Monday, December 21, 2015

Too many, too few; Too few, too many

1.  Once upon a time, the Goldilocks characters in this parable of the abattoirs called capitalism,  were kept busy telling us how there were too many of us. Too many people.  There were too many people for the Club of Rome; there were too many for spaceship Earth; there were too many for the 'carrying capacity' of this planet; there were just too damn many.  Of us.....although, let's face it, Goldilocks was a white girl, so the real meaning was... 'there's too many of them.'  Too many of those with darker eyes and darker hair and darker skin.  Too many of them.

There's too many of them and not enough oil, water, natural gas, arable land, grain, housing, antibiotics, vaccines, all of the above.  We've hit the peak.  We're past the peak.  We're on the downhill side of the slippery slope of the bell curve.  There's too damn many of them. 


2.  But that was then, and this is now.  Now,  the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times feature articles on the "dwindling work force,"  "too few people,"  "labor shortages," the "graying" of (Japan, the EU, the US) and the peril of declining birth rates.  Now, apparently, there are too few of us, us being the young us, and not young as in 'state of mind' young, or 'young at heart,' but actually young.  Really young.  Young in body young.  Young on your driver's license young. Young enough to work for the next 40 or 50 years.

According to the WSJ, there aren't enough young people in ... China.  That's right, 1.4 billion people, and not enough young ones entering the work force to meet the needs of industry.

Because the Goldilocks capitalists are just that-- capitalists-- they explain all things all the time by referring to supply and demand.   "Labor shortage" is a function of supply and demand, supply being the declines in population growth and the reduced numbers of young people participating in the labor force.

Labor shortages explain for Goldilocks why wages have increased in China and why unemployment for those in their 20s is at record levels in Europe.  You see, the increase in wages due to labor shortages in Europe drove wages to the point where production was no longer profitable.  Amazing isn't it that  the increased wealth that the bourgeoisie have awarded to themselves, the stock buy-backs, dividends, special pay-outs,  hasn't made production unprofitable, isn't it?

Labor shortages explain why Goldilocks is in Vietnam, why the Philippines have become so attractive, and why the minimum wage in the US has been so minimum for so long. (see above)

For Goldilocks, labor shortages explain the increase in temporary, and part-time employment.  (see above)

For Goldilocks, labor shortages explain lay-offs.  (see above)

Labor shortages explain overproduction for Goldilocks.  If labor shortages didn't exist there would be more "effective demand" and consequently maritime freight rates wouldn't be below break-even points; oil would be at $100 per barrel; copper would be back to $7000 per ton; and the asset-backed-securities markets would have never imploded.  Raise your right hand and repeat after Goldilocks...

3.  When the Goldilocks bourgeoisie are talking anything, they're talking about profit and right now.  So the problem isn't lack of population growth, it's lack profit growth.  The problem isn't a labor shortage, but the exhaustion, more than less, of the abilities mechanisms, arrangements, relations of extracting increasing amounts of surplus value to translate into growth in the increment of total output, in the rate of value expansion.

Since 2011, the United States, despite holding unit labor costs and overall wage and benefit growth   flat, the growth of the  total value of output per production hour has been, at best, miniscule.

Overproduction is the inability of accumulation to sustain profitability. That bears repeating.

After 2008, China articulated a "shift" in its economy.  The FDI-export model was to be supplanted by development of the domestic market.  Household consumption would replace fixed capital formation as the prime economic driver.

However, no such transformation has occurred. Between 2007 and 2011 the share of real GDP claimed by household consumption declined more than 10 percent.  The share of GDP claimed by gross capital formation increased 25 percent during the same period.

Overproduction is the inability of accumulation to sustain profitability.

China cannot increase the "domestic market," and household consumption,  as long as 40 percent of the population is tethered to the rural economy; agricultural productivity remains low; and the average size of agricultural units is less than 2 hectares.

Productivity requires the expulsion of labor from the land, no less than productivity requires the reduction of labor in the industrial production process.  These simultaneous impulses of capital in both the industrial centers and the rural areas put the truth against the myth that China has a "labor shortage,"  or that increased wages are damaging accumulation.

The Goldilocks East and the Goldilocks West have run up the inside of the walls of the cage of their own making.  Increasing the relative amount of surplus value extracted during the working day is necessary to restore ratios of  profitability so impaired by accumulation.  The means for increasing that relative amount of surplus value is more intensive accumulation that impairs profitability.

Under such conditions, the long-term tendency of the decline in profitability converges with and is manifested in the sudden collapse of the capitalist markets, the inability to sustain a recovery, and the pressing need for liquidation of the capital values embedded in the means of production.  Socialism or barbarism?  That's one way of putting it, a little too philosophical for me.  Let's try "Arson or Revolution."  This time, the three bears better eat Goldilocks.

S.Artesian
December 21, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sometimes......

...even I-- cynical, jaded me-- can't believe what I read.   Like what I read some days ago on Louis Proyect's Marxmail assisted living center chat-room for ex- and current Trotskyists of some sort, so-called socialists, Syriza,  I mean Podemos, I mean Corbyn supporters and the like.  Like this gem from a list participant on December 4: 

Why doesn't the U.S. military bomb the power stations and sanitation systems in Raqqa (the ISIS capital) and make life miserable there? By making life unbearable in the ISIS capital, the civilians would have no choice but to flee, and the terrorists would lose their main selling point: That they can sustain a viable state and orderly rule. The US bombed the heck out of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Why not make life under ISIS a hellish nightmare so people think twice before declaring allegiance to a rubble caliphate? Our answer might be civilian causalities but I don't think that is their reason.
Nice, huh?  Bomb the power stations and sanitation facilities of Raqqa so the population can live in hell, as opposed to now under the caliphate, when they are living oh so comfortably, hell being living in darkness with no sanitation facilities. 


We all know what high military value targets supplies of safe drinking water are, right?  Particularly us Marxists, because material conditions determine consciousness, and nothing says revolution like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid fever.

[Edit]See this-- the 'I wonder why....?'-- is supposed to pass as simple curiosity; never, never should such disinterested questioning be confused with advocacy.  Here's the what passes for logic:  "When imperial powers are really really really opposed to something, they bomb the fuck out of it.  They lay waste to civilian populations.  They discriminate targets in such a way that the results of the attack on those targets are indiscriminate.  If the US, UK, France etc. were really really really opposed to ISIS or whatever manifestation the results of the defeat of social revolution in Syria, or Iraq now assumes, they would rain down fire and brimstone indiscriminately.  Therefore, the US, UK, France etc. are not really really really opposed to ISIS, or Assad. BTW, not that I advocate such a thing... just wonderin'."

[Edit] The road to hell is paved with such speculation......and attacks on sanitation facilities.  This has to be one of the few times that the failure to pursue a policy of war crimes is presented as a criticism of imperial intention; as a sign of vacillation, ambivalence, duplicity. ' You're not sincere enough, you imperialist motherfuckers' is the implicit content of such an "argument."

Well, let's assure our wonderin' Marxmailer that a) they, the US, the UK, France et al aren't done yet not even close  b) you can count on attacks that are indiscriminate in their repercussions increasing if such a thing is even physically possible in Syria, and given the amount of firepower being deployed, it's more than possible.

So if sincerity is your issue, if you're afraid of non-commitment, don't worry, there's a cure for that.

The response to this speculation by a list participant from the list owner, from Mr. Louis Limbo (How Low Can You Go?) Profit  Proyect?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

From the other participants on Proyect's self-center for assisted living? Musings about the "strategic" value of such bombing?  Sure thing.

Outrage that the ghosts of Robert McNamara and LBJ were speculating on a "Marxist" chat list?  Not so much.  Only one person, an individual of considerable integrity who, back in the day, and in public, identified the former Illinois state's attorney for Cook County, Edward V. Hanrahan,   as a murderer deserving of imprisonment, spoke out and against the suggested "strategy" as a war crime. 

Only that one, who wrote:  
Bombing civilian infrastructure is a war crime. This is why Bush and Cheney should be serving life sentences.
All the others?  All those so busy with projects like the Marxist Internet Archive? No sir.  Or Socialist Action?  No ma'am.  Or various historical projects on Stalinism, fascism, etc. etc.  Nope.  Nada.  Zilch.  Nothing.  Which says everything about who they really are and what they offer the prospects for emancipation.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.


But it gets even better or worse because today, Limbo Louie Louie writes:

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2015/12/11/syrias-bombed-water-infrastructure/ 
So where is the outcry? When Gaza's water treatment plant was bombed, it became a cause celebre but it barely registers when it is being done by the Russians in the name of fighting terrorism. In both Gaza and Aleppo, you hear the same filthy excuses for state terrorism but it gets different responses. What a fucked up left we have today when people like Patrick Cockburn, Tariq Ali and Slavoj Zizek can shrug their shoulders about Russian mass murder. 

