We’ve never had it so good!

The Nobel prize for economics this year went to Scottish Princeton University professor, Angus Deaton.  Of course, this is not really a Nobel prize as it is an invention by the Swedish central bank, the Riksbank, and has become a ‘Nobel’ prize. But leaving aside the controversy over whether it should be called a Nobel prize and whether all these mainstream neoclassical economists should keep winning it, what does Angus Deaton have to offer?

He is an expert on world poverty, the consumption patterns of households and how to measure them.  The media coverage of Deaton’s work is keen to emphasise that he shows that humankind have never had it so good in 2015 under the capitalist mode of production. As one commentator put it: “Deaton’s central message is deeply positive, almost gloriously so. By the most meaningful measures — how long we live, how healthy and happy we are, how much we know — life has never been better. Just as important, it is continuing to improve.”

And it’s true that Deaton has emphasised that life expectancy globally has risen 50% since 1900 and is still rising. The share of people living on less than $1 a day (in inflation-adjusted terms) has dropped to 14 percent from 42 percent as recently as 1981. Even as inequality has surged within many countries, global inequality has very likely fallen, thanks largely to the rise of Asia. The digital revolution has allowed people to remain in touch with friends and family who once would have grown distant. The democratization of air travel, for all its indignities, has helped, too. The greatest progress against cancer and heart disease has come in the last 20 to 30 years.  “Things are getting better,” he writes, “and hugely so.” 

But when we dig below the headlines of global ‘progress’, Deaton’s work has a more subtle message that is not quite so Panglossian.  Deaton makes it clear that progress in living conditions and quality of life is a relatively recent development.  “For thousands of years,” Deaton writes, “those who were lucky enough to escape death in childhood faced years of grinding poverty.”  In his latest book, The Great Escape, he points out only with the development of science and the decline of religion did human beings start to ‘escape’ from a short sharp often painful existence.

Deaton concludes, based on the data, that rising education is the most powerful cause of the recent longevity boom in most poor countries, even more powerful than high incomes. A typical resident of India is only as rich as a typical Briton in 1860, for example, but has a life expectancy more typical of a European in the mid-20th century. The spread of knowledge, about public health, medicine and diet, explains the difference.

Exactly! What the media coverage about Deaton’s work does not say is that much of this improvement in the quality and length of life comes from the application of science and knowledge through state spending on education, on sewage, clean water, disease prevention and protection, hospitals and better child development.  These are things that do not come from capitalism but from the common weal.

And things are not that rosy.  Back in 2013, the World Bank reported that there were roughly 1.2 billion people completely destitute (living on less than $1.25 a day), one-third of which are 400 million children.  One of every three extremely poor people is a child under the age of 13.   So there are over one billion people, one-third of them children, who are virtually starving in the 21st century.

It’s true that the number of people living in ‘extreme poverty’, as defined, has sharply declined over the past three decades,  There are 721 million fewer people living in extreme poverty in 2010 compared to 1981 (assuming what $1.25 a day could buy in 1981 is the same as what it can buy now).  That sounds better, but this reduction is almost solely due a rise in living standards in the billion-plus populations of India and particularly China in the last 30 years.  There has been very little reduction in extreme poverty levels (as defined) in other very poor emerging economies.  While extreme poverty rates have declined in all regions, the world’s 35 low-income countries (LICs) – 26 of which are in Africa — registered 103 million more extremely poor people today than three decades ago.  Aside from China and India,“individuals living in extreme poverty [in the developing world] today appear to be as poor as those living in extreme poverty 30 years ago,” the World Bank said.

Deaton himself recognises this: “In spite of all the faults in the data, a fairly clear picture is now emerging of what has been happening to poverty around the world around the end of the millennium. The overall count of income-poor in the world is dominated by what has been happening in India and in China, where there has been a great deal of economic growth. Although the growth rates of income and consumption around the poverty line have been slower than growth at the mean—there has been a widening of income inequality—there has still been sufficient growth among the poor in both countries for there to be reductions, not only in the fraction of people who are poor, but in the actual number of the very poorest people, those living on less than $1 a day. Although the number of those who live on less than $2 a day is rising according to the most recent estimates.”

In 2010, 33 percent of the extreme poor lived in low-income countries (LICs), compared to 13 percent in 1981.  In India, the average income of the poor rose to 96 cents in 2010, compared to 84 cents in 1981, and China’s average poor’s income rose to 95 cents, compared to 67 cents.  China’s state-run still mainly planned economy saw its poorest people make the greatest progress.   But the “average” poor person in a low-income country lived on 78 cents a day in 2010, compared to 74 cents a day in 1981, hardly any change.

Three-quarters, or 78 percent, of those living in extreme poverty live in rural areas, with nearly two-thirds of the extreme poor deriving their livelihoods from agriculture.  The extreme poor also continue to lag significantly behind in access to basic services. Only 26 percent of the poor had access to clean water in 2010, compared to 56 percent among those living above the $1.25 poverty line (hardly an income). Meanwhile, fewer than half – 49 percent – of the extreme poor had access to electricity compared to 87 percent of the ‘non-poor’. And while 61 percent of those above the $1.25 poverty line had access to basic sanitation, just 20 percent of the extreme poor had access to similar services.

As a share of the GDP of the developing world, the Aggregate Poverty Gap is now less than one tenth of what it was 30 years ago. For LICs, the share in 2010 was approximately 8 percent of their GDP, down from 24 percent in 1981. Notwithstanding this significant decline, the Aggregate Poverty Gap/GDP ratio in LICs is 16 times larger than the average for the developing world.  “To reach the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, the pace of poverty reduction in LICs will have to increase substantially”.

More recently, the World Bank announced that it is to change to its global poverty line, raising its measure by a half to about $1.90 per day.  When researchers at the bank tested a notional poverty line of $1.92 earlier this year, it led to a surge of 148m.  To end “extreme poverty” by 2030, the world needs to help 7,500 people move up the economic ladder every hour for the next 15 years, according to one calculation. Put another way, that is 181,729 people every day.  So on the one hand, the extreme poverty is falling and on the other hand, it is rising, once you adjust the poverty to a more realistic level.

Will ‘extreme poverty’ be abolished under capitalism?  Deaton seems to think so.  He is ‘cautiously optimistic’.  But Deaton also warns of rising threats like global warming, slowing economic growth and rising inequality.  Deaton points out that rising inequality in the US has meant that the skew is so severe in the United States that a vast majority of Americans — the bottom 99 percent – have done worse than a vast majority of French in recent decades.

Moreover, Deaton’s ‘cautious optimism’ does not seem justified when the World Bank concludes that the main limitation to ending extreme poverty is the failure of a transfer of resources from the rich countries to the poor. That means that poverty (as defined) could be ended if governments chose to do so.  The World Bank explained it this way:  “Suppose that the real GDP growth for the developing world as a whole is 5 percent per year. If 10 percent of this GDP growth accrued to the 21 percent of the developing world’s population who are extremely poor, and this 10 percent was distributed in a way that the growth in income of each poor person was exactly his/her distance to the $1.25 line, extreme poverty would end in one year.”

That’s how much better it could be in a world with governments working collectively to help the human race rather than representing the interests of capital and the rich.

39 Responses to “We’ve never had it so good!”

  1. Charles Says:

    “People’s needs expand with the expansion of productive powers. As recently as 1990, access to the Internet was not a daily necessity. Twenty years later everyone needs a device to connect if she wants to find and keep a job, resolve a problem with a corporation or government agency, and shop intelligently. Lack of access to the Internet has become a new dimension of poverty for some. This is the fact even though trivial uses of the Internet consume the great majority of its bandwidth.” (The Hollow Colossus, p. 84) As true today of China as it is of the UK.

  2. M. Steingass Says:

    Hi, I do not understand that $1 measurement. How is it adjusted to different purchasing powers? Thanks.

  3. Mike Ballard Says:

    The working class is producing more wealth than ever! Still, the wage system operates in such a way that the upper 10% in the world appropriate 80% of the wealth the other 90% produce. If the world’s wealth were divided equally amongst all the world’s adults, each adult would be getting $50,000 USD annually. And to think, a communist society would be even more efficient and time rich!

    • Boffy Says:

      “Still, the wage system operates in such a way that the upper 10% in the world appropriate 80% of the wealth the other 90% produce.”

      This is wrong. Many workers in Britain today, would fall into the category of being amongst the world’s top 10% of wealth and income earners. That is because there are very large numbers of very poor people in China, India, and so on.

