downloadby Tony Norfield

Although it is the world’s major power, the US has found it difficult to impose its will in the past decade or so. From President Bush’s ‘mission accomplished’ speech about Iraq in 2003, to the continuing disasters in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, from US policy in Ukraine also being upset by Russian intervention in Crimea, to how the Saudis and other Gulf states have destabilised the Middle East, the US has not been getting its own way and has been unable to impose settlements that would otherwise be expected of a hegemonic power. This puts the incoming US administration under The Donald in an interesting position.

Early signs suggest that POTUS-elect Trump is taking a softer line on Russia, one different from the still Cold War-inspired position of the Obama regime. Trump has stated that he expects the Europeans to pay more for their own NATO-related defence, which might make them less willing to finance an increased build-up of military operations close to Russia’s borders. Trump has also rejected Obama’s rhetoric on Putin’s supposed involvement in Russia’s alleged cyber attack on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Perhaps most striking of all, Trump plans to appoint Rex Tillerson as US Secretary of State, that is to be the main person in charge of foreign policy. Tillerson is Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, and is well known to have friendly relationships with the Russian government.

ExxonMobil opposed sanctions on Russia from its own business perspective, but one would have to agree that the aggression shown to Russia by the current US administration makes little economic or political sense. Russia is far from being a threat to US interests. Instead, Russia may have Read the rest of this entry »

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A little light reading:

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

Capital and the state

State companies, capital and the left

State intervention: a handout to capital

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 

Value, price and the ‘transformation problem’ in Marx’s Capital

The ‘transformation problem’ and Marx’s crisis theory

by Daphna Whitmore

While holidaying in Mexico I took a side trip to Cuba last week. Here are just some initial impressions.

The first impression getting a taxi from the airport was that the roads were good and the buildings looked adequate, but  nothing very new looking. Once we got to old Havana where we were staying the run down state of the historic area was very evident.  Closer to the centre of the old city there was a lot of really good restoration going on. Possibly 20% of the old buildings have been restored and look amazing.

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Old Havana is very rundown but restoration is underway

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The people were great, and the music was stunning. Really fantasticmusicians playing on the streets and in the cafes and bars. What talent. It struck me as rather like New Orleans where a whole city is dedicated to music.

The food was either not good, or extremely good. The food was more Spanish style than in Mexico, which makes sense as Cuba’s indigenous population was wiped out rapidly after colonisation. There was also a bit of Caribbean influence in the cuisine. Our hotel was grotty and overpriced. Generally it wasn’t expensive to eat, drink and get about (though we mostly walked).

Cuba is clearly a poor country, but the people look healthy, and the positive aspects of the revolution such as universal education, and excellent health system and a lack of disparity were evident.

The tourism industry has grown enormously and Read the rest of this entry »

web-david-friedman_art_fullby Tony Greenstein

If you listen to the pro-Israel lobby group J-Street, which was formed in 2007 as a more ‘liberal’ alternative to the pro-Likud American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other liberal mainstream Zionists, then the nomination of bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, as the new US ambassador to Israel marks the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.

Friedman is on record as calling J-Street ‘worse than kapos’. In an article for the settler news agency Arutz Sheva,1 he responded to criticism by a liberal Zionist, Peter Beinart, by asking rhetorically: ‘are J-Street supporters really as bad as kapos?’ The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.’

In the same op-ed, Friedman spoke of “how dangerous the Jewish left is to the State of Israel”, describing them as “the lost souls who blame Israel for not making a suicidal ‘peace’ with hateful radical Islamists hell bent on Israel’s destruction.” Bear in mind that what Friedman terms “the Jewish left” is not what most people would consider as being on the left.

The term ‘kapos’ is a favourite insult of Zionists. It used to be reserved for Jewish anti-Zionists but is now increasingly used against liberal Zionists. Anyone who is not an out-and-out racist or Jewish supremacist is in danger of being accused of being a ‘kapos’. The kapos, for those unfamiliar with the term, were prisoners in the Nazi extermination or concentration camps who were made trustees or foremen. In return for a little more food or favourable treatment, they were expected to supervise other inmates, and some of them, not all, developed a reputation for cruelty. If they didn’t beat others, they were beaten instead.

