the spanish revolution

In memory of Terry Liddle, a member of the Commune who died recently, we republish his short summary on the Spanish Revolution.

In 1931 the Spanish King Alfonso XIII, having supported the discredited dictator Primo de Rivera, went into exile. The Second Republic was proclaimed. Articles 26 and 27 of its new constitution placed stringent controls on church property. Members of religious orders were banned from the ranks of teachers. It also allowed divorce, gave women the vote and stripped the nobility of its special legal status. It established a legal procedure for the nationalisation of public services, banks and railways.

In 1934 Catalonia attempted to establish its autonomy with the Spanish Federation. This moved was suppressed and Catalonia only became autonomous in 1936. Its government was called the Generalitat.

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crisis! so what else can we do?

The Commune is hosting a debate on organisation this month. Roy Ratcliffe offers his contribution.

Among the anti-capitalist left there has been much debate of what is an appropriate course of action in the present circumstances of developing capitalist crisis. A great deal of conflict exists together with considerable impatience. Discussions and debates among the ‘left’ are tending to orientate around assisting and initiating class or population wide actions, and this via competing forms of organisation. Such attempts are largely by either invigorating existing ones, such as trade-unions and political parties, (eg the Labour-Party in the UK) or initiating new ones such as Occupy and Syriza in Greece.

However, some of these initiatives stem from a mistaken view, that small groups, with the correct orientation and ideas can stimulate  significant and sustained actions, involving large numbers of people – before the vast majority of the population are ready to do so. In this case, they are bound to fail. And of course, simply turning out in large numbers to demonstrate or vote will be insufficient to solve this present structural crisis. A parallel problem is that promoters of these initiatives generally appear to have insufficient understand of the dynamics and evolution of protest, uprisings and revolutions.

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britain: ‘to fight austerity we need a united left’

Simon Hardy of the Anticapitalist Initiative says the urgent need for unity on the radical left is something that has been eloquently put forward by Dan Hind on the Al-Jazeerawebsite. Asking a very pertinent question as to whether there can be a SYRIZA-type organisation in Britain, Hind draws out some of the most important lessons of the Greek struggle and poses a challenge to the British left — can we break out of the ghetto as well?[1]

To plot a possible trajectory we have to be clear of the political alignment that has emerged for the left under the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While Ed Miliband’s Labour Party might be surging ahead in the polls, the possibility of a Labour left revival is simply not on the cards. The Labour Party is hollowed out and bureaucratically controlled and all the best intentions and actions of Labour left activists will not change that. The Labour left is reduced to the old argument that there is nothing credible outside the Labour Party. They mockingly point to all the twisted contortions of the far left in Britain in the last decade (Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Left list, Respect renewal, etc.) to forge a new unity and conclude that the Labour Party is the only show in town.

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a report on the situation in greece

During a recent visit to Greece, Eric Chester was able to get some sense of the enormous problems confronting that country.

Greeks are very proud of their past, not only the legendary era 2500 years ago, the time of the Parthenon, but more recently when Greeks fought the Nazi invaders. Nevertheless, along with the national pride is a bitter sense of despair, a feeling that there is no way out of the current catastrophe. The number of suicides has been increasing rapidly, as young Greeks try to cope with massive unemployment and the disintegration of the educational system, along with clear indications that the crisis will only grow worse.

Walking along the streets of Athens I saw people living on the street everywhere, children begging, sidewalks crumbling, and riot cops ready to come down on the next demonstration. Greece is a poor country, perhaps comparable to Mexico in economic development. Furthermore, global warming has hit Greece with a vengeance. Temperatures climbed to over 40 degrees every day, and the stagnant, humid, polluted air was oppressive.  Heat wave of this sort can last for weeks. Continue reading “a report on the situation in greece”

why krugman is wrong

Duvinrouge says many ‘socialists’ have got pleasure from seeing Krugman expose the prejudices and flaws in those advocating austerity as a solution to the crisis. He is right that austerity won’t work and is mainly being pursued for ideological purposes. However, he is wrong to believe that Keynesian fiscal stimulus can solve the crisis. He is wrong because he misdiagnoses the crisis and misunderstands the nature of value.

For Keynesians like Krugman, the problem is a lack of demand because the private sector is not investing. Without a surge in exports they argue that it is the government’s job to take up the slack and restore effective monetary demand. This would have some merit if the problem was just a lack of demand due to producers not investing and instead hoarding their money. But this ignores the mountain of debt and the reasons why there is so much debt.

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interview with andrew kliman

Duvinrouge: Can you tell me what the key message of your new book, The Failure of Capitalist Production, is?

 

Andrew Kliman: The Great Recession was waiting to happen. There were unresolved problems in the system of capitalist production that had been building up over a third of a century. The rate of profit fell and never recovered in a sustained manner, which resulted in persistently sluggish investment and economic growth, which in turn resulted in rising debt burdens. And these problems induced governments to solve them or paper them over with policies that made the debt build-up even bigger.

DVR: Your book is full of statistics and as we know interpretations of statistics can be very different. It would appear that your choice of historical cost as opposed to current cost is crucial. Please can you explain the difference?

 

Accountants can value assets at their current cost or at their original cost when they were acquired. The latter is usually called their “historical cost.” Both methods have their place. But one thing you can’t do is compute the rate of profit, i.e., the rate of return on investment, by dividing profit by the current cost of the capital assets. It’s not wrong to do this; it’s impossible. What you wind up with just isn’t a rate of return on investment. What the assets are currently worth is simply not the same thing as the amount of money that has actually been invested in them. To measure the latter, you have to take their historical cost and subtract depreciation.

