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Radical perspectives on the crisis

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Jason Cortez
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Oct 22 2008 15:25
Radical perspectives on the crisis

I don't know if folks have seen this site it looks like it might be a useful resource (despite the terrible layout). I particularly liked their response to the Jump f*ckers slogan (which i think is funny, but maybe not that helpful).

Quote:
The world is falling apart and we want to know why and what to do about it. Some of us have been studying some of this stuff for a while and others are trying to brush up quick.

On this site we will post all the useful information we can find on understanding and grappling with whatever capitalism will throw at us during this exceptional period, as well as seeking exit strategies in the struggles which develop.

Site here

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jura
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Oct 22 2008 16:18

Another interesting blog is Marx and the financial crisis of 2008, though less updated.

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oisleep
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Oct 22 2008 16:24

that andrew klinman article (on the isj site) looks quite good from a brief skim through

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jura
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Oct 22 2008 16:54

Yes, I found it quite interesting. I have a problem understanding one of his arguments, though.

Andrew Kliman wrote:
But from 2000 to 2005 after-tax income (not adjusted for inflation) rose just 34.7 percent, barely one third of the increase in home prices. This is precisely why the real-estate bubble proved to be a bubble. A rise in asset prices or expansion of credit is never excessive in itself. It is excessive only in relation to the underlying flow of value.

I understand the main thrust of the argument, but can't see how "after-tax income" is related to value (and what "after-tax income" is, in the first place. English economic terminology is still a mystery to me.) Can somebody help?

Btw, the article is here.

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oisleep
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Oct 22 2008 18:01

if you read it in the context of the paragraph above it it makes more sense

Quote:
The increases in home prices were far in excess of the flow of value from new production that alone could guarantee repayment of the mortgages in the long run. The new value created in production is ultimately the sole source of all income—including homeowners’ wages, salaries and other income—and therefore it is the sole basis upon which the repayment of mortgages ultimately rests.

it means that house prices have got to be ultimately paid for in real money (yeah you can borrow 100% of the cost of the house from a bank but at some point that has to be repaid), which comes from wages - so if house prices are going up by 100% but the wages which will ultimately have to repay the debts taken on to buy those houses are only going up by 35% then something has to give

after tax income is just the real wage we get, i.e. after tax deductions and the like, it's the wage out of which you have to live on (fund mortagge payments/rent, buy food, reproduce yourself etc..)

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jura
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Oct 22 2008 18:08

Aha! Thanks.

Zazaban
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Oct 23 2008 19:59

If capitalism got through '29 it can get through this.

RedHughs
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Oct 26 2008 02:30

While I have found Kliman's Marx fundamentalism rather ridiculous, his article on the crisis was indeed good and straightforward.

It seems like one can divide crisis theorists into those who have read Doug Noland and those who haven't. Those who have read Noland seem to be able to actually understand leveraged finance. It seems Kliman has read Noland and has a good grasp on the current breakdown. Good job.

And Noland is here. I suggest the serious student read the many back issues of Credit Bubble Bulletin as well.

mikus
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Oct 26 2008 23:34
RedHughs wrote:
While I have found Kliman's Marx fundamentalism rather ridiculous, his article on the crisis was indeed good and straightforward.

What you refer to as "Kliman's Marx fundamentalism" is simply the idea that, while interpreting Marx, we should see if other interpretations are possible before declaring his work "internally inconsistent". If you had actually read any of Kliman's work on the interpretation of Marx, you'd be aware that he has never asserted that Marx was correct about everything (or anything), just that Marx's work was internally consistent (or rather that attempts to prove the contrary have failed), which means that Marx's theory can form a working hypothesis for research. Further research would be necessary to determine the extent to which Marx is correct.

That isn't fundamentalism, it's basic scientific method, based on the generation of hypotheses and empirical research.

Perhaps you just don't like that his work doesn't lend itself to pulling out random Marx quotes and then trying to make them conform to your own random ideas which are entirely independent of Marx's actual writing. But I think anyone with even a minimal amount of intellectual honesty would think that's a good thing.

Beltov
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Oct 27 2008 20:42

I heard that our comrades in NYC went to a meeting last week where Kliman was giving a presentation on the economic crisis. There's an audio version of it here:

http://ourmedia.org/node/463283/

I heard that he comes from the 'dispropotionality' school (i.e. tendency towards the falling rate of profit). Is that right?

