Archive for the ‘capitalist crisis’ Category

Tame Iti and mate Jenny Shipley, the Tory prime minister of NZ at the time.

The article below first appeared in issue #14 of revolution magazine, dated Xmas 2000/March 2001.  The introduction to the article stated that it argued “Trendy liberal race relations nostrums are more about social control than emancipation”.  Footnotes have been added for this re-publication. 

by Philip Ferguson

From cultural safety in nursing training to the banning of vegetables from primary school play groups – use of vegetables to make, for example, potato stamps is now regarded as ‘culturally insensitive’ because ‘traditional’ Maori society didn’t use spuds for such frivolous activities – Maori culture appears to be increasingly important and respected.

Virtually everyone from the far left through to much of the National Party (with the exception of the minor-league redneck element typified by the now-retired John Banks)[1] appears to be in favour of cultural diversity and the ‘empowerment of Maori.

Yet, as has been noted in this magazine before, the cultural revival coincides with a worsening of the actual material conditions of the majority of Maori (see, in particular, revolution #7) and the collapse of old forms of collective class organisation.  It is in this situation that some Maori have retreated into idealised versions of the past.  This retreat coincides with an interest on the part of the ruling class in finding new forms through which to mediate conflicting interests and establish social control in the midst of the decay of society itself.

Changing ruling class ideology

The ruling class ideology today is clearly not the one which existed in the decades before 1984 and was reflected in commitment to the welfare state, monoculturalism and the kind of old-fashioned patriotism and nationalism epitomised by powerful right-wing groups like the Returned Servicemen’s Association (RSA).

Today’s ruling class, for instance, actively promotes multiculturalism, liberal pluralism and has no problem with homosexuality and other things that were taboo in the past.  A lot of formal legal inequality has been abolished as it was an obstacle to the needs of a new round of capital accumulation and the new style of managing an increasingly fragmented society.

For someone seen as right-wing economically, such as recent National Party prime minister Jenny Shipley, ‘respect for difference’ is a key principle, as she made clear when (more…)

by Michael Roberts

Financial markets may be booming in the expectation that the US economy will grow faster under president Donald Trump. But they forget that the main emphasis of Trump’s programme, in so far as it is coherent, is to make America “great again” by imposing tariffs and other controls on imports, and forcing US companies to produce at home – in other words, trade protectionism. This is to be enforced by new laws.

That brings me to discuss the role of law in trying to make the economy work better for bourgeois interests – an area that has been badly neglected. How is the law used to protect the interests of capital against labour; national capital interests against foreign rivals; and the capitalist sector as a whole against monopoly interests?

Last year, there were a number of books that came out that helped to enlighten us both theoretically and empirically on the laws of motion of capitalism. But I think I missed one. It is The great leveler by Brett Christophers, a professor in human geography at Uppsala University, Sweden.1 His book looks at the nature of crises under capitalism from a refreshingly new angle. He says that we need to examine how capitalism is continually facing a dynamic tension between the underlying forces of competition and monopoly. Christophers argues that, in this dynamic, law and legal measures have an under-appreciated role in trying to preserve a “delicate balance between competition and monopoly”, which is needed to “regulate the rhythms of capitalist accumulation”.

Monopoly/competition imbalance

He reckons this monopoly/competition imbalance is an important contradiction of capitalism that has been (more…)

Che was an avid reader and student of the founders of scientific socialism.  At the end of his short political biography of Marx and Engels, Che presents the following recommended reading list:

Marx

Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1844)

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844; published in 1932)

The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism.  Against Bruno Bauer and Company (1845), written with Engels

The German Ideology (1845), written by Engels

The Poverty of Philosophy (1847)

Wage Labour and Capital (1847)

Manifesto of (more…)

paula-bennett-and-bill-english-nzh-and-gettyby Phil Duncan

We are only in the early days of the English-Bennett government, but it still feels we are living under the Key-English government.  Nothing has changed and nor is there likely to be dramatic change.  When Key and National won the 2008 election we were among the very, very few people on the left to make a correct assessment of the incoming regime.

While most of the left continued their pre-election scaremongering that Key was some kind of ideologically-committed new right politician who would pick up where Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson left off, we pointed to the fact that NZ capitalism needed more ‘new right’ economics like it needed a hole in the head, that the Key-English government would be a middle-of-the-road one, and that most of the left were making themselves look both stupid and hysterical with their idiotic denunciations of Key.