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galloway and parliament

George Galloway’s victory in the Bradford West by-election has caused a stir, says duvinrouge.

The people massively voted for a candidate to the left of Labour even with a Tory-FibDem coalition. This has got Labour nervous and inspired the Left. However, as much as Galloway appears to be on the side of ordinary people as opposed to the rich, he is another political ego on another stage of his trip. The whole parliamentary system is full of them, all dreaming about one day being Prime Minister. Today more and more people are fed up with the egos. Not just the political variety but the corporate whores as well. Increasingly people are realizing that they don’t need to put up with them. That society can be run without structures promoting power and control. That society is one of direct democracy. That is, communism. All over the world people have got a taste of direct democracy through the Occupy movement & their General Assemblies. Tahir Square has spawned workers’ councils. We can organize society to meet our needs rather than just being used to generate profit for an elite.

Out with the professional political egos ruling; in with delegates & assemblies!

the historical limits of capitalism

Just as feudalism was historically limited, so too capitalism, writes duvinrouge.

The rise of capitalists and their taking power from the nobility was a reflection of the changing economic conditions as manufacturing became more important than agriculture. Looking back, it’s quite easy to understand how the increasingly economically powerful capitalists seized power. The case for the workers taking power isn’t so obvious though. Many seem to think that capitalism will continue forever unless a political party can persuade working people of a better alternative. Such a subjectivist position shows a lack of understanding of how capitalism works and what Marx was getting at in Volume III of Das Kapital.

‘The Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit’ is part three of Volume III. To understand the importance of this requires a good understanding of how capitalism works, what value is and in particular, the difference between absolute and relative surplus value. Value is essentially labour time. Not necessarily the sum of all actual labour time that has gone into all commodities produced, but the market-determined ‘socially necessarily’ labour time; not all commodities taken to market are bought at prices that cover their costs and return a profit because the capitalist has to anticipate demand. (Don’t worry if you don’t fully grasp ‘socially necessary’ labour time, the key point is values (prices) reflect labour time).

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euro crisis is more than a euro crisis

Even if there was no Euro, or even if there was the Euro and political union, there would still be a crisis. Why? Because the crisis is a crisis of value, says duvinrouge.

That’s not to understate the problem of trying to get economic convergence of divergent economies through monetary union. It cannot be done without a political union that is prepared to use regional policy and the consequent transfer of wealth from north to south. Even without the backdrop of world capitalist crisis the Euro‘s future would be in doubt. But it is the recurrent capitalist crises that bring such problems to a head. And still it is left to Marxists to explain why capitalism is crisis.

Say’s law (supply creates its own demand) does not hold because production is commodity production – things are produced to be exchanged for money, furthermore a monetary amount greater than the original outlay. This increase in value occurs in production – the amount paid to labour in wages is less than the value created by the labourer. But it’s not just about increasing value in production; there’s also the need for the effective demand – money – to be there.

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15th october 2011: birth of a global anti-capitalist movement?

By Adam Ford

In my opinion, it is very likely that the historians of the future will look upon yesterday as the day a truly global anti-capitalist movement was born. Following the example of Occupy Wall Street, Los Angeles, Boston, and hundreds of US towns and cities, a huge number of small and large occupations began on every continent except Antarctica (see Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America).

All proclaim their opposition to the capitalist status quo – with its obscene riches at one pole and sickening poverty at the other. All of this has been organised online, completely outside the clutches of the decaying trade union bureaucracies, for whom ‘international solidarity’ is just some words they used to say a few decades back. The old organisations of timid protest seek influence on the margins, but they are ignored and seen to be as irrelevant as they actually are. It is highly appropriate that this moment has been crowned by the apparently successful resisting of the attempt by New York’s mayor and second richest man to retake Liberty Park. There is a sense that the powers that be are losing control by the hour, if not the second if you follow it all on Twitter.

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marxist crisis theory – cyclical and breakdown

duvinrouge attempts to explain cyclical crises and longer term trends

A lot of Marxists seem confused about economic crises. Some evoke the fall in the rate of profit to explain cyclical crises, some underconsumption, some forget the law of value and sound like establishment economists,  while some just forget the materialist foundations of Marx and drift into a world of subjective will powering the class struggle. So here’s an attempt to explain the nature of an abstract cyclical crisis and how it differs from breakdown.

A cyclical crisis is just over-production. An overproduction of commodities relative to the commodity that acts as the universal equivalent – money. In otherwords, production runs ahead of the market. There is a problem realising surplus value. As the law of value asserts itself commodity production falls, i.e. there’s a recession.

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a beginner’s guide to marx’s capital

Whilst England has been rioting, capitalism’s crisis continues. duvinrouge offers an insight into Marx’s study of capital.

“A critique of political economy” was the subtitle of Marx’s book Capital. The political economists portrayed profit, rent & wages as the just returns for the three factors of production: land, labour & capital. Marx argued that such surface level appearances were seriously misleading. That both profit & rent actually came from value created by workers. Furthermore, that capitalism was actually just the latest mode of production & that because of its contradictions would be replaced by a higher form called communism.

Marx’s book on capital was part of a wider plan. He also intended to write books on landed property, wage labour, the state, international trade & the world market. As it turned out he only managed to publish volume I of Capital with volumes II & III being published after his death. Volume I looks at the production of capital, volume II at the circulation of capital & III considers capital as a whole. Continue reading “a beginner’s guide to marx’s capital”