Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 6

Struve cites data about the decline in the serf population, prior to the Reform, and comments by some economists that attributed it to a fall in living standards. Struve concludes that the population had reached the maximum that was compatible with the techno-economic conditions, but Lenin asks, 

“What has the Malthusian “law” of the correlation of population increase and means of subsistence to do with the matter, when the feudal social order directed these means of subsistence into the possession of a handful of big landowners, and passed over the mass of the population, the growth of which is under investigation?” (p 459) 

Struve sees in it non-capitalist overpopulation, but Lenin points out that it can just as easily be seen as feudalism pressing down harder on the peasants, extracting a greater surplus product, leaving a smaller necessary product/means of subsistence for the peasants. The landlords are led into this position, because increased commodity production pressed down on them harder. 

“The author’s examples tell against him: they tell of the impossibility of constructing an abstract law of population, according to the formula about correlation of growth and the means of subsistence, while ignoring historically specific systems of social relations and the stages of their development.” (p 459-60) 

Struve argues that the growth of population, following the Reform, can be explained by the same factors. He provides a table based upon allotment size, thereby, falling into the same errors as the Narodniks. The greater the size the allotment, the greater the rise in population, Struve argues. 

““And it cannot be otherwise under natural, ’self-consumer’ ... economy that serves primarily to satisfy the direct needs of the producer himself” (199).” (p 460) 

But the argument is completely false. The allotments were not provided for the purpose of meeting the needs of the serfs, but meeting the needs of the landlords and the state. 

“... they are taken away from their owners, if these “needs” are not satisfied on time; payments are levied on the allotment in excess of the peasants’ paying capacity. Further, they are not the peasants’ only resources.” (p 460) 

The peasant who makes a deficit in farming activity has other options as previously seen. They can rent out their land, and obtain income from wage labour. As Lenin has previously demonstrated, peasant households that did so could have a greater income, not only than other poor peasant households, but also above the average middle peasant household. So, this level of net income could be more than enough to sustain “energetic reproduction.” 

“Undoubtedly, such a favourable turn of events may be the lot of only a minority of the peasants, but, where no special examination is made of production relations existing within the peasantry, there is nothing to show that this growth proceeds evenly, that it is not called forth mainly by the prosperity of the minority.” (p 460) 

And, Struve himself admits that, after the Reform, commodity production penetrated a wide spectrum of society, so that income from such activity could not only supplement, but replace, both direct production and dependence on agricultural production. Moreover, this fetish with agricultural production is Physiocratic, forgetting that a large and increasing proportion of the labourer's means of subsistence comes from manufacture, and, more recently, from service industry. 

“The author’s data are obviously quite inadequate for establishing a general law of reproduction.” (p 461) 

Struve argues that, after the Reform, it was to the landlord's advantage to lease land to the peasants, which meant that the means of subsistence increased, as this additional land meant additional food area. But, again, this is wrong. The landlords had a reason to ensure that serfs were able to reproduce, because it was from their labour that they obtained Labour Rent. But, once capital enters agriculture, the landlord has no such limitation. If the peasant can no longer subsist, another richer peasant takes over the land, and will employ the former tenant as wage labourer. If a capitalist takes over the land, their surplus profit now forms the basis of the landlord's rent, which they may now increase.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - The Truth Is Always Concrete (2/3)

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

The Truth Is Always Concrete (2/3)

Marx and Engels had believed that the small Slavic nations would not be able to establish their own nation states, but that, for example, did happen in the case of Czechoslovakia, as a result of the First World War, and the settlement arising from it. It would have been equally ludicrous to have said, Marx and Engels did not believe these small nations could form their own nation state, and so the existence of these states is unnatural. To turn the clock backwards would have been reactionary.

A similar situation exists in relation to Trotsky's argument in relation to the USSR's invasion, occupation and social transformation in Poland, in 1939 – The USSR In War. Marxists would not have proposed such a course of action, as a means of bringing about such a transformation, for the reasons Engels sets out above, although as both he and Marx, and Lenin describe, this does not at all preclude the idea of a revolutionary war, by workers' states. However, the question is not whether such a course of action was advisable or one that Marxists would pursue, but what should be the position of Marxists given the reality created by it already having occurred. Marxists, would not have called for WWI, or a United States of Europe created on that basis, but it having created a united Europe, we would not argue for it to be broken up. Marxists do not argue for capitalist monopolies to be created, but if they are, we do not argue for them to be broken up, and the situation restored to that before their creation. Nor was there any reason why Marxists would call for the situation in Poland to be restored to that prior to the Stalinist invasion, and the transformation of its economy, by the uprooting of the social base of landlordism, and capitalism.

“Our general appraisal of the Kremlin and Comintern does not, however, alter the particular fact that the statification of property in the occupied territories is in itself a progressive measure. We must recognize this openly. Were Hitler on the morrow to throw his armies against the East, to restore “law and order” in Eastern Poland, the advanced workers would defend against Hitler these new property forms established by the Bonapartist Soviet bureaucracy.”

The analysis, in each case, must be concrete, and historically determined. What was progressive at one point, becomes reactionary at another. What may have been impossible to achieve at one point, becomes achieved at another, precisely because of changed material conditions, such as the consequences of a war. If the consequences lead to a progressive outcome, then it is no point of a Marxist programme to argue for the situation to be reversed, simply because they did not conform to some preconceived schema of how historical development should proceed. And, even if the consequence is not progressive, Marxists cannot argue for a reversal where to do so would lead to reactionary consequences. The question of a Jewish nation state is a case in point.

The nation state that had been a progressive development as capitalism broke out of the shell of feudalism, even by the end of the 19th century, had become a fetter.

“Almost a hundred years ago when the national state still represented a relatively progressive factor, the Communist Manifesto proclaimed that the proletarians have no fatherland. Their only goal is the creation of the toilers’ fatherland embracing the whole world. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the bourgeois state with its armies and tariff walls became the worst brake on the development of productive forces, which demand a much more extensive arena. A socialist who comes out today for the defence of the “fatherland” is playing the same reactionary role as the peasants of the Vendee, who rushed to the defence of the feudal regime, that is, of their own chains.

In recent years and even months, the world has observed with astonishment how easily states vanish from the map of Europe: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium . . . . The political map has been reshaped with equal speed in no other epoch save that of the Napoleonic wars. At that time it was a question of outlived feudal states which had to give way before the bourgeois national state. Today it is a question of outlived bourgeois states which must give way before the socialist federation of the peoples. The chain breaks as always at its weakest link. The struggle of the imperialist bandits leaves as little room for independent small states as does the vicious competition of trusts and cartels for small independent manufacturers and merchants.”

Monday, 29 March 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 5

Lenin then turns back to how Struve seeks to build on Lange's “correction” of Marx. The underlying position of Struve, based on Lange, is that overpopulation invariably arises in society whether the economy is based upon commodity production and exchange or not. Commodity production and exchange for him constitutes only a complicating factor. This is really the position of today's Malthusians, even though some of them try to disguise it by talking about overuse of resources being a consequence of capitalism. An examination of their arguments shows that their attacks on capitalism come down to nothing more than an attack on economic growth, and the consumption of resources. The only role they seem to suggest for “Socialism”, thereby, appears for it to “choose” to reduce the rate of growth, with utopian suggestions that all that is required, then, is for a more equitable distribution, to “save the planet”, which, in practice, would come down to a privileged elite making that decision – almost certainly, therefore, a privileged elite in already developed and affluent countries – against the wishes of the vast majority of the world's workers. In other words, nothing actually to do with Socialism at all. 

