Sunday, December 10, 2017

Capitalism without capital – or capital without capitalism?

by Michael Roberts

There is a new book out called Capitalism without capital – the rise of the intangible economy.  The authors,  Jonathan Haskel of Imperial College and Stian Westlake of Nesta, are out to emphasise a big change in the nature of modern capital accumulation – namely that increasingly investment by large and small companies is not in what are called tangible assets, machines, factories, offices etc but in ‘intangibles’, research and development, software, databases, branding and design.  This is where investment is rising fast relative to investment in material items.

The authors call this capitalism without capital.  But of course, this is using ‘capital’ in its physicalist sense, not as a mode of production and social relation, as Marxist theory uses the word.  For Marxist theory what matters is the exploitive relation between the owners of the means of production (tangible and intangible) and the producers of value, whether they are manual or ‘mental’ workers.

As G Carchedi has explained, there is no fundamental distinction between manual and mental labour in explaining exploitation under capitalism.  Capitalism cannot be without capital in that sense.

Knowledge is produced by mental labour but this is not ultimately different from manual labour. Both entail expenditure of human energy. The human brain, we are told, consumes 20% of all the energy we derive from nourishment and the development of knowledge in the brain produces material changes in the nervous system and synaptic changes which can be measured. Once the material nature of knowledge is established, the material nature of mental work follows. Productive labour (whether manual or mental) transforms existing use-values into new use-values (realised in exchange value). Mental labour is labour transforming mental use values into new mental use values.  Manual labour consists of objective transformations of the world outside us; mental labour of transformations of our perception and knowledge of that world. But both are material.

The point is that discoveries, generally now made by teams of mental workers, are appropriated by capital and controlled by patents, by intellectual property or similar means. Production of knowledge is directed towards profit. Medical research, for example, is directed towards developing medicines to treat disease, not preventing disease, agricultural research is directed to developing plant types which capital can own and control, rather than relieving starvation.

What Haskell and Westlake find is that investment in intangible assets now exceeds that in tangible assets.

And they reckon this is changing the nature of modern capitalism.  Indeed, it could expose the uselessness of the so-called market economy.  The argument is that an intangible asset (like a piece of software) can be used over and over again at low cost and allow a business to grow very fast.  That’s an exaggeration, of course, because tangible assets like machines can also be used over again, but it’s true that they have ‘wear and tear’ and depreciation.  But then software also gets out of date and also becomes ‘tired’ for the continually changing purposes required.

Indeed, the ‘moral depreciation’ of intangibles is probably even greater than tangibles and so increases the contradictions of capitalist accumulation.  For an individual capitalist, protecting profit gained from a new piece of research or software, or the branding of a company, becomes much more difficult when software can easily be replicated and brands copied.

Brett Christophers showed in his book, The Great Leveller, capitalism is continually facing a dynamic tension between the underlying forces of competition and monopoly.  “Monopoly produces competition, competition produces monopoly” (Marx).

That’s why companies are keen on intellectual property rights (IPR).  But IPR is actually inefficient in developing production.  ‘Spillover’, as the authors call it, where the benefit of any new discovery is shared in the community, is more productive, but by definition almost, is only possible outside capitalism and private profit – in other words rather than capitalism without capital; it becomes capital without capitalism.

As Martin Wolf of the FT concludes in his analysis of the rise of ‘intangibles’, “intangibles exhibit synergies. This goes against the spillovers. Synergies encourage inter-firm co-operation (or outright mergers), while spillovers are likely to discourage it. Who really wants to give a free lunch to competitors?”  So “Taken together, these features explain two other core features of the intangible economy: uncertainty and contestedness. The market economy ceases to function in the familiar ways.”

Under capitalism, the rise of intangible investment is leading to increased inequality between capitalists.  The leading companies are controlling the development of ideas, research and design and blocking ‘spillover’ to others.  The FANGs are gaining monopoly rents as a result, but at the expense of the profitability of others, reducing them to zombie status (just covering their debts without the ability to expand or invest).

Indeed, the control of intangibles by a small number of mega companies could well be weakening the ability to find new ideas and develop them.  Research productivity is declining at a rate of about 6.8 per cent per year in the semiconductor industry. In other words, we’re running out of ideas. That’s the conclusion of economic researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Innovation.  They reckon that in order to maintain Moore’s Law – by which transistor density doubles every two years or so – it now takes 18 times as many scientists as it did in the 1970s. That means each researcher’s output today is 18 times less effective in terms of generating economic value than it was several decades ago.

Thus we have the position where the new leading sectors are increasingly investing in intangibles while investment overall falls along with productivity and profitability.  Marx’s law of profitability is not modified but intensified.

The rise of intangibles means the increased concentration and centralisation of capital.  Capital without capitalism becomes a socialist imperative.

Friday, December 8, 2017

All I want for Christmas and More.

All I Want

after M. Carey & V. Salt

All I want for Christmas is a bio
of Bertolt Brecht, and to see
a neo-classical economist
lowered into the nearest available
septic tank.

