Tag Archive: Karl Marx

Jun 08 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Back to Basics: The Circuits of Commodities and Capital By NY Brit Expat

Due to popular demand (which I cannot understand for the life of me), today’s piece will discuss chapters 4 and 5 in Karl Marx’s Capital, volume I. On the surface, these two chapters appear simple and in many senses unimportant.  

However, that would be erroneous to conclude. These two chapters clarify two important circuits that are essential to understand the capitalist economic system and to distinguish it from earlier modes of production. Trade and money existed before capitalism itself, so what distinguishes capitalism from ancient slave societies, feudalism, and pre-capitalist mercantile economies?

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Karl Marx

In addition, Marx describes the different functions of money differentiating money as a unit of account or medium of circulation (circuit of commodities) from money in its role as capital (circuit of capital). Additionally, these chapters introduce the notion of surplus value, the self-expansion of capital, and the notion of a transfer of revenue between capitalists as distinct from the creation of surplus value and end on a cliff-hanger before Marx’s explanation of the creation of surplus value which links his discussion in chapter 1 on the value of commodities to the labour process itself.

All references come from Karl, Marx (1867) Capital Volume I,  Penguin Classics, 1990.

May 25 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Solidarity in the time of choleric “trade” deals

by Galtisalie

Epidemics of cholera as well as other serious diseases, including neoliberalism, can take a toll on solidarity. “Trade” deals, and the conduct used in pushing them through to adoption, can be purposely choleric in order to accentuate a breakdown in solidarity. A carefully-orchestrated disinformation and intimidation campaign can provide a loud and pushy disincentive to obtaining and sharing knowledge and growing into a healthier society.

The Gipper is credited with the famous saying “trust, but verify.” However, it is actually an old Russian proverb. The phrase came in handy when scrutinizing the actions of the potentially dastardly Russian Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

With matters of political economics, we have learned over the last hundred years that verification is not always easy because labels sometimes defy reality. Since the fall of the authoritarian state capitalist Soviet Union, which claimed to be real and scientific socialism, apathy has set in about true human choice on matters not having to do with consumer goods. The possibility of a heterodox deeply democratic vision for humanity is laughed at by commenters. They blithely point to North Korea and the supposedly happy riveters south of the border who produce things once made by Americans for the great now debt-driven and trade-imbalanced American marketplace.

Speaking of Russia, its dolls and other trinkets are now made in China too. Ironically, the British Green Quaker documentary filmmaker David Malone aptly says that modern “trade” agreements are like Russian dolls, with lots of other dolls inside that have nothing to do with trade. We are expected to place the doll up on a shelf and not worry what’s inside, even if the shelf is getting repossessed.

Anyway, it’s not really as simple as opening up to see the next doll inside, although it would be nice if we were allowed to at least do that before making the purchase. If the global “we” really wants to understand something that comes with risk, such as a disease, or a series of massive “trade” deals, we must first be able to put the pieces as well as the whole under a microscope, do DNA tests, and have plenty of time to learn what exactly it is we are seeing. Learning the ecological context is also critical.

Sounds like technical questions best left to experts! So, we can sit this one out. Maybe it is we who are dialectical dolls here, expected to live superficially without addressing our interior selves. Why concern one’s pretty little self with such manly and adult details?

More broadly, absolutely do not ponder whether the globalization of hegemonic capitalism is the disease or the cure. That would necessitate openly and closely studying and discussing, without fear of repression, the system that is being imposed, the crises it inevitably causes, the insolvency it constantly courts, the reserve army of unemployed workers, the lack of fair distribution of the winnings that arise from the system, and calmly comparing the available alternatives, including everything from tweaks to overhauls to repeal and replace.

Democracy is this potentially great mass experimental method if the powers that be would allow it to work deeply and openly. If we were allowed to trust but verify we could be engaged citizens. Instead, we are forced to leave democracy to neoliberal politicians, experts, and talking heads, as if they will explain to us what little it is that we need to know after they have made their decisions, which have bound within them unprecedented curtailments to democracy.

This sounds more like oligarchical exploitation than rule by the people. But what can we do to defend ourselves in times like these?

