Frances Barber’s Racist, Anti-Semitic Meltdown at Ash Sarkar and Jon Lansman

Frances Barber is a minor ‘sleb, who appears in bit parts here and there. She turned up in Red Dwarf in the ’90s as one of the forms of shape-shifting genetically engineered organism that fed on emotion. Appearing as a glamorous woman, the creature fed on the Cat’s vanity. She also appeared a little while later in an episode of the sitcom My Family, in which she played a woman with depression, who was part of a poetry group which the son joins. She’s part of the coterie around Rachel Riley and Tracy Anne Oberman, who think that Corbyn and the Labour party really are Nazis. Because criticising Israel as an apartheid state and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians means you have to be a fully paid-up anti-Semite ready to get another Holocaust going. And Zelo Street has put up an excellent piece describing and commenting on her meltdown at Ash Sarkar in which she unintentionally displayed how racist she was.

Why the fury? Sarkar had appeared on Question Time, and describes her self as Communist. She then issued a series of tweets declaring that her beloved Labour Party was now the Communist party, attacking Communism as a hateful, despicable regime and sneering that it was ‘good our [Labour] representative – meaning Ash Sarkar – loves it’. There two things at least wrong with that statement, as Zelo Street reminds us. Firstly, just because a regime describes itself as something doesn’t mean it actually is. North Korea describes itself as the ‘democratic people’s republic of North Korea’, but is obviously anything but. And as Sarkar herself reminded Barber, she’s not a member of the Labour party. Barber couldn’t accept this. She asked Sarkar why she was representing Labour. Sarkar replied that she wasn’t, unless she’d been elected an MP and hadn’t noticed. Then Barber had the first of her racist sneers. She responded

“Neither you or Shami Chakrabati [sic] have been elected, but you speak on behalf of Seumus [sic] each time you are on Political programs . We the people hate it. You do not speak for us”.

To which another tweeter, Louise Raw, answered in turn by asking Barber why she was throwing Sarkar in with Shami Chakrabati. Sarkar was a media commentator, Chakrabati the Shadow Attorney General. It couldn’t be because they were both Asian, could it?

Then Barber moved on acting out Godwin’s Law. This states that in an internet debate, sooner or later someone will compare someone else to the Nazis. Barber then commented on the news that there had been a proposal in the Labour party to put a candidate up against Harriet Harman if she chooses to stand as Speaker by declaring that Labour were ‘the Brown Shirts’. And when she found out that Jon Lansman, the head of Momentum had tabled a motion calling for the abolition of the post of Deputy Leader, she again made an accusation of Nazism. ‘As if we didn’t tell you,’ she wrote, Ernst Rohm in action’. As Zelo Street pointed out, she had just called a Jew a Nazi, which is anti-Semitic according to the definition of the term by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association.

Zelo Street concluded

‘Not much use calling anti-Semitism on others if she’s going to indulge in it herself. And that’s on top of the brown people inference. Ms Barber needs to learn one lesson.

Stay away from Twitter late at night. Or don’t bother, and give us all a good laugh.’

Let’s make a few more points here, just to expand on those already made by the Sage of Crewe. When Sarkar describes herself as Communist, she’s undoubtedly talking about the Communist ideal, before it was substantially altered by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. I’ve put up pieces showing that most Marxists before the Bolshevik coup were democrats, after Marx himself. Except that they believed in a genuine democracy in which the workers took power into their own hands. Mainstream Marxist intellectuals like the Austrian Karl Kautsky hated the Bolshevik dictatorship and their persecution of the former upper and middle class. As for Soviet Communism, this described itself as Marxist-Leninism. In other words, Marxism as interpreted and adapted by Lenin. And when I was studying the Russian revolutionary movement at College, we were told that Lenin had altered Marxist doctrine almost as much, or as much, as the Revisionists.

As for the Labour party, the one thing Corbyn and the rest aren’t, is Communists. Corbyn’s programme of empowering the working and lower middle class by reviving the welfare state, taking the railways and other utilities into state ownership, giving back working people rights at work and restoring trade union power, is really simply a return to the post-War social democratic consensus. The consensus that no-one seriously challenged until Thatcher in 1979, with disastrous consequences. It’s nowhere near the complete nationalisation or the bureaucratic state Soviet Marxism demanded.

And let’s make one thing very clear: Corbyn and his supporters are very far from Nazis. 

Historically, it’s been left-wing Socialists, Communists and trade unionists, like Corbyn and his supporters, who’ve actually stood up physically to Nazism and Fascism in this country. If you want further evidence, go over to David Rosenberg’s blog, Rebel Notes. Rosenberg’s Jewish, and a member of the Jewish Socialist Group. He comes from the tradition of the Bund, the eastern European Jewish Socialist party, who fought for Jews to be able to live and work as equals and fellow countrymen with the gentile peoples of the countries in which they lived. They had no desire to go to Israel and displace a people, who had historically treated the Jews better than Christian Europeans. Which means he’s also a strong critic of Israel. Rosenberg has put up many pieces describing how the Communists, the ILP and trade unionists, including the ’47 Group of Jewish combat vets kicked the rear ends of Mosley and his squadristi in the BU up and down London and the provinces, so that gentiles, Jews, Blacks, Asians and working people in general could live in peace and dignity without fearing the jackboot. See, for example, his article ‘When Stockton Fought Back’, about how the good folk of Stockton on Tees fought Mosley when he tried campaigning in their toon.


His most recent article is ‘When I Listen to Boris Johnson and Hear Mosley’, about the similarities between our anti-democratic populist Prime Minister and Mosley when he was leader of the New Party before its transformation into the BUF.

It’s a comparison that has become particularly pertinent, especially as the Torygraph a few days ago decided to give space to Jaak Madison, a member of the Estonian conservative party. The article’s been taken down because Madison stated that he found Fascism had many great points, and Madison himself was a Holocaust denier or minimalist.

Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Fascists. The real stormtroopers are nearly all on the right, whatever idiots and liars like Barber, Riley and the rest think, led by a mendacious media and Zionist Jewish establishment. They are the only people, who really stand between us and real Fascism in this country.

As for Barber herself, she clearly thinks of the Labour Party in terms of New Labour, Blair’s Thatcherite entryist clique. They did some good things, but they stood for Neoliberalism and the destruction of the welfare state and privatisation of the NHS. They wanted it to become another Conservative party, and in some ways went beyond the policies of the Tories themselves. They were no friends to working people, both Jewish and gentile. And neither is Riley, Barber and Oberman for supporting them.

The Gloves are Off: Global #ClimateStrike Next Friday.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/09/2019 - 4:39pm in

The Global #ClimateStrike against climate change is set for next Friday.

Personally, I support the strike, intend to attend and I urge readers to join us. Readers can find further information on the strike in the SS4C website.

I think older generations have failed. Capitalism was bound to fail anyway, so its defenders, whether orthodox or heterodox, purists or reformers, were facing a hopeless task to begin with. So their failure to address climate change and its apocalyptic consequences is no surprise.

But we, socialists and workers, also failed. We failed in our attempts to create a better, more rational, sustainable society. And we are running out of time. There may not be another opportunity, thus there’s no time for despondency. That’s a luxury we can’t afford. It’s time to act, as we pray we are not too late.

Without further ado, I’ll leave readers with palaeontologist, mammalogist, and conservationist Tim Flannery’s appeal to action

The gloves are off: 'predatory' climate deniers are a threat to our children
A child jumps from a rock outcrop into a lagoon in the low-lying Pacific island of Tuvalu. AAP/Mick Tsikas Tim Flannery, University of Melbourne

In this age of rapidly melting glaciers, terrifying megafires and ever more puissant hurricanes, of acidifying and rising oceans, it is hard to believe that any further prod to climate action is needed.

But the reality is that we continue to live in a business-as-usual world. Our media is filled with enthusiastic announcements about new fossil fuel projects, or the unveiling of the latest fossil-fuelled supercar, as if there’s no relationship between such things and climate change.

In Australia, the disconnect among our political leaders on the deadly nature of fossil fuels is particularly breathtaking.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor, left, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Both believe the polluting coal industry has a strong future in Australia. Lukas Coch/AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to sing the praises of coal, while members of the government call for subsidies for coal-fired power plants. A few days ago, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor urged that the nation’s old and polluting coal-fired power plants be allowed to run “at full tilt”.

Read more: Australia to attend climate summit empty-handed despite UN pleas to ‘come with a plan'

In the past, many of us have tolerated such pronouncements as the utterings of idiots – in the true, original Greek meaning of the word as one interested only in their own business.

But the climate crisis has now grown so severe that the actions of the denialists have turned predatory: they are now an immediate threat to our children.

A ‘colossal failure’ of climate activismEach year the situation becomes more critical. In 2018, global emissions of greenhouse gases rose by 1.7% while the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped by 3.5 parts per million – the largest ever observed increase.

No climate report or warning, no political agreement nor technological innovation has altered the ever-upward trajectory of the pollution. This simple fact forces me to look back on my 20 years of climate activism as a colossal failure.

Many climate scientists think we are already so far down the path of destruction that it is impossible to stabilise the global temperature at 1.5℃ above the pre-industrial average without yet to be developed drawdown technologies such as those that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. On current trends, within a decade or so, stabilising at 2℃ will likewise be beyond our grasp.

And on the other side of that threshold, nature’s positive feedback loops promise to fling us into a hostile world. By 2100 - just 80 years away – if our trajectory does not change, it is estimated that Earth will be 4℃ warmer than it was before we began burning fossil fuels.

Far fewer humans will survive on our warming planetThat future Earth may have enough resources to support far fewer people than the 7.6 billion it supports today. British scientist James Lovelock has predicted a future human population of just a billion people. Mass deaths are predicted to result from, among other causes, disease outbreaks, air pollution, malnutrition and starvation, heatwaves, and suicide.

My children, and those of many prominent polluters and climate denialists, will probably live to be part of that grim winnowing – a world that the Alan Joneses and Andrew Bolts of the world have laboured so hard to create.

Thousands of school students from across Sydney attend the global climate strike rally at Town Hall in Sydney in March 2019. Mick Tsikas/AAP 
Read more: 'Climigration': when communities must move because of climate change

How should Australia’s parents deal with those who labour so joyously to create a world in which a large portion of humanity will perish? As I have become ever more furious at the polluters and denialists, I have come to understand they are threatening my children’s well-being as much as anyone who might seek to harm a child.

Young people themselves are now mobilising against the danger. Increasingly they’re giving up on words, and resorting to actions. Extinction Rebellion is the Anthropocene’s answer to the UK working class Chartists, the US Declaration of Independence, and the defenders of the Eureka Stockade.

Its declaration states:

This is our darkest hour. Humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history, one which, unless immediately addressed, will catapult us further into the destruction of all we hold dear […] The wilful complicity displayed by our government has shattered meaningful democracy and cast aside the common interest in favour of short-term gain and private profit […] We hereby declare the bonds of the social contract to be null and void.

 Words have not cut through. Is rebellion the only option?Not yet a year old, Extinction Rebellion has had an enormous impact. In April it shut down six critical locations in London, overwhelmed the police and justice system with 1,000 arrests, and forced the British government to become the first nation ever to declare a climate emergency.

