Monday, 28 February 2022

Gems of Narodnik Project Mongering - Part 7 of 18

Section III

In the following sections, Lenin turns to a critique of Yuzhakov's actual proposals for universal secondary education, and his claim that, unlike elementary education, this could be provided without cost. The reason he claims this to be the case was seen in Lenin's earlier critique on Gymnasium Farms etc. It is that the education be provided alongside the students working on farms attached to the schools, and, thereby, funding the schools from the income of the farm. Partly in response to Lenin's earlier critique, Yuzhakov, now, not only asserts the “feasibility” of those proposals, but extends them to cover the whole adult population.

Marx had, of course, written about the desirability of combining education with work from an early age. In his program for The First International, he wrote,

“We consider the tendency of modern industry to make children and juvenile persons of both sexes co-operate in the great work of social production, as a progressive, sound and legitimate tendency, although under capital it was distorted into an abomination. In a rational state of society every child whatever, from the age of 9 years, ought to become a productive labourer in the same way that no able-bodied adult person ought to be exempted from the general law of nature, viz.: to work in order to be able to eat, and work not only with the brain but with the hands too...

A gradual and progressive course of mental, gymnastic, and technological training ought to correspond to the classification of the juvenile labourers. The costs of the technological schools ought to be partly met by the sale of their products.

The combination of paid productive labour, mental education bodily exercise and polytechnic training, will raise the working class far above the level of the higher and middle classes.”

But, Marx's proposal has nothing in common with the proposals of Yuzhakov and the Narodniks. Marx's proposal does not seek to tie this education to preserving the link to the land, and pre-capitalist society, but quite the opposite. It takes as read, at least, developed capitalist industrial production, and the cooperative labour, and collective production, it entails. It also, thereby, encompasses all of the freedoms for workers, including the young workers that such capitalist production entails. The reason it is superior is precisely that, alongside the education the young workers obtain, they also obtain the education in class solidarity that comes from an active involvement in production and the labour movement.

Marx, also, had no delusion that such education could be provided “free”, a delusion that petty-bourgeois liberals continue to promote today, and the involvement in production was a means of partly funding such universal education. It is where Marx and his followers diverge from the liberals and social-democrats who purvey the illusion that things can be provided freely, simply as an act of will be a benevolent state, which funds them by “taxation” or from the fruit of the Magic Money Tree. It is what leads such liberals into the welfarist policies that seek to keep everyone in full-time education into their 20's, that sees social security benefits as an adequate alternative to gainful employment, and so on. It has been seen during the pandemic, when the nonsense was purveyed that society could be locked down and labour cease, whilst the state could simply print "money" to hand out, so that everyone could continue consuming all of the goods and services that were no longer being produced!

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Michael Roberts Gets Overexcited By The Rate of Profit - Part 8 of 10

In his WW article, Roberts compares his opponents to climate deniers, but its clear, on this basis, that Roberts would have to put Marx in that same camp! He and his associates have gone to a lot of trouble to prove that the rate of profit has been falling over time, and he has got overexcited about convincing himself about it, because, for him, it is this tendency that explains crises. But, for those of us who, like Marx, do not see that tendency as being the cause of crises there is no reason for excitement at all. If we look at Roberts' conclusion, taken from Basu's data,

“The country-aggregated world profit rate series displays a strong negative linear trend for the period 1960-1980 and a weaker negative linear trend from 1980 to 2019”,

there are a number of things that clearly stand out. Firstly, it suggests that even after 1980, when most economists, and most of the information we have indicates that the rate of profit was rising, Roberts wants to still claim that it was falling, just not at the same rate as earlier. He doesn't seem to consider the possibility that given that his and his associates' estimate of the rate of profit is so at variance with that of everyone else, and with observed reality – for example the secular decline in interest rates over that period, which was the concomitant of a sharply rising rate of profit – it might be due to his methodology in calculating that rate being wrong!

Secondly, he fails to distinguish whether the cause of the rate of profit falling, during these different periods, is a result of a change in the value composition of capital, or a change in the technical/organic composition, and the reason this is important has been stated, that whilst the former can be identified with crises of overproduction of capital, the latter results from the actions taken by capital to resolve such crises. But, it is only the rise in the technical/organic composition that is the basis of Marx's Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall. The data on the fall in the rate of profit in the period between 1960 – 1980 is fairly extensive, and conclusive. As Glyn and Sutcliffe and others demonstrated, it fell as a result of a change in the value composition of capital, and particularly, a rise in wage share that squeezed profits, not as a result of a change in the technical/organic composition of capital. I have set out that in my previous posts, for example -

If we look at what we know about that period, it is fairly obvious. Following the period of crises of overproduction of capital in the 1910's, and 20's, capital engaged in a new round of technological development. It developed the assembly line as a basis of continuous production, and other elements of Fordism and Taylorism; it replaced steam-power with electric power in the workplace, and the internal combustion engine on the land and on the highways; it developed petrochemicals and other synthetic products that replaced natural fertilisers and raw materials and so on.

The peak of this innovation came around 1935, and in the period after that, these new technologies began to replace the existing fixed capital. But, in the period after the war, basically these same technologies, with only minor improvements, to them were simply rolled out on a more extensive scale. Even with the introduction of married women into the workforce, the bringing in of large numbers of migrant workers, and the effects of the baby boom in raising population, by the 1960's, the labour force was not growing as fast as the demand for labour was rising. In Britain, the unemployment rate fell to just 1%. It was this that led to rising wages and a squeeze on profits, not The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall.

The period between 1960-1980 was not a period of a vast increase in new technologies being introduced to production – though the new technologies did form the basis of a new range of consumer products that became available in the 1950's and after – yet that is a basic requirement for The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall to operate. The period when new technologies were developed, and introduced, was precisely in the late 1970's, and into the 1980's, when capital again responded to the rise in wages and squeeze on profits, by developing new labour saving equipment, so as to create a relative surplus population, and, thereby, reduce wages, and the value of labour-power. The peak of that Innovation Cycle came in 1985. It is in the 1980's that we see the development of the microchip, and its introduction into a wide range of applications in production, as well as the development of everything else that went with it, in terms of development of telecommunications and so on, that became increasingly important, as service industry rose in importance as against the old manufacturing industries.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Gems Of Narodnik Project Mongering - Part 6 of 18

Lenin then provides a table setting out the extent to which, despite the level of capitalist development in Russia, and contrary to the Narodnik claims, estate schools continued to play a significant role.  (Table p 467)

Of course, even today, this remains true. The Grammar and Technical Schools, and later the Comprehensive Schools, in which streaming continued, provided capital with its supply of NCO's, but the General Staff of capital continued to receive its specific and dedicated education at Eton, Harrow and so on, and via which they passed into Oxbridge, and the controlling positions within the state, and the boardrooms, their remuneration being in inverse proportion to the labour they were required to perform.

Lenin notes,

“This table shows clearly how incautious Mr. Yuzhakov was when he said that we had immediately and resolutely (??) “renounced social-estate schools.” On the contrary, the social-estate system prevails in our secondary schools to this day, even if 56 per cent of the students in the gymnasia (not to mention the privileged educational establishments for the nobility, etc.) are sons of nobles and officials. Their only serious rival is the urban estates, who now predominate in the modern schools.” (p 467)

The Marxists, Lenin says, actually did oppose the estate schools, but only on the basis of their replacement by class schools, the nature of which they also had no illusion. They supported them for the same reason they supported a free and rapid development of capitalism itself, in Russia, i.e. to speed up the process of a transition to Socialism.

“It goes without saying that we do not by any means intend to claim that the question of superseding the estate schools by class schools, and of improving the latter, is of no importance or concern to those classes that do not and cannot enjoy the advantages of secondary education’ on the contrary, it is not a matter of unconcern to them either, for the estate system lays a particularly heavy burden on them both in life and in school, and the superseding of estate schools by class schools is only one of the links in the general and all-round Europeanisation of Russia. All we want is to show how Mr. Yuzhakov distorted the facts, and that actually his supposedly “broad” point of view is immeasurably inferior even to the bourgeois view on the question.” (p 467-8)

Indeed, this is generally the case in relation to the views of the petty-bourgeois liberals and social-democrats, as against the views of the bourgeoisie itself.