Lenin, therefore, examines Struve's unsubstantiated claim that overpopulation is inevitable also under natural economy. I have elsewhere referred to the work of Colin Clark, in demonstrating that overpopulation in natural economies is a consequence of poverty, not that overpopulation is a cause of poverty. To disprove Struve's argument, Lenin cites the data for Russian population growth, in the period prior to the expansion of commodity production and exchange. Between 1762-1846, the annual increase varied between 1,07% and 1.5%. In other words, not rapid. Struve picks on the fact that, according to Arsenyev, the increase was more rapid in grain producing areas. According to Struve, this confirms the Malthusian theory that population growth is a function of the production of means of subsistence. Marx demonstrates both theoretically and empirically that this theory is wrong, in Theories of Surplus Value

According to this theory, the greater the available land area, and natural fertility of the land, the greater is the natural growth of the population. Lenin is focusing on an analysis of Russian conditions, but an easy refutation of the argument can be made by considering North America, whose large area, and fertile lands were sparsely populated until European settlement. Struve bases his law on the fact that population growth was smallest in the Vladimir and Kalaga gubernias, but the argument is fallacious, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, as Marx demonstrated in his analysis of rent, you can't determine output simply from land area. It depends on the fertility of the land, and that fertility is not just determined by its natural fertility. It also depends on the application of capital. Some land may be naturally more fertile, but is inaccessible without roads, canals, railways being introduced to get to it, or the land may be badly drained or irrigated. Its natural fertility can only be obtained when the required drainage and irrigation, the clearing of stones etc. is undertaken. 

But, even if that were the case, this greater output does not equate to greater means of subsistence for the producers. Even in systems of natural economy, the producers have to share their outputs with the landlords and the state. In the Nile Delta, the fertility of the land meant that the Pharaohs were able to utilise the surplus product paid to them in tribute to finance the employment of thousands of builders to build the pyramids. 

“Is it not clear that the different types of landlord farming—quitrent or corvée, the size of tributes and the methods of exacting them, etc.— exerted a far greater influence on the amount of “means of subsistence” available to the population than the expanse of territory, which was not in the exclusive and free possession of the producers? More than that. Irrespective of the social relations that were expressed in serfdom, the population was bound together, even then, by exchange: “The separation of manufacturing industry from agriculture,” rightly says the author, “i.e., the social, national division of labour, existed in the pre-Reform period, too” (189). The question, then, arises why should we presume that the marsh-dwelling Vladimir handicraftsman or cattle-dealer had a less abundant supply of “means of subsistence” than the rude tiller of Tambov with all his “natural fertility of the soil”?” (p 458-9)

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - The Truth Is Always Concrete (1/3)

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

The Truth Is Always Concrete (1/3)

Marxists deal with the world as it actually exists not as it might be in some idealistic schema of development. So, for example, Trotsky sets out, in The Programme of Peace that, should such a political and economic union be created, in Europe, by war, it would be no part of a Marxist programme to try to turn this clock backwards. The economic concentration and centralisation established would continue to be progressive. The task of a Marxist, under such conditions, would be to address the imperialist nature of the political union, by demanding, on the one hand, a political struggle, within that framework, for the maximum political rights and freedoms, including the right of nations to secede, if they choose, whilst, on the other hand, arguing that nations should not choose to secede, but that workers should voluntarily unite, within this framework, in order the better to march forward to Socialism.

“The right of national self-determination cannot be excluded from the proletarian peace program; but it cannot claim absolute importance. On the contrary, it is delimited for us by the converging, profoundly progressive tendencies of historical development. If this “right” must be – through revolutionary force – counterposed to the imperialist methods of centralization which enslave weak and backward peoples and crush the hearths of national culture, then on the other hand the proletariat cannot allow the “national principle” to get in the way of the irresistible and deeply progressive tendency of modern economic life towards a planned organization throughout our continent, and further, all over the globe. Imperialism is the capitalist-thievish expression of this tendency of modern economy to tear itself completely away from the idiocy of national narrowness, as it did previously with regard to local and provincial confinement. While fighting against the imperialist form of economic centralization, socialism does not at all take a stand against the particular tendency as such but, on the contrary, makes the tendency its own guiding principle...

...Let us for a moment grant that German militarism succeeds in actually carrying out the compulsory half-union of Europe, just as Prussian militarism once achieved the half-union of Germany, what would then be the central slogan of the European proletariat? Would it be the dissolution of the forced European coalition and the return of all peoples under the roof of isolated national states? Or the restoration of “autonomous” tariffs, “national” currencies, “national” social legislation, and so forth? Certainly not. The program of the European revolutionary movement would then be: The destruction of the compulsory antidemocratic form of the coalition, with the preservation and furtherance of its foundations, in the form of complete annihilation of tariff barriers, the unification of legislation, above all of labour laws, etc. In other words, the slogan of the United States of Europe – without monarchies and standing armies – would under the indicated circumstances become the unifying and guiding slogan of the European revolution.”

The same approach was taken by Marx and Engels in relation to the colonies, such as India. In other words, colonialism would not have been the method chosen by Socialism to bring about the social revolution, and capitalist development in India. But, at the time of colonialism, Socialism itself not only did not exist, but could not exist, because capitalism itself was not yet properly developed. Colonialism develops at a time when the dominant forms of capital are its antediluvian forms of merchant's capital, and financial capital, acting conjointly with the landed aristocracy. But, just as this mercantilism at home, and the development of large markets, creates the conditions for the development of industrial capital, so too does it carry out that function in India. The first railways in India, for example, were established at around the same time they were established in Britain. They are established for the same reasons, the movement of raw materials and food in one direction, and manufactured products in the other. But, the establishment of railways also means the development of wider industrial production, engineering works to produce rails and other equipment, to build and maintain engines and so on. However, brutal the nature of colonialism, historically, its role is progressive in bringing about this social revolution.

The task of Marxists, most certainly would not be to turn India back to its condition prior to colonialism. Lenin indeed, quotes Engels Letter to Kautsky on this matter,

“In my opinion the colonies proper, i.e. the countries occupied by a European population – Canada, the Cape, Australia – will all become independent; on the other hand, the countries inhabited by a native population, which are simply subjugated – India, Algeria, the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish possessions – must be taken over for the time being by the proletariat and led as rapidly as possible towards independence. How this process will develop is difficult to say. India will perhaps, indeed very probably, make a revolution, and as a proletariat in process of self-emancipation cannot conduct any colonial wars, it would have to be allowed to run its course; it would not pass off without all sorts of destruction, of course, but that: sort of thing is inseparable from all revolutions.”

Saturday, 27 March 2021

The Economic Content Of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 4

Lenin dissects Lange's argument in relation to natural economy, taking Lange's description of the division into large and small producers, with the latter provided allotments by the former. In exchange, the latter provide corvee labour to the former. Now, Lenin says, imagine these relations are shattered due to “emancipatory ideas” taking hold. The peasants get 20% of their land, and must buy the other 80% at prices double the market price. That means that, now, these peasants must continue to work for the large landowners, to obtain money to make these payments. But, now, they work as free labourers, each in competition with another, for the available work. 

“This way of snatching up work inevitably forces some peasants out: because their allotments have grown smaller and their payments bigger, they have become weaker in relation to the landlord, and so competition among them increases the rate of surplus product, and the landlord can manage with a smaller number of peasants. However much the tendency to voluntary birth-control becomes entrenched in the people’s morals, the formation of a “surplus” is inevitable. Lange’s line of argument, which ignores social-economic relations, merely serves as striking proof that his methods are useless.” (p 456) 

The same is true of today's Malthusians and catastrophists. Their “anti-capitalism” is manifest as nothing more than a reactionary, petty-bourgeois demand for progress to be slowed down so as to reduce consumption of resources. Such a slowdown means that millions of people remain subject to the idiocy of rural life for longer than is required; it means that the expansion of the working-class, and rise in their living standards is slowed down; it means that the increase in production, and rise in productivity that could reduce the prices of necessities for millions in those economies is deferred. 