Priceless, no?  Someone suggests that bombing sanitation plants in Raqqa is a measure of sincerity and commitment and Little Limbo Louie Louie shrugs his shoulders.


Russian military forces commit the exact same act,  and it's an outrage.  Because... because why?  Because it registers just how sincere, committed Russia is in defense of its cohort. 

[Edit]But of course, all this, all that, all the crap is the death agony of anti-imperialism.  We have those defending Assad because, after all US imperialism is the main enemy; we have those arguing that freedom fighters in Syria have the "right" to obtain weapons from any source whatsoever, including the US because, after all
a) didn't Lenin say so 
b) didn't Ho Chi Minh accept weapons and supplies from the US in WW2
c)didn't Trotsky say that if Britain invaded Vargas' Brazil, "we" would defend Vargas, because Brazil was a colonized country? 
d)didn't somebody say that if dock workers in Germany or somewhere were leading a general strike during WW1 and the Kaiser was shipping arms to the Irish republicans, the workers should suspend their strike to allow the loading and departure of that ship?

Yes indeed, all those things have been said and all those things are shite:
a) Lenin was wrong
b) Sure thing, and look how well that worked out for the Vietnamese workers in 1945. 
c) Actually Brazil was a colonized area that, for a time, became the seat of an empire; maintained slavery until the end of the 19th century, and if Britain invaded Brazil in the 1930s, the economic determinants of such an invasion were the conditions of international capitalism. "Poor, little Brazil" existed only in the imagination of the 3rd and 4th Internationals.  Effective opposition to such an invasion requires opposition to Brazil functioning in that network of capitalism, to a Vargas.  How do we know?  Look at the war in the Malvinas.  Look at the Paris Commune. Opposition always means opposition to the bourgeoisie  and their agents at home .
d)Wrong again, much more important for the dock workers to maintain the strike against their government, against the war precipitated by capitalism.  How do we know? See (b) above.  Exactly how do you think those weapons are going to wind up being used?  By whom, against whom?

So...so what we had in Syria is the stirring of a social revolution precipitated by the breakdown in the mechanisms of accumulation that have raced through the Middle East and Maghreb since 2008.  We have had the massive retaliatory response of the Assad regime, committed to preserving itself, and its control of accumulation.  We have had the disruption of the revolutionary development of the struggle in Syria by this massive retaliation, and into that vacancy, reaction has flooded. 

That anyone thinks Russia on one side, or weapons from the US or any other power can accomplish anything other than what has already been accomplished, decapitation of the revolutionary struggle, is a measure of sincerity all right, the commitment to counterrevolution that informs the left.

Indeed, what a fucked-up left we have today when people like Louis Proyect are not only not shunned, but fit right in.


S. Artesian
December 12, 2015


Saturday, December 05, 2015

Flying Time

I was reminded by a comment from a reader that it has been years since I looked at the US Department of Commerce Annual Survey of Manufacturers. Two whole years?  Imagine that. Time flies when you're in the midst of the weakest, slowest recovery since WW2.   It seems like only yesterday, which come to think of it is pretty close to being an accurate description for review of this data. 

So today, a review, and comparison, of only yesterday, or yesterdays, as the new data set is from 2013:


Column 1-- sector and NAICS class
Column 2-- years
Column 3-- C/h: total value of product divided by production worker hours, in $
Column 4-- c/h: total cost of materials used in production + repairs to buildings, equipment and machinery per production worker hour, in $
Column 5-- v/h: production labor costs--  production worker wages + 30% fringe per production worker hour, in $.  The 30% addition is derived from the ratio total fringe to the total payroll costs
Column 6-- s/h: surplus value-- C minus (c + v) per production worker hour
Column 7-- s/v: ratio of surplus value per hour to production labor cost per hour
Column 8-- s/c+v:  ratio of surplus value per hour to (c +v)


 
Class          Year       C/h       c/h          v/h         s/h           s/v      s/c+v
Manuf 2011369.85 225.77 28.06 116.02 4.13 0.46
       31-33 2013 371.55 222.62 28.14 120.79 4.29 0.48








Petroleum 2011 5889.97 5101.11 48.31 740.56 15.33 0.14
324 2013 5855.75 5002.81 49.81 803.13 16.12 0.16








Food 2011 327.02 211.71 22.11 93.22 4.22 0.4
311 2013 345.91 225.84 22.43 97.63 4.35 0.39








Machine 2011 294.65 160.34 29.78 104.53 3.51 0.55
333 2013 285.87 149.03 29.54 107.31 3.63 0.6








Transp Eq 2011 416.78 261.92 35.97 119.19 3.31 0.4
336 2013 422.69 258.83 34.51 129.36 3.75 0.44








Computer 2011 445.75 188.89 33.63 223.23 6.64 1
334 2013 428.76 169.04 33.81 225.92 6.68 1.11








Chemical 2011 925.45 506.19 37.16 382.11 10.28 0.7
334 2013 901.04 486.43 37.12 377.49 10.17 0.72

Check the "growth" of  labor costs.  The layoffs, wage reductions, work-rule changes, givebacks have done their job.  Wage and benefit portions of the total product have been reduced even where the total value per hour has declined. The rate of surplus value has increased, even if only modestly, in all sectors save chemical production.

The sector wide declines in total value per hour, C, are the result of deflation in the cost of the materials required for production.  The  increased ratio of surplus value, i.e. the reduction in the time necessary for reproducing the value of the laborer, the wage and fringe,  and the reduction in the cost of materials have combined to boost the rate of production profit.  The offsetting tendencies generated by the earlier decline in the rate of profit itself have generated something that might look like recovery if only...

If only the decline in the cost of inputs into production was not a manifestation of the devaluation of capital; if only the decline in the cost of inputs was not the result of overproduction beyond capital's capacity for accumulation; if only the increase in the relative profit, under the previous two conditions, would not translate, in just one or two tomorrows (like 2015, and 2016) to a decline in the absolute profit, in the mass of profit, which it will, which it must. 

We have come to the point where the offsetting tendencies generated by the decline in the rate of profit have made manifest the chronic tendency of capitalism toward overproduction and devaluation.  

In his Grundrisse, Marx writes:
On the one side, then, it calls to life all the powers of science and of nature, as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour time employed on it. On the other side, it wants to use labour time as the measuring rod for the giant social forces thereby created, and to confine them within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value.(Notebook VII, p.706).
Sometimes I wonder if even Marx realized how right he was-- capital must confine the giant social forces created within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value.  Yet in these very, and various,  attempts devaluation is the "ultimate" commodity.


S. Artesian
December 5, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

Under, Over, Sideways, and Down

1. Say that again?

2. It is supposed to be ever so apparent to Marxists, historical materialists, and the like,  that the apprehension, recognition, description, and demonstration of the law of value-- the law that commodities will exchange with each other in proportion to the labor time socially necessary for their reproduction-- is a law of capitalist production.  It is historical; specific to a certain organization, or mode, of production.  The law is  incapable of being recognized, that is to say critical analysis, until the law has become dominant; until it has seized society, the reproduction of human beings as social beings, by the throat, or the short and curlys,  in its ever expanding jaws and begun its spin; it's death spiral, like that of the crocodile seizing a goat. So Aristotle, as Marx notes, comes close, but no cigar.  We know why, don't we?

3. Except in establishing its dominance, its reign, the law of value, like the crocodile and the once upon a time goat, disappears; settles beneath the surface.

That's the thing, or more correctly, the relation.  At the very moment that this law determines social relations, becomes universal, it becomes transparent; invisible.  It's everywhere.  The production of social life takes place against the giant green screen that the law of value has become.  History disappears. Nobody sees it.

"Oh sure," the goat herd says, "there are crocodiles in the water.  There always have been crocodiles.  There will always be crocodiles.  It's natural.  I think we'll just creep down to the river and sneak a quick sip."  What's one goat, more or less, in a universe of goats?  Immaterial, unless you're the goat.  If you're the croc, dinner.

4a. From capital's  political economists we get one iteration or another of the perpetual sunshine of capitalism as in this, the relations of value, are the most natural of relations among people, even if not perfect.  These are the most satisfactory of relations for humans.  Sometimes they need to be massaged, manipulated, mitigated, curbed, regulated, but that's only because we human beings are imperfect creatures.  Capitalism is what has always been intended by god, or his son, or nature, or DNA, or the ancient wisdom of interplanetary visitors.

4b. From some of the "left" we get one iteration or another of the law of value as a silent "partner" to all eras of social production.  We get the value as unseen, unrecognized but still material force determining exchange, trade, relations between city and state in Greece, Rome, Liguria, Venice, pre- Ottoman Asia minor, pre-Columbian America.  Everything is, was, and will be determined by the law of value.  The "role" of socialists is to perfect the dictates of the law of value; to embrace its operation and make exchange orderly, rational. Planned.

