CREDIT AND THE COMING CRUNCH.

In the 20th and 21st centuries a thin piece of plastic card measuring 3 and 3/8 inches by 2 and 1/8 inches became almost ubiquitous; at least in the advanced capitalist countries. Although there are two types of such ‘cards’ (debit and credit) tucked away in individual wallets and handbags, this piece of plastic is almost always referred to as a ‘credit card’. This is an apt description because ‘credit’ has become the overwhelming economic means of exchanging goods and services within the capitalist mode of production.

Furthermore, it is the complex development of ‘credit’ which allows capitalist production of commodities and services to be pushed beyond the general capacity of people to purchase its total industrial output. This tendency known as relative-overproduction periodically triggers a systemic crisis as happened with the devastating examples of 1929 and 2008. However, in a dialectical twist of contradiction, the proliferation of credit not only leads to a collapse within the capitalist system, but also indicates the potential development of a future post-capitalist mode of production.

To explain this contradiction requires a closer look at the basic economic exchanges we all take for granted but rarely think about seriously. For example, before the existence of credit cards, working people sold their skills and energy for a wage or salary paid at the end of a week or month in the form of a packet containing ‘money’. The money was usually in the form of paper notes and coins of the currency legal in the country within which we worked.

This money we exchanged for the goods and services we required. Money was therefore the dominant medium of exchange and not just for ordinary people. Historically this was also the case for the capitalist class who employ working people. A capitalist would expend money on a factory, equipment, machines, raw materials and wages. Then directed the workers to produce goods and/or services (distributed as commodities), which he or she sold at a profit, then sought to repeat this whole production process.

Notably, this original monetary system did not depend upon social trust between the people for exchanging goods and services. Instead trust was paradoxically given to an inanimate object – a valuable metal ‘thing’ termed money – usually in the form of gold (or silver) made into bars or coins. Indeed, with the later introduction of paper currencies it was still felt important to link these ‘notes’ to an amount of gold ‘paid on demand’ (ie the Gold Standard) because ‘trust’ continued to resided in money via its promised convertibility into gold. Shakespeare’s “visible God” lived on!

Even though this convertibility was ended (1931 in the UK; 1971 in the USA) the English notes still bear the words ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand..’. This contemporary promise is a faint echo of that earlier commitment to trust the value of an inert piece of non-perishing precious metal rather than (where possible) trust in people. However, as capitalist production and distribution increased, there was increasingly a delay between the products being finished and distributed and sufficient money from sales returning to the capitalist to continue production.

This delay gave rise to various capitalist producers and merchants supplying the raw (and finished) materials needed to other capitalists without immediate payment but with written promises to pay. So in business, trust in paper backed individual promises started to replace trust in hard cash. These promises often named ‘bills’ or now ‘financial instruments’ allowed production to continue without capitalists necessarily having the money to immediately pay for the various transactions.

Since almost every capitalist started to extend credit the commercial ‘bills’ in a great many cases would conveniently cancel each other out. For example, if capitalist ‘A’ supplied goods worth £1,000 on a months credit to capitalist ‘B’ and ‘B’ had supplied £900 of raw material on a months credit to capitalist ‘A’, then the credit notes of each could partly cancel each other out (£1000 – £900 = £100). Neither would need to keep thousands of pounds on hand and ‘B’ would only need to pay ‘A’ £100 at the end of the month.

Thus complex systems of credit developed both nationally and internationally among capitalist suppliers, producers and merchants, which allowed huge amounts of economic activity to take place without the need for large amounts of money to be held in reserve for immediate payments. For capitalists that previously held reserve money could then be used to invest in order to make more money. This allowed the capitalist classes to increase their production, distribute and sell more and thus become richer.

However, this intricate system of extended credit also introduced two contradictory characteristics to the economic cycle of social production, sale and consumption. 1; an accumulating negative outcome: 2; an interesting positive development.

First the positive outcome: The universal application of credit removed the almost complete trust in an inanimate material (money) in exchanges and re-established trust between human actors in production. People were (and still are) economically producing and exchanging based upon credit (ie trust) without the continual use of money. Apart from a minority of rogues, social production via the extended division of labour and credit was henceforth being conducted on the basis of mutual trust.

And credit was not just extended by capitalists. By always working a week or month ‘in advance’ (ie working before being paid) workers advance a form of credit (eg the value of 5 or 20 days work) to whoever employs them. It is this habit of giving and accepting credit based on social trust which is an important basis for any transition to a post-capitalist form of production. Or as Marx concluded;

“Finally, there is no doubt that the credit system will serve as a powerful lever during the transition from the capitalist mode of production to the mode of production of associated labour; but only as one element in connection with other great organic revolutions of the mode of production itself.” (Capital Volume 3 page 593)

To a large extent in the late 20th century, the plastic ‘credit’ card increasingly replaced money for the day to day exchange of goods and services for practically everyone – not just capitalists. As workers, white-collar and blue, we have become used to working and purchasing without needing pockets full of money. Providing we have a means of credit (derived from entitlement benefits or in exchange for the work we do) we now know we can continue to purchase what we need.

So just as non-profit public services and cooperatives emerged from within all capitalist systems and proved that economic alternatives to private enterprise are eminently viable; credit based economic exchanges demonstrate that alternatives to the money-mad capitalist forms of exchange designed purely to accumulate obscene levels of monetary wealth for the elite are also viable.

Turning to the negative outcome of capitalistic credit, it needs to be born in mind that, as noted above, capitalists only need money to in order to realise and accumulate their profits. For them forms of money are movable stores of accumulated value for further investment – not just a means of exchange – for they also use credit purchases for that.

However, keeping this capitalist ‘need’ of money for accumulation in mind, note also that the longer, the more complex and the more valuable the chains of capitalistic business credit become, the greater chance of even one or more defaults (ie an inability to pay with money when the payment date arrives) travelling along the chain of transactions making it collapse like a line of dominoes (ie as happened in 2008).

So it is a basic fact that financial crises sporadically occur within capitalism when the numerous chains of credit, driven on by – greed-for-profit production – become longer, more complex, involve greater product volumes than are actually needed and consist of considerably more value than the money available to settle accounts. Such crises are further exacerbated when emergency credit facilities or loans – such as pro-capitalist government bailouts etc., – become unavailable.

Now fast forward to 2020! Despite the emergency bailouts, a combination of pre-Covid austerity and now the Covid-19 Pandemic has by additional bankruptcies and unemployment;

1, further reduced the numbers of people able to pay for goods (commodities previously overproduced by businesses using normal commercial credit). Furthermore, due to a lack of cash, many individuals have also now maxed out their personal credit;

2, the Covid Pandemic has also; increased the use of business credit by capitalist producers, also because of the shortage of cash available to, and not returning from, the now unemployed, shielding or locked down former consumers.

All this means that on top of financial problems experienced by individuals, another capitalist inspired general financial and economic credit collapse is looming. It will likely be triggered by business-led credit defaults which will accumulate on the surface of the coming crisis. Even more settlement payments will become due and defaulted, even more goods will remain unsold and even more jobs and homes will be lost.

Although the timing and pace of this coming economic crisis is unpredictable, it will nonetheless involve all the countries around the globe, sooner or later. Its economic effects will also be uneven as will be the consequential social unrest that the ensuing hardship will provoke. How the crisis will be positively resolved this time around will depend upon how many people have really understood the system we are living under, and have also studied and understood how best to address its many economic, ecological, social, political and medical contradictions.

Any positive resolution of the coming crisis will also depend upon whether a critical-mass of citizens become non-sectarian activists and help tip the balance of responses in favour of campaigns for a more sustainable, humane, socially egalitarian, post-capitalist future for humanity.

Roy Ratcliffe. (November 2020.)

Posted in Critique | 1 Comment

THE 2020 USA ELECTION RESULTS?

Biden beats Trump by 76 million, votes to 72 million, to become the 46th President of the United States of America? Both candidates got the most votes ever in such elections. Despite his obvious shortcomings, his cavalier attitude and the vitriol heaped (fairly and unfairly) upon Donald Trump millions more people voted for him than they did in 2016. So even more people than last time preferred his mixture of outspoken ignorance, arrogance and boasting to the more moderate and measured dystopia of Joe Biden, who also received fair and unfair criticism.

