BEGINNERS GUIDE 17.

On Co-operation.

In guide 15, it was pointed out that in the 19th and 20th centuries, even the pro-capitalist elites were compelled to create numerous non-profit institutions and organisations. This was because private enterprises were not adequate vehicles for maintaining long-term high standards in; schools; armed forces; national and local government departments or Parliaments; law courts; hospitals and universities etc. Such radical developments of socio-economic forms represented the future non-profit mode of production emerging from within the existing capitalist mode. However, these particular state-initiated ‘public services’ were not the only non-profit forms of organisation which emerged during that period.

Early in the development of capitalism and in reaction to poor quality service and often adulterated goods, working people created Co-operative societies. In Britain, co-operative shops, businesses, delivery systems and eventually, farms, banks, building societies, funeral services along with education/training centre’s were established. A few humanistic minded members of the bourgeois class, such as Robert Owen even opened up co-operative factories. Despite some initial setbacks, all these alternatives were fundamentally successful. However, located as they were within a capitalist economic system even their success became something of a double – edged sword.

The working conditions and pay for ‘cooperative’ staff was generally better, than those in the private sector, which meant that the prices for their goods and services were generally higher. This situation was only sustainable as long as people could afford to pay the extra cost for the extra quality. However, the existence of large numbers of poorly paid workers in private capitalist concerns, exerted two negative forces upon co-operative methods of production. First of all low paid workers could not always afford the extra costs of cooperatively produced goods and services. Secondly, the low pay, long hours and poor conditions in the private sector translated into lower prices for these capitalist produced goods and services. This enabled them to undercut the prices of cooperative businesses.

In addition to being able to sell products cheaper, because of greater exploitation of working people, there was another way that capitalists could undermine the cooperative mode of production. An outstanding example of this method is provided by the way a group of capitalists in the cotton trade dealt with the previously mentioned Robert Owen and his thriving, cooperatively run cotton mill in New Lanark. They organised a boycott of raw cotton from suppliers who sold to Owen. Faced with this threat, raw cotton supplies to Owen’s mills were curtailed and the mills and model villages around them ground to a halt. Eventually, he had to close them. The example of successful alternative modes of production for the working class majority had been eliminated in order to maintain the source of profits of the capitalist few.

However, the apparent ‘failure’ of cooperation was not a failure from a working class perspective. If the private sectors hours of work, pay and conditions had been essentially the same as in the cooperative movement, instead of much lower, then there could have been a different outcome of struggle between these alternative modes of production. Moreover, the removal of the private profit – motive under cooperative modes and public service models meant that the short – cuts in production methods of the capitalist sector were deemed unnecessary. Therefore attention could be addressed – as many were – to external consequences such as obtaining sustainable raw materials, eliminating pollution, avoiding toxic ingredients, consequential ecological damage, improving health, safety and education issues for workers and communities.

Indeed, all or at least most of the issues now threatening the extinction of species and the degradation of planetary environments, climate patterns and weather conditions, could have been avoided decades ago by a completed transition to a mode of production fully committed to public need rather than private greed. In contrast to capitalist perspectives, success or failure in terms of economic and social production needs to be measured by its positive or negative effects upon the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants. Yet the pro-capitalist elite measure economic success in terms of how much can be produced at the least cost, whilst making a relative few citizens obscenely rich. So, the fact that there are perfectly sound examples of alternative forms of sustainable non-profit production, distribution and organisation, (cooperatives and public services) has been seen as something to undermine or to privatise by the neo – liberal economic, financial and political elites.

The fact that capitalist societies are structured hierarchically with wealth and power concentrated at the top (and reinforced by the coercive power of the state) means that only changes which benefit the elite will be made. But the double standard involved among the elite in this regard is transparently evident by those who happen to occupy senior positions in non-profit government organisations, such as government departments, Parliaments, Universities etc. Whilst championing the benefits of private enterprise and precarious competitive employment for low – paid workers, these elites jealously protect their own high – paid, permanent employment, perks and pensions granted by the non-profit forms of organisation in modern states.

A similar double-standard operates elsewhere in periods of acute economic or financial crisis. When these occur the heads of large and small private enterprises are among the first to call for substantial public funds to be donated to them to tide them over the crisis until profits can be made once again. It happened prior and during the 2008 banking crisis and will happen again after the COVID – 19 viruus causes dislocations in the economic circuit of capital. Stripped of its rhetoric this frequent pattern amounts to the best of both worlds for capitalists and the worst of both for working people. Social tax-payer support when capitalist profits cannot be made, privately pocketed profits when they can.

