BEGINNERS GUIDE 8.

On Beneficial Association and Symbiosis.

There is a common, pro-capitalist distortion of what occurs in nature and society. A presumption that it is natural for elites to dominate and for the strong to rule the weak. However, not all human societies have been based upon hierarchical and parasitic class divisions. Yet since classed-based socio-economic systems now exist, they are often used to suggest that they must be ‘natural’.

Yet, nature does not create hierarchies nor rulers, just diversity. Indeed, in the natural world there are far more examples of classless beneficial associations (life-forms collaborating), classless symbiosis, (life-forms combining) and endosymbiosis (life-forms living within other life-forms) than there are of parasitism (life-forms detrimental to others).

Apart from rare mass extinctions, the prolific variety of life-forms existing and evolving over millions, perhaps billions of years, testifies to the fact that the planets eco-systems have been overwhelmingly beneficial to the initiation, maintenance and evolution of life.

Indeed, we now know that the smallest life-forms we can see, such as bacteria, lichens and fungi, etc., over millennia, have beneficially evolved both separately and together.

Moreover, with the invention of the microscope, it was revealed that there are living, sexually reproducing, co-operative plants and animals, previously invisible to the naked eye.

Originally, the relationships these microscopic living things (eukaryotic cells etc) had in the structure and functioning of all life of the planet remained something of a mystery. Early ideas were no more than imaginative constructions presented as biological fact.

Premature presumptions of knowledge occurred because, for decades, most biologists and naturalists were elite males imbued with patriarchal arrogance, class prejudice and a habit of dualistic thinking.

Even studying things they could see, most traditional ‘experts’ on the natural world merely confirmed their own male (often religiously based) prejudices. Some still do. This habit of only gathering favourable evidence is known as Confirmation Bias and is still a widespread habit passed down through the process of schooling.

Schooling is the inculcation of ideas, skills and attitudes which the elite wish the non-elite to have. The schooled are fed one-sided ideas by those in power ‘above’ them. They are then ‘examined‘ to ensure they will remember and never forget. In contrast, education, like good science, invites questioning, contrasting, de-construction and identifying contradictions.

When societies and nature are considered using unbiased methods, evidence is found that contradicts traditional understandings. For example; that women’s brains are not inferior to men’s; that the colour of a person’s skin does not determine how intelligent or relevant they are; and that nature is not entirely dominated by a fierce struggle for survival.

Once scientifically studied, numerous animals, birds, fish and insects are in fact found to co-operate with each other to their mutual benefit and only a minority of animals routinely kill.

Birds, fish and crabs, for example, clean parasites off larger fish, crocodiles, hippopotamus and lizards. Different species of animals graze together and alert each other to danger. Even bacterial organisms have been discovered beneficially associating. Furthermore, modern electron scanning microscopes reveal that the cells inside all living things, are made up of endo-symbiotic life-forms.

Such modern technology reveals that the microscopic life-forms which inhabit our bodies, such as mitochondria, plastids, cilia, gut flora etc., are (or contain) modified symbionts, whose ancestors once lived independently. Consequently, modern bacterial forms still share similar characteristics to those in our own internal cell structures.

Although we think of ourselves as a discrete species we are in effect an ensemble of millions of different living and co-operating cellular life-forms. As one evolutionary biologist, wrote;

All organisms large enough for us to see are composed of once-independent microbes, teamed up to become larger wholes. As they merged, many lost what we in retrospect recognize as their former individuality” (Lyn Margulis. ‘The Symbiotic Planet’.)

By abandoning Victorian patriarchal bias in ethnology, it also becomes obvious that for millions of years human groups existed as hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, animal herders and coastal fishers, all of which were insufficiently productive to support an elite.

Early human productive activity was therefore undertaken by (and for) the entire community – men, women and children. Moreover, food and necessary non-food products, were shared out among the community according to need, not to satisfy the greed of an upper class elite.

Outside of favourable agricultural locations, and for many thousands of years, most human groups, therefore remained, classless symbiotic communities. Most of them being matrifocal (female-centred) and matrilineal (parentage by female line).

However, those original patterns of shared benefits were overthrown when ‘civilisations’ were invented. Henceforth, armed elites forced slaves and agricultural workers to feed, clothe and serve them.

Yet, despite divisions and distortions, (maintained by the present war-torn, capitalist, system), humane and beneficial sensibilities still survive. Most of us still prefer fairness in relationships. The fact that under capitalism, this social preference for social symbiosis is not always upheld and people frequently feel ‘ripped off’ does not invalidate it’s evolutionary essence and continued desirability.

People can only feel ripped off, cheated, exploited or victimised as workers and consumers, because there is an underlying expectation that this should not be happening.