“Incidentally, on the subject of the bourgeois views. Mr. A. Manuilov simply cannot understand why P. B. Struve, who so explicitly revealed the one-sidedness of Schulze-Gäivernitz, nevertheless “propagates his bourgeois ideas” (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 11, p. 93). Mr. A. Manuilov’s failure to understand this is solely and exclusively due to his failure to understand the fundamental views not only of the Russian, but of all the West-European “disciples,” and not only of the disciples, but of the teacher as well or perhaps Mr. Manuilov will deny that one of the fundamental views of the “teacher”—-views that run like a scarlet thread through all his theoretical, literary and practical activities—is an ineradicable hatred of those lovers of “broad points of view” who with the help of sugary phrases obscure the class division of modern society? Or that another of his fundamental views is a firm recognition of the progressiveness and preferability of frank and consistent “bourgeois ideas” as compared with the ideas of those Kleinbürger who are so anxious to retard and halt capitalism?” (p 468)

The teacher, here, of course, refers to Marx. And, his position, as with the position outlined by Lenin, is in stark contrast to those that seek to mollify the effects of capitalist development by various forms of welfarism, by attempts at redistribution, and so on, whose actual effects, were they to be implemented could only be to slow down the process of capitalist development, and so the process of it being transcended, and the transition to Socialism being effected.

Far better, Lenin says, to support the class schools, on the basis of an honest admission of their one-sidedness and purpose in promoting the interests of capital than to promote the nonsensical ideas about them representing and abstract “national interest”.

“We are fully aware that it is very, very hard for Russkoye Bogatstvo contributors to understand an argument of this character. That again is due to their failure to understand not only the. “disciples,” but also the “teacher.”

Here, for example, is how one of the “teachers” sought, as far back as 1845, to prove that the English workers gained from the repeal of the Corn Laws. This repeal, he wrote, involves the farmers’ transformation into “Liberals, i.e., conscious bourgeois,” and this growth of class-consciousness on the one side necessarily involves a similar growth of class-consciousness on the other (F. Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. New York, 1887, p. 179). How is it that you, gentlemen contributors to Russkoye Bogatstvo, just bow and scrape before the “teachers,” but do not expose them for “propagating bourgeois ideas”?” (Note *, p 469)

Of course, today, a similar point could be made to the petty-bourgeois Lexiters.

Northern Soul Classics - Change - Jess & James


Friday, 25 February 2022

Friday Night Disco - Love Bug - Polly Brown


Michael Roberts Gets Overexcited By The Rate of Profit - Part 7 of 10

Marx sets out this process again in Capital III, Chapter 6, explaining that the proportion of value accounted for by fixed capital continually falls.

“Further, the quantity and value of the employed machinery grows with the development of labour productivity but not in the same proportion as this productivity, i. e., not in the proportion in which this machinery increases its output. In those branches of industry, therefore, which do consume raw materials, i. e., in which the subject of labour is itself a product of previous labour, the growing productivity of labour is expressed precisely in the proportion in which a larger quantity of raw material absorbs a definite quantity of labour, hence in the increasing amount of raw material converted in, say, one hour into products, or processed into commodities. The value of raw material, therefore, forms an ever-growing component of the value of the commodity-product in proportion to the development of the productivity of labour, not only because it passes wholly into this latter value, but also because in every aliquot part of the aggregate product the portion representing depreciation of machinery and the portion formed by the newly added labour — both continually decrease. Owing to this falling tendency, the other portion of the value representing raw material increases proportionally, unless this increase is counterbalanced by a proportionate decrease in the value of the raw material arising from the growing productivity of the labour employed in its own production.”

And, its this that is the basis of Marx's Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall, i.e. the increase in the proportion of raw material in the total value of output, whilst the proportion accounted for by fixed capital and labour (variable-capital + surplus value) falls. In Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 23, Marx then looks at what actually causes the technical/organic composition of capital to rise, which is this increased mass of raw material processed, as a result of rising productivity induced by the new technology, now embedded in the fixed capital.

The unit value of the raw material also falls, as a result of the rise in social productivity, but Marx believes, because it is largely the product of agriculture and natural processes, rather than manufacture, that it does not fall in the same proportion as the value of manufactured products, and does not fall proportionate to the rise in the quantity of it consumed. So, cotton might fall from £1 per kilo to £0.80 per kilo, but if the quantity of cotton processed rises from 1,000 kilos to 1500 kilos, the value will rise from £1,000 to £1200. As a result the technical/organic composition of capital would rise, and this would cause a fall in the rate of profit. The question is by what amount, and would this be enough to offset the rise in the rate of profit resulting from the fall in the value of fixed capital, and rise in the rate of surplus value.

Marx concludes that the net result is that the rise in the technical/organic composition, caused by the rise in the proportion of raw material costs is not enough to cause any significant fall in the rate of profit overall.

“The cheapening of raw materials, and of auxiliary materials; etc., checks but does not cancel the growth in the value of this part of capital. It checks it to the degree that it brings about a fall in profit.”


Thursday, 24 February 2022

Putin Adopts NATO's Military Play Book

Putin, in his movement of troops into the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, together with his strategic air attacks on Ukrainian military and command and control facilities, has followed more or less exactly the same military play book adopted by NATO when it attacked Serbia, Iraq, and Libya. As I set out in opposing those earlier military interventions by NATO, they would inevitably be used by Russia, as models and justifications of its own military adventures, and that is what is now being seen. Having opposed the earlier military adventures of NATO, socialists can, with full justification, condemn Putin's military adventure. The same cannot be said for NATO, or its liberal and social-imperialist apologists.

In the 1980's, the US financed Osama Bin Laden, via Pakistan, to launch a war against the soviet backed government in Afghanistan that had been seeking to modernise the country, introducing the education of girls, development of the economy, removal of various forms of oppression imposed by the landlords and clergy etc. Having established these links with Bin Laden, the US then used him as go-between to establish links with the Kosovan Liberation Army. The KLA were a bunch of nasty gangsters, whose main claim to fame was their involvement in human organ harvesting and trafficking. They were a pretty rag-tag, ineffective bunch until, via this link, the US was able to provide them with arms, finance and training.

The purpose of that was to enable them to undertake guerrilla strikes on Serb communities in Kosovo, so as to stir up ethnic violence in a community that had, until then had fairly harmonious relations, with Kosovan Serbs and Albanians intermarrying, and living within mixed communities. The US inspired KLA activities changed all that leading to increasing ethnic violence in Kosovo, and with the KLA armed by the US, it was in a better position to inflict greater damage, and to bring about ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Serbs. The US did not provoke this communal violence for no reason. In doing so, it made it inevitable that, at some point, the Serbian government would itself intervene in Kosovo, a long established part of Serbia itself, to protect the Kosovan Serbs and take action against the KLA, and those involved in pogroms against Kosovan Serbs.

That provided NATO, for which read the US, as the US provides nearly all the financing and military might of NATO, with the pretext it required to begin its war against Serbia, and to carve Kosovo out of Serbia itself. When NATO and its apologists talk about the right to self-determination, this blatant denial of the right to self-determination for Serbia has to be considered. NATO uses self-determination, as and when it suits its own global strategic advantage, and for no other reason.

So, why did NATO deny Serbian self-determination, and launch into this war, a war that could not be justified on the basis of any threat to NATO, and was not sanctioned by the UN? The reason is simple, global US Strategic advantage, as set out in the ideas of The Project For A New American Century. After 1990, the USSR had collapsed, and Eastern European countries were returning to the capitalist fold, mostly under the guiding hand of the EU, whose capital was quick to buy up old means of production for nothing, and to rush to employ cheap labour-power

Russia was different.  Rather than it being the EU that took Russia under its wing, it was US investment bankers, economists and bureaucrats who rushed in to pick over its bones in a frenzy of asset stripping, enhanced by the introduction of Freidmanite Monetarist policies that demolished what was left of an already shattered economy, leaving millions picking amongst refuse to find something to eat. All of this took place under the presidency of the drunkard Yeltsin, who acted as US dupe.

Much as the Versailles chains imposed on Germany led to a reaction, which came in the form of Hitler, and a vicious nationalism that was the knee-jerk response to the national humiliation that was being inflicted by the Entente, so too the humiliation that had been inflicted on Russia by NATO, provoked a similar vicious nationalist reaction. Its symbol is Putin, and his kleptocratic regime.

During the 1990's, having given Russia assurances that NATO would not advance further Eastwards than East Germany, as part of the deal for its reunification, NATO reneged on that commitment, and invited in one former soviet bloc country after another. On top of that, Reagan had put forward his Star Wars, or Strategic Defence Initiative, scheme of establishing a combination of space, sea, and land based anti-ballistic missile systems, capable of shooting down Russian missiles, while they were still over Europe, thereby, making Europe buffer, and stationary aircraft carrier for the US. Back in 1999, when I was writing my novel “2017”, I discussed all of these developments, and the fact that, at that time, the US could not get its system to work effectively, but the development of technology in the years following, changed that condition.

