How capitalism survives

Last weekend, I attended this year’s London version of the Historical Materialism conference (http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/conferences/annual11), which for those who don’t know is an annual gathering of mainly Marxist academics, students and activists organised by the Historical Materialism journal. A host of papers and book launch presentations are made, often bringing out new ideas in the analysis of capitalism.

This year’s main theme was How Capitalism Survives and was apparently attended by over 750 scholars, academics and activists. It’s not possible to attend all sessions, of course, so my review concentrates on the economics papers and even there is sometimes based on reading the papers presented rather than on actually attending the session (so be forewarned!).

How does capitalism survive? Well, according to John Weeks, emeritus professor at SOAS, it’s because the capitalist mode of production has had very few of what could be called proper crises (2014 Weeks_Crisis_Izmir). Weeks reckons that only the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent Great Recession could be considered generalised crises (“episodes of severe contraction”) that affected the world capitalist economy for any length of time or to any depth. Other so-called crises were merely mild recessions or financial crashes that were short and limited to the national economy concerned.

As for the causes, Weeks argues that it was the breakdown in the circuit of capital and the realisation of money that was the problem and had nothing to do with the accumulation of value in the production process, as advocated by the ‘falling rate of profit’ theorists. As he puts it: “The typical “falling rate of profit” mechanism fails to get out of the starting gate as a candidate for generating cross-country crises, much less global ones.” This is because Marx’s law of a rising organic composition of capital would only generate a gradual fall in profitability and there is no mechanism that decides “a critical value” of profit that could provoke a sudden collapse in production or investment or its simultaneous spread globally.

Well, I beg to differ. Starting with Henryk Grossman (http://www.marxists.org/archive/grossman/index.htm) and continuing with the work of many scholars very recently, such as Tapia Granados (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/profits-call-the-tune/), including my own work and that of G Carchedi (The long roots of the present crisis), we find that there is a causal connection between the movement of profitability, profits and slumps in investment and GDP (and see my paper, The nature of current long depression).

It’s true that many financial crises are not accompanied by a slump or economic recession, as in the stock market crash of 1987, cited by Weeks as an example. But in that case, profitability in the major economies including the US was on the rise. So the crash was short-lived and quickly reversed. But that was not the case in 1974-5, the first worldwide simultaneous slump, triggered by the oil price jump, but after a decade or more of a profitability slide; or in 1980-2, again triggered by energy prices, but again after another decline in profitability. Anyway, I could go on, but I refer you to my paper here (Presentation to the Third seminar of the FI on the economic crisis).

In the same session as Weeks, young economist Juan Pablo Mateo Tome from Kingston University presented a paper on Spain that showed the causal role that falling profitability in the productive sectors of the Spanish economy played in the Great Recession and the subsequent weak recovery (JPMT_Crisis Spain_HM_2014). Similarly, in another session paper, Aberlardo Marina Flores and Sergio Camara Izquierdo, analyse the development of the Mexican economy in the post-war period and find that Mexico’s immediate high post-war profitability deteriorated (The structural causes of the severity of the crisis in Mexico_AMFySCI_GEConLA). The neo-liberal period was designed to counteract that fall through the opening-up the economy to US investment, weakening the labour movement and expanding control of the surplus to the financial sector. The recessions in the US had a deep impact on Mexico as a result, contrary to Weeks’ view above, while ‘financialisation’ weakened the productive sectors.

Financialisation was a theme of another session where Tony Norfield presented his incisive analysis of the dominance of US and UK finance capital in the hierarchy of imperialism ((Norfield-Tony-Finance_the_Rate_of_Profit_and_-Imperialism). The apparently huge profits of the late 1990s and early 2000s were really appropriations from the productive sectors of the major economies and were largely fictitious. Francois Chesnais, the French Marxist economist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Chesnais) and still going strong at 82 years, argued that finance capital cannot be separated from capital in general, as ‘financialisation’ theorists suggest. Contemporary finance capital is a combination of productive capital lodged in transnational corporations, money capital centralised in very large financial conglomerates (financial capital) and merchant and commercial firms. This facilitates the distribution of surplus value generated by productive capital on a global scale. Both Norfield and Chesnais emphasised the parasitical nature of finance capital in modern capitalism. It helps capitalism survive but at great cost to profitability and investment in productive sectors.

