Capitalism

Capitalism's New Economy: The Working Class

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/09/2019 - 6:26am in

image/jpeg iconneweconomy5.jpg

On re-reading this piece, what is striking about the picture of the working class in capitalism's self-styled service economy in 2006 is how much it resembles the situation today. After decades of capitalist restructuring in the face of problems stemming from the declining rate of profit (problems by no means confined to the economy of the UK) there are now recognisable constants in the socio-economic profile of the 'restructured' working class.

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Keynes Was Really a Conservative

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 3:05pm in

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Capitalism

Keynes completely understood the central role of profit in the capitalist system.

The post Keynes Was Really a Conservative appeared first on Evonomics.

Imperialism and the Amazon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/09/2019 - 12:13am in

image/jpeg iconAmazonFires.jpg

The article which follows was written at the beginning of the month when the continuing deforestation of the Amazon led to the yet more murders of the indigenous population. Since then the crisis has deepened as the dry season burning of the Amazon to clear the way for farming has reached new heights.

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No, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, You and the Press Are also Guilty for Enabling Johnson’s Dictatorship

Yesterday the I’s columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown took it upon herself to identify the ‘guilty men’ responsible for enabling Johnson’s seizure of dictatorial power yesterday. This followed an anonymous piece by someone calling themselves ‘Cato the Younger’, with the title of ‘The Guilty Men’. ‘Cato’ blames thirteen western leaders, two of whom are women. Alibhai-Brown, however, put up her own, shorter list of six men. They are George Osborne, Nigel Farage, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Now I agree with her identification of all the above as causes of the crisis, with the exception of Jeremy Corbyn. She includes him because he

has been another unknowing collaborator. He still can’t find the voice or moral clarity to oppose Brextremism, and is worryingly beholden to his close, maniacally anti-capitalist advisers. He could come out for Remain and let, say, Caroline Lucas lead a temporary government of unity. It won’t happen. Not even in our dreams.

This is utter balderdash, just Centrist, anti-Corbyn propaganda. Corbyn has made his views on Brexit very clear. He was going to get Britain the best deal he could. If he couldn’t, he would hold a general election and/or second referendum. This, however, has not been reported in the press and media, which still continues to trot out the pat lie that he never campaigned properly for Remain. Swinson, the leader of the Lib Dems, was asserting this outright lie again the other day, claiming that Corbyn was ‘nowhere to be seen’ at the Referendum campaign. He certainly was. Matt Thomas posted a tweet declaring that Corbyn made 123 media appearances, attended 15 rallies and posted 118 pro-Remain tweets. Swinson herself posted only a couple of tweets for Remain.

And Tory Fibs also tweeted

That is a provable lie. During the EU Referendum Campaign 7 May-22 June 2016, Corbyn, over 46 days, campaigned as follows:

• Traveled 5851km
• Spoke at 15 rallies
• Sent 100 Remain Tweets
• Achieved 33,760 retweets
• Received media exposure 120 times

and contrasted this with Swinson’s own lamentable performance. While Professor Andrew Russell pointed out that the Lib Dems, by contrast, were ‘conspicuous by their absence’.

Academic exposes ‘invisible’ LibDem’s Brexit hypocrisy. Swinson pushing UK toward no-deal Brexit

As for Corbyn being ‘worryingly beholden’ to ‘maniacally anti-capitalist advisers’, this is just a bit of doubletalk trying to stir up the Red Scare about Corbyn and the Labour party a little more. One of Corbyn’s advisors is hard Left. Seumas Milne is, I believe, a real Stalinist. But Corbyn isn’t, neither is he a Trotskyite, or any other kind of Communist. And the Labour party’s programme is simply a return to the mixed-economy, strong welfare state with strong unions that gave Britain three to four decades of prosperity and economic growth after the War.

And then there’s Alibhai-Brown’s whinge that he didn’t make way for Caroline Lucas’ female-only unity government. But this was never a realistic proposal. It was profoundly sexist, and ignored the profound differences between all of the women Lucas invited to join her. It looks to me far more like an attention-grabbing stunt than a serious proposal. It also belies Alibhai-Brown’s claim to be concerned about the poor. Earlier in her article, attacking George Osborne, she states quite correctly that he

punished the neediest, weakened the welfare state and rewarded the richest. Those “left behinds” who voted for Brexit were deliberately left behind by this coldly ideology, small-state Tory.

All of which is correct. And it also describes precisely many of the women Lucas invited to join her unity government. They were also ideological Thatcherites, determined to punish the poor, reward the rich, and destroy the welfare state. And it’s remarkable that Alibhai-Brown, who has spent her journalistic career fighting racing, hasn’t pointed out that not one BAME woman was included on Lucas’ list.

