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.

Continue reading “marxist crisis theory – cyclical and breakdown”

three myths about the crisis

Conrad Russell challenges common left myths about the meaning of the crisis

This article is designed to question a number of theoretical assumptions implicit in much Marxist – including autonomist or left communist – writing on the crisis. In particular, I want to question assumptions around capitalist contradictions, capitalist decline, and the role assigned to financial and ‘fictitious’ capital.

much left analysis of the crisis leans on a shallow understanding of the financial sector

My argument is that these assumptions paint a model of a decaying ‘collapsing’ capitalism (hence my term ‘collapsism’). They also fetishise the mechanics of capitalist functioning at the expense of the real social relation underlying them – the class struggle.  It is class struggle, not some quasi – mystical ‘debt meltdown’ or ‘falling rate of profit’, which constitutes capitalism’s permanent crisis. Continue reading “three myths about the crisis”

david harvey: the enigma of capital

Sharon Borthwick reports on Marxist geographer David Harvey’s recent talk in London

The Great Hall at King’s College London was packed to capacity and beyond on 28th April, with people standing at the sides and sitting in the aisles. It put me in mind of Nathan Coombs surmising on where all the numbers of the left attending academic conferences were the rest of the time.

How can we, maybe, capture and utilise the level of interest shown on these occasions? This particular audience was made up of SWPers and Kings College and other students. The usual papers were sold outside. Continue reading “david harvey: the enigma of capital”

an alternative to the age of austerity

by Chris Ford

The new decade began with The Times predicting an “age of austerity” in the UK which will last for years. We can expect, they said, cuts in public spending to offset the Treasury budget deficit of £178 billion, caused to a large extent by the bank bailouts after the September 2008 crisis.

The view that the financial sector is at the roots of our current predicament is not restricted to the bourgeois papers like The Times. This view is common amongst liberal, Labour Party and socialist opinion. John Cruddas and a hundred other MPs are campaigning for a High Pay Commission, arguing our current predicament was caused by “greed”, as banking and executive salaries grew excessively. There is certainly widespread bitter resentment amongst working class people that we are paying for a loan to rescue the banks. Cruddas appears like a philanthropist from a Dickens Christmas story coming along to help the poor, making the rich share the pain of the recession. But state controls on high pay would only scratch the surface of the crisis: we need something far more fundamental. Continue reading “an alternative to the age of austerity”

bristol reading group, sunday 24th january: capital and capitalism

The first of The Commune’s Bristol reading group sessions will be on Sunday 24th January at 6pm in Cafe Kino on Ninetree Hill, Bristol.

The series of sessions is entitled “Alternatives to capitalism”. The first session is called “Capital and capitalism”. A brief look at the features of capitalism. Capital, wage-labour, profit, capital accumulation and its effect on our lives.This first session sets the scene and will allow us to contast proposed alternatives. Continue reading “bristol reading group, sunday 24th january: capital and capitalism”

the persistent fall in profitability underlying the current crisis

by Andrew Kliman

I have just released a new study of the rates of profit of U.S. corporations, 1929-2007, with emphasis on the period since the early 1980s. It’s entitled “The Persistent Fall in Profitability Underlying the Current Crisis: New Temporalist Evidence.


You can obtain the text, and an accompanying spreadsheet file containing data and graphs, by clicking on the link. Continue reading “the persistent fall in profitability underlying the current crisis”

social ownership and workers’ self-management

A motion to the Labour Representation Committee conference proposed by The Commune

The Labour Representation Committee notes this year marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall the Berlin Wall, and the beginning of the change of regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the years 1989-1991. Conference salutes the great freedom struggles by the working people, of the communist and socialist oppositionists to the dictatorships which ruled in the name of “actually existing socialism”, such as the rebellions of 1953 in Berlin, 1956 in Hungary and Poland, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, 1980-1989 in Poland, and the myriad struggles in the USSR.

Conference recognises that the legacy of the Stalinist regimes continues to hinder the struggle for a new society today. As part of developing the vision of a viable alternative to capitalism in the 21st century, our movement needs to learn the lessons of their historical failure, including of the previous state socialist conceptions. The Labour Representation Committee conference recognises that: Continue reading “social ownership and workers’ self-management”

introduction to marx’s understanding of work

An essay by David Broder on Marx’s understanding of wage labour drawing together notes for a recent meeting of our London reading group on workplace organising.

Capitalists pursue development to accumulate capital: they do not invest in the production of linen because they want lots of linen or in the extraction of oil because they want lots of oil, but because they believe that putting capital into the production process will allow them to accrue capital by selling the end product.

Although wealth exists in nature and not just thanks to human endeavour, capitalist development must depend on investment in a commodity which can itself produce further value – this means human labour, our mental and physical energies. In this framework our work must create some goods or services which satisfy some human desire or need (‘use value’) but also be sold as a commodity to those able to pay for it (‘exchange value’). Continue reading “introduction to marx’s understanding of work”

marxist analysis of ‘the apprentice’ episode one

by Jack Staunton

“the problem of unbridled free markets in an unsupervised market place is that they can reduce all relationships to transactions, all motivations to self-interest, all sense of value to consumer choice and all sense of worth to a price tag.”
Gordon Brown, speech to European Union parliament, 24th March 2009

Readers of the various websites and papers calling themselves ‘communist’ may be aware of the vogue in recent years for reviews of films, novels and TV programmes. These allow the writer not only to connect with ‘the young people’/’real people’, but furthermore to offer a ‘dialectical materialist’ take on the narrative therein and use their training in the works of Lenin and Trotsky to propose what the characters or people involved ought to have done to change the ending. After all, if you think it worthwhile to write a piece on why the workers who established the Paris Commune were defeated (their failure to build a vanguard party…) from the safety of nearly 140 years of history, why not proffer a catch-all solution for how Jack might have survived in Titanic, or how Blofeld might have finished off James Bond?