      The fact that those British workers fall within the top 10% of the globe’s richest people, and/or income earners does not at all mean that those British workers are in that position, because they in some way are exploiters of the other 90% of the world;’s population.

      Quite the opposite, as Marx sets out, its quite likely that in terms of a rate of exploitation, those British workers are, in fact more highly exploited than a worker in India, or China, because the value of the output of the British worker is far higher.

  4. Boffy Says:

    “Exactly! What the media coverage about Deaton’s work does not say is that much of this improvement in the quality and length of life comes from the application of science and knowledge through state spending on education, on sewage, clean water, disease prevention and protection, hospitals and better child development. These are things that do not come from capitalism but from the common weal.”

    Really? Last time I looked, all of those states in question were capitalist states, not socialist states!!!!

    Moreover, when I was Senior Vice Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee of Staffordshire County Council, we received lots of reports on the various changes in health and life expectancy. all of the reports we received indicated that over the last 100 years, in Britain, by far the biggest factor explaining the increase in life expectancy, infant mortality and so on, came from improved living standards, that enabled workers to eat better – that is significant in getting rid of rickets, for example, as well as improving the situation for live births – to enjoy better living conditions, which facilitated better hygiene etc.

    A further improvement comes from improvement in the workplace.

    The higher living standards, a result of increased productivity that raised real wages, and by the far the largest component of the things bought as part of that higher real wage are produced by the private sector. But, even were that not the case, the point remains as described above, things such as education, the NHS and so on, are just as much the products of capitalism.

    The idea that just because something is provided by the Capitalist state it is somehow not capitalist is a myth perpetuated by reformists.

    • Boffy Says:

      Andrew Kliman gets this right when he writes,

      ““Government provision of, and people’s entitlement to, some goods and services is now frequently called ‘decommodification’, but it is actually nothing of the sort. Before the Government can provide these things, it must either buy them or produce them. If it buys these things, they obviously remain commodities. They continue to be produced in order to expand value. This means they continue to be produced in a way that minimises cost and maximises production, and the consequences of this – exploitation, poor working conditions, unemployment and the falling tendencies of prices and the rate of profit – continue to exist as well. And Marx (Marx and Engels Collected Works Vol. 24 pp 531-59) argued that ‘Where the state itself is a capitalist producer, as in the exploitation of mines, forests etc., its product is a “commodity” and hence possesses the specific character of every other commodity.’ This is not so because he defined it to be so, but because a government that acts as a capitalist producer minimises costs, maximises production, and in general behaves just like a private capitalist. Nothing is different in this case except that the moneys that purchase the ‘de-commodified’ commodities that the government produces are called tax contributions rather than sales revenues.” (Note 16 to Chapter 1, “The Failure of Capitalist Production”)

      And Engels wrote in Anti-Duhring,

      ““The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers – proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head” (p360).

      • sartesian Says:

        Henry,

        You say:”I see a story of how capitalism delivers profits based on the exploitation of labour. I didn’t read it as an explanation of how capitalism delivers needs. If this was the intention then I don’t know why Marx bothered because every single other economic book was precisely describing how capitalism delivers needs! It makes you wonder why Marx was so feared!”…..

        Except capital, and Capital, requires both. Without “needs”– without necessary labor-time, there is no surplus labor-time, and hence no surplus value. It is precisely the relationship by which capital meets, delivers, satisfies, suppresses, enhances “needs,” subsumed by and in the accumulation of profit, that forms the basis for Marx’s critique, and more importantly, defines the limits to capitalist accumulation.

    • Henry Says:

      Improvements in sanitation are an important factor, which are mainly government projects.

      I think the point is that improvements to health have come from market and non market mechanisms and private and public.

      The US has the most private health system in the industrial world and one of the worst in terms of efficiency, cost and outcomes.

      While capitalism should and can be given credit for its enormous advances we, along with Marx, would argue that a more rational economic construct would lead to even greater improvements, as well as other important benefits.

      If you don’t believe this then i guess you can’t be a Marxist, socialist or communist. You would simply be a supporter of capitalism and thank it for all the wonders it has given us.

      If this is your position then stop wasting our time with all the Marxist quotes.

      • Boffy Says:

        Of course, I believe “that a more rational economic construct would lead to even greater improvements, as well as other important benefits”, but along with Marx, I believe that this arises out of and on the back of the advances that capitalism provides.

        Moreover, there is absolutely no contradiction between that position, and the position that Marx himself outlines of the great advances for workers that capitalism brings, alongside the disadvantages for workers it also brings. In fact, as far back as 1848, when he and Marx wrote the Manifesto, and before he had, therefore, developed his full analysis of all of those benefits that capitalism brings with it for workers, he set out his criticism of the kind of “Moral Socialism” of people like Sismondi, who only pointed out the negatives, and thereby ignored the far greater positives of capitalism, which make Socialism possible. Its an indication of how far back “Marxism” has deteriorated, that those same kinds of ideas of Moral Socialism that Marx criticised then, and which Lenin had to criticise when they were advanced by the Narodniks, are still around today in the shape of all the “antis” and catastrophists.

        What you say about the US healthcare system is true in terms of cost and efficiency, but for those who have proper healthcare cover, such as many auto workers, whose unions negotiated it with their employers, the outcomes are far from poor. That is why so many of these organised workers with such company provided health insurance were opposed to Obama’s healthcare proposals, which they saw as potentially giving them a poorer level of provision.

        Many surveys have listed France as having the best healthcare system in the world, in terms of costs, efficiency and outcomes, and although it runs a national social insurance system to cover the cost of its provision, the actual provision of healthcare comes from a range of private, mutual, and co-operative enterprises. A friend of mine, whose wife was Dutch, also told me a few years ago, that there, they do not understand how the UK suffers from waiting lists for healthcare.

        But, the point remains, as Kliman sets out, and as both Marx and Engels describe, the fact that something is produced or provided by the capitalist state does not in any way mean that it is no longer a commodity, less still that such provision is in some way socialist, or that it isn’t provided to meet the needs of capital, or even that it isn’t made possible by the kinds of development that capitalism itself makes possible.

        In fact, one reason we have the kind of healthcare and education systems we have, is that capital has organised them along Fordist lines of mass production, to ensure the provision on the most efficient, least cost of producing labour-power, required to meet the needs of capital. That itself has only been made possible because of the development of productivity and production techniques, and the need for such mass produced education and healthcare that industrial capitalism brings with it.

        If you don’t believe this then i guess you can’t be a Marxist, socialist or communist. You would simply be a supporter of Sismondi and unable to praise capitalism for all the wonders it has given us, and only able to see the negatives, and thereby to fall into a pit of despond.

      • Boffy Says:

        Incidentally, if you mean by, ” a more rational economic construct” some immediate replacement of the market with planning, that is also wrong.

        Firstly, modern Capitalism itself is based upon large scale planning both by corporations, and by the state. It does not in any way mean that it is planning on behalf of workers, or in any way socialist. It is planning as a means of more effectively extracting and realising profits.

        Secondly, the planning that the USSR and other Stalinist States undertook, was far from being superior, or offering extensive benefits for workers in those societies.

        Thirdly, there is nothing in Marx that suggests that he saw planning as being decisive. On the contrary, for Marx the most important issue was the direct collective ownership of the means of production by workers, as Hal Draper describes.

        “This discovery offers a notable challenge to Marx-critics, who of course know in advance that Marxism must glorify the state. Mayo solves the difficulty in two statements: (1) “the statism is implicit in the requirements of total planning …” (2) Look at Russia. But Marx made no fetish of “total planning.” He has so often been denounced (by other Marx-critics) for failing to draw up a blueprint of socialism precisely because he reacted so violently against his predecessors’ utopian “plannism” or planning-from-above. “Plannism” is precisely the conception of socialism that Marxism wished to destroy. Socialism must involve planning, but “total planning” does not equal socialism just as any fool can be a professor but not every professor need be a fool.”

        (The Two Souls of Socialism, Chapter 5)

      • Henry Says:

        “modern Capitalism itself is based upon large scale planning both by corporations”

        When making plans the company never looks much beyond the balance sheet, and when cornered the company never looks much beyond the bottom line. On these terms we may as well say that the very wealthy engage in large scale planning by employing an army of lawyers and accountants to protect their wealth!

        I wouldn’t call this a rational economic construct, but a story of how the fishes and sharks survive in the sea.

