Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (79)

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 79th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

We now have 1426 friends!

Recent blogs:

  • Let’s make a real socialist revolution
  • What is Poverty?
  • The problem that never went away
  • Coming Events:

    Saturday 10 January, 6pm


    Speaker: Jim Lawrie

    Socialist Party Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North)

    Tuesday 20 January, 8pm


    Chiswick Town Hall, Heathfield Terrace, W4.(nearest tube: Chiswick Park)

    Wednesday 21 January, 8.30pm


    Speaker: Vic Vanni

    Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow.

    Saturday 24 January, 3pm to 5pm.


    Yes: Hillel Ticktin, editor of Critique; No: Adam Buick, Socialist Party.

    Hillhead Public Library, Byres Road, Glasgow. (next to Hillhead subway)

    Saturday 24 January, 12 noon to 4pm


    12pm informal chat, 1pm meal, 2pm to 4pm Discussion

    The Conservertory, back room of Rosary Tavern, Rosary Road, Norwich.

    Monday 26 January, 8.30pm


    Unicorn, Church Street, Manchester City Centre.

    Saturday 31 January, 6pm


    Socialist Party Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4.

    Quote for the week:

    "The first duty of society is to give each of its members the possibility of fulfilling his destiny. When it becomes incapable of performing this duty it must be transformed." Alexis Carrel (1873 - 1944), Reflections on Life, 1965.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Saturday, December 27, 2008

    Pieces Together (2008)

    From the December 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

    "Once it was the Greeks who commanded the best boats. Aristotle Onasis's yacht, Christina O, hosted Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Eva Peron and Sir Winston Churchill who were all photographed on board. Then the Arabs became involved. Ten years ago, Diana, Princess of Wales, was photographed sunbathing on Mohamed Al Fayed's yacht the weekend before she died. But in the past five years the Russians have turned it into a different league. Your bog-standard superyacht now costs between £40 and £70 million depending on the interior specification. The running costs tend to be about £5 million a year for the bigger vessels." (London Times, 23 October)
    "If it was not evident already how much developers in Dubai value the input of a celebrity name, the news that Kylie Minogue is to be paid about $4.4 million (£2.8 million) to officially open the $1.5 billion Atlantis Hotel on November 20 should silence any doubters. The Australian singer's first performance in the Middle East will be part of a $35 million extravaganza billed as the most expensive party yet held - the fireworks alone are to cost $6.8 million. But why bother with such expenditure? The Atlantis has already attracted huge publicity over its £13,000 a night suites." (London Times, 31 October)
    "Bruce Springsteen wants to make sure one bank remains solvent: the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. The singer will appear in a newspaper ad for the state's largest food bank that says: ‘We Can't Let This Bank Fail!’ Springsteen has been a supporter of the food bank for 23 years, often donating proceeds from concerts or encouraging fans to bring food donations to his shows. This is the first time he's lent his image to the anti-hunger campaign. The Community Food Bank says the economy has resulted in a 30 percent increase in those needing food and could lead it to ration supplies for the first time in its 26-year history. The food bank assists charities serving a half-million people each year." (Yahoo News, 11 November)
    "Families are flooding homeless shelters across the United States in numbers not seen for years, camping out in motels or staying with friends and relatives, homeless advocates say. ‘There are lots of families haemorrhaging into homelessness and we need to figure out how to put a tourniquet on the haemorrhaging,’ Philip Mangano, the homelessness czar appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, told Reuters. There is little time to waste. The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 14-year high and more job losses are forecast, while the Mortgage Bankers Association says nearly 1.5 million homes are in the process of foreclosure." (Reuters, 12 November)
    "Millions of elderly people will heat just one room in their homes this winter to cut down on soaring heat bills. Research by the charity Help the Aged found that 4.5 million people planned to live in one room in the coldest months. Many would stay in bed longer to keep warm, the charity found. A spokesman said: ‘It is a scandal that in a civilised society we are behaving in this way.’ Energy bills have risen by about 30 per cent this year." (London Times, 10 November)

    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    Is the World Slump Over Yet? (1994)

    From the August 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

    The Great Reckoning by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg (Pan, London, 1994 £7.99), subtitled "How the World Will Change Before 2000", aims to be prophetic. It foresees rocketing taxes, worldwide stock market crashes, a further fall in the property market, a collapse of the welfare state, social disintegration writ large, petty nationalist squabbles and terrorism.

