Friday 29 December 2017

Whither Inequality?

Inequality (size and functional: labour shares) has been a matter of increasing interest for a while. The work of Thomas Piketty and associates, popularised in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street global movement, only added impetus to that trend.

Incidentally, living in a capitalist world, one would have thought that concern not only reasonable, but obviously so. After all, the question of who gets what seems clearly vital.

Saturday 23 December 2017

The Season of Hope?


So this is Christmas, as the old song says.

There are objectively more horrifying, devastating, heart-crushing images, to be sure. In a real sense, however, the sheer revulsion this image produces gives it a deserved claim to notoriety.

That photo shows the mouth of a 32 year-old citizen of the richest, most prosperous and democratic capitalist nation ever: humanity's self-appointed beacon to success and freedom. Presumably, it's a recent photo.

As far as I can tell, that man has no name. At least I haven't seen it anywhere (a matter of confidentiality, I suppose). He is one in 41 million Americans living in poverty. (See also)

How did we get to that situation?


There are probably way too many answers. One, however, is relevant here: lack of solidarity. The idea that one looks after oneself and the devil take the hindmost.

409 Australian working families will be having a difficult Christmas this year. They are fighting for their rights and, by extension, for ours. They are our brothers and sisters, they are family.

Perhaps it's too late for our American brother, but it may not be too late for those Aussie workers.

If you can chip in, please do. Tell them that you care and you are with them. Tell them that there's hope in unity.

Merry Christmas.

Monday 11 December 2017

Capitalism for Dummies: Slavery and Taxes.

It's been two years since Adele Ferguson and Sarah Danckert (Fairfax Media), plus a Four Corners team (ABC News), exposed the wage-theft practices entrenched in 7-Eleven Australia and affecting foreign workers, largely on 457 and student visas (the kind of courses advertised overseas as "permanent residence courses": you, the sales pitch goes, pay to get a beautician qualification, say, and -- welcome to the capitalist paradise Down Under! -- you get a resident visa).

In the intervening years a string of similar cases came to light, affecting not only 457 and study visa holders but also working holiday tourists (aka backpackers). It wasn't just 7-Eleven either: small and big businesses in all sorts of industries were involved. Nor it was just a matter of bosses stealing wages: often female foreign workers were being sexually harassed or abused or even forced into prostitution.

Monday 4 December 2017

Capitalism for Dummies.

Or Everything you Always Wanted to Know About the Turnbull Booby Trap Masquerading as Banking Royal Commission but Were Afraid to Ask.

Everybody who is somebody in politics, business, finance, and economics journalism in Australia has written about the Turnbull Royal Commission. This is a list gathered by All-Knowing Google. There you'll find the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Saturday 2 December 2017

Banking Royal Commission or Anti-Union Witch-Hunt?

In my last post I wrote that I was skeptical about the Turnbull royal commission on banking and I thought I was being a sophisticated, savvy bloke. Nothing can surprise me, I thought.

God, I was mistaken. In reality, I was being awfully naive.

Thursday 30 November 2017

How Turnbull Proved Marx and Engels Right.

Malcolm Turnbull isn't a lucky man. In a country where banking scandals are commonplace (a list up to April 2016), the current Australian Prime Minister has witnessed a succession of high-profile banking scandals since he assumed office in 2015, including what is perhaps one of the most damaging in Australian history (last August):


Wednesday 29 November 2017

Saturday 25 November 2017

Bits and Pieces: Aussie QLD Politics and Unions.

The results of the Queensland state elections are out …  well, sort of. It may take a while to know who won and in what circumstances. Labor seems favourite to cross the line first, but it was a close election and it may depend on alliances, which Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk had previously ruled out.

But there is good news. We do know who lost.

Sunday 19 November 2017

Malcolm Young RIP

If you were a teenage boy a bit wilder and with a little more attitude than the average, Oz seemed like a dream: cold beer, the outback, crazy "Mad Max" bikies, crocs, big "knoives" a la "Crocodile Dundee" and ... Acca Dacca! What's there not to like? :-)


No more Malcolm Young, founder of AC/DC. As I grow older, all that's gone. Man, life sucks. Some cool videos, photos, and twits from Malcolm's rocker mates

RIP mate.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Bits and Pieces (xi).