Therefore, the present stranglehold of the capitalist system upon humanity has not entirely choked to death the symbiotic essence of our species. Furthermore, co-operation and beneficial association frequently burst through the capitalist inspired norms of selfishness, competition, exploitation, prejudice and indifference – and not just among friends and families.

Latent forms of human symbiosis frequently emerge when people rush to support victims of floods, building collapses, fires, train derailments, famines, accidents and terrorist atrocities.

Disasters which bring out the best in humanity are actually revealing our underlying natural symbiotic essence. And of course, the current pattern of elite, profit-seeking form of capitalist production, is not the only way humanity can exist. Indeed, it needs rejecting – before its too late!

Examples of Disaster-Humanism indicate that symbiotic forms of sustainable production (and reproduction) are still in our species DNA and only need further beyond capital activation.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2019)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE – 7.

On Alienation and Addiction.

Previous beginners guides focused upon the economic structure and the ecological effects of capitalist societies. However, there are effects classed as emotional and psychological problems, which are actually bio-chemical body reactions to various stresses caused by the current socio-economic system. It has previously been pointed out that under capitalism the mass of workers have been separated from control of the main means of economic production and from the content and value they produce at work. This forced separation (or alienation) from a fundamental self-affirming form of human activity is a source of emotional upset and frustrations.

In general, species put as much physical and mental effort into securing their means of survival (food and shelter) as are necessary. The stop and start of this ‘necessary’ work was originally under direct individual or community control. Production stopped when enough had been produced. The documentary TV series ‘Tribe‘ fronted by Bruce Parry, illustrated that this pattern still existed in numerous pre-capitalist modes of production during the late 20th century. However, under systems of exploitation, such as capitalism, collective control of production was transferred to a separate class of owners/managers who determine what is enough. Furthermore, the general type and intensity of work for capitalist production, has become unnatural, repulsive and alienating.

Working for capital invariably involves long hours, stress, exhaustion, repetition, boredom, and often bodily harm. Working for capitalists has often become something to be individually endured rather than collectively enjoyed. Furthermore, even learning under capitalism is frequently stressful, depressing and isolating. It produces anxiety. Finding careers, jobs and a home for working people involves stressful competition. Conversely, lack of work under capitalism is also stressful, boring, demeaning and unhealthy. Capitalist domination of socio-economic activities has introduced multiple forms of ill-health, estrangement and alienation.

These numerous forms of alienation/competition/stress, create, resentment, anger, violence, intolerance, depression, illness and even suicides. Such symptoms effect all classes of capitalist societies, although the capitalist and pro-capitalists are compensated for what they endure. The symptoms noted above have spawned a whole range of professional workers (psychologists, psychiatrists, councillors, doctors) trained to treat the various symptoms as individual shortcomings, requiring 12 (or more) steps. Yet stress, emotional problems and illnesses are clearly more than individual phenomena in capitalist societies.

Nevertheless, when addictions are considered, the fundamental alienating contradictions and stresses at the heart of the capitalist mode of production are usually ignored. Many are classed as forms of individual physical or mental ‘weakness’. Gambling, mobile phones, computer games and shopping all have their share of allegedly ‘weak’ willed addicts. Even hobbies, sports training and religious sect membership can be addictive for some people. Is it not becoming obvious that some addictions are the body or brains method of coping with undesirable aspects of capitalist reality?

If we include addictions to political power, celebrity status and wealth accumulation, the list of addictions gets even longer. I suggest that addictions across such a wide range, presents itself as a social symptom not an accumulation of individual weaknesses. Furthermore, when drug addicts are asked what these addictions provide, an important connection to alienation emerges. Before addiction becomes habitual, escape from pain, stress, emotional hurt, abuse and boredom are given as reasons.

Overwhelmingly, hard-line addicts are coping with some extreme symptoms of alienation noted above. But, is addictive shopping not also a coping mechanism for some missing positive in people’s lives? Advertisements; ‘Because we are worth it’, tap into self-rewarding ourselves for feelings of worthlessness. Is habitual alcohol consumption not a means of coping with stress or a diversion from some ongoing unpleasant part of reality? Are the thousands of young people really addicted to computer games because they have individual weaknesses? Or are they perhaps entering a virtual world as an escape from harsh or empty realities of the real one?

In considering alienation, addiction and even some illnesses, is it not more accurate to conclude that it is the capitalist system, which is deranged and irrational, not those who seek regular solace from it? If we think about it, addictions and illnesses within capitalist societies could be rational or functional solutions to one form of alienating stress or another. Whatever, the side effects – addiction and illness in one of their forms – clearly works as a coping mechanism for millions of people. Perhaps, millions of ‘lone’ pensioners addicted to keeping the TV on 24/7 as a surrogate for the human ‘company’ they now sorely miss, are statistical reminders of the debilitating alienation at the core of capitalism.

