We are in the third year since the 2016 post Referendum, and in this period we have seen the exit date moved twice, the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May, the unlawful prorogation/suspension of and Parliament, and Parliament passing legislation forcing the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. to seek a third extension. There is every likelihood that the consequences of the referendum will not be resolved until sometime in the next decade, perhaps longer.
The SPGB argument is that the working class has no interest in supporting either Remain or Brexit. We have argued that the issue of remaining or leaving is a question for the capitalist class and their politicians. Large corporations and other capitalists want Britain to remain in the EU for very good trading reasons and ease of exporting and importing. The Society of Motor Manufactures Motor car industry and Traders (SMMT) were for remaining in the EU and gave as their reasons: access to a skilled workforce, ability to influence industry regulations and standards, economic and market stability and securing the UK's global competitiveness
Arron Banks, a leading supporter of Brexit, gave £450,000 funding to Nigel Farage after the Brexit vote which provided Farage with a Chelsea home, car and money to promote him in the US (GUARDIAN 17 May 2019). Lord Sainsbury spent nearly £8 million trying to avert Brexit (TELEGRAPH 25 August 2016). Capitalists gave £31,834,885 to both sides of the campaign to stay in or to leave. More than half of the money donated to EU referendum campaigns came from just ten wealthy donors (INDEPENDENT 7 October 2016).
What of the other Brexit capitalists? There are those in the European Research Group who want close ties with the US and commonwealth countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia; a different capitalist free market trading bloc. Philip Hammond, the former chancellor, claimed that Johnson was backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit. Even Johnson's sister, Rachel, speculated that her brother was in thrall to hedge fund managers, so-called "disaster capitalists" betting on Britain crashing out of the EU. Socialists dismiss conspiracy theories. It is capitalism and capitalist interests that call the tune, not the mysterious machinations of sinister people behind the scenes. And there are hedge funds owned by capitalists who support Remain.
However, there is a grain of truth about the allegations that many hedge funds support Brexit and the rational and non-conspiratorial reasons why they want Britain to leave the EU. Recently, Simon Nixon, chief leader-writer of the TIMES, explained why some hedge funds see a chance to call the shots by backing Johnson and Brexit (3 October 2019).
Here are the main passages from his article.
"One of the surprises of Brexit has been the strong support for leaving the European Union in some parts of the City and among a handful of Britain's wealthiest entrepreneurs. This support is in contrast with the continued anxiety over Brexit among the bulk of Britain's business leaders. Yet this division among Britain's business elite is perhaps not so surprising when one considers the extent to which the two groups sit on different sides of an important fault line in global capitalism. What makes hedge fund support for Mr Johnson significant is not that they are representatives of disaster capitalism but that they are manifestations of what might be dubbed "oligarchic capitalism".
And he continues:
"The hedge fund industry sits at the apex of the shadowy world of offshore finance that emerged in London in recent decades. This world is quite distinct from the traditional business of the City, which is serving as a domestic capital market for British and, since the creation of the single market, EU companies. Titans of the hedge fund industry insist that they owe their fortunes to their unrivalled acumen for trading. In reality, they owe much of their success to the unique conditions that made London such fertile ground for the development of their astonishingly lucrative activities. They are the beneficiaries of the explosive growth in global offshore finance that followed the dismantling of exchange controls around the world, the collapse of communism and the emergence of a new global class of super-rich seeking to shield their wealth from national authorities...)"
And he concludes that the hedge fund industry operating in the unregulated world of offshore finance resented the EU's recent attempts to bring it under control with new regulations such as the introduction of the Alternative Investment Managers Directive. There are capitalists who do not like being constrained by rules and regulations and want to be completely free to do what they want and when.
This is all a far cry away from the interest of the working class. Workers have no interest in the concerns of importers and exporters; of financiers, bankers, hedge funds and supermarket magnates. Workers have no interest in capitalism and how it is regulated and every interest in its abolition. No matter which way the Brexit dispute goes workers will remain an exploited class producing profits for a parasitical minority.
While the Remain camp rouse fears of mass unemployment in the case of a disorderly 'no deal" Brexit, we all know that there can be mass unemployment within the EU. Nor can we suppose the indignant calls about "Leave Means Leave!" and loud claims of "Betrayal!" over talk of the real difficulty of trying to create a deal in Ireland.
In capitalism borders matter. They matter to the EU too with its borders patrolled by gunships and guards and miserable and cruel refugee camps. Nothing is said by Remain supporters about the locking out from Europe immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. Yet gallons of ink is spilt by 'remainers' on the Northern Ireland border and of complying with the Good Friday Agreement insisted on by Dublin and most of the Northern Ireland parties but detested by the Tory government's allies, the extreme Unionist MPs of the DUP, who have to be placated with their handful of Commons votes: none of this will solve the very real problems facing workers.
Whether or not Britain is part of the EU will be decided on matters other than the interests of the working class. And the whole Brexit issue has been used as an opportunity to generate the divisive rhetoric of nationalism and xenophobia, with ignorant and invidious allegations that EU immigrants are sponging on the NHS and welfare, and aggravating housing problems. Such divisiveness is against our interests - we need to unite.
Socialists argue as ever that the working class everywhere has a shared interest in uniting as a class "without distinction of race or sex" to put an end to this worldwide capitalist system of production for profit, a system which keeps us forever in a servile and subservient state, as wage slaves working to enrich a minority capitalist class.
Attacking Marx - Again!
One of the favourite sports of so-called scholars and historians is the occasional attack on Marx and Engels. And the easiest - and most profitable - target to take aim at is the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. Unlike Marx's 3-volume opus, CAPITAL, it is short, written in plain English, and very well known. This means that so-called experts can pen an attack without having to spend more than a day or so, at most, skimming the text and writing a response. And publishers know that, as attacks on Marx are good box-office, attractive to a wide readership, any such 'work' will certainly sell and result in profits. The more so if the so-called 'expert' has a reputation for other, more serious, work.
Ten years ago, in 2009, the American publisher based in Washington DC of a paperback title, The Skeptical Reader Series, commissioned Robert Conquest to write an Introduction to The COMMUNIST MANIFESTO.
This re-publication of the great Marxist classic is of some use and value, not because of Conquest's tedious and superficial Introduction but because, unusually, it includes at the back every Preface written by Marx and/or Engels, as follows:
* Preface to the 1872 German Edition
* Preface to the 1882 Russian Edition
* Preface to the 1883 German Edition
* Preface to the 1888 English Edition
* Preface to the 1890 German Edition
* Preface to the 1892 Polish Edition
* Preface to the 1893 Italian Edition
The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always done its level best to draw attention to the important warning given in two of these Prefaces. The same passage, from the 1872 Preface by Marx and Engels, was later copied by Engels into his Preface to the 1888 English edition.
While it is unusual for any writers to warn their readers about errors in their earlier work, it is even more unusual for the same warning to be repeated, decades later. So just what was this so important warning? It concerned the wish-list of 10 possible reforms set out in Section II of the MANIFESTO. These included nationalisation, a progressive income tax, free education etc. - almost all of them later adopted by reformist, so-called Socialist and Social Democratic parties, and slavishly persisted with, down the generations since. For instance, many of them were still echoed in the Labour Party's conference speeches and promises. (Brighton, September 2019).
Marx and Engels in 1872 warned about these: although the general principles of The COMMUNIST MANIFESTO remained as correct as in 1848, it was important to recognize that historical conditions would have changed since then:
The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today.
Although this clearly significant warning was repeated for the 1888 English edition, unfortunately all too often Left-wing editions of the MANIFESTO have omitted any reference to this. But in our view, to publish the MANIFESTO without including or referring to the 1888 Preface, is dishonest and sharp practice.
To mark the centenary of the MANIFESTO in 1948, our party published as a pamphlet the MANIFESTO, plus the 1888 Preface - together with our assessment of the 100 years since the 1848 publication. We have now made that centenary edition, including the 1888 Preface, available to a new generation of readers and Socialists in a cheap facsimile edition.
So what can we say of this American 'Skeptical Reader' edition? The parts written by Marx and Engels, or by Engels himself, we cannot object to. But the contribution by Robert Conquest we do object to.
