Re: two articles

From: clyder@GN.APC.ORG
Date: Fri Aug 29 2003 - 18:49:56 EDT

Quoting Rakesh Bhandari <rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU>:

I have had a look at Ticktins article and it looks
terribly impressionistic to me. Here are some comments
his text is in spanish quotes << >>
<<Modern capitalism requires war as a form of mediation, in order to stabilise
itself. But for the past 50 years or so, the form of capitalism has been one in
which there has been no great war - but a cold war, or a war which was not a
war. So the point of going into Iraq, and of any subsequent invasion, would be
to buttress that form. You cannot go on talking about war without eventually
engaging in one.>>

Teleological argument. What does it mean to say that X needs Y to survive, only
that in the absence of Y then X will die. Plants need rain to grow, this need
for rain however is ineffective as an efficient cause of rain.
Even if I were to grant that capitalism is only stable in the presence of war,
(which I do not) then this observation would get us no closer to uncovering an
efficient cause of this recent war.

<<As with any formation, capitalism has gone through three stages. That is, a
coming into being, a maturing and a period where it declines. The classical
viewpoint of Lenin and Trotsky is that we have been in the period of decline. I
do not see any reason to disagree. I would go further and say that each of the
three stages has its own sub-stages of coming into being, maturity and decline.
In fact I would argue that we are in the period of the decline of the decline.>>

This is real fossil dogmatism. Why should capitalism have 3 stages not 2 or 17.
This 3 stages theory says more about our liking for simple conceptualisations
than it tells us about reality.
What is the objective indicator by which we measure rise and decline?
As far as I can see there is no objective indicator of mondial capitalist
decline. If we take the number of people subjected to the wage relation - it is
still rising both absolutely and as a fraction of the world population. The
mass of surplus value under the control of capital continues to rise
exponentially - where is the decline? Only in the mind of dogmatism, is there a
decline. Trotsky said in the 30s that capitalism was declining, Trotsky is
axiomatically right, so it must be declining.

<<The law of value is being reduced in depth and in extent. This has seen the
expansion in the economic role of the state, of governments, and the rise of
giant firms, operating on a bureaucratic basis internally while fixing prices
externally. Interestingly, John Galbraith’s son, James, has written an article
which argues that the US economy is only able to operate because of the role of
the US state. He details all the various aspects of the economy that are funded
or controlled by the state. Despite all the ‘never buck the market’ propaganda
and all that rubbish, in reality the administration, the government and the
public sector are crucial for the economy of the United States.>>
One might have been able to argue this in the 70s but it is simply implausible
now. The trend of neo-liberalism is to reduce the role of the state and
increase the scope of the law of value.
<<I have given five different ways - and I am sure there are many others -
whereby profits were arbitrarily increased in the 1990s. What this implies is
that in reality there was no additional extraction of surplus value. Of course
there was a transfer occurring, but there was no new paradigm - except that of
creative accounting. There was no question of profits having gone up or, if
there was, you really have to dig to establish that was the case.>>
One should be able to check if this is true using i/o tables at different
periods. Buying and selling between companies here will cancel out in the
<< It is clear that the gap between human potential and the reality of human
misery is growing, most obviously in the third world. At the same time - and
again James Galbraith makes this point - if one looks at expenditure, say, on
mobile phones and what it could have been spent on - health, say - that gap is
fantastically big. People love mobile phones, and there are millions in this
country, but the fact is that we do not really need them. It is clear that no
rational society would choose to produce mobile phones rather than the
essentials it was actually lacking.>>
What this testifies to is the high standard of living that capitalism has
produced, the majority of the population have 'essentials' and have surplus
income to spend on what are now very cheap luxuries like Mobile Phones. This is
the same old grumbling moralism that led George Orwell to moan about the
working class being corrupted by the easy availability of tinned peaches in the

<<If the current budget deficit of around four percent were, say, to be
doubled, employment would rise considerably. Any policy of raising public
expenditure to the level where the downturn could be halted would mean
strengthening the working class immeasurably. They would end the economic
crisis, only to be plunged into a completely new, working class versus
bourgeoisie, crisis. That is why they will not do it.>>
This is broadly correct, and in line with what Kalecki said 50 years ago.

> The US economic model that commands around a third of the world's
> wealth fascinates and infuriates Europeans. But both reactions reveal
> ignorance of its most essential features. The keys to its success lie
> not in industry, but in those sectors providing social amenities to
> the middle class - health care, education, housing and pensions:
> systems of provision that have little to do with the free market.  by
> James Kenneth Galbraith
> Hillel Ticktin, editor of Critique, argues that the invasion and
> occupation of Iraq is rooted in capitalism's historic decline. Those
> on the left who explain every modern war and conflict with reference
> to oil are wrong

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