Interestingly, over 71 million voters (including women and men of colour) preferred to back the ‘pussy grabbing’, ‘immigrant child-separating’, ‘climate change denying’ and ‘Covid-19 trivialiser’ Donald Trump. Yet, just as astonishing is the fact that over 75 million voters preferred to put ‘crime bill Joe’, the ‘friend of middle-eastern autocrats’ and ‘military juntas’, in the white house seat of power.

In view of their respective track records, perhaps it would be more accurate to consider that among these 146 million plus voters, many millions probably voted for Donald Trump simply because he was NOT Joe Biden and many millions probably voted for Joe Biden simply because he was NOT Donald Trump. There was undoubtedly a large element of ‘fingers crossed‘ hopeful voting – for the lesser of two evils – on both sides of the political divide.

So no substantial surprises then: Another already divided capitalist country remains deeply and aggressively divided. Despite a record-breaking electoral turnout neither of the two pro-capitalist contenders for the election could attract an overwhelming majority on their side. The narrow victory by Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 has apparently been mirrored by a somewhat larger, but still not overwhelming victory of Biden over Trump. Despite the intervention of a global Covid-19 Pandemic, which threatens not only the death of the elderly and vulnerable, but the rapid atrophy of the capitalist mode of production, nothing much else has changed.

Therefore, apart from Covid-19, the fundamental issues are still the same in 2020 as they have been for over two decades. The two-party pro-capitalist system in the USA has for decades sung the same political anthem and to essentially the same tune – but in slightly different musical keys merely to suggest a difference between them. The basic, but increasingly discordant universal capitalist anthem, contains the lyrics, ‘work hard and you will succeed’, along with ‘you are free as long as you obey the law‘, and ‘voting is the way to change things you don’t like’.

Practically everyone knows that none of the above is true whether one party sings it in the key of ‘D’ and the other in the key of ‘A’. In 2016 and 2020 ‘the Donald’ delivered it in F sharp and in 2020 ‘the Joe’ delivered it in B flat. And yet, as Leonard Cohen once intoned; “everyone knows, the boat is sinking; everybody knows the captain lied”. Passengers on the good ship USA, with Covid-19 unequally spread along all first, second and third class decks, have just chosen which lies to believe or disbelieve and who will get to captain the rapidly disintegrating ship of state.

But everybody knows that although there are exceptions, most people will work hard and now never succeed in getting their basics needs; a well-paid, secure occupation and a secure home. Everybody knows that most people obey the law but will never be free of debt, free of government dictate, or free of official harassment if authority chooses to harass. And everybody knows that voting changes little or nothing for ordinary people. Because everybody knows it is the rich and powerful who wield most influence in and on the institutions of power. Everybody knows that for a large majority of all ages, genders and ethnicities, things have got steadily worse.

However, what was new in the USA was that Donald Trump in 2016 struck a relevant chord with an extra verse to his version of the anthem based on ‘draining the swamp’.

The years of accumulated disappointment and disgust with the political class and state bureaucracy by the so-called ‘little people’ who are numbered in millions in the USA, runs deep and will not be removed by this election. So the elation of those who wanted Trump out – and got it – will be short lived for the following reason. The newly elected Captain Joe will be in charge of the same rotten, badly listing, disease-riddled and steadily sinking ship of the western capitalist Imperial line. President Biden will, among other things, be tasked to oversee the patching up, scrubbing clean and limited repainting (a watered down green?) of the same outmoded economic vessel.

The hope of the multi-millionaire elite backers of Joe Biden is that the patching up, scrubbing clean and repainting of the currently damaged and partly quarantined ‘USS. Enterprise’ will be done by a section of the low-paid working classes who have not yet been made redundant and consigned to tented street living, before ‘boldly going forth‘ again.

That is the hope – if Donald Trump can be persuaded to vacate the White House. His attempt to have the 2020 election results legally negated due to alleged fraudulent voting almost mirrors the Democratic Party attempts (2016-18?) to obtain sufficient evidence that alleged Russian electoral interference contributed to Trumps eventual victory. Those past congressional and present legal antics are not simply a question of bad losers having self-indulgent tantrums. They indicate the depth and extent of the determined struggle between the rival economic and financial factions of the elite for control of the future direction of US capitalism – a rivalry which will persist.

For whatever the result of this particular ongoing political charade among the US elites, the underlying economic and financial reality – everywhere – is that the capitalist business model is in tatters. And it is clear why. Constant industrial and financialised profits ultimately require, constant production and constant global consumption. However, both these requirements need high global employment numbers, relatively high global wages or salaries and limited international competition.

Although computerised and automated production methods quickly create masses of products, these same industrial upgrades to production techniques also reduce the number of well paid employees staffing them. Moreover, competing countries employ similar technology and also require fewer well paid employees. The result is more national and international production than can be sold and the classic, built-in symptom of capitalism – relative over-production – kicks in. More goods and services are produced than can be sold at a profit – leading sooner rather than later – to more bankruptcies and unemployment.

Such global relative over-production, now exacerbated by Covid-19 triggered unemployment, is rapidly producing an extreme crisis needing painful resolution. People reduced to prolonged poverty and oppression in large numbers are faced not only with disappointment and disgust at the political puppets in power, but with the stark alternatives of resigned submission or rebellion. In the past such internal crises were resolved by external wars. In fact two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) occurred as 20th century alliances of severely troubled capitalist countries compelled (conscripted) their unemployed and angry workers to ‘join up‘ and attempt (somewhat successfully) to destroy each other.

However, in the absence of some unhinged leader prepared to risk everything (MAD) Nuclear weapons now inhibit the option of total war. As a consequence, in the 20th and 21st centuries any serious crisis within a capitalist-based country has therefore been confined to civil wars – short or protracted. Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen etc., provide obvious nuanced examples of this outcome in the less capitalistically developed countries. However, any future large-scale economic crisis within the advanced countries is now also likely to be played out – again – in the form of civil wars.

Although there is an alternative to the above outcomes, as long as there is a lack, among sufficient numbers of people, of a clear and convincing non-sectarian vision of an alternative socio-economic system, then despite optimism or pessimism over current and future election results, the future – everywhere – looks bleak.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2020)

Posted in Critique | 1 Comment

CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 28.

Free School Meals and Food banks.

In the UK, during the spaces between wall to wall Covid-19 bulletins, media attention this autumn has been drawn to the question of free school meals. Whether to continue them during the holiday period or to end them has again been a bone of contention among two elite tendencies within the UK. The first elite tendency is represented by those who think free meals should be continued during the holiday period. They include some celebrities such as the football player Marcus Rashford and politicians in the Labour Party. Both of these sections are part of the more liberal wing of the UK pro-capitalist spectrum. Even some liberal leaning members of the British Conservative Party have supported this desire to feed the needy offspring of the poor during school breaks.

The second tendency are those who think these free meals should not be extended beyond the official school term. This tendency seems to think responsibility during holidays should fall back upon the parents of these children. This further round of the skirmish between those for and against this act of paternalistic charity was continued in the UK Parliament where a motion to continue with the meals was defeated by a Conservative majority. Two things struck me as bizarre and remarkable during these two episodes. First was the remark by one conservative MP to the effect that he didn’t think that the parents of children eligible for free school meals should ‘get used to the state subsidising their food requirements’.

I found this remark incredible because this member of Parliament and his colleagues are absolutely used to being subsidised by the state – to the tune of £80,000 per year in salaries. In addition his meals out (and other MPs) are reimbursed by the state. The Parliamentary restaurant and bar were they are at liberty to eat is also subsidised by the state. The sheer hypocrisy displayed in this outburst (and by the result of the vote) by privileged elites – in receipt of huge state subsidies, including pension entitlements – begrudging underprivileged school children a free school meal – defies classification outside of – unbelievable! But the fact that no one in the mainstream media pointed out this breath taking hypocrisy is also incredible.

Yet the event displayed even more self-indulgent hypocrisy than that; because these same Parliamentary and media individuals had not many months back applauded the sustained efforts of low-paid essential workers, in hospitals, transport, and commercial services during the Covid-19 March lock-down. Many of these low-paid essential workers undoubtedly will have children who are entitled to have free school meals. Yet again remarkably, neither of these two pro-capitalist tendencies or the media questioned why many parents are so poorly paid that their children are needing free school meals.

Not even Mr Rashford (on £10 million per year!!!) seems to have asked himself why he and his mates who simply kick balls around a stadium are paid in millions of pounds, while those who clean the streets and hospital wards, pick crops, pack supermarket shelves, nurse sick people, (old and young) and care for the dying, are paid a minimum-wage pittance.

