the overthrow, the negation of the totality. 

It's funny, funny weird and funny ha-ha, that Marx would condense the petty-bourgeoisie substitution for and evasion of dialectics in the two phrases, "on the one hand...while on the other hand," since Marx in his application of rigorous scientific dialectics to political economy frequently, in fact habitually use just those phrases to describe the antagonistic but coincident processes of capital.  How frequently?  Roughly, one thousand times frequently in Capital, in Theories of Surplus Value, in the Grundrisse, and in the other Economic Manuscripts.  About one thousand times, Marx resorts to "on the one hand...while on the other hand" in presenting the totality of relations, expression, repercussions, intrinsic to the reproduction of capital.

In Marx, this OTOH...OTOH isn't employed to reconcile conflicts in the motion of capital.

But "OTOH...OTOH" illustrates the problematic impact of the amplified productivity of labor on the extraction of surplus value that Marx presents in his "economic" works. 

2. Strictly Speaking

Marx maintains, pretty much, the absolute dominion of time for capital.  Value is the representation of labor-time, the alienated, commercial expression of labor-time underlying exchange.  Given that dominion, the increased or amplified productivity of labor is a straightforward concept with a straightforward measure.  It is the increase in the physical output, the mass of product within a set unit of time.  If 500 nails were produced in one labor-hour, then the productivity of labor is amplified by a factor of one hundred when 50,000 nails are produced in one labor-hour.

What the amplified productivity cannot due is increase the amount of new value absorbed by and embedded in the increased mass of commodities.  A labor-hour is a labor-hour is a labor-hour, whether that hour is worked up in 500 or 50,000 nails. 

So where does that leave us for augmenting the extraction of surplus value, for changing the proportion of the working period that is surplus-time, time beyond that required for the laborer to reproduce himself/herself as the wage laborer; time beyond that required to reproduce the value represented by the wage?  

3.  Necessity, relatively

With amplified productivity, the total value is unaltered.  The value, the labor-time, necessary for the reproduction for each individual commodity declines  The commodity is devalued.  Similarly, enhanced productivity of labor can alter the rate of surplus value if (and only if since the total value is unaltered),  the units of labor-power are themselves devalued-- if, and only if,  the wage, the time of necessary labor, falls.

The decline in the time of necessary labor, is the decline in the value of the labor-power, is the decline in the value of the means of subsistence required for the reproduction of the laborer, in the wage. This decline  has to exceed any decline in the the total working hours brought about by these same efficiencies in production, brought about by the improvements in the production process, brought about by the substitution of machinery for labor-power, brought about by the improved productivity of labor itself. 

The individual capitalists, seeing only cost and never surplus-value, strive to increase the productivity of labor, to increase output and reduce costs, driving down the price of the individual commodity.  The social force of capital, the "collectivity" of capital in its ascendancy, seizes control of agriculture, housing, transportation, and shapes these individual efforts into the social reduction, into the devaluation of labor-power.  That devaluation of labor-power alone alters the ratio of necessary to surplus labor-time leading to a higher rate of surplus-value.  The substitution of machinery by itself cannot alter the rate of surplus-value.  Improvements in the division of labor themselves cannot improve the rate of surplus value.  The impact must be social, and the wage is that social expression. 

Productivity improvements in individual enterprises, in specific sectors can become part of the advancement in general social productivity when the necessary time for the reproduction of labor falls; when the wage manifests the reduced value of labor-power.

4.  A thousand points..

If the capitalists see only costs and never surplus-value, and if the amplified productivity of labor does not automatically increase the rate of surplus value, how does the improved productivity serve the accumulation of capital even when the wage does not decline?  Quite simply, the proliferation of use-values acts to expand the arena of capitalist exchange, compelling capital to create new markets, expand old ones, to engage increasing numbers in the processes of exchange, to travel more widely, to penetrate more deeply; to create fifty thousand new points of exchange for its 50,000 new nails every hour.  

And all points of exchange in capitalism ultimately return that primary exchange of capital with labor-power.  The amplified productivity of labor enhances the power of capital to employ new labor-power in new pursuits of new products and new profits as the time required to produce the "old products,"  the "old necessities" is reduced.   To a point, this release of labor-time, and capital, triggers the expansion of capital, the employment of larger numbers working more hours, the production and exchange of new commodities addressing enhanced, expanded needs.  More time can be aggrandized.  More exchanges can be executed. 