Of course, the real reason Alibhai-Brown is trying to dump on Corbyn yet again, is because she shares her masters’ fears about a Corbyn government that would really empower working people and bring the profiteering super-rich to heel. And so a fair amount of the blame for BoJob’s seizure of power should go to the men and women of the Fourth Estate. 

Murdoch’s papers naturally share a very large part of the blame, because they have relentless hyped and promoted the Tories and particularly Boris Johnson. So have the Torygraph, owned by the weirdo Barclay twins, while the Heil and Depress have also pushed the same extreme right-wing views.

But the nominally left-press should also shoulder their fare share of the blame. The Groaniad, Absurder and the I followed the Tory press in lying about, vilifying and smearing Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, for exactly the same reasons as the Tory papers: they are afraid of anything that really empowers the working class. The only difference is that they have tried to dress up their Thatcherism with some shreds of progressive ideology. The I, for example, tried promoting Sandi Toksvig Women’s Equality Party. That feminist organisation’s credentials went out the window when Toksvig declared her backing for Hillary Clinton in the American presidential election. Clinton shared her husband’s attack on the American welfare state, such as it was, passed racist legislation designed to come down hardest on Blacks supposedly to tackle the ‘war on drugs’, and presided over an aggressive programme of regime change every bit as militaristic as George Bush’s. Clinton was very much a member of the American establishment, but she tried telling everyone she wasn’t, ’cause of her gender. Now we have Alibhai-Brown trying out the same tactics in promoting Lucas against Corbyn. And in doing so Alibhai-Brown shows what a hypocrite she is.

She, and the rest of the press, have also contributed to Johnson’s resistible rise. All of them have supported the neoliberal economics that have empowered the Tory Brexiteers, even when, like Swinson, they claimed otherwise. The left-wing press could have got behind Corbyn. They didn’t. And so they deserve their share of the blame, along with the Tory rags, for keeping the Tories in power, and allowing Johnson to elevate himself to virtual dictator. 

Capital Has an Internationale and It Is Going Fascist: Time for an International of the Global Popular Classes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/08/2019 - 4:38am in

The challenge of Amin’s call for an Internationale of workers and peoples

By William I. Robinson
Globalizations

Samir Amin, a leading scholar and co-founder of the world-systems tradition, died on August 12, 2018. Just before his death, he published, along with close allies, a call for ‘workers and the people’ to establish a ‘fifth international’ [https://www.pambazuka.org/global-south/letter-intent-inaugural-meeting-i... to coordinate support to progressive movements. To honor Samir Amin’s invaluable contribution to world-systems scholarship, we are pleased to present readers with a selection of essays responding to Amin’s final message for today’s anti-systemic movements. This forum is being co-published between Globalizations [https://www.tandfonline.com/rglo], the Journal of World-Systems Research [http://jwsr.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/jwsr/issue/view/75] and Pambazuka News [https://www.pambazuka.org/]. Additional essays and commentary can be found in these outlets.

Aug 27, 2019 – Samir Amin’s call for an ‘Internationale of workers and peoples’ could not be timelier. If we are to face the onslaught of the neo-fascist right, the left worldwide must urgently renovate a revolutionary project and a plan for refounding the state. It must do so across borders under an umbrella organization that puts forth a minimum program around which popular and working-class forces can unite, and that establishes mechanisms for transnational struggle. While I concur with much of Amin’s call I also have some significant differences as well as specifications with respect to the call that I will attempt to explicate below.

Global capitalism is facing a spiraling crisis of hegemony that appears to be approaching a general crisis of capitalist rule. In the face of this crisis there has been a sharp polarization in global society between insurgent left and popular forces, on the one hand, and an insurgent far right, on the other, at whose fringe are openly fascist tendencies (Robinson, 2019 Robinson, W. I. (2019). Global capitalist crisis and twenty-first century fascism: Beyond the Trump hype.). Yet the far-right has been more effective in the past few years than the left in mobilizing disaffected populations around the world and has made significant political and institutional inroads. It would seem that Rosa Luxemburg’s dire warning at the start of the World War I that we face ‘socialism or barbarism’ is as or even more relevant today than when she issued it, given the magnitude of the means of violence worldwide and the threat of ecological holocaust. If left, popular, and working-class forces are to regain the initiative and beat back barbarism they need a transnational umbrella organization with a minimum program against global capitalism around which they can coordinate national and regional struggles and transnationalize the fightback.