That this is considered acceptable when there are viable alternatives demonstrates the power of pro-capitalist ideology on populations in general. It is something the new generations of working people need to increasingly challenge and change.

Roy Ratcliffe (March 2020)

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THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 1.

There has been a lot of confusion concerning the latest corona virus to spread globally among the human population. Misinformation concerning (COVID -19) has been spread (like a virus itself) by ‘vectors’. The main vectors for the current epidemic of mixed messages have been the media and some of their chosen ‘experts’ informing us about the coming contagion. The most obvious confusion is revealed by the in-your-face daily presentation of the allegedly anti-virus (!) face mask!

How viruses live.

There is disagreement among some scientists whether a virus is a life – form or not. I personally think it is. For we know, that although, unlike bacteria, it cannot replicate itself by its own means, it can do so by infiltrating cells in animals, plants and humans utilising their hosts reproductive biology. We also know that viruses can evolve. The vast majority of the thousands of viruses so far accurately identified, are so tiny they cannot be seen by the most powerful optical microscopes. It requires an electron scanning microscope to even note their general shape.

This means that the mesh of all but a few of the thousands of face masks you see on the news channels are incapable of filtering out a virus. Only specialist face masks will do that. It follows that the cheap masks on show are mostly useless to stop infected people from spreading many vector-born viruses, but also mostly useless to prevent non – infected people from ingesting them. Those masks may soak up some, but will not prevent all the viruses expelled by sneezes and coughs from dispersing onto wearers hands and into the air around them.

That is not the only problem with wearing face masks. Irritation of the facial skin, due to long-term use of face masks, can cause skin problems leading to face and neck infections.

A virus needs to be carried to a host by a vector (air-born, food-born or liquid-born particle or by blood). Between leaving one person and infecting another, the virus is protected by a sheath or coating (a capsid or lipid envelope) which allows it to survive. In that interim condition it is known as a viron. Hence keeping hands and fingers properly and frequently clean is important to clear away the vectors and their virons and prevent their direct contact with our noses, mouths and eyes.

Where people are in close proximity (trains, planes, ships, supermarkets etc.), and share commonly used buttons (eg. on Cash machines), door handles, (supermarket baskets) banisters (on stairs and escalators), water taps (in public toilets), etc., then without frequent hand washing, community contagion of a virus is highly probable.

On gaining entry to a new host via nose, mouth, eyes, wound (or another orifice) the virus attaches itself to a cell wall and gains entry into it (by uncoating and penetration). It then uses the host cells biology to, reproduce itself. Replicated viruses then exit the damaged cell (lysis) and migrate to penetrate another cell and so on. This continues until the immune system fully kicks in and seriously deals with the invaders.

In the very early stages, the body may not manifest any obvious symptoms, but when the viral expansion reaches a certain point, the body may start to ‘feel ill’. Where the immune system is up to the task and the body is rested and nursed, then, recovery will follow and the virus will be either eliminated or become dormant. However, the elderly, the young, or adults with impaired or deficient immune systems are more vulnerable. Yet it is worth remembering that humanity has been shrugging off viruses for millions of years. So no need to go into panic mode.

How viruses go global.

A pandemic is the term used to describe a contagious infection which has started to go global. Since the development of international trade, the chances of a local source of transmittable infection spreading beyond its place of origin has increased considerably. The 20th and 21st century phases of neo-liberal economics and financialisation has seen this trading network expand to include the whole world. By structuring the global economic system to cater for the needs of profit-seeking, it has not only increased the likelihood of infectious contagion, but also the speed in which these can spread. This tendency increased when 20th century neo – liberal production methods introduced ‘just in time‘ supply chains.

The expense of stockpiling raw materials and parts in vast warehouses was abandoned by many producers of goods and replaced by continuous stock flows. This system created greater profits but the suppliers have to ensure that the day to day supplies arrive just in time for any repeating cycle of production. The frequency and global reach of this frenetic economic activity, by means of shipping, aircraft and road haulage deliveries, has obvious contagion consequences. It means that in the weeks prior to obvious ‘flu-like’ symptoms breaking out, vector and virus dispersion from an original source can have repeatedly reached even the farthest trade or holiday destinations.

These constant supply chains also mean that pandemics which interrupt these daily or weekly supplies through sickness, quarantines and cancellations, also reduces economic demand, depresses sales, lowers production volumes and creates general shortages. This in turn effects the financial stability of many firms because sales generate the income to pay wages, debts, interest and loans. So, any widespread biological contagion can now quickly lead to economic and financial contagions in which global economic and financial activity is severely fractured. And the survival of the weakest of these capitalist enterprises may be seriously threatened by this economic or financial contagion just as the currently weakest people are by biological contagion.

