Monday, 30 November 2015

Terrorism and Democracy

Over the last few days there has been a lot of discussion about terrorism and democracy from a number of angles.

First of all there is the discussion about whether the terrorist attacks by ISIS and other jihadists in Paris and elsewhere, is just about the fact that they see people in western Europe as infidels, decadent and so open to attack whether or not they have given an excuse for those attacks, by first launching strikes or invading Muslim countries.  So, I thought I would do a simple piece of research, based on an impression I have had for some time, which is that one European country, that is noted if anything more for its democracy, and western values than any other, Switzerland, seems to have suffered very little over the years from terrorist attacks.  I was surprised by the findings.

This information from the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service indicates not only no activity by jihadists in attacking Switzerland, but even very little activity of people travelling from Switzerland to Syria to take part in terrorist activities.  Indeed, the main concern of the Swiss Intelligence Agencies seems to have been in relation to surveillance activities by foreign governments, whilst home grown terrorist activities by left and right-wing extremists was considered almost as much a threat as that by jihadists.

I tried to find details of actual terrorist attacks in Switzerland, from Wiki, and again found a dearth of evidence of such attacks.  Only three were listed, and none were actually to do with jihadists.  An internet video by some ISIS supporters has been released, which speaks of further attacks across European countries, including Switzerland, however.

So, although its clear that ISIS, ideologically hate modernism, and the principles of democracy, culture, equality and so on, which underlie civilisation, and so might attack people in European countries on that basis, whether or not they come from a country that has carried out attacks in Syria, Libya or elsewhere, the fact is that currently, Switzerland has not faced those attacks in the way that the UK, France and other countries have done, who have been actively involved in such intervention.

There is, of course, another reason why Switzerland has faced no such attacks, and less in the way of terrorism in general, and that is that Switzerland has a form of direct democracy, and also its own defence is organised more via the existence of its Citizen's Militia than a standing army.  Consequently, a more or less permanently armed citizenry, via that militia, is focussed upon national defence rather than external aggression against other countries, and so can be more actively involved on a daily basis in ensuring that defence, in a way that a permanent, small standing army, whose resources are concentrated on very expensive large-scale, equipment, that is only justifiable on the basis of fighting large scale wars across the globe, can never be.

A Citizen's Militia, can be provided with lots of equipment, can have its activities financed to cover permission from employers to train and so on, just for the equivalent of a single Cruise Missile, let alone an aircraft carrier, or a Trident submarine!

The other advantage of such a Citizen's Militia, is again this aspect of democracy, because the Citizen's Militia, is directly a democratic institution, under the control of the citizens themselves, whereas a small professional army, is under the control of an even smaller elite of unelected generals, often tied to a small elite of arms companies, and financiers.

The other aspect of democracy that has been discussed has been in relation to the decision of the PLP, and Shadow Cabinet, in relation to whether to bomb Syria.  The position of the Labour Party itself is quite clear.  It is to oppose such bombing, and understandably so on the basis of the disaster that resulted in Iraq, and Libya, and the failure of such policies in Afghanistan and elsewhere, not to mention the failure of bombing over the last year or so by the US and others in Iraq and Syria, against ISIS.

What is odd is the interpretation of democracy that some in the PLP have.  On the one hand, some of them think that it is perfectly democratic for some of them, in cahoots with sections of the Tory media, to ignore the wishes of 60% of the Labour Party, in supporting Jeremy Corbyn, as leader, and to try to organise a coup against him!  They think that it is fine for them to ignore the wishes of 70% of the Labour Party, according to recent polls, in opposing the bombing of Syria, and to go ahead with it anyway.

Yet, when Labour Party members who constitute that majority, quite reasonably suggest that they might like those MP's to discuss with them such decisions, those MP's describe this as undemocratic bullying.  Some of them, and their supporters in the Tory media appear on TV, and claim that these MP's, cannot be expected to vote in accordance with the Labour Party policies, on which they were elected, or which the members of the Labour Party, who got them elected, in the first place, decide, because they should represent the whole electorate.

