CLASS and inequality

Last weekend, I attended a symposium hosted by CLASS, the Centre for Labour And Social Studies (clever acronym, eh?). This is a left-wing think-tank in the UK funded by various large left trade unions in Britain (http://classonline.org.uk/). It aims to promote a better analysis of the nature of the capitalist crisis in the UK and policies to defend the interests of the majority.

I have referred to the activities of CLASS before when it was first started up. See my article in Socialist Review in April 2013 (http://socialistreview.org.uk/379/whats-wrong-keynesian-answer-austerity). My main complaint then was that CLASS, in its excellent attempt to oppose the ideas and policies of mainstream economics and the right-wing UK government, relied entirely on the Keynesian ‘alternative’. For this criticism, I got some flak from the radical wing of ‘post-Keynesian’ economists in Britain (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/meeting-keynes-meadway/).

Well, the latest conference was no different. Entitled What Britain needs, the main theme was to challenge the “inequalities in wealth and power”. Inequality has become the buzzword among leftist thinking in the major economies in the recent period. That’s for two reasons.

The first is that inequality of wealth and income has risen significantly in the past 25 years in the major economies to levels not seen since the 19th century. Thomas Piketty has demonstrated this development in magisterial detail in his best-selling book, Capital in the 21st century (see my numerous posts, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/thomas-piketty-and-the-search-for-r/). And the recent Credit Suisse report on global wealth, among others, has shown the extreme extent of inequality globally
(https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/global-wealth-1-own-48-10-own-87-and-bottom-50-own-less-than-1/).

But the other reason is that mainstream economics and much of heterodox economics, including post-Keynesians, want to see inequality of income and wealth as the contradiction in modern capitalism (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/david-harvey-piketty-and-the-central-contradiction-of-capitalism/) and, more than that, as the main cause of the Great Recession that hit capitalism globally in 2008-9 (see my post,
https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/inequality-the-mainstream-worry/).

I have dealt with these arguments in various places on my blog and in various papers (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/is-inequality-the-cause-of-capitalist-crises/). It is my contention that, while inequality is part of all class societies and thus is also endemic to capitalism, it is not the central contradiction of the capitalist mode of production and so not the reason for recurring capitalist slumps and the failure of capitalist production to meet the needs of the majority. The central problem is not the distribution of wealth and income after it has been created by labour. Instead it is the mode of production itself: production for the profit of the owners of the means of production against the social need of the majority. A profit-making mode of production is the key contradiction, not inequality.

This Marxist view gained no voice at the CLASS symposium at all. The main speakers at the plenary session outlined the shocking state of Britain: inequality; failure to grow; falling incomes for the majority; the decimation of the welfare state and public services through privatisation and austerity etc. But what was the alternative solution?

For Professor Doreen Massey it was to get out into the streets and buses etc and combat the ruling neoliberal propaganda that dominated the minds of the public and led them to support immigration controls, reduced welfare benefits and balancing the budget. The assumption here was that we ‘left academics’ knew that neoliberal ideas were nonsense but that the media has brainwashed the masses. Yet all proper public opinion polls in Britain show overwhelming opposition to privatisation; for a defence of the national health service and state education; and even for renationalisation of transport, energy and other utilities (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/oh-dear-what-are-the-british-people-thinking-of). It is not the British people who have been brainwashed into accepting ‘neoliberalism’, but the leaders of the labour movement.

This was confirmed when Angela Eagle, the Chair of UK’s opposition Labour Party, spoke to tell us that the rising inequality and neoliberalism of the last 29 years (since Thatcher) was appalling, quietly forgetting that since 1979, Labour had been in government for 13 out of those 29 years. Under PMs Blair and Brown, Labour governments supported deregulation of the financial sector, bringing market forces and private capital into the NHS, reducing taxes for the rich (Labour leader, Peter Mandelson: “we are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich…. as long as they pay their taxes”).

Eagle admitted that Labour had accepted the neoliberal consensus in the past, but now we must build a ‘new consensus’. You might ask: surely we must aim to break with the ruling consensus not build a new one? But there was a clear hint in what Eagle and another main speaker, Will Hutton, the former editor of the Observer and now a principal of an Oxford college, said, namely that, such was the terrible levels of inequality now in Britain, that some members of the ruling class or the establishment (that they had been talking to) were also worried. So it may be possible to form a new ‘consensus’ with them against the Tory government and neoliberal policies. Presumably this would be an alliance with ‘good-thinking’ rulers and the working class against ‘bad-thinking’ rulers.

