BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY VERSUS FASCISM? – 2

In part one of ‘Bourgeois Democracy versus Fascism?’ the general case was made that Fascism was a political means of merging capitalism’s intrinsic economic authoritarianism, with its social/public level of authoritarianism and by recruiting sufficient numbers of citizens was able to enforce this three-fold merger on the whole of society. The cases of Fascism in Italy, Germany and Spain differed somewhat but their extreme authoritarian essence was essentially the same. However, to demonstrate the connection in more detail, I have chosen case of German Fascism (Nazism) as illuminated by its founding Program, (in Italics) followed by comments. It begins;

1. The Program of the German Workers’ Party is a program of the age. Once the aims postulated in the Program have been achieved, the leaders do not intend to set new ones merely in order to render possible the Party’’s continuance through the artificial intensification of the discontent of the masses.”

“We demand on the basis of the right of self-determination of all people’s, the union of all Germans into a Greater Germany.“

“2. We demand equal rights for the German people with other nations and the abolition of the Peace Treaties of Versailles and St German.”

3. We demand land (colonies) to nourish our people and to settle our surplus population.”

4. None but members of the nation may be citizens of the State. None but those of German blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. No Jew, therefore, may be a member of the nation.”

“5. Those who are not citizens of the State may live in Germany only as guests and must be subject to the Alien laws.”

“6. None but citizens of the State shall be entitled to decide as to the leadership and laws of the State. We therefore demand that all public appointments of whatever kind, whether in the Reich, the States, or the municipalities, shall be held by none but citizens of the state. We oppose the corrupt parliamentary method of filling posts solely according to considerations of party, and regardless of character and ability.”

The first paragraph, hints at the underlying economic problems by mentioning “the discontent of the masses”. But the combined six points establish the basic authoritarian requirement of capitalism. In this case, the German nation-state will be the main unit of establishing territory and citizenship and (by using fabricated concepts of blood and race) points 4 – 6 define who will be first class human beings and who will not. It also clearly states in point 3 that expanding its authority beyond its current borders (exploitation of foreign peoples) is intended.

“7. We demand that the State shall make its first duty to ensure employment and a livelihood for citizens of the State. If it is not possible to support the entire population of the State, then foreign nationals (non-citizens of the State) shall be expelled from the Reich.”

“8. All further immigration of non-Germans who immigrated into Germany after August 2nd, 1914, shall be compelled to leave the Reich.

9. All citizens of the Reich shall possess equal rights and duties.

10. It must be the first duty of every citizen of the State to perform either intellectual or physical work. The activities of the individual must not conflict with the interests of the community, but must be carried on within the general framework and for the benefit of all.”

Bearing in mind the period of massively high unemployment in Germany at the time, points 7 to 10, are clearly aimed at appealing to the German born blue-collar and white-collar working classes. This was a clear strategy for ideologically attracting a broad working and lower middle – class membership. Next;

11. Abolition of unearned incomes.”

12. In view of the enormous sacrifices of blood and treasure that every war demands of the nation, personal enrichment through war must be regarded as a crime against the nation. We therefore demand complete confiscation of all war profits.”

“13. We demand nationalisation of all businesses already amalgamated (trusts).”

“14. We demand profit-sharing in big concerns.

Points 11 to 14, demonstrate a need/desire, in a time of capitalist crisis, to include an element of anti – capitalist rhetoric such as confiscation of war profits, nationalisation and profit sharing. These points would also have been attractive to many among the German working class at the time. Then comes;

“15. We demand a large-scale development of provision for old age.

“16. We demand the creation and maintainable of a healthy middle-class, immediate communalisation of the large department stores, and their lease at low rates to small traders. Most careful consideration for all small traders as regards deliveries to the State, the Provincial Governments or the municipalities.

17. We demand land reform adapted to our national requirements, the passing of a law for the confiscation of land for communal purposes without compensation. Abolition of mortgage interest and prevention of all speculation in land.”

The Nazi leadership in points 15 to 17 are still appealing to working people by promising old age pensions, support for the local mom and pop shops and businesses. In a move to entrap the lower middle-class, the program also intends to abolish mortgage interest payments. Confiscation and ending land speculation had the same target audience. Furthermore;

“18. We demand ruthless war upon those whose activities injure the common interest. Base criminals against the nation, ursurers, profiteers, etc., shall be punished with death, whatever their creed or race.

“19. We demand that Romania Law, which serves the materialistic world order, shall be replaced by a German Common Law.”

Here we have another inclusion which seeks to shield workers and lower middle – class individuals from profiteers rip-off traders and petty criminals who often plagued their lives and others who “injured the common interest.” Then;

“20. In order to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain a higher education and occupy a leading position, the State must provide for a thorough development of the national education system. The syllabuses of all educational institutions shall be adapted to the requirements of practical life. The school must inculcate the idea of the State (science and citizenship) with the dawning of intelligence. We demand that specially talented children of poor parents shall be educated at the expense of the State, regardless of class or occupation.”

“21. The State shall raise the standard of national health by protecting mother and child, by prohibiting juvenile labour, by promoting physical efficiency through compulsory physical training and sports, and by the most far-reaching support of clubs engaged in the physical training of the young.

Free higher education for bright kids would definitely appeal to upwardly motivated working class and lower middle – class parents. State provision of maternity care would certainly have sounded as attractive in 1920 as it did in the UK and Europe after 1945.

“22. We demand the abolition of the mercenary army and the formation of a National Army.”

