Open Letter to David Harvey: “Um, about that alternative you said you had …”

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“Revolutionary transformations cannot be accomplished without at the very minimum changing our ideas, abandoning cherished beliefs and prejudices, giving up various daily comforts and rights, submitting to some new daily life regimen, changing our social and political roles, reassigning our rights, duties and responsibilities and altering our behaviors to better conform to collective needs and a common will. The world around us – our geographies – must be radically re-shaped as must our social relations, the relation to nature and all of the other moments in the co-revolutionary process. It is understandable, to some degree, that many prefer a politics of denial to a politics of active confrontation with all of this.”

 , Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist Transition

As I was re-reading this essay by Harvey it occurred to me how full of shit the radical Keynesians are. I thought I would direct my reservations to one of the preeminent Marxists in the United States, David Harvey, who wrote of the need for an alternative to the present system almost a decade ago..

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Mandel’s strange argument on value, exchange value and prices

As I showed in the first part of this series, Marx’s argument is that the rate of profit falls because, over time, generally less labor is employed in the production of commodities. The falling rate of profit triggers a crisis during which capital attempts to restore the normal operation of the mode of production.

Among Marx’s findings: Even if an increased quantity of labor is generally employed throughout the ‘economy’, this increase in the total sum of labor is accompanied by a decrease in the labor embodied in each of the individual commodities produced. The result is that, over time, even if more value is created, it is embodied in even more use values, each of which requires less labor to be produced.

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Ernest Mandel on currency crises and the end of money

For people who care about how the dollar works to slow capitalist collapse, Ernest Mandel wrote an interesting piece in 1968, The Crisis of the International Monetary System. I found the essay both interesting and puzzling.

Why I find the essay interesting is probably obvious to anyone who reads this blog regularly. I think Marx’s view of money and associated issues is far too blithely dismissed by even those who consider themselves orthodox followers of his theory. My argument is simple: you cannot claim labor theory is legitimate and valid while arguing one of the most fundamental and critical labor theory premises of commodity production and exchange — that money itself must also be a commodity — is invalid.

(Which is to say, of course, you can hold this position, and may even be right about it, but the results of your analysis won’t be consistent with labor theory. Something has to give here.)

Before I explain why I found Mandel’s essay not only interesting but, more importantly, puzzling, I want to provide some context.

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Is there a political path to communism?

I got this question on my ask.fm:

“In a recent post you said you didn’t think there is a political path to communism. Can you elaborate on that some? What might a non-political path look like?”

The answer to this question has to begin with the basic premise of historical materialism taken from the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. “

In my reading of this statement, I can only come to the conclusion that communism as a political movement can only arise if the real movement (trajectory) of society ends in communism. To put this another way, a political path to communism is only an expression of real historical changes in the mode of production. Communist politics are nothing more than an expression in political relations of material changes in the mode of production.

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Keynes and the myth of the Reagan administration’s neoliberalism

Robert Skildelsky, biographer of John Keynes, has written an essay written an essay on the 80 year legacy of the General Theory in which he credits Keynes with inventing macroeconomic policy and for showing how government could employ means at its disposal to offset economic depressions.

For all the genius of Keynes’ General Theory, its importance has not always been acknowledged by mainstream economics. By the 1980s, according to Skidelsky, most of mainstream economics came to reject many of the ideas first proposed by Keynes, particularly his argument capitalist economies were inherently prone to chronic underutilization of both capital and labor.

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Badiou redefines communism in the 21st century

The strange case of Apple’s huge hoard of dead capital

Richard Wolff tweeted this gem last week:

Exec admits Apple evades taxes; says US laws allow it. Buffoon thinks we don’t know corps buy such laws from pols: yhoo.it/1J2AzHA

In case you been living in a cave, you’ll know Wolff is talking about Apple’s massive cash hoard. It is widely estimated that Apple is sitting on something in excess of $135 billion of capital that is presently just lying around idle. Wolff argues Apple has been able to accumulate this vast hoard of uninvested capital because tax laws are written in such a way to allow it to accumulate vast sums of profit that are not taxed.

pete-afp-cartoon-obama-plays-with-dronesA tragedy, right? Apple is sitting on billions of uninvested capital that could be paid out in food stamps, while Washington is so short of funds, it is running massive deficits just to make ends meet.