So, the results of the pompously named Aussie SSM (same-sex marriage survey) are out. This was the question: "Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?".

These were the answers:


Saturday 4 November 2017

Unequal Economists!

Last time we discussed a data set, in many ways very similar to income/wealth distributions, but simple and small enough for an unskilled person to analyse with a standard spreadsheet package.

The data are distributed very unequally. A few unusually high values had a huge influence in the statistics of the sample:
"1% of the sample determines 41% of the sample's mean.
There's more. …  From 3,252 'likes', for example, the range would collapse to 480 with the removal of the "1%": a 85% fall!"
One would need to consider very seriously the presence of a number of outliers: from the top six (in a very conservative "guesstimate") to the top 89 (in a much more structured and stringent estimate).

That data set could offer an interesting exercise for advanced high-school/early undergraduate students of statistics/econometrics. In particular, it would allow for ties with topical issues, like the Piketty/associates literature on income/wealth size distribution:
"In words, 25% of the sample gets between 1 and 2 ‘likes'; the next quarter gets between 2 and 4; the third gets between 4 and 8; and the last between 8 and 3,253 …  Welcome to inequality."
It, however, has another interesting characteristic. I never explained what that data were supposed to mean. What are those "likes" and data points? I mentioned a survey, how was it conducted? Was that a random sample? What were the questions included?

Today's the day!

Sunday 29 October 2017

Unequal Representations.

I'm not a professional statistician. In a previous life, as an undergraduate, I did study some statistics but that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Since then, I've kept well clear from statistics. Readers should keep that in mind.

Whatever my limitations and foibles, however, I'm a curious bloke and the data set below (scroll to the very bottom) caught my attention when I found it. Have a look at it.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Happy Anniversary, Capitalism.


Thirty years ago, those were the news. At the time, a still young Ian Verrender was working at the then vibrant The Sydney Morning Herald. These are his memories.

That greatest of all Australian politicians, great intellectual nemesis of Marxism and high-school dropout remembers the crash: "Skid-marks on the pathway of progress"


Toyota closed operations earlier this month and today should be Holden's last. New memories of capitalism in the making. More skid marks on the pathway of progress.

Friday 13 October 2017

Employment Matters.


Whether a capitalist or a worker, under capitalism one's livelihood depends ultimately on one's income and for the vast majority of us  -- regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, place of birth or residence, education -- having to rely on work, income in essence comes directly or indirectly from employment. It's been like this since capitalism started, it remains so now.

Sunday 1 October 2017

This is Why the Identitarian Left Sucks.

David Ruccio has been fighting an uphill battle for a while: why Americans (or Australians, for that matter) seem incapable of calling the working class, working class?

In 2011:
"Here in the land of high unemployment and increasing poverty [aka US of A], we refuse to call things by their correct names."
In 2016:
"Well, it seems, Americans are still struggling with the notion of the working-class (and of class more generally)."
He presented this chart (taken from a report from the Economic Policy Institute) as part of his argument for the usefulness of "working class" as analytical category:

That is a good chart, I think.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

"Lord Keynes" got a Reader!

Dedicated to Hedlund,:-)

J. Barkley Rosser seems less than impressed by the online scholarship mushrooming around the second-coming of Our Lord … Keynes. Upon discovering it, Rosser swiftly returned the post Keynesian/Kaldorian church membership card he never applied for:


Sunday 24 September 2017

Imagining the Revolution.

In this centennial anniversary of the Russian Revolution, David Ruccio asks:

It's clear that people are unhappy with capitalism. And yet, Ruccio's question is a really difficult one to answer.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

American Races.

As a foreigner, I find the American race debate perplexing.

Mind you, as a foreigner, that's none of my business. If that works for Americans, by all means, carry on. Besides, don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are many historical reasons for that (some of them no doubt much better than others), reasons that a foreigner cannot understand.