It was not just the former soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe that fell. The Central Asian Republics also fell, and they became the fiefdoms of their former national political leaders, many of whom ruled by the use of barbaric methods, including boiling their political opponents in oil. These Central Asian Republics had particular interest for NATO, because not only are they immensely rich in minerals, but they also occupy an important strategic position in terms of both Russia and China, as well as Iran and the Gulf. When the new long wave upswing got underway in 1999, the prices of minerals skyrocketed, bringing forth a veritable gold rush of companies seeking to undertake exploration and mining in the region. The fact that these “stans” were ruled by vicious dictators, was, of course, no obstacle to US imperialism in seeking to obtain permission to site military facilities within them, just as the vile medieval nature of the monarchical regimes in the Gulf is no obstacle to the US and other imperialist powers being on the friendliest of terms with them.

The encirclement of Russia, by the end of the 1990's, as envisaged in The Project For A New American Century, was then well established, and formed the backdrop to the rise of Putin, and Russian nationalism, as a response to it. There was no possibility that Serbia was going to follow the example of other Eastern European states in seeking membership of NATO, given its historic relations with Russia, and that made it a thorn in the side of the US's plans for the area. Undermining Milosevic, and the Serbian regime was fundamental to that, and so some pretext for military action against it was required, hence the financing and arming of the KLA, and the creation of that pretext.

In all wars between bourgeois states, a pretext is required so as to give some semblance of legitimacy. In the Balkans, Russia used atrocities by the Ottomans; in WWI, the Entente used atrocities in Belgium committed by Germany; and in WWII, although the actual casus belli was Germany's invasion of Poland, it was covered over in all sorts of talk about fighting against fascism and so on, despite the fact that the ruling classes in Britain etc., had welcomed Mussolini and Hitler to power, and knew about atrocities against Jews early in the 1930's, without it provoking them into any kind of response. In fact, the attitude of most of the ruling class in Britain, France and the US to Jews, was not that different to the kind of anti-Semitism that was seen in Germany. The anti-Semitic views of Churchill in Britain, and Henry Ford in the US, for example, were well known at the time.

As Trotsky states in relation to the Balkan Wars, it was certainly the case that the Ottomans perpetrated atrocities and war crimes, for example, and he did not seek to deny that. What he did seek to deny, however, was a) that this was the real reason for Russian intervention, whose real motivation, was Russian imperial ambition, and b) that the atrocities were committed all on the one side. When states, seeking a pretext for intervention, talk about, atrocities, this is never the real basis of their intervention, just as, when those opposing such intervention seek to deny the existence of any such atrocities, and describe them as “false flag” operations, this is almost, also, certainly a lie.

When Milosevic sent Serb troops into Kosovo in response to ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Serbs by the KLA, that was not a “false flag” operation, and given that Kosovo was already part of Serbia, nor was it some pretext used to occupy what was already Serbian territory. When NATO argued that it was intervening in Kosovo, in response to atrocities committed by the Serbian army, as part of that intervention, that too was not a “false flag” operation, because the Serbian army, in undertaking its action, was, indeed, guilty of atrocities. But, the fact that these atrocities were not the real motivation for NATO's actions is shown by the fact that, if it hadn't financed, armed and trained the KLA, in the first place, and enabled it to undertake its ethnic violence against Kosovan Serbs, there would have been no reason for the Serbian army to go into Kosovo to begin with!

Putin has used the NATO military play book used in Kosovo, almost page for page as the basis for his interventions in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, and now Donetsk and Lugansk. The only difference is that in Kosovo, as described, NATO needed Serbia to provide it with the pretext of atrocities, which it brought about by first getting the KLA to undertake atrocities that provoked the Serb response. In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as Russian majority provinces of Georgia, it was straight off attempts by Georgia to oppress the Russian minorities that led to them resisting, and eventually to Russia intervening in their defence from attack. The fact that these were war crimes committed by Georgia has been documented by Human Rights Watch.

Crimea, is also a Russian majority area, where pro-Russian candidates have won overwhelming majorities in elections, over the years, and where, there was obvious concern after the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Yanukovitch was overthrown in a coup, in 2014. So, again, Putin was able to use the Kosovo NATO play book as his guide, not only to intervene, on the basis of defending an oppressed Russian minority, but having done so, to carve Crimea out of Ukraine, in the same way that Kosovo was carved out of Serbia by NATO. Now, Putin is doing the same thing in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The argument by some such as Paul Mason, that there have been no atrocities committed by Ukrainian forces against the peoples of these regions is simply untenable and unbelievable. Under the terms of the Minsk Agreements, Ukraine should have granted large-scale autonomy to these regions, but not only has failed to do so, but has attempted to militarily suppress the attempts by them to implement it unilaterally. The reports of shelling of the areas by Ukrainian military, and fascist gangs do not come from just Putin's propaganda machine, but also from the observers of the OSCE, and even from Sky News reports who were on the front lines in previous days.

Its always necessary to treat any Russian media reports with the greatest suspicion, but the video of thousands of inhabitants from Donetsk and Lugansk fleeing into Russia, to escape the fighting seemed genuine enough. According to Paul Mason, who was transmitting the position of the Ukrainian government pretty unfiltered, those fleeing were only doing so, because they had been forced by Russian separatists to do so, but in the interviews with those fleeing, their accounts of their children having their heads blown off by incoming shells and so on, seemed pretty real enough. They would have to be award winning actors to have put on that kind of performance and it not be real.

In Serbia, and a similar thing could be seen in Iraq, and Libya, NATO combined a limited ground assault with air strikes, and Putin is again following this same play book. It was always unlikely that Putin would launch an all-out invasion of Ukraine. The troops he has on Ukraine's border are only a fraction of what would be required for a successful invasion of the whole country. Its also unlikely that he even wants to invade the whole country, because there is nothing in it for him. Its a bankrupt country that will only cause him further drains from his treasury, not to mention perpetual drain of blood of soldiers trying to hold on to it. He has said he has no intention of occupying it, and that is probably true.

In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, NATO claimed that the Russian incursions were just the start of it invading the whole country. They weren't. Fourteen years later, Russia has simply continued to simply guarantee the Russian majority in those provinces. It made a small incursion into the surrounding territory at the time it went in to clear out the Georgian forces, but then withdrew once its objective was secured. There seems no reason why it will not do the same in Donetsk and Lugansk, unless Ukraine continues to try to use military force to evict Russia from them, by continued shelling and so on, in which case, Russian forces would almost certainly respond by taking out that potential, which is what it has done in its initial air strikes.

The air strikes again are a repetition of the NATO play book in Serbia, Iraq, and Libya. NATO began its attack on Serbia, and on Iraq and Libya by a huge barrage of bombing and cruise missile strikes on strategic targets such as airports, and military command and control posts. In fact, in all these cases, those NATO strikes, despite it being claimed they used precision munitions, resulted in large scale civilian loss of life, that NATO describes as “collateral damage”. In Belgrade, for example, NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy, as well as a hotel used by international journalists. In fact, the Russian air strikes seem, so far, to have been far more limited than those conducted in similar conditions by NATO, and with fewer, if any civilian casualties, or strikes on civilian facilities.

The occupation of the breakaway republics was probably always likely, but the imposition of sanctions on Russia, and particularly, the suspension of Nordstream 2, even before it had launched any invasion made it almost inevitable, because Putin must have thought if he was going to be punished even before he had launched an invasion, he might as well do what he was being punished for. His calculation is probably that, once he has secured the breakaway republics, and assuming that Ukraine does not attempt to continue military action against them, things will settle down, and negotiations will then take place, with Russia, now, in a stronger bargaining position.

After all, its not Russia that particularly needs Nordstream 2, as they can sell oil and gas to China. Its Germany and the EU that really needs Nordstream 2, as oil and gas prices soar along with high levels of inflation in general. Voters in the EU, and in Britain, will soon want to limit any sanctions that result in their bills continuing to rise, let alone the potential for energy supplies being cut off, whilst Winter continues. Nor is there any reason for the EU to want to face all of these economic costs of sanctions against Russia, including yet another wave of refugees and migrants, whilst the US faces no such costs. Expect the EU to be pushing for talks as soon as possible.

