BEGGING, BEGGING & MORE BEGGING.

Once considered a thing of the past, or the product of less developed countries, people begging on the streets of advanced capitalist countries has become a permanent feature of everyday life in the 21st century. Despite unprecedented levels of wealth for some privileged sectors of the capitalist mode of production in Europe and the West, extreme poverty is also being systematically manufactured throughout the world. Science, technology and labour skills have been developed to such a pinnacle of achievement that used differently it would be possible to ensure that practically every human being had sufficient to enjoy a reasonably high standard of existence. It is even possible that this could be done without rapidly and permanently degrading the ecological balance of the planet. But after over 100 years of domination by the capitalist mode of production, almost the opposite has been achieved. Poverty, war and ecological destruction exist practically everywhere. Yet very few seriously ask why?

Not for the first time, the abstract symptoms of poverty – Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness are again the increasing lot of human beings on every continent and within every nation state across the globe. Poverty and begging, the most obvious symptom of system failure, have returned as a permanent feature of modern life and are now set to increase even further. And large scale poverty and begging, themselves the result of capitalist-inspired social and technological changes in the ‘means’ of production and distribution, reinforce the downward spiral of the economic system and everything built upon it. The advanced nature of automation and computer technologies within the capitalistic realms of production and distribution has ensured that more and more can be produced and speedily distributed around the globe. At the same time these methods ensure that there is a decreasing number of people who can purchase and consume the increased levels of production. The economic disconnection between production and consumption introduced and accelerated by capitalism grows ever larger. So too does the social and emotional disconnect (alienation) between people under this particular mode of production.

These two aspects poverty and begging amid unprecedented levels of wealth accumulation, represent fundamental flaws in the socio-economic base of the capitalist mode of production. They are flaws, which over time, cause economic, financial, social and political crises. Moreover, they are symptoms which have not just developed during the neo-liberal phase of capitalist expansion. They are built into the founding practices of capital formation. Moreover, they are also structural contradictions which have, in the past, had various reforms applied to them during or after the periodic crises. New generations of working people are now experiencing the fact that the capitalist mode of production is again firmly in the grip of a cyclical crisis and that the symptoms of crisis are multiplying in one broad area after another. In the interconnected realms of economic, financial, social, political and ecological affairs, the cracks in the current system of production and consumption are again widening. More and more people and environments are becoming victims of a system propelling itself downward in a spiral of self-destruction.

These new generations of victims, particularly the youth, have not been given a critical understanding of how the capitalist system functions, which is not surprising. Education and information sources are predominantly tailored to fit the interests and desires of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elites. These elites have no motivation to expose fundamental faults in a system from which they currently benefit. Nor has our younger generation been given even a potted (critical) history of a serious attempt during the 20th century to address capitalisms fundamental flaws. Yet, as the crisis deepens, they will undoubtedly be presented with sophisticated propositions by the pro-capitalist elite to persuade them to support yet another puerile attempt to avoid the inevitable conclusion. The conclusion being that for the bulk of humanity the capitalist mode of production has long been unfit for purpose. In the next section I will draw attention to one of the 20th centuries most important Western-based attempts to create a version of capitalism which sought to circumvent the fundamental flaws within it.

Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness.

The symptoms of economic destitution experienced by masses of people during the early part of the 20th century were encapsulated in the five abstractions which make up the sub-title of this section. Large scale, unemployment and low pay left masses of people in Want of sufficient food and clothing. Thousands lived in housing Squalor (damp, overcrowded and dirty dwellings) and Disease and Idleness followed in the wake of these primary symptoms. Ignorance was identified as a lack of education among millions of the ‘lower’ classes. This handful of abstract symptoms became the labels applied by a partially enlightened group of pro-capitalist elites to the those experienced by the working classes during that earlier crisis. Overcoming these five ‘evils’, as the Beveridge Report called them, became the task of both the left and right wing sections of the governing class of the British state in 1945.

The practical steps taken to ameliorate these symptoms were the basis of what became known in the UK as the Welfare State. Want and Idleness were to be eliminated by a political commitment to full employment and monetary payments for those short periods between jobs. Squalor was to be overcome by an affordable Housing Programme, Ignorance banished by Primary and Secondary education for all and Disease eradicated by a comprehensive Health Service. The institutional measures to eliminate these five symptoms were to be funded from two sources. Most of them were to be funded by a compulsory insurance contribution taken out of the wages of those in employment and a complimentary contribution made from the profits of the firms employing them. The rest of the welfare system, initially the health service, was to be funded from general taxation. In other words welfare was to be paid for by deductions from the total surplus-values created by all forms of productive labour.

It should be immediately obvious, that at the very least, the whole basis of these measures initiated after the Second World War, was dependent upon high levels of employment in successful industrial firms and commercial businesses. If insurance contributions were to come from wages and profits, workers would have to produce enough value at work to ensure their own wages and salaries as well as their employers profits. It would be a proportion of this surplus-value (value surplus to immediate consumption needs) which would fund the welfare system. If over time many successful firms, reduced their workforce through technical innovations, or if many businesses moved abroad or simply failed and a high number of workers became unemployed, an insurance based system would become unsustainable. Even tax funded welfare measures would suffer from any large-scale reductions in taxation levels or insufficient ‘in-work’ income tax deductions. In short, if millions became long-term unemployed – as they did – they would not be able to put value into the fund but would need to take value out in order to survive.

Furthermore, it is a convenient mistake in this regard to simply focus on the number of people employed in order to judge the viability of an economic system, as many of the modern political elite do. If wages and employer tax contributions are reduced sufficiently then it is possible to have high levels of employment but low levels of consumption and reduced contributions to the insurance fund. It is obvious that an economic system based upon monetary transactions needs sufficient purchasing power to sustain that consumption. Both these symptoms – unemployment and consistently low pay – lead to socio-economic problems, such as a welfare funding crisis, on the one hand and economic recession on the other. Variants of these two symptoms became noticeable in Europe and North America during the late 20th and early 21st centuries and are still evident today. Tax exempt, minimum or below minimum wage labour – cleaning, stacking shelves, flipping burgers etc. – leaves little left over to purchase things other than a minimum of food, clothing and shelter. Increasing numbers of low-paid jobs are a part of the recipe for economic stagnation, debt accumulation and economic recessions.

Nevertheless, a mixture of elite ignorance of capitalist economics and naive optimism – on all sides – ensured that the post-Second World War welfare state system was gradually put in place in the UK. Many imagined, and large numbers hoped that welfare provision, under the domination of capital, was a sustainable proposition! The British elite were not alone in exhibiting a new-found platonic spirit of providing welfare to alleviate the situation of the working classes nor were they alone in promoting similar measures. Other advanced capitalist countries had their own variants of this ‘new deal’ relationship with their respective working classes. Nevertheless, the elites in Britain, Europe, and North America were among the leaders of this new concern for their working classes after the Second World War. So a variety of forms of welfare capitalism (the essence of the so-called UK spirit of 45) were introduced in the western hemisphere.

It needs to be recognised that two facts, both created by the world war, gave an element of superficial credibility to the naive economic understanding exhibited by the respective governing elites who were behind the welfare state reforms. First, due to the fact that over six million workers had been killed fighting in the Second World War, there were severe post-war labour shortages. Second, large-scale damage and deterioration had been inflicted upon housing, roads, railways, bridges, industrial and commercial premises. For a short post-war period, therefore, high levels of employment were not only possible but necessary in all the countries directly involved in the 1938-45 war. All the European countries and those in North America, had lost huge numbers of able-bodied workers in the fighting and in Europe area bombing had obliterated practically everything that could be reached by aerial or ground based bombardment. These ‘facts on the ground’, requiring extensive repair, allowed and required a short period of intense production which together with the welfare reforms, conveniently provided a temporary political illusion that rampant capitalism had at last been tamed and changed for the better.

The creation of the very welfare services for everyone also created jobs in the public sector which for a time absorbed many workers not willing or not able to obtain jobs in industry or commerce. But within a decade or less the old problems were to re-emerge. In fact the promises and ideals of welfare for everyone were never fully met even during the early decades of the 1950’s and 60’s. Born in 1941, I know; I lived through them! Despite valiant and often desperate attempts by organised workers and their trade unions in the decades after the war, the fleeting ‘spirit of 45’ gave way to the harsh reality of capitalist economics. The post-war international competition, between individual capitalist concerns and capitalist countries which had caused the mass unemployment before the war, reignited with a vengeance. In Britain, as with other countries, in the 1960s, when profits were squeezed by foreign competitors, the employers (and successive governments) put the squeeze on their workers wages and salaries. A downward spiral of wages and conditions began again for white and blue collar working people in the UK, which apart from the occasional blip continues to haunt the lives of our young, not so young and old alike.

Begging 21st century style.

So Want, Squalor and Idleness have crept back in many 21st century western communities, only Ignorance and Disease via education and health services were kept at bay for a temporary period. However, even there education increasingly resembled meaningless industrial ‘training‘ and new industrially inspired ‘diseases’ have entered the individual and communal bodies of our citizens. However, in keeping with other ‘advances’ made by the capitalist mode of production, there have been advances in the form and scale of begging in the modern era. Begging is no longer an isolated individual endeavour practiced at the margins of towns, villages and cities, as it was in the middle ages. Nor is it extant in the neighbourly borrowing a cup of sugar, a bag of flour or small sack of coal in the immediate post war years. Begging is now centre stage and has become something of an industry. The sturdy beggars who once roamed rural England stealing, wood, chickens and sheep have been replaced by the street savvy beggars of modernity equipped with Big Issue magazines and the almost obligatory dog with a sad countenance to soften the hearts of passers by.

But make no mistake, this is still begging, and in the case of Big Issue sellers it is now on an almost industrial, or rather commercial, scale. It is begging encouraged to go mainstream and disguise itself as a ‘pay as you go’ public service. And this is not the only modern means of disguising begging for although the 1930’s soup kitchens have gone, food banks have replaced them. True, one needn’t stand cap or bag in hand on a street corner, if you are in food poverty, but you have to effectively line up for your chance of a selection of available goods donated to a food bank. Charity shops have also gone mainstream where the separation of the receiver from the giver is now largely disguised as recycled commodity shopping. We give our money to a charity and the needy in effect beg from the charity. All this is accomplished without the unfortunate victims being paraded in public and with the added bonus of us charity givers and buyers of ‘pre-loved’ commodities imagining that somehow we are helping save the planet by recycling the cast off, books, ornaments and clothing.

The other more sophisticated form of modern begging is camouflaged as official welfare provision and public handouts to those considered to be in sufficient need. Disguised as entitlements, this form of being given what you cannot obtain by other means, is nevertheless a form of less visible begging. In this case it is called ‘applying’ for welfare payments from a state bureaucracy, who obtain their funds from tax – payers and selectively dole it out to those the governing elite classify as deserving. By filling in forms and personal interviews the poor and unfortunate are in effect having to beg for what is officially described as a welfare entitlement. Perhaps the most hidden and shameful symptom of poverty (and a mute form of begging) in the U K and Europe in general, is with regard to children arriving at school, hungry, unwashed and with disturbed sleep patterns. Teachers, themselves the victims of education cuts, are being ‘moved’ to provide breakfast clubs and supply writing materials to increasing numbers of school children.

I suggest an elite who show no embarrassment at this state of affairs, yet continues to pump vast amounts of money into weapons of warfare and systematically uses them to interfere in country after country, deserves to be replaced. Furthermore, an economic system which not only allows this but encourages it also deserves to be replaced. All of the above modern forms of begging, begging and more begging are the products of an economic system in which its elites refuse to ensure that everyone who wants to work has a well – paid steady occupation. Instead, in the name of economic efficiency and market forces, they try to put the blame on the victims. But, although visible and less invisible begging is set to rise further, not all the victims of capitalist inspired poverty go begging.

Begging; the visible peak of increasing dystopia.

By treating economics as a separate and distinct aspect of social and political life, the dominant dualistic mode of thinking can arrive at some startling and self-defeating conclusions. In the name of efficiency and cost cutting, industry, commerce and public services have introduced methods that replace the amount of human labour needed and in various ways celebrate this as a productivity ‘gain’. More done by fewer people translates into more profits and less costs so this represents an important gain in the narrow neo-liberal economic world view. Begging in its various forms is viewed in this dualistic frame of reference as an unfortunate but necessary by-product of the drive for efficiency. However, in the real world, economics is intimately connected to the social and political realms of society and not all the displaced poor people sit on street corners with a pet and a bowl or an armful of magazines to sell. Many, turn to the black economy sectors of drugs and crime and it is here, that the so-called economic gains are translated into economic losses. Poverty stimulates both begging and it’s twin sister, crime.

The economic losses due to economic efficiency gains elsewhere, are of two kinds, direct economic and indirect economic. As the section of the disaffected poor, who refuse (or cease) to dutifully accept their begging and seek alternatives, increases, so do the economic costs to society. It can cost many thousands of dollars or pounds to attempt to rehabilitate someone addicted to drugs. Even more to incarcerate someone convicted of a crime. Society, finds itself building and funding prisons and drug-dependency drop ins instead of new workshops or sharing out the jobs and the value created by working. These are the direct economic costs of cost cutting in industrial and commercial enterprises and other public services. Then there are the losses due to infrastructure deterioration that accompanies large-scale unemployment, sink hole estates and abandoned buildings, roads, sewers, bridges which will cost further labour to rebuild or pull down.

Finally.

The fact that so many healthy and intelligent people have been reduced to begging in one form or another, in order to survive is a visible condemnation of the current capitalist mode of production. That fact, along with the systems propensity for elite directed assertive and even aggressive acquisition of raw materials and markets (wars and proxy wars), should invite a calling to account of the entire system. If in addition the effects of all this frenetic production upon the climate and ecological well being are added to the equation then it might be expected that a serious questioning of the entire mode of production would be taking place among those with the time and opportunity to think things through. Sadly this is not the case. Indeed, the intellectual, political and economic elites of the 21st century can only imagine solutions which countenance more of the same.

The concept of trickle – down economics, in which wealth accumulation by the relative few is supposed to descend the economic and social pyramid to the lower ranks, has been repeatedly exposed as nothing more than a self-serving rationale. The equally facile idea that capitalist inspired science and technology can solve all the problems it has itself created, is nowhere demonstrated in practice. It is only to be expected that those who gain most from the present system will invent new projects for capitalist investments, such as ever faster forms of travel, sight seeing trips into space or even mining for rare minerals on Mars, yet such visionary (sic) entrepreneurs are not the most dangerous. This is because most of these short-sighted, inter-galactic fantasies are never going to happen.

In contrast, the latest earth bound invigoration of capital by an expansion of global trade has been initiated by the political elite in China, via its project for a new industrialised silk road. The project, already in its early stages, is to create rail, road and sea links stretching across Asia, Europe and Africa to both stimulate and circulate production and consumption along it and through it. The intellectual and political elite in China, having abandoned any previous pretence at being anti – capitalist, are looking to surf-ride on an Asian tsunami of capital investment. For inspiration these myopic oligarchs have looked back to Marco Polo for inspiration, rather than Captain Kirk’s version of to boldly go enterprise, yet both visions only offer less than tantalising versions of more of the same. And as if to publicly advertise their economic incompetence, wider than Brexit, many European elites are eagerly signing up to be part of this new express way to climate and social disaster.

More, production, more consumption, more waste, more ecological destruction, more inequality, more poverty, more begging, more emotional destitution and more authoritarianism. The latter to prevent the majority from eventually taking part in a revolutionary transformation of the existing mode of production, into something more economically sustainable and egalitarian. More capitalism is the general vision offered by all political movements of the current generational spectrum. This is so whether of left, right, centre, so-called populist or alternative ‘green’ persuasions. None can see beyond a version of capitalism, modified, this way or that, according to their own ill-conceived understandings. None have the guts or intellect to become seriously radical critics of the capitalist mode of production and to rise above their current intellectual limitations and prejudices. It is now up to a new generation of activists to take on this task if humanity is to avoid a number of future catastrophes we face – ecological, economic or social – if ‘more of the same’ is the best we can do. Yellow Jacket, Extinction Rebellion and School protests, aimed at triggering reforms by the political class, whilst necessary to focus attention on a limited number of the symptoms, are woefully insufficient to hold the entire system to account or to eliminate the causes.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2019)

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BUBBLES, BUBBLES & MORE BUBBLES.