5. Those who don't see much difference between those political economists in 4a and the political economists in 4b are considered to be outliers, or worse, cynics.  Well, as recent events in Greece have made so painfully clear to the most casual observer, being called a cynic by a bunch of fools isn't the worst thing.  Right Leo?  Right Sam?

What is missing from the assessment of our political economists?  Besides everything?  Just, I mean just this: that the law of value is an expression of the condition of labor.  That condition, or expression, or manifestation, or relation of social labor is specifically one where the only use the ability to labor has to the laborers is in its exchange for values necessary for its own subsistence.  Thus labor is constituted as the commodity labor-power; measured, as all commodities are, by time, and time is expressed as value, realizing that value only in its alienation, its surrender to commerce.

Reproduction of the value required for subsistence is the necessary labor-time, the wage; the balance of the laboring period is surplus labor-time.  All societies, and all production, claim and distribute this surplus labor-time.  The form of distribution unique to capitalism is the transfiguration of surplus labor-time as surplus value.

Social labor compelled and composed as a commodity, as value producing value, as an object for exchange, within which is the relation of exchange.   That relation is the means of production, the machinery for social reproduction, constituted also as commodities, as vehicles for exchange.

So we have our two signature, historically unique relations of capitalism.

We have labor constituted as commodity, a property that can be purchased, which property circumscribes an activity that is in fact not purchased but aggrandized as the activity is set to producing value.

We have the means of production constituted as commodities, as property, the value already embodied therein only accessible, only viable to the extent that the property can be used to extract surplus-value.  We have the means of production that can only transfer the previously aggrandized value through expanding value.


The law of value cannot regulate production, distribute labor-time, when 90 percent of economic activity is rural, individual, agricultural production and 90 percent of that agricultural production is required for the subsistence of the direct producers. 

6.  Short version: the law of value is not an invisible hand, a force of nature, or a genetic substance.  The law of value does not spawn capitalists and proletarians; owners of the means of production, and embodiers of labor-power.  The relations of proletarians to capitalists; of property to the condition of labor creates the law of value.

7. It is supposed to be so readily apparent from capital's nexus of existence in that specific exchange, that the determinant of capitalist production is the drive to expand the extraction and seizure of surplus labor-time, of surplus value.  All other considerations are secondary.  And it's supposed to be just as readily apparent that all limits, obstacles, barriers to capitalist production can be overcome, save the limit, barrier, obstacle capital creates for itself, through itself, in itself, by its need to preserve the means of production as capitalist property in order to expand the extraction of surplus value. 

Capital, then, is no system of equilibrium; nor a system seeking equilibrium.  It is a system of dynamic disequilibrum where imbalance, disproportion are no more obstructions than they are opportunities; where excess and scarcity are generated and regenerated.

It's supposed to be even more than apparent that this need to expand the portion of surplus-value drives the expansion of output.

Apparently, it's not so apparent, as those who don't know better, i.e. "left" political economists," continue to rattle on about "supply" and "demand" as if such categories have any meaning abstracted, as they always are, from the reproduction of capital, from the increment of the reproduction of capital, that is to say profit, and the rate of profit.

Even some who do know better, and who have demonstrated that they know much better,  somehow regard supply and demand as distinct from the successes and failures capital encounters on its road to reproduction.  We might be told, for example, something like this:

the notion that technical progress ( "progress" only has meaning in capital in the value of the components of production, so technical progress means a growing accumulation of value in the instruments relative to the value of the labor-power--s.a.) causes overproduction, creating too much output in relationship to demand, and forces companies to reduce prices,  is irredeemably flawed.    

and this:

Companies' decisions about how much output to produce are based on projection of demand for the output.  Since technical progress does not affect demand-- consumers don't care about production processes, just the function of the product, technical progress will not cause a company to increase production.

Well, technically not so. And it's more than a technical distinction. 

Firstly, "demand" has little enough to do with capital investment and output.  Every capitalist know that the size of the market, the existing demand, is greater than the output of his or her specific corporation.  The market can be stable, growing, or shrinking. .  The market for the transport of all commodities can be static for a period time, and yet railroad operators know that increasing the technical component through the purchase of more expensive but more efficient locomotives, capable of greater tractive effort with more precise adhesion control, consuming less fuel per ton-mile, with greater mean distances and times between out-of-service periods for repair, allows the railroad to reduce costs, achieve better utilization rates of rolling stock, haul greater tonnages with fewer locomotives and fewer crews and capture a greater portion of the composite surplus value, the composite profit available in the sector.

The production rates and masses of differing commodities are subject to these same considerations, and compulsions.  Semiconductor, aluminum ingot, oil, machine tool, radio production, container ship transport, all must increase the output of the "finished" commodity in order to circulate the value increasingly embodied in the technical apparatus.

If technical applications  reduce by 50 percent the time necessary for the production of a ton of steel from 2 hours to 1 hour, does the mill then increase output in a year, or shut-down after producing last year's quota, or maybe just a bit more than last year's quota?  The mill doesn't shut down. The capitalist can use that technical advantage to lower the price of that specific steel below that of steel from other less technically advanced mills, capturing greater market share and devaluing the competing capitals.

8.  The need to aggrandize greater masses and rates of surplus-value drives the change in the value composition of the capital deployed.  By reducing,  through the development of labor productivity, the time necessary for reproducing the value equivalent to the wage, larger portions of the work period are captured as surplus-value.  This is the "general curve" of capitalist accumulation, a curve that turns in on itself when the amassing of capital is overwhelmed by the decline in the rate of profit  which the accumulation itself has precipitated. 



At a critical juncture, the increased rate of surplus value is not increased enough.  It has become a high rate, a very high rate, but velocity is not acceleration, and acceleration, the increment is what counts.  Like an object approaching the speed of light, the acceleration decreases as the very mass increases. 

The accumulation of capital is the link between and the identity of overproduction and the tendency of the rate of profit to decline.

That's where we are now.  At the point of conjuncture, and identity, between overproduction of the means of production as capital and the tendency of the rate of profit to decline.

November 30, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Slow Boats To...

1. ...everywhere

 a) "Circulation," wrote Marx in Capital (volume 1), "sweats money from every pore."   Trade, after all, is the arena where profit and loss achieve a certain materiality even if only of the book entry type. It's not called exchange value for nothing.

Between 1995 and 2005, the average annual rate of growth (aarg) for world merchandise exports measured 7 percent, and  doubled the rate for global economic output.   Since 2011, the rate of growth for world trade has approached parity with that of global GDP, as both  have slowed to the 2.5 percent rate.

The accelerating growth of global trade over economic output was the result of greater integration of value chains, where companies and countries "assembled" themselves in networks, or stations, for providing design, raw materials, intermediate processes, penultimate fabrications, and final assemblies for the commodities of capitalism, from commercial airliners, to toothpaste.  Trade in the modern world follows production in the value chains.  Amateurs talk about "exports" and "imports."  Professionals talk "export, re-import; import, re-export."

 b) Capital intends the expansion of value.  That's not it's "purpose," no more than a psychopath can be said to have a "purpose."  That's its, capital's need, no less than that of a psychopath.  The "mechanism" for meeting this need is aggrandizement of living labor power as wage-labor; labor-power as a value, having use only in its exchange for an equivalent to the time, cost, of its own reproduction, which time, cost-- called the necessary labor time-- amounts to only a fraction of the total labor time.

The expansion of value is the elaboration of this mechanism; that is to say the accumulation of the means of production as capital, reducing, disproportionately, the necessary labor-time, thereby expanding the surplus labor-time.  The "unintended" result is the process by which value expands; that is to say the accumulation of the means of production.  Capital is really about the conversion of  the things of production into the relations of value.  Capital is the constitution of the means of production as value aggrandizing, value extracting, value-commanding, as the condition of labor.  

The expanded value embedded in the means of production  can only be circulated by being transferred through the labor process to an expanding mass of value of commodities.  Coincident with the decline in necessary labor-time-- in the time it takes to reproduce the equivalent of the wage-- and the increase in surplus labor-time,  the value relation within commodities is altered; the value relation in all of capital is altered.  Mass of profit increases; ratio of profit decreases, and then the entire artifice that profit is collapses.  Goes down the drain.  Disappears.  Sinks below the surface. 

Overproduction is always the overproduction of capital.  In the midst of the intense exploitation of labor power, as the result of the intense exploitation of labor power, labor power isn't exploited intensely enough. Circulation slows, and the bourgeoisie expend tremendous energy in the attempt to offset this slowing; enough to break a bead, all right, but it's  a bead of cold sweat.

 c) In 2014, the world maritime fleet grew 3.5 percent to a total of 89,464 vessels at 1.75 billion dead weight tons (dwt).  That growth was the lowest annual growth in a decade.  It was also the first time in 8 years that the average age of ships engaged in maritime trade increased as the entry of new ships was not matched by the retirement of older ships.  Despite the slow growth of 2014, and the slowing of growth since 2011, the maritime fleet has more than doubled its dead weight tonnage since 2004.

