Archive for the ‘Limits of capitalism’ 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

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Labour’s key concern is keeping in with business and making it more profitable (Photo: Thomas Coughlan)

by Don Franks

Sometime next year your pay and working conditions may be completely rejigged by the government.

For better or worse?

The fine print is yet to be penned. Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced that a 10-person working group would report back by the end of 2018 on the design of new workplace laws setting minimum terms and conditions for workers in the same industry or occupation. The resulting terms will be called Fair Pay Agreements.

Through strike action Unite has won significant improvements in pay and conditions for fast food workers. This, not corporatism, is the way forward for workers. Photo: Unite

What’s prompted this new course?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stated that employers approached the government to express their interest in sector-wide agreements, because they wanted a level playing field when bidding against competitors who currently have lower labour costs.

“This isn’t just something that employees have been asking for so I want to correct the record on that,” she said.

What employees have been actually asking for, or rather, demanding, in sectors where they’re organised in unions is (more…)

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…)

by Don Franks

Nibbling pavlova, warm fuzzies all over
Hasn’t it been a great honeymoon
But there’s still shit in the river – old pensioners shiver
And Auckland house prices aren’t coming down anytime soon

Wasting away in Jacindaville
Waiting for the baby’s arrival
Some people claim a new dawn’s in the frame
But I know it’s still – just about survival

They hosted Obama, without any drama
Went over and had a wee bow to the Queen (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 Susanne Kemp

Firefighters across New Zealand and around the world are marking International Firefighters’ Day today, May 4.

As the IFFD home page notes, “Firefighters dedicate their lives to the protection of life and property. Sometimes that dedication is in the form of countless hours volunteered over many years, in others it is many selfless years working in the industry. In all cases it risks the ultimate sacrifice of a firefighter’s life.”

In Third World countries, firefighting is an especially hazardous job due to widespread very poor health and safety conditions in factories, sweatshops and other workplaces and the under-spending on public services such as firefighting.

Bangla Desh firefighters and emergency workers

For instance, in the Tazreen Fashion factory fire in Dhaka, Bangla Desh, in 2012, at least 117 died while 200 were injured.  At the Kader Toy Factory fire in Thailand in 1993, despite the desperate efforts of firefighters, somewhere between 190-210 workers, mainly young women from rural areas, were killed and over 500 were injured.  The workers were locked inside the factory and firefighting crews were delayed by traffic jams in the area. (This fire is the subject of Don McGlashan’s powerful ‘Toy Factory Fire’ song on his first solo album.)

While we should think about the dangers faced by firefighters in NZ, we should never lose sight of the (more…)