All I want for Hanukkah is Engels’
Condition of the Working Class in England,
and legislation to allow the landlord
be restrained with bailing twine
in his own garden shed
‘til he agrees to reduce the rent.

All I want for Eid is a performance
of The Three Penny Opera in our living room,
and a world in which every child is given,
free of charge, a hot water bottle fashioned
from a former Minister for Housing’s bladder.

All I want for Diwali is Hugh MacDiarmid’s skull
so I can share a whiskey with it of an evening, and Sophie
Scholl’s, or failing that, Arthur Scargill’s backbone
so I can use it to publicly disembowel those
who come out on Facetwit for repealing
the Eighth Amendment the day after
we vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

All I want for the Tool Box Killer’s birthday
is to personally fix a scold’s bridle between
the Editor of the Daily Mail’s clacking jaws
(and up any other part of him in danger of talking)
and to live to see the Crime Correspondent
of the Sunday World finally sent
to landfill for journalistically pleasuring
one Chief Superintendant too many.

Note: Ireland's anti-abortion 8th Amendment was inserted in to the constitution in 1983 and basically places the life of an unborn child on par with the pregnant mother.  This led to the death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who asked her pregnancy be terminated as she was miscarrying. The hospital refused and she died.  There is a referendum on the 8th Amendment in 2018. Hear Irish politician Clare Daly on this issue here.  Read more on the referendum here.

A Woman's Work is Never Done

A brief comment on life in the factory from friend and reader of Facts For Working People, Theresa Barber, a retired GM and Allison  Transmission worker. Theresa was active in her union as well.  We would love to read more stories about work. It is interesting to hear what it was life for a woman to do this work, have children then back at it again. And men talk about women not being strong or having endurance. We all know that saying that if men had to have children the population would decrease considerably. Theresa points out that the most efficient way of running this machine was when the workers ran it themselves. That's also the most efficient way to run the entire factory and society.  Thanks to Theresa for this. RM

From Theresa Barber

Ahhhhh memories. What I did for 18 years. This is the Monte Carlo front bumper facia. Famous for the bright trim popping out. (Like a plastic chrome strip) The machine behind is the mold where the reaction injection thermoplastic bumper was molded. It was demolded and placed on the trim buck in the foreground where it was trimmed and sanded. 

You had the person running the machine and the trimmers. The jobs were rotated however the team chose and we relieved ourselves. (No relief person) At least that was the most efficient way to run the machine. Of course management was always trying to screw with it which invariably always messed things up. Lol. I ran many models during my 18 years in this plant. It was such a physical job, after coming back to work after each pregnancy I was back to pre-pregnancy weight within a couple of weeks. This is the job that did my shoulders and knees in. Feeling it today. Lol

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

American Football, A Profitable Venture for Some, Physical Pain for Others

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

John Harbaugh , the Baltimore Ravens coach said they started a team meeting on Wednesday by praying for Pittsburg Steeler Bryan Shazier who was injured in Monday night's game against the Bengals. Pittsburgh plays the Ravens Sunday. They opened their meeting with a group prayer. This is the most important think they could think of.

Not sure if that sort of makes it hard for atheists but is that really the most important thing that should be said or discussed right now, praying? I don't mean to be irreligious (I choose to at times but not here) and I do have a suggestion for those who believe that praying helps. 

But first let me get something off my chest. I'm sick to death of constant "our prayers and thoughts are with the families"  after every mass killing, family annihilation etc. I'm sick of it after someone walks in to a church and blows away half the congregation or a racist Nazi type after receiving a warm welcome from black churchgoers wipes out nine of them.

Telling the world your prayers and thoughts are with people might make you feel good but it doesn't resolve a damn thing, it doesn't even begin to address the issues at hand.  If all you are going to do is that and nothing else I suggest you either keep quiet or just say you feel sorry for their loss, you offer condolences, whatever.

Now, back to American Football.  This is not a sport in the sense that sport and healthy competition is part of human culture. This is a business that brings together different forces in the process of profit making; on the one side the fans as consumers of all aspects of the game, food, drinks, apparel, tickets to watch it etc.  and the players as the attraction as the workers in that sense, the labor power that makes it work.

Professional American football is an extremely violent game like boxing. The children of the billionaires that own the teams and the media that propagates the sport will rarely, if ever end up playing it professionally; they have better options. There is a reason that so many players are black as well as sports are seen as an opportunity for black youth to make it in a big way-----maybe. The football clubs have a great pool from which to draw, the students at universities. Working class and poor kids hope for scholarships in to schools that supply the football clubs with players.

The sport also returns billions of dollars to the universities for doing this. The football departments of universities have inordinate influence at these colleges due to their money. I do not know enough about how this works so I can't go in to too much detail.

I remember during a football strike in the 80's I think it was. I discovered then that the career of a football player is very short.  In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, "From 2008 to 2014, the average NFL career dropped in length by about two and a half years."