In the article ‘Brexit, Brexit & More Brexit’ (January 2019), I pointed out that the British financial elite had long ago replaced the industrial and commercial elite as the dominant economic force within British capitalism. As such this sector has, through its lobbying and stipend-granting power, also been the dominant political force behind many things including the process of exiting the EU. The once realised claim of Britain being the ‘workshop of the world’ had been entirely negated by the time of the Second World War, but the ambition of remaining one of the great banking centres of the world had not. The ‘City of London’ (Banks, Merchant Banks and Insurance Offices) took over the mantle once worn by the nearby, and now defunct ‘Pool of London’ (Docks and Warehouses) and the attitude of being ‘great’ in Great Britain, found a replacement ‘container’ in the plush offices of those receiving and sending payments around the globe rather than those receiving and sending goods.

Nevertheless, the exaggerated sense of self-importance and power which still clings to the British elite in general, and the financial elite in particular, has being given a sharp rebuke by the leading representatives of the remaining 27 EU States. It seems the power and determination of a united elite political group of twenty seven is sufficient to stand up to the arrogant assumptions of one. This EU opposition has also clearly stimulated and exposed once again the fragile unity of the United Kingdom elites. To anyone not besotted by elite promoted nationalist pretentiousness, Britain is no longer ‘great‘ in its previous form as an empire, nor ‘united’ as when Scotland and Ireland were forcibly incorporated into its ‘kingdom‘. Its politicians being far from great. However, despite the current humiliation the British political elite are undergoing at the hands of the Brussels elite, we lower orders should not underestimate the power and ability of the British financial establishment to cause more future havoc. They are still second to none in their ability to facilitate fictitious capital and financial bubbles. The latter being devastating when they eventually burst.

Who creates and inflates financial bubbles?

It has long been known that in the capitalist dominated cycle of economic production, distribution and consumption, financial speculators have frequently been detrimental to the general circuit of production and commodity exchange. We need not think back very far to remind ourselves of this fact. In 2008 an international chain of bankruptcies and near bankruptcies rattled around the world’s banks, mortgage companies, Insurance institutions and investment funds. A sub-prime mortgage and housing bubble had been created, predominantly in the USA. House prices had been inflated way above their intrinsic value by cheap flexible loans and it was only a matter of time before the earnings of purchasers were not enough to service the monthly payments of the huge loans required to secure title to a house. When the financial bubble burst, defaults, home repossessions and much else occurred. Based upon past experience and historical knowledge, this eventuality was entirely predictable and I will explain why.

A bubble in financial terms occurs when the the price of something of value (referred to as an asset) is inflated by competitive investors to a point at which it drastically exceeds it’s real value. If any asset seems sound, starts to offer good returns and its price steadily increases, then it may attract many speculative investors. Such investors intend to buy the asset at the current price and sell it later at an increased price and thus make a profit. In general, people or institutions with lots of spare cash or access to sufficient credit are merely using these financial transactions to bet on changes in price (up or down) so as to either: A. Buy cheap and sell dear, or B. Sell dear and buy cheap. These are the foundations of usual financial market activity and the purpose of the continuous trading. However, an asset with a good return does not automatically create a bubble.

The financial bubbles considered here are those ‘trades’ inflated by speculators eagerly buying relatively cheap and selling relatively dear – the type designated as A above. The stage of a profitable asset becoming a bubble often begins when three further financial market symptoms coincide. First, even more investors notice the asset price rises; second, the returns (profits) being made by existing investors trading in the asset are good; and third, cheap credit, promoted by banking institutions and governments, is or becomes, readily available. These factors give more investors the confidence to buy and allows many of them to do so without having the means to pay. The calculation made in the use of credit to trade is that after agreeing to purchase they can sell the rising asset before their loan payment is due and so pay off the loan from the money then coming to them. If successful, they pocket the extra difference between the two amounts. In essence it amounts to – money for nothing – and the chits are free. (Circa; a Dire Straits lyric.)

The second stage of financial bubble inflation is based upon a continuation of the financial symptoms active during normal trading, but the successes of stage one, in particular, engender something of a frenzy of investment in the asset by new and existing participants entering or re-entering the speculative race. Investors begin dipping in and out of this trading cycle in order not to miss out on an almost certain profit by placing an order to buy and later to sell. This stage of bubble making speculative trading has been called an irrational exuberance (by Alan Greenspan, of the US, for example, in 2007) but I suggest this is an inaccurate and completely retrospective description. This definition needs challenging because in the early stages of bubble making it makes rational sense for greedy rich people and institutions to enter this race to buy and sell the rising asset.

It is rational, because in the early stages, there is practically no risk and very little effort required to begin making enormous profits. Indeed, what motivates some deliberately calculating investors has been scathingly described as pump and dump as they cynically play the asset and the ‘market’ conditions. Brisk trading can pump up the price then the asset can be dumped when it’s price increases. Speculation in financial markets which lead to the formation of bubbles is, therefore, more in the nature of individuals and institutional investors placing bets in a casino they have rigged. The game is rigged by the fact that the energetic trading itself automatically inflates up the price so that most of those betting continue to win their bets – until the bubble bursts. In other words, there is a period of time where the rising asset price has become a self – fulfilling prophecy. As long as enough of the herd (the Wolves of Wall Street, the foxes of the City of London and their counterparts globally) suggest it is a sound asset and the price keeps generally rising and enough people keep buying – then for a time – making a profit is a certainty.

The financial bubble can continue to inflate until some incident (a large default or asset sell off) or a re-assessment (possibly a negative rumour) takes place in which the third stage is entered. At that point more investors decide to get out, than continue to get in. When such private doubts set in the bubble formation has been slowed or is about to be punctured. Sooner or later, usually sooner, the scramble to buy stops and turns into a scramble to sell, before the price starts to fall below the price originally paid and a loss occurs. At that stage the bubble has been irreparably punctured and its deflation can be rapid. During this stage of accelerated price deflation those making the last bets lose everything or nearly everything. Apparently that happened to poor Isaac Newton during the South Sea bubble in 1720. It seems even clever scientists can be effectively blinded by the glint of free money.

So who else suffers?

I guess it will be hard for the reader to feel sorry for the millionaires, billionaires and random intellectuals, film stars, sports personalities, comedians and successful rock musicians, etc., who may have lost such insatiably greedy bets and seen their claims on wealth disappear or dissolve by a considerable amount. I share a similar lack of sympathy myself. However, a word of caution, before dismissing their losses – past, present or those to come in the future – for these are only the first links of a chain of problems to follow. The losers are connected to the rest of the economy and citizens by their hold on the means of exchange, which the rest of us use. And my simplified version sketched above gets even more complex when ‘financial instruments’ (MBS’s, ABS’s and CDO’s, etc. descriptions of these below) are involved in the financial market dealings.

So whilst it is a fact that the financial speculating ‘wizards’ and mathematical alchemists who conjure up the various Mortgage Backed Securities, other Asset Backed Securities and Collatoralised Debt Obligations etc., are not the only ones who can lose out. The investment staff at pension companies and other institutions collecting the hard earned savings of blue and white collar working people and charities are frequently playing at the same asset-gambling ‘market’ casino and placing similar speculative bubble inducing bets. So it’s our pensions or savings schemes and even the charities we donate to which can and do suffer loss. And there is even a further knock on effect which devastates ordinary people’s lives. Don’t just take my word for it, read what the following pro-capitalist economist has written.

“The Ifo Institute (a German economic research institute RR) has monitored the economy for more than sixty years and has never observed a crisis as severe as the one that hit the world economy in 2008 and 2009. North America, Western Europe, Japan, Latin America, and the countries of the former Soviet Union were all in recession. The recession was accompanied by a financial crisis, the likes of which the world has not seen since the Great Depression. In the course of 2008, more than 100 American and British financial institutions disappeared or were nationalized in part or entirely. In Iceland all the banks were nationalized, and for all practical purposes, the country is bankrupt. Ireland, Hungary, and Greece have payment difficulties, and many think that Great Britain and Italy will also face serious difficulties. And many East European countries within and outside the EU are in trouble. At the time of giving this text a final polish, in January 2010, the recession has ended, but this may only be a temporary relief, as the banking crisis is still far from being overcome and a public debt crisis is looming.” (Casino Capitalism. Hans-Werner Sinn.)

In the wake of such large-scale, bubble-bursting events, bankruptcies, industry closures, desperate takeovers and nationalisations follow, which also shake the real economy. The results of the 2008 housing bubble collapse, for example, also devastated the lives of millions of working and middle class people around the world, who lost homes, jobs, and savings. And this was not the first time. There have been an estimated ten serious financial bubble events reported since 1929 and there were bubbles decades before then, most notably in South Sea shares (mentioned above) and buying individual Tulip Bulbs for loads of money. (Don’t laugh, that’s not fake history.) In other words enough bubbles have happened to be a warning and to be included in pro-capitalist economic theory of the 20th century. Eg.

“Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activity of a casino, the job is likely to be ill done.” (Meynard Keynes. ‘The General Theory of Unemployment, Interest and Money. Macmillan. P 159)

Although in many ways the quote above is an amazing understatement of the huge problems encountered in 1929 and again in 2008, it does indicate the negative consequences of speculation, particularly when this creates financial bubbles. The fact that the lessons of the 1929 Wall Street Crash had not been learned and were repeated in 2008 shows that perhaps the ardent pro-capitalist economist Keynes had wasted his time and energy by helpfully publishing his carefully considered findings. The captains and the accountants of the finance capital sector clearly did not take much notice of Karl Marx 19th century rigorously detailed analysis, or of Keynes in his 20th century General Theory, nor of the warnings voiced in 2000 and 2003. It would seem those in the finance-capital sector just can’t help themselves! They have acquired a form of financial addiction in which the addicts are either insensitive or oblivious to the wider implications of their collective illness.

So who gets rescued?

Well its not the pensioners, not the unemployed, not the zero-hours workers and certainly not the homeless. Despite the above noted greed, professional neglect and serious antisocial behaviour, with the exception of Iceland, the well heeled fortunes and institutions of the bankers and many finance houses were bailed out of the debt crisis they and their elite clients had brought upon themselves and us. Their buddies in politics and government had their backs and made good many of the 181 billion dollar estimated losses, from the general tax payers purse. Yes, by various means, we were all forced to pay for their bailout. The neo-liberal political and governing elite for once openly revealed their dualistic favouritism and exposed the normally hidden economic dialectic; financial profits are privatised, but financial losses are frequently socialised.

In other words, the exclusive coterie of financial speculation addicts were (and still are) comforted and supported in their addiction by the political and institutional leaders of the welfare state who use it (or rather abuse it) to support the wealthfare of their own elite class. Instead of being punished in Europe, the US and elsewhere those responsible were treated as unfortunate casualties who needed to be nursed back to health by doses of public cash, huge cheap loans and returned to their investment ‘high’ of choice. This double standard cannot be surprising since much of the establishment in the UK (as elsewhere) is not just eager to take part in and listen to the fantasy desires of the banking lobby, they have long been aiming to be the banking lobby and have largely achieved it within the British Parliament and Government. There were early warnings of that general possibility also. Eg.

“Each central bank…sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.” (C. Quigley. ‘Tragedy and Hope’. 1966)

For those with the time or inclination to explore these subsequent economic rewards in the business world I suggest dipping into ‘Parliament Ltd‘ by Martin Williams, which reveals the “dark heart of British politics” and much else.

So are more bubbles on the way?

As noted above, business as usual in the financial sector has always produced bubbles, even though they don’t happen every day or even every year, but sooner or later one or more will be inflated and burst. The logic of the capitalist mode of production makes it inevitable. This is because the function of economic activity is primarily to make vast profits for the class which own and/or control the means of production – land, buildings, machinery and labour. Historically, when the accumulated profits from industry and commerce reached such a magnitude that there were not enough profitable industrial and commercial ventures left to absorb these profits for investment purposes, other forms of investment were sought. This has increasingly been the case since the 18th century, which saw the eventual domination of the financial sector over the industrial and commercial sectors of many national economies, particularly, but not exclusively, Britain and the USA.

This symptom of financial domination continues in the 21st century. It’s direct influence was behind the not so hidden agenda of the David Cameron negotiations with the EU in 2005/6 in his attempt to shield the City of London banking empire, from EU regulations. The ‘opt out’ and safeguard clauses requested were rejected by the EU then, as now. That particular Cameron banking-version of the ‘national interest’, is still the less advertised strategy of many ‘Brexit’ politicians in the UK. Their predominant concerns include freedom for the British based finance-capital sector to do what it does best – make money for those with lots of it already. That is something the sector has been doing for a generation or two so the habit and routines of investment banking have become a set of well-honed professional (sic) skills. How these institutions take large tranches of money or credit on deposit and return it to the owners or controllers with a large dollop of extra money or credit attached to it, has been slightly sketched above.

However, in case I have insufficiently stressed the interlocked process of it’s spurious logic I will try to do so again by involving the reader in a little thought experiment. Let you, the reader, suppose that you had several millions of your countries currency in a bank account and you were not content to leave this fortune at rest, but wanted to use it to gain even more. What could you do, or who would you ask for advice? You would soon discover that the finance sector have specialists who will not only advise you for a fee, but this sector also have other specialists who design ‘financial instruments’ which you can also purchase for a fee. Now put yourself in the position of the first category of these financial consultants. They have families and standards of living to support so the first lot will do their best to recommend investment opportunities which pay a good fee to them, and if they are entirely honest (sic) and not purveyors of dodgy schemes, also offer a good return for you.

The second group, the designers of special financial vehicles and financial instruments, also have families and ambitions, so will invent or design as many investment vehicles and instruments as possible and link them directly or indirectly to some real or imagined asset. They will do so in order to obtain their salaries and considerable bonuses. Those of similar circumstances (and even better circumstances) along with institutional investors will be offered one one or more of these investment opportunities to consider. Thought experiment nearly over; but remember there are many such investors, nationally and internationally. The casinos are linked globally and the gamblers are super rich. And the above noted game is still in play every day. Now given that the world is still in a period of lower production, lower wages and higher unemployment (ie austerity) and will be for some extended time, then it is unlikely that many opportunities for investment in the production of commodities or services will be available. So in these circumstances what kind of assets are there available to the specialists, now and in the future, for them to recommend?

What kind of bubbles might emerge?

The answer is already in evidence. The obvious ones for asset-based securities are gold, silver, copper, zinc, oil etc., and some crypto – currencies, (how dodgy is BitCoin for example) whose value is likely to rise, at least in the short time. Incidentally, bubbles are probably slowly or even quickly forming in all these financialised assets as you read this article. Also the value of certain foreign currencies may stay stable or increase. Forex linked investors play at that particular crap table. [Remember the run on the British pound by the ‘short’ selling Georges Soros in 1992, a process which caused it’s devaluation and made everything we buy more expensive?] There may also be other assets categories, which emerge similar to the dot.com companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Airbnb etc., and from being good (sic) investments may become potential and actual bubbles.

Other asset probabilities such as car loan agreements, student loan agreements, pay-day loan agreements and credit card loans, can be used on the basis that most loans will be repaid. If some rich punter buys a group of these loans they can reason they will get more than the purchase price they paid. These loan commitments can be bundled into paper instruments and layered or tiered so that a mix of prime loans (highly probable repayment) and median loans (fairly probable) and sub-prime loans (high risk of default) appear on them. These, or others may become the complex asset – backed securities (ABS’s) which will be offered to those with sufficient spare cash or credit to purchase them. Interestingly, there are two reasons why loans are a probable (and attractive) asset for blinkered financiers to bundle now and in the future, particularly in the advanced countries.