        The story of effective healthcare is not simply the story of Fordism (or organisation) but workers movements fighting for better provision and better organisation. Under capitalist systems it is obvious that every single health care system will have some form of public and private mix, at some point in the procurement chain you will find some private provision. But the more the private sector and markets dictate the outcomes the more inefficient and costly the service becomes.

        If VW are prepared to put their profits before the actual planet we live on can we be confident that private firms will put our healthcare before their profits?

        It is obvious to me that a rational economic construct will very quickly look to replace market mechanisms with an organisational structure that looks to deliver needs and not profits. Of course you, like the army of apologists for capitalism, believe the capitalist market does deliver needs.

        When Michael makes the point that a major part of the development in health care has come from a large intervention from the state and pressure from workers movements (almost without exception) he is not taking a ‘statist’ view but making the point that such a fact would indicate that a more rational economic construct will lead to even greater improvements. I.e. when ‘conscious humans’ replace the ‘spontaneous order’ of the market we get a more purposeful and efficient application of the resources.

        The whole edifice of capitalism, from its conflicts through exploitation to its application of resources to exchange and not need deliver, when unchecked, inferior outcomes. This provides us with evidence for our claim that more direct and rational structures deliver better outcomes.

        After all we don’t believe this out of faith now do we?

      • Boffy Says:

        Henry,

        You seem to have defeated your own argument here. The point I was making about planning, was precisely that you cannot claim that just because planning takes place it has anything to do with being a “rational economic construct” in socialist terms!

        You can, however, argue that it is more rational in capitalist terms, precisely because it facilitates an increased production and realisation of surplus value. That indeed, is why capitalist enterprises and the capitalist state introduced that planning.

        It is also why capital introduced welfare states, including the provision of socialised healthcare systems such as the NHS, because such Fordist mass production of healthcare and education provides it with the most efficient means of providing such education and healthcare on the scale it requires, for modern mass production.

        That is why, for example, US car producers for ages were pressing the US government to introduce some kind of socialised healthcare system, to release them from the huge costs of providing private health insurance for their employees, which was costing them a fortune, and making them uncompetitive with the European counterparts. Its why George Bush responded to some of those complaints by socialising around $750 billion of prescription drug costs off company balance sheets and put them on to the state balance sheet.

        It was summarised by Matt Miller in Fortune Magazine, representing the interests of these big industrial capitals who wrote,

        “The bigger hurdle may be stereotypes. Business’s sensible drive to get Uncle Sam to take on more of the health burden will run into the nihilistic (but potent) “big government” rhetoric of the GOP–plus the party’s delusion that we can keep federal taxes at 17% to 18% of GDP as the boomers retire.

        If Republican pols want to help Republican CEOs solve their biggest problems, this caricature of a political philosophy will have to give way to something more grown-up. Just as the Nixon-to-China theory of history says it will ultimately take a Democratic President to fix Social Security, it may take a Republican President to bless the socialization of health spending we need. ..Ask yourself: When we’re on the cusp of decades of wrenching challenges from places like China and India, doesn’t American business have enough to do without managing health care too?”

        In other words, the US needs to scrap its inefficient privately provided healthcare system, and move to the Fordist mass produced, welfare state model long since adopted in Europe, but it needs to do so, precisely because that meets the needs of capital, to make bigger profits!

        The planning here undertaken by these capitalist states has nothing to do with a more rational economic construct in the sense that socialists mean, but in the sense that capitalists require to make bigger profits!

        Its the point Engels made more than a hundred years ago.

        “Capitalist production by joint-stock companies is no longer private production but production on behalf of many associated people. And when we pass on from joint-stock companies to trusts, which dominate and monopolise whole branches of industry, this puts an end not only to private production but also to planlessness.”

        In the meantime, the main advances in that medical provision itself, of course, has not come from the capitalist state either. It was GE and others who developed MRI scanners, and so on, it is the large drug companies that have developed all of the main life-saving drugs that all health services use. It was a privately owned company that first decoded the human genome, and so on.

        So, you have faith in the capitalist state to look after workers interests then???? How did that work out with the 1984-5 Miners Strike for you???? Or BL, or the shipbuilding industry, or the current attacks on pensions, the health service, and so on???

        Engels certainly had no such faith in that capitalist state, nor did Marx.

        When the idea was put forward of this kind of faith in the capitalist, and for the establishment of a national insurance scheme in Germany, Engels dismissed it, writing,

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

        Rather he and Marx supported the self-government of the workers and the provision of such social insurance by the workers through their trades unions and Friendly Societies, and demanded through the First International that the capitalist state keep its hands of those funds!

        “It is obvious to me that a rational economic construct will very quickly look to replace market mechanisms with an organisational structure that looks to deliver needs and not profits. Of course you, like the army of apologists for capitalism, believe the capitalist market does deliver needs.”

        Of course, the capitalist market delivers needs! Have you not read Marx’s analysis in the three volumes of Capital, and the Theories of Surplus Value, where he describes how it does that? Have you not read what Marx says in the Grundrisse about precisely that “Civilising Mission of Capital”

        “…the cultivation of all the qualities of the social human being, production of the same in a form as rich as possible in needs, because rich in qualities and relations — production of this being as the most total and universal possible social product, for, in order to take gratification in a many-sided way, he must be capable of many pleasures [genussfähig], hence cultured to a high degree — is likewise a condition of production founded on capital. ”

        And, of course a socialist society would seek to develop a rational economic construct on the basis of developing and meeting those needs. The problem being that we do not currently have a socialist society, and so that point is moot. The state we have is a capitalist state not a workers state. Moreover, I’d point out that after the Russian Revolution, Lenin introduced the NEP precisely in order under the existing conditions to better meet the needs of the Russian workers, via the market, that he called for the Russian peasants to learn to trade capitalistically on the same basis as western European capitalist farmers and traders, and that he saw NEP lasting in Russia at least for 25 years!

        But all this is far from the original point that workers living standards have risen considerably over the last century, and even over the last 25 years, a period when capitalist production has been dominant. How you can then claim that capitalism during this period has not been responsible for these gains is simply impossible to understand. It is the same kind of rejection of the reality of rising living standards in the west that the Stalinists tried to maintain during the post war period, and thereby made themselves ridiculous.

        It seems to stem from a similar cause, which is the catastrophe and collapse in collapse that you repeatedly announce has just as continually failed to materialise!

      • sartesian Says:

        Reading Boffy you would never know, unless you had read Marx, that Marx wrote a CRITIQUE of capital; that first and foremost every facet of Marx’s inquiry is a critique of the method, relations, and modes by which capital “satisfies,” realizes, needs.

        The satisfaction and realization is accomplished only through the expanded reproduction of the system that oppresses, damages, exploits, diminishes the producers by and through the very means of satisfaction.

        “Satisfaction” as such becomes identical to loss, debasement, impoverishment, just as the productivity of labor is accomplished only through stripping the laborers of the power over labor power.

        Marx writes also in the Grundrisse that the sole historical justification of capital is the augmentation of the productivity of labor sufficient to overthrow this capitalist perpetrated inversion. And that’s all– and not so strangely–absent from Boffy’s perpetual cheerleading for a perpetual springtime and summertime of long-wave capitalism.

        Just a couple of more reasons to read Marx, and not Boffy, the bozo pontificator.

      • sartesian Says:

        Case in point:

        “If Republican pols want to help Republican CEOs solve their biggest problems, this caricature of a political philosophy will have to give way to something more grown-up. Just as the Nixon-to-China theory of history says it will ultimately take a Democratic President to fix Social Security, it may take a Republican President to bless the socialization of health spending we need. ..Ask yourself: When we’re on the cusp of decades of wrenching challenges from places like China and India, doesn’t American business have enough to do without managing health care too?”

        What unadulterated crap. Healthcare is a profit center. Nobody socializes a profit center in a capitalist country as long as it makes enough (that means a satisfactory RATE OF) profit.

        It gets worse:

        “In the meantime, the main advances in that medical provision itself, of course, has not come from the capitalist state either. It was GE and others who developed MRI scanners, and so on, it is the large drug companies that have developed all of the main life-saving drugs that all health services use. It was a privately owned company that first decoded the human genome, and so on.”

        Bullshit. Life-saving drugs and equipment have been COMMERCIALIZED, not invented, or discovered, by privately owned companies. The research, experiments, trials etc. that has led to most of these advances were backed by government funding, government sponsorship, government labs etc. etc.

        All Boffy is doing is repeating the bullshit from the laizzez-faire Greenspan/Gramm/scam artists who make a living selling the myth of “market efficiency” to…….schmucks.

