Everything must go!: The abolition of value - Bruno Astarian and Gilles Dauvé

Everything must go!: The abolition of value - Bruno Astarian and Gilles Dauvé

This book is about a revolution (i.e. a historical break, not gradual peaceful evolution) that creates communism – not its preconditions.

The main difference between present communist theory and its previous expressions is that it has now become impossible to conceive of communism as a society of associated producers. This book is about a revolution (i.e. a historical break, not gradual peaceful evolution) that creates communism – not its preconditions. Wage-labour, work-time as cut off from the rest of our life, money, private property, State agencies as mediators of social life and conflicts, all of these must go, and not just be run by collectives. Social change will take time but will start from Day One: in the very early days, the way the insurgents will treat workplaces, organize street-fighting and feed themselves will determine the future unfolding of events.

This is no easy task in practice, nor in theory: questioning some of the basics of communism runs into supposed common sense as well as against long-held revolutionary principles. First, what could a communist insurrection be? Secondly, we cannot dispense with revisiting the Marxian theory of value. We can no longer regard the first chapter of Capital as the foundation of a theory of value adequate to our time. Lastly, this is the real world we are talking about. From bicycles to child-rearing, everything relates to ways of life now determined by capital/wage labour relations. This is why the last part of the book broadens the field to a number of vital and daily issues, so-called small ones as well as big ones.


Contents

Foreword

Part One: Crisis Activity and Communisation - Bruno Astarian

Introduction
I. Crisis and Crisis Activity 3
1.1 With the crisis of the reciprocal presupposition of the classes,
automatic social reproduction disappears 3
l.2 Proletarian individualisation in crisis activity 6
l.3 Taking possession of capital elements, but not to work 8
Conclusion 10

II. The Current Crisis 11
11.1 Periodization 11
11.2 The conditions for communism at the outset of the 21st c. 11
11.2.1 Anti-work is back 12
Case of the textile workers, Bangladesh 15
Case of public transportation 17
11.2.2 Demassification of the proletariat 19
Case of Greece, December 2008 20
Conclusion 21

Ill. Communisation 23
111.1 Communisation and transitional society 23
111.2 The issue of gratuity 24
111.3 Production without Productivity 26
111.3.1 The struggle for totalizing activity 27
111.3.2 The end of separation of needs 29
111.3.3 The issue of the individual 32
111.4 Consumption without necessity 34
Conclusion 35

General Conclusion 35


Part Two: Value and its Abolition - Bruno Astarian

1 Marx's vision of the abolition of value 37
1.1 The Critique of the Gotha Program 37
1.1.1 Distribution of the social product and rate of
exploitation of "free men" 38
1.1.2 Abolition of the market and abolition of value 40
1.1.3 Work certificates, the law, and the police 41
1.1-4 Father Enfantin's benediction 43
1.2 GIK and labor-time accounting 47

2 Marx's theory of value, per chapter 1 of Capital 51
2.1 The starting point: the commodity 51
2.1.1 Use value 51
2.1.2 Exchange value, value 52
2.1.3 Rubin on abstract labour 54
2.2 The substance of value: the issue of abstract labour 55
2.2.1 - From commodity to labour-substance of value 55
2.2.2 - The two approaches to abstract labour 56
2.2.2.1 - Social approach 56
2.2.2.2 - The physiological approach:
the expenditure of human labour power 58
2.3 Measure of value 60
2-4 Value and society in the first chapter of Capital 61
2.4.1 Which producers? 61
2.4.2 Which exchanges? 64
2.4.2.1 Selling 65
2.4.2.2 Buying 66
2.5 Commodity fetishism 69

3 Marx's theory of value revisited 72
3.1 The starting point: capital resting on its own basis 72
3.2 Interdependence and multiplication of capitals 74
3.3 Value-producing labour (abstract labour?) 78
3.3.1 Productivity 80
3.3.1.1 Productivity and socially necessary
Jabour time 80
3.3.1.2 Competition and monopoly 82
3.3.2 Standardization 84
3.3.2.1 Usefulness of objects and utility value of
commodities 84
3.3.2.2 Labour standardization 88
3.3.3 Valorizing labour 92
3.4 Substance and magnitude of value; value realization 92
3-4·1 Time, the substance of value 93
3.4.1.1 Embodiment of valorizing Jabour in the
commodity 93
3.4.1.2 The substance of value, that which
circulates 94
3.4.1.3 The substance of value, that which is
measured 97
3.4.2 Exchange of commodities, realization of value 98
3.5 Provisional conclusion 100