The disparity between the growth of maritime capacity and the growth of trade makes it appear as if the particular predicament of this particular sector of capital is the result of disproportion, the unevenness of capitalist production, the time lags among capitals and within capitalism; an imbalance between this capital and that capital.  Sure thing, capital lacks equilibrium and proportion, but it always lacks equilibrium; it always operates in disproportion.  That's how profit is distributed.

Saying capital lacks equilibrium is like telling me the bourgeoisie are "greedy," or too greedy.  If they weren't, they wouldn't be bourgeoisie.  If capital operated in balance, or toward a condition of equilibrium, it wouldn't be capitalism.

And we are dealing, after all, not with sectors, but with the global features of capitalism-- global trade, global maritime shipping; we apprehend global trade, global transport as they manifest sustained, long-term, structural changes in capital accumulation; in the relation of new value to accumulated value.

 d) In an attempt to counteract the overcapacity in that has driven down hire rates, and decimated earnings, the maritime fleet owners have introduced a "novel" "strategy"-- slow steaming.   The shipping companies have deliberately slowed the transport time between ports.  By lengthening the cycle time (elapsed time: ship A leaves X, reaches Y, unloads/reloads, returns to X), and keeping the schedule of service unchanged (i.e. weekly service from Shanghai to Marseilles),  the number of ships required to maintain the schedule increases. 

"Slow steaming" that lengthens the trip time for container ships from Shanghai to Marseilles by 7 days to  NOW 35 days (and thus the cycle time to 70 days), will require 10 ships to provide the weekly service, as opposed to the 8 ships required for a trip time of THEN 28 days (cycle time 56 days).   That's a 25% increased in fleet utilization.  Simple? Sure.

Simple genius?  Not quite.  Let's just say each container ship can carry 10,000 TEU (twenty foot equivalent units-- the standard measure for container service) containers.  The shipping line purchased the additional ships to bring its fleet to NOW 10 based on dispatching 100,000 TEUs every 56 days  (for purposes of this exercise let's leave out the return haulage. Trade flows are never balanced anyway).  The shipping line made its determinations based, in part, on being able to charge a freight rate of about $1300 per container per trip.  

THEN, the shipping line was dispatching 80,000 TEUs on 8 ships every 56 days at $1300 per TEU, grossing about $104 million, or about $1.86 million per day.

NOW, even if the freight rate per TEU  has not declined (which it has, by some 60 percent), spreading the 80,000 TEUs over 10 ships for 70 days, means we gross about $1.49 million per day.  Do that everyday for a year, and revenues decline a gut-wrenching $146 million.  The shippers ability to circulate the value sunk into the fleet has declined; circulation time has lengthened.  Realization has become impaired as capital has accumulated.


Slow-steaming also tells us that the actual operating costs of the fleet are minimal-- that the burden the weighs upon the bourgeoisie like an alp is the fixed cost of the circulation (and production) process; the variable costs are, in fact, engineered out, or at least to a minimum in the design of the fixed asset.  It becomes "more efficient,"  that is to say less of a loss, to operate the assets half-speed, at half-capacity, then it is to sequester the ships at anchorage.

2. ...and nowhere

 e) At a certain point, overproduction overwhelms  the bourgeoisie's  attempts to mitigate its impact.  At a certain point slow-steaming reaches its penultimate expression-- no-steaming.  That point has certainly been reached in the production and circulation of petroleum supplies.  More than 100 million barrels, more than a day's worth of global consumption,  of oil are being warehoused in tankers at sea.  This is not oil being held back as a "hedge" play.  This is not the "contango."  This is not oil "belonging" to traders, but rather oil belonging  to onshore producers and suppliers.  This is oil all dressed up with no place to go.  

Iran has 40 million barrels in tankers sitting in the Straits of Hormuz; the US has 20 million sitting in the Gulf of Mexico; another 35 million sits in the waters around Malaysia and Singapore.  The hire costs of  VLCCs (very large crude carriers, capacity above 2 million barrels) make it unlikely that the price of oil can increase enough to offset the expense of storage.  Then we'll move from penultimate to the ultimate; when slow-steaming, having exhausted "no-steaming," will morph into sinking the ships and their contents. 

November 18, 2015



Friday, September 25, 2015

God is My Co-Brander

What a week:  September 23;  the annual Yom Kippur day parade took over  Manhattan. Thousands of atoning Jewish men and women wearing their heaviest, and scratchiest wool suits,  shod in their least comfortable, but fashionable shoes,  marched down Fifth Avenue, fanning themselves with pledge cards in a demonstration of virtual self-flagellation, while keening to the heavens "Oy vay, my feet.  My feet!"

The march, led this year by Woody Allen, passed the Guggenheim, the Neue Galerie (bowing ever so slightly to the lost glory of dem Deutschen Juden), the Met, and finished at Bergdorf's where the penitents, or rather those who completed fully the walk of pain, where awarded a gift card entitling them to a 10 percent discount valid on any day other than a high holy day.  Rosie Ruiz was denied a card on the grounds that she was wearing Nikes, and took the subway.

September 24:  The New York Philharmonic opened its season at Avery Fisher Hall, I mean David Geffen Hall.  Back in the day, when Lincoln Center opened, it was simply known as Philharmonic Hall, but since Phil hadn't dropped a big chunk of change for the honor of having his name attached to the columns, the rights to naming the hall was put up for bid, and Avery Fisher won with a bid of a little more than ten million dollars in 1973. 

Well, that was a significant amount in those days, but now... ten million and a metrocard will get you a ride on the subway, provided it isn't shut down for some sort of security threat, or programmed maintenance or police shooting of a dark-skinned individual wielding  loose cigarettes in a threatening manner.

So... up for bid again goes the name, and this time we want 21st century amounts of money, and Dutch Schultz's last words are the auctioneer's chant:  "Come on get some money in that treasury. We need it.  Come on please get it."

Guess who won? David? Right. Koch? Wrong.  He already has a theater named after him in Lincoln
Center, proving that owning companies convicted of felonies, of stealing resources from Native American and public lands, doesn't mean you're not a gentleman.

Different David.  Geffen.  Hooray for Hollywood.  One hundred million dollars and he gets his name up there....well not forever, but probably for 40 years or so.

This gala event was highlighted by the Philharmonic's performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony in A major, Opus 92.  In honor of Beethoven, the rich and famous attending the concert renamed themselves, adding the German von to their surnames, as in David von Koch, David von Geffen, Barbara von Walters, Calvin von Klein, Oprah von Winfrey, Barry von Diller.  Diane von Furstenberg did not change her name.

The New York Philharmonic, taking its cue from Lincoln Center, then auctioned off the rights to rename it. After the concert, the musical director of the orchestra, Alan Gilbert announced that the orchestra would henceforth be known as the Dreamworks Blackstone Starbucks Philharmonic Orchestra and Barista School.  Mr. Gilbert announced he had changed his name to David.

The string section was auctioned off to Uber, and the musicians have been reclassified as "consultants."


The brass was sold to Rio Tinto and has been scrapped.

September 25: Your show of shows:  The Pope's in the house.  I say the Pope's representin'.   The Pope raises the roof.  Actually, the Pope is here to restore the roof-- Michaelangelo's paintings of the book of Genesis requiring extensive, and expensive restoration.   The Pope, after meeting with Schwarzman, Geffen, former mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Eli Zabar announced that the chapel will be renamed the Sistine Chapel Investment Bank and Delicatessen.   Pope Francis  announced he too has a new name: Zayde

September 25, 2015 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Here Comes Johnny Yen Again

With the liquor and drugs
 ...and the Lenin cap. 
Or something like that.
He stands for old Labour against austerity. 
Loves the political flesh machine.
And the Trident submarine.
It's all the same.
It's just a game.

He's gonna do another striptease
lip synching God Save the Queen
He's the next big thing.
He's a dancing fiend
In the London air
Silver-haired
And he's hypnotizing chickens
I said hypnotizing chickens

Well I'm just a modern guy
Of course, I've had it in both ears before.
I lost one in '73
With Dr. Allende
Lost the other in a mining town
When the ANC shot us down

Got a lust for life
Got a lust for life 

JC's got a shadow named McDonnell
He's a real bad actor
Said he wanted to kill Thatcher
Now says that was just a joke
Regrets how he spoke
Promises to mind his manners
Fold away the red banners
Buy a Union Jack
Buy a Union Jack

Well, I'm just a modern guy
Of course I've been burned before
Didn't learn before
So I'm back for more

Turns out Tsipras is worth a million in prizes

Vacations on yachts
Private schools for his tots
I wanna be like him
Custom chrome rims
On my GTO
Easy gig,  hypnotizing chickens
I said hypnotizing chickens

Well, I'm just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in both ears before
Got one  punctured in Greece
We were golden fleeced 
Can't hear a thing with either ear
Can't use the phone
Got no fear
Cause I'm good at hypnotizing chickens
I said hypnotizing chickens

Got a lust for life
Got a lust for life 




September 19, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Anti-theses. Anti-crisis 1

1. The problem, predicament, and conceit of and for Marxists (present company not excepted) is that we are all, more or less, and once, always, and forever Hegelians.  We think we are channeling the movement of the great critical spirit; that purpose, goal, of history-- namely human emancipation.  We think that when we're not thinking that we are channeling the great spirit of the "great man" himself.  We think that we're somehow speeding things up, and forward, to a great fruition which  is nothing other than subduing the world to and with the great logic that explains the world to itself.  And where does that get us?

