Archive for the ‘Commodification’ Category

The interview below was conducted with members of the rank-and-file Health Sector Workers Network who belong to the nurses’ union (the NZNO).

Philip Ferguson: What have been the key issues in the nurses’ dispute with the DHBs?

Health Sector Workers Network actvists: They really are two-fold.

There are the issues around safe staffing, which with chronic staff shortages, have seen Nurses, Midwives and HCAs working in dangerously unsafe working environments.  In many worksites, particularly the Emergency Departments and Mental Health facilities, there are daily incidents of verbal and physical abuse and assault of staff.

The ability to give excellent patient care without the need for care rationing will only be possible with more staff and clear patient-staff ratios.

Pay equity is the other important issue that members are passionate about.  The need to have remunerations that reflect skills and responsibilities is essential.  We need staff retention and the ability to attract new people to the profession.  If this doesn’t occur, Nurses, Midwives and HCAs will look elsewhere for better wages and conditions, like jumping the ditch to Australia.  Already nurses are leaving on an almost daily basis, resulting in chronic staff shortages and if these issues aren’t addressed it will only get worse.

PF: How successful has the industrial action been?

HSWN: There have been mixed feelings on the success of the strike action.  Due to this dispute being (more…)

Advertisements

by Don Franks

A just-released Salvation Army-commissioned survey of over 1000 New Zealanders showed 45 per cent of them went without heating last year, due to cost. Doctors’ visits were not made by 44 per cent because they couldn’t afford it. 

Manager for the Salvation Army’s welfare services, Jono Bell, said his first response to the figures was disbelief. 

“But on reflection, I thought, actually the numbers are not too dissimilar from what we are seeing on the frontlines,” Bell said. 

“It’s not just beneficiaries but people in our community who are working are still not making ends meet and are being forced to choose. It is a widespread problem.”  Bell said it was wrong working families were being forced to choose between food, housing and heat. 

“Some of the numbers have serious implications,” he said.

“People can’t heat their homes, so they are getting sick more often, so they have to go to the doctor but can’t afford it.  More medicine is required so they are having to make a choice between medicine and food.  And then there’s the house prices on top of that.”

 In the same week as the Salvation Army survey, an alternative opinion was published in the New Zealand Herald, by one of the economy’s most  (more…)

by Don Franks

“Auckland’s phoney homeless make $100 a day on the streets” is a Herald piece by Amanda Saxton, about a few skid row alcoholics who assemble early each morning to sit together and drink.

A group of apparently lazy, cynical, dishonest parasites, permanently partying, preying on each other and neglectful of their own children. 

“They look homeless, act homeless, and half of them actually are homeless. But Phillip and the group’s kaumātua Sole Johnstone have houses to go home to each evening.”

“Why would we work, slaving 40 hours a week, when we can get $100 a pop sitting here? And I can get drunk at the same time.”

“On a good day, Phillip makes about $100 begging. On an amazing day, $200 – that’s on top of his benefit and his partner’s salary. He says he spends about $100 a day on beer and the odd bit of whiskey”. (more…)

global_perspectiverThe following interview was first published in English on leftwingbooks.net, see here.

This is the English version of an interview with Torkil Lauesen that Gabriel Kuhn conducted for the German daily junge Welt. Torkil Lauesen is a Danish anti-imperialist whose book The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance has recently been published by Kersplebedeb. In 1991, Lauesen was sentenced to ten years in prison for his involvement in the so-called Blekingegade Group whose activities have been featured in the PM/Kersplebedeb release Turning Money into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers. (The book can be bought here)

In 1991, you were sentenced to ten years in prison because of your anti-imperialist activities. Now, 25 years later, you have written a book titled The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance. Has nothing changed?

Everything has changed in order to stay the same: The industrialization of the Global South and the global chains of production have intensified imperialism. Superprofits for capital have increased, while the prices for consumer goods in the Global North have decreased. U.S. hegemony has declined. We now live in a multipolar world with new powers emerging. So-called real socialism no longer exists, and national liberation movements have all but disappeared.

At the end of the 1980s, antiimperialism pretty much vanished from the left’s radar. Why?

National liberation struggles in the Global South subsided and neoliberalism ushered in a golden capitalist era. Furthermore, the talk about globalization concealed the ongoing reality of imperialism.

Was there no globalization?

Of course there have been drastic changes in capitalism in the last thirty years: innovations in transport and communications have altered the entire system of production and distribution. But very few people have (more…)

Many useful articles have been written about the recent demonetisation, perhaps the most discussed economic event in India in recent times. The entire discussion has brought to the fore many aspects of India’s economy. Among them is an important theme that we have emphasized in earlier issues of Aspects: Namely, the gulf between different sectors of the economy. This gulf has economic and political implications.

