Monday, May 9, 2016

The Anti-Water Charges Campaign

The AAA-PBP alliance argues that Irish water should be funded from progressive taxation with the emphasis on those earning over €100,000. Clearly  the latter sum is not, by today's standards, an enormous sum. This effectively means that the middle and working class are to fund the national water system. 

Progressive taxation is a bourgeois tax that is enforced to sustain the capitalist state. It is not a tax that exclusively hits capitalists. Progressive taxation is a cross-class tax. Consequently there is nothing radical when AAA-PBP promote this fiscal form as part of a solution to water funding. However it has the appearance of radicalism.  It is a policy designed to deceive the working class.

The AAA-PBP alliance, in effect, claim that the Irish (capitalist) state is the benefactor of the working class (if in the right hands). The inference, then, is that water maintenance serves the interests of workers when only under (capitalist) state control. But the alliance fails to point out that the state is capitalist. Consequently that state will privatise or statify water assets should it ultimately serve the interests of capitalism. Therefore the alliance's call for the continued statification of water is unjustifiable from a proletarian perspective.

Neither direct water charges nor progressive taxation are solutions to the problem of water. Both are bourgeois fiscal forms. Both hit the working class in different ways. But substantively they have the same character. Progressive taxation is a more deceptive fiscal form.

The only solution is direct ownership, control and regulation of water resources by the working class. This means the establishment of directly democratic workers councils --communism. 

The AAA-PBP  position actively seeks to contain the struggle over water within the parameters of capitalism thereby preventing the working class from becoming class conscious and taking political power into its own hands.

The Right2Water campaign, as it stands, is a cross- class alliance that serves the interests of capitalism at the expense of the working class. This is explains why there is a substantial number of deputies supporting the abolition of water charges.

The alliance argues that the justification for the abolition of water charges is the "democratic mandate" within  the Dáil (parliament) to abolish these charges. But Dáil mandates have existed since the establishment of the Irish state. These mandates have been, largely speaking, anti-working class, ones that much of the Irish Left would have refused to support. The Thatcher and Blair governments, in Britain, had parliamentary mandates. Yet much of the Left opposed these mandates. There is no obligation, morally or politically, for the working class to support "democratic" mandates. This is because bourgeois democratic mandates are not necessarily morally or politically justifiable.

The argument that the Irish  state can take surplus value from the capitalist class to solve the problems of the working class is both illogical and impossible. Surplus value deductions, by squeezing profits, undermine the capitalist econonic system. It is a programme that falsely suggests that capitalism is not obsolescent and can serve the class interests of workers. Because of its inherently class nature the state is objectively unable to serve proletarian interests.

The lack of radicalism of the Right2Water movement has now been concretely demonstrated by the political activity of the two major bourgeois political parties along with its (Indpts) satellites. By their suspension of water charges they have resolutely undermined the Right2Water campaign. With a stroke of the pen the FG/FF alliance has destroyed that movement. The latter now can no longer mobilise much of the the populace in the way that it did.  This was possible because the raison d'etre for the campaign was based  simply on the specific form of taxation, a bourgeois issue, rather than the issue of power and its nature. 

It is ironical to hear a deputy from PBP say on the RTE news that the intervention by FF/FG on the water issue constitutes a breakthrough. This is to suggest that these two political parties bear a progressive character.  The deputy's comment is a further indication of the purely bourgeois character of the anti-water charges campaign. The latter  was one enormous illusion presented as radical by the leadership of the Right2Water movement. The AAA-PBP alliance is exploiting poverty, pauperization and the exploitation of labour power to advance its power base within the decadent dynamics of capitalism. This can only obstruct any opportunities that exist for workers to emancipate themselves from the shackles of capitalism.

The water problem, the health problem and homelessness can only be solved by workers setting up a system of factory/ office committees and workers' councils. Under such directly democratic workers' forms the Irish state can be both confronted and destroyed. This is the path to the establishment of authentic com unitarianism. 

