Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Immaterial Labor

Posted to Marxmail on Tue, 18 Dec 2007
Some time ago I noticed a strange jam of a certain creature when I was rambling on the side streets around my house. They were everywhere, even on the sidewalks and it was impossible to walk without some ability of acrobatics. One has less chance to perceive this farce on main streets since we have the presupposition that it is their habitat. I fancied myself like Ford Perfect, an alien adventurer in the movie "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Who was mistaken about the major life form in earth and is almost run over when he tries to greet a car.

So, what is the illusion behind overlooking the process of production while the commodities are consistently accumulating here and there? We all know the "fetishism of commodities" and "the world of commodities with the products of men's hands", etc, etc… There is no time for truisms.

Comrade Ben advocates concept "immaterial labor" one of the keystone concepts of the Negri & Hardt’s Empire :

"The central role previously occupied by the labor power of mass factory workers in the production of surplus value is today increasingly filled by intellectual, immaterial, and communicative labor power. It is thus necessary to develop a new political theory of value that can pose the problem of this new capitalist accumulation of value at the center of the mechanism of exploitation (and thus, perhaps, at the center of potential revolt)."

"We will elaborate the three primary aspects of immaterial labor in the contemporary economy: the communicative labor of industrial production that has newly become linked in informational networks, the interactive labor of symbolic analysis and problem solving, and the labor of the production and manipulation of affects"

"We will argue that among the various figures of production active today, the figure of immaterial labor power (involved in communication, cooperation, and the production and reproduction of affects) occupies an increasingly central position in both the schema of capitalist production and the composition of the proletariat."

"The passage toward an informational economy necessarily involves a change in the quality and nature of labor. This is the most immediate sociological and anthropological implication of the passage of economic paradigms. Today information and communication have come to play a foundational role in production processes."

"With the computerization of production today, however, the heterogeneity of concrete labor has tended to be reduced, and the worker is increasingly further removed from the object of his or her labor."

"The service sectors of the economy present a richer model of productive communication. Most services indeed are based on the continual exchange of information and knowledges. Since the production of services results in no material and durable good, we define the labor involved in this production as immaterial labor-that is, labor that produces an immaterial good, such as a service, a cultural product, knowledge, or communication."

"The other face of immaterial labor is the affective labor of human contact and interaction. Health services, for example, rely centrally on caring and affective labor, and the entertainment industry is likewise focused on the creation and manipulation of affect… This second face of immaterial labor, its affective face, extends well beyond the model of intelligence and communication defined by the computer. Affective labor is better understood by beginning from what feminist analyses of "women's work" have called "labor in the bodily mode." Caring labor is certainly entirely immersed in the corporeal, the somatic, but the affects it produces are nonetheless immaterial."

"Finally, a third type of immaterial labor involves the production and manipulation of affect and requires (virtual or actual) human contact, labor in the bodily mode. These are the three types of labor that drive the postmodernization of the global economy."

And finally, after undergoing sarcastic and decisive critics, Negri & Hartd were obliged to make a contradictory clarification:

"a)When we claim that immaterial labour is tending towards the hegemonic position we are not saying that most of the workers in the world today are producing primarily immaterial goods;
b) The labour involved in all immaterial production, we should emphasise, remains material – it involves our bodies and brains as all labour does. What is immaterial is its product."

In other words, most of the workers of the "world" are producing material goods but there is a current under the surface towards hegemony immaterial production. (What a fantastic talent of farsightedness) Although the product is immaterial, labor remains material since production consumes our labor power.

One must explain me clearly that how could my labor power, life energy, remains material if it was consumed by an immaterial product. Probably as a image of a ghost haunting the paper money. And how can I change my own nature without changing the external world, i.e. nature? And how can I change the existing forms of the relations of production without changing my own nature and the external world?

Actually this new theories of labour reflects the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisation of working class in imperialist countries. Lenin writes:

"Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat."