Why was Conquest picked by this Washington publisher - why him? On the cover we are recommended to him as "Author of THE GREAT TERROR and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom". He was also honoured by the British state (CMG, OBE, etc). Clearly not the right sort to introduce this great, historic and revolutionary work by Marx and Engels. As a Cold War campaigner against Stalinist atrocities, he was unlikely to be appreciative of anything remotely connected with Marx or Engels - his prejudice would surely prevent him providing an honest and clear-sighted appreciation of their work.
And that is precisely why this Washington publisher chose him for this publication. His job was to dismiss Marx and Engels - to advise naive readers that they would do well to sneer at their work and then forget it.
Well, we are not so naive as to let this go by without scrutiny.
Why the Communist Manifesto Matters
For such a short booklet, the MANIFESTO certainly packs a punch and is still, even today, relevant and influential. It would be folly to attempt to summarise its contents. But we should still take a moment to consider some of its key themes.
Marx and Engels wrote of the way societies change, and of how new forms of exploitation and new classes had come into being. They emphasized the central role of class struggle: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." That emphasis on the historical dynamics of social development is a constant theme of the MANIFESTO.
With this came their perception that the capitalist system was progressive, with its constant innovation and globalizing expansion, with huge new technological forces of production rapidly brought into being.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilizati... It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rur... It has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few handS... The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.
Even today, this still rings true as the Internet and the e-connectedness of our modern world has brought innovation and international communications even to the remotest African villages and South Pacific islands. The pace of change has never slowed, just as in computing speed has increased down the decades.
But the MANIFESTO cannot be read as simply a hymn of praise to the powers of capitalism.
It also drew attention to the growth and centrality of two opposing classes, that of Capital and that of Wage Labour, and showed how the working class produces the capital used to exploit them.
Its internationalism was clear, and should have been more influential, e.g. in 1914, 1939 etc.: "The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got." Those who left their villages desperately seeking work in the monstrous factories of the new Industrial Revolution did so as landless 'free' labourers. As a class, these were among the most insecure in a very precarious, ruthless, dog-eat-dog economic system:
In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e. capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working-class, developed, a class of labourers who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
That being the case, Marx and Engels argued that it was the working class, not the backward-looking, conservative/reactionary small shopkeepers, smallholders and peasants, which was the only potential revolutionary class.
They argued too that "every class struggle is a political struggle" so that the working class must "win the battle for democracy".
So now we turn to Robert Conquest's introduction. We expect it to be critical, probably hostile in his approach. Apart from the hostility of the ruling class ideologists of the 19th century, there is the post-1917 extremely damaging association of Marxism with the totalitarian state capitalism and purges of Lenin and Stalin.
Conquest had made his name with his 1968 work THE GREAT TERROR, examining the numbers killed - by force or famine - in Stalin's 1930s purges. So he was inevitably going to look at Marxism as the key to the Soviet 'official ideology' with hostility, not appreciation.
So how did he set about refuting the arguments in the MANIFESTO? We have to say he wasted a fair bit of time with snide comments, patronising and superior know-it-all put-downs, an ad hominem personal attack re Marx's private life, and revealed his contempt for the workers - whom he described as "picturesquely horny-handed toilers" (p xiv).
He wrote that he was baffled: "One thought in the Manifesto, so unreal as not to merit discussing here, is that 'the proletariat has no country'" (p xi). "So unreal"? This man had clearly not understood the central points of the MANIFESTO, or the reality of the world we live in. Nor does he understand the unreality of those who expect workers to risk their lives for oil-fields and supermarket chains and land, for the means of production and distribution owned by a minority class.
That is a historical absurdity indeed - to expect the exploited slave-class to volunteer to get themselves slaughtered in the interests of the slave-owners. Is he really unaware that of the slave owners. But then Conquest felt the whole idea just not worth even discussing, so if he had an argument against Marx on this point, we are never going to be able know it.
Conquest surely acknowledges that the capitalist class has no country and that international business operates wherever it can make a profit and will flit from one 'sovereign state' to another at will. So why isn't he aware that millions of workers are forced to risk their lives everyday leaving their country of birth for another in search of a livelihood? They clearly 'have no country' either.
Most of the arguments he put into this piece are well-known and pretty stale. The idea of the inevitable "collapse of capitalism" - trotted out but not discussed by Conquest. There was the inevitable accusation that proletarian revolution must lead to tyranny and terror. Also, the claim that the working class must be led as no class or party can do without a leader (p xiv): - on this, he and Lenin were clearly soul-mates but it was never part of the thinking of Marx and Engels. For them, even back in 1848, "the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the working class itself" - repeated in Engels's Preface to the 1890 German edition.
He took issue with the MANIFESTO's comments about workers being on the brink of pauperism. That he thought did not tally with the obvious consumerism in capitalism. Yet today, even in affluent areas, in every town, on pavements near Parliament and near the Queen's castle at Windsor, there are always the homeless sleeping rough. Pay-day lenders charge the earth but still find plenty of clients. And all over Britain there are food banks run by volunteers to feed families whose low pay or lack of state benefits mean they have not enough to feed themselves. That is pauperism today, and most workers with a job know they would barely be able to survive if they missed out on a single pay-day.
Conquest ignores, or is ignorant of the fact, that the relationship between capital and labour is exactly the same today as it was in 1848: on the one hand those who own the world's natural resources and the means to convert them into saleable commodities and on the other, those who are obliged to sell their labour power to survive whilst the wealth they produce enriches the capitalist. The relative degree of poverty or wealth between the two does not change this relationship which is the fundamental basis of the capital system.
That Conquest had not taken his interest in Marx's theories too far is obvious. For him capitalism was defined as "the market system" (p xviii). To justify his claim to be an intellectual of sorts, he concluded with a brief outline of Hegel's 3 'laws'. But clearly he was unable to explain Hegelian 'dialectics' - let alone see why Marx admired Hegel and also turned him upside down.
Apart from a brief footnote on 'Dialectical Materialism', Conquest failed to address the historical materialism which is central to Marx and Engels's thinking.
But his main error lay in perpetuating the monstrous, dishonest claim that the purges and totalitarian tyranny of the Soviet Union, of Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin-Mao etc., can all be laid at the door of Marx and Engels. It takes really lazy thinking - or mere prejudice - to see Marx and Engels as supporters of the vanguard theory attributed to Lenin (WHAT IS TO BE DONE?, 1902), an argument about revolutionary organization in backward Tsarist Russia, set out by Tkatchev but passed off by Lenin, a political plagiarist, as his own. For Lenin it was self-evident that the workers had to be led - as it was for Robert Conquest.
But for Marx and Engels, the working class is a truly revolutionary class, the only class capable of confronting and overthrowing the capitalists and this system of class exploitation. And they asserted that "the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the working class itself."
Such a revolution, a bottom-up revolution, would be most unlikely to support a totalitarian nightmare of a dictatorship with its prisons and purges. As yet, a Socialist / Communist revolution has never happened. But there have been a great many capitalist revolutions, where one dictatorship is overthrown only to be replaced by another, in countries where the police and their spies keep the prisons full to overflowing.
Such is life under capitalism, which Robert Conquest clearly supports. His arguments against Marx and Engels were neither honest nor well thought out, nor even original.
We should however let Marx and Engels in The COMMUNIST MANIFESTO have the last word on such hireling hacks as Robert Conquest:
The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical, and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.
Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that men's ideas, views, and conceptions, in one word, man's consciousness, changes with every change in the condition of his material existence, in his social relations, and in his social life?
What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes in character in proportion as material production changes? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of the ruling class.
World capitalism is divided into competing nation states. Not only are these nations competing to sell commodities but they also need access to minerals via trade routes or mining rights.
Capitalism though is not just a set of traders selling commodities for a profit. It is first and foremost a collection of 195 independent sovereign states each with its armed forces to protect the privilege class against its own working class and against other states.
Not all conflicts end in war. Sometimes a stronger country can exert pressure and leverage against a weaker country, like the US and Iran, without having to go to war, merely by the use of sanctions and the threat of war.