The international of capital and the specter of 21st century fascism

The theme of transnational struggles from below has been discussed at great length for several decades now. Capital has achieved a newfound transnational mobility yet labor remains territorially bound by the nation-state. In the wake of the structural crisis of the 1970s, emergent transnational capital went global as a strategy to reconstitute its social power by breaking free of nation-state constraints to accumulation, to do away with Fordist-Keynesian redistributive arrangements, and to beat back the tide of revolution in the Third World.

The corporate class and its agents identified the mass struggles and demands of popular and working classes and state regulation as fetters to its freedom to make profits and accumulate wealth as the rate of profit declined in the 1970s. As an emergent transnational capitalist class (TCC) congealed, it put in place a new transnational corporate order and went on the offensive in its class warfare against working and popular classes. Globalization enhanced the structural power of transnational capital over states and popular classes worldwide. Behind this alleged ‘loss of state sovereignty’, capitalist globalization changed the correlation of class forces worldwide in favor of the TCC. Transnational capital has been able to exercise a newfound structural power over states and territorially bound working classes, which has undermined the ability of states to capture and redistribute surpluses, and with it, the logic and basis for social democratic projects. This is the backdrop to what Amin identifies as the political neutering of traditional unions and left-wing parties and their organizations.

We should be clear that, despite nationalist and populist rhetoric, the forces of 21st century fascism do not constitute a departure from global capitalism but, to the contrary, their program advances the interests of transnational capital in the face of overaccumulation and stagnation in the global economy, as I have discussed at length elsewhere (see, inter-alia, Robinson, 2014 Robinson, W. I. (2014). Global capitalism and the crisis of humanity. New York, NY: Cambridge., 2018 Robinson, W. I. (2018).

The next economic crisis: Digital capitalism and global police state. Race and Class,

The fight against fascism is necessarily a fight against the TCC. The core of 21st century fascism is the triangulation of transnational capital with reactionary and repressive political power in the state and neo-fascist forces in civil society. Emergent 21st century fascist projects are a response to the crisis. Escalating inequalities and the inability of global capitalism to assure the survival of billions of people have thrown states into crises of legitimacy and now push the system towards more openly repressive means of social control and domination that exacerbate political and social conflict and international tensions. Neo-fascist projects are a contradictory attempt to refound state legitimacy under the destabilizing conditions of capitalist globalization.

Trumpism in the United States, Bolsonarism in Brazil, and to varying degrees other far-right movements around the world, represent the extension of capitalist globalization by other means, namely by an expanding global police state and a neo-fascist mobilization. They seek to create a new balance of political forces in the face of the breakdown of the short-lived global capitalist historic bloc. What is emerging is an Internationale of 21st century fascism. Far-right and neo-fascist groups around the world, for instance, celebrated the October 2018 electoral victory of Brazilian fascist Jair Bolsonaro. Former Trump advisor and neo-fascist organizer Steven Bannon served as an adviser to the Bolsonaro campaign, while Italy’s extreme-right interior minister Matteo Salvini declared in an exuberant tweet that was shared by U.S. neo-Nazi leader Richard Spencer that ‘even in Brazil, the citizens have sent the left packing’. The Guardian of London warned in its headline coverage that ‘Trump joy over Bolsonaro suggests new rightwing axis in Americas and beyond’ (The Guardian, 2018 The Guardian. (2018). Trump joy over Bolsonaro suggests new rightwing axis in Americas and beyond.

Beyond such political agents of a 21st century fascism as Bannon or Salvini, the TCC had banked (literally) on Bolsonaro and was delighted with his victory. As in the United States under Trump, Bolsonaro proposed the wholesale privatization and deregulation of the economy, opening up the amazon to lumber, mining and transnational agribusiness interests, regressive taxation and general austerity, alongside mass repression and criminalization of social movements and vulnerable communities that may oppose this program. As Johnson (2018 Johnson, J. (2018). After win by Brazilian fascist Jair Bolsonaro, world’s capitalists salivate over ‘new investment opportunities’.) noted the day after Bolsonaro’s victory, the ‘world’s capitalists are salivating over the new investment opportunities’ that Bolsonaro promises. Capital markets and Brazilian funds spiked on the world’s stock exchanges the day after his electoral victory. Here we see the ‘wages of fascism’ for a global capitalism in crisis.