The Journal points out that the same time period saw the "..average career across all positions falling from 4.99 years to 2.66.

And despite denying it for years, the NFL, which also never paid taxes for years, finally settled a suit in 2013 and paid $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries which included dementia, depression, and Alzheimers. Others have committed suicide related to the brain damage they incurred. In July of this year, a Boston University study found the following:

Of 202 former players of the U.S. version of the game whose brains were examined, 87% showed the diagnostic signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head trauma. Among former National Football League (NFL) players in the sample, that number jumped to 99%  

I don't know the extent of the injuries Shazier received but he was flown to hospital and has some sort of back injury. I watched  Daryl Stingley get hit in a New England game in Oakland in1978 by Oakland Raider, Jack Tatum and he never walked again.  He died in 2007. Jack Tatum prided himself in having the nickname, "The Assassin". I also saw the return of Steeler Lynn Swan after being hit by George Atkinson another Raider player. 

For years the NFL avoided the idea that the sport was so violent it caused brain damage. Beyond that, players' bodies were so damaged by the end of their careers they were practically made up of artificial parts. Jim Otto comes to mind.  Pain killers, steroids and other drugs were commonplace. If you haven't already, read the book or see the film North Dallas Forty, it gives a good glimpse in to that world.

Like the tobacco companies that paid off doctors to hold back the mounting evidence that the product they pushed on the population caused cancer, the investors that control professional sports, that own the teams and the mass media did the same. It is only recently that they have been forced to recognize the problem.

There is another aspect of  violence and football and that is war. The USA military has paid millions of dollars in to NFL coffers. We have anthems, flag waving, weapons of mass destruction flying over the stadiums that taxpayers pay for as the machismo is tapped in to and young working class men and women are enticed in to the military. It is a recruiting tool. "Nearly $5.4 million in taxpayer dollars had been paid out to 14 NFL teams between 2011 and 2014 to honor service members and put on elaborate, “patriotic salutes” to the military." Between 2012 and 2015, the Department of Defense spent "$10.4 million on “marketing and advertising contracts with professional sports teams” according to a US government report.  Working people do not have to be cajoled and manipulated in order to defend our families, communities and democratic rights. That's what all these nationalistic and patriotic displays at sports events are for.

So rather than simply offering prayers that actually mean very little, that will not even make people think seriously about this issue and in the case of the copied tweet above, the object is to prevent people from thinking critically about this issue, when the inevitable happens to a player due to the nature of the sport and the business, might I suggest that they have some serious goals.  One might be to raise in their prayers an alternative way of experiencing sport. Taking the money out of sport and returning it to a healthy human pastime.   Make public the goal of your prayers to provide free and accessible education for all as a means of eliminating sports or the military as the only avenue to getting a decent education.  And pray to god to help you act to make these goals a reality.

Personally I wouldn't care if football was banned. We can't actually play it as a pastime, it's too violent. Same with boxing. The rich don't have boxing on their list of choices for their kids on career day. They own the contestants they don't fight themselves just like the wars they start.

Just a few thoughts about football.

Over-population Theory. Blaming the Victims.

I am bringing this over from Climate and Capitalism. I haven't read A Redder Shade of Green but I did read Too Many People, an excellent read indeed. The issue for me was exactly as Ian Angus explains it, that the overpopulation argument always ends up harming the poor and in particular those in the underdeveloped world.  This argument inevitably leads there, I know honest people who make the population argument and whose carbon footprint is greater than that of 30 Nigerian families. It also inevitably undermines the important issue, the way society is organized, the way human society produces food and everything else we need. In short, it let's capitalism as a system of production off the hook.

Here is a criticism of Ian Angus' viewpoint. Angus answers it below.

by Donald J. Kerr

I bought the book because his earlier work on the Anthropocene was quite instructive, particularly his article in MR in 2016. In this book, I read chapter 7, “The Return of the Population Bombers,” and decided it was not worth reading the remainder.

In this chapter, he created his own “straw man” and proceeded to destroy it. His straw man was a caricature of those who see world population as a problem. He described them as bigots, lobbyists, advocates of compulsory birth control, directed only at poor countries, immigrants as enemies of the environment. He fails to understand that over-population is a real problem while at the same time being very difficult to fix without trampling on human rights. Creating a straw man is a cheap and facile style of argument.

The problem with over population includes: loss of biodiversity, production of waste, plastic pollution, climate change, fish depletion, over-development, etc. I am involved in conservation of the ecosystem in a few watersheds near Georgian Bay. We are always fighting against population growth which is encroaching on natural areas. My perspective is that population growth should be resisted everywhere (not just poor people) while, at the same time, allowing refugees but discouraging other migrations.

Angus fails to clearly identify capitalism as the proponent of population growth along with all other forms of growth. Economic growth is not the same as economic performance where equality is valued as well as valuing the natural world. He says it divides our progressive forces by claiming that too many people is the problem. Can he not accept that we need to combat on all fronts, especially neo-liberalism and excessive growth as well as over-population? None of these battles is easy but all are important.

by Ian Angus
Don, thank you for taking the time to explain what you thought of that chapter, and why. Your thoughtful comments are part of the discussion of “essential arguments” that the book aims to stimulate.