Access to oil and the protection of oil routes still drives war in the 21st century - such as the wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Increasingly wars are being fought over access and control of earth minerals necessary to build computers, missiles, wind-turbine production, light-weight aircraft and cars. Wars reflect the determination of governments to defend or to control valuable possessions by armed force when other means have failed.
There are some minerals which are referred to as "conflict resources" which are extracted in regions where some of the profits are used to continue the fighting in order to maintain control. One region where such fighting takes place is in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The four most commonly mined "conflict materials" in the region are cassiterite (used for tin), wolframite (used for tungsten), coltan (for tantalum) and gold ore. These materials are used in the production of mobile phones, laptops and computers.
The Civil War in the DRC killed five million people between 1997 and 2003. More recently the security situation across the country has deteriorated markedly as government authority has collapsed, emboldening rival militia groups who control large areas of territory, often competing for the DRC's rich mineral resources like so-called "blood-diamonds" (GUARDIAN April 3/4/18).
Capitalism Causes War and Conflict
When socialists say that capitalism causes modern war, it is the capitalist system of the private ownership of the means of production that we have in mind. Governments turn to war when other means fail.
When socialists talk of capitalism, we mean a class divided world-wide system of exploitation in which a privileged minority class do not have to work. On the other hand there is a propertyless majority class, the workers, who have to sell their mental and physical energies, their "labour-power" to the capitalist class. Workers form the majority in society. Workers also have to do the killing and dying in capitalism's wars.
As the Socialist Party of Great Britain put it in the pamphlet THE SOCIALIST PARTY AND WAR:
"In the last resort the capitalist trade struggle leads to wars, the object of which is to acquire or to defend market and territories rich in mineral and other resources and in exploitable populations" (June 1950 p.31)
And, increasingly, it is the need to have access to minerals that is causing conflict in the world, particularly between the United States and China. Most of the minerals sought for by China and the US have military use in components used for warfare. The seventeen rare earth minerals are: Scandium, Yttrium, Lanthanum, Terbium, Praseodymium, Europium, Gadolinium, Neodymium, Lutetium, Cerium, Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, Samarium and promethium.
These 17 rare earth elements, possessing unique magnetic and lighting properties, are central to the production of civilian and military technology such as chargeable batteries, smart phones, missile guidance systems, electric cards and so on. Although called "rare", they are actually found relatively abundantly in the Earth's crust, according to the US Geological Survey. (BBC NEWS 29/5/19) However, there are relatively few places in the world that mine or produce them.
Trump and Greenland
When Trump recently offered to buy Greenland, it was not to build hotels or a golf course but because the country is rich in the elements scandium, yttrium and neodymium which are used for solid oxide fuel cells, drones, cars, tuneable lasers, memory devices, missile guidance systems, cameras, CD/DVD, computers, electric motors and generators. The US needs these minerals while China enjoys almost a total global monopoly, some 90 per cent of the worldâ€™s current supply of the critical 17 earth elements are within their control.
Greenland's reserves are estimated at nearly 40 million tonnes, a quarter of the world's 2160 million tonnes, but for decades were inaccessible beneath its thick ice sheets, however, global warming is melting the ice thus making mining viable (TIMES 26/8/19). During the Cold War the US offered to buy Greenland because of its strategic importance. Now it is the earth minerals being exposed to potential mining.
Unlike the US, China recognised the importance of these 17 minerals about thirty years ago. China controls much of the mining industry, particularly in Africa, while building almost the entire world's rare earth processing plants where other nations send their rare earth ore to be purified.
Chinese Capitalism and Africa
Africa plays a critical role in the provision of key minerals for the Chinese economy. In the case of minerals, China is almost exclusively reliant on Sub-Saharan Africa for its cobalt imports, and significantly reliant for manganese (the latter primarily from Gabon, South Africa and Ghana). Sub-Saharan Africa is also an important supplier of timber (mainly from Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Cameroon). 11
Chromium (mainly from South Africa, Madagascar, and Sudan), accounting for around one-seventh of China's global imports each. However, with respect to China's imports of iron ore and copper, Sub-Saharan Africa is still a relatively small, but growing, contributor.
China has shown a growing interest in the mining belt of central southern Africa, comprising Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This area has large quantities of copper, iron, gold, manganese, and other base metals. https://www.ide.go.jp/English/Data/Africa_file/Manualreport/cia_08.html
In its trade war with the US, China said that it would restrict or place an embargo on the export of rare earth elements to the US if relations worsened. This posed a potential threat to the US economy, its defence, technology and infrastructure.
According to the Times:
Australia, another source of the elements, also sends its ore to China. China digs up 70 per cent of the world's rare earth ore within its own borders but its plants produce more than 90 per cent of the global output of the processed elements. The only significant processing plant outside China is Malaysia, but its future is imperilled by environmental concerns stemming from a public health disaster in the 1980s at an earlier rare earth facility (26/8/19).
Apparently, the Pentagon is extremely worried. So, will the dispute over access to rare earth minerals between China and the US lead to a future war? It might, but there again it might not. Outright war need not necessarily take place though. There are usually divided interests within the capitalist class in each country such as the conflict of interests between the import and export capitalists. There are those who get their profits from importing commodities and those from exporting them. They have different interests and are constantly trying to countries where the minerals the US wants are located. This can be done by inserting a favourable government, encouraging a proxy country to wage war, by military coups, encouraging civil war, or some other dark political art practiced by the CIA to prise the country away from China.
However, the scramble by China and the US for minerals is one of many tensions and conflicts between nation states. If war is to be avoided, then the capitalist cause of war must be addressed first. And that is replacing capitalism with socialism; the profit system with the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society. It means the end of nation states, the buying and selling of commodities, markets and classes. influence governments to take their side.
One 'solution' would be for the US to politically destabilise the African Minerals would then be used in production to produce useful things directly to meet human need. They would not be used to produce destructive missile systems. Socialism, though, requires the conscious and political action of a socialist majority. As the SPGB pamphlet concluded:
"With the establishment of socialism war will disappear and humanity will have taken the first step out of the jungle"
Marx: The Origins of Capitalism (part 1)
Part 1 of 4
Fictional and Historical Accounts of Capitalismâ€™s Beginnings
In the first volume of CAPITAL, Marx spent some time looking in great detail at the genesis of capitalism as it emerged from feudalism. The relevant section, in the first volume of CAPITAL, is set out in Part 8 under the umbrella of "So-Called Primitive Accumulation". There are six chapters in the section: The Secret of Primitive Accumulation, The Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land, Bloody Legislation against the Expropriated since the end of the Fifteenth Century, The Genesis of the Capitalist Farmer, The Genesis of the Industrial capitalist and The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation.
In the first chapter of this section Marx wrote:
"In the history of primitive accumulation, all revolutions are epoch-making that act as levers for the capitalist class in the course of its formation; but this is true above all for those moments when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled onto the labour market as free, unprotected and rightless proletarians"
(CAPITAL, vol. 1.ch. 26, So-Called Primitive Accumulation p. 876).
Marx noted, that in his own day, that defenders of capitalism believed that capital accumulation played the same role in political economy as original sin did in theology. Marx sarcastically remarked:
"Long, long ago there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent and above all frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous livi...Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort finally had nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority who, despite all their labour, have up to now nothing to sell but themselves, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly, although they have long ceased to work." (p873)
The poor were blamed for being poor (they still are). Capitalism was the best of all possible worlds. And private property was sacrosanct. He commented:
"But as soon as the question of property is at stake, it becomes the sacred duty to proclaim the standpoint of nursery tales as the one thing fit for all age-groups and all stages of development" (p 874)
The analogy Marx made between "original sin" and the political economist's theory of "primitive capital accumulation" is correct, because both drew attention away from the historical reality of capitalism to a fabled mythical past. The real origins of capital accumulation, however, as Marx noted, are far from the "peaceful" and "natural" ideal that Adam Smith and others had imagined. Marx explained that while capital accumulation and inequality are generated from capitalist relations between employer and worker, once these relations are historically established:
"... it is a notorious fact that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, in short, force, plays the greatest part..........As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic." (p. 874). And went on:"...tortured by grotesquely terroristic laws into accepting the discipline necessary for the system of wage labour" (p. 899).