5.  On The One Hand, On The Other Hand

Marx seems to be of two minds, and two hands, in his examination of the impact of enhanced productivity, oscillating between the strictest requirements for that productivity to impact rates of surplus-value and the apparently casual acceptance that the application of machinery, automatically accelerates and increases both the labor process and the valorization process.  

OTO(ne)H, Marx writes: 
Both machine and raw material enter into the labour process; neither of them enters into the process of creating surplus-value. –Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 8
If Herr Rodbertus wants to differentiate between agriculture and industry, then that element of capital which consists of fixed capital such as machinery and tools belongs entirely to industry.  This element of capital, in so far as it becomes part of any capital, can only enter into constant capital; and can never increase surplus-value by a single farthing.—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 8
OTO(ther)H, Marx writes:
With a given length of labour-time, this surplus-value can only be increased by an increase in productivity, or at a given productivity, by a lengthening of the labour-time.—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 4
On the other hand however, these variations in the conditions of production themselves indicate that labour has become more productive and thus the rate of surplus-value has risen.  For more raw material is now being consumed by the same amount of living labour only because it can now work up the same amount in less time, and more machinery is now being used only because the cost of machinery is smaller than the cost of labour it replaces.  Thus it is a question here of making up to a certain extent the fall in the rate of profit by increasing the rate of surplus-value and therefore also the total amount of surplus value—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 20
OTOH, Marx writes:
We have shown previously that a general law of the production of commodities decrees: the productivity of labour and its faculty of creating value stand in opposition to one another—Marx, Capital, Volume 2, Chapter 6
OTOH, Marx writes:
The rate of surplus-value remains unchanged in both cases; it changes, however, if any change in the technological composition takes place: it increases if the constant capital increases (because labour is more productive) and declines when it falls (because labour is then less productive).Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 23
OTOH, Marx writes:
The increase in the productive powers of labour, so far as it does not imply an additional investment of capital-value, augments in the first analysis indeed only the quantity of the product, not its value, except the extent to which it is enabled to produce more constant capital with the same labour and thus to preserve its value. But it forms at the same time new material for capital, hence the basis for an increased accumulation of capital—Marx, Capital, Volume 2, Chapter 18
OTOH, Marx writes:
The growth of the productive power of labour is identical in meaning with (a) the growth of relative surplus value or of the relative surplus labour time which the worker gives to capital--Marx, Grundrisse, Notebook 7, The Chapter on Capital
The  proportion in which constant capital enters into a commodity does not affect the values of the commodities, the relative quantities of labour contained in the commodities, but it does directly affect the different quantities of surplus-value or surplus-labour contained in the commodities embodying equal amounts of labour-time--Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 10.

OTOH, Marx writes:
If the productivity in wool spinning is trebled then, provided the conditions of wool production have remained the same, three times as much time as previously would have to be spent, three times as much capital would have to be expended on labour in wool production, whereas only the same amount of the spinners’ labour time would be required to spin up this trebled quantity of wool.  But the rate [of surplus value] would remain the same.  The same spinning labour would have the same value as before and contain the same surplus-value.—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 9.
6. Resolution

So what are we to make of this?  Is Marx confused, or equivocating, or lost trying to balance the imbalances of capital?  I don't think Marx ever equivocated or was ever lost.  I think the trend of productivity increases coincident with generally expanding industrial employment at the time Marx was writing his Economic Manuscripts (including Capital) allowed him to conflate improving productivity with greater rates of surplus value, when it was the greater mass of surplus value  determining the advance of the mode of production.

It is the period after Marx completes most of his Economic Manuscripts (including Capital), that period known as the "Long Deflation" 1873-1896, when capital manifested the "classic" pattern for increasing the rate of surplus value, with improving productivity dramatically reducing the cost of necessities in turn driving down the value of the labor-power, driving down the wage.