23. We demand that the law should combat the deliberate political lie and it’s dissemination in the press”. (Only German financed, owned, edited and non-offensive newspapers to be allowed RR)

Authoritarians prefer a national army (point 22) rather than a citizens army or a mercenary one, because the latter two are unreliable. Mercenaries, can do their own thing; citizen armies can turn against authority. Authoritarians seek security.
Nowadays, ‘political spin’ and mis-leading propaganda is to be expected daily. So point 23 outlaws ‘fake news’. Next:

“24. We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the State, unless they endanger the existence thereof or offend against the morality and moral sense of the Tectonic race. The Party stands for positive Christianity, but does not bind itself to any particular denomination. It combats the Jewish materialistic spirit in us, as well as outside, and is convinced that our nation can achieve permanent recovery only on the principle of: COMMON INTEREST BEFORE SELF-INTEREST.

With organised religion having a considerable hold over people, attracting neutrality or support from religious elites would count as a ‘blessing’. Finally:

25. For the realisation of all this, we demand: the creation of a strong central Reich Government. Absolute authority of political central Parliament over the entire Reich and it’s organisations in general.” e formation of Diets and vocational Chambers to implement in the individual Federal States the general laws promulgated by the Reich. The leaders of the Party promise to fight ruthlessly for the realisation of the above Points, if necessary staking their own lives.” “Munich, February 24 1920.”

The words ‘absolute authority‘ indicate the essential element of extreme forms of authoritarian capitalism. It matters little to the analysis offered here (and in part 1) that like all other promises made by politicians, those made by the National Socialists of Germany (Nazis), we’re never meant to be fully kept. Even if they were no more than ‘baited hooks’ to catch members and press them into service of the authoritarian elite, they, (and the actual promises delivered) worked sufficiently for the Nazis. It only remained for the non-Nazi millions to be sufficiently divided among themselves to be ineffective in changing the mode of production and therefore stopping the authoritarian mutation from a capitalist democratic form to a Fascist form.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)

In ‘Bourgeois Democracy versus Fascism? – 3’ (to follow), I will consider two questions. 1) Were the vast majority of German workers and citizens who joined the ranks of Fascism, blood-thirsty, sub-human demons, just waiting to steal, torture and kill? or; 2) Were they average, naive human beings who had been economically and culturally conditioned to obey authority, repeatedly misled and eventually terrorised into conforming?

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BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY VERSUS FASCISM? – 1.


In the wake of recent events in the US, the contest between the Democratic and Republican Parties is being described by many commentators as a dualistic struggle between Democracy and Fascism. Once again the political viewpoint takes surface appearances as representing the complete reality. Consequently, the failure to consider a more substantive view of the contemporary capitalist world is leading to such false dualisms. In contrast we need to consider the socio-economic foundation upon which Fascism and Democracy actually arose – capitalism.

Capitalism is Authoritarian.

Capitalist economic activity itself is an authoritarian process of production. By workplace rules (enforced by fines, sacking, demotion), workers are subjected to the absolute authority of the owner/manager at their place of employment. In a mirror image of that economic foundation, the non-work life of workers within capitalist dominated societies, also requires constraint on their activities. By various laws (enforced by fines, imprisonment), the authority of capitalist elites over citizens is imposed and exercised through their control of state institutions.

This means that whatever political form its elites adhere to, the capitalist mode of production in essence is thoroughly authoritarian.

However, as the working classes advanced during the 19th and 20th centuries, they began to resist and overcome some of the worst features of capitalist authoritarian exploitation. Occasionally they even challenged the capitalist mode of production as a whole. In general, the capitalist class lost a considerable amount of authoritarian control both at work and in wider society. Yet at a particularly crisis-riddled (interwar) period the political movement which became known as Fascism emerged and made a return to elite authoritarian control possible.

The politics of Fascism offered to directly merge the economic power of pro-capitalist elites, with the political power of a pro-capitalist state elite. However, since this combined power was insufficient to dominate the millions of working people, a militant mass political movement was required. The fundamental essence of capitalistic authoritarianism finally merged with the politics of fascism when some authoritarian political parties and movements recruited enough people who were willing and able to enforce the party line. However, it wasn’t political theory, but the depth of the unsolved economic crisis which drove political thinking in the direction of Fascism.

Fascism was the direct merging of capitalist economic and financial elites, with the pro-capitalist states political and military elites, supplemented by a sufficiently large membership who were willing and able to force their opinions and measures on everyone else. But the driving force for them to was the unresolved severity of economic crisis.

Capitalism and Democracy.

Although the capitalist mode of production is in essence, economically and socially authoritarian, capitalist elites have often differed over how best to govern it. The manageable solution they found was democracy. Political parties could campaign for election to those parts of the state which were not staffed by permanently employed individuals. Of course, they were required to accept, a) the principle of production for profit, b) authoritarian discipline at work, and c) elite determined law and order in social life.

Thus bourgeois democracy and parties that call themselves democratic are not only funded by billionaire capitalist authoritarians, but are predominantly authoritarian internally. They also govern externally in an authoritarian manner. It is only necessary to consider the actions by all political parties to realise that democracy – in one or other of its party guises – has conducted a class war against their own working class citizens and the citizens of other nations who stood in the way of their interests.

Democrats as well as Republicans in the USA and Conservatives, Liberal and Labour, in the UK, etc., have all instituted crack downs on their own workers rights and fomented wars on the populations of other nations who resisted neo-liberal impositions. All sides of the ‘Houses’, ‘Congresses’, ‘Bundestag’s’, etc., have agreed to; de-regulate financial services, privatise public services, reduce workers rights, export jobs to countries with cheap labour, militarise police forces, invade foreign countries, bomb civilian populations and extend neo-liberalism.