The best examples of this are the film and video game reviews to be found on the websites of the American groups ‘Monkey Smashes Heaven’ and ‘Maoist Internationalist Movement’, who give timelessly useful analysis such as “The Jokers of the world will never destroy the system. Only communist revolution will destroy Batman and the system he represents once and for all.” or  “Mao taught that the masses make history; the masses are the true heroes. If the oppressed act collectively, they can change the course of history and remake the world. The revolutionary outlook is diametrically opposed to the fatalistic, magical one of Slumdog Millionaire.”

Not to be outdone, The Commune is the first website to feature a properly Marxist analysis of the first episode of the latest series of The Apprentice. Continue reading “marxist analysis of ‘the apprentice’ episode one”

texts for 23rd march reading group

The next of The Commune’s London reading groups on ‘communism from below’ takes place from 6:30pm on Monday 23rd March at the Old Red Lion, near Angel tube station.

The subject of the discussion will be “capital, alienation and commodity fetishism”. Does the alienation of labour only exist in an economy where commodities are produced for the purpose of market exchange? How is alienation from the natural environment related to workers’ alienation from their labour? To what extent can we see a “humanist” trait in Marx? The suggested reading is:

The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof (section four of the linked page, from Capital volume one)

The Labour Process or the Production of Use-Values (section one of the linked page, from Capital volume one)

Estranged Labour (from the 1844 Manuscripts)

A comrade will also be giving a lead-off on the subject of Istvan Meszaros’s work Marx’s Theory of Alienation, although such is the size and density of this text, it is not necessary preparation for the discussion.

All are welcome. Email for further details or if you would like to be posted printed copies of the texts.

the people’s charter – a charter for change?

by Chris Kane

Pick up any paper, listen to any news bulletin, and you will find reference to yet another redundancy announcement.

Unemployment is predicted to rise to two million by spring and three million in another year: indicators put it as the worse recession since 1980. Due to the rising cost of living and growing unemployment, arrears are mounting, repossessions are expected to rise to at least 75,000.

The unelected Business Secretary Lord Mandelson says that after the recession there will emerge “a renaissance in UK manufacturing and the expansion of the UK’s knowledge-based industries”. This promise of jam tomorrow is no more comforting than Brown’s job creation schemes, a drop in the ocean of the jobs cull underway. Continue reading “the people’s charter – a charter for change?”

power and powerless in the shocking epoch

A review of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. By Oksana Dutchak.

             …the more powerful the vision of some increasingly total system or logic […] the more powerless the reader comes to feel…

Fredric Jameson

Naomi Klein is a famous contemporary socio-historical journalist, master of scandal journalist investigations, one of the most outstanding popular critics of the important tendencies in modern society. Klein became popular after publishing her first bestseller No Logo which had attracted a lot of attention in academic, political and broader circles. I find The Shock Doctrine just a logical continuation of her critical interpretation of the modern neo-liberal capitalism, presented in the first bestseller. Continue reading “power and powerless in the shocking epoch”

should we be looking at states or the capitalist system?

by Dan Jakopovich

The primary unit of social analysis has to remain the global capitalist system vis a vis the state. Although a crude base-superstructure model is inadequate for the purpose of serious analysis, it is necessary to oppose statist, technocratic, and functionalist discourses which undervalue the external dynamics induced by the global capitalist system.

This short overview will deal with enquiries into one of the basic social issues, the conclusion to which induces a complex multiplicity of repercussions for the fields of sociology, international relations and practical politics, repercussions which are often difficult to demarcate.

It is the question of what should be the primary unit of social analysis – the state (and states) or the global capitalist system. I will mostly deal with basic Marxist theories, which offer the principal challenge to various currents that are sometimes characterised as forms of “statist fetishism”, where the theorist is seduced by the deceptive semblance of state autonomy. This is especially attributed to many international relations approaches, because it is largely through states that international relations are expressed. Sometimes it is argued that the manifestation is put before the underlying root-causes. Continue reading “should we be looking at states or the capitalist system?”

worse than they want you to think – a marxist analysis of the economic crisis

A talk by Andrew Kliman, author of ‘Reclaiming Marx’s Capital’*

update: click here for sound file

In the past few weeks, since we announced this talk, recognition has increased substantially that the United States, and now the world, are caught up in the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Because Marxists are famous for “predicting five out of the last three recessions”, I need to point that the term crisis does not mean collapse, nor does it mean slump (recession, depression, downturn).  While the US is probably in the midst of a recession, the downturn has been-thus far-a relatively mild one. For instance, payroll employment has fallen nine months in a row, but the total decline, 760,000, is well less than half of the decline that occurred during the first nine months of the last recession, in 2001, which itself was relatively mild.   Continue reading “worse than they want you to think – a marxist analysis of the economic crisis”