So unstable is our current societal response that a single young woman, Greta Thunberg, has been able to spark a profoundly powerful global movement. Less than a year ago she went on a one-person school strike. Today school strikes for climate action are a global phenomenon.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate change activist from Sweden, participates in a school strike in Washington in September 2019. Shawn Thew/EPA 
Read more: Climate change is the defining issue of our time – we're giving it the attention it deserves

On September 20 in Australia and elsewhere, school principals must decide whether they will allow their students to march in the global climate strike in an effort to save themselves from the climate predators in our midst, or force them to stay and study for a future that will not, on current trends, eventuate.

I will be marching with the strikers in Melbourne, and I believe teachers should join their pupils on that day. After all, us older generation should be painfully aware that our efforts have not been enough to protect our children.

The new and carefully planned rebellion by the young generation forces us earlier generations of climate activists to re-examine our strategy. Should we continue to use words to try to win the debate? Or should we become climate rebels? Changing the language around climate denialism will, I hope, sharpen our focus as we ponder what comes next.The Conversation
Tim Flannery, Professorial fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Xi Jinping’s Marxism Out-Thinks the West

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/09/2019 - 1:59am in










By John Ross
Learning from China

June 2017 – The Hamburg G20 summit was a further stage in a process that has been developing strongly during the  2017: a recognition that a new stage in China’s international ‘thought leadership’ has developed.  For decades China had the world’s most rapidly growing economy, the world’s fastest increase in living standards, and was responsible for over 80% of the reduction of the number of people in the world living in poverty.

But now, as Edward Luce, the chief Washington correspondent for the Financial Times, noted: ‘ It was during Obama’s second term that China overtook the US as the world’s largest economy on a purchasing power parity basis. It is likely to overtake the US in dollar terms within the next presidential term, regardless of who is in office.‘ This gigantic economic development inevitably produced a growing global impact. But  the new stage, as confirmed below, is even Western analysts note that China, or to be more precise the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping, are winning in the global ‘battle of ideas’. It is therefore important to analyse the reasons for this.

Such examination illustrates not only individual issues but demonstrates clearly the superiority of Xi Jinping’s Marxist analysis over Western thinking. This can be particularly clearly demonstrated by examining the wide international discussion which has contrasted China’s key recent global initiatives, such as Xi Jinping’s speech at the Davos World Economic Forum and the One Belt One Road summit in Beijing, with US attempts to articulate a general alternative foreign policy framework to China’s. Such analysis has the advantage it clearly demonstrates the way these concepts put forward by Xi Jinping both flow from Marxist ideas and simultaneously develop them in a new international situation – and why they can be clearly understood by a non-Marxist audience. In summary, as will be shown, the wide ranging international discussions in 2017 have clearly demonstrated the superiority of the CPC’s Marxist thinking over Western ideas.

China rising

Immediately following Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President his Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, admitted in practice what were the two most influential global views today: ‘I think it’d be good if people compare Xi’s speech at Davos and President Trump’s speech in his inaugural…. You’ll see two different world views.’

Indeed, it is widely understood in the Western media that the last period has seen a major shift internationally in both practical policy initiatives and ‘thought leadership’ towards China. Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, and one of the West’s most influential journalists, stated bluntly at the end of May that the question now being discussed in all countries was: ‘Would it not be wiser, they wonder, to move closer to China?’ Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, the most influential Western ‘risk analysis’ company, noted regarding one of the key indicators of China’s success in projecting not only practical power but also ideas: ‘Davos reaction to Xi speech: Success on all counts.’

Merely to take in chronological order some of the landmarks of China’s sharply rising influence:

China’s initiative to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was highly successful – with even close United States allies, such as the UK and Germany, participating and refusing to support US calls to boycott it.
Xi Jinping’s speech at Davos World Economic Forum was almost universally analysed in the West as encapsulating a major strategic success. In addition to Bremmer’s conclusion already cited, Hans-Paul Buerkner, chairman of the Boston Consulting Group, noted: ‘President Xi emphasized the importance of continued globalization, growth and equity, which impressed me the most.’ Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board concluded: ‘President Xi’s insistence to deepen globalization, to strengthen economic growth, and his warning against isolationism are extremely comforting and a strong endorsement.’

The recent Beijing One Belt One Road (B&R) summit’s significance was well understood in the West. The Financial Times, under a self-explanatory headline ‘Europe must respond to China’s Belt and Road initiative’, analysed: ‘Beijing is using the laws of economic gravity and physics to shape the global economy… The gravity metaphor is well established in the so-called “gravity models” of international trade, which relate the size of trade flows to the “mass” (economic size) and distance between trading partners. The indisputable finding is that physical distance remains monumentally important in international economics… as international supply chains have grown over recent decades, the most complex ones are regional more than global… As for physics metaphors, the relevant concept is friction. Gravity affects all bodies equally in a vacuum; friction, however, can change the speed at which they fall. So, too, in economics, where the frictions are the costs of trade. These can be physical — in the case of landlocked countries with poor infrastructure, say — and man-made. The most significant man-made trade costs are no longer border tariffs but regulatory, administrative and cultural barriers to doing business across national borders. They remain high…China… understands both concepts very well. The Belt and Road aims to overcome the bounds of gravity by reducing frictions, and to use the forces of attraction this unleashes to centre a growing part of global economic activity on China.’

China has long been influential among developing countries but the Financial Times has now noted that China’s overall influence is extending even into traditional US allies. EU officials noted for example: ‘the establishment of a 16-nation bloc of central and eastern European countries — many of them EU members. The bloc is sometimes used to frustrate EU decisions that could disadvantage China, said the officials.’ Regarding Singapore, another traditional US ally, the FT analysed reporting the recent Shangri-La dialogue,: ‘Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s defence minister, was keen to build bridges with Beijing when he spoke to the assembled generals, diplomats and policy wonks at the Shangri-La hotel at the weekend. He made no mention of… the South China Sea and fawned over the Belt and Road project… “China has stepped on the pedal to push ahead with its plans to be a leader for trade in the Asia Pacific region, if not the world.”‘ Regarding Australia, another traditional US ally, Edward Luce noted: ‘Long before Trump’s victory, Australians were also debating whether their country should distance itself from the US to accommodate a rising China — a more important economic partner than the US. Now such arguments have gone mainstream. Former prime ministers, such as Paul Keating, make the case that Australia should hedge its bets.“’

China’s sharply rising international influence was certainly further aided by self-inflicted US wounds such as Trump’s virtually universally internationally condemned decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Even within the US this latter decision was attacked as weakening the United States – a pillar of the US establishment such as Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein taking to Twitter for the first ever time to declare: ‘Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.’ But, as is clear from the facts already noted above, the further weakening of the US’s international position by Trump’s position on the Paris Climate Accord simply followed from a period when China’s global position was already strongly strengthening. As Edward Luce summarised:

‘The world was already making adjustments before Trump… Almost two years before the UK’s Brexit referendum, David Cameron, Britain’s then prime minister, rolled out the red carpet for Xi Jinping on a state visit to the UK. Britain also enraged Obama’s White House by rushing to join China’s Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank… Others, such as Australia and Germany, hesitated but then followed suit. Almost every western power sent delegations, among them 29 heads of state, to China’s recent “One Belt, One Road” summit in Beijing. When China speaks, foreign governments listen.’

The shifting of the centre of global initiatives and thinking to China, analysed from the point of view of internal Chinese development in Wang Wen’s analysis is therefore fully confirmed by the analysis in the Western media itself.

A ‘Trump doctrine’?

Almost certainly in reaction both to the rise in China’s impact noted above, and to increased scepticism regarding US foreign policy views, immediately after President Trump’s first foreign trip, his National Security Adviser McMaster and his Director of the US National Economic Council Cohn jointly authored a Wall Street Journal article systematically setting out the principles of US foreign policy. The significance of this joint article, which could not have appeared from such high placed figures without approval of the President, was immediately recognised – CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, one of the US’s most important foreign policy commentators, noted: ‘We now have a Trump Doctrine.’
With two coherent global views therefore now set out it is possible to systematically analyse the views of President Xi Jinping and the CPC on the one side and on the other the Trump administration. It is particularly revealing, as it deals with the most fundamental issues, to make a comparison between Xi Jinping’s concept of ‘Community of Common Destiny’, which forms the core of China’s foreign policy, and the ideas expressed in the ‘Trump doctrine’ by McMaster and Cohn. Making a detailed analysis of this contrast shows clearly the superiority of the CPC’s Marxist ideas to those of the West.

McMaster and Cohn

McMaster and Cohn’s starting point is a restatement, and an attempt to defend on the international field, the view in neo-classical Western economics which analyses the economy and society as simply  composed of individual units. As Margaret Thatcher declared on the national terrain: ‘there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women.’[1] As McMaster and Cohn state on the international sphere: ‘The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.‘[2] McMaster and Cohn then draw out the conclusions which flow from this struggle between individual units: ‘America First signals the restoration of American leadership and our government’s traditional role overseas—to use the diplomatic, economic and military resources of the U.S. to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world.’  It is, evidently, inconceivable that such a general statement of US foreign policy could have appeared by two of Trump’s most senior officials if he had disapproved of it.

This statement that ‘the world is not a “global community”’ is evidently directly opposed to the explicit concept put forward by Xi Jinping of a ‘community of common destiny’ – and its associated ideas of ‘win-win’ solutions, ‘one plus one is greater than two’ etc. These concepts of Xi Jinping are, of course, derived from Marxism – this will be analysed in greater detail below.  More precisely, to use Xi Jinping’s precise phrasing: ‘‘Mankind… has increasingly emerged as a community of common destiny.’ [3] Regarding ‘win-win’ solutions in regard to the US, in his first statement regarding Trump’s election, Xi Jinping made clear on 9 November: ‘I… look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.’ Similarly, in regard to Africa Xi Jinping noted: ‘“We will work with Africa to embrace a new era of win-win co-operation and common development.’ This fundamental concept is popularly expressed in the concept ‘one plus one is greater than two’. As Xi Jinping put it: ‘By engaging in close cooperation and drawing on each other’s strengths to make up for respective shortcomings, we can show to the world that one plus one can be greater than two.’[4]

It is not hard in terms of psychology to understand why other countries prefer the concept of a ‘win-win’ relationship, that is their country also gains as well as China, to the goal set out by McMaster and Cohn that the US objective is enhancement of its own position: ‘America First signals the restoration of American leadership and our government’s traditional role overseas—to use the diplomatic, economic and military resources of the U.S. to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world.’

But international relations, and the ideas based on them, cannot be based on nice words, which can be false, or psychology – which is notoriously changeable. A policy can only be powerful and have a great international effect if it corresponds to real interests. Therefore, it is necessary to examine objectively which of these concepts is correct: the McMaster & Cohn US view that ‘the world is not a “global community” or Xi Jinping’s ‘Mankind… has increasingly emerged as a community of common destiny’?

Does a global community exist?