First, is the fact that in a period of low pay, precarious employment and austerity, loans are a common means used by working people, to prop up family budgets. Second, the majority of people taking out loans, even those at the poorest economic level, will make practically every sacrifice possible before they will default. Second and third jobs, begging, stealing, drug – dealing and even prostitution may all be resorted to rather than have the stigma and existential consequences of defaulting on a loan. This means that a significant number of even sub-prime (pay day type) loans may offer good returns to investors in them, while those struggling to make the weekly or monthly payments to the already rich are descending into a living hell of poverty, stress and even destitution.

This scenario ensures the almost certain probability that a future bubble will be inflated in one or more of these asset groups or others not here identified or some even yet to be invented. But just as inevitably any bubble formed will eventually burst by a series of investment withdrawals and/or defaults. It is possible to say this with a high degree of certainty because we know this is exactly what happened in the case of the sub-prime housing bubble in the USA, before the final bursting of it in 2007 and the subsequent 2008 financial crisis. And actually nothing has really changed in the finance sector or the political. Revealingly, and crucially, the addicts in search of speculative investments are still cruising the financial markets and the dealers in financial instruments are still busy devising and pushing their speculative wares.

Finally.

It might be tempting for some observers to think that the highly paid specialists in the regulatory bodies set up by governments to prevent such problems will, in the future, spot them before they detrimentally explode. However, it makes no rational sense to be hopeful or so trusting. Think for a moment of the confused and detrimental mess the governing classes have got themselves in over Brexit here and building a wall or fence in the US. Even the oxymoronic statements such as Brexit means Brexit soon after the referendum here in the UK, revealed an amazing lack of rationality as well as detail. It was the equivalent of stating that ‘cheese means cheese’, whilst everyone needed to know kind of cheese they were being offered; Lancashire, Cheshire, Cheddar etc., or Camembert, Brie, Feta etc.

If politicians, such such as Brexit means Brexit May, also think that the proposal by the EU negotiators is already an agreement before Parliament has agreed to it, we can’t expect much from them or those they appoint. Also bear in mind that the same UK elite have managed to accrue government debt to the tune of almost 13 billion dollars. Technically speaking a succession of these Oxford and Cambridge ‘suits’ and assorted British aristocrats have managed to bankrupt their former empire and one of the most wealth accumulating countries in history. [Their equivalents in the US are no better.] But there is another reason why regulation of financial instruments will be ineffectual – the complexity (often mathematically so) of the financial instruments themselves. A rare confession by regulators of failing to understand what was involved was revealed in the above quoted book Casino Capitalism.

“We had resolved to approve a financial product only if at least one of us understood how it worked. We were unable to adhere to this principle, however, as we always had to fear that it would then be approved by the English or German authorities. So we closed our eyes and gave the approval.”(quoted in Casino Capitalism. Hans-Werner Sinn. Emphasis added. RR)

Reduced to bafflement at the maths involved in the complex construction of financial instrument viability (ie the calculus based betting slips) the amply salaried regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, where not actually complicit in their construction, closed their eyes and gave approval. No further comments are needed than these along with those made above on the future economic and financial prospects for countries dominated by the capitalist mode of production. And that is without elaborating the patriarchal links between finance, arms dealing, war, pollution and ecological destruction.

The examples of Britain and North America have demonstrated to humanity what ambitious and hegemonic capitalist elites can do to people, animal life and the ecological balance of the planet within just a few hundred years of complete domination by capital in all its forms. It cannot be reassuring that there are a growing number of imitators of the UK, EU and US elite career path in the rest of the world. Chinese elites, for example can’t wait to replace the current Anglo-Saxon oligarchs as the dominant military, political and economic forces throughout the world. If that thought doesn’t motivate more intellectual resistance to the present capitalist mode of production among those who bother to think about it, I am not sure – as yet – what will.

R. Ratcliffe (February 2019)

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BREXIT, BREXIT & MORE BREXIT.

I guess that most people following the news media in the UK will consider that the process of Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) is an unbelievably confused and confusing botch up. Media observers around the world also seem unable to make any sense of the numerous bickerings among the UK political class concerning the terms of the withdrawal agreement. Indeed, if one starts from the many political opinions being voiced by all and sundry over this issue it is difficult to make any overall sense of what fundamental problems are preventing a solution. ‘Why can’t they just get on with it’; is frequently heard. Contradictions together with opinions not based upon any reliable evidence are part and parcel of the daily torrent of media speculation but the underlying motives of the current fiasco are rarely exposed.

So analysing the various strains of borrowed thinking, identifying the many cases of confirmation bias, and following the useless combinations of abstractions around the Brexit issue, is a recipe for getting lost in a maze of conflicting ideas. And they are often ideas which are largely disconnected from real life and the real concerns of people who occupy the lower regions of our capitalist economic and political pyramid. Indeed, it is rarely pointed out that exiting the EU as well as the original joining the EU are decision processes exclusively initiated and guided by the UK economic and political elites. By utilising their positions of influence they have managed at each stage to convince large numbers of the public of the in or out decisions importance whilst simultaneously creating an enormous amount of internal and external confusion over precisely who really stands to gain.

Rather than analysing the current bewildering spectrum of political ramblings, I suggest we could achieve more overall clarity on what is really going on by reminding ourselves of two important points. First, this elite squabbling is nothing new. The issue of membership of European structures has always divided the British political class from way back when the European Coal and Steel Community was initiated in 1951. Secondly, it also helps to be clear on what the real underlying economic/financial forces and possible elite motives are behind the disagreements over EU exit terms. Historically this division has manifested itself most strongly within the senior members of the Conservative Party – but not exclusively. Winston Churchill (the British Prime Minister during the Second World War – 1939-45), for example, was for post-war integration in Europe, but strongly opposed to British membership of it.

Before EU membership.

In assessing this reluctance by the British elite to join a European Federation of states, a frequently missing, but very important historical fact, is the economic dimensions of that second world war. From 1919 to 1938 British and European Capitalism had been in the doldrums. Large scale unemployment and poverty for working people had broadly followed the financial and economic downturns, which characterised that period. So the Second World War was not simply a one-dimensional anti-fascist political fight against Nazi led Germany and it’s allies as it is often portrayed. It was also a massive military defence of the economic, financial and political advantages gained by British elites during the establishment of the British Empire.

A German controlled consolidated Europe would have threatened much of British Capitals 18th and 19th century international hegemony and so from the elites perspective it had to be stopped – and this was not for the first time. A previous Germanic expansionary bid in Europe had been stopped by the 1914-18 war. Therefore, with regard to the EU it is not just the general importance of these aspects of the capitalist mode of production (ie. economics, finance and politics) which need to be grasped, but also how they differentially effect the British elite and their international supporters. It is these contradictions which explain their irreconcilable differences and lies at the bottom of the decades long Europe in or out tug of war within the British Establishment.

Military defence of international economic, financial and political advantage as these effected the British elite was something Winston Churchill, for example, was strategically clear about in directing military operations during the Second World War, much to the annoyance of the USA military elite. UK capitalist interests pre and post war were still overwhelmingly for maintaining a dominant position in the markets and sources of raw materials which were the legacy of that earlier Empire and were later embodied in what became known as the British Commonwealth countries. European countries at that time (and even much later) were seen by most British elites as holiday destinations or secondary markets for goods and services but also as potential rivals for essential markets and raw materials.

So apart from a few among the financial, economic and political elite, after the 1939-45 (second) world war there was no majority for joining a federal Europe, precisely because there was no pressing economic, financial or political motive for doing so. According to a majority within the elite, Britain, was still ‘Great’, and was second among the worlds two premier and now victorious superpowers. They felt that Britain could, by maintaining a ‘special relationship’ with the USA, still go it alone at this side of the Atlantic. This sentiment among the elite majority remained largely the case for a decade or so up until the eventual decision to join the European Economic Community, for by then the economic situation in Britain and elsewhere had changed dramatically.

Rival economic powers such as America, and the revitalised previously defeated countries such as Germany, Italy and Japan had by a decade or so become economically stronger and Britain relatively and absolutely much weaker than when it controlled a thriving empire. Post-war international economic competition was increasingly fierce in the decades after that second world war. In addition, independence for many former British colonies eroded many of the special privileges that had once benefited British capitalism. As a consequence an increasing section of the economic, financial and political elite in the UK could see the obvious writing on the wall. Britain as the former workshop of the world with its empire status was something rapidly disappearing into the past. Being part of a growing European Common Market was therefore seen by an increasing number among the elite as the only realistic future.

Yet despite the emergence of such sober and scaled down post-empire perspectives, the economic, financial and political elite were still sufficiently divided upon the issue of Europe that they could not reach a consensus for joining this developing project. Many among the elite could see economic, financial or political advantages for them to join, others only saw personal economic, financial or political disadvantages from membership. Hence the long running (and often bitter) disagreements among the elite over being part of Europe which surfaced frequently. The only thing the elite could eventually agree upon was the tactic of having a referendum to decide whether the UK should join or not.

Accordingly a campaign was initiated in 1970 during which each side of the elite presented to the electorate the supposed advantages of joining, whilst the other side of the elite warned the electorate of the disadvantages of joining. In other words, the elite persuasively drew the mass of the population into making a decision which would primarily benefit one side of the ruling elite or the other. The promise (a hollow one at that) was that joining the European Union would benefit everyone. The yes vote won and the UK joined in 1973, but this did not end the elite divisions, because it did not end the fundamental differences in economic and financial needs or perspectives of the various economic and financial elites. Nor, from the standpoint of the working classes, did it end the economic and social decline of the UK workforce as a whole. Nevertheless joining muted the elite bickerings for a time as Britain was integrated into the European Economic Community.

Britain in the EU.

Meanwhile, in the UK the struggle between capital and labour continued. A ‘Winter of Discontent’ (1978/79) had witnessed the working class in the private and public sectors of employment, still trying to defend their pay and conditions against effective reductions imposed by employers and the government. Growing unemployment and reduced real term wages and salaries, had added to the structural problems of welfare state capitalism in the UK. The defeat of striking coal miners in 1984/85 further reduced purchasing power of the British working classes and increased state expenditure whilst simultaneously reducing state tax revenues. Yet the free movement of labour and capital (enshrined in the European Union Articles) ensured that employers could import cheap labour if British workers could not (or would not) work for low pay. Or alternatively owners of capital would be allowed to freely export it if better profits could be made elsewhere.

The de-regulation of financial markets in 1986 (the so-called ‘Big Bang’) and the full acceleration of the neo-liberal phase of globalisation enabled many fortunately placed people and companies to become super rich and super powerful. Thatcherite, neo-liberal, share-price populism (privatisation of gas, electricity, water, telephones, council houses) along with rising house prices also served to divert attentions from the growing structural problems of British welfare-state capitalism and masked the further domination of the financial services sector. Through inflation, unemployment and government policy a gradual reduction, of what wages and salaries of the masses could purchase, was temporarily offset by the extension of loans and credit card debt. On the surface, and in financial services accounting terms, it appeared that the British economy was booming and Europe along with it. But in fact living standards and unemployment for many working people were still getting worse whilst economic activity was being kept temporarily afloat by huge amounts of public and private debt.

And that was not all that was wrong. Since the domination of capital is a global phenomenon, it’s tentacles reach everywhere. Non-European countries with lower wage costs were quickly able to successfully compete on the world market with European Economic Community countries both in quality of products and cost. They were also easily able to penetrate European Economic Community internal markets and sell their products there. Take Japanese motorcycles, cars and electronics for example which flooded in. Or better still consider the example of South Korea. With low wages and 60 hour working week this small country single-handedly practically demolished the shipbuilding industries of all the advanced capitalist countries. In other words in general, British industrial capitalists producing commodities were losing out, whilst in general Finance capitalists loaning out out capital were gaining.

Between these two sectors the rift was growing. And note the following carefully: Membership of a club of nation states, such as the EU does not (and did not) remove or even mitigate the competitive nature of the capitalist mode of production for those producing goods. The examples of Greece, Portugal and Spain should make this fact abundantly clear. EU membership has neither protected the living standards of the blue and white-collar working classes or the professional or small business middle-classes in all E.U Countries and least of all in the cases of Greece, Spain and Portugal. Not only workers lost their employment, but small and medium capitalist concerns atrophied or collapsed. Only the finance capitalist concerns and a few fortunate industrial companies survived and prospered.

For example, the importance of financial services such as banking and insurance to UK business activity has now grown to become the largest proportion of British economic activity, whilst manufacturing and other goods sent to the EU has shrunk a relatively small proportion. So, here again the two bases for new and renewed tensions among the pro – capitalist elite in Britain (commodity capital and finance capital) has continued to develop. Some had become richer by being in, others had become poorer and wanted out. Yet other sectors such as career politicians feel their path to the Brussels gravy train now threatened. Hence, the conflicting opinions, the ambiguity and confusion.

After Brexit?

So while things were in an upward trend for banking and Euro MPs salaries and expenses, etc., things were going downhill for many – including working people – even before joining the EU. And despite some exceptions, for increasing numbers, the downward spiral of living standards and job security whilst inside the EU continued. Unlike the older generation, this historic pattern has not been experienced by the young people of Britain and Europe, and this perhaps goes some way to explain the different generational attitudes toward EU membership. Our older generation are understandably deeply cynical about the elite and this capitalist focused European union. Yet will leaving the EU really halt or reverse this decline as many older voters to leave hoped? Alternatively, would staying in improve things as many young people thought when they voted to stay? To such questions we can add another. Has staying in the EU halted or reversed this decline for ordinary people in France, Greece, Spain or Portugal? The answer is of course – no – for this decline has little to do with being in or out of the EU, but everything to do with the trajectory of global capitalism.

And it is not hard to predict the downward direction capitalism, particularly finance capitalism is taking all of us – in or out. Financial speculation, privatisation of public services and ever increasing lending is all the finance sector can do with their loan capital, when funding commodity production leads to relative overproduction – and it is – on a global scale. So as noted, the fundamental splits and divisions among the elite have not lessened but increased. Some still want out; some still want to stay in. However, another layer of disagreement has now emerged around the terms of the Brexit deal. The political elite in particular are now also split on the question of tariffs, borders, payments to Brussels and free movement of labour. But part of the split is not over tariffs or no tariffs; borders or no borders; payments, or no payments; or free movement of labour or no free movement of labour. It is about what level of tariffs, what kind of border (real or imaginary) how high the payments to Brussels will be, and how much movement of labour there will be.

Even out of the EU, under the current mode of production, UK citizens will still pay direct and indirect taxes and will still face employment competition, from low paid immigrant labour for the constantly reducing employment opportunities in UK based skilled and unskilled occupations. It is also clear, that the majority of the politicians in the UK Parliament have not grasped that the problems humanity faces are caused by the entire mode of production, not this or that tariff or back-stop borders. They too cannot see the wood for the trees. Once more, and before too long, more of the UK public will find out that they have again been conned by representatives of the political elite and their wealthy backers. For in or out of the EU, the situation for working people in general will not improve. The five-fold crisis of capitalism is global. In or out of the EU, unemployment, precarious employment, public services, public welfare, financial stability, ecological destruction and pollution will get worse, not better.

However, as we know, certain sections of the UK elite, inside or outside the EU can protect and increase their wealth and avoid taxation by clever manipulation of the rules. Likewise, movement of labour does not seriously effect economic, financial or political elite occupations in general. Despite this there is still a desire among the elites of most sectors of the economic and financial system within Europe to dominate the others. Such is the level of competition among some financial and political sectors within the EU that the UK financial sector, in particular feel it is time to get out. Indeed, it is arguably the desire, for banking regulation within the EU, particularly by German and French elites which is the prime motivation for the British finance sector wanting out and swinging it’s intellectual and financial muscle behind the campaign to leave.

Despite the lessons of 2008 financial crash, the last thing the UK bankers and financial institutions (and their affiliates) want is for their speculative activities to be regulated. And incidentally this section of the elite are no more competent than are the political sector. Neither group could see the full implications of their self – serving daily activities. The 2008 financial crash came as a surprise to those whose investment strategies caused it and incidentally they have been busy ever since creating more speculative bubbles which in time will also burst. The politicians who voted to invade Iraq allowed themselves to be fooled by dodgy dossiers and couldn’t see beyond the next parliamentary session or by election. So we shouldn’t expect anything better than short sighted self-interest, masquerading as public interest, to emerge from Brexit debates and decisions. Which is precisely what we are getting.