A new Internationale and a united front against 21st century fascism

The right has drawn on the well-known nationalist, populist, xenophobic, and racist repertoire to channel rising anxieties and transform mass anti-systemic sentiment into support for its neo-fascist program. We should be clear, however, that it has been the inability of the left to confront global capitalism and to put forth a clear leftist alternative that has paved the way for the neo-fascist right. The case of Brazil is particularly indicative. During its 14 years in power the Workers Party courted national and transnational capital, overseeing a dramatic expansion of capitalist globalization in the country (Robinson, 2017 Robinson, W. I. (2017). Passive revolution: The transnational capitalist class unravels Latin America’s pink tide. Truthout, 6 June. It demobilized the mass movements that had brought it to power and absorbed its leaders into the state. Its renowned social welfare programs depended entirely on mild redistribution during the boom period of high prices for the country’s commodities exports. Once the prices collapsed in 2014 and the economy tanked, the far-right, with the backing of the TCC in Brazil and abroad, moved on the offensive (see Fogel, 2018 Fogel, B. (2018). Brazil’s never-ending crisis. Catalyst, 3(2), 73–99.

The lessons from Brazil, Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere are clear. When faced with the inability of moderate reform to stabilize capitalism or neo-fascism, the political and economic elite will embrace the latter. And when a program of mild reform alongside capitalist globalization fails to resolve the plight of masses of people, some of these masses will embrace the fascist alternative. This is why the new Internationale that Amin calls for must stake out a clear position in frontal attack against global capitalism.

These lessons have been particularly painful in Latin America, where the Pink Tide (left turn) starting in the new century raised great hopes and expectations. As has now been discussed at some length by many, myself included, the left in state power (with the partial exception of Venezuela and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia) did not undertake structural transformations; it did not challenge the prevailing property relations and class structure. Social assistance programs depended on the whims of the global market controlled by the TCC. When the price of the region’s commodities exports collapsed, starting in 2011, the left lost the very basis for its mildly reformist project.

The popular masses were clamoring for more substantial transformations. But under the pretext of attracting transnational corporate investment to bring about development, the demands from below for deeper transformation were often suppressed. Social movements were demobilized, their leaders absorbed by the institutional left in government and the capitalist state, and their mass bases subordinated to the left parties’ electoralism. There is now an evident disjuncture throughout Latin America between mass social movements that are at this time resurgent, and the institutional and party left that is losing power and influence by the day. This disjuncture must be closed and the relationship between political organizations and social movements needs to be clarified as part of the work of a new Internationale.

Here is where we need a new Internationale that puts forth a unified minimal program coordinated across borders and across regions. The World Social Forum (WSF) explicitly rejected a political program and thus contributed to the separation of left political parties from mass social movements. For a fightback to be successful, we need to build a united front against fascism and a program around which such a united front can be organized. Infighting within the ruling groups is escalating as the global capitalist historic bloc constructed in the heyday of neo-liberalism from the 1990s until the financial collapse of 2008 now unravels (more broadly, the whole post-WWII international system is collapsing, but that is a discussion to take up elsewhere). Such infighting may present opportunities for the popular classes to build broad political alliances in the struggle against fascism.

Historically such fronts have subordinated the left to the reform-oriented and ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie. This time around, in my view, any strategy of broad anti-fascist alliances must foreground a clear and sharp analysis of global capitalism and its crisis and strive for popular and working-class forces to exercise their hegemony over such alliances. For this we need an Internationale with a program. Amin notes that such an Internationale would require several years before giving any tangible results. We should not be under any illusions that a new Internationale as called for by Amin will be free of conflict. All to the contrary, we will push forward in the midst of sharp debate among many different and even antagonistic positions. In the real course of history this is inevitable.

The challenge of Amin’s call for an Internationale of workers and peoples

But the construction of programs must also involve debate over the analysis of global capitalism that is at once political and theoretical. It is here that I have significant disagreements with Amin. He correctly, in my view, notes the extreme concentration of capital worldwide and the centralization of power. However, I disagree with his confused insistence on a territorial (rather than a class/social) concentration of that capital and power, and with his insistence on a ‘triad’ (United States, Europe, Japan) framework that ignores the worldwide transnationalization of capital and the rise of powerful contingents of the TCC in the former Third World.

Amin is blind-sighted by his nation-state/triad framework. It is illustrative anecdotally that the most recent report issued by the Swiss bank UBS on the world’s rich notes that most of the world’s billionaires are in the United States but the number of ultra-wealthy people is growing fastest throughout Asia. In China, which now accounts for one in five of the world’s billionaires, two new billionaires are minted every week (Neate, 2018 Neate, R. (2018). World’s billionaires became 20% richer in 2017, report reveals.