The difference of McMaster/Cohn on the idea of global ‘community’, and instead their assertion that there is simply ‘an arena where nations… compete for advantage’, versus Xi Jinping’s ‘community of common destiny’, is in fact both nationally and internationally an issue of which force is most fundamental – the individual or the social? Xi Jinping is evidently not asserting that there are never any clashes between individual interests – if that were true China would scarcely need a department of foreign affairs, except to organise convivial meeting with other countries at which everyone could celebrate that they agreed on everything! In reality China, like every country, is constantly dealing with specific differences in foreign policy (conflicts over protectionism with the EU and US, the South China Sea, relations with India etc). What Xi Jinping is asserting is not that there are never any conflicts of individual interests but that the common ones, the community, are most fundamental.
McMaster/Cohn are equally not asserting the US never has any common interests with other countries – on the contrary they state regarding the US and other countries: ‘Where our interests align, we are open to working together to solve problems and explore opportunities.’  What McMaster/Cohn are asserting is that the clash of individual interests is most important and there is not a ‘community’ – ‘the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage,’ Xi Jinping is asserting in contrast that while certainly specific conflicts of interest exist, the most fundamental is the community.

It can now be analysed which of these positions is correct from a fundamental point of view?  Such analysis in detail of what will be shown to be among the most fundamental issues of both ‘Western’ and Marxist thinking, shows not only the superiority of Xi Jinping ideas on the particular issue of the ‘community of common destiny’ but also the general superiority of Marxism to the most recent Western ideas in ‘neo-classical economics’ and the relation to the most advanced Western ideas in general.

Adam Smith

The analysis of the relation between individual interests and common interests, or ‘community’, goes back to the origin of modern economics – and includes not only the economic but the moral and foreign policy dimensions of this issue. It was, indeed, one of the most fundamental questions analysed by the founder of modern economics Adam Smith. Examining in detail the fundamental and original statements of this issue precisely brings out its significance and solution most clearly – Adam Smith and Karl Marx were, to put it mildly, much clearer thinkers than McMaster?chohn.

While Smith is remembered for The Wealth of Nations he himself earlier published, and constantly revised until his death, a second book – The Theory of Moral Sentiments. This writing on moral issues preceded Smith’s writings on economics – one of Smith’s earlier positions, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, was Professor of the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University.

The opening sentence of The Theory of the Moral Sentiments states precisely that the issue Smith aimed to investigate in the book was the relation between merely individual interests and those of society in general – that is precisely the issue analysed by McMaster/Cohn and Xi Jinping. Or, in the language of the mid-18th century, Smith wanted to analyse why: ‘How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles…. which interest him in the fortune of others.’[5] However, despite devoting his entire book to the question Smith came up with no satisfactory explanation of why a human being took an interest in the interests of others. He merely concluded it was ‘in his nature’.[6] Because The Theory of the Moral Sentiments failed to answer the question it set itself it is today largely forgotten, except by historians, while The Wealth of Nations is rightly regarded as one of the most important books ever written.

What is ironic is that Smith solved the question he asked in The Theory of the Moral Sentiments in his real masterpiece The Wealth of Nations. The problem was that Smith did not realise he had solved the issue! However, the reason Smith did not realise he had resolved his own problem regarding the relation of self-interested actions and common interests flowed from a method of analysis common not only to his book on morals but to The Wealth of Nations itself.

Adam Smith’s framework

In The Wealth of Nations Smith analysed the consequences that flowed from the fact human beings engaged in the social exchange of products with each other – thereby founding modern economics. But Smith attempted to explain this objective exchange of products from ideas held by human beings – merely debating whether these ideas were inherent in the nature of human beings or flowed from ‘reason and speech’:

‘This division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived…  is the necessary…  consequence of a certain propensity in human nature… the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature, of which no further account can be given, or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, it belongs not to our present subject to inquire. ‘ [7]
The reality is, of course the exact opposite. The objective social exchange of goods does not exist because of ideas, whether inherent or due to ‘reason and speech’, but ideas are created by the objective social exchange of goods. This fact, that ideas were created by social reality was of course a fundamental concept introduced by Marx.

Marx himself, in the Afterward to the Second German Edition of Capital, famously once described his own relation to Hegel by the phrase of standing Hegel ‘on his head’, that is Marx turned Hegel upside down – but exactly the same parallel exists on this issue in Marx’s relation to Adam Smith. Regarding Hegel Marx noted:

‘For Hegel, the process of thinking… is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea. With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.

‘I criticized the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years ago, at a time when it was still the fashion. But just when I was working at the first volume of Capital, the ill-humoured, arrogant and mediocre epigones who now talk large in educated German circles began to take pleasure in treating Hegel… as a ‘dead dog’. I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker…  The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.’

The same process applied by Marx to Hegel applies to Smith. Smith explained exchange of products from ideas, in reality ideas were explained by the social structure of exchange of products. But once this ‘inversion’ was carried out, that is Marx eliminated the problem that Smith, like Hegel, was ‘standing on his head’ the question of the relation between individual interests and common interest is immediately solved.  By tracing carefully Smith’s analysis of the issue, and Marx’s reformulation of it, it is possible to see clearly the error of McMaster/Cord on foreign policy, the fundamental error of neo-classical economics, and the superiority of Xi Jinping’s Marxist concept of a ‘community of common destiny’ – and thereby the overall superiority of Marxist analysis.

Division of labour

The title The Wealth of Nations embodied the fact that Smith wished to analyse why the ordinary people of the advanced European countries of his time enjoyed such a high standard of living compared to many other parts of the world – in summary, why the advanced European nations were ‘wealthier’ than most other parts of the world. Smith began analysing this fundamental question long before completing The Wealth of Nations. In Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence delivered in 1763, 13 years before publication of The Wealth of Nations, Smith noted, using the extremely prejudiced and racist language of his day:

‘The unassisted industry of a savage can not any way procure him those things which are now become necessary to the meanest artist. We may see this… in comparing the way of life of an ordinary day-labourer in England or Holland to that of a savage prince, who has the lives and liberties of a thousand or 10000 naked savages at his disposall. It appears evident that this man, whom we falsely account to live in a simple and plain manner, is far better supplied than the monarch himself. Every part of his clothing, utensils, and food has been produced by the joint labour of an infinite number of hands, and these again required a vast number to provide them in tools for their respective employments. So that this labourer could not be provided in this simple manner (as we call it) without the concurrence of some 1,000 hands.‘His life indeed is simple when compared to the luxury and profusion of an European grandee. But perhaps the affluence and luxury of the richest does not so far exceed the plenty and abundance of an industrious farmer as this latter does the unprovided… manner of life of the most respected savage…. In what manner then shall we account for the great share he and the lowest of the people have of the conveniences of life.’[8]

Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence gave the answer to this question he posed, of the much higher living standard of Europe in the form in which, as The Wealth of Nations makes clear, the systematic development of the founding of modern economics was to flow:
‘The division of labour amongst different hands can alone account for this.’ [9]

This question, and the answer given, were the starting point of The Wealth of Nations. As Smith put it concluding Chapter I of The Wealth of Nations, in words summarising his own Lectures on Jurisprudence, he was asking in his great masterpiece why:
‘the accommodation of an European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king.’[10]

Smith stated the answer, thereby creating the science of economics, in the first sentence of the first chapter of The Wealth of Nations – from which the entire rest of the book flowed:

‘The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is directed, or applied, seem to have been the effect of the division of labour.’[11]
The famous example of division of labour Smith analysed at the beginning of the The Wealth of Nations, a pin factory, in reality simply illustrated the entire process which led to globalisation. Smith analysed why, put in prosaic quantitative terms, the division of labour embodied in the pin factory raised productivity by a minimum 24,000%.

‘To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the trade of a pin-maker: a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches… [the] business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations… I have seen a small manufactory of this kind, where ten men only were employed… Those ten persons… could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day.’ [12]
This fundamental principle of division of labour, applied to far more complex operations than pin making, created the huge international division of labour interconnecting even different continents. But it followed that as greater productivity was created by greater division of labour, therefore the more advanced the country the greater would be the division of labour, including international division of labour, on which this development and prosperity was based. Therefore, as Smith noted:

‘The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. This separation, too, is generally carried furthest in those countries which enjoy the highest degree of industry and improvement.’ [13]

This fact in realty simultaneously solved the problem of the relation between ‘individual’ interest and ‘common’ or ‘social’ interest. As Smith noted it was not on individual effort but on this massive division of labour that the prosperity and well-being of each individual necessarily depended:

‘It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.’[14]
The prosperity of the individual, therefore, could not exist without this social division of labour and depended on it. [15] That is the well-being of the individual depended on this division of labour/socialisation of labour – whose effects were far more powerful than the efforts of the individual themselves. As Smith summarised:

‘if we examine, I say, all these things, and consider what a variety of labour is employed about each of them, we shall be sensible that, without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided, even according to, what we very falsely imagine, the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated.’[16]

The result of which was therefore that the fundamental well-being of each individual depended not on himself/herself but on this social division of labour:

‘In civilized society he stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes.’ [17]

Without this social division of labour with others, i.e. without ‘society’ or the ‘community’, human beings would still be living in the most primitive conditions, with no advanced facilities or conditions of life and with an average life expectancy of around 30 – as did early human beings. The myth of the ‘self-sufficient individual’ is precisely that – pure myth. In reality, the well-being of the individual most fundamentally depends on society.
Or as Smith noted in his earlier Lectures on Jurisprudence, which prepared the ideas of The Wealth of Nations:

‘In yesterday’s lecture I endeavoured to explain the causes which prompt man to industry and are peculiar to him of all the animals… These wants a solitary savage can supply in some manner, but not in that which is reckoned absolutely necessary in every country where government has been some time established.’ [18]

As without this social division of labour and society the individual would merely live very badly for a very short time, the interests of the individual are therefore not in the fundamental sense opposed to the interests of society, on the contrary the well-being of the individual most fundamentally  depends on the development of social division of labour, on society.

Marx division of labour

Marx solved the problem Adam Smith had posed of the relation of individual interest and social interests by reversing the situation whereby Smith was ‘standing on his head’ – that is not explaining objective social structure from ideas, but explaining ideas from social structure. This simultaneously makes clear why there is no fundamental counterposition of self-interest and social interest and which is the most fundamental. By standing Smith ‘on his head’, in terms of causality, Marx solved the problem Adam Smith had entirely accurately posed but which Smith himself could not answer.

Marx, in the same way as Smith, analysed the principle of division of labour, of the pin factory which Smith had studied, that is as Marx put it: ‘division of labour… not by one person doing everything, but by many doing a little.’[19] As with Smith, Marx noted it was this division of labour which gave rise to the tremendous development of production and productivity: ‘The social power, i.e., the multiplied productive force, which arises through the co-operation of different individuals as it is caused by the division of labour.’ [20]

Marx noted, even more clearly than Smith himself, that division of labour immediately gave rise to this question of the relation between individual and general interests – the question Smith had rightly asked but been unable to answer in The Theory of the Moral Sentiments. As Marx noted:

‘For as soon as the division of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood.’