Does this social level of understanding of the pressures within capitalism not explain why those who clearly know that their addiction is seriously injuring or killing them, find it impossible to stop? Is it not obvious that since, addicts cannot turn off the general or specific alienating impact of the capitalist system upon them, many will not turn off their addictive distraction – even if this means a shortened journey to death. Presumably, the less dangerous addictions also persist for essentially the same reason; that the alienating circumstances driving them also persist.

Interestingly, many early studies of pre-colonialist hunter-gatherer societies revealed a lack of economic and social alienation along with no widespread addictions. It was only when indigenous modes of production were destroyed by Colonialism and Imperialism and native populations were forced into the productive orbit of capitalism that debilitating addictions took hold. The alcoholic fate of numerous North American Indians and Australian Aborigines are the most widely known examples of such transitions from non-addiction to addiction.

Yet these, and other native populations effected, were not psychologically ill or emotionally unstable, before colonial invasions, nor after it. Like the rest of us – only more so – they were struggling with one or more of the forms of alienation spawned by the capitalist mode of production. Addictive behaviour initially offers a way to temporarily escape from capitalisms negative effects – as it still does for millions .

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2019)

For the long term health effects of stress and adversity see; ‘The Deepest Well’ by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris.

For addictions as symptoms of distress, see; ‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts’. By Gabor Mate`, pub. Vermilion.

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 6.

On Past and Present Labour.

It cannot be surprising that advocates of capitalism assert that economic production is totally dependent upon the investment of capital. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? However, that opinion advertises the superficial thinking among such apologists. It exposes an inability or unwillingness to look beyond the monetary surface of capitalistic economic activity. Despite the cliché and ‘Cabaret’ song; ‘money makes the world go around’ – it certainly does not. Appearances, (as with the sun appearing to go around the earth) often contradict reality.

‘Capital’ doesn’t make anything. It is merely an aggregated medium of exchange (ie money) used to purchase already created means of production such as buildings, machines, tools, raw materials and labour-power.

And, ‘Means of production’, whether simple or complex, are actually produced by workers applying energy and skills to various raw materials. Even digging out and processing raw materials for use in further production, requires the application of a set of tools (means) produced by labour in the past, and new labour in the form of digging. In reality, all means of production are the results of ‘Past Labour’.

NB. Under any social system, all production, including subsequent production, requires the coming together of ‘stored’ Past Labour and ‘expended’ Present Labour.

We know from earlier Beginners Guides, that under capitalism, the bringing together of these two separate stages, of production (means of production and labour-power) results – after a period of unpaid labour – in the creation of surplus-products. The value of these products or services – once sold – deliver a monetary return to the capitalist. So workers not only produce the means of production along with new products, but also create the surplus-products, containing surplus-value, which later becomes capital.

Beneath the illusion caused by the fetish status of money, and the complexity of the division of labour, capital only symbolises the monetised value of Past Labour. Indeed, consequently, ‘capital’ itself is the result of Past Labour – but stored in a socially agreed symbolic form – ie money! In further production, a part of this banked value and surplus-value – in money form – is used to purchase (not create) new means of production; whilst another part of it is used to pay workers their salaries or wages. In short; Past Labour enables Present Labour to continue to produce.

The relationship between Past Labour and Present Labour, described above is undoubtedly the original unity of the social productive process of humanity. It is only the intervention of ‘money’ and class divisions which help to obscure it’s fundamental connection. These, together with the hypnotic effect of ‘money’ can blind some professional intellects to exactly what is involved. To further illustrate this important point about production I offer the following general example.

If one day someone makes a fishing net out of material scavenged from a dump and puts it to one side until the following day. That object (the net) has clearly been the product of their past labour. If on the following day they take the net to the river or sea, cast it into the water and catch a fish, they have used their past days labour (the net) as a means of production along with their Present Labour of walking, carrying and casting, to produce a meal in the form of a fish. No money is involved!

This combination of past and present labour would also be the case if a group of people during one week constructed a boat, sails, nets, plus ancillary equipment and the following week used it to catch many fish. Past Labour (stored in the form of boat equipment) would have been used as means of production for the following weeks Present Labour of fishing. So before, beyond and after capitalism, production doesn’t actually need money or capital.

Despite the inability of those blinded by capitalist theoretical presuppositions, the real facts are indisputable. All productive activity is nothing more than the products of Past Labour being used by Present Labour to make (or in agriculture to plant and grow), what is needed or desired. As demonstrated above this fact becomes extremely obvious when production takes place outside of the complications imposed by the modern capitalist mode of production.