    The odd thing is that its authors are both gung-ho supporters of the very system - capitalism - that is capable of unleashing such horror, and find no contradiction in their position. They view the economic basis of capitalism as being fundamentally unstable, yet their advice is only to those already wealthy enough to be able to use their capital to their own advantage in the coming economic crunch. No talk of revolution here.

    Nevertheless, The Great Reckoning is a fairly sophisticated book, which is unusual for one that prophecies a Doomsday scenario. Central to its analysis is its prediction of a 1930s-style economic crisis from which other dangers will follow. Davidson and Rees-Mogg claim that there are two main reasons why the world capitalist economy is in for a major period of slump. One is taken from the Austrian Physicist Cesare Marchetti who has spent time analysing the penetration of innovations and products in the capitalist economy. Marchetti dispenses with price-analysis and deals only in physical quantities, claiming that the penetration of commodities into markets can be equated with the spread of living species. He has, for instance, argued that the growth and spread of motor-cars into Western Europe can be explained by the same logistic equation that describes the penetration of, say, rabbits into Australia. Ten years ago Marchetti claimed that most of the markets that provided the spur for the post-war economic boom, like motor-cars, had become saturated. This, he reasoned, would mean economic slowdown.

    Economic Slowdown
    Marchetti's argument doesn't fully take into account that technological innovation is itself a spur to capitalist growth and that the "old" industries are forever being replaced by new ones - and continue to be so. If capitalism is true to its development so far, the industries supposedly at the point of market saturation today will be heard of only in history books in the future. It should also be noted that devices exist - from proverbially "reinventing the wheel" to built-in obsolescence - which ensure that the long-term growth in cars, televisions and many other lines of production continue apace. There used to be near-physical market saturation for black-and-white TVs, but did that stop growth in the market for television? - Hitachi, Sony and Ferguson are testament to the fact that it did not. The manufacturers replaced black-and-white with colour, then brought out VCRs, then replaced colour mono with colour stereo, then stereo with surround-sound. Market saturation disappeared in a flurry of pound notes and dollar bills.

    In truth Davidson and Rees-Mogg have a far better argument than Marachetti's to justify their view of the major world economic slowdown. Their second, more plausible view, is that capitalism is currently drowning in an ocean of debt:
    Debt cannot go on compounding faster than output forever. At the rate it expanded in the United States in the 1980s, interest payments would consume 100 per cent of GNP by the year 2015. No such thing will happen. Long before debt reaches that extreme, it will be wiped away...One way or other we expect a great reckoning. A settling of accounts. We expect the long economic boom and credit expansion that began with World War II to come to an end. The end, when it comes, will not only reveal the insolvency of many individuals and corporations, it may also bring bankruptcy to the welfare state and breakdown of authority within political economies.
    There is more than a grain of truth in this. In many world economies, debt is compunding at a faster rate than income and total world indebtedness, by every yardstick that can be named, was heavier at the start of the present slump than at the beginning of any other. In the United States alone the rate of debt to national GNP is now 195 percent, compared with 120 percent before the 1929 crash.

    History has demonstarted that sustainable recoveries only begin when a considerable of debt built-up during the boom has been liquidated. If debt liquidation is insufficient, growth will remain sluggish even when "recovery" has supposedly begun, such as at present. Davidson and Rees-Mogg estimate that the amount of debt still to be liquidated during this slump in the US is three to four trillion dollars-worth.

    The extension of credit effectively delays the onset of capitalism's periodic economic crises only to make them worse when they finally occur. In all economic booms some industries over-extend their operations in the pursuit of further profits and find that they have overproduced for their particular markets. A case in point in the present slump was the commercial property sector.

    Perilous Situation
    While some industries get into difficulties, other sections of the owning class find that their profits are increasing. The banks, acting as intermediaries between the buyers and sellers of money capital, lend out their accumulated capital to the enterprises in difficulty to keep them going. But this cannot generally correct the fundamental disproportion in growth between the industries and uneven expansion in relation to market demand. Through knock-on effects in industry overproduction spreads and the demand for money capital rises, pushing interest rates up. In this way, the mechanisms of credit extension in the capitalist economy papers over the underlying weaknesses in the productive sphere and buys firms some breathing space before the crisis comes - and this usually comes when the demand for credit is highest and interest rates are at their peak. However, the ultimate outstanding debt increases through this process, requiring a much greater "correction" in the slump as capital assets are devalued to bring productive capacity back into line. The result is not merely an industrial slump, but a financial, banking and property crash as well, as in the 1930s.