Finance capital at the centre of imperialism was a theme of other papers that looked at hitherto unpublished (in English at any rate) manuscripts and notebooks by Marx on his developing ideas on imperialism and finance capital. Lucia Pradella launched her new book on Globalisation and the Critique of Political Economy: New Insights from Marx’s Writings (http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415744102/), in which she argued that, as imperialism and finance capital became an increasing feature of modern capitalism (with its productive potential becoming exhausted in the mature capitalist economies), Marx still preserved the continuity of his key categories in the capitalist mode of production. Imperialism and globalisation were counteracting factors to the deterioration of profitability and the extraction of more surplus value in the mature capitalist economies.

This seemed to me to be an important answer to the question of how capitalism survives: through a global search for more labour to exploit and through the centralisation and concentration of capital in finance. Both developments have a finite end, however, while causing increasing recurrent crises of production.

The attempt to claim that Marx did change his theory of crisis in later years as capitalism matured and finance capital grew in dominance has been a familiar theme in recent years, based on the scholarship of those Marx’s manuscripts and notebooks in the MEGA project. It is claimed that Engels’ editing of Marx’s Capital was a distortion and, in particular, Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall had been dropped by him in later works, but Engels reinstated it in his editing. See Michael Heinrich’s work (http://digamo.free.fr/heinrich13.pdf) and the reply to (and debate with) Heinrich by Carchedi and me (http://gesd.free.fr/mrhtprof.pdf).

Well, Fred Moseley introduced a new translation into English of Marx’s four drafts for Volume 3 of Capital by Regina Roth, where Marx’s law of profitability is developed and showing how Engels edited those drafts for Capital (Moseley intro on Marx’s writings). Contrary to the view of Heinrich and others, Moseley shows that much maligned Engels did a solid job of interpreting Marx’s drafts and there was no real distortion. “One can, therefore, surmise that Engels’ interventions were made on the basis that he wished to make Marx’s statements appear sharper and thus more useful for contemporary political and societal debate, for instance, in the third chapter, on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.”

Talking of scholarship on Capital, after the end of the HM conference, I spoke as part of a panel that included Chris Arthur, the renowned Marxist philosopher, at the launch of Alex Callinicos’ new book, Deciphering Capital.  I reviewed Callinicos’ book in a recent post (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/from-establishment-to-anti-establishment/). At the launch, I concentrated on Callinicos’ account of Marx’s theory of crisis and how that could be ‘deciphered’ pretty clearly in Capital (my speech is here, Callinicos speech).  And

Every year, at the HM conference, the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher memorial prize for the best Marxist book of the year is awarded (http://www.deutscherprize.org.uk/wp/). And the author of last year’s winner delivers a lecture. Last year’s winner was The making of global capitalism: the political economy of the American Empire by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin (http://www.versobooks.com/books/1527-the-making-of-global-capitalism). Gindin is the former Research Director of the Canadian Autoworkers Union and Packer Visiting Chair in Social Justice at York University and Panitch is Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University. The two have worked together on many books and publications.

I missed their speech but from the book I can glean their main arguments. Panitch and Gindin challenge the widespread notion that globalisation has led to the retreat of the state. The argument that states still have a role in directing global capitalism is obviously right. America is still the leading imperialist power and leads the other imperialist powers in an ‘informal empire’. But in addition, Panitch and Gindin maintain that workers are generally weaker now and the American state has greatly strengthened since the post-1973-83 crisis.

I disagree. Is American imperialism is actually stronger now than 50 years ago? Contrary to Panitch and Gindin’s view, the neoliberal period was not a Golden Age like the post-war period, if we mean by that fast growth in GDP, high profitability and productive investment. Sure, growth in the 1980s and 1990s was faster than in the crisis period of the late 1960s and 1970s, but it was still slower than in the first Golden Age and investment was way less productive. Just because in the neoliberal period the finance sector had a bonanza and thus so did American imperialism does not mean it was a golden age.