4 What is at stake in casting the theory of value concretely? 101
4.1 Doing away with abstract labour 101
4.2 The false threat of life's commoditization 104
4.3 Is the proletariat's struggle against value or capital? 107
4.3.1 Labour market 108
4.3.2 Production 109
4.3.3 Private life 110
4.4 Value and class struggle 111
4.4.1 Daily struggles and devalorization 112
4.4.2 Insurrection and "devaloration:" changing the
social form of nature 113
4.5 Value abolished: abolishing concrete labour 118
4.5.1 Negation of productivity 119
4.5.2 Negation of standardization 122
Conclusion 125


Part Three: A to Z of Communisation - Gilles Dauvé

Autonomy 131
Blue Collar 132
Class 135
Daily Life 138
Ecology 141
Family 145
Giotto 148
Habitat 152
Insurrection 153
Jailbreak 158
Karl (Marx) 162
Labour 165
Money 158
Non-Economy 171
Obfuscation 174
Politics 176
Query 179
Revolution 181
Sex 183
Gilles Dauve
Time (is of the Essence) 187
Unlabelled 192
Value 195
Work 198
Xenophilia 200
Yesterday 203
Zomias 206


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Everything Must Go! The Abolition of Value.pdf3.12 MB

Comments

Craftwork
Feb 27 2017 12:38

Nice one.

PotatoChipChan
Feb 27 2017 13:06

Two chapters of the book are also translated in Greek, and can be found in the links below:
Part One: Crisis Activity and Communisation
Part Three: An A to Z of Communisation

Steven.
Feb 27 2017 15:03

Awesome, thanks!

dendrite303
Feb 28 2017 00:07

Also of note, all 4 issues of Endnotes are now available: http://libcom.org/library/endnotes-journal

Mike Harman
Aug 1 2018 02:19

jura mentioned the ICT's response to this on https://libcom.org/blog/dauve-versus-marx-31072018 (which doesn't cover this book at all).

One issue with the ICT article:

ICT quoting Marx wrote:
The individual producer receives back from society – after deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labour. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labour time of the individual producer is part of the social working day contributed by him, his share of it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such and such an amount of labour (after deducting his labour for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labour costs
ICT wrote:
Under the labour certificate distribution system, outlined by Marx, the exchange of labour and means of consumption is based on the actual labour time.
...
Under the labour certificate distribution system, outlined by Marx, the exchange of labour and means of consumption is based on the actual labour time. Hence in the lower phases of communist society, although there is exchange it is an exchange of activities measured by actual time, not socially necessary time

What the ICT doesn't do sufficiently for me is explain how measuring the total time taken to produce an item can be done without human labour in the abstract.

Let's say I'm making a chair. The wood comes from a forestry, with some transport and machining further up the production process requiring all the tools that go into those processes. Putting the chair together means some cutting, drilling (with a drill and all that creating a drill entails), screws, happens in a building, requires electric.

Now clearly if it takes me 6 hours to saw some wood, do some drilling etc., then regardless of how how many chairs I make, you could give me a voucher for 6 hours. But, what the ICT does not answer, is how you could measure the time that went into the production of the chair - because the chair is social labour including raw materials, tools, fuel, electricity etc. all of which taking place at different times (in some cases decades ago - constructing a road or building for example).

If goods are distributed in return for labour vouchers, then it follows that those goods must be quantified by a certain quantity of labour, but this bit is unexplained.

At a very small scale - say a self-sufficient commune of a few hundred people, then you might more or less be able to measure how much time particular tasks take (total time x people doing them) and work things out from that, so there's probably a way it could theoretically be done, but this doesn't mean it could be applied to a total society.

What the ICT also don't get into is whether a system of labour vouchers is desirable. If there are shortages, then rationing is a much better way to deal with them (and rationing looks different for consumable vs. non-consumable goods, on top of that they don't always mean a reduction in consumption - calorific intake in the UK went up on average during rationing). Labour vouchers don't help with distribution to non-workers - children, the elderly, people who've just had children etc.

This doesn't mean that Dauve's understanding of value is right, but the labour vouchers stuff in Marx has always seemed like it wasn't very serious or well thought through.

Spikymike
Aug 1 2018 09:36

My take on this is closer to Dauve and Internationalist Perspective than the ICT. Worth cross referencing this with the longer discussion following David Adam's critique of socialist labor-money schemes (but I can't make a link for this work).