The promotion of statism by the AAA-PBP alliance is a bourgeois strategy that is hostile to proletarian interests. It is ironically a programme that the SWP and the Socialist Party were formally opposed to, in its extreme form, with respect to the extinct Soviet Union. They have now taken a 360 degree rotation -- a revolution. But not the revolution that communists advocate.

Superstitious belief in the Irish legislature and the state, itself, is generally reactionary. What may serve as a tactic has been converted into a strategy by the #AAA-PBP alliance. Bourgeois democracy is an obsolescent institutional form. It is not the way towards emancipation.

There is no royal road to class emancipation. Anti-property tax and water charges campaigns  are cross-class alliances that cannot challenge capitalism. They bear a superficial character that is incapable of challenging the existing  social system. 

It is the contradictory nature of the process of production that is at the heart of the problem. The fiscal sphere is not. It is merely concerned with how surplus value, already generated by production through exploitation, is to be distributed. Changes as to how this distribution is undertaken are not of fundamental significance. This is because the production of surplus value has already been realised. Exploitation has already been effected. 

The only way to deal with the issue of the  water system is to seize it. This means working class ownership, control and regulation of the water system. Under these conditions taxes can never be an issue. This is because they would not exist. 

The task of the working class cannot be concerned with reforming the fiscal system. Its task is the elimination of all taxation. Taxation is a capitalist  form. It  is not a form by which the class needs of the working class are met. Progressive taxation, in particular, is a bourgeois form. It is not a form by which the class needs of the working class are realised. Consequently the call by the AAA-PBP alliance for funding of water through progressive taxation is not a solution to the problem. 

Neither is borrowing by the state a solution to the water problem. This is because borrowing is undertaken at the expense of the working class. 

A social revolution is necessary if the problems of the working class are to be solved. This entails the seizure of power by the workers through the establishment of a federation of workers' councils that replaces the state. A community without a state.

Take Care
Paddy Hackett

Friday, March 4, 2016

People Before Profit Alliance

The People Before Profit Alliance seeks the total abolition of water charges. To fund the provision of clean and safe water it supports the cost of this service being imposed on the capitalist class and sections of the middle class. The logic behind the position  means that the total cost of all state spending should be, largely speaking, imposed on the capitalist class and sections of the middle class too.

Under these conditions the capitalist class would be left with no alternative but to withdraw its assets from the Irish economy. This would lead to the effective disappearance of the Irish economy. Consequently the income of the working class would collapse while unemployment would become widespread. Apocalyptic conditions would prevail.

Neither can the leadership of the right2water campaign  support any abolition of water charges made by a future capitalist government. This is because it's abolition will result in the charge being largely imposed in a veiled form on the working and lower middle class (under general taxation or whatever). Should such support be forthcoming from the right2water leadership it will  clearly expose its reactionary character. The abolition, suspension or modification of the water charges by a bourgeois government cannot be justifiably claimed to  be a victory for the leadership of the Right2Water campaign.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Irish General Election 2016

The General Election Results

The Irish General Election results are showing that there has been no radical change in Irish politics. The general election results are evidence  of the political and ideological stagnation within the working class. The evidence produced by the elections shows that the Irish working class is politically and ideologically stagnant.
Despite its disastrous record leading up to and including the world 2008 financial crisis Fianna Fáil has electorally won back  much of the working class and lower middle class.  The increase in support for Sinn Fein is merely support for another bourgeois party by the working class and other social strata. It is ironical that the Socialist Party has been describing the Sinn Fein party as an “anti-establishment” party. There is nothing “anti-establishment” about Sinn Fein. Indeed it has been going out of its way to demonstrate how pro-establishment it is. Increased support for the mix bag of Independents is largely support for other bourgeois political elements.

 The modest support for the Left is of no real significance. Indeed much of this Left has been becoming increasingly more moderate. Much of their political interventions are little or no different from that of much of the Labour Party of  yore. As it sniffs the power it will move further to the right. This Left is largely opportunist and will cut its cloth to increase its popularity.

Given this, overall, there has been no significant shift to the Left. The politics and ideology of the Irish working class is as it was in the days before the 2008 financial crisis. Essentially taking place is a reconfiguration or recalibration  of bourgeois politics in Ireland to meet the present class needs of the bourgeoisie. The effect of this  is to block off the working class from becoming more politicised thereby posing an increasing challenge to the existing system.