However it is dressed up, or how polished its ‘spin’ becomes, democracy for decades has been the direct means of promoting neo-liberalism and neo-liberalism is the direct means of promoting various forms of capitalist authoritarian driven poverty and wage-slavery. Consequently Democrats are not the exact opposite to Fascists, as the politically mesmerised imagine: the two are merely rival political tendencies who from time to time compete to control and discipline wage and salary-slaves. For sure, one wears a military style uniform and often says what it really thinks, whilst the other wears a lounge suit and rarely says what it really thinks. But in practice at home and abroad, both ruthlessly enforce compliance to the needs of capital.

In Conclusion.

In my view, supporting capitalist democracy is supporting capitalist authoritarianism in one form whilst condemning it in another. It is definitely not the way to defeat capitalist authoritarianism whether it comes with an iron fist or whether the fist is covered by a velvet glove. Both are ways of social control operated by authoritarian capitalists. Both seek ways to divide working people into self-destructive political or civil wars, so that depending upon circumstances, one or the other political mode of exploitation will dominate.

So exalting and preferring one political form of authoritarian capitalism over another authoritarian political form, is no more a way of ending the slide into further authoritarian controls than exalting and preferring one form of plantation slavery over another would have been a means of ending plantation slavery. Moreover, European history demonstrates that when the capitalist system is sufficiently threatened, the lounge suited, hush-puppy authoritarian ‘democratic’ means of governing will voluntarily merge with, or simply step aside to make room for the uniformed and jack-booted means.

Indeed, in the last severe crisis, European Liberals and self-professed ‘socialists’ assisted the developing European Fascists by voting for public order measures and military defence of elite power structures.

From a revolutionary-humanist perspective, Democracy and Fascism are alternating methods designed by capitalist elites to continue their planetary devastation and human exploitation. In order to permanently prevent a return of any Fascist form of social control, working people, white-collar and blue, will need to unite and defeat all forms of authoritarian capitalist rule and institute a mode of production based upon sustainable cooperation and egalitarian, non-profit public services which are available to and adequate for all.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)

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TRUMP AND THE CAPITOL INVASION.

No one should have been surprised that in January 2021, an armed group marched to the US Capitol and entered the building by various routes. For in this case, it had been more than hinted at. The preparation for this ‘halt the Biden confirmation process’, began some time before the 2020 election.  It had been clearly signalled by Donald Trump himself. He previously said the only way he could possibly lose was if the election was rigged. He also repeated that he would not accept the result of the election if it did not return the result he desired. He, had attempted by all means at his disposal, including intimidation to hinder voting  and to ensure that the vote for his opponent was reduced as far as possible.  What else was left on the ‘to do list’ of right-wing desperation?

Furthermore, as a motivational idea in right-wing circles, political coups pre-date the Trump Presidency by decades. In fact rioting, storming and damage to buildings to change what you don’t like has long historical precedents in the USA. They stretch back to the 18th century ‘Sons of Liberty’ disputes with the then English governing elite. Incidentally, in those pre-Independence days of intimidation a noose was also hung up (on the Liberty Tree) to intimidate opponents. Similarly stealing other peoples property (that time dumping it in Boston harbour) occurred as part of the founding reality of the United States of America.

Overthrowing governments even became a principle embodied in the American Declaration of Independence which asserted that “in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” the American people had “the right and duty” to “alter and abolish” government – “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends”.

This type of hostile bifurcation between the English governing elite and the entrenched Colonial elite was later replayed during the barbarity of the American Civil War following the South’s Ordinances of Secession in 1861. For, it transpired that in “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” the Southern elite wished to live off exploiting slave labour, whilst in pursuit of exactly the same aims, the Northern elite wished to live off exploiting wage – labour.

At each one of those historical socio-economic high pressure points sections of the governing elite were divided into two main camps. Each were prepared to fight it out in order to impose their economic model and political will on the population of the entire continent.

In the US Civil War, the ordinary people by means of political forms of identity (ie, Confederates and Unionists) were persuaded by their respective elites to arm themselves and slaughter each other mercilessly. This they did for years until one side gave in and the winning, sides elite were able to dominate the whole country. Echoing a phrase in the Declaration, the Southern Government and its dominant economic base (slavery) was progressively “abolished” and by force.

So it would seem that any contemporary American citizen who, a) does still “hold such truths to be self-evident”, b) believes that the words in the Declaration are still valid, and c) considers Democrat Party governance is “destructive of these ends”, might decide to exercise such “rights and duties”. And in January 2021, by trying to interrupt the certification process, some did. Pointing out these precedents does not justify the Trumpists abortive political coup but it may help explain it. The contradictory and tortured similarity in thinking between the 19th century elites who wrote the Declaration and some of the 21st century elites (and others) who wish to implement it, has been revealed.

Whether or not the obnoxious and frequently incompetent Donald knew that his supporters would go to the lengths they did is largely irrelevant. This is because their motive and his, (whether co-ordinated or not) were the same as the 74 millions who had voted for him. Not one of them wanted a Democrat led administration to take power in the USA. His followers were convinced that more years of Trump run capitalism would represent their best interests, or if not, that their interests would be undermined by four more years of Democrat Biden run capitalism.

So the real problem for a future Democrat run US capitalism is not the few hundred who stormed Capitol hill and are fairly easily dealt with, but the 74 million who still think their lives and livelihoods will suffer more under Biden’s capitalism than Trumps. And if they actually do, what will happen then?

Through the distorting lens of politics, some of the Democrat representatives seem to think their problems will be solved by impeaching and humiliating Trump – in as many ways as possible – to ensure that the 70 plus million who voted for him will also be silenced and neutralised. But, will that really work? It may actually make him a martyr and sooner or later rebound upon the Democratic Party elite and those who have been aiding in this silencing endeavour. Joined now by the Democrat inclined monopolists, who have banished Trump and Trumpism from their internet platforms. In this way ending a fragile commitment to what little was left of free speech.