China’s economic role in Africa, Asia, and Latin America now appears structurally the same as the traditional triad countries. Brazilian, Mexican, Indian, Saudi, Egyptian, and other capitalists who belong to the TCC now also invest worldwide in these same structures, including extensive investment in the triad countries. Another report by Forbes noted that wealth is growing faster among the super-rich in the former Third World than elsewhere. ‘Between 2012 and 2017, Bangladesh saw its ultra-rich club grow by 17.3%’, it noted. ‘Over the same time period, growth in China was 13.4% while in Vietnam it was 12.7%. Kenya and India were among the other nations recording double-digit growth of 11.7 and 10.7% respectively. The U.S. came tenth overall for UHNWI [ultra-high net worth individuals] population growth at 8.1% from 2012 to 2017’ (McCarthy, 2018 McCarthy, N. (2018). Where super rich populations are growing fastest. Forbes, 27 September.  Amin is simply wrong when he asserts that ‘the oligarchs of the triad are the only ones that count’.

Amin’s tenacious nation-state/interstate framework of analysis of world political dynamics ignores both the ‘Thirdworldization’ of significant sectors of the First World working classes and the rise of TCC contingents in the former Third World that are now globally active and part of the global investor class. It is in fact the downward mobility and destabilization of working classes in the former First World, the destruction of the old labor aristocracies, that provides the recruiting grounds for 21st century fascism but also establishes fertile new opportunities for transnational North-South solidarities (yet another reason why Amin’s call for a new Internationale is so urgent).

These are not merely analytical or theoretical differences. They have political implications insofar as we must banish any lingering illusions about a ‘progressive’ or ‘nationalist’ bourgeoisie in the former Third World with which one could ally against global capital. There may have been one in the bygone era of colonialism and the heyday of national liberation struggles in the 20th century but the interests of the leading contingents of capital and their political representatives in the former Third World now lie in the defense and consolidation of global capitalism. The ‘re-colonization’ of the world by what Amin refers to as the ‘collective imperialism’ of the triad countries is in actuality a re-colonization by transnational capital, by the TCC, not by some nation-states of other nation-states, notwithstanding that the most powerful contingents of the TCC are still located in the old triad countries and now in China as well.

The worldwide struggle from below of a new Internationale – which must be simultaneously national and transnational – must identify and prioritize the class antagonisms within and across countries and regions over core-periphery or Global North-South contradictions, even though these latter contradictions are still very much relevant, if increasingly secondary. The irony is that Amin’s ‘triad against the Global South’ framework of analysis is in direct contradiction with his entirely correct assertion that ‘the possibility of substantial progressive reforms of capitalism in its current stage is only an illusion’.

Of course, the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Internationals were all umbrella international organizations for socialist political parties, whereas the WSF prohibited political parties from participating. I concur fully with Amin that we need to ‘establish a new Organization and not just a “movement”’ or a ‘discussion forum’. At this time, in my view, it is necessary for a new Internationale to incorporate both social movements and left political organizations and parties. This is to say that a new Internationale would be quite distinct from the first four and also from the WSF, which was an international of social movements only. Commitment to a ‘minimum program’ and to joining forces around such a program with political parties may be tough for social movements to swallow. It is absolutely true that the vanguardist model of revolution in the 20th century (as an aside – this was less due to Lenin’s approach than to a fetishization of that approach) involved control of social movements from below by political parties that sought to snuff out their autonomy, and moreover, that some left political organizations in and out of the state in the new century continue to seek such control over social movements from below.

Clearly, a new Internationale must put forth a model of revolutionary struggle in which social movements from below exercise complete autonomy from political parties and from states that may be captured by such parties. If the Left attempts to control or place brakes on mass mobilization and on autonomous social movements from below, if it suppresses the demands of the popular masses in the name of ‘governance’ or electoral strategies, it will be betraying what it means to be left. It is only such mobilization from below that can impose a counterweight to the control that transnational capital and the global market exercise from above over capitalist states around the world.

Finally, any new Internationale will have to deal with the matter of elections and of the capitalist state. We have learned that subordinating the popular agenda to winning elections will only set us up for defeat even if we must participate in electoral processes when possible and expedient. But we have also learned from recent experience of Syriza in Greece and the Pink Tide governments in Latin America, as well as social democratic governments that came to office around the world in the late 20th century, that once a left force wins government office (which is not the same as state power?…?state power is imposed structurally by transnational capital) it is tasked with administering the capitalist state and its crisis and is pushed into defending that state and its dependence on transnational capital for its reproduction, which places it at odds with the same popular classes and social movements that brought it to power.

There is no ready solution to this (these) dilemma(s). But certainly, a new Internationale of workers and peoples that entails ‘an actual organization with statutes and a renovated socialist project’ is integral to a solution. Amin is right that ‘we are now in the phase of the ‘autumn of capitalism’ without this being strengthened by the emergence of ‘the people’s spring’ and a socialist perspective.’