        For the most appropriate response to Boffy’s baloney, I direct the reader to the first scene of one of my favorite movies “The Way of the Gun”– available on you tube.

      • Henry Says:

        “The point I was making about planning, was precisely that you cannot claim that just because planning takes place it has anything to do with being a “rational economic construct” in socialist terms!”

        But planning is a part of a rational economic construct even if it isn’t the only part. The planning within capitalism is company by company and then with the objective of maximising returns.

        “You can, however, argue that it is more rational in capitalist terms, precisely because it facilitates an increased production and realisation of surplus value.”

        Well if I am defeating my own argument with regard to planning you must here be doing the same with rational economic construct! According to you capitalism is perfectly rational, well I guess all economic constructs are rational then. Let us now say that socialism will attempt to end the rational anarchy of capitalism, where in its rational world the fate of the planet is lower down the priority list than VW’s sales targets.

        “It is also why capital introduced welfare states, including the provision of socialised healthcare systems such as the NHS, because such Fordist mass production of healthcare and education provides it with the most efficient means of providing such education and healthcare on the scale it requires, for modern mass production.”

        If you regard “capital” as the intersection of capitalists and labourers then this argument works. But I look at these developments as not stemming from some abstract need of this thing called “capital” but as a struggle between capitalists and labourers, forever in motion. Many of the so called ‘most efficient means of providing such services’ were fought tooth and nail by the capitalists and only pressure from below brought about such a configuration. Roosevelt in the US was pressured by a strong labour movement to bring in some form of welfare state. Pressure from a strong capitalist class has seen the gradual erosion of this ‘most efficient means of provision’, and that erosion continues today, in most of the advanced nations. The “most efficient means of provision” is under attack, which tells its own story I think.

        “In other words, the US needs to scrap its inefficient privately provided healthcare system, and move to the Fordist mass produced, welfare state model long since adopted in Europe, but it needs to do so, precisely because that meets the needs of capital, to make bigger profits!”

        But the capitalists within the Health sector see it slightly differently, they do not want this ‘socialised’ system, they want to continue making their profits. It is the same with the energy sector, the banking sector, the rentier, the company that makes the washing machines. Every capitalist wants the other capitalists to give up their profits in order that they are more profitable! This is the essence of the rational capitalist economic construct!

        “it is the large drug companies that have developed all of the main life-saving drugs that all health services use.”

        Are you joking? If you look at the history of antibiotics for example, the state and people who worked for the state had a huge part to play in their discovery and subsequent development. And the more the state got involved the better the developments were applied.

        “So, you have faith in the capitalist state to look after workers interests then”

        You are missing the point entirely. We are simply pointing to evidence which suggests that a more rational construct will apply the science better than the anarchy of capitalism. Seriously, if you don’t believe this then how can you claim to be anti capitalist? And if you are not anti capitalist how you can claim to be a Marxist.

        “Of course, the capitalist market delivers needs! Have you not read Marx’s analysis in the three volumes of Capital, and the Theories of Surplus Value, where he describes how it does that?”

        I see a story of how capitalism delivers profits based on the exploitation of labour. I didn’t read it as an explanation of how capitalism delivers needs. If this was the intention then I don’t know why Marx bothered because every single other economic book was precisely describing how capitalism delivers needs! It makes you wonder why Marx was so feared!

        Every economic system ever, including slavery, has delivered needs up to a point, because humans need to be reproduced. It is a fact of organic life. But this is simply a tautology. Marx went a little deeper than this in his analysis. A starting point of the criticism of capitalism is how it delivers needs. If you have nothing to say on this matter, other than it delivers needs end of story, then I am more and more scratching my head to understand what your problem with capitalism is? For you it seems to tick every box. Are you some kind of troll bot that simply likes to throw Marx quotes onto the World Wide Web?

        “, of course a socialist society would seek to develop a rational economic construct on the basis of developing and meeting those needs.”

        Why bother when capitalism is doing it anyway. A rational socialist would in this case say, hang on a minute we already have a system delivering needs to people and in the most efficient manner. What are we wasting our time for? We should simply look to reform the system if it seems to be getting to unbalanced.

        “The problem being that we do not currently have a socialist society”

        Why is this a problem given capitalism delivers all the needs we could ever want?

        “But all this is far from the original point that workers living standards have risen considerably over the last century, and even over the last 25 years, a period when capitalist production has been dominant”

        So not only does it deliver needs and in the most efficient manner but it also raises living standards for workers and in spectacular fashion.

        This is getting a bit too Monty Python, what have the capitalists ever done for us!

      • Boffy Says:

        Henry,

        You say,

        “According to you capitalism is perfectly rational,”

        Exactly where do you claim that I made any such claim???

        “Many of the so called ‘most efficient means of providing such services’ were fought tooth and nail by the capitalists and only pressure from below brought about such a configuration.”

        What does this show. Firstly, as Marx describes in Capital Volume I, in relation to the struggle over the Normal Working Day, the capitalist class may not at first recognise its own objective interests, and competition between individual capitals means that each will try to cheat, which is why they require a capitalist state to impose a level playing field, and thereby impose the conditions that are objectively in the interests of “Capital in General” as opposed to the interests of each of the “many capitals”.

        The “Normal Working Day” is not something that results from the struggle of workers, but as Marx demonstrates is objectively determinable, on the basis that any attempt to extend the working-day beyond it, with any given level of intensity of labour, results in an increase in the value of labour-power, and consequent reduction in the rate of surplus value.

        A central aspect of Marx and Engels analysis, and which is telling against all forms of reformism, is that within the confines of capitalism workers cannot impose any reforms on capital, for any length of time, which are objectively against the interests of capital. If that were possible, then the reformists would be right, and capitalism could be progressively reformed away by this more powerful working-class.

        In the end, capital introduced limits on the length of the working-day, because otherwise it risked raising the value of labour-power, and so reducing the rate of surplus value, and worse, it risked simply killing off the supply of labour-power. Instead, it focussed on extracting relative rather than absolute surplus value, and thereby progressively reduced the value of labour-power, whilst also raising real wages.

        It is also why it introduced welfare states. The first attempts at introducing forms of social insurance were made in Prussia around the 1820’s. That was before there was even any sizeable German working-class, let alone powerful German Labour Movement. It was Bismark who introduced such schemes more generally, and did so because he recognised the benefits for creating German capitalism.

        In Britain, the first moves to create a welfare state were actually put forward by the Tory Neville Chamberlain in the 1920’s, at a time when the british Labour Movement was on the back foot, having been defeated in the General Strike, and suffering industrial weakness due to the economic depression of the 1920’s.

        In Capital, Marx sets out the way, the extension of elements of such a welfare state, such as Public education, are vital for capital in providing the supply of educating labour it required to take on the increasing number of jobs as commercial workers, administrators, technicians and managers, and to thereby reduce the wages paid to such workers.

        As Engels summarised it,

        “Thus the truck system was suppressed, the Ten Hours’ Bill [2] was enacted, and a number of other secondary reforms introduced — much against the spirit of Free Trade and unbridled competition, but quite as much in favour of the giant-capitalist in his competition with his less favoured brother. Moreover, the larger the concern, and with it the number of hands, the greater the loss and inconvenience caused by every conflict between master and men; and thus a new spirit came over the masters, especially the large ones, which taught them to avoid unnecessary squabbles, to acquiesce in the existence and power of Trades’ Unions, and finally even to discover in strikes — at opportune times — a powerful means to serve their own ends. The largest manufacturers, formerly the leaders of the war against the working-class, were now the foremost to preach peace and harmony. And for a very good reason. The fact is that all these concessions to justice and philanthropy were nothing else but means to accelerate the concentration of capital in the hands of the few, for whom the niggardly extra extortions of former years had lost all importance and had become actual nuisances; and to crush all the quicker and all the safer their smaller competitors, who could not make both ends meet without such perquisites.”

        (Engels – The Condition of The Working Class in England)

        “Pressure from a strong capitalist class has seen the gradual erosion of this ‘most efficient means of provision’, and that erosion continues today, in most of the advanced nations. The “most efficient means of provision” is under attack, which tells its own story I think.”

        But, the story it tells is that the capitalist class is not some homogeneous bloc. It is divided into productive-capital, commercial capital, money-lending capital, as well as there being the interests of landed property, and as Engels sets out above the conflicting interests of big and small capitals. There is also the division as Marx sets out in Capital Volume III, between the objective interests of big industrial capital as socialised capital, and the interests of the money-lending capitalists, who own fictitious capital in the form of shares and bonds, a conflict which has been highlighted recently by Haldane in the UK and Clinton in the US.