Capitalism has undoubtedly enabled epidemics to spread wider and faster. It has also multiplied the polluted and adulterated conditions which may increase the likelihood of extremely dangerous pathogens developing. However, the micro – biological entities which inhabit our internal and external bodies and immune systems (our good bugs) have also evolved and are capable of evolving further to deal with attacks. So consistent hygiene and self – isolation if ill, will be more effective in reducing the spread than more confusion and panic.

Roy Ratcliffe (February 2020)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 16.

On Extinction by extraction.

When the period known as the Industrial Revolution, commenced in England during the 18th century, extraction, production and consumption of raw material and goods accelerated rapidly. Huge factories powered by steam (later by electricity) soon became the template for all countries to adopt and adapt. Mass production techniques became the foundations upon which modern societies, with their huge industrial workforces and mass consumption habits were erected. Yet those early dark satanic mills of Britain polluting and disfiguring the rural landscapes of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands, gave only a hint of what was to come.

For a brief period, the diseased rivers and scarred countrysides of rapidly industrialising England were isolated cases in a world still only slightly different than it had been for millennia. Elsewhere on the planet, air, seas, rivers and land remained as they had for many centuries. Pre-industrial, hand tools, wind, water and animal power sources, did limited damage to air, sea and land. They left little non-biodegradable residue in their wake. Yet within the space two generations industrial mass-production was replicated on many continents along with smoke, pollutants and rubbish dumps.

Even during my grandparents time, (the first generation of industrial mill-workers) great swathes of the planet still remained unpolluted, undeveloped and largely unaffected by industry and commerce. My parents (the second generation of industrial workers) directly experienced mass unemployment, poverty and between 1939 and 1945, an industrialised and mechanised war. Those two previous generations of ours also witnessed the origin and development of many marvels of modern technology.

Perhaps the most exhilarating and the most polluting developments were in the mass production of air, sea and land transportation. It was the post-Second-World-War generation (my generation) which enthusiastically seized the benefits of private motor vehicles, recreational ocean liners and inter-continental aircraft, with scant regard for the actual and potential harm associated with them.

For every so-called improvement to life on the planet was gained by the application of fossil fuels to capitalist industrialized production. Although touted as ‘progress’ by those who stood to make profits and accumulate wealth, the last 60 years of progress have actually seriously undermined the very foundations of all life on earth. In only three generations, capitalism has super-enriched an elite minority, yet dispossessed ancient peoples, impoverished millions, disfigured the global environment and tragically eliminated species essential to our air quality and food chain.

My own generations elites, basing themselves on the war-promoted technological foundation of the previous generation, has done more damage to planetary balance and humanities future than all the previous generations before it. Motor-vehicles, fridges, tv’s, washing machines (by the multi-millions) aircraft, factory fishing, ocean liners, (by the many thousands) and more, all whirling around continuously spewing out contaminants 24-7, adding more to the already massive volumes of chemicals and pollutants created during the manufacture of these ‘goods’.

If we make an analogy between the game of Jenga and what is happening to the global eco-system this may help understand the problem and expose the difficulties of a solution. [Jenga is square tower built of many closely fitting wooden blocks] Once the Jenga tower has been built of these blocks it is quite stable. The game commences when the first piece is pushed and pulled out and placed on top of the tower. Nothing happens.

Even when the second, third, fourth and fifth pieces are removed and placed at the top, the tower remains stable. This removal and repositioning parts of the basic whole does not yet add up to a serious problem. However, at some advanced stage of the game a piece will be removed that will trigger the accumulated instability from earlier extractions – and the whole block will collapse.

If we consider the planet as representing a huge block of interconnected (and evolved) pieces from which humanity extracts what it needs, the analogy roughly holds. However, no one has continually destroyed a planets eco-system before so there is no previous example of life on a planet actually collapsing. Also, the planet is such a gigantic edifice that taking bits away and altering them can go on for a very long time. Yet, as we are witnessing from animal extinctions and climate change, continual extractions that exceed the natural cycle of reproduction and replacement, create serious climate and ecological instability.

The most enthusiastic players of this planetary game of continuous extraction are the capitalist and pro-capitalist elites. The profit motive harnessed to technology has led to the accelerated removal of vast swathes of the planets resources. Not just the odd field, woodland or part of a forest, as the medieval generations managed to destroy, but by using mechanised and motorised tools of extraction entire forest and ocean regions are being daily stripped out. And it is here we need to make use of the Jenga analogy as it applies to the real world.

