Friday 10 September 2010

Despairing... progressively

Socialist Alternative is launching a new journal, Marxist Left Review.

The idea is to publish articles with a deeper, more abstract, theoretical content.

In their editors' words: "Our title is deliberately chosen. We aim to produce a clear argument for revolutionary Marxism, rather than an eclectic collection of left-wing ideas. The articles will be polemical and argumentative, critiquing arguments on the Australian and international left, revisiting theoretical and political questions in Marxism which we feel need some debate and clarification".

I think this is an important initiative. Marxism has long left the ideological field empty and the results are near catastrophic, as I intend to argue here.

If the reader bears with me, I'll try to be brief.

Any left leaning blogger, I'm sure, has faced many an uneducated and alienated poster who is dead-set against socialism, and yet, has never bothered to enquire what on earth socialism is: their only references on socialism come from self-interested anti-socialist ideologues, so, it's not surprising they are radically, almost furiously, opposed.

An associated, but much more disturbing phenomenon is the self-proclaimed "progressive" intellectual. Middle class in lifestyle, if not by birth, these persons often profess to have liberal tendencies in social, cultural and environmental matters. And although I am a rather cynical guy, in general I believe their sincerity (perhaps not their commitment, though) on this, too. The readers may think of some Greenies they might happen to know: that's probably the kind of people I'm talking about.

Less often, but still common, they may use quite a leftist rhetoric, which may induce even greater confusion.

And yet, for all their education and their rhetoric, their posturing and even their good intentions, when one reads what they have to say one realizes their proposals, whatever their theoretical value from a strictly reformist point of view, are dangerous.

Have a look at "What you consume or what you produce?" for an example of a "progressive", self-described as environmentally conscious hippie, advocating globalization (a.k.a. "free trade"), on the grounds that it's a good deal for the Australian working class to export manufacturing jobs to underdeveloped countries: these jobs will be replaced by newer, better jobs in Australia (in the services sector, of all places), created not by the providence of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand (that's what a foolish right-winger would say), but by the wisdom of the Government deficit spending (so, the reader can see how different progressive intellectuals and right-wingers really are).

Now, you may ask which Government will undertake these social programmes financed by debt, like Job Guarantee? The Labor Government, already promising a budget surplus in 2013, or a Coalition one, promising a slightly greater budget surplus in 2013?

And how good are those new jobs, anyway? This is explained with a quote from an American study (after repeated attempts, I haven't been able to download the article): "the iPod supports nearly twice as many jobs offshore as in the US, yet wages paid in the US are over twice as much as those paid overseas."

NOTE: Friday night I did manage to download the article alluded to before.
The word "wage" mentioned above is meant in the sense of "total payroll"; thus my original comment, below, is irrelevant. Worse still, for not waiting until the site was active, I failed to characterize the post "What you consume or what you produce?" accurately. For this I sincerely apologize.

To keep the record of my mistake, while calling any readers' attention to this note, I decided not to delete the text, but to change its color. A similar note will also be posted to En Passant.

"Those [wages] paid overseas", according to The New York Times, means "about [US$] 75 cents an hour". Including overtime loading, this makes for "$235 a month" for 13-hour-long shifts, six days a week (but the meals, costing $0.65, are subsidised or free, woohoo!). And that was before Foxconn, the company actually manufacturing iPods, decided this year to almost double the wages of their employees, after a wave of suicides, obviously completely unrelated to their working conditions. And, let me warn the reader: one must realize that Foxconn is probably one of the best employers among the large Chinese contractors! So, if Chinese workers have it that easy, imagine how happy American workers involved with iPod must be, making on average "over twice as much money" (or how Australian workers in similar situations should be). --------------------------------------------------------------------

My point after all this digression: the author of the post, for example, specializes in labour economics and is an advocate for "progressive policies", believe it or not.

People like this self-styled progressive are probably among the most left leaning we can find in the Australian intelligentsia today.

Now, that's a sobering thought.

NOTE: A version of this post, slightly edited, was sent to En Passant.

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