        In fact, the speech given by Obama last week was instructive where he attacked Republicans for their calls for austerity in the US, by stating that the reason the US economy has done better than European economies has been precisely because the US did not follow the highly damaging policies of austerity that have been implemented in Europe.

        What the attacks on various elements of the welfare state reflect, is the current political dominance of the owners of fictitious capital, as against the objective interests of big industrial capital. Its an attempt by the owners of that fictitious capital to protect their nominal wealth, by keeping taxes low, and using money printing to inflate the paper values of their fictitious capital, and that process is actually damaging to productive-capital for the reasons Haldane sets out in his speech about “capital eating itself.”

        “You are missing the point entirely. We are simply pointing to evidence which suggests that a more rational construct will apply the science better than the anarchy of capitalism. ”

        No the point was made by Michael that the actual improvements that had been made in living standards, somehow had nothing to do with capitalism. Its quite clear that they have a very great deal to do with capitalism, and that includes the actual existing capitalism that uses planning as a central aspect of how it goes about producing.

        “Seriously, if you don’t believe this then how can you claim to be anti capitalist? And if you are not anti capitalist how you can claim to be a Marxist.”

        I do believe that socialism will apply science better, but how does that in any way change the fact that capitalism harnesses science, as a means of increasing profits!

        You then go to another non sequitur. There are lots of people who are anti-capitalist, but who are far from being marxists or Socialists. The supporters of ISIS are anti-capitalist, but they most certainly are not Marxists or socialists!

        Similarly, Marx and Engels were not “anti-capitalist” in the sense you set up. Rather like me, they were pro-socialist, rather than anti-capitalist. The main thrust of marx and Engels argument, is not anti-capitalist, but pro-capitalist, precisely because they saw socialism growing out of capitalism, as a consequence of the rational development and maturity of capitalism.

        In the quote on the Civilising Mission given earlier, Marx goes on to describe precisely the way that it is in fact, this civilising mission, the fact that Capitalism creates this more rounded human being whose needs and interests capital stimulates, including the need for education and culture, which thereby provides workers with all of those requirements to make themselves at some future point the new ruling class!

        In Capital in numerous places, Marx talks about the historic mission of capital to bring together the scattered means of production, to harness science to production, and to create a global market, as the necessary basis for establishing socialism. In Chapter 27, Marx writes,

        “Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.”

        It is the same point Marx makes against the reformist idea you have put forward about things such as the welfare state being imposed on capital against its interests. Marx sets out why such a reformist agenda cannot work, because ultimately workers can have no such power inside capitalism. That is why rather than such reformist struggles, or struggles over wages, Marx argues for a greater concentration on workers establishing these new co-operative forms of property. So, in Value, Price and Profit, Marx writes,

        “They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.”

        The problem with your position, and with that of others on the left, such as the SWP is that it is anti-capitalist rather than pro-socialist, just as with the SWP it is “anti-imperialist” rather than pro-socialist. As Marx sets out in his critique of such Moral Socialism, and as Lenin set out in his critique of that same approach, in his writings against “Economic Romanticism”, is that in the absence of a defence of actually existing new socialistic forms of property, or a struggle for there establishment, this anti-capitalism, or anti-imperialism simply becomes a moral crusade against the evils of capitalism, rather than recognising that socialism arises out of it, as marx describes above, and so it becomes allied with all sorts of reactionary ideas.

        That is witnessed, by the Stalinists “anti-monopoly alliance”, in the SWP’s support for all sorts of reactionary, nationalist regimes, and in the case of wide sections of the left the same kind of reactionary looking back to some golden age that never existed, which comes out in reactionary organisations such as No2EU.

        “I didn’t read it as an explanation of how capitalism delivers needs. If this was the intention then I don’t know why Marx bothered because every single other economic book was precisely describing how capitalism delivers needs! It makes you wonder why Marx was so feared!”

        Then you haven’t understood Marx’s intention! he did not set out to write a critique of capitalism, but a critique of Political Economy, as it existed at that time, and thereby to provide a fuller analysis, precisely of the way Capitalism works!

        “If you have nothing to say on this matter, other than it delivers needs end of story, then I am more and more scratching my head to understand what your problem with capitalism is?”

        The only problem I have with Capitalism is that it isn’t Socialism! That is pretty much Marx’s point too. It is better – by far – than what went before, and it is the means by which something even better is made possible in the form of Socialism.

        “Why bother when capitalism is doing it anyway. A rational socialist would in this case say, hang on a minute we already have a system delivering needs to people and in the most efficient manner.”

        But, again I ask the simple question where have I said that capitalism meets people’s needs in the most efficient manner? I have said no such thing. The fact that capitalism meets people’s needs far, far more efficiently than feudalism, or slavery, or primitive communism, does not at all mean that it is THE most efficient manner, precisely, because going beyond capitalism, and establishing socialism, creates the potential to meet those needs even more efficiently!

        But, that does not change the current situation, that at present socialism does not exist, and all your attempts to swerve around the issue, by trying to pass off the capitalist state, as in some way socialist, by removing any class status to it, and simply referring to it, in reformist, class neutral terms as simply “the state”, cannot change that fact.

        “This is getting a bit too Monty Python, what have the capitalists ever done for us!”

        Again not a good quote for you to use is it, as it again rather defeats the argument you are trying to present! The continuation of that scene, was the reciting of the long list of things that the Romans had actually introduced that were beneficial!

        But, then perhaps, the simple question you have to answer here, from your line of argument is – do you deny that over the last 200 years, 100 years, 50 years, 25 years and even the last 10 years, the living standards, the level of education, health and pretty much every other metric you care to mention, has seen huge advances for workers in general across the globe? Has Capitalism been the dominant mode of production during that time, and particularly in the last 50 years or not?

        Marx never felt in any way reluctant to answer such a question in the affirmative, and nor do I. Rather an honest, marxist analysis has to answer in the affirmative, because its only on that basis that its possible to understand the process by which socialism grows out of capitalism.

        “The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation,
        railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour? ”

        “The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.”

        And, it has done so in the last 25 years, in China, India, a range of African economies and elsewhere, at an even greater pace. Marx would have been in awe at the extent to which the power of socialised labour has been utilised for the purposes he describes above, and in so doing is preparing the ground across the globe for the development of socialism out of it.

        What a pity there are so many small minded, moral socialists, whose reactionary socialism is more concerned with being “anti-capitalist”, and trying to deny those advances, rather than analysing, as Marx did, what advantages those advances present for workers that they “simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.”

      • Henry Says:

        “The “Normal Working Day” is not something that results from the struggle of workers, but as Marx demonstrates is objectively determinable”

        Then why is chapter 10 part 7 of Capital called “The Struggle for a Normal Working Day”?

        Why does Marx say that the establishment of a normal working day is:

        “the product of a protracted civil war, more or less dissembled, between the capitalist class and the working-class.”?

        The above illustrates everything that is being argued in relation to welfare states.

        Your historical sketch seems at odds with Marx.

        “But, the story it tells is that the capitalist class is not some homogeneous bloc.”

        Well, neither is the working class but for the purposes of the argument…

        “No the point was made by Michael that the actual improvements that had been made in living standards, somehow had nothing to do with capitalism”

        I don’t think he did say that actually.

        “You then go to another non sequitur. There are lots of people who are anti-capitalist, but who are far from being marxists or Socialists. The supporters of ISIS are anti-capitalist, but they most certainly are not Marxists or socialists!”

        I am not aware of ISIS’s views on capitalism but so what if they are anti capitalist, it just means that both socialists and ISIS are anti capitalist. But socialists are anti capitalist, among other things.

        “Similarly, Marx and Engels were not “anti-capitalist” in the sense you set up. Rather like me, they were pro-socialist, rather than anti-capitalist.”

        I didn’t set it up in any way. Marx and Engels believed that capitalism was a system of exploitation and anarchy. They wanted to abolish wage slavery, i.e. capitalism. Seems pretty anti to me.

        “The main thrust of marx and Engels argument, is not anti-capitalist, but pro-capitalist, precisely because they saw socialism growing out of capitalism, as a consequence of the rational development and maturity of capitalism.”

        In Russia Marx hoped that they could avoid the whole terror of capitalism. I think he was having one of his wishful thinking days however. But the point was this; Marx didn’t believe that history was a book that had already been written. Crucial to Marx’s outlook was the human ability to apply knowledge to solve problems, so a relatively backward society could look at the lessons of other nations and avoid the mistakes. I.e. Marx did not believe history was a voyage from A to B to C to D but was something man could affect, so possibly from B to D. The idea that history proceeds in such a linear fashion was something Marx tended to in his immature works.