What again all of this shows is the lamentable state of the left, as it has not only failed to analyse events, but also to have any independent working-class response to them. The social-imperialists, of course, have simply formed a Popular Front with NATO and the ruling class, in their opposition to Putin. They have no independent working class position or politics, having completely subordinated it to that of the ruling class. Their only response is to support sanctions against Russia, which means to support entry level war by their own imperialism against Russian imperialism, the logic of which leads to further escalation, and eventually all out military conflict, the result of which is thermonuclear war and the destruction of humanity. It is to support the “defence of the fatherland” position of the Ukrainian ruling class, and its right-wing, corrupt government, including the provision to that government of the latest military hardware.

They have no independent working-class position that would enable the Ukrainian working-class to organise to defend itself against both its own ruling class, the fascist gangs that are also now armed to the teeth with the latest military hardware, or against Russian troops. They have no means of working towards a joint struggle of Ukrainian and Russian workers against their combined ruling classes, because their politics starts from an orientation not to the workers, but to the Ukrainian state, and the NATO powers that stand behind it. By organising their position on the basis of a “defence of the fatherland” for Ukraine, they inevitably put Ukrainian workers in opposition to Russian workers, both in Russia and the breakaway Republics. In so doing they cut away any path for them to address the Russian workers, and those in the breakaway Republics themselves, because they have now put themselves firmly in the side of the Ukrainian government and NATO, which many of those Russian workers see as their enemy.

An independent working class position requires us to start from the position that The Main Enemy Is At Home, and that applies to the Ukrainian workers primarily. The key to their security is not NATO, nor the Ukrainian state, but is their own independent organisation and activity, and also their ability to reach out to the workers in Russia and in the breakaway republics. They cannot do that if they are seen to be standing side by side with their own ruling class and its state, especially one that has NATO standing behind it, nudging it in the direction it desires. For the international working-class, that is the solidarity that we should provide, not solidarity with the Ukrainian state, nor with the NATO strategists, for whom this all just part of a great global game for advantage.

The international labour movement should demand that Russian troops get out of the breakaway republics, and that they do not enter the rest of Ukraine, as well as stopping the air strikes. We call upon the Russian workers to mobilise against Putin's kleptocratic regime, and his reckless military adventure that has no advantage for you, and has the potential to escalate out of control to the destruction of humanity. Our alternative is not war, or defence of the fatherland, but international workers' solidarity across borders, and a joint struggle against our common oppressors the ruling capitalist class, which is now a global class.

No To War – Russian Troops Out – Disband NATO – Bring The Boys Home – The Main Enemy Is At Home – Workers Of The World Unite

Gems Of Narodnik Project Mongering - Part 5 of 18

Lenin cites one part of Yuzhakov's article that is full of this idealist and subjectivist nonsense, which, today, could easily be uttered by our own liberals and social-democrats, who seek to wrap themselves in the clothes of the nation and the flag.

“on the point that “the class system of administration has been abolished in one form or another everywhere” (VI); on the point that this “dangerous” division into classes arouses “antagonism between the various groups of the population” and gradually obliterates “the sense of national solidarity and national patriotism” (12); on the point that ’broadly, correctly and far-sightedly understood, the interests of the nation as a whole, of the state, and of individual citizens in general should not be mutually contradictory (at least in the modern state)” (15), and so on and so forth. This is all sheer cant, empty phrase-mongering, which obscures the very essence’ of contemporary reality with the senseless “aspirations” of the Kleinbürger, aspirations that imperceptibly find their way like the description of things as they are. To find an analogy for the sort of outlook which gives rise to such phrasemongering have to turn to the exponents of that “ethical” school in the West which was the natural and inevitable expression of the theoretical cowardice and political perplexity of the bourgeoisie there.” (p 466)

Again, its seen in the appeals of liberals and social-democrats, including those that continue to call themselves Marxists, for the state to act as though it were not a class state, that, even as police forces attack ethnic minorities, as they have attacked striking workers, and as they have attacked socialists confronting fascists, they demand that we continue to support the existence and role of the police forces, rather than demanding they be disbanded, and replaced by a workers militia, and worker controlled community policing. Even the revolutionary bourgeoisie were more radical than such social-democrats and “Marxists”. It is the same idealist nonsense that argues that imperialist military interventions should not inevitably promote the interests of imperialism, but could in some way, promote a non-class, moral imperative, an alternative path, more acceptable to such liberals and social-democrats.

Lenin notes,

“One or the other, most worthy Mr. Kleinbürger: either you are talking about a society that is divided into classes, or about one that is not. In the first case, there can be no such thing as non-class education. In the second case, there can be neither a class state, nor a class nation, nor individuals who do not belong to one of the classes. And in both cases the phrase is meaningless and only expresses the innocent wish of a Kleinbürger who timidly closes his eyes to the most prominent features of contemporary reality.” (Note *, p 465-6)

And, we should stress precisely this point, today, to the petty-bourgeois liberals and social-democrats, most specifically to those liberals that continue to pretend they are Marxists.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Michael Roberts Gets Overexcited By The Rate of Profit - Part 6 of 10

In dealing with the crises of overproduction of capital, (which is also an overproduction of commodities, because capital is composed of commodities) Marx describes how this is a result of changes in the value composition, not the technical/organic composition of capital. As far as the Law itself is concerned, Marx notes, in Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 23, that the falling rate of profit is much smaller than it is said to be.

“It is an incontrovertible fact that, as capitalist production develops, the portion of capital invested in machinery and raw materials grows, and the portion laid out in wages declines. This is the only question with which both Ramsay and Cherbuliez are concerned. For us, however, the main thing is: does this fact explain the decline in the rate of profit? (A decline, incidentally, which is far smaller than it is said to be.) Here it is not simply a question of the quantitative ratio but of the value ratio.”

As in Capital, Marx emphasises that it is so small, and countered by other factors that any change in it can only be detected over long periods of time. Hardly a basis, therefore, for it to be the foundation of crises that Roberts and his associates would have us believe. He then goes on to explain, some of these countervailing factors, and why it is that the tendency to fall is so slight, and only detectable over these long periods.

For fixed capital, not only does its physical mass grow by a much smaller proportion than the increase in output it creates, but also the unit value of this fixed capital falls proportionately too, because of technological innovation. A spinning machine with ten spindles, replaces ten spinning wheels with just one. The spinning machine may, or may not, cost more than a spinning wheel, but it is certainly cheaper than ten spinning wheels. Moreover, Marx points out that these new technologies tend to be more durable, so that, they also last longer, and so their value is amortised over a longer period of time, and consequently a much greater quantity of output, meaning a smaller portion of the value of the output is accounted for as wear and tear of this fixed capital, with a consequent effect on increasing the rate of profit.

The effect of this is also to bring about a moral depreciation of the existing fixed capital stock. When spinning machines are introduced, the value of spinning wheels is immediately slashed, and it is on the basis of this reduced value, not the historic price of the spinning wheel that Marx calculates the annual rate of profit. The very process that stands behind The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall, over the longer term, therefore, of technological innovation that raises productivity, causes a devaluation of existing capital, and consequent immediate rise in the rate of profit. The method of using historic prices, rather than current reproduction cost necessarily understates the rise in the rate of profit, or even converts it to a fall in the rate of profit, and such a divergence becomes all the greater in periods of rapid technological change.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Gems of Narodnik Project Mongering - Part 4 of 18

We have an illustration of how Yuzhakov confuses social estate with class when he says,

“If class interests are kept in mind when drawing up the school curriculum, there can of course be no question of one general type of state secondary school. In that case the educational establishments are necessarily of the social-estate type, providing not only instruction, but also education in the wider sense, for they not only have to impart an education adapted to the special interests and aims of the estate, but also social-estate habits and a social-estate esprit de corps”. (p 462-3)

But, as I have set out above, it is precisely in class based societies, as against societies based on social estates, and so where class interests are kept in mind, that education is based upon a single curricula, a curricula itself designed to further the interests of the ruling-class, and, thereby, the dominant form of property.

“It is, most worthy Mr. Narodnik, that education is organised in one and the same way, and is equally accessible to all the wealthy. It is this last word alone that explains the nature of class schools, as distinct from social-estate schools. It is therefore the purest nonsense on Mr. Yuzhakov’s part to say, as he did in the above-mentioned tirade, that where the schools follow class interests “there can be no question of one general type of state secondary school.” Just the opposite: class schools—if adhered to consistently, that is, if they are freed of every survival of the social-estate system—necessarily presume one general type of school. Full legal equality, full equality of rights for all citizens, with education fully equal and accessible to all the wealthy—these constitute the essence of class society (and, consequently, of class education). Estate schools demand that the pupils shall belong to a given social estate. The class school knows no estates, it only knows citizens. Of all pupils it demands one thing only, namely, that they should pay for their education.” (p 464)

Of course, even with supposedly “free” public education, as with supposedly “free” healthcare, provided via a welfare state, it is not at all free. It is paid for by compulsory, collective deductions, in the form of taxes, from workers' wages, representing a huge Truck System, operated by the capitalist state, in the interests of capital itself, which is why the state is at such pains to prevent, and will never allow, even a consistently democratic control over that provision, let alone workers' control.