That was then.  This is now.  Now, meaning since 1973, when the reduction in wages has been accomplished not by reducing the value of the labor-power, but by driving the wage below the value of the labor-power,  improvements in productivity are  accompanied by general expansions outside the advanced centers of capital.  In the advanced centers, because the reduction of the wage below the value of labor-power meets resistance well before it reaches its own limits, where improved productivity leads to permanent diminution of the total working hours-- now the improved productivity leads to a condition where less new value is pumped into the networks of circulation; where less surplus value is extracted.

As if to show us how the future of capital unfolding in its immediate condition,  Marx wrote:

But nothing is more fallacious than that, generally speaking, the rate of profit can increase while the amount of capital laid out on labour declines.  Exactly the opposite takes place.  Proportionally less surplus-value is produced, and the rate of profit therefore falls.—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 24
It is there, in that almost throw-away line, that Marx has grasped the truth of capital and with both hands.

S. Artesian
December 17, 2018

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Problems of Value Production (1)

The intensity of production

Competition, according to an American economist, determines how many days of simple labor are contained in one day’s compound labor. Does not this reduction of days of compound labor to days of simple labor suppose that simple labor is itself taken as a measure of value? If the mere quantity of labor functions as a measure of value regardless of quality, it presupposes that simple labor has become the pivot of industry. It presupposes that labor has been equalized by the subordination of man to the machine or by the extreme division of labor; that men are effaced by their labor; that the pendulum of the clock has become as accurate a measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives. Therefore, we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour. Time is everything, man is nothing; he is, at the most, time’s carcase. Quality no longer matters. Quantity alone decides everything; hour for hour, day for day;   
Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy

In Marx's analysis the commodity embodies and binds together time and space.   The commodity possesses both physical and social characteristics, even if the commodity is provided as a service.  The social existence is of time.  The commodity circulates on the back of a mule called socially necessary labor time.

Similarly, in Marx's work wealth and poverty in capitalism are expressed in both physical and social terms.

For capitalism, wealth is the access to use-values, mediated by private ownership of the means of production.

For socialism, wealth is access to the abundance use-values, mediated by necessity.

In all societies, wealth is the disposition over time.  All economies are economies of time, but not all economies of time are economies of value.

For socialism, wealth is the ability to expend collective time to the benefit of all individuals.

For capitalists, for capitalism, wealth is the disposition over the time of others

Poverty is the scarcity, the lack of, and lack of access to, use-values.  Scarcity is a class distinction, enforced by capital.

In capitalism, poverty is the loss of time in and to the mode of production.  It is a sacrifice that devours the time of the laborers, strips it away through alienation.  Alienation is not a psychological process, but a commercial one; an exchange that converts the laborers' time into the property of the capitalists.

As time is alienated, embedded in the commodity as value, it is weaponized.  Value accumulates and returns to production as machinery.  The machinery is designed to reduce the labor-time required to produce any single unit of output while increasing the time aggrandized and materialized yet again as more commodities.

Labor-time is the source of value, but it only becomes, and begets, value under specific conditions, specific social relations of classes which reproduce the alienation of the laborers' time.

Time is everything.

Or is it?

Marx recognizes that laboring is a physical activity, requiring a physical expenditure by the laborers.  Marx conceptualizes this physical expenditure demanded by capital as the intensity of the labor process.   Because everywhere and always capitalist production is both a labor and a valorization process, Marx proposes a valorization of the intensity of the process, asserting that a process that requires greater intensity, greater expenditure of effort, than the social norm actually adds value to commodities during equal expanses of time.

In Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 17, Marx writes:
Increased intensity of labour means increased expenditure of labour in a given time. Hence a working-day of more intense labour is embodied in more products than is one of less intense labour, the length of each day being the same. Increased productiveness of labour also, it is true, will supply more products in a given working-day. But in this latter case, the value of each single product falls, for it costs less labour than before; in the former case, that value remains unchanged, for each article costs the same labour as before. Here we have an increase in the number of products, unaccompanied by a fall in their individual prices: as their number increases, so does the sum of their prices. But in the case of increased productiveness, a given value is spread over a greater mass of products. Hence the length of the working-day being constant, a day's labour of increased intensity will be incorporated in an increased value, and, the value of money remaining unchanged, in more money. The value created varies with the extent to which the intensity of labour deviates from its normal intensity in the society. A given working-day, therefore, no longer creates a constant, but a variable value; in a day of 12 hours of ordinary intensity, the value created is, say 6 shillings, but with increased intensity, the value created may be 7, 8, or more shillings. It is clear that, if the value created by a day's labour increases from, say, 6 to 8 shillings then the two parts into which this value is divided, viz., price of labour-power and surplus-value, may both of them increase simultaneously, and either equally or unequally. They may both simultaneously increase from 3 shillings to 4. Here, the rise in the price of labour-power does not necessarily imply that the price has risen above the value of labour-power. On the contrary, the rise in price may be accompanied by a fall in value. This occurs whenever the rise in the price of labour-power does not compensate for its increased wear and tear. 
We know that, with transitory exceptions, a change in the productiveness of labour does not cause any change in the value of labour-power, nor consequently in the magnitude of surplus-value, unless the products of the industries affected are articles habitually consumed by the labourers. In the present case this condition no longer applies. For when the variation is either in the duration or in the intensity of labour, there is always a corresponding change in the magnitude of the value created, independently of the nature of the article in which that value is embodied. 
If the intensity of labour were to increase simultaneously and equally in every branch of industry, then the new and higher degree of intensity would become the normal degree for the society, and would therefore cease to be taken account of. But still, even then, the intensity of labour would be different in different countries, and would modify the international application of the law of value. The more intense working-day of one nation would be represented by a greater sum of money than would the less intense day of another nation.
We have a conceptualization-- increased expenditure of labor in a given time.

We have a valorization-- increased intensity will be incorporated as increased value and the unit values of the commodities will not fall as more value is embedded in the increased number of commodities.

What we don't have is a means to quantify intensity.  We have no way of measuring differences in intensity, and converting those measurements, equating, resolving, transforming, exchanging those differences into portions, proportions, ratios, rates of the substance common to all commodities.

"We know that, with transitory exceptions, a change in the productiveness of labour does not cause any change in the value of labour-power, nor consequently in the magnitude of surplus-value," writes Marx, and that is critical to the sum of value produced in a working day.

But "this condition no longer applies,"-- an hour of labor no longer contains an hour of labor.  The working day is now detached for the conditions that made it a constant, even if variable, source of value.

Marx continues:
The more the productiveness of labour increases, the more can the working-day be shortened; and the more the working-day is shortened, the more can the intensity of labour increase. From a social point of view, the productiveness increases in the same ratio as the economy of labour, which, in its turn, includes not only economy of the means of production, but also the avoidance of all useless labour. The capitalist mode of production, while on the one hand, enforcing economy in each individual business, on the other hand, begets, by its anarchical system of competition, the most outrageous squandering of labour-power and of the social means of production, not to mention the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous.
Here the enhanced productivity of labor provides the platform for the intensification of labor through the shortening of the working day.  Now not only is the value of the working day no longer the value of the duration of the working day,  but the shorter working day produces the same if not greater value than the longer, but less intense working day.

The productivity of labor is generated mainly through improvements in the production process, eliminating steps or "stations,"  and the application of machinery.  The application of machinery creates no new value, and moreover, the reduction in living labor hours necessary for increased output shrinks the new value.  Unless the machinery causes the value of labor power to decline by reducing the value of the means of subsistence necessary to reproduce that labor power, the mass of surplus value declines also.  We know that then the rate of profit falls.

However, if the same productivity of labor, the same reduction in working hours trigger intensification, and intensification triggers greater value aggrandizement, then the valorization process is rescued from its self-devaluation; the increased rate of surplus value can offset the decline in the rate of profit.  We now have a system where labor can be continuously and increasingly expelled from the production process, without impact on the valorization process.  The wage need not fall in order to increase the rate of surplus value.  The working day not only need not be lengthened to increase absolute surplus value, but increased surplus value now blossoms with a shorter working day.

Marx's conflict between labor and the condition of labor dissipates.

