Thursday, December 14, 2017

Marx: How Capitalism Works and Why it Doesn't.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I shared this on Facebook already but it's just too good not to put on our blog. This man is a professor of management, so you are getting a brief and extremely good look at the crux of Marx's view of the world in particular his analysis of the capitalist more of production, how we produce the necessities of life, and it's from a non Socialist or non Marxist. This rational explanation is very different as Marx is generally demonized and approached with extreme bias.

Even though it is a simple explanation, I know for a fact that most workers will still have some difficulty. The point is though that we never understand something the first time we approach it, we have to study and learn and familiarize ourselves with terms that we have not heard before. I know about this because I've experienced it and even in this simplified version, when I see symbols and letters replacing numbers, I get a bit frazzled.

The important aspect of Marx's view of the world though is it is concrete. As workers, sellers of our labor power, our life activity over a period of time, we can understand it in a real living way as it reflects objective reality we experience in the struggle for our material well being through work.

It's best when entering a new subject, particularly one that is so distorted and misrepresented by the paid experts of those whose world view is threatened by our understanding of how society really functions, to discuss with others, trade ideas about it and questions about it. That is why Facts For Working People blog has a workers "think tank" in order to develop a well rounded understanding of the world around us in the face of massive propaganda from the mass media and the institutions of education that are controlled by capitalism. The ruling class has hundreds of think tanks. Here they develop an understanding of the world that suits their interests and then act on then to act.  If you are a worker that reads our blog regularly we have weekly phone discussions and if you are interested in joining us send us an e mail. The address is on the right. Or contact us on our FB page, also on the right.

But Marx believed that the working class was the only true revolutionary class, the class that can change society. He did not state "Academics of the World Unite" or "Ph.D's of the world unite". This doesn't mean that these groups or individuals from them that put their skill and expertise at the service of the working class in it's struggle to transform society, can't be allies and play important roles, they already have, look at Marx. Che Guevara was from the middle class and died in allegiance with workers and the poor. But the wage workers, the mass of the people on this earth, cannot be subordinated to the worship of the intellectuals.

It was Michael Roberts, the Marxist economist whose writings we feature regularly on this blog who helped bring this to the attention of a wider audience seeing it as an excellent explanation of the basics. In the video the presenter says that Marxist economists would be "appalled" at the simplicity of his presentation. It is to Roberts' credit that he is not "appalled" but praising of it. He sees it correctly explaining the subject that is reachable to the very audience that must know it if capitalism's destruction of life on earth is to be halted and a democratic socialist society built.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Alabama: Trump Receives Another Defeat.

Alabama: To hell with him and the horse he rode in on. (Apologies to Horse) 

Sean O'Torain.

The authors of this Blog have from the beginning been saying that the election of Trump and the rise of Trumpism would, with bumps here and there, with steps forward and steps back, evoke a new movement of opposition of working people and women and oppressed minorities. This is what we have seen in the Senate election in Alabama. In spite of the state's  history, in spite of support from Trump and his cronies, and towards the end the support of the National Republican Party the lout, the thing, I mistakenly wrote thing here when I meant thug, but I will let it stand as both 'thing' and 'thug' are appropriate, the racist, the sexist, the sexual predator, the pedophile, the homophobe, was defeated. 

The main reason for this was that African American voters surged to the polls. African American working people especially African American working women once again showed their high level of political understanding and their determination to fight. At the same time a section of white women who had voted Republican in the past peeled off and either went for the Democrat Jones or stayed at home. And in general in the more urban areas where the greater amount of voters lived more people turned against Moore. He also probably lost a few votes by riding to the polls on a horse. A section of people must have said to themselves how can we let Alabama be represented in the Senate by a clown like this. The jubilation amongst many with Moore's defeat is palpable. Laughter can be heard throughout the land. Heads have come up throughout the land.  

This Blog has in the past been pointing to the change in the Southern states of the US. There has been increased industrialization. This has increased the urban working class as a proportion of the population. This has also increased the unity of the working class as the workplaces that have sprung up as corporations moved into the South for lower wages have drawn together workers of all races and genders and sexual orientations. The working class has been strengthened numerically, in absolute terms, as a proportion of the population, and in terms of diversity. With increased women entering the paid workforce this has also chipped away at the efforts of the extreme right to gain support on issues such as women's rights, abortion rights, reproductive rights.  The defeat of Moore is a reflection of the increased strength of the working class in the Southern states. 