Therefore, put in general terms, the division of labour necessarily and immediately raised the question of the relation between individual and general/social interests:

‘the division of labour also implies the contradiction between the interest of the separate individual or the individual family and the common interest of all individuals who have intercourse with one another.’ [21]

But this contradiction was in fundamental terms resolved because, as already analysed, the high standard of living an increasingly advanced society, and the individuals within it, is only possible because of the huge division of labour which therefore creates the dependence of the well-being of each individual on society – the dependence of the ‘individual’ on the ‘general’ or on ‘all’. As Marx noted:

‘this common interest does not exist merely in the imagination, as the “general interest”, but first of all in reality, as the mutual interdependence of the individuals among whom the labour is divided.’ [22]
This in turn created structures, including the state, which organised the relation of individual specific interests and general interests:

‘Out of this very contradiction between the particular and the common interests, the common interest assumes an independent form as the state.’[23]

The consequence, given division of labour’s fundamental role in developing productivity, was that as society develops  division of labour becomes greater and greater. That is:
‘division of labour raises the productive power of labour and increases the wealth and refinement of society’[24]

Or, as Marx succinctly summarised it in the most general terms:

‘Division of labour increases with civilisation.’[25]

Such increasing division of labour precisely created globalisation, the international division of labour, or as Marx phrased it what is created is:

‘the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with them.’[26]

Such international division of labour indeed creates a world community of ‘general interest’ – that is, the maximum prosperity of individuals in one country depended on production by those in other countries. Or as Marx put it:
‘only with this universal development of productive forces is a universal intercourse between men established… and… puts world-historical, empirically universal individuals in place of local ones.’ [27]

Therefore, this mutual international dependence of the well-being of individuals in each country on those in other countries, creates for the first time a truly ‘globally connected’ human being. Or as Marx phrased it this produces:
‘this development of productive forces… which at the same time implies the actual empirical existence of men in their world-historical, instead of local, being.’ [28]
Such an international connection develops not only in production but also in ideas:

‘the real intellectual wealth of the individual depends entirely on the wealth of his real connections. Only this will liberate the separate individuals from the various national and local barriers, bring them into practical connection with the production (including intellectual production) of the whole world and make it possible for them to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man).’ [29]

Indeed, international division of labour is particularly clear and transparent in the sphere of ideas. No country has a monopoly in ideas – and all countries adopt other countries ideas. Human civilization could not have reached its present level without China’s four great inventions, without the contribution of British scientists (Newton, Darwin), the contribution of German scientists and mathematicians (Gauss, Einstein) etc.

But while such great ‘individual’ geniuses and inventions are rightly celebrated they were in reality themselves the product of social division of labour and the development of ideas by others which were indispensable for their own. To the present author’s knowledge nobody knows exactly which individuals created China’s four great inventions; it was the inventors of the telescope in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century who allowed the observations by the Italian Galileo that definitively destroyed the idea that the sun circled the earth and proved correct the fundamental concepts of the Pole Copernicus; if the Englishman Newton had not developed calculus and the law of gravitation someone else would have (the German Leibniz developed calculus at almost exactly the same time), Darwin almost lost his well merited recognition as the discoverer of evolution because he was so intent on collecting an abundance of evidence over more than 20 years for The Origin of Species that he was almost beaten to publication by Alfred Russel Wallace who developed the idea after Darwin but was content to publish with infinitely less supporting evidence.

In addition to these fundamental social processes both Smith and Marx’s detailed economics also flows from the implications of the processes analysed above.

Xi Jinping and the ‘community of common destiny’

Evidently Xi Jinping’s ‘community of common destiny’, and its associated concepts, are the expression in more popular language of the fundamental conclusions analysed above. Because Xi Jinping is the president of a country, speaking to a mass audience, including countries in which Marxism is scarcely understood  such as the US, and he is not an academic giving a university seminar, Xi Jinping naturally does not intersperse speeches at events such as Davos or the One Belt One Road seminary with long quotations from Marx. But, speaking in language understandable to a mass, including a non-Marxist, audience Xi Jinping precisely expresses and develops these ideas of Marx.

·        The idea frequently expressed in Xi Jinping’s speeches that ‘one plus one is greater than two’ precisely expresses in a popularly understandable way the fundamental concept that via division of labour productivity is increased: ‘By engaging in close cooperation and drawing on each other’s strengths to make up for respective shortcomings, we can show to the world that one plus one can be greater than two.’[30]

·        The concept of ‘win-win’ is not an empty psychological ‘feel good’ phrase but expresses the fact that because division of labour, including international division of labour, increases productivity all those participating in it gain – division of labour is literally not a zero-sum game either nationally or internationally. Xi Jinping’s comments on this on the US and Africa have already been noted so here can be added his comments on BRICS. ‘The BRICS cooperation is an innovation, which transcends the old pattern of political and military alliance and pursues partnerships rather than alliances.” And: “The BRICS mechanism surpasses the old mindset of zero-sum game and practices a new concept of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.”[31]

·        It clearly follows from the above analysis that China supports globalisation – the international expression of the division of Labour. Again, expressed in popular form in Xi Jinping Davos speech: ‘Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from. Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible. Indeed, it runs counter to the historical trend.’[32] Or, in a counterposition widely analysed in the international media, as Martin Wolf noted: ‘‘Donald Trump, US president, asserts that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength”. In contrast, President Xi Jinping of China insists that “we must promote trade and investment, liberalisation and facilitation through opening up — and say no to protectionism”’

·        Xi Jinping clearly notes, following the analysis of Marx and Smith, that the more advanced is global development the greater the international division of labour: As Xi Jinping put it at the Beijing OBOR summit: ‘Never have we seen such close interdependence among countries as today, such fervent desire of people for a better life, and never have we had so many means to prevail over difficulties.’[33]

·        Specific initiatives such as OBOR evidently constitute part of China’s practical contemporary way to promote globalisation. As Xi Jinping put it at the Beijing OBOR summit: ‘In the autumn of 2013, respectively in Kazakhstan and Indonesia, I proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which I call the Belt and Road Initiative… Four years on, over 100 countries and international organizations have supported and got involved in this initiative… Thanks to our efforts, the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative is becoming a reality and bearing rich fruit… the Belt and Road Initiative responds to the trend of the times, conforms to the law of development, and meets the people’s interests…’ And: ‘In the face of the profoundly changed international landscape and the objective need for the world to rally together like passengers in the same boat, all countries should join hands in building a new model of international relations featuring cooperation and mutual benefit, and all peoples should work together to safeguard world peace and promote common development.’ [34]

·        This point clearly demonstrates that current initiatives by China such as OBOR, or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are not separate or isolated – they are interrelated by the fundamental underlying ideas of the ‘community of common destiny’ and the concepts associated with it put forward by Xi Jinping.

The current major strengthening of China’s international position noted above therefore lies precisely in the interrelation of China’s economic success, which is in turn created by the correctness of the concepts of China’s economic reform, and China’s success in the international ‘battle of ideas’ due to new practical and ideological initiatives since Xi Jinping became President. It can also be seen why the concepts put forward by the CPC, Xi Jinping, and Chinese Marxism have been shown in international discussion to be far superior and more correct than those in the West.

Xi Jinping and the development of the Marxism in China

The above points also clearly illustrate the further development and general dynamic of China’s Marxism. The ideas of ‘community of common destiny’, ’win-win’, OBOR etc are clearly formulated in concepts originated by Marx – as already analysed. But they are not simply a restatement of Marx – who naturally never developed ideas related to OBOR, current relations between China and the US etc. These concepts of Xi Jinping are an application and development of Marxism in the new period of both China and the global economy. They therefore flow from a correct analysis of the situation and dynamic both of China and the international situation. This correspondence to the practical dynamics of the international situation, and therefore their international impact analysed above, confirms that Chinese Marxism is the most advanced framework of thinking in the world today.

The errors of McMaster/Cohn

The above analysis makes clear the correctness of the ideas of Xi Jinping and China’s Marxism, in particular of the ‘community of common destiny’, and the errors of McMaster/Cohn, the ‘Trump doctrine’, and ideas from Western neo-classical economics which underlie them. As shown, the same principle applies on both national and international level:

·        Far from their being a fundamental contradiction between the interests of the individual and the interests of society the well-being of each individual in reality depends on the massive social division of labour – on society. This naturally does not mean there are no conflicts of individual interest, but this social division of labour is far more powerful in producing the well-being of the individual than any efforts by any individual themselves – without this social division of labour the life of the individual would be ‘primitive, brutal and very short’. The maximum well-being of the individual can therefore only be achieved by developing this social division of labour – that is the fundamental interests of the individual do not contradict, but fundamentally coincide, with the common interest of developing this social division of labour. This shows on the national level not only that Thatcher’s claim that ‘‘there is no such thing as society… There are individual men and women’ is false but that society is a far more powerful force in securing the well-being of the individual than any efforts possible by that individual themselves.

·        The same principle underlies the international s well as the national level. The maximum prosperity of a single country depends on an international division of labour. The more developed an economy, and the more developed the global economy, the greater is this international division of labour -and therefore a country’s dependence on it. This does not mean, of course, that there cannot be particular contradictions between individual interests of individual countries, or between individual countries and general interests, but it means that securing the maximum prosperity and well-being of an individual country coincides with the common interest of developing this international division of labour. There is, therefore precisely common international interests – an international community of interests. The interests of humanity, and of international countries, in maximising their well-being therefore lies in developing this common international division of labour. The claim by McMaster/Cohn that ‘the world is not a “global community”’ but there is simply ‘an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage’ is false. Or as Xi Jinping put it: ‘‘Mankind, by living in the same global village in the same era where history and reality meet, has increasingly emerged as a community of common destiny in which everyone has in himself a little bit of others.’ [35]


The practical conclusion of the above is clear. Xi Jinping is correct in the concept of a ‘community of common destiny’, and McMaster/Cohn wrong in their assertion there is no such thing as community. McMaster/Cohn merely repeat on the international level Thatcher false claim on the national terrain that: ‘there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women.’ In the clash of international ideas the Marxism of China and Xi Jinping clearly shows itself superior to the West in its thinking.
This fundamental difference in ideas underpins and helps leads to the growing influence of China analysed above. The practical implications as they affect other countries, and therefore their effects on foreign policy and relations with other countries, can be summarised simply.

For McMaster/Cohn the role of US foreign policy is simply to express US interests: ‘the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. Therefore: ‘America First signals the restoration of American leadership and our government’s traditional role overseas—to use the diplomatic, economic and military resources of the U.S. to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world.’
For China on the contrary it is to simultaneously benefit from and contribute to human society. As Xi Jinping put it: ‘Throughout 5,000 years of development, the Chinese nation has made significant contributions to the progress of human civilization… Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations, and make new and greater contributions to mankind.’[36]

These words of Xi Jinping are eloquent, but even more important they are true. China’s maximum well-being and prosperity cannot be achieved without participation in the international division of labour, both economic and intellectual, and simultaneously and reciprocally China’s maximisation of its own development benefits other countries. This is why China’s relations with other countries are win-win – and also why China’s Marxism is increasingly openly winning the ‘battle of ideas.’

Finally, on a more minor matter, this does pose an issue. Given that the ideas of Western neo-classicism and neo-liberalism are clearly wrong for the reasons given why is there the situation that some Chinese universities continue to teach these errors when China itself possesses far more advanced ideas? It is rather ridiculous that when China is globally winning the ‘battle of ideas’ such patently false ideas continue to be taught in China. This apparently corresponds to the logic that ‘China cannot be murdered so it must be persuaded to commit suicide’. While the ideas of neo-liberalism are justly losing the battle with China’s Marxist ideas and influence on the international terrain it is rather foolish and damaging such ideas are being taught in China.