For, there are three classes of people who are currently actively committed to extracting/destroying the essential elements which are leading toward detrimental climate change and ecological collapse. First, those whose capital is invested in extracting raw materials, along with those whose capital is used to have those materials made into commodities and sold (the capitalist classes). These two groups have no desire to stop the very process which creates their wealth.

Second, those who organise commerce, transport and governance and live off a part of the proceeds of production for profit (the upper and middle-classes). They too have no incentive to stop the process of extraction, production and consumption for the payments and percentages which currently circulate their way via taxes, profits and ‘interest’ would then cease.

Third, the vast majority, who are trained and vicariously employed by the two elite classes to do the actual extraction and commodification of planetary material (the working classes). This group cannot cease to destroy the elements of planetary stability and diversity at the moment, because without being paid a wage or salary by the elites to do these elite-determined tasks, they would starve and lose their homes. In one way or another, (preference or existential survival) almost everybody is locked into the current economic system which is doing primarily what it has been designed to do – return a profit to the owners of capital.

So when most people suggest doing something about preventing the eventual collapse of our planetary eco-sustenance, all they can realistically consider is making tiny (inconsequential) adjustments. To go back to the Jenga analogy. It would seem that large sections of the planetary block we inherited (the earths socio-eco-system) will have to catastrophically collapse before enough people conclude that a different ‘game‘ (a new form of social production and consumption) is absolutely necessary.

Since the existing extensive, floods, wild-fires, droughts, hurricanes, heat waves etc., increasing every year, are not yet enough, it seems some much larger collapse will be necessary to shake people out of their current commitment to over-production and over-consumption and a critical-mass of them start to radically question the existing capitalist mode of production.

Meanwhile, those who are currently concerned should at the very least accept that we are all part of the problem – albeit disproportionately – and recognise that the solution is not just recycling our own rubbish, or reducing our own plastic use but a radical and revolutionary transformation of the motive for (and control of) production and consumption. Also that a future of sustainable production – for communally decided need – not privately decided greed – needs to be envisioned and championed in advance of any far-reaching catastrophe – and if not too late – implemented.

R. Ratcliffe (February 2020)

[For those not familiar with the Jenga game, examples can be found on the Internet. Eg: m.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg_KYuE99E ]
[For a detailed consideration of the many consequences of climate change and ecological damage see; ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ by David, Wallace-Wells. Pub Penguin]

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 15.

On Public versus Private Enterprise.

Since the 2008 financial crash, there has been a marathon public bailout of private financial institutions and industrial enterprises. Bankruptcies of profit-charging institutions classed as ‘too big to fail’ at the time were avoided in two ways. First, they were granted huge loan guarantees and injections of public cash. Second, many were taken over by the state, their solvency guaranteed by the resources of a whole country. Then central banks in Europe and America created continuous ‘quantitative easing’.

Large quantities of cash and credit were supplied to banks from government sources. It was (and is) available at low interest rates to businesses deemed important enough to be ‘eased’ through the decade long crisis. Other, businesses, we’re allowed to fail. The organisations kept alive by regular injections of public money are often classified as zombie institutions or businesses.

That is to say such capitalist companies resemble the fictional human beings of horror films and novels who, technically dead are kept functioning by regular acquisitions of blood or flesh from healthy human beings. The stupidity of keeping technically failed banks and other businesses operating by this ‘intravenous’ monetary strategy has been debated, in economic and financial circles, but these discussions have typically failed to analyse the symptom beyond its surface phenomena.

Capitalism continues to fail – everywhere!

When a capitalist enterprise no longer takes in enough money to cover it’s costs and pay loans, interest and profits it’s life has ended as a capitalist endeavour. If it is kept afloat by public money because it’s operations are judged to be socially necessary or desirable, then it is in fact – not a capitalist zombie – but a social (or public) institution. From then on it rests on a different socio-economic basis. In fact in the 20th century, it became so obvious that capitalist forms of economic organisation could not answer most social needs that non-profit public services were expanded in the following areas; government, policing, defence, education and communications.

Moreover, after the Second World War (1939-45), in the UK for example, more non-profit forms of productive services were created, such as doctors/surgeries/hospitals, further education, transport, gas, electricity, water, telephones and national insurance schemes. In the UK, (and other countries) these important elements of modern 20th century life were deliberately formed on this alternative economic basis! Why? Because it was overwhelmingly recognised that capitalist economic models could not provide the stability, reliability and universality required for future societies. Non-profit, public services were the inauguration of more advanced forms of productive activity.