But whilst we are being continually bombarded by claim and counter-claim around Brexit discussions and deliberations we should not fail to note and remind ourselves of the following summary of verifiable facts: In all the decades of post war neo-liberal development, the economic and social condition of the bulk of the workers and lower middle-classes has deteriorated in most countries – whether in or out of the EU – or any other block of countries, for that matter! The condition of the working and lower middle classes in the United States of America, for example has nose – dived drastically after the few post-war years of relative affluence for some fortunate sectors ended. Understandably, the elite along with the media on either side of the Brexit and Trump wrangle and tangle fail to mention these facts for it might shift attention from the localised symptoms to the universal cause of them – the stage reached by the capitalist mode of production.

Over the same period, the fate of workers and lower middle-classes in Argentina and the rest of South America has suffered drastically at the hands of the global capitalist elite, particularly by the ‘conditions’ imposed by the IMF (International Monetary Fund). The situation, for working people in the ex – colonial countries of Africa and the Middle East, to provide yet another example, has reached such crisis levels that, (despite the Arab Spring uprisings), civil war and physical destruction of communities has become endemic rather than peace and prosperity. Again the elite and the media utterly fail to draw attention to these facts of global relative and absolute dispossession of working class economic and social well being inside or outside of economic or financial associations such as the EU .

Of course, in contrast with these global effects of international capitalism, the fate of the working classes in Europe is less severe, than their counterparts elsewhere. However, it is still not what by now should be the birthright of every human being. Adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, leisure and safety should be the guaranteed expectation of every human being. These expectations, I suggest were the content underpinning the way ordinary people voted for and against leaving the EU. As I wrote on this blog at the time, [‘In out -Shake it all About’] many ordinary people thought their lives would be better by staying in the EU, whilst many (slightly more) thought their lives would be better by getting out. In that sense there was largely a unity of content in voter aspirations but the referendum form presented by the elite created a false and divisive choice by what was dangled in front of them as an absolute necessity for an improvement in their lives.

Finally.

If for example, membership of the EU had delivered excellent or even uniformly reasonable standards of living for all Britain’s blue and white collar working class members, can it be supposed that so many millions would have voted to leave? Essentially the same disappointment behind the UK leave vote is being manifest by working people in the rest of EU countries. This is because these modern standard of living basics expectations are being denied to increasing numbers of the non-elites within Europe as well as without. As a consequence protest movements are inevitable. Despite the current different forms of activism and action, this is the universal substance of the majority of the discontented struggles around the world. From the Arab Spring to Brexit and in between and beyond, the struggle for adequate food, water, shelter and safety are the main motivation of the mass of ordinary people who are stirred into protest. Of course, this universal discontent needs to find a more universal and fitting form than the current retreat into nationalism or religious bigotry.

Increasingly, the pro-capitalist elites use the states armed forces to discipline or suppress protests against this unnatural situation of poverty and hardship alongside obscene wealth and luxury consumption. That too is a universal response to crisis by the various pro-capitalist elites. There is undoubtedly growing universal protest and universal oppression in the 21st century and 2019 will be no exception. It is clear that the elites in control of the nation states of Europe and elsewhere do not see their role as enabling and facilitating the above noted basics of human well being for all, but see their responsibility as defending the capitalist mode of production and their parasitic position within it – at all costs. So Brexit aside, with regard to the EU, it is an undeniable fact that working people, white-collar and blue, not only in the UK but in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and now France (yellow vests) are daily registering their disapproval of EU neo-liberal capitalism. The voters of these countries just haven’t been given the choice to leave or stay – yet!

The real important issue facing the current working and middle-classes of Britain, Europe and the rest of the world for a better future is not the elite-led Brexit campaign or any other nationalistic or chauvinistic ‘back-to-the-future’ campaign. When a global mode of production is constructed so as to be unable and unwilling to deliver the above mentioned basics of modern existence to all its citizens, a really intelligent species, particularly the young of that species, should be organising to change that mode of production. They and we should not be taking sides in the petty squabbles of a Brexit divided pro-capitalist elite who use the masses as voting fodder to settle which of their sides gets the biggest share of our communally created wealth in the future. From the perspective of the bulk of humanity within the UK and Europe as well as the rest of the world, Brexit is a trivial distracting pantomime that solves none of the crucial economic, financial, political, ecological and climate issues facing the bulk of humanity and the planet.

R. Ratcliffe (January 2019)

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BUSINESS AS USUAL.

Recent events, again reveal that for the capitalist elite, business considerations, come before all else. Profit and revenue streams are exposed as the twin real-world Gods worshipped by the capitalist class. It is the single-minded pursuit of profit which can and often does, render the capitalist class indifferent to any remnants of morality or humanity that remain within their ‘official’ world views and adopted religions. This observation is nothing new. In Capital volume 1, Marx included the following quote in his chapter on the genesis of Industrial capital;

“…With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 percent, will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 percent certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent, positive audacity; 100 per cent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, or a risk it will not run…” (Quoted in Capital volume 1 Page 760.)

It is a matter of historical record, that business as usual during the formative stages of the domination of capital, involved chasing resources for profit whatever this involved and wherever they could be found – even if this was at sea or on foreign soil. But I suggest that in substance it hasn’t really changed since those earlier times. I have frequently heard from capitalist apologists that modern capitalism is no longer the raw predatory system it was during its early development or it’s later colonialist and imperialist forms. Killing people who get in the way, armed invasions, conquest and slavery in pursuit of profit are alleged to be things of the past. Except, when we stop to think about it – ‘everybody knows’ – they are not. Slavery has just morphed into modern forms – so much so that detection and prosecution of it now has a place in law enforcement in many countries. Armed invasions have not really ended, they have merely been scientifically modernised, and new pretences invented to justify them. Similarly, the killing of opponents by political elites is still practised with impunity. Only a few decades ago in 1983, for example, an Amnesty International Report on ‘Political Killings by Governments’ noted that;

“Day after day Amnesty International receives reports of deliberate killings by the army and the police, by other regular security forces, by special units created to function outside normal supervision…by government assassins…… Or tortured before they are killed…….Sometimes, the killings are ordered at the highest level of government….Governments try to cover up the fact that they have committed political killings. They deny that the killings have taken place…” (Amnesty 1983 page 5, emphasis added, RR)

Does any of that ring a bell in 2018? With the development of drones and smart bombs, the situation has got even worse in the years since 1983. Agents of governments getting up close and personal to ‘bump someone off’ has been largely superseded; by considerable global distance, the use of a satellite linked computer screen and a button to press; but not completely. The cases of Kelly, Litvinenko, Skripal and now Khashoggi – to mention only the most recent ones – have indicated that ‘specialists’ in that most inhumane line of business as usual are still being paid out of citizen’s tax payments. Presumably they are salaried and/or rewarded whether they bungle the operation or not.

Whatever we think of these and other state orchestrated violent actions, under the capitalist mode of production, most of us have no say in what is done by the state in our name. That also goes for the deployment and delivery of weapons of mass murder/destruction as when a countries combatants and non-combatants are frequently bombed into oblivion. Whether the atrocities are large or small, we are paying for the ordinance and delivery systems to eradicate members of our species at the whim and fancy of a select few in the highest positions of political, bureaucratic and military power. We can protest and demonstrate, but to no avail.

How states get away with individual murders.

To get away with murder it helps to have friends in high places. Control of a nation-state is even better. However, you still need friends in those high places. That way the crime scene can be cleansed of evidence, and specialist teams of detectives will be held back and not allowed to follow the evidence or given permission to become fully operational. It helps also to have an embassy which is off limits to independent scrutiny and where such activities can be planned and ‘executed’. Otherwise, once a murder is suspected, yellow tape goes up, police cordons are deployed, forensic experts move in, suspects are rounded up, DNA samples are taken from walls, ceilings, carpets, vehicles, people, clothing and processed methodically. The states elite can avoid or circumvent such inconvenient details and processes and just deny anything happened. Or if that’s not possible, deny any connection with the obvious chain of events.

Mysterious (or mythical) rogue elements can also be blamed or invented, for any undeniable atrocity, or failing that, the obvious perpetrators can be temporarily arrested and then released for lack of evidence – easy, since the evidence is no longer there. Later, sometimes much later, perpetrators can be rewarded as they were undoubtedly promised prior to their calculated inhumanity. In an extreme case with potential negative repercussions a fall guy or two can be sacrificed to the expediency of engineering a ‘satisfactory’ (sic) closure to the whole business. That way everyone can be effectively encouraged to move on. This pattern is as old as the existence of organised and armed elites and despite modern universal human rights rhetoric and due process legal requirements, it is still repeated – as everybody knows. What is perhaps relatively new is a return by the modern elites to the arrogant brazeness of the ancient elites when confronted with their malfeasance.

Such brazeness is demonstrated in the case of the assassination of the Saudi critic Khashoggi. Even without access to the Turkish tape recordings, everybody knows roughly what happened, who was involved and who in a highly authoritarian elite system must have authorised the brutal assassination, but that doesn’t matter. The elite strategy is to just keep denying it. And it seems as if official denial will work yet again. Of course it only works because economic considerations and its companion in crime political considerations, come before everything else. Real estate investments, oil company supply chains, weapons sales, financial deals and the profit streams that flow into the bank accounts of the elites, all must be protected by silence or turning a blind eye. Individual human rights remain as just abstractions on paper, more in the form of window dressing to cover up what is really going on inside the system, than descriptions of what will actually happen. In reality all this plausible (and implausible) denial is just business as usual. And it’s the same with mass murder.

Getting away with murder on a massive scale.

It cannot have escaped the notice of anyone other than those not in contact with any form of information, that large-scale murder is being perpetrated in many parts of the world, particularly in the middle east and Africa and that the weapons and support vehicles supplied to carry out these large scale murders are manufactured in highly developed capitalist countries. In other words supplying the means of killing on a large scale is business as usual for a number of branches of capitalist production. Without large scale killing, weapons manufacturers would have to shut up shop or manufacture other things and ancillary suppliers would have to down size their manufacturing capacity. There is therefore, among some sections of capitalist industry, a perverse material incentive to be content with global instability and hostility if not a motive to actively promote it, via their political and military connections.

Since war has long been good for business, a period of mass murder as currently practiced in Syria and Yemen, by bombing, shelling, missile delivery, for example, must be openly or secretly welcomed by those who manufacture these body shredding and building shattering materials and the means to deliver them against their unfortunate victims. What profitable months and years these last decades must have been for these manufacturers of tools of calculated inhumanity and genocide and their shareholders. War profiteering, of course, is as old as war, but of course it doesn’t stop at guns and bombs. Destructive hostilities must also be seen as a boon by other sections of the capitalist economic and political elite also; for after destruction comes reconstruction.

Architects, engineers, construction companies, building supplies, etc., are usually eager to step into the newly created apocalyptic landscape and profit from such war-delivered opportunities. As far as I am aware, the profits made by the Anglo-Saxon military industrial complex during the first and second Gulf Wars, have never been publicly assessed, but there were glimpses of the billions made and disappearing during the post-invasion reconstruction free for all in Iraq once Saddam had been toppled. My guess is the combined profits of destruction, supply and reconstruction, if known, would be astronomical and that much of the money will have been ploughed into the life – styles of the rich along with the campaign funds of political parties dedicated to keep the insanity of economic competition and war moving along.

This is without mentioning the thousands upon thousands of dead, men, women and children and the devastated lives of millions of human beings – which in fact, along with profiteering, is also rarely mentioned in the popular media. Indeed, it would be hard in imagination to devise such a perverse incentive as the economic reality developed under capitalism. The complimentary and ‘logically’ (yes logically in terms of capital) reinforcing activity cycle of calculated profitable competition, followed by profitable destruction of a competitor or reluctant client, followed by calculated profitable reconstruction, is a form of collective insanity for the human species in economic terms, let alone in species terms. No other species routinely works out the means to destroy large numbers of its own kind and then implements these means on a systematic and regular basis. Two capitalist inspired World Wars in the 20th century, with tens of millions dead and scarcely a year without some military activity or slow genocide since, are examples of this schizophrenic insanity promoted by the elite and their capitalist mode of production. The incessant continuity of this creative destruction and self – destruction also denies in reality the recent hypocritical rhetoric of remembrance.

The probable wishes of the millions who died fighting the 1914-18 war, a war to end all wars that they signed up for has been largely ignored as well as forgotten by those elite, wreath laying, hypocrites who have not only benefited economically from the deaths they celebrate, but benefit politically from appearing to care about this ultimate sacrifice of a generation. All this celebratory saluting and posturing they invariably carry out before (or even after) signing the orders to bomb this or that city or town in some far away place or mobilise yet more armed troops to meddle in yet another proxy war. Yet such was the experience of the horrors of total war and the inhumanity war created in the 19th and 20th centuries, that bourgeois ideology was obliged to at least insert some theoretical distance between itself and the most extreme forms of aggressive economic expansion.

The production of a Human rights rhetoric.

Ideas for ‘a perpetual peace’ and ‘Courts of Arbitration’, had been launched in the late 18th century (Kant) and early 19th, but American elites (James, Taft, Carnegie et al) led the way in the 19th and 20th with formation of a number of organisations such as the ‘Association for International Conciliation’. The main motivation of many of the US elites, whose donations and prestige headed the ‘peace movement’ at that time, was not wanting to interrupt business as usual. The reason being that at that time America had won enough territory and resources by war from the Native Indians and Mexico, it had no urgent need for further expansion. Not so in Europe. The industries of many small developing capitalist countries were already outgrowing their resource base and market access and many of their business and political leaders were eager for more of both. The dominant elite just needed an excuse. Hence, the Crimean War (or, Britain and France preventing a land grab by Russia – thousands dead!) and then the first full-on block buster performance – the First World War (Britain and France countering a land grab by Germany and achieving their own land grab in the middle east – millions dead!) followed by the second atomic performance in World War Two (countering German and Japanese land grabs – many millions dead).

Very little peace, conciliation, arbitration or humanity between nations were displayed during those years. Nevertheless, the prosecution of the Nazi elite form of aggressive expansion at Nuremburg in 1945-46, required some sophisticated intellectual rebuff to their actual war conduct as it did with regard to Japan. This was done by western legal representatives mining the thin layers of humanist thinking laid down between the many centuries of sectarian intellectual sediment deposited by competitive religious elites. Intellectual fossils of humanism were found and retrieved amid the detritus of religious, racist and eugenic nonsense which had by then spread it’s suffocating and distorting cloud upon human thinking across the globe. However, in these so-called human rights provisions of the reinvigorated League of Nations/United Nations, etc., armed hostilities were not to be ended! How could they be under an expansive, industrialised competitive form of economic production such as capitalism? Everybody knew war was economics and politics by other means.

However, in future civilian targets were to be excluded from any armed outcomes of this capitalist competitive struggle for markets and resources. At least that was the theory underlying the much vaunted political rhetoric. Yet how often has that provision been fulfilled in practice? Was it fulfilled in the Korean War? In the Vietnam War? And what about the armed invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, Libya, Syria and now Yemen? To understand this bicamerial mentality (or split personality) of the modern pro-capitalist elite we need to recognise that the capitalist mode of production is now a global economic system with an insatiable appetite for resources and markets. Elites living within the countries with the most advanced productive techniques will use every method to ensure their producers get the most resources and markets possible. In a sense, they have to do this because the capitalist method of production is the foundation upon which their entire lives depend. Unless they undergo a sudden epiphany and wake up to the fact that their system and their role in it is the problem for humanity and not the solution, they will blindly carry on.

So the fact that there exist eloquent discourses and solemn documents containing ideas of human rights and the need for due processes does not mean they will always be acted upon. Indeed, if such ideas get in the way of business as usual, in all probability they will not be. That is the message openly delivered by Donald Trump to the press when asked about possible censure over the assassination and dismemberment of the mildly dissident Khashoggi as well as the bombing and starvation of the people of Yemen. You see accommodation to the needs of the regime which implemented these callous and brutal acts is good for business. They invest a lot in America and UK and buy a lot of American and British products, particularly weapons. Left unsaid in many such interviews was the fact that a lot of profitable investments in Saudi are made by American and European elite individuals and businesses which may be threatened by any form of censure of the perpetrators of these crimes. Hence the almost universal lack of robust condemnation or meaningful action.