Hutton did say that the reason for the crisis in the British economy and its failure to deliver for the needs of the majority was not so much inequality per se but the question of ‘ownership’, i.e. how companies are owned and controlled. He exclaimed that Clause 4 in the Labour Party constitution that called for a socialised economy and had been dropped by the Blairite leaders of New Labour was correct and should be restored. That sounded promising but then Hutton explained what he meant by social ownership, namely better company law so that workers and shareholders control their bosses and “designing markets for the people”. You see what was wrong was that Britain was a “dysfunctional” capitalist economy. By implication, he was saying that if we could get it ‘functioning’, capitalism would be fine. This was a familiar theme from Hutton, who had put a similar position at the recent Rethinking Economics conference in London (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/rethinking-economics/).

In the many working papers written by various economists and others for CLASS, one by Stewart Lansley came into view (http://classonline.org.uk/pubs/item/rising-inequality-and-financial-crises). Called Rising inequality and financial crises: why greater equality is essential for recovery, Lansley argues that there is a strong link between rising inequality and instability in capitalism, citing the examples of rising inequality just before the Great Depression of the 1930s and now before the Great Recession. The reason Lansley presented is the classic one floated by Keynesians and even mainstream economists that, if wages are held down and all the income goes to the rich, consumer spending falls, causing a collapse in ‘effective demand’. Also households resort to borrowing more, creating debt or credit bubbles that eventually cause a financial crash. Again, I have dealt with this view of the cause of the Great Recession in several posts (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/its-debt-stupid/).

One of the implications of this ‘inequality’ view is that each major capitalist crisis can have a different cause. As Lansley admits, the crisis of the 1970s was not due to a lack of wages, but in that case because “wages have grown too quickly”. This neo-Ricardian view of crises revolves round the idea that it is the wage/profit share that matters: so some crises are caused by workers having ‘too high’ wages. It is very much the same idea that we get more sophisticatedly from post-Keynesian economists like Ozlem Onaran, who also spoke at the CLASS symposium, namely that the Great Recession was a ‘wage-led’ crisis (i.e. wages are too low) while the 1970s crisis was ‘profit-led’ (wages too high?) – see her new paper for CLASS, (http://classonline.org.uk/pubs/item/state-intervention-for-wage-led-development). There is no mention here of the law of profitability that Marx expounded to explain recurring crises under capitalism.

The ‘wage-led’ distribution theory leads to what Lansley concludes: that if we get the ‘right’ level of wage share, then capitalism will be fine. As he puts it: “the great concentrations of income and wealth need to be broken up and the wage share restored to the post-war levels that brought equilibrium and stability”. Apparently, British capitalism was fine just after the war due to the right ‘wage share’ and level of inequality – ah, those golden years of enforced 1940s austerity.

In one of my posts on this view of inequality, I asked the question: do the proponents of inequality as the main cause of crises (or at least this crisis) think that redistributing income or wealth would be sufficient to put capitalism on the road to growth without any further catastrophic slumps? Or do they agree that only replacing the capitalist mode of production through the expropriation of the owners of capital and the establishment of a planned economy based on ownership in common can do the trick? Lansley apparently thinks the former and so do the speakers at CLASS it would seem.

13 Responses to “CLASS and inequality”

  1. Rab Tennant (SWP) Says:

    Excellent analysis Michael. The ‘new consensus’ argument harks back to the 1980s argument, expounded by the Communist party and others on the reformist left about the need for alliances with ‘progressive’ tories against Thatcher. That we needed ‘people with clout’ on our side. The main problem with that strategy is that it’s usually the working class that ends up getting clouted. Thankfully the anti poll-tax movement that eventually got rid of Thatcher, blew a gaping hole in that argument. Keep up the good work and solidarity

  2. Mike Ballard Says:

    The wage system is inherently a system based on exploitation. Marx and Engels knew that and proclaimed it in their writings and speeches. But the left has ignored this sage advice and deals mostly in the realm of moralistic prescriptions meant to shame the capitalists into goodness. The left still thinks its fine to talk about, “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” as if exploitation was a moral category as opposed to a social relation of unequal political power between producers and appropriators of wealth sanctioned by the political State.

