Archive for the ‘Marxism’ Category

Dunedin: Otago Socialist Society presents
Marx’s theory of capitalist crisis

Why is capitalism plagued by regular economic crises? Can capitalism avoid these crises or are they inherent in the system? What did Marx see as the fundamental cause of these crises, regardless of whether they appear first in the ‘real’ economy or the financial sector? In particular, what is ‘the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’? What political conclusions follow from Marx’s crisis theory?

Speaker: Philip Ferguson
6pm, Monday, July 30
McNab Room,
3rd floor, central city library,
Moray Place, Dunedin

 

Christchurch: Canterbury Socialist Society presents
Harlan County USA

This award-winning film – it even won an academy award! – documents a major struggle between coal miners in Harlan County (Kentucky) and coal bosses in the 1970s.  These workers provide an inspiring example of how to fight.

7.30pm, Tuesday, August 7
The Space Academy,
371 St Asaph Street, Christchurch

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A number of people who were engaged in the Imperialism study/discussion group initiated by this blog have recently been debating David Harvey and others on imperialism today (and in the past).  The debate has taken place on the site of the Review of African Political Economy.  For links to the key articles, see here.

The most recent contribution is by one of the Imperialism group participants based in New York. 

by Walter Daum

Esteban Mora begins his contribution to the roape.net discussion of the David Harvey-John Smith debate by asserting that the whole debate over who drains value from whom is misguided. While Smith says the West continues to drain the East and Harvey holds that the direction has been reversed, Mora believes that both claims rest on the ‘misconception’ arising from dependency theory that the imperialist North drains value from the imperialized South. [1]This, he says, is ‘not entirely accurate,’ and he goes on to make further claims which, as I see it, amount to arguing that imperialism as classically defined by Marxists does not exist – and for that matter never did.

Mora’s argument goes through several steps. He first points out that Northern and Southern capitalists both exploit the South, which is undeniably true. The rate of profit is higher in the South, he says, because of Southern industry’s less developed organic composition of capital, and both Northern and Southern capitalists benefit from it. But this reasoning is off-target. Mora overlooks the enormous super-exploitation of Southern labor (in fact, he never mentions any kind of exploitation), the main reason that profit rates from production in the South are higher. Moreover, the organic composition need not be much lower in the South; many Southern factories use up-to-date technology.

Second, Mora rejects the dependency-theory notion of a ‘correlative movement between rising profits and diminishing profits.’ It is not clear whether the rising profits are meant to be those produced in the North or those captured by Northern capitalists wherever produced, and likewise for the diminishing profits of the South. But since he is aiming to refute the ‘drain’ of profits, we have to assume that he is denying that Northern capitalists capture greater profits than Southern capitalists. On this, John Smith has shown in his book and in this online discussion that, Apple, for example, makes a much higher rate of profit than the contractors who produce its devices in China. And I gave evidence in my contribution to the debate that ‘the surplus-value flow from the U.S. to China does not match that extracted from China by the West.’

Mora seems to. . . .

Full: Again, Is imperialism still imperialism

Every week the French revolutionary organisation Lutte Ouvriere produces workplace bulletins at hundreds of workplaces all over France where they have members and supporters.  The bulletins deal with issues in those particular workplaces along with an editorial that goes into all the bulletins and deals with national or international issues.  Below is the editorial from the bulletins of June 25.

The Lifeline is a refugee rescue ship, like the Aquarius. Outfitted by a German non-governmental organization, it is stranded at sea off the coast of Libya with 230 migrants on board because the Italian and Maltese governments deny them the right to dock. France, which is so used to lecturing other governments, is refusing them too. Once more we are witnessing the terrible predicament of women, men and children hopelessly knocking on Europe’s doors, after having been through hell.

In Italy, the far-right Minister of Internal Affairs, Salvini, is using this affair to make a show of his intransigence. He has already made proposals worthy of the racist laws adopted under Mussolini, for example a law that would oblige all Roma people to be registered.

