The PFLP released the following statement on November 26:


The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine extends its condolences to the Cuban people, the Palestinian people and the revolutionary movements of the world upon the loss of the former prime minister and president of Cuba and the historic international revolutionary leader, Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, on Friday, November 25, 2016.

castro-habashCastro’s internationalist revolutionary commitment to fighting imperialism and capitalism – manifest in the revolutionary victory against US imperialism and its puppet Batista regime in the 1959 Cuban revolution – consistently stood with the oppressed peoples of the world in their confrontation of imperialism, Zionism, racism and capitalism. Throughout his life, Fidel was a supporter and an example of revolutionary struggle in Read the rest of this entry »

60172François Chesnais, Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump, Brill, Leiden, 2016; reviewed by Tony Norfield

This book is well worth reading. It is written in a clear and accessible style and discusses key points about the limitations of capitalism and the role of contemporary finance. Perhaps its most important point is how the financial system has accumulated vast claims on the current and future output of the world economy – in the form of interest payments on loans and bonds, dividend payments on equities, etc. These claims have outgrown the ability of the capitalist system to meet them, but government policy has so far managed to prevent a collapse of financial markets with zero interest rate policies, quantitative easing, huge deficits in government spending over taxation, and so forth. The result is an unresolved crisis, a ‘lasting global slump’, in which economic growth remains very weak and vast debts remain in place.

There are two related points in his approach to the world economy and finance that distinguish Chesnais from many other writers, and for which he deserves to be commended. Firstly, he states clearly that we are in a crisis of capitalism tout court (pp1-2), not a crisis of ‘financialised’ capitalism – the latter being one that could presumably be fixed if only the evil financiers were dealt with by a (capitalist) reforming government. Secondly, he takes ‘the world economy as the point of departure’ for his analysis, although that is ‘easier said than done’ (p11). While he shows the central role of the US, he avoids the wholly US-centred analysis common to radical critics of contemporary capitalism, and instead highlights how the other powers also play a key part in the imperial machine.

Finance Capital Today helps the reader’s understanding of the realities of contemporary global capitalism by Read the rest of this entry »

51oeo6tryl-_sx329_bo1204203200_The Imperialism study group has been discussing John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. We have been fortunate to have the author join the group and lead the discussion. Below are two email discussions on the labour aristocracy from John Smith and Walter Daum.

John Smith on labour aristocracy

Guglielmo Carchedi, Behind the Crisis (2012), p262:

“Some authors see a contraposition between the notion of labour-aristocracy as an internal segmentation within the imperialist countries (for example, unionised versus non-unionised workers, as stressed by Engels) and a different notion stressing, as in Lenin, that in a way all workers in the imperialist countries benefit from the appropriation of international value. But there is no contraposition between the two theses, once it is realised that it is not those firms that appropriate international surplus-value that pay higher wages than other firms. They simply realise higher profits. Rather, the policy of higher wages is pursued by the states in the imperialist countries which appropriate (part of) that international surplus-value from those firms (for example, through taxation) and pursue pro-labour economic policies, as for example more favourable labour- (and wage-) legislation or infrastructures. Thus, it is the whole of the working class in the imperialist countries that profits from the appropriation of international surplus-value and not only privileged and relatively small sections of it. At the same time, it is also true that labour in the imperialist countries profits in various degrees from the appropriation of international surplus-value according to each imperialist country’s class-segmentation and differently in various phases of the cycle.”

This contains some very interesting insights. Among the many discussion points here, the most important concerns the role of the state. In defending my book against the arguments of Sartesian and others, I pointed out that, despite the anti-labour offensive and attempts to roll back the state characteristic of the neoliberal era, despite the austerity regimes since the 2008 that have attempted to intensify these attacks, and despite the big holes made in the welfare state and the impoverishment and destitution of a minority, so far, of workers in the imperialist countries, Government spending on health, education & transfer payments (pensions, unemployment pay etc) rose from around 25% in 1980 to 35% in 2010 in the UK, in the US by the same degree from a lower base, while in France it has increased from 35% to 45%. Similar increases are to be observed in all other imperialist countries; data for oppressed nations is far more patchy but indicates that social expenditure consumes a much smaller fraction of a much smaller GDP. As Tony Norfield argued in The China Price and as I argued in my book, much of this social expenditure is paid for by surplus-value extracted from super-exploited Bangladeshi etc workers and appropriated by imperialist states through various types of taxes.