Lange's argument is based upon this concept of want, of immiseration of the worker, and this want is directly derived from the Malthusian claims, and from a Darwinian struggle for existence. 

““And what, indeed, is this ever-growing want but the metamorphosis of the struggle for existence?” (163).” (p 457) 

The worker, of course, has to sell their labour-power, in order to live, because they do not own means of production. But, the idea that this requires the worker to be in a state of want, or immiseration, is completely false, as Marx sets out in The Grundrisse, and as he also describes, in attacking the Lassallean Iron Law of Wages

“It was made clear that the wage worker has permission to work for his own subsistence—that is, to live, only insofar as he works for a certain time gratis for the capitalist (and hence also for the latter's co-consumers of surplus value); that the whole capitalist system of production turns on the increase of this gratis labour by extending the working day, or by developing the productivity—that is, increasing the intensity or labour power, etc.; that, consequently, the system of wage labour is a system of slavery, and indeed of a slavery which becomes more severe in proportion as the social productive forces of labour develop, whether the worker receives better or worse payment. And after this understanding has gained more and more ground in our party, some return to Lassalle's dogma although they must have known that Lassalle did not know what wages were, but, following in the wake of the bourgeois economists, took the appearance for the essence of the matter. 

It is as if, among slaves who have at last got behind the secret of slavery and broken out in rebellion, a slave still in thrall to obsolete notions were to inscribe on the program of the rebellion: Slavery must be abolished because the feeding of slaves in the system of slavery cannot exceed a certain low maximum!” 

(Marx – Critique of the Gotha Programme) 

No matter how affluent the worker may be, they still have to sell their labour-power, and, in fact, as Marx describes, even more so, because, unless they do, this affluence ceases immediately.

Northern Soul Classics - Can't Help Loving Dat Man of Mine - Ila Van


Friday, 26 March 2021

Friday Night Disco - Make A Little Love To Me - Isaac Hayes


Defend Freedom of Expression Oppose Bigotry and Medieval Mysticism

The demonstrations, by religious bigots, outside Batley Grammar School, in themselves are an affront to a civilised, secular society.  That a teacher has been forced into hiding by threats from some of those behind those protests is an even greater affront, as well as being a criminal act.  But, just as bad is the failure of the school to defend the teacher against this manifestation of bigotry, and medieval barbarism, by the protesters.  Worse still has been the response of the Labour MP, for Batley and Spen, Tracey Braben, whose cowardly statement has not only failed to support the teacher, and the principles of freedom of expression basic to a civilised society, but has lent credence to the bigotry of those involved in the protests.  But, then this is typical of the current Labour Party's cringing accommodation to all sorts of reactionary and bigoted ideas, as it searches for a few extra votes.

This is a repeat of the instances of bigotry from religious zealots that was seen in relation to the Danish Cartoons, and more recently, the murder of journalists at Charlie Hebdo.  The responsibility of all democrats, let alone social-democrats and socialists is to stand up against such barbaric religious bigotry, not as Braben has done, jump into bed with it.

If Muslims believe that it is wrong to display images of Mohammed, they are quite free to act accordingly, and not do so.  We may think that such a belief is irrational, but it is not for us to impose our view about Muslims.  By the same token, it is not for Muslims to impose their own, irrational, religious beliefs on the rest of us.  A long time ago, liberals, democrats and socialists fought against the imposition of such irrationality by the Church of England and Catholic Church upon us.  Britain is, overwhelmingly a secular society.  If we do not accept the right of the established Church of England, to impose such restrictions upon us, why on Earth would we accept the right of some other religion to take us back to the Middle Ages, and allow ourselves to be so constrained?

In an English School, in a secular society, teachers, or indeed anyone else is entitled to freedom of expression, including the expression of ideas or images that others may find offensive.  Freedom of expression is no freedom at all, if others can limit it to only what is acceptable to them.  Already, that freedom is seriously under threat by the governments new Bill restricting the right to protest, which follows on from its ability to get away with restricting people's rights and freedoms through the implementation of lock-outs and lockdowns over the last year, and its limitation on the right to free movement following on from Brexit.

It doesn't even matter what purpose the teacher had in showing an image of Mohammed in the classroom, and any attempt to divert attention on to that is precisely that a diversion, because the fact remains that, in a free secular society, everyone, teacher, student, caretaker or whatever has a right to freedom of expression.  If you dislike what they express, you have a right to disagree, and express your own view, that is all.  Issuing threats that result in someone going into hiding, demanding their dismissal from their job, and so on, is not acceptable.

This situation is the product of a long period in which basic rights and freedoms and principles of a free and secular society have not been defended.  Even going back to the Danish Cartoons, that was the case, as spineless liberals in the media failed to stand up for the right of journalists to publish the cartoons.  Time and again what we have seen is an appeasement of reactionary ideas and bigotry.  Nor is that just a question of reactionary ideas and bigotry from Muslims, there has been an increase in attacks on free expression by other religious zealots, and reactionaries too.

The whole issue of faith schools plays into this appeasement of cultural separation, and appeasement.  At the start of the twentieth century, such ideas were termed national-cultural autonomy.  It acts necessarily to divide the working-class in fighting its real enemy capital, by separating it into silos based upon ethnicity or religion.  There can be no place in a civilised, secular society for faith schools of any type.  Again, here, it is the spinelessness of liberals that is to blame.  Liberals have promoted the idea of multiculturalism, which implies that all cultures are equal, but separate, and so should be encouraged to exist side by side, on an equal basis.  But, all cultures are, in fact, the culture of the ruling class, and as such they are all reactionary and based upon exploitation.  Where cultures are cultures of other nations, whose ruling class is even more reactionary than that of the bourgeoisie, and remains bound up with all of the barbarisms and mysticism of bygone ages, these cultures themselves are even more reactionary.  Such is the case with Islam.

As socialists we have no truck with promoting the myth that all cultures are equal, or that they should all be allowed to exist side by side unchallenged.  The only culture we are interested in promoting is the culture of the international proletariat, in opposition to all of these other cultures of exploiting classes.  That Tracy Braben should suck up to the reactionaries in this case is not surprising.  It is fully in keeping with the spineless politics of liberals and social-democrats.  More specifically, it is fully in keeping with Labour's own collapse into reactionary politics, and nationalism in its promotion of Brexit, its attempts to wrap itself in the Union Flag, the butcher's apron stained with the blood of millions, its scramble into jingoism of the worst kind.  All of that is down to a pathetic attempt to win over a few reactionary voters, which itself will be a vain hope.

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Multinational Capital and The Multinational State

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Multinational Capital and The Multinational State

The old privately owned capital, capital owned by the individual capitalist, their family, or a small group of individuals, was necessarily nationally based, and also, thereby, highly dependent upon the nation state of those capitalists. They relied upon that state to protect their interests in the world economy, including in those states where they established foreign operations. But, the development of socialised capital, of the joint stock company/corporation changes all that. Now, shareholders from anywhere in the world can buy a share of a company anywhere in the world. And, that change, from the second half of the 19th century, meant that the capitalist class, in particular its dominant section, was now a global class, in the full sense. The shareholder in Bombay, or Moscow could directly participate in the sharing of the surplus value produced by the worker in Manchester, as a result of the dividends received on the shares owned in Manchester based companies.

The development of the multinational corporation after WWII, means that the remaining ties to the nation state are severed, and now the interests of the shareholders in these companies, shareholders who now live across the globe, have to be protected also by transnational para state bodies, or else every capitalist state, brought into this imperialist hierarchy of states, must agree to abide by the rules of that imperialist order, or face the consequences. The era of the nation state, thereby, passes into history, and its defence becomes reactionary. It no longer even represents the ideal form within which capitalist development takes place, because now that role can only be undertaken by either the largest nation states, or else by federations of nation states that provide the required size of single market in which capital can efficiently operate.