The Zionist use of the term ‘kapos’ is somewhat ironic since Zionism was a movement that voluntarily co-operated and collaborated with the Nazis. The kapos Read the rest of this entry »

downloadThe paper below was written over 40 years ago.  It comes from a particularly rich time in the retrieval of Marx’s revolutionary critique of capital/ism.  The paper grew out of discussions and debates on the Marxist left in Britain and within the Conference of Socialist Economists but first appeared in this form in Revolutionary Communist #3/4 (1975).  This was a Marxist theoretical journal which, while produced by a new and very small group the Revolutionary Communist Group), one that had recently come out of the International Socialists organisation in Britain, had an influence far out of proportion to the size of the RCG.  That same issue of RC contained another meaty paper which examined the end of the postwar boom and the forms taken by the new economic crisis – a model of how the tools of Marxism can be deployed to examine what appears at the surface (the forms that crises take and how ideological responses arise on the basis of these appearances and how what is really going on at the core of the system can be/is quite different).  That paper also examined the inadequate theoretical and thus practical responses of most of the British left and suggested an alternative.  The version we are putting up here is taken from the transcription by the RCG that appears on the Marxists Internet Archive, here.

 

by Peter Howell

Introduction

In his Budget speech of April, 1975, Mr Denis Healey, echoing the sentiments of his ‘Right Honourable friend’, Mr Wedgwood Benn, announced measures which, hopefully, would reverse the process of ‘deindustrialisation’ which Britain has been experiencing in recent years. Mr Benn, of course, has made it clear that he has found particularly worrying the recent trend towards an absolute decline in the number of people employed in manufacturing. He has even warned – with a distinctly Smithian touch – that the more our manufacturing population contracts, the greater will be the gulf between what we can physicallyproduce and the minimum amount needed to pay our way as a great trading nation. If the Government is to maintain a competitive and profitable manufacturing sector, it must aim at nothing less than the preservation of our ‘industrial base’.[2]

Sharing Benn’s concern, if not his prescriptions, Sir Keith Joseph has also called for measures which would restore vitality to our dwindling industrial base, even at the expense of the unproductive sector which is, after all, ‘wealth-consuming’ rather than ‘wealth-creating’. How lamentable that we should live in a society in which so many live off the ‘surplus’ created by so few. Rather, we should strive towards an economy of solid worth, founded upon manufacturing, manned by proletarians and headed by the entrepreneur, that ‘rare type of person, relatively, compared to your wage and salary-earner’. Above all, what we require in Britain now is a thorough-going bourgeois revolution out of which will emerge a sturdy bourgeoisie, unencumbered by ‘feudal’ fetters. Britain, alas has ‘never had a capitalist ruling class or a stable haute bourgeoisie….The great feudal families, together with the landed gentry, court, church and legal profession set their stamp so firmly on post-medieval British society that the merchant classes sought acceptance rather than challenging it, as they did in France….The tradition was too strong for the industrial revolution to shake, though the middle classes tried, in mid-Victorian days….You may remember Marx’s complaint that feudal-oriented opponents of nascent capitalism dressed up as socialists. He was concerned that they should be clearly differentiated from the real product.’[3]

Replying to the Trade and Industry article, Samuel Brittan, writing in the Financial Times, lashed out at Benn for his ‘physiocratic’ distaste for ‘non-productive’ labour, for failing to consider the rise in industrial productivity which accompanied the drop in manufacturing employment and for not recognising that the shift from manufacturing to services is perfectly ‘normal’ in a modern economy.[4] In a similar vein, although with different intentions, Labour MPs George Rodgers and Ivor Clemitson have argued that the decline in the numbers employed in manufacturing is an economic fact of life which we should learn to accept, and even welcome. What we should be doing, therefore, is ‘diverting more people into areas of public service – public transport, teaching, the health service, the social services, and so on down a long list….Our Socialist forefathers would have welcomed the chance which faces us. Why do we not grab it with both hands?’[5]

Thus Benn is taken to task for upholding a work ethic suited more to the first Industrial Revolution than 20th century social democracy, while those such as Rodgers and Clemitson are castigated by Sir Keith for concealing a feudal intent behind socialist garb.