    Davidson and Rees-Mogg see this as the present outlook for world capitalism. Mounting corporate, government and personal debt has placed the world economy into its most parlous situation for decades. They are all too aware that the only way out for capitalism, sooner or later, is a financial reckoning which will bring about a growth in poverty, a reduction in social welfare programmes and possibly more armed conflict between nation states.

    Their analysis of the situation ends there. There is no prescription for how the slump can be avoided - we must just let it wash over us. The authors are completely blind to how the world might be organised to avoid financial slumps, without the market mechanisms which causes them in the first place. They dismiss the Soviet Union's model of capitalist planning out of hand, as well they might, but in doing so claim that this proves socialism to be an impossible dream. Particularly crass is a chapter on the fall of the Eastern Bloc - which socialists predicted - containing the assertion that this demonstrates the failure of Marxism. Indeed, some of the comments in this chapter, like the assertion on page 188 that workers exploit capitalists rather than the other way around, defy rational analysis and are completely at variance with the otherwise coherent account presented. But, of course, the likes of Davidson and Rees-Mogg want workers to think that there really is no alternative to capitalism, however bad it may be, and that, despite everything, workers still get a good deal out of the system. Unluckily for them some of us know different.
    Dave Perrin

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (78)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 78th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1425 friends!

    Recent blogs:

  • Cold charity
  • Who are "we"?
  • The struggle for democracy
  • Quote for the week:

    That time of the year is almost on us

    When department stores will cheat and con us,

    Trying to steal our money from us.

    So you'd better watch out because

    There's a fat old jolly bloke

    With the long white beard and the bright red cloak,

    Who'll do his best to send us broke?

    It's Santa Bloody Claus.

    Eric Bogle, Santa Bloody Claus.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    Manufactured scarcity (2008)

    Book Review from the December 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Green Capitalism. Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance. By James Heartfield. .2008

    James Heartfield is associated with the former Trotskyist (British) Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) which used to publish Living Marxism (LM) and has moved on considerably since “the collapse of Communism” at the end of the 1980's and the dissolution of the formal RCP organisation in 1997. These days the so-called “LM network” produces the edgy website and organises debates and events under the auspices of the Institute of Ideas and a myriad of propaganda campaigns expedited largely through a robust, sometimes entertaining, and not ineffective style of media entryism.

    One area this current has been particularly interested in over the last two decades is in promoting a full-on critique of the reactionary imperatives of the politics of “Environmentalism”. In Green Capitalism James Heartfield reminds us that the profit system is essentially a system of rationing, which is now, in certain circles and in a variety of ways, being dressed up as “greenwashing” by Big Business and Governments – as the contemporary ruling elites reinvent scarcity in an age of abundance.

    Heartfield rightly presents the capitalist mode of production as an epoch in which the force of human ingenuity has sought to ameliorate the exigencies of life through technical breakthrough with the result that happiness is the condition for most of us in Western societies. I do, however, take issue with the notion that one out of any of the 300 workers at the Lombe silk works on the Derwent in 1721 or the 5000 wage slaves at Arkwright's Mill in Cromford in 1771 woke up for work every day with a sense of unmitigated joy. Whilst those long deceased exploited workers are no longer “variable Capital”, my modern-day neighbours don't seem to enthuse much about the conditions of their means of living whilst having a sup on a Friday night in the local pub, either. Nevertheless, the material gains we have made in the interim between the first factories and 21st century capitalism are impressive.

    In a summation of capitalist economics Heartfield tackles the neo-classical economists and suggests they were in effect “Rationers by Trade“ (my phrase not his) but you get the point. Notwithstanding that, the book opens with a great sense of optimism and opines succinctly upon the gains made by the working class under capitalism. The author explains carefully the concomitant progressive and destructive forces at play within the profit system and hints at transcending towards a more rational form of society founded upon technological progress.

