FAKE NEWS and POST TRUTH!!

On both sides of the Atlantic, and perhaps elsewhere, there are currently several forms of panic among the political and media elite of all persuasions. The mainstream left, right and centre politicians are now loosing their grip on political power after they had previously lost their credibility. And that’s not all. They and their various media institutions/supporters have been loosing control of the flow of information. One of the forms this panic has taken is a developing concern with what some politicians and media gurus have recently classified as fake news and others have christened post truth. The latter amazingly presupposes that there was once a pre-condition of truth within the main news media.

The medium they accuse of dispensing all this so-called fake news and post truth information is the Internet. It is clear that the Internet and the availability of facebook, twitter, instagram and low cost blog-space has opened up the flow of information, to and from the masses. In the opinion of middle and upper ‘establishment’ figures this uncontrolled flow just will not do. For the first time in history ordinary people can report what has happened, express opinions, make up stuff, poke fun, vilify, criticise and transmit this mixed bag of information to a wider audience than, immediate friends, family and workmates. You can almost see the elite thinking – how dare they!

This new grassroots dissemination of fact, fiction and opinion (the main three components of information or what often passes as news) can potentially reach a national and international audience. The problem for the elite is that the Internet currently bypasses the monopoly of pro-establishment, gatherers, creators, mediators, gatekeepers, disseminators and witholders of the worlds news. It is this which scares the Clintons, Obamas and May’s etc., of this world. For the previous monopoly of information gathering, editing and dissemination by the establishment served a very definate purpose. It was, and is, to control (by witholding, restricting, distorting or amplifying) the quality, quantity and direction of the flow of information to the general public in a way suitable to their needs.

Capitalism and information control.

If we consider the generally accepted definition of fake as the deliberate intention to create a misleading appearance or a fraudulent misrepresentation or even a simulated pretence, then fake news (along with forged documents) has a long and dishonourable history, particularly, but not exclusively, among those who could write. For this reason fake news is nothing new and has been a powerful tool of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite since universal literacy became a requirement for the capitalist mode of production. The creation and control of newspapers, as a means to gather, select, edit, modify, disseminate or withold fact, fiction and opinion, was deemed an early necessity by the capitalist class and their Citizen Kane type supporters.

Tight control of the flow of information was deemed so important that large quantities of capital were sunk into the mechanics of mass produced printing and distribution. Later capital flowed into the even more advanced technology of electronic sound and visual mass media. This ensured that the ideas which suited the dominant classes, the bourgeoisie and petite-bourgeoisie were the ideas which dominated the whole of society. In this process, fact and opinion became the warp to the weft of elite and government driven propaganda in the fabric of mainstream media production. It constantly needed to be unpicked to disentangle fact from fiction, prejudice from description and bias from neutrality – and it still does. Only (to continue the metaphor) the fabric of information production is now being woven on a much more diverse set of looms.

For decades, the political class and the elites in control of modern state institutions have routinely blocked damaging information from dissemination by ‘gagging’ orders, ‘secrecy’ laws and by threats of punishment for publication of classified information. They have also put out misinformation, disinformation, distorted or doctored information and manufactured downright fabrications (eg the Zinoviev letter etc.) to discredit some and distract others from pursuing a more accurate understanding of the alienating world we live in. Do we know what the real involvement of all governments and war industries is in the genocidal horrors being currently visited upon the citizens of Syria and Yemen? Some insiders most probably do but are keeping quiet either by choice, censorship or fear of reprisals.

The comments made by governments and media on these two contemporary tragedies (not to mention the many others) mean that news reporting is often far less than truthful and when not tapping phones or bribing informants, is frequently guilty of weaving a web of fake news and propaganda. At a more national and mundane level how often are unemployment statistics massaged or poisonious industrial emmissions understated? What are ‘plausible denial’ statements and ‘dodgy dossiers’ if they are not the establishments routine output of fake news or ‘post truth’ information? The mainstream press and media, apart from occasionally breaking ranks with the rich and powerful, have more often than not colluded with the opinions, narratives, distortions and ommisions of information which dominate the official news outlets.

Alternative information outlets.

Any alternative to this pro-establishment controlled information flow, such as the Internet, is now seen as out of control and increasingly dangerous. After all, didn’t it help to spark off the Arab Spring? And doesn’t it produce visual evidence of government inspired war crimes? This potential for subverting the prefered establishment narrative is what really lies behind the current hyperbole concerning the so-called fake news and suggestions to curb it. Yet this alternative outlet for a counter narrative and alternative vision of what humanity can become is increasingly important, given the evolving five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production.

It is not so much the obvious cranky, off the wall, ‘post truth’ hysterical stuff which disturbs them for they, along with most people, will ignore or see through this material or only be fooled once by a hoax before they fine-tune their crap detectors. Actually it is the alternative, critical and we’ll researched information outlets, which really rocks their boat. It is these sources of serious alternative facts and views which are actually in their sights for possible eradication. The treatment of whistle blowers such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and the enabling outlets such as Wikileaks (provided by Julian Assange et al) shows how much they abhor the internets non-fake revelations and much-too-close-for-comfort approximations to truth telling.

Of course in the gathering, archiving, editing and disseminating information there is always selection regarding what is gathered, where it is gathered and how it is gathered, before selection also takes place in what is stored, how it is edited and how and where information (fact, fiction and opinion) is disseminated. Since all these processes are the product of human activity there can be no true objectivity even with regard to facts, for selection there (as with fiction and opinion) is a subjective matter. This selectivity always needs to be born in mind. Subjectivity can also be exagerated to an extremely high degree by those with an axe to grind, a prejudice (for or against something) to support or an income stream to protect.

This too needs to be constantly born in mind. It is therefore wise to double – check as many things as possible before bestowing validity on an opinion which purports to be based upon facts. Such scepticism should apply to everyone, left, right or centre in politics, religion or economics. If opinion is being expressed seriously it should be backed up with openly available and reliable evidence unless this evidence is already reliably and widely known. If it is not backed up in this way then it is probably no more trustworthy than pulp fiction. The complementary intellectual warning to the economic cliché ‘buyer beware‘ should always be ‘reader (or listener) beware’.

Particular care should be exercised in cases where character assassination is being undertaken for partisan or personal reasons. Here too in matters of importance it is wise to check what someone has actually said or written not what someone says he or she has said or written. Taking words or part sentences out of context or distorting what is meant is often resorted to in order to discredit a person, an opinion or an idea. This caution of necessity applies to articles, book reviews or even such resources as enteries in Wikipedia, all of which are particularly subject to editorial distortion and input manipulation from those with access, together with an elite or sectarian cause to serve.