We can see that, in pursuit of their elite interests, authoritarian tendencies arise naturally from within the Democratic wing of politicised capitalism. Looking ahead, who will they silence next? I pose that possibility and introduce the larger social picture because there are 80 plus million voters who ticked the Democratic box in 2020, many millions of whom were already far from satisfied with their current ability under capitalism to pursue “life, liberty and happiness”. And in view of the further crisis the capitalist system is now creating, a Democrat-led pursuit of these social aims could soon be seen by those voters as actually being “destructive of these ends”.

The question that remains for revolutionary-humanists – as distinct from reformist political activists – is the following. Will the existing political identities in the USA (as elsewhere) continue to be manipulated by the political elites so as to divide the mass of people into opposed and easily defeated sectional struggles or can these identities be united under the universal identity of oppressed and exploited human beings? If the latter is achieved, then the socio-economic capitalist cause of their collective oppression and exploitation can be eliminated and their lives collectively transformed. If the former, the future will be as the past – only far worse.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)

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POLITICS, POPULISM & POLITICAL POWER.

To understand what is now taking place at the social and political levels of most capitalist countries (for example the January 2021 storming of the US Capitol building) it is essential to comprehend and monitor the economic level. This is because it is the economic level which is the foundation upon which all else is erected. To offer a crude analogy; whatever positive or negative condition the upper floors may be in – any radical change in the foundations of a building will effect the whole superstructure. Understanding the foundations helps to explain what is happening to whatever stands above them. Conversely,continually arguing about the superstructure takes attention away from what is wrong with the whole structure.

Yet in socio-economic affairs such upper level of viewing of society is often what is undertaken by commentators of left, right and centre persuasions. They attempt to analyse what is happening in society as a whole by reference to what takes place in politics. In this way political awareness can mislead social understanding. If the reader doubts this assertion then consider the following;

“The political mind is a political mind precisely because it thinks within the framework of politics. The keener and more lively it is, the more incapable is it of understanding social ills.” (Karl Marx, in Marx/Engels, Collected Works, Volume 3 page 199.)

Why would Marx, who for most of his life, was an avid supporter of working people’s struggle against the capitalist mode of production, bother to write the above (and much else about politics), unless he had reliable evidence for it at the time? And in my 60 years of working class activism, Marx’s observations have been confirmed by ample evidence many times over. Even the sharpest and most eloquent political activists have proved (and are still proving) that their political framework of reference renders them incapable of discovering or focusing on the real source of social ills and recognising how anger against the whole system becomes deflected away by politics.

To return to the building analogy, for a moment; many politically motivated activists do the equivalent of closely examining the walls, etc., then suggest fixing the bulging brickwork and re-plastering it or adding another room – thinking that radical renovations will make the underlying structure sound. However, it doesn’t in buildings and it doesn’t in human communities. For, what lies underneath the disintegrating political, social and cultural walls of modern capitalist societies is an economic foundation which is being hacked away and which is now resting on an ecological substratum that is also being savagely undermined.

The economic foundation of the capitalist mode of production is built upon the separation between the millions of people who do the day to day work to produce what is needed (and desired) and the ownership or control of the means of production which these workers use to make the things we all need. By utilising science and technology (automation, computers and machine learning), particularly intensified over the last two decades, the owners/controllers of the means of production have simultaneously increased the levels of global production and decreased the numbers of workers needed.

Once again, more goods can be produced than can be sold at a profit and by systemic unemployment, fewer working people are able to pay for as much as they did before. Even before the Covid19 pandemic, the relative over-production this change created resulted in relative and absolute levels of global poverty with millions of ordinary people rendered homeless and starving. In this way, the economic foundation of capitalism has become increasingly narrow and unstable whilst sections of the working population have become discontented, resentful and in many cases desperate.

This popular resentment and desperation is not yet being channelled by activists at the foundations of capitalism, but in various substitute directions, such as crime, civil unrest, finding scapegoats, victims turning on other victims and in many cases (as in Europe and USA) dissatisfaction with one or other of the main political establishments.
And is it not the case that over several decades left, right and centre political establishments have earned the level of distrust and anger currently directed against them by one section of society or another?

Furthermore, the very productivity of the science and technology based means of production owned and/or controlled by the capitalist elite, has increased pollution, ecological destruction and climate change to such an extent that the natural substratum on which the capitalist mode of production rests is increasingly undermined. Clean air, stable climate, fresh water, fertile soil, unpolluted, well stocked seas, abundant insect and animal species, were the natural basis and founding bedrock upon which all modes of production – including capitalism – are rooted. However, the capitalist mode of production is rapidly destroying the natural substratum of the planet which life in general and humanity in particular, needs in order to survive.

So it is the above noted shrinking economic foundation of capitalism and the destruction of the natural ecological substratum which are the fundamental source of political expressions of much ‘populist’ discontent along with the many and varied social ills which humanity now faces. The disintegration of these capitalist dominated foundations is so profound and irreparable that taking sides politically over substantial cracks in the superstructure will not solve our problems – a real social revolution is needed.

In other words, the essential foundations of all human productive activity noted above need to be re-cast and rebalanced in the form of non-profit, non-hierarchical, sustainable public services and co-operatives.

However, because politics has become such a fetish and an important means of elite rule, political understanding in general serves to obscure the real source of social problems. The populist political mindset, therefore, seeks power to implement solutions based upon political identity (or even on particular victim status) along with dogmatic political understandings. Not for the first time, political affiliation is being projected as a means of finding a solution to multiple problems, when in fact it stands in the way of socio-economic solutions.