The conflict between the forces of production and  the relations of production, namely the production of value, is put into permanent least until the point where all labor-power is expelled.
Engels, in his Synopsis of Capital writes:
At the beginning, with the speeding-up of the machine, the intensity of labour increases simultaneously with the lengthening of labour-time. But, soon the point is reached where the two exclude each other. 
It is different, however, when labour-time is restricted. Intensity can only grow; in 10 hours, as much work can be done as ordinarily in 12 or more, and now the more intensive working-day counts as raised to a higher power, and labour is measured not merely by its time, but by its intensity. (P.400) 
Thus, in 5 hours of necessary and 5 hours of surplus-labour, the same surplus-value can be attained as in 6 hours of necessary and 6 hours of surplus-labour at lower intensity. (P.400 )
How is labour intensified? In manufacture, it has been proved (Note 159, p.401), pottery, for instance, etc., that mere shortening of the working-day is sufficient to raise productivity enormously. In machine labour, this was far more doubtful. But, R. Gardner's proof. (Pp.401-02)
As soon as the shortened working-day becomes law, the machine becomes a means of squeezing more intensive labour out of the worker, either by greater speed or fewer hands in relation to machine. Examples. (Pp.403-07 ) Evidence that enrichment and expansion of the factory grew simultaneously therewith 

Engels here presumes that the amount of work is equal to the amount of value, and that this is somehow distinguishable from the increased amount of "work" resulting from improved productivity of labor.  However, how can the markets distinguish between greater intensity of labor and the greater productivity of labor when there is no quantitative measure established?  They cannot and do not, for the portions, proportions, ratios, rates of exchange of commodities is determined by the labor-time necessary for their production.  There is no celestial accounting that "rewards" 6 hours of work performed in 5 hours with 6 hours of value.