        Marx and Engels wanted an end to class society, whether slavery, capitalism or whatever. To call them pro capitalist is ridiculous.

        “and all your attempts to swerve around the issue, by trying to pass off the capitalist state, as in some way socialist,”

        You are the one doing this by claiming that production under capitalism represents some kind of socialism or at least socialised production and that the capitalist system is the only avenue to socialism. You are passing off capitalism as socialism with different ownership. All I am doing is pointing out that when problems are addressed directly, rather than through the middle man of the profit motive, the results are applied directly and therefore more efficiently. I am not the one saying the state or public limited companies represent socialism.

        I think in the last 100 years capitalism has increased productivity, brought great damage to the living environment, created immense inequality, gassed Jews and killed millions in one war after another. Oh and living standards have increased…for some. It is interesting that for you history appears to be a story that involves leaving out all the bad bits. What a pity!

      • Boffy Says:

        “Then why is chapter 10 part 7 of Capital called “The Struggle for a Normal Working Day”?”

        Because its an historical description of the actual struggles that took place over it. But, what in the end determines its determination in law is the fact that the “normal working-day” is objectively determinable, on the basis of the length of working-day that workers can undertake, at any given level of intensity without it causing an increase in their wear and tear, earlier death and so on, which causes the value of labour-power to rise, and the rate of surplus value to fall!

        You could just as well ask why Marx and Engels discussed wage struggles. And yet, where wages settle is not some arbitrary level as you seem to think that workers can simply impose upon capital via more militant industrial action, but is again objectively determinable on the basis of the value of labour-power, and if workers are able due to temporary market conditions to go above that level, capital responds by introducing machines to create a relative surplus population, to deskill skilled labour and so on, in order to reduce those wages!

        As Engels put it,

        “The history of these Unions is a long series of defeats of the working-men, interrupted by a few isolated victories. All these efforts naturally cannot alter the economic law according to which wages are determined by the relation between supply and demand in the labour market. Hence the Unions remain powerless against all great forces which influence this relation. In a commercial crisis the Union itself must reduce wages or dissolve wholly; and in a time of considerable increase in the demand for labour, it cannot fix the rate of wages higher than would be reached spontaneously by the competition of the capitalists among themselves.”

        You say,

        “The above illustrates everything that is being argued in relation to welfare states.”

        How?

        As Engels states here, and as marx shows throughout Capital, and argues in Value, Price and Profit, workers cannot impose on capital any conditions that are not objectively in its interests (at least the interests of its dominant section) for any length of time. If they could, then as the reformists claim, capitalism could be simply reformed away, by workers simply using this superior power to gradually drag more concessions out of it.

        You say,

        “Well, neither is the working class (homogeneous) but for the purposes of the argument…”

        For the purposes of the argument, what???? Your premise was that these attacks were somehow the attacks of capital as some such homogenous bloc.

        “I don’t think he did say that actually.”

        I think that is what he said, which is the reason for this discussion.

        You then say,

        “I didn’t set it up in any way. Marx and Engels believed that capitalism was a system of exploitation and anarchy. They wanted to abolish wage slavery, i.e. capitalism. Seems pretty anti to me.”

        Its not a question of whether Marx and Engels wanted to abolish capitalism, but how they sought to achieve that, and the conditions under which that takes place. marx and Engels certainly were not in favour of simply abolishing capitalism in the 18th century, for example, and they both accepted in later life that their belief that it could be replaced by socialism in 1848 was wrong and utopian!

        Nowhere do either believe that the road to socialism leads via some collapse of capitalism, or its overthrow separate from socialism outgrowing it from within, on the basis of the fulelst development of capitalism.

        For example,

        “The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour. They show how a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production and of the corresponding forms of social production have reached a particular stage.”

        and

        ““Development of the productive forces of social labour is the historical task and justification of capital. This is just the way in which it unconsciously creates the material requirements of a higher mode of production.”

        Marx didn’t believe that Russia could avoid going through the stage of capitalism, unless Socialism was established elsewhere, and was able to provide Russian peasant communes with the necessary technologies and so on. He simply couched his response to Zasulich in diplomatic language, whilst being clear about this latter point, even then. In fact, Lenin showed in his writings against the Narodniks that such a period of capitalism development was inevitable, and that capitalism carried out the same progressive role there too.

        Its why, for example, Lenin did not oppose the capitalist measures introduced by Stolypin in agriculture, because they were historically progressive measures designed to develop capitalist agriculture, and dissolve the old peasant forms of agriculture, that acted as an impediment on capitalist development.

        That is completely at odds with marx’s Historical Materialist method with sets out precisely that the ideas that man has come from the material environment in which he exists, and that what Man can create is not at all simply a subjective matter of wishing it to be so, but is constrained by that material environment! What you are putting forward is the same kind of subjectivist view of history that Proudhon put forward, and against which Marx railed in The Poverty of Philosophy!

        “Marx and Engels wanted an end to class society, whether slavery, capitalism or whatever. To call them pro capitalist is ridiculous.”

        Subjectivist drivel that turns Marx and Engels into Moralists rather than scientific socialists. Neither saw history as being a matter of what individuals wanted, but as a process driven by material objective factors!

        “You are the one doing this by claiming that production under capitalism represents some kind of socialism or at least socialised production and that the capitalist system is the only avenue to socialism.”

        You are swerving again. You repeatedly have simply referred to the capitalist state as “the state”, thereby leaving out its class nature, so as to somehow claim that actions by this state are in some way socialist, and thereby avoid having to admit that anything positive has been achieved under capitalism.

        Nowhere have I said that “production under capitalism represents some kind of socialism”.

        To the charge that I have said that production under capitalism is “socialised”, I plead absolutely and totally guilty, as would marx and Engels, because a fundamental aspect of marx’s analysis in Capital is that capitalism takes the individual production of precapitalist modes of production, and transforms them into socialised production, via socialised labour, which acts co-operatively through the division of labour.

        Moreover, as Marx sets out in Chapter 27, the development of this socialised production, necessarily results in the development of socialised capital – note this is socialised capital, and still, therefore, subject to the laws of capital, not as you seem incapable of distinguishing, socialism – it represents as Marx sets out, the abolition of capitalism, as private capitalist property, within the confines of capitalism itself.

        “This is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production itself, and hence a self-dissolving contradiction, which prima facie represents a mere phase of transition to a new form of production. It manifests itself as such a contradiction in its effects. It establishes a monopoly in certain spheres and thereby requires state interference. It reproduces a new financial aristocracy, a new variety of parasites in the shape of promoters, speculators and simply nominal directors; a whole system of swindling and cheating by means of corporation promotion, stock issuance, and stock speculation. It is private production without the control of private property.

        IV. Aside from the stock-company business, which represents the abolition of capitalist private industry on the basis of the capitalist system itself and destroys private industry as it expands and invades new spheres of production, credit offers to the individual capitalist; or to one who is regarded a capitalist, absolute control within certain limits over the capital and property of others, and thereby over the labour of others.[3] The control over social capital, not the individual capital of his own, gives him control of social labour.”

        And this, of course is why your failure to differentiate between different fractions of capital, means you cannot possibly understand these contradictions, and this process.

        “I am not the one saying the state or public limited companies represent socialism.”

        And nor am I, but nor am I the one who has continually argued in defence of the actions of the capitalist state as being in some sense socialistic or not capitalistic. That has been you, who has been driven to that line of argument in order to try to claim that the introduction of measures such as the welfare state and so on, are in some way not the products of capitalism!

        “Oh and living standards have increased…for some.”

        Actually, the evidence is that living standards, life expectancy, health, diet, education, infant mortality rates and pretty much every other metric have risen substantially for pretty much everyone in the last 100 years.

        “It is interesting that for you history appears to be a story that involves leaving out all the bad bits. What a pity!”

        Actually, my writing is full of analysis of all the bad bits about the miseries and crises that capitalism brings with it. The trouble is its necessary as Lenin put it, to bend the stick, in having to spend so much time correcting all the subjectivist, and moralistic nonsense of all those who like Sismondi can only see those bad bits, and fail to recognise that Socialism grows out of the progressive development that capitalism also brings with it.

      • Henry Says:

        Marx calls the normal working day:

        “the product of a protracted civil war, more or less dissembled, between the capitalist class and the working-class.”