Since the rise of Trump in the primaries and since he was elected by the rigged electoral college system, this Blog has been continually discussing the role of the big bourgeoisie, the most conscious section of the bourgeoisie in relation to Trump. Yes they want him to get them their tax cut, yes they want him to deregulate further. However as we have been explaining on this Blog, the most strategic section of the big bourgeoisie, of the capitalist class are very worried about how Trump is wrecking their institutions through which they rule.

We have been carefully watching the actions of the most strategic section of the capitalist class to see when they would move against Trump. There was an indicator of this process unfolding in the Alabama election. Shelby the senior Senator for Alabama is a mouthpiece for the newly strengthened capitalist class in Alabama, especially the new corporations that have moved in. A few days before the election he came out against Moore. This reflected the decision of the dominant sections of the capitalist class in the state to not only move against Moore but also to move away from Trump. This is a process that is likely to accelerate nationally in the future. Either through the Mueller probe on collusion with Russian imperialism, on financial dealings and money laundering, on obstructing justice or through the accusations of sexual aggression against Trump by increasing numbers of women, it is likely that the decisive sections of US capitalism will move against Trump in the coming period. Of course this will be a developing of the political crisis of US capitalism. It will seriously weaken the institutions through which the US capitalist class rules, but these institutions are being weakened by Trump in any case, so it is most likely that at some stage this decisive section of the capitalist class will move against him and bring him down. 

Another process that this Blog has been pointing to is what we have termed the coming to an end of the two capitalist party monopoly over US politics. If the leaders of the 14 million strong trade union movement would use the resources of the movement to build a labor party this could be achieved at this time. However they will not do so until they are threatened with a movement from below. So this coming to an end of the two capitalist party monopoly, the Democrats and Republicans, will be a complicated process. Probably it will see splits in the Republican and Democratic Party and the rise of new right wing parties and perhaps new left parties. Possibly a women's party.  It is impossible to say how this will turn out. But the old US political equilibrium is coming to an end. 

For activists there are a number of tasks. One is to build an alliance against the attacks of capitalism against working class people using mass direct action tactics. Along with this to build an opposition movement in the trade unions which would oppose the present union leaders' collaboration with the bosses and the capitalist Democratic party and which would use the militant tactics that were used to build the unions in the 1930's. Along with this to advocate and work for the building of a labor party, a party of the working class. And within all these movements and within the labor/workers party build a non sectarian socialist current with the clear objective of ending US imperialism and building a democratic socialist society.

If you would like to join our weekly conference calls where we discuss these issues send us an e mail to: and tell us a little about why you would like to participate.

Hinkel Workers Still Out After 10 Weeks. Mass Picketing Would Change the Game

The potent weapon the union leadership uses to win strikes: rat images.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired *

More than 80 production workers at Henkel Aerospace Industrial in Bay Point Contra Costa County have been on strike since October 16, 2017.  The workers are members of local 1584 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM). The company manufactures industrial glue and adhesives for airplanes and other industrial uses according to the
Contra Costa Herald.  Henkel is a subsidiary of a multinational company based in Germany.

I visited the picket lines Monday and workers told me that the situation regarding health and safety at the plant is a catastrophe but despite official grievances and complaints being filed, the company just doesn’t care. Workers have suffered serious burns, fatigue, dehydration and other workplace injuries. Henkel has been in trouble before. In 2013, 26-year-old temporary worker, David Eleidjian was pulled in to a mixing machine and crushed. He was rushed to hospital, his legs amputated in an effort to save his life but he died there. One worker told the East Bay Times that the mixer “…is a dangerous machine and getting caught in it happens so frequently, employees call it ‘taking a ride.’” The tragedy here is that this young worker was a veteran of US imperialism’s corporate ventures. He survived two tours of duty in Iraq but didn’t survive the workplace at home.

Over the past decades, the bosses’ have intensified their war on US workers and organized labor.  For simply demanding a safe workplace these 84 workers have been forced out on strike before Christmas. This is no accident, it is a conscious, vicious strategy to bring them to heel. We do not go on strike unless we are forced. Imagine what this means to these brothers and sisters; what pressure it puts on them and their families. This is legalized violence.