No matter how simple, protracted or complex the Past Labour has been, or the material form it takes, (ie from producing a loaf of bread, to making a Jumbo jet or launching a rocket to the moon) all current production requires the sequential combination of Past and Present Labour. And it is Labour which is carried out, not by the thousands of rich and powerful elites (nor the ‘capital’ secreted in their banks) but by millions upon millions of working people. To produce anew, workers actually only need a means of access to their Past Labour.

This fundamental  analysis is not taught in schools or disseminated in the media, because, most of the mainstream intelligentsia have never looked beyond economic text books or below the complex surface phenomena of social production. As with former religious elites and the sun’s orbit; unless challenged, self-serving assertions continue to distort our daily reality.

Those who have probed below this surface and capitalist ideological justifications have been generally ignored by the elite because such understanding reveals that the real producers of all wealth are working people. By understanding the underlying reality, rather than capitalist ‘spin’ and appearances, the huge differences in wealth between non-productive elites and workers is revealed as – shocking! Those who collectively create all the vast amounts of social wealth, (in whatever form) – also have the least of it!

Moreover, with this revolutionary-humanist level of economic understanding, the capitalistic underpayment, overworking and mistreatment of working people are exposed as bizarre historical injustices, needing radical redress. Add to that the pollution, ecological destruction and warfare the capitalist mode of production spawns and the case for a revolutionary-humanist transformation to a post-capitalist, ecologically sustainable, and humane based mode of production becomes all the more obvious.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2019)

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SUPPORT THE KURDS!

Was anyone really surprised that Donald Trump, the current President of the USA removed military assets from North Syria, whilst sending more to Saudi Arabia? I wasn’t, because I didn’t buy President Trumps assertion that he wanted to disengage from costly foreign deployments. I reasoned that his assertion was a fig-leaf to cover his naked support for Turkey’s right-wing Islamic government. Mr Trump knew from his phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the intent was to invade and colonise a section of northern Syria. So taking away US troops was giving the green light to Erdogan’s invasion. Does this make way for possible Trump Tower in Turkey, instead of Russia?

If you really want to cut military expenditure and reduce military casualties to a minimum then taking them out of all foreign countries and wars, not just some is how to do it. I was also sceptical when the President of Turkey announced he wanted to invade Kurdish held territory so as to provide a save haven for displaced people currently in refugee camps. There was clearly more to the invasion than that. It should be reasonably well known by now that significant sections of the Kurdish people have created secular forms of communities with real equality for women in all economic and social levels of society – including in the armed forces. In addition they have adopted policies to support cooperative modes of production, rather than capitalist ones and have pledged to promote ecologically sustainable living.

Thus the Kurdish people are doing the very opposite of what Erdogan and his pro-capitalist Islamic supporters have forcibly established in Turkey and wish to spread elsewhere.

It’s not hard to understand that the democratic, egalitarian, pro-feminist Kurds therefore represent the threat of a very good example of what is possible in the middle east and elsewhere. Indeed, the Kurds went even further than the above in promoting humanist values in opposition to religious dogma. They took a leading role in the struggle against the Islamic State when it was established in Syria. In fact they did more than most of us in the west. Women soldiers, alongside their male comrades, operated on the front line and fought to a standstill the throat-slitting, women-raping, soldier-burning, Islamic patriarchs of ISIS. What a wonderful example these people are – not only for those struggling against patriarchal kingship and dictators in the middle-east, but to all struggling humanity.

As the feminist author, Mona Eltahawy points out there is a considerable problem developing throughout the middle east.

“….regime-appointed clerics lull the poor across the region with promises of justice in the next world, rather than a reckoning with the corruption and nepotism of the dictator in this life, so women are silenced by men who use women’s faith to imprison them.” (Mona Eltahawy. ‘Headscarves and Hymens.’ Chapter 1 page 6.)

No wonder then that most right-wing pro-capitalist, religious and otherwise, have been happy (or content) to have the democratic forces of Kurdistan labelled as terrorists. And it is no wonder that the regime in Turkey wishes to eliminate them. This also goes some way to explaining why pro-capitalist and patriarchal elites everywhere have stayed silent or have dammed with faint praise the Kurdish Hero’s and Heroines in their battle against Islamic Fundamentalism. Recall also that a few years ago, on the back of a feeble and probably deliberately engineered coup, Erdogan’s forces ruthlessly tortured, murdered and removed all secular leaning democratic citizens in Turkey. Teachers, lawyers, authors, reporters, army personnel, state officials etc., we’re evicted from their jobs, communities and life itself.

Now Erdogan intends to do it all over again in Northern Syria. Ece Temelkuran, in her excellent book, on the demise of Turkish democracy, echoed the banality of evil characterisation of the fascist mentality. She reminds us that what happened in Turkey didn’t happen all at once but unfolded as a succession of stages each of which was regretted but not seriously opposed. She wrote;

“How and why Turkish democracy was finally done away with by a ruthless populist and his growing band of supporters on the night of 15th July 2016 is a long and complicated story………This is a historic trend and it is turning the banality of evil into the evil of banality.” (“Ece Temelkuran. ‘How to lose a country: The Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship’. Introduction.)