References

Fogel, B. (2018). Brazil’s never-ending crisis. Catalyst, 3(2), 73–99. [Google Scholar]
Johnson, J. (2018). After win by Brazilian fascist Jair Bolsonaro, world’s capitalists salivate over ‘new investment opportunities’. Common Dreams, 29 October. Retrieved from https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/10/29/after-win-brazilian-fascist... [Google Scholar]
McCarthy, N. (2018). Where super rich populations are growing fastest. Forbes, 27 September. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2018/09/27/where-super-rich-p... [Google Scholar]
Neate, R. (2018). World’s billionaires became 20% richer in 2017, report reveals. The Guardian, 26 October. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/oct/26/worlds-billionaires-became-... [Google Scholar]
Robinson, W. I. (2014). Global capitalism and the crisis of humanity. New York, NY: Cambridge. [Crossref], [Google Scholar]
Robinson, W. I. (2017). Passive revolution: The transnational capitalist class unravels Latin America’s pink tide. Truthout, 6 June. Retrieved from https://truthout.org/articles/passive-revolution-the-transnational-capit... [Google Scholar]
Robinson, W. I. (2018). The next economic crisis: Digital capitalism and global police state. Race and Class, 60(1), 77–92. doi: 10.1177/0306396818769016 [Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]
Robinson, W. I. (2019). Global capitalist crisis and twenty-first century fascism: Beyond the Trump hype. Science and Society, 83(2), 481–509. doi: 10.1521/siso.2019.83.2.155 [Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]
Telesur. (2018). Brazil: Steve Bannon to advise Bolsonaro Presidential Campaign. 15 August 2018. Retrieved from https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Brazil-Steve-Bannon-to-Advise-Bolson... [Google Scholar]
The Guardian. (2018). Trump joy over Bolsonaro suggests new rightwing axis in Americas and beyond. 29 October 2018. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/29/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-trum... [Google Scholar]

William I. Robinson is professor of sociology, global, and international studies, and Latin American and Iberian studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His most recent book is Into the Tempest: Essays on the New Global Capitalism, released by Haymarket Books in 2018.

The Boom-Bust Cycle of Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/08/2019 - 4:28pm in

With salaries representing the biggest expense for employers, it’s not paranoid to suggest that, as soon as workers begin to gain advantage in a tight labor market, bosses are ready to tank the economy to keep workers’ wages in check.

The Commodification of Everything

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/08/2019 - 5:00pm in

e anti-capitalist slogans, 'The World Is Not A Commodity' and 'Our World Is Not For Sale', are tremendously powerful statements about how capitalism insidiously tries to turn human beings into passive consumers for its products. But where does the real power lie? Daniel Margrain explains.

The post The Commodification of Everything appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Corbyn – Regenerate High Street by Handing Vacant Shops to Community

Last weekend’s I, for Saturday, 17th August 2019, carried a report by Nigel Morris on page 4 about the Labour party’s plans to revive ailing high street. Under the scheme announce by Corbyn, the local authority would take over empty business premises to let them to new businesses or community organisations. The article read

Plans to revitalise “struggling his streets” by reopening thousands of boarded-up shops will be set out today by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Labour would give councils the power to take over retail units which have been vacant for a year and hand them to start-up businesses or community projects.

Town centre vacancy rates are at their highest level for four years, and Labour says an estimated 29,000 shops across the country have been abandoned for at least 12 months.

It has also registered alarm over the preponderance of charity stores, betting shops and fast-food takeaways in areas which previously had a better mixture of businesses.

The plans, applying to high streets in England and Wales, will be set out by Mr Corbyn in a visit to Bolton today. He is expected to say that boarded-up shops are “a symptom of economic decay under the Conservatives and a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.”

Labour revive “struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street.” The proposals are modelled on the system of “empty dwelling management orders” which entitle councils to put unoccupied houses and flats back into use as homes.

Jake Berry, minister for high streets, said the Government had cut small retailers’ business rates, was relaxing high street planning rules and launched a £3.6bn Towns Fund to improve transport links and boost broadband connectivity. 

I think Corbyn’s idea is excellent. One of the problems of struggling high streets is the ‘smashed window syndrome’, as I believe it’s called. Once one shop becomes vacant, and has it’s windows smashed or otherwise vandalised, it has a strange psychological effect on the public. They stop going into that particular area for their shopping, and the other businesses start to close down. This is why it’s important to prevent it. Business rates might be part of the problem, but I’ve also heard that it’s also due to economics of the private landlords. I can remember my barber complaining to me about it back in the 1990s. He was angry at the increase in rents he and the other shops in his rank had had foisted on them by the landlord. He also complained that despite the high rents, there were shop units that were still unlet, because for some reason the landlord found it more profitable to keep them that way than to let an aspiring Arkwright take them over.

