Archive for the ‘capitalist crisis’ Category

Joseph Choonara’s A Reader’s Guide to Marx’s Capital

by Michael Roberts

In 2016 we had some seminal and important books on Marxist economics including: Anwar Shaikh’s lifetime compilation, Capitalism: competition, conflict and crises (that I dip into on a regular basis); Fred Moseley’s Money and Totality, a masterful defence of Marx’s value theory; Francois Chesnais’ Finance Capital Today, that recounts the current trends in modern finance; as well as major contributions from Tony Norfield (ttps://www.versobooks.com/books/2457-the-city,) and John Smith (Imperialism in the 21st century).

It’s difficult to compete with these in 2017.  However, this year commemorated 150 years since Marx published Volume One of Capital, so there were a few important books that everybody should get.

In my view, Joseph Choonara’s A Readers Guide to Capital was the (more…)

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At the beginning of the NLP (NewLabour Party); vice-president Sue Bradford; president Matt McCarten; party MP and leader, Jim Anderton

by Philip Ferguson

Jim Anderton passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 7, just two weeks away from his 80th  birthday.  I have two sets of views about Anderton: a political assessment and also a personal view, as my parents were friends and strong political supporters and co-workers of Anderton’s for several decades.

First, the personal side.  This Anderton, I’ll call Jim.  I only met him once and this was when my mother was dying.  She had collapsed at home and been subsequently diagonised as riddled with cancer.  She went home for a fortnight before being transferred into a rest home with hospice facilities.  Jim showed up at my parents’ house with a load of food when my mother came out of hospital.  During the visit he gave me his personal cell-phone number and told me to call him at any time; also, that if he was in a meeting and couldn’t answer, he would get back to me straight afterwards.  He was particularly concerfned if we had any trouble with the public health bureaucracy – he told me to just let him know and he’d get onto them straight away.

Ferocious in dealing with petty bureaucrats

I knew from my mother that he was  ferocious in dealing with state bureaucrats who put any obstacles at all in the way of people receiving their just rights.  She had volunteered in Jim’s constituency office for years, both when he was a Labour MP and later, when he (and my parents) departed from Labour and founded the left social-democratic NewLabour Party and, subsequently, the Alliance.  I had heard stories from her of being in the office when Jim, outraged at one or other a tale of officious state mistreatment of one of his constituents (or anyone from across Christchurch who visited his office) would literally rip the jumped-up bureaucrat a new one.

My mother had also told me of his personal generosity.  The office was in a small block of shops in Selwyn Street in Spreydon and Jim and Carole Anderton’s home was up a driveway at the end of the row of shops.  This made it easy for him to dash back to the house and grab (more…)

Being arrested for union organising, Minneapolis 1934

One of the most important battles fought by workers in the United States in the 1930s was waged by the Teamsters Union in Minneapolis.  Through a series of fights, Minneapolis was converted into a union town and the Teamsters were able to spread organising across the Mid-West.  At the heart of the working class struggle in Minneapolis were a group of teamsters who were union militants and Marxists.  One of the most prominent of these was Vincent Raymond Dunne (1889-1970).  Dunne later spent 16 months in jail for opposition to WW2.

Recently, long-time left-wing activist Howard Petrick, a former anti-Vietnam War GI, produced a play on Dunne and his life. 

by Barbara Gregorich

Howard Petrick’s one-man play, Fight for 52 Cents, is set in 1969, with Vincent Ray Dunne speaking to a meeting. With this as the framing device, Dunne tells his younger-generation audience about his life — the lessons he learned in helping lead the working class in its struggle for better living conditions and why he became a communist.

Howard Petrick as V.R. Dunne

As written and performed by Petrick, Fight for 52 Cents is a well-structured play that treats the audience to the story of Dunne’s life: what events were significant to him, and why; how these events helped shape him and allowed him to stand on a strong foundation.

Childhood experiences

The first event Dunne speaks about is that when he was five years old, his father, who was a street-car conductor in Kansas City, fell into a hole and broke both legs. Because of this accident, his father was not able to work. There was no such thing as workman’s compensation in 19th century United States. Dunne experienced this grave injustice first-hand: the five-year-old child saw that his father was injured and as a result the company he worked for dropped him from existence. The Dunne family was forced to (more…)

Fighting casualisation in New Zealand; pic – Simon Oosterman Beckers

by Workers Fight

Out of Britain’s total workforce today, as many as 24% are in part-time jobs, 15% are self-employed, 4.8% on short-term, casual or seasonal full-time contracts, 2.8% on zero-hours contracts and 1.6% on apprenticeships. Add it up and this means that almost 1 worker in 2 is in an insecure job or one which doesn’t pay a full wage. For those trying to find a job, the only choice is between short-term, precarious work, with or without a contract – or long probation periods without the guarantee of a permanent job down the line.

The government may well boast about employment being “up to a record high”, as did Theresa May in her speech to the Tory Party conference, in September. But the 75.3% employment rate her government boasts about includes all these precarious, low-paid jobs, which barely provide workers with enough to live on!

The fact that these jobs have expanded to all sectors of the economy illustrates a rising trend in this capitalist society, a trend that has even been noticed by some bourgeois economists and commentators, like this Financial Times editor who described the growing casualisation as “a conscious choice by investors and entrepreneurs to dodge laws that exist to protect workers.” As if this was anything new!