Steven.
Aug 1 2018 13:29

Yeah, Mike, I remember reading a classic anarchist text ages ago which made the same point (maybe Berkman?)

Not that I think such a system would be desirable, but I guess it could possible to "pay" with labour vouchers, but rather than price goods accordingly (which as you say be impossible to calculate), you could receive an amount of the total product proportionate to your amount of labour vouchers (e.g. someone who did twice as much labour would receive twice as much of the social product).

But as came up in my debate with Michael Albert around parecon, all of these type of schemes would inherently discrimination against women, because much of the work they do is not counted as "wage labour" (e.g. childcare, care work, housework, general reproductive labour etc)

Mike Harman
Aug 1 2018 13:33
Steven. wrote:
Yeah, Mike, I remember reading a classic anarchist text ages ago which made the same point (maybe Berkman?)

Oooh maybe here? https://libcom.org/library/what-is-anarchism-alexander-berkman-29

Cooked
Aug 1 2018 21:08
Steven. wrote:
But as came up in my debate with Michael Albert around parecon, all of these type of schemes would inherently discrimination against women, because much of the work they do is not counted as "wage labour" (e.g. childcare, care work, housework, general reproductive labour etc)

Are you taking this as given!?! Even post rev?

Mike Harman
Aug 2 2018 03:10
Cooked wrote:
Steven. wrote:
But as came up in my debate with Michael Albert around parecon, all of these type of schemes would inherently discrimination against women, because much of the work they do is not counted as "wage labour" (e.g. childcare, care work, housework, general reproductive labour etc)

Are you taking this as given!?! Even post rev?

Parents looking after children can't be measured in hours, the idea of parents filling in timesheets to account for getting woken up at 3am so they log that hour of labour time for the voucher is dystopian.

So a system based on measuring labour time is either going to continue to ignore reproductive labour, or it'd have to special case it in some way - for example just putting 80 hours/week of labour time on the books for parents for the first three years or something.

But then what happens if you have a close friend who looks after your kids sometimes? - you can't transfer 4 hours of your labour time to them, because labour vouchers aren't transferable, would they have to register as a childminder so that you could use four hours of your time to get four hours babysitting and so that they could log the hours? Or does babysitting end up 'unpaid reproductive labour'? Or would you end up spending 4 hours of labour vouchers on something and giving that as a gift (a black market)?

There are various other things that stop people from working such as personal ill health, or friends/family being unwell etc. - again if a labour vouchers system is not going to discriminate against those people, it'd need some equivalent of sick notes/sickness benefit and way of administering that.

You might be asking whether reproductive labour would still be gendered after the revolution, I can't speak for Steven. but for me the big thing would be to break down the difference between reproductive and productive labour, and to socialise reproductive labour as much as possible (an example that happens now is when nursing homes and nurseries collaborate to have the kids visit the nursing home regularly - entertaining both the kids and the elderly in one go). I do think that labour vouchers or parecon would be a barrier to this rather than 'from each according to ability, to each according to need' + various forms of rationing where that's not possible.

The argument here is not that all this labour should be quantified (from above that feels very difficult to me), but that the very quantification of labour and regulating consumption based on it just seems horrible and that'd it'd reproduce dynamics we see now. It requires a whole mechanism of accounting and surveillance that is unnecessary.

Cooked
Aug 2 2018 08:36
Mike Harman wrote:
You might be asking whether reproductive labour would still be gendered after the revolution

That's what I'm taking issue with. Some "normal" couples are already quite close today and the reproductive labour gap seems to be narrowing down. My parents were already close and things have improved since then. Jobwise however only 2 out of 10 staff at my kids nursery are men. These issues vary geographically of course and Sweden is probably better than some places.

Mike Harman wrote:
The argument here is not that all this labour should be quantified (from above that feels very difficult to me), but that the very quantification of labour and regulating consumption based on it just seems horrible and that'd it'd reproduce dynamics we see now. It requires a whole mechanism of accounting and surveillance that is unnecessary.

I agree with the criticism of labour vouchers. Just for discussion however I think the search for perfect measurement of work is overstated IF we manage to reduce the sector where labour vouchers are required. Ideally this would shrink down to near nothing right? Reducing unpaid work ie voluntary work is not really of intererest is it?

Already wages are set without regard for individual productivity in most cases. I can't see that the need for precision would increase.