Archive for the ‘Commodification’ Category

by Phil Duncan

Last Friday (December 1) all the staff at Rotorua Aquatics, which is owned by the local council, were presented with redundancy notices.

The Council wants to bring in an outside management company, and is preparing the ground for this with the redundancy notices.  The Rotorua Lakes Council is so high-handed that it didn’t even bother with the usual employer pretence of “consultation”.

The mayor involved in this assault on workers’ rights is Steve Chadwick, a former four-term Labour MP

Not surprisingly, the mayor involved in this attack on workers’ rights is a former Labour MP, Steve Chadwick.

The Council’s over-riding motive is clear – (more…)

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by Barnaby Philips

In Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism, Lenin wrote that ‘the world has become divided into a handful of usurer states and a vast majority of debtor states’. Since formal decolonisation in the 1960s, his work has been dismissed as antiquated, even among sections of the radical Left. Now in 2017, with the capitalist system sinking into its deepest crisis since Lenin’s day, a new study into global trade has shown his analysis to be as relevant as ever. It revealed that between 1980 and 2012, the net outflows of capital from ‘developing and emerging’ oppressed countries being funnelled into ‘developed’ imperialist nations totalled $16.3 trillion. The truth about our ostensibly post-colonial world is that poor nations are still developing rich nations, the opposite of what we are so often told.

On 5 December 2016, the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics published the report Financial flows and tax havens: combining to limit the lives of billions of people.1 It found that in 2012, the last year of recorded data, ‘developing and emerging countries’ – in Central and South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia – received a total of $1.3 trillion, including all aid, investment, and income, but that $3.3 trillion flowed out in the opposite direction to the ‘developed world’ – North America, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

These figures express the contemporary reality of imperialism: that a minority of oppressor nations, led by the US and Britain, plunder the rest of the world, oppressed nations, for profit and resources. As Lenin explained, the economic imperative behind this social relationship stems from the fact that capital exported from oppressor to oppressed nations is (more…)

While the United States is the richest country in the world, in 49 of the 50 states there are no limits on how many patients corporate hospitals can assign to nurses at any one time.  Bonnie Castillo, director of health & safety at National Nurses United, the main union covering reigstered nurses, has noted, “With the boom in assembly lines during the industrial revolution, employers were able to move products faster, using less staff, padding their bottom line. As I’ve written before, we’ve all seen pop culture comedy examples of what happens next, when profit-driven corporations speed up the pace faster and faster — until a character like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times works so frantically that he falls right into the machine, getting ground up in the gears.

“Our patients are not products, and nurses are not assembly line workers — but you would not know that by the frantic pace at which our hospital employers, who currently have no repercussions for saving money by cutting corners on safe staffing, expect nurses to provide care. When we are saddled with 9 or 10 patients at once, we are not practicing at our full capacity, and the repercussions for our patients, who come to us with illnesses and injuries where every moment of attention counts, include loss of life. . .”  (see, here.) 

In the article below, a nurse in the USA outlines a day in her working life.  While the article comes from the United States, the working day it outlines is relevant to many nurses working in hospitals in New Zealand. 

by Kyu Nam

The floor is chaos.

Not enough nurses on shift. Julia* called out sick this morning and an RN from 7 West who put in for overtime ended up a no-show. Our manager isn’t around, in a meeting or at lunch after popping in at 10:00 with a dapper “hello” and calling us in for a mandatory 10:30 huddle (in the middle of our biggest medication pass) to tell us about the upcoming Christmas party. We throw each other looks when she mentions the $90 price tag to RSVP. She closes with grand rounds on “fascinating nursing research topics” that we’re all invited to; of course none of us will make it because we will be slaving away on the floor.

11:55: I’m mixing antibiotics for a patient who came in with neutropenic fever overnight. We push them over 2-5 minutes via IV because of a normal saline shortage caused by Hurricane Maria. Several weeks ago, management and infection control informed us that we had to be more sparing with the mini-bags and discontinue all “keep vein open” fluids because major Baxter facilities in Puerto Rico were knocked out by the superstorm.

I pull the antibiotics into a syringe, yellow and foaming, and my mind roves to the next items on my list: notify MD of critical lab for 7A, pull methadone for 7B, find IV pump and hang fluids for 10A, return phone call to 8A family member, find out hemodialysis slot for 8B, make sure 9A is chugging the go-lightly for her colonoscopy (and not pouring it down the toilet), fetch blanket for 9B…

“Shit. Forgot the (more…)

by Phil Duncan

The postal plebiscite in Australia on gay marriage has returned almost exactly the same result as the actual referendum in the south of Ireland in 2015. Basically 62% Yes, 38% No.

The Yes vote across the ditch was a tiny fraction below the Yes vote in Ireland and the No vote there was a tiny fraction above the No vote in Ireland.  Also, in Ireland it was a binding referendum; in Australia it was just a plebiscite.  Nevertheless it seems that by the New Year gay women and men will have the same right to marry as straight women and men.

It’s a victory for human progress and equality.