Marx set out a historical and factual account of the origin of capitalism not the fictional one presented by the political economists. It was an account of enclosure, pillage and plunder, enslavement, violence, brutality and death. Marx summed up the brutal consequences of primitive accumulation:
"The spoliation of the Church's property, the fraudulent alienation of the state domains, the theft of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property and its transformation into modern private property under circumstances of ruthless terrorism, all these things were just so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation. They conquered the field for capitalist agriculture, incorporated the soil into capital, and created for the urban industries the necessary supplies of free and rightless proletarians."
(Ch. 27, The Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land p. 895).
So-Called Primitive Accumulation
Why did Marx use the expression "so-called primitive accumulation"? Principally, because the various factors which led to capitalism - the Black Death, which changed the balance of class forces in England, driving lords to become capitalist farmers and peasants to become rural labourers, the break-up of large Church estates during the Reformation, enclosure acts, slavery, colonialism during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, peasant expropriation, the rise of cottage industry workshops, piracy, plunder, robbery and so on - by themselves do not constitute capitalism. This is because the genesis of capitalism also included the formation of the working class, in increasing numbers, generating surplus value to be used as reinvestment to create more and more capital.
Nevertheless, Marx did say that some historical events were more important moments for accumulating capital than others, like the discovery of America. Of the discovery of the Americas he wrote:
"The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for its theatre. It begins with the revolt of the Netherlands from Spain, assumes giant dimensions in England's Anti-Jacobin War, and is still going on in the opium wars against China, etc".
And he continued
"The different moments of primitive accumulation distribute themselves now, more or less in chronological order, particularly over Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and England. In England at the end of the 17th century, they arrive at a systematical combination, embracing the colonies, the national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system. These methods depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system. But they all employ the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power".
(Chapter 31, page 915).
The flow of precious metals from the Americas, like gold and silver into Europe, mainly to Spain, (hived-off through piracy into Britain), and of the slaves taken from Africa to the plantations the other way, was indispensable for establishing early capital accumulation. In particular the profits from the Atlantic slave trade were significant for providing the capital that drove the development of British industrial capitalism
(Eric Williams, CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY, 1944).
Dr Allen Price and Dr Emma Poulter wrote:
"The historian Eric Williams describes how key technologies such as James Watt's steam engine improvements (1784) were developed using profits from slave trading merchants. When fully developed, it was sugar plantation owners who used these steam engines to increase efficiency by replacing horses. The huge profits that came from plantation slavery in the Americas and the new industries that were created to process goods imported from these plantations changed Britain dramatically. It went from being an agricultural economy to an industrial one in Britain in the late eighteenth century".
And Dr. Alan Price wrote:
"Big profits were made not just by those directly involved in slaving or plantation economies, but also by banks. These banks were most often based in cities such as Liverpool and London. The foundation of the Bank of England in 1694 in London was crucial to trade regulation and the securing of profits. As trade profits grew, so did the banks and other financial institutions. From the late 1600s to the 1800s, the providing of insurance, loans and other more complex trading instruments created massive new opportunities for making money. All this helped create modern capitalism. Indeed, it is one of the great ironies of history that a crude labour system like slavery was at the heart of the development of the modern global economy."
In 1833 Parliament finally abolished slavery. The negotiated settlement brought emancipation - but only with the system of apprenticeship tying the newly freed slaves into another form of un-free labour for fixed terms.
In addition there was a grant of £20 million in compensation, to be paid by the British taxpayers to slave owners (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/project/context/).
Property was sacrosanct, which included the ownership of slaves and is reflected in the generous compensation given by the government to former slave holders.
As the historian E.M. Woods noted:
"...it is impossible to deny the importance of the colonies in Britain's highly lucrative external trade, and the essential part played by slaves in producing its highly profitable commodities, tobacco and sugar. Nor can it be denied that industrialization at home, based as it was on the production of cotton textiles, would depend on colonial cotton produced largely by slaves in the West Indies"
(EMPIRE OF CAPITAL, 2002 p.106)
The human cost was high. The missionary writer Antonio Vieira asserted in 1657 that over two million Indians had died in Brazil as a result of enslavement (J. H. Parry, TRADE DOMINION, p. 343). It is estimated that during the initial Spanish conquest of the Americas up to eight million indigenous people died in a series of events that have been described as the first large-scale act of genocide of the modern era (Forsythe, David P. ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF HUMAN RIGHTS, Volume 4. Oxford University Press p, 297, 2009).
According to scientists from University College London, the colonisation of the Americas by Europeans in 1492 led to 56 million deaths by 1600 (Koch, Alexander; Brierley, Chris; Maslin, Mark M.; Lewis, Simon L. "Earth System Impacts of the European Arrival and Great Dying in the Americas After 1492â€, Quarterly Science Reviews, 2019, p. 13-36)
Mark Maslin, professor of geography at University College London, one of the co-authors of the study, said the large death toll also boosted the economies of Europe. He wrote:
"...the depopulation of the Americas may have inadvertently allowed the Europeans to dominate the world. It also allowed for the Industrial Revolution and for Europeans to continue that domination"
(CNN February 1, 2019).
Then there were the various wars between England and Spain, Holland and France. The first Dutch War in the 17th century opened India and the Far Eastern Trade to English merchants. The second Dutch war opened West Africa and the slave trade. The war of Spanish Succession won for England the coveted Asiento, the monopoly of supplying slaves to the Spanish American Empire, which France had tried to secure for her merchants by annexing Spain.
Britain's overseas empire, through control of trade routes and strategic points of influence, was also growing during this period. The main base for the English slave trade was Jamaica which was captured in 1655. Although there were British slave ships in Elizabethan times, and the colonies in the Caribbean, Virginia etc from the 17th century employed slaves - including convicts sent from England as indentured labour - the ending of the Royal African Company's monopoly in 1698, coupled with increasing demands of the sugar plantations in the West Indies, led to a rapid expansion of the British slave trade and importance of ports such as Bristol and Liverpool.
Liverpool thrived on overseas merchant investment, specializing in tobacco and slaves. Over 100 ships were leaving Bristol a year on the slave trade, with capacity for about 30,000 slaves. "Slaves were the precious life-blood of the West-Indian economy where King Sugar reigned and in which £70 m had been invested by 1790" (R. Porter, SOCIAL HISTORY OF BRITAIN IN THE 18TH CENTURY, p. 51) This was advantageous as it was a source of valuable raw materials, primitive capital accumulation and also a world market in which to sell commodities.
As the historian, Henry Heller concluded;
"The birth of capitalism was simultaneously the product of both new relations of production and the creation of the world market and that they are dialectically connected...the accumulation of capital is not merely the product of the social relations of production but also the circulation and realisation of capital...the development of capitalist world money out of gold and silver produced in Latin America was critical to the emergence of the world market by lubricating exchange relations across the globe" (A MARXIST HISTORY OF CAPITALISM, 2018, p. 40).
Primitive accumulation allowed a certain concentration of wealth in a few hands but it also put in place the social relations between capital and labour. The working class was necessary to generate surplus value, capital accumulation and the expansion of value from one circuit of capital to another.
Marx's Definition of Primitive Capital Accumulation
In THE WEALTH OF NATIONS (1776), Adam Smith had written of "previous accumulation". Marx used Smith's expression, translating it into German as ursprunglich ("original or initial"). When Marx's CAPITAL was translated back into English, the term used by Marx was rendered as "primitive" (see Perelman. Michael, THE INVENTION OF CAPITALISM: CLASSICAL POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF CAPITAL ACCUMULATION, chapter 2, p. 26, 2000).
"to underscore his distance from Smith, Marx prefixed the pejorative "so-called" to the title of the final part of the first volume of CAPITAL... in order to call attention to the actual historical experience...Marx's survey of primitive accumulation carries us through a several centuries-long process, in which a small group of people brutally expropriated the means of production from the people of pre-capitalist society around the globe"(p. 26).