Another area where I have a strong disagreement is with Panitch and Gindin’s explanation of capitalist crisis as expounded in their book. They argue that the crisis that erupted in 2007 was not caused by a profit squeeze or collapse in investment due to overaccumulation. Instead, the authors prefer to explain the Great Recession as a result of stagnating wages, rising mortgage debt and then collapsing housing prices, causing “a dramatic fall in consumer spending”. In my view, as I have expounded in several posts (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/inequality-the-mainstream-worry/), this common and dominant view (in the mainstream and post-Keynesian economic circles) about the Great Recession being caused by rising inequality and debt does not bear up to the facts.

That this view has become mainstream is confirmed by the news that Thomas Piketty has won the FT best business book of the year for his monumental Capital in the 21st century, a title pinched from Marx but actually not a critique of capital or the capitalist mode of production at all, but an analysis of the recent rising inequality of wealth in modern capitalist economies (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/thomas-piketty-and-the-search-for-r/). Inequality, not crises, is the buzz word about capitalism.

This year’s Deutscher prize winner was entirely different. It went to Roland Boer for his book, In the Vale of Tears, (http://www.brill.com/vale-tears) the concluding volume of a five volume series, The criticism of heaven and earth, a critical commentary on the interactions between Marxism and theology in the work of the major figures of Western Marxism. Boer is from Australia, now a professor at Renmin University Beijing, and considers himself a Christian Communist. His speech next year should be interesting.

By the way, Piketty gets £30,000 for his prize, Boer £500.

28 Responses to “How capitalism survives”

  1. Zinko Says:

    Michael can you briefly explain why we are still not looking at the mass or profit rather than the rate of profit as the key issue. (as pointed out by Kurz)

    e.g.
    ” The increasing proportion of constant capital (or “dead” physical capital, which transmits value, but does not create value) compared to variable capital (the labor power which creates value and surplus-value) in each instance of applied money-capital leads to the tendential fall of the rate of profit. This relative expression of self-contradiction can be compensated for by the effect on society as a whole of a relative increase of surplus-value by labor power (the reduction of the value of the latter by way of the development of the productive forces), but only if, at the same time, the utilization of money-capital and therefore the application of labor power rise commensurately and result in a growing mass of profit, despite the fall of the rate of profit. Here, too, the self-contradiction may be noted, insofar as the always-increasing initial costs of physical capital can no longer be adequately financed by the profits from the past, but oblige enterprises to have recourse, which is likewise taking place on an ever-expanding scale, to the credit system. In this way, capital must increasingly resort to anticipated future surplus-value in order for its current production of surplus value to continue. Here, one can conclude that valorization has an immanent historical limit, if the use of additional labor power, even with the increasing application of money-capital, no longer has enough of an effect, and if the credit-chains based on anticipation of future profits were to break, then the mass of profit will also decline. Development based on the third industrial revolution since the 1980s can be explained in this sense[…]”

    • michael roberts Says:

      Zinko

      Actually, I think the mass of profit is crucial to an explanation of how Marx’s law operates indirectly as a cause of recurrent crises – namely when the rate of profit falls to the point that the mass of profit turns down. See my papers that I cite in this post. So I see the role of the mass of profit in the cyclical nature of crises. Kurz, according to your quote, seems to see the mass of profit playing a role in the long term breakdown of capitalism. That might be a different approach.

      • Zinko Says:

        Michael many thanks, yes I will have a look at those papers.

        From what I gather Kurz (who wrote mainly in German) argues that capitalism can not be the eternal recurrence of the same (cycles of crisis and recovery) because there is an underlying historic secular trend for labour power to be removed from the production process. This trend operates irrespectively of boom and bust cycles and must eventually reach some culmination point, in his view a point where production based on value breaks down. From what I gather you and other Marxist scholars do not (fully) agree with such views. I would like to understand the main argument against this view.