So now instead of the ‘Me Too’ and Women’s Rights Movements, spreading across the East, we have hard-line religious patriarchy being rolled out across the region armed by the west’s arms suppliers. And this is being done with the active or passive assistance of economic and political elites in western capitalist countries. Moreover, this assistance is not only being implemented by the right-wing in these countries. Even liberal and democratic elites in Europe and the US do not want the example of an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal (such as the Kurds have introduced) to exist and flourish in Middle-Eastern countries. Hence their silence or crocodile tears over Turkeys new killing spree against Kurdish communities and their defenders.

It is important that elite manipulation and distortion of news and propaganda for Kurdish Independence and Self-Determination, to make out that it amounts to terrorism, does not go unchallenged. All those who are against patriarchy, capitalism and ecological destruction should speak out for the Kurds and demonstrate against the infringement of their human rights. The Kurds are not terrorists. In fact they are a brave section of humanity who are proving that another world is possible not only in words but in their day to day actions. They are at the forefront of the struggle for a revolutionary-humanist alternative to the capitalist mode of production and deserve our support.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2019)

Recommended further reading:

Ece Temelkuran ‘How to lose a Country: The Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship.

Mona Eltahawy ‘Headscarves and Hymens’

Abdullah Ocalan ‘Liberating Life: Women’s Revolution’.

PS. Below is a statement by the Kurdish fighters against ISIS. (RR)

PKK letter to the American people and President Trump

Turkish leaders believed, like so many tyrants throughout history, that they could crush the basic human desire for a free life with violence and terror. They branded us as terrorists and criminals and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get other countries like the United States of America to do so too, even as their forces committed unspeakable atrocities in violation of all principles of international law. We signed the Geneva Conventions and asked for peace negotiations on various occasions since 1993, knowing that the war could end the second Kurdish rights were institutionalized. These efforts were ignored…As our movement and our people gave thousands of lives in this fight, the Turkish state that calls us ‘terrorists’ did nothing to stop the ISIS extremists that were terrorizing innocent civilians across the world. The Turkish state has attacked Northeast Syria with greater ferocity today than they ever did when ISIS plotted international attacks from territory just across their border. They have sent terrorist gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda to torture and murder the people who defeated ISIS. They see the simple articulation of Kurdish identity as a greater threat than the groups that targeted innocents in not only Sinjar and Kobani, but Paris, Manchester, and New York City… We are not guilty of terrorism; we are victims of state terrorism. But we are guilty of defending our people. We believe that the American people will be able to judge for themselves who the dangerous terrorists of this world are.
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“HOW DARE YOU!”

A tribute to the Greta Thunberg generation.

“How dare you!” These are the words that rang out from the voice of 16 year old Greta Thunberg at the recent (September 2019) Youth Climate Summit. Her words were being hurled at the heads of states assembled in the USA, but they we’re equally applicable to the entire political class, the media and all complacent adults globally. She had chosen the least polluting means to ‘sail’ cross the Atlantic using a wind powered vessel to attend the conference, whilst her targets for criticism had used the most polluting form of transport available.

Private and state run fuel and resource-guzzling luxury jets were of course the transport of choice for politicians, businessmen, academics and media reporters attending the UN sponsored events. A group of many thousands who routinely cross and recross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans along with continental land masses leaving pollution, ecological destruction and resource depletion in their wake. Yet despite this contrast in travel styles and personal ethos, young Greta has been enthusiastically ‘courted’ (ie used) by many of these elites and their publicists to promote their own ‘clean’ image and prolong their sell-by dates by association with this young eco-warrior. It was an obvious, but unconvincing, innocence by association strategy.

In a parallel way, the media circus has publicised her activities and courted her undoubtedly as a way to simultaneously increase or stabilise the circulation of their media outlets and enhance their own credentials as ecologically concerned citizens. These minimalist reporting activities follow the now jaundiced pattern of jet – setting investigative reporters who over decades have mounted countless resource consuming expeditions to far away places to show scenes of climate change or pollution. Many have made profitable careers out of talking to camera with a backdrop of Artic or Antarctic ice depletion, exceptional flood devastation, droughts, or hurricane disasters.