The theories like "immaterial labor", "new proletariat", etc. are the immaterial products of the hitherto overlooked masses of the "upper stratum" of the workers raised above woldscale division of labor.

According to the CIA factbook, the main area of the Empire's occupation, services, covers 64% of the GDP of the World. First of all, the concept of services does not completely indicate "immaterial production". This misunderstanding is adequately explained here, probably written by Andy Blunden.

Secondly, the sectorial composition of GDP doesn't represents the sectoral division of labor since in the sector of services the price of labor power shows a constant tendency of rise according to the accumulation of commodities which requires more expenditure of repair and maintenance, monopolization which boosts advertisement wars and its costs, new contradictions causing new judiciary expenses, etc. etc.

Anyhow I made list of countries where the proportion of services is under 50% based on CIA factbook, excluding some of the tiny ones:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Botswan, Brunei, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, North Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

As regards to "affective labor" and the place of women in capitalist production, this theorists might be more affected if they mind to take the trouble of exploring the army of unpaid or underpaid females in the sweetshops Asia, rather than lighten with the outgoing welcome of McDonalds girls.

Furthermore, as represented by Woods and Grant, if there is more poker chips than the value of actual goods, this mirrors the speculative character of the economy. In "Reason in Revolt" they quote from Akio Morita, former chairman of Sony Corporation:

"It is a heady game, full of excitement, but wins and losses at the poker table don’t obscure the frightening fact that the ship is sinking and no one realizes it."

In his recent posts, Comrade Ben duplicated the ideas of Negri and Hardt word by word. None of our comrades felt a necessity for reply since we think that these jokes have already lost their artistic value of humor. But, they tend to reappear on the sidewalks here and there.

The difference between Ford Perfect and postmodern theorist is they are trying to greet automobiles, commodities, as though they came up against an alien life form: "Hello aliens, we are human". I hope that this time automobiles will not miss the target.
(Note: Comrade Jeffrey Thomas Piercy corrected me here that the true name of the character is Ford Prefect).

Chavez and the Referendum Results

Posted to Marxmail on Sun, 16 Dec 2007

Fred Feldman wrote:

"And note the coup-hopeful lie about Chavez accepting the referendum results only under military pressure."

There is no wonder Chavez calmly accepted the results. As he implied by stating that winning with a tiny margin could be more unwelcome result, a photo-finish victory was the second worst outcome for both sides. He just let the counter-revolutionaries take the worst of it which requires further struggle for realization. Tiny margins reveals the incompetence of potential to turn into the actual. Revolution is already the actual.

Chavez just made a probe bet and it disclosed the potential of the opponents in the most suitable conditions and trew off the mask of hypocrites within the movement. (In his article Alan Woods explains the reasons of referandum results). I think, which he didn't touch upon was a major leak of proper reasoning behind putting all sixty articles in a package to people's vote. Then one has sixty possible reasons to vote for "no". I think this is the main reason of vast number of abstention. The majority of people who has one or two of this reasons just refused to vote against Chavez.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

China's New Labor Law

I just read a detailed report on China's new labor law on The Red Wombat Hole blog:
Although there are galore of articles on the Internet that warn dear capitalists how to ward of distasteful situations, some regulations stirred up my suspicion as their contents still seem unclear.

For instance, a blog which informs foreign investors about China Law, states:

"It is also going to require all employers maintain a written employee handbook setting out the basic rules and regulations of employment. Without an employee handbook, employers will be essentially unable to fire anyone; "the failure to maintain an employee handbook means that an employer will effectively be unable to discharge employees for cause, since "cause" must be determined with reference to the employee handbook."Do it."

