Friday, 26 May 2017

Einstein the Marxist.


Life Magazine, April 5, 1949 (source)
My post "Scientific Socialism: a Primer" (April 22nd) earned me a little off-line ear pull.

I wrote then that Albert Einstein's essay "Why Socialism?", published originally in the first issue of the Marxist journal "Monthly Review" was a good primer on Marxism. In my opinion, the fact that Einstein's article appeared in 1949 -- during the opening stages of McCarthyism -- together with its content and Einstein's support for the new publication revealed his civic courage and also justified considering him a Marxist, regardless of whether he ever used that adjective to describe himself.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Bits and Pieces: Let's Read.


The discussion around The Donald seems to have changed, Corey Robin thinks. This is probably a good thing. You don't see so much feverish speculation on the fascism of the freak show characters inhabiting the White House: with any luck, their fifteen minutes may be all but over.



Saturday, 13 May 2017

This is Why the Modern Left Sucks.


"This sphere that we are deserting [i.e. exchange], within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of labour-power, are constrained only by their own free will. They contract as free agents, and the agreement they come to, is but the form in which they give legal expression to their common will. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings them together and puts them in relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interests of each. Each looks to himself only, and no one troubles himself about the rest, and just because they do so, do they all, in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an all-shrewd providence, work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal and in the interest of all."
Observe in that passage the four notions of "Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham", which I emphasised. Marx, author of that text, had a purpose in mind when he directed our attention to them.

Those four words will help us understand why the modern Left sucks and blows at the same time.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Hobsbawm: Dr. Marx and the Critics.


Say what you will about Eric Hobsbawm, he was an intelligent and well-read man. In "Dr. Marx and the Victorian Critics" (The New Reasoner, Summer 1957, number 1) Hobsbawm replies to Hugh Trevor-Roper, some kind of a British bourgeois scribbler, or something.

Hobsbawm general approach is to contrast earlier Marx critics with more modern ones, like Trevor-Roper. It's an eye-opening exercise.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Fairfax Strike and Other Australian Stories.



The story they tell us is that under capitalism you get what you deserve. You work hard, better, more intelligently, and you are paid accordingly. Isn’t that what they say?

The reality is that Fairfax Media is planning to sack 125 journalists, a quarter of its editorial staff, in order to save $30 million, to pay their managers’ performance bonuses. Take away from some to give to others. That’s the reality. Any other story is bullshit.

The reality is that after cutting penalty rates in hospitality, retail, and fast food, now Clubs Australia, a bosses’ combination, is planning to cut their workers’ penalty rates. Again, take away from some to give to others. That’s the reality. Any other story is bullshit.

The reality is that capitalism is a scam. Join a union, get ready to fight for your and your family’s livelihood, and pray to God it’s not too late.

Anything else is bullshit. Strike!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bye Bye, Free Speech?


Corey Robin remembers a time when free speech was sacred to the liberal/leftish intelligentsia. Those were the days when they would get on their high horses fulminating anyone to their left -- namely social justice warriors and Marxists alike -- for being totalitarian. Free speech was their absolute principle, their equivalent to Sh'ma Yisra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.

Monday, 1 May 2017

May Day


Monument to 1886 Events in Haymarket Square.
Chicago, Illinois. USA [A]

Beyond the history of May Day, the plaque symbolises the union of workers worldwide and reads:
"In memory of the many Iraqui trade unionists killed by the enemies of organized labor.

"May the bonds of international labor solidarity help us all as we struggle for justice, peace, democracy and workers' rights.

"-Iraqui Federation of Oil Unions.
"-Electrical Utility Workers in Basra, General Federation of Iraque Workers."
Update:
08-05-2017. "What are the Origins of May Day" by Rosa Luxemburg, at Jacobin.


Image Credits:
[A] "Monument to 1886 Events in Haymarket Square - With Plaque from Iraqi Trade Unionists - Chicago - Illinois - USA". 11 April 2011. Author: Adam Jones, Ph.D. Source: Wikimedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. My usage of the image does not imply the author's endorse me or my usage of said image.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

France's "The Revolt of the Angels".


[A]
A bookish angel whose studies turned into a blasphemer and a rebel against the Creator, an idle and womanising aristocratic youth who rediscovered his own version of Catholic faith after being dumped by his guardian angel, and a librarian with an unhealthy attachment to books are the main characters of Anatole France's "The Revolt of the Angels".