That said, I cannot help feeling that the effective level of factual information on race Americans demonstrate seems to fall short of the interest on racial matters they manifest. And I'm not talking about esoteric discussions on the science of race, no siree.

Want to see what I'm talking about?

Thursday 14 September 2017

Dany le Caméléon et L'Iconnu du PCF.

"On a cold day last fall [1977], Santiago Carrillo, the leader of the so-called Communist Party of Spain (PCE), crossed the picket lines of striking Yale University workers in New Haven, in order to give a speech on the campus. When asked how a 'communist' could scab on a workers' struggle in this way, he replied that his speech was more important than the strike of the custodial workers. Besides, he added, the American labor movement is 'reactionary anyway.'
"The incident sheds some light on the class character of Carrillo and his cohorts in other European countries, such as Berlinguer in Italy and Marchais in France. While they like to describe themselves as 'Eurocommunists,' they are really nothing more than scabs on the workers' movement." (here)

That's how Georges Marchais (secretary general of the French Communist Party for 22 years), Santiago Carrillo, and Enrico Berlinguer are remembered, that is, when they are remembered, because they are mostly forgotten. The so-called Eurocommunist movement which they led, itself largely a long-lost memory, attempted to adopt New Left ideas.

Friday 8 September 2017

Dany vs the New Left.


The May 1968 events in France are generally considered crucial inspiration for the development of the New Left.

As commonplace as that association is, I'm really puzzled by it.

Saturday 2 September 2017

2017: The Year Without Winter.

Southern hemisphere's winter is over. Today is the third day of spring and magpies all over the land are swooping passersby. If today's weather forecast for Sydney (a maximum of 28 Celsius -- 82.4 Fahrenheit) is any indication, this is going to be a hot year.


Thursday 31 August 2017

The Poverty of the New Left.

"Like ideology, the concept of the proletariat, so prominent in The Communist Manifesto, could also be jettisoned. (…) By the 1980s, the center of radical activity had moved away from working-class organizations and toward what came to be called the ‘new social movements.' Problems of race, gender, and sexuality were generating the most self-conscious, committed, and consequential political subjects". (Bruce Robbins explaining the wisdom of Étienne Balibar's New Left-style idiosyncratic "Marxism")

To say that since 2015 there have been many ruffled feathers among the American trendy Left is an understatement. Feathers weren't just ruffled, they have flown.

I'm talking about one of those debates which not for surreal are less heated. Outrage, hissy fits galore: heroic revolutionary battles fought online. Precisely the kind of thing the upper-middle class New Age-leftish intellectuals find irresistible. It seemingly dies out, just to reignite spontaneously a little later. Its details are unimportant here, suffice it to say it involves the words "transgender" and "transracialism", plus a TV celebrity. I quickly add that I have no dog in that hunt, as they say. Instead I adopt Crooked Timber's cautious approach in the latest round of the Fight of the Century.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Only in Australia.

Separated at birth? Tony Abbott [A] Boris Yeltsin [B].

From the creative genius behind "Centrelink Fake Debts", comes the new farce comedy "Centrelink Random Drug Tests": as part of a trial, from next January the unemployed recipients of Newstart Allowance in the Canterbury/Bankstown area of Sydney will be forced to pass random drug tests as a requisite to get the dole (AU$ 267.80 a week, single/no dependents rate). To have an idea of how much that fortune buys, check the availability of boarding-house rooms for rent in Bankstown, courtesy of Domain.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Here Come the Rednecks.

They are rednecks and proud of it. Their background is rural/working class; they are armed and know how to use their weapons. They don't mind long bushy beards. They ride motorbikes, drink beer, and smoke. They, too, dislike liberals.

The upper-middle class, respectable, educated, leftish-liberals, of all races, wouldn't like them. That's okay.

Saturday 19 August 2017

2 Points of View: Chomsky vs Antifa.

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

The Alt-Left Fiasco.

"[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

Aussie Brown-Nosed Weirdness.

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

Happy Anniversary, Capitalism.