R. Ratcliffe (December 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Arab Spring, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., Sectarianism, The State | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

CASTRO: HERO OR VILLAIN?

Despite the millions of written or spoken words either for against the Cuban President Fidel Castro after his death and before it, to me the characterisation of his social and political role remains somewhat muddled. For some commentators, he was a brilliant charismatic leader of a revolution which introduced universal education and health care to a country starved of both and in the grips of a corrupt pro capitalists dictatorship. To others he was a ruthless dictator in control of a police – state with a disgraceful human rights record and a destroyer of individual initiative and alternative left politicians. Such dualistic partisanship exagerates and distorts, in one favoured direction or the other, his real historical role. It also fails to make clear the evolution of the political positions which he adopted in order to maintain himself (and his inner circle) as the sole political party of the island of Cuba. In fact the reality as it unfolded within Cuba was full of contradictions, and as we shall see they were the contradictions generated by a petite-bourgeois elite.

In Cuba, before what has been described as ‘the revolution’ in 1956, the ruling strata of Cuban social and political life was headed by the dictator Fulgencia Batista. To enrich themselves and their cronies, this corrupt elite were hand in glove with two exploititive and oppressive institutions based in the USA – corporate capitalism and organised crime. This meant that practically the whole population of Cuba was at the mercy of this corrupt combination of brutal and ruthless elites. Not surprisingly the corruption spead elsewhere in Cuba, including all the state institutions, the police and the armed forces. It was this corruption which Fidel Castro sought to eradicate when he petitioned a Cuban Court to have Batista removed from power. When this petition failed (it was not even accepted by the court), Fidel, his brother Raul and some of their supporters tried another tactic. They attempted to capture a military barracks, and failed in this also. Fidel was imprisoned for this failed attempt. He was later released and moved to Mexico where he met Che Guevara.

The Guerrilla phase. (1956 – 1959)

While they were in Mexico, Fidel and Che recruited other like – minded individuals and a group of them covertly sailed back to Cuba. Unfortunately most of them were captured, but Fidel and Che managed to escape into the forested mountain region. From there they began a series of armed confrontations with Batista’s army forces. Recruitment to this rural guerrilla force was slow mainly because the socialists and communists in the urban centres did not appear to support Fidel or Che’s political goals. For a considerable time the feeling was mutual. Fidel at this early stage did not have political positions based upon a commitment to class struggle – at least not in the Stalinist form. The left was split in Cuba as elsewhere.

At this early stage Fidel and his rural guerrilla group simply wanted a government and state free of corruption together with a rural and urban economy freed from the stranglehold of American big agri-businesses. After several years, the guerrilla forces began to outsmart and regularly defeat the loyal Bastita military forces and in 1959 becoming aware of his eventual ousting, the corrupt dictator fled the island. Shortly after Batista’s delarture the fighters around Castro and Che swept all opposition before them and with sufficient popular support behind them seized political power. All those who were judged to have obstructed this political ‘revolution’ were dealt with by imprisonment or execution.

In 1960 the new regime placed American businesses under the supervision of their loyal supporters and this action prompted America to implement an embargo on Cuban goods. This response was not what Fidel and his compatriots wanted because the Cuban economy was largely dependent upon exports to America. It was taxes and duties arising from this trade which financed the government, both of which suffered drastically from the embargo. Under the model of economic activity envisioned by Fidel and his comrades taxes and duties were important because without them there would be no wages and salaries to support the non-productive sectors of society such as the military, state officials, educators, doctors and the political class etc.

For this reason another trading partner was urgently needed and one was forthcoming in the form of the Soviet Union. This was a political dictatorship which wished to increase its influence in the region. It is this change in circumstances that prompted a change in Fidel’s political orientation. In other words in 1960’s the economic interests of the new Cuban elite and the political interests of the Soviet elite coincided and it was this raproachment which brought forth a new strategy in Cuba. Economic trade with the Soviet Bloc via the Soviet sponsored ‘Council for Mutual Economic Aid’ in 1972 influenced much which then happened politically. Meanwhile.

The bay of Pigs. (1961)

In 1961 the American CIA hatched a plan to use Cuban exiles to invade Cuba (at the Bay of Pigs) and foment a popular uprising against the new ruling elite. It failed miserably but it prompted Castro and his inner circle to increase the ties with Russia for security as well as economic reasons. It was during this period that Castro then decided to declare his allegiance to Marxist/Leninism. This declaration must have been primarily a tactical move for there is no reason to believe that he really agreed with Marx’s position on anything, let alone Marx’s economic analysis of capitalism or his revolutionary humanism. Indeed, it is doubtful whether any of these self proclaimed revolutionary elites had seriously and thoroughly studied the works of Marx such as Das Capital or the Grundrisse or had examined the counter – revolutionary nature of Stalinist sectarianism or its roots in Leninist vanguardism.

Nevertheless, the pragmatic adaptation of the Cuban elite in 1965 to the vanguardist model ensured they adopted a similar Jacobin outlook to that of the Soviet leadership. [The term Jacobin is derived from the French Revolution of the 18th century in which a section of the French revolutionary middle-class leaders (the Jacobins) professed absolute faith in the ideal of mankind, but exhibited absolute distrust of all real men – and women. Trotsky initially characterised Lenin and the Bolsheviks as having a Jacobin mentality before he joined them and became a convinced Leninist.] It was this vanguardist middle-class Jacobin arrogance which I suggest also prompted the four or five hour long speeches in which Castro lectured those who managed to endure them. To my mind such marathon events stem from a presumptious assumption that such leaders are the font of all revolutionary wisdom and that working people are the ignorant and passive soil in which to plant their patriarchal prejudices – no matter how long it takes.

The Soviet Union implodes. (1990 -1991)

With the eventual break up of the Soviet Union, the economic lifeline provided by Russia to Cuba ceased. This meant that Fidel and his inner circle no longer needed to doff their cap to Marxist/Leninism but this did not alter their vanguardist views. At no point did they see their role as working alongside the workers and facilitating their self-governance and communal control of production. They still thought it absolutely necessary that they remain in power as a guiding elite for the future development of a Cuba they thought suitable. And indeed, on the basis of the support they got and using the energy and determination of the Cuban people, they had introduced many policies positively effecting the socio-economic basis of Cuban life. Education and health care provision in particular were outstanding developments and way in advance of many much larger countries. Still, it is not by their modest life-styles or any acts of elite generosity or benevolence, (numerous or otherwise) that modern socio-economic systems should be judged.