You charge me with creating a “straw man” — with misrepresenting the views of people who see population as a major environmental problem. I plead not guilty, on two grounds.

First, because the connections between overpopulation ideology, compulsory birth control programs and anti-immigrant bigotry are very well documented. Overpopulation arguments have been used for decades to oppress the poor and people of color around the world and to justify anti-immigrant campaigns that Betsy Hartmann calls “the greening of hate.” As the noted socialist scholar David Harvey says, “Whenever a theory of overpopulation seizes hold in a society dominated by an elite, then the non-elite invariably experience some form of political, economic, and social repression.”

That’s not a caricature or a straw man: it is reality.

Second, because throughout the chapter I strongly distinguish between bigots and the “many activists who honestly want to build a better world and are appalled by the racists of the far right [but] are also attracted to populationist argument.” In fact, much of the chapter is devoted to a discussion of why long-disproven overpopulation arguments continue to be used by “people who actually care about the environment, who aren’t just using green arguments as an excuse to bash immigrants.” In short, I didn’t say you are a bigot, I said you are wrong.

The environmental crisis demands rapid and decisive action, but we can’t act effectively unless we clearly understand its causes. If we misdiagnose the illness, at best we will waste precious time on ineffective cures; at worst, we will do even more damage. Focusing on population growth isn’t just ineffective, it is harmful. Instead of confronting the real eco-vandals, it targets the victims of environmental destruction, people who don’t destroy forests, don’t wipe out endangered species, don’t pollute rivers and oceans, and emit essentially no greenhouse gases.

You say that we need to “combat on all fronts.” The problem is that fighting to cut immigration and birth rates is incompatible with fighting for social justice. It’s not that we don’t have the resources to do both — it’s that populationism is an anti-social, anti-human ideology, no matter how sincere some of its advocates may be. The suggested readings listed below address these issues in more depth I can do in a short reply.

Obviously we have a serious disagreement, but the left can only gain from frank and open discussion of our differences. C&C welcomes further comments on this important subject: please be concise and respectful.

Some recommended readings on population and social justice
The chapter of A Redder Shade of Green that Donald Kerr criticizes is also available online:
Simon Butler and I addressed the issue in depth in this book:
Over 120 Climate & Capitalism articles tagged “population” are listed here. You could start with these:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book Review: Grossman on capitalism’s contradictions

Order here.
by Michael Roberts

Henryk Grossman, Capitalism’s contradictions: studies in economic theory before and after Marx, edited by Rick Kuhn, published by Haymarket Books.

Rick Kuhn, the indefatigable editor, biographer and publisher of the writings of Henryk Grossman, has another book out on his work.  Grossman was an invaluable contributor to the development of Marxist political economy since Marx’s death in 1883.  An activist in the Polish Social Democrat party and later in the Communist party in Germany, Grossman, in my view, made major contributions in explaining and developing Marx’s theory of value and crises under capitalism.

Grossman established a much clearer view of Marx’s analysis, overcoming the confusions of the epigones, who either dropped Marx’s value theory for the mainstream bourgeois utility theory, or in the case of crises, opted for variants of pre-Marxist theories of underconsumption or disproportion.  In his works, Grossman weaved his way through these diversions, most extensively in his Law of Accumulation and the Breakdown of the Capitalist System in 1929. Grossman put value theory and Marx’s laws of accumulation and profitability at the centre of the cause of recurrent and regular crises under capitalism.

This book brings together essays and articles by Grossman that critiques the errors and revisionism of the Marxists who followed Marx and in so doing combats the apology of capitalism offered by mainstream (or what Grossman calls ‘dominant’) economics.  Rick Kuhn provides a short but comprehensive introduction on Grossman’s life and works, but also on the essence of the essays in the book.

They include an analysis of the economic theories of the Swiss political economist Simonde de Sismonde, who exercised a powerful influence on the early socialists who preceded Marx – and, for that matter, Marx himself.  Then there is a critical essay by Grossman on all the various ideas and theories presented by Marx’s epigones from the 1880s onwards; and two essays on the ideas of the so-called ‘’evolutionists’’, who tried to develop an alternative to the mainstream based on history and development rather than cold theory.  Their argument was the capitalism was changing and developing away from competition and harmonious growth into monopoly, stagnation and inequality. 

But, as Grossman says, Marx too recognised these trends but only he could provide a theoretical explanation of why, based on his laws of accumulation (p250).  Change, time and dynamics as opposed to equilibrium, simultaneity and statics is a big theme of Grossman’s exposition of Marxist economics and that is why the chapter on classical political economy and dynamics in the book is the most important, in my view.

