Saturday, 19 August 2017
Conflict between the Right and the genuine Left (TM ;-)) may be getting hot. We've seen violence displayed in the streets against lefties. Maybe things won't get worse, but we cannot be sure of that.
So, what to do?
We can start by thinking.
Thursday, 17 August 2017
"[R]esentful failsons sweating from video games and chicken fingers, cynical media wannabes, bloviating internet commenters who think they're Ignatius J. Reilly, and others who think they're the Joker". (Sam Kriss).
Who'd have guessed, it seems "Lord Keynes" finally gained a reader outside the English internet intellectual aristocracy. Sam Kriss, writing for Politico:
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
Australia is a strange country.
Take PM Malcolm Turnbull for instance. Like all Very Serious People, he is a fiscal conservative. So convinced that the Australian Government was running out of money he is that he authorised Centrelink (the federal agency in charge of making social security payments) to issue fake debt notices to former recipients of social security payments.
The Government extorting money from people who owe them nothing? Isn't that libertarians' ultimate no-no? Well, not in Australia, no siree: Turnbull is the federal leader of the Liberal/National Coalition ("libertarian, conservative, centre-right").
Wednesday, 9 August 2017
Ten years ago, this was the news:
That's one side of the capitalist coin. This is its other side:
Monday, 7 August 2017
Writing for Jacobin, Colette Shade comments on the BBC series "Victorian Slum House", presented by Michael Mosley, broadcast in Australia by SBS as "Queen Victoria's Slum".
She seemed fairly positive about the show, so I reluctantly decided to give it a go: I'm not much of a TV watcher.
Saturday, 5 August 2017
Thursday, 3 August 2017
After promising that the Great Again US of A would have a "physical, tall, powerful, beautiful Southern border wall", costing $US21 billion paid entirely by the
Thursday, 27 July 2017
|These, Scott Morrison, are the facts (source)|
"Nothing was given from above by the elites and the powerful. It was only ever gained from below." Jeremy Corbyn.
According to Leigh Sales, ABC News TV 7.30 presenter, inequality is finally bound to enter Australian political discourse. Next year is federal election time and the Australian Labor Party, following in the footsteps of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, could be positioning itself to focus their campaign on inequality.
As an Australian Marxist worker, I should be elated. Wages are set in stone, profits are over the roof, inequality rising: we hear that even from the most unlikely experts.
However, I'm skeptic. I'll tell you why.
Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Nope. I didn't write it. I'm neither a qualified nor an impartial judge for Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's 2009 "The 10,000 Year Explosion".
That out of the way, I'll tell you what I did. I did something better: I searched the net for reviews to outsource the task. This is what I found.
Friday, 21 July 2017
Linkin Park's "Burn it Down" video still speaks a lot to me.
It matches well with Ricardo Bellver's "Fuente del Ángel Caído" in the Buen Retiro Park in Madrid:
RIP Chester Bennington.
Image Credits:[A] Detail of the Ángel Caído de Bellver, crowning the eponymous monument in the Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid, Spain. Author: Laussy. My usage of the file does not suggest its author's endorsement of me or of the usage itself. Licenced under GNU Free Documentation License. Wikipedia.
Saturday, 15 July 2017
In a series of articles for the New York Magazine David Wallace-Wells describes the consequences of global warming. It's a nightmarish scenario, and Wallace-Wells throws everything at his readers, even the kitchen sink.
Beyond raising sea levels, Wallace-Wells reminds us of other possible effects of increasing temperature: large swathes of the planet, too hot for human life could become uninhabitable, mega-storms and mega-droughts, mass migrations, crops failings, ocean acidification, mass extinction on land and in the water, new diseases or return of old ones, military conflicts, CO2-induced stupidification of humanity.
Is that a realistic scenario?
Saturday, 8 July 2017
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture below -- courtesy of the ABC News' Andrew Probyn/Reserve Bank of Australia -- shows how wage growth forecasts made by the RBA (skinny colourful lines) compare to actual wage growth (fat black line):
Sunday, 2 July 2017
Reading Sheila Fitzpatrick's "What's Left?" (a multi-review written for the London Review of Books) was an unexpectedly interesting -- indeed, almost gratifying -- experience, partly because she is a subtle writer, partly because of the books she discusses, and partly for what she says about them and their subject matter.
2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolution and the books Fitzpatrick reviews are about it: as you might imagine, there is no dearth of writers intent on cashing in, while displaying their courage denouncing those once-again hated Russkies. To put it bluntly, I expected the wordier title "A non-Marxist Historian Reviews 5 anti-Marxist Books" would have fit her essay better.
I was wrong… kinda.
Saturday, 24 June 2017
"A spectre is haunting Europe…"
In the popular imagination Karl Marx is many things. For some, he is a terrifying evil spirit to be ritually exorcised and slandered and derided with religious zeal. In their minds -- it seems -- Marx embodies that greatest of all threats: communism. BOO! :-)
For others, "Marx was a socialist theoretician and organizer, a major figure in the history of economic and philosophical thought, and a great social prophet."
That's how the "Introduction to Sociology", hosted by the School of Social Sciences of Cardiff University, presents Marx to his students.
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
Times are hard for the traditional media and The Guardian has been begging readers to subscribe. You give them your hard-earned, supposedly in exchange for reliable information.
But, what is it you really get?
Saturday, 10 June 2017
Against all prognostications by the good and wise, Jeremy Corbyn, a 68 year-old ill-dressed, bike-riding, veggie-growing vegetarian, who -- on top -- speaks highly of Karl Marx, not only reversed the Labour Party race to oblivion in the legislative elections, expanding its parliamentary representation by 30 seats (and getting about 40% of the valid votes), but managed to deliver the ever victorious Tories a hung parliament.
Ukip, the allegedly unstoppable nazi/fascist bugaboo, collapsed: poof!
Saturday, 3 June 2017
Commenting on remarks John McDonnell (shadow chancellor) and Jeremy Corbyn (UK Labour leader) made around there being much to learn from reading Das Kapital and about Marx being a great economist, The Economist (May 11th) notes
"The shadow chancellor's comment provoked scorn. Yet Marx becomes more relevant by the day".
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
As national anthems go, "Advance Australia Fair" isn't in the same league as, say, "La Marsellaise" or "The Star-Spangled Banner". It's not so much that people hate it, but that I don't know anyone who really likes it. That's why every now and again someone wants it changed.
The big debate starts. There are three parties: (1) It's not broken, don't fix it. (2) C'mon! Let's adopt a new anthem (me, I like "Waltzing Matilda" better); (3) Let's be realistic. We may not like it, but let's keep it anyway. To keep everybody happy, let's change its lyrics.
People argue and argue, until they tire and forget all about it.
That reminds me of Daniel Little's post "Capitalism 2.0?" (June 17, 2016).
Friday, 26 May 2017
|Life Magazine, April 5, 1949 (source)|
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
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 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
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 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
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
|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.Update:
"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."
08-05-2017. "What are the Origins of May Day" by Rosa Luxemburg, at Jacobin.
[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
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
Saturday, 22 April 2017
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
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
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 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 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 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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
|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
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.
Sunday, 19 February 2017
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
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
"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:
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
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
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
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
"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 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
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.
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.
[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
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
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?