I’ve long believed in exactly the same idea as Corbyn’s. It struck me that with the expansion of higher education, we now have an extremely well-educated work force. But the current economics of capitalism prevent them from using their skills. If successive governments really believe that the increase in university education will benefit the economy, then graduates need to be able to put their hard-earned skills and knowledge into practice. They should be allowed to create businesses, even if these are not commercially viable and need community support. Because it’s better than forcing them to starve on the dole, or climb over each other and the less educated trying to grab low-skilled jobs in fast-food restaurants. And if these new businesses don’t make a profit, but keep people coming back to the high streets, but give their aspiring entrepreneurs skills and experience they can use elsewhere, or deliver some small boost to the local economy, then they will have achieved some measure of success.

This is an excellent idea. And if it’s put into practice, I think it’ll demonstrate that Socialists are actually better for business than the Tories.

“Capitalism is Dead” (George Monbiot) but Only the World Working Class Can Bury It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/08/2019 - 12:43am in

image/jpeg iconmonbiot_boyle.jpg

It did not take the fatal consequences of recent record temperatures in Western Europe, or the recent wildfires in California, monsoon floods in Nepal, India and Bangladesh or the Mozambique cyclones, to tell us that something has radically shifted in the world’s climate. The existential threat of human-created climate change to life on the planet has been understood for decades. NASA, among others, first sounded the alarm about global carbon emissions in 1988 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed the same year.

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Why the Climate Crisis Is Also the Crisis of Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/08/2019 - 1:03am in

By Ying Chen and Güney Işikara (guest post)

Many people are wary of bringing a critique of capitalism into the discussion of climate change, even if they are genuinely concerned about the crisis and actively looking for effective solutions. All it takes is the mention of any word ending with “-ism,” and skeptics will conclude that the discussion is unnecessarily ideological.

However, looking at the climate crisis through a Marxist lens can give us greater insight into the political inertia that has stalled the implementation of any kind of coordinated national response to climate change. The way capitalism operates in the United States, with its all-encompassing forces that have played a major role in creating today’s environmental disaster, is also standing in the way of the implementation of a comprehensive solution. We can only understand the impact of capitalism on the current crisis by viewing capitalism as a specific economic system and assessing its historical impact—as well as its limits and contradictions.

Capitalism and Economic Surplus

From a Marxist perspective, the key defining feature of an economic system is its ownership structure. It is those who own the means of production (the raw materials, such as land and machines, that are used to produce goods) who also have the right to claim the surplus. Surplus, also known as surplus product or surplus value, is the difference between the final product that emerges from the production process and the total amount of input involved in creating that product. In feudalist societies, the surplus mostly took the form of the extra crops appropriated by the landlord after providing the serfs with just enough food to survive. In capitalism, roughly speaking, surplus takes the form of the profit that the capitalist claims after paying for inputs such as raw materials and workers’ wages.

The term “economic surplus,” coined by the political economist Paul A. Baran, measures surplus at a societal level. It is the difference between the total output of the society and the level of consumption that is needed for the reproduction of society at its current standard of living. Depending on how it is being used, economic surplus can take the concrete form of grand architecture such as the pyramids in Egypt or China’s Great Wall, or less explicitly in the form of developing individual and social capacities, such as mass education.

Today, the economic surplus of the United States ranges from $8.4 to $10.8 trillion. However, having an economic surplus does not necessarily mean it will be used effectively or for the right purposes. The issue lies in who controls the economic surplus and whether they are motivated by the desire to turn a profit. When the surplus is under public control, profit motives can be largely averted and the use of surplus for social purposes is more straightforward: the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862 made it possible to use the proceeds from federal land sales to establish colleges nationwide. The Rural Electrification Act of 1936, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems in previously ignored rural areas. However, when the surplus is in private hands, policies to encourage investment for social purposes are more likely to be influenced by the profit motive. For example, when it comes to carbon reduction, the results of various
market-based attempts are far from satisfactory within national boundaries, and are often entirely offset on a global scale as a result of offshoring.