Any modest gains made by the Left, given its opportunism, will further encourage it to focus on electoralism to the detriment of more radical activism. Emerging from the new political situation will be a tendency by this Left to fetishise electoralism. There is now a strong possibility of the Left joining together to form a new party. Such a new party may even unite with relatively  “radical” elements within the existing Labour Party.  Such a party will descend into a crass opportunism  in the style of the present Labour  party. This will bring us back to where we started.

Ultimately the source of the problem is the existing character of the working class movement. It is a stubbornly politically stagnant working class. It is a class scurrying about since the 2008 world financial crisis seeking out diverse political elements that it mistakenly thinks will prevent it from loosing “ its benefits” of one sort or another. Consequently it will go to bed with any political element that, it believes, can protect its  “welfare”  –even with former terrorists. It lacks a class morality. It fails to understand that under capitalism the coalition government was compelled to cut back on the living standards of the working class and the lower middle class. The only other solution is a communist revolution. Despite their claims neither Sinn Fein nor the Left can solve the problems of the working class from within capitalism.

 The southern Irish working class has not shifted in a leftward direction. Instead it is still essentially politically and ideologically stagnant. It was the world financial crisis that generated the shake up in Irish politics –not the working class nor parties such as Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party nor the SWP. Indeed it was the crisis that rendered them more popular. This is the power of capitalism. Needed, more than ever, is a principled communist movement.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Did Steve Keen Get It Right?

Review of Steve Keen

Steve Keen, the author of Debunking Economics, argues that  economic crises are caused by excessive private debt. He claims that the financial sector plays a key role in creating this debt. The banks, he argues, are not simple intermediaries between lender and borrow. When they lend they increase debt and thereby credit and money. He claims that austerity imposed by the state is not the solution. For him the latter intensifies the problem. For Keen when private debt is contracting cutting back on public debt through austerity simply magnifies the problem. On this basis, if anything, the state needs to expand its intervention under such conditions. Keen fails to understand that the problem is due to lack of total profitability or surplus value. It is then a problem located in the process that generates surplus value (profit). The problem is not created in the circulation process. Consequently the problem is not due to the diminution of private borrowing. The latter is merely a symptom of the problem. Hence Increased state borrowing cannot solve the problem. Indeed increased state borrowing merely sustains weak private capitalists in business. This prevents the crisis from forcing out weak capital as a means towards restoring profitability. Keen never informs us as to what, itself, is the cause of debt. This is because capital is the source of debt and thereby its regulator –the law of value.  The financial system, including the banks, is thereby the product of value relations. Keen fails to view social categories historically.

Keen, instead, falsely bases the existence of the crisis free stage of the economic cycle on subjective factors: psychology and memory. He makes the false assumption that memory of the previous debt ridden crisis makes investors and others risk adverse. This is hardly a justifiable assumption as a basis for offering an understanding of the economic cycle. It makes the false assumption that subjective factors standing outside the economic cycle are the cause that leads to crises. It also, in a sense, implies that the fading of memory explains the shift away from being risk adverse leading to the burgeoning of debt. Consequently the cycle of remembering and forgetting is the basis for the debt and economic cycles. Now psychology is the ultimate basis for economic behaviour. This is no better a basis than the utilitarianism, that Keen criticises, as the basis of neo-classical economics. Keen is forced to promote a fictitious account of the existence of economic recovery because of his repudiation of the process of capitalist production as the core location of crises. Because he has rejected a materialist account of the capitalist economy based in the production process he must resort to idealistic assumptions. But these are no more than mere myths.

The problem with Keen is that he views the problem in reverse. By privileging debt as opposed to production he reverses the problem thereby taking surface appearances as the source of the problem. For him result is cause. But the  problem is not excessive debt but the opposite: over-investment of capital  with respect to the degree of exploitation obtaining. It is this that is responsible for excessive debt. Capital is over-produced in relation to profitability.

