HAPPY

Daily Blog editor Martyn Bradbury  is well known for his cutting analysis and incisive comment but he has really excelled himself with his latest splendid observation. According to the man with all the facts, socialists are all unhappy people. The Labour Party are extremely fortunate to have such an educated supporter.

POLITICAL MERCENARY  Martyn Bradbury, last seen angling for a job with the Internet Party for no less than $8000 a month, has  been displaying  his extensive knowledge of socialist  history.

Blogging from the Mana Party AGM he commented that socialists were opposed to any deal with mega-capitalist  Kim Dotcom because we're just a bunch of miserable sods. Wrote the erudite Bradbury:

'The Socialists aren’t happy, but when was the last time in history they were happy right? '

At this point I want to hand this column over to Rosa Luxemburg.

In 1917 after  three years as an unjustly jailed political prisoner Rosa wrote from Breslau Prison to Sophie Liebknecht. Her  husband Karl Liebknecht  was also a political prisoner.  Luxemburg and Liebknecht were founders of the German Communist Party and were murdered on the instructions of the German Social Democratic Party in 1919.

Here is an extract  from Rosa's beautiful and moving letter:

“This is my third Christmas under lock and key, but you needn’t take it to heart. I am as tranquil and cheerful as ever. —– Last night my thoughts ran this-wise: ‘How strange it is that I am always in a sort of joyful intoxication, though without sufficient cause. Here I am lying in a dark cell upon a mattress hard as stone; the building has its usual churchyard quiet, so that one might as well be already entombed; through the window there falls across the bed a glint of light from the lamp which burns all night in front of the prison. —– I lie here alone and in silence, enveloped in the manifold black wrappings of darkness, tedium, unfreedom, and winter – and yet my heart beats with an immeasurable and incomprehensible inner joy, just as if I were moving in the brilliant sunshine across a flowery mead. And in the darkness I smile at life, as if I were the possessor of charm which would enable me to transform all that is evil and tragical into serenity and happiness. But when I search my mind for the cause of this joy, I find there is no cause, and can only laugh at myself.’


The letter concluded: “Never mind, my Sonyusha; you must be calm and happy all the same. Such is life, and we have to take it as it is, valiantly, heads erect, smiling ever – despite all.”

MANA . DOT . COM

Mega-capitalist Kim Dotcom is attending  the Mana Party AGM this weekend. Any electoral deal with him will spell the end of Mana as a party with left wing aspirations.

THIS WEEK WE have seen the unedifying spectacle of the opposition parties jostling for position as they seek some sort of uneasy electoral pact. The Green Party's approach to the Labour for a formal arrangement has been rebuffed by the Labour top brass. Such is the conservatism of the Labour leadership that even the blue green politics of Russel Norman and co is apparently still 'too  left'  for David 'socialism is not a word I use'  Cunliffe.

And  the ongoing game of footsy between the Mana  Party and Kim Dotcom's Internet Party will be uncovered at the  Mana Party AGM.

While the Mana leadership want to seal a deal,  many members  are hostile to mega-capitalist  Kim Dotcom crashing their party. Actvists  like Sue Bradford continue to warn  of the dangers associated with Dotcom but Mana - under Hone Harawira -  continues to drift rightwards. That an opportunistic deal with Dotcom can even be considered demonstrates  just how far Mana has degenerated.

Any deal with Dotcom will spell  the end of Mana as a party  with left wing aspirations.

Meanwhile there is talk in some quarters of the possible role that Winston Peter's New Zealand First will play in the  unofficial electoral coalition. Apparently  Winston's anti-working class views  (not to mention his xenophobia) are not a problem.

Indeed it is this line-up that political mercenary  Martyn Bradbury has declared is a  'government in waiting'.  and that  “Cunliffe’s best shot at being PM is to unify the opposition”  Bradbury is an idiot.

I would of thought of Cunliffe's 'best shot at being PM' is to articulate a clear political  and economic alternative to neoliberalism and to stop treating the shibboleths of capitalism as if they were sacrosanct.

Instead of proposing a way out of the neoliberal straitjacket, the very best such an Labour-led  government is offering is that it  might loosen the straps just a bit. And I'm being charitable here because I think Cunliffe - if  he ever did become Prime Minister - would do nothing without asking business interests first.

The only consistent  message on offer is that   'We're not John Key and the National Party'. But that message only leads to the dubious and unacceptable  politics  of Winston Peters  and Kim Dotcom.