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oisleep
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Oct 27 2008 22:29

doesn't he just tell it how it is, i.e. in the absence of various counteracting influences (to which there are countless) there would be a tendency for the rate of profit to fall

mikus
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Oct 28 2008 00:34
Beltov wrote:
I heard that our comrades in NYC went to a meeting last week where Kliman was giving a presentation on the economic crisis. There's an audio version of it here:

http://ourmedia.org/node/463283/

I heard that he comes from the 'dispropotionality' school (i.e. tendency towards the falling rate of profit). Is that right?

Disproportionality and the falling rate of profit theory are generally considered to be two different theories of crisis.

His work on Marx has emphasized the latter. But his work has mostly (although not all) been on the issue of the interpretation of Marx's theory of value (his arguments have been directed primarily at the surplus approach, which is what people disparagingly call neo-Ricardianism), not on his own view of crises. The debate on Marx's value theory is directly related to the theory of the rate of profit to fall, not to disproportionality.

If you want to understand his explanation of why this last crisis has occurred, you will have to read his paper and/or listen to the talk.

He has an older paper which is his own view on crisis (not an interpretation of Marx, although I think a small part of the paper does deal with that issue) which gives a falling rate of profit theory of crises. But it's not online. It's called "Value Production and Economic Crisis: A temporal analysis", published in "Value and the World Economy Today," edited by Richard Westra and Alan Zuege.

oisleep wrote:
doesn't he just tell it how it is, i.e. in the absence of various counteracting influences (to which there are countless) there would be a tendency for the rate of profit to fall

In his work on the interpretation of Marx, in addition to what you said, he makes the point that for Marx the devaluation of constant capital is both what halts the tendency for the rate of profit to fall and what causes crises. So according to Kliman's interpretation of Marx (and I it's correct), for Marx rising productivity both prevents the tendency of the rate of profit to fall from being a long term tendency, and causes periodic crises. The crises pave the way for the new upswing, by boosting the devaluing capital and hence boosting the rate of profit. Kliman denies that there is a long-term tend toward stagnation of permanent crisis in Marx's theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

mikus
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Oct 28 2008 00:45

He will be on the radio tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 12AM Eastern time, which you can stream from your computer.

"This coming Tuesday night, Oct. 28, Andrew will be interviewed on the
radio--WBAI, 99.5 FM (Pacifica) in New York City--about the economic
crisis, its causes, significance, etc., at midnight (i.e., 12 am-1:30 am
on WEDNESDAY). The interview will be the main topic on the "Moorish
Orthodox Radio Crusade" program hosted by Bill Weinberg and Ann-Marie
Hendrickson.

For those not in New York City who may want to call in, WBAI is streamed
live over the internet in multiple formats: MP3: 24K or 64K or .ram--see
stream.wbai.org. The show will be archived for some time after that on
the WBAI site, http://archive.wbai.org/ (search by name of program,
"Moorish ...")"

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Oct 28 2008 06:30
Quote:
In his work on the interpretation of Marx, in addition to what you said, he makes the point that for Marx the devaluation of constant capital is both what halts the tendency for the rate of profit to fall and what causes crises. So according to Kliman's interpretation of Marx (and I it's correct), for Marx rising productivity both prevents the tendency of the rate of profit to fall from being a long term tendency, and causes periodic crises. The crises pave the way for the new upswing, by boosting the devaluing capital and hence boosting the rate of profit. Kliman denies that there is a long-term tend toward stagnation of permanent crisis in Marx's theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

cheers, i presume when he refers to the devaluation of constant capital he means through rising productivity? so in a way rising productivity both causes the rate of profit to fall and prevents it? (i'm not that up to speed with it all but i'd always thought in the past that the lowering of the value of constant capital through productivity was something which only slowed down the speed in which the composition of capital increased, so whilst it was a necessary condition of halting the tendency of the rate of profit to fall it wasn't sufficient in itself?)