However, this is not the main point. The main point, as analysed here China is winning not only the struggle for international influence due to its economic strength. It is now clearly winning in the international ‘battle of ideas’ – particularly due to the further development of Chinese Marxism under Xi Jinping.


This article was finished in English at the end of June. Publication was delayed while it was translated and edited into Chinese. On 12 July Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, published an article also analysing the McMaster and Cohn article and US foreign policy concepts ‘Donald Trump’s clash of civilisations versus the global community’. Martin Wolf was entirely correct to understand the fundamental nature of the McMaster and Cohn article and its concepts. What Wolf did not do is to state that the most fundamental opposition and alternative to the ideas of McMaster and Cohn, and the ‘Trump doctrine’, is the concepts of Xi Jinping. China and Xi Jinping were stating these ideas as central for years before Martin Wolf. China was showing ‘thought leadership’ and the Financial Times is following.


Marx, K. (1844). Comments on James Mill, Élémens d’Économie Politique. In K. Marx, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels Collected Works (1975 ed., Vol. 3, pp. 211-228). Moscow: Progress Publishers.
McMaster, H. R., & Cohn, G. D. (2017, May 30). America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone. Retrieved June 4, 2017, from Wall Street Journal:
Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1.
Smith, A. (n.d.). Lectures on Jurisprudence.
Thatcher, M. (1987, October 31). Epitaph for the eighties? “there is no such thing as society’. Women’s Own. Retrieved from


[1] Thatcher, M. (1987, October 31). ‘Epitaph for the eighties? “there is no such thing as society”’. Women’s Own. Retrieved from

[2] McMaster, H. R., & Cohn, G. D. ‘ America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone ‘, Wall Street Journal 2017, May 30

[3] Xi Jinping, ‘Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Global Peace and Development’, 23 March 2013.

[4] Xi Jinping, ‘Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Global Peace and Development’, 23 March 2013.

[5] Smith, A. (1790). The Theory of the Moral Sentiments (1982 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Inc p9.

[6] Smith, A. (1790). The Theory of the Moral Sentiments (1982 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Inc p9.

[7] Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations (Optimized for Kindle) (Kindle Locations 314-319). Kindle Edition.

[8] (Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, 29 March 1763 p. 340-341 – English spelling modernised)

[9] (Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, 29 March 1763 p. 341 – English spelling modernised)

[10] Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p24.

[11] (Smith, 1776, p. 13).

[12] In greater detail Smith’s analysis reads: ‘To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the trade of a pin-maker: a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations… have seen a small manufactory of this kind, where ten men only were employed… Those ten persons… could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day.’ Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p14-15

[13] Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p15

[14]   Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p22.

[15] As Smith analysed it in detail: ‘Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or daylabourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people, of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation. The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder, the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser, with many others, must all join their different arts in order to complete even this homely production. How many merchants and carriers, besides, must have been employed in transporting the materials from some of those workmen to others who often live in a very distant part of the country? How much commerce and navigation in particular, how many ship-builders, sailors, sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world? What a variety of labour, too, is necessary in order to produce the tools of the meanest of those workmen! To say nothing of such complicated machines as the ship of the sailor, the mill of the fuller, or even the loom of the weaver, let us consider only what a variety of labour is requisite in order to form that very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool. The miner, the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore the feller of the timber, the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brickmaker, the bricklayer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the millwright, the forger, the smith, must all of them join their different arts in order to produce them. Were we to examine, in the same manner, all the different parts of his dress and household furniture, the coarse linen shirt which he wears next his skin, the shoes which cover his feet, the bed which he lies on, and all the different parts which compose it, the kitchen-grate at which he prepares his victuals, the coals which he makes use of for that purpose, dug from the bowels of the earth, and brought to him, perhaps, by a long sea and a long land-carriage, all the other utensils of his kitchen, all the furniture of his table, the knives and forks, the earthen or pewter plates upon which he serves up and divides his victuals, the different hands employed in preparing his bread and his beer, the glass window which lets in the heat and the light, and keeps out the wind and the rain, with all the knowledge and art requisite for preparing that beautiful and happy invention, without which these northern parts of the world could scarce have afforded a very comfortable habitation, together with the tools of all the different workmen employed in producing those different conveniencies’
Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p22.

[16] Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p22.

[17] Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 ed.). Indianapolis: Liberty Edition Volume 1 p15

[18] (Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, 29 March 1763 p. 341 – English spelling modernised)

[19] (Marx, ‘Justification of the Correspondent from Mosel’ Collected Works Vol1 p. 333)

[20] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 46-48)

[21] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 46-48)

[22] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 46-48)

[23] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 46-48)

[24] (Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, 1844, p. 240)

[25] (Marx Comments on James Mill, Élémens d’Économie Politique. In K. Marx, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels Collected Works (1975 ed., Vol. 3, pp. 211-228). Moscow: Progress Publishers.

[26] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 48-49)

[27] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 48-49)

[28] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 48-49)

[29] (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845, pp. 51-52)

[30] Xi, J. (2014). Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Global Peace and Development. In J. Xi, The Governance of China (Kindle Edition) (pp. Location 4059-4060). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

[31] Cited in ‘Xi: BRICS cooperation will usher in new ‘golden decade’

[32] ‘President Xi’s speech to Davos in full’

[33] ‘Full text of President Xi’s speech at opening of Belt and Road forum’

[34] Xi, J. (2014). Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Global Peace and Development. In J. Xi, The Governance of China (Kindle Edition) (pp. Location 4000). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

[35] Xi, J. (2014). Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Global Peace and Development. In J. Xi, The Governance of China (Kindle Edition) (pp. Location 3993). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

[36] (Xi J. , The People’s Wish for a Good Life is Our Goal, 2014, pp. Location 137-144)

Review of Money and Totality by Fred Moseley

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/08/2019 - 9:46pm in

image/jpeg iconfred_moseley_money_totality.jpg

Today, as the global economy flounders from crisis to crisis, Marx’s analysis of capitalism is the essential basis for a correct understanding of what is going on. Moseley’s book reaffirms key elements of this analysis. The previous obsession with the transformation problem has resulted in the undermining of these key aspects of Marx’s critique, actually making an understanding of twenty first century capitalism harder. Moseley’s book, though long winded and somewhat repetitive, serves a very useful purpose in exposing this undermining and its implications. For this reason alone it is worth reading.

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“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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The Stepford Daughters of Brexit and Slavery and the Emergence of Capitalism

Yesterday for our amusement the awesome Kerry Anne Mendoza posted a video on twitter made by two very definitely overprivileged girls talking about the evils of socialism. The two young ladies were Alice and Beatrice Grant, the privately educated granddaughters of the late industrialist and former governor of the Bank of England, Sir Alistair Grant. With their cut-glass accents and glazed, robotic delivery of their lines, they seemed to fit the stereotype of the idiotic Sloane perfectly, right down to the ‘Okay, yah’, pronunciation. Mendoza commented ‘I don’t think this was meant to be a parody, but it’s the perfect roast of the “yah-yah” anti-left.’

Absolutely. In fact, what the girls were describing as socialism was really Communism, completely ignoring democratic socialism, or social democracy – the form of socialism that demands a mixed economy, with a strong welfare state and trade unions, progressive taxation and social mobility. It also ignored anti-authoritarian forms of socialism, like syndicalism, guild socialism or anarcho-Communism. They were also unaware that Marx himself had said that, regarding the interpretations of his views promoted by some of his followers, he wouldn’t be a Marxist.

But it would obviously be too much to expect such extremely rich, public school girls to know any of this. They clearly believed, and had been brought up to believe, the Andrew Roberts line about capitalism being the most wonderful thing every invented, a mechanism that has lifted millions around the world out of poverty. Etc. Except, as Trev, one of the great commenters on Mike’s and this blog, said

If “Capitalism works” why are there a million people using foodbanks in Britain today? Not working that well is it? Why did the Government bail out the Banks using our money? Why did the Banking system collapse in the first place, was it because of Socialism? I don’t find these idiotic spoilt brats in the least bit funny, I feel bloody angry. When was the last time they ate food they found in the street? Bring back the Guillotine!


The two girls were passionate supporters of the Fuhrage and his wretched party, and were really looking forward to a no-deal Brexit. It shows how out of touch these girls are, as Brexit is already wrecking the British economy, and a no-deal Brexit and subsequent deal with a predatory America would just wipe it out completely. Along with everything that has made post-war Britain great – the NHS and welfare state. But these girls obviously have no connection with working people or, I guess, the many businesses that actually depend on manufacturing and exports. I think the girls’ family is part of financial sector, who stand to make big profits from Brexit, or at least are insulated from its effects because they can move their capital around the globe.

The girls’ views on the EU was similarly moronic. They really do seem to believe that the EU is somehow an oppressive, communistic superstate like the USSR. It wasn’t. And the reason anti-EU socialists, like the late, great Tony Benn distrusted it was partly because in their view it stood for capital and free trade against the interests of the nation state and its working people.

And they also have weird views on slavery and the EU’s attitude to the world’s indigenous peoples. To the comment by David Lammy, the Black Labour politico, who dared to correct Anne Widdecombe for comparing Brexit to the great slave revolts, they tweeted

“Lammy being pathetic as usual. The chains of slavery can be intangible, as amply shown in China, the Soviet Union and the EU; to deny that just shows your ignorance and petty hatred for the truth”.

To which Zelo Street commented that there two things there. First of all, it’s best not to tell a Black man he doesn’t understand slavery. And second, the EU isn’t the USSR.

They were also against the Mercosur deal the EU wishes to sign with the South American nations, because these would lead to environmental destruction and the dispossession and exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

“As usual the GREED and selfishness of the EU imposes itself using their trade ‘deals’ in the name of cooperation and fake prosperity. The indigenous tribes of the Amazon need our protection not deforestation”.

To which Zelo Street responded with incredulity about how they could claim environmental concern for a party headed by Nigel Farage.

And they went on. And on, going on about how the EU was a threat to civil liberties. And there was more than a touch of racism in their statement that Sadiq Khan should be more concerned to make all Londoners feel safe, not just EU migrants. They also ranted about how Labour had sold out the working class over Brexit in favour of the ‘immoral, money hungry London elite’. Which shows that these ladies have absolutely no sense of irony or any self-awareness whatsoever.

In fact, Zelo Street found them so moronic and robotic, that it dubbed them the Brexit party’s Stepford Daughters, referring to the 70s SF film, the Stepford Wives. Based on the novel by Ira Levin, the films about a community where the men have killed their wives and replaced them with robots.


There’s a lot to take apart with their tweets. And perhaps we shouldn’t be two hard on the girls. They’re only 15 and 17. A lot of young people at that age have stupid views, which they grow out of. But there is one issue that really needs to be challenged.

It’s their assumptions about slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples. Because this is one massive problem to any assumption that capitalism is automatically good and beneficial.