This gulf can be seen in many measures, which are expressions of a single reality: the gap between the income of the ‘informal’ (‘unorganised’) and ‘formal’ (‘organised’) sectors; between rural areas and urban areas; between the sectors producing commodities (agriculture, manufacturing) and the services sector; between income-poor regions which are rich in natural resources and other regions where income is concentrated.

The gulf is also within each sector, between the activities which make up most of the employment, and the activities which have most of the income. For instance, what is termed the ‘services sector’ encompasses both the courier delivery man and the captains of the financial world; ‘urban areas’ include the most miserable squalor and the most obscene wealth; mining regions are the homes of destitute tribals as well as the fiefdoms of mining barons. Thus when we talk of any of these categories or regions we need to be clear which sections and activities we are discussing.

The perverse course of ‘development’ being pursued by the economy, far from narrowing this gulf, keeps reproducing it and expanding it, by transferring not only surpluses but even, increasingly, natural assets (which are not reproducible) from the informal sector to the formal sector. This process substantially explains the dramatic growth of inequality in recent years.

While the current policies are touted as ‘formalising’ the economy, in fact thoroughgoing formalisation (which critically involves formalising employment and its terms) is not on the cards. Instead, policy measures that, within the existing framework, increase the share of formal sector firms (corporations) in the economy actually increase the incomes of the cream of the formal economy, without increasing employment in that sector. At the same time, they depress the incomes and employment of the vast majority in the informal sector. Thus we find that:

(i) the share of the organised sector in national income (GDP) has risen from about one-third in the 1980s to well over half today; but

(ii) within that organised sector GDP, the share of workers’ wages has collapsed, causing the share of profits to rise correspondingly;

(iii) more than half the workers in the organised sector are now informal workers (contract, casual, etc); and

(iv) the unorganised sector still accounts for the overwhelming majority of jobs – i.e., a growing number of workers in this sector have to share a shrinking percentage of national income.

The entire discussion on this question betrays how (i) the very methodology of estimating GDP disregards or discards the (more…)

This year is Marx’s bicentennial.  He was born in 1818 (May 5).  And March 14 was the 135th anniversary of his death.

This year is also the 170th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto.

Below are some of the pieces we have run on Redline about Marx’s ideas, including pieces which showing their continuing relevance to understanding the world as it is and as it could be.

What is Marxism?

What is exploitation?

How capitalism works – and why it doesn’t

Two articles on Wages, prices & lies and capitalist crisis

4,000 words on Capital

Karl Korsch on “tremendous and enduring” impact of Marx’s Capital (1932)

Engels on Marx on the Working Day

Marx’s critique of classical political economy

Capital, the working class and Marx’s critique of political economy

Capital and the state

How capitalist ideology works

Pilling’s Marx’s Capital: philosophy, dialectics and political economy

How capitalism under-develops the world

The political economy of low-wage labour 

Whatever happened to the leisure society?

Pensions and the retirement age – the problem is capitalism, not an aging population

A nightmare in whiteware: the ‘teamwork’ system, exploitation and alienation

Value, price and the ‘transformation problem’ in Marx’s Capital

The transformation problem and Marx’s crisis theory

Productive and unproductive labour in capitalist society

The use-value of Marx’s value theory

May 5 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.  Below we’re running a review of Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx.  The review was written when the bio first came out and is by a prominent British Marxist.  Its author probably did more than anyone else to re-establish Marx’s crisis theory in the English-speaking world, back in the early 1970s, and also both to re-establish the Marxist tradition in Britain on ‘the Irish Question’ and the imnpact of imperialism on the political outlook of the British working class and the Marxist approach to Labourism and the British Labour Party.  We’ve added a few more subheads and paragraph divides to break up the text.

by David Yaffe

The first short biography of Karl Marx could be said to have been produced by his great friend and collaborator Frederick Engels on 17 March 1883 in a speech heard by the ten other people gathered together in Highgate Cemetery for Marx’s funeral. It offers very clear guidelines to those who would take it upon themselves to write future biographies. Marx, said Engels, was before all else a revolutionary:

‘His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival.’

So the appearance of yet another biography of Karl Marx, this time by the former Guardian columnist Francis Wheen,1 claiming that ‘it is time to strip away the mythology and rediscover Karl Marx the man’ (p1), should put us on our guard. For Marx the man cannot be separated from his real mission in life and the dedication and commitment that invariably accompanied it.

Faint praise

A biography like any other ‘commodity’ has to have a market niche. Another tabloid-style denunciation of the man and his works would have little mileage. Neither would a revolutionary vindication of Marx. Wheen knows his punters – he wrote weekly for them in The Guardian. They rejected Thatcherism and a Labour Party gone Thatcherite. They are disturbed by untrammelled market forces, corporate domination, financial speculation and increasing stress and insecurity at work. They are alarmed by environmental destruction and Third World poverty but want well-stocked supermarkets supplied by global markets. They want to see change but not (more…)