        That civil war continues until capitalism is abolished, it isn’t determined by fixed objective laws. But it does take place within the framework of the capitalist system and limits imposed by nature. In no way is this the same thing as “workers impose wage levels on capitalists” as you appear to interpret it.

        And abolished is the correct word for it, unlike you who thinks history is predetermined I don’t think society is moving inexorably to socialism but must be created through struggle.

        “workers cannot impose on capital any conditions that are not objectively in its interests… If they could, then as the reformists claim,”

        But according to you capitalism delivers workers needs and raises their living standards spectacularly and does so with rational efficiency. So why do they even need to impose conditions under these circumstances? You are worse than a reformist, you think that workers need do nothing and still win within capitalism, no need for trade unions, workers parties, collective action. The objective laws will take care of all your needs. Give me the reformists any day of the week to your historical abomination.

        “For the purposes of the argument, what????”

        See above re the protracted civil war between the capitalist and working class. Sometimes it is necessary to simplify the argument.

        “I think that is what he said, which is the reason for this discussion.”

        No the reason for the discussion is precisely because you misunderstood what he said.

        “marx and Engels certainly were not in favour of simply abolishing capitalism in the 18th century”

        The very least we could say is that they were in favor of starting the groundwork for its abolition. I don’t think they set up the international working mans association to defend capitalism, put it that way.

        “Nowhere do either believe that the road to socialism leads via some collapse of capitalism,”

        No they believed that a struggle would see it collapse.

        “That is completely at odds with marx’s Historical Materialist method with sets out precisely that the ideas that man has come from the material environment in which he exists”

        No it isn’t, it underpins the entire idea of combined and even development! Unnecessary intermediate steps can be avoided!

        “Neither saw history as being a matter of what individuals wanted, but as a process driven by material objective factors!”

        If it is a process driven by purely objective factors why did they involve themselves in working class politics and working class movements? If objective laws determine everything then why did they bother? Why is history not the history of objective laws? History is a struggle of many individual wills operating in a world of multiple factors constantly in motion.

        “and transforms them into socialised production, via socialised labour, which acts co-operatively through the division of labour.”

        Then why accuse me of saying the capitalist state is the equivalent of socialism! It is you who appears incapable of separating recognition of state intervention with socialism.

        “And this, of course is why your failure to differentiate between different fractions of capital”

        I can distinguish but there is a time and place for this.

        “That has been you, who has been driven to that line of argument in order to try to claim that the introduction of measures such as the welfare state and so on, are in some way not the products of capitalism!”

        Welfare states are the products of struggles within capitalism. This is an important distinction to how you read it.

        “The trouble is its necessary as Lenin put it, to bend the stick, in having to spend so much time correcting all the subjectivist, and moralistic nonsense of all those who like Sismondi can only see those bad bits, and fail to recognise that Socialism grows out of the progressive development that capitalism also brings with it.”

        So in your mind not only is history created by objective laws separate from man but somehow this objective history manages to ignore all the regressive developments and proceeds only on the basis of the progressive developments! And you honestly believe this is the scientific basis of historical materialism?

      • Boffy Says:

        This discussion is quite clearly pointless, because you simply throw out accusations, such as that I have argued that capitalism is effectively socialism, and so on, which I have asked you several times to substantiate by showing where I said that, and which you have failed to do, instead, like every other troll, you have simply slithered from that point to some other.

        Your comments on the Normal Working Day, show you have either not even read all of that chapter, didn’t understand it, or read and are deliberately misinterpreting what it says.

        The issue still comes down to this. Have living standards for the people of the world risen spectacularly over the last 100, 50, 25, 10 years or not? Has capitalism been the dominant mode of production during that time or not?

        I am happy to say that living standards have risen, and that capitalism has been the means by which that rise was achieved, as Marx and Engels were in noting all of the progressive, revolutionary achievements of capitalism in their day.

        At the same time, I am also like them happy to detail the contradictory nature of capitalism, and the way those contradictions lead to crises, wars and other undesirable consequences.

        And there is the difference, you like Sismondi want to point to all of the undesirable consequences, and ignore all of the progressive aspects of capitalism that Marx and Engels note as being the basis of further development, and progress.

        Your position is rather like someone who says that they are pro-baby but anti-mother. You want to kill the mother, before the baby is born, and in the process, you thereby ensure that the baby is stillborn. By contrast Marx and Engels position was to recognise the need to be pro-Mother in order to be pro-baby, to encourage the most favourable conditions for the Mother, in order that the baby is nourished within the womb, as the best conditions for a healthy birth.

      • Henry Says:

        “Your comments on the Normal Working Day, show you have either not even read all of that chapter, ”

        I have read the whole of chapter ten recently actually, I don’t see where Marx directly contradicts what he says in the opening of part 7. Which is effectively what you are accusing him of. You are basically saying, Marx tells us that the normal working day is a struggle and then provides the detail to disprove it! No wonder there has been much confusion over Marx in the proceeding years!

        “This discussion is quite clearly pointless, because you simply throw out accusations, such as that I have argued that capitalism is effectively socialism,”

        I think if we read back carefully it is you accusing others of equating pointing out the benefits of state intervention to calling it socialism. So I am simply saying if we take your argument here and throw it back at you, then because you talk of the progressive nature of socialized production within capitalism you must be equating it to socialism.

        “And there is the difference, you like Sismondi want to point to all of the undesirable consequences”

        The problem with you is you think we are fighting some feudal monarchy and must leap to capitalism’s defense just in case the feudal lords regain their power.

        We are not in this position, we can confidently critique capitalism without worrying about the lords scurrying in by the back door.

        You are bending the stick the wrong way.

        “Your position is rather like someone who says that they are pro-baby but anti-mother. ”

        You have a view of history that goes from A to B to C to D to E, history as Gods plan.

        If we are doing the Mother-Baby analogy, you are like the guy who says child birth can only be via the natural method, you effectively discount the cesarean section option should Mother and Baby run into trouble.

      • sartesian Says:

        “Your position is rather like someone who says that they are pro-baby but anti-mother. ”

        Where I come from, “mother” is only half a word.

        Applies to capitalism perfectly, don’t you think?

        I’m pro-baby and anti-Mommy dearest.

  5. vallebaeza Says:

    Reblogged this on Alejandro Valle Baeza.

  6. Miasnikov Says:

    “More recently, the World Bank announced that it is to change to its global poverty line, raising its measure by a half to about $1.90 per day. When researchers at the bank tested a notional poverty line of $1.92 earlier this year, it led to a surge of 148m. To end “extreme poverty” by 2030, the world needs to help 7,500 people move up the economic ladder every hour for the next 15 years, according to one calculation. Put another way, that is 181,729 people every day. So on the one hand, the extreme poverty is falling and on the other hand, it is rising, once you adjust the poverty to a more realistic level.”

    I don’t understand this paragraph.

    Has people living on less than $1.92, adjusted backwards for inflation and local currencies, increased in the world from 1981 to 2015? In absolute numbers? In relative, %-wise, numbers?

  7. sartesian Says:

    Boffy in his usual “reality-don’t-count-mode”:: “What you say about the US healthcare system is true in terms of cost and efficiency, but for those who have proper healthcare cover, such as many auto workers, whose unions negotiated it with their employers, the outcomes are far from poor. That is why so many of these organised workers with such company provided health insurance were opposed to Obama’s healthcare proposals, which they saw as potentially giving them a poorer level of provision.”

    Hey Boffy– the healthcare coverage that you call “proper” for autoworkers is anything but, seeing as how the unions agreed to VEBFs– variable employee benefit funds, contributions to which by automakers were capped, and payable in… yep corporate stock. Latest estimates show the shortfall in the healthcare VEBFs spiking dramatically upward from less than 6 billion to about 20 billion.

    Oh, and tell us, el Bofforino, how many of “these organized workers” were indeed opposed to the Affordable Care Act? Got any fries to go with that shake, or is it your typical “I believe it’s so, so it must be so” shuck and jiv? That’s a rhetorical question. We know it’s but another example of your magical thinking.

    But this: “In fact, one reason we have the kind of healthcare and education systems we have, is that capital has organised them along Fordist lines of mass production, to ensure the provision on the most efficient, least cost of producing labour-power, required to meet the needs of capital. That itself has only been made possible because of the development of productivity and production techniques, and the need for such mass produced education and healthcare that industrial capitalism brings with it.”

    Takes the cake, and proves how little Boffy knows about the efficiency of healthcare delivery in the United States.

    Any number of studies have shown how inefficient medical care delivery has become under the direction of insurance companies, etc. Read Money Driven Medicine for one.