2. Where does that get us? The answer is where it has already gotten us. Pretty close to zero.  Official Marxism, by which I mean that of 2, 3, 4, 5, many Internationals positions itself as the channel of channels, the mediation of the advancing big C creative spirit and the reluctant backsliding flesh. It gets us to that point where we're conducting Marxism the way the medium conducts messages from the dead at a séance.  "Give us a sign, oh great spirit, if you're with us today."  And sure enough we always get the sign.  "There's a crisis!  Look, over there.  Isn't that a crisis I see?"  Sure thing.  There's always a crisis. The stock markets tank, unemployment rises, profits fall.   "Sooner or later" and "I told you so" are the paltry best we come up with.

3. So let's just say, it isn't a spirit thing. And "crisis" isn't a message from the dead,or the living, that capitalism has come undone when the undoing is itself the form for capitalist reconstitution. Confusing?

4. Then try this:  It's a social thing, relation where the obstruction to capitalist accumulation is made manifest in the inability of the social beings to reproduce themselves as the vital players in such accumulation while at the same time, this marginalization of the producers and consumers allows capitalism to drive down the cost of its own reproduction through a sequence of social "distress sales" so that value, profit,  is not realized, but re-imagined. Got it?  Capital shuts down, demobilizes, marginalizes, and what remains is capital re-imagined.

5. The failure of the left is that its every move is but a  re-imagination of profit.  The left re-imagines profit in the forms of taxation; in nationalization; in stipends, subsidies, distributions etc.  That and those are not at all all nonsense, but they are all derivatives of value production, imaginings derived from profit. 

6. Syriza's "capitulation" wasn't in its agreement to a new memorandum, and the agreement isn't a betrayal.    The capitulation was predetermined in the paucity of its imagination-- where "the best" it could come up with was the re-imagination of profit as a European Union "New Deal," as a second Marshall plan.  That's not imagination.  It's nostalgia.  Worse, it's delusional nostalgia, a memory of a past there never was; one scrubbed clean of its origins in blood, gore, and shit. 

7. Clearly, the material basis for imagination is class struggle; the struggle for the overthrow of value production, for  the abolition of value... and  for the throttling of "productive labor" in that all notions of "productive labor" are class based. The revolutionary class has to imagine first and foremost its own abolition as laborers, as workers, as sources of value, as liquid pools of labor serving the purposes of exchange.  It's not the "will to power" that informs history; it's the imagination of power that historical materialism grasps.

8.  "We will work  cooperatively toward our regeneration, the birth of communal luxury, future splendors and the Universal Republic."-- Manifesto of the Artists' Federation of Paris, April 15, 1971, cited in Communal Luxury:  The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune. Kristin Ross, Verso, 2015, a book that is as indispensable in its way as Maksakovsky's The Capitalist Cycle. 

August 25, 2015

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Down to the Bare Walls, Fixtures Included

1. Somewhere that guy Marx, collaborating with that guy Engels-- a man a bit too taken with the military side of things, wrote that "the history of hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."  A revolutionary proposition to be sure, back then and there, and here and now; and a revolutionary challenge to the purveyors, hawkers, merchants of natural law, social contracts, rational market, the rights of man, etc. etc. and forever etc.

The challenge was  developed, refined, deepened over the course of four decades, manifesting in a hundred different texts in a hundred different expressions a core content: that human history is  indeed fashioned, constructed, built by human beings, but only in their existence as social producers.

Content isn't exactly of big concern to the bourgeoisie........until of course, it is made a big concern by events outside their control.  Even then, realization of value, market history, determines the limits of concern.  But packaging?  Packaging is everything.  "Packaging is what we do," say the market makers, market players.  History, to the bourgeoisie, isn't class struggle.  It's merchandise. It gets wrapped.  It gets advertised.  It gets announced.  It gets sold not in the package of value; the package gets sold as the value.

Asset-stripping becomes competitiveness.   Exploitation is entrepreneurship.  Poverty is economic stimulus.  Ketchup is a vegetable, arbeit macht frei, and what's the problem?  The trains are on time even if the destination is an abattoir.  Presentation is everything. History can be represented as, replaced by, merchandise.  And merchandise can always be liquidated

"Presentation"  is all there is to those who think they are intermediaries between the hammer and the anvil of class struggle.   "Presentation"-- the as if -- is what you get from those who act as if they can alter the condition of capitalism in lieu of altering the condition of labor which makes capital capital. 

Of course, that altering of the condition of labor, that overcoming of the condition in which labor is expressed as a commodity for purchase, as wage-labor can only be accomplished by the social producers, themselves, but that's exactly what the packaging is supposed to obscure.  Like Powerpoint.

2. We start from the recognition that at no time from 2009 on, has Greece existed in what is generally called a "revolutionary situation."  Despite all the unemployment, the decline in living standards; despite the social catastrophe that is called "austerity" or "the memorandum," or the "MFFA," Greece was not, and is not,  in a revolutionary situation.  There was no moment when another class, a class in opposition to the existing ruling class, had organized itself into "competing" centers of power; into organs that could, and must, compete with the parliament, the ministries, the military, of capitalism.

Still, the "economics," that is to say, the predicament in the reproduction of capital, neither waits for, nor depends upon the "readiness" of the working class before it eats away at the bourgeoisie's institutions for administering its rule.  And that erosion was and is the determining characteristic of the conditions in Greece. 

With each memorandum yet another party, yet another "package" presenting capitalism as a viable social order, was disgraced; yet another package was broken open, yielding up the big nothing that is value when it can no longer accumulate value.  New Democracy, PASOK  a "neutral" "technocrat"government-- each in turn, all together, exposed; discarded .

Enter Syriza.  Syriza had a package, and that package was the Thessaloniki program.  The "program" demanded a write down the face value of the debt to make it "sustainable."  The program demanded "growth"  "moratorium" "grace periods" "a European New Deal." 

The program promised "reconstruction,"  "restoration of wages and pensions," "rebuilding the welfare state."  The program promised to do all these things regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the Troika.

What the program really promised was the continued containment of the working class.  What the program delivered was the preservation of the institutions of bourgeois rule; the parliament, the military, the cops, the courts, the ministries.

Precisely because Greece was not, and is not, in a "revolutionary situation" but was and is in situation of social catastrophe,  Syriza deserved no support.  Precisely because conditions could only get worse, with or without a new memorandum, with or without exiting the eurozone,  there was, and is, no point to debating the terms of any memorandum, no point to debating the exit from the eurozone, no pointing in arguing with the nonsense claims of the Thessaloniki program. 

There was only one argument engaged; one debate to be joined; one demand to be raised: complete and immediate repudiation of the debt, a debt accrued of by and for a government of by and for the preservation of capitalism. 

August 5, 2015




Sunday, July 26, 2015

Question

Are the only ones who understand Marx, as opposed to Marx-ism; who understand that Marx was first and foremost a revolutionist, that all Marx wanted to do was to place social revolution on the strongest, definitive,  irrefutable platform possible: are only those who identify with anarchism; who draw their inspiration from Situationist texts; who in fact spit on everything and everyone who already reeks of accommodation to things as they are, which of course, is only the relation that is?

I think so.  Nobody understands Marx but those who spit from top to bottom on the bourgeoisie, who can't even utter the term without spitting. 

FWIW, I know I have never written "bourgeoisie" without spitting.  I keep a bucket by my desk.

July 26, 2015

SA(S)R Syndrome Moves On

Short-Attention-Span-Radicalism has quickly recovered from its setback in Greece,  finding solace in  its own unique spin on Joe Hill's supposed last words-- "Don't mourn, Don't organize; Forget, Ignore, Repeat." The SARs brigade made up of VIBs; SIPs; near, neo, quasi, democratic, semi, hemi, demi, erratic, mo, po, po-mo socialists is done sitting shiva for Greece and has moved on to its next challenge, its once and future failure, Britain.

"Greece?  Oh, that's so yesterday. Greece? What did you expect?  Greece?  We told you it wasn't a revolutionary situation," say our SARs.  "We're over Greece."