Furthermore, in the 21st century, humanity was reminded that the remaining greed-funded private sector had also become cancerous. Even the the richest and most monopoly-advantaged capitalist institutions, such as former Merchant banks plus huge, money-bloated insurance and mortgage companies were so internally diseased they collapsed. If we add to all the public services, all the publicly supported businesses in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, it would undoubtedly reveal that, in the UK and Europe – most of us were already living in a predominantly post-capitalist mode of economic activity.

If we factor in all the other negative outcomes of the remaining capitalist forms of enterprise such as ecological destruction, air, water, soil and sea pollution, vital species extinction, climate change, war and poverty, then the conclusion should be obvious. Replacing Dickensian private profit-making models with modern public service sustainable, eco-friendly provision, needs to go further. Some countries have already achieved more than a two thirds transition from capitalist forms to post-capitalist forms. The 20th century journey of humanity ‘beyond capital’ simply needs to be continued. In view of profit-driven extinction probabilities that transition needs to be completed.

To go beyond.

The ideology spun around the capitalist mode of production has perpetuated a myth of private-enterprise superiority despite the reality of successful public institutions and the continuing cascade of failed and failing private enterprises. The mismatch between the ideology of capitalism and the stark reality of its incurable self-harming and ecologically destructive habits is perpetuated by a class of people who benefit from keeping bits of it artificially alive. Education, media, government, law and science are staffed by publicly trained people who dominate intellectual discourse and are not accustomed to being critical or self-critical. Long-term future effects, or how the capitalist economy works – as a whole – is not their concern – just their investments on the side.

Apart from a few, that class live in an entitlement-now mode of existence. In the long run they know they are dead so they know they won’t have to face what lies ahead. Denial, pretence, hope and enhanced enjoyment currently offer a more rewarding life-style than accepting that the system they have long upheld is undermining the basic prerequisites for most forms of planetary life. It apparently matters not that sustainable, non-profit, non-polluting production for need under community-wide control is the only model which can enable humanity to have a balanced existence in the future.

Pro-capitalist bias will point to examples of countries where authoritarian politicians have also controlled more than 2/3 of economic activity and corruption, nepotism and oppression have been rife. However, those were not (and are not) post-capitalist forms. They are analogous to the Greek and Roman periods of political rule by dictators and oligarchs but now armed with modern weapons. State controlled capital relations, merely replaced privately controlled ones. They are also Zombie-type elites for they would not exist if the advanced countries did not continually supply them with the means to suppress their citizens (soldiers and weapons) in exchange for oil and other crucial mineral supplies.

A species which organised teams that devised the means to land on the moon, whilst being applauded globally by an audience who knew what, how and why this was happening, can certainly do other complicated things – when they wish to. I suggest creating ways to produce sustainably and with genuine community control is no more difficult for humanity than building space stations and calculating complex parabolic paths to distant planets.

Roy Ratcliffe (February 2020)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 14.

On Capitalist Crisis or Crises.

The term ‘crisis’ appears frequently in the mainstream media, but it is rarely applied to the capitalist mode of production as a whole. With the exception of the 2008 financial crisis, it is also rare to see the term applied to more than one serious problem of modern life. Yet there are six areas where the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist mode of production are dangerously destructive. The six areas are; economics, finance, politics, social-welfare, environment and education.

1 Economics.

Economic activities (producing food, water, clothing and shelter) are the foundations upon which all human communities are based. Yet exceptions aside, within capitalist modes of production, these basic needs can only be purchased with money. Yet sufficient money can only be normally obtained by paid employment and large-scale unemployment therefore creates a socio-economic crisis.

But alongside that basic-needs contradiction squirms another. The motive for capitalist production is profit which requires the constant production and sales of commodities and services. Production in turn needs constant supplies of raw materials and accessible markets. Capitalists compete for these and in extreme cases, encourage their political and military elites to declare hostilities on another country to secure such resources. Creating enemies and wars – are symptoms of capitalism in an international phase of crisis.

2 Finance.

In stark contrast to the poor, the elites have so much money that they not only obtain obscenely high standards of living and accumulated wealth, they can use their money to do two things. First, use it to invest in more efficient production and distribution, thus creating even more goods/unemployment/rubbish. Second, they use it to speculate in commodities (or contracts) buying and selling to make more money.

This stock-market ‘trading’ not only increases prices for essential commodities but speculation can make everything more expensive. It can also lead to regular speculative bubbles like the one which burst in 2008. Speculation is currently pumping up bubbles in many more commodities which will burst and again paralyse general economic activity. Bursting bubbles are a symptom of capitalism’s financial crisis.