Lenin, whilst arguing that socialists in oppressor nations have to emphasise the right of oppressed nations to separate, says, the duty of socialists in oppressed nations is to argue the need to integrate and unify. The bourgeoisie in the oppressed nations will always seek to divide the workers, whilst doing deals with the bourgeoisie of oppressor nations, and also acting as oppressors of other minorities themselves, and so the workers can never align with such forces.

“for the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations always converts the slogan of national liberation into a means for deceiving the workers; in internal politics it utilizes these slogans as a means for concluding reactionary agreements with the bourgeoisie of the ruling nation (for instance, the Poles in Austria and Russia, who entered into pacts with reaction in order to oppress the Jews and the Ukrainians); in the realm of foreign politics it strives to enter into pacts with one of the rival imperialist powers for the purpose of achieving its own predatory aims (the policies of the small states in the Balkans, etc.).”

Zionism is a classic example of that, in its alliance with Mussolini's fascists and Hitler's Nazis, against Britain, when it sought to establish a Zionist state, and then with the US after WWII. It invariably means an alliance with the most reactionary, nationalist elements, for example, the close relationship between Zionism and Trump, despite the prominent role in that Trumpist entourage of virulent anti-Semites. It highlights the extent to which anti-Semitism is not the same as anti-Zionism, and indeed, the extent to which Zionism and anti-Semitism are, in fact, twins separated at birth.

Self-determination is used by chauvinists to argue for defence of the fatherland. It was used that way by chauvinists in WWI. It is used that way by Zionists today to deny Palestinians the right to return to their lands, and to defend the confessional nature of the Israeli state. This is quite different to the use of the concept by socialists in oppressor nations on behalf of those in the oppressed nations, and where its purpose is to overcome suspicion, amongst the oppressed, so as to facilitate joint working-class struggle.  Palestinians face the powerful Israeli state not as oppressors, but as the oppressed!

“In contrast to the petty-bourgeois democrats, Marx regarded all democratic demands without exception not as an absolute, but as a historical expression of the struggle of the masses of the people, led by the bourgeoisie, against feudalism. There is not a single democratic demand which could not serve, and has not served, under certain conditions, as an instrument of the bourgeoisie for deceiving the workers. To single out one of the demands of political democracy, namely, the self determination of nations, and to oppose it to all the rest, is fundamentally wrong in theory. In practice, the proletariat will be able to retain its independence only if it subordinates its struggle for all the democratic demands, not excluding the demand for a republic, to its revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.”


The overriding goal of the global working-class, today, is not a chasing after self-determination, and the creation of new class states, but is voluntary association of workers of different nations, and the creation of large multinational states, and federations, the better to develop the productive forces, and in which to regulate and plan the economy, thereby taking the dynamic implicit in large-scale socialised capital, as the transitional form of property, and enabling its logical development into becoming socialised means of production.

“Marxism deduces the defence of the fatherland in wars, for example, in the Great French Revolution or the wars of Garibaldi, in Europe, and the renunciation of defence of the fatherland in the imperialist war of 1914-18, from an analysis of the concrete historical peculiarities of each individual war and never from any 'general principle', or any one point of a programme.”

(Note, ibid)

“It was precisely from the standpoint of the interests of the revolutionary movement of the German workers that Marx in 1848 demanded that victorious democracy in Germany should proclaim and grant freedom to the nations that the Germans were oppressing. It was precisely from the standpoint of the revolutionary struggle of the English workers that Marx in 1869 demanded the separation of Ireland from England, and added: “...although after the separation there may come federation.” Only by putting forward this demand did Marx really educate the English workers in the spirit of internationalism.”


Again making clear that Lenin was not a proponent of separate national development, i.e. nationalism, he says that Marx argues that it is not only economic concentration that is progressive, but also political concentration, on condition that this political concentration is not imperialist, i.e. based on force “but on the basis of a free union of the proletarians of all countries. Only in this way was Marx able, also in the sphere of the solution of national problems, to oppose the revolutionary action of the masses to verbal and often hypocritical recognition of the equality and the self-determination of nations.”


The Search For Yield Myth

This morning, on one of the speculation news programmes, I heard a pundit again talk about speculators being engaged in a search for yield.  Whether they actually believe that nonsense I don't know, but that it is nonsense, is beyond doubt.

If speculators really were engaged in a search for yield, then we would not have such a large proportion of assets, across the globe, with negative yields, and most assets, now, with negative real yields, i.e. after inflation.  If speculators were actually in search of yield, then they would not be speculators at all.  They would become investors in the true sense, using their money as money-capital to buy productive capital, so as to engage in the production of goods and services, to produce profits, which currently offers an actual real yield (the annual rate of profit) of around 30%.

But, they don't do that, for several reasons.  Firstly, engaging in the actual production of goods and services, as a private capitalist, requires work, and speculators have become accustomed, over the last century, of not needing to do any work, even the work of superintendence over the labour process.  Secondly, it involves risk.  The average annual rate of profit is precisely that, an average, and not guaranteed to each individual capital.  So, 30% looks attractive compared to actually paying other people to borrow your money, as they do now, but then you might make a loss rather than a profit, if you engage in actual production.

But, the bigger problem is that speculators are not bothered about yield at all.  Whatever yields are available, they are so tiny, even when they are positive, as to be meaningless in absolute terms.  Banks are offering regular saver accounts, paying 0.50%, if you save up to £200 a month.  But, at the end of the year, having tucked away this £200 per month, the interest you get on the £2,400 is a measly £6.50!  Who would bother?  What speculators are concerned with is not yield but capital gains.  They put money into bonds, or shares, or property not in order to obtain a yield, but in the full expectation that, at the end of the year, the price of the assets they have bought will have risen by 20%.

The idiots who acted like lemmings in wasting money buying Gamestop, and who have done something similar with Bitcoin, have no interest in yield.  They are driven by greed for short term, large, speculative capital gains.  All of the big investment banks engaged in high frequency trading, often driven by AI, have no interest in yield  - they often hold assets for only fractions of a second! - but merely with making fractional capital gains per unit, on huge numbers of units bought and sold.

That is why we have seen property developments in London and other big cities that have remained empty from the moment they were completed.  The owners of these developments are not bothered about getting rents from them - which itself involves collection and management costs, maintenance expenses and so on - because they expect that simply by doing nothing, the price of the property will increase by 50%, and more within a few years of its development, providing them with a capital gain that dwarfs any potential measly yield they might have obtained from it.  And, they know that all such speculation has been essentially risk free, now, for the last few decades, because if the prices happened to fall, the central bank and the state steps in to bail out the speculators, and to buy up the assets so as to inflate their prices once more.

Eventually, such Ponzi Schemes collapse, because they are unsustainable.  The negative yields we see today are the result of previous collapses, and the extreme lengths that central banks and states have had to go to to establish the scheme once more.  But, negative yields, amidst the ridiculous claim that speculators are involved in a search for yield is simply a reflection of how surreal and unsustainable that situation has now become.  The huge levels of debt, and the much greater debt to come, as economies break out of the current lockouts, means that interest rates are set to rise sharply and burst all of these bubbles, in a spectacular manner.  The Keynesians who think it can all be handled by printing even more paper money tokens to finance that debt, are living in a fantasy land of magic money trees, which shows they have no understanding of either money, or value, or interest rates.

