"Whether one allows for the impact of exchange rates, local costs, or anything else, it remains the case that a large proportion of the world’s proletariat is living in penury compared to those in the rich countries. The disparity is so huge that, even with so-called globalisation in recent decades, there has clearly been no ‘equalisation’ of wages in the world market, nor really any significant narrowing of differentials."

“Whether one allows for the impact of exchange rates, local costs, or anything else, it remains the case that a large proportion of the world’s proletariat is living in penury compared to those in the rich countries. The disparity is so huge that, even with so-called globalisation in recent decades, there has clearly been no ‘equalisation’ of wages in the world market, nor really any significant narrowing of differentials.”

by Tony Norfield

Walter made some useful distinctions on this topic in his recent contribution, but I will tackle the issue from a different angle, complementing what he wrote.

A key point to note is that the discussion of these topics often mixes up the question of the value of labour-power and that of (the rate of) exploitation. Both are affected by social productivity – how much can be produced in an hour – but are different aspects of labour’s employment by capital.

For example, assume that the value of labour-power, represented by the wage, is the same everywhere. Then the rate of exploitation – how much surplus-value compared to the value of labour-power – is higher if some workers work more hours at the average level of productivity. Even with the same number of hours worked, the rate of exploitation would be higher where workers are more productive per hour than average – usually meaning they are working more intensively, or have better technology or higher skills. One hour of labour produces the same amount of value as another only if they are of the same productivity, intensity, etc.

Of course, the value of labour-power is not the same everywhere, so that adds another variable to how exploitation is calculated. If the value of labour-power is much lower in some countries than others, exploitation might be more, but it might also be less, depending upon hours worked, intensity, productivity, etc. Nevertheless, these are abstract points of theory; the reality of the world economy paints a much more straightforward picture.

  1. Wages, value of labour-power

Everybody knows that there are huge disparities in living standards worldwide. Equally, every capitalist company knows that workers in one country may get wages that are a Read the rest of this entry »

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One of the issues being looked at by the Imperialism study group is super-exploitation in/of the Third World.  Below are notes to the discussion.  Walter asks that readers here keep in mind this is not an attempt at a full analysis of super-exploitation; it is some notes contributed to the study group discussion.  He (and the rest of us) are keen to get feedback on any material from the study/discussion group, so we look forward to people contributing to the comments section below.  We will regularly be sticking up notes by study group participants and reports on the study group.

by Walter Daum, July 28

The term “super-exploitation” has often been attributed to Lenin, but I have not been able to find it in his writings. The closest is this: “sections of the working class in the oppressor nations receive crumbs from the super-profits the bourgeoisie of these nations obtains by extra exploitation of the workers of the oppressed nations.” ( “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism,” 1916.)

In this context, “extra exploitation” does not simply mean exploitation of additional workers but rather deeper exploitation of oppressed workers; hence the super-profits extracted. Lenin did often use the term “super-profits,” but as we discussed this past weekend, that did not necessarily mean profits extracted from capitalistically employed wage-workers. In the above passage, however, that does seem to be what he is referring to.

The specific term “super-exploitation” is of more recent origin, having been introduced by Latin American Marxist economists in the 1960’s. I think the originator was Ruy Mauro Marini.

Defining the Term

There have been basically two definitions of super-exploitation. One might be called absolute super-exploitation: paying workers less than necessary to reproduce their labor power. For example, Andre Gunder Frank defined the term as “the appropriation by capital of so many of the fruits of the workers’ labor that the workers cannot maintain themselves or reproduce their labor power.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Demonstrators hold banners as they protest against the Government’s austerity measures applied due to the Spanish economic crisis that began in 2008, at Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain, on May 28, 2016. (AFP)

The article below is appearing simultaneously here and on Tony Norfield’s Economics of Imperialism site.

by Susil Gupta 

It seems that the class struggle, or at least the fear of it, is indeed the motive force of history. The EU has announced that it will not, after all, impose a hefty Є2.2 billion fine on Spain for repeatedly missing its budget reduction targets, as it had been threatening to do for months. EU hard-liners, particularly the Germans, were until recently demanding a Є5 billion fine. Spain has now been given another two years to get its finances in order.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who made the announcement, explained that the Spanish people had already made sacrifices and it was not appropriate to demand more of them, particularly at a time when there is a question mark over the entire European project. Why has Spain been shown such largesse, when the Greeks were not? The Greek people also made sacrifices, larger than those imposed on Spain.