  3. Tony Walker Says:

    Hi Michael. Spot on. Cheers Tony

    Sent from my HTC

  4. Victor Onrust Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly to the idea that inequality in itself is not the cause of the crisis. But will this lead to the fundamental acceptance of inequality as a given in any social system? To me this seems a precondition for thinking about any alternative. Furthermore though this capitalist system is operating badly does not mean that all capitalist systems have to operate the wrong way. Thus leaving no alternative but for a plan-economy or state-“capitalism”.
    Thirdly, after 160 years of trying one cannot say that the working-class or proletariat can be a driving force for needed changes in the structure of society in whatever way. Nowadays they are completely fragmented, making the problem even worse.
    Read on in Capital should be in solid hands

  5. Boffy Says:

    Michael,

    You say,

    “The central problem is not the distribution of wealth and income after it has been created by labour. Instead it is the mode of production itself: production for the profit of the owners of the means of production against the social need of the majority. A profit-making mode of production is the key contradiction, not inequality.”

    I’m not sure the last sentence is absolutely correct from a Marxist perspective. You are absolutely correct that the problem is the mode of production, and not the distribution of wealth and income after it has been produced. As Marx says, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, the latter distribution is a direct consequence of the former.

    “Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labor power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically.”

    But, this resultant distribution of income and wealth is then a significant element in creating a contradiction for capitalism in being able to create surplus value on the one hand, and being able to realise it on the other. On the one hand it creates a distribution of wealth and income where certain sections of society have large amounts of wealth and income, and for whom the satisfaction of wants is more readily achieved, so that for a whole range of commodities their price elasticity of demand is high. For a much larger section of society the problem is that those commodities whose consumption is already sated for the former section of society, are still out of reach. As Marx says, demand is not simply some undifferentiated factor, but is a demand from widely varied sections of society.

    It is not the fact of production for profit that is the major issue here, but the fact of the monopoly ownership of the means of production by a tiny minority. As Marx puts it, in the continuing part of his quote above.

    “If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one. Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution. After the real relation has long been made clear, why retrogress again?”

    Given that Marx did not beleive it possible to go straight from Capitalism to Socialism, as he sets out in the Grundrisse, he believed that the process of dissolution of the capitalist mode of production would be a long drawn out process, just as it had taken centuries for feudalism to give way to capitalist production, as it developed within it, and Engels comments to Bebel that he and Marx beleived that co-operative production would have to continue on a wide scale for a prolonged period in the process of transition, then its clear that during this transitional period, the basis of production would continue to be commodity production, and at least in large part, constrained by market relations, and the need to produce profits.

    But, as Marx describes above it is quite clearly different when those profits accrue to the worker owners of those co-operative enterprises rather than to capitalists, especially as those workers band together, and use those profits to expand co-operative production, in an increasingly planned way.

    Lenin himself makes this point, in 1923, when he recognised the mistake that had been made in establishing state industries that were bound to come under the control of bureaucrats rather than worker and peasant owned co-operatives.

    “We went too far when we reintroduced NEP, but not because we attached too much importance to the principal of free enterprise and trade — we want too far because we lost sight of the cooperatives, because we now underrate cooperatives, because we are already beginning to forget the vast importance of the cooperatives from the above two points of view…

    The thing now is to learn to combine the wide revolutionary range of action, the revolutionary enthusiasm which we have displayed, and displayed abundantly, and crowned with complete success—to learn to combine this with (I’m almost inclined to say) the ability to be an efficient and capable trader, which is quite enough to be a good cooperator. By ability to be a trader I mean the ability to be a cultured trader. Let those Russians, or peasants, who imagine that since they trade they are good traders, get that well into their heads. This does not follow that all. They do trade, but that is far from being cultured traders. They now trade in an Asiatic manner, but to be a good trader one must trade in the European manner. They are a whole epoch behind in that.