      • michael roberts Says:

        My view on this was expressed in this post. https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/crisis-or-breakdown/

      • Zinko Says:

        Excellent, many thanks

  2. resolutereader Says:

    The full video of the book launch of Alex Callinicos’ new book along with all the contributions is online here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKWdNG7_eWM&feature=youtu.be

  3. matthewrusso9 Says:

    Apologies for the long screed, but…on the relation between the rate and mass of profit, I think the much ignored circuit of commodity capital (in its independent form, “commercial capital”, but no only in this form, but also in combinations with industrial and banking capital) acts as an important countertendency by expanding the volume of the mass of profit realized. This of course has its own limits as Roberts indicates.

    “Francois Chesnais, the French Marxist economist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Chesnais) and still going strong at 82 years, argued that finance capital cannot be separated from capital in general, as ‘financialisation’ theorists suggest. Contemporary finance capital is a combination of productive capital lodged in transnational corporations, money capital centralised in very large financial conglomerates (financial capital) and merchant and commercial firms”. Chesnais is on the right track; “financialization” suffers from reification in current standard usage; It did so also in a different context in the classical formulation in connection with imperialism. Hence Hilferding’s formulation of the concept – finance capital = banking + “industrial” capital – occludes the commodity capital circuit whose concrete form is commercial capital. I think real, concrete commercial capital has played a much more significant role – I’d say a quite fundamental role – in the capitalist development of the United States in particular. Surprisingly, only the Baran & Sweezy school have grasped this in any substantial way, this being in their own way as they did not proceed from the basic framework of Capital, IMO, and did so consciously. But being a homegrown American school, they picked up on the key historical role of commercial capital empirically.

    On Engels the whipping-boy, I agree that he did a reasonably good job, IMO, on the logical ordering of the manuscripts into their successive Parts, so that in Vol III, after the first three parts culminating in the theory of the TFROP, there follows in limited scope: commercial capital; productive money capital; ground rent. The “limitations” can’t be gone into here, but the Part on commercial capital is by far the weakest and least developed in all of Capital, as Marx himself directly noted in the published manuscript at several points. Consequentially, the question of commercial capital constitutes the chief lacuna in general Marxist interpretations based upon Capital. With the historical ascendency of U.S. imperialism, the practical consequences of this theoretical gap have loomed ever larger. It has still not been adequately filled, AFAIK, though I’ll check out Mr. Chesnais. I can only hope that I am also still going strong at 82, as I have a lot of writing to do yet!

    And U.S. imperialism brings me to the last point: It is unfortunate that Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin’s book now has the prestige of “best Marxist book of the year”, as this work as a whole is profoundly misleading in a big way. Robert’s specific criticisms hit key points, IMO. Mine is more general and revolves around their promotion of yet another highly reified concept, “globalization”. Together with “privitization”, “financialization” and their organizing uber-concept, “neo-liberalism” – which, like the Holy Roman Empire, is neither “neo-” nor “liberal”, but a highly illiberal “statist”, policier, or state-directed, full-bore attempt by capitalism in the epoch of its decay, to radically turn the tables in the class struggle combined with intensified state support for private capital accumulation, so no “liberalism” on the economic side, either – these Four Horsemen of the Postmodern Apocalypse need to be put down, both theoretically and practically.