It says a lot about the character and social nature of those in sport, entertainment, government, politics, media and the management levels of industry and commerce – that even when experiencing the most severe global health crisis – they cannot take time or effort to question the whole basis of an economic system which allows such poverty amid such plenty. Not one mainstream voice among the well-paid elite has drawn attention to the above contrast or seriously questioned the basis of an economic system whose elites spend billions on weapons of mass destruction, enable the enrichment of thousands of millionaire and billionaire individuals, yet turn their backs upon those children needing free school meals, parents who need to visit food banks and even old people isolated in substandard care homes.

By the way: I was born in 1941 and when of school age I was also in receipt of free school milk and free meals at lunch time. My parents, after surviving the 1930s period of mass unemployment and hardship in Britain, had been involved in the Second World War effort for the UK. My father as an aircraft fitter in the air-force, my mother as a textile worker creating cotton fabrics destined for the war effort. Despite all the fear they (and millions of others) experienced during the war and the effort they exerted during the war and post-war, they too then existed on low pay, long hours, precarious employment and struggled for years – with no bath or inside toilet – to keep us financially afloat! And incidentally we were not the poorest in our community!

How little things have changed in 79 years, when in 2020, amid a world-war against a virus, a new generation of working people are experiencing a similar and even worse situation in the UK and elsewhere to that experienced by Violet and Sydney and me their only child. And in 2020 and 2021 it is going to get worse. Many more are going to be made homeless as the lack of jobs and money bear upon the most vulnerable of our own citizens and those in other countries.

And yet what is truly amazing to me is that not one among the national or global elites or the current influential middle-classes seem embarrassed by what they have collectively created and delivered to the present generation and seem intent on passing on to future generations. As such they are part of the problem not part of a solution. Indeed, they, including the well-meaning but economically naive, Mr Rashford et al, currently stand in the way of effective solutions to poverty.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2020)

Posted in Critique | 6 Comments

DECAPITATION IN THE NAME OF GOD.

The three recent events of shooting, stabbing and attempted decapitations in France are stark reminders of the dangers of religious beliefs. There will of course be attempts to single out Islam as unique in the realms of killing in the name of god. Indeed, Islamic fundamentalism well deserves the condemnation it will undoubtedly get. Stabbing a complete stranger to death and then trying to hack their heads off just because someone else had shown cartoons of a historical originator of a religion drawn by yet a third person, is a uniquely evil form of punishment for a non-crime.

However, heads blown off random bystanders by laser guided missiles, from a Christian piloted modern aircraft over Yemen or Iraq is no less a decapitation – and also for no discernible crime. Likewise, a Jewish Israeli drone delivering phosphorus bombs or missiles into Gaza will no doubt severe numerous body parts of anyone in the vicinity. Killing innocents (collateral damage) is still a feature of many individuals belonging to one or other of the three Abrahamic religions. But then killing is actually in the scriptural DNA of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example;

“26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come to me. And all the Levites gathered themselves together to him. 27 “And Moses said to them, Thus says the Lord God of Israel: put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from door to door throughout the camp and slay every man his brother, his friend, and his neighbour.” 28 “And the Levites did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand.” (Torah/Old Testament. Exodus Chapter 32 verse 26 – 28.)

No mention of decapitations here but with flashing swords hacking and killing in a house to house (or tent to tent) frenzy no one can be sure there weren’t any all those years ago! And in Exodus Chapter 34 verse 24 we are informed that God warns; “…I will destroy the nations from before you and enlarge your borders; ” Now these extracts are from the Torah of the Jewish religion, or as it is also known, the Christian Old Testament. So when Israeli Jewish Zionists have been witnessed clearing villages, bulldozing Palestinian houses and Olive groves, shooting Palestinian protesters and bombing Gaza, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, they can, like Islamists, reassure themselves that what they are doing is also sanctioned by their God.

There are many such examples in the Torah/Old Testament, (eg. see Leviticus 20 v 2 and Numbers 15 v 35 and 36). I will just include one more before moving on. After ordering his followers to kill and burn in some Midianite cities, Moses demands;

“15 Why have you let all the women live?”……17 “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him”. 18 “But all the female children who have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31 v 14 – 18)

Reading this it is obvious that on top of a record of genocide and infanticide what is more than hinted at here is religious approval for adult males to have sex with, under-age girls – as a perk for their recent ‘killing in the name of God’. Now I am a revolutionary-humanist and atheist and I don’t believe there are any Gods so I cannot logically blame a nonexistent entity for advocating such inhuman genocidal brutality and shameful sexual exploitation of young females. However, If they are not instructions from a god then at the very least they are the product of some ancient men, verbally recited at first, continually approved and later written down in the form of legitimate, attitudes, events and actions.

The above and the dozens of other such examples of advocated sectarian brutality and genocide, along with despicable sexist attitudes to women are still an accepted part of the scriptural foundations of both Judaism and Christianity. So when past examples of Christians “destroying nations” and “enlarging borders” (as they once did in North and South America and Africa etc.), are considered, we can recognise the continuity between actions of the ancient religiously guided past and those of the more recent religiously guided past and in some cases – even the religiously guided present!

Is it not truly remarkable that to this day no-one (or group) within Judaism and Christianity (particularly within their priestly hierarchies) have campaigned to have these numerous inhuman scriptural attitudes and actions highlighted and denounced as being completely unacceptable as modern ways of thinking and behaving?

Having briefly indicated the scriptural brutality and prejudice in the ‘foundations’ of both Judaism and Christianity it is now time to consider what scriptural authorisation lies behind those Muslims who shout ‘God is Great’ as they stab, blow up, shoot or decapitate random people they encounter. The Qu’ran (Koran) is one of the documents which guides those who are members of the religion of Islam. It comprises of 114 numbered and named sections entitled Surah’s. Here are just a few examples.

“Believers make war on the infidels who dwell around you.” (Surah 9:123. ‘Al-Tawba’)

“Fight for the sake of Allah those who fight against you…..kill them wherever you find them…..Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allahs religion reigns supreme.” (2: 190. ‘Al-Baqara’)

“Fight for the cause of Allah with the devotion due to him.” (22:78. ‘Al-Hajj’)

Fighting, punishing, striking fear into and killing unbelievers are frequent suggestions throughout the Qu’ran. In fact when you add them all together they total 297 references. Furthermore it is also enough to feel wronged to trigger an act of revenge. For;

“Those who avenge themselves when wronged incur no guilt.” (42:43. ‘Al-Shura’)

The use of terror is a suggested strategy.

“We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers” (3:150. ‘Al-Imran’)

Dealing with unbelievers in battle can require decapitation.

“When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads….” (47:4. )

Heavenly rewards are promised for killing and being killed;

“Allah has purchased of the faithful their lives and worldly goods and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, slay and be slain.” (9:110. ‘Al-Tawba’)

Ambush tactics are recommended;

“When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them.” (7:5. ‘Al-A’raf’)

These and the numerous other examples within the Qu’ran explain not only the actions of the Islamist fundamentalist terrorists, who shout ‘God is Great’ as they brutally kill, but also explains the lack of condemnation of these atrocities by ordinary Muslim believers. Just recently (late October 2020) there have been large public demonstrations of Muslims in various countries but not to condemn the random killing and decapitation of the French citizens. Instead, the demonstrations were organised to condemn the French President Macron for not condemning the cartoons.

Amazingly, to many true believers of Islam, the brutal and gruesome deaths of random people by Islamic militants are not bad enough to be publicly denounced – but drawings they do not like are. And again, as with the followers of Judaism and Christianity, no group or individual followers of Islam with regard to the Qu’ran have as yet openly; ‘campaigned to have these numerous (297 and counting) inhuman scriptural attitudes and actions highlighted and denounced as completely unacceptable as modern ways of thinking and behaving’.

It should be a shameful embarrassment to all religious believers, that all three Abrahamic scriptural ideologies – at their very cores – deny the true humanity of everyone other than members of their own particular creed and have thus openly and frequently advocated brutally killing them. Undoubtedly, the founding texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam thus keep alive these ancient patriarchal forms of intolerance and brutality which are still being acted out in various ways by their followers, thousands of years later.

To revolutionary-humanists, religions represent a sectarian and patriarchal problem to be resolved and overcome by humanity; not a solution or guide for our future collective well-being.