But let me highlight the key conclusions that come out of Grossman’s essays that Rick Kuhn also identifies.  Marx considered that one of his greatest contributions to understanding capitalism was the dual nature of value.  Things and services are produced for use by humans (use value), but under capitalism, they are only produced for money (exchange value).  This is the driver of investment and production – value and, in particular, surplus value.  And both use and exchange value are incorporated into a commodity for sale.  But this dual nature of the value also exposes capitalism’s weakness and eventual downfall.  That is because there is an irreconcilable contradiction between production for use and for profit (between use value and exchange value), which leads to regular and recurring crises of production of increasing severity.

As Grossman shows, Sismondi was aware of this contradiction, which he saw as one between production and consumption.  But he did not see, as Marx did, the laws of motion in capitalism, from the law of value to the law of accumulation and finally to the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, that reveal the causes of crises of overproduction.

The vulgar economists of capitalism have tried to deny this contradiction of capitalist production ever since it was hinted at by the likes of Sismondi, and logically suggested by the law of value based on labour, first proposed by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. The apologists dropped classical theory and turned to a marginal utility theory of value to replace the dangerous labour theory.  They turned to equilibrium as the main tendency of modern economies and they ignored the effect of time and change.  Only the market and exchange became matters of economic analysis, not the production and exploitation of labour.

But as Kuhn points out that “economic processes involve not just the circulation of commodities but their production as use values.  The duration of the periods of production and even the circulation of different commodities vary.  Their coincidence if it occurs at all, can only be accidental.  Yet vulgar economics simply assumes such coincidence or simultaniety of transactions.  It cannot theoretically incorporate time and therefore history.” p17.

Marx’s analysis destroys the idea that all can be explained by exchange and markets.  You have to delve beneath the surface to the process of production, in particular to the production of value (use value and exchange value).  As Grossman puts it: “Marx emphasises the decisive importance of the production process, regarded not merely as a process of valorisation but at the same time a labour process… when the production process is regarded as a mere valorisation process – as in classical theory – it has all the characteristics of hoarding, becomes lost in abstraction and is no longer capable of grasping the real economic process.” p156.

In my view, Grossman makes an important point in emphasising that the production of value is the driving force behind the contradictions in capitalism not its circulation or distribution, even as these are an integral part of the circuit of capital, or value in motion.  This issue of the role of production retains even more relevance in debates on the relevant laws of motion of capitalism today, given the development of ‘financialisation’ and the apparent slumber of industrial proletariat.

In the chapter on dynamics, Grossman perceptively exposes the failure of mainstream theories which are based on static analysis.  Such theories lead to the conclusion that crises are just shocks to an essentially tendency towards equilibrium and even a stationary state – something that Keynes too accepted.  Capitalism is not gradually moving on (with occasional shocks) in a generally harmonious way towards superabundance and a leisure society where toil ceases – on the contrary it is increasingly driven by crises, inequality and destruction of the planet.

It is the “incongruence” between the value side and the material side of the process of reproduction that is the key to the disruption of capitalist accumulation.  There is no symmetry as the mainstream thinks. The value of individual commodities tends to fall while the mass of material goods increases. Here is the essence of the transitional nature of capitalism as expressed in Marx’s ”dual” value theory and the law of profitability.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Trump and Tom Friedman: Two peas in a pod.

Hasan is responding to Tom Friedman's article in the NY Times praising  Mohammad bin Salman the new and younger Saudi tyrant and a close friend of US Predator in Chief Donald Trump. Friedman, in a reflection of the Zionist regime's closer links with the Saudi's refers to this butcher in Saudi Arabia as the leader of that country's "Arab Spring" an Arab Spring from above of course.

The horrific crises that has engulfed the countries of the Middle East, with its roots in 1916 and Sykes Picot, is consuming the area in flames. This is driven by US imperialism's foreign policy, driven by war criminals and bolstered by its proxies in Tel Aviv and Riyhad. As Russian imperialism and its Iranian allies makes inroads in to the region, the aggressive and violent nature of the US presence will increase. Turkey is also being drawn further in to the morass as it counters US support for the Kurds. There are some 20 million Kurds in Turkey and there is no way the Turks will permit a Kurdish state in what is now Northern Iraq.

Here is Friedman's "nauseating" article praising the murderous Saudi leader causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen with the backing of the US.

Here's what the Arab American News had to say about it.