The VIB, Richard Seymour, is once again waxing, and waning, eloquent in this demonstration of obsessive-compulsive behavior, this repetition in the service of failure.  Opining on the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn for the leadersip of Britain's Labour Party, Seymour writes that Corbyn is the candidate the Conservative Party most fears.  Absolutely correct, but the Tory fear is miniscule compared to that of the Labour Party itself.  Seymour points out that the right-bloc of the party threatens a split, a coup, collective suicide, but not yet car bombings, if Corbyn wins.

Panicked by the flood of new members into the party, the "right bloc" [if such a thing can be said to exist in this party] has called for the election to be suspended until a proper check of the credentials of the new members can be vetted, highlighting how dangerous becoming the majority really is to the right-bloc of the Labour Party.

John Mann, Labour MP, has written that the election "threatens to become a farce" due to the return to the party of "some of the Militant-Tendency types," proving once again that Labour may be "a big house" but it's a mortgaged big house,  a sub-prime ARM with a big fat balloon payment callable at the whim of the bankers.

Corbyn, loyal first and last, says he only wants "genuine Labour supporters"  Says Corbyn, "I only want people to register as Labour supporters if they are genuine supporters and intend to stay for the longer course."  Word.

Really?  Sure thing.  Seymour says:
So, Corbyn could win.  This does not mean that I am going to pay my £3 and join up as a 'supporter' in order to vote for Corbyn.  There's quite a lot of bandwagon-hopping at the moment - it was the same with the Greens last year - and joining the Labour Party just to have a vote and then leaving is pointless.  Why vote for Corbyn if you're not going to hang around and try to support him and try to reconstitute the Labour Party?  He'll be weak enough against the established power of the old right-wing bureaucracy, without a big chunk of his base fucking off the day after the polls close.  Corbyn will not win by pulling in outside forces who have no interested in the Labour Party's long-term future, and no identification with it; he will win by shaking up the Labour Party, and drawing in new members who are just becoming politicised. 
Indecisiveness is essential to the manifestation, and maintenance of SAR syndrome, so a paragraph or so later, we get:
However, that tactical point doesn't change the overall situation, and it doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to support Corbyn's bid...It's not just the Labour Left that is weak.  It is the Left as a whole.  Yes, Corbyn would be relatively isolated at the top, and top-heavy successes are extremely vulnerable.  Yes, he will be trying to shift the balance of forces in favour of the Left, in a situation in which our forces are incredibly depleted. But it is a structural aspect of today's situation that in the growing vacuum created by the breakdown of the old party-base relationship, individuals and groups can suddenly project influence well beyond their actual social basis, if what they say finds an ideological resonance in lived experience.  We don't get to change that just be force of will.  So we have to work with the grain of our few advantages.  Corbyn has made a breakthrough, and that presents opportunities that it would be stupid and irresponsible to opt out of.
 Well, what do you know?  What can you say,  after you say: 

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done

We can say: "let's try this"-- Everywhere in Seymour's article for the words Tory, Conservative, Tories, substitute New Democracy; for the word Labor, substitute PASOK, for Corbyn substitute Syriza or Tsipras (your pick).  Now read it again.  Does this sound familiar?  To those not (yet) infected with SARs (no guarantees as to anyone's "natural" immunity), it should.  

For our VIP bogger, not so much. It must be  the deep shock of Syriza's capitulation, a "world-historic" defeat that compels Seymour into one more iteration of repetition in the service of failure.  However, if it really is a "world-historic defeat" then surely it deserves an analysis, an explanation, an examination, something more material than the pathetic sentimentality Seymour has provided. 

Or maybe-- maybe the so yesterday events in Greece aren't a defeat at all, a position advanced by Panitch and Gindin and echoed oddly or not by Insurgent Notes, which after producing a single article in 2010, couldn't muster another examination of the struggle in Greece until this -- seven paragraphs in half-an-article, which more rather than less, dismisses the events, as its author later makes explicit in his comments, as not amounting to a reversal to the struggle against capitalism in Greece, Europe, the globe.   

I wish I could say I'm surprised by this lack of insight, the superficiality of analysis, the disavowal of  and disdain for the struggle in Greece promoted by Insurgent Notes.  I am not.  So-called "left communism"can be just as much leftism as anything and anyone else-- concerned with its own status, its own credentials, its own package.

There has been a reversal in Greece.  The struggle against capitalism has suffered a defeat.  Still, history hasn't come to an end.  It's not quite yet over in Greece.  Greece 2015 is not yet Chile 1973.  It's not yet time to move on and plan the next disaster.   The class struggle in Greece deserves better treatment. 
July 26, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

                                                        Mix and Match

2014

 "This is not our Europe. This is only the Europe we want to change.  In place of a Europe of fear of unemployment, disability, old-age and poverty; in the place of the current Europe that redistributes income to the rich and fear to the poor; in place of a Europe in the service of bankers’ needs, we want a Europe in the service of human needs."


"Finally, the real issue facing the Greek left is how to unite people on a class basis against a ruling class that is tightly coupled to the German bourgeoisie. Syriza offers a framework for revolutionaries that will enable them to connect with millions of Greeks who have not yet achieved a revolutionary consciousness. Unlike the Greek Communist Party, Syriza is relatively open and transparent—a function of the “reformism” that Callinicos disdains. The alternative to the CP and Syriza is the tiny and inconsequential Antarsya that is united around the need for revolution but a “reformist” party that can begin to serve as a pole of attraction for revolutionaries. In the event that Syriza is elected and fails to carry out its mandate, it will be up to its left wing to push the agenda for overcoming austerity in the only way possible: overthrowing Greek capitalism."


"The fact is that the leaders of erstwhile socialist parties have been talking the talk of responsible capitalism for a very long time. It was how they covered their tracks as they retreated from offering people a way out of the rat race of capitalism – rather than compensation for being losers in it – even in the postwar era. Those who imagine that the progressive reforms achieved in that era stand as proof today that a responsible capitalism is possible are sorely mistaken. On the contrary, the undoing of those reforms after just a few decades shows that a responsible capitalism is indeed a contradiction in terms.
************************************************************************
2015

"On the basis of the massive defeat of the forces behind the Yes vote in the referendum, and the opposition party leaders resignation, the other mainstream party leaders joined with Syriza in backing the plan the Institutions had rejected before and coupled that with support for Syriza's position. This was that once the plug had been pulled on the extension of the old government's memorandum, they would all support coupling fiscal restraint and structural reforms with substantial debt restructuring and investment funds in immediate negotiations on a new three year memorandum..

The hope that this might be pulled off was enhanced by indications that the U.S. government was putting pressure both on the IMF and the Merkel government. This was fed by IMF signals on the importance of very significant debt restructuring in a new three year deal...


What Alexis Tsipras and (the new Finance Minister) Euclid Tsakalotos took to the final negotiations last Saturday, as passed by the Greek parliament, was not all that different than the plan that has been forwarded to the Institutions and rejected before the referendum. And they took courage from the fact that the negotiations were now about a new three year deal rather than continuing the drip-feeding from the old memorandum with which they had been strangled from February to June. There was now even a clear split on the side of the European interlocutors over whether to accommodate what Tsipras was bringing to the table. "  

"I am long past the point when I expect anything different.  I never had an(y) expectations that Syriza would be victorious...I take everything in stride."                        
 
"I acknowledge the fiscal measures are harsh, that they won't benefit the Greek economy, but I'm forced to accept them."


_____________________

Full disclosure:  Even I get sick of my sarcasm at times.  I acknowledge what a harsh, severe, relentless, abrasive bastard I am, when it comes to these things.   Really.  But how else can you deal with the selective memory loss, the cognitive dissonance, that is so essential to the pathology that is repetitive leftism?

July 16, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Hard Way

The Hellenic Parliament has voted to approve, and will presumably implement, the demands of the Troika accepted on July 12 by the prime minister, who now states he doesn't support the agreement although he will implement it, and urges its approval.  The comes five days after the prime minister promised "the bigger the 'No' vote [on the referendum regarding the Troikas final, but expired and off the table offer], the better the deal."   It takes a lot of processing power, and storage capacity to keep up with the prime minister's different positions.

Inside the parliament the vote was 229 in favor to 64 against.  Thirty two of the "no" votes came from Syriza MPs.  Deputies from Syriza's coalition partner, the right-nationalist ANEL party, brought into government because of its principled agreement with Syriza's original position of "no further memorandums, no further bail-outs," voted unanimously for the agreement, which means the "principle" is now in direct contradiction to what it once was, but the partners are still allied.

The Tsipras government is now a minority government.  It depends for its existence on the support of PASOK and New Democracy and To Potami.  

Outside the parliament, the police are protecting the parliamentarians from the street protests with batons and tear gas, the purchases of which are not subject to Troika scrutiny.  