    This work sets out to show how modern Environmentalism came about as a consequence of ruling elites ideas about scarcity. Heartfield‘s argument is that, in Western society, the myth of the “fragile” planet emerged as a consequence of the retreat from production in the original heartlands of industrial capitalism.

    Much of the Green Capitalism provides an excellent exposition of the fools' errand of “Environmentalism” and the levers of power behind that aspect of the moribund profit system. Meanwhile, at times the prose is poor and plodding, and some of the referencing is both points-scoring and unnecessary to make the more essential issue clear. Do we really need to be lectured about Trotsky's ideas on production? Some of this stuff would leave the general reader all at sea in very short order. Whilst a final extraordinary point is clearly made: the world population grew from 791 million in 1750 to 5.9 billion in 1999, as a consequence of advances in agriculture, transport, sanitation, industry. Many of that number exist at the level of subsistence – and it should not be that way! So, from an editorial perspective the narrative simply peters out – a bang and a whimper! Where is the alternative?

    Notwithstanding that, this book has much to recommend it, not least for cocking a timely snook at both the modern-day misanthropes who see mankind as a plague upon the planet and the long-dead 'dismal scientists' of neo-classical economics who could not comprehend a theory of productive growth through collective endeavour. Heartfield puts a well aimed, populist boot into the modern-day Green Capitalists – Branson, Goldsmith, Charles Windsor, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Lord (Peter) Melchett, and makes reasoned argument that Western Capitalism has got to go Green for the sake of exploiting new sources of profit.

    There is an argument that modern socialists need to take on the Green catastrophists and promote technology and real democracy to face down the spectre of Austerity Capitalism in the 21st Century - in order to kill the pernicious profit system once and for all.
    Andy P. Davies

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (77)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 77th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1423 friends!

    Recent blogs:

  • Co-operation
  • Banks - Who needs them?
  • 150 Years of the Communist Manifesto
  • Quote for the week:

    "The credit system has a dual character immanent in it: on the one hand it develops the motive of capitalist production, enrichment by the exploitation of other's labour, into the purest and most colossal form of gambling and swindling, and restricts ever more the already small number of exploiters of social wealth; on the other hand however it constitutes the form of transition towards a new mode of production." Marx, Capital, Volume III, Chapter 27 (1894)

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (76)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 76th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1416 friends!

    Recent blogs:

  • Booms and slumps - what causes them?
  • Capitalism, war and atrocity
  • Future al Fresco
  • Quote for the week;

    'A rise in the price of labour, as a consequence of accumulation of capital, only means, in fact, that the length and weight of the golden chain the wage-worker has already forged for himself, allow of a relaxation of the tension of it.' Marx, Capital, Volume I, Chapter 25 (1867)

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Friday, December 5, 2008

    The next capitalist frontier (2008)

    The Material World column from the December 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Over the last few centuries, one region of the planet after another has been “opened up” to capitalist plunder. Often rival capitalist powers fought over the spoils of conquest. In the 19th century they had the “scramble for Africa.” In the 21st they are scrambling to control the resources of the Arctic, which global warming and technological advance are making accessible to exploitation (Socialist Standard, September 2007).

    Once the Arctic and Antarctic are brought fully under the sway of capital, what next? Won’t that be the end of the story, the closing of the last frontier? There remains space, to be sure. But won’t the costs of extracting resources and transporting them to Earth be prohibitive? So you might think.
    In fact, the strategists of the six powers that now have active space programs – the United States, Russia, the European Union, China, India, and Japan – already have their sights on the commercial and military potential of the cosmos.

    On 22 October India launched the Chandrayaan-1 satellite, and on 11 November it entered Moon orbit. One of its main tasks is to map deposits of Helium-3 (He-3). This isotope, used together with deuterium (H-2), is the optimal fuel for nuclear fusion: in particular, it minimises radioactive emissions. It is very rare on Earth – according to one estimate, only 30 kg is available – because the solar wind that carries it is blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. The dust and rocks in the Moon’s surface layer contain millions of tonnes of the stuff.

    It has been calculated that a single shuttle flight bearing a load of 25 tonnes (currently valued at $100 billion) would meet energy demand in India for several years or in the US for one year, while three flights a year would suffice for the world (Guardian, 21 October; Tribune, 23 October).