Marx gave the following definition of primitive capital accumulation. He said it was:
"... nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as 'primitive- because it forms the pre-history of capital, and of the mode of production corresponding to capital."
(CAPITAL vol. 1, p875)
Although elements of capitalism began in Italy, Holland and France, according to Marx: "...the capitalist era begins from the 16th century" with the "expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soiL..." (ch. 26.p876): a process that had taken several centuries.
For capitalism to consolidate its position, the entire production process required a number of economic, technical, political and legal conditions to dominate social relationships. Although the forcing of the peasant off the land "assumes different aspects in different countries", for Marx, only in England did it possess the "classic form" (p. 876).
Marx believed that this separation of the peasantry from the land was a necessary condition for the development of capitalism, in that it created the conditions in which there was a pliable and abundant proletariat:
"when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled onto the labour market as free, unprotected and rightless proletarians" (p. 876).
This "free" proletariat was needed for the creation of the factory system and the development of manufacturing cities. Free in the double sense of the word. Free from the ownership of the means of production and free to sell their labour power as a commodity on the labour market or starve. The process of primitive accumulation created the changes in social relations, property relations, and the accumulation of wealth that permitted the creation of the capital-labour relation and factory-based capitalism.
No account was taken by employers of the gender or the age of the workers; with women routinely working down mines and children being used in the mills. In 1841 there were 2350 women employed in the coal mines of the UK, one third of them in Lancashire. After 1842, when an Act of Parliament prevented women from going down the mines, the women and girls worked at the surface, pushing wagons from the pit head to the sorting screens, or sorting coal at the screen themselves.
Cotton mills were one of the first places to exploit child labour during the Industrial Revolution. The first jobs for children were in the water-powered cotton mills near the river. With the invention of the spinning jenny and the steam engine, cotton could be spun much faster and cotton mills could be moved into the cities. Orphans, or parish apprentice children, were taken in and exploited by factories and mill owners to work in exchange for food, water, housing, and clothing.
Huge factory expansion would not have been possible without the exploitation of child labour. After carrying out detailed statistical analyses of the period, Professor Jane Humphries of Oxford University discovered that child labour was much more common and economically important than previously realised. Her estimates suggest that, by the early 19th century, England had more than a million child workers (including around 350,000 seven to 10-year-olds) - accounting for 15 per cent of the total labour force
(Jane Humphries, CHILDHOOD AND CHILD LABOUR IN THE BRITISH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION 2010).
As Marx observed:
"While the cotton industry introduced child-slavery into England, in the United States it gave the impulse for the transformation of the earlier, more or less patriarchal slavery into a system of commercial exploitation. In fact, the veiled slavery of the wage-labourers in Europe needed the unqualified slavery of the New World as its pedestal" (Chapter 31, page 925).
Climate Crisis - Science & Socialism
Scientists tend to believe that they operate to provide factual information to political leaders to make wise decisions on behalf of all society. This is a view recently put forward by two scientists, Clare Wordley and Charlie Gardner (We scientists must fight for our world, GUARDIAN 6th September 2019). This is the assumption being increasingly questioned by scientists themselves.
Wordley and Gardner wrote:
"For decades, conservation scientists like us have been telling the world that species and ecosystems are disappearing and their loss will have devastating impacts on humanity. Meanwhile climate scientists have been warning that the continued burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peat lands, will lead to catastrophic planetary heating".
They went on:
"We have collectively written tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and shared our findings with policymakers and the public. And, on the face of it, we seem to have done a pretty good job: after all, we all know about the environmental and climate crises, don't we?"
And they conclude:
"But while we're well informed, we haven't actually changed course. Biodiversity loss proceeds apace - a million species face extinction in the coming decades - and we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. We have emitted more greenhouse gases since 1990, in full awareness of its impacts, than we ever did in ignorance. It seems that knowledge alone cannot trigger the radical global changes we so urgently need".
The two scientists believe that the only course of action is to join extinction rebellion and take part in civil disobedience, citing The Suffragettes, Ghandi, and the US Civil Rights Movement as successful examples to follow. Socialists disagree. These were localised movements which did not substantially threaten the interest of capitalist firms competing to make a profit. Making capitalists less competitive does threaten economic interests. And it will be resisted politically and by the State.
Marx put it this way:
"In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the materials it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest. The English Established Church, e.g., will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income. Now-a-days atheism is culpa levis [a relatively slight sin, c.f. mortal sin], as compared with criticism of existing property relations "
(CAPITAL, vol. 1, Preface to the First Edition, p. 92).
As the scientists admit, the lobbyists and the corporations have their own economic interests. The lobbyists for fossil-fuel industries have far greater access to politicians and governments than scientists and supporters of extinction rebellion.
In 2018, oil and gas lobbyists alone spent more than $125 (£100m) lobbying politicians in the US. Corporations also finance free market institutes like the Institute of Economic Affairs who deny climate change in pamphlets which are then lazily and uncritically reproduced in the media.
Capitalist firms will continue using fossil fuels like coal and gas and they will be supported by their respective governments to further reduce these costs by subsidies. Governments by themselves will not force onto businesses higher energy costs which will undermine their competitive effectiveness on the world market. If all capitalist countries were to penalise fossil fuel use and heavily subsidise renewable energy, then the situation might change.
African countries are supposed to be looking at solar energy but while wealthy nations advocate renewables at home, 60% of aid to African energy projects went on fossil fuels (GUARDIAN July 23rd 2019). Africa has considerable fossil fuel resources and wants to use them to improve energy access and increase economic growth (Fossil Fuels dominate African Energy Investment DW.com 4th September 2018)
Yet, can a global agreement regarding the climate crisis ever be reached? Here is a pessimistic pronouncement from the United Nations:
"Many Asian countries' existing and expanding dependence on coal power is undermining international efforts to fight greenhouse gas emissions and keeping the world on course to see catastrophic impacts from the worsening climate crisis, the United Nations has warned.
Amid surges in demand for electricity, countries including India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are accelerating their move to cheap coal power. While some of these nations are also upping the quantity of renewable energy in the mix, its total share for power generation remains inadequate.
Asian countries must set more ambitious goals to contribute to global efforts to curb climate change, said Ovais Sarmad, the deputy executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. "There are certain countries in this region still relying heavily on coal and fossil fuels as sources of energy, and in some areas that is growing"
(H. Cockburn, INDEPENDENT 7 September 2019). It is doubtful if Asian countries will set "ambitious goals" because they exist in a world capitalist system of fierce competition. "The Furies of private interest" have done a very good job. Climate change deniers have produced an "anti-science" which has many believers who want to carry on as though nothing has changed.
Capitalists would rather endanger the planet rather than have their profit-making threatened. The general public might be more aware of the problem of global warming and attacks on the bio-sphere but workers still cling to the consumer fantasy world that capitalism advertiser's project with its mantra "I, I, I", "me, me, me" and "I want, I want, I want". The politics of this anti-science is lies and falsehood instead of truth, faith in political charlatans instead of evidence and ignorance in place of scientific method.
If scientists have wasted 30 years or more trying to explain their science to politicians what chance has extinction rebellion. Environmental pressure groups all accept the capitalist cause of ecological problems while revolutionary socialist change is never on the agenda.
What will joining Extinction Rebellion achieve?
What will joining extinction rebellion achieve? Not a lot.
The reality is that we live in a class-divided world where a small minority own the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the majority. The profit motive is primary. Furthermore the world is divided into competing nation states with their own interests.
While this state of affairs continues to exist there will be no effective way of resolving the environmental crisis.
In their book, THIS IS NOT A DRILL (2019), extinction rebellion accepts that there is a capitalist class (they call them the 1 per cent, p. 5). They refer to the destructive power of capitalism as "a war against the planet (p. 5). But they reject a socialist political programme to replace capitalism believing:
"...it is a moral imperative to rebel against a system that is driving extinction, exterminating species and cultures" (p 7).
Yet changing "hearts and minds" is not enough. Not only must awareness of capitalism be a political awareness but it also means taking political action as socialists. Democratic political action is necessary to gain control of the means of production; to take away ownership from the capitalist class and then be in a position to formulate the necessary steps to stop the widespread use of environmental pollution, and to protect the biosphere, including protecting the rainforests, coral reefs and wild life species. As a socialist movement it has to be a political imperative undertaken by socialists not a moral one.