“The class school by no means presumes class exclusiveness: on the contrary, unlike social estates, classes always leave the road quite free for the transfer of individuals from one class to another. The class schools do not close their doors to anybody who has the means to pay for tuition. To say that in Western Europe “no success attends these dangerous programmes of semi-education and of the class moral and intellectual segregation of the various sections of the people” (9) is an utter perversion of the truth; for everybody knows that, both in the West and in Russia, the secondary schools are essentially class schools and serve the interests of only a very small part of the population.” (p 464)

Russian "Peace Keepers" Out of Donetsk & Lugansk

The Russian decision to recognise the rebel regions of Ukraine, in Donetsk and Lugansk, of itself is irrelevant.  As a pretext for sending in, or having "invited" in Russian troops, called "peace keepers" or not, is not irrelevant, but is a reckless act that increases the possibility of war.  Socialists must demand "Russian 'peace keepers" out of Donetsk and Lugansk".

In his long rambling speech, yesterday, ahead of announcing his decision to recognise the breakaway regions, which have now de facto been separated from Ukraine for 8 years, and under the terms of the Minsk Agreements, should have already been granted regional autonomy, Putin was right in one thing.  He is right that the geography and history of the region is complicated.  Much of that is due to the past actions of imperialism (Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian), which physically moved large numbers of people, as well as periodically redrawing lines on maps around peoples.

Putin is accused of saying that Ukraine does not exist as a nation.  In fact, what he said was that "modern Ukraine", does not exist as a nation.  That itself is a question of debate.  What is required for a nation is that there is a settled history of common culture, and shared identity, of language and so on.  But, a state can exist, which is not a nation state, but which is a multinational state.  For example, Switzerland is a multinational state.  There is no Swiss language, but three languages, French, German and Italian, each with equal standing, though in practice, every such state tends to settle on a single language used by all for commercial purposes.  The question is whether the peoples within such a state feel they can live together, which Marxists would always argue for them trying to do, or whether they cannot, and the best solution is to separate, in which case, Marxists argue, not for the right of self-determination, but the right to peacefully secede.  I have set out why we argue the latter rather than the former, on previous occasions, because, as Lenin set out the liberal demand for self-determination is misused as cover by liberals and social-patriots to mean "defence of the fatherland".

Modern Ukraine is not something that arose from within, but which has been shaped from without by larger states, pieces being added on and taken away to and from neighbouring states in Lithuania, Poland, Russia and so on, including the bureaucratic redrawing of maps undertaken by Stalin and Khrushchev.  And, of course, Marxists do not fetishise lines drawn on maps, and see them as fixed and frozen in time, or which must determine our attitude to the relations between peoples on either side, or within them.  That is rather the approach of the liberals who can never escape their fetishisation of the state itself, and so their continued domination by the ideas of narrow nationalism.  On the contrary, we want to wipe away all such lines, not draw them thicker, either with layers of steel, or just layers of red tape.  It is why we oppose Brexit.

The classic example of such states, and the intermingling of populations within them was, the Balkans, and, like the states of Eastern and Central Europe, their history and geography was also shaped by the actions of other great powers, in particular the Ottoman Empire, and the Hapsburg Empire.  Behind both stood Germany, whilst opposing them, and standing behind the slavic nations seeking liberation from the Ottomans stood the Tsarist Empire in Russia.   As now in Ukraine, the liberals in Russia, argued for intervention, to "liberate" the Balkans from the Turks, just as today, liberals in the West demand intervention against Russia to prevent its occupation of parts of Ukraine.  The ultimate result was not just the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, but also the spark that ignited the European War of 1914-18, that was part of what has been called The First World War.

The history of the two Balkan Wars is instructive, because, as Trotsky describes, in his writing on those wars, as war correspondent, the second which was not a war of liberation, but a war between Bulgaria and its former Balkan allies, as well as with the Ottomans, as the resultant carve up of territory from the first war, left dissatisfaction all round.  As Trotsky pointed out, the solution to this problem would not be resolved by the intervention of larger powers, whether they claimed to be intervening as liberal do-gooders to stop atrocities (they committed equally horrible atrocities themselves), or on the basis of coming to the aid of fellow slavs.

“The Balkan war is an attempt to solve in the quickest possible way the question of creating new state-political forms that shall be better adapted to the needs of the economic and cultural development of the Balkan peoples.

The fundamental view of European democracy, Western and Eastern alike, on this question is perfectly clear: The Balkans for the Balkan peoples! It is necessary to vindicate the possibility for these peoples themselves to settle their own affairs, not only as they wish and see fit but also by their own strength, in the land where they are established. This means that European democracy has to combat every attempt to subject the fate of the Balkans to the ambitions of the Great Powers. Whether these ambitions be presented in the naked form of colonial policy or whether they be concealed behind phrases about racial kinship, they all alike menace the independence of the Balkan peoples. The Great Powers should be allowed to seek places for themselves in the Balkan Peninsula in one way only, that of free commercial rivalry and cultural influence."

(Trotsky - The Balkan Wars, p 148 - 152)

Trotsky put the liberal retort to this.

"The Balkans for the Balkan Peoples! But this point of view signifies nonintervention. It means not only opposition to the territorial ambitions of the Great Powers, but also rejection of support for Balkan Slavdom in its struggle against Turkish rule. Isn't this a policy of narrow nationalism and state egoism? And doesn't it mean democracy renouncing its very self?"

And, he responds,

"Not at all. Democracy has no right, political or moral, to entrust the organisation of the Balkan peoples to forces that are outside its control – for it is not known when and where these forces will stop, and democracy, having once granted them the mandate of its political confidence, will be unable to check them.

The Balkans for the Balkan peoples! This means not merely that the hands of the Great Powers must not reach out towards the border of the Balkans but also that, within this border, the Balkan peoples must settle their own affairs, with their own forces, and according to their own ideas, in the land where they live.”


And, so too, with Ukraine, as it should have been, also, in relation to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990's.  It is up to the people of Ukraine to resolve their disputes, not for either Russia or NATO to intervene within them.

NATO itself created the conditions in which this potential conflict is taking place.  When it invaded sovereign Serbian territory in Kosovo, it created the precedent for Russia to do exactly the same thing, which its has done in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, as it did in Crimea, and is now doing in Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine.  In Kosovo, the US used its links to Osama Bin Laden to establish links with the gangsters of the KLA, which it financed and armed to engage in attacks on Kosovan Serb villages to create communal violence, provoking a response from the Serb government, which, in turn gave NATO a pretext to attack Serbia and invade Kosovo.  Russia has used attacks on ethnic Russians in Georgia and Ukraine (though unlike the attacks on Serbs in Kosovo, the reports of Human Rights Watch and the OSCE indicate the attacks on ethnic Russians had nothing to do with provocations but were actual attacks by Georgian and Ukrainian government forces, many of which do constitute war crimes) as its pretext both for recognising all these breakaway regions, and for sending in its own troops.

Marxists demand they be withdrawn whatever pretext is used for their deployment.  But, nor do we give any support to NATO and the war mongers that stand behind it, including all of the social-imperialists in the labour movement.  It is precisely, because we call upon the Russian workers to be the instrument of the withdrawal of Russian troops, should they be deployed that we can be seen to give not the slightest glimmer of support to our own imperialists, and their war machine.  We cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with Russian workers in that struggle if we are simultaneously seen to be standing alongside or behind our own imperialist aggressors, who are not only the enemies of Putin, but of the working-class everywhere.  Given a choice, NATO and Putin would line up side by side against a revolutionary working-class, just as in the 1920's and 30's, the imperialists in Britain and elsewhere lauded to the rooftops the coming to power of Mussolini and Hitler, as their saviour against revolutionary workers in Italy and Germany, taking their lead from the workers in Russia, and who saw fascism as the vaccination they required to stop that infection of revolution spreading to the workers in France and Britain.