But it is also a sign that the ruling class, certainly in the imperialist heartlands, has no interest in continuing to discriminate against gay women and men. It’s not just that the progessive movement is pushing for marriage equality; the reality is that they are pushing against an already-opening door.

It’s all a long way from the early days of the gay liberation movement.

Just a few decades ago Australian cops were (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

One of the first announcements of the new Labour-led government was that the minimum wage will rise from $15.75 to $16.50 an hour in April 2018. It will then increase each year, reaching $20 an hour by 2021. While this news got some over-excited responses (from the left and the right) most people understand this is not a seismic shift.

The minimum wage has risen every year for over a decade, mostly pushed by union and community campaigns for a living wage. Despite talk of the new coalition being a ‘change government’, the Labour-led team will have boosted the lowest-paid workers a mere 25 cents an hour more than the National government likely would have. The living wage remains, as ever, postponed.

(more…)

This is the cover of the paperback edition which is being published on November 14 – ie 2 weeks time – by Historical Materialism

François Chesnais, Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump, Brill, Leiden, 2016; reviewed by Tony Norfield

This book is well worth reading. It is written in a clear and accessible style and discusses key points about the limitations of capitalism and the role of contemporary finance. Perhaps its most important point is how the financial system has accumulated vast claims on the current and future output of the world economy – in the form of interest payments on loans and bonds, dividend payments on equities, etc.

These claims have outgrown the ability of the capitalist system to meet them, but government policy has so far managed to prevent a collapse of financial markets with zero interest rate policies, quantitative easing, huge deficits in government spending over taxation, and so forth. The result is an unresolved crisis, a ‘lasting global slump’, in which economic growth remains very weak and vast debts remain in place.

Distinguishing points

There are two related points in his approach to the world economy and finance that distinguish Chesnais from many other writers, and for which he deserves to be commended. Firstly, he states clearly that we are in a crisis of capitalism tout court (pp1-2), not a crisis of ‘financialised’ capitalism – the latter being one that could presumably be fixed if only the evil financiers were dealt with by a (capitalist) reforming government. Secondly, he takes ‘the world economy as the point of departure’ for his analysis, although that is ‘easier said than done’ (p11). While he shows the central role of the US, he avoids the wholly US-centred analysis common to radical critics of contemporary capitalism, and instead highlights how the other powers also play a key part in the imperial machine.

Finance Capital Today helps the reader’s understanding of the realities of contemporary global capitalism by providing a wealth of material evidence. It also helps one to clarify views about what is going on by discussing the theoretical context. In this review I will highlight the key points raised in the book and also discuss where I have a number of differences with Chesnais. These differences are sometimes merely of emphasis, or what may look like simply an alternative definition of a commonly used term. However, poor formulation of an argument can also lead to theoretical problems.

Origins of GFC

Chesnais begins by outlining the origins of the 2008 crisis, arguing that this had been postponed since 1998 by the growth of debt in the US and elsewhere, and by the surge of growth in China. In 2008, ‘the brutality of financial crisis was accounted for by the amount of fictitious capital accumulated and the degree of vulnerability of the credit system following securitisation’. The backdrop to the latest phase of crisis was also one that has made this crisis a (more…)

by Robert Belano

On Sunday (October 22), Argentinians went to the polls for the second and final round of mid-term elections. While the mainstream media celebrated the success of President Mauricio Macri’s right-wing Cambiemos coalition, a growing political polarization has strengthened the far left as well. Amid continued economic crisis, the anti-capitalist proposals of the Left and Workers’ Front have resonated strongly with increasing numbers of workers and youth.

A growing left alternative in Argentina

As perhaps the strongest recent electoral showing for an anti-capitalist coalition in the world, the Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores (FIT, Left and Workers’ Front) won five percent of the overall vote, earned two congressional seats and various municipal seats, and achieved close to 20 percent of the vote in the northern province of Jujuy.

The FIT had impressive results throughout the country and particularly in provinces and cities with higher concentrations of workers and poor people, such as Jujuy and the industrial center of Greater Buenos Aires. Sunday’s results represent an increase in votes of 30 percent for the FIT since the primaries, held only last August. The left coalition surpassed its 2015 totals by around 50 percent making this year’s election results, along with those in 2013, among its most successful yet.

Leaders of the FIT. Image by Juan Manuel Foglia

The FIT is an electoral coalition that was formed in 2011 and is composed primarily of three Trotskyist parties — the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS, Socialist Workers’ Party), Partido Obrero (PO, Workers’ Party), and Izquierda Socialista (IS, Socialist Left). Among the coalition’s demands are: the right to free and unrestricted abortion, an end to all layoffs and furloughs, a 6-hour work day without any reduction in wages, the non-payment of Argentina’s external debt, the nationalization of all foreign trade and large land holdings, a massive public works program, and the forging of a workers’ government.

More than 1.2 million people cast their ballots for the FIT, sending a strong message to the ruling class and the mainstream media that they can no longer ignore this phenomenon. It is clear that large numbers of Argentines, particularly workers and young people, are rejecting not only the austerity and repression associated with the capitalist parties but also the “lesser evil” argument that Peronism and the reformist candidates (more…)