    In conclusion: a number of economic, financial and banking privileges must be granted to the cooperatives—this is the way our socialist state must promote the new principle on which the population must be organized. But this is only the general outline of the task; it does not define and depict in detail the entire content of the practical task, i.e., we must find what form of “bonus” to give for joining the cooperatives (and the terms on which we should give it), the form of bonus by which we shall assist the cooperative sufficiently, the form of bonus that will produce the civilized cooperator. And given social ownership of the means of production, given the class victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the system of civilized cooperators is the system of socialism.”

    Lenin “On Co-operation” 1923.

    The problem is not production for profit per se, but the ownership of the means of production by a small minority. The immediate problem is not the absence of planning – in fact as Simon Clarke wrote 25 years ago, there is already more planning in a single large capitalist enterprise than was performed by Gosplan – but the absence of direct workers ownership of the means of production.

  6. Mike Says:

    From a non-economists point of view, although I did study political economy as a young post grad, the elephant in the room is the Chinese and other off shore manufacturing industries and the nouveau riche in those countries. We are at the point where even high value services such as design engineering are being relocated offshore.

    For example, a CAD operator in Australia can be hired for $100 per hour while a Filipino operator can be hired in the Philippines for less than $5 per hour. Once the quality issues are sorted, how can Australian techies possibly compete on the basis of competitive wages? Yes the Filipino worker does benefit marginally. But where do the profits in third world developing economies go? To the wealthy minority in those countries with profit share to Australian business owners. Multiply that by 20 and you have the situation in America.

    In my view, what we have seen is the greatest transfer of wealth in human history, from the American middle classes to American company owners, and also to the plutocracy the Chinese Communist Party has become. No wonder Animal Farm is banned in that China.

    One of the greatest simplifying assumptions of Marxian economic analysis I recall is that somehow human nature can be changed by the mere fact of ‘owning’ the means of production. It cannot.

    I am interested in what the more studied and educated of you out there have to say.

  7. James Doran Says:

    Surprised to hear Hutton’s comments about the old Clause Four – even if they were phrased as a provocation. It shows some consideration of what was removed from mainstream politics in the course of Tory & then New Labour ascent.

    Last week a Labour MP introduced a bill in parliament on allowing public or mutual providers to bid for rail franchises, one of the ideas raised in recent years by Labour’s sister, the Co-operative Party. This weekend I spoke to the deputy Green Party leader for England and Wales on her enthusiasm for worker ownership and control in the economy, framed as “the right to co-operate”. The reactionary potential of this rhetoric is obvious from Cameron’s talk of public sector co-ops ending up as joint ventures (“mutuals”) with capitalist firms to privatise services, and Labour councils declaring themselves co-operatives in order to implement a purchaser/provider split in provision, allowing more privatisation.

    Nonetheless, it is notable that you hear talk about the mode of production as lacking democratic control – as Marxian economist Rick Wolff has in the US – getting attention from reformists. We are very familiar with the theories of Stalinism, bureaucracy, reformism – but perhaps not of co-operatives (and their limitations under capitalism). This is a weakness, I think – especially since self-exploitation through bogus self-employment make it hard for traditional forms of organising, and an alternative model needs to be posed for these politically, if not yet economically, significant positions of precariousness.

    • Boffy Says:

      James,

      You write,

      “This weekend I spoke to the deputy Green Party leader for England and Wales on her enthusiasm for worker ownership and control in the economy, framed as “the right to co-operate”. The reactionary potential of this rhetoric is obvious from Cameron’s talk of public sector co-ops ending up as joint ventures (“mutuals”) with capitalist firms to privatise services, and Labour councils declaring themselves co-operatives in order to implement a purchaser/provider split in provision, allowing more privatisation.”

      This seems to reflect a lack of faith in the working class, which was not shared by Marx, Engels, or Kautsky. Marx in his Inaugural Address to the First International noted the fact that various sections of the middle class had begun to advocate the establishment of co-ops for their own reason. But, that did not lead Marx or Engels to declare that, therefore, they could no longer do so. Marxists do not determine their own politics by simply putting a minus sign wherever the bourgeoisie put a plus. Rather Marx, continued to argue for workers to establish co-ops, and other forms of mutual organisation, but to also recognise that the bourgeoisie would try to limit them, and so it was necessary for workers to conduct a political struggle alongside that economic struggle for their own form of property, just as they had to do so alongside their industrial struggle.

