Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

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…)

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Militant (and illegal) strikes by teachers and other school employees in the US won major gains earlier this year; it’s an example worth emulating. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

by Don Franks

“In 2018, we’ll be making the message loud and clear – It’s Time. Time to lead, teach and learn. This means freeing teachers to teach so every child receives the personal attention they need to learn and thrive. It means freeing principals to focus on leading and it means ensuring we have enough teachers by attracting more people to teaching, by respecting them as professionals and paying them properly.

“We currently have a growing teacher shortage crisis already showing itself in our schools, which looks set to worsen with growing student numbers and less (sic) people training to become teachers.

“Our students come to school to learn all the skills and abilities that they’ll need to grow up healthy, happy and productive in the 21st century. Our nation can afford to ensure every child receives the education they need to succeed in life, and for every educator to be trusted and resourced to make that a reality. It’s simply a matter of priorities.

“As we go through negotiations for the Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement this year, we’ll be standing together for our students and for an education system that values, attracts and retains the amazing teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children.”

So says the New Zealand Educational Institute, the union for primary school teachers.  It’s the NZEI union office lead piece on the teachers’ impending pay struggle. 

The  campaign title page carries no target figure, no specific claims argued, no bottom line. Payment is barely mentioned in passing.  NZEI’s “loud clear message” is an abstract empty slogan “Time to lead, teach and learn”.

The original claim of 16% over two years appears further down, inside the document, beside the government counter offer of 3% over three years .

The union office does not make any defence of the original offer. It says in relation to the counter offer:

“Do you think the increase offered is sufficient to address the recruitment and retention issues?”

“Do you think there is enough benefit in the current offer to accept a 3 year term?”

Reasonable negotiation or the thin end of a sell-out?

Does it matter if the NZEI choose to waffle like this? (more…)

Pic: Caribbean 360

On Saturday October 6th, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake hit the northwest region of Haiti. The worst-affected area was ​​Port-de-Paix, a city of just over 460,000 people and the capital of the North-West department. The quake killed at least 17 people and injured about 430.

The North-West Department is one of the most remote areas of the country. Running water, electricity, roads, hospitals, schools, universities, are mirages – the government talks about them but the people do not see them.

Just over 200 years ago Haiti was at the front of the struggle for human freedom

Indeed, the state does not provide any public services.  The roads linking this department to other parts of the country are in a sorry state.  In the houses anti-seismic or anti-cyclone standards have not been applied. The state does not apply them in public buildings either.

The area of Port-de-Paix struggles under the weight of poverty and ill-health, while the situation is even worse in the other communes of the department. With such a cocktail, any natural phenomenon, depending on its scale, can be transformed into a social catastrophe and a human tragedy. And it is always the poorest who are the most affected.

Some areas are difficult to access, because of the state of the roads, so relief is hard.  The hospital in Port de Paix is ​​ (more…)

by Don Franks 

jail_5“New Zealand has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world, second only to the United States, with over 5000 people currently in our 17 prisons. We could be excused for thinking the problem is huge, too big too handle …”

Social reformer Celia Lashlie wrote that in 2002. Today, 10,645 inmates are crammed inside 18 overflowing jails.

Successive government policies paved the way for this massive increase. (more…)

Dave Hansford, Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife, Potton & Burton, 2016, 250pp, $34.99; reviewed by Don Franks

Along New Zealand roadsides, especially on the South Island’s west coast, are hammered hand painted signs. “1080 poisons our water”, “Kea killed in 1080 drop”, “1080 kills everything”.

The  accused 1080 is an organic salt, sodium monofluoraetate. First developed as a rodent killer during World War II by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1080 has since been in wide use for vertebrate pest control. The substance is spread in New Zealand today by the Department of Conservation (DOC), aimed at killing rodents preying on native plants and animals.

Some opponents claim 1080 does  (more…)

Yesterday (October 3) there was a big protest in Dublin over the housing crisis in the south of Ireland.

The Labour Party tried to take part, but there is a sizeable layer of working class activists who are totally hostile to Labour being allowed to be part of working class and left campaigns.  The Irish Labour Party is hated in many working class communities and by many left activists for its role in imposing vicious austerity against the working class when it was in coalition with Fine Gael (2011-2016).  Not only did they cut benefits and pensions, they also tried to railroad anti-austerity protesters to prison.

At the rally yesterday it was announced that a private member’s bill is being introduced to the Dublin parliament to start to tackle the housing crisis.  A list was read out of supporters of this bill, and this is what happened when Labour was mentioned (this is also the kind of attitude the left in this country needs to create in relation to Labour here):

Workers protesting in San Jose; pic: AP.

by Phil Duncan

The past few weeks have seen two nationwide strikes in Latin America, a region that in recent years has been playing a pivotal role in the resurgence of working class struggle and revolutionary left developments.

While workers in New Zealand usually shie away from even striking for just a day, workers in Costa Rica workers are now into the fourth week of an ‘Indefinite National Strike’.  The strike began on Monday, September 10 and on Sunday, September 30, workers’ assemblies across the country rejected the preliminary agreement reached by union leaders with the government.

The main issue is a (more…)