Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Below is an article submitted to Redline by Alec Abbott written 18 April 2017

1. A quintessentially liberal cycle: from smugness to despair, from despair to hope and from hope to smugness

The initial blow

Trump’s election victory left the liberals reeling with shock and incomprehension. Detached from the poverty and discontent around them, and supremely confident in the Democratic Party’s electoral machine, they saw Hillary Clinton as unassailable. Her defeat did little to diminish their disdain for ordinary working people, or to improve their grasp of US realities.download

Rather than consider the socio-economic forces that brought Trump into office, the liberals focused almost exclusively on his personality, his egocentric greed for power, money and fame. Some went so far as to detect the sinister hand of Moscow at work. When asked how he viewed Trump’s relationship with Russia, Bernie Sanders, always hovering between radical liberalism and mild social-democracy, replied:

‘The American people are astounded that when you have an authoritarian like Putin who is moving Russia more and more towards an authoritarian society, President Trump has only positive things to say about this authoritarian figure. What hold does Russia have over the President? We know that Russian oligarchs lent Trump and his associates money. Does that have anything to do with Trump’s relationship with Russia?’ (CNN News, 30/3/2017)

From the start of the election campaign, liberals viewed Trump as an impulsive maverick, a right-wing bigot who has little regard for civilized norms of behaviour. Only by pandering to the worst prejudices of disaffected Americans, they maintained, would he succeed in capturing the presidency. The great unknown was how this relative new-comer to politics would behave once in office. Would he adapt his election pledges to political reality or would he pursue his outlandish agenda to the bitter end? That was the question on the minds of liberal commentators as Trump assumed the position of the 45th president of the US.

In no time at all the liberals gave vent to their despair. Maggie Lake, CNN commentator and political analyst, bewailed: ‘He hasn’t changed. There was the expectation that the office changes the man but we have not seen this with Donald Trump.’ (CNN News, 23/3/2017) Not long after, The Los Angeles Times, a prominent liberal organ, delivered the following lamentation:

‘Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office. Instead … it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.’ (4/4/2017) (more…)

downloadby Tony Norfield

Although it is the world’s major power, the US has found it difficult to impose its will in the past decade or so. From President Bush’s ‘mission accomplished’ speech about Iraq in 2003, to the continuing disasters in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, from US policy in Ukraine also being upset by Russian intervention in Crimea, to how the Saudis and other Gulf states have destabilised the Middle East, the US has not been getting its own way and has been unable to impose settlements that would otherwise be expected of a hegemonic power. This puts the incoming US administration under The Donald in an interesting position.

Early signs suggest that POTUS-elect Trump is taking a softer line on Russia, one different from the still Cold War-inspired position of the Obama regime. Trump has stated that he expects the Europeans to pay more for their own NATO-related defence, which might make them less willing to finance an increased build-up of military operations close to Russia’s borders. Trump has also rejected Obama’s rhetoric on Putin’s supposed involvement in Russia’s alleged cyber attack on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Perhaps most striking of all, Trump plans to appoint Rex Tillerson as US Secretary of State, that is to be the main person in charge of foreign policy. Tillerson is Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, and is well known to have friendly relationships with the Russian government.

ExxonMobil opposed sanctions on Russia from its own business perspective, but one would have to agree that the aggression shown to Russia by the current US administration makes little economic or political sense. Russia is far from being a threat to US interests. Instead, Russia may have (more…)

by Michael Roberts

Mark Carney is the governor of the Bank of England.  Formerly the head of the central Bank of Canada, some years ago he was headhunted to take over at the BoE on a huge salary and expenses.

This week he gave the Roscoe Lecture at Liverpool’s John Moores University, his first speech since the decision of the Brits to vote (narrowly) to leave the European Union.  Carney took the opportunity to offer what his view of the state of global capitalism.  And he does not make it sound good.  speech946

real-wagesCarney pointed out that since the global financial crash of 2008, average real incomes in Britain have taken the biggest plunge since the 1860s, when “Karl Marx was scribbling in the British Library”.  And “it was the poorest (who) are hit the hardest. During recessions the lower-skilled, lower-paid people tend to lose their jobs first.”

However, Carney was at pains to claim that capitalism has (more…)

pb57793-300x459Our latest meeting took place at the weekend and we were privileged to be joined by John Smith, author of Imperialism in the 21st Century, one of the three books we’re studying.  We were also joined by his associate Andy Higginbottom.

John gave a presentation on several key themes of the book, which led into a discussion on the size, scale and weight of the working class in the Third World compared to the First World, where this leaves the working class (and the anti-capitalist left) in the First World, the issue of monopoly and how it does or does not relate to imperialist super-profits and much more.

Indeed, the meeting went on over several hours.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will get John’s introduction to the study meeting up on Redline, along with some articles that summarise the chapters of his book.

Our next meeting will be taking place in late November.

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Foxconn’s largest factory is in China and employs several hundred thousand workers (estimates range from 230,000 to 450,000 in this one factory); the western left needs to understand that the centre of gravity of the global working class has moved

by Susil Gupta

Every week over 100,000 people join the ranks of the proletariat.

When Engels wrote The Condition of the English Working Class in 1844, Manchester had a total population of 177,760, or 300,000 if you count all the surrounding borough and towns.  The first figure is estimated on the basis of the 1801 (90,000) and 1861 (338,900) census.

In 1861, the 4 largest English towns had populations of:

London – 2,804,000
Liverpool – 443,900
Manchester – 338,900
Birmingham – 296,000

Today there are:

500 metropolitan areas globally with a population of one million people or more.

Mainland China has (more…)

"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.”

Below are some further notes – readers should keep in mind that these pieces are notes and not written as fully-rounded, complete/exhaustive analyses of the topics they address.  We encourage comradely discussion on these – but there is no point saying “Such-and-such did not address x”, when the notes were not designed to.  

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 (more…)

The following article is taken from Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle), Issue 170, September-October 2015, the magazine of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the revolutionary workers group active in France. Although it’s a few months old now, it is still highly relevant.  Keep in mind, however, that since this is a northern hemisphere publication, when they refer to summer it would be winter in NZ, etc.  Also the dollars referred to are US dollars.

download (1)In the summer of 2015, China was at the center of economic uncertainty. Stock market crashes in Shanghai brought about the fall of financial markets worldwide. The yuan was devalued, leading to talk of a currency war. The prices of raw materials rapidly declined. And finally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its estimates of global economic growth.

The most tangible event was the fall in the prices of raw materials, but in fact this was also the oldest trend. Between 2011, when raw materials were at an all-time high, and today, the decline in the prices of coal, iron, copper, nickel and oil, among others, has been on the order of 50%. More than a crash, this is actually a long trend of decline, with prices returning to what they were before the crisis of 2008. This tendency has accelerated in the past few months. The price of coal has gone from $117 per ton in 2011 to $66 per ton in 2014. The price of iron has fallen from $170 to $60 per ton. For copper, the trend of decline has continued since its peak of $10,000 per ton in 2011. Its price today is around $5,000 per ton. The price of nickel fell by even more, from more than $26,000 per ton in 2011 to less than $10,000. Oil prices are the most striking example of this acceleration, with the price of a barrel of Brent Crude falling from $120 in 2011 to $110 in 2014, then to less than $50 in the summer of 2015.

This fall has generally been interpreted as the consequence of the breakdown of growth in the Chinese economy. China is the last of these so-called “emerging” countries that the politicians and leaders of the system used to present as capable of being “engines” for global growth or, in other words, to offer markets and outlets to Western corporations. These “emerging” countries, not so long ago draped in praise, are now being singled out as (more…)