      Kautsky made a similar point in the Erfurt Programme.

      “As regards the attitude of the party towards co-operative societies, the practical advantages of the distributive co-operative societies are so great that the opposition which they have met in the ranks of the Social-Democrats is not at first sight to be understood. This, however, explains itself, when one remembers that the private co-operative societies were recommended to the working class by the Liberals to tempt them from the founding of an independent political party, and from the acceptance of Socialist ideas. Thus naturally the battle for the latter two objects led to an antagonism against the bourgeois illusions of the co-operators, which only too easily developed into hostility against the co-operative movement itself. The co-operative movement has since shown itself unable to draw away the workers from an independent political attitude, or to attract them to Liberalism, whose members therefore gave up the attempt to use it as a weapon against Social-Democracy. The Social-Democratic Party has learnt to view the co-operative movement more amiably, and begin to regard especially the distributive societies with sympathy.”

      Unfortunately, Kautsky here argues for retail co-ops rather than Marx’s approach, which was to argue for worker owned producer co-ops. At the time Lenin adopted a similar position to that of Kautsky. In 1910, Lenin put a motion to the Copenhagen Congress of the Second International, calling on workers in all countries to join such retail co-operatives alongside producer co-ops.

      In fact, as Marx points out, both the joint stock companies and the co-ops represent the transitional form between capitalism and socialism. The Co-ops particularly represent an historically progressive form as opposed to capitalist ownership of property whether by an individual capitalist, or by a single capitalist state. Marx, in Capital refers to this process being witnessed by a transfer of property out of the hands of the capitalist state into the hands of socialised capital, be it in the form of such joint stock companies, or co-ops. As Hal Draper demonstartes in “The Two Souls of Socialism”, the ideas of statism, and plannism have nothing to do with Marxism. They are ideas that have flowed from Lassalleanism and Fabianism.

      Engels in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme, in opposing demands for the establishment of national insurance, and the nationalisation of various services as part of a welfare state, concludes that such measures are incompatible with all our opposition to “State Socialism. Kautsky himself wrote,

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

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

      Anton Pannokeok, was even more explicit in his opposition to such top down measures.

      Its not just that in the last century we have witnessed the abominations resulting from such a top down approach in the form of Stalinism, or of various state-capitalist regimes in the middle east and elsewhere, or the repeated debilitating failures of statism by social democracy, it is that for a Marxist this consequences must flow from such an approach, because they set Marxism on its head. Instead of the political regime being established upon, and resulting from the economic, property, and social relations developed in society, this is reversed, so that the those relations are created by a political regime. But under those conditions, that political regime must from the beginning either be filled with the content of bourgeois ideas flowing from the existing productive relations, or else the gaining of political power is made the business of a small select elite, with the mass of the working-class fulfilling the role only of foot soldiers to put them in power, usually as a result of some crisis in the existing political system.

      As Simon Clarke put it many years ago,

      “The social base of state socialism lies in the stratum of intellectual workers, including such groups as managers, administrators, scientists, technicians, engineers, social workers and teachers as well as the intelligentsia more narrowly defined.” These groups believe that the key to a more just society lies “in their mobilisation of their technical, administrative and intellectual expertise… The ability of this stratum to achieve its rationalist ambitions depends on its having access to positions of social and political power.”

      “For the working-class the Party is a means of mobilising and generalising its opposition to Capital and its State, and of building autonomous forms of collective organisation, while for the intellectual stratum it is a means of achieving power over capital and the state… As soon as the party has secured state power, by whatever means, it has fulfilled its positive role as far as the intellectual stratum is concerned. The latter’s task is now to consolidate and exploit its position of power to secure the implementation of the Party’s programme in the interests of the ‘working class’. Once the Party has seized power, any opposition it encounters from the working class is immediately identified as sectional or factional opposition to the interests of the working class as a whole, the latter being identified with the Party as its self-conscious representative.”