As I've pointed out in previous posts, inflation as well as interest rates is rising sharply across the globe.  Printing even more money tokens, at a time when the liquidity is necessarily going into actual circulation and consumption, rather than simply buying assets, will push up inflation, and interest rates even further.  Again, the presentation of the official inflation data is as much of a fiction as the idea that speculators are searching for yield.  The official inflation data shows the rise in prices of all those things that consumers currently can't buy, but leaves out the sharply rising prices of all those things they can buy!  A look at the surge in global primary product prices illustrates the point.

According to Bloomberg,

“Food prices are soaring faster than inflation and incomes”.

In the UK, according to an index compiled for the BBC, they have risen by 8.3% since January, while meat and fish are up by 22.3%.

The price of rhodium and palladium, as with other raw materials has soared. These are used in catalytic converters, leading to a renewal of the practice of stealing them for the metal that was seen some years ago, when metals prices rose sharply. In fact, someone has set up a Twitter account dedicated to showing CCTV footage of such thefts. Then there is the sharp rise in the price of semiconductors used increasingly in every consumer durable from toasters to cars.

We are seeing inflation rising sharply, hidden by indices that are measuring everything other than the actual rises in prices, and, at the same time, we are seeing governments proposing increasing aggregate demand by trillions of dollars as a result of infrastructure spending, and direct payments of cash to households and businesses.  As they see interest rates rising, as all of this leads to households and businesses increasing their own borrowing, the former as they engage on a splurge of buying all those things, like cars they couldn't buy over the last year - especially as they see the price of them rising rapidly, and seek to get in, before prices rise further - and the latter to be able to expand their production so as to meet all of this rising demand, then states will respond as they have whenever interest rates have risen over the last thirty years - they will print even more money tokens.  But, now that will simply increase inflation even faster, and push interest rates even higher!

The irony is that what this will mean is that the higher interest rates will burst all of the speculative bubbles, and the higher interest rates will then make it possible to actually search for yield, rather than gamble on making capital gains, but, as all of the excess liquidity causes inflation to rise ever faster, the higher nominal yields will increasingly fall behind inflation causing real yields to fall.  In Britain, Brexit, and the higher costs it brings with it, will put this process on steroids.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Tory Greed, Nationalism and The NHS

Boris Johnson has praised greed. No surprise there. He did so in justification of UK Vaccine Nationalism. The reason that the UK had lots of vaccines, and the EU and elsewhere did not, is down to the fact that greedy Tory Ministers got their snouts into the vaccine trough early, to snuffle up the available potential supply at the expense of everyone else. Of course, they did the same kind of thing with PPE, throwing around taxpayers money like confetti, in the direction of Tory benefactors, friends and family, for contracts to provide what often turned out to be defective or inadequate equipment. The same could easily have happened with vaccines, in which case the news stories, today, would be quite different.

The reality is that, with vaccines, the Tories were lucky, whereas, when it came to their feckless use of public money in relation to the creation of Nightingale Hospitals, provision of PPE, or the £12 billion spent on a useless Test and Trace system, they were not. When it came to Nightingale Hospitals they relied on their friends in a top heavy, NHS bureaucracy, always willing to spend taxpayers money on prestige projects, to expand their empires, rather than on more effective use of resources for primary care and prevention strategies. The news stories in recent days that the common cold coronavirus could provide some immunity against COVID itself calls into question the vast amounts spent on developing new vaccines.  No wonder the Nightingale Hospitals turned out as huge expensive white elephants. When it came to the provision of PPE, the Tories threw public money around to their friends, knowing they were under little scrutiny, and the deficiencies and corruption would not become apparent until later.

The £12 billion spent on the useless Test and Trace system combined the two. It relied on the usual channels of the Medical-Industrial Complex. On the one hand it produced the idea that COVID could be stopped in its tracks by such extensive testing and tracing, when, in fact, nothing of the sort was ever possible in a country like Britain. The idea that all would have been well had the system been put in the hands of the NHS, which has been so appalling, itself, throughout the pandemic is laughable. As an example, let me give a small personal anecdote. Me and my wife had our COVID jab more than three weeks ago. Yet, we are both still getting letters, texts, and e-mails from the NHS telling us to go and book our first jabs! There is no tie up between the NHS, and GP's, it appears. Does anyone seriously believe this bureaucratic dinosaur would have been any more efficient if it had come to trying to trace millions of unknown people?

When it came to vaccines, life was much simpler for the Tories and their NHS. Because, be under no illusion, it is their NHS, not our NHS. They are the government, they are the ones that have the control over it, not us, as the 1% pay offer to NHS staff demonstrates. For vaccines, it was the giant multinational pharmaceutical corporations that played the leading role. Those corporations that have an incentive in getting their vaccines out quickly, to take advantage of a huge captive global market, in the midst of a pandemic, so as to capitalise on the potential for huge profits, were in the driving seat.

The reality is that the Tories were saved by three things their ideology abhors. Firstly, they were saved by multinational corporations, which, by definition, are founded upon capital having burst through the fetter of the constraints of the nation state. That is inimical to the Tories ideology based upon the primary role of small scale capital and unrestrained competition. Secondly, those corporations are based on an international division of labour, and the cooperation that goes with it, quite inimical to the nationalistic ideology of the Tories, particular the Brexit Tories. Thirdly, they were saved by the professionalism of the scientists and other workers, in those corporations, the collective owners of those businesses, who, on a daily basis, get on with the job of running them without need for private capitalists standing over them, capitalists who now fulfil a role purely of parasites drawing revenues from these companies in the form of the dividends on their shares, and interest on their bonds, while they sit back on their yachts, leaving others to do the work.

The Tories have, of course, been shamelessly hypocritical when it comes to the expression of their greed via vaccine nationalism. In trying to take credit for the fact that Britain was able to roll out large numbers of vaccines – and for them this was crucial propaganda, as their decision to suspend second doses, in order to maximise the number of first doses, illustrated – they ignored the fact that, the first vaccine was, in fact, developed in the EU, by a US multinational, Pfizer, conjointly with Turkish scientists at Biontech, using EU based resources, which, in turn, also depends upon the shared knowledge of scientists in the EU, and across the world. The development of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine also cannot be divorced from this international effort, and division of scientific labour, which all scientists draw on, in their own work. Moreover, now that the EU has responded to the fact that, whilst companies based in the EU have shipped 11 million does of vaccine to Britain, UK based companies have shipped none in the other direction, by threatening to place restrictions on EU exports, the Tories have themselves become alive to the reality of such international division of labour.

The Tories, now, rightly, point out that, if the EU were to block exports of vaccines to other countries, this would be short-sighted, because pharma companies depend upon components supplied to them by companies outside the EU, which might, in turn, be blocked. But, the Tories only point out this international dependency when it suits them, and not when they want to claim sole credit for the production and roll-out of vaccines in Britain. Of course, even here, the truth is always concrete. If we take the fact that the EU is seven times bigger than the UK, if the UK tried to block components going to EU based pharma companies, it would be the one that suffered. The EU would source supplies from elsewhere, including new companies and supply developed inside the EU itself. That is the picture that is developing with Brexit overall, as UK based companies see their exports to the EU fall by 60%, and many have decided to relocate to the EU, to avoid all of the additional costs and hassle that Brexit has brought with it.

The Tories greed, of course, has manifested itself in the 1% pay offer to NHS workers in England. Only naïve liberals and social-democrats could be surprised by this development, despite all of the weekly dose of clap for the NHS that the Tories led for their NHS during the height of the panic. The NHS, as an organisation, as opposed to the majority of its workers, has been appalling throughout the pandemic, as I have set out in previous posts. Be it its failure to protect the vulnerable in its care, the failure to create isolation hospitals, the waste on Nightingale Hospitals, the criminal act of knowingly sending infected people back to care homes, and so on, a greater catalogue of negligence is hard to imagine, and, of course, as all the previous NHS scandals show, its not the first time.

