Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category

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…)

14212646_1447524148591892_5975073272711408028_nby John Smith

The attack on organised labour and working people in Europe, Japan and the USA, through intensification of labour, wage repression and cuts in social spending, was on its own nothing like enough to allow capitalism to escape from the systemic crisis of the 1970s. The most important contribution to the resumption of capitalist accumulation in its heartlands was the surplus-value extracted from hundreds of millions of workers in the export-oriented industries of the Third World (or Global South) and captured by imperialist transnational corporations (TNCs) and their suppliers as profits and by imperialist states through taxation. Once again, systemic crisis propelled capitalism along an imperialist trajectory.

images-1

Increased competition

By exposing workers in imperialist countries to increased competition with workers in low-wage countries, outsourcing, even the threat of it, has proved to be a powerful weapon against organised labour, which could not resist because its leaders failed to heed Marx’s prescient warning: “In order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international” (Marx, 1867).

The employers’ offensive in the imperialist countries in the decades before 2007 was most intense in the United States, where the median real wage has barely changed since the late 1970s and where the social safety net has been shredded.(1) Since wage inequality sharply increased during this period, it is evident that broad layers of the US working class have experienced declining wages. In contrast, most workers in most European countries experienced a slow but steady advance in real wages since 1980—including in the UK, despite Thatcher’s onslaught on unions. The major exception is Germany, where, according to the OECD, between the mid-1990s and 2008 real incomes of the poorest 30% of German households declined and those of the next 30% barely moved (Fredrikson, 2012).

The  German reunification in 1990, which exposed West German workers to competition from lower-paid workers from East Germany, and the eastern expansion of the European Union, which exposed them to competition with workers across central Europe, ended the era when (more…)

downloadExcellent interview/podcast by Tom O’Brien with Tony Norfield, here.

Tom’s Alpha and Omega site, where the interview also appears, is here.  There’s also an excellent interview there with Michael Roberts.

Our interview with Tony is here.

downloadmaxresdefault

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by O’Shay Muir                                    

In Adam Curtis’ new documentary film, Hypernormalisation, he describes the spirit of our time as one in which people have lost faith in the political status-quo. Due to this loss of faith, popular demagogues like newly-elected US president Donald Trump have come to fill the void (Curtis, 2016). Curtis argues that political figures like Trump are the creation of the cultural logic of modern consumer societies (2016). Deformed chimeras that have escaped the control of the sorcerers who created them.

Curtis argues that from the 1970s onwards, the worsening economic and political conditions of many western nations resulted in a retreat into fantasy for both the right and the left (2016). Not wanting to, or unable to, comprehend the social complexities of the time, the right opted for the fantasy that the logic of the market could solve the crisis (Curtis, 2016). This faith in the market was combined with the belief that technological progress in the field of information and communications was giving rise to a new form of capitalism. This new capitalism was believed to be free from the limitations of material production and able to avoid speculative risk through the advance of information technologies.

Illusions on left and right

The hope that the right placed in their economic models and the advances in information and communication technologies led to the fantasy that the world was entering a stage of capitalism freed from the periodic crises of the past (Curtis, 2016). The left on the other hand, disheartened by their inability to create revolutionary social change during the upheavals of the late 1960s and 1970s, retreated into self-made fantasies of creating revolutionary social change from outside economic and universal political struggle (Curtis, 2016). Instead they increasingly turned to creating new communities and identities outside the cultural and political mainstream (Curtis, 2016). Militant political agitation was replaced with artistic expression and universal emancipatory politics was replaced with supporting the isolated struggles of marginalised groups while fetishizing the alienation of such groups from one another in a positive light.

For both the right and the left this created a bizarre fantasy world, where both sides could convince themselves that what they were doing was (more…)

images-2by Sarah Black

Art critic, novelist, writer and academic John Berger died last week, aged 90. Amid the media accolades, Suzanne Moore writes an opinion piece for The Guardian entitled ‘I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope’. Though the headline is provocative, Moore’s piece does remember the man as kind, interested and warm.

Berger originally trained as a painter at the Chelsea School of Art, but stopped painting in the late 40s, as the post-war images-1nuclear threat seemed to him to render his work trivial. Instead he threw his energies into writing. He managed to enrage the art and media establishment by his pro-Soviet stance, as well as his criticism of big figures in the art world, such as Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso (whose work he felt further mystified art). Berger wrote extensively throughout his career – not just criticism, but fiction and other non-fiction works. In 1972 he won the Man Booker prize for his novel, G. His 1975 book, The seventh man, focuses on the plight of the urban poor.