They have done this, and like their analogues in the space exploration industry, without an ounce of self-critical reflection, shame or embarrassment. For individually and collectively their affluent life – styles, their forms of transport and even the production of their documentaries add up to a substantial part of creating the disastrous effects they draw our attention to. But Greta is on to them. She knows their self – promoting game. In calm but forceful tones she exclaimed;

HOW DARE YOU! …come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Empty words indeed! An awareness of the problems caused by industrial overproduction, resources depletion and climate change have been highlighted at least since Rachel Carson ‘s 1962 book, ‘Silent Spring’ and James Lovelock’s Gaia thesis of 1962 and beyond. However, for almost six decades (yes 60 years), the elites of all sectors of society, including a majority of academics and intellectuals, have ignored, downplayed or contradicted the symptoms of planetary damage in the same way as they have ignored the increasingly precarious welfare of the worlds working classes and the future welfare of our children. Human degradation as well as planetary degradation has been the continuous backdrop to the centre stage display of global production and consumption. And so when Greta pointed out that;

“….people are suffering…..people are dying..”…. “Entire ecosystems are collapsing.”

She was stating nothing new. This information has been available for decades. But the persistent sounds of almost universal distress had been drowned out by the orchestrated symphony ‘s of praise for the latest technological developments. The elites, in particular, have remained deaf and blinded – by their own relative success and affluence – to the high-tech coffin nails being increasingly fashioned – which if not stopped – will eventually be used to seal the lid on viable habitat and humanity.

What was new in 2019 was that a child who had not been born when the evidence was rapidly accumulating had taken the trouble to understand the problem and was determined to not just echo the research but to do something about it. And as Ms Thunberg correctly understands it, it is not just humanity which is threatened;

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of  eternal economic growth..”….”.How dare you?” …”How dare you continue to look away and come here saying you are doing enough?”

Her devastating critique also included elements of analysis mostly missing from mainstream liberal ecological concerns – eternal economic growth and money – the two elements which are motivating and propelling the symptoms she had described. The motives behind the current capitalist domination of economic activity – growth and profit – are the cause of the current ecological problems and much more and so she hit the nail precisely on the head when she declared;

..”…How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business as usual and some technical solutions?”  

The teen age Greta spoke candidly and forcefully to the elite at the youth climate summit but her message was to all adults around the globe to play our part.  Alas I fear her message will fall on deaf ears in both camps. Just like the warning words of those who have campaigned before her. My own post-second world war generation have at least a basic idea of the existential problems, facing people and the planet, but I know only a few who are prepared to consistently speak out about it or do anything seriously radical to change things. Not all my generation of educated middle or working-class citizens even recycle or drastically cut back on activities which are a contributing factor to climate change and pollution, let alone impoverish other peoples. Those who can still afford holidays are still – without shame or embarrassment – jetting around the planet or planning their next luxury cruise.

Those who can no longer afford to ostentatiously consume in all the imaginative ways devised by cancerous entrepreneurial enterprises are invariably hoping to do so as soon as circumstances permit it. I would love to be wrong, but I fear Greta’s exact criticism of the myopic sentiments expressed by economic, financial and political elites ie (“..this can be solved with business as usual and some technical solutions?” ) are close enough to what the average adult citizen of industrialised countries have been persuaded to hope is the case. Unfortunately, it is likely to take a series of huge ecological catastrophes or economic collapses rather than Greta’s perceptive and prophetic words to shake people out of their left, right or liberal conservatism.

From my decades long experience as an anti-capitalist activist, the numbers who would advocate or even implement some really radical changes to how production and consumption have been taking place are well below any critical-mass necessary to trigger profound and effective action. Two world wars with deaths in tens of millions along with the devastation of countries and continents were not enough. Those historic tragedies only inspired slight reforms, before Greta’s “business as usual” observation returned to churning out more of the same.

So not dodging responsibility myself I do hope that Greta is typical of the new Global Climate Strike generation of young people. I really hope they will persist and rise to the revolutionary-humanist challenge facing humanity and do what previous generations, distracted by ideological and sectarian divisions or hypnotised by capitalist commodity fetishism, have failed to do.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2019)

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BEGINERS GUIDE – 5.

On colonialism and Imperialism.

Undoubtedly, colonisation and Imperial conquest occurred during the ancient Persian, Greek and later Roman civilisations. It was nothing new. However, the modern versions of these socio-economic practices need to be understood within the evolution of the capitalist mode of production. In beginners guides 3 & 4, it was noted that the capitalist production process needed ever more external sources of raw materials and markets to keep the entire system going and profits accumulating. The more capitalism developed, the greater these pressures grew.

Moreover, numerous agriculture changes and increased mechanisation within capitalist industry also led to relative population surpluses. In time, methods and machines developed to increase commodity production, began to replace working people. It is capitalisms recurring problem. When more commodities are produced than can be sold within capitalist nations, and more people are born than can be profitably employed, colonialism and commodity exports can be used to solve these problems.

Colonialism.

