fictitious capital and credit schemes

This talk given by Michael Egoavil at the Left Forum 2009 panel “Marx’s ‘Capital’ and the Economic Crisis” argues against the demand for state ownership of banks. Michael can be reached at

Today I’m going to be discussing Marx’s theory of fictitious capital and its relation to real capital accumulation. Along the way I’m going to focus on Marx’s seldom-read analysis of a French bank known as the Credit Mobilier, in which this theory played a fundamental role. I’ll conclude with some thoughts on how this relates to socialist politics today.

In the third volume of Capital, Marx discusses what he calls “fictitious capital” – what we know as “securities.” Essentially these are titles to streams of income, which are treated as commodities and bought and sold on financial markets. There are significant differences between types of securities. Some represent corporate debts, as with bonds, some represent consumer debts, as with mortgage backed securities, and others represent capital investments, as with shares of stock. But the common aspect of all these different securities is that they all give their owners a right to a stream of income, hopefully leaving them with more money than they started off with. The security owner therefore looks upon his security as capital. Continue reading “fictitious capital and credit schemes”

self-management and the environment

Tomorrow sees the second Trade Union Conference on Climate Change – held at King’s College in London.  Ahead of the conference, Steve Ryan looks at the relationship between the recession, workers’ self-management, and climate change.

The recession is an important topic and is certainly preoccupying the minds of all from bosses through government to the Left.  This has very much put the debate about climate change and peak oil out of the limelight.

No doubt bosses and governments will be pleased with this. Buried in the news recently have been a number of disturbing items as regards the speed at which the poles are warming and the fact that Labour have watered down their commitment to carbon reduction under pressure from big business. Worse that the average temperature is now looking to rise by 4 degrees in the next 20/30 years… oh, and oil runs out in 2020! Continue reading “self-management and the environment”

reading for 9th february reading group

The reading for the next meeting in our reading group on ‘communism from below’ is now online.

While reading the texts, we ask people to think about these questions:

– Is Parliament a neutral arbiter between classes? Does the state bureaucracy have autonomous interests of its own?
– Is state intervention in the economy in Britain today at odds with the interests of private capitalists, and is it of benefit to workers?
– To what extent is it worthwhile for the labour movement to have a parliamentary wing?

The first text is The new forms of appearance of state-capitalism by Andrew Kliman. It argues that the crisis shows that state intervention is not in contradiction to free-market ideology: pro-privatisation dogma means the state squeezes social services and yet uses huge amounts of public cash and regulation to more safely structure capitalist exploitation.

Section 18.4 of Istvan Meszaros’ Beyond Capital argues that because capital’s dominance over the working class extends throughout society, we cannot consider that capital and labour have a “level playing field” in Parliament. Rather, the parliamentary-state apparatus serves to balance the interests of competing capitalists in the interests of capitalism as a whole, and so it follows that we need to look beyond such structures in order to effect real social transformation.

The meeting is taking place from 6:30pm on Monday 9th February. Email to request a printed copy of the texts, register your interest and find out more details of the central London venue. Click here to download leaflet.

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”