At least from the time of Spartacus, solidarity has been the enemy of exploitation, always has been and always will be. But woe unto those who take the risks of speaking the truth to power, or even seeking the truth. The doubt-inspiring whispers are reaching a chorus of “shut-up and know your place.” Self-doubt cannot help but set in:

In the end, did Spartacus really want to be free and in solidarity with other people in the struggle to be free? Wasn’t it really pretty nice being a Thracian gladiator after all? And for his followers, as they were hanging from crosses every bit as real as Jesus’s, might they not have had a little buyer’s remorse?

4 T

Come to daddy. Put aside those passions. Don’t question too much. It’s for your own good that you are being led through the valley of the shadow of death in a blindfold.

Jul 06 2014

A-C Meetup: Part 2 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

Things are certainly going to crapola for many poor Central American children these days. But at least they are not having their lives ruined by elected socialists. Barbarism is so much better. Somalian freedom anyone? Where, oh where, have I read about this before? Some murdered democratic revolutionary internationalist perhaps.  

The Political-Economic Basis For Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

We must refuse to separate morality from economics, to ignore the historical and political dimensions of economic justice, and to narrowly define “justice” as the head-in-the-sand enforcement of U.S. laws. (According to a good Jesuit who mourned for those dying in Central America, including his owns priests, justice should be in the service of love.) For instance, when we receive reports about Latin American children in flight to the U.S., we must be mindful that the U.S. has spent generations undermining Latin America efforts to achieve economic justice.

Every once in a while, the U.S. gets a stark example of international blowback. But what if the projectiles involved in this scenario are small defenseless human beings? Does the U.S. learn from its mistakes and attack the underlying problems? No. Instead, in the case of international blowback, as with domestic blowback, we simply blame and harass the victims.

In a detailed report, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees has explained the need for international protection for unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico. (http://www.unhcrwashington.org/sites/default/files/UAC_UNHCR_Children%20on%20the%20Run_Full%20Report.pdf.) But coming from the UN, it is ignored by the U.S. government.

The politically-expedient way of dealing with blowback, if you are a supposedly compassionate U.S. president, is to look at legal minutia with a view to stepping up deportation, rather than seeing the big picture and your actual legal authority.

It is easy to see why a president concerned about mid-term elections might cower. After all, Cuban Canadian USian Senator Ted Cruz has our backs. Unfortunately, the helpless young human beings who are on the run and are receiving an unjust response to the blowback their fleeing constitutes only understand their own desperation. So, for a U.S. president to act compassionately using his legal authority risks losing mid-term elections, and that is just that. But what does that say about U.S. voters, particularly those on the likely winning side in mid-term elections?

It is a cruel sanctimonious voter, and hardly one who holds up to timeless standards of decency, who would be swayed to vote against helping the innocent and helpless. Many of these voters follow a religion that claims, if they will excuse the lack of the King James Version, “el señor protégé a los forasteros; sostiene al huérfano y a la viuda.” (Salmo 146.) But perhaps God only speaks English. (But wasn’t that Psalm written in Hebrew?)

The U.S. in its international relations discourages economic justice because it smacks of socialism. Socialism, of course, sounds good to me. However, the U.S. will not even ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by President Carter. This unkind refusal to recognize standards of material decency does not sound good to me at all.

But there is much more to the story. A Latin American government going to the left risks being toppled by its U.S.-funded military. The U.S., under pressure from Republican Cuban Americans concerned about making leftist dominos fall, assuming it was not, as claimed by a Zelaya minister, directly responsible for the reactionary coup, will happily move on to the illegal replacement “president,” who ironically will have been put into power because the leftist was wanting the people to have greater control over their democracy and constitution. The UN General Assembly unanimously condemned the 2009 military coup of Honduras’s elected president.

Shame on the elected president of a Central American country for moving left and seeking some measure of economic justice. That, the U.S., or more importantly, U.S. transnational corporations, simply cannot abide.  

The coup’s legacy is the very violence that is forcing children to flee for their lives, with an able assist from the failed U.S. drug war, which turns Central America into a drug transit zone. And then we complain about the foreign orphans who have no choice but to flee.