    The main problem is extracting the He-3 as gas from the lunar soil. This requires heating the soil to a temperature of 800ºC. in furnaces or towers, using solar power. (Silicon for solar cells is also abundant on the Moon.) To collect enough gas for one load, it would be necessary to process 360,000 tonnes of soil. Nevertheless, technologically this is believed to be feasible; modern furnaces do actually process such huge quantities of material. Some specialists question whether it would be economically feasible to strip mine the Moon in this way.

    Despite uncertainties, Indian strategists hope that the Chandrayaan-1 satellite will enable India to “stake a priority claim” on He-3 resources when lunar colonization begins (SkyNews). India’s main rivals in this field appear to be the US, which has “re-energised” its Moon program and plans to establish a manned base by 2020, and also China.

    Enough for everyone?
    Given the abundant supply of He-3 relative to foreseeable demand, why should India need to compete with other space powers for preferential access? Surely there is more than enough for everyone.

    Yes, but some locations on the Moon’s surface are much better for mining than others. Finding the best locations is the main aim of satellite exploration.

    First, the nature of the terrain will obviously matter when building bases and installations, whether operated by human workers or robots. It will be a great advantage to have water (ice) available nearby.

    Second, it will be least expensive to work in areas where deposits are richest, where the smallest amount of soil has to be processed for each unit of gas extracted.

    Third, reliance on solar power for soil heating (and other purposes) puts a premium on those parts of the lunar surface which are exposed to sunlight for most of the time.

    These are also the warmest regions (by lunar standards). An example is the Shackleton Crater at the South Pole. India is especially interested in this area, and it is also here that the US wants to establish its base.

    Militarisation of the Moon?
    Certain places on the Moon are already thought of as “strategic locations.” Thus, the topography of Malapert Mountain makes it an ideal spot for a radio relay station. Near the Shackleton Crater, it enhances the strategic value of the crater area.

    Considerations of this kind will become more important in the event of the Moon’s militarisation. This may happen as a result of competition for land and resources on the Moon itself. Or it may happen simply as an extension of existing military preparations: lunar stations may serve as reserve command centres for wars on Earth.

    Even if international agreements are reached to constrain the process of militarisation and divide the lunar surface into zones belonging to the various space powers, military threats may arise from “dual use” technologies. Let us suppose, for instance, that instead of mining He-3 a space power decides to generate electricity on the Moon using solar cells and transmit it on microwave beams to a receiving station on Earth. The problem – under capitalism – is that these same beams may equally well be used as powerful weapons against Earth targets.

    There will also be potential conflict between the space powers and other countries that for one reason or another are unable to compete in this sphere. Like the club of nuclear weapons states, the space powers may constitute themselves as an exclusive club and think up a rationale for joint efforts to thwart “space power proliferation,” that is, to prevent other countries from acquiring space capabilities. The two clubs will, of course, largely overlap.

    Space programs and socialism
    It is absurd for humanity to venture into the cosmos while still divided into rival states and still dominated by primitive mechanisms like capital accumulation. Even the first people in space, almost half a century ago, could see that our planet is a single fragile system.

    A world socialist community will have to decide which elements of existing space programmes to retain and which to freeze or abandon. National programmes that are retained will be merged into global programmes, eliminating the wasteful duplication inherent in the competition among space powers. Ambitious programs of purely scientific interest may be deferred pending the solution of more urgent problems.

    Attitudes in a socialist world toward reliance on space activities may diverge quite widely. Some people may wish to enjoy the benefits of a complex high-consumption lifestyle made possible by He-3 fuel for nuclear fusion and other off-Earth technologies. Others may prefer to avoid the irreducible risks of a space-dependent strategy and solve Earth’s problems here on Earth, at least to whatever extent this proves possible.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (75)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 75th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1418 friends!

    Recent blogs:

  • Work as it is, work as it could be
  • Five benefits of not having money
  • The Keynesian myth
  • Coming Events:

    Did you enjoy your Christmas?

    Public Meeting followed by Social.Saturday 10 January, 6pm, at SPGB Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North).