3 Politics.

Few can can doubt that the political systems and politicians in most countries are in crisis. Most are incompetent, motivated by self-interest, collectively corrupt and committed to the continuance of the capitalist mode of production. It is this commitment to capitalism with its unsolvable contradictions, which also makes them part of the problem. Over the last century or so of governing capitalism, all the possible political forms have been tried and failed.

Capitalist countries have been run by aristocratic, right-wing, left-wing and liberal political elites; Fascist dictatorships, Bolshevik sectarians, former slave and peasant revolutionaries, military elites, religious elites and even the occasional female leader. All failed to overcome capitalism’s inbuilt contradictions, which remain irreconcilable with the needs of the majority of humanity. Unequal economic relationships inevitably create unequal political forms and vica versa. Ownership and control, of production by the producers is what is needed, but politics stands in the way.

4 Social-welfare.

Social programmes in the areas of unemployment pay, health-care and end of life care programmes are all in obvious crisis. Under capitalism these should be funded from high earnings and purchases. Therefore, reduction in savings and taxes caused by unemployment and low pay results in a welfare funding crisis. Less taxes means less money for benefits, health-care and end-of-life care.

Under capitalism, a disproportionate amount of the combined annual value of all economic activity in each country goes into the private bank accounts of elites in finance, business, commerce, entertainment, sport and government. Consequently none of this finds its way into social-welfare programmes. Furthermore, the capitalist mode of production by developing science and mechanised production has enabled the human population to expand and consume a multitude of products at a rate which mean global resources are being rapidly exhausted.

Over 7 billion people (and rising) now potentially over-consume on a planet which prior to the industrial revolution supported less than one billion. For the world’s poor sufficient water, food, shelter and are already difficult to acquire. The better off countries of the world are running out of places to ‘dump’ their rubbish. More production and distribution by capitalist methods equals more social-welfare problems.

5 Environment.

Environmental issues are currently the most featured aspect of capitalist crisis. However, this area of concern is usually considered in isolation from the other five aspects of crisis. Its direct connection with capitalism is generally ignored. Otherwise knowledgeable commentators, describe the effects of ecological damage, climate change, floods, fires and pollution, but demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the dynamic of capitalist production which make these symptoms inevitable.

This intellectual disconnect between cause and effect in capitalist productive relationships, has led to large-scale denial, indifference, addictive consumption and a focus on cleaning-up rather than eliminating pollution. Arriving at different environmental conclusions from different class perspectives, is itself an element of the crisis facing humanity. If a critical-mass of people cannot think holistically, (and self-critically) then there can be no short or long-term serious efforts to reverse the environmental damage being done.

6 Education.

Education under capitalism is predominantly training for an occupation within its evolving system of production. The training is simultaneously ideological in order that people support the capitalist system and think there is no acceptable alternative to it. The resulting lack of questioning has become a symptom of crisis since it obscures the clarity needed by people to analyse the role of ‘capital’ in the many aspects of crisis we face.

Consequently, a great deal of self-education is required to navigate through the propaganda, half-truths, fake-truths and self-serving bias which are promoted by supporters of the capitalist system. An associated problem lies in the prevalence of dualistic either/or modes of thinking and in assumptions and opinions borrowed from supposedly authoritative sources. Seriously questioning everything is sadly the only wise course of action for anyone wishing to understand the world – as it is – in order to change it.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 13.

On Neo-Liberalism.

The capitalist mode of production began its career in the hands of merchant traders and capital took the form of Commercial Capital. Money was used to commission, purchase, transport and sell commodities from wherever they were produced to wherever they could be sold. Warehousing, market stalls and shipping were the most visible indicators. Merchant traders became rich and socially influential.

Later an industrial revolution occurred and capital began to be used to manufacture commodities on a large scale and on a continuous basis. Industrial Capital began to dominate socio-economic activity, it’s owners became the wealthiest and most influential. Factories, mines and large-scale farms were the most visible indicators.

The accumulated profits generated during those two stages accelerated a third stage in which loan or finance-capital became the most dominant form. Accumulated money was loaned at interest, to other capitalists, (merchants, industrialists, speculators) and governments. Banks, finance-houses and stock-exchanges, became the most visible manifestations of this particular stage.

Economic strategies.

Each of these stages had its own internal evolution and had different effects upon the general social and international relations within which they operated, but all grew absolutely, whilst their relative dominance shifted. The intellectual strategies of these interconnected stages appeared within economic theory. Mercantile, protectionism dominated early economic discourse and was replaced by liberal ‘free-market’ thinking when industry dominated governments.