But how have workers’ conditions reached such a degree of deterioration – and this, over such a relatively short period of time?

From the “boom” years to the economic slump

Casualisation has not always been that widespread. During the two decades of the modest post-war economic expansion – often referred to among trade-union officials and Labour politicians as some kind of “good old days” – casual jobs were, in fact, the exception.

But although casual jobs were rare, they were disproportionally present in certain industries, like for instance in the (more…)

by Lutte Ouvriere

“I am not Santa Claus” was the first declaration that French president Macron made when he arrived in French Guiana in late October. In this part of the old French colonial empire, half the families live below the poverty line and one youth in two is out of work; some of the inhabitants have neither running water nor electricity.

Right next door to the population living in extreme poverty is the Kourou space center from where the Ariane rockets are launched. All the equipment in the space center is ultra-modern and there’s a medical center strictly for employees only. This shocking contrast is revolting! When the population demands that the state put an end to injustice, it’s not asking for gifts, it’s asking that the state respects, at long last, the population’s right to live decently!

Last spring, the Guianans mobilized during five weeks to make their rights heard. Guiana was paralyzed by a general strike and barricades where the (more…)

Below we’re running an article on a strike that took place in Detroit in 1987.  We’re running it because of what workers here in NZ, and readers around the world, can learn from this dispute.  It’s one where the workers said a resounding “No!” to the company’s demands that they sacrifice conditions and benefits and to the union leaders whose starting point was to make concessions to the employers – and get in the way of workers being able to fight!

This strike against health care giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went against the wider trend in the US workplace at the time, which was to make concessions and not resist, a trend which is very much dominant in the New Zealand workplace thirty years later.  It was also marked by a large degree of rank-and-file control over the struggle and a continuous battle for workers to maintain this control in the face of manoeuvres by the union bureaucracy to take it over – and bring it to an end.

The BCBSM strike also won support from other workers, most particularly auto workers and a number of local officials in the auto workers’ union. 

The Spark is an American Marxist workers’ group which was active in the strike, Detroit historically being one of their main centres of activity. 

by The Spark

Thirty years ago, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went on strike. Chants of “No contract, no work!” and “Don’t get sick tonight: Blue Cross is on strike!” filled the air in downtown Detroit and at other statewide locations. The strike of approximately 4,000 workers began in September 1987, immediately preceding Labor Day. The strike was not over until winter moved in, eighty-three days later, in November.

The healthcare giant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, dominated the Michigan health care industry and controlled around 70 percent of the industry statewide at that time. It was demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, taking advantage of the fact that the new 1987 contract would now cover all four local unions in offices around Michigan in a Master Labor Agreement. The company viewed it as an opportunity to impose the worst from all of the former agreements, and then some. They were a paternalistic employer; the majority of employees were women and, like public employees, were considered lucky to have decent benefits that included time off for taking care of family needs, and health care as well. Of course, the wages were not equivalent to wages earned by manufacturing workforces that were predominately male.

In the concessionary drive, earlier unspoken agreements regarding benefits as a trade-off for wages were forgotten, as the bosses came after all they could get. Benefits were at the front of their list. Always a company that believed in the stick before the carrot, BCBSM looked to impose drastic cuts in workers’ sick time off provisions and to eliminate policies that gave women workers some needed flexibility in work start times and in taking increments of time off to attend to personal and family needs. While wages were an issue in the strike, the elimination of time-off provisions and the flexibility to be able to avoid discipline and firing while still maintaining their second job, the family, was foremost in women workers’ minds.

The largest number of workers were housed in Detroit, with almost 3,000 unionized employees and almost as many more who were salaried workers, called “exempts,” meaning they couldn’t be in the union. While the union was comprised of clerical, office and professional employees, the majority of the professionals were non-union. Many of them were not particularly well paid. But they were (more…)

In the Imperialism study/discussion group at the weekend, Andy H mentioned an introduction to Lenin’s Imperialism by an Australian Marxist.  This is the piece; it was originally written in the late 1990s and first appeared on-line in 2003.

by Doug Lorimer*

I. Lenin’s aims in writing this work

The term “imperialism” came into common usage in England in the 1890s as a development of the older term “empire” by the advocates of a major effort to extend the British Empire in opposition to the policy of concentrating on national economic development, the supporters of which the advocates of imperialism dismissed as “Little Englanders”. The term was rapidly taken into other languages to describe the contest between rival European states to secure colonies and spheres of influence in Africa and Asia, a contest that dominated international politics from the mid-1880s to 1914, and caused this period to be named the “age of imperialism”.

The first systematic critique of imperialism was made by the English bourgeois social-reformist economist John Atkinson Hobson (1858-1940) in his 1902 book Imperialism: A Study, which, as Lenin observes at the beginning of his own book on the subject, “gives a very good and comprehensive description of the principal specific economic and political features of imperialism” (see below, p. 33).

Lenin had long been familiar with Hobson’s book. Indeed, in a letter written from Geneva to his mother in St. Petersburg on August 29, 1904, Lenin stated that he had just “received Hobson’s book on imperialism and have begun translating it” into Russian.(1)

In a number of his writings between 1895 and 1913, Lenin had noted some of the characteristics of the imperialist epoch, for example: the (more…)