Business as usual for many of the elite means eagerly cutting deals with dictators, strong men and perpetrators of genocide as long as the profit or salary is large and safe enough. The unique thing about Donald Trump is that he is brazen enough to admit it openly. You see, its a no-brainer for a capitalist with no moral aversion to crimes against others. Dictators and strong men can offer near monopolies, prime locations and guarantees to favoured people and so cultivating a friendly working relationship with such regimes (Saudi, Russia, North Korea etc.) is often a temptation too strong for some – including Mr Trump and his family. However, he (and they) are not alone, as you might think from the barrage of criticism he is getting from a section of his class and the media. Many others in America, UK and around the globe adopt the same business strategy but unlike the current US President they like to pretend to be appalled at such horrors. This allows them to appear different in substance to such openly brazen representatives of their class. But behind any crocodile tears their substance is just the same as Donald’s. It is the location and capture of profitable returns on capital and negotiating sources of revenue stream. Most of the political and business elite, after uttering or muttering disapproving platitudes are happy to keep their focus on the personal upside and maintain a discrete silence with regard to the ‘dark side’ of business as usual with authoritarian regimes.

For this reason, looking the other way, turning a blind eye along with initiating competitive wars of one kind or another, (economic, financial, military or civil) are an inevitable consequence of the elites own survival as a class. And since most of the elite will not be in the direct firing line, the decision to unleash military engagements and engage in regional armed conflicts will be taken far more easily than would otherwise be the case. This itself is bad enough, one might think, but human focussed destructive war is not the only war ‘business as usual’ capitalism is engaged in. The very same underlying assumptions of the competitive need for profit and ever increasing productivity in production techniques and methodologies requires, the most cost – effective forms of energy supply, resource extraction, transport systems, distribution networks and waste disposal methods. Whilst cost-effective does not necessarily mean the cheapest and easiest (although it often does) it does imply it will certainly not be the most expensive and safe methods which will be chosen.

Getting away with killing other species.

The past cycles of ‘business as usual’ governed by capital has led to the present situation of extensive air, sea and land pollution, climate change, species reduction and even species extinction. The incessant search for raw materials with which to manufacture commodities, the need to sell them on a massive scale in order to realise the surplus-value embodied within them has led to large scale overproduction. Overproduction of commodities, overproduction of manufacturing waste products, overproduction of energy sources (carbon and nuclear) and the overproduction of used and abandoned products is now – business as usual for capitalism. The phenomena of relative over-production still exist (ie. producing more than can be sold at a profit), but in terms of, climate change, fresh water use, air and sea quality we are approaching absolute industrial overproduction. And in spite of that obvious fact most of the elite think we need even more production and productivity!

Yet these aspects of business as usual amounts to the equivalent of a war against the natural world as it evolved over millions of years to sustain all forms of life. Since the natural world of climate, weather patterns, air, water and soil quality, are the foundations upon which nature and humanity has evolved and upon which we still depend, this industrialised war against all these natural resources is also an indirect war against – ourselves! It is another example of the near insanity of a species which is now – courtesy of capitalist mode of production – producing tools and processes aimed at it’s own partial or absolute (ie. nuclear) destruction. This is not only directly through competitive wars involving genocidal levels of attrition but also indirectly through the incessant destruction of the very basis for our own natural existence.

Global capitalism is akin to a huge factory churning shiny new and enticing gadgets and objects out of the front door whilst at the same time oozing out dangerous liquid and powdered chemical filth from the rear door and belching out noxious poisonous fumes from its chimneys. But because as consumers most of us have become so enamoured and fixated with the gadgets and gizmo’s pouring out the shop front that we choose to ignore or tolerate the fatal contamination of our environment via an endless discharge out of its less than enticing and frequently putrid backside. (genuine Eco-Warriors are excepted from this criticism.) For this reason the existence of a 24 hour, 7 days per week, global production, consumption and disposal system will continue for now – and all the consequences briefly outlined here (and elsewhere) are likely to increase. For like drug addicts, the capitalist elite are on the one hand in receipt of a huge profit-stream, fiscal ‘high’ from the investments and sales of the gizmos/gadgets and on the other, in a state of denial about the long term effects of their addiction to profit on the health of the entire planet.

Finally.

We need not be fooled by the capitalists and pro – capitalist politicians into thinking that working people need capitalism to provide jobs otherwise we would all be homeless and starving. This is a frequent ill-thought out threat presented by politicians and pundits who thereby only demonstrate their own ignorance and bias. For a start many people are homeless and starving whilst living under the capitalist mode of production and the numbers are rapidly increasing not reducing. Second, not all occupations which earn a living are based upon the return of profit from capital. Elsewhere on this blog I pointed out that all the states employees (local and national) in all countries are working for non – profit organisational forms and that includes the well paid political class and many of the simple minded pundits noted above. Third, not all forms of production need to be polluting and most skills are transferable. The skills it takes to design and manufacture a complex weapon can be transferred to making medical equipment or something else not lethal. Planning for destruction can be transferred to planning for construction or reconstruction. Most human skills are transferable and where not, new skills can be learned given sufficient incentive.

With time and commitment available to produce much needed commodities, (ie without the need to make a profit) waste can be minimised, and methods devised to minimise or eliminate excessive energy use. There are alternatives to producing for profit and already two – thirds of workers in advanced countries are employed in non-profit public services and often on better terms and conditions than those in the private sector. So we needn’t be fooled by the pro – capitalist lament that we need to work faster and work for less or they will take their profit-making, precarious, polluting jobs elsewhere, for there are alternatives. And I don’t mean the state-capitalist alternatives of Fascism, Bolshevism or Maoism. It just requires the will, determination and numbers to make some radical and revolutionary changes. And yes another world is possible because half of it (the public and cooperative sectors) has already come into being. They just need extending to all, democratising and redirecting into saving the planet and it’s inhabitants rather than destroying them.

The bulk of Humanity may not yet want to recognise, fully understand or positively confront any of aspects of the six – fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production, but that doesn’t mean they will be shielded from its effects. The looming crisis in one or other of the six areas (financial; social; political; economic; environmental; or legal) will visit them sooner or later, if it has not done so already. Sadly, modes of production are not changed by people until these crisis symptoms have negatively impacted the lives of more than just the usual exploited and oppressed groups of society. The latter have learned to put up with the many negative aspects of the system they have been born into. On the other hand, those who currently benefit from the system, marginally or otherwise, are yet to wake up to the full import of their pro-capitalist actions and ideas. The crisis in one form or another may have to shake them quite violently to finally rouse them out of their virtual dream world of present and future technological fixes and face stark reality. Meanwhile keeping alternative ideas alive and in the public domain is the best that us old revolutionary-humanists and exhausted activists can do.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2018)

For those interested in the ‘Business as usual’ phenomena in the realm of British politics, I recommend; ‘Parliament Ltd.’ (A journey into the dark heart of British politics) by Martin Williams. Although he arrives at reformist conclusions the evidence he uncovers is compelling.

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WRECKING BALL POLITICS.

A wrecking ball is an extremely blunt instrument used in the demolition trade to demolish crumbling and outmoded buildings. It is less destructive than the explosive charges used to bring down tall buildings, but like that method it also smashes through everything in its path. It is not an instrument capable of selective targeting. Masonry, glass, wood are all the same to this swinging ball of metal on a long chain. Metaphorically speaking, the western pro-capitalist political elites have for decades directed economic and political wrecking balls against the living standards of the working classes of their respective countries. They have swung them repeatedly at the trade unions and all but demolished these defensive institutions of the working classes.

The political elite of all complexions have swung economic and political wrecking balls at the wages of working people and reduced these to the point where wages for millions are below official poverty levels. Not content with this punitive level of demolition w ork, the elites have also swung austerity wrecking balls at many of the public institutions which for a time ameliorated the lives of working people. Libraries, Museums, Parks, Swimming Pools and Youth Clubs are among the low-cost services used by working people, in their leisure time which have disappeared or been allowed to atrophy. Free higher education, which allowed some children of working people, to attend university has been abolished in favour of imposing considerable financial obstacles and burdens on those dedicated individuals who persist in trying.

In addition, the landscape and infrastructure of many working class towns and villages looks as if an actual wrecking ball has been at work in some areas whilst in other places, boarded up shops, factories and commercial properties look as if they are just waiting for their turn to receive the same destructive attention. Within the span of one generation hope and aspiration for a better future has all but died within the working classes of Europe and North America. Over the same period the promises made by a once grateful capitalist elite for the working class sacrifices during the Second World War, have been cast aside. Everything, working people have previously done; strikes, demonstrations, petitions, appeals, letters to the media, formation of self-help groups, community initiatives etc.; have failed to stem the progressive destruction of their communities, by the neo-liberal policies promoted by all political parties.

For decades, no matter which traditional political party, (left, right or centre) got in power, the wrecking balls were relentlessly targeted toward the demolition of working class communities. Resistance has proved futile. But this process has left a strong legacy of resentment and anger based upon the unfairness of the present mode of production. For example; after interviewing over 5,000 people from depressed communities in France and Germany, the authors of a report (‘Return to the Politically Abandoned’ at http://www.progressives-zentrum.org), concluded the following;

“Media and politics at the national level are criticised for not having properly adopted this ‘citizens agenda’. This problem also results in a sense of unfairness and disadvantage. As such, when people in these regions devalue others, especially migrants, they do so as a reaction to their own experiences of devaluation (this follows the ‘logic of comparative devaluation’). Importantly, the interviews demonstrated no intrinsic patterns of xenophobia.”

This research replicates that done in the UK by Demos (see ‘Neglected Voices’ on this blog and/or https://www.demos.co.uk/project/citizens-voices/ for the original documentation.) and shares similar conclusions. Since everything else has so far failed, this has led to a new tactic by some workers. No longer able to promote beneficial reforms, actively resist or attempt to reverse the neo-liberal direction of capitalism, many working class voters have found an alternative way to at least partially hit back at the existing state of affairs. This alternative, has taken the form of voting for political candidates, (where they surface) who are in some way or another anti-establishment. Any new political candidates with convincing rhetoric against the liberal left perpetrators of neo-liberal economic policies and their divisive pursuit of identity politics, is enough to attract a vote from sections of the working class. The backing of such candidates, often right wing radical ones, is frequently a temporary expression of ‘the enemy of my enemy, is my friend syndrome. A mistaken tactic indeed, but in the present circumstances an understandable one.

There is undoubtedly a hope among many voters that such candidates, if elected, will at least take a ruthless intellectual and public swipe at the world view of the neo-liberal elite of left, centre and right persuasions. And a hope among many others that such candidates once elected will take a legislative wrecking ball to many of the established economic policies and state – funded stipends of the current self-satisfied political classes and their supporters in the media. That very few such radical candidates have emerged from the left of the political spectrum explains why many workers have chosen right – wing radicals to mount a frontal assault against aspects of the ‘system’. This in part explains the attraction in the USA, of Donald Trumps slogans of ‘draining the swamp’; and, ‘making America great again’, along with his war of words with much of the news media. It also goes some way to explaining the vote for Brexit in the UK. The job for the boys European Parliament swamp is much resented by many unemployed workers and those in poorly paid precarious employment. Getting out of the EC can be viewed as one way of stopping mega payments going to line the trough which the bureaucrats are getting fat from. And this tactic is spreading.

The election of Messias Bolsonaro in Brazil is yet another example of what I have metaphorically characterised as wrecking ball politics developing in the western hemisphere. As noted above, other examples have been the election of Donald Trump in the USA and the Brexit vote in the UK. My contention is that a section of the electorate in Europe and the west have all but given up with the bourgeois establishment parties of right, left and centre and since in contemporary politics there are no viable alternatives, they are not just voting against the established parties but voting for what can appear to be wrecking ball candidates. That is to say that the voter disgust in the crumbling outdated political structures and state institutions of the west (and their elite incumbants) has not quite reached the conclusion to pull the whole economic and political edifice down and erect something different, but large numbers are happy to see a wrecking ball in the form of a maverick politician swung at certain aspects of it.

In the USA, Donald Trump, during the election campaign, promised to take a swing at the ‘job-robbing’ global industrialists, (and instead create jobs for American workers) he promised another big swing at the establishment-biased media (characterised as manufacturers of fake news) and yet another swing at the jobs-for-the-boys establishment corruption, (also metaphorically characterised as draining the Washington swamp), all of which he did in speech after speech. Since election he has continued to do so. Perhaps that was all a section of the electorate expected of him and as long as he keeps doing this he fulfils such limited expectations. Republican retention of the recent senate elections would seem to confirm this, even if losing the house does not. Other supporters of Mr Trump may have other expectations, but of course Mr Trump is a commercially based capitalist and his political wrecking ball swings have his own pro-capitalist agenda to guide it. Consequently he will only take a swing at those things get in the way of his view of how US capitalism should function.

Incidentally, the recently publicised difference between the so – called nationalism of Donald Trump and the internationalism of Macron, around the remembrance events of the 1st World War, is a manufactured sham. Capitalism and its competitive impulse cannot be contained within the geographical limits of a continent, let alone a single country, as the two World Wars demonstrated. [see ‘1914 – 18, Capitalism’s First World War’, etc., on this blog] Both of these elites – as with all global elites – have vested economic and financial interests across the globe, whether as businesses, investments or lucrative consultancies. However, with the exception of countries within the European Community, their political interests can only be served within the boundaries of the nation state. Hence, their contradictory assertions.

Brussels, while it lasts, offers yet another lucrative avenue for some failed European politicians as the trajectory of the greedy UK Kinnock family dynasty illustrates. The source of many apparent contradictions and split personalities among such elites is to be found within these two areas of the capitalist mode of production. Their economic and financial interests have long outgrown national boundaries, whilst their electoral interests have not. As a consequence, what emphasis such elites place upon each aspect or how often they irritate each other and fall out can vary from time to time. Their deeply divided minds reflect their deeply divided interests.

In France, disillusionment with establishment politics of left, right and centre saw the election of Macron as a more polished and refined European wrecking ball to take what was thought of by many voters as a much needed demolition of party political corruption – in all its forms. Predictably, this personification of a French pro-capitalist political wrecking ball has also his own class agenda and has already targeted the socio-economic interests of the very voters who helped to push him into the political arena. Now it is the turn of Brazil and here we see, perhaps more clearly, the reason for the election of a maverick with an anti-establishment agenda. The corruption of the liberal socialist left in Brazil, with its top – down state controlled agenda, has disgusted many voters who aren’t dependent upon patronising state handouts. This dependency also indicates why this form of left retains its popularity amongst those who cannot see beyond the domination of capital.

However, to continue with the slum clearance analogy: in real ‘on site’ demolition work, wrecking balls don’t always swing in the way the onlookers would like them to. Even the operators can be at risk from an accidental trajectory if it unexpectedly swings toward them. Like an unrestrained pendulum wrecking balls can actually flail this way and that and they can also be directed at one or two targets most of us would not want to be hit. And of course, that is exactly what is happening with the election of these political wrecking balls. Things are still getting worse for working people despite any amused satisfaction at the infighting among the political elite. How long it will take, or how many undeserved targets will be needed to be hit for the personified wrecking ball tactic to work its way out of the voting psychology, is not easy to calculate. However, wrecking balls, even political ones, are not tools for construction but are only good for destruction and this will eventually become clear to everyone, as will the need for an alternative strategy instead of  a limited tactic.

Meanwhile, the spectacle of the pro-establishment left and right verbally jousting with each other and maintaining that only they are the arbitrators of ‘truth’ and consequently the only reliable shepherds of struggling humanity, is at least extremely amusing. Providing that is, that the working classes don’t get drawn like lambs to the slaughter into joining one political side or the other and become irreconcilably split over which set of arrogant exploiters and oppressors they would prefer to be ruled by. If this should occur it would certainly not be a laughing matter. For that way engineered political divisions can be eventually transformed by degrees into civil discord and civil discord can then be manipulated into civil wars as well as international wars.