The period of ‘free-trade’ capitalism led to freedom for the strongest capitalists (and capitalist countries) to dominate the weakest. Results! ‘Enclosures’, ‘Colonialism’ and ‘Imperialism’. Wars over access to essential raw materials and markets were triggered – including two world wars. Furthermore, technical advances in capitalist production techniques led to large-scale unemployment and potential (as well as actual) uprisings and revolutions. So after the Second World War a modification of free-market economics was proposed by John Maynard Keynes and was accepted by most European and Western governments.

This Keynesian economic strategy involved governments playing an active and leading role in economic and social affairs by regulating, stimulating and directing economic activity along with promoting social welfare programmes. Governments began to control capitalists. This welfare-capitalism model of economic theory and practice appeared to solve some of the problems associated with ‘free-for-all’ capitalism, but it hadn’t really.

A new phenomena occurred in which taxes on capital, profits and wages were increased to pay for this governmental activity. However, competition continued and in the leading capitalist countries, profits slumped, capital was increasingly exported and large-scale unemployment returned.

Financial de-regulation.

The drain on profits led to some economists and politicians resurrecting free-market liberal ideas – but in a new form – hence a new ‘liberalism’ or neo-liberalism. This involved free-market capitalism with new (ie neo) twists. The continued domination of finance-capital meant that that particular sector was able to persuade politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (et al) to introduce de-regulation of banking and financial transactions; to hold down wages and salaries by limiting trade union bargaining; and by allowing finance-capitalists to purchase public utilities, (eg, gas, electricity, water, telephones, postal services etc.,) at bargain prices.

Consequently wealth for the rich upper and middle-classes soared, particularly in Europe and North America whilst many working people living there sank into relative and absolute poverty. However, the advocates of neo-liberal capitalism were not fully satisfied by this mega re-distribution of social wealth upward to the elite. They wanted to secure it. Working people might get sufficiently upset by poverty and precarious conditions, to elect governments pledged to end this neo economic/financial theft. So in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, some elites invented a means to prevent this.

The T.T.I.P. Of a bureaucratic iceberg.

Neo-liberal theorists, financiers, economists and politicians collaborated in writing trade agreement documents, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, (TTIP) which would allow, private companies to prevent governments from taking any action which damaged or diminished their profitability. A future of capitalists controlling Governments.

Governments will be compelled to pay taxpayers money to compensate for losses incurred to capitalists by local or national government actions. Revealingly, these trade agreements are not available for public scrutiny. Nor are the special courts of arbitration open to the public. Secrecy and elite-only access to these machinations of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite are strictly enforced.

Financial, economic, political and social power already resides in the hands of the capitalist elite and further bureaucratic forms are being used against the ordinary people and their representatives. The capitalist real-world god is still profit, but their New Testament is now neo-liberalism and the Cardinals and Pontiffs of capital are now the owners/controllers of ‘too-big-to-fail’ corporations. Consequently, neo-liberalism has transformed ordinary people’s rights into the modern equivalent of dependent serfs and peasants. That may seem bad enough, but ecologically, there is more.

Profit-based production and consumption, increases commodity volumes and reduces labour costs. The manufacturing processes of commodities, also produces an increase in pollution, ecological damage and climate-change crisis. It also – via neo-liberal financed automation and artificial intelligence – reduces the numbers and pay of people employed who are then unable to purchase this increased production.

Over-production, stagnation and social strife.

Existing capitalist relative-overproduction is now increasing toward a 21st century generalised over-production crisis, leading to further economic stagnation before economic collapse and social strife. Yet a mixture of ignorance and self-interest means practically all pro-capitalists are blind to such unresolvable contradictions waiting to explode among their countries citizens.

Since these elites, dominate, economics, finance, education, science, politics, media and law, and are blind to the contradictions at play, ordinary citizens are not aware of them either. So those who suffer most are left struggling to understanding why. Thus leaving them open to being persuaded to blame other victims of the same socio-economic system. Divide and rule is daily being promoted in the hope of diverting attention away from the economic system capitalists promote and defend.

Applying neo-liberal theory and practice to 20th century capitalism has enabled a further enrichment of the elite by a further impoverishing the non-elite.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020.)

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CONFLICT IN THE GULF.

Superficially, it seems that the recent targeted assassination of Iran’s Qassem Suleimani, authorised by the American President, is just another example of Donalds’ schizophrenic type mentality. However, his role in this act of killing as well as his presence in office is a symptom of a much larger crisis. One which reaches deep into the history of the capitalist mode of production. It is a history that orbits around oil precisely because capitalisms cycle of production, distribution and consumption completely depends upon it. The Iranian missiles fired in retaliation and the one bringing down a civilian aircraft demonstrate how quickly tensions can escalate.