The intervention of these big powers, be it Russia or NATO is not the basis of a solution, but the source of further conflagrations.  Asked by the Brunswick Committee of the German SDP about their attitude to Prussia's annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, Marx and Engels replies,

"The military camarilla, the professors, burghers and pot-house politicians claim that this] is the means whereby Germany can be forever protected against war with France. Just the opposite. It is the best means of turning this war into a European institution. It is indeed the surest way of perpetuating military despotism in the rejuvenated Germany as essential to retaining possession of a western Poland – of Alsace and Lorraine. It is an infallible means of turning the coming peace into a mere armistice until France has recovered sufficiently to demand back her lost territories. It is the most infallible method of ruining both Germany and France by internecine strife.

The knaves and the fools who discovered these guarantees of eternal peace ought to know from Prussian history, and from the drastic treatment laid down by Napoleon in the Peace Treaties of Tilsit that such violent measures of pacifying a viable people produce an effect exactly opposite to that intended. Compare France, even after the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, with Prussia after the Tilsit Peace!

If, as long as the old political conditions obtained, French chauvinism had a certain material justification in the fact that since 1815 a few lost battles meant that the capital, Paris, and with it France, were at the mercy of the invader, what new nourishment will chauvinism not imbibe when the boundary line will run along the Vosges in the East and at Metz in the North?..

Anyone who has not been entirely overawed by the din and noise of the moment and has no interest in overawing the German people must realise that the War of 1870 will necessarily lead to a war between Germany and Russia just as the War of 1866 led to the War of 1870."

And, those who now rush to respond to the Russian intervention, by demanding a response by NATO to Russians actions are themselves guilty of giving yet a further twist to this same dynamic described here by Marx and Engels, and by Trotsky in relation to the Balkans that leads inevitably to inter-imperialist war, which now, will mean the destruction of mankind.  Our solution does not reside in looking to nation states and their militaries, a solution that can only lead to workers being set against workers in a new terrible global conflict, but rather resides in looking to those workers themselves to fight primarily against their own ruling class and its state, and its military and strategic ambitions.

For us, the mantra remains, "The Main Enemy Is At Home", and primarily, now that means we call on our brothers and sisters of the Russian working-class to resist the militarism and expansionism of Putin's kleptocratic regime that is your immediate enemy, and which oppresses and exploits you, just as we say to workers in NATO countries, resist the militarism and expansionism of NATO, and its war plans against Russia and China, including its use of economic sanctions, which will damage the lives of workers everywhere, whilst boosting the paper wealth of the speculators.  And, we say to the workers in Ukraine, your main enemy is not the ethnic Russian populations of Donetsk and Lugansk, nor the workers of Russia.  Your enemy is the right-wing and corrupt government in Kyiv, and the fascist gangs it has been associated with, and is the NATO imperialism that will try to take advantage of your plight for its own advantage.  We call on you to resist that governments war drive, with its attacks on the peoples of Donetsk and Lugansk that has given Putin a pretext to intervene.

Marx and Engels noted that the consequence of the Prussian occupation of Alsace-Lorraine could not be a lasting peace, but only future war, including the descent into war between Germany and Russia, a prediction that was to prove true in the European War of 1914-18, and its continuation in 1939-45.  There was one means of preventing that, they wrote.

"I say necessarily, inevitably, except in the improbable event of a prior outbreak of a revolution in Russia.

If this improbable case does not eventuate the war between Germany and Russia must already now be treated as an accomplished fact.

It depends entirely upon the present conduct of the German victors whether this war is going to be useful or harmful.

If they take Alsace and Lorraine France and Russia will make war upon Germany. Needless to point to the baneful consequences.

If they conclude an honourable peace with France that war will liberate Europe from the Muscovite dictatorship, will dissolve Prussia in Germany, allow the western part of the Continent to develop in peace and finally will help the Russian social revolution – the elements of which need only such an impetus from without for their development – to erupt, from which the Russian people too will benefit.

But I am afraid the knaves and the fools will continue their mad game unhindered unless the masses of the German working class raise their voice..."


And, that laser focus on the agency of the working-class, and rejection of any alliance with the bourgeoisie and its state remains our beacon today.

No War - Stop The Warmongering - Russian Troops Out - The Main Enemy Is At Home - Workers of the World Unite

Monday, 21 February 2022

Michael Roberts Gets Overexcited By The Rate of Profit - Part 5 of 10

The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall, which states that the annual rate of profit falls as the technical/organic composition of capital rises, is, indeed, important for capital and political economy, because it is this fact which leads to the formation of an average annual rate of profit, and prices of production. As a consequence, it is the determinant of the allocation of capital to different spheres of the economy. But, it is in this context of an allocation of capital to different spheres, not to the accumulation of capital in general, where its importance resides.

Capital moves to where the technical/organic composition of capital is low (though as Marx describes, this is not the only factor, because the rate of turnover of capital also determines the annual rate of profit), and so, where the annual rate of profit is highest. The faster accumulation of capital in these spheres increases supply of those commodities, relative to demand, and so causes their market prices to fall, until they reach the price of production, at which point only average profits are being made.

But, nowhere does Marx attribute the role to The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall that Roberts claims. Quite the opposite. In Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 17, where Marx sets out his theory of crises, he explains the basis of crises of overproduction of commodities as residing in the fallacy of Say's Law, and the separation of production and consumption. As described recently, Roberts, makes the same mistake as Say, which has its basis in Adam Smith's absurd dogma that the value of commodities resolves entirely into revenues. Roberts stated,

“The demand for goods and services in a capitalist economy depends on the new value created by labour and appropriated by capital. Capital appropriates surplus value by exploiting labour-power and buys capital goods with that surplus value. Labour gets wages and buys necessities with those wages. Thus it is wages plus profits that determine demand (investment and consumption)”,

which is simply Say's Law as amended by Keynes to account for savings and net investment. In doing so, it also accepts Smith's absurd dogma, and because, as Marx describes, that means that the element of constant capital in total output is omitted in national accounts, because GDP is equal only to revenues, i.e. new value created by labour during the year.  GDP is equal only to the value of output of Department II, as set out in Marx's schemas of reproduction in Capital II, Chapter 20, which means that Roberts misses out of his calculations entirely the value of Department I output, which as Marx describes, if The Law of The Tendency For The Rate of Profit to Fall is correct, must continually increase relative to Department II! That in itself calls into question the rate of profit calculated by Roberts and his associates, which starts from that very GDP data!!

For example, Roberts states,

“A medium run decomposition analysis reveals that the decline in the world profit rate is driven by a decline in the output-capital ratio.”

But, as I have set out in my series on Adam Smith's absurd dogma, that the value of total output/GDP resolves entirely into revenues, a proposition, as seen in Roberts statement above, he subscribes to, i.e. the value of all output is equal only to the value of all revenues, that is clearly false, because such calculations of output, as Marx describes, miss out all of the value of existing constant capital that is simply transferred to the value of current production, and is replaced out of it on a “like for like basis”.   The demand for it does not at all come from revenues, either from wages or profits (or its derivatives, rent, interest and taxes), but from capital itself!

The GDP data, as Marx describes, contains no element of the value of constant capital. The element of “intermediate production” that is frequently cited as representing the consumed constant capital, is nothing of the kind, as Marx sets out, as it is equal only to the revenues of Department I. Yet, if The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall is valid, the proportion of existing constant capital simply transferred to final output, must itself continually grow relative to the new value created during the year, and represented as GDP/National Income! So, if Roberts and his associates get wrong that basic Marxist analysis of reproduction, and the value of total output, they cannot possibly get right the rate of profit or changes in it!

In essence, their methodology, by focusing on only GDP/ revenues, calculates the rate of surplus value, rather than rate of profit, and modifies it in a bastardised manner, by including the fixed capital stock, but measured at historic prices, rather than current reproduction costs, which, by definition, omits the massive moral depreciation of that fixed capital stock resulting from the technological revolution that brings about the change in the technical/organic composition of capital that is the basis of The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall! It also fails to deal with the fall in the value of the circulating capital resulting from increases in productivity, not to mention the rise in the rate of turnover of capital brought about by such changes, which, in itself, leads to a rise in the annual rate of profit.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Propaganda & Provocation

For weeks, now, NATO imperialism has been ramping up its propaganda, claiming that Russia was about to invade Ukraine. The propaganda acted as cover against the fact that NATO itself has been continuing its build up of troops, and encirclement of Russia, and has also failed to implement the Minsk Accords, by pressing Kyiv to stop shelling the Donbass, and implement the promised autonomy.