I was enthused by the commitment and solidarity these sisters and brothers showed under these conditions. But I see that not much has changed when it comes to the strategy of the trade union leadership when it comes to strikes. I remember being on the HERE Local 2 picket lines some years ago when the union officialdom, the police and the hotel bosses who were being struck, made an agreement that picketers wouldn’t impede the customers entering the struck hotel, in that sense it couldn’t be said they were crossing picket lines as there wasn’t one to cross.  To ensure this agreement was kept, tape was actually put down on the sidewalk and the striking workers kept within it by the picket captains. The mood was good for a while but picketing brick walls gets old quick.

When I went to this IAM picket yesterday I saw a similar situation. There was a strong mood of solidarity and workers were positive and upbeat in the sense that they were standing up to the boss. “We’re fighting for the next generation” one striker told me. But they were all standing around as trucks and equipment, as well as other workers entered freely. They told me they were picketing in front of the entrance for a while walking slowly across it as we used to do, but the bosses’ complained and the union officials told them to stop. If they continued to do it, the cops will come and the union will be in trouble.

This raised the question in my mind: Can we go on strike and win? I believe we can, but not with the present way they are organized.  I spoke to Steve Older, an IAM official, over the phone who is also the head of the Contra Costa Labor Council and when I asked him why the strike was called an “unfair labor practice” strike he said it couldn’t be an economic strike because then the bosses can hire the scabs inside permanently by law.

This is at the root of why we haven’t had a significant victory in decades; this obsession with obeying anti-union laws. Workers are even taken out on strike to pressure the employers to negotiate, no economic demands. In the Wisconsin events when we had 100,000 mostly fresh people on the streets and occupying the capital rotunda, the only two demands were to keep dues check off where the employer collects union dues through payroll and the right to bargain.  The concessions were no problem for the union leaders at the top. Today, strikes are in no way designed to stop production; they really amount to 24-hour protests as strikebreakers are brought in to defeat it. After two months on picket lines stopping nothing as strikebreakers work inside, it can get pretty demoralizing.People feel powerless, like they're having no impact.

The picketers had a rat design on the picket signs, “Show the boss that rat” I said to them, they’ll buckle and settle the contract then. It’s embarrassing that is. Part of the union leadership’s strategy for years has to bring big inflatable rats to picket lines. How can a strike be won this way?  The reality is, the entire union leadership of the AFL-CIO do not believe we can win, hence the rat. Outside of withdrawing one’s own labor there is no real attempt to stop production because it’s illegal.

The strike is in Contra Costa County, the Contra Costa Central Labor Council has about 86,000 members affiliated to it; this is where our power lies, them and workers throughout the community. When we think of that number and we include their families and their communities, we have immense potential power. Motorists were continuously honking in support. The IAM has about 5000 members in this area I think.  In the next county the Alameda Labor Council has over 100,000 workers affiliated to it.  An IAM official mentioned to the media that Boeing workers up in Washington State would be handling struck work if they handled Henkel’s products which they do, but when Boeing workers resisted a concessionary contract themselves a few years ago, the IAM’s national leadership intervened and with all sorts of chicanery pushed it through so it’s not likely they’ll organize that sort of support, it is after all, against the law.

This is why union membership and our wages and benefits have been eroded. And why we haven’t won strikes over the last period; it’s not that we can’t win them. The strategy necessary to win strikes would start with mass mobilization of the millions of workers in unions, with relying on our own strength. and by rejecting this partnership with the bosses under the term Team Concept. It would include being willing to mobilize mass action to violate and challenge anti-union laws.  But this is rejected by the heads of organized labor because it means a confrontation with the bosses, their friends in the Democratic Party and the courts. In the last analysis they see no alternative to capitalism and are forced to help the boss maintain profits and market share, and this is done by pushing  concessions on their own members and obeying the law at all costs.

We live in a society where bankers, hedge fund managers, politicians and everyone under the sun with power is breaking laws day in and day out and the heads of organized labor worship the anti-union laws introduced by big business politicians like they’re the ten Commandments. They do this as a serial sexual predator, racist, and misogynist with some hundreds of law-suits against him sits in the White House.

What message was sent when the building trades leaders met with the sexual predator Trump? The head of the Teamsters, the lawyer Hoffa also talked positively of Trump, a man who argues that US workers are paid too much. It doesn’t project power and strength praising people like Trump and ingratiating themselves before him has Trumka has.

It’s not that we haven’t had victories. The unions were built despite them being illegal. Half a million workers occupied factories and workplaces in the 1930’s when the UAW and the CIO were built. Workers occupied the Flint plant for 44 days.