Moreover, political understanding took a particularly nasty and virulent sectarian form in extreme left and right-wing movements which developed in response to an earlier 20th century crisis of capitalism. The extremes of sectarian politics offering radical, hierarchical, non-humanist solutions to capitalist engendered poverty and unemployment were exemplified and personified in National Socialism (Fascism), Bolshevism (Communism) and Zionism. In and out of power, not only did these sectarian political movements fool people about real causes of their distress, but they killed and tortured those who who disagreed with their party line, and also killed and tortured their own party members – if they dared to disagree with the leadership.
In positions of power political and religious sectarians have consistently used it to terrify their citizens into submission and in some cases channelled them into horrendous wars.

Current political and religious sectarians are taking on new anti-establishment identities (such as Trumpism/populism/Islamism etc.) as well as a few dressing up as radical lefts or democratic liberals, while others are content to don outdated uniforms and insignias. In the absence of a revolutionary-humanist alternative, all the above are the present and future power-hungry figureheads of discontent – not the initial creators of it. It is important to note that; this general citizen discontent can outlast any particular sectarian leaders whether discredited or not.

For example, after his supporters marched on the Feldherrnhalle in 1923, Adolf Hitler was put on trial, publicly mocked and jailed. But he and the Nazi oligarchy later gained absolute power by cleverly surfing the mounting wave of German discontent fuelled by the economic crisis and the continuing failure of Weimar Republic politicians to radically change the economic foundations of German society.

Of the ten defining characteristics of politically sectarian forms an outstanding one is with regard to how extremely intolerant and disrespectful they are of alternative views or opinions to their own. If in doubt of this assertion, the reader can check the intolerance level of any centre, left or right political (or religious) identity campaign they come across, by politely disagreeing with a central principle currently maintained by them. The resulting reaction will provide a litmus test of the extent and ferocity of their political-identity form of sectarianism. At the same time such a test will provide an indication of how obstructive that particular political identity mindset will be to an inclusive campaign of liberation for all suffering humanity.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)

[For a more extended description of sectarianism see ‘On Sectarianism’ on this blog and for a more comprehensive analysis with many detailed examples see the book ‘Revolutionary-Humanism and the Anti – Capitalist Struggle’. ]

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 30.


Lock-down: Third time lucky?

On Monday evening 4th January 2021, Boris Johnson, like a modern day ‘Grand Old Duke of York’, ordered his bemused and exhausted British citizens to march up the steep hill of lock-down for a third time. Was he perhaps following nursery level advice that; ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’? If so, he was ignoring the wise addition of ‘remember to learn from your mistakes’? However, the latest level of ‘spin’ he tried to put on the reason for this third lock down, like the virus itself was certainly ‘novel’. He claimed it was because a new Covid 19 variant was undermining the previously created 3 tier system.

That excuse amounts to a blatant dissemination of ‘fake news’ because everyone not in a state of self-serving denial knows all the previous tiers (ie ”when we were neither up nor down”) where not sufficiently slowing virus transmission. Otherwise there would have been no need for the alternating ‘off then on’ measures passed prior to the new variant discovery. From mid to late 2020, a mixture of necessity, confusion, exasperation and bloody mindedness had resulted in far too many people ignoring distancing, hand-washing, masking and shielding in general, let alone at (vouchers for meals out) relaxation periods, holidays, Xmas and New Year.

The substantial lack of social responsibility, often condoned and even triggered by the elite themselves, was exactly what the existing Covid 19 virus (and any new variant) needed to continue their reproductive cycle and rapidly infect more people. That was an outcome, which had been predicted by many non establishment, commentators. All of whom were ignored in favour of those supporting the government view and shared by it’s middle-class supporters. Listening to only what they want to hear is the governments default position.

And that wilful ignorance includes the mainstream media, who thoughout 2020, failed to seriously and systematically criticise the governments mishandling of the entire pandemic. It was a failure compounded by a systematic failure to criticise their own role in passing on the stupid analogies of a virus ‘actively seeking out people’ when it has no independent means to move itself around. In fact the opposite is actually the case. Under the capitalist system, people are ‘having to, or are desiring to, contact paying punters day after day – many of whom just happen to have the virus’. The capitalist system is the modus operandi for global virus transmission.

We should not forget the following sequence. The capitalist mode of production’’s human agricultural agents unleashed the virus from its source in the first place, its human commercial agents then transported it around the world from January 2020 on, and it’s human political agents in keeping the capitalist system alive on financial ventilators, will ensure that people, vaccinated or not, are required to keep passing it (or the next virus) on. Furthermore, all these ‘agents’ of capitalism, just like Boris and his ilk, will do so again and again and again – if not physically stopped.

Furthermore, a media hyped vaccine, successful or otherwise, will not solve the virus problem. Already the British elite are doubling down on their gamble with vaccines to save their unfair and unjust system. It is proposed that at least one vaccine tested and approved for two-dose effectiveness is being reduced to a one dose process. This decision has been reached on the unproven hypothesis that administering a lower quantity of vaccine to more people will provide a better result overall than the original amount tested administered to fewer. This panic measure ignores the research evaluation on which the vaccine is based, which in the opinion of many, has already been rushed to (profitable) markets far too quickly. This will likely result in even more reluctance to queue up for the recommended jab.

So in 2021, there could well be some people who get the vaccine as intended and others who get a reduced amount. There will be others who although willing to be vaccinated will have to wait until the manufacturing and administration system has enough resources on hand to deal with them. Then there will be considerable numbers who will just wait and see – in case anything goes wrong – yet again! Others will undoubtedly refuse to be treated as guinea pigs in a rushed social experiment in which they have had no say and from past experience have no reason to trust those in charge of it.