As the first term of Key-English drew to a close, with nary a ‘new right’ policy in sight, the crank elements of the left shifted gear and said Key was just trying to lull us all and the attacks would come in the second Key term.  Well, the second Key term came and went too, with nary a glimpse of ‘new right’ economic policy in sight.  For some, the penny began to drop.  Part-way through the third term of Key-English,  Mike Treen, something of a weathervane in terms of the wider non-contemplative left, did actually admit that Key was far from the new right devil he had been painted as.  In fact, as Mike pointed out, some of Key’s policies – borrow and spend during recession – were far more Keynesian than ‘new right’.

Bourgeois economists and political commentators, so often a few steps ahead of ‘the left’, had already noted years before that Key was a highly pragmatic, middle-of-the-road politician.

We, meanwhile, had not only noted that Key-English were not ‘new right’, but that that whole era in NZ had climaxed and petered out years and years ago.  And, as Marxists, we didn’t merely describe – we (more…)

imagesby Michael Roberts

I have written many posts on the level and changes in inequality of wealth and incomes,1 both globally and within countries. There has been a ‘wealth’ of empirical studies showing rising inequality in incomes and wealth in most capitalist economies in the last century.2

There have also been various theoretical explanations provided for this change. The most famous is by Thomas Piketty in his magisterial book, Capital in the 21st century (Harvard 2014). This book won the award for the ‘most bought, least read’ book in 2014, surpassing A brief history of time by scientist Stephen Hawking (London 1989).

I and others have discussed the merits and faults of Piketty’s work extensively.3 Suffice it to say that, although Piketty repeats the title of Marx’s book, published exactly 150 years ago, he dismisses Marx’s analysis of capitalism based on the law of value and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and adopts the mainstream theories of marginal productivity and/or market ‘imperfections’ like ‘rent-seeking’. This leads to the view that capitalism could be ‘reformed’ and inequality reduced by such measures as a global financial tax or progressive inheritance taxes – or more recently a universal basic income (Piketty is now advising French socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon on this).

Inequality remains the buzz word of liberal and leftist debate and analysis,4 not (more…)

bill-english-and-john-key-4

Below are some of our articles on the Key-English government.  While English has a somewhat different ‘style’ from Key – he’s rather more dour – his and Key’s economic views were very much on the same page: a middle-of-the-road, easy-as-she-goes approach.  Borrow and spend, slightly reduce income tax and slightly raise indirect tax (GST), slightly increase welfare benefits and keep the retirement age at 65.  Sell some shares in the state’s own capitalist enterprises but keep a majority shareholding in these businesses in the hands of the state.  In other words, on economic policy overall, they were probably a little to the left of Helen Clark.

One difference between the Key period and this year is that English now has a considerable budget surplus to play around – and, of course, 2017 is election year.

The analyses on Redline of the Key-English regime have held up particularly well – especially compared to the near-hysterical attempts of so many on the left to paint Key as some ardent neo-liberal who would take up where Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson left off!!!

The Key-English government in the context of capital accumulation in New Zealand today

Key’s ‘vision’: managing the malaise of NZ capitalism

Rock star economy and the Lost Prophets

Key’s government not neo-liberal, admits Unite union leader

 

apple-tax-bill

by Michael Roberts

The tech giant Apple has accumulated an enormous cash hoard of $246bn, larger than Sri Lanka’s estimated 2016 GDP. If Apple’s cash pile was its own public company, it would be the 13th largest in the world. Much of this cash pile ($215bn) is held abroad to avoid paying the higher rate of corporation tax that the US applies. For example Apple paid only 0.005 per cent tax in Ireland in 2014. The EU Commission is trying to force Apple pay a proper tax amount to Ireland on the grounds that its profits in Europe have not been taxed properly because it accounts for its sales through Ireland. The Irish government has sided with Apple in this dispute!

But Apple’s cash pile is not actually “cash” nor “on hand”. Apple has only about $16.7 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet. The rest is stashed in long-term marketable securities, meaning Apple plans to let those funds — roughly $177 billion — accrue interest for more than a year.

Big cash hoards, but rocketing debt too

Everybody notices the high cash hoards that some of the largest US companies are accumulating but do not notice that their debt has rocketed too. Apple’s debt has exploded. It has $80bn in debt, which since 2012 is essentially an increase of $80bn. That’s right, a few years ago, Apple had near-zero debt levels and now has a solid $80bn worth.

unnamedAnd while cash and securities pile up overseas, Apple is piling up debt in the US. Apple – even before this latest borrowing – had more debt than the telecom and cable companies which typically carry the most debt since they have stable cash flow and slow growth. The company currently sits on about $53.2 billion in long-term debt obligations as well as $32.2 billion in “non-current liabilities,” after executing a series of bond sales including the largest in history for a nonfinancial U.S. business, making it the fourth most-indebted company in the Standard & Poor’s 500.

By borrowing instead, Apple gets cash to (more…)