Around these three characters, whose paths criss-cross, France, the 1921 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, weaves a story set in early 20th century Paris, in 35 short vignettes, telling their frequently small, occasionally large, personal adventures and dramas. Surprisingly and in contrast to the supernatural nature of its protagonist and his epic quest, those episodes, often told with charm and a subtle, benign humour, are eminently down to earth, providing a glimpse into the final years of the French Belle Époque.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Bhaskar against Marx's Alleged Determinism.


Guess what?

Roy Bhaskar, founder of critical realism, wrote the entry "Determinism", for A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Tom Bottomore (ed.).

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Scientific Socialism: a Primer.


David Ruccio writes about yesterday's March for Science staged in many countries, including Australia. In our times of alternative facts and fake news, its significance is evident.

Ruccio's post, however, also reminded me of Albert Einstein's essay "Why Socialism?", where Einstein laid out his views on socialism.

Although his prominence may have afforded Einstein some protection, it took courage to pen that piece: the late 1940s-early 1950s wasn't a good time to write favourably about socialism anywhere, least of all in an openly Marxist journal. Yet, "Why Socialism?" was published originally in 1949 in the first issue of the Monthly Review, whose editors -- whom we might suppose know something about basic Marxism -- decided to file it under "Marxism".

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Problem: Houses of Parliament!


Housing affordability has been a big issue in Australia for a long while. It was a big issue before the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 in the US and has remained a big issue for many Australians ever since:


Monday, 17 April 2017

Experiences of an Ageing Marxist: Commodities.


Although I often stray away from Marxism and write about other subjects, I'm writing this post as a Marxist, confident that Marxist readers have shared similar experiences. I address myself to them.

Although non-Marxist readers are welcome to read on, they may well find the subject uninteresting. If you are a non-Marxist you might want to skip this (trust me, I'll understand). If you decide to stay, do so at your own peril. :-)

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Epilogue.


"The Fascist state claims its ethical character: it is Catholic but above all it is Fascist, in fact it is exclusively and essentially Fascist. Catholicism completes Fascism, and this we openly declare, but let no one think they can turn the tables on us, under cover of metaphysics or philosophy". (To the Chamber of Deputies, May 13, 1929, in Discorsi del 1929, Milano, Alpes, 1930, p. 182).

This post comments on the Footnotes Appendix to "The Doctrine of Fascism" and closes this series. That Appendix contains a series of quotes culled from different documents and speeches. It's the only part of the essay we can be reasonably sure reflects Mussolini's words.

The opening quote is one of them. Barring something lost in translation, that's a sample of his clear-sighted wisdom. There's no need for my comment (yours is welcome, however).

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Evil Empire.


The setting is a polished clean, impersonal room; control consoles, covered by electronic displays and buttons, surround a group of dignitaries, all of them professionally dressed, in the elegant but sober style one has come to associate with important people.

They are observing the world from far above.

A man in his fifties runs the show. He is handsome, with that kind of unexceptional good looks appropriate to his job. His hair is already turning grey. And what a show he is running: epic images of global destruction observed from a distance of hundreds of kilometres.

In awe with the apocalyptic power he feels it's his, the man only manages to say: "Oh. It's beautiful".

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Fascism vs Marxism.

(source)

The second part of "The Doctrine of Fascism" ("Political and Social Doctrine", a little under 7 pages long) differs from the first in style and content and can be read profitably without it.

Perhaps as a former journalist Mussolini was a better writer than Gentile (the likely author of the first part). Here we'll assume that the second part was written by Il Duce himself. Gentile added the first, without taking credit, in an attempt to give the essay more intellectual credibility. Not a wise decision, in my opinion.

At any event, this second section, less philosophically ambitious, is much more instructive and -- at least -- understandable.

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Introduction!?


Orwell could not find a clear answer to the question of what Fascism was. Maybe he didn't try hard enough.

Benito Mussolini understood the question needed an answer. In a 1921 letter, Mussolini writes: "If Fascism does not wish to die or, worse still, commit suicide, it must now provide itself with a doctrine"; "[I]t is also a question of denying the silly tale that Fascism is all made up of violent men".

Ironies aside, allegedly coming straight from Il Duce, with the additional imprimatur of the Enciclopedia Italiana and its editor, philosopher and top fascist ideologue Giovanni Gentile, the 1932 essay "The Doctrine of Fascism" was meant as the authoritative answer.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Mussolini.