Beltov
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Oct 28 2008 12:36

I listened to Kliman's presentation and the discussion, and in general it was good. He's basically saying that the 1930s Depression and the Second World War caused massive destruction of capital - both in value terms and physically through war damage - and that this increased the rate of profit, leading to the post-war boom. He then says that this upswing became exhausted in the early 70s, and that since then the ruling class has resorted to massive levels of debt to maintain the system in place, which are only temporary palliatives. He thinks the only longer term 'solution' within capitalism would be another round of capital devaluation on the scale of the 1930s and WW2 that would restore the rate of profit. Of course, he would prefer a solution outside of captialism. ie socialism. Because he's an economics professor he admitted that he didn't have much to say about the way the working class can fight back and organise for socialism.

The main problem I have with this is that it can be interpreted to mean that there is a certain economic 'rationality' to world-war from the perspective of capitalism, that a third world-war would be beneficial economically, progressive even. On the contrary, it would be a disaster for humanity, totally undermining the conditions for any further development of the productive forces seeing as it would be a nuclear war.

Hyperion
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Oct 28 2008 12:45

Regarding the Kliman article "Value Production and Economic Crisis: A temporal analysis" that Mike mentions: Kliman has now posted what I have been told is a fuller version of this on his website as a result of the brief exchange on http://marxandthefinancialcrisisof2008.blogspot.com/.

Link:

http://akliman.squarespace.com/crisis-intervention/

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Hieronymous
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Oct 28 2008 17:25

I listened to the audio of the Kliman talk and thought it was quite good too.

And Mikus, did you meet Bill Weinberg at our gathering at the Marxist library in Oakland around the time of the last SF bookfair? He actually reported about it on his show.

mikus
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Oct 29 2008 02:57
Beltov wrote:
The main problem I have with this is that it can be interpreted to mean that there is a certain economic 'rationality' to world-war from the perspective of capitalism, that a third world-war would be beneficial economically, progressive even.

He said that the second world war (along with the great depression) resulted in such a destruction of value that it enabled capitalism to come out of its crisis. You can't "interpret" him to mean that a third world war would be beneficial, because he didn't say it. You can impute that view to him, of course. But in that case, you could impute any view to him which you wanted.

Hyperion wrote:

Regarding the Kliman article "Value Production and Economic Crisis: A temporal analysis" that Mike mentions: Kliman has now posted what I have been told is a fuller version of this on his website as a result of the brief exchange on http://marxandthefinancialcrisisof2008.blogspot.com/.

Link:

http://akliman.squarespace.com/crisis-intervention/

Thanks, I hadn't seen that online.

Heironymous wrote:
And Mikus, did you meet Bill Weinberg at our gathering at the Marxist library in Oakland around the time of the last SF bookfair? He actually reported about it on his show.

I think I saw him for a second. I met him briefly in New York a couple of years ago when he did a talk on the worker's movement in Iraq (or something like that -- it's been a long time). I don't think he'd remember me, though.

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miles
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Oct 29 2008 09:51
Quote:
He said that the second world war (along with the great depression) resulted in such a destruction of value that it enabled capitalism to come out of its crisis. You can't "interpret" him to mean that a third world war would be beneficial, because he didn't say it. You can impute that view to him, of course. But in that case, you could impute any view to him which you wanted.

And george bush has never said 'I'm going to screw the workers of america' maybe we should also give him the benefit of the doubt? You can make logical assumptions and draw conclusions about consequences based on existing premises.

mikus
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Oct 30 2008 00:33
miles wrote:
Quote:
He said that the second world war (along with the great depression) resulted in such a destruction of value that it enabled capitalism to come out of its crisis. You can't "interpret" him to mean that a third world war would be beneficial, because he didn't say it. You can impute that view to him, of course. But in that case, you could impute any view to him which you wanted.

And george bush has never said 'I'm going to screw the workers of america' maybe we should also give him the benefit of the doubt? You can make logical assumptions and draw conclusions about consequences based on existing premises.

Show how the statement "The second world war resulted in such a destruction of value that it enabled capitalism to come out of its crisis" logically implies "a third world war would be economically beneficial for capitalism" and you will surely earn a place up there with the logical greats like Frege, Russell, Whitehead, Turing, etc., for revolutionizing the field of logic.

And we don't generally judge George Bush by his statements, we judge him by his policies. Unless you have some evidence that Mr. Kliman's actions resulted in the second world war (or will result in a third world war), it is a very poor comparison.