The NHS is a huge, Stalinoid, bureaucratic, hierarchical and failing dinosaur. The apologists for it are like George Bernard Shaw and other Fabians and statists, who went to Stalin's Russia, in the 1930's, and returned singing its praises. They apparently saw nothing of the show trials, of the mass murders, the rampant economic waste and mismanagement and attendant corruption, nor the famine and starvation that led to the deaths of millions of peasants. The apologists have made a fetish of the NHS in a misguided, statist, Fabian belief that it, in some way, has socialist credentials, when, in fact, it has none. It was created by and for the benefit of large-scale capitalism, in the era of imperialism.

The apologists often respond that its deficiencies are not the fault of the NHS itself, but of the role of the Tory government – though the same failings have occurred under Labour governments too. But, that is to fail to recognise that this goes with the territory of what the NHS is, as an organisation, and property form. Control over it by the government, and in the end the state, is integral to it as a state capitalist enterprise. That is why Marx and Engels always opposed such forms. Marx set out his objections to them at length in The Critique of the Gotha Programme. Engels in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme continued the opposition saying.

“Here I want to draw attention to the following: These points demand that the following should be taken over by the state: (1) the bar, (2) medical services, (3) pharmaceutics, dentistry, midwifery, nursing, etc., etc., and later the demand is advanced that workers’ insurance become a state concern. Can all this be entrusted to Mr. von Caprivi? And is it compatible with the rejection of all state socialism, as stated above?”

Kautsky himself noted, in relation to these state capitalist forms and nationalised industries,

“If the modern state nationalizes certain industries, it does not do so for the purpose of restricting capitalist exploitation, but for the purpose of protecting the capitalist system and establishing it upon a firmer basis, or for the purpose of itself taking a hand in the exploitation of labour, increasing its own revenues, and thereby reducing the contributions for its own support which it would otherwise have to impose upon the capitalist class. As an exploiter of labour, the state is superior to any private capitalist. Besides the economic power of the capitalists, it can also bring to bear upon the exploited classes the political power which it already wields.

The state has never carried on the nationalizing of industries further than the interests of the ruling classes demanded, nor will it ever go further than that. So long as the property-holding classes are the ruling ones, the nationalization of industries and capitalist functions will never be carried so far as to injure the capitalists and landlords or to restrict their opportunities for exploiting the proletariat.”

So, no socialist, certainly no Marxist, should have any illusion in the nature, and purpose of the NHS as such a state capitalist enterprise, or the fact that, the government, as “superior to any private capitalist”, as an exploiter of labour, uses its superior power to impose a 1% pay rise on NHS workers, in a way that private capitalists would not be able to do. Apologists for the NHS often fall back on the fact that its “socialist” content resides in the fact that it provides healthcare “free at the point of need”. But, that is nonsense for many reasons. Firstly, many people simply do not get the healthcare they require at all. A look at the variations of provision across the country illustrates that point clearly. But, the fact of “free at the point of need” does not convey anything “socialist” about this provision, only that capitalism, long ago, recognised the greater efficiency, for a range of commodities, of providing them, when required, via insurance schemes.

Businesses take out insurance so that, for example, a shipping company that sees one of its ships sink, is able to claim against the insurance for its replacement, and other costs. The cost of a replacement ship is, for the company, “free at the point of need”, but there is nothing socialist about it. It is just a sensible, efficient, capitalist means of dealing with such unforeseeable events. The provision of the replacement ship, whilst “free at the point of need”, of course, does not mean that the provision of the ship, itself, comes free. The company has to pay insurance premiums, each year, in order to avail itself of this ability to obtain a replacement “free at the point of need”, in the eventuality of an accident occurring.

All insurance works on this basis, as a more efficient, capitalistic basis of provision of commodities whose consumption is not predictable for any given individual, household, or company, but whose aggregate requirement for all can be accurately estimated, by actuaries. That is true whether these commodities are ships, buildings, cars, or the requirement for services such as healthcare, education, social care, or the risk of unemployment. If each individual had to assess their risk of any of these things, they would have to work on the basis of the greatest potential risk, and so would have to set aside large amounts of their income to cover that risk, and potential cost. That is economically grossly inefficient, because all of that income, held as unproductive savings, is not being used productively, and so slows capital accumulation and economic growth. Insurance overcomes that problem, and simply enables each individual to pay an insurance premium based upon the average risk, not the maximum risk. That frees huge amounts of money, which can now be used for consumption, and as money-capital to fund productive investment to produce the commodities consumed. In short there is nothing socialist about “free at the point of need”; it is an inevitable product of the development of capitalist production on a large scale.

Apologists will no doubt point to the fact that the SNP government in Scotland is proposing to pay Scottish health workers a pay rise of 4%. But, what does this show? It shows precisely the degree to which the control resides with the government. Moreover, what it shows is the other deficiency within nationalised or state capitalist provision. The nature of the problem is contained within the term “nationalised” itself, i.e. the “national” bit. What the pay offer to Scottish NHS workers, as against the pay offer to English NHS workers shows is that, even within the UK “national economy”, the role of nationalism, here a direct consequence of devolution, is pernicious in dividing the working class. It creates a two-tier working class, divided and fragmented, with Scottish and English workers facing different conditions, and the basis of a united class struggle, thereby, being undermined. Such division is the inevitable consequence of Brexit, in dividing British workers from their comrades in the rest of Europe, but it is also the inevitable consequence of Scottish nationalism, and the separation of Scottish workers from other British workers.

The future for, and road ahead for, workers – all workers – cannot be found in the path of Tory greed, which is simply a manifestation of capitalist greed in its most reactionary form, and so of nationalistic greed, or by placing faith in capitalistic forms simply on the basis of their state ownership and control. The road ahead resides in the greatest possible unity of workers across all borders, and the most rapid dismantling of those borders; it resides in united class struggle of all workers immediately for common standards on wages and conditions, and for the reform of corporate governance laws to put control of companies where it belongs in the hands of the workers, who are the collective owners of those companies; it resides in the cooperation of workers in all these companies, which themselves already exist as multinational companies, to build a cooperative, regulated and planned economy. Its manifestation will be the creation of a United States of Europe, and its transition to a Workers Europe, and ultimately a Socialist United States of Europe.

The Economic Content Of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 3

The solution to this overproduction of capital/underproduction of labour, is then to increase the supply of labour, but without a large rise in population, or access to new supplies of exploitable labour, the only way of achieving this is to create a relative surplus population, by increasing productivity, so that any given amount of labour now does the work of more labour. That can only be achieved by a technological revolution, not just on the usual gradual basis, but on a rapid and widespread basis across the economy, or at least its most important sectors. 

The overproduction of capital may go side by side with overpopulation of a large number of workers who are unemployed, and who cannot, thereby, provide for their own reproduction. That is because the overproduction of capital is only an overproduction of the means of production as capital, and not of means of production per se. It is only an overproduction in terms of being able to produce additional profits from the utilisation of those means of production. But, the point, here, is that, unlike the conditions that determined plant and animal populations that have to take available food etc., as they find it, Man changes the world around him, so as to produce more of those things, so that the laws determining human populations must be different. And, what specifically makes capitalism different to other modes of production is that not is the determination of overpopulation dependent on the needs of capital, but capital itself has the ability to remedy a condition of underpopulation. 

Capital has the capacity to revolutionise production. It controls science and technology to that end. A rise in productivity means that less labour is required to produce a given level of output, so that the labour, thereby released, forms part of a relative surplus population. This relative surplus population pushes down on wages, causing profits to rise. But, the higher productivity also means the value of labour-power falls, and so surplus value rises. By these means, capital reverses the overproduction of capital, raises the rate of surplus value and of profit, and so creates the basis for increasing demand for labour once more. It is this movement of capital that dictates whether there is over or underpopulation. 

