Friday 17 May 2024

Friday Night Disco - Clean Up Woman - Betty Wright


Wage-Labour and Capital - Section IV - Part 1 of 8

Capital is not a thing, but a social relation. It is a social relation in which wage-labour produces surplus value, which is appropriated by capital, and provides the money profits that are the main source of the additional money-capital (money supply as against currency supply/money tokens) required to accumulate additional capital. 

A portion of those profits goes to fund the unproductive/personal consumption of the functioning capitalists, part goes to fund interest/dividend payments to money-lending capitalists (banks, bond holders, share holders), part goes to fund rent payments to landlords, and part goes to fund taxes to the capitalist state required for its administration, so that it can defend the interests and continued power of the ruling class.

A part of these revenue payments to money-capitalists and landlords is required for their own personal consumption, but a further part can also be thrown back into the money market to fund further capital accumulation. Likewise, as seen over the last 40 years, it may, instead, be pumped into demand for property and financial assets, thereby, inflating asset price bubbles. Other sources of new money-capital, as Marx describes, in Capital II, comes from the fact that, in the process of circulation, money reserves are created, which can be mobilised.

Companies set aside amortisation funds, to cover the replacement of worn out fixed capital. A £1,000 machine, with a lifespan of 10 years, transfers £100 a year to output. Each year, this £100, returned to the company from the same of that output, is placed into a fund to replace the machine, but is only needed at the end of ten years, for that purpose. So, the company can, at any point, use this money reserve, instead, to fund capital accumulation, for example, to buy additional fixed capital, and/or materials and labour-power. In Capital II, Marx describes a number of other such reserves, which can be used to provide additional money-capital.

In Capital III, he also describes another such source, which is the money reserves/savings of workers and the middle class. Wages paid to workers, and revenues received by the middle-class, do not get immediately spent for consumption. That might be because of consumption taking place in the week or month following receipt of such revenues, or it may be because a part of the revenues go into insurance funds, in order to cover potential future consumption, such as as social insurance funds for retirement, health and social care, unemployment and so on.

It makes no economic difference whether these social insurance funds are operated by the state, financial institutions, or by individuals themselves, except that the latter will always hold larger sums for protection than is required by the state or large institutions. All of these reserve funds can be mobilised by the financial system to fund capital accumulation, or, again, may be used unproductively and destructively, simply to speculate in the purchase of existing property and financial assets, inflating asset price bubbles, and constraining real capital accumulation and growth.

As well as producing the profits that are the source of this additional money-capital, the workers also produce its physical equivalent, the surplus product, comprising additional machines, and other fixed capital, the additional materials and so on, required to expand production. They also provide the additional labour-power from the natural growth of the working population.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Starmer's Six Promises

Starmer has tried to ape Tony Blair with his credit card sized list of six promises. The first thing to say is why would anyone believe any promise that Starmer makes? He is an inveterate liar, who lies with such alacrity that he doesn't even seem to realise he's doing it. Whatever he says, today, he's likely to deny ever saying tomorrow, as with his statement on LBC that Israel had a right to commit war crimes by cutting off food, water and energy to Gaza!

The only potential counter to that is that these six promises are so vapid, so meaningless, and lacking in ambition that even Starmer would be hard pressed not to be able to stick with them, but even that can't be relied on, such is the lack of credibility of the man, and his Blue Labour Party. After all, he won the leadership by committing to stick with the programme of Jeremy Corbyn, all of the elements of which were very popular with voters, according to every poll undertaken. Yet, within weeks of becoming Leader, Starmer started dropping them one by one, and went from being the champion of liberal Remainers, to being the arch Brexiter, distinguishable only from Boris Johnson by his desire to outflank him to the Right!

The six promises are:

  1. Deliver Economic Stability

  2. Cut NHS Waiting Times

  3. Launch a new Border Security Command

  4. Set Up Great British Energy

  5. Crack Down On Anti-Social Behaviour

  6. Recruit 6,500 Teachers

What a pathetic list. Where is the ambition in that, even compared with the pledges offered by Blair in 1997? The Blairites used to talk about “aspiration”, but there is no sense of aspiration in this list whatsoever. It basically expects workers to settle for a continuation of their lot of the last 15 years since the global financial crisis, let alone anything more aspirational. In terms of encouraging workers to vote for Labour it is hardly inspirational, is it? The Corbynite agenda that Starmer originally committed to, was itself, only the kind of routine social-democratic programme of a 1960's Wilson government, but even that was too much for Starmer, as he has collapsed into petty-bourgeois reactionary nationalism, as witnessed by his welcoming into the party of far-right Tory MP's, like Elphicke.