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Demogorgon303
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Oct 30 2008 12:53

This is what Kliman says here:

Quote:
As for the longer-term conditions that have given rise to the crisis, my view is basically this: The world economy has never fully recovered from the crisis of the 1970s – not in the way in which the destruction of capital in and through the Great Depression and WWII led to a post-war boom. That’s largely because of an understandable fear of having a repeat of the Great Depression. So there’s been a partial recovery only, brought about largely through:

(1) declining real wages for most workers and other austerity measures, as well as exporting the crisis into the 3d world, and

(2) a mountain of debt – mortgage, consumer, government, corporate – to paper over the sluggishness and mitigate the effects of the declining real wages.

Thus there have been persistent debt crises, and these will continue until:

(a) sufficient capital is destroyed (in value terms and physically) to once again make investment truly profitable – the present crisis may well end up being this moment, or

(b) there’s such a panic (“liquidity lock,” as a Fed official recently called it) that lending stops and the economy crashes, ushering in chaos or fascism or warlordism or whatever, or

(c) capitalism is replaced by a new human, socialist society.

I think its a reasonable interpretation to state Kliman does think another war could theoretically bring about the devaluation necessary to restart the accumulation process. For him it's not the only possibility, a particularly severe crisis could do the same. I see no problem with this view personally at a purely theoretical level. At a historical level, of course, a third world war would be nuclear and would make the whole question moot. I think it's important to separate the two aspects when discussing this question.

Interestingly, he also sees the disintegration of society (part of the bit I bolded) as an option, which is reminiscent of the ICC's theory of Decomposition (which is not identical with decadence, incidentally).

However, my vote is for option c.

mikus
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Oct 30 2008 19:11
Demogorgon303 wrote:
This is what Kliman says here:
Quote:
As for the longer-term conditions that have given rise to the crisis, my view is basically this: The world economy has never fully recovered from the crisis of the 1970s – not in the way in which the destruction of capital in and through the Great Depression and WWII led to a post-war boom. That’s largely because of an understandable fear of having a repeat of the Great Depression. So there’s been a partial recovery only, brought about largely through:

(1) declining real wages for most workers and other austerity measures, as well as exporting the crisis into the 3d world, and

(2) a mountain of debt – mortgage, consumer, government, corporate – to paper over the sluggishness and mitigate the effects of the declining real wages.

Thus there have been persistent debt crises, and these will continue until:

(a) sufficient capital is destroyed (in value terms and physically) to once again make investment truly profitable – the present crisis may well end up being this moment, or

(b) there’s such a panic (“liquidity lock,” as a Fed official recently called it) that lending stops and the economy crashes, ushering in chaos or fascism or warlordism or whatever, or

(c) capitalism is replaced by a new human, socialist society.

I think its a reasonable interpretation to state Kliman does think another war could theoretically bring about the devaluation necessary to restart the accumulation process. For him it's not the only possibility, a particularly severe crisis could do the same. I see no problem with this view personally at a purely theoretical level. At a historical level, of course, a third world war would be nuclear and would make the whole question moot. I think it's important to separate the two aspects when discussing this question.

In the quote you provided, he didn't say "war" but physical destruction of capital. That can happen without war. Furthermore, war can occur without world war. You switch from "war" in the first sentence to "world war" in the last sentence, which invalidates your whole argument. You act as if you're comparing the same thing, first at a theoretical level, then at an historical level. In fact you are just comparing two different things.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
Interestingly, he also sees the disintegration of society (part of the bit I bolded) as an option, which is reminiscent of the ICC's theory of Decomposition (which is not identical with decadence, incidentally).

He clarified on the radio program that he thinks this is extremely unlikely to occur.

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Demogorgon303
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Oct 30 2008 20:10
Quote:
In the quote you provided, he didn't say "war" but physical destruction of capital. That can happen without war. Furthermore, war can occur without world war. You switch from "war" in the first sentence to "world war" in the last sentence, which invalidates your whole argument. You act as if you're comparing the same thing, first at a theoretical level, then at an historical level. In fact you are just comparing two different things.

I'm not sure what else would lead to massive physical destruction of capital on such a scale. And, in the context of what he said earlier in that passage, world war would make sense. On an empirical level, it seems fairly obvious that the wars that have occured since the 70s haven't done much to destroy capital at least not at the level required to prevent a full recovery (as opposed to the partial one Kliman suggests).