      “Crisis of Socialism Or Crisis Of the State?”, in Capital & Class 42, Winter 1990

      • James Doran Says:

        What was missing from my comment was my support for workers’ co-operatives. Of course, the intentions of the ruling class in terms of borrowing the language of co-operativism doesn’t make it any less desirable, but points to its popularity. Incidentally, the Green Party’s proposals with regard to the “right to co-operate” – legislative reforms to enable greater worker co-operation – are far in advance of the reforms proposed by the Co-operative Party. I think this has less to do with opportunism by a party seeking to win votes from erstwhile Labour supporters than a genuine socialist current within that party. For those of us who are socialist Labour and Co-operative Party members, though we may be few in number, the rhetorical commitment of the Greens to worker co-operation could serve as a means of advancing these ideas amongst our fellow members. The Tories “Big Society” enthusiasm raised scepticism about the merits of worker co-ops. If the “Green surge” is sustained, a bidding war could take plac on legislative reforms, financial support & technical assistance to workers wishing to take ownership and control of the means of production, distribution, & exchange.

  8. vallebaeza Says:

    Reblogged this on Econo Marx 21.

  9. kyleathompson Says:

    Michael,

    You write: “That [restoring Clause 4] sounded promising but then Hutton explained what he meant by social ownership, namely better company law so that workers and shareholders control their bosses and “designing markets for the people”. You see what was wrong was that Britain was a “dysfunctional” capitalist economy. By implication, he was saying that if we could get it ‘functioning’, capitalism would be fine…do they agree that only replacing the capitalist mode of production through the expropriation of the owners of capital and the establishment of a planned economy based on ownership in common can do the trick?”

    But this is not at all a clear distinction. Both the formulation “workers and shareholders control their bosses and ‘designing markets for the people'” and “establishment of a planned economy based on ownership in common” and frustrating vague propositions. In fact one could be taken as a paraphrase of the other, or as its complete opposite!

    We all know that “workers and shareholders” “controlling their bosses” can actually just be a matter of control in name only with workers sitting on powerless advisory boards that have no real effect on company policy. Then there is the matter of who these “shareholders” are. Are they the workers themselves? Community joint ownership schemes? Pension funds? Capitalists? Depending on this definition shareholder control could mean “ownership in common” or simply a smokescreen on capitalist domination.

    Then there is the matter of “designing markets for the people.” This could be something as bland as consumer cooperatives, or it could mean extensive social planning. It is also quite vague what this would entail. The neoclassical literature suggests that perfectly competitive markets and total central planning lead to functionally equivalent outcomes (There is no final difference between an all-powerful “invisible hand” and a omniscient and all-powerful planning agency). “Designing markets for the people” could just mean achieving maximum utility through aspiring to these old Walrasian dreams, or it could mean subjecting the economy to democratic political intervention, or it could mean creating support structures for establishing market institutions in various situations in the name of the popular interest.

    In the end the questions of ownership and control are much more important than the question of planning vs. markets.

  10. class inequality | PDF - DOC - PPT - XLS Finder Says:

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  11. proworks2013 Says:

    My dear Mr. Roberts,

    Just as we must completely and finally dump the existing theatre of argument (neo-liberalism v. Keynesianism) when discussing economics and program, we are confronted with the absolute need to dump the existing “left”, as it has been shown to be infiltrated with all sorts of rubbish and its own “theatre” of argument (class compromise v. ultra-leftism), all of which is, as it has always been, a false dichotomy and totally misleading. The calls for such conferences are always meant to either confuse workers with the widest variety of programmatic options, or reduce their certainty of what they see, reduce their militancy, sideline their needs in deference to what is “possible” under there “circumstances”.

    Further, I find it ironic that a Marxist such as yourself would expect the mainstream leftist organizations to entertain any Marxist (or even pseudo-Marxist) program when they shake in fear of the “retribution” that would come down on them for not promoting class compromise. The toleration for such conferences is based on such trepidation.

    Our desperate need is to address the working class, not its putative “leaders” and “spokespeople”. There lies the true weakness of working class political organization – no widespread media, print or otherwise, that can explain in clear and understandable language “What is to be done”! This teaches the class nothing of their tasks, which are now more international (therefore LESS nationalistic!) than ever before. As class struggle rises in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere, the existing “left” retreats into limited pleas about poverty and “fairness”.

    The path of talking to economists, academics, party apparatchiks, etc., is guaranteed to lump us together with them as hot-air gasbags who cannot move to do anything about conditions. They may or may not come to realize the error of their ways, but they will never be the strong comrades who stand first in line.

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