  8. sartesian Says:

    Is there anything more tedious, banal, and pathological than lBoffy singing the praises of the eternal beneficence of capital? Of its seemingly irresistible tide that always lifts all boats? All the time?

    That’s a rhetorical question, too. And the answer is no. Boffy has a narrow, and selective field of vision when it comes to the “historical tasks” the “civilizing mission” of capitalism. Even those phrases should make anyone, not simply marxists, with any real grasp of the actual mechanisms of accumulation, gag and puke.

    Historical tasks? So what? The creation of commercialized slavery, the mid-Atlantic slave trade, was that part of capital’s civilizing mission? No? But can that commercialized slave trade be isolated, separated from capitalist accumulation, from its so-called historic task of amplifying the productivity of labor? Not if you look at the actual development of capitalism,.

    Oh yes, the benefits of modern capitalism that have shone so brightly, ever so recently on China, India, Africa. And what about the benefits of modern capitalism when modern capitalism was imposed by the advanced countries in the earlier 20th century? This is like– wrong this is exactly– praising King Leopold for offering scholarships to “deserving” indigenous Africans to study in Brussels while thousands perished in mines and on plantations.

    And the benefits of capitalism as imposed upon India by the then most modern, advanced capitalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain? Yeah, who can count the ways? Famines, dispossession…. the list goes on and on.

    And as always, history becomes even more bizarre when told as a tale by this idiot Boffy:

    “Marx didn’t believe that Russia could avoid going through the stage of capitalism, unless Socialism was established elsewhere, and was able to provide Russian peasant communes with the necessary technologies and so on. He simply couched his response to Zasulich in diplomatic language, whilst being clear about this latter point, even then. In fact, Lenin showed in his writings against the Narodniks that such a period of capitalism development was inevitable, and that capitalism carried out the same progressive role there too.

    Its why, for example, Lenin did not oppose the capitalist measures introduced by Stolypin in agriculture, because they were historically progressive measures designed to develop capitalist agriculture, and dissolve the old peasant forms of agriculture, that acted as an impediment on capitalist development.”

    Boffy to the contrary notwithstanding, Lenin’s Development of Capitalism in Russia is more than just flawed, it’s actually dishonest; misrepresenting agricultural relations, numbers, categories, and confuses others.

    The reality was that Russia did not undergo “capitalist development” at least not in any manner that would conform to the one-dimensional pseudo-materialist analysis flogged by Boffy. Careful study of agricultural relations in Russia show that capitalist agriculture had not “defeated” or overturned pre-existing archaic relations (no, “commercial” agriculture, nor do exports constitute capitalist agricultural production relations).

    The “islands” of capitalist production in urban areas, in factory production, were essentially isolated enclaves. Private property determined that capitalist development in Russia along so-called “classical” line was impossible. It could not be progressive because it could not be sustained.

    Everything Boffy says is said only to serve Boffy’s mythology of a “greater capitalism.”

    It stands as its own indictment.

  9. SimonH Says:

    Why does Boffy keep coming here? He has a thin skin, keeps getting in to arguments in his quest to defend his orthodox view of Marxism. Then he gets all huffy, he’s also endlessly trying to correct Michael but Michael ignores him. I probably should too but like sniffing sour milk I can’t resist the latest nonsense he has to offer.
    I think the biggest howler this time was his comparison of modes of production between mother and child! I criticized him on this before, he really thinks we can have a nice polite transition!

  10. GrahamB Says:

    If you work hard enough at it, you can always ignore the potential dynamism of capitalism. Even when it’s happened in the recent past. There is no contradiction between accepting this, critiquing capitalism, and why socialism is preferable.

    • sartesian Says:

      Sure thing. And if you work hard, you can always ignore what enables that “dynamism;” what it costs; and who pays the price.

      WW2, that dynamic enough for you?

    • Henry Says:

      Who is ignoring the dynamism, potential or otherwise?

      And accepting this ‘dynamism’ doesn’t necessarily mean you endorse it. For example, the dynamism of capitalism has created a climate crisis among other things but does anyone see a rational approach to transportation? Do we have car rationing for example? Part of the dynamism is the anarchy. They go hand in hand. So part of the critique of capitalism is the critique of the dynamism.

      Socialism therefore is not some utility preference but an imperative.

      To the likes of Boffy I suspect even raising these questions goes against the holy doctrine.

    • Henry Says:

      My girlfriend has an entire wardrobe stuffed with unwanted Christmas presents, endless boxes of Spa products and Bath bombs.

      This ‘stupid’ consumption doesn’t happen by accident, wasn’t preordained by nature, this fetishistic quality is part of capitalism’s dynamism, production for productions sake as Mattick once said. The products of Labour control the producer.

    • Boffy Says:

      Graham,

      I long ago stopped bothering to read anything that the troll artesian wrote, some weeks ago I decided that SimonH is in the same category, and its obvious that Henry is another clone. None of them actually know anything, or understand anything in Marxist terms, aside from a few badly grasped mantras. In fact, what they don’t know seems peculiarly identical, which suggests that rather than being clones, they are just the same troll using different persona.

      On the actual points about the growth of the productive forces globally, the advance of the working-class, the advance of global living standards and so on, nothing has been refuted, by Michael or anyone else. Nor has the point that any actions taken by the capitalist state, remain actions taken within the context of the requirements of capital. That is, after all what a capitalist state exists for!

      The issue was settled long ago in terms of the Marxist perspective. It was set out by Kautsky in the Erfurt Programme, which although criticised by Engels for still containing elements of concessions to statism, was described by him as the closest approximation to a socialist programme that had been developed. Close enough for Lenin to accept anyway.

      This is what Kautsky wrote,

      “Naturally there can be no proletarian politician who is satisfied with present conditions and does not strive fundamentally to change them. And there is no intelligent politician, of whatever faction, who possesses even a remnant of freedom of judgment who is not forced to recognize that political conditions cannot remain as they now are in the midst of the present rapid rate of economic transformation….

      “It is impossible for a Socialist to share the illusion of the reconciliation of classes and the coming of social peace. That he does not share it is what makes him a Socialist. He knows that if social peace is to come it will be not by a chimerical RECONCILIATION, but by the ABOLITION of classes. When he has lost faith in a revolution, however, there is nothing left for him but to await the peaceful and imperceptible disappearance of classes through economic progress – through the growth and increased power of the working class, which gradually absorbs the other classes.

      That is the theory, of the gradual growth into (hineinwachsen) the socialist society.

      This theory contains a germ of truth. It is supported by facts of economic development that show an actual growth toward Socialism. It was Marx and Engels who first set forth these facts and explained the scientific laws that govern them…

      “The corporation renders the person of the capitalist wholly superfluous for the conduct of capitalist undertakings. The exclusion of his personality from industrial life ceases to be a question of possibility or of intention. It is purely a question of POWER.

      This preparation for Socialism through the concentration of capital is meanwhile only one side of the process of gradual growth into the future state. Along with it there is proceeding an evolution within the working class that is no less of an indication of growth in the direction of Socialism.

      With the growth of capital goes also an increase in the number of proletarians within society. They become the most numerous class. Simultaneously grows their organization. The labourers create co-operatives that abolish the middle men and establish production directly for their own use. They organize unions that restrict the absolute power of the employers and exercise an influence in the productive process. They elect members to the representative bodies in the municipalities and states who seek to secure reforms, to enact legislation for the protection of labourers, to make state and municipal industries model businesses and to increase the number of such industries.”

  11. SimonH Says:

    You’re doing schtick aren’t you Boffy? You’re the troll here, you’re the one who comes here and calls people Malthusian because they believe in the factually backed up tendency of the rate of profit to fall. You misrepresent completely the views of Ernest Mandel and then you accuse others of misrepresentation? By the way believing that we are all one troll is priceless, you are nowhere near that important. Then again maybe it’s all one big conspiracy! Sartesian and I are Illuminati and we’re using chem trails to screw with you Boffy!

    • michael roberts Says:

      Enough of all this, guys. This blog hopes to understand, educate and debate and the latter can be vigorous, but sensible people know when a red line is reached. Let’s call it a day on all this and take a breather.

  12. sartesian Says:

    I hereby swear, attest, affirm, confirm, vow, that I am not now using nor have I ever used any other persona when posting comments to this website.

    All assertions, claims, polemics, made under the name of S. Artesian are the responsibility of S. Artesian solely.

    Validity guaranteed by Price Waterhouse.

    S.Artesian

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