Surely for a war to have a real impact on global capital formation it would have to take place in the major industrial centres. It would also require a victor that emerged relatively unscathed to lead a reconstruction as the US did in 1945. I can't see an occurance such as this occuring outside the context of world war. Any direct confrontation between the great powers (which would demand the rallying of the working class in any event) would be a seismic event that would probably lead to a new world war, which would almost certainly end up being nuclear.

Quote:
He clarified on the radio program that he thinks this is extremely unlikely to occur.

I'm only working on the basis of the piece I read which obviously didn't give odds for each scenario. I just thought it was interesting he posed it as a possibility. As for decomposition, in some respects it's already happening: the tendency to social disintegration is very clear in place like Somalia, Iraq, Congo, and Pakistan.

mikus
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Oct 31 2008 00:54
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Quote:
In the quote you provided, he didn't say "war" but physical destruction of capital. That can happen without war. Furthermore, war can occur without world war. You switch from "war" in the first sentence to "world war" in the last sentence, which invalidates your whole argument. You act as if you're comparing the same thing, first at a theoretical level, then at an historical level. In fact you are just comparing two different things.

I'm not sure what else would lead to massive physical destruction of capital on such a scale. And, in the context of what he said earlier in that passage, world war would make sense. On an empirical level, it seems fairly obvious that the wars that have occurred since the 70s haven't done much to destroy capital at least not at the level required to prevent a full recovery (as opposed to the partial one Kliman suggests).

Physical destruction happens during any major crisis. Plants sit idle, they are not repaired, machines are sold for scrap, commodities are purposefully destroyed, etc.

But aside from that, I still don't see why you think he was saying world war. You may think that only a world war would lead to such destruction, and you may even be correct, but Kliman himself didn't say it and I don't really see any reason to think that's what he had in mind. Many countries have had civil wars which brought about large amounts of destruction without being nuclear wars. It does seem there are other possibilities, but like nuclear war they're all completely hypothetical.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
Surely for a war to have a real impact on global capital formation it would have to take place in the major industrial centres. It would also require a victor that emerged relatively unscathed to lead a reconstruction as the US did in 1945.

Again, you're going back to what you think, not what Kliman thinks or said. That's fine, but the original issue started over what Kliman said. He said nothing about an unscathed victor being required.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
I'm only working on the basis of the piece I read which obviously didn't give odds for each scenario.

And that's obviously why I brought it up, so that you would be aware that he wasn't actually being very ICC-ish after all.

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Oct 31 2008 06:48

Actually the ICC debate on the prosperity following world war two was initiated by a recogntion of the inadequacy of seeing it as a kind of mechanical product of the physical destruction resulting from the war, a view that is contained in our original pamphlet The Decadence of Capitalism. See the introduction to the debate at http://en.internationalism.org/ir/133/economic_debate_decadence:


The context of the debate: certain contradictions in our analyses
The debate on the economic implications of war in capitalism's decadence is not new to the ICC, and had indeed already been posed in the workers' movement, notably by the Communist Left. Our pamphlet on The Decadence of Capitalism explicitly developed the idea that the destruction provoked by the wars in the phase of decadence, and in particular the world wars, could constitute an outlet for capitalist production, by creating a market based on post-war reconstruction:

"...the external outlets have contracted rapidly. Because of this, capitalism has had to resort to the palliatives of destruction and arms production to try to compensate for rapid losses in ‘living space'." (Section 5: "The turning-point of the 1914-18 war")

"Through massive destruction with an eye to reconstruction, capitalism has discovered a way out, dangerous and temporary but effective, for its new problems of finding outlets.

During the first war, the amount of destruction was not ‘sufficient' (...) In 1929, world capitalism again ran into a crisis situation. As if the lesson had been well-learned the amount of destruction accomplished in World War II was far more intense and extensive (...) a war which for the first time had the conscious aim of systematically destroying the existing industrial potential. The ‘prosperity' of Europe and Japan after the war seemed already foreseen by the end of the war, (Marshall Plan, etc...)" (Section 6: "The cycle of war-reconstruction").