Berger’s warmth comes across in his most well-known work,Ways of seeing. Unlike contemporary programmes of the time, this 1972 BBC four-part series of films-turned-essays was not presented by a stuffy old man in an art gallery with a suit and a pipe. Filmed in an electronics workshop, Berger, sporting an Aztec-patterned shirt, talks to the viewers at home in a laid-back, conversational manner – the aesthetics of the production have a dynamism that transcends the very 1970s look. Berger places advertising images next to still lifes and soft porn beside nudes, in order to make the viewer interrogate the image, the artist and the subject. His aim was to demystify western European painting from its holy status (where criticism’s purpose was to help us pray) and instead find a different way of (more…)

The piece below first appeared as the editorial in revolution #6 (May-June) 1998.  The trends it pointed to were very strong at the time and, sadly, remain very strong.

downloadby Philip Ferguson

The left was once synonymous with freedom.  This was particularly so during the ‘radical’ 1960s.  Freedom from the moral restraints of the austere and conservative 1950s, freedom for sexual experimentation, for viewing pictures and reading books that had been banned, and freedom for oppressed peoples in the Third World and in the advanced capitalist countries like New Zealand were exclusively the preserve of the left.

A great deal has changed since then!  Much of the ‘60s generation has grown up, gained a ‘stake in society’ and become the new, liberal prudes and social controllers, as fearful of freedom as they once were enthusiastic about it.  These days it is difficult to think of any activity which is not subject to concern or regulation by some middle-class snob or do-gooder.  From anti-smoking campaigns[1] to attempts to censor the internet to moral purity feminism, the grown-up flower children of the ‘60s would now prefer not to let a hundred flowers bloom.

There are, however, two ‘freedoms’ that are not included in their desire to control and constrain.  One is the freedom of the (more…)

The interview below first appeared in revolution magazine (#6, May-June 1998).  Fred was a longtime shopfloor militant and Marxist in the United States, being frequently fired and suspended from jobs due to his union and political activities.  At the time of the interview Fred was living in San Francisco but retirement meant that, at a certain point, he could no longer afford to live in that city and he moved to Mexico.  Fred died in 2002.

Fred at founding conference of the Class Struggle League

Fred at founding conference of the Class Struggle League, 1972

revolution: People have an image of the 1960s as fairly wild, in terms of social experimentation and political radicalism.  How general were these trends in the US?

Fred Ferguson: In the beginning, it depended on what part of the country you were in.  The New York City and San Francisco Bay metropolitan areas have always been little social democratic and liberal islands in a sea of reaction.  The US is a very backward country, politically and culturally.

However, as time went on and one revelation after another was made of government lying, duplicity, secret vendettas against civil rights leaders and secret wars against whole countries, young people began to wake up and look around.

By the end of the war in Vietnam, even high school (and junior high school), student strikes were taking place in the most remote areas of the mid-west and rural south.

Tens of thousands of young people flocked to the two sea coasts and formed what was to become the ‘youth culture’ of the United States.  The influence was tremendous: racially, sexually, politically, in pharmacology, fashion, hair styles and even in the automobile plants of Detroit.

The combined effect of that period politically has been misnamed ‘the Vietnam Syndrome’.  But it didn’t only apply to the government’s policy in Southeast Asia – it extended to nearly every aspect of society.  The people no longer believed.

revo: Although the US lost the Vietnam War and the American ruling class appears to have been traumatised for a while by that experience, they seem to have paid very little political price domestically.  For instance, no big revolutionary organisation emerged out of the years of ferment around the war and today the US government is intervening militarily around the world again, with very little domestic opposition.  How would you assess the campaign against the Vietnam War?

Fred: The campaign against the war was headed by the social democrats and their political partners in the Communist Party and the rapidly rightward-moving Socialist Workers Party.  Sociologically, it was overwhelmingly pacifist, middle class and campus-based.  The working class was, by and large, suffering under the patriotic illusions left over from World War II and the Korean War.  The US had only just begun its long decline economically and most of the working class was doing quite well compared to the pre-war years.  That tended to give them a conservative colouration.

But by 1967 most were deeply disturbed by the war and by the pictures that were on their television news programmes every night.  The social democrats, with no base in the working class, and the CP which had pissed theirs away in the 1930s and strike-breaking during World War II, had been driven to the right by the McCarthyite witch-hunt and the need to hide in the Democratic Party.  The left-wing concentrated around the (Maoist) Progressive Labor Party and the early (Trotskyist) Spartacist League were just too small, too late and too shrill.

During the same period much of the youth became (more…)