CHAINED TO THE MACHINERY OF DESTRUCTION

The National - led government continues to show a  casual disregard for pressing  environment issues and the very real threat of ecological collapse. But the Green Party's promotion of a 'smarter green capitalism' is a woefully inadequate response and would simply continue to chain us to the very economic system that is destroying the planet.

LAST WEEK SAW  the release of another authoritative report on the stark environmental  dangers  confronting the planet. The report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  warns that climate change will have a myriad of disastrous consequences for life on the planet from sea level rise, to extensive drought, to extreme weather  to food supply disruptions and to conflict.

This is  the sixth report from the IPCC since 1990 and the most strongly worded report yet.

What is also depressingly familiar is the way the warnings will go unheeded by corporate interests and their allies in government.

Exxon Mobil are a case in point.

In a shareholders report that was also released  last  week, Exxon states that is will not be planning for 'aggressive carbon emissions cuts before 2040', because governments are unlikely to impose such expensive regulations.

Exxon states that 'prioritising the need to meet the world’s growing energy demands through its oil and gas products, rather than addressing climate change.'

The New Zealand government's own response to the report has been equally lamentable.

The report says that the level of warming was likely to raise the oceans around New Zealand's coast by at least half a metre before the end of the century, threatening low-lying communities and ecosystems. But the response  of Climate Change Minister Tim Groser has been to emptily declare that the report shows the importance of 'adapting' to a warmer world.

If we are to believe Groser, we must  merely sit tight and 'adapt' as a climate change catastrophe rushes towards us. It is as we are transfixed  by the lights of the speeding train as it descends upon us

But, of course,  Groser and his  government are entirely hypocritical.  They are more than  happy to help big energy put the accelerator down in its search for more fossil fuels. The government  has just announced new areas that can be explored by the fossil fuel corporations.

This announcement was made against the backdrop of a fossil fuel industry that spent nearly $700 billion in 2013 looking  for new deposits of coal, oil and gas.

As writer and activist Chris Williams has  noted:

The inexorable logic of capitalist market relations and the fixation on short-term profitability trump common sense or the physical constraints of the universe, as reported by the world's preeminent scientific experts.


And as he said in a presentation at the EcoSocialist conference in Los Angeles in September last year:

 It is increasingly clear to a growing number of people that the ecological crisis is a direct outgrowth of the operation of our economic system; namely, capitalism. The crisis has many facets: environmental racism, energy production, pollution, gender oppression, biodiversity loss, agribusiness and climate change to name only a few. But they can all be traced back to a singular cause: the relentless pursuit of profit and the accumulation of capital.

While Russel Norman and the Green Party might bag Simon Bridges for his government's destructive environmental policies, their promotion  of a 'smarter green capitalism' is wildly misdirected.

An economy  in which investors demand short-term profits simply can’t carry through the implementation of the radical changes that are now urgently demanded.

In this century of environmental crisis, the common ruin of all - the destruction of civilization - is a very real possibility

In 2010 the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, was  held in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The final statement of the conference remains  true today:

Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings.

Over a century ago, Karl Marx predicted that unless capitalism was eliminated the great productive forces it unleashed would turn into destructive forces. Who can say he was wrong?

THE QUEEN IS DEAD

While New Zealand  families struggle  in poverty, the government throws a one million dollar holiday for a couple of royal scroungers. It's good for tourism you know....

THOSE TWO  well-know state beneficiaries Willie and Kate Windsor  have  left old Blighty  to holiday in New Zealand, courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer. 

The two  young  bludgers - baby in tow -are visiting New Zealand at a  time when their lavish spending is causing a bit of a stink back home  It has been revealed  that they have screwed the good people of Britain for another million pounds on top of the  million pounds they have already  spent on refurbishing their five bedroom Kensington home.

 Katie  decided to redecorate  because she was 'unhappy with the colour scheme'.

Katie is largely unacquainted with working for living. The only proper job she’s ever had was working part-time in a London clothes shop.  But she gave it up four years ago, saying she needed 'some time to herself'.

Our media, of course, are asking all the important questions - like, what is  Katie wearing today? And what does baby George have for breakfast? Has he booked a place at Eton yet?

Enough already.

Here is  'The Queen is Dead' from The Smiths.

RUNNING ON EMPTY

The Unite Union's Mike Treen wants you to vote for a Labour government that is still committed to neoliberal policies. But he can't offer any substantial reasons why you should vote for such a government. 

DESPITE  BEING  supposedly opposed to neoliberalism and professing to socialist beliefs, the national director  of the Unite Union  has called for the election of a Labour led government, with the Green's, Mana and maybe (who knows?) the Internet Party tagging along behind.