The economic need for territorial expansion soon became self-evident and the essence of European colonisation in North America, Africa and the East is revealed by the business models they chose. For North America, the ‘London Company’ was formed in the UK to ‘settle’ (!) Virginia, whilst the ‘Plymouth Company’ was founded to ‘settle’ Main. For Africa the ‘boards’ of the ‘British South Africa Company’ and the ‘Royal Niger Company didn’t hide their geographical focus. The British East India Company openly advertised it’s interests. These particular examples were based in the UK.

Colonisation during the capitalist era was arguably more extensive and intensive than ancient times. Ancient forms did not usually set out to destroy local modes of production. These were generally supplemented or left largely intact. However, in the capitalist era, motives were different. The aim was Profit and trade, not just land or produce acquisition. In order to feed the circulation of profitable commodities, pro-capitalist colonists marginalised local modes of production and later imposed their own.

The successive phases of capitalist development also introduced large-scale displacement, dispossession, enslavement and extermination. In their global extent these acts of calculated inhumanity to indigenous peoples were without historical parallel. The real-world imposition of international capitalism on continents and islands, required a parallel ideological world of rationalisation and justification.

The rationalisations took the form of extending religious patriarchal prejudices of superior (and inferior) religions, classes and genders to encompass foreign people. Considerable effort was put into the invention of ‘race’ and associated superior and inferior categories of ‘racial types’. Such ‘fabrications’ were used to convince people that differences in skin colour and culture were not human adaptations to geographical location and economic history, but something else.

Numerous academics and intellectuals reasoned that dark skin shades, along with cultural and morphological adaptations had their origins in the evolution of a lower sub-species, while pale skin humans evolved from a higher one.

Once in vogue such false ideas perfectly fitted the arrogant, colonialist and Imperialist mindset. The three C’s, Commerce, Christianity and Civilisation articulated by David Livingstone and other ‘God and Mammon’ colonisers, actually became five as Conquest and Control were added during a later Imperialist stage. Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany – Spain and Holland to a lesser extent – were the main perpetrators of global pillage.

Imperialism.

With increased production volumes via steam power, plus assumed European biological/ cultural superiority, the entire globe came under the prejudiced scrutiny of European private enterprises. During these expansionary periods, capitalists had actively created monopolies, cartels and extended the finance-capital banking sector noted in Beginners guide 4. Government trained armies and navies were employed to assist ‘their’ capitalists to implement Imperialist dispossession and plunder, only thinly disguised as trade.

Further expansion of production required expansion of raw material sources and markets. Thus, former hostilities between rival company elites for ‘market share’, morphed into wars between hostile and competing ‘Empire-building’ national elites. Alongside this ‘progress’ (sic) in trade, came the continuous development of weapons technology. Trade joined God as a motive for native genocides. Diplomacy aside, the results of disputed annexations and ‘spheres of influence’ depended upon the strength and skills of the armed forces available to each side.

International and local wars for trade advantages, became routine during the 18th and 19th centuries, leading to the outbreak of two world wars in the 20th century. Despite academic/political rationalisations, once examined economically, these conflicts, were over which countries would dominate world trade. Switching from coal to oil for producing steam and electrical power, meant that when it was found abundant in the middle-east, this region became a battleground for rival capitalist nations of Europe to control.

Given the biased mainstream assessment of the two world wars (ie it was fought by good people against bad), it is worth quoting some rare candour. The 1914-18 First World War perspective for German capitalism was; “Our people has grown …at home discontent is rife…German’s boundaries are too narrow. We must become land hungry and acquire new territories for settlement” (Baron von Vietinghoff-Scheel.) Prior to the Second World War, (1939-45) Hitler wrote;

“In an era when the earth is gradually being divided up among states..we cannot speak of a world power whose mother country is limited to…five hundred thousand square kilometres” (Hitler. Mein Kamf). Those governments who twice fought against Germany’s “world power” ambitions (Britain and France plus Allies) were not against Empire building, they were actually defending, whilst expanding, their own world power and Imperial ambitions.

Millions of people, recruited by elites on all sides of these by now globalised wars, were quickly killed or wounded in a fight to sustain modes of production which were already shortening their lives during normal working days, (and years) of pollution and danger. Moreover, since capitalist production still relies on burning oil for energy, regional conflict continues there. Interference by the pro-capitalist agents of Imperialism’s latest offspring – neo-liberalism – is still causing existential problems for working people in Europe, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, etc.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2019)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., neo-liberalism, Palestine, Revolutionary-Humanist theory | Leave a comment

BEGINNERS GUIDE – 4.

On Finance-Capital.

In beginners guide 3 (On Capitalism) the source of the profit on productive capital was traced to the surplus-labour performed by working people during an unpaid part of each working day. This unpaid surplus-labour yields a monetary value once the extra commodities or services created are sold. The huge amounts of surplus-value created by millions of workers in thousands of factories, warehouses, docks, mines, engineering firms, shipyards, locomotive and automotive plants, over many years, was indicated.