Well....a reader wanted to know why I thought "repudiating the debt was better than the status quo."  There are multiple reasons.  First and foremost, there is no status quo.  That's the critical point.  As bad as things are now, they will be much worse with the burdens placed on Greece through this agreement and the next memorandum.  Secondly, all those things forecast to occur if Greece repudiated the debt-- "the loss of tourism, further drops in foreign investment, social turmoil"-- will occur under the terms of the new memorandum, or without a new memorandum.  There is simply no possibility for "recovery," if such a word even has meaning any longer, of Greece's capitalism. 

The reader then asked "how would Greece defaulting be a better option for the prospects of a global revolution CONCRETELY?"  Concretely, repudiating the debt would pretty much bankrupt the ESM, jeopardize the ECB, and undermine the capital markets worldwide.  Now that in itself is not a seizure of power, but it's not a bad start.  Concretely, repudiating the debt attacks the claims on labor that need to be enforced to preserve capitalist property.  Concretely, repudiating the debt threatens every mechanism of exchange, and control, that the European bourgeoisie have fashioned in their grand alliance of the European Union.  Concretely, repudiating the debt would have a tremendous impact on the poor, the pensioners, the unemployed of Greece posing the question of the purpose of production along class lines.  Concretely repudiating the debt would have an equally dramatic impact on workers in Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary.  Concretely, repudiating the debt undercuts the appeal of the fascists to the unemployed, the youth, the marginalized.

Would Europe retaliate?  Of course.  Would Greek assets be seized?  Of course.  Would living conditions in Greece deteriorate?  Undoubtedly.  This isn't 1960; Greece isn't Cuba; and there is no Soviet Union to subsidize the country. But...

But...I flip the assertion right back to those who argue against repudiating the debt:  there is no choice.  The alternative to repudiating the debt has proven itself catastrophic.  Repudiating the debt is an essential first step to reversing the catastrophe.  Don't take that step and nobody goes nowhere. 

Is it "hard"? Complicated?  Difficult?  Painful?  Of course.  And there is no alternative.

Back in the day, so many years ago that I can only dimly recall, after the collapse of Lehman Bros. and after Maiden Lanes 1,2,3, and all the special facilities, there was the same type of argument about TARP.  Then, Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer, supported the TARP intervention to stabilize the credit-system, because (if I recall the argument correctly) the alternative was the collapse of the entire financial network, and a massive global depression.  The alternative it was thought was too horrible to contemplate.  Hence one had to support the government rescuing the bourgeoisie.

One did not.  One does not.  The collapse of the system is preferable to its maintenance, to its reproduction, to its recovery.  Because....the recovery of this system is much more horrible to contemplate than the after-effects of repudiating capitalism in part and in whole.  No I don't think things have to get worse before they get better.  I just think capitalism gets worse without getting better.

July 15, 3015
how would Greece defaulting be a better option for the prospects of a global revolution CONCRETELY?" - See more at: http://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-third-time-is-charm.html#comment-form

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Third Time Is the Charm

2010-- The government of Greece is bankrupt and cannot service it's sovereign debt.  The economy is near collapse.  First bailout memorandum, familiarly known as the Kick-The-Can-Down-the-Road Memorandum is agreed to.  Economy continues to contract.

2012-- The government of Greece is bankrupt and cannot service it's sovereign debt, most of which is owned by commercial and private financial institutions.  The economy is near collapse.  Second bailout memorandum, familiarly known as Eat-Shit-And-Die Memorandum is agreed to.  Commercial and private financial institutions balance sheets are rescued.  Economy is that much nearer to collapse.

2015-- The government of Greece is bankrupt and cannot service its sovereign debt, most of which is now owned by the official institutions of European and international capitalism, the ECB, the governments of Germany, France, Italy, Spain either directly or through the EFSF, whose last active program was the assistance program for Greece, which expired on June 30, 2015.  EFSF continues to exist but only to service the bonds it issued to bankroll its operations and its assistance programs, receive payments, and maintain continuity as the ESM takes over all responsibility.

The Greek economy has effectively collapsed.  Tsipras, the Prime Minister and leader of the Syriza party establishes a referendum for the Greek people to reject the "last offer" of the EU lenders, vowing that "the day after the referendum, negotiations will resume," and "the bigger the 'NO' vote [on those previous terms] the better the terms [of the new agreement that results from the new negotiations]."

Tsipras is, and has been, in so far over his head he has to look up to see the bottoms of his own shoes. Tsipras appeals for a third bailout.  Instead he receives and supports an "agreement", familiarly known as the Hung-By-the-Neck-for-Our-General-Amusement-Agreement, that may, if certain conditions are met, possibly lead to a third memorandum.  Oh boy, can't wait for that.

2015-- Tsipras, who's penchant for self-aggrandizement is matched and supported by an astounding inability to accurately evaluate social forces and "economic outcomes,"  states that while he does not "believe in" the new memorandum, he will implement it; that he signed the agreement in order to "avoid disaster for the country," which of course has suffered catastrophically from the previous memorandums; that he has no plans to resign, and that the the terms of this agreement "were milder" than those of previous agreements. 

Well, taking his "personal plans" first in dealing with this topsy-turvium  pathology of Tsipras', it doesn't matter what he plans, as has been so made so painfully clear to the most casual observer.  He doesn't plan to resign?  That's nice.  And irrelevant.

Reports are that ANEL, whose seats gave Syriza the majority necessary to form a government will vote against the agreement when it reaches the floor of the Hellenic Parliament.  Now the vote on this agreement will be one of the two most important votes the parliament has taken since January 26, 2015, the other being the vote of July 10, so I expect a good half-dozen or so of Syriza MPs, including Varoufakis will have personal matters of a higher priority demanding their time, and won't attend the session.  And another good half-dozen or so will actually find the nerve to vote "no."  

The KKE and the Fascists are sure "no" votes, so Tsipras's faction in Syriza will be dependent upon "yes" votes from PASOK, and New Democracy. This vote, no matter which way it goes is a vote of confidence in the Syriza government with all votes meaning "no confidence."  Tsipras is done. Gone.  Cooked. Maybe he gets a severely reduced pension, but we can hope not. 

Now as to this current agreement being "milder" than the last pre-referendum offer.  This agreement commits the Eurozone, the IMF, the ECB, the ESM to absolutely nothing.  This "agreement" is a set of pre-conditions that Greece must satisfy before negotiations towards a new MOU can even be initiated.  So we cannot compare the terms of this agreement to the terms of the last proposal made by the Troika prior to the referendum.

This is more than a technical detail, but more than technical details have never been exactly the strong point of Syriza's administration. 

What the agreement does require is that the Greek government modify the VAT to suit the demands of the Troika. 

What the agreement does require is long term, comprehensive reform of pensions to the satisfaction of the Troika.

What the agreement does require is that the Greek government comply with the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, which stipulates that government deficits cannot exceed 3% of the GDP and that government debt does not exceed, or is sufficiently declining towards [emphasis added] 60% of the GDP.

What the agreement does require is full implementation of that same treaty such that automatic spending cuts are triggered in case of deviations from targeted primary budget surpluses.

What the agreement does require is changes to pension laws to offset the cost of the decision by Greece's Constitutional Court in 2012 declaring illegal the cutting of benefits to those who received both main and supplemental pensions, an estimated "clawback" by the EU from Greece of €1.022 billion.

The agreement does require implementation of OECD "Toolkit 1" to "enhance" competitiveness in various retailing and merchandising sectors with the application of OECD "Toolkit 2" anticipated for the manufacturing sector.

The agreement does require privatization of the country's electricity transmission network.

The agreement does require "reform" of labor markets to comply with "European best practices" when it comes to mass dismissals and layoffs.

The agreement does not require the transfer the transfer of €50 billion in national assets to a privatization fund, in that pre-valuation of assets prior to market sale does not satisfy the demand to fund this special facility to the €50 billion mark from the sale of assets.  The €50 billion realized from the sale of assets having as yet unknown total costs, pre-crisis notional value, or any other measure, will be used to "pre-refund" the debt occurring from any new memorandum and recapitalizing the banks (€25 billion), decreasing the debt/GDP ratio (€12.5 billion) and "investments" (€12.5 billion).

The agreement does require the review of legislation, with the exception of the emergency humanitarian package, enacted by the Hellenic parliament since February 20, in order to amend any laws that "backtracked" on previous commitments.

These are the "minimum requirements" that Greece alone must fulfill before any negotiations for debt relief, extended terms, additional funds provided by the ESM can take place. 


So there are no new terms that are milder than in previous agreements, because there are no terms of any agreement.  There are minimum requirements placed exclusively upon Greece before any negotiations regarding any possible agreement will even be entertained.

Now all the PhDs in the world-- the Leos, and Sams, and Hans, and Yannis-- can try to spin this as an "undefeat."

All the idiot movie-reviewers, semi-socialists, and friends can plead that Syriza, poor little Syriza was overwhelmed because life and systems and computer networks and writing code are just too complicated for anybody other than--well, themselves, when up until now everybody else was arguing that those same computer networks made it so much easier to "manage" socialism, to really match production to need (see Cockshott's works).