For it is an undoubted fact that right-wing dictators have introduced some benefits to their citizens as well as left-wing dictators. Yet these have been granted whilst the elites have retained their privileged positions and kept their citizens in childlike fear and state controlled dependence. Even many enlightened capitalists have embraced some limited forms of equality for women and people of colour. So the granting of these limited privileges (which lessen the burden a little) are not the basis for assessing whether a mode of production has radically changed in favour of the oppressed. Indeed, beneficial reforms for workers under oppressive regimes were precisely the attraction of Fascism, Stalinism and Social Democracy for many workers. It is also a telling fact that all those middle-class radicals on the left who sought to initiate challenges to capitalism from above, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky Mao, Tito, Chavez and yes Fidel Castro, actually prevented the working classes from taking control of the means of production. And yes they all demanded fatherland or death from the working class in defence of this top – down system .

All the above (and their inner support networks) imposed exploititive systems upon working people which were experienced by these classes as less preferable than the exploitation imposed by the capitalist mode of production. As a result, in every one of these so-called countries of socialist realism, the capitalist mode of production has either re-established its domination or is well on the way to doing so. That is how these so-called ‘socialistic’ experiments should be judged. And in some countries, (Russia, China, Yugoslavia, and now Cuba) the ‘vanguard’ leading and promoting the resurgence of capitalist domination were (and are) the political descendents of those elites who created the ‘socialist’ power structures in the first place. How ironic is that?

An open invitation to capital.

Cuba was no different in this regard. From 1998 to 2002 the political agents of American economic control (Jimmy Carter etc) and the agents of religious, pro-capitalist mind control (Pope John Paul 2 etc) were invited to Cuba whilst Fidel was still alive. In 2008, when he became too ill to function as the leader, he passed his authority on to his brother in a gesture worthy of ancient kingdoms where domination and elite leadership was passed on – as far as possible – within the male line of the family. This new form of left-wing patriarchal ‘vanguard’ preeminence was initiated in the 19th century, enthusiastically embraced by the Bolsheviks, and is still being kept alive by a majority of the left in the 21st. The Cuban elite provide just one more example.

The overall result, despite some undoubted benefits (beneficial social programmes and anti – racist gestures for example) is the continued steady intrusion of international capital into the production processes of Cuba. This steady economic infiltration has been accompanied by the elite spolitical accomodation to capital’s needs for profits via a docile and impoverished Cuban working class. That is the actual inheritance bequeathed to the present generation by the middle-class, left-wing Hero’s or Villain’s of the past – including those such as Fidel Catro operating in Cuba.

Interestingly, this process of inviting the internationalisation of capitalist exploitation within Cuba is occuring at precisely the period in which the capitalist mode of production has once again entered a severe crisis of relative over-production with its attendent economic and military wars of aggression and dispossession. Humanity is still faced with the problem of going beyond capital before it further destroys, exhausts and pollutes the planet driven as it is by an insatiable greed for surplus-value. Whilst the need is to go beyond capital, Cuba is actually going back to domination by capital. Despite the pioneering work of some 19th century middle-class intellectuals, the middle-class left intelligentia of the 20th century have provided no practical examples of how to solve this historic problem. They have only provided examples of what not to do.

We can conclude from all this international history and the example of Fidel Castro (et al) in Cuba, that the working classes in future need something entirely different. More and more working people need to outgrow any child-like dependence on charismatic patriarchal males as father figure guides to a better future. We need to reject this secularised version of the outmoded religious ‘good shepherd’ dependancy and work collectively to revolutionise the mode of production in order to create a post-capitalist method of production worthy of humanity in its most generous and egalitarian form.

R. Ratcliffe (December 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Economics, Left Unity, Patriarchy, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

THE ECONOMICS OF IMMIGRATION.

Any attempt to understand the current political, social or cultural turmoil caused by immigration which does not include the capitalistic economic motive in its analysis, will remain incomplete and distorted. In most, if not all, the more recent media discussions between those arguing for and those arguing against immigration, the economic factor and the key role this plays in capitalist economic cycles has been either downplayed or missing altogether. Yet immigration, in its present form, (as the ‘free movement of labour’) is entirely a product of the capitalist mode of production. Strongly expressed opinions for or against the ‘free movement of labour’ cannot be fully understood until the costs of labour-power in the process of capitalist forms of wealth accumulation are openly recognised.

Those who own or control capital can only maintain or augment it’s value by using it to make profits or attract interest. If they do not use it in this way, they must live off it and see it decrease in amounts which are commensurate with how they choose to live. Furthermore, the class of capitalists can only maintain their capital or augment it if large numbers of them use it to employ workers to make things or do things which are valuable and can be sold. To do this they must use the capital they control to supply the workers with the tools of production, the means of production and pay them wages or salaries which the workers then use to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families. The trick the capitalist engage in to produce sufficient value in production to produce huge profits is simple, but not immediately obvious.

They pay the workers an amount (in wages or salaries) which is of considerably less value than the value the workers create during their employment. The difference between these two values is the surplus value which is contained within the products (commodities or services) and will be realised in monetary form when these commodities or services are sold. It is obvious that in this production process, the installments of profit accruing to the capitalists will be greater the lower the amount they have to pay to their workers. Therefore, cheap labour has always been the sought after golden goose that has helped the employers of labour-power to amass their past and present fortunes. The free movement of labour is the current method of ensuring the golden goose constantly migrates toward capital.

Low pay equals big profits.

So it is in the interests of those who employ workers to keep wages low, and it is in the interests of those who work to try to keep them at a level which they feel is appropriate to how they want to live. This is the economic basis of what became known as the class struggle. In the past, (as now) the employers invariably had the upper hand and used many means to keep wages low. They would lay individual workers off until they were starving and would agree to work for wages the employers thought gave them enough profit. In response the early workers formed unions and associations and defended their wages and conditions by negotiating and if necessary striking. In such circumstances, the employers then introduced a method of strike breaking by bringing in workers from elsewhere who were able and prepared to work at the wage or salary levels the employers insisted upon.

Cheap labour-power from outside (or occasionally within) the immediate area was used to replace local organised labour-power. It was known as strike – breaking and the workers who in this way were undermined or defeated gave those strike-breaking workers the unpleasant name of scabs. It was their name for this early bourgeois form of the ‘movement of free labour’. That is labour which was ‘free’ to starve or free to be used to replace other workers in dispute. These new imported workers who in this way took the jobs from other workers were despised and hated because they had effectively taken the food from the mouths of the strikers and their wives and children.

Very little consideration was given to the fact that those who took their jobs were also victims of the same capitalist system. Capitalism is a mode of production which had in many such cases rendered them so desperate to feed themselves and their families, that they were prepared to leave their place of origin, risk their own wellbeing and suffer the hatred of those whose jobs they had taken. Poor workers were being moved around in order to undermine other poor workers – and they still are. That is the essence of the ‘free movement of labour’. It was a cynical case of ‘divide and rule’ and was a process which eventually took two major forms – emigration and immigration.