In France, Minister of Internal Affairs Collomb speaks the same language as far-right politicians. He claims that France is under the threat of “being submerged”. And he boasts of his recent decisions making it harder for refugees to be eligible for asylum status and increasing the number of expulsions.

Asylum seekers wander from one (more…)

Many useful articles have been written about the recent demonetisation, perhaps the most discussed economic event in India in recent times. The entire discussion has brought to the fore many aspects of India’s economy. Among them is an important theme that we have emphasized in earlier issues of Aspects: Namely, the gulf between different sectors of the economy. This gulf has economic and political implications.

This gulf can be seen in many measures, which are expressions of a single reality: the gap between the income of the ‘informal’ (‘unorganised’) and ‘formal’ (‘organised’) sectors; between rural areas and urban areas; between the sectors producing commodities (agriculture, manufacturing) and the services sector; between income-poor regions which are rich in natural resources and other regions where income is concentrated.

The gulf is also within each sector, between the activities which make up most of the employment, and the activities which have most of the income. For instance, what is termed the ‘services sector’ encompasses both the courier delivery man and the captains of the financial world; ‘urban areas’ include the most miserable squalor and the most obscene wealth; mining regions are the homes of destitute tribals as well as the fiefdoms of mining barons. Thus when we talk of any of these categories or regions we need to be clear which sections and activities we are discussing.

The perverse course of ‘development’ being pursued by the economy, far from narrowing this gulf, keeps reproducing it and expanding it, by transferring not only surpluses but even, increasingly, natural assets (which are not reproducible) from the informal sector to the formal sector. This process substantially explains the dramatic growth of inequality in recent years.

While the current policies are touted as ‘formalising’ the economy, in fact thoroughgoing formalisation (which critically involves formalising employment and its terms) is not on the cards. Instead, policy measures that, within the existing framework, increase the share of formal sector firms (corporations) in the economy actually increase the incomes of the cream of the formal economy, without increasing employment in that sector. At the same time, they depress the incomes and employment of the vast majority in the informal sector. Thus we find that:

(i) the share of the organised sector in national income (GDP) has risen from about one-third in the 1980s to well over half today; but

(ii) within that organised sector GDP, the share of workers’ wages has collapsed, causing the share of profits to rise correspondingly;

(iii) more than half the workers in the organised sector are now informal workers (contract, casual, etc); and

(iv) the unorganised sector still accounts for the overwhelming majority of jobs – i.e., a growing number of workers in this sector have to share a shrinking percentage of national income.

The entire discussion on this question betrays how (i) the very methodology of estimating GDP disregards or discards the (more…)

A number of participants in the Imperialism study/discussion group initiated by Redline have been involved in debating David Harvey’s view of imperialism recently through the Review of African Political Economy.

Thanks to Walter Daum for sending us the links.  We have very much valued discussing imperialism with him, John Smith and Andy Higginbottom as well as Tony Norfield and other folks involved in the study/discussion group.

So much of the left in the imperialist world downplays the question of imperialism or reduces it to military invasions such as the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan etc.  The political economy of imperialism, including the role it plays in shaping the material position, experience and political consciousness of workers in the First World often tends to be overlooked or even denied.

David Harvey Denies Imperialism
by John Smith
January 10, 2018
 
Realities on the Ground: David Harvey replies to John Smith
by David Harvey
February 5, 2018
 
Imperialist Realities vs. the Myths of David Harvey
by John Smith
March 19, 2018
 
Dissolving Empire: David Harvey, John Smith, and the Migrant
by Adam Mayer
April 10, 2018
 
Towards a Broader Theory of Imperialism
by Patrick Bond
April 18, 2018
 
Is Imperialism Still Imperialist? A Response to Patrick Bond 
by Walter Daum 
May 16, 2018
 
A Self-Enriching Pact: Imperialism and the Global South
by Andy Higginbottom
June 19, 2018

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

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…)