All those who yesterday proclaimed that the job of revolutionists, Marxists, etc. was to join Syriza "in order to keep it honest" can pretend that joining Syriza was anything ever than the dishonest effort to pre-empt the prospects for social revolution.

The institutions of European capitalism know better.  They know blood when they smell it.  They know victory when they taste it.  And the blood of the people of Greece is the taste of victory in the mouth of the Troika.

July 14, 2015








Monday, July 13, 2015

Dear Leo, Dear Sam

Shut up, you should excuse the harsh language.  Put a sock on it.  Close your gob.  Be quiet.  Just shut up.  You don't know what you're talking about and you keep talking about it so it's gone from simply being embarrassing to being  annoying to being pathetic to being downright offensive.  So shut  up.

Yesterday you're all about not jumping to conclusions, about waiting for the outcome of that momentous day.  Today, after we know the outcome, a plan so severe, so demanding, and so dismissive of Greece as anything other but a body to be bled dry that it  leaves Vlad the Impaler envious, you're back at it,  ass-backwards at it claiming that the Left Platform within Syriza and all those arguing for leaving the Eurozone were advocating a "non-starter." And of course, your starter is to completely ignore  yesterday's momentous day.

You proclaim that the Eurozone "clearly" sees  "that Syriza is a left party with socialism in its DNA, and one that whatever the constraints of staying within the EU, will continue to challenge European and global capitalism."  Well that settles it, then.  Wolfgang Schäuble, Mario Draghi, and Christine Lagarde will tell us what's socialist, and what's not.

My response to that nonsense:  "You wanna bet?"  You wanna bet that Syriza is not done, cooked, out the door, crumbling gone, dismissed with extreme prejudice?
 


Socialism in its DNA?  Exactly how does a political formation get socialism in its DNA?  Are we talking fertilization of zygotes here?  Acquired characteristics?  Lamarckian evolution? 

Not a word do you offer about Syriza's separation and isolation of the program of austerity from servicing the debt.  Not a word do you offer about Syriza's separation and isolation of debt service from maintaining its membership in the European Union.  Not a word do you utter about Syriza's separation and isolation of membership in the European Union from ongoing support for European capitalism. 

And with all that silence, you tell us that Syriza's DNA was socialist.

You probably don't recognize your "argument" for what it is, but it is nothing other than the argument the big C Communist Parties used to discipline supporters, followers, and opponents in the 1920s, 1930s, and beyond, with the CPs claiming  the legacy of,  the genetics of the Russian Revolution as a badge of authority. 

Bullshit then, bullshit now. 

Maybe there is and maybe there isn't such a thing as "socialist DNA," but if there is then the only sure thing is that within the body of Syriza, the socialist gene is regressive and cannot be expressed in or by the host organism. 

So just shut up.

July 13, 2015


The Action is the Man

On Friday, July 10, 2015, when the Hellenic Parliament voted on the "Tsipras submissions" to the EU, Yannis Varoufakis, former minister of finance, and current MP, wasn't there.  He wasn't there to vote "yes" "no" or "present."  Yanni-boy was a no-show, begging off due to pressing personal matters.

Priceless, no?  After the referendum, after all his blogging this and blogging that, after all the pictures on the motorcycle with his wife (only one helmet, and we know Yanni-boy wasn't sharing), after all the posturing, after all the rhetoric, the bag of wind couldn't bother showing up at the official conclave of bags of wind, to open his mouth, raise his hand, or press a button.

There's a man who takes his responsibility to the office to which he was elected-- as a representative of the people-- so deeply to heart that he skips a decisive vote in parliament to tend to his vacation home.

If the Syriza  had a hair on its ass, which it does not, it would designate all of Varoufakis' property for immediate assignment into the privatization fund. 

Meet the Paris Hilton of  "radical" political economy, Yannis Varoufakis.  He's his own chihuahua, a shivering, yapping dog.

July 13, 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Twits and Tweets

Leo Panitch, "Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science and Canada Research" or so it says on his business card ("available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, IPOs, and reality TV shows" it says on the flip side) has published this gem on Syriza where he demonstrates that nothing is more distinguished when conducting research than the disavowal of reality.

Distinguished Professor Panitch, mainstay of Left Forums, World Social Forums, and in-line skating contests,  thinks he's skewering Richard Seymour, and all others, who regard the Hellenic Parliament's approval of Syriza's latest pleadings to the Troika, as a "world-historic" defeat.

Distinguished Professor, never having previously expressed critical opposition to Syriza's "programs" (which hardly merit the label) or to its "strategy"(which was anything but) is miffed that Seymour has rushed to judgement before the day is out, the sun has set, thereby casting a pall over cocktail hour in Athens, Frankfurt, and Brussels. "What a brute, a vulgarian, that Seymour is.  Pass the Roditys, and the crackers with that pink fish stuff on it, what's it called?" bemoans our Distinguished Professor Panitch

Says our Distinguished Professor Panitch (among other things):

The real situation is this, as we await the outcome of what will in fact be a momentous day.  If there is in fact some significant debt restructuring and investment funds in a deal today and this is not effectively tied to further conditionality, this would offset many times over the four year $12 billion plan for fiscal surpluses in the plan just passed by the Greek parliament.  Of course, even if this the effective outcome of this weekend's final maneouvres, this will require some political sophistication to discern since it will be concealed somewhat so that other European leaders can disquiese this from their electorates, whose attitudes the Northern and Central European labour movements have done little or nothing to change.  Tsipras would need to explain this well to get people to understand the significance of the victory he--and they with their support in the referendum--would have pulled off.  

It will not be a "world historic" victory, for those who like such language, since it will still involve tying the revival of the Greek economy to the fate of what remains a very much capitalist Europe, but this would not mean that the Syriza government would exclude itself from the continuing struggle to challenge and change that.

Distinguished Research Professor Panitich is awaiting the outcome of today's (12 July 2015) negotiations between Greece and the European Union.  "The outcome of a momentous day," awaits he, the Distinguished Research Professor, detecting sings of life in the pithed frog government that is Syriza.   

Seymour of Lenin's Tomb was an enthusiastic supporter of Syriza, projecting his own wishes for "victory" over austerity unto that party.  Seymour embraced the illogic of attempting to separate austerity from debt, debt from membership in the EU, and the EU from capitalism.  So it's understandable that he's heartbroken and confuses his despair with "world-historic" events, just as he confused his own magical thinking with Syriza as a force for socialism.

Seymour at least recognizes that something has gone not exactly well in the course of events, even if he doesn't yet recognize that went badly from the getgo. Seymour is as VIB, and not yet a PhD not to mention Distinguished Research Professor, which probably explains why he's not looking on the bright side of life like professor Panitch.  Difference between those tenured and those not, I suppose.

So what about this momentous day?  Going well, is it?  Not according to the Guardian.  "Mental waterboarding was how they described the treatment of Tsipras.  Demands upon demands to cede financial authority to the EU.

A correspondent for the same Guardian tweeted that the EU placed the following demands on the table:

1. Streamlining VAT
2. Broadening the tax base
3. Sustainability of the pension system
4. Adopt a code of civil procedure
5. Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT-- the statistical office
6. Full implementation of automatic spending cuts
7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
8. Privatize electricity transmission grid
9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans
10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
11. De-Politicize the Greek administration
12. Return of the Troika to Athens

These proposals themselves represent a compromise on the part of the Troika, tweeted Wolfgang  Schäuble, #wolfslair, Germany's Minister of Finance, in that they did not include: 

13. demand for the beheading of Yannis Varoufakis
14. display of the severed head in the Hellenic Parliament for 30 days
15. leasing of the Parthenon in perpetuity to EuroDisney
16.that the Greek government officially change the names of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to Johann, Adolph, and Friedrich
17. did not require the chaining of Tsipras to Kazbek Mountain in the Caucasus where his liver was to be pecked out by Imperial eagles (but only because the Caucasus is controlled by Russia, and Putin wouldn't agree to terms)


There is indeed an important defeat going on here-- a defeat based on Syriza's success in muffling class struggle, in demoralizing workers, in frittering away time as the economy slips back into recession. Only a very distinguished research professor could be so comfortable in his self-importance as to so boldly display his complete ignorance, his total disregard for reality, his disdain for the class struggle, the class war of the bourgeoisie, of bourgeois property against the needs of and for the emancipation of labor.



Dear Leo, you haven't been paying attention to current events, but you just got the shit kicked out of you back there in Athens, Brussels, and Frankfurt, even if you're too stupid to notice the size 14 boot sticking out of your ass. 

Advice for making a revolution:  exclude those with graduate degrees in political science, political economy, economy, philosophy, political philosophy, political economic philosophy, from providing advice, or participating in the struggle.  Exclude all of themTheir loss, and loss of them, is our gain.

July 12, 2015