Archive for the ‘capitalist crisis’ Category

Capitalism can turn almost anything to private profit for the rich minority.  Take the massive Greek debt and the misery of austerity imposed on the Greek masses:

by Michael Roberts

The announcement by the European Central Bank that it has so far made €7.8bn in profits from its holdings in Greek government debt reveals the true nature of the so-called bailouts of Greek government finances that the EU leaders organised in return for massive austerity measures from 2012 onwards.

Back in March 2012, five years ago, a so-called private sector involvement (PSI) deal was agreed under which French, German and Greek banks who held the bulk of Greek government bonds agreed to take a ‘haircut’ on the value of their bond holdings.  Under the PSI, they received in return new Greek government bonds with 30-year lives, paying about 3-4% a year in interest and guaranteed by the Eurozone financing operation, the EFSF.  And they also got some cash up front for turning (more…)

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“The imperialists loot the world not out of sheer piggery but because they actually need the profits they extract. That ‘surplus’ is keeping their system alive, despite its deepening decay.”

The Imperialism Study group hosted by Redline is focused on Lenin’s Imperialism, John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st century and Tony Norfield’s The City.  Perhaps inevitably, however, we have also discussed other theorists, most particularly David Harvey (who is, to put it kindly, highly confused about imperialism) and Paul Baran & Paul Sweezy, whose work on imperialism was influential in sections of the 1960s New Left, especially in the United States.  The piece below is a follow-up to comments made earlier by veteran US Marxist Walter Daum on Baran-Sweezy (see here).  Keep in mind that these are comment pieces which are part of a study group discussion; they don’t purport to be exhaustive articles on the subject.

by Walter Daum   (October 12, 2017)

With regard to the discussion of Baran and Sweezy in the study group, there is no question that they deserve attention by Marxists, especially given the widespread influence of the Monthly Review school. They also deserve recognition for emphasizing the importance of imperialism in sustaining capitalism for the past century or more – in contrast to David Harvey, the International Socialist Tendency and others who downplay its importance and distort its role. But I also think that Baran & Sweezy’s theoretical and political influence has been harmful.

First, on their political influence. I came into the radical and socialist left in the late 1960s, when Baran & Sweezy’s book Monopoly Capital was all the rage in the US New Left. Those of us trying to grasp Marxism and to apply it to the explosive world we were facing – above all the Black struggle in the US and the imperialist assaults on Cuba, Vietnam, etc. – were up against slews of young Baran-Sweezy fans who learned from their bible that a) the law of value, and therefore Marxist political economy overall, was useless for understanding the imperialist world; and b) that the working class in the imperialist countries was useless for challenging capitalism. The main alternative analysis was the book Marx and Keynes by Paul Mattick. But that was terribly difficult to read and never became popular.

B&S’s rejection of the First World working class soon came into conflict with the world-wide and world-shaking mass struggles of 1968, as the post-war boom drew to an end. French workers seized factories and almost overthrew Charles de Gaulle’s government. The international upsurge also included powerful movements in China, Mexico and Italy, and even in the U.S. with the proletarian-based ghetto uprisings. This was a refutation of theory by reality. But damage had been done.

Baran-Sweezy are not responsible for all the turns their followers took, but their outlook helped (more…)


In the early 2000s, in response to capitalist austerity, especially workplace closures, a wave of factory takeovers by their workers occured in Argentina.  Factory occupations in that country have continued and provide useful and practical examples how to fight redundancies and closures.  In the article below, Sonja Krieger, of US-based Left Voice, writes about a factory she visited as part of a Left Voice delegation to Argentina.

by Sonja Krieger

Many are familiar with the story of Zanon, the ceramic tile factory in Neuquén Province in Southern Argentina that was taken over by the workers in 2001/2002. The reason why Zanon – now FaSinPat, Fábrica Sin Patrones (Factory Without Bosses) – has become well-known all over the world is because of the 2004 documentary The Take by Naomi Klein, a film about the “recovery” of closed or abandoned factories in Argentina in the context of the 2001 economic crisis and its aftermath. The film is about the fábricas recuperadas (recuperated factories) movement in Argentina and shows the struggles of workers to save their workplaces by occupying them and continuing production under workers’ control. Many of these cooperatives continue to run and to be self-managed by the people who work in them, and they represent a significant social phenomenon that proves that the working class can not only effectively respond to the attacks and the failures of capital, it can also organize work collectively, democratically, and without bosses and managers.

The Take tells the story of the workers’ struggles at Zanon, as well as those at the Forja auto parts factory outside of Buenos Aires and the textile factory Brukman in the city, but there are many more workplaces that have been under worker self-management for as much as a decade and longer. There are also hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that are run as cooperatives, including in areas like media and education, construction and transportation, and even health care and trash collection.