Who says that is what they should do?  That idea fits conveniently with the Tories and other defenders of the status quo, but there is no reason why socialists should accept that restriction.  The workers, in creating their own party, decide for themselves what the rules should be, and how its representatives should act, precisely because we want to change the general rules of politics in which all decisions are made, against an environment where self-selecting elites retain the right to do whatever they choose.  No one would suggest that a shop steward elected by union members, should represent the views and interests of non-union members, for example, let alone the views of employers.  No one would expect, the Chairman of the FA to promote the virtues of rugby!

The idea put forward by these apologists that it is somehow undemocratic for Labour Party members to deselect MP's who repeatedly fail to reflect the views of the Labour Party members who selected them, and who have the job of knocking on doors and getting them elected, is not not just elitist, but it is not even consistent with the arguments put forward in its defence.  Who, for example, would suggest that voters who were unhappy with a Tory government, should not vote it out, or deselect it, and instead select a Labour government, that they were happy with?  Would electors be accused of "bullying" the government by making clear that its days were numbered?

In the same way, if Labour Party members feel that the MP, does not represent their views, they have a perfect right to select a new candidate who does.  The old MP, is perfectly free to stand under their own banner, and see how much of their success is down to them, and how much is down to the party that selected them!  The history on that is devastatingly clear, which is why so few MP's wish to try their luck on their own.

Its time for decisive leadership, and in line with those principles of democracy, Corbyn, in line with party policy, and the views of the overwhelming majority of party members should impose a three line whip against cameron's warmongering policies.  War is the continuation of politics by other means, and so a political party that cannot take a clear political stance on questions of war cannot be expected to take a decisive and principled stand on anything else.  War is not a moral, but a deeply political issue, and should be treated as such.  If Labour Shadow Ministers are not able to support party policy they should go and make way for others who will.  Labour MP's will have the same right to defy the party whip as were Corbyn and others in the past, and will then have to justify their actions to their party members in the same way that Corbyn and others have had to do for the last 30 years, without the kind of hullaballoo over "bullying" that the Tory media have only just discovered.

Capital III, Chapter 19 - Part 2

As Marx pointed out in Capital II, the circuit of productive capital is P...P, or C' – C'. It starts not with the advance of money-capital, but with the productive process and the creation of commodities that already represent expanded value -  capital. The purpose of its circuit is to return to this same position, to reproduce the elements of productive capital consumed in that process, so as to continue on at least the same scale. In this circuit, P. . . C' – M'. M – C … P, money-capital only represents a mere transitional phase, not a start and end point.

“It is only when, and in so far as, capital is newly invested — which also applies to accumulation — that capital in money-form appears as the starting-point and the end result of the movement. But for all capitals already engaged in the process, these first and last points appear merely as points of transit.” (p 315)

This is why Marx insists that the value of the productive-capital advanced to production must be based on its current reproduction cost, rather than its historic price, because its only on the former basis that the circuit is logically consistent. Its only on the basis of the current values, of the consumed productive-capital, that their use-value can be logically reproduced, and as Marx points out, it is this use value that must be reproduced, on a like for like basis, that must be effected for social reproduction to continue, on at least the same scale.

“This entire portion of constant capital consumed in production must be replaced in kind. Assuming all other circumstances, particularly the productive power of labour, to remain unchanged, this portion requires the same amount of labour for its replacement as before, i.e., it must be replaced by an equivalent value. If not, then reproduction itself cannot take place on the former scale.” (Chapter 49)

Marx also clarifies elsewhere that this “like for like” replacement of the physical use values is only “in terms of effectiveness”. That is a machine may be replaced by an equivalent machine, or better machine; a material may be replaced by some other material that is at least as good, and so on. This has the same effect, as if the labour-time required for production of these use values falls. In other words, if the labour-time required for the production of the use values that comprise the consumed constant capital falls, the value of the constant capital falls – the amount of social labour-time required for its reproduction is less, leaving a greater proportion of social labour-time available for other purposes.   The rate of profit - the relation between the social surplus product, and the portion of the social product that must be devoted to this like for like replacement of the use values that comprise the constant and variable-capital - thereby rises.  The opposite is true if the labour-time required for this like for like replacement increases.

The money received for the commodities that comprised the commodity-capital, is not an end point, but only the end of one stage of the metamorphosis of the productive-capital, but it is simultaneously the starting point of the second stage, of that metamorphosis, as the money-capital is transformed again into productive-capital, that physically reproduces that previously consumed. This applies equally to the merchant capital, when it assumes the function of converting the commodity-capital into money-capital.