My question is, according to which superior regulations must a handbook be written that regulates employment? Without apropriate superior laws, a handbook serves more to penalize workers. I recalled a passage from Capital:

"The factory code in which capital formulates, like a private legislator, and at his own good will, his autocracy over his workpeople, unaccompanied by that division of responsibility, in other matters so much approved of by the bourgeoisie, and unaccompanied by the still more approved representative system, this code is but the capitalistic caricature of that social regulation of the labour-process which becomes requisite in co-operation on a great scale, and in the employment in common, of instruments of labour and especially of machinery. The place of the slave-driver’s lash is taken by the overlooker’s book of penalties. All punishments naturally resolve themselves into fines and deductions from wages, and the law-giving talent of the factory Lycurgus so arranges matters, that a violation of his laws is, if possible, more profitable to him than the keeping of them."

When I was an undergraduate student and living in one of the most unrestrained student dormitory that you can imagine, I had a conversation with the principal who suddenly showed off a long list of rules and regulations consists of nearly 150 articles, and said: "As you see, although it seems that there is not a single rule in this dormitory, actually every step you take is a transgression of the rulebook. But with our goodwill, we use it in certain situations".

We've cut the the prices on salvation and sin, but I am scared of the dusty day when the preachers cannot read a word from the handbook:

"The telephone rang and it jumped off the wall,
That was the preacher paying his call.
He said, look at the shape that world is in,
I've gotta cut price on salvation and sin.
The church houses were jammed and packed
People was strengthened from front to the back
It was so dusty the preacher couldn't read his text
So he folded his text and he took up collections.

Note: It is quite possible that I mistook the verses:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ultimate Religion

Samir Amin’s article is one of the most informative texts on its subject that I have ever read for a while.

In one of his works (Marx’s Theory of Alienation) István Mészáros writes, “Judaism and Christianity are complementary aspects of society's efforts to cope with its internal contradictions.”

Judaism solves the contradiction with “crude partiality”, adopting the inequity between “our people” and “strangers”. Christianity negates the partiality with abstract universality, i.e. “universal brotherhood of mankind”.

Therefore, Judaism partially denies humankind as strangers and Christianity universally denies humanity as an abstraction.

In my humble opinion, Islam completes the missing part. Islam solves the contradictions of society with subjective individuality: brotherhood of Muslim individual. See:

Islam is the ultimate religion since it denies the humankind concretely by replacing them with a subjective individual who is absolutely tied to God. As a result, Islam is the absolute checkmate, bad-beat, our beautiful aces cracked by a donk holding the bottom pair, etc. of humankind against God.

Islam solves the riddle of society by renouncing there is any contradiction in society. Islam acknowledges only one contradiction and that is between God and humankind. The challenge of God objectified in the body of Muslim individual versus ordinary human disparaged as an infidel.

In a ardent conversation with an Islamist friend of mine (couple of years ago who had published some of my most sarcastic poetries in his literature magazine disregarding his furious comrades), he told me in a moment of desperation that perhaps the theories of Karl Marx is relevant regarding the class nature of Western societies but since there is no such a thing as class in Muslim world, the verses of Quran is sufficient to eliminate the prospect of any injustice.

Expect its compatibility with the premises of capitalism, the danger of political Islam resides in that it is not political enough as assumed by some of us. While communism strives to render politics prevalent in society, Islam struggles to levitate the political terrain above the society, to the presence of Allah.

Finally, Anti-imperialism of political Islam is only comparable with an executioner purportedly advocating anti-death penalty legislation.

As a cordial ritual, I want to quote from a song at the end. Cohen’s Hallelujah (I prefer Buckley version):

“Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?”
Communism cares about music not the Lord.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Endless Rain into a Paper Cup

The text below is my response to a thread in Marxmail where one of our comrades suggested that we leftists should appear in the forums of conservatives to take on their political discourse rather than carrying on an inconclusive dialogue between ourselves:

If the politics was a field of quest for truths it could be reasonable for us to come forward in right-wing forums to reveal the contradictions of their discourse and the limits of their reasoning. Remember G. W. Bush’s recent statement regarding the National Intelligence Estimate report which brings forward the reality that Iran has no program to acquire nuclear weapons: "The NIE doesn't do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world.” Politics is the battleground of power where the measure of truth is the struggle itself. For instance, Democrats of US had not lost the 2004 election through their lack of skills for delicate political debates. Contrary, they were so skillful in the art of disclosing absurdities of the Bush administration, they eschewed the drudgery of physical labor to transform the political debate to ad hominem. As Marx asserted once, “Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical.”

When I first began to read the works of Karl Marx (my adventure has started with the 1844 Manuscripts), I got so excided that whipped me to run amok for spreading the ideas of the most well-known thinker whose theories are living in the shadow of his commonly distorted reputation. I delivered never-ending monologues (!) to every single person that I met from diverse backgrounds of society in cafés, beer pubs, billiard halls, family meetings and friendly parties and even to the taxi drivers (I gave up the latest practice when I came across the most strange taxi driver, an anarcho-capitalist who suggested that we must privatize everything when we were passing in front of the residence of Prime Minister of Turkey). Although I attracted a decent attention among the people who have leftist credentials, I didn’t manage to persuade single conservative whether he or she is an islamist or a nationalist to the theory of Marxism. Moreover, I didn’t manage to convince even my intimates to read the Manuscripts at least. I tried everything just to run against the tough walls of indifference. It is not for the reason that I wasn’t capable of overcoming the sloppiness of their political discourse. Rather, I was skilled enough to analyze their contradictions effortlessly which led me to miss their truths. The most recent instance took place while I was conversing about the Kurdish question of Turkey with my brother who has apparent nationalistic tendencies. In the most fervent moment of our quarrel, he blared, “Why are you always taking the side of our enemies?” I told him that I am not prone to taking sides, just investigating the truths. Then he clearly reminded me the genuine political struggle: “To hell with the truths. I want to talk about our truths”.

In the moderation principles of Marxmail it says that, “We also welcome non-Marxists who come to the list in a respectful attitude, desiring to learn more. However, if you have decided for yourself that Marxism is wrong and that your purpose on the list is to struggle to convince others of that, you should not subscribe.” What an intolerant forewarning which exposes the hegemonic attitude of Marxists to prohibit inconvenient critiques. Like high-school debate teams, wouldn’t it be entertaining to wrangle with the absurdities of rightists to demonstrate the world that we Marxists have unshakable tools for evaluating incidents of politics. But the problem is too much political discussion alone results in a power failure of theory to become a material force. So what was the effect that converted John Lennon from writing songs like “Across the Universe” inspired with Transcendental Meditation? How could the indifference of a man to the words that “are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” so nothing’s gonna change his world was transformed to an iconoclastic voice in the song of “God”? The key line is “The dream is over” which implies a state of flux in the truths of Lennon incited by the consequences of the Vietnam War, etc.

If we really believe that we can sell the truthful words of class struggle without an inclination towards ad hominem, for instance, to an ordinary manager of Fortis Bank, a creative director of an advertising company, a nationalist undergraduate student who is only capable of rationalizing his limitations via alien conspiracy, etc. we should revise our well-intentioned rational idealism which fails to notice that how a theory becomes a material force. Karl Marx strived not only for introducing the hypocrisy of political economy but also materializing the truth of working class as a subject of the communist revolution: proletariat.

In my opinion, rather than desperately striving to prevail over our dissidents with endless rain of words we should keep the track of social incidents that probably have the propulsive energy to beget ruptures in the hegemonic truths and look for ways to organize people whose truths are naturally contradictory with the ruling class. I am not referring here to new forms of vanguard parties since vanguardism neglects the spontaneity of truth process by adopting a lengthy string of predetermined missions that are more than capable of resulting unexpected interruptions in actual improvements.

The announcement of “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims” is besides an appeal for voicing our truths explicitly. I think it is more important for us to concentrate our energy to publish our aims rather than rehearsing the myth of Sisyphus by pushing the rock of criticism up to the mountain of the online forums of conservatives.