Archive for the ‘Commodification’ Category

by Don Franks

According to Benjamin Franklin, “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance”.

Ben never drove through Marlborough – New Zealand’s largest wine region has hard work, high risk and tense competition written all over it.

Mile after mile the land is pinned by hard-treated posts, in dead straight rows.  Countless workers have (more…)

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We are now drawing to the end of Marx’s bicentennial.  He was born in 1818 (May 5).  And March 14 was the 135th anniversary of his death (1883).

This year was 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 show 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

A critical take on the issue of transgender children and medical intervention 

Part 1

by Pat Green (a concerned teacher)

pubertyblockerIf you have been following the recent controversy over Rachel Stewart’s opinion piece ‘TERF: A derogatory term to shut down debate’, you may have read Kylie Parry’s response on the Spinoff website. Parry focuses on the issue of trans children and the use of medical interventions such as puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. She argues that fears over the issues of informed consent and the dangers associated with medical interventions are misplaced, and that trans children are no different from ‘regular’ or ‘cis’ children: they like sports, watch TV and don’t like doing chores. Most importantly, they are not evil people who want to ‘take over the world’ and they deserve respect and compassion.

As a teacher who has worked with and taught several trans identified adolescents I fully concur with Parry’s contention that trans children are regular human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Based on my limited experience I would even be tempted to go further, and note that many trans youth are particularly talented and display admirable character traits. I don’t think that they have a secret agenda and I do think that they should be free of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Parry also makes three claims relating to medical interventions upon trans identified youth: (more…)

What follows are two editorials from weekly workplace bulletins of the revolutionary working class organization Lutte Ouvière in France. 

The “yellow vests” worn by protesters are hazard vests required for all drivers in France. They have become the symbol of the economic distress of the protesters. A new fuel tax planned for January sparked the protest. Gasoline in France costs roughly $NZ 9.60 a gallon and with the new tax, prices at the pump would go up!

In France, workers get only one paycheck a month. The rising cost of living has eaten into wages and retirement benefits. Halfway through the month, many lack money for food and skip meals. The gas tax increase was the last straw in a worsening situation.

The editorials have been translated into English by the US Marxist group Spark.


After the November 17 Protests: Let’s Fight for Higher Wages, Pensions and Social Benefits!

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in more than 2,000 rallies across France. The November 17 protests were a success despite the tragic death of a demonstrator in Savoie (a region in the Alps) and the injuries caused to some at different roadblocks. In some places the protests continued the next day and the following days as well.

For many demonstrators, these protests were their first experience of collective action. The rallies were organized at grassroots level and not by unions or political parties, as is usually the case. The politicians who pointed out the absence of clearly “identified organizers” were actually lamenting the fact that they had no-one to negotiate with to put an end to the movement! For the workers, the problem is different: it’s about getting involved in the struggle and organizing it according to (more…)

by Michael Roberts

This year’s Historical Materialism conference in London seemed well attended and with younger participants.  HM covers all aspects of radical thought: philosophical, political, cultural, psychological and economic.  But it’s economics that this blog concentrates on and so my account of HM London will be similar.

Actually, there did not seem to be as many economic sessions as in previous years, so let me begin with the ones that I organised!  They were the two book launch sessions: one on the new book, The World in Crisis, edited by Guglielmo Carchedi and myself; and the second on my short book, Marx 200, that elaborates on Marx’s key economics ideas and their relevance in the 21st century, some 200 years after his birth and 150 years since he published Volume One of Capital.

In the session on The World in Crisis, I gave a general account of the various chapters that all aim at providing a global empirical analysis of Marx’s law of profitability, with the work of mostly young authors from Europe, Asia, North and South America (not Africa, unfortunately).

As the preface in the book says: “World in Crisis aims to provide empirical validity to the hypothesis that the cause of recurring and regular economic crises or slumps in output, investment and employment can be found ultimately in Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit on capital.”  My power point presentation showed one overall result: that wherever you look at the data globally, there has been a secular fall in the rate of profit on capital; and in several chapters there is evidence that the causal driver of crises under capitalism is a fall in profitability and profits.

In the session, Tony Norfield presented his chapter on derivatives and capital markets.  Tony has just published his powerpoint presentation on his excellent blog site.  Tony traces the origin of the rise of derivatives from the 1990s to the instability of capital markets. Derivatives did not cause the global financial crash in 2008 but by extending the speculative boom in credit in the early 2000s, they helped spread the crash beyond the (more…)

Pic: Cyprus Mail

by Paul Severin

When an American sociologist conducted a study of Delta Airlines cabin crew in the early 1980s her interviewees were on average 35 years old and 40 percent were married. The contrast to the Ryanair workforce could hardly be greater. The employees are young, inexperienced, mostly single and almost without exception from Southern or Eastern Europe.

The job at Ryanair has little to do with the jet-set aura that once clung to the industry. It’s a precarious occupation because the job hardly enables a person to establish a sustainable existence. Accordingly, the turnover within the workforce is enormous. Those recruited by Ryanair usually work there for a few years, either on a temporary basis or on an Irish employment contract that grants hardly any rights. A regime of repression and fear has so far been able to keep workers submissive.

Ryanair cuts every corner

There is a world of difference between the work of a stewardess in the 1980s and the situation of the cabin crew at Ryanair today. The downgrading of this group of workers is the result of (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

A substantial report on class privilege in New Zealand has just been published in the Herald. It’s a compelling piece of journalism by Kirsty Johnston with solid evidence of entrenched class divisions in universities, particularly in enrolment in elite courses. The class divide is not narrowing, as Johnston shows with data from six universities.  In law, medicine and engineering 60 percent of students come from the richest third of homes, and only 6 percent from the poorest third. Just one percent came from the poorest schools.

Johnston quotes Auckland University sociology professor Alan France: “We talk about increasing Māori and Pacific participation at university, but actually the underlying issue is socio-economics. It’s money. It’s class. It’s privilege.” Johnston’s report shows university  (more…)