More significant still is that, according to German press reports, it appears that the change in policy was promoted by none other than German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, the hard-line archduke of fiscal probity and sticking to the rules. The German business paper Handelsblatt reports that following a long discussion with French, Italian and Spanish ministers at the recent G-20 summit in Beijing, Schäuble himself phoned the EU Commission pressing for a policy change in favour of more carrot and less stick. The Spanish argued that a fine would undermine Spain’s Christian democrats and would only benefit the ‘populist’ Podemos.

The EU’s problem is that the three areas in which it wants to see some major traction – labour market flexibility, pensions, and social spending – are all very politically sensitive and disruptive. This limits how far it can push austerity. Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos has been bragging openly for weeks that the EU would not impose a fine, which was rather undiplomatic.

Greece, with only 2% of the EU’s population and of little economic importance, can be pushed around. Spain, the EU’s fifth-largest economy, is a different matter.  Despite being wrongly dubbed a ruthless neoliberal by the Left, prime minister Rajoy has been resisting on all three fronts.  Sledge-hammer austerity can only knock Spain’s social and constitutional order to pieces and push the popular classes into the arms of Podemos and possibly beyond.

Employment

Spain has around 30 different forms of Read the rest of this entry »

nationalcolaThis month marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of one of New Zealand capitalism’s two major political parties – Labour.

No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons.

Nevertheless, there are certainly sections of the anti-capitalist left who, in practice, retain illusions in Labour.  Some think Labour is still, at its core, some kind of “workers’ party” and that it is therefore permissible to vote for it and call on others to vote for it.  Or to take sides in Labour leadership elections.  Or to invite Labour speakers to speak at their educational conferences.  Or to demonise National in a way that points clearly to support for Labour, without actually saying so.

Even on the anti-capitalist left, there are also some illusions about the first Labour government.  And illusions about the early Labour Party from its founding in 1916 to the formation of the first Labour government.

It is a form of comfort politics.  Just as some infants require comforters, a left which hasn’t yet grown up and been prepared to face the harsh realities of the 21st century capitalist world requires the comfort of thinking that there was once a mass force for socialism in this country and that it was the early Labour Party.

In fact, there has never been a mass force for socialism in New Zealand.  There were certainly revolutionary elements in this country – marxists, anarchists, syndicalists – in the early 1900s and there were far more of them then, when New Zealand only had a million people, than there are today when the country has 4.5 million people.  One of the functions of the early Labour Party was to destroy these revolutionary elements, in part by mopping them up and sucking them into Labour, transforming them into harmless social democrats.  Where they couldn’t do this, they worked to marginalise them and destroy their organisations.  All the while, through the 1920s, Labour moved rightwards, becoming more and more oriented to saving and running the system than getting rid of it.  Labour was always far more hostile to the anti-capitalist left than it was to capitalism.  And, of course, the early Labour Party staunchly advocated for the White New Zealand policy, indicated that they preferred a divided and politically weakened working class – ie one more likely to turn to Labour as its saviour – than a united, politically powerful working class which didn’t need the Labour Party.

Over the five years that this blog has existed, we have run a lot of articles on Labour, including some major, lengthy pieces.  Below are many of the major ones but, for a full list, go to the Labour Party NZ category on the lefthand side of the blog home page.

The truth about Labour: a bosses’ party

Labour’s racist roots

First Labour government wanted ‘Aryan’ immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

Labour’s introduction of peacetime conscription and the fight against it

1949 Carpenters’ dispute: Labour and the bosses versus the workers

A stain that won’t wash off: Labour’s racist campaign against people with ‘Chinese-sounding’ surnames

More Labour anti-Chinese racism and the left tags along behind them still

Anti-working class to its core: the third Labour government (1972-75)

Labour’s legal leg-irons – thanks to fourth Labour government

Some further observations on the fourth Labour government

Workers, unions and the Labour Party: unravelling the myths

For a campaign for union disaffiliation from the Labour Party

Labour’s leadership contest: confusions and illusions on the left

Recalling the reign of Helen Clark

Income and wealth inequality unchanged by last Labour government

Darien Fenton at the fantastic conference

New Labour Party general-secretary indicative of party’s managerial capitalism

Why Labour wasn’t worth the workers’ ticks

Why do otherwise sane, well-meaning people choose to delude themselves about the Labour Party and make up rosy nonsense about its past?

