Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category

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…)

“Revolution is necessary
not only because the ruling class
cannot be overthrown in any other way,
but also because the class overthrowing it
can only in a revolution succeed in
ridding itself of all the
muck of ages and
become fitted
to found society anew”

What is Marxism?

What is exploitation?

How capitalism works – and why it doesn’t

4,000 words on Capital

Karl Korsch on “tremendous and enduring” impact of Marx’s Capital (1932)

Marx’s critique of classical political economy

Capital, the working class and Marx’s critique of political economy

From the vaults: two articles on wages, profits, crisis

How capitalist ideology works

Pilling’s Marx’s Capital: philosophy, dialectics and political economy

The use value of Marx’s value theory

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:


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…)

by Tony Norfield

At a recent talk I gave on imperialism, there was an interesting question raised on what I thought about Marx’s theory of value. This seemed to be prompted by my reference to Marx’s theory, while I spent little or no time using the terminology in Capital. So the logic of the question was: what is the point of Marx’s theory if one can do without it when explaining what is going on in the world?

Partly, the question is answered by saying that one does not always have to use specialist terminology to express ideas. For example, I have found it to be simpler in presentations to avoid Marx’s term ‘fictitious capital’, because that concept would take some time to explain properly and most people are not familiar with it. Even those who are commonly misunderstand it. Instead, I usually develop the same ideas more directly through discussing the role played by equities and bonds and their relationship to what the economy produces. However, the question needs to be put in a broader context.

Marx’s value theory analyses social labour under capitalism and the increasingly odd forms that it takes as capitalism develops: from being represented in the prices of commodities, to being the source of interest, profits, dividends, rents and tax revenues, to underlying, in an even more distorted fashion, the prices of financial securities. Marx’s theory shows how the capitalist market gives the system a particular dynamic, one that leads to the monopolisation of production and the creation of a world market as capital accumulates. The labour embodied in commodities may not tally directly with the prices they command in the market, but those prices remain strongly influenced by changes in social productivity. Furthermore, we get a longer-term process by which barriers to capitalist production are set by the (more…)

Ernesto Che Guevara, Marx and Engels: a biographical introduction, published by Ocean Press, Melbourne.

by Phil Duncan

Ocean Press is a fascinating little publisher, specialising in publishing the work of Cuban revolutionaries in English.  Some years back, while visiting Melbourne, I picked up a book of theirs on Haydee Santamaria, one of my personal revolutionary heroes, so it was gratifying to come across this little book by Che on Marx and Engels late last year.

Che actually wrote this modest, but highly interesting, little work after his involvement in the revolutionary struggle in the Congo in 1965 and before his final misadventure in Bolivia.  It was originally envisaged not as a stand-alone piece but as part of a much larger work on political economy.  Pressing attachments elsewhere, most particularly his decision to go to Bolivia to help foster revolution there, meant his book was not completed, although fragments that were have been published.  The book arose out of Che’s disquiet about the Soviet bloc and his concern that it was headed more towards capitalism than socialism.  He grappled, both in his role as a leading figure in the shaping of the revolutionary Cuban economy and later in Africa and Bolivia, with the problems of the transition from capitalism to socialism, becoming more and more convinced that things in the Soviet Union had taken a wrong turn.

Left in imperialist world

This small book contains many words of wisdom for today’s left, especially those in the imperialist countries who too often turn their noses up at what they see as mere Third World struggles and revolutions, believing that the imperialist countries are the centre of the world and the only ones that really matter.  And, of course, who are blissfully unaware of their imperialist chauvinism and what they’re missing out on.  Certainly every individual on the NZ left should read this.  They will find little gems like (more…)

Today, March 8, is International Working Women’s Day – or what feminists have hijacked into the classless International Women’s Day.  Last month also marked the 100th anniversary of the February 1917 revolution in the Russian Empire, a revolution sparked off by working class women. 

Working class women sparked off the Russian Revolution

by Anne McShane

The centenary of International Working Women’s Day in Petrograd (St Petersburg) in February 1917 is an important moment to take a more critical approach to this history.

Most of us on the left are familiar with the events themselves. In his classic work, The Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky provides us with a dramatic and inspiring depiction of the uprising in Petrograd – he describes in detail the five glorious days of struggle. How the Petrograd working class rose up in grim determination against the tsarist state. How the strikes, which began on International Working Women’s Day, ostensibly in protest against the war, developed rapidly into a mass movement with the power to oust the imperial regime. How it advanced on the citadels of power, precipitating mutiny after mutiny among the armed forces, as soldiers and Cossacks refused to massacre the workers. In less than a week the centuries-long rule of the tsarist autocracy was routed by the Petrograd working class.

However, it must be admitted that the revolution was premature. There was no party leadership in place and the left, including the Bolsheviks, was caught unawares. The uprising was also confined almost entirely to Petrograd. It has often been described as a purely spontaneous movement – an angry working class letting off steam against the war, conscription and prohibition. But, as Trotsky makes very clear, to argue that the working class of Petrograd were just acting instinctively or in an unconscious way is absurd. Those (often in academic circles) who want to portray it as such are anxious to deny the depth of revolutionary ideas among workers, or their ability to analyse, decide and act on their own behalf. They want to separate off this movement from October and argue that the provisional government and ‘bourgeois democracy’ was the natural conclusion of February. The October revolution is presented as a putsch in contrast to the spontaneity of February. It is more concerning that some on the left also distinguish the two revolutions in the same way. As always, however, reality is a lot more (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…)