Let's take this flaccid list, and see just how limp it is. What does promise 1 even mean? It doesn't even commit to economic growth, which would require, the opposite of stability. Stability means accepting the current low level of economic activity, in other words, it is the stability of the graveyard. Let's be kind and assume that Starmer and Reeves do not actually mean stability, but mean economic growth without the drama, and wild swings, associated with the last few years of Tory government, as seen with Truss. But, then, this is meaningless too. They might as well say that they are promising that the weather will be stable and slightly better under a Labour government.

For it to mean anything, they would have to set out how they were going to ensure such stability and improvement, but they fail to do that. It is an “aspiration”, but a pretty timid one, and yet, still one they cannot guarantee. They can't guarantee it, because the growth of capitalist economies, and their stability, is largely outside the control of governments, particularly national governments, and even more so the governments of small, and declining nation states like that of Britain. Those national governments can certainly damage the growth of their economies, as for example, has occurred with Brexit, or as occurred with the Truss government's attempt to apply the petty-bourgeois ideology that lies behind Brexit, and brought down the wrath of the global ruling class, and its control of the financial markets upon it, but they cannot, conversely, aid the growth of those economies.

Moreover, what does such stability or economic growth itself mean? Stability and growth for the benefit of whom? If it means that the economy is “stable”, and “grows”, on the back of workers having to accept a continuation of their current condition, whilst, on the other side, profits continue to grow, and an increasing proportion of them is paid out as interest/dividends to shareholders, how is that of any benefit to workers, as against the interests of those speculators and other parasites, and so why would workers have any reason to vote for it?

The same is true of the second promise. Its pathetic, compared to Blair's promise to treble spending on the NHS, which he did, but which mostly went to benefit all those companies that built hospitals, supplied expensive equipment, as well as all of those highly paid NHS bureaucrats, whose empires expanded significantly, whilst the newly built hospitals couldn't function, because there was no funds to employ nurses! But, given that Starmer has adopted the programme of reactionary petty-bourgeois nationalism, and Brexit, how is this to be physically achieved, given that the NHS relies on foreign workers, doctors and nurses, coming to work in it, and since Brexit that supply of workers has been slashed?

Moreover, to achieve it would require much greater spending on the NHS, and yet, Starmer's first promise, and the refusal by him and Reeves to countenance any increase in either taxes or borrowing to finance additional spending, means that Blue Labour cannot increase spending to achieve any of these promises. The only other answer, apart from it being just another lie, is that they intend to impose even more on NHS workers, to work longer hours, for even less money! Again, why would workers vote for that?

The third promise is one that is, of course, fully consistent with Blue Labour's reactionary nationalist, Brexitory agenda. But, that agenda conflicts with both the first and second promises. If Blue Labour wants to promote economic growth and stability, the most effective means of that is to re-join the EU, and, at the very least, to re-join the Single Market and Customs Union at the earliest opportunity, including accepting all of the requirements for free movement and so on. But, Starmer's jingoistic, sovereigntist agenda, reflected in this promise, as he continues to appease the racists and bigots, stands four-square in opposition to a rapprochement with the EU. It is a thoroughly racist promise that seeks to place the blame for the problems of British capitalism, problems made worse by Brexit, on to foreigners and immigrants.

The promise to set up Great British Energy is likely to go the way of other such promises by Starmer. The name itself, is, again, a sop to the jingoists and petty-bourgeois nationalists. The only reason for thinking that Blue Labour might actually carry it out, as with the renationalisation of the railways, is that these industries are in such a dire and chaotic state, and there is widespread public support for such policies. Its likely that large sections of capital would be at best indifferent to such state ownership too.