For those of us with more than just a passing interest in the course taken by bourgeois society, it comes as no surprise to find the ruling classes of this country again bringing to life an ever-recurrent theme of classical political economy – the distinction between productive and unproductive labour. In its decay, as in its infancy, capital seems intent on throwing up directly economic questions which shed special light on the condition not only of bourgeois society in general, but of British capital in particular. That the dwarfs of today should uphold the giants of the past is the prerogative of a ruling class in decay. For our part, we may take comfort in the realisation that as the history of British capital assumes its farcical dimension the end, of rather a new beginning, is surely in sight.

When Sir Keith calls for the consummation of the bourgeois revolution he is more than just an ideological stuntman. His aim is to divide the working-class- into the ‘wealth-producers’ and the ‘wealth-consumer’ – if only as a prelude to an attack on them all. Accordingly, it is the purpose of this paper to reaffirm the original intention behind Marx’s formulation of the concepts productive and unproductive labour, at both the level of theory and political struggle, so that we might isolate all the more easily the really parasitic element in our society, the ‘entrepreneur’, a very rare specimen indeed. This is made all the more necessary in the light of recent attempts to abandon altogether many of the basic categories developed by Marx, in the misguided belief that their use can only serve to confound a working class already divided and confused. Far from sowing the seeds of disunity, the categories of Marx’s Capital, if properly considered and used, will enable us to Read the rest of this entry »

download-1This is a translation of an article in issue 177, July–August 2016, of Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle), the magazine of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), a significant revolutionary Marxist organisation in France.  We have taken it from the site of LO’s co-thinkers in the United States, here.  While the original article naturally uses mainly French examples, this is a discussion which is going on in New Zealand at present and that anti-capitalists need to think carefully about.

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of debate about two ideas that appear similar but, in reality, are miles apart: “guaranteed income” and “universal basic wage.” The first is defended not only by left-wing or ecology activists, but also by self-proclaimed reactionaries. The second, seemingly closer to Marxism, stems from the works of Bernard Friot, a sociologist and member of the French Communist Party (PCF).

downloadFriot’s thesis is quite popular among young people and the various milieus that make up the Nuit debout movement (Up All Night, similar to the Occupy Movement in the U.S.). It may appear more attractive at first glance than the other proposals – but it is not, as we will see, any more revolutionary than the others. They are all stamped with a political ideology that is the complete opposite of ours.

“Universal Income” and its Various Forms

A referendum held in Switzerland on June 5, 2016, put the idea of “guaranteed income” in the spotlight. The question was whether the State would pay the entire population a fixed sum of 2,260 euros per month for adults and €565 for children, from birth to death, working or not. The project, called “unconditional basic income” in Switzerland, was rejected by the majority of Swiss voters. But there was much talk about this idea, which has been promoted for many years by a number of very diverse political currents.

In France, the French Senate set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the usefulness and possible forms that a basic income might have. During the Read the rest of this entry »

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by Andrew Welch

Xmas.

Quite revolting really.

We really are well and truly sucked into a quite revolting and alienating dubious tradition.

What is draining is seeing a mall full of people desperately fulfilling the implicit expectations of an officially-dictated happy season when same system doesn’t give the steam off a turd about suffering for the rest of the year.

Our fake traditions are retail or war mongering or sycophantic celebrity worship.  This is all symptomatic of abdicating control elsewhere.

Our culture is sanitised of worthy traditions and drowned in mindless consumerism.

Fake politics and fake democracy wrapped up in Xmas cheer.

The stress and loneliness and awful expectations of a hollow retail existence made even worse by the end of a year with no other certainty for many than a Read the rest of this entry »