Bangladeshi garment workers demonstrate at the site of the Rana Plaza garment factory building collapse

At a well-attended book launch last week in Nottingham (more than 50 people attended), when I mentioned this and said that, when we hear people argue “why should we let immigrants use our health service or send their kids to ‘our’ schools,” the correct and true response should be “because they have already paid for it,” and pointed out that this is not what any section of the British left says, from Corbyn to the so-called revolutionaries – I noticed many heads in the audience nodding their agreement. Read the rest of this entry »

images-1by Michael Roberts

The annual London Historical Materialism conference is not just or even mostly about Marxist economics.  As its name suggests, the sessions are about Marxist analyses of all social phenomena.  But obviously for me, the issues in Marxist economics are what matters.  And there are two issues or themes (for me) that arose at this year’s conference.

The so-called ‘transformation problem’

They are not new and have been debated and discussed for over a hundred years.  But old issues die hard (as do older Marxists).  The first is the so-called transformation problem, namely, can Marx’s theory of labour value explain or be consistent with actual market prices in a capitalist economy?  The second is whether crises, slumps in production in the capitalist mode of production, can be explained or are caused by a problem in the production for profit (as per Marx’s law of profitability) or whether crises emerge because capital cannot ‘realise’ its production of surplus value in the market place through sales.  In other words, are capitalist crises due to insufficient surplus value or  too much surplus value that cannot be ‘realised’ in the market, i.e. ‘disproportion’ or ‘overproduction’?

This year’s HM continued yet again the debate on these issues.  On the first issue, Fred Moseley presented his new book, Money and Totality, which I have reviewed before on this blog.

In his book, Fred aims to put to bed the ‘transformation problem’.  And he succeeds.  He shows that Marx solved Ricardo’s problem: namely that market prices of individual commodities do not reflect their value measured in labour time.  The discrepancy is solved through the competition between individual capitals that leads to an equalisation of profit rates and an average rate of profit for the whole system.  Market prices fluctuate around prices of production measured in money, based on the cost of capital invested in money terms and the average rate of profit.  So capitalists start with money and invest in labour and means of production measured in market prices (which revolve around prices of production).  In the circuit of capital and the accumulation process, it is prices of production that rule, not individual labour values for commodities.  So no ‘transformation’ of values into prices is necessary.  Prices are given in money.

Moseley’s book refutes the critique of mainstream economics and what are called the ‘neo-Ricardians’ like Piero Sraffa who either say that the labour theory of value is irrelevant to Read the rest of this entry »

Fidel and Che

Fidel and Che

Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban Revolution, died on Friday, November 25.  Below is an extract from the speech made in court by Fidel Castro Ruz, during his 1953 trial, following the revolutionaries’ attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26 of that year.  

Those who survived the attack and the state tortures and murders afterwards were initially jailed.  However, they became popular heroes and the dictatorship was forced to release them.  They then established the July 26 Movement.

 In Mexico, they began training and organising and in November 1956 they sailed to Cuba on the yacht Granma to launch the revolutionary struggle that just over two years later toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.  Batista fled on Thursday, January 1, 1959 and the following Thursday the Rebel Army entered Havana and quickly began implementing the changes that had been promised in History Will Absolve Me.  

This, indeed, was one of the crucial differences between the July 26 Movement and other radical-democratic movements in Latin America and elsewhere.  Under pressure from domestic ruling classes and the imperialists, most such movements backed down – often part of these movements organised a counter-revolution.  But the July 26 Movement was determined to implement their programme of sweeping reforms and when they found that would require carrying through a socialist revolution they did not hesitate to begin abolishing capitalism. 

Rebel Army enters Havana

Rebel Army enters Havana

. . .  In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot
Read the rest of this entry »


Image  —  Posted: November 28, 2016 by Admin in Revolutionary figures

by Michael Roberts

pyramidThe top 1% of the adult wealth holders in the world own 51% of all global wealth, while the bottom half of adults own only 1%.  Indeed, the top 10% of adults own 89% of all the world’s wealth!  This is the new figure reached for 2016 by the annual Credit Suisse global wealth report.  Every year, Credit Suisse presents this report, authored by Professor Tony Shorrocks, James Davies and Rodrigo Lluberas, who used to do it for the UN.  I report on the results each year and it is usually the one of the most popular posts I write.

The last time that I discussed the Credit Suisse results, the top 1% had 48% of global wealth.  So, in the last year and a half, global inequality on this measure has risen yet again.   The shares of the top 1% and top 10% in world wealth fell between 2000 and 2007: for instance, the share of the top percentile declined from 50% to 46%. However, the trend reversed after the financial crisis and the top shares have returned to the levels observed at the start of the century.

The Credit Suisse researchers reckon these changes mainly reflect the Read the rest of this entry »