Capitalist inspired Emigration.

When the capitalist mode of production reached a certain stage of industrial development the numbers of workers needed to saturate the home market with commodities was much reduced. This created two problems for the capitalist class and their supporters. The first problem was an economic one – where to sell the surplus production pouring out of the factories and workshops. The second problem was a social one – what to do with the growing numbers of unemployed workers who had by this time no other means of earning a living. Britain as the dominant capitalist nation in the 19th century, solved these two problems with one solution – Colonial/Imperial inspired emigration! Others would follow. For example;

“My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, ie in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for goods produced in factories and the mines. The empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war you must become imperialists.” (Cecil Rhodes. Quoted in ‘The Third World.’ Worsley M. page 28.)

It is rare these days to find such a clear and honest statement of the capitalist purpose behind Imperialist emigration and the other side of this bourgeois coin – immigration. Yet the stages of Imperialism and Colonialism – served exactly this purpose. The purpose being to obtain the essential components of capitalist production – raw materials, cheap labour and markets. Where cheap labour was unavailable as in the new world colonies of North and South America, the the forced emigration from Africa of slave-labourers supplied the deficiency. In this case it was a ‘less free’ movement of labour, but a movement of labour nonetheless.

The captured slaves became the forced emigrants from Africa arriving as the enslaved immigrants to this ‘new world’ of capitalist exploitation. They became slave workers and were forced at a minimal cost to produce surplus-value in the cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations of North and South America and the Caribbean. We can see from this and what comes next that under the capitalist mode of production, emigration and immigration are terms used for regulating the international flow of ‘free’, cheap and/or desperate labour to where it is needed by the owners and beneficiaries of capitalist accumulation.

Capitalist inspired Immigration.

As noted it is undoubtedly a fact that with a few exceptions, under the capitalist mode of production, cheap labour is essential for maximising profits. Under developed capitalist systems, the free movement of labour serves the same economic purpose as strike breakers did in previous periods of union militancy. The economic purpose being to keep wages down and working conditions as basic as possible. Immigration and strikebreaking are just two different ways of using one set of desperate workers, against another group of workers who are struggling to maintain or improve their standards of living. Both strikebreakers and poor immigrants have been deliberately recruited and ‘moved’ around to where they are needed by capitalist employers for exactly that economic purpose and no other. Of course this is seldom openly admitted by those championing immigration.

In the UK, for example, with the final defeat of trade union militancy in the mid to late 20th century, strike breakers were no longer needed by employers but lowering wages was still desired by capitalists and their pro – capitalist supporters in politics and government. Immigration was therefore the obvious solution. In Europe, the EEC and later the EU with its clauses on ‘free movement of labour’ and capital were deliberately designed for that precise purpose. In the late 20th century and on into the 21st, the recruitment of cheap labour and the undercutting of wages and salaries in most advanced capitalist countries, has been achieved primarily through immigration.

It is this aspect of of the role of immigrant labour which is resented by many working people, not primarily the country of origin, ethnicity, culture, colour or religion of those being brought into the countries of Europe and North America. It is only immigration in its ‘free movement of labour’ guise which arouses large-scale opposition. Apart from a racist minority, most of the prejudice against immigration is because immigrant labour has become predominantly prejudicial to the wages and welfare of the indigenous workers. Being against immigration is primarily a prejudice against a capitalist tactic of lowering wages, salaries and conditions. Of course if some individuals from these immigrant communities, also introduce criminality or terrorism, then these factors become another additional reason for indigenous workers resenting or even fearing large-scale immigration.

The reason that the middle-classes are generally less prejudiced against immigration and some accuse workers of being racist is because their socio-economic conditions are less threatened by it. It rarely effects their access to housing, schools or health care. Some even gain from the free movement of labour – from cheap domestic labour, cheap service labour or cheap productive labour. In fact these self-serving middle-classes are often more prejudiced against their own working classes and their unions for being less docile and deferential than immigrant workers. For when workers strike, demonstrate or riot, it invariably does effect their socio-economic wellbeing. It also offends their petite-bourgeois ideas of social stability and order in which everyone knows their place and respectfully accepts whatever austerity is is handed out to them. Middle-class prejudice against workers is demonstrated when they blanket accuse anti-immigration workers of being motivated by racism.

Meanwhile, because the dominant capitalist ideology and narrative (supported and promoted by most of the middle-classes in academia, media and politics) ignores or covers up the insidious forms of economic exploitation and social oppression, workers are left with very little option but to oppose immigration (as free movement of labour) simply for existential reasons – as it severely and detrimentally effects their lives and their families. If there is no well publicised alternative perspective of going beyond private ownership and production for profit, then what other perspective is available to workers faced with rapidly reducing standards of living?

Will the workers of the world ever unite?

If there is no generally accepted clear perspective of a future economic system which is communal and produces for need instead of greed and which reduces hours of work so that everyone (regardless of colour or creed) can be economically active and live a decent life (and there isn’t – yet!) then there there are only two other options remaining. The first is to accept the capitalist inspired conditions resulting from the free movement of capital and labour and live with the injurous effects of unemployment, austerity, low pay, precarious employment and dwindling social resources. The second is to oppose the free movement of labour by voting for any radical right-wing pro-capitalist charlatans such as Farage, Le Penn and Trump who falsely claim they will regulate it. A more radical alternative is needed.

Fortunately one distorted and dictatorial perspective of a non-capitalist mode of production has been thoroughly discredited if not entirely destroyed by those Leninists, Stalinists and Maoists etc., who called themselves anticapitalists. In the past these so-called revolutionary leaders sought to replace the situation of privately owned capital dictating the wages and conditions of workers by state owned capital dictating the wages and conditions of workers. They too had their own enforced versions of the ‘movement of labour’. Theirs was not a socio-economic revolution, but a political revolution.

They merely replaced one oppressive and exploititive male ruling elite with another, a situation which they described as socialism or communism. However, in no place was a post-capitalist society established for not one of them tried to resolve the contradictions of wage-labour and surplus-value extraction by elites. Nor did they allow the institution of communal ownership and control of production. But this tragedy of the blind leading the short-sighted leaves a problem of what is to replace it. In the 21st century, the economic and social perspective of a free association of working people, minus a parasitic ruling elite, needs to be resurrected or rather re-discovered for it still survives in a few isolated places. Here is one such survival from the writings of that much maligned champion of the working class Karl Marx.