“And although the C — M of industrial capital is always M — C — M for merchant's capital, the actual process for the latter is continually also C — M — C once it has begun to function.” (p 316)

But, as was analysed in Capital II, in relation to productive-capital, in order for production to be continuous, the same capital must be simultaneously in all its forms. Outputs are simultaneously inputs, whether for the same individual capital, as part of its labour process, or for the total social capital, as part of the process of social reproduction.

The conveyor belt was the classic manifestation of that as, along its length, its continuous movement meant that the output of one worker was simultaneously the input of the next, so that the first worker on the line was inextricably linked to the last.

The same applies to the merchant. They are not, in fact, buying in order to sell, other than when they advance their initial capital. Just like the productive capital, once it has started to function, the requirement of continuous movement means both occur simultaneously.

“But it performs the acts C — M and M — C simultaneously. This is to say that there is not just one capital in the stage C — M while another is in the stage M — C, but that the same capital buys continually and sells continually at one and the same time because of the continuity of the production process. It is to be found always in both stages at one and the same time. While one of its parts turns into money, later to be reconverted into commodities, another turns simultaneously into commodities, to be reconverted into money.” (p 316)

Incidentally, this simultaneity, which is fundamental to Marx's materialist and dialectical analysis, is rejected by the TSSI, which operates on the basis of syllogistic logic, and so denies the possibility of the contradiction implied by such simultaneity, but which is central to understanding any kind of movement and, therefore, process.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Blair-right Dead End

This weekend, and over the last few days, the Tory media have stepped up their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party he leads. In part, it is because of a desire immediately to get support for Cameron's warmongering plans for bombing Syria. After all, nothing sells newspapers, or fills the ratings of vacuous 24 hours News Channels, better than a good old war, is there? In part, though, it also the other way round. The issue of Syria and the bombing thereof, also presnts the Tory media with an opportunity to play up the divisions between Corbyn's, Labour Party, which voted decisively and clearly just a couple of months ago against bombing, and the remnants of the Blair-right Parliamentary Labour Party, which still has not accepted that it has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

The issue of Syria is actually a good proxy for the problem that faces the Blair-rights, and others who for the last 30 years have occupied the same political centre ground. In both cases, it revolves around the same attempt to see the potential for any political regime to exist separate from the reality of the underlying social forces, and social relations in society.

There is a simple reason that the repeated attempts at liberal intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have failed. It is the same reason that these societies had the political regimes they already had, usually of some form of Bonapartism. It is that in these societies industrial capitalism had not developed to such a stage, whereby the economy could sustain a modern bourgeois social democracy, and in the modern world bourgeois democracy can only take a stable form as a social democracy, in which a large working-class is incorporated, via a universal franchise, in which a large middle class, and bureaucracy based upon socialised capital, acts as a mediating force, and where developed means of production based upon that socialised capital, is sufficiently productive to ensure a minimum standard of living for the working-class, along with generally rising standards of living, and social protection.

When those things are absent, as they were in Britain and other parts of Europe until the latter half of the 19th century, bourgeois social democracy is not possible, and so the capitalist polity, the political regime, takes the form of Bonapartism, and within that category, we could also include the type of bourgeois liberal democracy that existed in those societies prior to that period, when the workers were denied the vote, and where the bourgeoisie, along with the landed class, exercised their rule, on the basis of repeated use of violence by its state, to suppress the workers, who had no other form of political response other than violent opposition.

That Bonapartism is, in fact, the means by which the means of production are developed to such an extent that social democracy becomes possible, which is why, however repulsive some of these regimes might be – and the political regime in Britain, where laws existed that allowed the unemployed to be branded, and taken as slaves existed up until the latter part of the 19th century, was itself pretty repulsive – considered from the Marxist perspective of what is objectively, historically progressive, they meet that criteria. Trying to impose bourgeois social democracies upon such societies when these material conditions do not exist, is not just utopian, and subjectivist moralism, but it is dangerous folly, because the inevitable consequence must be that the political regime collapses for lack of the necessary social underpinning, and leads to chaos and reaction within the society itself.