In the EU, state ownership of utilities and railways is commonplace, and acts in the interests of capital in general. In fact, the shares of many of these companies, in Britain, are already owned by foreign state owned enterprises! But, as workers in the state sector are currently seeing, and as was seen in the state owned coal mines, in the 1980's, in Britain, this is no benefit to workers themselves. They do not exercise any control over them, the bosses who lord it over them, are the same bosses who yesterday, and tomorrow, will be running large, non-state businesses, and the state can mobilise far more power than any private business against its workers when it comes to negotiating pay and conditions.

The fifth promise is again vapid, but is really a promise to find scapegoats, and to put more resources into the police and other bodies of armed men, required to put down the revolts of workers, as they resist attempts to make them pay for the actions of the state in bailing out the gambling losses of the ruling class. Starmer has shown himself to be a Bonapartist and totalitarian in the way he runs Blue Labour, and that tendency will be heightened if he gets his hands on government office and ability to use the state.

Finally, he promises to recruit 6,500 teachers, which is again simply an aspiration, without telling us how he will fund it, given the commitment not to raise taxes or borrowing, given the commitment to Brexit, and opposition to free movement and so on. Even so, even compared to the promises made by Blair, in 1997, it is thoroughly lacking in any kind of ambition or aspiration. In the end, it comes down to a belief by Blue Labour that the Tories are, now, so hated, that voters will vote against them, or at least stay home, enabling Blue Labour to win by default.

That belief is almost certainly correct, though, in certain seats, the hostility or just indifference to Starmer, may see Liberals or Greens sneak in, or take enough votes to deny Labour the seat, and Blue Labour will win a large majority in the election. But, that is very short-sighted, and dangerous. A Blue Labour government is likely to quickly disappoint those that voted for it, even with this flaccid agenda, and it will quickly turn on a working-class that is finding its feet once more. The economy is likely to grow, but it will have nothing to do with Blue Labour's policies, but is down simply to the resumption of the long-wave cycle, and the uptrend commenced in 1999, and constrained after 2010. Blue Labour will not face a working-class and labour movement like that of the 1980's, and 1990's, or even early 2000's.

Nor will that working-class, as it rises from its knees, be alone, as the same process unfolds across the EU and North America. But, the workers must be clear in their objectives, of what they are for, rather than just what they are against. Otherwise, as seen in the last decade or so, the beneficiaries will be the populist Right that offer simplistic solutions, but solutions that ultimately are no solutions at all. The most pressing need is to rebuild the organisations of the working-class, from the ground up, to build international workers' solidarity, to recognise that “The Main Enemy Is At Home”, and to replace the current leaderships with a new generation of internationalist, socialist, revolutionary leaders. 

Bourgeois-Democracy Crumbles As It Defends Its Genocide - Part 16 of 19

A period of long wave crisis began around 1914, as the previous period had led to a significant strengthening of the working-class in Europe, of rising relative wages, falling relative profits, and a consequent overproduction of capital. It is what created the sharpened conditions that emphasised the need for a single European market and state, which was the basis of WWI, and II, as European capital confronted a rising US capital, and later a rising Japanese capital.

European capital, broke at its weakest link, in Russia, with the 1917 Revolution, and, then, with the revolutions of 1918, in Germany etc., though these latter failed, and failed, again, in Germany, in 1923. In Italy, in the 1920's, the workers began to flex their muscles along the lines set out out, in Part 15, by occupying their factories, and placing production under workers' control. In the US, Taylorism arose, as a managerialist adjunct to Fordism, a professional middle-class manifesto of scientific management, but which the US trades unions also adopted, in opposition to the old incompetent management of the private capitalists.

The needs of the dominant form of property, large-scale socialised capital, cried out for such rationalisation, but, as in 1848, the bourgeoisie shrank back in horror at the working-class, which was the apparent agent of its implementation, as had been most visibly observed in Russia, after 1917. And yet, that process of the role of the state in bringing about this rationalisation over the heads of the workers, provided an obvious solution for the ruling class. As Marx and Engels had noted, in Anti-Duhring,

“In the trusts, free competition changes into monopoly and the planless production of capitalist society capitulates before the planned production of the invading socialist society. Of course, this is initially still to the benefit of the Capitalists.

But, the exploitation becomes so palpable here that it must break down. No nation would put up with production directed by trusts, with such a barefaced exploitation of the community by a small band of coupon-clippers.”