Social progress cannot consist in the dissolution of all association, but in the replacement of the forced and oppressive associations of times past by voluntary and equitable associations……Perfection is found in voluntary associations, which by their union multiply the forces, without taking away the energy, the morality and the responsibility of individual authority.” (Marx. Grundrisse page 581 electronic version Penguin.)

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Economics, Marx, Revolutionary-Humanism | Tagged | Leave a comment

PRODUCTION AND PRODUCTIVITY.

In the UK, both Teresa May, Prime Minister and Chancellor Philip Hammond have both recently made statements asserting the need for greater productivity from workers in order to increase their pay from this increased productivity. This proves quite conclusively that despite a university education neither of them understand the economic processes of the capitalist mode of production. They are not on their own. The call for productivity has become commonplace among European elite. As this desire is likely to be replicated almost everywhere among the global elite, it is well worth examining the concept of productivity further.

Productivity, in the economic sense is the rate at which products (commodities, materials and services) are created either as finished products (or as parts and raw materials destined to be used in the production and operation of finished products). The time it takes to produce something under the capitalist mode of production, is the socio-economic basis of its value. So making it quicker reduces it’s value but other factors being equal, this is compensated to some extent by the fact that there are more products to sell in a given period of time. Hence greater potential profits.

Mr Hammond in his autumn statement to the British Parliament (November 2016) gave the following example. ‘In Germany what took 4 days to complete took 5 days in the UK. In other words German workers were making things quicker than workers in the UK. As a consequence, the UK government wanted UK workers to at least match them or make things in an even shorter time. As noted, the elites alleged motive for desiring UK workers to work faster or more efficiently was so they would get increased wages and salaries.

The secondary (or perhaps primary) implication of this simplistic, not to mention confused, logic being that with increased wages and salaries workers will be able to buy more things or perhaps prevent themselves having to visit a food bank or losing their homes. However, as we shall see there is no direct economic link between what wages are paid (and therefore will buy) and how much is produced in a given time. What wages will purchase also depends upon the cost of living, not how quickly particular workers produce things. Over the last 30 years, productivity has undoubtedly risen everywhere in the advanced capitalist countries but, taken as a whole class, most ordinary working people (white collar and blue) are certainly not better off. Indeed, past increased productivity has had two important and serious effects upon peoples lives. The first has already been mentioned but let’s consider it further in the light of Philip Hammond’s comparison of British and German workers.

Post War productivity.

Car workers, for example, are producing far more cars per hour in 2016 than they were two or three decades ago, but in certain areas what their wages will buy has gone down. In many countries despite numerous ‘speedups‘ (productivity increases) in automobile production, whole factories have closed down and working communities have been devastated by unemployment and poverty – Detroit in the USA for example. In the UK the coal industry and coal mining communities were also destroyed despite incremental advances in mechanised mining productivity. This process of factory closures and community devastation (including small businesses) is a direct result of global productivity increases.

For under the urging of international investment capital, productivity had increased even faster elsewhere than the US, UK and Europe – Japan and Korea – for example, where wages were also far lower despite higher productivity. Under the capitalist mode of production, increases in productivity, spurred on by competition for profits, has for decades pitted workers in one country against workers in another country. It has been a downward race toward the lowest wages possible. As a consequence closure after closure occured as thousands upon thousands were pushed into benefit queues for state handouts, or to applications for charity or in many cases to homelessness and begging.

Even for those workers still producing automobiles in the 21st century, the price of the new cars they make means that fewer of them can afford to purchase one along with the anciliary costs (insurance, tax etc.) which are needed to operate them. Over the same period of 30 years, the general productivity of most US, UK and European workers has risen, even if not at the same rate as Germany. Nevertheless fewer and fewer of these workers are able to buy or rent a decent home. In many regions, of the UK, teachers, health workers, local government employees, fire-fighters, electricians, engineers, transport workers and factory workers, despite increases in productivity, are now living a precarious hand to mouth existence.

Productivity and redundancy.

It is very little different in the USA along with the rest of Europe and many other parts of the industrialised world for this process of relative and absolute impoverishment is a global phenomena. Increased productivity under the present capital dominated economic system is actually a means for employers and investors to gain more profits whilst workers work harder and steadily work each other out of a job. In other words productivity leads to redundancy. It represents a confidence trick played upon workers, when they are told by economists, business men (and women) and politicians, that their salvation lies in increased productivity. The opposite is the most probable and indeed the eventual case.

If the same number of workers through productivity increases can produce things faster, then by the same token fewer workers can produce the same number of things, and as already noted, this can (and has) led to large-scale unemployment in all the advanced countries. If these fewer workers then increase their productivity (and they have) then there becomes a downward economic spiral for workers and an upward economic spiral for those at the top of the economic pyramid. Which is exactly what we now have in Europe and North America. However, lower purchasing power, redundances and poverty are not the only negative effects of increased productivity.

It should be obvious that increased productivity produces more and more products which even if they are all sold, increase the need for more and more scarce raw materials to make them, create more spin-off manufacturing pollution and more problems of waste and rubbish disposal. Viewed without the rose-tinted spectacles of bourgeois pro-capitalist ‘experts’, the world is already producing too much too quickly.

The effects of increased industrial and agricultural production along with the commercial transportation of its results are already exhausting resources, polluting the air, the seas and destroying the ecological balance of the planet. Furthermore the tangible results of increased production, under the capitalist mode of production need to be sold at a profit or production will be halted either temporarily or permanently. This is another inter-related aspect of the capitalist economic process, which our political and scientific elite do not appear to understand.

Productivity and consumption.

Yet it should be obvious that production – under any socio-economic system – is ultimately dependent upon consumption. If what is produced is not consistently consumed, then sooner or later, there will be surplus production. Over time that surplus of products will either rot if it is organic, deteriorate if not protected from the elements if metallic, or would need to be stockpiled. Such a surplus would become an uneccessary economic burden if continued beyond a certain point. Capitalism is no different in this regard except that it routinely goes beyond that certain point and often dumps surplus things in the sea. A rational non-profit making socio-economic system would under such circumstances slow down production or declare longer holidays from production. At the very least it would orchestrate a reduction in productivity to avoid such a waste of resources, not increase productivity.

Capitalism cannot do this and the reason is simple. Production and consumption under capitalism is not based upon what is rationally needed, but upon what is profitable. What is rational for capitalists is usually not rational from a perspective of the interests of working humanity. The rationale of capital is to maximise surplus-value ie profits and interest. That is its driving motivational purpose for production and for increasing productivity. Although the value which becomes profit is created (as added value) during the process of production, is only realised when the products and services are sold. For this reason there has to be enough buyers to purchase enough of the products at a price which produces a profit.