Roy Ratcliffe. (November 2020)

Posted in Critique | 2 Comments

CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 27.

Balancing the Books.

In a recent speech, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak explained why he could no longer support all businesses (and jobs) by further financial help. He stressed that it was more important to “balance the books” than support all those in need. He also added that he did not want to pass a high national debt onto future generations. It is hard to identify a more ignorant piece of mis-information spilling out of the mouth of a government representative – and there have been so many during 2020. What he failed to mention is the fact that British Governments, as with the governments of most other countries, have never balanced the books – or intended to – in their entire history.

Even before, the English Civil War in 1641-50, the English monarchy had long spent more than it received. The consequence was an increasing sovereign debt. When Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentary capitalist colleagues defeated the royalists and took control of the UK, the sovereigns debt became in effect the national debt. Moreover, the capitalists in charge then placed making money out of the national debt on an entirely new and expanded footing.

It was a process which accelerated during the Industrial Revolution and has lasted to the present day. From 1692 to 2012 (ie for 300 years!) the lowest yearly overspend successive ruling elites indulged in was never less than 30% more than the GDP. Most years it was much higher.

So not only are the current parvenu political representatives of the British branch of neo-liberal capitalism, incapable of competently managing the Covid-19 Pandemic and Brexit negotiations, they are also unaware of the history of trade and apparently ignorant of the economic methodology of capitalism. The basic fact is that all capitalist countries actually print and coin legal tender (money) and also create credit/debt. Capitalism absolutely relies on these two means of getting things done along with circulating (buying and selling) goods and services. Governments need to print money (bank notes are tokens of credit meant merely for circulation) and create other forms of credit/debt in order to continue doing what capitalist governments do.

So does anyone think that the dual-salaried Rishi Sunak and Bojo Johnson upstarts et al, are suddenly intending to do what no government leaders have actually done for the last 300 years?

Of course not. However, they are going to try to bamboozle the rest of us into accepting that their primary school level of economic pedantry – based on a false parallel of household budgeting – is really how national economic systems work. In reality, the process of how the elite hoover up the nation’s (and other nations wealth) and deposit it into their swollen bank accounts is a bit more complex and obscure than what they tell us.

As workers we are often told (ie by Thatcher and May in the UK) that money doesn’t grow on trees – as if we didn’t know that! However, although money isn’t created by the efforts of tall plants with leaves it is created by the efforts of government printing presses and in the 21st century by central bank digital accounting procedures.

NB. So its a fallacy that governments need our tax money to function. Governments actually don’t need their citizens money. Governments, unlike family households create and print the tokens of credit (money) they need – in as large amounts as they want. True they get some of it back, from multifarious taxes, but not because they need it. It is we that need the governments money in order to live, and pay our taxes.

Therefore taxes are not levied because governments actually need the currency they print and encourage us use – they already have as much of that as they need and can create more if they ever want it. Taxes are levied on practically everything so that ordinary citizens have to work hard in order to get hold of enough money to buy the goods and services produced and to re-circulate the legal tender by paying taxes.

So in 2008 when the banking crisis occurred, of course governments all over the world didn’t visit the rhetorical ‘money tree’ – they simply ordered their central banks to credit the accounts of insolvent banks and financial institutions, etc., with sufficient electronic tokens of credit on their ‘books’ to make them solvent. To obscure what they were doing they called creating these bail-out credit tokens ‘quantitative easing‘. They electronically transferred the new ‘digital credit tokens’ and charged nothing or very low interest rates to any of the too-big-to-fail financial entities (banks, insurance companies, building societies, finance houses etc) they thought should be helped.

These financial institutions then kept a proportion of the credit granted them as reserves and lent credit out to others at interest rates higher than the rates (if any) they were required to pay the government. They also used this politically gifted credit to underwrite financial instruments (specially printed certificates) which were bought by various organisations – including governments.

It’s worth thinking about that for a moment. Governments gave credit money to the ones (banks, finance houses etc.) who had previously spent more than they earned. These financial instigators of the 2008 crisis, then extended this gifted credit to others at interest and sold more financial instruments (bonds etc) to the government and other buyers. Yet as we know, many ordinary people had lost their jobs and houses but after a short lull, the whole finance capitalist system restarted. The culprits in receipt of the bailout credit then gave themselves bonuses and handed out money to their shareholders. In other words, whilst millions of people suffered, those who created the crisis managed to get a two-fold pay out to make up for their self-inflicted losses.

Note also that by this magician’s type trick of distracting the audience by pointing to quantitative easing, the ‘balance‘ of the governments ‘books‘ went further into debt, while the recipient capitalists bank balances went up.

So the winners in this 2008 rigged credit/debt lottery were the bankers and shareholders and the losers the workers and those small businesses without tax avoidance schemes. Taxes were raised supposedly in order to help bring the national debt down – but that wasn’t the real reason – and it didn’t. But it does demonstrate how capitalists utilise national debt to line their own pockets

Historically, institutions and governments frequently needed to spend money before any money rolled in. So they started the practice of coining and printing tokens of credit and borrowed some from those with spare cash and paid the latter back with interest. So a capitalist with a few thousand units of whatever currency was legal in their country could lend them to a government who would pay them back the loan plus interest. Therefore, without doing an ounce of value producing work the investing rich could sit at home or do ‘the tour of Europe’ while the money kept rolling in at regular intervals.

With enough invested in government bonds and subsequently rolled over, generations of rich people and their children have lived off the proceeds of servicing government debt via ‘bonds’ (large tokens) without doing anything useful – unless it amused them to do something useful. This is why the capitalist class and their pro-capitalist supporters have never wanted to substantially reduce the national debts and they never will. Lending to governments still funds, or in some cases part-funds, their lavish life-styles. Many of the rich absolutely depend upon taking a free ride on the financial merry-go-round of servicing government debts, stock exchange speculation or by exploiting workers in factories, offices or in fields.

As long as capitalism and national debts continue to exist, the only questions arising are the following; ‘for what purposes should money be created and thus the national debt be allowed to increase?’ In 2008 the political and financial elite of most countries thought the purposes should be to save the life-styles of the managers and shareholders of the banks and financial institutions mentioned earlier. So they did save them from bankruptcy and the national debt in the ‘books’ of most countries rapidly increased.

Similarly, in March 2020 during the global pandemic, the political and financial elite of most advanced capitalist countries thought that money should be again created by printing or digitally enhancing bank accounts and the national debt should be again allowed to rise. The reason? So that most of the countries big businesses could be assisted by grants and loans to survive. However, that opinion has now changed in the UK and only businesses viable in the long term will be serviced via a 2/3 contribution toward salaries and wages, and of course their much needed and cherished darling national debt will remain.

But note that in 2020 just as in 2008, money will not be created and the largely deliberately manufactured national debt will be allowed to rise not in order to support the essential workers, so recently hypocritically applauded by the elite for keeping the country going and risking their lives while the rich and famous sheltered in relative luxury amid the ravages of Covid-19. No!; the printing press and digital enhancement of their bank balances is again to be reserved for the already privileged elite.

And also note that Rishi and Boris and the rest of the British ‘establishment’ will not have their over £100, 000 per year salaries reduced by 2/3 . Furthermore, those on £150, 000 per year even IF it were reduced by 2/3 would still be left with an eminently manageable £100, 000 per year or roughly £2, 000 per week! Whilst a 2/3 reduction of a low paid £17,000 per year worker (getting £326 per week ie £8 per hour x 40 hrs x 52 weeks) would leave them with £218 per week. How are they supposed to food bank manage on that?

Just think of the disproportionate prejudice involved in this type of new furlough policy piled on top of the unfairness of a system in which many millions are on minimum wages, part-time or zero-hours contracts whilst keeping our basic economic and social infrastructure moving. Contrast that with a super rich class who are in receipt of millions if not billions like the Bezos, Gates and Zuckerberg’s et al, who wallow in far too much of everything with little or no conscience.

Furthermore, if we think about the cheap and easy strategy of printing sufficient paper money or the even quicker digital enhancement of bank accounts, in order to pay off the debts and solve the funding worries of the rich, then two pertinent questions arise. 1. Why not print sufficient money or digitally enhance the accounts of all working citizens fully in order to solve the food and rent problems of the working classes (white-collar and blue-collar) for many are already in actual existential crisis? 2. If the elite were really worried about passing debt on to future generations, why not print sufficient money to pay off the national debt or simply officially ‘write it off’ and digitally reduce or even eliminate the amount of debt on the government books?

