July 6, 2011

A Reply to Richard Trumka's 'Stuck in a Ditch'

By Lil Joe and Dave Moros

The issue isn't the abstraction of 'peoplepower', because in the industrial capitalist democracies there are not 'peoples' independent of relations of production, but individuals comprising classes.

In the United States, today, just as in every other industrial capitalist society, it is the capitalist ruling classes that have monopolised political power. In opposition to capitalist class power, what is to be expected from the AFL-CIO, as the economic representative of labor power as a class of workers is workers power.

Every class struggle is a political struggle in which the shock of body against body is the warfare of class against class, the capitalistic appropriating classes in class conflict against the rising appropriated laboring classes. This is the historical logical premise predicated upon which our polemic against the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, that is at the same time as members of the Democratic Party are political representatives of the capitalist class in the working class unions.

We do not regard Trumka an isolated individual worker outside the class struggle, but a product of those class battles. Were he just an individual outside capital relations of production his being a Democrat would be irrelevant. But, this is not the case.

American trade unions have a history of bloody class conflict. The capitalist's States have had the upper hand in these conclicts, in that the State is and has always been an instrument of their class' domination over the working classes and toiling masses.

Contemporary trade unions however have been sponged up into the ideology that America is a 'classless' democracy: thus, the rhetoric of 'people power'. This false consciousness has been and still is based upon the assertion of the capitalist's political representatives at the Constitutional Convention that presented their class interests as 'we the people' of the United States.

"American exceptionalism" is the false consciousness that the capitalist classes do not exist in "American democracy". Instead of an economic analysis of mutually exclusive class interests, capitalist owners of the means of production and distribution against the propertyless working classes and toiling masses, the myth of 'American exceptionalism' asserts that America is the land of 'equal opportunity' of each individual to 'strike it rich', become capitalists.

Therefore, it is that the American capitalist classes, are comprised of individuals that 'made it' - by 'hard work and playing by the rules'. Thus, conversely, that those of America who constitute the working class poor are failures, who deserve to be stepped upon and kicked to the side - its their own fault.

Upon this lie is the false-consciousness in the trade unions, the other vicious myth in our class: that there is a so-called 'middle class' comprised of union workers, which workers as wage earners have supposedly transcended the poverty of their immigrant parents and 'made it' to a position of owning a house and car. This, insomuch as it ignores material production relations is an ideological political lie.

The ideological polemic against Trumka is regarding him as a Democrat, a member of this capitalist class party.

The labor bureaucray represented by Trumka, as members of the upper Democratic Party as representative of capitalist class interests, do not represent working class interests in opposition to capitalist class exploitation and political domination. Rather, they represent the class interests of the appropriating classes in the working classes.

TRUMKA: A deal will have to be reached soon to keep us from defaulting on our national debt - and if President Obama and congressional Democrats stand strong, that deal doesn't have to hurt working families.
Take action now: http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2475 *****

When your car breaks down in a ditch and you need it to get to work, what do you do?

A. Fix it, even if you have to responsibly take out a loan--and work harder over time to pay off the debt, even if it means taking a second job.

B. Stay in the ditch, throw a tantrum and default on your mortgage.

The economy still is reverberating from the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression. But rather than work to fix our economy, congressional Republicans are willing to keep it in a ditch.


REPLY: Because of specific economic laws or tendencies unique to the capitalist mode of social production, "our economy", cannot be "fixed" but must be replaced.

Capital accumulation is the overriding objective, the raison d'Ítre of capitalist as personification of capital and capitalist relations of social production and distribution. The expansion of profit and capital accumulation is the reason for the existence and the basis of all economic undertakings by the owners of capital.

Constant technological innovation:

Capital is forced to continually innovate so that they can produce their particular commodity with less inputs and thus undercut their competitors pricewise.

The tendency of the organic composition of capital to increase:

As technological innovation proceeds, constant capital (machinery, building, vehicles) becomes larger as a percentage of total capital (organic composition of capital) meaning that variable capital decreases as a percentage of total capital entering the social production process.

Productivity of Labor:

As a consequence of technological innovation, labor productivity increases. The quantity of surplus value per worker increases but the worker recieves less and less of this newly created value in wages and thus this newly created value goes instead into the capitalist's hands.

