From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Jan 07 2006 - 10:17:32 EST
His knighthood for services to journalism in 2004 notwithstanding, Simon Jenkins is possibly confusing Karl Marx with Adam Smith, the latter whom wrote that "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices." (The Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 10 http://geolib.com/smith.adam/won1-10.html). Smith argued that corporations had been established precisely to prevent a reduction in prices. Jenkins similarly writes, in his article referred to by Michael, for example that "If it is the case that monopolists have contrived to throttle the $200 computer, I pray that some genius will come to my aid." To my knowledge, Marx had no dictum that "capitalism is a conspiracy not by the free market but against it". Although referring to "capital", "capitalistic" and "capitalists", Marx rarely used the specific word "capitalism" anyway, the widespread use of which emerged only some time after he had published Capital Vol. 1 (though, as Raymond Williams noted, the word was in use from the early 19th century; and already in 1792, Arhur Young (1741-1820) had referred in his journal of "Travels in France" to "moneyed men, or capitalists"). In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels did however write, with a bit of splendid sarcastic rhetoric, as follows: "Bourgeois socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech. Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Prison reform: for the benefit of the working class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism. It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois -- for the benefit of the working class." Socialism was discredited in Eastern Europe, but the same fashion resurfaces in neoliberalism. These days, we might substitute "the poor" for "the working class" and "the rich" for the "the bourgeois" in Marx & Engels's statement. Until the invasion of Iraq, everybody was for peace. Now everybody is for the poor, or at any rate, the rich should be persuaded that they should treat the poor compassionately. Only capitalism can end world poverty, after all (sic.). With a bit of healthy competition. (Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm introduces also a more subtle distinction between the poor in rich countries and the really poor in poor countries, implying that the former is something inevitable and to an extent voluntary, while the latter is something oppressive we could or ought to do something about - you really cannot compare the two kinds of poverty). No doubt Jenkins is justified in rejecting stupid conspiracy theories, and recognising the progressive side of business innovations, but in this he is no different from the Marx in the Communist Manifesto. Even so, exulting competition against the encroaches of corporate monopolies is historically a very old phenomenon, which Marx sourced to the ""small man", the "petit bourgeois". What is ignored in all this is, that the new technologies require an enormous amount of co-operation between people, and that they are created *by* workers for *capital*. Capital creates nothing, people do. It is only in the fantasies of the business press that the creative power of human work is turned into the creative power of capital, so that men of wealth simultaneously appear to be the most creative (the "creative genius of Bill Gates"). The underlying idea is, that business gets people to cooperate through the cash nexus, and that there is no other way. Yet, without an enormous amount of unpaid, voluntary human co-operation, all markets would would totally disintegrate. What we need are some better books on the relation of competition and cooperation, and on how markets really function, never mind neoclassical fantasies. Jurriaan PS - long before he started advising the Tories on poverty reduction, Bob Geldof wrote this lyric: As soon as I wake up every day, I look at the papers to see what they say, I know most what I read will be a lot of lies, But then you learn really fast to read between the lines, 'Cos I know (he knows) What I read ain't true I know (he knows) And I'm telling you I know (he knows) If they say it's red, it's blue Don't believe what you read, Do you believe what you read? No, I don't believe what I read. Marx himself observed that the modern press could, in a thrice, spread more lies than had been produced in the whole of histoy hitherto. Telling the truth could be much more difficult.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Jan 09 2006 - 00:00:01 EST