That is what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Cameron is ludicrously suggesting that he has a plan for Syria, based upon the idea that ISIS can be bombed out of existence, and that a moderate, non-sectarian government can then be installed, so that everything will be sweetness and light. But, of course, not only has recent history shown that bombing alone will not destroy ISIS, but his idea that this moderate government is somehow going to be magicked out of thin air, is not even believed by many of his own MP's, and still less by any serious analyst that has looked at the country. The only people who purvey that nonsense, as was the case with politicians like Chalabi in Iraq, or the the Libyan National Council in Libya, are the handful of professional bourgeois politicians in those countries, who actually lack any meaningful social support, and who need western intervention to replace that support, and put them in office by military power. In other words, it is just a different Bonapartist regime, disguised as liberal democracy. As soon as that external military support disappears, the reality imposes itself, and those regimes collapse.

But, in fact, a similar process has happened across the existing bourgeois social democracies too. Greece is a perfect example. For the last 30 years, the locus of the political centre has shifted to the right. That itself was a function of changed economic and social relations during that period. In the mid 1970's, the long wave boom that had run since around 1949, came to an end. That boom had been the basis of a rapid accumulation of socialised capital, upon which was based a strengthening of social democracy.

When that boom came to an end, there was a choice. Either the representatives of that socialised capital, would assert its primacy, and take measures to deal with the need to restructure, and renovate the productive relations, which would have required further inroads into the power and influence of the owners of fictitious capital, or else the latter would assert their interests, at the expense of a growth of real capital.

In the end, the latter won, and the representatives of socialised capital, and social democracy were thrown backwards. The interests of the owners of fictitious capital were furthered by money printing, and lax credit regulations, to cause bubbles in the prices of shares, bonds and property. The political representatives of that fictitious capital, were thereby strengthened, and so conservative regimes were established across Europe and North America, and along with it the professional politicians in the existing social democratic parties themselves adopted more conservative ideas.

It is that consensus between these professional politicians of all main parties, and the social milieu of journalists, and so on around them, which has defined the political centre during that period. But, that political centre existed on the basis of very definite economic and social conditions that arose during that time. Those conditions were themselves necessarily time limited. It is only possible to keep inflating asset prices bubbles for so long, before they burst, and those that exist are bigger than ever and more likely to burst than ever. And the other side of those asset prices is massive amounts of debt.

When the state attempts to pay off its own debts, as in Greece, and elsewhere by austerity, then it also reaches a point where that is no longer viable. Not only does the economy shrink, and become less productive, thereby undermining the potential to pay off the debt, but there is a limit to how much can be screwed out of workers to cover those debts too. Trying to overcome this by the old methods, of yet more debt, of “extend and pretend”, only exacerbates the problem, as Greece demonstrated, and which is why Varoufakis and Syriza were correct to have initially rejected that non-solution, of simply covering the existing debts, by further loans from the EU and ECB etc.

The only solution for Greece, as elsewhere, was to write off the debt, which means when applied generally a massive fall in stock, bond and property markets, destroying the fictitious paper wealth of all of the bond, share and property owners, in order to promote the real wealth creating power of society. But, of course, the current political centre could not promote such a policy, because it is precisely on the ground of inflating the prices of fictitious capital that it has rested and grown for the last thirty years, and it is to the social forces that depend on that, on which its own political fortunes depends.

The political centre wants to continue in the old way, but the economic and social reality makes it impossible, as Greece, and elsewhere has shown, and the more the parties of that political centre attempt to continue in the old way, the more they ensure its collapse. That is why, in Greece, that political centre collapsed, PASOK was destroyed and the same was true of the centre-right. It is what led to the creation of Syriza, not really as the kind of far-left, or revolutionary party it has been described as, but only really as the kind of social-democratic party that Labour, or the German SPD represented in the 1960's, and 70's. Syriza, Podemos, and Corbyn's Labour Party do not represent some kind of new radical left formation, but only demonstrate the extent to which traditional social democracy had been undermined, and shifted to the right over the last 30 years.

Syriza, Corbyn, Podemos and other formations across Europe, as well as Sanders in the US only indicate the nature to which the underlying social relations has caused a shift of where the political centre now needs to be. The destruction of those parties of the political centre across Europe, also symbolised by the Liberals in the UK, which are a physical manifestation of that political centre, is the necessary consequence.