None of this comes as any surprise. Mike Treen has already indicated his support for such a conglomeration before and, as a senior member of the Mana Party, he'll be supporting the Mana leadership in its desire to go to the electorate  with this  lacklustre line-up. And no doubt his old mate, Matt McCarten, has had a quiet word in his ear.

Mike Treen is linked to  Socialist Aotearoa  but some of its members don't share all of  his Labour friendly views.  On its blog Joe Carolan, who also works for the Unite Union,  writes:

A radical left wing party that is captured in a coalition with Social democracy signs its own suicide note. Social democratic parties profess reforms, but they are committed to managing the capitalist system, not replacing it.  You cannot do both.  Mana will be more effective as an independent, left wing force outside government, pushing Labour and the Greens leftward where successful, organising resistance against any cutbacks and attacks where necessary.  It should not sacrifice this Tino for the sake of being a 2 or 3 MP strong mudguard.  We should be in the vanguard instead.

But even  this view is  entirely misplaced as it promotes illusions about 'pushing' Labour and the Green's to the left. When are people going to wake up and realise  that ANY strategy involving Labour is doomed to failure? It should be abundantly clear by now  that the issues facing left wing  politics in this country have got nothing to do with the Labour Party.

Treen wants people  to vote for a Labour government that has said on more than one occasion that it has no intention  of breaking with the neoliberal policies that have dominated this country for over three decades. But Treen wants people to accept that it'll be 'business as usual'. What an inspiring vision of the future and it highlights all that is wrong about the terribly pessimistic and limited  politics that Treen promotes.

Is this really all that the so-called 'left' in this country can come up with?

Of course Treen is not an idiot and he well  knows this will be a difficult  proposition to sell. This is a bit of problem for  people like him because they somehow need to convince the 800,000 people  who didn't  vote last  time  to deliver their votes to Labour this time round.

The huge  problem for Treen  is that  he hasn't got much to offer. The cupboard is mostly bare.

Without an  alternative to market - led policies  and politics and a new vision of how society could be organised, Treen is left desperately  looking for anything that might convince an angry and  disillusioned  ex-voter  that David 'socialism is not a word I use' Cunliffe is their friend.

His main selling point - if you want to call it that -  is that Labour would  increase  the minimum wage to $15 hour.

But with  the National Government having raised the minimum wage to $14.25 , a raise of 75 cents is small change indeed, especially since real  wages continue to decline.

Frankly I think many people will be telling Treen to go sell crazy elsewhere.

It certainly won't propel people to the polling booths. The tragedy is that none of the obvious real work - to build a genuine left wing party in this country - has been done in favour of supporting a Labour Party that is well past its use-by date.

MIKE HOSKING SAYS BASH A BENEFICIARY A DAY !

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett  lashes out at beneficiaries again. And guess who's there to put the boot in once Bennett has finished?  Yes, its none other than Sky City employee, Mike Hosking.

IN ANOTHER  nasty and orchestrated exercise in beneficiary bashing, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has crowed about suspending the benefits of  21,000 people for travelling overseas since July last year. And she has been joined in her celebrations by New Zealand's answer to Alan Partridge  - but less intelligient - National party cheerleader  Mike Hosking.

Of this 21,000 people penalised,  nearly 5000 people had their  benefits  cancelled   because they failed to get in contact with Work and Income within two months of  their departure from New Zealand.

It is safe to say  that this  'missing 5000' have simply abandoned  New Zealand permanently, having given up  hope of finding a decent job in this country and with little to look forward to but more harassment from WINZ.

But what makes Bennett's attack even more contemptible is that she has  used the figures to deny  that the lack of real  jobs combined with welfare cuts  have contributed to widespread poverty in this country.

Her press release reads :  'These figures are the number of people who chose to travel knowing their benefit would be suspended.  Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit.  Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well,”

But as Alastair Russell of Auckland Action Against Poverty has said: "Auckland Action Against Poverty knows the reality Ms Bennett continues to deny. Life on a benefit is brutally hard. Children go hungry. Choices are made about what bill goes unpaid. Go into Work and Income and leave your dignity at the door. This is the real world and not the fantasy that Ms Bennett wants us to buy into. We continue to wait for the day when Ms Bennett announces a scheme involving 20,000 real jobs with real wages.'

It wasn't hard to make Mike Hosking buy into Paula Bennett's sordid fantasy. In yet another diatribe from his Seven Sharp pulpit last night,  he declared that thousands of beneficiaries were sunning themselves on beaches overseas - all at the expense of the taxpayer.