That is to say the type of wars, in which the working classes become the two opposed sets of cannon fodder in furtherance of rival elite supported solutions to the crisis of the capitalist mode of production. This is no empty or wild assertion for such a political bifurcation and divisive downward progression occurred in at least four European countries during the 1920’s and 1930’s (Italy, Germany, France and Spain, for example) and has again occurred in the countries which took part in the 21st century Arab Spring – Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. These represent further examples of the slippery slope of choosing an apparent lesser evil and watching it become the evil it had previously manage to mask. And all those those sequential politically engineered transitions from initial hope to desolate tragedy have been anything but a laughing matter.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2018)

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WAYS OF THINKING (Part 3)

Thinking and language.

It is obvious that thinking precedes language and that thinking does not entirely depend upon language. New born babies do not have language skills, which they have yet to acquire, but anyone bringing up children from birth know that new-born’s are thinking. Their eyes, ears, taste and touch senses are very soon operating satisfactorily and the experiences gained are being processed and stored in their developing brains. Staring, head movement, smiles, and coos, along with cries and occasional giggles on being tickled are the main outward expressions of the fact that thinking is going on in their heads. Well before they can speak, they can find things funny, which requires a sophisticated brain process of knowing something is different and in a certain context that difference is also funny. Indeed, I also know from direct experience, that babies between 1 or 2 years old, before they can speak can learn to communicate with their parents by sign language, if only by a limited number of signs. This, pattern of learning and development through into adulthood is evidence, that thinking does not require language or any previous form of two way communication, but it is also evidence that language acquisition requires thinking.

Indeed, we humans have the ability to think about language and understand its many contradictions, if we care to. Undoubtedly, thinking should determine the language we use, but if we are not careful language can also determine how we think. These facts, along with the knowledge that many animals and birds think and even reason, without spoken and written language, does not diminish the importance of language in the development of human thinking. Language has been rightly claimed to be one of the most important social inventions and developments that humanity has created and crafted. Its acquisition and development over thousands of years has undoubtedly had effects upon the evolutionary expansion of human knowledge and skills along with the increased capacity of the brain. Language undoubtedly accelerates individual learning by codifying and socialising knowledge within and across communities and generations. Language is how we get most of our information about and knowledge of the world. Language has become part of what it is to be human. So much so that children in general become fluent speakers, well before school age. Indeed, it is hard to get them to keep quiet as question after question is uttered in search of information to expand their understanding and vocabulary.

However, language is such powerful and versatile tool that we know from experience that it can be used in four distinct ways. First; to impart accurate information. Second; to obscure, distort or deny accurate information. Third; to spread misinformation or disinformation. Fourth, to create imaginary information. I think it fair to say that all members of the human species use language in each of the four above – noted ways in their daily lives. Consequently, we have all been in receipt of a mix of accurate information, inaccurate information, misinformation, disinformation and imaginary information, delivered by strangers, friends, family members and even our most intimate partners. And, if we are honest, perhaps being guilty of those other uses of language ourselvelves. Nevertheless, accurate information is commonly held to be the preferred default mode for the ‘civilised’ and humanist use of language. However, it must be obvious to almost everyone, that in fact outside of good science, history and academic discourse, language in the public domain is used more to avoid accuracy than to enhance it. Capitalist sales and marketing, for example, more often than not, use language in the second way to avoid telling accurate information about some aspect of their products, services or production processes.

Politicians, Governments and Financial Institutions, all indulge in the use of language in the second and third way, to spread misinformation or disinformation about actions and decisions, they would prefer their citizens or voters not to have an accurate knowledge about. If dodgy dossiers and state-sponsored poisonings are not enough to convince the reader of this practice, following the ‘official’ language used by the various state elites around the ‘disappearance’ of the Saudi critic Khashoggi, should do so. That particular example will provide the reader with the latest, and an even more bizarre example than usual, of this second and third misuse of language by elites. Coincidentally, in an article printed in the Washington Post in the aftermath of his disappearance and later admitted death, Mr Khashoggi, had written;

“A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche,…and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative.”

Of course Mr Khashoggi was referring to the Saudi State, but his remarks are equally applicable to many other states and even those with a modicum of press freedom, come pretty close to emulating this domination of the public psyche with false narratives. Its simply how elites operate to survive, they just can’t help themselves. And although fiction writers are the ones who predominantly use language in the fourth way (to produce imaginary information), it cannot have escaped our notice that, this fourth category also makes frequent appearances across the board in commercials, newspapers, the above-noted dodgy government dossiers, ‘official’ investigations, state cover ups and carefully crafted political statements.

For the record, although not usual, imaginary/fictitious information is not entirely unknown in science, history and academic discourse; statistics have been frequently made up, dubious hypothesis often described as fact, creative imagination woven skilfully to assert, connect and even disconnect historical facts. Nevertheless, despite numerous malicious aberrations such as those mentioned above, the humanist essence of language use I suggest ought to be the accurate conveyance of information between each other. None of us like being mislead, even though it happens to us all the time under the present class based mode of production. So in this third article I will continue to make the case that revolutionary-humanists should aim for the utmost accuracy in their use of language and should challenge misinformation and disinformation and inaccuracy whenever and wherever it arises. I suggest, a healthy criticism of almost everything that exists is much better advice, than believe everything you read or hear.

Word accuracy and meaning.

In the first article in this series of three (ie Ways of Thinking -1 ) I shared a list of stages in a process of thinking which combines the best aspects of materialist and idealist thinking and builds upon them to embrace a dialectical method of understanding grounded in reality. The first of these stages stressed the need to accurately know what something is identified as – ie word accuracy. This is important in public written discourse, because that is different than personal dialogue. In spoken dialogue, language and meaning can be dependent on context and how a word is stressed, but that context can be entirely missing in written communication. The author Dostoyevski in one of his diaries recorded how he heard six drunken male friends use the same inappropriate swear word with different stresses, volumes and body movements to express six different views on the same issue during their way home from the inn. I am sure the reader can confirm a similar or parallel example to that from their own experience. Among close friends and partners it is often the case that sentences started by one friend can be completed by another. This dialogue aspect of language is – in most cases – a directly negotiated communication where meaning can be communicated by body language, volume, tone, facial expression and prior understanding as well as fewer words. In dialogue, word accuracy is not always essential, for meaning, even if it is always desirable.

A recognition of this fluidity with regards to the words and concepts chosen in communication suggests the following. That in serious written or spoken communication of a factual kind, the accurate use of words and descriptions is necessary for at least two reasons. First, because the negotiated context and emotional contact of direct speech communication is missing. Second, because deliberate or accidental use of inaccurate words and descriptions leads to confused, mistaken or distorted thinking. Furthermore, in a world in which most of our information and knowledge comes to us via others, rather than our own direct experience, we need extra care. When important issues are being considered, we at least need to be sure that words and concepts are being used accurately. It is here that we need to recognise the effect upon language and thought of modes of production in which there are unequal class divisions. In such cases, the dominant class, tends to monopolise the production of information and ideas, via its domination and control of those occupations which demand a high degree of literacy and self-confidence. As Marx noted;

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch, the ruling ideas: ie., the class which is the ruling ‘material’ force of society is at the same time its ruling ‘intellectual’ force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relations,….” (Marx. ‘The German Ideology’. Section 3.)

This ideological domination leads to an increase in the frequency of monologues, in which the representatives of the ruling class tell the rest of the population what to think and how to think via the media in all its forms – school, church, cinema, television, radio, magazines, newspapers, books, pamphlets, posters, etc. With few exceptions, all of these deliver un-negotiated, unchallenged, monologues to the rest of society. Thus there is a constant stream of one – way communication via the designated ‘expert’ representatives of the systems ideological workforce. Only by way of exception do voices which explore the deep seated contradictions of capitalism reach the ears of the oppressed and exploited. In contrast, this bourgeois and petite – bourgeois directed monologue of communication attempts to describe the capitalist mode of production, from which they benefit, in the most positive ways. When negatives are noted they are generally characterised as unintentional consequences, to be gradually reformed rather than structural contradictions, which are an integral part of the capitalist socio-economic system.

Language and borrowed thinking.

The result of this constant barrage of biased, language-based information is that a lot of it is uncritically absorbed by those who are subjected to it. It enters the store of knowledge in peoples brains as borrowed thinking, only later to re-emerge as if it were actually their own thinking. Of course, there is no serious problem with this monologue process, as long as what is borrowed from it is accurate. Accepting accurate information and understanding from others, as the basis for, and supplement of, ones own direct experience and understanding, is an important aspect of the social life of humanity. But under complex and unequal societies, such as ours, it is up to the receiver of information to check and ensure accuracy and not to assume it. For, as noted above, the second socio-economic use of language (to obscure and distort), the third socio-political use (to mis-inform or dis-inform) and the fourth entertainment based use (to create imaginary entities) are also part of what is transmitted by the representatives of the dominant class and these motives are frequently stitched together in colourful linguistic patchworks of skilful deception. Consequently these fabrications of facts, fictions, distortions and even omissions are part of what is received and borrowed.

So it stands to reason, that various strands of this mixture of accurate, distorted, misinformed, dis-informed, and imaginary information also enters into the general understanding of populations and emerges later as the general consciousness of millions. Many of whom then exert a social pressure on others to conform to all sorts of inaccurate and misguided understandings that they have previously borrowed and absorbed. Relevant examples, of such borrowed thinking, to this particular article being that men are cleverer than women; that human beings are split into biological races; that nations, capitalists and workers are a ‘natural’ geographical and economic phenomena. And again it doesn’t matter how many people think something is correct, that fact does not by itself mean that it is. As previously noted, millions thought the earth was flat and that the sun went round the earth, but that huge number didn’t mean that they were correct.

With the above in mind, any honest reader will hopefully admit (at least to themselves) that much of their knowledge and opinions have been taken on trust from ‘official’ (or non-official) sources and therefore, in actual fact have been borrowed – before later being accepted as their own. These authoritative sources, will have been parents, teachers, significant others, preachers of their particular religion, politicians, newspapers, television, radio, books, magazines etc. For this reason all of us need to question what we think we ‘know’ far more than we have been accustomed to do. For the question arises as to how many of these sources of our knowledge are accurate or have not had their own particular slant or twist on things added to the monologues directed at our eyes and ears. And also how many of these ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ information agencies are simply regurgitating information and opinion they too have previously uncritically borrowed from other sources?

The chain of serial information and opinion borrowers along with promoters of myth and misinformation can be surprisingly and revealingly long. This process, once recognised, should alert us to the fact that much of what we have learned needs to be at least challenged and in a great many cases, actually overturned. And I don’t just mean the obvious fictional cases of the alleged existence of angels, unicorns, tooth fairies, father Xmas, Yeti’s, alien abductors or those mentioned earlier. My experience – if it is typical in any way – suggests that too much already threadbare ‘hand-me-down’ knowledge, spread by written and oral language over generations, is still circulating as fact, when there is no evidence to substantiate its validity. Indeed, we should be quite dismayed that much of the knowledge we have taken on trust and paid for in various ways, was in fact incomplete, misleading, distorted or even frequently more in the nature of fiction rather than fact.

How else than borrowing and assimilating ideas can we account for the fact that millions of children over successive generations across continents were (and are) born without any understanding of religion or any thoughts of an invisible, all – powerful male god, end up believing, without a shred of reliable evidence, one or other of the sectarian versions of these warring patriarchal religious fantasies? Yet they do. The self-serving elite – generated ideologies such as religion, nationalism, sexism and racism, etc., have to be taught via language and learned in an atmosphere of fear or deference until they have become individually and collectively embedded ideological reflexes, reinforced by repetition, ritual and peer group pressure. There they stay in the memory structures of the brain until the elite need them to be fully acted upon. Defend your religion, your nation, your race, your gender; eventually one or more of these mantras become the linguistic calls to arms in which one section of humanity will, on the basis of flawed, borrowed thinking, be urged to denigrate or purge another section of humanity either intellectually or physically. And who can deny that this isn’t still being done and will not continue in the future?

Language and the struggle against oppression – 1.

As noted, one of the means of perpetuating and rationalising oppression and exploitation is via the use of language structured in such an ideological way that it plausibly denies that oppression, exploitation and discrimination are a structural part of the socio-economic system. The dominant ideology invariably blames one or other of the victims of the system for the predicament of another victim or for their own predicament. In the last article I gave the examples of how the poor are frequently blamed for their own poverty because of bad attitudes and/or culture. Yet in such cases, those so criticised and labelled are often unable to reply to their critics because they may lack the opportunity, the means, the skills or even the awareness of the need to question and argue an alternative. Yet one of the most basic and important skills for anyone regarding serious issues is to question every meaning in general and test the accuracy of the words being used in particular. This is because words are the building blocks of language and language is the means by which understanding or misunderstanding is transmitted. I suggest a successful struggle against oppression cannot be achieved on the basis of inaccurate words and misunderstandings borrowed from bourgeois ideology.

One of the most glaringly obvious inaccurate use of words (and associated concepts) in terms of bourgeois oppression of a large section of humanity is that arising from the adapted and then borrowed term ‘race’. The concept was developed by the European bourgeoisie in order to explain to themselves and others why they should be able to dominate the people and resources of the world. However, it was only fully perfected in the 19th century. Economic class and maleness had been used as a distinguishing feature to explain privilege and the lack of it for supposed lesser human beings (women and workers) within the newly developed capitalist nations. Capitalism, of course, is founded upon prejudice and discrimination of the most fundamental economic kind.

To use an analogy, discrimination and prejudice are part of capitalisms DNA. However, class and gender discrimination were inadequate concepts to apply to the people of foreign lands, when capital needed to systematically extend its theatre of operations across the globe. The idea of classifying peoples as distinct groups of varying supposedly inferior and superior characteristics and qualities, solved the intellectual and practical problem of occupation and resource extraction. The overall concept of discrimination just required a convenient term to label it with. The word ‘race’ was therefore developed to try to give some plausible explanation of why some human beings could and should be treated as curiosities or sources of cheap, coerced labour.

So in fact the concept of ‘race’ is a fictitious category and was invented to exaggerate secondary superficial differences in order to further mercantile and industrial exploitation during the Colonialist and Imperialist stages of capitals globalisation project. [See ‘The Invention of Race’, on this blog]. In a typically dualist and complimentary reflex two other words borrowed from the colour pallet and already conveniently associated with cleanliness and dirtiness became deliberately attached to the ideology of race – white and black – and was then applied to people. Hence forth bourgeois language contained two more associated fictions, for whilst there is discrimination based upon skin colour, there is no such skin colour as white and no such skin colour as black. Nevertheless, despite this obvious falsehood, bourgeois ideology was (and is) so dominant that it was able to impose these false categories and their derogatory associations into everyday consciousness. Furthermore, because the words existed and persisted, it was assumed the borrowed categories associated with mythically created racial types, actually existed. Its use became so dominant that even those who were opposed to its purpose – exploitation and oppression of the other – nevertheless accepted the fiction and carried on using the borrowed terms.

Even many dark skinned people accepted the prejudiced description of being ‘black’ with the end result of perpetuating a double fiction about themselves as having black skin and of being a different race to those fictionalised as having white skin. Some only challenged the association of black as being without merit and the ‘black is beautiful’ movement displaced an incorrect aesthetic negative by a correct aesthetic positive but only at the expense of retaining the negative fictional dualisms of black and white skinned people and the equally fictional dualism of race as establishing superior and inferior races. And again it needs to be emphasised that just because the language and thinking of millions of individuals continues to operate with these fictional categories around ‘race’ created by bourgeois ideology and uncritically borrowed, does not mean they are accurate descriptions of the real world.

As also noted elsewhere, prejudice against other human beings is now rampant and takes numerous forms. Any form of hierarchical society will necessarily accumulate multiple means of discriminating between those at the top, those at the bottom and those in between. And of course, socio-economic discrimination is the trigger for the development of prejudice. Capitalism is one such a hierarchical form of society and has acquired multiple means of discrimination. Secondary identities such as gender, religious belief, age, sexual orientation, skin colour, ethnicity, lineage, nationality, and even regional accent differences (abbreviated here as G-R-A-S-S-E-L-N-A) are being used by many to discriminate against people for jobs, educational opportunity, housing, partners and many other things. It is also a fact in such societies that many of those suffering from prejudice are deeply prejudiced against others who do not share their particular secondary identity.