Ten years ago, this was the news:


Next year, after BNP Paribas troubles, the sudden deaths of Countrywide Financial, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns, led the US Federal Government to create TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), endowed with US$700 billion, to bailout other moribund financial institutions, plus Chrysler and General Motors. They all were too big to fail. The developed world plunged into depression.

That's one side of the capitalist coin. This is its other side:

Monday 7 August 2017

Bits and Pieces: Slums, Red Rosa, and Ruccio.

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

Boiling Frogs.


Eastern/Southern European readers know it's summer: the temperature there is going above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit, for American readers).

Thursday 3 August 2017

I, Too, Know a Keynesian When I Hear One!

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 rapists tough hombres South of the border, period, no buts, no ifs, end of the story, it turns out now that this was the very, very, very great talk between the mighty The Donald and México's El Presidente, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Is Inequality Entering Australian Politics?

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

Non-Technical Review of the "10,000 Year Explosion".


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

The Angel and Linkin Park.

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

The Uninhabitable Earth.

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 failing, 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

Australian Wages: Theory and Reality.

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

Fitzpatrick: What's Left?

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

Marx, the Person and his Work.

"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

Dump The Guardian!

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

This is Why the Left Sucks (ii)

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

The Economist: "Karl Marx Has a Lot to Teach Today's Politicians".

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

Capitalism 2.0? Yeah, Right.

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

Einstein the Marxist.

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

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

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Bits and Pieces: Let's Read.

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

Saturday 13 May 2017

This is Why the Modern Left Sucks.

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

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

Sunday 7 May 2017

Hobsbawm: Dr. Marx and the Critics.

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

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

Thursday 4 May 2017

The Fairfax Strike and Other Australian Stories.

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

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

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

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

Anything else is bullshit. Strike!

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Bye Bye, Free Speech?

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

Monday 1 May 2017

May Day

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 29 April 2017

France's "The Revolt of the Angels".

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

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

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Bhaskar against Marx's Alleged Determinism.

Guess what?

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

Saturday 22 April 2017

Scientific Socialism: a Primer.

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

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

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

Thursday 20 April 2017

The Problem: Houses of Parliament!

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

Monday 17 April 2017

Experiences of an Ageing Marxist: Commodities.

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

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

Tuesday 11 April 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Epilogue.

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

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

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

Saturday 8 April 2017

The Evil Empire.

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

They are observing the world from far above.

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

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

Wednesday 5 April 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Fascism vs Marxism.


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

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

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

Friday 31 March 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Introduction!?

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

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

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

Monday 27 March 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism: Mussolini.

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

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

Friday 24 March 2017

The Doctrine of Fascism.

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

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

But, what is fascism?

Monday 20 March 2017

The Krugman Calling the Kettle Black.

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

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

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Only in Australia.

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

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

Friday 10 March 2017

Saving Capitalism.

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

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

Wednesday 8 March 2017

The Angry Summer: 205 Records.

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

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

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

Sunday 5 March 2017

Did Hanson's Mask Just Slip?

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

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

Sunday 26 February 2017

"God, I Love West Texas".

Ghost town of Whiteflat, Texas. [A]

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

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Class Warfare Down Under.

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


Sunday 19 February 2017

Quotable Quotes.

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

Tuesday 14 February 2017

The Summer of our Discontent.

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

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

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

Friday 10 February 2017

The Hot, Long Summer.

"Summertime and the livin's is easy."

Or is it?

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


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

Monday 6 February 2017

The Missing Second Comment.

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

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

Oh well. Shit happens, I suppose.

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

Saturday 4 February 2017

Marxian Political Economy Primer.

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

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

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

Monday 30 January 2017

Bits and Pieces: Great Southern Land.

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

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

Saturday 28 January 2017

Bits and Pieces: Vampiric Dystopia Edition.

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

Marx sometimes described capitalists as "vampires".

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

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

Friday 20 January 2017

The Donald and Volodya: A Love Story?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 17 January 2017

The Last Man on the Moon.


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 14 January 2017

Bits and Pieces (x)

So, what's with the emerging Right?

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

Monday 9 January 2017

On Markup: Is the Price Right?

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

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