When there are not sufficient buyers at these prices then production ceases either slowly (through short time working) or quickly (through closure or bankruptcy). Is it not obvious that if productivity is increased, then there has to be even more buyers with sufficient cash (or credit) to purchase these products at the profitable price? It is here we unveil yet another of the partially hidden (and little understood) contradictions within the capitalist mode of production – a crisis of relative over-production. It is not that more production is created than is needed by people (housing for example) but more production than can be sold at a profit. We have seen earlier, that past productivity has led to large-scale unemployment and therefore to less purchasing power for the goods which are streaming off the various production lines. Therefore further, productivity increases – under the present system – will only make the matters worse.

More goods chasing fewer buyers has already produced a crisis of relative over production. It was this which led over some decades in the 20th century to the financial crisis of 2008 and the current unstable condition of the economic and political structures of most of the capitalist dominated world. Decades of capitalist production had produced not only vast quantities of products and serious ecological, pollution and disposal problems, but also large quantities of surplus capital whose owners looked for further profit by investing in collatoralised debt. This particular speculative bubble eventually burst and triggered the above mentioned 2008 financial collapse. Incidentally there is bound to be another such collapse because investment greed is still creating numerous speculative bubbles. For these reasons, increased productivity under the capitalist mode of production, is the last thing working people and the other non-human planetary life forms need.

R. Ratcliffe ( November 2016)

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CULTURE AND ECONOMICS.

In the superficial descriptions and explanations of the current shifts in voting patterns within Britain, Europe and the US, the mass media and other forms of communication are currently focused upon the issues of immigration, race and religion. These important issues are generally seen as being the primary factors now causing divisions between communities, whether at the local, regional, national or international level. However, in these descriptions and explanations, two contemporary aspects of the five-fold crisis of capitalism are being confused – economics and culture. Something more fundamental than politics is once again producing and exagerating the cultural symptoms of reaction and division – that something is economics.

It is also the case that reactions to immigration, race and religion are being made even more problematic by the overwhelming majority of the media and ‘expert’ (sic) descriptions and suppositions concerning these issues. For they are invariably presented as if they were completely separate from the economic system in which we all live. In this view ‘reaction’ to these issues is just down to ‘backward‘ cultural attitudes. Wherever it is manifested, this failure to distinguish between culture and economics exposes a serious shortcoming. Cultural developments are not independent of the economic base, but arise upon it. Contradictions within contemporary cultural assumptions merely reflect directly or indirectly the contradictions within the economic system.

This glaring shortcoming among the bourgeois intellectuals, cannot be surprising since those who dominate the public discourse on all matters, including politics, (news, media outlets, politicians, economists, sociologists etc.) are not only dependent upon the current capitalist economic system but are also mostly doing well out of it. It is generally the case that the salaries and pensions of media presenters, economists, sociologists and politicians are far above and far more secure, than those of the huge numbers of low paid, zero – hours, precariously employed, unemployed, and state dependent working people. For this reason these commentators focus upon cultural issues and can usually only find minor faults with the economic system which currently dominates the world. Not being as threatrened, they are rendered intellectually myopic or even ideologically blind by their favourable economic position.

However, the socio-economic understanding and perspective is very different for those who are in the majority and not so well situated in the economic system. Those who in the current terminology have been ‘left behind‘ by globalisation or ‘disinherited‘ from the post Second World War social promise of full employment, adequate social, medical and educational entitlement, have a different view. It may lack academic finesse but their understanding is one that sees their primary loss and problems as economic – not political or cultural. If there was full employment in well paid, secure jobs with adequate pensions, good housing for all, good, well staffed schools everywhere and top class, sufficiently staffed, health services everywhere, there would be little or no ‘cultural’ dissent and disruption by ‘despicables’.

In the experience of those in the lower ranks of the capitalist economic and social pyramid, the current crisis in the economic system has everything to do with the contemporary manifestation of anti – immigration, racial methods of exclusion and fears of radicalised religious violence. It should be clear (to those who want to see), that human beings are not born as racists, opposed to immigration or with religious ideas and violent prejudices – these characteristics have to be culturally learned. And learning is either first hand or second hand. However, first hand direct experience is one of the greatest educational teachers.

For example it is overwhelmingly the case that if one human being offers to help another human being without any strings attached, that help will be willingly accepted no matter what religion, colour, or gender the person happens to be. Future friendships and mutual help will be also engendered by such acts. What is true of individuals is also true of groups of individuals. However, if one individual or group of individuals, threatens to harm directly or indirectly another human being or group of human beings, then it cannot be surprising if suspicion, hostility and fear develop among those directly effected. This contrast of direct economic and social existential experiences (or even indirect if reliable) needs to be constantly born in mind when the issues of anti – immigration, continued racial discrimination and understandable prejudice against violent expressions of religious fundamentalism are considered.

As long as cultural issues and cultural divisions are projected as more important than economic, then certain things will follow. Demonstrations and actions will focus on cultural or political issues which will serve only to divide the oppressed and exploited. This is a logical process which is already being demonstrated in Europe, the UK and the USA etc. Campaigns for and against Brexit (or the EU.); for and against immigration, for and against Trump etc., etc. In this kind of climate and on this basis there will be anything but campaigns and demonstrations against the capitalist mode of production. As long as the domination of this cultural perspective goes unchallenged, the real world will continue to be seen upside down and the role of the economic base will be largely ignored. Sadly too few seem to be unable to rise to this challenge. Furthermore it should be obvious that this situation will only be to the advantage of those minorities benefiting from the present system.

Yet the study of history demonstrates that it only takes a few people to keep alive a critical understanding of a particular mode of production. The fact that at any period of time, this critical understanding is not shared by the bulk of the population, does not mean that at some future period that understanding will not usefully inform those who are able to institute revolutionary transitions. The critical understanding of the capitalist mode of production was most comprehensively developed by the revolutionary-humanist perspective of Karl Marx. It is this revolutionary-humanist perspective which was ignored and even opposed by the Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyist, and Maoist anti-capitalists. It is this perspective which needs to be defended and kept alive for future generations if the present generation is unable to make use of it.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2016)

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THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING!

The Presidential election victory of Donald Trump – against all the wishes of the social democratic establishment – confirms that the intellectual hold of this section of the liberal establishment is weakening. Practically all the major socially liberal political figures in the USA and Europe, ably aided by the global mass media, openly (and often hypocritically) vilified and distorted practically everything Donald Trump said and did. Yet this middle-class liberal politically-correct onslaught, whether valid or not, was no longer effective. This fact proves, that as was the case with the Brexit vote in the UK, and the rise of right- wing nationalist movements in Europe, that the times really are changing. Not in exactly the same way as envisioned by Bob Dylan in a song with the same title as this article, but changing they are.