But, of course, he again provided zero evidence for this claim.  And, again, we ask  how long  - in an election year especially - is TVNZ going to be allow him to openly support the National government  and its policies? Indeed, what does the presence of Hosking on Seven Sharp say about the current ideological climate within TVNZ?

This entire episode reads like a repeat of another rotten  round of 'bash a beneficiary',  again starring Paula Bennett and Mike Hosking.

In 2012 Hosking  loudly backed Paula Bennett's  claim  that  many beneficiaries  weren't ready for paid employment because they were on drugs - and not because there were few jobs available for beneficiaries.

'This to my mind is a fundamental breach of the agreement you have with the Government and therefore needs fixing. The fixing will come in the form of your benefit being cut,' he thundered.

According to Hosking the  government  was confronting  an 'alarming number' ' of beneficiaries who had  admitted that they would not pass  a drug test.

Again, he provided no evidence for this claim.

But he was exposed as the lying government toady that he really is earlier this year.  The NZ  Herald obtained figures that revealed that out of over 8000 beneficiaries who applied for jobs that required drug testing, only 22 tested positive for drug use or refused to take the test.

This, then, was Hosking's 'alarming' number of beneficiaries who were on drugs. 22. Or 0.27% of all beneficiaries tested.

No apology was forthcoming from Hosking to beneficiaries for smearing them with his dirty little lies.

And now Hosking  is parading his bigotry  on nationwide television. This time though, beneficiaries aren't all on drugs - they're all  drinking exotic  cocktails on  beaches in faraway lands.

PENNY RED

SHE'S BEEN  threatening to do it for a while, but English journalist Laurie Penny has  finally launched her own website which will be home to all her writings and other stuff besides. 

Penny is a contributing editor for the New Statesman and her material has featured in The Guardian, The Nation and on websites like Salon and Vice.

She is the author of Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism and Penny Red: Notes From The Age of Dissent.

Described as a 'socialist fuckwit' by her charming right wing opponents, Penny says 'it's time to get organised, and it’s time to get angry.'




YES, MIKE HOSKING IS A MORON

New Zealand's answer to Alan Partridge has directed his 'razor sharp intellect' to the issue of climate change with the usual farcical and brainless  results.

IT SEEMS that TVNZ thinks  its just peachy to allow National Party cheerleader Mike Hosking to vomit his right wing views all over the place every weeknight at 7pm.

On Tuesday night's Seven Sharp  stupid Mike Hosking made this incredibly ridiculous  statement:

Bad news. I’m afraid the IPCC – the International Panel on Climate Change – has issued its latest report. It’s 2,600 pages long and spans 32 volumes. But I can sum it up for you. Ah, we’re stuffed. The seas are rising, the storms are coming, the locusts are close, we are going to climatic hell in a handcart. That’s of course, if you believe them. Which, as it turns out, I don’t.  Twenty years ago they said we had 20 years to turn things around. We haven’t. The Kyoto Protocol was a last-ditch attempt to save us all. No-one adhered to it. The lesson they have not learned is that freaking people out doesn’t get buy-in. I mean if the met service struggles with the accuracy of a five-day forecast, I’m thinking the accuracy of a long-range prediction that takes in 86 years might be a bit dodgy. So my advice: don’t let it ruin your night.

The world's leading climate  scientists have issued a comprehensive and exhaustive  report on the environmental dangers that the world is now confronting and Hosking's only response is to shrug his shoulders and say 'I don't believe them'.  He then goes on to advise viewers  not to let a  pesky report 'ruin your night'. Hosking toddles off to pickle his brain in some more red wine. Everything  is sorted. What a guy.

Hosking is  like every gormless climate change denier who refuses to address this issue responsibly and effectively. Fortunately climate change deniers are in a rapidly  declining minority but, unfortunately, TVNZ has allowed one such moron loose on national television. What a disgrace.

It doesn't seem to matter to TVNZ that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are due to human activities.

Mike Hosking  is the same idiot who says on the Newstalk ZB website  that, although he is 'not a marcher' (gosh, that is a surprise) he is now 'tempted to hit the streets'  because 'we' are  not doing enough to help the big fossil-fuel corporates to wreck the environment in the search for more oil, coal and gas.

And guess who's to blame? It's 'greenies and environmentalists who bring little if any logic to the table.'

This from a man who equates major and adverse environmental change with the reliability of  weather forecasts....

BLOGGED TO DEATH

The New York Times has asked five bloggers whether Karl Marx was right about capitalism.  But the answers given are far from adequate, writes economist Michael Roberts.