A similar idea is present in other texts of the organisation (notably in the International Review) as well as among our predecessors in the Italian Left: in an article published in 1934 by Bilan we read, for example, that "The slaughter that followed formed an enormous outlet for capitalist production, opening up a ‘magnificent' perspective (...) While war is the great outlet for capitalist production, in ‘peacetime' it is militarism (i.e. all the activities involved in the preparation for war that realises the surplus value of the fundamental areas of production controlled by finance capital" (Bilan n°11, 1934, ‘Crises and cycles in the economy of capitalism in agony' republished in International Review n°103).

Other ICC texts, written both before and after The Decadence of Capitalism was published, developed a very different analysis of the role of war in the period of decadence, harking back to the report on the international situation at the July 1945 conference of the Gauche Communiste de France, for whom war "was an indispensable means for capitalism, opening up the possibilities of ulterior dev­elopment, in the epoch when these possibilities existed and could only be opened up through violent methods. In the same way, the downfall of the capitalist world, which has historically exhausted all the possibilities for development, finds in modern war, imperialist war, the expression of this downfall which, without open­ing up any possibility for an ulterior develop­ment, can only hurl the productive forces into an abyss and pile ruins upon ruins at an ever-increasing pace".

The report on the course of history adopted at the ICC's 3rd Congress refers explicitly to this passage from the GCF's text, as does the article ‘War, militarism and imperialist blocs in the decadence of capitalism', published in 1988, which emphasises that "what characterises all these wars, like the two world wars, is that unlike those of the previous century, at no time have they permitted any progress in the development of the productive forces, having had no other result than massive destructions which have bled dry the countries in which they have taken place (not to mention the horrible massacres they have provoked)".

So if Kliman did think that a world war would permit a new boom, he wouldn't be all that ICC-ish.....[b]

mikus
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Nov 1 2008 01:10

So instead of getting into a pointless debate with ICC'ers about what Andrew Kliman must think, I decided to ask him myself (after referring him to this thread) and he sent me this e-mail which he said I could forward to the list here.

Dear Mike,

Nothing in my talk ("Worse than They Want You to Think: A Marxist Analysis
of the Economic Crisis") denied in any way that a new world war would be a
disaster for humanity, nor that such a world war will be fought with nukes.
Nothing in the talk implied that war is somehow "progressive," nor did it
imply that war is economically beneficial--even to capitalism. Indeed, I
said the opposite: war destroys capital.

It is true that the destruction of capital is the key mechanism that leads
to the next boom. But the destruction of capital, itself, is not beneficial
to capitalism. The goal of the system is the self-expansion of value. The
destruction of capital-value is the very opposite.

The destruction of capital can take many forms:

* destruction of capital-value through falling asset prices,
* physical destruction of capital assets, by means of the deterioration of
factories and the rusting of machines that lie idle
* physical destruction of capital by means of war

So, although I suggested that the destruction of capital is the key
mechanism that leads to the next boom, nothing in my talk implies that the
destruction of capital *must* take the form of war. I simply noted the
historical fact that, last time around, capital was destroyed by means of
World War II as well as by means of the Great Depression, and I argued the
combination of the two led to the postwar boom.

The talk is available (in print and as an audio recording) at

http://sites.google.com/site/radicalperspectivesonthecrisis/audio-video/andrewklimanlecture-worsethantheywantyoutothinkamarxistanalysisoftheeconomiccrisis

and elsewhere. Let me quote the relevant part for the record. I don't see
how it can be construed as saying that war is "progressive" or economically
beneficial, or as a denial that the next world war would be a nuclear war
that's a disaster for humanity:

"My view is basically that the crisis has its roots in the economic slump of
the 1970s, from which the global economy never fully recovered-not in the
way in which the destruction of capital in and through the Great Depression
and World War II led to a post-war boom. Policymakers here and abroad have
understandably been afraid of a repeat of the Great Depression. So they've
continually taken measures to slow down and prevent the destruction of
capital (a plummeting of the value of capital assets as well as physical
destruction of capital).

"But the destruction of capital is not only a consequence of an economic
slump; it is also the mechanism leading to the next boom. For instance, if
there's a business that can generate $3 million in profit annually, but the
value of the capital invested in the business is $100 million, the rate of
profit is a measly 3%. But if the destruction of capital values enables a
new owner to acquire the business for only $10 million instead of $100
million, the new owner's rate of profit is a more-than-respectable 30%.
That's a tremendous spur to a new boom.

