Saturday, April 22, 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, April 20, 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, April 17, 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, April 11, 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, April 8, 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, April 5, 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Fascism vs Marxism.


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, March 31, 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, March 27, 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, March 24, 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, March 20, 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, March 15, 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, March 10, 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, March 8, 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, March 5, 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, February 26, 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, February 22, 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.


Sunday, February 19, 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, February 14, 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, February 10, 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:


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, February 6, 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, February 4, 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, January 30, 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, January 28, 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, January 20, 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, January 17, 2017

The Last Man on the Moon.


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.


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, January 14, 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, January 9, 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?