Lange concludes that Marx's theory appears to break the thread that runs the whole of organic nature up to Man “as though general investigations into the existence, reproduction and perfection of the human race were quite superfluous to our purpose, i.e., to an understanding of the labour problem” (154).” (p 454) 

But, Lenin points out that this is not true, and the “labour problem” is one that only exists under capitalism. Since it exists only under capitalism, it is only on the basis of a specific analysis of the laws of capitalist production and distribution, and not on the basis of “general laws” that it can be understood. Lange begs to differ. Factory labour, he says, presumes poverty. But, in fact, as Lenin points out, 

“... we know that poverty is created by capitalism itself at a stage of its development prior to the factory form of production, prior to the stage at which the machines create surplus population; secondly, the form of social structure preceding capitalism—the feudal, serf system—itself created a poverty of its own, one that it handed down to capitalism.” (p 454) 

The reality is that it is capitalism, as large-scale industrial capitalism, based upon machine industry, that brings about a fantastic rise in living standards for everyone, including workers. Lange, however, argues that, even with this poverty, the first capitalists had difficulty in recruiting labour, and persuading the producers to join in this new form of production. Lange sets out a description of how he thinks this process of industrialisation occurs. In a locality, he says, a capitalist, with a few workers, sets up in business, and then recruits other workers from amongst a few landless peasants. Lenin points out that Lange never explains that these landless peasants are themselves the outcome of the process of differentiation, occurring in the countryside. He instead explains them on the basis that ““the tendency towards voluntary birth-control has not firmly gripped the people’s morals” (p.157)?” Note *, p 455) The remainder come from within “the rising generation” (156)” (p 455) 

Lange's concern with birth control is continued by today's Malthusians who see the misery of millions deriving from overpopulation, and overuse of resources due to too rapid growth – and for some even any growth at all – rather than being from too slow a rate of growth, and the unequal distribution of resources, due to capitalist productive relations. 

Lange sets out his Malthusian theory, saying that, in an agrarian economy, where birth control has not been adopted, overpopulation inevitably arises. The basis of this unsubstantiated claim is Malthus' own claims about the rate at which output could rise from a given area of land, as well as his fallacious theory about exponential population growth. The Malthusians of today still repeat this nonsense, but garb it in semi-radical, environmentalist clothes, based upon concern for the destruction of the environment, due to the overuse of resources and so on. 

“but all these assertions are totally unsupported. Whence does it follow that a “surplus of workers” was really “inevitable”? Whence does the connection arise between this surplus and the absence in the people’s morals of a tendency to voluntary birth-control? Ought he not, before arguing about the “people’s morals,” to take a glance at the production relations in which the people live?” (p 455-6)

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Opposition To Immigration Controls and The National Question (2/2)

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Opposition To Immigration Controls and The National Question (2/2)

In July 1982, the fused WSL was in the midst of a faction fight between those that argued for support for Argentina in the Falklands War (mostly the old Thornett group), and those that argued that the war was reactionary on both sides (mostly the old I-CL group). Here is what I wrote, in Internal Bulletin 12, in support of the latter position, in “Once More On The Falklands”.

“... Cunliffe objects, 'The reason why the islanders “oppress nobody” on the islands is because of the rigorously chauvinist policy of excluding non-British people”. This is really tautological. The reality is that because of the size of the population, the islanders right to self-determination could be overridden simply by Argentina settling enough people there to outvote the present community. Moreover, whilst we are opposed to immigration laws, their existence elsewhere has not prevented us from defending nation's rights to self-determination, except in the case of Israel, where they are used against the Palestinians who were thrown out of their own country.

Cunliffe could no doubt retort that this is what happened in the Falklands. 'The colony was seized from the young Argentinian nation in 1829. The Argentine garrison was evicted by British military force...' Are we to take this seriously? That the stationing of a few dozen Argentine troops, whose permanent homes would have been in Argentina, for four whole years, gives Argentina a claim on the Falklands against a civilian community who have lived and worked there for 150 years with, until now, no real challenge from Argentina of their right to do so?”

Immigration is not the same as colonisation.  What 'Cunliffe' and the Minority were arguing, here, was a version of the argument that Glotzer had put in favour of Zionist colonisation of Palestine, under the cover of a right of "immigration".  In other words, considering the matter concretely, in this case, shows that the argument that a right to self-determination is in danger could have been warranted in such peculiar conditions, as against claims that Britain, a nation of nearly 70 million people might be “swamped” by immigration, a completely fallacious and racist claim. But, the reference, in this quote, to Israel, is also relevant, here, because, again, these are peculiar conditions. The mass migration of Jews to Palestine, was not simply the kind of normal migration of peoples across the globe in search of a better life that we argue all workers should be able to enjoy. It was organised from above by Zionism, with large amounts of money thrown into organising it, and originally with the support of other imperialist powers, like Britain. The Zionists also entered into agreements with the Nazis to further encourage the migration of Jews from Germany to Israel for this purpose. The Haavara Agreement between the Zionists and Nazis facilitated the movement of 60,000 German Jews to Palestine between 1933-39.

But, similarly, Israel, today, like the Falklands, has a small population, but not to such a qualitative degree. The population is 9.2 million of which 74%, or 6.8 million are Jews. This is wholly different to the situation in the Falklands, where the population is just 3,400 people. Israel is more like Sweden than the Falklands. A large part of the Palestinian people live in the proto-Palestinian state of the West Bank and Gaza, essentially, therefore, under Israeli responsibility as recognised by the UN. That total population comprises around 4.7 million people. And, unlike the Palestinians facing an organised, well financed, invasion of Zionists, in the early part of the 20th century, Palestinians, today, face a modern, wealthy, and heavily armed Jewish state, intimately tied into the global imperialist hierarchy of states, firmly backed by the US, for which it acts as regional proxy, in the same way that the various Slavic states acted as agents of Tsarism in the 19th century.

The qualitative difference, here, is that, whilst Argentina could easily organise, at a state level, the emigration of 4,000 civilians to the Falklands, so as to carry out a cold annexation of the Islands, no such possibility exists in relation to Palestinians and Israel. The argument that Israel cannot allow a right of return, or other immigration by Palestinians is simply the same kind of racist, “defence of the fatherland” argument used by chauvinists elsewhere, and all the more untenable given the fact that the state itself was created by the expulsion of its indigenous population.

But, the other question is does this make the Israeli state invalid. The answer is clearly no, for the reasons set out previously. We oppose immigration controls, just as we oppose many other policies adopted by the capitalist state, but that does not invalidate the nature of these states, as states. They have all come into existence as a consequence of oppression and suppression of other nations and nationalities, in one form or another. That is the nature of the historical process. We are not moralists seeking to turn the clock backwards in order to right some previous wrongs done, but Marxists that seek to move forward on the basis of what actually now exists. Within that context, the nation state, in its time, was a progressive historical development. But, just as the fetter of private capital was burst asunder by the development of socialised capital, which expropriated the old private capitalists, so this same process, the development of mammoth, socialised capital, also burst through the limitations of the nation state, as capital expanded across the globe, and created a world market and world economy. As Lenin says, this was also a further progressive development brought about by capitalism.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 2

Section I

Lenin discusses a clear example of where Struve departs from the ideas of Marx in favour of the ideas of Malthus. That is in the case of Struve's views on rural overpopulation. This overpopulation, Struve argues, is not capitalist overpopulation, i.e. an excess of labour in relation to capital, but a simple overpopulation “that goes with natural economy.” (p 453) Struve, however, says that he does not believe this view to be Malthusian, but it is. Struve claims, in his polemic with Danielson, that his position is consistent with F.A. Lange's objection to Marx's theory of relative over population. So, Lenin embarks on a critique of Lange's objection. 