Once that continuous yearly flow of monetised surplus-value is understood something else becomes obvious. The mounting deposits of unused money in bank accounts, became more than could be profitably invested in the production of more of the same (or similar) commodities or services. Within national markets that would lead (and did) to, unsold products, income/capital losses and bankruptcies. Another form of investment was needed and not in different commodities or in different locations, but in a form not directly involved with production.

Dormant money in many bank accounts was therefore creatively transformed into loan-capital and offered to other capitalists or speculators for a set period at a rate of ‘interest’. The term Finance-Capital replaced ‘loan-capital’ so as to include further complex ways of utilising the accumulating money. The process of money directly producing ‘interest’ can be misleading. In the finance-capital sector, money appears to have an innate property of expanding itself simply by being loaned.

But of course, money cannot directly create anything. The return of the amount loaned and the interest has to come from the financial or productive activities of someone else. In many cases it comes via a complex chain of borrowers and lenders. The links between lenders and borrowers may be obscure, but somewhere along the chain of transactions the value of the loan plus added interest is created by the transformational application of human skills and labour. The only other way is by someone making a gain as a result of someone else making a loss.

The economic foundation of interest is nothing more than a deducted portion of the monetised surplus-value created during capitalist production and passed along a chain of obligations back to the lender. Productive-capital is therefore directly parasitic upon the labour-power of workers, whilst finance-capital is parasitic on productive-capital. The vast amounts of monetary wealth accumulated over decades has made the Finance-Capital sector so rich and powerful that it not only influences industry and commerce but also national governments.

The ability of the finance-capital sector (banking, insurance etc.) to reward favours with grants, lucrative posts and consultancy fees makes it able to promote self-serving changes in government policies. Institutions such as the World Bank, the International Bank of Settlements, and International Monetary Fund are the global pinnacles of this sector. They and their proxies have conduits of influence reaching deep into industry, politics and governance.

Lower down the institutional pyramid of finance there are organisations (stock exchanges, Hedge Funds etc.) whose activity is also global. This includes investment openings, speculative possibilities and asset stripping opportunities. Industries paying high wages can have difficulty obtaining capital, whilst other’s paying low wages may find it easy. Financial institutions (developed from merchant bank organisations) also originate and circulate financial instruments known as Asset Based Securities (ABS’s), Mortgage Based Securities (MBS’s) and Collatoralised Debt Obligations (CDO’s) among others.

Basically these speculative instruments are nothing more than complex, upmarket IOU’S and like loans cannot directly preserve value or create any new surplus-value. Since IOU’S, no matter how sophisticated, are paper promises to pay at a later date, they can circulate like huge denomination bank notes. Buying and selling them at discount and hoping to make money on any difference in purchase and selling price has long been routine in the finance-capital sector. As long as participants can pay when due dates arrive there is no widespread problem.

However, these, and other pass the parcel antics, are part of a system of speculation in which asset bubbles are created. Purchasing power, (real money, credit or even temporary ‘spoofing’ orders) are used to purchase or pump up asset values in order to sell them at a higher cost than bought. This leads to price escalation far beyond any intrinsic asset value. When confidence wanes and the price starts to go down, purchasers hurry to sell before a price collapse occurs (the bubble bursts). This leaves some unable to pay (or unable to borrow to pay) when it becomes due.

The general 2008 financial crisis, triggered as it was by the collapse of the housing mortgage bubble in the USA, revealed the vast international network of financial instruments (ABS’s; MBS’s ; and CDO’S etc.) then circulating around the globe. Some people in the financial sector had long suspected a looming problem, but not even the expert regulators of these, fully understood their complexity, the amount of leverage based upon them, and the magnitude of defaulting when the bubble burst.

This unravelling of financial speculation again demonstrated that financial crises, don’t remain within that sector. The 2008 crash caused bankruptcies in industry and commerce, redundancies in employment, as well as public sector shrinkage and austerity. This is because the ‘finance sector’ is connected to the general commodity and service circulation system, the private productive-capital sector and the public sector. Any sizeable crisis in the finance sector instigates a general economic and social crisis and visa versa.

Despite their culpability, those in the financial sector were bailed out and their losses made good or simply written off. This, as much as anything, demonstrated the power and influence of the finance sector over the economic and political classes. Few in the banking and financial sector thought they had done anything wrong and have continued doing what they did before. Consequently, another financial crisis lies ahead – only it’s timing is uncertain! Meanwhile, the sector carries on, granting itself huge bonuses for selling unstable financial instruments, and naive speculators within ‘the system’ continue to buy them.

Roy Ratcliffe ( September 2019)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Economics, Finance, neo-liberalism, Revolutionary-Humanism | Leave a comment