As a young man I was very interested on WW2, its causes, development, and aftermath. My interest, however, was mostly limited to Europe. In that war theatre Adolf Hitler was the central character and Nazi Germany the main setting.

While I suspect that is a common blunder, that is no excuse: my focus was superficial and misleading. (Over the last twenty years several attempts have been made to correct the historical record: 1998, 2014)

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism.

"Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?" (Marx and Engels, 1848)

Recently, and due to political events mainly in the US and Europe, fascism has become a matter of concern. Words like "fascism" and "fascist" suddenly appear in popular discourse.


But, what is fascism?

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Krugman Calling the Kettle Black.


"American politics -- at least on one side of the aisle -- is suffering from an epidemic of infallibility, of powerful people who never, ever admit to making a mistake." (Paul Krugman)

Whoever said economists had no sense of humour? *<8-)

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Only in Australia.


Yesterday Sally McManus, the new ACTU secretary, had her first public appearance in the ABC's TV 7.30 Report.

The first female ACTU secretary, McManus got the job when the union movement in Australia is going through a crisis: according to official 2015 figures, only 14.4% of workers belong to a union (a historical low); the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), which unlike other unions, still maintains some reputation for militancy and a propensity for industrial action, is being subjected to a campaign of judicial terrorism by the construction industry and their enforcers in the Federal Government (118, yes, 1-1-8, one hundred eighteen separate largely spurious legal proceedings!!!); and the decision by the absurdly named Fair Work Commission to starve Australia's lowest paid workers.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Saving Capitalism.


I think Prof. Richard D. Wolff is onto something. In a recent piece for Counterpunch ("Trump and Saving Capitalism", March 6) Wolff compares and contrasts Donald Trump with Mussolini and Hitler. Although centred on the US case, I think Wolff's ideas are relevant to other developed countries, including Australia.

The merit in Wolff's piece is not so much its originality: plenty of what he says, valuable as it is, isn't new. His analysis of the rise of Trump, for example, is closely related to Thomas Frank's own ideas (see "Don't let Establishment Opportunists ruin the Resistance Movement", March 9, The Guardian). Both authors' views are mutually complementary.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Angry Summer: 205 Records.


"If you thought the weather over this past summer was off the charts, you weren't imagining things". (The ABC's Radio Penny Timms)
The Climate Council of Australia just released its report "Angry Summer 2016/17: Climate Change Supercharging Extreme Weather". From Timms' story:
"The summer of 2016/17 has been dubbed the 'angry summer' by climate scientists who've been investigating just how extreme things got.
"They've found that during a 90-day period, 205 weather records were broken."
This little app was included in the ABC's Online News story (click under 2030):

While I'm alarmed, I can't say I'm surprised.

The Federal Government's reaction? "The Federal Energy and Environment Minister declined to comment."

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Did Hanson's Mask Just Slip?


Senator for Queensland and president of modestly named far-right Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, Pauline Hanson pretends to care about the underdog, the Aussie battlers. But who on earth is an Aussie battler? She never explained that, did she?

Yesterday Hanson had an extended interview with Barrie Cassidy, for the ABC TV's "Insiders". Her answers are instructive.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

"God, I Love West Texas".


Ghost town of Whiteflat, Texas. [A]

Texan brothers Tanner and Toby Howard, two of the main characters in David Mackenzie's 2016 neo-Western "Hell or High Water", never had much to say for the American Dream. The dilapidated towns with their boarded-up shops, overgrown yards, run-down farms, derelict cars, dishevelled caravans, and ubiquitous pawnshop street signs which the brothers share with scruffy, gun-toting, trigger-happy inhabitants tell much of their backstory.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Class Warfare Down Under.


In Australia, as in pretty much any other developed country, wages for workers in hospitality, retail, fast food, and pharmacy, even if paid according to the law (and often they are not) are miserable.

(source)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Quotable Quotes.


The intellectual employee may deny what he or she objectively is -- a salaried thinker -- but cannot escape being one, except by virtue of unemployment. (Tom Walker, aka Sandwichman, Feb. 17, 2017)
Perhaps readers can relate to this. Sometimes, often by accident, I find a quote remarkable for whatever reason. It may be because it's witty, or because it offers insight on a subject in a succinct way, but it could be for many other reasons. But it makes my mind jump from one idea to another.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Summer of our Discontent.


Australia is a weird place, full of weird animals and equally weird plants. Everybody knows that.

Let's think of an example. If you leave aside the fact both fly and have wings, a very Aussie flying fox looks nothing like a canary.