Many dark skinned males, for example, are as misogynist, homophobic and nationalistic as many light skinned males. Nevertheless this prejudice – as with all prejudice – is not natural. Prejudice has to be socially taught and learned. And if one type of discrimination and prejudice is experienced as inhuman, then it follows that all forms of discrimination and prejudice may be experienced as inhuman. All forms need to be combated, not just one. The invention of race and it’s institutionalisation, merely demonstrates the power of the dominant ideology (as borrowed thinking) to trap people into a virtual world of thought processes whilst living in a real world which so clearly contradicts them in so many ways. The capitalist mode of production is the real root of the problem, not any of its victims, but bourgeois ideology conveniently blames the victims.

This symptom also indicates that accurate thinking requires accurate words and concepts and that inaccurate words can lead to inaccurate thinking. For there is now a virtual world being projected onto the real world by many commentators in which pale-skinned workers are held to have more in common with pale-skinned capitalists than with dark-skinned workers and dark-skinned workers have more in common with dark-skinned capitalists than with pale-skinned workers. That is a convenient reversal of reality as the ruthlessness of dark-skinned capitalist elites against dark-skinned working people is daily demonstrated in business and politics the world over. Take for example, Africa, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen – just to name a few places where a dark skinned elite class daily oppresses, tortures and even kills dark skinned workers and critics. The same goes for the ruthlessness of pale-skinned capitalist elites against pale-skinned workers, as contemporary events the world over as well as history also demonstrate. Europe, perhaps being the most obvious current arena of the deliberate and ruthless impoverishment, by pale-skinned elites, of millions of pale-skinned working people in Greece, Portugal, Spain. And in other countries such as the UK only to a lesser extent.

When ideas contradict reality, it is the ideas which should be suspected and rejected not reality, and yet these false borrowed ideas continue to be used to divide working people on the basis of skin pigmentation. Instead of an intellectual and practical wedge being driven between pale-skinned workers and pale-skinned elites and another driven between dark-skinned workers and dark-skinned elites as a prelude to other joint struggles against all forms of socio-economic prejudice, we have intellectual wedges being driven between workers on the basis of fictional constructs such as ‘racial’ characteristics and secondary features such as skin pigmentation, and not only by the bourgeois elite – but also by their opponents. Despite this divisive concept being the direct intention of the linguistic inventors and promoters of racial ideologies among the bourgeoisie and petite – bourgeoisie, some among the oppressed are unwittingly keeping that part of bourgeois and pre-bourgeois ideology alive and distancing themselves from or practising other forms of discrimination.

Perhaps this is because it is easier to continue using established categories, particularly given that the vast majority also continue to use them, than to directly challenge bourgeois ideology and to stand against the by now vested interests in perpetuating the falsehoods they are built upon. However, if we are genuinely against discrimination and prejudice then we need to be against all forms of irrational discrimination and prejudice, (ie all of G-R-A-S-S-E-L-N-A categories attracting prejudice and discrimination) not just the one which effects us personally. Otherwise we are not against discrimination and prejudice in general but only against it happening to ourselves or our group. And if the latter is the case then we don’t represent humanity as a whole but only our own section of it. Consequently we would not be equipped to help found human society anew. It should also be obvious that united, all those discriminated against may succeed in ending discrimination and prejudice, but divided no group will succeed in ending it.

Language and the struggle against oppression – 2.

A similar criticism as made against racial ideology can be made against patriarchal ideology (religious and political) which falsely asserts that men and women are static opposites and that women are inferior to men and should be subordinate to them. This sexist attitude is yet another form of elite invented false thinking which is then uncritically borrowed by millions of men, (and even some women) – including men of all skin shades – when in fact these male chauvinist assumptions do not stand up to serious scrutiny. The biological structure of humanity (as with most other forms of life) is embodied in two essential elements, sperm and ovum, developed in two locations, male and female bodies. However, from the species perspective (the deeper natural bio-reality) the sexes are not separate dualistic entities but essential parts of the dialectical whole.

For the species to reproduce the two elements cannot remain separate but must be integrated for each act of reproduction. The two, the sperm and ovum, must become one and in the majority of cases the partners also must become intimate. Importantly, biologically speaking, the female body provides the major functioning parts in the reproduction process. It does so in terms of supplying needed DNA and Chromosomes, pregnancy, breast feeding/immune system start up and early nurture. From the species perspective, the inferior position of women in patriarchal societies, including our modern society, is a total reversal of the natural evolution of humanity over millions of years. Second class status for women is undoubtedly a historically determined elite male invention delivered by misinformed language and borrowed thinking into the minds of millions and needs to be reversed by more accurate language and thinking in order to accurately reflect the importance of the other half of humanity.

The above noted pattern of human evolution is essentially true of the second class status of those who work in producing our goods and services. Working women and men engaged in the production of the essentials for living; food, water, fire, shelter, clothing etc., have been the active economic foundations of all human societies and recognised as such during the larger part of the four or five million years of human hunter/gatherer evolution. Indeed, in hunter/gatherer modes of production women as gatherers produced far more food (between 60% -80%) for their communities than men. And for millions of years, everyone, who wasn’t too young, too old, or too ill was an active productive worker. It is only with the development of class based societies founded on agricultural production, that the social status of working people has been gradually and fundamentally reduced first by slavery, second by serfdom and now wage-slavery to be below that of intellectual classes and land owning, or now capital-owning classes. Yet economically workers are still the most important of the present classes because without workers providing all the above noted essential elements of living and now more, the rest of the classes – middle and upper – could not fulfil their own privileged tasks.

At this point it needs to be acknowledged that many anti-capitalists have also been seduced by deference or laziness into uncritically borrowing their thinking from previous anti-capitalists who claimed to have a monopoly of accurate understanding of how to end capitalist oppression and exploitation. I did so myself out of deference when younger. Four glaring examples of this tendency have been the followers of Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Mao. Any serious and accurate study of the above elite male writings and actions will reveal not just the shortcomings of the language and concepts these men used, but also the disastrous and inhuman methods they employed to further their own elevation into positions of power and influence over the rest of the working populations of their respective countries and nations. During the Arab Spring events most of their anti-capitalist followers demonstrated they did not even understand the difference between uprisings and revolutions. They lacked accuracy in understanding the very words and concepts they used. [For those interested in my own contribution to the de-construction of the ideologies and practices of Bolshevism, Stalinism and Trotskyism see my book ‘Revolutionary-Humanism and the Anti-capitalist Struggle’ and the articles ‘Marxists against Marx’; ‘The Revolutionary Party’ and ‘Uprisings and Revoluions’, on this blog.]

Finally, for those who seek to work for a better world I suggest it is essential that they cease to uncritically borrow their thinking from any source. Their own accuracy of language and the conformity of their own thinking to actual reality is necessary as is the critical examination of what others have to say or write. The guideline list provided in ‘Ways of Thinking -1, is reproduced again below and can be used to test the accuracy and reliability of what anyone has written or said, including myself and themselves. So when you get the opportunity why not give it a go?

1. Accurately know what something is identified as. (are the ‘correct’ words being used?)
2. Accurately know what something is comprised of. (is the ‘actual’ content being described?)
3. Accurately know how it came into being. (is it’s ‘real’ history acknowledged?)
4. Accurately know the natural or social context it depends upon. (is it’s place in the chain of existence accurately located?)
5. Accurately know the objects internal contradictions and process of transformation whether characterised as germination, transformation or decay. (are it’s positive and negative potentials considered?)
6. Accurately grasp the direction or potential direction any transformation can take. (are the various levels of enquiry being combined into an enriched idea of it?)
7. Test each stage of understanding against reality, (is serious unbiased observation and self critical study being practiced?)
8. Always maintain certainty with an element of doubt as new or unforseen developments can occur. (are sectarianism and dogmatism being avoided?)
9. Always remember that the essence of humanities thinking is achieved as a natural, social species, not as an imaginary spiritual creation of individuals, nations, religions or races. (is human diversity represented as a slight change in human ‘form’ rather than as a substantial change in human ‘essence’?)

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2018)

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WAYS OF THINKING (Part 2)

Dialectics.

In ‘Ways of Thinking (Part 1)’, dialectics was described as a system of thinking, which unlike dualism, asks much more searching questions and does so over a number of stages, before coming to any conclusions. Even then the method of dialectics does not consider these conclusions as necessarily fixed or final. This reluctance or refusal to be dogmatic is because, new evidence may come to light or old evidence re-evaluated so as to refine the conclusion or even in extreme cases overturn it. For this reason, real-world dialectical thinking transcends all forms of dualism, dogma and intolerance due to their presumptions of possessing the ‘truth’. This second article will attempt attempt to substantiate that claim mainly by providing examples of dialectical understanding as applied to the spheres of nature, economics, ecology, society and politics.

However, before that, it should be noted that religion for centuries, has also been based upon, dualism, dogma and intolerance. Papal authority, for example, dogmatically relying upon what someone had written in the bible and what appeared in front of their eyes, considered that the sun went round the earth. They severely censured those who contradicted this assertion. For those who had accepted the religious form of dualist thinking, there could be no other explanation. Nevertheless, there was. However, the dogmatic rail tracks the religious intellect was trained to run upon could not conceive that their ‘borrowed’ way of thinking was incorrect and so they silenced and punished any alternative way of reasoning. [See ‘Religion versus Women’s Rights’ on this blog.]

As discussed in part 1, dialectical reasoning, recognises the difference (the contradiction) between the outward appearance of something and fully understood essence of it. This essence containing far more than first meets the eye and involving internal and external connections. It also accepts that the essence of ones idea of something, once seriously considered, may contain it’s own dynamic contradiction which sooner or later will change how that something is understood. This is no more than a belated recognition that the ideas of us natural beings as well as our bodies, can undergo a similar evolution or transformation as the natural ‘things’ we study. Some ‘things’ seem fixed and unchanging, (as do some ideas) but sooner or later they reveal themselves to be in the process of change. The ‘thing’ (or spacial position) of the ‘thing’ has changed into something else or moved somewhere else, or even both. A recognition of this general process suggests the ideas about about our world should at least try to keep up with changing reality and not wilfully or neglectfully get stuck in the past.

Before going further it should also be recognised that these changes, in the natural world as well as in the social and emotional realm of human affairs, are not undertaken or achieved without some difficulty. Births and deaths can be painful; engineering and metallurgy can involve quite extreme and often dangerous processes; developing high level skills can take time and excruciating effort. Change of any kind invariably involves stresses or strains of one kind or another. Dialectical thinking stems from a recognition of the connection between real world contradictions and the changing thought processes needed to take stock of this. Therefore it is to be expected that changes in understanding may also be accompanied by difficulties. Accepting new ideas and paradigms of thinking is not always easy for many people. However, painful this process is for some, the change element in the real world should by now be more acceptable to modern thinking, since science and technology has increased awareness that everything seriously studied is in a state of change. Consequently, methods of thinking have evolved as the following examples hopefully make clear.

Dialectics in the physical world.

Laser measurements have disclosed that even things as seemingly eternal as mountains, continents and planetary orbits are subject to small but accumulating changes, when not changed rapidly by irregular occurrences. Weather patterns, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, eclipses, shooting stars, asteroid collisions etc., are no longer thought of as acts of an imaginary god, or gods, but are understood as natural occurrences, where, small quantitative changes (such as result from saturation, pressure, speed of movement or position) accumulate to create a sudden qualitative change. The contradiction being that something seemingly stable becomes by degrees unstable before a change occurs and a further stage of seeming stability may or may not present itself. In other words, the appearance of something, at any one moment, is not necessarily the full essence, the completed process, or even the potential metamorphosis embodied within and around it. The fact of, and the process of, quantitative alterations leading to a change in quality, is part of the dialectical understanding and again modern life is full of such examples. I shall just outline a few more of the obvious ones, in each category just to emphasise the point.

It has long been observed that gradually decreasing heat within water, beyond a certain point, changes it into a solid – ice! Increasing the heat within water beyond a certain point, changes it from a liquid to the gaseous form of – steam. Both are examples of the fact that ‘wholes’ contain contradictory elements and that processes of quantitative changes (internally or externally generated) can result in a new quality – steam or ice. Steam, a new quality of extremely heated water, once harnessed was used as a source of power to usher in the industrial revolution by driving complex machinery. This was another qualitative and dialectical transition within mechanics, and one which branched off in many directions. Furthermore, real world contradictions don’t end there even in the case of water. We also know that water can extinguish fire, yet the gases which are contained within water – hydrogen and oxygen – both initiate and/or sustain fire. How counter-intuitive (or rather dialectical) is all that? Until we know more about the abstract category ‘water’, our initial idea of it as just something to drink or wash with isn’t wrong, it is just incomplete.

Similarly, mixing chemical substances together in certain proportions, (or dividing them up) changes them into new solid, liquid or gaseous compounds. Some mixtures having explosive consequences. These are processes now developed into massive global and mostly dangerously polluting industries. Again, in these areas we have quantitative changes creating new qualities. Our modern world is bursting at the seams with examples of this dialectical process applied within and onto capitalist production methods. This fact alone should stimulate a dialectical understanding and it does to a certain extent within the fields of applied science, engineering, technology, plate tectonics, plant biology and even human biology. Once thought impossible, heavier than air vehicles now criss-cross the skies and even visit other planets due to the planned alteration and accumulation of quantities of materials into new complex combinations and design qualities.

In other words, from these various accumulated quantities of knowledge, skills and materials, new qualities have emerged in the various methods of production and final construction and not just in metallurgy and chemistry. Body organ transplants are now routinely possible, but such organs are never independent. They are dependent upon a donor and successful medical integration. Test tube medical science can now artificially replicate some parts of the natural human fertilisation process, in which two discrete and separate qualities, sperm and ovum combine to create multi-cellular quantities and finally after many further transitions a new quality – another unique human being. The connectedness of stages, and the transformation of quantity into quality has long been evident in the natural world and in the evolution of plant and animal life forms, even though this natural process was not always fully understood, appreciated intellectually, or the analogy applied to other fields of study. For generations, the prevalence of empiricism and dualism and the lack of knowledge meant that many processes of change, as with planetary orbits, weather patterns, etc., were seen as mystical, magical or the unseen actions of the gods – who were imaginatively conjured up abstractions for just that pre-scientific explanatory purpose.

Yet, even in times past, certain specialists often had a dialectical understanding of their particular field of study. Indeed it was impossible not to have it to some degree and be successful in many specialist areas. However, even there, the intellectual framework of dialectics was (and still is) frequently left in the locker rooms along with any specialist tools and clothing when the working shift was over. The phenomena of dialectical and sceptical scientists etc., busy with understanding contradictions during the working week and becoming religious, gullible, dualist-minded citizens on Saturday or Sunday has never been an uncommon symptom. The result has been that the dialectical method of thinking has been rarely applied to societies and modes of production. Or to modes of thinking in general for that matter. In these particular areas of concern and in the lives of most people, dualist thinking continues to reign. The bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie in our era has accepted and championed dualism in economics, politics and social life, because it expresses, their economic and social reality as well as their class needs.

Dialectics in social affairs.

In modern social affairs, for example, the Conservative (or Republican) minded bourgeoisie generally consider ‘bad culture creates poverty’; for the Liberal/Labour (Democratic) minded bourgeoisie, it is often the opposite; ‘poverty creates bad culture’. These are two ends of a dualist conceptual spectrum view of the working class or the non-working – under-class. That way both political wings of the ruling elite consider the problem of poverty as being mainly the fault of the current poor themselves. Accordingly, the poor are considered to need patronising support or harsh penalties of one form or another. A warm bath or a cold shower: more benefits or less benefits, job counselling or job compulsion, etc. The preferred remedy being dependant upon whether the political left, right or centre expresses the viewpoint. On the surface these contrasting petite-bourgeois views of the poor may seem opposed, but they are connected by the fact that they conveniently avoid the spotlight falling on the capitalist system which has created poverty from its domination centuries ago. It also avoids recognising the fact that culture in all its forms, is to a considerable extent, a direct or indirect product of the dominant economic system.