The NEW YORK TIMES  has launched a debate about whether Karl Marx was right after all about capitalism. As the NYT put it in its introduction to the contributions of some well-known economic commentators and bloggers:“in the golden, post-war years of Western economic growth, the comfortable living standard of the working class and the economy’s overall stability made the best case for the value of capitalism and the fraudulence of Marx’s critical view of it. But in more recent years many of the forces that Marx said would lead to capitalism’s demise – the concentration and globalization of wealth, the permanence of unemployment, the lowering of wages – have become real, and troubling, once again. So is his view of our economic future being validated?”

You can see what’s worrying the NYT. Like many supporters of capitalism as the only and best system of human social organisation, the NYT is worried that capitalism does not (or no longer seems) to deliver ever-increasing living standards for the majority, but instead is producing ever greater inequalities of wealth and incomes, to such a point that it could provoke a backlash against the system itself.

So the NYT offers a debate. And the question of whether Marx was right about capitalism is put to five bloggers. Of course, most of these are very quick to assume that capitalism does work or is, at least, the best system on offer and there is no alternative (TINA), to use Margaret Thatcher’s infamous phrase about the ‘free markets’ and welfare cuts.

Take free marketer, Michael R. Strain, a resident scholar at the neo-liberal American Enterprise Institute. Mr Strain tells us that maybe Marx had a point back in the days of Victorian England and Charles Dickens, when there was poverty everywhere. But now, Strain tells us, things are different. Now only just over 5% of the world’s population is living on less than $1 dollar a day compared to over 26% just 40 years ago. This is the great achievement of ‘free enterprise’.

This statistic hides a story though, because the big reduction in the worst level of poverty (living on $1 (1987 prices) was achieved by China’s dramatic rise in the world economy. I would be surprised if Strain would conclude that China’s economy is an example of ‘free enterprise’. For that matter, the biggest falls in poverty also took place in the Soviet economies until the fall of the Wall.

No matter, after damning Marx with faint praise, Strain brings up a hoary old chestnut used by mainstream economics: the fallacies of Marx’s labour theory of value. You see, it’s obvious false “that the value of an object is determined by the labour required to produce it. I could spend hundreds of hours writing a song; Bruce Springsteen could write one in 15 minutes worth far more than mine. Q.E.D”.

Well, fancy Marx not noticing that the product of some people’s labour is worth more in the market than others even though they take less time. Clearly, Strain has not read Marx’s Capital Volume One, where he deals with this issue and many others in relating the difference between ‘concrete’ labour and ‘abstract’ labour time.

But again, no matter, Strain has to admit that Marx may still have point about capitalist crises: “There is an inherent instability in capitalism — cycles of boom and bust lead to human misery. Capitalism does create income and wealth inequality.” That doesn’t sound good for ‘free enterprise’ but Strain then tells us that, after all, such crises are not ‘inherent’ and all this inequality and boom and bust were just leftovers from the Great Recession and capitalism would be soon all right. Great – panic over!

Strain’s arguments are thin indeed. We get a more serious bashing of Marx from top Keynesian Brad de Long, professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley, and who blogs at Grasping Reality With Both Hands.  First, he tries a quick demolition of “Marx’s fixation on the labour theory of value” which according to De Long “made his technical economic analyses of little worth”. You see, Marx’s claim that only labour creates value meant that he could not see rising living standards being achieved if the rate of exploitation of labour rose over time. Marx was “confused between levels and shares” of income. After all, you can have a falling share of value going to labour, but still have rising living standards.

This, of course, is yet another chestnut: that Marx reckoned wages would keep on falling under capitalism until the point that, as De Long puts it, the working class would starve. And how wrong was that. This is a nonsense view of Marx’s immiseration theory. Marx clearly recognised that rising productivity of labour under the dynamic development of the capitalist mode of production could lead to increased wages, except that the workers would have to fight for them. A rising rate of exploitation did not necessarily mean falling wages, although sometimes it could. Again this is all in Marx’s Capital – but our esteemed economist seems ignorant of that.

All these misrepresentations of Marx’s value theory are deliberate. Marx’s theory explains that the world’s wealth does not come from capitalists investing, landlords from owning land or bankers from lending money, or somehow from ‘technology’, but from the effort of human labour. But the product of labour is usurped and appropriated by the owners of capital so there is a direct contradiction between profit and the value created by labour. This is something that cannot be admitted or accepted by the apologists of capital.