Chris Trotter’s false recovered memory syndrome

Empty Andy and the ‘Eh?’ team

Union movement gathers for ‘fairness at work’; Labour gathers missionaries

Labour parties and their ‘left’ oppositions

by Daphna Whitmore

The imperialism study group had its first discussion today. We linked up via Zoom to video conference across several time zones. Tony Norfield led the study with a 15-minute introduction to Lenin’s pamphlet Imperialism, and how it relates to today. That was followed by questions and discussion.

Tony’s notes for discussion sent out prior to the video conference are worth reading, and what follows are just brief notes from today’s video talk.

First off ,Tony noted we need to see Lenin’s description of imperialism as a holistic description and that the five key features need to be seen as part of a whole.

lenin_on_imperialism

An important aspect is that imperialism is a world system of domination and hierarchy. Lenin saw you couldn’t understand what’s happening in a particular country outside of the context of the way it related to what is happening everywhere else. That is still important for today. For instance you can’t understand Syria by even looking at the history of Syria, you’d need to look at where it sits in the hierarchy of world power – obviously very low down in the hierarchy – and then look at who’s trying to do what to Syria. In the context of imperialism you can’t understand individual country developments outside of a broader approach of examining where different countries sit in the global system. Read the rest of this entry »

On September 4, 2010 British war criminal (and former prime minister) Tony Blair arrived in Dublin to promote his self-serving book.  The Irish socialist-republican current éirígí called a protest at Eason’s, the central city bookshop where Blair was doing a book signing.  éirígí had demanded that if Blair set foot in the 26-county state he be arrested as a war criminal.

Announcing the protest, éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mhaistír said Blair’s legacy is one of illegal invasions, occupations and war crimes, noting “Tony Blair is a war criminal, with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians on his hands. Alongside his US allies, Blair launched brutal and bloody wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 1.3 million Iraqis are believed to have been killed during the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation.

“This man should be arrested and put before the International Criminal Court.”

He continued: “In Afghanistan, casualties continue to mount as the occupation and slaughter of civilians continues. Blair’s justifications for these invasions are a tissue of lies and deceit. His book is an attempt to rewrite history and justify his role in these illegal wars and the countless war crimes committed by British troops.

“In his time as British prime minister, Blair also oversaw the normalisation of the British occupation in the Six Counties and the murder by pro-British forces of nationalist civilians, including human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. He also blocked all attempts to secure the truth about collusion between British forces and unionist death squads, in particular their role in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.”

Mac An Mhaistír concluded: “The book promotion in Eason’s is an insult to the victims of Blair’s war crimes and Eason’s should withdraw their invitation to him. If Blair proceeds with his visit, éirígí will be highlighting his crimes and staging a protest outside Eason’s from 10am on Saturday [September 4].”  Below is the video of the protest called by éirígí:

 

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The Chilcot enquiry was originally commissioned by Gordon Brown’s Labour government, in June 2009, to look into “the period from summer 2001, before military operations began in March 2003, and our subsequent involvement in Iraq right up to the end of July this year [2009]”.

The inquiry held its last public session in 2011 and its report should have been published by 2014. However, it was held up for another two years due to Cameron’s reluctance to release documents which might have upset the US administration. Seven years on, this report was finally published on 6 July.

Despite its size – 15 volumes and 2.6 million words – it does not actually contain anything new. It goes into minute detail of what had already been known for a long time: the Blair government’s very conscious manipulation of public opinion in order to justify blairjoining the US invasion; its failure to anticipate the consequences of the US-British “regime change” strategy; its lack of any serious plans for the country’s reconstruction, etc.

But what the report does not deal with at all, are precisely the most important issues: the real reasons why the Read the rest of this entry »