 In contrast for  Keen over-accumulation of capital is driven and facilitated by excessive accumulation of debt. Credit not production is cause. He fails to understand the opposite to be the case. The over-accumulation of debt is a product of the over-accumulation of capital.  Because there is an ultimate limit to the overproduction of capital there is a limit to the scale of possible debt. As capital accelerates to such a degree that it turns into over-accumulation credit consequently contracts. It is over-accumulation that causes both excessive debt and the consequent credit contraction. Under these circumstances the ratio of debt to GDP spirals out of control. But this ratio is merely an index that over-production of capital has occurred.

The contraction of credit manifests itself on financial markets through the emergence of wild speculation. Eventually there is a credit crunch. Credit thereby becomes less available to make investments and to meet debt obligations. This is a chain like reaction.

The state steps in to compensate for private credit contraction through what is known today as quantitative easing. This prevents the contraction from sufficiently deepening to make a robust recovery a reality. Consequently the conditions for a real  recovery never assert themselves. This then leads to  further problems. To realise real recovery the crisis needs to deepen sufficiently to restore profitability. This is because the general rate of profit is the source of the problem –not debt. This means that many weaker capitalists are eliminated. It also entails the pauperisation of much of the working class. It is the restoration of profitability through the destruction and devaluation of capital that creates the conditions for recovery. But under certain very adverse conditions war may be a necessary condition too. This was the case in the period leading up to the Second World War. And the Great Depression, then, was obviously not caused by excessive debt accumulation.  Under these conditions the fall in the general rate of profit is arrested and restored to a higher rate.

However this does not provide  a permanent solution to the capitalist economic crisis. The contradictions ultimately reassert themselves. Ultimately the only solution is the elimination of the existence of social relations in the form of value relations. This is achieved through the realisation of communism by social revolution.

Keen maintains that the problem is caused by the excessively high ratio of debt to GDP. Debt here is a multiple of the GDP. This, he claims, becomes increasingly unsustainable eventually leading to a steep fall in asset prices. Under these circumstances Ponzi finance is the first to collapse. This initiates a domino effect that runs right through the financial system. For Keen modern capitalism is powered by debt. The debt cycle drives the economic cycle.

The possibility of the existence of credit relations originates in money’s function as means of payment. The possibility of credit is a product of the inner nature of the capitalist mode of production itself.  The limits of the valorisation of capital determines the limits of credit and debt. Not the reverse as Keen holds. The more profitable capital is, the more credit becomes available. The quantity of capital and the scale of its valorisation dictate the degree to which  credit and debt can expand. Capital constrains credit expansion. Otherwise it's expansion would proceed ad infinitum. Then growth would prove an endless process. But the more disproportionate the volume of credit in relation to industrial capital the greater the intensity of the contradictions that manifest themselves. The rate of credit expansion is forced to contract. Credit turns into its opposite. This contraction entails a fall in demand and a corresponding contraction of the economy. Excessive accumulated debt is the appearance of the crisis not its cause.

The  underlying cause is the inadequate valorisation of capital. It's inadequate expansion. Credit expansion and debt is capital’s attempt to overcome its immanent limits or barriers. Because it cannot overcome its limits a crisis is generated. The crisis is the solution to the problem. But it is merely a provisional solution. Revolution is the authentic solution.

The state engages in an austerity programme of cuts in state spending. This adds to the painful nature of the crisis. It entails further hardships both for elements within the capitalist class, itself, and the working class. The state fears the deepening of the crisis for political reasons. Consequently instead of the crisis deepening itself to the degree necessary for a full recovery the state steps in to try to moderate the crisis. But this intervention fails to solve the problems of capitalism. It merely distorts the form by which the laws of capitalism manifest themselves.

The reproduction process of capital consists of the production process and the circulation process. It is a contradictory unity. The circulation process involves circulation time. It is a necessary form of the expanded reproduction of capital. In contrast to the production process it cannot produce value. It forms a barrier to the production process. Circulation is a contradiction. It both facilitates and hinders the valorisation process. Circulation time is always a barrier to the creation and realisation of value. Consequently the necessary tendency of capital is not only to shorten circulation time but  to reduce it to nothing wherever possible i.e. to  bring about circulation without circulation time.
Capital endeavours to overcome this barrier through credit. Valorised capital finds its realisation in capital’s circulation process.