(Anti-Duhring p 358)

And, the biggest trust of all is that of the capitalist state.

“The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it topples over. State ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution.”

(Anti-Duhring, p 360)

One means of these trusts performing that function, therefore, becomes “national socialism”. As with Stalinism, Nazism requires a totalitarian regime. It imposes the objective interests of large-scale socialised capital, over the immediate interests of the ruling class owners of fictitious-capital, for higher interest/dividend payments and asset prices, but, in so doing, not only saves their system from proletarian revolution, but serves their long-term interests, by creating the basis for increased profits, and so out of which can be paid increased amounts of interest/dividends, rents and taxes.

In Italy, in the 1920's, the response to the workers was the regime of Mussolini, in Britain, as the workers engaged in the mass strikes of 1920, and the General Strike of 1926, not only is the state mobilised against them, but a similar rise of fascist auxiliaries is seen, and the same is seen in Germany, and France, and in the US. The role of Stalinism, and its class collaborationist policy of the Popular Front, undermined these struggles of workers, in the 1920's, and contributed to their defeat. So, the ruling class in these instances, did not need to resort to fascism. Even in Germany, where it was led to do so, later, in the 1930's, it acted to slap down the fascists, in the 1920's, when they attempted their putsch.

And, the reason for that is the difference between fascism, as a movement of the petty-bourgeoisie, whose interests are contradictory to those of the ruling-class, and National Socialism, which exists to implement the measures of rationalisation and so on, objectively required by large-scale socialised capital, by the state, over the heads of the collective owners of that socialised capital (the workers), and in the interests of the ruling class. Those measures of rationalisation and so on, in the 1930's, included the formation of a European single market and state, which Nazism took on in WWII, as a continuation of that requirement manifest in WWI.

In Asia, Japan, as rising imperialist power, took on that role, in its occupation of China, Korea, and so on, as it sought to establish a similar large single market and state, in order to be able to produce on the same kind of scale as its main rival, US imperialism.

As Trotsky described, it is these basic laws of capital that drive towards the imperialist wars, such as WWI and II, not conflicts between “democracy” and “fascism”, or “totalitarianism”, as is, again, being portrayed, today, as the world marches towards WWIII, under a false flag of a war against Russia and China, the hypocrisy of which is most easily seen in the support of that “democratic imperialism” for the genocide being committed by its Zionist ally in Gaza, and by its support for, and arms shipments to numerous dictators, feudal regimes and so on, across the globe, such as that in Saudi Arabia. It is this which is the backdrop to that genocide in Gaza, and explains why western imperialism will not act to end it, why it will continue to arm it, and act as attorney for it, and why it is led to become ever more Bonapartist and authoritarian in its own regimes, in order to prevent any morsel of criticism of it.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Good Luck To My Best Mate Keith

My best mate, Keith Beardmore, has gone into hospital, today, for major surgery.  All our best wishes are with him, his wife, Jayne, and their son Tom.

I first met Keith, in 1975 when we were both doing a Day Release, Business Studies course, at Cauldon College.  It was a year after the Miners had defeated Heath's Tory government, and Keith was working for the NCB, while I was already a shop steward, at Royal Doulton.  He was sitting with his mates during a break, while I was sitting on my own, reading a revolutionary journal.  It was that which was the opener for conversation, but it soon transpired that we had a shared interest in Northern Soul, and the Golden Torch.

Within just a few years from that, I was best man at his first wedding.  Not long after, his wife's grandmother, who lived on The Gower died, leaving a house that we went on holiday to.  As Keith remarked some time later, "its a wonder we don't all come down with Yellow Jack", given that it was even colder and damper than the old terraced house I grew up in.

In the 1970's, and early 80's, Keith supplied me with dozens of cassette tapes, he'd recorded of Northern Soul, and Funk, from the 20,000 or so records he had as singles or LP tracks.  After my kids were born, I missed out on going dancing for some time, other than in the house, doing dives forward rolls over the furniture.  But, when Dave Evison, started his Sunday Northern Soul show on Signal Radio, I was a regular listener, whilst Keith with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Northern Soul, was winning the weekly competitions with incessant regularity.