  4. H A Cox Says:

    It was actually Grossman who first emphasized that it was the mass of profit, not the rate, which was the objective cause of crisis and breakdown. And this was what Marx argued. But Marx developed his theory based on a model that assumed that the capitalist mode had spread to the whole world. Well it had not spread in his time, but it is very much closer to that reality in our time. The importance of breakdown is not whether there will ever be a final breakdown that Marx’s model predicts, but what this movement means in terms of response by the over-ripe existing capitalist powers: Imperialism and war..
    Michael says ‘So I see the role of the mass of profit in the cyclical nature of crises. Kurz, according to your quote, seems to see the mass of profit playing a role in the long term breakdown of capitalism. That might be a different approach.’
    It is true that Marx thought that the FROP and the fall in the mass of rate of profit were fundamental to explaining crisis, but the model, nevertheless is also a breakdown theory. This is the basis of Lenin’s theory of Imperialism .It is true that Lenin denied that there is no such a thing a ‘final’collapse of capitalism, but this is because
    there are exogenous factors-especially wars- that can drive capitalism back to earlier stages of capitalist accumulation. What Lenin did was to broaden the list of factors that can cause revolutionary upheavals to include wars, colonial rebellions, primitive accumulation in the un-ripe areas of investments, etc..This is because Imperialism is a necessity because of. the tendency to breakdown
    So, no Marxist should be waiting around for the ‘final’ breakdown of capitalism, but should instead be trying to join the fights that are taking place every day now.. What is not missing in our time are potential revolutionary situations, but rather a significant movement of working people who deny TINA and know that these crises of capitalism will continue to recur on a more intensive level if capitalism is not replaced.

  5. sartesian Says:

    While Marx certainly recognized and explored the “universalizing tendency” of capital, I don’t think his critique presumes, or requires, some sort of global “completeness,” nor does the overthrow of capitalism hinge on a “global completion.”

    The critique Marx offers is the “immanent critique”– the inherent terms and conditions that drive capital to expansion and contraction; to “breakdown” and “recovery.” As such the critique is based on the peculiar and specific organization of labor that capital requires and reproduces–that of value producing that determines capital. And he then shows that indeed, determinants are negations. This is how he gets to the conflict between means and relations of production that inaugurates revolutionary struggle.

  6. vallebaeza Says:

    Reblogged this on Econo Marx 21.

  7. jeff Says:

    The US empire is stronger than ever. There is no USSR and socialism is in retreat nearly everywhere. China , India and E Europe have been integrated into the western financial system. So what if the American worker has been knocked down, that barely matters to the empire.

  8. VN Gelis Says:

    On life support with a heavy dose of QE which will soon go global in EU and Japan. Like a junkie who has run out of holes in his body for drugs capitalism is on life support.

    • sartesian Says:

      Geez, VN, time to catch up on your reading. The US has ended its QE program; Japan has been using variations of QE for a decade; ECB has already introduced its version.

      Get up-to-date, please.

  9. Stavros Hadjiyiannis Says:

    I am negatively shocked by how many intelligent leftists seem to fall for the “Russian Imperialism” and “Chinese Imperialism” gobbledygook. Apropos the Ukraine crisis, the Russian population of what is wrongly been called for the past 25 years as “Ukraine” is under savage attack from Nazi death squads across that devastated and unfortunate country. The only criticism that one can throw at Putin, is that he has not been aggressive enough in neutralizing the Nazi/neo-liberal craze that has taken over Ukraine for the past year or so. He has done well though in aiding the Donbass militia in bloodily repelling successive fascist attacks. As for the big picture of imperialism. For Lenin, imperialism is equated with the economic exploitation of countries rich in finance capital over countries that are poor in finance capital. The countries that are rich in finance capital, are those of the “democratic West”. For a Leninist, Denmark can be termed an imperialist country, or Switzerland, but definitely not Russia or China, since neither of them are rich in finance capital and are both excluded from the privileged circles of the long-standing imperial powers. Some people stupidly mistaken military and geopolitical power with imperialism in the Leninist sense. That could not be further from the truth. Also, if Putin were indeed just another bourgeois leader, then would the western MSM demonize him to such a degree? I will leave you with a link from an article on this precise subject from another Marxist blogger: http://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/is-russia-imperialist/

    • sartesian Says:

      Don’t be shocked. I’m not when some leftist fall for the “fascist gangs of the Ukraine vs. the noble Russian proletarians” gobbledygook.

      I’m not shocked that Putin, in mortal combat with the “Nazi/neo-liberal craze” has become the darling of white power advocates in the US and other places; has received support from those fascist-mystics determined to rid holy mother Russia of the contamination of western ideas, of which Marxism is one.

      I’m not shocked when some leftists don’t even bother to do a bit of homework and make statements about finance capital as a definition of imperialism, make claims about the importance of finance capital in this country vs. that country, and don’t even bother to do the most basic investigation as to the role finance capital plays in this country or that country.