The fact that two or three crudely charismatic individuals such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump could shoulder aside the desires of dominant sections of the global, economic, financial and political elite has come as a distressing shock to some liberal sensibilities. Yet despite appearances, these defeats have not been inflicted upon the liberal, social democratic establishment by these political opponents – who they variously described as, racists and sexist buffoons. These establishment defeats are the result of large numbers of disaffected, disgusted and determined blue and white-collar working class voters, refusing to be hoodwinked yet again by left liberal and social-democratic rhetoric. With no sufficiently radical working class alternative, large numbers of working people in the US and Europe have chosen to vote for those who appear to be the most anti-establishment, whether politically correct or not. They clearly want a radical change in their economic and social circumstances .

As was the case in the Brexit vote, large numbers of blue and white-collar workers, also seeing no acceptable radical alternative, have for the moment continued to vote for neo-liberal establishment figures. Many of them in the US, particularly the young voters, would have undoubtedly preferred Bernie Sanders, but this option was sabataged by the pro-Clinton political establishment. Of course some of these voters and advocates of the social-democratic establishment represented by Clinton, and others, are definately benefiting from the current neo-liberal phase of the capitalist mode of production. They have a vested interest in conserving the status quo. However, not all those who voted for Hilary Clinton were of the same mind.

It would be wrong to assume that everyone in this Clinton voting (or Brexit remaining) section of the white-collar and blue-collar working class are happy with the current economic and social conditions facing them and their communities or with the current social-democratic political class. These particular sections just do not want a right-wing racist/sexist leaning radical alternative to the current social-democratic neo-liberal mess the world is in. It is highly unlikely that many voting for Clinton, wanted a continuation of the same corrupt and indifferent practices. In this sense both sides are right. The Trump camp is not going to usher in a new positive way forward for humanity; but neither is the Clinton dynasty. Both are simply different faces of the same neo-liberal capitalist reality in the 21st century. It is to suffer from illusions to think otherwise. Corruption and hypocricy would continue (and disappointment would follow) no matter who had won this latest electoral theatre of the absurd.

This current political bifurcation of working class opinion is a product of two important factors. First, the extreme nature of the economic crisis; and second, the pathetic nature of the liberal middle-classes. Elsewhere on this blog I have dealt with the economic crisis and other related aspects in a number of articles (ie. ‘Capital and Crisis’, ‘The Five-fold Crisis of Capitalism’, ‘What triggered the crisis’, ‘Productive and Unproductive Labour’, ‘Workers and others in the 21st century’.). Stated generally, the capitalist mode of production is now in a compound form of crisis, comprising of economic, financial, ecological, social and moral dimensions. So in this article I will consider the economic and social nature of the modern social-democratic middle-classes and suggest the underlying factors which have contributed to the ongoing atrophy of their political dominance.

The enlargement of the petite-bourgeoisie.

The economic base of the modern, middle-classes has changed from being dominated by the small business person in alliance with the legal and religious establishment and supplemented by a hereditory civil service profession. Its economic base, particularly among the political sectors, is now predominantly drawn from within the financial, legal middle class and University educated working class sectors of societies. Nevertheless, despite its heterogeneous nature this group occupies an economic and social position which lies between, the working classes and the capitalist class. The economic base of this new middle class, therefore, still remains within the unproductive levels of the capitalist mode of production even though these unproductive categories have changed.

Production has always comprised of two aspects. Production for immediate consumption (necessary production) and production for other forms of consumption (surplus production). Under the capitalist mode of production, necessary production and surplus production are produced by the working classes. Once monetised as surplus-value, surplus production becomes the revenue fund from which all other classes draw their salaries, rents, interest and profits. With the introduction of machinery and industrial and now automated production methods, the surplus value created by the working classes, has enabled the feeding, clothing and housing of increasing numbers of those who do not provide these essentials of life for themselves. This is not a recent development, but it does have novel characteristics. For example, Marx whilst reading Malthus and others in the 19th century noted that;

“…the constantly growing number of the middle classes, those who stand between the workman on the one hand and the capitalist and the landlord on the other. The middle-classes maintain themselves to an ever increasing extent directly out of revenue, they are a burden weighing heavily on the working base and increase the social security and power of the upper ten thousand.” (Marx. ‘Theories of Surplus Value’. Volume 2. page 573.)

This same advance in productive variety and efficiency also allows the reduced numbers of workers to supply a greater number and range of non essential commodities and services (art and entertainments) to those already in a privileged position. In this way the economic, social and political gulf between the productive working class and the other classes continually grows. On a local, national and global scale, the privileged become more privileged and the lives of the underprivileged become less so. These two negative characteristics of the middle-classes; the economic burden upon the working classes and their social support for the capitalist system still exist today. Their burden on the working classes, is the necessity under the capitalist system, for workers to continue to work long hours at a high intensity for most of their lives on necessary and surplus production. They are required to do so in order to support not only the capitalist class but the growing numbers of people engaged in other forms of social, financial and political activity. Under this system, improvements in economic productivity do not lead to working people working less hours per day and fewer years of their lives, but merely goes to fund more and more of those who live off this increased production but also take this privileged position for granted.

The enfeebling of the petite-bourgeoisie.

The political sections of the new middle-classes are particular, (but not exclusive) examples of those who take their exalted positions for granted. Given the complexity of the capitalist socio-economic system, it appears to the political class (and others) that they play a necessary and positive role within it. In fact, as with many others within the non-surplus producing middle-classes, politicians are parasitic upon their surplus-value producing working communities. They could not live their lives if the working classes were not producing and transporting the extra food, water, fuel, energy, housing, clothing, education and the cleansing needs of our advanced form of society. By taking the capitalist mode of production and their position within it for granted and necessary, they act as a ideological and practical support network for the capitalist mode of production. This is one aspect of their lives which enfeebles their role in any progressive development for humanity.

They seem to think that the state system which pays them ample salaries and pensions produces this value out of thin air rather than out of the combined productive efforts of the global working classes. Even the most well educated of them have failed to understand the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. This is another aspect (intellectual constipation) which enfeebles any historical role they might have otherwise played. The most humane of these middle-class politicians – along with those elevated from within the working class – patronisingly think it only necessary to slightly ease the burden of exploitation placed upon the working classes, not remove it. Since before the Second World War, they have all made promise after promise to improve the condition of workers and the poor. Prior to numerous elections they have consistently peddled (door to door) their social-democratic rhetoric of concern for the poor only to feather their own nests when in office and watch working class conditions deteriorate.