"But such a massive destruction of capital as took place in the Depression
and then in World War II hasn't taken place, and so there's been a partial
recovery only, brought about largely through:

(1) declining real wages for most workers and other austerity measures, as
well as exporting the crisis into the 3d world, and

(2) a mountain of debt-mortgage, consumer, government, corporate-to paper
over the sluggishness and mitigate the effects of the declining real wages.

"Because of this excessive run-up of debt, there have been persistent debt
crises. These will continue until:

(a) sufficient capital is destroyed to once again make investment truly
profitable. (The present crisis may well end up being this moment.). Or

(b) there's such a panic that lending stops and the economy crashes,
ushering in chaos or fascism or warlordism or whatever, or

(c) capitalism is replaced by a new human, socialist society."

Best,

Drewk

Andrew Kliman
akliman.squarespace.com

capricorn
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Nov 5 2008 10:00
ernie wrote:
No one is saying to workers leave the unions, what we are saying is that the unions are the main block to the development of the struggles and that if workers want to wage an effective struggle they need to organise their own struggles through mass assembles and revocable strike committees. We are for the autonomous self-activity of the class, not for imprisoning oneself in the state prison of the unions. Recent history has shown that it is only when workers try to break from the strangle hold of the unions and to organise and spread their own struggles that they have been effective.
Capricorn we do not need to walk the streets saying THE END OF CAPITALISM IS NIGH most people can see that something is very wrong with the system. Our aim is to show that this is not some temporary event that capitalism will simply get out of eventually, but a historically profound development in the process of the collapse of capitalism. This DOES NOT MEAN saying there is nothing that workers can do to defend themselves, there is, but seeking to show that such a immediate defensive struggles will have to lead to the calling into question of capitalism i.e. the process of the development of class consciousness. This process is already developing amongst a minority of the class as can be seen in the growing interest in a revolutionary alternative to capitalism, particularly Left Communism. We are living in a truly profound historical period and if the revolution is going to take place this will demand that the revolutionary minorities of the proletariat embrace this period and do all they can to put forwards the revolutionary alternative. This DOES NOT MEAN the revolution is around the corner, but the conditions for the future revolution are maturing. We have produced an article which seeks to explain the historical significance of this period [http://en.internationalism.org/2008/10/rev-end].
On the regroupment revolutionaries, we think that the eventual regrouping of the present revolutionary groups and individuals into a world party is of great importance. The present revolutionary organisations are small, but the perspective is for the growth (which we are already seeing) the eventual uniting of these forces into one world party will an essential step towards the proletariat's political arming of itself in preparation for the revolution. The ICC has consistently worked for the development of the conditions for such a unification; international discussions, conferences, joint statements on historical events, working to spread the influence of the Communis
Capricorn what do you see as the perspective for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat? Do you see such a perspective?

To take up your last point first, what do you mean by "revolutionary struggle" and what do you mean by "proletariat"?

If you mean civil war, then forget it. It's just not going to happen -- fortunately. Workers, rightly, don't want it and, again rightly, are not going to put up with it. So as long as the revolutionary minority is tied to Russia in 1917 and after as a model we're not going to get anywhere. All that Bolshevik baggage has to be ditched. That road has been tried and it didn't lead to socialism. If, however, you're talking about the sort of essentially peaceful mass demonstrations that brought down the state-capitalist dictatorships in Eastern Europe a few years ago, without violence, then that would be a different.

As to the proletariat, are they just industrial workers or anybody obliged by economic necessity to sell their labour power for a wage or a salary? This is an important point to clarify as it's about who are to be the agents of any revolution. The majority or just a minority of wage and salary workers?

I don't think the revolutionary minority will get very far either by attacking the existing trade unions. Workers here have learned through long experience that "unity is strength" and "divided we fall". We shouldn't try to undermine this consciousness, but to build on it. I'm not making a fetish about working within the existing union (not for revolution of course, but to get the best terms possible in any circumstance for wages and working conditions). My experience, including as a union rep, is that unions can do something for their members despite being rather bureaucratic and, in Britain, being linked to the pro-capitalist Labour Party (but then this probably reflects the views of their members). So, I think we should try to work within as well as, if necessary, outside the existing unions to make them more democratic and more class conscious.