      Doesn’t shock me to find that in Denmark (supposedly a member of the imperialist-finance capital club) bank assets in 2012 measured up at 255% of the GDP, while in China, supposedly poor in finance capital, bank assets measured up at 257% of GDP. And of course China’s GDP exceeds that of Denmark.

      Who would have thought? Only those bothering to look at:

      http://www.helgilibrary.com/indicators/index/bank-assets-as-of-gdp

      Not only Denmark, but China’s leverage of financial assets over GDP exceeds that of Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, and…………the USA.

      Apparently, being shocked, and uninformed comes with being a Leninist.

      I’m not.

      • Stavros Hadjiyiannis Says:

        Wait a minute mate. Did the Russian regions of Ukraine attack Lvov and Poltava? Was it them that carried out a brutal coup financed and encouraged by the CIA and neo-cons? Have you not heard about the Odessa massacre as well as several others across the country? Mass graves, shelling of residential areas for months on end etc etc etc, volunteer battalions with SS insignia and so on and so on. Just because a political force anywhere in the world is not as “progressive” as we would like, it doesn’t mean that we should be neutral when they are attacked by imperialism/fascism. In that sense, why support Iraq against US/UK? They are both “imperialists” right? Iraq attacked both Iran and Kuwait, hence, both the Iraqis and the US/UK were equally evil.

        You seem extremely disturbed by the perception (only very partially true) that far-right groups in the USA are sympathetic towards Putin. To my knowledge, far-right groups in the US are extremely marginal and wield virtually no political power, especially when it comes to foreign policy. It is the Republican neo-cons and the Democratic R2P cliques that are running the show. And since you are worried that some relatively moderate far-right groups find sympathy with Putin, then why are you not disturbed by outright Nazis in Ukraine who in fact hold enormous political power at this time, are armed and are carrying out their political agenda? What is most pressing here?

        So, just because China has slightly more bank assets to Denmark as a % of gdp you have concluded that China is an exploiter of the global working class and Denmark is not? You seem to forget that China has a much lower per capita income than Denmark, so if one actually goes into the very useful and instructive trouble of adjusting the figures into per capita terms, then a massively different picture will emerge. If we do that then the picture is something like: Denmark: $150,180 financial assets per head of population. China: $18,000 financial assets per head of population. That is 12% the Danish rate. Let me throw in another fact for those who go on about “Chinese Imperialism” In the voting rights at the IMF, China with a population of around 1.37 billion people, has less votes than the UK with a population of a little more than 60 millions people. There is indeed one extremely crucial metric in which China is the world leader, and that is good old industrial production! This is why China’s economy has progressed at a staggering rate in recent years, because the government and the people actually went into the serious trouble of producing things. At the same time, China has drawn out of poverty around 600m of its own people. Moreover, they have literally dragged the rest of the post-colonial world out of the depression of the 80s and the 90s. Where would Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Russia be today, without China’s enormous consumption of raw materials and the consequent rise in the price of those raw materials (that post-colonial nations overwhelmingly export) It’s easy for a leftist to assume a “puritanical” position when it comes to global issues, but there are also some harsh realities that some people need to face. For all their flaws, China and Russia today are the only powers of any kind (state, political, military, ideological) that can stand up to western imperialism and looting of the planet (a process ongoing for 5 centuries now) If there is some other agency out there that is doing a better job in frustrating the strategists of capital, then please let me know who they are.

      • Edgar Says:

        I agree with you Stavros on the Ukrainian situation, I cannot see how those in the East can possibly remain part of Ukraine, when there vote clearly never counts for anything. The only alternative is for those people to become part of the Russian federation. There is simply no other alternative at present. So I think Putin has actually betrayed the people in the East rather than being it’s saviour. And he has certainly been soft on Ukraine’s inability to pay its debts!

      • sartesian Says:

        Right, and the Ukrainian jets shot down the Malaysian airliner, for sure. If you delve a little bit more deeply into it, you’ll see the pro-Russian forces are availing themselves of… the same themes as the pro-EU forces– religion, patriotism, “self-determination,” all the usual crap.