It is this latter section of the left-leaning, social democratic petite-bourgeoisie, who say they wish to help the working classes but have failed to do so, which millions of voters are now rejecting in Europe and the USA as the examples of Brexit and Trump’s election reveal. Revealing also is the fact that this same socio-economic mileu has failed to produce any radical critics of the capitalist mode of production, let alone any who seriously challenge the capitalist system. The labour aristocracy embedded within the trade union and labour movements are little better. They have accomodated themselves intellectually and practically to the capitalist mode of production which as long as it continues, ensures their full time occupations and post employment pensions. These two elements of the petite-bourgeoisie (left social democrats and full time trade union officials) have the time and training necessary to understand and publicise the fundamental exploitation at the heart of the capitalist mode of production, but they do not have the inclination or the desire.

Political vacuums will be filled.

The representatives of the neo-liberal phase of capitalism, which demands the subordination of nations, peoples, ecology and climate to the needs of big business capital in finance, commerce and production, are also supporting the impoverishment of billions of working people. It is inevitable that sooner or later there would be a ‘despicables‘ push-back by those effected by unemployment, precarious employment, austerity, high prices, high taxes and usurous lending terms. Only those who have failed to understand the frustrations and the lack of positive alternatives facing working people can be surprised or shocked that this push-back has taken the present forms – Brexit, the growth of Nationalist parties, and the election of Donald Trump. As is frequently the case, the neo-liberal spectrum of elites (the perpetrators) and their supporters invariably blame their victims rather than themselves and the system they admininster. In the circumstances of economic crisis and decline of welfare capitalism, this feebleness of the ‘left’ and centrist social-democratic elite leaves a vacuum into which may step any number of radical-sounding charismatic chancers.

In addition, only those who have failed to learn the lessons from the 1920 – 1930 severe crisis of the capitalist mode of production, can be surprised that such working class push-back can take counterproductive forms. (See ‘Nazis; a double lesson from history’, on this blog.) Rejection of the social-democratic political elite is a necessary stage in any process of liberating humanity from the cancerous grip of capitalism, but there is yet more to do. If a revolutionary-humanist anti-capitalist movement which identifies the real problem for the bulk of humanity and the ecological aspects of life, does not emerge, then it is only to be expected that alternatives sources of blame will be targeted. Those who avoid helping to build such a movement and see the main problem as those who do not vote in the way they think best, will only have themselves to blame when post election disappointment and divisive scapegoating becomes unstoppable and societies continue to plunge further and further into the present dystopian abyss.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2016)

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CLINTON OR TRUMP?

As the US presidential race nears it’s final days, it appears from many who have expressed an opinion on which they favour, that the United States electorate are almost equally divided between the two candidates. The press cannot make up their minds whether Clinton will ‘trump’ Trump, or whether Trump will ‘trump’ Clinton. As a consequence there is a great deal of hopeful or fearful guessing. Leaving aside (for the moment) the dubious qualities of both candidates an important question remains to be posed. Will either one seriously help the blue or white-collar workers who are currently mired in the ruins of yet another systemic crisis of the capitalist mode of production? The answer is almost certainly – no!

Despite the rhetoric of ‘making America great again’ (Trump) or ushering in ‘a brighter future’ (Clinton) something entirely different is certain. Before and during this competition for the top post in the lucrative gravy-train they are both aspiring to, promises and obligations have been made. They will be the kind of promises and obligations, which will, to a greater or lesser extent, determine what follows. Despite appearances to the contrary, whoever, gains this presidential office will become the political puppets of those who control the complex web of economic, financial, political and military strings to which they are attached in one way or another. In addition, they will be unable to significantly influence the underlying problems facing America. The five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production (economic, financial, social, ecological and moral) in the 21st century, cannot be adequately addressed, let alone solved by the political class or under the economic system they uphold.

Those who onced pinned their hopes on Obama, had them dashed for exactly these multifaceted reasons. Those who are now persuaded into thinking that Trump and Clinton represent a radical difference, are similarly mistaken. Disillusionment is bound to follow. This is because the splits in the ruling elites of America revealed again by the current presidential campaign are only superficial. They represent the Janus faces of the neo-liberal advocates of 21st century capitalism which are being replicated throughout the world.

The reaction of much of the white and blue-collar citizens in the USA will probably fall into one of four probable patterns. Some may well vote for Trump simply to stop Clinton gaining office whilst others vote for Clinton just to prevent Trump getting into the oval room. Many others, disgusted with both candidates, may vote for one of the alternatives. It will also not be surprising if considerable numbers just abstain from voting at all, whether from disillusionment, disgust or disinterest.

Yet these four probabilities will doubtless serve to disguise the fact that, as was the case in the Brexit vote in the UK, the vast majority of the working classes are wanting radical change for the better rather than more of the same. Two fundamental problems face the vast majority of working people in any attempt to realise this common ambition. The first is the existing, religious, ethnic, and gender divisions within the working classes. These manufactured identities of social divisiveness were created precisely to ensure exploited human beings would be impeded from recognising their common humanity and the commonality of their economic exploitation by an elite. The second fundamental problem is of more recent origin. It is the deliberately orchestrated illusion that the politics of bourgeois democracy are the only realistic means to achieve any improvement or amelioration of the conditions experienced by those who are exploited.

During the last few weeks, during a vicous and prolonged attack by a flu – like virus, I took the opportunity offered by long boring periods in bed with honey, hot lemon and paracetamol tablets to re-read that excellent book, ‘A people’s history of the United States’, by Howard Zinn. More people should read it. In it I was struck by the following pertinent lines concerning the period of 1830 to 1840.

“Both major parties were controlled largely by men of wealth and ambition. Lawyers, newspaper editors, merchants, industrialists, large landowners and speculators….It was the new politics of ambiguity – speaking for the lower and middle-classes to get their support in times of rapid growth and turmoil. The two – party system came into its own at this time. It gave people a choice between two different parties and allow them in a period of rebellion to choose the more slightly more democratic. It was an ingenious mode of control.” (‘A people’s history of the United States’. Howard Zinn. Chapter 10.)

How little has changed from this assessment of 19th century American politics by Howard Zinn. We can now add that a few female members have established themselves among the elite and bankers have enthusiastically joined the speculators, but otherwise it is the same ‘modus operandi’ established by the elite over 100 years ago. We are undoubtedly in a period of turmoil and rebellion and we can witness the same mode of control is being exercised – and not only in the USA. It has been said that if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat it. Let’s hope enough people do learn from it to a least challenge if not overcome the religious, ethnic and gender divisions of working people and to finally disperse the illusion that bourgeois politics are part of the solution to what faces the human species.

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2016)

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