Saturday, 29 December 2018

Review of 2018 Predictions - Part 4

“Africa Emerges” 

I would class this prediction as being in the category of work in progress. In a year when the three year cycle was causing a relative slowdown, along with the impact of Trump's trade wars, and Brexit were limiting trade, it was perhaps too much to hope that any notable advance in the relative position of Africa would occur, in the space of just a year. What is certain is that Africa has continued to advance during the last year, and the conditions are in place for it to continue to do so. 

The underlying argument in relation to the prediction was a rejection of the old Stalinist notions about imperialism, unequal exchange and super-exploitation. The fact that China, itself once the victim of colonial exploitation, is, today, a major factor in the development of Africa, illustrates the point. The world is not divided into fixed camps of imperialist and exploited nations, but is characterised by a process of combined and uneven development, with former exploiters becoming exploited and vice versa. 

India has already overtaken its former colonial master, Britain, to become the world's fourth largest economy. In fact, as a result of Brexit, and the fall in the value of the Pound, Britain had already sunk to only the sixth largest national economy, anyway. Even without Brexit, Britain was set to fall quickly to only the 12th or 15th largest economy within a few years, as it is overtaken by countries like South Korea, and Mexico. 

In Capital III, Chapter 15, Marx writes, 

“Given the necessary means of production, i.e. , a sufficient accumulation of capital, the creation of surplus-value is only limited by the labouring population if the rate of surplus-value, i.e. , the intensity of exploitation, is given; and no other limit but the intensity of exploitation if the labouring population is given.” 

In the epoch of imperialism, of a global economy based upon globalised, large-scale industrial capital, the main concern of that industrial capital is to then have access to sufficient supplies of this exploitable labour. In the developed capitalist heartlands, the establishment over the last two centuries of advanced, and extensive infrastructure, in roads, rail, air and sea ports, and so on, together with developed levels of health care and education, and a large amount of fixed capital backing labour, capital is able to utilise higher levels of exploitation via higher levels of productivity, to offset relatively smaller populations, and higher living standards. But, those higher living standards have also meant that family sizes have declined, causing the potential to obtain additional supplies of labour to be limited. 

Either capital responds to those shortages of exploitable labour, by utilising a free movement of labour across the globe to import the labour it requires, or, where that is not possible, it must then move capital to where the exploitable labour exists. It must then also invest in raising the level of productivity in those less developed economies to which it relocates, including raising levels of education and healthcare etc. That is the process of combined and uneven that globalisation also brings about. It is why, as Paul Mason has stated in his book Postcapitalism, that over the last few decades the largest rises in global living standards have been in these developing economies, whilst workers in the developed capitalist heartlands have seen their living standards stagnate. Opposition to free movement, so as to bring in the necessary labour, will result in growth, and thereby living standards in those developed capitalist heartlands falling at an increasing pace, relative to the developing economies in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

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