Ultimately, what can end this immigrant-bashing and “border pressure”? Anti-capitalist democratic internationalism of the type I think Luxemburg and Marx, not to mention Eugene V. Debs and Reinhold Niebuhr, could endorse.

Oct 20 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What Is Capitalism? Part I by Le Gauchiste

There have appeared in this space several thought-provoking attempts to define capitalism, including here see and here see:. Although this might seem to some a mere academic exercise, nothing could be further from the truth: to be effective, activism to change, transform or overthrow any human construction must be rooted in a thorough and accurate understanding thereof.

This is especially important when discussing capitalism, both because its pervasive ubiquity creates a familiarity that masquerades as understanding and because the defenders of the system work tirelessly to spew lies about its virtues. Even more treacherous than the increasingly strained defenses of the system by modern conservatives are the ideological productions of modern liberals who claim a desire to reform capitalism or ameliorate those of its consequences they don’t like.

The key problem is that liberals and conservatives share the same basic understanding of capitalism, which is rooted in the neo-classical revolution in mainstream economics that occurred in the late 19th century. On this view, capitalism is a “natural” system arising from and based on market exchanges between buyers and sellers of commodities, which are assumed to maximize “efficiency” (defined in terms of allowing “supply” and “demand” to set market-clearing prices) and human happiness (defined as the total dollar value of market commodities bought and sold (GDP), regardless of what needs they meet or how they are distributed among the population).

Thus the neo-classical view (like the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo that preceded it) is fundamentally ahistorical: capitalism is understood not as a historically specific constellation of economic relations, but rather as the result of encouraging the supposedly natural human tendency to engage in market transactions on a competitive basis with the goal of maximizing profit.

Even worse, the neo-classical assumption that the “market” is a naturally occurring phenomenon forces it to posit an Ideal Type Market-characterized by virtually unrestrained good-faith buying and selling backed up by rules to enforce the terms of transactions-against which historical social formations are measured by the degree to which they approximate the Ideal Type and can be called “capitalistic.” In this view there is of course no room for understanding how the historical economies of pre-capitalist social formations worked on their own terms, because those terms are assumed ab initio to represent flaws, deviations from the Ideal Type that maximizes happiness.

And therein lies the reason that neo-classical economics provides an unstable intellectual foundation for capitalist reformism that unavoidably undermines any case for change, because all such reforms involve straying from the Ideal Type Market. That is why, in televised “debates” about regulation between conservatives and liberals, when the former extol the virtues of the market and call for “non-interference,” the latter start off the same way (Obama does this all the time) and then suddenly pivot to an argument that some specific reform represents an exception to the free market rule. Conservatives thus always come off as more intellectually consistent while liberals seem (and in fact are) intellectually muddled and confused-even when “the facts” seem to stand in their favor.

We, however, are Anti-capitalists, and we need an understanding of capitalism that historicizes it as a system with a definite beginning and, therefore, a possible end.

Nov 04 2012

The Lies of Neoliberalism; Governments Don’t Create Jobs or Economic Growth by NY Brit Expat

It may be my masochism, but I actually watched the Presidential debates. I also regularly watch the news over here in the UK. Cameron and his cronies constantly spout this argument that governments cannot create economic growth. During the Presidential debates, Mitt Romney even went a step further; he argued that governments cannot create employment. The Tory argument is a bit more sophisticated, but both arguments have their roots in the fantasies of neoliberal economics of which both the Tories and the Republicans have adopted in its most fundamental form; their arguments also tie into the perspective of reduction of the central government budgets along the lines demanded by the IMF and the introduction of austerity measures to ensure these results. Except, and this is a big exception, neither of these governments have been forced to do so by the IMF.

Given that these statements are not only historically inaccurate, but bordering on the patently absurd, it never ceases to amaze me that challenge from the mainstream media is not forthcoming. Even more so, during the debate, President Obama did not respond to the absurd statement by Romney; in fact, he also raised budget deficit reduction which essentially means cutting state employment and social services. The Labour Party does not disagree with the Tories; they only say that austerity must be done more slowly and Ed Balls (the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer) has said at the Labour Party conference that, if elected, they had no intension of reversing the austerity measures forced upon the British populace by the Con-Dem government.  Essentially, all of the mainstream parties are singing the same tune; honestly, different tonalities of the same argument do not change the fact that the underlying tune is the same.