Although these two suggestions are possible, I know they will not be done. Those who staff the Tory and Labour; Republican and Democrat parties and their counterparts internationally, still benefit from the existing set up so will strive to keep it going. Moreover, to implement these suggestions would begin to undermine the economic foundations and monetary illusions on which capitalism rests, and they are not going to risk that. Endless commodity production and consumption along with endless national debt are the actual foundations upon which middle class lives and occupations have been built. Implementing such radical measures as above would also require them to consider what is for them, as yet unthinkable – an alternative mode of production! One which would be socially and ecologically egalitarian, humane and humanist.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2020)

PS. Apologies for the length of this article. For some time I have been trying to condense my blogs, but recent Covid related events have been unusually full of ruling class nonsense.

Posted in Critique | 1 Comment

CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 26.


Viable Jobs.

The Conservative UK government, in what it thinks is a sober reflection of economic reality, decided (w/e 25th September 2020) to only continue subsidising (via a Job Support Scheme) what they consider are viable jobs. That is to say, for a further six months, they will only help businesses which they think will ultimately yield enough income to pay staff, overheads and taxes.

In the private sector, this means those businesses which will eventually be able to attract enough regular customers to guarantee a high enough income level. In the public sector viable jobs will be those, which in the future, this government feel can be maintained from future tax bases. That policy should not surprise us. It is simply the logic of capitalism; consequently all other jobs will be allowed to disappear.

So if, because of continued Covid-19 fears and/or cyclical downturns, economic activity does not reach the levels necessary in six months to make businesses viable, as is likely, then even more businesses will close and more jobs disappear. It is important to note here that the term viable is being used by pro-capitalists within a capitalist economic framework of meaning. In capitalist terms viable is defined by the difference between what are classed as productive jobs and unproductive jobs. (See ‘Productive and Unproductive Labour’ on this blog)

In another words employment will not be supported, by the governing elite because the tasks the workers do at them are useful, necessary or even important to society as a whole. Employment will only be supported by the pro-capitalist elite if a profit can be made from employing people or if the jobs are necessary for the welfare of the elite.

Thus jobs for politicians, senior bureaucrats, police and military personnel, royalty etc., none of which are viable in an economic sense will be protected, whilst jobs at places where working people spend some education, culture and leisure time activities will disappear. Youth clubs, libraries, cultural and non-occupational education services have already closed, local cafes and more existing small businesses will undoubtedly now follow.

In other words, the problematic logic of neo-liberal capitalist economics, which brought about the current crisis – in all its manifest forms – is to be applied now as if it’s a solution. It’s the economic equivalent of trying to put a fire out by pouring petrol on it. The general economic situation will be made far worse even though some high-level individual capitalist concerns will benefit financially.

Yet in the material world of nature, including human nature, being viable is not calculated by profitability. In the real world, viability is measured by how useful something (or someone) is in allowing us to manage the situations which we face. Humanity, along with all the elements of nature which supported it’s existence and evolution, has been viable for millions of years, without its viability being judged in terms of income and profit and thus how many paying punters you can cram into a particular space.

Revealingly, the capitalist mode of production, having encouraged working people to become audiences who pay to sit and watch excessively paid professionals in sport and culture, now finds its political representatives cutting the ground from under all but a few of the most influential ‘lovies’ and ‘arti-farties’; and this includes those paid millions for playing with balls.

However, note well. If a local coffee shop or any type of local cultural or educational venue is beneficial to local communities, it will be left to atrophy and collapse. An alternative humanist perspective to this capitalist policy would view these as valuable community resources and support them in such a way that they can continue – despite any modifications needed due to circumstances such as pandemics.

Indeed, in terms of evolutionary and even contemporary viability, it is over-producing, elite over-paying and over-polluting economic systems, such as capitalism, based on profit that are not sustainable. So it is these that are definitely not viable. This contrast was made clear (to those who wanted to see) even before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has has revealed it most starkly. What is now vividly exposed is that it is now a case of capitalist economics versus humanity. Which definition of viability will dominate over the other is a struggle we now face.

Viable Vaccines.

There is also a difference between what capitalist and pro-capitalist think is a viable vaccine and how humanists view the question. Capitalists want one sufficiently effective to allow workers to get back to productive (ie the viable) jobs as described above. Moreover, they wish the vaccine itself to make profits by sales to governments and private citizens. Since vaccine producers are in competition with each other to be first, there will be obvious temptations to take short cuts regarding safety and side effects. This is not unwarrented speculation. It actually occurred in the tragic cases of many other such medical ‘products’ as Thalidomide and Depo Provera (Medroxyprogesterone acetate).

Even if a competitive scramble is avoided by international collaboration of vaccine producers, the profit motive itself will not disappear. Shareholders and managers of drug firms expect to make gains from peoples illness and suffering – its why they invest in such private medical ‘enterprises’. Accordingly, those countries and people who can afford it (after experimental trials on poor people) will get it first. However, that still leaves the poorly addressed question of what viruses are and how vaccines work.

Viruses are microscopic life-forms which, along with bacteria, are probably the earliest forms of life – at least on this planet. Not all viral life-forms cause disease. Some are bacteriophages which can be (and have been) used against bacterial pathogens in humans. However, viruses of the corona family live and reproduce themselves by becoming parasites within a beneficial Eukaryotic animal or human cell.

Life in this microscopic animal/human cell form reproduces itself by a complex process of cell division. The internal elements of a cell (nucleus, organelles etc) form into two discrete zones with identical elements shuffled into each zone. The outer cell membrane then forms into a waist like shape and divides into two with the outer surface reforming completely around the two zones. The one amazing, normally invisible, cell has become two.

When not at the reproductive stage the outer wall of a beneficial microscopic cell (the plasma membrane) allows things to pass into (nutrients) and out of it (waste) without bursting. It is similar to the outer film of a soap bubble in that it maintains it’s structure and yet can reshape and absorb elements external to it. However, the outer membrane in a cell will only give way to substances which it chemically recognises as useful and safe. Thus successful viruses have on their surfaces substances (in the corona case ‘spikes’) whose protein composition acts like an attraction (or password/key) which allows it entry into the host cell.

Once inside the cells outer membrane, the virus’s bio-chemical RNA triggers the host cells reproductive process to replicate copies of itself. In humans (and animals in general) anything which is not beneficial to the internal composition of the system will be recognised and resisted by what is generally classed as the immune system. Beneficial cells (anti-bodies/phagocytes) will be eventually be produced by the immune system to neutralise the invading organism wherever they encounter it.

Vaccines are weakened or dead versions of a virus which are meant to trigger the immune response in the human body. But unfortunately, a virus, perhaps more than any other life-form, is able to evolve relatively quickly because its replication mechanism is less accurate. This means copies of viruses more frequently differ and those small differences in turn can mean that the altered version is not recognised by the immune system as detrimental.

There have been studies on viruses in general, and on corona viruses in particular, which concluded that random mutations occur during replication that subtly change the composition and structure of the “spike protein” on the surface of the virus. It is that particular protein which can allow the virus to pass through the membranes of beneficial cells in our bodies. Apparently, Covid-19 has one called D614G, which involves

“the substitution of an amino acid called aspartic acid (D) for one called glycine (G) in a region of the genome that encodes the spike protein”.

All this means that a vaccine, even one which does not have bad side effects and is reasonably (!) effective, may only be effective until a random mutation emerges in the virus which allows it to avoid cell and anti-body detection again. For example the annual corona-type flu virus mutates so quickly and differently, that the flu vaccine has to be adjusted every year and may not always be fully effective.

Another humanist concern on viable vaccines arises because the nature of the immunogen suspension (a cocktail of substances) used to convey the weakened or dead pathogen cells and which is injected (or ingested) into our bodies may not be fully disclosed or their effects fully understood.

So not all anti-vaxers are conspiratorial nut cases or necessarily anti-science or anti-medical science as some pro-vaccine dualists maintain. Many may also be sensibly wary of reassurances by those scientists funded by capitalist concerns and those scientists whose scientific understanding is distorted by economically-blind dualistic frameworks which view everything in non-contradictory opposites.