And that is why the hope of the Blair-rights, and of the Tory media that those elements in the PLP can simply ignore the social reality and organise a coup against Corbyn and the Labour Party is simply wishful thinking. They first hoped that after Corbyn's election as Leader, that a large number of Blair-rights would leave as the SDP did in 1981. They did not leave, because they knew it would be political suicide. It would be to follow the Liberals into oblivion. Nor can they anymore leave today than two months ago, for the same reason.

Odious eulogists for Blair, such as John McTiernan continue to hope that some sort of coup will be organised, but that is just as unlikely. Those Blair-right MP's, who are seeking to override the democratic decisions of the Labour Party by seeking to organise a coup against Corbyn, and seek legal support to prevent him standing in any subsequent election, are already guilty of bringing the Party into disrepute. By plotting such a coup, they are acting as a party within a party, and such be expelled from the Party forthwith, by the NEC. It is also up to the party members to bring to heel any MP's who give succour to such thoughts.

But, let us assume that a handful of MP's launched such a coup against Corbyn, an that the bosses' courts backed them up in preventing Corbyn from taking part in such an election. What would be the consequence? Firstly, it means that Corbyn and his supporters, as I suggested some time ago, should organise an Emergency Rules Conference to ensure that the Party's rules are changed for election of the Leader, to prevent such a challenge. The PLP should have no more greater right in nominating candidates then any other party member. That is what One Member One Vote should really mean.

Secondly, it would mean that CLP's would be infuriated that MP's should take such a callous, undemocratic attitude towards their own party members, so that those MP's would be told to nominate Corbyn, or be threatened with their own deselection. Thirdly, Corbyn, and his supporters would use the party machinery to themselves challenge any such ruling in the courts, delaying any such election for months, during which time there would be civil war inside the party, with large numbers of MP's being put under daily pressure and facing deselection, which currently they do not.

Thirdly, even if all that failed to stop Corbyn retaining his position, the Blair-rights would have won nothing. The Party would not split as much see the Blair-rights within the PLP, fly off as a spark that would burn brightly for a fraction of a second, before dying out. As against the real Labour Party, of half a million members, with all of the trades union movement standing behind it, the Blir-rights would have a party comprising just a couple of hundred members who temporarily were MP's, and a small portion of party members who might follow them into oblivion.

The vast majority of members who already support Corbyn would be joined by others, who would be disgusted at the extent to which a handful of MP's put themselves above the party, and undermined its opposition to the Tories at a vital moment. The party has already seen the return of trades unions that left because of the dominance of the Blair-rights. The reality would be that the Blair-right MP's would be rather like the Tory MP Mark Reckless, who held his seat as a UKIPPER only for a few months until the election brought appearance into alignment with reality. They would have given their political careers a definite and short duration by their actions, as the real Labour Party, whatever name legalities might cause it to have to assume, would simply eclipse them, at every subsequent election.

That is why they have not split before now, it is why they are unlikely to split in future, and why any attempt at a coup against Corbyn would be a disaster for them, and so why they are unlikely to attempt it.

But, for that very reason, Corbyn and the party should not cause confusion over Syria, by giving these Balir-right wreckers, and their party within a party the opportunity to defy party policy with a free vote. Unlike Trident, the party's policy over Syria is clear, and past experience dictates why Labour should not support an attack on Syria. There should be a whipped vote, imposed by Corbyn in line with party policy, and if that means some Labour Shadow Cabinet Ministers decide to walk, so be it. We could probably do with a smaller, more select and cohesive Shadow Cabinet anyway, alongside a much greater role for the party itself in providing policy support for the Leader.

We have to end the undemocratic, and elitist privileging of MP's over other party members, and now is the opportune time to do it.

Capital III, Chapter 19 - Part 1

Money-Dealing Capital

Money-dealing capital, dealt with in this chapter, has to be distinguished from interest-bearing capital, dealt with later. Money-dealing capital here is a form of merchant capital. Merchant capital obtains its share of the total surplus value, because of the function it performs in selling commodities on behalf of productive-capital. It is the commodity-capital of industrial capital that has separated off into its own independent existence. But, similarly, industrial capital must always hold a certain quantity of money-capital. It requires money for circulation, and for payments; it must hold money hoards, which are the money equivalent of the value of wear and tear of fixed capital, waiting to be reproduced; it must hold money hoards which are the equivalent of realised surplus value that is not yet sufficient to be reinvested; it must hold money reserves to cover payment of wages during the turnover period and so on.