The tendency of the rate of profit to decline:

Yet the tendency of the rate of profit is to decline. This is because it is only the labor power, sold as a commodity to capitalists -commodity production by means of commoddities - the means of production, raw materials and energy sources paid for by the capitalists, contain objectified labor, the result of previous labor processes, the value congealed in these factors of production do not increase or decrease, but is constant - thus 'constant capital. In the present labor processes the fixed value of the means of production used by human labor, is transferred to the objects that are transformed by the labor process, but human labor power does not just transfer its value to the produced object, but at the same time produces an additional value, or 'surplus value' as the result of surplus labor time that is unpaid for by the capitalists as the condition for the capitalist hiring these workers. Labor power sold as a commodity is, in the capitalist labor process, therefore variable capital.

Thus, in as much as variable capital is the source of capitalist profit - valorisation - there is, by displacement of human labor by machines, reduced added value per commodity produced, more commodities containing less value which must be sold/bought with shrinking aggregate wages to realise capitals profit and thus the tendency of the rate of profit to decline.

Also see: Valorisation @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valorisation

Constant technological innovation leads to the tendency of the organic composition of capital (constant capital divided by variable capital) to increase which in turn increases the productivity of labor but also leads to layoffs as machinery replaces labor but, as labor is the only source of surplus value/profit, more commodities, each containing less value, have to be produced and sold to realise greater profit and accumulation, but as the aggregate wage is shrinking, in the face of greater quatities of commodities/use values being produced, because workers are replaced by machinery, commodities go unsold, inventories pile up and thus capital accumulation and the rate of profit decline or even turn negative.


In short, as Marx pointed out in Capital Vol. 3, "the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself".

Thus, these tendencies of capitalist social production intermingle and interact to inevitably, every few years, leave this economy and it's working class, as Frederick Engels pointed out, "in the ditch of a crisis".

Recessions and Depressions:

Unemployment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unemployment

The peaks and troughs of the chart above are reflective of the ups and downs in the lives of millions of workers as their livlihood is constantly threatened by a capitalist economy that naturally and inevitably tends toward recession and depression.

Trumka, insomuch as he writes ostensibly as a worker, and in the official capacity as leader of the AFL-CIO, is wrong in his presentation of capital accumulation, the result of the exploitation of wage labor in the processes of commodity production, as 'our economy'. The economy isn't 'owned' by the propertyless laboring classes, but by those classes that own the productive forces and thereupon appropriate labor power and hence own the products thereof. The 'American' economy is capitalist, it therefore belongs to the capitalists - its their economy, not ours.

TRUMKA: Two leading Republicans--Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Sen. Jon Kyl(R-Ariz.)--recently left budget negotiations and are threatening to force default on our national debt if they don't get their way.

Tell President Obama and congressional Democrats: Stand up to bullies. Don't let working families get stuck in a ditch: [http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2475 ].

REPLY: Capitalist relations of social production and distribution, as described above, will always ultimately leave working class in a ditch of job insecurity, unemployment, poverty, violence, war, economic and psychological precariousness.

The Republican Party is not a party of 'bullies', but is the political representative of finance capital and of transnational corporate capital, directly and indirectly of the American capitalist class, whereas the Democrats are political representatives of domestic agricultural and industrial capital, directly, and the capitalist class. The working class is not represented by the Democrats, nor by Trumka in that he is an agent of the Democratic Party in the unions, rather than the agent of the unions in the Democratic Party.

Just as, and because the interests of wage labor and capital are inversely related, the class interests of workers vis-a-vis the Democratic Party, as well as the Republican Party, are mutually exclusive.

The American State is not 'our State', either. Rather, it is an apparatus of coercion, at home as well as abroad - special bodies of armed men and women, with courts and prisons at their disposal. This State is used by the government to keep the working class in check, and workers 'in their place', as well as to wage wars abroad on behalf of American capitalists -e.g. the oil wars in Iraq, and the military bases in the region. This is why there is such as huge national debt, as well as the direct appropriation of workers wealth by taxes, and the payment of interest on government borrowing from finance capital.

Just as the capitalist economy is not 'our economy', as workers, but rather, the capitalist's class property, neither is the national government and State ours, but theirs. The government debts and deficits that fund the bureaucratic-military State is therefore, also, not 'our debt' or 'deficits' - it is the capitalist class' debts and deficits, so let them be the one's to sacrifice to pay off the debts of the government that service their class interests at home and abroad. If the government defaults, that is not our problem or concern.

TRUMKA: When our economy's broken, we need leaders who will fix it--not politicians who throw temper tantrums when millionaires and billionaires are asked to pay their fair share. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are not just lifelines for working people and poor families--they're all that's stopping our economy from falling off a cliff again.

REPLY: Whatever a capitalist pays is ultimately paid by the working class as the working class alone produce all new value in the social production process.