But extinction rebellion does not have the political means to effect the necessary radical and revolutionary change. Their web site states:
"Over the last 40 years (representative) government has proved itself incapable of making the long-term policy decisions needed to deal effectively with the climate and ecological emergency"
Have they asked themselves why? They half admit the answer when they state that politicians and governments "are lobbied by powerful corporations". What they will not admit is that those politicians exist to serve the interests of the capitalist class and that the government, to quote Marx, is the "executive of the bourgeoisie" (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO).
Extinction Rebellion thinks only a small number of committed activists are required for a tipping point to occur; that a citizens' assembly can prevent the lobbyists and corporations from gaining the ear of politicians. For they forget who politicians and governments serve. What if the "citizens' assembly" imposed constraints on British companies and corporations making them less competitive with other countries not constrained by environmental edicts?
What if a non-socialist citizens' assembly agreed with the corporations? The strategy pursued by extinction rebellion is hollow and naive; much like the anti-capitalist occupy movement of a few years ago.
The Urgent Need for Socialism
What is required as a matter of urgency is for the means of production and distribution to be held in common by the world's population under democratic control so that production would not be as now, primarily for profit. Only then could we ensure that environmental issues are treated with the importance the scientists agree is needed.
Capitalism has to be abolished and replaced by socialism. The scientists and supporters of extinction rebellion might not like to be told this. Far easier to protest but protesting against entrenched economic interests changes nothing. It becomes part of the problem.
Without the existence of nation states, renewable energy like solar and wind turbine farms can tap into the energy of the sun and wind unrestricted by artificial geographical constraints. With the abolition of capitalism, the waste associated with the profit system's food production, war, commerce, advertising, political bureaucracy and business travel would also disappear. The rain forests and the seas would be protected as a global resource held in common and would no longer be at the mercy of politicians, influenced by lobbyists, and logging companies and farmers, all motivated by profit.
Only socialism will be in the position to place great weight on decarbonised production processes based on renewable energy, recycling technologies, biodiversity, stock replenishment, sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices and other areas necessary for a balance between production directly for social use and the environment. Already there exist tried and tested eco-buildings, passivhaus and zero carbon houses in a construction sector which is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The technologies developed in this form of eco-construction would be useful to a socialist society. Socialism would not start from scratch but develop and utilise existing sciences and technologies.
Socialism will be technologically 'innovative' for the benefit of all society without the constraints of profit-making, competition, markets, buying and selling and class exploitation. Socialist production will ensure sufficient quality housing, food, transportation, communication, health and so on is provided to all the earth's inhabitants, but still balance our ecological inputs and outputs. Scientific evidence and reason will prevail instead of sectarian economic interests and ignorance.
Before climate change and other environmental problems can be addressed effectively there first has to be socialism. And socialism established democratically and politically by a socialist majority. Nothing short of this will do.
How & Why Capitalists Are Rich
The Wealthy One Percent
The financial media outlet, Bloomberg recently carried an article "The 25 wealthiest dynasties on the planet control $1.4 trillion" (10/8/19) in which they stated that the super rich receive unearned-income at the rate of $70,000 per minute, $4 million per hour, $100 million per day.
The article went on to describe how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the owners of Wal-Mart, has been growing since 2018. The article reported:
"The Walton fortune has swelled by $39 billion, to $191 billion, since topping the June 2018 ranking of the world's richest families. Other American dynasties are close behind in terms of the assets they've accrued. The Mars family, of candy fame, added $37 billion, bringing its fortune to $127 billion. The Kochss, the industrialists-cum-political-power-players, tacked on $26 billion, to $125 billion. America's richest 0.1% today control more wealth than at any time since 1929, but their counterparts in Asia and Europe are gaining too. Worldwide, the 25 richest families now control almost $1.4 trillion in wealth, up 24% from last year".
What the article did not say was why the 0.1 per cent wants to continue, day-in and day-out, to keep on receiving this un-earned income. Why the obsession?
In fact, it is the need to accumulate wealth, re-invest and create even more wealth that drives the capitalists on (or those investing on their behalf). In the first volume of CAPITAL Marx set out the laws forcing capitalists to accumulate and make more and more profit. Marx wrote that
"As the conscious bearer of this movement, the possessor of money becomes a capitalist. His person, or rather his pocket, is the point from which the money starts, and to which it returns...the valorisation of value - is his subjective purpose, and it is only in so far as the appropriation of ever more wealth in the abstract is the sole driving force behind his operations that he functions as a capitalist,..., as capital personified and endowed with consciousness and a will..." CAPITAL, Volume 1, The Transformation of Money into Capital, Chapter 4, The General formula for Capital p. 152)
Marx went on to say:
"This boundless drive for enrichment, this passionate chase after value, is common to the capitalist and the miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser. The ceaseless augmentation of value, which the miser seeks to attain by saving his money from circulation, is achieved by the more acute capitalist by means of throwing his money again and again into circulation". (p254-255)
Money makes more money is the logic of capitalism. As Marx noted:
"Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!...Accumulation for accumulation's sake, production for the sake of production."(CAPITAL v.1, ch. XXIV, p.742).
The drive to accumulate under pain of competition is at the heart of capitalism. Marx stated:
"...competition subordinates every individual capitalist to the immanent laws of capitalist production, as external and coercive laws. It compels him to keep extending his capital, so as to preserve it, and he can only extend it by means of progressive accumulation." (p739)
The capitalist invests money under competition with the expectation of making more money than their original investment. The capitalist is behaving like a "rational miser". Unlike the miser who just hoards their wealth, the capitalist invests to make more money.
What makes capitalism tick is not only that capitalists make a profit by exploiting workers, but that they reinvest part of the profit in further production. To remain a capitalist they have to make profit and destroy their competitors leading to a tendency of the concentration and centralisation of capital into fewer hands; where "one capitalist always strikes down many others" (Marx, CAPITAL, C32 p. 929).
The inner logic of capitalism is not only to "work for profit," but also to "work for capital accumulation." It is not as though capitalists are greedy that they accumulate more capital. It is the pressure of competition that forces them to do so. And it is a periodic crisis and trade depression which forces capitalists to hoard when there is no return on their investments, when commodities donâ€™t sell.
However, there is a sting in the tail about capital accumulation. Again, we turn to Marx. He said the capitalist:
"...ruthlessly forces the human race to produce for production's sake. In this way he spurs on the development of societyâ€™s productive forces, and the creation of those material conditions of production which alone can form the real basis of a higher form of society, a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle" (p739).
In other words: capital accumulation has provided the material conditions for the establishment of socialism.
However, Bloomberg's moralising about the super-rich does not tell you where profit comes from. It is a secret Bloomberg does not want to share with its readers.
And for a very good reason. Bloomberg is a privately owned news service like Reuters and the PA news service but, unlike these, its markets and services are specialised. Bloomberg's IT trading systems are used in many stock exchanges, having moved into the London Stock Exchange following the "Big Bang" revolution in the City. The combination of computers and modern telecoms technology helped bring about the whole 'globalisation' phenomenon, with banks from Japan, Europe, and so on, all developing into international operations.
Bloomberg was founded by Michael Bloomberg in 1981, with the investment of others, and a 30% ownership investment by Merrill Lynch. Michael Bloomberg is a wealthy billionaire who invests money to make more money. He too is a "rational miser" fanatically accumulating capital and expanding value as an anti-social obsession in its own right. Bloomberg would be the first to deny exploitation under capitalism and that the capitalists derive their unearned income from the unpaid labour of the working class.
Exploitation under Capitalism
So where does profit come from? How is the working class exploited? These are questions you will not find answered in reading Bloomberg. The answer is that all the profit paid out in dividends, in industrial profit and in interest and rent all comes from the exploitation of the working class. Exploitation is the root of capitalism and the only way to end exploitation is to abolish capitalism.