De Long tells us that Marx thought that new technology under capitalism would lead inexorably to rising unemployment and Marx was wrong. But what Marx explained was that capital’s drive for higher profits would mean more labour-saving technology. That would mean a rise in the ratio of machinery, plant and technology per employee, what Marx called the organic composition of capital. The evidence for this happening over time in every major capitalist economy is overwhelming. The ratio of the means of production to the employment of labour has risen hugely. And this creates a tension between capital and labour on sharing out the new value created and on the continued employment of labour in outdated industries. A reserve army of labour is permanently available for capital to exploit or not.  This seems to describe exactly the nature of technology and labour under capitalism, not De Long’s distortion. Ironically, De Long says at the end of his piece that maybe robot technology will actually displace human labour permanently after all. But that’s another story.


TYLER COWAN  IS  a professor of economics at George Mason University and blogs at Marginal Revolution, which covers economic affairs. Tyler is a firm proponent of modern neoclassical economics that starts from the assumption of free markets and sees economics as the study of the allocation of scarce resources, basing himself of the neoclassical assumptions of marginalism.

For Cowan, Marx has got the wrong end of the stick. Capitalism’s failure to provide things like decent education and health or better living standards, at least right now, is because of ‘vested interests’ blocking the free market from making a proper allocation of resources. ‘Rent seekers’ and monopolies (including trade union interference) are the problem, not capitalism as such.  Cowan reckons Marx has little to say on these issues. Again, of course, yet another eminent economist has not read his Marx, who dealt with the issue of monopoly and rent at length.

Like De Long, Cowan confuses productivity with profitability. For him, the low profitability that Marx pointed out “perceptively” is due to the low growth in productivity since the 1970s. Thus Cowan suggests that Marx had a similar theory to the neoclassical marginal productivity theory, something by the way that Thomas Piketty also thinks in his recent opus, Capital in the 21st century.

But turning Marx into a neoclassical economist won’t work. Actually Marx’s theory is the opposite: a higher growth in the productivity of labour will eventually lead to a falling rate of profit, because it can only be achieved by increasing investment in the means of production and reducing relatively the costs of labour. But as profits only come from labour power, there is a tendency for profitability to fall as productivity rises.

Yves Smith writes the blog Naked Capitalism. She is the head of Aurora Advisors, a management consulting firm and generally considered more to the left in the economic spectrum. But she soon dismisses Marx’s analysis, as she sees it, in her contribution. We are told that Marx had an underconsumption theory of crises under capitalism, namely that “Marx believed that overproduction would lead to pressure on wages, which would prove to be ultimately self-defeating, since the drive to lower pay levels to restore and increase profit levels would wreck markets for goods and services. That’s very much in keeping with the dynamic in advanced economies today.”

This is the usual view of Marx by many lefts and the modern version of this is to claim that rising inequality of incomes is the cause of crises, or at least the latest one. I have spent a lot of time on my blog explaining both that this is wrong and it was not Marx’s view either See my post.

But no matter, because according to Smith, Marx got it wrong anyway about class struggle under capitalism eventually leading to its overthrow. You see, a ‘middle class’ developed around managers and trade unionists and this has permanently blocked any move to end capitalism. So Marx was wrong in his expectation of change.


THERE WAS ONLY one blogger who defended Marx’s ideas out of the five invited to contribute to the NYT debate – I suppose a fair ratio of views among economists. Doug Henwood is editor of Left Business Observer, host of a weekly radio show originating on KPFA, Berkeley, and is author of several books.

 Henwood makes it clear where he stands: “I don’t see how you can understand our current unhappy economic state without some sort of Marx-inspired analysis.” Even better, he places the Marxist theory of the cause of crises under capitalism squarely with the movement of profitability. “Corporate profitability — which, as every Marxist schoolchild knows, is the motor of the system — had fallen sharply off its mid-1960s highs.” As Henwood explains, the strategists of capital moved to raise profitability through a reduction in labour rights and by holding down wages. “The “cure” worked for about 30 years. Corporate profits skyrocketed and financial markets thrived. The underlying mechanism, as Marx would explain it, is simple: workers produce more in value than they are paid, and the difference is the root of profit. If worker productivity rises while pay remains stagnant or declines, profits increase. This is precisely what has happened over the last 30 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity rose 93 percent between 1980 and 2013, while pay rose 38 percent (all inflation-adjusted)”.

 However, Henwood reckons the current crisis is the result of inequality and low wages reducing consumption and thus the answer is to raise wages and public spending. The problem with this view of Marx is that it does not match the facts: consumption did not slump at all prior to the Great Recession: it was the collapse of the housing market, profits and then investment, not consumption. Raising wages and reducing inequality will help the majority but lower profitability further and thus reignite the capitalist crisis. It’s not higher shares for labour that is the answer but the replacement of the capitalist mode of production.