Instead of leaving locals and a small group of workers isolated, fighting a global corporation alone, which is so often the case. A strike can be linked to organizing all workers and drawing our communities in to it by raising demands for jobs, and supporting community issues.  The amount of support from the community and passers by I saw at the picket line at Hinkel was considerable. This is a source that must be organized. The general mood among much of the rank and file of the union movement is that they only see the officialdom when there’s a union election or to vote for a Democrat or they want something. On most social issues they are silent.

If we want to stop the decline in our living standards we have no choice; we must transform our unions in to real fighting organizations and that means changing the present leadership and their concessionary, pro-management policies.  No one can say this is not difficult---it is going to be a struggle. The bosses will use the courts and the media and the police against us, they always have. And there is no doubt that some of the present leadership will cooperate with bosses in terminating genuine rank and file militant activists in the workplace if they can.  This has been done many times in our history. They will defend their present positions but in the face of a movement arising from below some of them will change.  But the more tightly organized we are, the more we do not allow racism, sexism and tactics the bosses use to divide us, the harder it will be to single us out. The present leadership of organized labor will not mobilize their 14 million members in to a real fightback against the attacks we are facing, they will not voluntarily take the measures necessary to win. The rank and file has to do it. A new leadership must be built.

In any war we have to strategize, discuss, learn the lessons of past victories and defeats and go forward in a way that protects us from harm. As George Schultz, Reagan’s former Secretary of State once wrote: “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.”  The best way to avoid a strike is to be prepared to win one. We hurt the employer by shutting down their production.

We all want a peaceful life, but the bosses’, and capitalism itself, will not permit that. We cannot avoid this struggle to transform our unions. The alternative if we do nothing is to accept more defeats.  

If you would like to join our weekly conference calls where we discuss these issues send us an e mail to: and tell us a little about why you would like to participate. 

*I am struggling with the word Scabs to describe those workers bused in to work behind a stoppage. I will explain why in my next posting.

Monday, December 11, 2017

More Union Support to Open AIFLD Files

Order this here
By Joel Schor
Member Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP)
Also identified casual working under ILWU
San Francisco 12-11-17

The meeting of the Sailors Union of the Pacific had more in attendance today than usual because of the holidays. I attended and introduced a motion to support the resolution passed at the Duluth (Minn) Labor Body calling on the AFL-CIO to open the AIFLD files to the public. The files are stored at the University of Maryland. I gave a very brief background on what the AIFLD was and brought up a few clauses in our union constitution which states we support seafarers the world over and also that we support other “bona fide” labor unions in their cause to attain better wages, working conditions and respect on the job.

There were quite a few questions about why the records might be held back and if they pertained to all or a part of the AIFLD files. I explained that these files pertain primarily to the Mexico City Ford plant incident and while Trumka has not stated he is against opening the files he has not acted to allow their release either. The motion passed nearly unanimously from what I saw with only a few abstentions and none against.  The resolution will now go to the local branches on the West Coast which includes LA, Seattle and Hawaii and will likely be passed by all.

The original resolution passed at the Duluth Labor Body has now been endorsed by:

AFSCME Local 444, Oakland CA
Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP) San Francisco CA

It has been tabled by:
St Paul Minn. Labor Council AFL-CIO
AFSCME District Council 57 Oakland CA
Withdrawn at AFSCME Local 2428 Oakland CA to be introduced in January.

It is also being discussed in other AFSCME, SEIU and UAW local unions and among rank and file members of the trade union movement.

And the resolution has been endorsed by the following non AFL-CIO bodies:

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) 
The DSA Chicago Labor Body
The Workers Solidarity Network
Autoworker Caravan

Here is the text of the resolution :

Whereas, workers in Ford Motor’s Mexico City Assembly Plant were involved in a series of labor disputes in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s resisting efforts to bring their wages and benefits down to the level of the new plants on the U.S. border and demanding democratic elections in their union.  Many were kidnapped, beaten, shot and fired.  One died from wounds received in the plant.
Whereas, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), a now defunct arm of the AFL-CIO was reputedly involved in these events and the AFL-CIO has sent the old records from this group to the University of Maryland, the official repository for AFL-CIO records.
Whereas, the University of Maryland has requested permission for a year to open new AIFLD records and archive them for researchers and has not received approval from the National AFL-CIO to do so.
Therefore, be it resolved, That the National AFL-CIO take the action necessary to allow archivists at the University of Maryland to open new American Institute for Free Labor Development records.