Madygraf takeover

A more recent example of the Argentinian workers’ fight to “reclaim” their workplaces is the print shop Madygraf, which our delegation had a chance to visit on its three-year anniversary in August. The experience of listening to the workers there talk about how they fought for better working conditions, for their jobs, and ultimately for their plant was a powerful one.

Now in its fourth year as a cooperative, the (more…)

Bosses, not robots, lay off workers

The article below is taken from the French revolutionary workers’ journal Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle).  It was translated by members of the US revolutionary group The Spark.

French Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoît Hamon justified his proposal for a universal guaranteed income by citing the “inevitable disappearance of work.” Referencing the growing role of digital technology and robots, which he believes are going to cause the destruction “of hundreds of thousands of jobs in Western economies,” he also proposed to create a tax on robots. The deputies of the European Parliament, for their part, debated last January about the need to require businesses to “publish the extent and the share of the contributions of robotics… to their financial outcomes, for the purposes of taxation and determining the amount of their social security contributions” (Les Échos, January 13, 2017).

The idea that human labor will be replaced by machines and robots, and that we are heading toward the inevitable end of work, has recently come into fashion. Does this reflect reality or the ranting of pseudo-experts, good news for humanity or the chronicle of a catastrophe foretold? All of the discussions around this question make no sense if the heart of the matter is not taken into consideration: all of the means of production, which are set in motion in a social and collective manner through a vast international division of labor, remain the private property of a tiny minority of capitalists.

In order to justify their propositions, Hamon and the European deputies rely on a range of studies, such as one made by the think tank France Stratégie, according to which 3.4 million jobs in France are in danger of disappearing over the next ten years. In 2013, two researchers at the University of Oxford, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, maintained that 47% of U.S. jobs are at “high risk,” meaning that they “could be automated relatively soon, perhaps over the next decade or two.” They base their arguments on the progress that has apparently been achieved in the fields of robotics and machine learning, which would allow machines to carry out (more…)

October 24, 2007: Merrill Lynch goes down

by Michael Roberts

It is exactly 10 years since the global financial crash began with the news that the French bank, BNP, had suspended its sub-prime mortgage funds because of “an evaporation of liquidity”.1

Within six months, credit tightened and inter-bank interest rates rocketed. Banks across the globe began to experience huge losses on the derivative funds set up to profit from the housing boom that had taken off in the US, but had started to falter. And the US and the world entered what was later called the great recession – the worst slump in world production and trade since the 1930s.

Ten years later, it is worth reminding ourselves of some of the lessons and implications of that economic earthquake.2 First, the official institutions and mainstream economists never saw (more…)

The retirement of southern Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny several months ago led to Leo Varadkar taking his place.  Varadkar is young, gay and his father is an Indian immigrant to Ireland.  Varadkar’s victory in the leadership contest in the Fine Gael party and assumption of the role of prime minister has been widely hailed as some kind of victory for gay rights and anti-racism.  Varadkar, however, is a committed anti-working class politician, with no track record of campaigning for either gay or migrant rights.  Varadkar  is no friend of the oppressed and exploited – quite the contrary.  The article is taken from the Irish Socialist Democracy website here, where it appeared on June 30.  It is a timely reminder that people need to be judged by their politics rather than being lauded because they are gay and/or female and/or brown.

The election of Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader – and his assumption of the role of Taoiseach – has been hailed as a watershed event in Ireland.  This perspective – which is particularity prevalent in international media coverage – carries the assumption that identity is the overriding factor in contemporary politics.  Within this framework the election of a relatively young gay man of ethnic migrant descent – standing in stark contrast to the profile of leaders that went before – is indeed a seminal event.  The other assumption attached to this identity-centred perspective is that a person from such a background will have a more liberal approach to politics.  However, a consideration of the record of Leo Varadkar quickly debunks such assumptions.      

Right-wing

Despite his relative youth, Varadkar is a long standing member of Fine Gael (he claims to have joined as a 17 year old) – the most conservative party in the state – and has consistently occupied the most right-wing positions on a range of issues, including those related to sexuality and race.  In 2010 he opposed the Civil Partnership Bill and also raised concerns over the prospect of gay couples  (more…)

Epitomising sanctimonious bourgeois respectability

by Phil Duncan

Labour is, politically, a respectable bourgeois party.

Sociologically, it is peopled largely by respectable liberal middle class people.  Just take a look at the backgrounds of Labour MPs, the party’s top managers and new folks on the Labour party list for September.

They are overwhelmingly people who are thoroughly removed from the reality of poverty and people struggling to make ends meet.

They want all the poor people – people struggling to survive on the smell of an oily rag – to be respectably bourgeois like themselves. Such well-behaved poor people can then be grateful supplicants, looked after by the patronising Labour do-gooders.

And poor people who help themselves – like to a few extra bucks to feed their kids, as Metiria Turei did – are to be roundly condemned by respectable bourgeois like Jacinda Ardern and her idiot fan club.

Reminds me of the (more…)