    Quote for the week;

    'The few who understand the system, will either be so interested in its profits, or so dependent on its favors that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantages...will bear its burden without complaint, and perhaps without suspecting that the system is inimical to their best interests.' Rothschild Brothers of London communique to associates in New York June 25, 1863.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    The return of Karl Marx (2008)

    From the December 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

    Marx is again enjoying something of a revival. After his views on the globalising tendencies of capitalism, it is now his theory of crises that is attracting interest and being discussed in the media. Unfortunately not always accurately. For instance, in an article headlined “BANKING CRISIS GIVES ADDED CAPITAL TO MARX’S WRITINGS”, Roger Boyes, the Berlin correspondent of the (London) Times wrote (20 October):
    “Marx's new relevance relates mainly to his warning about the creation of an exploitative capitalism that ends up destroying itself: ‘An over-expansion of credit can enable the capitalist system to sell temporarily more goods than the sum of real incomes in created current production, plus past savings, could buy,’ said Ernest Mandel, the Marxist scholar, quoting his guru, ‘but in the long run, debts must be paid’. Since these debts cannot be automatically paid through expanded output and income, capitalism is destined for a ‘Krach’ - Marx's word for a crash.”
    If the suggestion is here, as it seems to be, that it was Marx’s view that capitalism will end up destroying itself in one big Krach, then it is wrong as Marx never argued that there was some flaw in the economic or financial mechanism of capitalism that would lead to it collapsing for purely economic reasons. In his view, as expressed in the last-but-one chapter of Capital on “The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation”, capitalism would come to an end by the working class becoming more and more organised and eventually expropriating the expropriators and ushering in a society based on “co-operation and the possession in common of the land and the means of production produced by labour itself”. In the meantime capitalism would continue being subjected to an ever-repeating cycle of boom and slump, with each boom ending in a Krach which would eventually create the conditions for a recovery of production and the next boom . . . and the next Krach.
    The following day the (London) Times2 section of the paper had a full-page photo of Marx on its front page saying “He’s back. Does the financial crisis prove that Karl Marx was right all along?”. The main article, by a Philip Collins, was just silly, but some of those asked to comment did have something sensible to say, in particular Mick Hume (introduced as “The Times’s libertarian Marxist columnist, launched and edited Living Marxism magazine 20 years ago” who said on this issue:
    “Marx was right to identify and analyse the tendency towards crises within capitalism, but he did not predict the system's ‘inevitable’ collapse. Today too many people who have never read or understood Marx are trying to turn him into an anti-capitalist Nostradamus who supposedly predicted it all, a soothsayer rather than revolutionary social scientist. Marx always emphasised that the resolution of a crisis would ultimately depend on political factors: that man makes his own history, although not in circumstances of his own choosing.”
    Hume has come a long way since, as the Trotskyist editor of what we used to call Dead Leninism, he advocated that workers should follow a vanguard party.
    One of the others asked to comment was the Labour MP John McDonnell who proposed that “Das Kapital and Wages, Prices and Profit should be issued to all government ministers as the definitive guides to the causes of capitalism in crisis”. He also recommended a book by Ernest Mandel and another by David Miliband’s father who considered himself a Marxist. If he re-reads Wages, Prices and Profit himself he will see that Marx urges workers to adopt the revolutionary watchword “Abolition of the Wages System”, which is the last thing the party he represents in Parliament wants.
    Mandel was in fact writing above only about credit crises, not economic crises. And he wasn’t quoting from his “guru”. The passage Boyes quotes is not from Marx but from Mandel (see Mandel, who died in 1995 was another Trotskyist, the leader for many years of one of the many “Fourth Internationals”, did, despite this, have a grasp of Marxian economics (at least, as applied to the West since he mistakenly thought Russia wasn’t capitalist). Even so, it is not clear that Marx would have expressed himself in the same terms. For instance, credit - if it is genuinely credit and not just the issue of more paper currency by the central bank - can’t exceed “past savings” plus savings from “real incomes created in current production” since these are precisely the source of any credit, i.e. of the money that is loaned.
    Of course debts do have to be repaid and if for some reason (such as overproduction in relation to the market for some key product) they can’t be, the banks and other financial institutions will be in trouble and a financial Krach or, as we say nowadays, a credit crunch will result. Marx wrote quite a bit about these and, to give Boyes his due, he recognises this even mentioning the articles Marx wrote in the New York Daily Tribune in 1857 on “The Financial Crisis in Europe” of that year.
    But then he goes on:
    “In the manifesto, published in 1848, he lists the ten essential steps to communism. Step five was ‘Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state . . .”
    It is true that one of the ten immediate measures, listed at the end of section two of the Communist Manifesto, that the Communist League of Germany advocated should be taken if political power in Germany was to fall into the hands of the working class in the course of the anti-feudal and anti-dynastic revolutions of 1848, did include
    “Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly”.
    But there was no chance of the working class gaining control of political power at that time, as Marx and Engels later came to realise. In their preface to the first reprint of the pamphlet in 1872 they wrote that “no special stress should be laid” on the ten proposed measures which had “in some details become antiquated”. So to describe them today, in 2008 over a 150 years later, as “the essential” “steps to communism” is absurd.
    No doubt the working class, when it does come to win control of political power, will have to have drawn up a programme of immediate measures, but they won’t include setting up a single State Bank as, given the development of the forces of production, society can now move straight to socialism (or communism, the same thing) where there will be no need for banks as there will be no need for money. What the manifesto elsewhere called “the Communistic abolition of buying and selling” can now be achieved immediately.
    Adam Buick