Exploitation is not unique to capitalism. It has been a feature of all class societies, which are divided into an exploited class that produces the wealth and an exploiter class that secures unearned wealth to itself.
Under slavery, exploitation is obvious to exploiter and exploited alike. The slave is forced by the threat of violence to work for the master, who provides just enough food and clothing to keep the slave alive. All the rest of the fruits of the slaveâ€™s labour are forcefully appropriated by the slave-owner.
Similarly, under feudalism, the serfs work part of the time on land that belongs to the lord, and the product of this labour (bond-labour) belonged to the lord of the manor. The rest of the time the serfs worked for themselves, producing their means of subsistence. The terms of exploitation were clear to serf and lord alike; the serfs labours for the lord, unpaid, and is also required to pay fines and fees (usually as tythes in the form of produce) to the lord - for example, on marrying, digging a ditch and so on.
Capitalism is different among the chief forms of class societies. The exploitative nature of labour under capitalism is hidden by the wages system. It appears on the surface that an equal exchange has taken place. However, this is not the case.
Why not? The capitalist, in addition to buying machinery, raw materials, and so on also buys what Marx called "labour-power,"; paying for a period of time the capitalist controls the workers' creative and physical energies.
Under capitalism, most needs are met, at least for those who can afford them, by buying commodities. Commodities are goods and services produced for sale on the market for profit. The working class, who don't own the means to produce and sell commodities, have one commodity they can sell: their labour-power, their ability to work. In this way, workers are forced to sell themselves to an employer in order to acquire money to buy the necessities of life.
Unlike machinery and raw materials that pass on their value to the commodity but create no new value, labour-power is a "special commodity" whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value. In other words, workers produce new value contained in the final commodity, which belongs to the capitalist.
Labour Power and Exploitation
Capitalists buy labour-power on the labour market. In general, the wage - the price of labour-power - is, like all other commodities, determined by the socially necessary labour time going into its production, which is in turn regulated by struggles between workers and capitalists over the level of wages and working conditions, and by competition between workers for jobs.
The price of labour-power is determined by the cost of food, clothing, housing and education at a given standard of living. Wages must also include the cost of raising children, the next generation of workers.
To take a simple example, let's assume that a worker is able to produce in four hours of an eight- hour working day, new value that is equivalent to the value of their labour-power for the day--to, say, £400 in wages. Marx called this "necessary labour time," because it is the amount of labour required to replace the wages paid by the capitalist.
Hence, the worker, in order to receive a wage equivalent to the value they produce in four hours, is forced by the capitalist to work longer - a total, in our example, of eight hours. The value created during the additional four hours, called by Marx "surplus labour time" and embodied in the commodities produced by the worker during that time, is what Marx called "surplus value."
Surplus value, which has been produced in the production process, consists of two parts: revenue that will be consumed by the capitalist for a life of luxury, and capital or a portion of surplus value which will be reinvested in production.
When the commodity is sold, the capitalist receives the proceeds. This is the secret to the source of profits. And it's not only industrial capitalists whose profits derive from surplus value, or unpaid labour. The "rentier" classes, such as finance capital and landlords, take their cut from the wealth extracted from the labour of workers in the form of interest on loans to the industrial capitalists, rent for factories and homes, and so on.
Exploitation forms the basis of all the profits shared among the entire capitalist class. It is not simply the case that the wealthy have a lot while workers have little; capitalists accumulate wealth through a system of organised exploitation from the working class. And to end this system of exploitation requires the working class to organise consciously and politically to replace capitalism with socialism.
In Praise of Scrooge
Charles Dickens and a Winter's Ghost Story
Why do we still bother to read Charles Dickens? One possible answer is that, although he may have written for a 19th century audience, he still tells us something about the society in which we live today; a social system of poverty, class exploitation, insecurity, greed, vulnerability and social disadvantage.
Two books by Dickens stand out: A CHRISTMAS CAROL and HARD TIMES. A CHRISTMAS CAROL was published in 1843, and HARD TIMES was published in 1854, a few years before and after Marx and Engels's THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (1848). Dickens was a social commentator and critic. Marx liked Dickens. In an article, "The English Middle Class", Marx wrote:
"The present splendid brotherhood of fiction-writers in England, whose graphic and eloquent pages have issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together have described every section of the middle class,...And how have Dickens and Thackeray, Miss Bronte and Mrs. Gaskell painted them? As full of presumption, affectation, petty tyranny and ignorance; and the civilized world have confirmed their verdict with the damning epigram that it has fixed to this class [the bourgeoisie], that "they are servile to those above, and tyrannical to those beneath them" (NEW YORK TRIBUNE 1/8/1854).
The tyranny shown by the capitalist class "to those beneath them" - the working class - was illustrated by Dickens in his novels, particularly the characters of Scrooge (A CHRISTMAS CAROL) and Gradgrind and Bounderby (HARD TIMES). Unlike Marx, Dickens's thought that the capitalists could be redeemed, much like today's reformers who believe businesses and corporations can act with probity and responsibility. Journalists, like William Hutton of the OBSERVER, writes about the need for "ethical capitalism" and economists run courses on "business ethics". Such ideas are ridiculous: capitalists, under ruthless competition with other capitalists, have to exploit workers in order to survive, and this makes capitalism a very unpleasant and nasty social system; particularly for the working class.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
A CHRISTMAS CAROL was Dickens's response to the Children's Employment Commission Report of 1842, which was highly critical of child labour practices. A CHRISTMAS CAROL is Scrooge's haunted journey from miserly cruelty to compassionate and charitable generosity towards family and employees. It is a theme which recurs in many of Dickens's novels, in which reformed capitalists become good capitalists looking after the sick, the poor and the disadvantaged.
Some of Dickens's attacks against the capitalism of his own day hit their target; like his savage critique of Malthusâ€™s theory of population and the brutality of the 1834 Poor Law. A CHRISTMAS CAROL is an anti-Malthusian tale.
Dickens's shows his disgust with the Malthusian theory of uncontrolled population growth, which strangely still finds supporters today, particularly in sections of the Green and environmental movements. David Attenborough's comment that it is "barmy" to send food to famine-stricken countries was crass in its callousness (INDEPENDENT 18 September 2013). Solving starvation would be one of the first things a socialist society would do.
Dickens's biting satire of Malthus is shown in a CHRISTMAS CAROL, when two gentlemen ask Scrooge to contribute to charity to help the poor. Here is the exchange:
"Are there no prisons?"
"Plenty of prisons..."
"And the Union workhouses" demanded Scrooge
"Are they still in operation?"
"Both very busy, sir..."
"Those who are badly off must go there".
"Many can't go there, and many would rather die"
"If they would rather die", said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population"
The final cruel remark by Scrooge, in wanting the poor to die to reduce the burden on the rates, comes back, later in the novel, to haunt him in the person of Tiny Tim. Tiny Time is Bob Cratchit's disabled son. Cratchit is employed by Scrooge, and lives with his family in abject poverty. Medical attention for Tiny Tim cannot be afforded on the salary Cratchit earns in Scrooge's employment. Without financial help, Tiny Tim would die and thereby decreases the surplus population.
Both Dickens and Marx use spectres to haunt the living. In A CHRISTMAS CAROL there are three spectres haunting one capitalist. The spectres used by Dickens are reforming ghosts; a chance for Scrooge to make amends, to change the future and his place in it. There is only one spectre haunting the European ruling class in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (1848): the proletariat. And Marx gives bodily form to this "spectre" by sketching out its historical formation through class struggle and moving from an incoherent mass to being capable of establishing its own political party.
His personal ghosts haunted Scrooge in the nights before Christmas Day. Marx's spectre is already haunting the ruling class: "A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism".
The first English translation of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, by Helen MacFarlane, was published in the magazine THE RED REPUBLICAN in 1850. Instead of the now-familiar translation, 'A spectre haunts Europe', MacFarlane translated Marx's 'Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa' as 'A frightful hobgoblin stalks through Europe'. Linguistically, Hobgoblin might appear the right word to use. It means bogyman and 'hob' is the nickname for the 'devil'. 'Napoleon' and 'Jacobin' and increasingly 'communism' were being used by politicians, at the time, as scare words to frighten workers away from radical politics.