It needs to be recognised that vaccines are an unnatural method of relating to the evolution of pathogens within nature, only developed during (and promoted by) an unnatural mode of production – capitalism – which has disturbed nature to such an extent that it has accelerated the release of parasitic forms of life over symbiotic forms of life. I suggest it is important that these alternative revolutionary-humanist perspectives enter any current and future discussions on the viability of both jobs and vaccines.

Roy Ratcliffe (September 2020.)

Posted in corona virus, COVID - 19, Critique, neo-liberalism | Leave a comment

CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 25

In ‘CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC 24’ in July on this blog, it was suggested that ending the Covid-19 lock-down in most countries in that month was far too soon. As predicted, the virus was allowed to continue circulating by populations, some not willing (some not able) to resist the urge to congregate together. Consequently, senior governing elites are again informing their citizens that ‘the virus is not yet under control‘, or similar words to that mistaken understanding. In fact it is people who are not exercising sufficient long-term self-control and presenting the virus with an alternative to simply dying out.

Yes its that simple. No matter how long, short or complex its RNA is, a virus dies if it isn’t passed on. Either, a hosts immune system (human or otherwise) neutralises or destroys a virus or the virus neutralises or destroys a host. And even then it dies. Unless, that is, one infected host comes close enough to another vulnerable host to pass it on. It doesn’t jump from one body to another as some senior medical commentators have erroneously suggested. It has to be carried across from one body to another by touching or breathing, sneezing or coughing in close proximity.

Yet knowing this, during the first wave of contagion, we had the spectacle of governing elites who were more concerned to preserve the capitalist system than they were to preserve human life. With their later ‘relaxation’ and encouragement, we then had large numbers who were more anxious to preserve their entitlement to go to bars, disco’s, parties and eating out, than to preserve the lives of their neighbours and family members.

All this incompetence and indifference for the welfare of others, presents a dismal prospect for any early end to the daily Covid-19 death toll.

Many countries are now having to reintroduce legal measures to try to restrict the spread of contamination before it again overwhelms their still underfunded and under-resourced health services. Although stopping short of the full national lock downs of the first wave of Covid-19, (Spring 2020) nevertheless governments are now well on a path leading to that probability.

Moreover, the dismal strategy they propose is still essentially the same in September as it was in March. First; wash hands, keep a distance, wear a mask, don’t congregate in numbers more than six. Second; outsource the important process of testing and tracing to private companies who are more concerned with cutting corners and making profits than providing an efficient and effective service. How reassuring is that?

It has become something of a cliché that – to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result – is a form of madness. Be that as it may, it is at least a level of irrationality – bordering on stupidity – to keep attempting to implement the same half-baked strategy and expecting it to succeed. But then, from a humanist standpoint, stupidity has been the defining characteristic of the governing elites from the very outset of the pandemic.

Governing elites, the world over, knew a pandemic was coming and had documented strategic plans to deal with it, only to stupidly ignore their own documents and strategies when it arrived. Still they weren’t stupid enough to allow their own incomes and lives to suffer from the pandemic – were they?

They, like many other sections of the elite have remained on full pay, conditions and pension rights, paid for from the public purse! Think for a moment what a brilliant idea that is for the lucky ones. It keeps self and family together and allows income secure shielding during any major catastrophe now and in the future. It makes one wonder why it hasn’t caught on more widely.

Indeed, with regard to stupidity, an alternative one-sided level of it seems to have permeated the general population and the left, as well as the governing elites. We now have considerable numbers of people in some countries holding demonstrations – not demanding to be taken on to the same secure economic footing as the elite – but to be allowed to go back to the precarious positions they held before lock-down! And with the added danger of catching and passing on the virus to each other. How irrational is that?

Not quite as irrational as those who think that the virus doesn’t exist and is just a conspiracy invention, or those who think some imaginary, invisible male super-being located in an imaginary heaven will protect them from it. But it does represent a fairly high level of irrationality, particularly among nations and peoples that officially champion equality. Why not demand such equality now rather than settle for continued inequality?

The elite must be counting their blessings that the multi-ethnic workers around the world are more focused upon propping up a bar, or the outcome of present and future elections or re-educating their already well schooled law enforcement officers, rather than demonstrating and campaigning for everyone to be on a guaranteed income pitched at a level deserving of the contribution they make to society. And what about the so-called left vanguard in 2020?

Presented with the plain to view social class situation revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the left in general seem to be avoiding the one reform worth fighting for and the only one which would have a chance of uniting all working people, irrespective of all identities, ethnicities and political affiliations. Reforms in periods of revolutionary upheavals, need to be those which, in the circumstances, are seen by most people to be necessary, reasonable and fair.

If the governing elite claim ‘we are all in this together’, then they should be held accountable to that claim. If elites carry out a temporary furlough of a percentage salary or wage payment to workers, as many have, workers would be wise to campaign for it to become a full remuneration and a permanent feature. In a new epoch of wildfires, droughts, floods, hurricanes and pandemics, – primarily of their own making – any ruling elite refusing a request/demand that everyone in a disaster prone world should be as securely paid as the elite are, would be further exposed as deserving to be overthrown.

In the crisis and episodic collapse of modes of production, there are ‘peace, bread and land‘ moments as well as ‘no taxation without representation’ periods. Radical and revolutionary changes occur when such moments are seized and populations become galvanised into going beyond dreaming that ‘another world is possible‘ and start actively creating it. We now have such a period – shouldn’t it be seized?

There is no question that the fabric of the capitalist mode of production, globally is crumbling fast. The relationship between human labour and economic production, was previously dislocated by automation and advanced computerised techniques. It has now been profoundly stopped in its tracks by the inability to cram as many bottoms onto seats as will create profits – without undermining itself by spreading viral death and destruction.

The same technology has also profoundly dislocated the relationship between humanity and nature as ecology and environments have been gouged and trashed on land, sea and air to provide obscene levels of wealth for a relatively small elite. At the same time creating petty entitlement distractions for a large number and poverty for the increasing millions left out.

The capitalist system is not fit for humanity in general and this is recognised by the elite who have embraced the security of public service and in crisis engineered regular public handouts for their capitalist cronies. The system is well overdue for a radical change but it will need a radical change in thinking among greater numbers, before such change occurs.

There is no going back to a previous (imaginary) healthy stage of capitalist development, or no possibility of stabilising the current neo-liberal stage. There is only going forward to something fit for humanity as a whole. Readers, in or out of lock-down, dare to think, speak and do things differently – you have nothing to lose but your chains – to this terminally destructive system of exploitation and oppression.

Roy Ratcliffe (September 2020)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, corona virus, COVID - 19, Critique | Leave a comment

THE 2020 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

The USA presidential election in November 2020, is set to occur at a time when the capitalist mode of production will be in the throes of the most severe crisis it has ever faced. As the competing Democratic and Republican sides verbally arm themselves, for the electoral contest, that global fact has been consistently ignored. Most of the America media also seems to have decided that the defining issue of 2020 is not the disintegrating condition of the planet, the profound economic dislocation in the US or even the huge Covid-19 death toll there, but Donald Trump.

Democrats are vehemently against Trump, Republicans are vehemently for him. Both sides are pretending to see each other as the primary cause of the deep divisions, within US society, when actually they know they are but two sides of the same governing class. In fact it is the decades-long economic divisions working deep within US capitalism, which have given rise to this mostly sham contest between toxic Donald and sleepy Joe.

It is a sham contest because, despite small differences – hyper exaggerated purely for campaign purposes – most Democrats and Republicans (and their leaders) are dedicated supporters of the capitalist mode of production. Historically, both Democrats and Republicans have put the needs of capital and the pro-capitalist elites ahead of every other consideration. For the elites of both US parties, the present capitalist system comes first, second and never last.

Despite the vitriolic rhetoric on both sides, this fact has recently been verified by those such as Republican Jeff Flake et al. These right-wing Republicans, finally disillusioned by Trumps repeated paranoia and unpredictability, have decided to back Biden on the basis that Biden is right-wing enough and a better bet than Trump to guarantee the existing system will be protected.

Indeed, the real differences between Trump and Biden are far more to do with personal style, than substance, for both sides understand the capitalist system is in a complete mess and needs saving. They only differ in how this can be achieved. Both know there will be huge class struggles ahead and that working people will need to be divided against each other in order to weaken their struggle against the increasingly dysfunctional socio-economic system. How best to do that is what really divides them.

The Democrats in particular see the importance of accepting and encouraging political positions based upon the identities of gender, disability, sexuality and the falsified one of race. The representatives of these identities are promised reforms in return for peaceful assimilation (of a few) into the hierarchy of the existing and future capitalist system.