It wasn't long before, we were out on the floor again, going to Keith Minshull's birthday party at the Clough Hall Inn, just down the road from where I lived, where we met up with a number of other people from our past, and some from the present, like Andy Myatt, whose son was in the same class as my son at school.  Soon, we were going regularly to the Keele All-Nighters, which we did for most of the 1990's.

In the last ten years, although Keith lives half the year in Spain, we have continued to see each other most months at Moorville Hall, and kept in touch via e-mail.  So, after half a century of friendship, I know that Keith will face his current challenge head on, and come out on top.  See you soon, mate, and we'll be back "Out On The Floor".

Lessons of The Chinese Revolution, What Is Happening In China? - Part 2 of 4

In 1929, Pravda reported that a guerrilla force, under the command of Zhu Deh, was heading towards Chao-Cho. Pravda's report, in small type, had no accompanying analysis or detail, but was a bland, non-committal piece of reportage, enabling the ECCI to take credit for any success and disown any failure. It was a continuation of the dishonest and schizoid behaviour of publicly warning about putschism, whilst requiring silent support, from its members, for the organisation of armed insurrections, in the unfavourable conditions of counter-revolution.

Trotsky responded to the report by demanding that the CPSU and Pravda give the required background and analysis of what was happening in China, so as either to support or condemn it.

“What is the meaning of this struggle? Its origins? Its perspectives? Not a word is breathed to us about it. If the new revolution in China has matured to the point that the Communists have taken to arms, then it would seem necessary to mobilize the whole International in the face of events of such gigantic historical importance. Why then do we hear nothing of the sort? And if the situation in China is not such as puts on the order of the day the armed struggle of the Communists for power, then how and why has a Communist detachment begun an armed struggle against Chiang Kai-shek, that is, against the bourgeois military dictatorship?” (p 226)

The reality, of course, was that there was no rise in the level of revolutionary activity, or rebuilding of workers' organisations and, confidence. The workers were in defensive mode, as the bourgeoisie stabilised itself. The workers had, correspondingly, abandoned the Communist Party, that had betrayed them, with its alliance with the bourgeoisie and KMT.

A similar thing can be seen with Ukraine-Russia. The pro-NATO and pro-Putin campists alike present fairy-tales about the corrupt, right-wing regimes they both support, and the ridiculous idea that what exists, on both sides, is a national “bloc of four classes”, or popular front, welded together by the threat of external domination, and in which the war is actually being waged by the working-class for its own class interests. As in all wars, it is certainly workers who, as soldiers in the bourgeois army, do the fighting and dying, but it most certainly is not for their own class interests, as against those of the bourgeoisie that sends them to die and suffer mutilation, and whose state determines the conditions under which they fight.

In 1929, the Comintern had entered the ultra-Left, sectarian Third Period, in which, in contrast to the previous opportunism of the Popular Front, the Stalinists now presented everyone outside the CP's as some kind of fascist. In this scenario, the permanent rise of the revolutionary wave meant that any advance, by opposing class forces was merely temporary. Trotsky quotes Zinoviev, who, by this time, along with Kamenev and others, had left the United Opposition, and returned to the Stalinist fold.

“It is no accident that Zinoviev who, in distinction to the other capitulators, still pretends to be alive, has come out in Pravda with an article which shows that the domination of Chiang Kai-shek is entirely similar to the temporary domination of Kolchak, that is, is only a simple episode in the process of the revolutionary rise. This analogy is of course bracing to the spirit. Unfortunately, it is not only false, but simply stupid. Kolchak organized an insurrection in one province against the dictatorship of the proletariat already established in the greater part of the country. In China, bourgeois counter-revolution rules in the country and it is the Communists who have stirred up an insurrection of a few thousand people in one of the provinces.” (p 227)

This same lunacy was seen in Germany, where the victory of Hitler was greeted with the response, “After Hitler, its our turn.”

“We think, therefore, we have the right to pose this question: Does this insurrection spring from the situation in China or rather from the instructions concerning the “third period”?  We ask further, what is the political role of the Chinese Communist Party in all this? What are the slogans with which it mobilized the masses? What is the degree of its influence upon the workers? We hear nothing about all this.” (p 227)