Marx  writes in Chapter 15 of  Capital Volume 1:
C. Intensification of Labour 
The immoderate lengthening of the working-day, produced by machinery in the hands of capital, leads to a reaction on the part of society, the very sources of whose life are menaced; and, thence, to a normal working-day whose length is fixed by law. 
Thenceforth a phenomenon that we have already met with, namely, the intensification of labour, develops into great importance. Our analysis of absolute surplus-value had reference primarily to the extension or duration of the labour, its intensity being assumed as given. We now proceed to consider the substitution of a more intensified labour for labour of more extensive duration, and the degree of the former. 
It is self-evident, that in proportion as the use of machinery spreads, and the experience of a special class of workmen habituated to machinery accumulates, the rapidity and intensity of labour increase as a natural consequence. Thus in England, during half a century, lengthening of the working-day went hand in hand with increasing intensity of factory labour. Nevertheless the reader will clearly see, that where we have labour, not carried on by fits and starts, but repeated day after day with unvarying uniformity, a point must inevitably be reached, where extension of the working-day and intensity of the labour mutually exclude one another, in such a way that lengthening of the working-day becomes compatible only with a lower degree of intensity, and a higher degree of intensity, only with a shortening of the working-day. So soon as the gradually surging revolt of the working-class compelled Parliament to shorten compulsorily the hours of labour, and to begin by imposing a normal working-day on factories proper, so soon consequently as an increased production of surplus-value by the prolongation of the working-day was once for all put a stop to, from that moment capital threw itself with all its might into the production of relative surplus-value, by hastening on the further improvement of machinery. At the same time a change took place in the nature of relative surplus-value. Generally speaking, the mode of producing relative surplus-value consists in raising the productive power of the workman, so as to enable him to produce more in a given time with the same expenditure of labour. Labour-time continues to transmit as before the same value to the total product, but this unchanged amount of exchange-value is spread over more use-value; hence the value of each single commodity sinks. 
Otherwise, however, so soon as the compulsory shortening of the hours of labour takes place. The immense impetus it gives the development of productive power, and to economy in the means of production, imposes on the workman increased expenditure of labour in a given time, heightened tension of labour-power, and closer filling up of the pores of the working-day, or condensation of labour to a degree that is attainable only within the limits of the shortened working-day. This condensation of a greater mass of labour into a given period thenceforward counts for what it really is, a greater quantity of labour. In addition to a measure of its extension, i.e., duration, labour now acquires a measure of its intensity or of the degree of its condensation or density.  The denser hour of the ten hours’ working-day contains more labour, i.e., expended labour-power than the more porous hour of the twelve hours’ working-day. The product therefore of one of the former hours has as much or more value than has the product of 1 1/5 of the latter hours. Apart from the increased yield of relative surplus-value through the heightened productiveness of labour, the same mass of value is now produced for the capitalist say by 3 1/3 hours of surplus-labour, and 6 2/3 hours of necessary labour, as was previously produced by four hours of surplus-labour and eight hours of necessary labour. 
We now come to the question: How is the labour intensified? 
The first effect of shortening the working-day results from the self-evident law, that the efficiency of labour-power is in an inverse ratio to the duration of its expenditure. Hence, within certain limits what is lost by shortening the duration is gained by the increasing tension of labour-power. That the workman moreover really does expend more labour-power, is ensured by the mode in which the capitalist pays him.  In those industries, such as potteries, where machinery plays little or no part, the introduction of the Factory Acts has strikingly shown that the mere shortening of the working-day increases to a wonderful degree the regularity, uniformity, order, continuity, and energy of the labour.  
It seemed, however, doubtful whether this effect was produced in the factory proper, where the dependence of the workman on the continuous and uniform motion of the machinery had already created the strictest discipline. Hence, when in 1844 the reduction of the working-day to less than twelve hours was being debated, the masters almost unanimously declared “that their overlookers in the different rooms took good care that the hands lost no time,” that “the extent of vigilance and attention on the part of the workmen was hardly capable of being increased,” and, therefore, that the speed of the machinery and other conditions remaining unaltered, “to expect in a well-managed factory any important result from increased attention of the workmen was an absurdity." 
This assertion was contradicted by experiments. Mr. Robert Gardner reduced the hours of labour in his two large factories at Preston, on and after the 20th April, 1844, from twelve to eleven hours a day. The result of about a year’s working was that “the same amount of product for the same cost was received, and the workpeople as a whole earned in eleven hours as much wages as they did before in twelve.”  
I pass over the experiments made in the spinning and carding rooms, because they were accompanied by an increase of 2% in the speed of the machines. But in the weaving department, where, moreover, many sorts of figured fancy articles were woven, there was not the slightest alteration in the conditions of the work. The result was: “From 6th January to 20th April, 1844, with a twelve hours’ day, average weekly wages of each hand 10s. 1½d., from 20th April to 29th June, 1844, with day of eleven hours, average weekly wages 10s. 3½d.”  Here we have more produced in eleven hours than previously in twelve, and entirely in consequence of more steady application and economy of time by the workpeople. While they got the same wages and gained one hour of spare time, the capitalist got the same amount produced and saved the cost of coal, gas, and other such items, for one hour. Similar experiments, and with the like success, were carried out in the mills of Messrs. Horrocks and Jacson.  
The shortening of the hours of labour creates, to begin with, the subjective conditions for the condensation of labour, by enabling the workman to exert more strength in a given time. So soon as that shortening becomes compulsory, machinery becomes in the hands of capital the objective means, systematically employed for squeezing out more labour in a given time. This is effected in two ways: by increasing the speed of the machinery, and by giving the workman more machinery to tent. Improved construction of the machinery is necessary, partly because without it greater pressure cannot be put on the workman, and partly because the shortened hours of labour force the capitalist to exercise the strictest watch over the cost of production. The improvements in the steam-engine have increased the piston speed, and at the same time have made it possible, by means of a greater economy of power, to drive with the same or even a smaller consumption of coal more machinery with the same engine. The improvements in the transmitting mechanism have lessened friction, and, what so strikingly distinguishes modern from the older machinery, have reduced the diameter and weight of the shafting to a constantly decreasing minimum. 
Finally, the improvements in the operative machines have, while reducing their size, increased their speed and efficiency, as in the modern power-loom; or, while increasing the size of their framework, have also increased the extent and number of their working parts, as in spinning-mules, or have added to the speed of these working parts by imperceptible alterations of detail, such as those which ten years ago increased the speed of the spindles in self-acting mules by one-fifth.
This is a remarkable section.  First, contrary to Marx's presentation in Chapter 12, now the introduction of machinery alone in whatever sphere of production is capable of altering, and improving, the rate of surplus value, leading to greater portions of relative surplus value.  Secondly, Marx introduces a whole host of descriptions about the physical nature of intensified labor without providing us with the means to measure those conditions.  We get the "heightened tension of labour-power," the "condensation of labour,"  the increasing "density" of labor, the "squeezing" of labor, and with no way to measure tension, condensation, density, squeezing  other than by the volume of output, which in Marx's analysis is not the same, cannot be assumed to be the same, as increased value.  In fact, in Marx's other discussions, the increased output is circumscribed within the identity of  static value.