There’s a very large amount of scholarship, much of it by Black activists and researchers, about slavery and the emergence of European capitalism and the conquest of the Americas. They have argued that European capitalism was greatly assisted by the profits from New World slavery. Caribbean historians like Dr Richard Hart, in his Blacks in Bondage, have shown that transatlantic slavery was a capitalist industry. For the enslaved indigenous peoples and the African men and women, who replaced them when they died out, capitalism certainly did not raise them out of poverty. Rather it has done the opposite – it enslaved them, and kept them in chains until they were able to overthrow it successfully with assistance of European and American abolitionists in the 19th century.

And among some left-wing West Indians, there’s still bitterness towards America for its constant interference in the Caribbean and Central and South America. America did overthrow liberal and progressive regimes across the world, and especially in the New World, when these dared to challenge the domination of American corporations. The overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s democratic socialist regime in Guatemala is a case in point. Arbenz was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the banana plantations. Which upset the American United Fruit Company, who got their government to overthrow him in coup. He was replaced by a brutal Fascistic dictatorship that kept the plantation workers as virtual slaves. And the Americans also interfered in Jamaican politics. They were absolutely opposed to the Jamaican Labour party politician, Michael Manley, becoming his nation’s Prime Minister, and so did everything they could to stop him. Including cutting trade.

And then there’s the enslavement and genocide of the indigenous peoples.

Before Columbus landed in the New World, South America had a population of about seven million. There were one million people in the Caribbean. I think there were similar numbers in North America. But the indigenous peoples were enslaved and worked to death. They were also decimated through diseases carried by Europeans, to which they had no immunity. The Taino people were driven to extinction. The Caribs, from whom the region takes its name, were able to survive on a reservation granted to them in the 18th century by the British after centuries of determined resistance. The conquest of the New World was a real horror story.

And Britain also profited from the enslavement of indigenous peoples. I doubt the girls have heard of it, but one of the scandals that rocked British imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was that of the Putomayo Indians of South America. They had been enslaved by British rubber corporations. It was this abuse of a subject people that turned the Irish patriot, Roger Casement, from a British civil servant to an ardent Nationalist.

On the other side of the world, in the Pacific, British imperialism also managed to dispossess an entire Polynesian people and trash their island. This was in the 1920s. The island was rich in mineral deposits, and so moved the indigenous people out, ultimately relocating them to Fiji. Their island was then strip-mined, leaving it a barren, uninhabitable rock. In the 1980s the survivors were trying to sue the government over their maltreatment, but with no success.

This is what unfettered British imperialism and capitalism did. And what I’ve no doubt Farage and other far right British politicians would like to do again without the restraints of international law. It’s why I believe that, whatever the demerits of the Mercosur agreement are, it’s probably better than what individual nations would do without the restraint of the EU.

The girls are right to be concerned about the fate of indigenous peoples. But they are profoundly wrong in their absolute, uninformed belief that unregulated capitalism will benefit them.

It doesn’t. It enslaves, dehumanises and dispossesses. Which is why we need international organisations like the EU, and why the Brexit party isn’t just a danger to Britain, but to the world’s weaker, developing nations and their indigenous peoples.

Gramsci: Between Marxism and Idealism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/08/2019 - 11:57pm in


Italy, Marxism

image/jpeg icongramsci_obituary.jpg

This edition of Revolutionary Perspectives goes to press at the same time as our English translation of Onorato Damen’s book Gramsci between Marxism and Idealism published after his death in 1979 (see or footnote 8 for how to purchase). By way of a taster we present an obituary which we translated from Prometeo.

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Liberalism, Politics, and the Spirit of Mercantilism (Crisis of Liberalism: IV)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/08/2019 - 11:05pm in

The widely read, widely traveled, superlatively observant author of the Wealth of Nations need not be told so obvious a thing as that self-interest entered also political life....

Smith gave a larger role to emotion, prejudice, and ignorance in political life than he ever allowed in ordinary economic affairs. The mercantile policies directed to the improvement of the balance of trade with particular countries have their origin in “national prejudice and animosity” (I, 497 [441]). The legislation against corn traders is so perverse as to lead Smith to compare it to laws against witchcraft (11, 41 [ 5001 ) ; indeed, “the laws concerning corn may every where be compared to the laws concerning religion” (11, 48 [507]). In fact all unwise economic legislation from which no politically strong constituency drew benefits must be nonrational legislation....

In general, however, Smith’s attitude toward political behavior was not dissimilar to that of a parent toward a child: the child was often mistaken and sometimes perverse, but normally it would improve in conduct if properly instructed...

One may give--for generations of economists have given-advice lavishly without taking account of the political forces which confine and direct policy. In the absence of knowledge of these political forces, the advice must often be bad and usually be unpersuasive. Why tell the sovereign that free trade is desirable, if one has no method of disarming the merchants and manufacturers who have obtained the protectionist measures ? Why tell the French sovereign to abandon the taille and capitations and increase the vintiemes, when only a revolution could dislodge the tax-favored classes? Why believe that better turnpikes await only the appointments of a better class of commissioners (11, 248 [ 684-851 )? George J. Stigler (1971)  "Smith's Travels on the Ship of State" [HT Glory Liu]

This post is part of a larger series on the Crisis of Liberalism (recall here;  here; here; (see also hereherehere, and here).

Here's a useful, undoubtedly mythical narrative about the origins of liberalism: it arose as an ameliorative project in opposition to mercantilism in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. (Yes, there were other targets, including feudalism and certain species of theocracy.) Here mercantilism is understood as a theory of state capture by interested classes who use the state to promote their own economic interests either through so-called rents, conquest (imperialism), slavery, or the tax system (or all of them). In the Wealth of Nations, Smith calls the whole violent ideology against which he hones his fire, "the Mercantile Spirit." From that vantage point, liberalism is a reformist appeal to the interests of other classes as well as enlightened self-interests of the business classes.  The key conceptual move is to turn zero-sum logic into a win-win agenda that promotes, as a political program, a moral vision (the good society) that is all about the expansion of individual freedoms (note the plural). Depending on one's taste one may well come to privilege particular features of the liberal program (free trade, rule of law, individual choice, harm reduction, mutual respect, free press, free speech, elections, separation of powers, freedom of religion, etc.)

Notice that the mythical narrative presupposes the existence of states with non-trivial capacities and societies with complex division of labor and different perspectives on their interests. (This narrative is not identical to ones one finds circulating among some kinds of libertarians.) Notice, too, that what is commonly called capitalism is neutral between liberalism and mercantalism. So, for example, many (recall) of the ills that Marx (and Engels) diagnose in capitalism, are, from the vantage point of a liberal, really ills of mercantile variant thereof (e.g., "the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.") This is one reason why, for example, social democracy (which borrows from liberalism and Marxism) is conceptually possible.

Now, one historical (stylized) fact is that the very success of liberalism can give rise to forces that make a worse form mercantilism possible. This is really the story of the first wave of liberalism during the 19th century and its collapse in World War I (recall). And this has generated throughout the development of liberalism other important intellectual and institutional innovations, including ideas about anti-trust (to prevent concentrated market power), the progressive tax rate (to prevent concentrated economic power), the promotion of meritocracy in government hiring, the development of international law, and, alongside many attempts at liberalizing the economy, the mobility of people (open borders, etc.), the development of many international institutions (so characteristic of the second wave of liberalism). 

Notice that the mythical narrative now reveals, which was also true at first, that sometimes liberalism entails strengthening the state institutions and their functioning, even attacking (to use a useful term coined by Samuel Bagg) concentrated powers in the private sector (or, as Gorden Arlen reminds me, 'sinister interests') and sometimes entailed strengthening the forces of civil society, including of businesses and religions. (Jacob T. Levy has nicely articulated a more sophisticated version of the tactical vacillation in (recall) his book Rationalism, Pluralism & Freedom.)

At any given time, the ameliorative, mitigating spirit of liberalism demands from us imperfect judgments about what the greatest/most urgent dangers are and what the right way to respond to them might be (see Peter Boettke on that very challenge today). At no point does liberalism expect to destroy the spirit of mercantilism because this would require a reform of human nature and (as anarchists urge) the total abolition of the political power of the state. 

What liberalism then also requires is a theory of how politics operates (which can constrain the judgment). As Stigler notes, the very idea of state capture presupposes that people are self-interested and know what they are doing when they influence or have power.  One may say then that the diagnostic use of public choice economics is co-extensive with the history of liberalism. (Of course, public choice insights were known to critics of democracy and liberal ideas before liberalism was invented.) This was obscured a bit in the long period when utilitarianism was dominant because it often presupposed philanthropic legislators.  Alongside his paper on Smith, in 1971 Stigler published a piece on the nature of rent-seeking, "The Theory of Economic Regulation" on the demand and supply of regulation that itself became  wildly influential (this morning it had over 12,000 citations). For those who wish to amuse themselves, they can compare Stigler's  two brief essays (the Smith one and the one on rents) and note that they include the same kind of examples and the same rhetoric against the mistakes of economists.

Now, sometimes liberalism is tempted -- and this Stigler diagnoses -- by two other theories of politics (which are opposed even if the same side of the coin because they tend to black-box politics): one suggests that in politics unreason rules. I think one finds this attitude in some Hayekians, but, as Stigler notes correctly, one can find traces of it going back to Smith (even if I think Stigler misreads some of his own examples). On this view, politics is simply unpredictable and corrosive to any rational ideals (or both)--it often is accompanied by the idea to keep one's distance from politics and reduction of state power. The other [black-box theory] is one that implies that good normative ideas are automatically implemented [by benevolent and truth apt legislators] and then executed by a rule following bureaucracy. As Stigler notes nobody would assent to holding such a theory explicitly, but a lot of policy advice assumes it in practice. 

As an aside, part of the inside-baseball joke of the closing line of the quoted passage by Stigler is not just that economists are volunteering themselves as a particular class of (rent-seeking) job-seekers, the impartial and truth-apt commissioner, who is not to be found in his models, but that Smith -- the apostle of free trade -- himself ended up as a high customs commissioner to the British Crown.

Short of revolution (which liberals tend to abhor), Stigler advocates a different (fourth) understanding of policy. It requires not just the diagnostic features of  public choice, but also knowledge of "the political forces which confine and direct policy." This requires knowledge of the sort that empirical political science and sociology can supply. So, from this perspective, any policy advice must include a constituency or coalition that can promote the policy effectively (and have a grasp of the ways bureaucracies may react to them). Recent political philosophy can treat these as belonging to a certain class of feasibility constraints. Obviously, the promise is that this may increase the chances of uptake; it also makes all policy proposals much more status-quo friendly. Sometimes the concession to feasibility makes liberalism appear as a handmaiden to conservatism even if the path is honorable. 

What Stigler refuses to countenance, and I think here he underestimates Smith, is that morality itself can be mobilized.+ In addition, alongside most readers of Smith, he misses the role systematic theory has in shaping long-term policy. 

Let me wrap up. When liberal solutions to the problem of mercantile spirit (rent-seeking, state violence, etc.) themselves generate worse problems than the one they were aiming to solve then liberalism runs the risk of collapsing and becomes unattractive if not unpersuasive to the young. As regular readers know I think we have reached such a stage in the wake of the great financial crisis. The very survival of the financial system was taken to require great handouts to the rich and powerful. Few believe, when listening to self-described libertarian billionaires plotting interplanetary escape, that capitalism can solve the environmental/climate challenges ahead. It is no wonder that the spirit of mercantilism with its embrace of national state sponsored violence against immigrants and trade barriers with its fondness for grand building projects (etc.), has grown so bold since. But since that is the very ground of the existence of liberalism this is no reason for despair; it's our permanent challenge. 