But, the propaganda has had another purpose, it has also been used as provocation. Rather like Needles taunting Marty McFly, it is NATO trying to provoke Russia into attacking Ukraine by asking, “What's the matter? Chicken?” Because, if Russia does not attack Ukraine, then NATO will simply spin that into being a claim that the only reason it did not happen was because of NATO's threats. This is not at all unusual in such conflicts between bourgeois states, for whom war is the continuation of politics by other means. And, the use of propaganda, including the most lurid accounts of atrocities committed by the other side, are its stock in trade.

Claims of atrocities are a favourite of liberal interventionists, as a pretext for wars. As Trotsky described, in relation to the Balkan Wars, at the start of the 20th century, liberals sent out the message to minorities that they will be there to defend them, should any atrocity or grievance be imposed upon them. Of course, the response to this by every minority is then to shout atrocity, and, thereby, obtain the support of some liberal interventionist patron, who can come and win battles for them, which they would never be able to achieve, left to their own devices. Indeed, the smaller, the less support any minority has, within any given state, the more likely it is that they will shout atrocity, in order to gain such intervention. Its why Marx and Engels saw small-nations as being reactionary, because they would always appeal to larger states – at that time Tsarist Russia – for support, with reactionary consequences.

And, of course, once the liberal interventionists have used this pretext of atrocity to justify the military involvement of their own large state, the more they must rely on propaganda to justify those claims, whilst simultaneously censoring the reporting of atrocities committed by the “liberators”. So, for example, as Trotsky describes, in relation to the Balkan Wars, the Russian liberals, like Miliukov, argued for Tsarist intervention in the Balkans to defend the interests of the Slavic peoples, and Orthodox Christians, who were being oppressed by the Ottoman Empire. The liberal Russian press carried extensive stories about Turkish atrocities being committed. However, Trotsky and other war reporters sent back stories of equally barbarous acts being undertaken by not only the Bulgars and others, fighting against the Ottomans, but also by those very liberal interventionist forces, sent from Russia to bring “liberation from above”. Yet, all of these reports failed to see the light of day, in the press.

Responding to the liberal Miliukov, Trotsky writes,

"Your censorship has not pursued military aims, it has not been concerned to safeguard military secrets, but rather to conceal 'secrets' of quite a different order: all the black spots, all the cruelties and crimes, all the infamies that accompany every war, and your war in particular. That is what you have striven above all to hide from Europe! You have indulged in the senseless dream of hypnotising European public opinion and making it believe not what was true, not what you yourselves know to be true, but what you wanted to get accepted as true. You wanted to make Europe believe that the armed Turkish peasants, workers and hamals (porters) whom the ruling caste of Turkey transforms into an instrument for enslaving the non-Turkish nationalities, and the Turkish working masses, constitute 100 percent embodiments of cruelty, barbarism, and bestiality. And you wanted to make Europe believe that the Bulgarian army – from the lowest-ranking soldier working in the cookhouse up to commander in chief Savov, from whose brow you have not managed to wipe the stamp of that indictment for embezzlement, that the whole of this army constitutes a living embodiment of the highest ideals of right and justice.”

(The Balkan Wars, p 282-2)

“You defined your war as a crusade for civilisation against barbarism. You strove, with your pencils and scissors, to adjust all our telegrams and correspondence to those two categories. But now Europe will learn that the path of the crusading army was marked by crimes that must evoke shudders and nausea in every cultured person, in everyone capable of feeling and thinking.”


Of course, today, any such critical reporting is made near impossible, because reporters are required to be “embedded” in the military forces themselves. The censorship is done first hand, and the sheer weight of the bourgeois media propaganda machine overwhelms any dissident view. The only meaningful dissident view comes from the propaganda of the opposing forces, and that in itself, disqualifies it, because it can simply be dismissed as propaganda. And, as Trotsky describes, this was not some accident, but a conscious decision by the liberal interventionists. As Trotsky says, Miliukov had personally visited the Balkans, and so knew that these atrocities were being committed by the liberal interventionist forces. The argument was simply being made that it was necessary to cover them up, to stay silent about them, on the basis that it was more important to bring about the “liberation from above”.

Trotsky rejected the whole idea that any real liberation can be achieved in that way, or that the working-class can sub-contract its historic tasks to the bourgeoisie, and to its state, particularly in the form of such military action,

“Would you not agree that a conspiracy of silence by all of our 'leading' papers.... that this mutual agreement to keep quiet makes all of you fellow travellers and moral participants in bestialities that will lie as a stain of dishonour on our whole epoch?

Are not, in these circumstances, your protests against Turkish atrocities – which I am not at all going to deny – like the disgusting conduct of Pharisees: resulting, it must be supposed, not from the general principles of culture and humanity but from naked calculations of imperialist greed?”

Trotsky would well recognise such behaviour by liberals and the media, today, in a series of such conflicts, only to no doubt be impressed by the technology that now enables them to undertake it on so much more of a grand scale. He would not be so impressed by those liberals who proclaim themselves to be Marxists and even Trotskyists, but who pursue the same liberal agenda as Miliukov, still less those like the AWL, who have bowdlerised his own writings on the Balkans, to try to make them say the opposite. The AWL repeatedly chops quotes from Trotsky to reverse their actual meaning. In order to try to justify liberal interventionism by NATO, they took a quote from Trotsky in relation to the Balkans, to try to claim that Trotsky was saying that we cannot stand idly by whilst atrocities are committed.

But, Trotsky, was railing against the atrocities committed by the liberal interventionists! The AWL take a part of the quote, and use it completely out of context. In it, Trotsky is continuing to attack Miliukov for the fact that the liberals censored the reports of atrocities committed against the Turks!

The AWL cite the following bit of the quote,

“An individual, a group, a party, or a class that ‘objectively’ picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive.”

Suggesting that this is a justification for intervention. But, Trotsky was arguing against it, as the rest of the quote, and the context makes clear.

“On the other hand, a party or the class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury – such a party or class is sound of heart. Protest against the outrages in the Balkans cleanses the social atmosphere in our own country, heightens the level of moral awareness among our own people. The working masses of the population in every country are both a potential instrument of bloody outrages and a potential victim of such deeds. Therefore an uncompromising protest against atrocities serves not only the purpose of moral self-defence on the personal and party level but also the purpose of politically safeguarding the people against adventurism concealed under the flag of ‘liberation’.”

(ibid, p 293)

The fact that the AWL, misuse this quote, in the way they do, and it cannot simply be an error, particularly as they do the same thing so frequently, illustrates the degree of their bankruptcy and decadence, the degree to which they are simply social-imperialists, acting as the lackeys of NATO imperialism. A similar thing to what Trotsky describes, in relation to the Balkans, has been seen in every instance of liberal interventionism. Sometimes, a part of the truth still manages to get out, as with the reports of US atrocities at Abu Ghraib, or in Afghanistan, but its clear that these are just the tip of the iceberg of NATO atrocities committed under the guise of “liberation from above”. And, when such instances are reported, what happens? We have the US, which refuses to even have its troops tried in the International Criminal Court for war crimes, and the British government, with no opposition from the PLP, has also passed legislation to prevent British troops being prosecuted for war crimes.  The AWL, of course, respond that they never called for such atrocities to occur, as though, like Proudhon, and other idealists, they think its possible to wish for only the "good" , whilst rejecting the inextricably linked "bad", of any phenomenonNo wonder the AWL appear to be about to formally drop the materialism and Marxism that they actually abandoned long ago.

The play book for these conflicts is now well established. Take, the NATO war against Serbia, for example. The US, used its relationship with Osama Bin Laden (before he turned on them, and started flying planes into the World Trade Centre) to make contacts with the Kosovan Liberation Army, which, at the time, was just a bunch of gangsters. They armed and financed the KLA, enabling it to undertake attacks on Kosovan Serb villages, so as to stir up communal violence between Serbs and Albanians. Eventually, Serbia sent in its troops to defend the Kosovan Serbs against these attacks, and as soon as it did, NATO used this as its required pretext to attack Serbia. Does this sound familiar in relation to what is happening currently in Ukraine? Even Sky News has reported from the front lines in Eastern Ukraine that despite the claims of NATO, increased shelling by the Kyiv government, and its fascist allies is occurring.

Having militarily occupied Kosovo, a long standing province of Serbia, and following many Kosovan Serbs having been ethnically cleansed, even under the watchful eyes of the NATO occupying force, they then organised a referendum, which was used to justify the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, in order to defend its right to self-determination. Of course, when Russia followed this example, in relation to Crimea, and despite the fact that, in repeated elections, a Russian majority in Crimea had indicated its support for Russia, and pro-Russian candidates, NATO objected, deeming such action to be merely an act of aggression. Of course, what all such actions do is to line workers in the various countries up behind their respective ruling classes, and so drives a wedge between them. The AWL, of course, despite its claims to be Marxists, and to be proponents of an independent working-class, lined up solidly behind NATO imperialism in supporting the separation of Kosovo, whilst opposing the separation of Crimea.