The essence of current Democratic electoral strategy is to represent US diversity by creating a Rainbow Coalition of legal, peaceful and loyal competing sectional interests (identities) which will redeem America’s dark Antebellum Slavery past. They hope the creation of a facade of ‘tolerance’ will ‘Make America Moral Again’. This strategy, if successful will serve to obscure and negate a class based campaign against all forms of exploitation and discrimination, thus ensuring the capitalist system has enough compromised supporters to survive the coming crisis.

In contrast, the Trump influenced Republicans, see re-establishing American ‘greatness’ in terms of aggressive internal and external measures. Consequently they put more emphasis upon directly playing off sections of the working class against each other. Blame for job losses are attributed to competition from other workers (and identities) not the deliberate decisions of capitalist enterprises to seek sources of cheap labour at home or abroad.

The future Trump (and prior Tea Party) defence strategy for the capitalist mode of production in America is to harness a coalition of dissatisfied workers who have internalised a nationalist agenda and identity and who judge their future well-being to lie with supporting a nationalistic Republican elite.

They hope these non-state nationalistic workers, currently with little viable alternative, will be drawn to the Republican political side and when the crisis eventually matures, act in concert with the capitalist states armed bodies of paid men (and women). Dress rehearsals of such joint reactionary activities against protests are already taking place in many states.

These two, state and non-state armed constituencies, are practical expressions of Trumps dream to ‘Make America Great Again’ which is ultimately a political strategy for stamping out opposition to the rule of capital. The two Biden/Trump political strategies are merely different views of how to defend the ‘establishment’ elites from the consequences of the coming financial, economic, ecological and medical crises facing humanity. But it is important to note that both of these visions are views of the world seen upside down.

The world seen upside down.

In the upside down optics of the representatives of capital, (and those who think like them), the bulk of humanity (working people) are born to serve the capitalist economic system. They imagine the capitalist system is unchallengeable. They think this way because they currently live in the world which superficially appears to be firmly set in that way. Moreover, their dualistic ideology assumes that a future economy adjusted to serve humanity rather than one adjusted to serve them – is neither possible or desirable.

Consequently, all politicians think that the form of politics determines the form of economics. In fact it is almost totally the opposite. The form of economic developments determines, to a greater or lesser extent, the form of politics. For example, the effects of the financial and economic collapse during and after 1929, determined the new-deal social welfare politics of the US for several decades as it did in Europe and elsewhere.

The economic effect of the Second World War (1939-45) also perpetuated a reform-based welfare based politics in the US and elsewhere. Economics more frequently dialectically determines politics, than the opposite. Furthermore, for those who work and live predominantly within one sphere of the mode of production, it is almost inevitable that the ideas dominating that section also dominate and cloud their individual thinking.

Thus those totally embedded in finance tend to think money makes the world go round; those immersed in religion, that some divinity is guiding the universe; educators, that the pen is mightier than the sword; and politicians, that politics determines what occurs in all other areas of life. The professional thinkers and writers within these super-structural spheres of human activity also influence and often dominate those who are sufficiently attracted to these disciplines.

This second layer of ‘disciples’, particularly those on the left, also begin to see the world turned upside down or inside out. They too think politics solves everything. The lefts general assumption of ‘Get rid of Trump and most problems will be solved‘, is an example of such inverted dualistic thinking. Those in the other spheres previously noted also tend to think, that money, god, learning or politics are the things which directly determine the production of the essentials for living – until!

Until a general crisis severely interrupts the flow of essentials. Then if food, water, clothing, shelter, and a number of other essential foundations to modern life, are not reliably delivered, money will be shown to be next to useless, prayer ineffective, knowledge unable to satisfy hunger, and politics a quickly evaporating cloud of hot air. In the current and future global Covid-19, economic, financial and ecological crisis period, we are nearer to such a general crisis, than many actually suspect given the widespread focus on the politics of entitlement and the politics of identity.

For in the USA, as elsewhere, those socio-economic identities which are currently deemed most important have arisen during the neo-liberal phase of entitlement capitalism and are invariably based upon politicised surrogates and lack a serious class analysis. In other words, in a world viewed upside down, symptoms of economic oppression are not seen as having fundamental causes – they are their own causes! Racism is seen as the cause of racism; sexism the cause of sexism; homophobia the cause of homophobia etc.

From such upside down perspectives on capitalist symptoms, solutions to serious problems of social distress are somehow to be magically spun out of themselves. Yet it is clear that politics is the problem not the solution to widespread social distress. Anyone who has seriously studied, the rise of authoritarian politics during the 20th century collapse of capitalism in Italy, Germany and Spain, will recognise that the above noted 2020 street fighting between different sections of the US working class over secondary issues and common problems, can be a prelude to a tragic set-back for humanism and humanity in general.

Furthermore, anyone, familiar with the outcomes of the Arab Spring uprisings, in Egypt, Syria, Yemen (among others), will recognise that even in the 21st century, political understanding can still misdirect general humanitarian struggles and steer them into political (or religious) sectarian cul-de-sacs. These are ancient dead ends down which lie tragic outcomes for all identities – including ones based upon class. Failing to learn from past experiences – particularly when 20th century history is so vividly and comprehensively recorded – is itself a tragedy, let alone the practical consequences of such repeated failures.

Roy Ratcliffe ( September 2020)

Posted in capitalism, COVID - 19, Critique, neo-liberalism | Leave a comment

2020: STILL THINKING INSIDE THE BOX?

Early in the year 2020, the dysfunctional socio-economic system we are all trapped in (ie the capitalist mode of production) was given its most profound shock ever. Within weeks the whole system of global production, distribution and consumption was exposed by a virus as being unfit for ensuring the health and safety of humanity as a whole. The ‘normal’ working of the capitalist economic system not only released the dangerous Covid-19 pathogen into commercial networks, but rapidly transported it into every corner of the globe. But by thinking within the box (ie within the existing ‘mode of production’) practically everything the systems governing elites did, made the situation worse.

A too-late lock-down, a too-soon ending of lock-down, a botched supply of PPE, testing, etc., the list of incompetent and omitted actions is considerable. The government support for salaries and wages during lock-down was a rare exception of alternative thinking. Yet knowing the virus needed human to human transmission, within a few months, the pro-capitalist elites everywhere began suggesting (in some cases compelling) working people to go back to work and socialise. In other words the capitalist form of ‘business as usual’ thinking required the calculated spreading of the deadly virus among communities – again!

These outcomes (including second Covid-19 waves) were predictable. Capitalist-centred elites could do no other than what they have done! The whole shape and purpose of the global economic system is a product of the capitalist mode of production, guided by its male-orientated elites. Consequently, their way of thinking and acting in any crisis reflects no other practical purpose than conserving the existing system. The socio-economic structure of capitalism, including the language and thinking they (and we) we have been taught to use, is based upon what is best for the elite males in production, commerce, governance and politics.

To expect them to think differently and act upon what is best for humanity as a whole is at best naive.

A crisis of the magnitude triggered by Covid-19, requires a different way of acting and thinking, but this change will not come from those who currently dominate capitalist societies. Historically, the elite male-centred view we are conditioned to accept, is most glaringly expressed in patriarchal religions, where the real world is considered an imperfect copy of the perfect creation of an all powerful male god. If the reader has never seriously questioned religion (or any other aspect) of our male-dominated cultures, that merely indicates that the critical thinking circuits of our brains have been seriously neglected. Yet the reader knows that the human brain is excellent at imagining things which could never actually exist or ever existed outside of the human brain.

Hence, an invisible male super being – who must be worshipped and served – is a taken for granted god, not simply an intellectual reflection of the socio-economic status of men.

It is clear that ideas and perceptions – even obviously false ones – can take on a permanence even when reliable, independent evidence for them is completely lacking. Without a shred of independently confirmed evidence, humans can be conditioned to believe practically anything – providing there is sufficient incentive or authoritative pressure. Yet, now more than ever, everything promoted by all elites needs to be questioned.

The danger of borrowing our thinking from within a male-focussed capitalist system is obvious. When women and men have been educated to think along male-determined, rather than humanist lines, it becomes easier to be led down paths which are detrimental to humanity in general. During 20th century socio-economic crisis periods, for example, people were persuaded to follow, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Mao – just to mention a few of the many examples. The path these ruthless male-centred, dualistic thinking men led people down ended in genocidal brutality.