Credit emerges from the reproduction process to overcome this barrier. In other words the capitalist  secures credit to facilitate the fluent continuity of the circulation of capital. The banks are an institutional form by which this is achieved. However money capital cannot directly valorise itself. It is only capital (self expanding value) in the form of the process of production that achieves this. It is therefore imperative that money capital  functions within the circulation of capital as soon as and as little as possible. In this way the scale of valorisation is maximised. But there is no guarantee that this is always achieved. This is because of the separation of sale and purchase –the source of the possibility of crises.

Capital can only create surplus value within the production process. Each phase of production must be followed by a phase of circulation which continually  interrupts the continuity of production. Thus the conditions of production arising out of the nature of  capital contradict each other. The contradiction is superseded and overcome in only two ways: by the division of capital and through credit.

Circulation time is a barrier to the creation and realisation of value. Consequently the necessary tendency of capital is not only to shorten circulation time but to reduce it  to nothing wherever possible i.e. to bring about circulation without circulation time.

 In this context the function of money is bound up with unproductive expenditure. Insofar as money is value it is a cost of circulation to capitalist production. Money in the form of capital, money capital, cannot produce value. Hence capital strives to economise on money positing it as a merely formal moment.

The entire credit system together with the over-trading and over-speculation connected with it rests on the necessity of valorisation expanding and leaping over the barrier of circulation and the sphere of exchange. Credit is an inherent form of the capitalist mode of production. However it cannot create surplus value. It is confined to the non-valorising circulation process.  Credit helps to keep the acts of buying and selling further apart in time and thereby forms the basis for speculation. It  arises out of the difficulty of employing capital profitably. Credit and debt exists within the framework of the drive for valorisation. Overproduction and the credit system are means by which capital  seeks to break through its own barriers and to produce over and above its own limits.

As capital expands it causes credit and debt to grow. In the absence of such credit  the economy would not grow. Its rate of expansion cannot be  subjectively regulated. This is why the state’s relentless attempts to manage money never eliminate crisis, stagnation and even war. The drive to valorise capital cannot exist in the absence of credit and thereby debt. This is why valorisation historically creates credit and debt.

Credit is derived from the existence of money in the form of  means of payment. But the production process creates money and money capital. The circulation time is shortened by credit thereby rendering the valorisation of capital increasingly  independent of the circulation process. The greater this independence the greater the disconnection between the production process and the real market. The real market becomes increasingly independent from the  valorisation needs of the production process itself. It is this independence that provides the condition for the emergence of Ponzi finance. Consequently there are increasingly less constraints on the degree to which production grows. Production becomes increasingly production for production’s sake. But this state of affairs cannot be indefinitely sustained. Capital cannot transcend its immanent limits.

 Credit becomes increasingly speculative acquiring a Ponzi character. As  Keen puts it the ratio of debt to GDP spirals out of control. This is just another way of saying that capital fails to valorise on a scale sufficient to justify the volume and rate of debt  expansion. In other words the production of surplus value fails to grow at a volume or rate commensurate with the volume of debt. This means that the base (let us say the GDP) on which this massive volume of debt rests is too small to sustain it. Eventually this debt becomes increasingly chimerical and thereby, in a sense,  increasingly meaningless. This is because it is ultimately disconnected from its source –the production process.  The credit system collapses and production consequently contracts. Investment slows down even coming to a virtual halt. Keen by suggesting that austerity intensifies the problem does not understand the unproductive nature of much of state spending.  As unproductive it is a form of expenditure that contributes nothing to the creation of surplus value and thereby growth. In fact it largely constitutes a deduction from total profit.

For Keen it is not a  question of diminishing profitability being the central problem.  It is debt becoming increasingly excessive and assuming a Ponzi character. Ponzi finance becomes unsustainable because of falling asset prices. But it is not falling asset prices that is the cause of the problem. It is the growing difficulties with valorisation. In this way Keen fetishises debt positing its cycle as the driver of valorisation.