+A few years later, writing with Becker, he can easily accommodate the point by treating pursuit of morality as just another way of maximizing utility.


An Interview with Werner Bonefeld on ordoliberalism and the EU

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/08/2019 - 6:00am in

This interview was
conducted by the podcast Political
Economy for the End Times
, which acts as a platform for discussion of the
intersecting crises of contemporary capitalism (follow on Twitter here). In this episode, Werner
Bonefeld, Professor of Politics at the University of York and a central thinker
within the Open Marxist tradition, discusses the theoretical foundations of ordoliberalism
and its implications for understanding the European Union and its current
turmoil. He is the author of The
Strong State and the Free Economy
, Critical
Theory and the Critique of Political Economy
, and co-editor of the SAGE
Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory
. He was interviewed by Alexis Moraitis, whose research
focuses on the political economy of France and the EU.

AM: Neoliberalism has
entered the popular lexicon and is often held up as everything that is wrong
with modern politics. However, ordoliberalism is much less widely discussed.
What is ordoliberalism?

WB: Good question! First
of all, it’s liberalism. The prefix ‘ordo’ was only added, as it were, or came
to the fore in the 1950s, as a consequence of the name of the journal in which
the then ordoliberals wrote. The journal itself, I believe, was also edited – coedited
– by Hayek, which gives you a connection to so-called neoliberalism, whatever
the distinction and difference between those two might be. Ordoliberalism as
such, or as an approach, was first called a new liberalism, and then it was
called a neoliberalism, and it was called a neoliberalism by one of its
founding thinkers called Alexander Rüstow at the Walter Lippmann colloquium in
France whenever it was, was it 1938? And he understood by neoliberalism then,
which later became ordoliberalism, an understanding of the state as the
indispensable power of a free economy. And he saw the state, or he termed the
state, he defined the state basically as Marx had it, or as Weber has it, or
everybody else has it, as the concentrated power of society, and he defined
that concentrated power as market police.

AB: I find it very
interesting that you said ordoliberalism is liberalism … What is the
relationship of ordoliberalism to classical liberalism, and particularly Adam
Smith and his concept of the ‘invisible hand’?

WB: Every approach, every
author worth their name, will live through certain periods and faces certain
historical contexts, and [approaches are] thus reformulated, revised, and
developed. Nothing stays forever. So Smith wrote whenever he wrote and Smithian
classical political economy evolved and was explored by other liberal thinkers
within the context of their time. The connection though is a quite strong one,
I think. If you look at Adam Smith The Wealth
of Nations
chapter one, there is the argument about the pin factory, about
the division of labour, about the need to increase labour productivity, and he
sees that as the foundation of the wealth of nations. And then he says towards
the end of chapter one, ‘and there will be opulence’. But opulence, he says,
depends upon good government, that’s in chapter one,  good government. So why is good government
required as far as Adam Smith is concerned? Good government is required because
the individuals are governed by self-love, so if you’re self-loving then you
need to be moralised, you need to become a citizen, you need to, as it were,
conduct yourself according to the rule of law. And you need to be reminded to
use your self-interest not to collude with your competitors, monopolising
prices, cartel organisation, monopolies etc. So there should be no collusion to
maintain profit rates artificially. And for all of that the state is required.
Adam Smith too calls the state ‘market police’ in the lectures on
jurisprudence. He argues that every issue concerning the manufacture, exchange,
and whatever else trade of the nation is a matter of police, and by police he
means market police, or public policy, as the instance of good government that
in fact facilitates the wealth of nations in terms of increased labour
productivity and increased division of labour.

AB: It appears that
ordoliberalism builds upon an existing tradition of liberalism, you mentioned
Hayek etc. There is continuity. In light of current proposals to a return to
Keynesian principles to solve the current crisis, where would you fit Keynes
within this lineage. Is it a challenge to ordoliberalism?

WB: Yeah, I suppose it is
a challenge. There is no doubt about that. It is a different conception of how,
as it were, to sustain an economy on an upward spiral. The difference, I
suppose, between neoliberalism or ordoliberalism, on the one, and Keynes, on
the other, might be best amplified by looking at Schumpeter’s creative destruct
and Keynes’ idea of good government as an interventionist government which
supports the economy through the artificial creation of demand. I think it’s
important to see all of this in the context of the late 1920s, early 1930s,
when the world was disappearing, particularly for the Austrians and for the Germans.
There’s the revolution of 1918. The old aristocratic organisation of the state
is gone. There is mass democracy – mass democracy seemingly unfettered by the
liberal principle. At least that was their critique … There is the crash of
1929. There is the inability to sustain liberal economy. Mass unemployment.
Huge challenges. And then depression in the early 1930s. What do you do? How do
you react? What do you save? What are the means of saving the system that you
aspire to? Given Bolshevism in the East which for many people at the time, rightly
or wrongly, looked like a just alternative. There was the New Deal which Hayek
also decries in the Road to Serfdom,
and then there is Hitlerism and Mussolini, and then there is later on in the 1930s
the Civil War in Spain. So these are turbulent times, no? The blowback to the
crash in 1929 was quite dramatic. So what do you do? What as a liberal do you
stand for? What is important, what is essential, what are the purposes, and who
is doing what, what are the means, what are the ends? And if you put all of
these thinkers – Schumpeter, Keynes – into the same bracket there, you see that
they all respond to the crisis of liberal economy, they all try to come up with
ways to save liberal economy for its own sake. The means of change are entirety
different, but the purposes or the ends of these interventions are the same,
namely to safeguard liberal economy.

AM: Is therefore then ordoliberalism
just one variety of capitalist management – is it just one way to govern
capitalism? Or is there something fundamental to it, about the role of the
state in a market society?

WB: Let me summarise for
you pages twenty to thirty in Freidman’s Capitalism
and Freedom
. He says clearly the state is a requirement, it’s
indispensable. We liberals require the state, the existence of the state. It is
required – there is a need for a state to set down the rules of the game and to
enforce the rules of the game, to facilitate competition, and to change the
rules of the game. We liberals therefore require the state as the institution
of the rules of the game, as the institution of the enforcement of the rules of
the game, as the institution that punishes those who do not abide by the rules
of the game, and as the institution to facilitate competitiveness and to
facilitate the open and the free society. Freidman almost seems to argue that
the state is required as a planner for competition, and planner for competition
is a phrase that Hayek himself alludes to in the Road to Serfdom.  

AM: Mario Draghi in a
speech in 2013 made a claim that the monetary constitution of the European
Central Bank (ECB) is firmly grounded in the principles of ordoliberalism. Is
that an adequate characterisation? Is the EU an ordoliberal project?

WB: Whether the ECB is
firmly based on ordoliberal principles is a matter for discussion. Eucken for
example rejected central bank independence because he thought that a central
bank could never be as depoliticised as monetary policy has to be. It is still
influenced by political decision makers and can therefore be politicised. He
advocated a system of competitive currencies where the state has no handle on
it, in fact the value of these currencies is merely market based. So, much more
stringent, as it were, much stronger, much more market-based approach to
monetary policy and the management of currencies. Others say, yeah the ECB is
based on ordoliberal principles because of its independence, its distinctions, its
narrow organisation, its statutory requirements, and all of what it does is in
fact replacing in institutional form within a regional framework what used to
be done by the Gold Standard in the 1920s in particular. And the ECB is seen as
the institution that replaces, as it were, the management of labour markets
through the Gold Standard and it does so as an independent institution of
central banking for a regional block.

AM: We can see that there
are certain ordoliberal principles underpinning the European Monetary Union.
Can we say that the whole European Union project is underpinned by ordoliberal
principles? Or is it that aspect of European integration – the monetary side?

WB: I’m not so sure it is
right to say it is underpinned by ordoliberal principles. I think
ordoliberalism articulates certain principles and these principles are the
principles of a capitalist economy. There is no theory really that says that
fiscal policy should be profligate. Keynesianism argues for countercyclical
spending, but it doesn’t say that fiscal policy should be deficit-ridden just
because it can be done, there are certain principles there. There is no
economic theory that says that monetary policy should not be sound but unsound,
as it were. There is no economic policy which says that labour markets can be
unproductive, that labour can be unprofitable. There is no such thing really.
What ordoliberalism does is to highlight the requirement for such a system to
operate. And it highlights the requirements as requirements of an economy that
is governed by an executive state, by a strong state, by a principled state, by
a state that is able to gain and maintain its independence from society and, as
such an independent force, govern society according to the rule of law.

AB: Many in the
nationalist camp, and also on the left, argue that the EU is a threat to
national sovereignty. Do you agree with claims that the increasing power of the
European Commission or the ECB leads to a retreat of the state? Does the EU as
a project involved the shrinking of state power?

WB: First a remark – a
personal statement of my own politics. I am an internationalist, and if the EU undermines
nationalism then I would be very much in favour of its operation. Secondly, I
don’t think that the EU, in fact, forces the European nation states into
retreat, in as much as the European Union monetary policy included or monetary
union included is nothing without the power of the nation state. It is in fact
through the nation states that the monetary union has any relevance and is made
viable. The monetary union does not enforce itself – it is enforced by the
nation states who act as executive states of the bond that unites them, and the
bond that unites them is monetary union. In fact, I would argue that monetary
union allows the state an independence from mass democratic aspirations and
demands and pressures, and allows them more strongly to govern over them in
order for the market media of European law, European money, European markets to
become viable as a consequence through their policies. So, in fact, what the
nation state does –  the government of
the nation state – what they do is to imbue, to endow the monetary union with a
consciousness and a will. Without them the monetary union would be nothing.

AM: It appears that, in a
sense, the EU can help promote policies that states would pursue anyway to
govern capitalism, but they cannot because of domestic political pressures.
There is a sort of depoliticisation at work. Is this relationship between member
states and the EU always a harmonious one? I want to refer more precisely to
the case of Syriza in Greece, which was a party that was elected on a radical
platform, anti-austerity platform, and it was ultimately forced, allegedly, by
the European authorities to pursue 
radical restructuring and austerity programme. So my question is, is
there always harmony between the EU, the EMU, and member states?

WB: No, clearly there is
not always harmony. And you don’t need the Greek case – you can look at the
competing designs and proposals for monetary union by the Germans and the
French, and there is not harmony. What the EU, however, does is to provide a
table, and what pitted them against each other in war in the past is now
negotiated between government leaders, and decisions are taken where the
various interests converge, regardless of who is the powerful nation and who is
not the powerful nation. The asymmetry of power between let’s say the French,
the Germans, and the Greek state is clearly in evidence. But nevertheless they
sit around the table and decide on the next step in conditions which in the
past related or referred or led to war and bloodshed in the centre of

AM: Some say that the EU
is facing its largest challenge to date – that it has a real existential
anxiety. Would you say that the EU project is in crisis? And, if yes, what
would that tell us about the ordoliberal principles that underpin it? Do they
fail to uphold the order that they seek to impose?