All this means the virus will continue to circulate in 2021 and infect those not carefully isolating and since testing and tracing has all but failed completely, no one will know who is still transmitting it and who isn’t. Meanwhile the more the virus spreads, the more it will mutate, until the immunisation effect of any vaccine will likely diminish or cease altogether. So despite Boris Johnsons 4th January reassurance that this third lock down means we have entered “the last phase of the struggle” against the pandemic, I remain unconvinced. Three ineffective lock downs under this capitalist based system, will not be enough to remove the virus or its cause. I seriously doubt the third time will be lucky.

I also remain totally unconvinced by Boris Johnson’s earnest demeanour and his utterance when he leaned toward the TV camera last Monday and in relation to the new lock down, falsely declared; “I know how tough it is.” No he doesn’t! He has no idea of how tough it is for a single isolating pensioner, or a struggling single parent on zero hours, or a struggling housebound carer, or a homeless individual or couple living on the street. He has no idea of how tough it is for families to queue at a Food Bank to feed their children. He has no idea how tough it is for low paid doctors, nurses, teachers and other essential workers to risk infection on a daily basis in order to care for others.

He shares the same deep down me, me, me, outlook as almost the entire middle-class elites. This includes its intellectuals in art, science, education, medicine, economics, finance, politics and media. He (and they) are infatuated with the capitalist system as it is – as it was – or how they imagine it should be. Just listen to them pontificate daily on TV and Radio! All of them are eagerly hoping and waiting for the previous system to re-boot. The same system which created global poverty, the virus and ecological destruction is what they still crave. They can hardly wait for low paid essential workers here and around the globe to get back to creating the wealth they disproportionately siphon off and start soaking it up yet again.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)

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On the Materialist Interpretation of History – 2.

In the previous article on this site, the summary by Karl Marx of the materialist interpretation of history was printed in full. This article will consider how that ‘interpretation‘ can throw light upon the situation global humanity faces in the first two decades of the 21st century. For within Marx’s general description there is an important reference to conflicts arising from transformations of the ‘forces of production’. The relevant section commences with;

“At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production. …….Then comes a period of social revolution…….(Marx. ‘A contribution to the critique of the political economy’.)

The material forces of production prevalent in the 21st century comprise of the immense technical, scientific, organisational and human resources operated by global humanity. Furthermore, it is a fact that robotic assembly lines, computerised production controls and ‘intelligent’ machine learning, have radically transformed the forces of production and have significantly replaced many forms of routine and skilled labour.

These ‘material forces’ now also include the 20th century developments of cooperatives along with large-scale, non-profit public service organisations, in education, health care, social services, local and national government and armed forces. So in terms of the ‘materialist interpretation of history’, over the last century, there has been a continuous and accelerating, ‘material transformation of the economic conditions of production‘. Furthermore, it is a transformation and replacement which has given rise to conflict with the ownership relations of those material forces of production. In this regard, the ‘materialist interpretation’ also suggests that;

“In considering such transformations the distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production…..and the…ideological forms in which men (humanity RR) become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.” (ibid)

According to the materialist view, human consciousness is to a greater or lesser extent a product of the existing relations of production as well as of the material forces as a whole. Moreover, it is undoubtedly true that existing relationships to the material conditions of production are not under the direct (or even indirect) control of society as a whole. They are directly and indirectly controlled by elites, mainly located in the technically advanced countries of Europe, North America and Asia.

For many decades, this elite relationship of control over the mode of production has resulted in severe conflicts fought out by activists against discrimination, unemployment, pollution, ecological destruction, systemic poverty, along with opposition to the promotion of armed struggles over control of markets and raw material resources. In considering the ideological forms of consciousness which are dominant in the 21st century to fight out these various conflicts, the materialist interpretation suggests;

“Just as our opinion of an individual is not based upon what he thinks of himself, so we (cannot RR) judge such a period of transition by its own consciousness…this consciousness must rather be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social forces of production and the relations of production.” (ibid)

Whatever they may think of themselves, the consciousness of the majority of activists during this 20th and 21st century period of transformation has undoubtedly been influenced by the difficulties experienced by various sectors of capitalist societies. Consequently, oppression and exploitation are overwhelmingly viewed from the separate perspectives of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, region or nationality. Therefore, there is clearly a problematic mismatch between the existing consciousness of activists derived from the struggle against these sectional oppressions and the socio-economic source of capitalism’s multiple forms of oppression. Yet as the interpretation suggests;

“…mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely, we always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.” (ibid)

Maintaining the concepts of the materialist interpretation, the above problems of discrimination, exploitation and planetary degradation indeed ‘have arisen when the material conditions for their solution‘ (ie cooperatives, non-profit public services, non-polluting technologies, widespread means of popular credit) ‘already exist’ – if as yet in a distorted condition.

Moreover, the capitalist mode of production is in an existential crisis spread over six major socio-economic dimensions, (economics, finance, politics, social welfare, ecology, climate and now virus pandemics) all of which exert various levels of oppression and therefore require revolutionary transformations to the existing relations of production in order to solve them. Despite this glaring contradiction, much of 21st century activist, consciousness remains ‘contained‘ within competitive reformist sectional parameters.

The capitalist system is falling apart and is not only steadily destroying the basis of human life, but of all life forms on the planet, yet many activists are seeking reforms from it – as if these could be granted by a system already near terminal collapse.

Viewed from the perspective of the crisis level of contradictions between the material forces of production and the existing relations of production, noted above, the single issue campaigns currently energising various reformist struggles are obviously doomed to failure. But the problem these separate – often sectarian struggles – pose runs deeper than this. For in the process of pursuing sectional reforms these competitive, single-issue struggles become a self-inflicted form of divide and rule handed on a plate to a pro capitalist elite determined to resist any kind of redistributive change.