Of course, the relevant question Wolff should be trying to answer is not why this huge hoard is not taxed by Washington, but why Apple is not investing billions of essentially tax free profits to make even more tax free profits. Aren’t capitalist firms supposed to be maximizing their profits? Why is apple just sitting on the cash, rather than investing it? Continue reading “Badiou redefines communism in the 21st century”

A conversation with Phil Greaves: Neoliberalism, Communism and the State

I spent the greater part of a day having an exchange with Phil Greaves over the situation in Syria. The exchanges have been sharp and uncompromising, but very helpful to me, in the sense it has allowed me to understand a problem that can only be discussed in wider context than I have so far.

That problem is this: So far as I can figure out, neoliberalism is the crisis of the existing state, a period of its collapse. If this is true, we are looking at almost 200 states that will more or less effectively disappear over the next few decades. I have spent most of the last year watching this process unfold in Greece, but Greece is not by any means the only example of the process. Just to name a few, we have seen political crises in Egypt, Spain and Japan. We have watched the rise of a nationalist movement in Scotland and euro-skeptic movements in the UK, France, Germany, etc. Finally, we have seen ongoing US and NATO aggression in Ukraine, Venezuela, Libya and Syria. The crisis of the state is now morphed into a prolonged global political and economic crisis.

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State Harder! Jacobin’s despicable, dishonest take on the “European project”

In an laughably dishonest and unprincipled article by Cédric Durand, “The End of Europe”, Jacobin demands the Left double down on its impotence.

“Uneven and combined developmental dynamics in the European periphery highlights the need for the Left to move from a defensive fight against austerity toward a positive agenda of systemic alternatives. The Greek experiment demonstrates that, on this path, there is no other choice than breaking with neoliberal European institutions and regaining democratic sovereignty on domestic currencies.”

fc8205e257e092365e142da72c149b47Jacobin has thrown all in with those who argue the European Union, the largest free trade zone in history, is a failure. Fascist management of national economies, which emerged after the Great Depression is dying and Jacobin is not amused. Jacobin calls what is happening in Europe, the “disintegration of the European project”, when obviously we are witnessing fascism’s demise.

What is their evidence for ‘disintegration’ of the European project? Well, actually, Jacobin offers no evidence at all, but the the victory for No in the July 5 Greek referendum. We are, in other words, suppose to interpret the outcome of the referendum as a rejection of the so-called “European project”.

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James Petras and the dying Cult of the Three Saints

James Petras has an article in which he tries to describe what he calls the rise of the non-leftist Left, The Rise of the Non Leftist Left
The Radical Reconfiguration of Southern European Politics.

By the non-leftist Left, Petras means the new players in Europeans politics, like SYRIZA and Podemos, who defy “traditional” Left politics. According to Petras, these new elements, “no longer are qi52893be9based on class conscious workers nor are they embedded in the class struggle. With the decline of unions in the advanced countries, he argues we are witnessing the emergence of a “middle class radicalism”. This middle class radicalism is accompanied on the Right, by escalating state repression instead of state economic intervention. The repressive intervention of the state aims to completely dismantle the social welfare programs that emerged immediately after World War II. The non-leftist Left that has emerged to resist this sort of state intervention advocates a horizontal-style but practices top down politics aimed at securing state power. On the Right, the fascists no longer pursue national autarky, but willingly strip their countries of national sovereignty.

I think Petras missed the opportunity to coin a useful term here. In place of “non-leftist Left”, I would have called it the neoliberal Left. Same letters could be used “NLL”, but “neoliberal Left” like its predecessor “social-fascism” more accurately describes what is taking place. The term, social-fascist, was self-explanatory: fascist economic policies advocated by the socialist parties of the Second International. In the same way, “neoliberal Left” describes the neoliberal policies of a rump collection of Third International political formations.

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Even 80 years later the Left has learned nothing: A reply to Rschard1

I received a very welcome and interesting comment on my blog post, “Deficit reduction is not austerity; it kills capitalism”, from Rschard1. The commenter argues that my own argument is technically correct but ignores the messiness of historical contingency. I am, the commenter states,

“glossing over the uncomfortable truth that recessions caused by voluntary deflation have, without any exception I know of, led to horrid consequences for the working class.”

“Der Kampf gegen die Arbeitslosigkeit”

As support for his/her view, the commenter presents the classical case of fascist full employment policies of the German Nazi party. While the German Marxists followed what the commenter argues is essentially my solution for the Great Depression, the fascist introduced a series of measures to create jobs by rearming Germany and preparing it for World War II. These policies rapidly brought Germany to full employment, just as Keynes predicted they could and aided the fascist rise to power. Austerity, as the commenter argues, is great for the more advanced countries, but terrible for countries like Greece.

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