Lange firstly misunderstood Marx's theory of population. Marx disagreed with Malthus, and this also forms the basis of his subsequent disagreement with Darwin about there being some abstract theory of population in relation to humans. One difference between humans and other animals, as Engels sets out in his Letter to P.V. Lavrov, is that animals are gatherers, whereas humans are also producers. Another difference is that, because humans are also producers, the different ways in which they organise this production results in different modes of production, different social organisms. That means, Marx says, that each of these different social organisms have their own, historically specific laws, as opposed to natural laws, which extend across all modes of production. Each social organism, therefore, has its own specific laws of population. 

Lange misunderstood this, and says, 

““May we be permitted to note firstly that, strictly speaking, there is no abstract law of population for plants and animals either, since abstraction is, on the whole, merely the extraction of the general from a whole number of similar phenomena” (Labour Problem, p 143)” (p 453) 

Lange does not grasp that Marx had described the way these different social organisms produce in different ways, and so distribute in different ways, and it is this distribution that is significant in terms of population. 

“The conditions for human reproduction are directly dependent on the structure of the different social organisms; that is why the law of population must be studied in relation to each organism separately, and not “abstractly,” without regard to the historically different forms of social structure. Lange’s explanation that abstraction means to extract the general from similar phenomena turns right against himself: only the conditions of existence of animals and plants can be considered similar, but this is not so with regard to man, because we know that he has lived in organisationally different types of social association.” (p 453-4) 

Marx's theory of relative surplus population is that, under capitalism, there is overpopulation where there is more labour than is required by capital. Capital always seeks such overpopulation, because it means that wages do not exceed the value of labour-power. Capital can continue to accumulate, and so produce additional absolute surplus value, by expanding the social working day, via these increases in population. If capital accumulates faster than the growth in the labour supply/social working day, the rate at which absolute surplus value expands falls, relative to the rate at which capital expands, so that there is relative overproduction of capital, and a fall in the rate of profit. If this condition persists, then as Marx sets out in Capital III, Chapter 15, and in Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 21, absolute surplus value cannot be increased at all. Capital is absolutely overproduced, and as the demand for labour rises to a point where workers are able to demand reductions in hours, longer holidays and so on, as well as higher wages, this reduces absolute surplus value, but also relative surplus value. This squeeze on profits, is the consequence of a crisis of overproduction of capital. In other words, where the overproduction of capital is the other side of an underproduction of labour. As Marx says, in Capital III, Chapter 15, 

“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.”

More Covid Data Analysis

Yesterday, I looked at data provided by the ONS at the end of November, as a result of a Freedom of Information request, which showed that the number of deaths actually due to COVID 19, between April and July last year, was just 4,476, as against a total reported number of "Covid related" deaths, in the same period of 46,000.  In this post I look at another table (Table 2), provided by the ONS, in this same dataset, which looks at the age range of deaths of this 46,000.  It indicates why, the main actual cause of death of these reported cases, was Alazheimer's/Dementia, and not COVID.  In short, as I have demonstrated in previous posts, its because COVID 19 is a disease that almost exclusively targets the elderly.

The ONS data is presented as monthly figures for March-June of last year, and so I have amended their spreadsheet to give totals for the period, so as to facilitate analysis.  The relevant total figures are presented below.

In the top line, we have the figures for "Covid related" deaths, amounting to 46,736, which is for all age groups. On the right hand side, we have the % of deaths per group. For all ages, the figure is 46.736, which is equal to 18.3% of all deaths during this period.  The similar percentage figures for each age group represent the percentage of total deaths for people in that age group, during the period.  This gives an indication that is weighted then to the deaths from all causes for that age group.

I have added a further column, which is the proportion of total Covid related deaths that each age group represents.  What is striking, but no surprise given what was already known about COVID as a disease that almost exclusively affects the elderly, is the fact that the greatest number of deaths, 10,295, is in the age group 90+.  That accounts, for 22.03% of all COVID related deaths, on its own.  Given that just 0.9% of the population is aged over 90, this demonstrates even more starkly the extent to which COVID is a disease that affects almost exclusively the elderly.  If it struck indiscriminately, then the over 90's would have accounted for only 0.9% of Covid related deaths.  The fact that they form 22% means that they are 22 times over represented.

By comparison, the death of one baby under 1, is such a small proportion of total COVID related deaths that it does not even show up.  In fact, you have to get to the 15-19 year age group, before the number of deaths become statistically significant enough to show up in the calculation, but then representing just 0.02% of Covid related deaths.  Approximately 20% of the population is aged under 19, so that if deaths were spread evenly, 20% of COVID deaths would be expected in this age group, as against the 0.02%.  In other words, this age group is 1,000 times under represented in relation to COVID deaths.

This same level of under representation is seen in all the other age groups up to those over 60, but its clear that the main overrepresentation is amongst the older age groups, even compared to the over 60's.  

The myth that has been purveyed that COVID19 is some kind of existential threat to society is completely false, therefore.  It is a disease that almost exclusively targets the elderly.  Even, amongst the elderly, the data produced yesterday, shows that the number of deaths ascribed to COVID in the media is grossly exaggerated, with only about a tenth of the deaths described as being "Covid Related", actually being primarily due to the virus, with the other 90% being primarily the result of other previous underlying ill-health conditions.

This also explains why so many of those contracting COVID have done so whilst being in hospital for these other illnesses, or else being in care and nursing homes, where an almost criminal lack of protection has been provided to them.  Indeed, had the lack of protection against infection occurred elsewhere, its likely that a social outcry would have occurred, with demands for a full Public Enquiry, and those responsible being brought to book.

That has not happened, because the facts of COVID being a virus that almost exclusively targets the elderly, and the fact concomitant to that, that the majority of lethal infections have arisen in hospitals and social care, do not fit the narrative of COVID being some kind of existential threat to the whole of society irrespective of age.  It does not fit with the depiction of the NHS as the saviour of society as against the reality that it has been the main superspreader of the virus, certainly amongst those that have subsequently died from it.

Nor does it fit with the failure then to have called the NHS to book for its failure to take even basic measures of common sense to prevent the spread of the virus amongst the elderly and vulnerable placed in its care, whilst tens of millions was spent on useless Nightingale hospitals.  That failure has gone hand in hand with the fact that the media and politicians have focused on a completely bogus target.  Instead of protecting the elderly and vulnerable, there has been a complete waste of time locking down social activity, and locking out workers from employment.  Indeed, not just a waste of time, but an actual undermining of the capacity to respond to the virus itself, by shifting attention from where it should have been, and by decimating the economy required to deal with the actual effects of the virus.

Instead of focusing on the failures of the NHS and welfare state to protect the elderly and vulnerable, mostly young people have been scapegoated for responsibility for the spreading of the virus.  Yet, as the data shows, the young and middle aged are at no significant risk from the virus.  It is the young, in particular, whose lives have been unnecessarily harmed by the lockdowns and lockouts.  It is the young that have unnecessarily lost around 15% of the education they were entitled to and which workers tax contributions have paid for.  It is the young that have been even more ripped off in relation to the provision of University tuition for which they have paid significant fees.  It is the young that have lost most jobs as a result of the government lockouts.

Yet, the Left as much as the Liberals and other social-democrats have been at the forefront of attacking the young for resisting the attacks on them and their rights and freedoms.  That i a direct consequence of the Opportunism of the Left, and the championing of the attacks on those rights and freedoms that are the necessary corollary of their presentation of COVID as some existential threat to society, for the reasons that have been described before.

The left will pay a heavy price amongst the youth for its opportunism, and so it should.