However, 'Gespenst' does not mean 'hobgoblin' but derives from 'geist' - the German word for ghost. Google translates 'Gespenst' as 'spook' while the whole expression given in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO translates as 'A Ghost is haunting Europe''. So 'spectre' is good enough. The MANIFESTO is a call for the working class to become a revolutionary force and to end capitalism as an exploitive social system. The apt metaphor Marx uses for the working class to end capitalism is "gravediggers" - "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers". But Dickens's ghosts are anything but revolutionary.
"Bah Humbug". This is Scrooge's view of Christmas. Humbug is deceptive or false talk and behaviour. Humbug is hypocritical nonsense and gibberish often found in the linguistic arsenal of politicians.
Why was Scrooge singled out for criticism by Dickens? He was only doing what every other capitalist was doing: exploiting the workers. Scrooge was "personified capital" as Marx would have it. He was driven to accumulate capital. He was a rational miser. He invested money to make more money. He did not want to waste his profits on charity or on the poor. Scrooge has to maximise profits, increase his power over workers, to accumulate and to survive in a competitive world.
In Marx's words:
To accumulate, is to conquer the world of social wealth, to increase the mass of human beings exploited by him, and this to extend both the direct and indirect sway of the capitalist (CAPITAL, VOLUME 1, ch. XXIV, p. 592).
Scrooge's view of Christmas is the right one. Christmas is an element of unjustified publicity and spectacle. And for good reason, Scrooge believes Christmas to be a fraud.
Why is Christmas a fraud? It is a fraud because Christmas is associated with Christian sentimentality and charity; singling out babies and children for special attention. The children's school nativity play, for example, is one of the darkest and most servile pieces of religious propaganda on the calendar; polluting the minds of young children into believing about virgin births, angels and, gods. Then there is the charity industry, hustling money out of the pockets of the working class. However, in reality Christmas is a celebration of capitalism, consumerism and excess/gluttony. Is not the experience of Christmas false, bad faith, yes, humbug?
In a rational social system in which production takes place directly to meet human need you will not need charity.
Helen Macfarlane not only the translator of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO but also a seasoned Chartist made this clear:
"We feel humiliated and pained when a beggar stretches out his hand to us for "charity" - that insult and indignity offered to human nature; that word invented by tyrants and slave drivers - an infamous word, which we desire to see erased from the language of every civilised people..." (HELEN MACFARLANE, David Black, 2004, p. 48)
Nevertheless, Dickens's focus of attention is away from the defects and revolutionary solution to the contradictions of capitalism, and instead points to the moral or immoral standing of the capitalist. He thought capitalists could be changed, and that you could have capitalism without the effects of capitalism (so called 'caring capitalism').
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge vision of the sickly Tiny Tim who will die unless lifted out of poverty. Scrooge is so moved by these visions that he changes his ways and saves Bob Cratchit's family and the life of Tiny Tim. But in the real world, capitalists aren't moved by sentiment and Tiny Tim would have died just as millions of Tiny Tims die each day through starvation and ill-health.
In fact, the CHRISTMAS CAROL would have better served the readership of the novel if the ghosts had visited Scrooge's overworked and underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit instead of Scrooge; the first spirit representing class position and class exploitation - the world as it still is, the second as the voice of class consciousness and the third ghost showing the hopeful way forward to a better future by means of collective, socialist political action.
HARD TIMES (1854) is a novel by Charles Dickens influenced by Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle's attitude to capitalism was one of revulsion and a harking back to the pre-industrial times of 'Merrie England' which he set out in his book PAST AND PRESENT. He denounced the modern age when the sole link between men and women was "the cash nexus".
HARD TIMES deals with industrial relations, the education of the poor, class division and the use of ruling class ideas like utilitarianism - a celebration of individual self-interest - to justify competitive capitalism.
However, Dickens may have criticised capitalism but he had no intention of replacing the profit system with socialism. Workers in HARD TIMES do not have class consciousness. They do not pursue their own class interest nor do they organise politically.
Charles Dickens did not like the organised working class. He did not like the class struggle manifesting itself in trade unions and strikes. His fictional depiction in HARD TIMES of the trade union organiser 'Slackbridge' was aimed at a bourgeoisie readership that shared his view of the unions as a threat to stability. Slackbridge is symbolised as the false prophet to the working class; a demagogue and agitator. Social stability for Dickens was important. As a child, his father was in a debtor's prison and Dickens had to work in a factory that handled shoe polish. His early years were hard and poverty ridden.
He may have been a social critic but he did so from a position of wealth and security which his later successful literary career allowed him to do. Dickens was no Frederick Engels. Dickens may have been a social critic of capitalism but he was not a revolutionary socialist.
Dickens, for example, had visited Preston in 1853 when 26,000 cotton spinners were locked out for 28 weeks by employers who refused to recognise their union. In February 1854 Dickens wrote an article for HOUSEHOLD WORDS (VIII), called "On Strike". When he came to write HARD TIMES, instead of siding with the workers against the employers, Dickens, used the lock-out to ridicule the unions by contrasting the character of Slackbridge with the common sense conformity of the crowd of Coketown he is addressing.
Dickens writes of Slackbridge, the union official, addressing the meeting:
"Oh my friends, the down-trodden operatives of Coketown! Oh my friends and fellow countrymen, the slaves of an iron-handed and a grinding despotism! Oh my friends and fellow sufferers, and fellow-workmen, and fellow-men!...As he stood there, trying to quench his fiery face with his drink of water, the comparison between the orator and the crowd of attentive faces turned towards him, was extremely to his disadvantage...He was not so honest, he was not so manly, he was not so good humoured; he substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid sense".
Even now, contemporary media attacks on the trade unions still echo Dickens's sketch of Slackbridge. Trade Union leaders are often portrayed in the DAILY MAIL and DAILY EXPRESS as "barons", shop-stewards as "extremist demagogues" and striking workers as "greedy and selfish".
Nevertheless HARD TIMES attacked the fashionable philosophy of Utilitarianism through the character of Gradgrind and illustrated the rapacious greed of the employers through the factory owner Mr Bounderby. Bounderby looks at workers as mere "hands", rather than as human beings, while Gradgrind is a retired merchant who attempts to impose an educational system based on utilitarian facts rather than questioning; an ideology supporting a supposedly natural system of exploitation and profit-making.
At the beginning of the novel Gradgrind sets out his educational theory:
Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the mind of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.
Consider the satire 1066 and all that" (1930) by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman. The book is a parody of the style of Gradgridian history teaching found in English schools at the time, where dates of kings and queens and great men and women were deemed of paramount importance and which school children had to learn - off-by-heart.
Education is, or should be, more than "facts"; it is about asking critical questions like why is 1066 important and important for whom?
The Gradgrind ethos dominates education. Education under capitalism is for the labour market and class exploitation. Learning by rote, memorising facts and continual testing destroys what education should be - a love of learning. Schooling not education is what capitalism wants; a pliant and obedient workforce to exploit.
Capitalism needs an educated workforce and this is met by enforced attendance at school, competitive examinations, league tables and parents increasingly paying private tutors for "cramming" students into "better" schools and universities. The result for school children is high levels of stress, mental illness and suicide. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)) said disadvantaged pupils here are more stressed than anywhere else except Turkey (GUARDIAN 28 October 2018).
Despite his inability to look beyond a criticism of society to a revolutionary change of society, Dickens is still worth reading for his trenchant social criticism. We still live in hard times but a spectre of communism is still haunting capitalism. It is time for the worldâ€™s working class to make communism/socialism (both words mean the same thing) a reality and dig.
The Fall of the House of Windsor
MISERABLE EFFECTS OF A CONFINED EDUCATION
Great allowances should be given to a King who lives wholly secluded from the rest of the world, and must therefore be altogether unacquainted with the manners and customs that must prevail in other nations: the want of which knowledge will ever produce many prejudices, and a certain narrowness of thinking... And it would be hard indeed, if so remote a prince's notions of virtue and vice were to be offered as a standard for all mankind.
(Jonathan Swift. 1726)
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.