I can't see any viable alternative way of trying to protect ourselves in the coming slump. Whether the slump will lead to the emergence of a revolutionary consciousness, I don't know. I get the impression that you think that there is an almost mechanical connection between a slump and working class revolutionary action, ie that it is economic hardship that will drive people to overthrow capitalism. I don't think history confirms this.

Iron Column
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Nov 5 2008 12:39

Capricorn,

I think you are pessimistic because your position is fundamentally social-democratic. For social-democracy, capitalist crisis has never been a kind mistress. But your view that revolutionary civil war is a thing of the past (fortunately! you say) is completely laughable and breaks with all traditions of the working class from the Babeuf conspiracy onwards. Any Chinese or Egyptian or Bangladeshi etc. striker will understand that the state is violence and they will need to arm themselves and fraternise with the army at some point in the future, when their conditions of life become increasingly unbearable with the deepening of the crisis. I think because you live in England, a country that has always seemed immune to the revolutions of the continent, you don't believe a civil war could ever happen between the capitalists and workers; but in fact this civil war has always existed, which is why people die all over the world every day during strikes. Your models of change are the palace revolutions that ended the USSR, not fundamental working class actions; you don't even think that the most momentous change in human history will be violent. Finally you claim that history supports you, but of course it doesn't; the revolutions of 1848 were intimately linked with the economic crisis on the continent and Marx saw this, 1871 happened because of a war, as did the upheavals of 1919. Why was there a revolution in Spain, and a near revolution in France during the Great Depression in 1936? The great strikes in America during the 30's were just a random chance happening? That 1979 in Iran and 1980 in Poland didn't have something to do with the stagflation crisis... Do you really think these are unconnected phenomenon, that crisis and revolution are not linked?

I will put forward my own view on the crisis, because this thread seems far too stodgy and ho-hum: worldwide revolutionary civil war in the next decade.

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Demogorgon303
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Nov 5 2008 13:39

Marx definitely thought that crisis and revolutionary class struggle were interlinked: "Given this general prosperity, wherein the productive forces of bourgeois society arc developing as luxuriantly as it is possible for them to do within bourgeois relationships, a real revolution is out of the question. Such a revolution is possible only in periods when both of these factors — the modern forces of production and the bourgeois forms of production — come into opposition with each other ... A new revolution is only a consequence of a new crisis. The one, however, is as sure to come as the other." - The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, Part IV, Marx, 1850

But "linked" doesn't mean mechanically determined. The Great Depression was the most severe crisis capitalism has experienced so far but produced no revolutionary upsurge. The struggles that took place were recuperated into support for the Popular Fronts and ultimately World War 2.

Economic crisis provides the material conditions for revolution but other factors also come into play. The Great Depression took place in the context of a global proletariat whose revolutionary wave and been physically and ideologically crushed. "Internationalism" meant, at best, supporting the new predator on the imperialist bloc: Stalin's USSR.

Today, there's a totally different situation. For all its difficulties, the working class is engaging in massive struggles around the globe and moving (albeit unevenly) towards developing its own autonomous forms of organisation. Political minorities are developing everywhere (of which libcom is an example) reflecting the fact that workers are coming into direct confrontation with the bourgeois ideologies of democracy, unionism, etc. So the political context the crisis is taking place in is totally different.

Certainly. the working class is suffering many difficulties. But the crisis has the potential to push forward reflection within its ranks and stimulate militant responses. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. Even if there is a revolutionary upsurge it can still be defeated, as it has been before. This is why its important for revolutionaries to organise themselves with a view to stimulating the wider proletariat's confrontation with bourgeois ideology and ultimate bourgeois power.

capricorn
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Nov 5 2008 14:44
Quote:
worldwide revolutionary civil war in the next decade

And this is supposed to be an optimistic perspective !
Hands up all those here who favour this who know the difference between an armalite and an AK47 or, for that matter, one end of a rifle from another.
Don't be silly.

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Alf
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Nov 5 2008 15:06

Capricorn, do you think a revolution (ie the overthrow of one class by another - NOT what happened in eastern Europe at the end of the 80s or later) can take place without violence?