A Poem: The Groper in Chief

Go to this link to read and see this serial sexual offender's accusers. They're all lying say the Groper's defenders

The Groper in Chief

The great pretender, the groper in chief
A sexual predator, a liar a thief
The Nazi's they love him the Klan do too.
He's nothing but bad news for me and for you

He's never worked, not a day in his life
What must it be like, to be his wife
But it's no partner he wants, a friend, or a pal
Just a thing with two legs, he calls it a gal

He likes their equipment, its mine he will say
Come to my place, a game we will play
I have the power, to do what I choose
Don't you dare tell, your job you will lose

He is proof to us all that hard work doesn't pay
He's never done it, not even one day
He was born in to welfare, stolen money was gave
stolen from tenants, from workers from slaves

But he's found Jesus some Christians will say
That Muslim Obama, he doesn't pray
I love our dear Donald for he has my back
Not like that Obama, so Godless and black

They say, I'm no racist, I don't hate Islam
But let's be real honest, that religion's a sham
And these women below, they're liars each one
Our beloved Donald was just having fun

Look at them all, their bodies exposed
Could Donald be tempted by this I suppose
Remember the garden and Eve's fatal sin
It's women's own fault if she did it again

Degenerate he is but this poem won't dare
to insult any animal with him to compare
Not a rat nor a pig nor a beautiful snake
The repulsive Trump was a coital mistake

Art Van De Lait

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Some Views on Sex and Gender

Helen Steel - trade unionist, social justice and environmental activist, McLibel defendant and heroic campaigner for justice against state spying and institutionally sexist abuse by the police. Attacked at the Anarchist Bookfair for defending the right of women to distribute leaflets voicing concern about the Tory government's review of the Gender Recognition Act. Woman's Place UK were honoured to give her a platform in Cambridge on 23 November 2017, alongside Linda Bellos and Anne Ruzylo. erratum: at 15:42 the date should be 1944, not 1994.

November 25th 2017 Facts For Working People Conference Call Report.

Trumka, Head of AFL-CIO - Rank and File must tell him to open the AIFLD files

Sean O'Torain.

November 25th 2017 Facts For Working People Conference Call Report. 

Apologies to our readers for this conference call report being late. Apologies also as it will be less than adequate because we have not had time to consult with all the participants and get their views and in this way help make it more complete. We have been putting resources into helping get increased support for the Duluth Labor Body resolution to get the AFL-CIO leadership to agree to the opening of the AIFLD files. And we have also been seeking to get more support for spreading the idea that in this struggle to expose and end the epidemic or sexual harassment especially by bosses and people in power the way to go is to organize into democratic fighting unions. Our resources are insufficient for these tasks. But we do what we can. We appeal for more help with these tasks.

On the Duluth resolution to open the files we discussed the increased support and interest in this issue. Some union bodies have supported the Duluth resolution.

See File on head of Blog page "Help open the AFL-CIO AIFLD Files".

Also some activist bodies have given their support. Our conference call recognized that it was very good to get support from all such bodies but also emphasized that it was most important to get support from official union bodies, union locals, labor councils etc. We discussed trying to get the resources to encourage members of the various activist bodies to yes, pass resolutions supporting the Duluth resolution, but more importantly to mobilize their members and supporters to turn to the unions and move resolutions in the union bodies to support the Duluth resolution. The most likely way the AFL-CIO leadership will agree to open the files will be when they are faced with this demand from their own ranks, their own official bodies. Yes by all means get support from any activist body, but do not see this as a substitute for taking the issue into the rank and file of the unions and the workplaces. It was discussed that the FFWP would try to work with others to gather lists of union bodies and the various activist groups to encourage them to work in a systematic way to get the Duluth resolution raised in the rank and file of official union bodies. 

The other item on the agenda on which FFWP Blog has been working is seeking to raise in the discussion of the need to oppose sexual harassment and predatory culture the need to organize into democratic fighting unions to take on this predatory culture, this widespread sexual harassment in the workplaces and in society in general. We are seeking to spread this idea through our Blog but also by having it raised in the union and activist bodies where we have a voice. We repeat here the points we made in last weeks conference call report.

The editor of FFWP Blog is Richard Mellor. He also organizes the FFWP conference calls.  He is a retired heavy equipment operator and retired member of union Local 444 of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. He was on the negotiating team and one of the leaders of a 1985 strike at his workplace, East Bay Municipal Utility District. (EBMUD). The union contract that followed that strike included the following clauses. It should be noted that 1985 was before the issue of sexual assault and predatory behavior in the workplace had the attention it has today.

The relevant clauses in Local 444’s contract were:

Article 4. No Discrimination/Harassment.
4.1.1. There shall be no discrimination of any kind by the union or the district (management) against any employee, to the extent the applicable law prohibits such discrimination, harassment, or disparate treatment, because of race, religion, color, creed, age, marital status, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, physical or mental disability.

4.2. Harassment, Disparate Treatment and Inappropriate Behavior

4.2.1 In addition to behavior violative of Section 4.1.1 above the following behavior will not be permitted, tolerated or condoned:
Abusive, threatening or intimidating behavior, gestures or language.

These are the kind of clauses and protections that can be won in union contracts. The example of Local 444 should be taken up as an example around which to organize into democratic fighting unions. Organizing for, winning and enforcing such clauses through job actions, and if necessary strike action, is the way to change the culture in the work places and in society in general.