A similar series of events occurred in relation to the Russian majority provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, within Georgia. The facts in relation to South Ossetia are fairly clear, but listen to the media today, and you will not know them. To believe the media, and Western politicians, what happened in South Ossetia was that Russia used some kind of false flag operation to justify it invading Georgia, much as is presented in relation to Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. But, in 2008, although the media and bourgeois politicians, not to mention the ever supporting AWL, were ready to criticise Russia, for such action, and again with predictions that they were going to occupy the whole of Georgia, even sections of that media, and some bourgeois politicians had to recant, as the truth of Georgian War Crimes in South Ossetia came out.

The BBC's Tim Whewell's reports on the attacks by Georgia, made clear that the Georgian state had acted recklessly in attacking South Ossetia. It was not at all a matter of Russia constructing some false flag justification for intervention, but an actual invasion by Georgia that provoked the response. Again, with the Ukrainian state refusing to abide by the term of the Minsk Agreements recognising the right to widespread autonomy for the Donbass, and other regions of Eastern Ukraine, and, instead, bombing and shelling those areas, in conjunction with fascist paramilitaries, we see the same strategy, and any response to it by Russia, being portrayed by NATO, as simply a false pretext. Yet, if NATO wanted to deny any such pretext, they would have been demanding that the Ukrainian government abide by the Minsk Agreements, that they disarm the fascist paramilitaries, and stop bombing and shelling the civilians in Eastern Ukraine.

In 2008, in South Ossetia, of course, the AWL, were quick to stand behind the delusional President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvilli, whose troops were guilty of these war crimes, just as Miliukov denied any atrocities by liberal interventionist forces, or by the opponents of the Ottomans.

That made the AWL even more apologists for NATO than was the BBC, as Whewell's report of the events makes clear. Indeed, the AWL, who as far as I am aware has never self criticised its position, in respect of that conflict, were bigger social imperialists than even David Miliband! Miliband, faced with the facts, from the report by Human Rights Watch of the Georgian War Crimes, told the BBC that the Georgian attack on South Ossetia was “reckless”. Of course, true to form, Miliband later went on to say that although it was “reckless”, avoiding accepting that war crimes had been committed, still complained that it was all Russia's fault.

Of course, as with Trotsky's reporting of the Balkan Wars, the result was to drive a further wedge between Russian and Georgian workers, with a further cycle of violence being provoked by it. It is precisely why Marxists do not promote the liberal demand for “self-determination”, which, in practice, in all such conditions, can only mean a demand for “defence of the fatherland”, and lining up behind your own ruling class, much as happened prior to WWI and WWII.

Today, we have NATO, as with Miliukov, denying any atrocities by its forces, or by the Ukrainian government. That whilst, as above, even the bourgeois media, such as Sky News is reporting on them happening! When Russia pointed to such atrocities in Eastern Ukraine, the first response of NATO was to deny any such atrocities had ever occurred. White House Press Spokesperson, Jen Psaki, simply looked ludicrous when she denied any such acts by the Kyiv government. Instead, she claimed that any such claims were simply part of a Russian false flag operation to justify invading Ukraine. And, the bumbling Boris Johnson, showed just how easily this kind of approach can bite you in the butt.

Johnson took advantage of the situation to sit himself in the cockpit of a military jet, just as the warmonger Thatcher liked to be pictured sitting in the driving seat of a tank. Told of an attack on a school in Donbass, Johnson assumed that this was a Russian claim of such an attack, and the basis of such a false flag justification. Unfortunately, for him, the attack on the school had come from the separatist forces, not from the Ukrainian government.

But, its clear from the reports even of those such as Sky News that attacks by the Kyiv government and its fascist allies have intensified in recent days, as the continual provocation from NATO imperialism, have failed to needle Russia into carrying out the long promised invasion that people like Liz Truss and the doddering Joe Biden have been insisting was imminent. NATO and its allies in Kyiv know, as with the genocidal attacks by the KLA in Kosovo, and the war crimes of the Georgian government in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, eventually, this creates demands amongst Russians to intervene to defend their communities. But, Marxists can no more accept that as justification than we can in opposing intervention by NATO imperialism. Our solution resides in an independent working-class, struggling against its own ruling class, and building unity across these borders, however difficult that may be in the given circumstances.

Russia may well feel itself pressurised both by NATO needling with taunts of “What's the matter chicken?”, and increased attacks on Russian communities in Eastern Ukraine. But, they would do well to remember what happened to Marty McFly. In Back To The Future II, he responded to those taunts, resulting in him being involved in a car crash that ruined his life, whereas, in Back To The Future III, he ignored the taunts, and avoided the accident. 

Its not the job of Marxists to give advice to the bourgeoisie and their state, and nor would we expect them to listen, anyway. But, it is clearly not in Russia's interest to invade Ukraine, as even many bourgeois analysts have pointed out. There is no economic benefit in occupying Ukraine, with its bankrupt economy, and the costs of doing so both financially and in terms of the loss of life in any invasion make it not worthwhile. That is perhaps why, despite all of the NATO propaganda, Russia has nowhere near the number of troops on the border it would require if it really were going to invade.

Often the best guess on these matters comes from the professional speculators, who make money from analysing the likely course of events. Those speculators see a Russian invasion as unlikely, precisely because there is nothing in it for Russia. Mattias Westman, founder of Prosperity Capital, a Russia-focused asset manager, says a Russian invasion is extremely unlikely. Vladimir Putin “is popular, but starting a war would not be”, especially when the death toll started to mount. According to Westman, Putin's survival depends on retaining the support of the Russian people, which, in turn, depends on the prosperity of the Russian economy. An invasion, with all its costs, plus the effects of sanctions and so on, on the Russian economy, would undermine that. Max King elaborates on this in an article in Moneyweek.

We are not concerned with how uncomfortable actual events make the ruling class in Russia, in Ukraine, or in NATO, or with the consequences for speculators. Our concern is only with the interests of the global working class. Our mantra “The Main Enemy Is At Home” applies to workers in Russia, the same as to workers in NATO countries, and in Ukraine. In that respect too, even were Russia to invade Ukraine, we cannot put the interests of Ukraine, or even Ukrainian workers above the interests of the global working-class, and certainly not simply for the liberal demand of the “right to self-determination”. As Lenin put it, we are for the self-determination of the working class in each nation, not the self determination of nations. That is all the more the case, when such situations, and the demand for self-determination is used to advance the strategic interests of one or another imperialist power.

“The several demands of democracy, including self-determination, are not an absolute, but only a small part of the general-democratic (now: general-socialist) world movement. In individual concrete cases, the part may contradict the whole; if so, it must be rejected. It is possible that the republican movement in one country may be merely an instrument of the clerical or financial-monarchist intrigues of other countries; if so, we must not support this particular, concrete movement, but it would be ridiculous to delete the demand for a republic from the programme of international Social-Democracy on these grounds...

There is no doubt that all international Social-Democracy, as well as the really internationalist section of Social-Democracy in the little country, would be against substituting a republic for the monarchy in this case. The substitution of a republic for a monarchy is not an absolute, but one of the democratic demands, subordinate to the interests of democracy (and still more, of course, to those of the socialist proletariat) as a whole.”

We see no solution to such problems residing in the warmongering and military actions of imperialist powers be they NATO or the Russian kleptocartic regime of Putin. Unlike the petty-bourgeois, moral socialists of the various strands of the Third Camp, we reject the idea that we should act merely as cheerleaders of any of these butchers, and robbers, and instead propose a truly independent working-class solution fought for by a global working-class organised in an international labour movement, that seeks to create the greatest unity of workers across borders. That requires rejection of the liberal-bourgeois demand for self-determination, which can only mean, now, bourgeois defencism, defence of the fatherland, and a lining up behind the ruling class and its state of each country. As socialists in Britain we demand the end of the warmongering by our own ruling class, and its state, and because we realise we have no power to make it agree to such demands, we see our main task as being to struggle for the overthrow of that state, and its replacement by a workers' state. As socialists in the US, and other NATO countries, that same argument applies.  But, we also call on the workers and socialists in Russia, and its allies to follow the same course.

No To War – Stop The Warmongering – The Main Enemy Is At Home – Workers of The World Unite