As well as the requirement to hold this money-capital, it must employ bookkeepers, cashiers, and so on to keep track of the various payments and receipts, as well as to actually make the payments and take the receipts. All of these activities are necessary functions, are costs, which, like the selling of commodities, add no new value, but which are required for the value of commodities to be realised. As with the selling of commodities, the more capital can reduce these costs, therefore, the greater the proportion of the produced surplus value that can be realised as profit.

Money-dealing capital is then the equivalent, at the level of the social capital, of the role of the bookkeeper or cashier within the firm. Its profit derives not from the lending of money, but from the provision of these services. An example, would be something like Paypal, which makes its profits solely on the basis of providing a money transmission service, or various Bureaux de Changes, or FOREX companies who make their profits from charges levied for changing money from one currency to another.

As Marx puts it,

“A portion of industrial capital, and, more precisely, also of commercial capital, not only obtains all the time in the form of money, as money-capital in general, but as money-capital engaged precisely in these technical functions. A definite part of the total capital dissociates itself from the rest and stands apart in the form of money-capital, whose capitalist function consists exclusively in performing these operations for the entire class of industrial and commercial capitalists. As in the case of commercial capital, a portion of industrial capital engaged in the circulation process in the form of money-capital separates from the rest and performs these operations of the reproduction process for all the other capital. The movements of this money-capital are, therefore, once more merely movements of an individualised part of industrial capital engaged in the reproduction process.” (p 315)

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Capital III, Chapter 18 - Part 12

The difference between the role of turnover of capital on values for industrial capital and on selling prices for merchant capital, acts to obscure the real relations. Taken solely on its own, and from the perspective of the total social capital, the value of commodities can be seen to be determined by the labour-time required for their production. But, when it comes to selling prices of commodities sold by merchants, these seem arbitrary, the price being a function of the profit margin charged by the merchant, which in turn seems an arbitrary figure, chosen by the merchant, dependent on whether they want to maximise their profits by selling a lot on a low margin, or a little on a high margin.

Because commerce preceded capitalist production, and because a great deal of economic analysis is concerned with trade, with buying and selling, rather than with production, and the creation of value, it is no wonder that these deceptive appearances, in the realm of circulation, result in faulty conceptions. Even for the industrial capitalist, they must be also concerned with buying commodities – means of production and labour-power – as well as selling them in the shape of the end product. So, it is no wonder that even they can be taken in by these faulty theories and misconceptions.

“All superficial and false conceptions of the process of reproduction as a whole are derived from examinations of merchant's capital and from the conceptions which its peculiar movements call forth in the minds of circulation agents...

The conceptions of the merchant, stockbroker, and banker, are necessarily quite distorted. Those of the manufacturers are vitiated by the acts of circulation to which their capital is subject, and by the levelling of the general rate of profit.” (p 312-3)

So, the connection between the average rate of profit, determined in production, becomes completely separated from the commercial profit, at the superficial level of competition, even though, in reality, the latter is determined by the former. For the industrial capitalist, a high level of productivity that facilitates a more rapid turnover of capital results in a greater quantity of surplus value and profit produced, for any quantity of capital advanced, and consequently, a higher rate of profit. Yet, for the merchant capitalist, a higher rate of turnover appears as the concomitant of a lower profit margin.

“Small profits and quick returns appear to the shopkeeper to be the principle which he follows out of sheer principle.” (p 314)

As described earlier, in any branch of commerce, what is described above refers to the average rate of turnover, for that branch, but, the bigger, more efficient merchants, like their industrial counterparts will be able to turn over their capital faster and, thereby make a higher than average profit.

“If competition compels him, he can sell cheaper than his competitors without lowering his profit below the average. If the conditions which would enable him to turn over his capital more rapidly, are themselves for sale, such as a favourable shop location, he can pay extra rent for it, i.e., convert a portion of his surplus-profit into ground-rent.” (p 314)

Northern Soul Classics - You Better Keep Her - Marvin Holmes & Justice