The reason the capitalist media does not give coverage to the idea of organizing in the workplace, the reason the bosses’ politicians will not talk about organizing into unions, is very simple. Women in unions make on average $200 per week more than women not in unions. The gender wage gap for union members is half that for non-union members. Unionizing the workplaces is a nightmare scenario for the bosses. It would drastically cut into their profits if non-union workplaces were unionized. Equal pay for work of equal value would end the boss’s use of women as cheap labor. This is why the media they own and control refuses to give coverage to the need to organize when they talk about the need to end harassment in the workplace. They want to keep women as cheap labor. They want to keep women and all workers unorganized and divided. Ending the predatory culture cannot be allowed to cut into their profits.

Organizing in the workplace would not only mean increased opportunity to win equal pay and benefits and better pay. It would also mean an organization, a structure, through which to fight against predatory abusive behavior and gender discrimination in general. This is what is possible with a strong union presence. This is the way to fight predatory behavior.  Organize in democratic fighting unions.

We took an unusual step in our work this week. The only media outlet that mentioned the idea of organizing in the workplace to take on sexual harassment was one article in the New York Times. Richard Mellor on behalf of this Blog wrote a letter to the NYT and included in it the clauses that his local had won in its contract in 1985. See Above. The paper responded and said they would get back to Richard. But they have not done so. Nor have they printed Richard’s letter. We have written objecting to this and pointing out that they have printed numerous other letters on this issue. But neither the article they printed nor any of these letters gave concrete examples of union contracts and protection clauses such as were won by Richard’s local and in Richard’s letter. Richard’s letter it seems was too concrete. As a result we conclude that the NYT does not consider that it falls under their guideline of “All the news that’s fit to print”. Not fit to print because it gives concrete guidance.

It was felt on the conference call that this should be looked at in another way also. If the NYT never printed a letter from anybody from minority groups, specially oppressed groups such as women, there would rightly be an outcry. But when it comes to the NYT censoring the views of working class activists there is not a squeak. When a blue-collar union activist expresses the interest of the working class it is a different ball game. The NYT like all the media, liberal and non-liberal discriminates against the working class activist and their views. Discriminates against the working class. Think about it. When was the last time you saw somebody who did not have a university degree, an academic background, a background in capitalist politics, or the capitalist state invited to give their opinion on the capitalist media. This is censorship against the working class and the working class activist. As was repeated in our conference call there is no outcry on this as there would be if there was censorship against other minorities or specially oppressed groups. The working class activist, the views of the working class activist do not exist as far as the capitalist media is concerned. We are not holding our breath for the NYT to print Richards letter. But if any of our readers have the time send off your email to the NYT letters to the editor page and ask they print Richard’s letter and they stop their censorship of the views of working class activists. We do not agree with the NYT that the views of working class activists are not fit to print.

There was then some discussion on the conference call on the bigger picture.  Or in the jargon of the left – world perspectives. The point was made that it is astounding to see the blindness of the capitalist class, all factions. They speak of the future and do not recognize the huge explosive events that lie ahead. They talk about economic prospects as if we are not on the threshold of a deep recession or probably a slump. This is particularly reflected in the assumptions of all sides, Republicans and Democrats concerning the tax legislation in the US. All ignore the reality that the stock markets will crash and the gigantic pile of debt that has been allowing their system to go further than its own limits will demand its pound of flesh. 

They speak of the future and do not recognize the effect climate change is having and will increasingly have. They do not recognize the chaos that is engulfing capitalist politics. And this is not only in the US. Germany the most stable and powerful economy and state in Europe is struggling to form a government. Since 1949 every German government has been a coalition of one kind or another. They are now struggling to form a government and this at the time of Brexit, Catalonia, the overall crisis in the EU and the coming world recession or slump.

There was discussion also on the crisis in the Trump outfit. The idiot tramps on regardless. Now he is on shouting terms with US imperialism’s number one ally British imperialism. He is being condemned by the British Prime Minister for tweeting fake racist videos. At home dragging up his own dirty sexual predatory activities once again as he supports the creature Moore in Alabama. It would appear that some sort of break lies in the near future. If he gets his tax bill passed or if does not get it passed he will be weakened. If he gets it passed his support amongst the major capitalist outfits and the Republican party will weaken as they will no longer see it necessary to prop him up as they will have got their tax break. If he does not get it passed they will also see it is not greatly to their advantage to prop him up as he was not able to get them their tax cuts. Except perhaps they will see some advantage to keep backing him so he can carry on with his deregulation of the economy. One way or another the political crisis of US capitalism deepens by the day. It was felt on the conference call that one way or another it was likely that the Trump regime would fall, would be brought down.

FFWP Blog has based itself on the analysis that US capitalism is in an economic, political, environmental and military crisis. The economic crisis is temporarily held at bay by debt. The political crisis is unfolding rapidly. The environmental crisis similarly. Now we see increased strains on the military front. There is increased questioning of what happened with the killing of the US soldiers in Niger. More doubt is being cast on whether the coffin of the fourth soldier even contained his body. Then we have the 2 Navy Seals up on charges of murdering a fellow soldier who apparently was opposing their stealing from the funds that were set for bribing locals. And there is a dramatic rise in the numbers of officers who are leaving their jobs at the first opportunity. There have also been complaints by soldiers who are in charge of sending off the drones that they are being asked to kill civilians. And the movement against sexual harassment in US society in general and the role of Trump as a sexual predator is strengthening the demand within the military for this to be dealt with. 40% of the military are minorities or women.  