We urge union members to raise this resolution in your locals, on your executive board if you are on it and in the workplace. It is positive that organizations outside the official union movement have endorsed the resolution but what will bring pressure to bear on the AFL-CIO leadership to allow the University of Maryland to make the AIFLD files available to the public is pressure from the ranks of organized labor.

Pakistan: Violence Against Women. A "Ray of Hope?"

This article was originally published in Dawn.  Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English language paper.

Ray of hope?

Zofeen T. Ebrahim
December 08, 2017
The writer is a freelance journalist.

In a country where women get raped, gang-raped or killed for ‘honour’; where many more at the slightest provocation are subjected to other forms of horrendous violence that result in life-altering injuries, there is a ray of hope. The Punjab government’s Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) in Multan which opened recently, has come at a time when rights groups contend that violence against women has increased manifold.

Based on media reports, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded over 2,500 cases of violence — sexual, domestic, burning and kidnapping — against women in 2016. Verbal, physical and psychological and online violence remains under the radar.

The opening of the centre — manned by a trained, all-women team — in March has opened the floodgates: it has received more than 1,300 cases in only nine months, that too from merely three tehsils of Multan district.

Experts contend this is the tip of the iceberg: Violence against women (VAW) remains hugely underreported and among the most misunderstood of crimes. Many women cannot brace themselves to reveal the brutality they suffer, not only because it is ugly and uncomfortable to talk about, but also because of the stigma attached to it. No wonder the percentage of reported rape is so shockingly low. Moreover, institutionalised misogyny in the criminal justice system means that the conviction rate for even instances of such violence that are reported remains dismally low at 1-2.5 per cent.

The launch of the centre for VAW has opened the floodgates.

The choice of Multan by the Strategic Reform Unit (SRU), a think tank set up by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, as the location for the first centre appears a sound one: the incidence of VAW in southern Punjab, an agricultural belt steeped in age-old patriarchy, is perhaps more pervasive than anywhere else in Pakistan.

However, the centre cannot be compared to the Darul Amans, or shelter homes for women, run by the provincial social welfare departments. At the Multan centre, survivors are provided with legal, medical, forensic and psychological support, as well as counselling, post-trauma rehabilitation and shelter, under one roof. This will enable women to rebuild their lives and bypass the fragmented justice system with its web of never-ending court-kutchery procedures.

Rights experts have lauded this effort. They say that when a woman wants to report violence, she typically has to go from one government department to another to register her complaint, not only being made to recall the horror of the incident at every step, but also having to deal with misogyny and bias along the way. Maliha Zia Lari, associate director of the Karachi-based Legal Aid Society, expressed the hope that the VAWC staff is more specialised as that would mean women would be less likely to be exposed to “elements of potential exploitation”.

Over the years, Pakistan has come up with several laws that provide protection for women, yet none have so far been implemented in letter and spirit. The justice system, too, is archaic. Ms Zia says that lack of quality education and training, delays in due process, high fees and a litigious system compound the situation.

The SRU sought the help of the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School to come up with standard operating procedures that have been enforced at VAWC, and which are consistent with international human rights standards.

In many South Asian countries, different departments of government that deal with violence against women work in silos and rarely, if ever, collaborate. Fact-finding and sharing of information is rare too. At the VAWC, special software connects all the departments and tracks all developments.

The VAWC came about after the furiously debated Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act, 2016, was enacted, says Salman Sufi, the force behind this ambitious project. However, this centre will only provide support to the people in Multan. The Punjab government plans to set up three more such centres in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad by March 2018 and, eventually, one in each of the province’s 36 districts.

It is hoped that the centre, in its functioning, will offer a blueprint that can be emulated across the country. Punjab’s SRU should actively engage with various political parties, rights groups and government officials from other provinces. In fact, being the first of its kind in the region, it can even be a model for other countries in South Asia and beyond.

However, sustainability requires that the VAWC not end up as a personality-driven institution that crumbles without the team leader’s hand on the wheel. As a statutory body with a set of clearly spelt-out SOPs, it is hoped the centre not only flourishes but that it encourages women to report without fear the violence perpetrated on them.

The writer is a freelance journalist.
Twitter: @zofeen28
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2017

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: