Archive for the ‘capitalist crisis’ 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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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…)

Every now and then we add a new site to our Links section.  We usually announce this and sometimes we even get around to saying something about the site/publication and why we’ve linked to it.

Today we are adding a link to Notes from Below, a new online journal.  Rather than saying something about it ourselves, here is the text of their ‘About’ section.  Do take a good look across their site, but a good place to start might be issue #3, “The Worker and the Union”, which contains articles examining how working class self-organisation is changing today, the possibilities for a revival of rank-and-file organising and struggle, and the need to advance anti-capitalist politics in the workplace and workplace organisation rather than merely trade union politics.

Anyway, here is their About section:

Notes from Below is a publication that is committed to socialism, by which we mean the self-emancipation of the working class from capitalism and the state. To this end we use the method of workers’ inquiry. We draw our methods and theory from the class composition tradition, which seeks to understand and change the world from the worker’s point of view. We want to ground revolutionary politics in the perspective of the working class, help circulate and develop struggles, and build workers’ confidence to take action by and for themselves.

We argue that an understanding of ‘class composition’, that is to say, how the classes within society are formed and operate, is an (more…)

by Michael Roberts

Sweden has long been the poster child of the ‘mixed economy’, the social democrat state – where capitalism is ‘moulded’ to provide a welfare state, equality and decent working and living conditions for the majority. The 2018 general election result has put that story to bed.

In yesterday’s election, the Social Democrats, the supposed standard-bearer of the ‘mixed economy’, remained the largest party with just over 28% of the vote.  But this was its lowest share in an election since 1908.  The main pro-business party, the so-called Moderates, also lost votes, coming in with 19.7%.  Cutting through both these parties, who have alternated for decades in controlling government, was the rise of Sweden’s so-called Democrats (an oxymoron), an anti-immigrant party with neo-Nazi roots, which polled 17.7%.  The smaller parties of the centre-right and the left also gained – the Left party jumping to 8%.  The middle-of the road Green party was run over and nearly failed to gain the 4% necessary to enter parliament.  The two alliances of the social democracy and the pro-business parties are virtually tied with 40% of the vote each – leaving the Democrats with the balance of power in the new parliament.  Such is the impasse.

It was an illusion anyway about Sweden being the ‘third way’ between untrammelled free market capitalism and command economy autocratic Communism.  The great gains of the Swedish labour movement in the early 20th century have slowly been reversed.  And the post-war diversion to public services of some of the profits of the Swedish engineering and manufacturing (owned by a handful of families) (more…)

Kim Moody, On New Terrain: how capital reshaped the battleground of class war, Chicago, Haymarket Press, 2017, US$18; reviewed by Guy Miller

On November 8, 1954, US (Republican Party) President Dwight Eisenhower wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. . . their numbers are negligible, and they are stupid.”

On August 3, 2018, the headline on the New York Times front page blared: “The Downside of Apple’s $1 Trillion Valuation: Income Inequality May Grow as Mega-Firms Dominate Economy.”

How we got from November, 1954 to August, 2018 is the story Kim Moody’s book, On New Terrain, tells well, and in great detail.

The Old Terrain

After being discharged from the U.S. Army, I entered the blue-collar work force in late 1967.  My fellow workers and I started with the basic assumption that decent-paying jobs were our birthright.  We also believed that our standard of living would always be on an unending upward trajectory.

Jobs were plentiful. Quit your job during the lunch hour and there was a chance you would have a new one that afternoon. We were a mixed demographic of Vietnam era veterans, young black nationalists,  counter culture youth, and older workers with the victories of the rise of the CIO still  imprinted in our memory banks.

Fifteen-minute coffee breaks routinely stretched to 25 minutes, a half-hour lunch meant 45 minutes away from work.  Assembly line moving too fast?  Simple solution: stop it by any means necessary.  Two-day weekends often ballooned into three days, thanks to the “bridge”, that is, calling off work on Fridays or Mondays.  With or without a union, we called the shots, or at least many of them.  It was almost too good to last, and it didn’t.

Shifting Terrain

As the war in Vietnam began to wind down, the American capitalist class saw itself besieged on several fronts: (more…)

Dunedin: Otago Socialist Society presents
Marx’s theory of capitalist crisis

Why is capitalism plagued by regular economic crises? Can capitalism avoid these crises or are they inherent in the system? What did Marx see as the fundamental cause of these crises, regardless of whether they appear first in the ‘real’ economy or the financial sector? In particular, what is ‘the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’? What political conclusions follow from Marx’s crisis theory?

Speaker: Philip Ferguson
6pm, Monday, July 30
McNab Room,
3rd floor, central city library,
Moray Place, Dunedin

 

Christchurch: Canterbury Socialist Society presents
Harlan County USA

This award-winning film – it even won an academy award! – documents a major struggle between coal miners in Harlan County (Kentucky) and coal bosses in the 1970s.  These workers provide an inspiring example of how to fight.

7.30pm, Tuesday, August 7
The Space Academy,
371 St Asaph Street, Christchurch

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…)