But it should not be forgotten that interference by the elites of dominant capitalist countries in the affairs of oil-rich countries has been continuous since industrialised production and transport switched from coal and steam to oil and electricity. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that for almost a century, rival blocs of capitalist elites have continued manipulation and rivalry in countries such as; Iraq, Saudi, Iran, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Congo, Venezuela etc. In the process using, abusing and even killing, those who stand in the way of ensuring reliable oil supplies.

This history is crucially important to understand. In particular, the people of Iran have an extremely negative experience of UK and USA interference in their countries. During the early 20th century, Iran and it’s oil was controlled by Britain and British Petroleum (BP) whose shareholders became mega rich whilst most Iranians remained desperately poor. Attempts by Iran to gain control of their own resources were constantly thwarted. A regime headed by a Shah was eventually put in charge via a UK and USA manipulated coup.

However, that CIA/MI5 preferred regime, did not sufficiently benefit the masses. Eventually a rebellion deposed him. Iran became dominated by Islamic fundamentalists, headed by Ayattola Khomeini. Religious ideology replaced secular ideology and most secular-minded people were physically eliminated as agents of western capitalism or soviet communism. Iranians were told (and many believed) that Islamic law would create better governance than any Soviet or US backed examples could offer.

Western capitalist systems elites – mainly those in the UK and USA – remained livid at loosing control of the huge and highly profitable oil reserves in Iran. Ever since, Iranian and USA/UK elites have been involved in a hot and cold war with each other. Tragically, hostilities may now be heading toward a new intensity. Further resentment by Iranian people (and other Arab people’s) to the West’s interference in the Middle East, is with regard to the role played by Britain and the USA, in the establishment and maintenance of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, towns and villages since the 1940’s.

Furthermore, when America, Britain and France supported Iraq’s Saddam Hussain with arms and resources in the Iraq/Iran war, this was seen as the West using Iraq to achieve regime change in Iran. But there is an interesting double irony. The reasons many Shia Iranians chose an Islamised state – all those decades ago – was because the secular examples promoted in the region by the West were so consistently bad. However, when Sunni Islam created it’s own alternative version of fundamentalism, via the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (1928) as interpreted by Hasan al Banna, later by Savyid Qutb and redefined by the Islamic State of ISIL/IS IS, this development was vigorously opposed by the Iranian regime.

Part of the irony is that the leading Iranian organiser of successful opposition to ISIS and it’s geographical Caliphate was none other than – Qassem Suleimani – the General assassinated on the authority of Donald Trump! Having allowed the Turkish version of patriarchal Islam, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to disperse and kill the northern Syrian Kurdish fighters against ISIS, the US president has had another fighter against ISIS bumped off in Iraq.

Given that ISIS type Islamism is supposed to be the USA’s main target for eradication this may seem strange. However, it is not elite male killing of rivals and female oppression in general, or Islamic versions of these two inhuman practices, that the West’s own male-dominated elites object to. How could they since they clearly indulge in versions of these patriarchal practices themselves? What they really object to is any threat to the control of what they see as ‘their’ (sic) sources of wealth and profit.

Incidentally, the young people in Iran only six months ago were demonstrating against Shia fundamentalist rule in Iran and by implication also against Sunni fundamentalist rule. This was a welcome groundswell. Youth and women struggling against poverty and patriarchy in the middle-east, undoubtedly saw that their oppression comes from the western elites as well as their own Arabic religious elites.

Yet it is a well established lesson from history that when the population of a country feels sufficiently threatened by the armed forces of another country, they suspend internal divisions for the duration of the threat. In addition, many expect retaliation for acts perpetrated against their own side. This was the case in the two-world wars of the 20th century, where deep divisions in the UK and the USA were suspended between 1939 and 1945. Almost everyone rallied to support their respective Allied governments. The same occurred in Germany and Italy on the Axis side of that war for control of markets and resources.

So it will not be surprising if many of the dissatisfied Iranian women and youth now feel duty bound – not only to object to the American assassination of their (sic) Iranian general – but call for retaliatory action. And not just for this latest act: but also for the poverty and suffering caused by years of USA orchestrated trade embargo against them. Just which sides elites the Iranian dissatisfied feel are the bigger villains in this whole sorry mess remains to be seen. After a century of western interference in the Middle East, it may well be the West’s – yet again – and hostilities continue.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020)

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