        I am not the least bit disturbed by the right-wing, racist and reactionary elements endorsing Putin and his noble endeavor. Nor am I shocked. You are the one who is shocked by these things. I’m just pointing out that the so-called fascism in Ukraine, or fascist-type appeals and actions, are not the exclusive property of one side or the other.

        You know, back in the day of the civil rights struggle in the US, the white citizens’ councils, the FBI, Republicans and more than a few Democrats found it very convenient to point to “communist manipulation” as being the source for the protests and the movement. The USSR and its “commies” were behind everything.

        Now, we get the same dissembling; the same deflection from the pro-fSUers, the “anti-imperialists;” — the US, the EU, are behind everything for Iran to the Ukraine. There isn’t supposed to be any material basis for opposition to Assad, other than the material opposition of US capitalism; no material basis to the original protests in the Ukraine (which in reality stem from the devastation of the economy since 2007 that has taken place under BOTH pro-Russia and pro-EU regimes) except for the machinations of MI6 and the CIA; no grounds for anything. Without this “anti-red scare” you might actually have to investigate what has taken place in the economy.

        Now regarding China: You didn’t say anything about GDP per capita, or financial assets per capita; moreover the per-capita measures are an index to the relative size of the modes of production, and not the qualitative differences between the modes of production.

        You want to say China has a less productive capitalism than Denmark? That’s fine. But that’s not what you say…or want to say. You, parroting an analysis Lenin made based on data, not from the 20th, but in truth from the end of the 19th century, want to claim China is not capitalist; China does not exploit labor through capitalist relations outside its “borders.” You want to claim China is some sort of oppressed nation. It makes for statements equally hilarious and pathetic like:

        “At the same time, China has drawn out of poverty around 600m of its own people. Moreover, they have literally dragged the rest of the post-colonial world out of the depression of the 80s and the 90s. Where would Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Russia be today, without China’s enormous consumption of raw materials and the consequent rise in the price of those raw materials (that post-colonial nations overwhelmingly export)”:

        This is just complete, please pardon the vulgarism, horseshit. China hasn’t drawn anybody out of anything. Deng’s Four Reforms; Deng’s low wage/cheap labor policy, provided an attractive place for (since 1981) over $1 trillion in foreign direct investment. Wait, let me guess, that’s just like the Lenin’s NEP, right?

        Anyway, it’s the FDI that has precipitated, and determined, the course of China’s development. China pulling Latin America out of the “lost decade” of the 1980s? Not fucking hardly– look at the portion of exports going to China in the 1990s from these countries. You might as well be telling me the US pulled the world out of depression with its imports.

        If China “pulled these countries out”– how about China putting them back in after the expiration of the MFA, after China was let loose in the textiles and clothing markets?

        And.. your supposed mechanism for this economic manna so graciously bestowed on the “post colonial world”? Why it’s classically imperialist– the “enormous consumption of raw materials.” That’s mighty whitey of you partner, and I’m sure all those miners in Zambia can’t wait to offer their most heartfelt thanks to the benign Chinese anti-imperialist mine owners. Well maybe not all those miners want to offer their gratitude, because after all, some of them are dead, shot down by anti-imperialist security forces China has protecting its PROPERTY from WORKERS. But those that aren’t dead.. I’m sure they can’t wait to thank China.

        You simply don’t know what you are talking about. If that’s taking a “puritanical” position– siding with the workers against the mine owners, then I’m a puritan. And frogs have wings.

  10. Edgar Says:

    “and the Ukrainian jets shot down the Malaysian airliner”

    I have no idea and whatever happened would in no way alter my position. I also couldn’t really care if some on the far right supported those who are being oppressed, shelled and denied democracy in the East.

    On imperialism, it is a system rather than any single nation, one that prioritises the interests of the dominant powers over the mass of people. Think of the funds used to fight ‘terrorism’ with those used to combat Ebola. By any index the dominant imperialist powers are the US and Europe. And from a military point of view, clearly the most bloodthirsty.