Also in regards to the bigger picture was the issue of the rise of China. Goldman Sachs estimated that the Chinese economy would be the size of the US economy by 2025 and the largest economy in the world by 2050. This means that the US would be challenged for being the number one world power. Throughout history when one dominant world power is replaced by another this usually leads to war. The US elements such as Bush and Cheney and others who thought that after the collapse of Stalinism the US would build a unipolar world over which they would dominate and exercise what they called “full spectrum domination” have been proven to be profoundly mistaken. There is the rise of China. There is the rise of Russian Imperialism. There is the movement in Europe for the EU to strengthen its military cooperation to the exclusion of the US. It can no longer depend on the US especially with the idiot Trump in power. There is the expansion of Chinese power in South East Asia, in Central Asia and in Africa.  Militarily and in terms of so-called soft power US imperialism grows weaker. But like all-powerful life forms when they begin to lose their power they are at their most unpredictable and dangerous. 

The conference call looked at this realistically and considered that the existence of nuclear weapons would probably hold at bay for some time a major world conflict. The opinion was that a pre-emptive strike against North Korea by the US was unlikely, especially as China has said that in the case of the US initiating such a conflict it would be on the side of North Korea. But again we were careful as with the idiot in the White House mistakes could be made. It would be a mistake to put too much reliance on the generals that surround Trump restraining him. After all they are trained to ‘solve’ things by military means.

There was a short exchange of views on the future of the Trump regime. It was felt that its future did not look too bright. It was weakening US imperialism internationally. It was damaging the institutions of US capitalist rule at home. It was destroying the Republican Party. Perhaps the main reason US capitalism had not already brought the regime down, as well as them wanting their tax break and deregulation, was that the US capitalist class itself is so divided and conflicted between its different factions. Wall Street is doing well from Trump so far.  Industry in general is doing well with his deregulation. But there are the tensions between the new rising tech wing of the capitalist class and the rest of the capitalist class. However it was felt that at some stage, probably sooner rather than later, it is likely that the Trump regime would be brought down. Probably as a result of different rats turning on each other and squealing on each other to try and get off the hook themselves. Or maybe by Trump firing Mueller and this leading to a constitutional crisis.  

Of course underlining all this, and what gives US imperialism its continued dominance and relative stability is the lack of an alternative. The leaders of the 14 million strong trade unions in the US refuse to lead, instead cower in their air-conditioned offices, play golf with the bosses, and bootlick the capitalist Democratic Party. They refuse to lead on issues such as the rising of the women. They refuse to lead on issues such as the obscene inequality in society and how this is worsening by the day. They refuse to lead on climate change. They refuse to lead in the battle against the war on women and minorities. There was not a bleat out of them when Trump insulted the Native American people when he met Native American war veterans under a portrait of the war criminal and organizer of genocide against the Native American people Andrew Jackson and at the same time spewed his racial slur.

These union leaders will not lead until their positions are threatened. They believe in capitalism and they wallow in their high paid jobs and their special privileges. A new opposition movement will have to be built in the trade union rank and file. Supporting the Duluth resolution is a step toward this. Winning support for the idea of the need to organize to take on sexual harassment and the predatory culture is a step towards this. A new fighting movement of the working class has to be built.

Already new movements are on the rise. The women’s marches, the opposition to the war on women, the opposition to police brutality and the racist culture and actions of the police, the movements against the destruction of the environment, the movements to prevent the capitalist class being able to dominate the Internet, the recent elections which saw the most right wing Republicans defeated. Even if Moore is elected in Alabama this will not negate this general trend. In fact it will worsen even more the crisis in the capitalist Republican Party and in turn the Democratic Party as its leadership desperately tries to cling to its capitalist buddies and this in turn alienates its more liberal and its more working class base. The two capitalist party monopoly is coming to an end.  
As is usual the FWP conference call concluded with exchange of views on some lighter issues. After all as was said by somebody, “Humans cannot live by bread alone”. Participants on the call exchanged views on movies and series they had watched, had managed to find amongst the tidal wave of junk from the capitalist so-called entertainment industry. Suggestions which it was suggested was worth watching were the movies ‘Loving’, ‘Smokescreen’, ‘The Young Karl Marx’, the documentary – ‘Miners shot down’. And the series ‘Broadchurch’ about the rape of a woman in a small seaside town in England - the BBC version.    

Again sorry for the lateness of this report and also that we did not have time to have full consultation with all participants before we put it out. This Saturday December 2nd, we have our next call and anybody who wishes to participate should contact us at our Blog email below and give us a brief ‘resume’ and why you wish to participate. In particular we wish to invite all who wish to help with getting support for the Duluth resolution to contact us and discuss being on our call.