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Poles Apart? Climate Change, Capitalism or Socialism?

    Filmed forum featuring Glenn Morris of 'Arctic Voice' and Brian Gardner of The Socialist Party. The forum was held at Conway Hall in Central London and dates from April 5th 2008.

    Part 1: Poles Apart? Climate Change, Capitalism or Socialism?

  • Part 2:
  • Part 3:
  • Part 4:
  • Part 5:
  • Part 6:
  • Part 7:
  • Part 8:
  • Part 9:
  • Part 10:
  • Part 11:
  • Part 12:
  • Part 13:
  • Part 14:
  • How to lose friends and alienate people (2008)

    Editorial from the December 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard
    It would be hard to devise a scenario more likely to set the UK media drooling than the storyline that developed during late October. A couple of indiscreet politicians and an aristocrat enjoying the hospitality of a Russian oligarch's superyacht moored off Corfu is not newsworthy in itself of course.
    What really attracted the attention of the media was the Tory shadow chancellor (George Osborne) and his indiscreet breach of the code of honour of his old upper-class binge-drinking club, and particularly his friend Nathaniel Rothschild, - who's guest he was - and who is also apparently worth a bob or two.
    Osborne made the mistake of gossiping about a conversation he had on board with Peter Mandelson. At the time he was messing around in boats this summer he was an EU Commissioner for Trade but has since returned as a peer to Labour (previously known as New Labour), after various spells as the “architect” of New Labour (previously known as Labour).
    If you're feeling confused, don't worry - what is of interest to socialists is how the whole episode has lifted a grubby stone to uncover many examples of the shenanigans of our ruling class. For example, one person in the vicinity was Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elizabeth who had her own boat nearby and was spending a week in the Mediterranean just to plan her 40th birthday celebrations. ( If that’s how long the planning takes, what were the actual celebrations like?).
    Anyway, upset that his mates were bitching about each other only a few weeks after the yacht-party, Rothschild dropped Osborne right in it by accusing him of soliciting funds for the Tories, from the yacht owner. His name is Oleg Deripaska and he actually comes over better than most in this episode, despite being alleged to be a thug who has effectively extorted billions of roubles out of the state-owned industry through close involvement with the Russian mafia. This is of course outrageous, but if we are being consistent, it is pretty much how most of today’s capitalist class got their wealth, whether a few centuries or a few generations earlier.
    This story of thieves falling out in the playgrounds of the rich sheds a little light on how our increasingly inter-connected economic and political upper-class spend their money and time (what Peter Mandelson might term “serious relaxing”). But all parties to this grubby exchange – the economic sugar-daddies and their political lapdogs – appear to have now conveniently agreed to call a truce rather than risk damaging their collective reputation.
    Discretion in their discussions with each other obviously counts for more than transparency and accountability to the rest of us who actually create the wealth they go to such lengths to consume. Entering a period of rising unemployment and re-possessions is probably not the best time for the “have-yachts” to rub our noses in the details of the marvellous parties they always seem to be throwing for each other.
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