Challenging Dualism.

Dualism, is a typical male-determined way of thinking. It views the physical and intellectual world via a series of fixed opposites. In dualistic thinking, opposed distinctions are everywhere. Thus for dualistic thinkers there are good and bad people. Good people are never bad and bad people are never good and no one moves between. Most of us know that reality renders that view false, but that doesn’t mean it is no longer used. Good and bad categories are common ‘borrowed‘ ways of viewing contemporary social reality and are rarely challenged. Take the example of the dualistic opposites of black and white and their frequent prejudiced association with good and bad.

Leaving aside paint pigments, very few things in the real world are actually black or white and that includes the skin colours of human beings. Yet that does not mean that these false (and now highly politicised) opposites, including their associated dualisms of good and bad are avoided. The associated idea of ‘race’, as a further example, stems from a dualistic male-centred view of humanity. Racist ideology was invented and used mainly by men to convince both the enslaved and the enslavers that slavery was logical and just. Of course the ideology was not universally convincing, but it convinced enough to become a significant strand of the framework of empires and their subject people’s.

In the 21st century, it is still possible to hear comments such as; ‘I am proud of my race‘; ‘you are disrespecting/oppressing my race’, etc. Even 20th century European legislation forbidding discrimination, utilises the term as in ‘race relations’, ‘racial discrimination‘, etc. The continued use of the concept of race – no matter who perpetuates it – denies two important realities. First, it contradicts the real existence of our common humanity and second, it ignores the fundamental features of human biology.

The success of racial ideology – as a contemporary social force – is not down to fundamental evidence in support of it, but to the fact that – a sufficiently large number of people have accepted it as ‘fact’ and acted upon it.

On this elite male-invented foundation was erected a shaky intellectual scaffolding of black and white races and the idea that power over other humans is a product of skin colour. Yet in fact the real tap root of human power over other humans is obviously not a persons skin colour, but the prevalence of male domination. Male power over females and children and over people’s, communities and nations (ie patriarchy) is the defining characteristic of all human ‘civilisation’ – so far! And this ‘power’ is exercised irrespective of differences in skin pigmentation. So too in the case of the patriarchal development of capitalism and the power that provides. Male power over women and children is universal and exists among all skin shades.

Likewise, capitalists – of all skin shades – along with their ‘law enforcers’, are employed precisely to consolidate economic and social power over their wage-slaves – and do so.

In the present crisis, to criticise only one form of oppression and avoid challenging the ubiquitous existence of male and capitalist oppression in general, suggests a failure to escape bourgeois patriarchal ways of thinking. It also represents a failure to understand and reject the entire content of the box labelled ‘the capitalist mode of production‘. Yes ‘dark – skinned lives matter’ is an important rallying call for an end this particular form of human discrimination, but unless we (and its advocates) make it an integral part of a wider revolutionary-humanist movement – where we assert that all lives (animal and human) matter – whatever their skin colour – it will remain a one-sided demand to be ignored or watered down by the very ‘male power elite’, to whom it is addressed.

Roy Ratcliffe ( August 2020)

Posted in Critique | Leave a comment

THE DANGERS OF SECTARIANISM.

Sectarianism.

There has long been a phenomenon within struggles for unity against ruling elites which is the intellectual equivalent of cancer in the human body. It attacks individual units of struggle and breaks down internal group solidarity. The phenomenon is called sectarianism. It is derived from the examples of small religious (and political) groupings known as ‘sects’. Nevertheless, it is not a group which determines the existence of sectarian characteristics, but the existence of sectarian characteristics which determine the nature of a group. The characteristics (outlined in the following section) can also exist in single individuals as well as multiples

First some general points. Members of a sect are primarily preoccupied with external and internal issues. External issues concern problematic economic or political relationships within a given society, which members seek to solve or escape. Internal concerns generally orbit around group leadership and group cohesion. Cohesion is maintained by adherence to a particular set of ideas and practices.

Leadership in such sects is gained by those who convince group members (either democratically or forcibly) that he or she is the best representative of the sects ideas and practices. However, it is the numerous characteristics of sectarianism that are important to understand not who they emanate from. If the following characteristics are identified then whoever personifies them will be the carrier of this fatal disease.

The characteristics of sectarianism.

1. Sectarians claim only they have the correct solution or answer to any problems the movement faces. This claim can be in the form of a doctrine, a set of principles or through special insights and abilities.

2. The reason the sect exists as a separate entity, is because it’s leaders and members consider themselves superior (in some self-identified way) to the general movement they seek to influence and lead.

3. Sectarians have an unshakeable belief in their abilities despite any obvious particular failures and shortcomings they demonstrate in practice.

4. Sectarians can (and do) carry out serious internal or external struggles against rival sects or rival leaders within their own sect.

5. Sectarians often elevate trivialities to the level of principles in order to create disputes between rivals and then create splits within movements.

6. Sectarians frequently call for unity but only unity around their own ideas, practices or leadership.

7. Sectarians frequently distort the positions and efforts of others with whom they disagree. In this way they ‘poison’ any efforts at constructive discussions.

8. Sectarians are often boastful about their own abilities, whilst disrespectful and bitter in relationship to those who differ.

9. Sectarians generally use intellectual abstractions and logical deductions to ‘win’ arguments which bear little or no relationship to immediate reality.

10. Sectarians often explicitly demand that everyone subordinate their thinking and activity to those ideas promoted by them or their sect.

It is obvious that the above characteristics are manifestations of individual and collective forms of supposed superiority over the rest of humanity (point 2 above) The ten characteristics can be used to assess the sectarian nature of any individual religious or political leader of whatever denomination or political persuasion.

Within left-wing politics, sectarians are in many ways, mirror images of the alleged superiority of right-wing elites. They represent micro-sect elites who are ambitious to become national or international leaders. Hence, the phenomena of small group sectarians, after being promoted to power in various ways, becoming new ruling elites. (eg. Bolsheviks, Nazi’s, Maoists, Islamists, Zionists, ANC etc.) Conversely, if sectarians fail to dominate movements, they invariably atrophy slowly or destroy themselves quickly. (eg. WRP, IMG, CP, WF, BP, etc.).

It is rare for all ten characteristics to be displayed at any one time, but any single one of the above characteristics may be enough to start the destructive invasion.

Because, the capitalist mode of production exploits and oppresses the mass of people for the benefit of the few, the oppressed majority are extremely diverse. On the global scale, the mass of humanity dominated by capitalism, comprise of different cultures, genders, ages, skin colours and sexual orientations. To imagine that such diversity does not create a variety of needs and ways of thinking is to ignore both logic and reality. Yet that is exactly what sectarians do when telling everyone what they must (their favourite word) do.

They imagine that such human diversity can be consolidated behind a set of ideas produced by such self-promoted sectarian elites. However, that is a fantasy equal to that of imagining a male super-being occupying a beneficial heaven and patiently awaiting our final ascent. Neither scenario is going to happen. Any movement wishing to seriously challenge the power of a united and powerful elite to negatively determine what happens to the rest of us will need to unite around not just one form of oppression – no matter how abusive that is – but around multiple issues of oppression and abuse.

Like elites of all historical periods, sectarians also imagine that working people need leadership (their leadership) to be able to challenge existing elites and to create productive communities. In sectarian ideology, real-world socio-economic reality is inverted. In fact it is leaders which need workers to support them economically and socially. Without workers producing goods and services, elites could not survive.

Workers may need co-ordination for many economic activities, but they can do that for themselves. However, given their lengthy economic, social and intellectual subordination to the dominant class, working people, need to challenge the false ideas of human superiority and inferiority. In particular, those ideas which are embodied within the ideologies of religion, racism, sexism and nationalism.

Those who have already done so for themselves can help facilitate the challenging of these pro – capitalist ideologies by working people, but only if they have done so thoroughly. Criticism and self-criticism of methods and evidence is important in this regard. It is easy to criticise obvious surface symptoms, but without a thoroughgoing criticism of underlying systemic causes, that criticism leaves the capitalist system as a whole unchallenged and intact.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2020)

[The above is a precis of a fuller analysis of anti-capitalist sectarianism along with a history of many of its international expressions in the 20th century, in the book ‘Revolutionary-Humanism  and the Anti-Capitalist Struggle’. RR]

Posted in Critique | Leave a comment