Capitalism Is Approaching Its Historical Limit

Capitalism once stood for a progressive stage of historical development. Even Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, capitalism’s most radical critics, agreed that the “massive and colossal productive forces” created under capitalism—manifested by material abundance, advanced technology, and enhanced productivity—was unprecedented compared to all previous economic systems. It was precisely the development of productive forces, previously hindered by the class of the “indolent” and “ignorant” landlords, as described by Adam Smith, now unleashed under capitalism, that granted capitalism its political legitimacy to replace feudalism as an alternative economic system. As a result, capitalism manages to generate abundant economic surplus, which provides the material base for the improvement of people’s living standards.
Today, however, the global capitalist regime is mired in economic stagnation, with extreme income inequality on the one hand, and the massive waste of human resources through unemployment and underemployment on the other. And on top of these issues is the ecological crisis, which, with its global scope, is the most dire challenge of all. Each of the failed, mostly market-based, attempts to mitigate the climate crisis thus far have made it more apparent than ever that the root cause of the crisis is the endless accumulation of capital, which is nothing more than the very definition of capitalism itself.

Many say that capitalism has always been resilient in the aftermath of crises. However, most of the capitalist crises were only postponed rather than resolved. The impact of the Great Depression was mitigated by the creation of a 75% tax on the rich so that some economic surplus could be used to address urgent public needs. Up until the 1900s, such compromise from the capitalist class was unprecedented in the United States. Instead of leading to a head-on collision between capitalism and public interests, the recession in the 1970s was temporarily relieved by the widespread implementation of neoliberal policies beginning in the 1980s. These policies not only brought a substantial loss in well-being to the working class, but also planted the seeds of the 2008 crisis, in which we are still deeply entrapped.

Today, when those who claim a significant portion of the economic surplus have the least to lose from climate destabilization, it is hardly surprising that they have a different perception of the urgency of the issue. One example is the recent announcement from Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and the richest person in the world, that he will invest in the development of space technologies as a solution to climate change. Turning a blind eye toward the poor in Bangladesh—who would be among the first to suffer the loss of their homes when sea levels rise as a result of climate change—Bezos prefers to use his money to divert attention away from the Earth and toward a new planet that people, mostly likely those in his class, can relocate to in the indefinite future.

The Green New Deal and Capitalism’s Legitimacy

The uniqueness of climate change is that it threatens the reproduction of the inhabitable ecosystem that we live in today. The ecosystem is as essential as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation, if not more so. Hence the expenditure on its preservation, through the Green New Deal, falls within the cost of the necessary reproduction of human society.

Yet the surplus-owning class is reluctant to consider spending on climate change mitigation. Economists who are sympathetic to the Green New Deal have cautiously proposed public debt as a solution, in an attempt to circumvent any implications of transferring private wealth into the hands of the government, as occurred under the New Deal.

Such reluctance from the surplus-owning class to preserve human beings’ only habitat demonstrates the irrationality of the capitalist economic system; and their hesitancy raises the larger question of whether capitalism itself has come to its own historical limit. This kind of crisis of confidence in our political and economic institutions is not new to capitalism. During the Great Depression in the 1930s—when one-quarter of the labor force was unemployed and radical left organizations were in their heyday—was the last time capitalism faced such a life-or-death challenge. The current planetary disaster is posing a threat no less severe than what occurred nearly 90 years ago.

There are only two possible trajectories. The capitalist class will either allocate part of the surplus it owns to a more comprehensive solution to the ecological crisis, such as the Green New Deal (which would most likely happen as a result of pressure from the broader public, i.e., the working classes). Or, it will continue to deploy its surplus for purposes other than climate action. At stake is both the political legitimacy of our current global economic system and the fate of a livable environment for human beings. Given the amount of hostility on the part of capitalists to the Green New Deal, capitalism itself is in overt conflict with the future of humanity.

Ying Chen is an assistant professor of economics at the New School for Social Research; Güney Işikar was a graduate student in economics at the New School for Social Research and begins a position as clinical assistant professor at New York University’s Liberal Studies program this fall.

SOURCES: Paul A. Baran, The Political Economy of Growth (Monthly Review Press, 1957); Zhun Xu, “Economic Surplus, the Baran Ratio, and Capital Accumulation,” Monthly Review, March 1, 2019; Baki Guney Isikara, “The Weight of Essentials in Economic Activity,” Working Paper, 2019; Anders Fremstad and Mark Paul, “Overcoming the Ideology of Climate Inaction,” Project Syndicate, Feb. 25, 2019 (project-syndicate.org); Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm, “Economic Growth and Carbon Emissions: The Road to ‘Hothouse Earth’ is Paved with Good Intentions,” Institute for New Economic Thinking, November 2018; Catherine Clifford, “Jeff Bezos: I spend my billions on space because we’re destroying Earth,” CNBC, July 17, 2019 (cnbc.com); Mark Paul, “The Economic Case for the Green New Deal,” Forbes, Feb. 20, 2019 (forbes.com).

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