 But at least Henwood understands better Marx’s views, unlike the other bloggers. That did not stop Philip Pilkington, a heterodox economist, blogging that Henwood was wrong. Pilkington correctly refutes De Long’s distortion that Marx thought wages must keep falling. As he says “I don’t know why this myth continues to bounce around. Everyone and their mother seem to think that Marx was dead sure that real living standards of workers could not rise under capitalism. But this is simply not true…Marx did not argue that real wages could not rise under capitalism. End of story”

Unfortunately, Pilkington relies on the arguments of the post-Keynesian ‘Marxist’ economist of the 1940s, Joan Robinson. As a result, he claims that Henwood is confused to argue that US profitability fell in the 1970s. He says “I don’t know where this stuff comes from. I know that Marxists want to bring every crisis down to some sort of crisis of profitability but really, the data is readily available.”

 Yes, it is readily available and unfortunately for Pilkington backs the Marxist case.  Pilkington is confused with his data. Not understanding Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, Pilkington provides us with a graph showing the year on year change in the mass of profit to refute Henwood, not the rate of profit! Oh dear.

 Pilkington concludes with a question “is Marx relevant for understanding the world today?” And his answer: “Frankly, I don’t think so.” For him, we are back to rising inequality and banking speculation as the explanations of crises – they remain the most popular and yet the furthest away from Marx’s.

So Marx continues to be blogged to death.

 Michael Roberts is a Marxist Economist. He wrote The Great Recession – A Marxist View in 2009. This article was first published by The Next Recession.

THE DOTCOM CIRCUS

 Illustration by Porcupine Farm

Britain has Ken Loach and Left Unity. We've got Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party. Which one would you choose?

LAST WEEK THE  Labour Party of Ed Miliband voted for the Com-Lib government's   legislation to put a cap on welfare benefits. A mere thirteen Labour MP's voted against this new attack on the poor.

The measure will cap welfare spending at £119.5billion in 2015-16. The government  will have to  make cuts of some £3 billion to come under the ceiling of the welfare cap.   According to Save the Children, the welfare cap will push a  further 345,000 children into poverty.

Perhaps to coincide with the vote, The Guardian published a withering  attack on Labour  from renowned  film maker Ken Loach:

The coalition parties proclaim the importance of the market economy. So does Labour. The coalition cuts back on public enterprise and prioritises the interests of big corporations and private companies. So did the last Labour government. Whenever workers organise to defend jobs, wages or conditions, who supports them? Not Ed Miliband or other Labour leaders.

He also poured cold water on those who still think that the  Labour Party is somehow still  salvageable for the left:

Labour's rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but its fundamental stance is limited by the same imperative: profit comes before all else. Can the Labour party be reclaimed? Or, rather, made anew into one that will represent the interests of the people?

History suggests it cannot. The high-water mark of 1945 is long gone. The many great achievements of that government have largely been dismantled, either with the collusion of Labour or directly by the party when it has been in power. ....The Labour party is part of the problem, not the solution. The Greens have many admirable policies, but we look in vain for a thoroughgoing analysis for fundamental change. We need a new voice, a new movement – a new party.


Of course Britain does have a new party - Left Unity,  the party that Ken Loach called for.  

This week  Left unity  has reported an upsurge in new memberships, most likely driven by Labour's support for the welfare cap.

Loach observes that people are angry but political leadership is required to focus that anger and to give people hope for the future.

In the face of the continued neoliberal assault on the working conditions  and the  lives of ordinary British people, Left Unity stands resolutely on the side of the folk that the Labour Party has  betrayed and abandoned.

At least there is now the semblance of a fightback and  growing recognition that the Labour Party is a political dead end for ordinary people.

But the absence of a genuine  left wing party in New Zealand   has  seen  many  'lefties'  rush to embrace the Internet Party as a decisive electoral weapon in the fight against John Key.

The Mana leadership are  now making noises about forming an electoral alliance with Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party. This is in despite of the fact  that the multi-millionaire Dotcom has expressed no interest in left wing politics and was last seen donating money to the mayoral campaign of arch-right winger John Banks.

Whether this deal will go down is uncertain and it will be debated at the Mana Party's upcoming AGM.  But, already , a high profile member like Sue Bradford has  indicated she will walk from Mana if any deal is done with the Internet Party. It is likely she would take other members with her.

Whatever  the ultimate  result of this game of musical chairs, the final configuration  that emerges  will remain one that backs the right wing  Labour Party and this offers nothing for ordinary people.

