Archive for the ‘capitalist crisis’ Category

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

Advertisements

by Don Franks

“Half the Māori prison population are gang members … whom no-one wants to see given a break.” 

Lines from Jim Rose’s article: “Extra prisoners are nearly all gang members – that’s hardly a crisis”, in Wellington’s May 29th Dominion PostScreen Shot 2018-05-29 at 7.09.47 PM

Jim Rose concludes:

“Gang members are not Māori single mums struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table who were driven to a bit of shoplifting by the legacy of 175 years of colonisation.

“They are hardened criminals pursuing a life of crime outside and inside prison. They have no excuses.”

In other words, a proportion of Maori are inherently evil, irredeemable and deserving of absolutely nothing. 

In a civilised country, how can a mainstream newspaper print Rose’s dehumanising racist agitation? Why do readers tolerate it? (more…)

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…)

The following was written in January 2018 and sent to us in late April by the author, a veteran of the revolutionary movement in Iran.  Apologies to the author that it got caught up in our email; it should have gone up straight away.  

by Torab Saleth

Background

The recent uprisings against the Iranian regime were, on the face of it, protests by the urban poor and the unemployed in more than 80 cities against endemic poverty and against the corrupt clerical regime responsible for it. In the internet age, when extensive social networks are available, such events cannot be suppressed or kept hidden. What started in Meshed soon spread everywhere, and hundreds of videos of these protests were distributed and watched on social networks as they were happening. The spin given to these events by various political interests has, however, created total confusion about the real nature of these protests and their significance for future survival of the “Islamic” regime.

Iran’s “supreme leader” Ali Khamenehi called the movement a “sedition” organised by the USA (mentioned together with the names of the other usual suspects: Israeli, Saudi or Mujahedin), while the US President Donald Trump congratulated the Iranian people for “finally” following his advice and rising up against their corrupt government. The “National Liberation Army of Iran”, one of the many fronts of the Mujahedin’s “opposition for hire”, exaggerated the extent of the uprising to precisely 132 cities (they are everywhere and they know everything!). So then they could claim credit for it on behalf of the ghost of their long deceased/disappeared leader, Masoud Rajavi, who can of course even inspire from the grave. One of the two dozen groups claiming the Fedayii name (The People’s Devotees) saw from London the signs of an “armed insurrection”, while the BBC Persian Service was warning against the “detrimental impact” they would have on President Hassan Rouhani’s government. Rouhani himself announced that the hardliners started it, while the hardliners blamed the whole “mess” on the incompetence of Rouhani’s government. The monarchists were over the moon, claiming that slogans in support of Cyrus the Great were proof of a new dawn of the monarchy in Iran. One interesting fact was the conspicuous absence of any declaration of opinion, either of support or condemnation, from the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or his supporters, whom many political pundits considered to be in fact the main culprit. The various circles of “legal” (or tolerated) semi-liberal or opportunist/reformist opposition, while keeping their distance from the protests, nevertheless used them to push for more reforms. Our syndicalists bemoaned the absence of trade unions, while revolutionaries pointed out the absence of a revolutionary party. In the meantime, in social networks, radicals were promising a thousand “Paris Communes” to come.

Even if we concede an element of truth in all the above proclamations, any serious observer of the political situation in Iran knows full well that it is much (more…)

Pic: Rosa Woods/Stuff

by Don Franks

Delivering her pre-Budget speech to a Business New Zealand audience, Labour prime minister Ardern said business confidence was “the elephant in the room”.

Business confidence has apparently been low since the new government took office. A business confidence survey conducted by NZIER found businesses had become pessimistic about economic outlook for the first time in two years after Labour assumed office.

There is no need to worry.

Over the last hundred and two years, Labour has demonstrated a loyalty to capitalism that can’t really be faulted. During the 1951 waterfront workers lockout, possibly the most tense class standoff after the land wars in New Zealand history, Labour delivered for the class they have always answered to. “Labour is neither for nor against the watersiders,” party leader Walter (later Sir Walter) Nash declared.

The pattern of behaviour continued in later years, all down the line.

Following the stock market crash of October, 1987 capitalism was in trouble. State-owned enterprises started (more…)

by Guy Miller

“The beating heart of the labor movement.” That’s how the moderator of the Friday evening April 6th plenary session of the 2018 Labor Notes (LN) Conference introduced six West Virginia school teachers. The teachers were fresh from a historic victory in their unauthorized – and unexpected – strike. The same could be said about the conference itself: it represented the beating heart of American labor. The record 3,200 activists who attended the three-day Chicago conference were living, fighting proof of that

History of Labor Notes

Labor Notes was founded in 1979, just as the attack on the American working class was about to shift into high gear. The three founders – Jane Slaughter, Kim Moody and Jim West – were members of the International Socialists(1), one of several American groups tracing their roots back to Trotskyist origins. Slaughter, Moody and West realized that just creating a “front group” for the IS would result in a dead-end for their project, so they sought from the beginning  to create an organization that would support and encourage rank-and-file activity in the trade union movement.

1979 was the year that Paul Volcker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, set the Fed’s interest rate to a record high, bringing on what is often called the Volcker Recession. The double dip recession that ensued saw the loss of over a half a million manufacturing jobs, at the same time bringing the number of strikes to a screeching halt. This was under the presidency of (Democrat) Jimmy Carter; things only got worse under the following (Republican) Reagan administration. In 1981 Reagan broke the national Air Traffic Controllers’ strike and smashed their union as well. Meanwhile, the leadership of the AFL-CIO – equivalent of the CTU in New Zealand – essentially sat and twiddled their collective thumbs. The long, slow Thermidor of American labor had begun.

The height of organized labor in the U.S. had been reached in 1954 when 35% of the workforce belonged to a union. The absolute number of union members, however, continued to grow, reaching 21 million in 1979. However, by 2017 the percentage of unionized workers fell to an (more…)

Rio Turbio miners

by Nicolás Daneri (Feb 20, 2018)

In the recent midterm elections in Argentina, the right-wing Cambiemos party of President Mauricio Macri was able to secure the largest share of votes. As a result, the elections were widely interpreted as political support for his austerity program. However, shortly thereafter, his government saw a rapid dwindling in popular support when it passed a major pension reform. The proposed law was met by a major resistance movement this past December. Although it succeeded in passing the pension reform, the government paid a high price for its offensive and had to retreat from its initial plan to pass a labor reform law as well.

20,000 attended election rally of the Left & Workers Front in Nov 2016

During the summer months, when there’s generally very little political activity in Argentina, the government continued to lay off workers in the public sector, and unemployment rose in the private sector as well. This summer though, in almost every industry, workers fought back with strikes, roadblocks, and marches, in stark contrast to the previous year in which the majority of the layoffs were carried out without a fightback from workers. Some of the most important struggles this summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) include the miners’ strike of Rio Turbio and the strike by workers of the Posadas Hospital. These actions point to a growing political unrest among the working class

Because the government wasn’t able to push through a (more…)