WB: I think the management
of the Eurozone crisis was most effective – unfortunately, one might wish to
add. Even the Greek Syriza government now is a champion of austerity and has,
in terms of the contract that they signed with the European Union, been rather
successful. Syriza I suppose has been one of the most successful austerity
parties and governments in the context of Europe. It’s quite an amazing development,
from anti-austerity protests to the enforcement of austerity in such an
effective manner. Whether the EU is in an existential crisis or not, I don’t
know. I mean, I’ve been through various histories of existential crises of the EU
– nothing much seems to happen as a consequence. In fact, it progresses through
crisis, and crisis is a means for its further development. The populist
nationalists in Europe, of course, are a major force now and are contenders at
least for the time being. What they propose, the leftists as well, the
anti-imperialist left, is the return to the nation state, to a sort of
democracy of the nation, a national democracy, or a nationalist democracy. What
the argument forgets is that each of these democracies is viable only if it is
able to compete on world market level, at world market prices, if its labour,
as it were, can compete with Chinese labour, if that is a way of summarising
this particular point. What the EU establishes is an institution and
institutional pressure to enhance labour productivity in its various
territorialised labour markets. To render them, as it were, capable of
modernisation, innovation, increased labour productivity, increased division of
labour – to go back to chapter one of Adam Smith – to make them viable as world
market contenders. And, in fact, the integration of the respective working
classes in Europe depends on the profitability or the profitable exploitation
of its labour to meet world market standards. And the EU is the institution and
is the means towards that end. Given that we are dealing with a capitalist
society, that a capitalist society organises itself in that way – i.e. institutional
means towards the ends of world market viable labour markets – is not really a
surprise. And criticising that seems to be entirely misunderstanding what capitalism
is about.    

AM: Speaking about this
existential anxiety, that might or might not be there, the fact is that the
desirability of the EU is questioned not only by the usual Eurosceptic
suspects, the nationalist right, but also by the left. Recently we have heard
calls for a Lexit, that is, a leftist social progressive exit from the EU. So,
I would rephrase the question, is another Europe possible, as some European
progressives suggest? Or is the EU bound to be ordoliberal? Can it be reformed
– can it be more Keynesian, for instance?

WB: The critique of the
leftists, as it were, on Europe amounts to me to a great lament, but, in fact,
not to a conceptualisation of the dynamic of capitalist wealth, class
relationships, and world market pressures. Moralising doesn’t really help,
lamenting doesn’t really help, doesn’t allow you to see what you need to see.
Whether the European Union can transform itself from a institution where the
regulative forces of the market – law, money and market competition – are
enshrined within a politically-constituted entity that is capable of Keynes
policy, we need to see. It is clearly possible. Whether or not it is desirable
for those who wish to organise their labour markets to meet world market
standards of competitiveness is another matter.

AM: The EU, and we could
even say the World Trade Organisation, can serve as depoliticisation
mechanisms, to circumvent issues of needs and popular legitimacy. But at the
same time, these organisations, and we can see it quite clearly in the EU, have
become the object of popular anger, and maybe to an extent they have become
repoliticised. Does this suggest that ordoliberalism has a legitimacy problem?
That it cannot banish legitimacy crises, and they are bound to be reproduced
again and again?

WB: Yeah, sure, but legitimacy
crisis are not, as it were, connected or tied to ordoliberalism or ordoliberal
government, whatever that in fact amounts to. Legitimacy crises are a recurrent
problem of capitalist organisation, throughout the last century and before, I
guess. That’s why we had revolts, insurrections, revolutions, change of regime,
etc. These are outcomes, to a great extent, of the lack of legitimacy of the
existing institutions and organisations of domination and rule. The question
really is if you look at the various capitalisms – fascism, republicanism, liberal
democracy, Keynesianism, New Deal – if you see that as a change in appearance,
as it were, what persists in this disappearance of one regime into another? And
what persists is a certain dynamic of wealth and the requirements of that
wealth, which is, in fact, the dispossessed labourer.

AM: But it seems like
Keynesianism offers certain palliative measures to at least curb the excesses
of capitalism, of free markets. There is this palliative notion in Keynesianism
– it can palliate, somehow, social antagonism. What does ordoliberalism suggest
to deal with such legitimacy crises. What does it offer on the table to avoid

WB: One could say that in
the history of Keynesianism, there is the recognition that the workers of a
society should be treated well so that there can be good workers and they can
be retained as such. Ordoliberalism doesn’t really deal with the question of
legitimacy, as such. It deals with it by the side entry, as it were. First of
all, it is clear in its understanding of society that there needs to be a means
of ideological coherence, ideological integration, and for the founding ordoliberal
thinkers, that was first the nation, then it became religion in the 1950s,
particularly Catholicism, a sort of ideological cement, that is very important
for them. Legitimacy was for ordoliberalism a result of functioning markets, of
greater affluence. So if everything is done according to their principles, if
coming back to Adam Smith, the first chapter of The Wealth of Nations, if opulence really occurs, if the
trickle-down effect really manifests itself. That was the way in which the
system itself is going to be legitimised according to the ordoliberals.

The post An Interview with Werner Bonefeld on ordoliberalism and the EU appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

The Good Capitalist.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/07/2019 - 8:24am in


Australia, Marxism

Some twenty five years ago I was going through a rough patch. In addition to difficult personal circumstances, I was broke. Much more to the point, I desperately needed a job.

That’s when I met Kevin (not his real name). Kevin hired me.

Before that meeting, I would describe myself as no more than vaguely leftish. After it, I was on my way to becoming a Marxist.

But this is not your usual Dickensian tale of misery.

(Source.ABC News: Michael Mackenzie)
Kevin was a small businessman. Specifically, he was what Aussies call a tradie. His business was himself, his van and the gear it carried within. I became the other half of his permanent workforce (occasionally he would employ one or two casual workers).

To my knowledge ABS started publishing data about the “demographics” of the Australian population of businesses in 2003. Based on that data, I can say that Kevin’s profile isn’t uncommon today. There are hundreds of thousands of similar small businesses run by plumbers, electricians, painters, pest controllers, cabinet makers, gardeners, tilers, removalists, security contractors, cleaners, locksmiths. Many are self-employed or work as sole traders, with very few employees, often as subcontractors in construction and real estate.

That inequality (my apologies to academic Marxists, who often seem to have a pathological, almost allergic reaction when that word is used) extends to finances[*]:

With so many sardines in the sea, that’s a very competitive environment, particularly around the smaller end: for businesses in the market sector, sole proprietorships had the highest entry and exit rates (23.8% and 16.5%, respectively).  (This recent ABC report deals with the kind of environment affecting businesses like Kevin’s).

Although similar data for late-20th century Australia -- when I worked for Kevin -- aren’t available, I think it reasonable to assume his profile, common today, wasn’t uncommon back then.

As for me, I was employed on a permanent, part time basis Monday to Friday. Extra time, although often available and always welcome, wasn’t guaranteed. The relevant award ruled wages, penalties and working conditions.

Working in such close contact, we talked a lot: if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have talked at all. More importantly, Kevin was personable. To be sure, he wasn’t a die-hard Leftist, not even a card-carrying Laborite. But, forced to choose, he’d probably lean Left.

Understandably, given what data tell us, one of Kevin’s constant concerns, manifested in our talks, was competition. That also concerned me.

It is worth a quick explainer about how tradies work. Upon learning of a job, tradies are required to submit a quotation to prospective clients. Whatever else tradies might offer, the job they are required to do remains the same: the same roof repair or the same paint job, or bathroom renovation, or carpet cleaning/installation, or whatever. Other criteria may intervene, but price is the main criterion determining clients’ decision.

So, to calculate the crucial price, tradies formulate an internal estimate of what the job would cost them. And labour, in addition to other expenses, is usually a major component: so many man-hours work (including Kevin’s, because he also did work: that needing higher skills) at such and such hourly wage rates. That accounts for what book keepers call “cost of goods sold”; it doesn’t account for “operating costs” and profits (see example of profit and losses statement below).

To that end tradies add a reasonable markup (a notion some non-Marxists, with evidently little business experience, seem to believe is enough to explain profits).

Kevin worried -- rightly or wrongly, I can’t say -- his competitors were underpricing him. As I said before, that also worried me, for less working hours meant less wages -- at best.

(Although not strictly necessary for my purposes, but quite apposite recent news, his argument was that non-union workers, often east- and south-Asian recent migrants, employed by his competitors, were being underpaid, making it possible lower competition prices. To pre-empt unwarranted conclusions: Kevin wasn’t a Caucasian).

The first thing to suffer, Kevin explained, was markup: he was increasingly constrained in his discretion margin. It couldn’t go down to zero, for he still had bills to pay, but his profit (net income in the example) was squeezed.

I remember telling him something to the effect that perhaps he would have been better off going back into working for someone else. He was very experienced and could have aimed for a foreman, even maybe mid-manager position.

Kevin was an honest man and boss and I thank him for that. From being in the reserve army of the unemployed, I was about to join the lumpenproletariat. People drift apart with time and we mostly lost contact. Yet, at times we still stumble upon each other and we remain in friendly terms.

He was always scrupulous in all money matters: he paid on time, never an underpayment complaint. More: he was at least as careful in OH&S matters and in a physical job that’s important. He wasn’t a Scrooge, or -- more to the point -- a Calombaris. It explains why I stuck with him. By today’s standards, I think it would be fair to say bosses like Kevin (and Jackson Davie, of whom I’ve read about recently) are exceptionally good bosses.

His reply to my comment, however, would eventually make a Marxist of me: shaving off some hours, by working faster, he said, would restore his profit margin. Economists would have said by “increasing productivity”, as in the chart below, representing Australian data.

Or in the chart below, representing American data:

Suppose Kevin charged his client 10 hours of work and by working faster we finished the job in 8 (implicit the assumption that such saving didn’t come at the expense of quality, for quality was another of his selling points: he wasn’t a rip off). That would reduce labour expenses by 20%. Even if markup was 0%, he had enough to cover operating costs and get a positive profit. (Sorry, anti-Marxist economists, so much for markup as the source of profit).

But there is more to it than that and it took me some time to digest the full implications of what Kevin taught me: two less hours of work, of course, would have meant one less hour of wages to both Kevin and I (and remember, I’ve emphasised the fact Kevin and I worked equally hard alongside).

But what Kevin lost as wages, he gained as profit -- as he gained as profit what I lost in wages, as explained above. I, on the other hand, lost one hour of wages. Full stop.

We both shared an extra non-monetary cost (the added stress of working faster), but that was only because Kevin was not just a capitalist, but also a worker. Small and even medium-sized businesses like Kevin’s (and millions of others: about 99% of all firms in Australia) would have been immediately recognisable by 19th century economists as capitalist firms. So much for the claim that capitalist firms have changed dramatically in the 20th century.

Increased productivity and the profits it entails, had Kevin been only a capitalist, would have been achieved without any extra cost for him.

That didn’t happen because Kevin was a bad bloke, or a racist, or what have you -- he wasn’t -- but because that’s how things are under capitalism.

Sorry, Marc Dean: much to learn you still have, young padawan. That story, by Ben Schneiders and Royce Millar, is a good, important read.

[*] Readers with an eye for details may be wondering why the totals for Pest Controllers and Painters and Decorators differ in the employment and turnover tables. Frankly, it beats me. Ask the ABS.