It is  all very well for an organisation  like  the International Socialist Organisation to observe that the Internet Party episode has highlighted  'how ridiculously shallow New Zealand politics is'  but continued support for  the Labour Party as the 'lesser evil' has contributed to that very shallowness. It has stifled the development of new ideas and it has prevented real debate.

Until a final break is made with the Labour Party and we begin to forge a culture of genuine socialist aspirations, involving the formation of a new political party, then people like Kim Dotcom will always come to a prominence that they don't deserve - and there ALWAYS will be so-called 'progressives' who are prepared  to make  opportunistic deals with people like him.

WORKING CLASS KIDS ARE STUPID !

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew declares that working class kids are not very bright.

NEWCASTLE UNITED  has one of the largest fan bases in the world and every home game sees the famous  St James Park  filled to capacity. That's over 50,000 people.

It is this massive support that has made the premier league football  club very wealthy.  The Forbes  Top 20 Richest Football Clubs lists Newcastle as the twentieth richest club in the world.

The fan  base is largely working class so it would not be a sensible move to imply that working class people are stupid.

But that is exactly what manager Alan Pardew has done.

He has  praised  the  Southampton football club  for regularly producing 'intelligent' young players. Why are they 'intelligent'? According to Pardew it's because they are middle class:

' Southampton have a huge catchment area and it's a different type of catchment area. There is a big working class community, but there are a lot of middle class kids who have a good education. The players who come out of Southampton are quite intelligent and there might be something in that.'

There has been an immediate reaction from Newcastle fans.

On Twitter 'Yorkshire Sam writes: 'Only Alan Pardew could demean  the working class in a huge working class city.'

And Natasha writes: 'Alan Pardew need a good kick in the teeth for those comments. I'm working class and educated, thanks very much.'

And no less than Stephen Fry thought that Darren Stephenson's comment was worthy of a retweet: ' I've just read Pardew's comment that working class kids are stupid. Disgraceful. Hope he gets sacked soon.'

Pardew should know better. After he was recently  substantially fined and penalised for attempting to head butt a Hull City player, Luke Edwards of the Daily Telegraph wrote:

"He (Alan Pardew) is not the first player or manager to have risen from a working-class background to achieve fame and fortune in football, but he is perhaps one of the few who has been unable to adapt his behaviour accordingly. " 

The implication of this comment is obvious; if you are working class you are more inclined to be violent. These comments also delivered up a  storm of protest.

Said one sarcastic writer:  ' I live in a predominantly working class town in England, and it's true that we all walk around headbutting each other constantly. It's in our genes. If only we all went to public schools and daisy-chained the head butting gene out of ourselves.'

Newcastle were thumped 4-0 by Southampton this weekend and the calls for Pardew's sacking are growing louder.

PRIME RACISM

Look out for some racism on Prime Television - thanks  to Top Gear's Jeremy  Clarkson

TOP GEAR IS  back on New Zealand  television screens tonight on Prime Television and the new season opens with Jeremy  Clarkson and chums  driving  'across Burma in an epic journey of beautiful scenery, regular adversity, and the constant bickering of three badly dressed buffoons.'

The Prime website still refers to Myanmar as Burma.

Top Gear's Myanmar special  though has stirred up controversy and, once again, Jeremy Clarkson is being accused of racism.

Indian born actress Somi Guha is suing the BBC for up to £1million because of a racist joke made by Clarkson during the 'Burma Special'. Guha wants one million pounds in punitive damages, unless the BBC both issues a formal apology and takes the show off the air completely - which is highly  unlikely since Top Gear makes a lot of money for the BBC.

The viewer  would have to possess  some familiarity with Asian culture to even notice the joke and presumably that's why Clarkson did it - he thought  he was being 'clever'.

Clarkson uses the word 'slope', a derogatory term for people of Asian descent.

The three hosts - Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson - are tasked with building a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand.

After completion, Clarkson, says: 'That is a proud moment, but there's a slope on it', as a man walks towards him on a makeshift bridge.

Co-presenter Richard Hammond replies: 'You're right, it's definitely higher on that side.'

This is not the first time Top Gear has been accused of racism. In 2011 Richard Hammond referred to Mexicans as  "lazy," "feckless," "flatulent," and "overweight."  . Mexico's ambassador to Britain,  angrily responded  that the comments displayed "bigotry" and "ignorance."

In 2011 Clarkson  said that  public sector workers had no right to strike and that he would have them shot in front of their families. The BBC subsequently issued a public apology.

Jeremy Clarkson is a supporter of the Conservative Party and a personal friend of Prime Minister David Cameron.

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