Certainly, labor may be intensified, greater effort required and extracted,  output accelerated.  Time was, back in the day, a major point of contention in the automobile assembly industry was the speed of "the line," and management efforts to increase that speed.  Did the speed up increase the rate and mass of surplus-value extraction?  Or did it, like any other increase in productivity, reduce costs and provide a fractional competitive advantage based on the difference between the individual values of the units and the social average of all the values in the market?  Is it the arbitrage of the difference in values, or was additional value created?   For exchange to occur,  value has to realize itself as the embodiment of labor-time.  The market is the arena for  the arbitrage of discrepancy in times of production.

Time really is everything for capital. Level of effort remains unmeasured, and therefore unvalued.   Increased intensities of the labor process do not create additional surplus value in the valorization process.  These increased intensity is indistinguishable from increased productivity.

S. Artesian

December 2, 2018

Next:  Problems of Value (2):  Productivity and the rate of surplus value.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Ministry of Cruelty

Accidents never happen in a perfect world, and accidents are few and far between in the perfectly miserable world fashioned by advanced, decrepit capitalism.  It's no accident and it's no mistake that at this moment, ten years into the non-recovery, the president of the United States is a serial bankruptcy artist, a double-self-dealing, empty-headed lout; a "developer" of country clubs for golf-cart night riders and recreational fascists; selling his double-self-dealing loutish self for all the market can bear.

We are, after all, ten years into a supposed recovery which has only magnified the conditions that created the crash.

It's a special vengeance that capital takes on those who only make counterrevolution halfway.   And make no mistake, the policies and programs of the last ten years have been half-a-counterrevolution.  Whether presented as austerity, or as special investment vehicles, or direct capital injections, or quantitative easing, behind all those masks stands the attack on labor, but an attack, no matter how brutal and sustained, isn't close to being enough.

To all that's been undone-- Brexit, G7, Shengen, Greece, public education, health care, environmental protection, capital passes a single judgement, "Not enough.  Not by half."

Now comes the other half, that half that makes it evident that all those who proposed the "rescue" of capital; that all those who couldn't contemplate the "horror" of the complete implosion of capitalism opted for the greater evil.   The total collapse of capitalism, even without any prospect for the development of a revolutionary alternative, is always the lesser evil when we confront the survival of the system.

So now we get the Ministry of Cruelty, known to the bourgeoisie as the Department of Justice, where the Minister, twice named for heroes of the slaveholders' rebellion, finds fulfillment in separating children from their parents at the border.   "In God We Trust," says the Minister, his hand on the bible,"and.......Arbeit Macht Frei."

"E pluribus unum, my dying ass," says the lout, putting his likeness on everything from currency to toilet paper.

The attack on labor did not begin with the attack on immigrants, on immigrant labor.  The attack on labor began some 40 years ago, but the attack on immigrant labor provides a level of cruelty, provides it on a daily basis and in increasing doses, preparing society for the more cruelty to come, and the cruelty that this system, this organization of always the greater evil, requires.

Disband Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.  Disband the Customs and Border Patrol forces.

June 16, 2018

Originally appeared:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Their Brightest Hour

S. Artesian

1.  Things, that is to say relations, are looking good to and for the bourgeoisie.  Stock markets around the world from Tokyo to Frankfurt to New York are, to say the very least, buoyant.  Modest increases in interest rates haven’t presented any obstacles to debt markets around the world.   Regulatory control of the financial sector is being rolled back and rolled up without having been tested by real world events.   “Structural reform”– the bourgeoisie’s favorite euphemism for attacks on labor– has advanced the actions designed to codify, to enact as policy, what the market has brought to pass as improvisation– that is to say the temporary, part-time, sporadic, benefit-stripped modes of employment in the economically “developed,”  “developing,” “underdeveloped,” and “not even close” sections of this single stage called capitalism.

full at:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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December 13, 2017