In contrast a dialectical explanation examines the role of capital and labour in the production of the essentials and non-essentials of life along with the role of technology in capitalist production. It notes how this technology regularly replaces workers by machines and draws some obvious conclusions. If the system regularly creates armies of unemployed and precariously employed workers, with no other alternative, then certain connected things are sure to follow. Among the resulting symptoms are the many citizens who consequently sink into poverty and some into antisocial ways such as theft, drug addiction, gang membership etc. The dialectical contradictions and real-world connections are all there just waiting to be recognised for those who want to take their thinking further. So a fuller version of capitalist socio-economic reality, for example, reveals that increased social productivity and therefore an increase in the mass of economic wealth at one end of society, produces poverty at the other. How contradictory is all that? Yet bourgeois dualist forms of thinking are content to just stay in the virtual world of surface abstractions and discuss culture and poverty without their connection to the mode of production. Isn’t that a convenient way of thinking, if the rest of us just accept it?

An interesting dialectical contradiction also exists with regard to ownership and control under the capitalist system. Normal capitalist legal logic suggests that if you pay for something or part of it you are entitled to control or at least part control of it. The buildings and inventory of hospitals, schools, military, air force and naval establishments, along with local and national government building/contents, for example, are paid for by public taxation, yet these goods are not owned and controlled by the public. Instead, they are rigidly controlled by a relatively few and usually unelected elites. Yet these few controlling elite actors cannot operate these complex buildings and organisations themselves, but need those who have no ownership or control of them to operate them. This they do by granting working people access to do work, and then lock them out when their work is not needed! The same goes for private industry and commerce. In each case only those who do not control them can make them function, whilst those who do control them cannot possibly partly staff them, let alone make them function. And again in this economic relationship we have a bizarre reversal of logic rationalised as a desired state of affairs and presented by bourgeois dualistic reasoning as ‘natural’.

A more fundamental example applies to two of the categories of the means of production under capitalism – workers and the main tools of production represented by capital. To the bourgeois economic dualist, Labour and Capital are two polar opposite categories to be taken for granted as ‘natural’ with just the separate problems associated with this productive bifurcation to be worked out. Of course thinking about this ‘appearance’ a good deal further, suggests that it is not ‘natural‘ that some people own large amounts of capital whilst others own none. Nature does not produce owners of means of production (capitalists) and non-owners of means of production (workers), nor their opposed interests. It takes a socio-economic system to do that and a warped one to boot. Hence dialectical thinking goes further than such surface abstractions and reveals more. By reflection and critical thinking it notes the following. That in this case also the tools of production, (factories, machines, planning, development etc) presently owned by relatively few individuals, have become so complex and extensive they can no longer be operated by those who own them. In other words a dialectical reversal of historic tool ownership and use. And again, on the other hand those who can operate them, the workers, are now collectively too poor to own them.

This contradiction is even greater when we consider that the tools of production, buildings and machines, were also not built by the owners but by other workers, who also do not own them. The fact that owners cannot operate them and the workers cannot own them – is a massive social contradiction with unresolvable problems (as long as this division continues) effecting employment, over-production, climate change, pollution, health and safety, to identify just a few. What appears on the surface of bourgeois society as a static dualist opposition between capital and labour, is in fact a volatile dialectical opposition which involves perpetual class struggles over wages, safety, employment, wars and now increasingly environmental issues. The resolution (the human negation) of this fundamental contradiction of economic and social class differences, within humanity, will therefore not be achieved without considerable difficulty both in fact and in the depth of understanding needed. A later section will indicate that particular difficulty being revealed in contemporary politics.

Dialectics in ecological and economic affairs.

The development of the capitalist mode of production, since the end of the Second World War, has seen remarkable technological and social progress. Full employment and mass industrialised production had been the foundations which supported the post -war development of welfare states and the liberal-democratic political systems which were integral to them. However, the sheer quantity of scientific and technological inventions has led to a new quality in production methods and materials. Automation, artificial intelligence, advanced computer controls have permeated all types of production, transportation and sales outlets. The capitalist mode of production has also led to serious environmental pollution problems and increased ecological devastation. The pursuit of profit via the unrestricted production of commodities and services has progressively increased the quantity of products available. That quantitive increase in new stuff, has qualitatively changed the problem of disposing of unwanted old stuff and the non-degradable waste materials used in their production. The examples of plastics, petroleum products, nuclear energy and anti-biotics, almost serve as metaphors for capitalism in general.

Plastics, in various forms, were heralded, when I was younger, as as long lasting wonder materials with so many positive uses that some had yet to be discovered. Now, there is so much indestructible plastics in the environment that when broken down they have entered the food chain at a microscopic level and if not already there, are on the way into the bloodstream and internal organs of animals and humans. And with likely devastating consequences. So a sequence of quantitative increases in technical and chemical know how produced a new quality – plastics, but this new quality under the incentive of production for profit became a new quantity, which has led to a further (but unwelcome) negative quality – macro and microscopic pollution – on a global scale! This type of dialectical process of quantity into quality (and increasingly negative quality into negative quantity), fuelled by capitalism, can be replicated add nauseum. Each addition of atomic power production, for example has added up to a qualitatively new problem of disposing of its radioactive residue; more and more fossil-fuel energy use (quantity) has had a qualitative effect upon planetary warming; quantitive increases in anti-biotic uses over decades has led to the new negative quality of drug resistant bacteria. Capitalist production is killing, animals, insects, birds, environments and humans. Like cigarettes, it should come with a health warning.

But this is not all. The automation and computerisation, mentioned above has also led to vast reductions in the numbers of workers required to sustain or increase the current levels of production. The thousands of factories with thousands of workers inside, producing stuff each day during the 19th century, are now almost a thing of the past – at least in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and America. The resulting large-scale unemployment and low-paid precarious employment has drastically reduced the amount of taxes paid to governments; less money in wage packets has also reduced the amounts workers spend in consumption. So the reality is that increased production on the one hand, restricted consumption on the other, together with surplus commodities and shrinking state revenues, are all due to the same economic process governed as it currently is by capital and greed for profit.

This symptom of relative overproduction demonstrates dialectical transformation in the field of economics, which is just one more dialectical transformation among many currently at work. Otherwise positive developments become channelled into a negative outcomes courtesy of the capitalist mode of production and greed for profit. At the economic and financial levels, this new productive quality has led to overcapacity, overproduction, economic stagnation, financial instability and downward spirals into recessions. At the social level, both of these latter quantitive reductions have led to reductions in the quality and quantity of welfare provision. The two aspects are not separate and independent, as everyday dualistic thinking would suggest, but connected and dependent. Yes, here in the social world as in the natural world, dialectical processes can work in an ascending or descending direction; in a positive or negative way. However, the domination of capital over our present mode has the uncanny knack of making most of the positives negative.

Moreover, the much touted progress toward fully automated and future artificially intelligent algorithm-supported production methods are set to take this process even further. Already, factories exist staffed mainly with robots, linked to computer technologies and capable of self correction and improvement. Ultimately, from this scenario, capitalist production now and in the future doesn’t need many workers to produce more and more ‘things’. However, to return profits on invested industrial and commercial capital, there still needs to be millions of paying consumers to buy them or future production will be stopped. So who is going to buy what is produced to prevent this? This contradiction represents a massive problem, but only under capitalism. The current speculative ideas of giving ‘things’ away or giving money away to buy them – on such a general scale – such as the unworkable Universal Basic Income (UBI) or the unequal Job Guarantee Programme (JGB), points to more than the need for further petite-bourgeois patronising charity. For those who can see beyond surface phenomena, it is another pointer to the need to go beyond capitalism.

Yet even with the already existing levels of production, the world is coming apart in so many ways and in so many places. At the same time the dominant ideological mode of viewing partial realities is incapable of joining the dots and revealing their links to the capitalist mode of production. Mainstream bourgeois thinking has yet to catch up with reality. Nevertheless, the quantitive changes in production methods are not only leading to the above noted changes in the amounts of pollution, ecological damage, war ravaged countries, saturated markets, large-scale unemployment, precarious employment and reduced amounts of consumer taxation and spending, but also to changes in consciousness and political preferences among voters. Much of the latter changes being understandably contradictory since politics is part of the problem – as will be indicated in the next section. Despite such contradictions, most citizens are responding to their direct experience of one or other of these changed and changing economic and social realities. Very few are likely to be fooled by internet ‘fake-news’ or Russian/Chinese manipulated propaganda.

Dialectics in political affairs.

The above mentioned voter response to the changes outlined in previous sections represents a transformation in voter attitude and opinion, which is likely to continue. And here in the field of politics another dialectical transition can be witnessed. The years of increased quantities of incompetence, lies and broken promises which mainstream politicians have perpetrated upon the public has produced a qualitative change in voters opinion of politics and politicians. Many people no longer believe what they are told by politicians and their paid servants in government, academia and the media. They are questioning whom and what they vote for. Politicians the world over, are again no longer trusted and capitalist, along with state-capitalist political systems are viewed with disdain, if not outright hostility. Politics is increasingly being seen, not as it is presented, – as the rational solution to social problems – but as part of the irrational problems facing humanity.

And the political contradictions are growing. There are now virtual civil wars taking place within the political establishments of many countries between left liberal/democratic and right conservative/republican. There is a deep split developing between these twin establishment political elites, over how to rescue the capitalist system from its obvious contradictions. One set of the international political class has started to reject neo-liberal globalisation and seeks solutions within an authoritarian nation state, whilst another set seek to reform neo-liberal globalisation and give it a more humane face. On the world stage these positions are personified by Donald Trump in the USA and Macron in France, but the trends, to a greater or lesser degree, are global and are visible in most countries. This contemporary split is similar to that which occurred during the last global crisis of the capitalist mode of production in the mid-nineteenth century. And now, as then, both these pro-capitalist currents need to appeal to the working classes as these are the voters in the current and coming electoral wars and of course, the shock troops in any future civil wars.

The elites nationally and internationally are at ideological war with each other, working people would be wise to avoid joining any side in this self-defeating spat. For distortions are being piled upon distortions; intolerance upon intolerance, misrepresentation, upon misrepresentation. The petite-bourgeois concept of fair play has all but disappeared from public discourse, along with innocence until proven guilty. Guilt is assigned to whole swathes of people based on nothing other than a common identity. All men are predators; all pale-skinned people are racists; all gentiles are anti-semites; all Muslims are terrorists; etc. Deep pools of anger and frustration among many citizens, are being manipulated and guided by politicians into verbal stand-offs between secondary identities, such as gender, skin colour and sexual preference – any form of identity except class is being highlighted and championed! Shouting matches are now in vogue where no evidence is required to substantiate a polarised opinion, only partisan assertion.

Taking political sides on any so-called ‘politically correct’ issue, has become an emotional reflex, impervious to any request for sufficient evidence to substantiate any dubious assertions. Indeed, even requesting evidence becomes perceived by either side as an act of hostility or disloyalty. Twenty first century politics is reviving and updating its 1920s and 30’s surreal period. To the unattached observer, this spectacle presents something of a theatre of the absurd, except that in certain circumstances, ideological civil wars, can be transformed into actual civil wars. Those who doubt this possibility should reconsider the Aryan ‘identity’ issues and nationalistic descent of parts of Europe (Italy, Germany, France and Spain) in the mid 20th century economic and financial crisis. The collapse of Lybia, Syria and Yemen in the 21st century, which in those cases went from initial citizen protest to sectarian civil wars based on contrasting Islamic or secular identities, demonstrates such possibilities – when taken to extremes – still exist.

This quantitative and qualitative (dialectical) change in how bourgeois democracy is viewed has also had further global repercussions. The decades – long experience of of western capitalist democracy by citizens of many middle eastern countries, for example, has changed their view of its supposed benefits. From initially welcoming secular politics as a means of supplanting (negating) pre-existing theocratic or aristocratic oppressive systems, large numbers have now decided otherwise. A hundred years of European and North American interference in the former Ottoman Empire region (NB. epitomised by Sykes/Picot/Balfour and Bush x 2) has seen many people there reject exploitative, manipulative, bourgeois secular democracy in favour of a return to Islamic forms of governance. The historic move from 2000 year old religious and despotic forms of politics and governance which was negated through the ‘reformation’ struggle in Europe was then reversed (further negated) in Europe during the 1930s in favour of authoritarianism. A similar pattern has occurred in the middle-east with Egypt and Iran being prime examples. Religious and despotic forms of politics and governance are being artfully resuscitated in every part of the region.

This political negation of the negation is being demonstrated in practice, and not only in the middle-east, but globally. In terms of humanity, this trend represents another change but one which is again definitively backward. The status of workers, trade unions, women and gays, being the most clear indicator of how backward this theocratic and authoritarian reactionary development is. Governance by religious minded people who believe in mystical fictions such as gods, angels, devils and a heaven staffed with virgins is seen by millions as preferable to governance by people who believe in capitalist exploitation and military interventions to ensure their profitability survives. Here in Europe and the west, there has also been a rejection of neo-liberal economics and the bourgeois democratic political forms established to govern it. Some of this also represents a step backward, not forward towards a positive post-capitalist future, for here too there is an increased leaning toward authoritarianism. However, looking for a strong man (or woman) to sort out the contradictions has been tried a number of times before – and failed. To keep trying the same thing and expecting a different result is not really sensible. So the question is why is this happening? And the answer is not simply one of voter nostalgia or stupidity as some fixed-rut observers have suggested.

The lack of dialectical understanding in the political mindset over generations was starkly revealed in 2016 and continues today. For example, those citizens who voted the way the elite wanted them to vote were viewed as responsible, whilst those who did not were viewed as despicable – or stupid enough to be influenced against their will by foreign powers. Political dualists typically see two opposed groups of citizens who need to be praised, tolerated or vilified depending on which side they have voted for. Considered from a deeper understanding, however, this difference was clearly superficial and inaccurate. In essence both sides of this particular working class divide were wanting things to get better, they just differed in how that could be achieved. The immediate form of their protest against their situation (voting on elite-provided petite-bourgeois solutions) did not adequately represent the content of it, and this shared content, where it is allowed expression, may yet create another dialectical change. But emphasising a dualistic difference of skin pigment, gender or sexuality, as fundamental distinctions is useful to the elites. That way they create a virtual world of separation among working class human beings based upon ideologically derived differences rather than the unity of their shared oppression and exploitation. This allows the elite to divide potential opposition to their economic system and avoid any responsibility for what transpires due to their own actions.

Whatever area of life we consider, dialectical reasoning and understanding leads to very different conclusions than simple empiricism, idealism or dualism, as we have seen and would see more if we cared to look. For it is now becoming clear, to those who are able to consistently go beyond those first surface levels of thinking, that the post-Second World War, American-led, liberal world order, at the political and economic levels, is now progressively unravelling. The capitalist economic system is going down and the dualistic-minded elite globally who live on its proceeds, are on a course to take us down with it – if we let them. The capitalist mode of production, economically, financially and politically is certainly not in crisis because of foreign manipulation or citizen stupidity, but because of its own internal contradictions. Its positives are turning into existential negatives, which urgently need to be seriously examined and definitively solved. Dualist methods of thinking cannot begin to adequately explain and help positively intervene in this evolutionary and transformative socio-economic process, but dialectical methods can.

Dialectics reveals that class is the fundamental division within capitalist societies and whilst class struggles can include support for other identity struggles, the opposite is not the case. Secondary identity is too narrowly drawn and consequently too weak to include or remedy the negative situation of other identities, let alone to remedy those associated with class. In fact identity politics is in direct competition with other secondary identities for remedial action and is consequently divisive and reformist rather than revolutionary. Us first, and us too, forms of organisation go no further than confronting specific surface symptoms of the capitalist mode of production, whilst ignoring the causes embedded in the foundations of the mode of production itself. Consciousness of fundamental class divisions and dialectical understanding offer an alternative way of thinking for revolutionary – humanists, to acquire and promote in active opposition to the current dangerous domination of dualism in politics and social affairs.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2018.)

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