    • sartesian Says:

      Good way to avoid the substantive issues. What CLASS system determines China’s mode of production? Russia’s? That’s the issue. You think supporting a less virulent capitalist vs. the more virulent capitalist contributes one iota to the emancipation of labor from capitalism? Perhaps you do. But we have 150 years of history that says it doesn’t, it won’t, and it cannot.

  11. Edgar Says:

    I am talking about the people of East Ukraine and the fact that within Ukraine they have no democratic rights and the result of their legitimate grievance is for the government to shell them.

    Short of the full proletarian revolution, the immediate demand for separation from Ukraine seems perfectly logical, understandable, reasonable and supportable.

    • sartesian Says:

      A big part of the problem is that for some reason some calling themselves Marxists think there are perfectly logical, understandable, reasonable, supportable solutions short of full proletarian revolution.

  12. Edgar Says:

    It does make you wonder why Marx supported the unification of Germany doesn’t it. After all I presume he supported it for a reason, and, yet, it was not a full proletarian revolution. No wonder Marx said he wasn’t a Marxist!

  13. sartesian Says:

    Right, bring up the events of 1868-70 to explain your endorsement of a capitalism in 2014. Brilliant.

    After that, I’ll just point out that
    1) you are supporting disunification, separatism, not unification

    2) Marx’s position as expressed during the Franco-Prussian War is a bit more nuanced than the position you think you are taking regarding the Ukraine. Engels is the strong advocate of “German unification” as being a prerequisite for the growth of “our party”– meaning the workers. Engels is so “gung ho” that he wants Marx to endorse Bismarck. Marx does no such thing in his writings for the IMWA. He is much more cautious than Engels on the matter and does not endorse Bismarck, but warns that should Prussia turn the war from being a defensive struggle to one of conquest, Bismarck will be no different than Louis Napoleon.

    3)Haven’t heard a word out of you or any other endorser of the “Donetsk Republic” separatism that could be described as nuanced, much less critical. But I suppose critical analysis is just a sectarian obsession

    4) Marx’s and Engels’ correspondence vindicates the senior Liebknecht’s refusal to sanction the raising of funds to support the Bismarck government and its “war of national unification.” So let me ask you, do you oppose the funding of Putin’s war of national separation in the east Ukraine? I mean somebody’s got to pay for it. So do you vote “yes” for the funding?

    But all that is just so much history, and history is just bunk to those supporting the logical, reasonable demands of this or that version of capitalism; and this or that capitalist.

    I have no wonders about why Marx refused to call himself a Marxist. On the contrary, I only wonder why some others call themselves Marxists.

  14. Edgar Says:

    You brought Marxism up, not me.

    But I take it from your last comment that you now wish to reject your previous idea that Marx was disinterested in anything that fell short of the ‘full proletarian revolution’, lad we cleared that obvious fact up.

    I have provided the basis of my support for the people in the East, they live in a country where their vote doesn’t matter, means nothing, is literally trashed. you will be telling us next universal suffrage means nothing is the 21st century. By living in a nation where your vote means nothing you actually don’t have a nation. Forget what I think, objectively this condition cannot hold, conflict is inevitable.

    Your answer to the problems in the Ukraine is that you support the ‘full proletarian revolution’, well thanks for your contribution to the problems in Ukraine and your advancement of Marxism!

  15. sartesian Says:

    Better than your endorsement of Putin-capitalism.

    And no, I don’t wish to change my earlier statement. I pointed out how you remove from its historical background, Marx’s position; how in fact you misrepresent Marx’s position; and how different your position is from Marx’s. But hey, don’t worry, history is bunk.

  16. sartesian Says:

    BTW, didn’t answer the question– good parliamentarian that you are, do you vote the war credits for Putin’s venture? Yes or no?

  17. mreverpresent Says:

    You wrote: “Moseley shows that much maligned Engels did a solid job of interpreting Marx’s drafts and there was no real distortion.”

    I have read the Moseley paper and found a more critical view of Moseley….

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