The Democrats pretend to represent the working class and the poor by providing bread and circus to keep us tame and at home in our being exploited, whereas the Republicans want to shed the skin of social programs and have the State be as it is in essence, special bodies of killers and jailers. The 'conservative Democrats are the same as the Republicans in this regard as well. They want to use force to keep their economy, not 'our economy! - from falling off a cliff.

It is in the interests of the working class, by expropriating the social productive forces we have produced, to throw capitalists and their politicians 'off the cliff': displace capitalist ownership of the productive forces by establishing working class ownership of the productive forces, thereby eliminating capitalist commodity production and wage labor, replaced by production for consumption rather than production for capital accumulation by exploitation.

To "pay their fair share", the millionaire and billionaire capitalist would have to give back all their wealth as they produce no value whatsoever in the social production process. The only place new value is created is in the actual process of social production by living active labor. Value (the constituent of wealth) is ONLY created by active workers bodily motion with a specific concentrated aim in social production.

Whatever a capitalist pays is ultimately paid by the working class as the working class alone produce new value in the social production process which is the source of capitalist revenue and profit, bankers interest and landlords rent.

"Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Natureís productions in a form adapted to his own wants....


"In the labour-process, therefore, manís activity, with the help of the instruments of labour, effects an alteration, designed from the commencement, in the material worked upon. The process disappears in the product, the latter is a use-value, Natureís material adapted by a change of form to the wants of man. Labour has incorporated itself with its subject: the former is materialised, the latter transformed. That which in the labourer appeared as movement, now appears in the product as a fixed quality without motion."...

TRUMKA: With businesses not hiring and wages flat, every dollar in cuts will hurt the economy--and cuts that hurt middle-class and poor Americans will hurt the economy most. Some jaded Republican politicians are willing to let that happen. They figure that if the economy tanks, it'll cost Barack Obama the 2012 election--and that's all they care about.

REPLY: Within this present day capitalist economy based on commodity production, industrial, retail capital will not hire additional workers or expand production capacity until aggregate demand increases but, aggregate demand cannot increase until workers get wages (their only source of livlihood to purchase necessities like shelter, food, water, electricity, transportation) which in turn depend upon capital doin' some hirin'. Workers can't work and get wages to create aggregate demand to propel and expand production until capital resumes, increases and expands production.

Thus, under this economy based upon commodity production by wage labor, workers find themselves caught up in a vicious roller coaster economic ferris wheel, subject to the profit motives and conditions of the capitalist class.

Also, there's no "middle-class" and "poor Americans" are working class. If one predominately works for a wage, is without means of making a living oneself and thus must hire oneself out to another for a wage in order to survive, to make a living, one is working class. The "middle-class" are thus working class too. Unemployed and underemployed "poor Americans" are working class as well.

TRUMKA: To fix our economy, we can and should be building up the American middle class--not tearing it down. We need to educate our children, build a clean energy future and invest in 21st century American infrastructure that makes us competitive in the world. It's time to act like the wealthy, compassionate, imaginative country we are--not let hypocritical politicians turn us into an impoverished nation.

REPLY: What does Trumka mean by 'wealth of nation' and making 'us' competitive 'in the world'? The wealth of the American nation doesn't belong to 'us', is not the property of the working classes and the impovershed, but of the capitalist classes: see - Wealth, Income, and Power by G. William Domhoff September 2005 (updated January 2011) @ http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

"We" - i.e. the American working class are as products of the cosmopolitan character of capitalist commodity production on the basis of wage labor also a cosmopolitan class.

"We" - i.e. as part and parcel of a cosmopolitan working class - are not in 'competition' with workers of other countries.

It is only American capitalists that are in competition with capitalists elsewhere. We have no dog in those fights, but regard the capitalist's war of all against all as something to be transcended by the world working class taking the productive forces, eliminating commodity production and competition by a society based on cooperation of workers everywhere.

TRUMKA: Let President Obama and Congressional Democrats know working people need them to reject radical demands and stand up to temper tantrums. Demand a fair budget deal that keeps our economy growing: [http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2475 ].

REPLY: What class aware workers know is that when the Democrats, along with and as well as the Republicans, talk about 'our economy growing', what they have reference to is THEIR economy 'growing' - i.e. capital accumulating by massive surplus values engendered by increasing labor productivity and higher profits, at any rate in the short term by increasing the exploitation of wage workers.

"President Obama and Congressional Democrats" know exactly what they are doing, and whose class interests they serve. It is not the interests of the working class and the poor. "Working people" do not "need" the Democrats to do a damn thing for us! What we need is a Labor Party, to displace the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, to displace the capitalist class State by a revolutionary working class state.