In face of this contradiction, there is an important task for those whose consciousness has embraced the fact that the capitalist mode of production is the fundamental economic foundation of all current oppression and exploitation. The task is to patiently and consistently explain that the capitalist system is not the basis for a solution to the many manifestations of oppression.

Indeed, their flawed reformist logic needs to be clearly pointed out to single issue activists. For, in persistently and dogmatically seeking reforms from the existing capitalist system – reformists must logically wish (and even help) capitalism to survive (and thrive) in order for its elites to be in a position to grant their desired reforms.

The case needs to be strongly made that what single issue activists against discrimination by gender, disability, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion, are seeking (ie the righting of a particular wrong) can only be realistically achieved (by a movement to right all wrongs) via a social revolution.

To realise their single issue ambitions, a bottom up revolutionary transformation of the relations of production is required. Moreover, it will need to be a type of revolutionary transformation that ensures no human beings are subordinated to an exploitative economic mode of production or made the slaves or wage-slaves of other human beings.

Single issue activists who are able to see beyond competing against others for sectional reforms should be encouraged to link their struggle to other struggles (in real solidarity) and locate it within a revolutionary-humanist transformational one.

Roy Ratcliffe (December 2020)

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On the Materialist Interpretation of History – 1

Before the reader proceeds further, the following needs to be stated. The materialist interpretation of history (often misleadingly shortened to ‘Historical Materialism’) was never meant to be a mechanistic or crude determinist interpretation of history. That was a false conclusion that many critics of Marx, and even some of his so-called followers, arrived at. The materialist interpretation was formulated and asserted in order to correct those views of history which ignored or subordinated the way humans obtained the basic elements of life such as food, water, clothing, shelter and safety.

Therefore, this materialist interpretation keeps in mind that before doing anything else all life-forms need to engage in a metabolic relationship with the natural world in order to take on the solid, liquid and gaseous materials required to support and sustain the bodily structure. Whatever other activities are desired or required can only be developed on that foundation. In researching human history, therefore, it needs to constantly born in mind that the way communities organise themselves to produce these essentials of life, effects to a greater or lesser extent, how people act and think in general, as well as how, as individuals, they act and think in particular.

The materialist interpretation of history, therefore, does not to claim that the means and modes of production are the only determining element of human thought and behaviour, but it reminds us to keep in mind the fact that it is certainly one of the most important ones. When Marx and others recommended this materialist interpretation of history it was common for historical and contemporary developments to be viewed primarily through the ideologies of religion and/or the thoughts and actions of ‘great men’. Ideas were frequently seen as the great motivators of historical events, with the material basis for these ideas, largely ignored or drastically downplayed.

Marx’s condensed description of the materialist interpretation of history, reproduced below (in italics), is from his preface to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’, written in 1857 as translated by N. I Stone and published by Charles H. Kerr and Company of Chicago in 1904. The language used a century and a half ago is, therefore, somewhat dated, as is the then typical use of the male pronoun to cover the whole of humanity.

Despite that slight anachronism, its meaning is clear and, in just 516 words, it remains an important contribution to the revolutionary-humanist perspective on how societies change. For this reason it is also relevant in considering the current stage of capitalist socio-economic development. It’s relevance to the 21st century will therefore be the subject of ‘On the Materialist Interpretation of History – 2’, to follow.

Roy Ratcliffe (December 2020)

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“In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society – the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.”

“The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.”

“At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations at which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relationships turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.”

“In considering such transformations the distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic – in short ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.”

“Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary this consciousness must rather be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social forces of production and the relations of production.”

“No social form ever disappears before all the productive forces, for which there is room in it, have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society. Therefore, mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely, we always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.”

“In broad outlines we can designate the Asiatic, the ancient, the feudal and the modern bourgeois methods of production as so many epochs in the progress of the economic formation of society.”

“The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from conditions surrounding the life of individuals in society; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism.”

“This (the capitalist RR) social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society.”

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 29


One step forward; two steps back.

If there were league tables for incompetence, the British Elite (political and governmental) would be very high on the list. The claim of Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, to have personally endorsed an ‘oven-ready’ Brexit deal a year ago was never more than half-baked and now looks more like a dogs breakfast than anything else. But incompetence is spread more broadly among the British governing elite with regard to the Covid-19 Pandemic. This can be reliably asserted because the civil servants and politicians who commissioned the UK National Security Strategy, in 2008, apparently ignored the fact that it clearly warned that;

 “Experts agree that there is a high probability of a pandemic occurring – and the speed at which it could spread has increased with globalisation”.

That expensive and comprehensive security strategy also included material on how to prepare for and control the spread of any new virus. Yet everything the British elite have done with regard to public health and basic economic activity, since it became clear in February 2020, that a serious Sars like virus was on its way from China, has been a mixture of gross incompetence and large-scale indifference. Every lock down to prevent spreading the virus was too superficial, was started to late and was ended too soon.

During 2020, the British elite lurched from half measure restrictions with regard to lock downs to half measures in supporting workers and small businesses. The only ones who really benefited from the pandemic fiscal measures were the extremely rich and those involved in speculation within the finance sector. For the rest of the population it has been dire.

In half-heartedly trying to save the economy the British government sacrificed thousands of lives, in half-heartedly trying save lives, they sacrificed thousands of livelihoods. The results of this elite incompetence and indifference to virus transmission, has been that people have continued to spread the virus and the economy has continued to collapse.