Frankly, unlike canaries, flying foxes aren't charismatic. Still, lacking native canaries in our continent-sized coal mine, we have to make do with flying foxes. And they are playing the same role canaries used to play in British coal mines:

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Hot, Long Summer.

"Summertime and the livin's is easy."

Or is it?

We are having an unusually hot summer Down Under. This is from ABC News Online:

(source)

For American readers: 50 degrees Celsius is 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, 1-2-2: one hundred and twenty two degrees Fahrenheit. But we know, don't we, that there is no climate change/global warming. That's all bullshit the Chinese made up, yes?

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Missing Second Comment.


I was puzzled (was, no longer am) why one of my comments recently submitted and re submitted to Blogger for inclusion in the comments thread of a blog post invariably failed to appear: Error 200 or something was Blogger's constant and not too helpful reply. It was supposed to follow this and precede this.

I checked html tags, length in characters, links, the works. Nothing: Error 200, whatever that means.

Oh well. Shit happens, I suppose.

So, just for the record and for posterity, here is the second and missing part of my comment:

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Marxian Political Economy Primer.


Given my subject matter, it may sound strange I start this way, but here goes.

Suppose you could ask two highly respected dead economists like Paul Samuelson and Joan Robinson what school of economic thought they belonged to.

It seems safe to assume both would have answered they are Keynesians, in spite of their public and long and heated disputes on many theoretical issues.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Bits and Pieces: Great Southern Land.




General Motors Holden announced recently that the last Holden Commodore will roll out of its Elizabeth assembly line (South Australia) on Friday, Oct. 20, after 69 years. One thousand factory workers will lose their jobs.

Last year Ford closed its Broadmeadows assembly plant. Toyota will shut down its own line around the same time, spelling the end of car manufacturing in Australia.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Bits and Pieces: Vampiric Dystopia Edition.


"Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks." (Das Kapital, vol 1)

Marx sometimes described capitalists as "vampires".

More literate readers won't need this clarification, but I'll place it here anyway as a courtesy to upper-middle class, philosophically-minded bloggers, econo-poseurs, and bloviating professors of economics from Berkeley: he used that term metaphorically, only.

Well, it turns out that Marx may have been wrong on this.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Donald and Volodya: A Love Story?


The liberal, respectably Leftish/Clintonite, upper middle class, educated, intellectually sophisticated American commentariat has long fretted about an alleged and ominously asymmetric bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

In that assumed relationship, Volodya is the top. He is the master manipulator, the puppeteer; The Donald, the marionette, plays the bottom. [*]

Other than the deep aversion those Sherlocks feel for the Orange One, and their Cold War legacy Russophobia, I've never understood the reason for that assumption. Why the dominant role is assigned to Putler without discussion? However otherwise reprehensible, is Trump necessarily a simpleton, too?

In other words, if one were to put on those conspiracy theorists' tin-foil hats and assume some kind of relationship between Trump and a shadowy, sinister, foreign character should Putin be the one obvious suspect?

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Last Man on the Moon.


[A]

Capt. Eugene Andrew "Gene" Cernan, veteran of the Gemini and Apollo programs, died today in Houston.

In December 1972, as commander of Apollo 17, he was the last man to return to the lunar module.

[B]

Ever since, generations of spacemen/women from other countries have joined the American and Soviet/Russian pioneers, without touching, however, other alien worlds. In our times of mediocrity, men like Capt. Cernan remind us that our species once did boldly go where no man had gone before.

It remains to be seen whether we can repeat that.

RIP.

Image Credits:
[A] "Eugene Cernan, December 1971". Source: Wikimedia. File in the public domain.
[B] Capt. Cernan in December 1972. Author: Dr. Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17 crew member). Source: Wikimedia. File in the public domain.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Bits and Pieces (x)


So, what's with the emerging Right?

A self-flattering explanation popular among the sanctimonious and disingenuous liberals, like Paul Krugman, is:
"I don't think any kind of economic analysis can explain this. It has to be about culture and, as always, race."
How can one argue with such politically correct brilliance? It's all Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel's fault.

Monday, 9 January 2017

On Markup: Is the Price Right?


In Fred Lee's "Post Keynesian Theory of Prices" the concept of markup is the common denominator to the conceptual mishmash post Keynesians call their "theory of prices".

Being such a crucial notion readers could naturally ask what, exactly, is "markup"? And one should expect and indeed demand a clear answer to such a fundamental question. Clear definitions, after all, are of the essence, right?