TRUMKA: Some congressional Republicans say they'll accept a temporary default on our national debt to get the cuts they demand. But it's a big lie. A temporary default would hurt Wall Street and Big Banks more than it would hurt working folks. And Wall Street controls enough of our politics these days that it will never happen.

The reality is, a deal will have to be reached soon to keep us from defaulting on our national debt--and if President Obama and congressional Democrats stand strong, that deal doesn't have to hurt working families.

Last Saturday, Vice President Biden said, "We're never going to get this done, we're never going to solve our debt problem if we ask only those who are struggling in this economy to bear the burden and let the most fortunate among us off the hook." We agree.

REPLY: The rich capitalists don't gain enormous wealth by being "fortunate" but by exploiting labor power and thus workers i.e., by exploiting active labor in the social production process.

TRUMKA: Urge the president--and congressional Democrats--to keep standing with working families against bullies, and to protect America's future:
[http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2475 ]. Thank you for standing with us.
In Solidarity,
Richard L. Trumka President, AFL-CIO

P.S. The "Robin Hood in Reverse" budget ideas proposed by congressional Republicans are shocking:

* Congressional Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it and put Americans at the mercy of private insurance companies. Congressional Republicans voted for a radical budget that would end Medicare and replace it with underfunded vouchers for private insurance. It would cause a typical 65-year-old to spend $6,359 more per year out of pocket for health care in 2022.

REPLY: The Democrats put Americans "at the mercy of private insurance companies" by taking single-payer off the table, making behind the scenes deals with pharmaceutical and health insurance capital and by passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that leaves 30 million without coverage and leaves the rest at the mercy of the parasitic health care industry.

TRUMKA: * Congressional Republicans want hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicaid. These cuts would hurt millions of children and seniors in nursing homes. Medicaid is health care of last resort. It's for poor kids and our most vulnerable senior citizens. It saves the lives of countless children each year and keeps senior citizens in quality nursing homes. According to Families USA, "Every federal Medicaid dollar that flows into a state stimulates business activity and generates jobs." Cutting Medicaid will kill jobs--and there are way too few private-sector jobs to fill in the gap.

* Congressional Republicans want to rob the Social Security Trust Fund. Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus--and will pay full benefits through 2037 if we just leave it alone. Even after that, it will pay 78 percent of benefits. It's completely separate from the federal budget. We have time to make responsible fixes to shore up Social Security in the long term, separate from the immediate budget issues.

REPLY: Anyone with half a brain knows that all that needs to be done to make Social Security safe and sound (under the current conditions of capitalist social production) into the future, is to raise the income level that is taxed for SSI. The current scheme taxes payrolls up to but not above $106,800.00. Generally then, one pays the same into the Social Security Trust Fund annually whether one makes $106,800.00 or $106,800,000.00 or $106,800,000,000.00! By removing the $106,800.00 cap on the social security tax the social security trust fund will be fully funded into the indefinite future!

This is not complicated and very doable but Obama and the Democratic Party is generally mute on the issue.

Social Security Taxes
2010 - 6.2% on earnings up to $106,800
2011 - 4.2% on earnings up to $106,800

2010 - 6.2% on earnings up to $106,800
2011 - 6.2% on earnings up to $106,800
With Medicare, simply make the Medicare tax a graduated tax. The more ones wages/income, the greater percentage of that wage/income goes into paying for Medicare for all. A simple fractional increase would keep Medicare solvent indefinately.

Medicare Taxes
Employee/employer (each)
2010 - 1.45% on all earnings
2011 - 1.45% on all earnings

TRUMKA: Tell President Obama and congressional Democrats: Don't cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Make millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share: [http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2475 ].

"Stuck in a ditch":

REPLY: As the political-economic interests of capital and labor are mutually exclusive...Fuck tellin' Obama anything!

The working class voted Obama into office only to be sorely dissapointed by the Obama administration policy that is by and for capital and against working class socio-economic interests. For example, under the Obama administration, no card check, a health care bill that is a giveaway to insurance companies, no national jobs program, the rescuing of finance and industrial capital, on and on. Tens of millions of working class voted for Obama. Workers voted for Obama at the ballot box, not corporations. But, the Obama administration along with congressional Democrats (and Republicans) are catering their policy, as they always have, to capitalist economic gain, against labor.

It's time the working class in the US throw off capitalist political parties like the Democrats and build a Laboor Party of our own and elect candidates who will craft legislation (like, health care for all, guarantee to work and necessities of life for all from birth to death, appropriate the social productive forces and sources as common property) in working class economic interests against capital.

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