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To someone that is living in the real world, in other words, someone that actually heard about the New Deal, that knows the role of government in ensuring economic growth during the post-war period in Europe, who knows damn well that state (or public) sector workers exist and that the government’s purchase of goods and services from the private sector and investment in the private sector help to ensure economic growth it makes me wonder if they think that we are extremely stupid.  

Oct 28 2012

Trillions in Capitalist Wealth: Where Does It Come From? by Justina

Recently, Forbes magazine, a major tool of the capitalist class, reported that the “Super Rich” are hiding $21 Trillion dollars in off-shore tax-havens.  A single trillion dollars is a looooooooooo….t of money, and that amount pales besides the trillions the super rich are holding quite openly — in factories, equipment, office buildings, agribusinesses, stocks, bonds, derivatives and ownership of magazines like Forbes and all our media industries.

Where did all that vast wealth come from?  Why are so many impoverished under our capitalist economic system, while the few gain such tremendous wealth? Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), Hegelian philosopher, political economist and practical revolutionary, asked that basic question and provided the most definitive answer to this very day in his study, Capital published in 1867.

 

So why does this old book strike such fear today into the hearts and minds of America’s corporate owners that they virtually forbid its teaching in American universities’ economics and business schools?  

Some members of our Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up group hope to explore that question and the basics of Marx’s theories in a series of once monthly posts, of which this is the first, on surplus value.



We will explore other issues such as wages, profits and the falling rate of profit, accumulation of capital and the means of production, use value versus exchange value of a commodity, money as an intermediary between buying and selling commodities,  alienated labor, private property, private versus state capitalism, finance capitalism and globalization, the role of cooperatives versus unions, finance capitalism and like issues.  We’ll break it up into different diaries one a month. Maybe you’ll volunteer to write one too?  (Please do!).

Economics Professor Richard D. Wolff (University of Massachusetts and the New School for Social Research) provides, in his four part series of lectures on the basics of Marx’s economic analysis. available on his web site, www.rdwolff.com,  a solid, readily understandable and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to Marx’s economic theories which this writer uses as her departure point.

Wolff shows how Marx discovered, by analyzing its inner-most workings in detail, why capitalism is so de-humanizing and exploitative of its workers and produces such poverty and misery for the vast majority of the population.  Marx’s analysis is set forth in his “theory of Surplus Value”, which is the secret to where all the trillions of wealth, both hidden and open, came from.

May 31 2012

Karl Marx on the Paris Commune and Occupy Wall Street by Justina

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The Occupy movement has sent out a Call to Action for a June 20th   “Global Festival” to celebrate their global demand for a Universal Living Wage:

The regime of wholesale robbery – what the 1% call  “austerity” – is already falling across Europe, and soon will fall  across the world. But the inevitable collapse of austerity is not  enough. We, the 99%, demand a world beyond Wall Street. We demand a  system where everyone can not only survive, but flourish.  To reach this  world, we are raising our voices to demand a universal living wage.

We call on all occupies, unions, community organizations, immigrants  rights groups,  bodies, religious organizations, environmental groups,  anti-poverty activists, and everyone to join us June 20th, 2012 for a  new holiday for the 99%: A Global Festival for the Universal Living  Wage.

No, Karl Marx, dead since 1883,  is not now able to report on the events  of the Occupy Movement, as he did on events of the U.S.’s Civil War for  the NY Herald Tribune in the 1860’s and the Paris Commune in the  1870’s, but strangely, to this day, the mere mention of his name still  strikes terror into the hearts of global capitalists and their media  puppets, such as Sean Hannity.  Link to

There must be a reason that the capitalist powers of the 21st century  tremble at his name 129 years after his death, his writing must have  been very dangerous indeed.  How much they must be fear of Tim Poole’s  live-streaming.  No wonder they arrested him this month in Chicago!.   Read below to understand why Karl Marx, and especially his writing on  the Paris Commune, was such a danger to capitalism.