These dismal results would be palpable failures on both these accounts even without the predictable (and predicted), evolution of a potentially more virulent variety of the Covid-19 virus. The new strain (designated as ‘VUI-202012/01’) which is now being energetically passed around UK citizens has been declared “out of control” by the British Health Minister. However, it isn’t the virus which is ‘out of control’, it is the elite and their measures which are not effective in controlling the situation.

Blaming a virus, which without legs or wings, relies upon close human contact in order to be passed on, is to shift the blame for its spread away from those who bear prime responsibility for preventative failures and previous overconfident reassurances that the pandemic was under control

This new wave on top of previous waves, clearly means more deaths will now occur in the UK even if the new variant is not more lethal than the original strain. It also means more non Covid deaths will occur as hospitals become swamped again with Covid cases. And with medical staff already ill and/or fatigued by the 10 months front line battle they have been engaged in, the UK situation in December 2020 is actually far worse than it was in March 2020.

It also means that the UK is set to become a hot-spot exporter of the new strain, if other countries do not quickly put restrictions of travelers from the UK. Nor should we forget that ahead of a future successful vaccination programme, people already suffering from a long period of repeated isolation are now going to have to spend more time in solitary or family confinement.

And all this is because an extremely well paid governing elite with practically unlimited power and resources have yet again proved themselves unworthy of their status and stipends and appear only adept at making self-justifying excuses.

Since neither individual sense, political leadership or governmental legislation has sufficiently altered human behaviour to prevent people passing the virus around their respective communities, all hope is now being placed in a vaccine. With regard to vaccines, in Corona Virus Pandemic – 11, I wrote;

“…. viruses mutate and evolve, some – rapidly. Hence vaccines can be effective only as long as the virus has not sufficiently changed.”

The governing elite have belatedly woke up to the fact that Covid 19 can change and has changed – and rapidly. They have been wrong footed again. So it now remains to be seen whether any of the current vaccines and other treatments (targeted at identifying the first Covid-19 variant) will be effective in dealing with this second and any future variants.

Once more elite reassurances are being given out that all is under control when it is obvious – to all those not in a state of denial or indifference – that very little within the capitalist mode of production is under any form of rational control or ever could be – and least of all in responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roy Ratcliffe ( December 2020)

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An introduction to Revolutionary-Humanism

Below is the preface to a new book I intend to publish soon entitled; ‘An Introduction to Revolutionary-Humanism’. Pre-publication copies in Word document format are available on request to royratcliffe@yahoo.com for anyone who may be interested. I hope to find a way to publish it electronically for a free download, so any advice on how to do this sent to the above email or via comments below would be much appreciated.

PREFACE

In the 21st century, a new generation of young people were born into global society and by 2019, many began questioning the effects of it’s method of production, distribution and consumption as the basis for the future of humanity. School students leaving their classrooms and demonstrating against climate change and many other negative aspects became a phenomenon of ecological ‘enlightenment’. These new activists have replaced the previous generations of people who once protested against aspects of the capitalist system or even against its whole ethos. Previous ideological expressions of this generalised opposition to capitalism took the form of Socialism in the 19th century and Communism or Anti – capitalism, in the 20th century.

These earlier political expressions of dissatisfaction with the capitalist mode of production often gave rise to groups and political parties with the aim, in one form or another, of positively improving or transforming it. Such groups competed with each other for leadership of what they hoped would be a movement of ordinary working people which would by political means elect them, or by ‘revolution’ project them, to political power with a mandate to change things for the better. Some of these groups succeeded in part of that hope and took power in various countries during the 20th century period of extended crisis; the ‘right-wing ‘National’ Socialists in Germany and Italy, the ‘left-wing Socialist/Communist Parties’ in Russia and China, and the ‘social-democratic socialists’ in the UK, Europe and elsewhere.

However, none of these groups and parties, once in power, even tried to end the exploitation of people and the planet. Indeed, most of these so-called reformist and revolutionary (sic) governments even intensified the exploitation of working people and frequently made matters worse with regard to pollution, ecological destruction, climate change, general poverty and hardship for the majority. Clearly, the ideas and practices which these groups and parties adopted did not benefit the mass of humanity or the planetary biosphere and so in the 21st century humanity is faced with even more problems than it was in the 20th.

This introduction to Revolutionary-Humanism seeks to explain why previous attempts to counteract capitalist exploitation were such dismal failures. In brief chapters, the ideas and methods previously employed by these groups and parties which led to dead ends are outlined. There are of course, hundreds of volumes of long – winded arguments detailing a multitude of disagreements within and between these groups and political parties, which for those with lots of time and patience, can be delved into. However, this introduction is an attempt to familiarise new generations of concerned students, workers and climate activists with the past struggles in a more easily digestible form. Longer documents and larger volumes can always be visited and considered if and when time and/or inclination permits.

I suggest there is a pressing need for a younger generations to grasp the complexity of the struggle which faces humanity and to avoid both the sectarian dogma of those previous anti-capitalist political distortions and the reformist economic and social ‘dead ends’ others led their ‘followers’ into. Hopefully the chapters in this book will assist them to re-discover the early Revolutionary-Humanist aspirations of ordinary working people and those who supported them. For it was these aspirations which became abandoned and sidelined by the egotistical and toxic dogma of elitist ‘vanguard’ leaders wishing to become the new leaders and top-down guardians of collective humanity.

The short chapters are introductions to the topics indicated by the chapter headings and can be used for individual study and reflection or for group discussion purposes. The subjects they deal with have been condensed to make them manageable for group discussions and for those new to the Revolutionary-Humanist perspective on the capitalist mode of production. To the best of my knowledge the facts and conclusions stated are as accurate as I can make them given the resources currently at my disposal during Covid 19 lock down..

Roy Ratcliffe. (2020)

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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.)

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