Crisis is the forcible establishment of unity between elements that have become independent. Although it appears in the process of circulation the crisis is an interruption in the process of reproduction as a whole.

Keen essentially shares the same conception as neo-classical economics, Austrian economics and the various forms of Keynesian economics. None of them see the contradiction in the capitalist mode of production as the source of the problem. Instead they see the product of capitalism, credit and debt etc, as the cause of capitalism. They see circulation as the problem. This is why they believe that it can be  seriously modified or changed by the state in one way or another such as budget deficits, quantitative easing etc. But ultimately the laws of capitalism cannot be managed. Ultimately they must manifest themselves even if in a distorted way. Capitalism, not debt, is the problem. It must be abolished and replaced by communism.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Bentham confined his discussion to the current society under which he lived. He never advanced the need for the replacement that system with communism. He did not base his ethics on the need for revolution. Revolution involves the existence of actors in the form of collective forces (classes). They are not grounded in players in the form of individuals. His ethics was reductionist and not holistic. A worker or a capitalist implies class. It is class that determines the nature of the individual. These are social not individual forms. Consequently to privilege the individual is to abstract from class. It is a Robinsonian view. It is social forms that determine the role of the individual --not the reverse. The transformation of social forms changes the character of the individual --not the reverse. The specific social relations of production are the drivers --not the individual. Benthamism, on the other hand, offers the individual as the driver which is why society is presented as constituted from the sum of individuals.

Should workers realise communism through social revolution they realise this project not as individuals but as workers --in the form of the working class --a social form. Nor is class consciousness the sum of the individual consciousnesses of workers. The latter is a contradiction. Class consciousness is exclusively a form of social (public) consciousness. The basic historical forms are class forms and social relations. Individuals cannot exist outside the social relations that connect them together. Individuals cannot exist independently of social relations or social forms. Bentham believed that individuals exist independently of social forms.

Under capitalism social relations of production are reified. It is this reification that imposes inherent limits on the working class. In other words the relations between producers, in the form of workers, assumes the form of relations between things. It is this reification that must be abolished if workers are to be emancipated.

Under reification it is not possible for workers to achieve "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." The latter is an ethical illusion presented by the ideology of utilitarianism. The latter misrepresents the character of capitalism. It suggests that capitalism is a natural, thereby eternal, system. Much of the radical Left misleadingly prescribe the greatest happiness principle under capitalism. They fail to acknowledge the limits of capitalism. This the ethical basis for its claim that the interest of the working class is achievable under capitalism.

Much of the radical Left is imprisoned by the Enlightenment tradition. In other words it has not transcended the limits of the Great French Revolution. This is partly because the programme of The Great French Revolution has not been realised by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie were so threatened by the modern working class that it feared it's own Enlightenment programme.

Much of the radical left seeks to complete the programme of the Enlightenment programme. It fails to comprehend that this programme is no longer realisable under capitalism. It is now an unrealisable Utopian programme -- an idealistic programme. Only under communism can the needs of the working class be met.

Utilitarianism, because of its individualist reductionism, precludes the necessity for social revolution. It is inherently anti-revolution. Since its slogan of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" is based on the individual utilitarianism precludes the role of social forms. Without social forms (as opposed to the individual) as driver revolution is impossible. Social revolution necessarily implies social forms as actors.

Clearly utilitarianism is an ideology that distorts the character of society thereby misrepresenting the way forward. It is a consequentialist ethics that denies the working class its historic role.

Utilitarianism And The Radical Left

In general the Left in Ireland is utilitarian in their moral and political philosophy. It is forever making demands for this and that. Generally its demands are not concerned with the need for the emancipation of the working class together with the need to eliminate alienation. This is because it does not seek the elimination of capitalism. Instead it seeks the Utilitarian increase in pleasure and reduction in pain. The greater happiness principle of Jeremy Bentham. The latter believed that “the greater happiness of the greatest number” was achievable within capitalism. This is essentially the position of much of the radical Left. This Left is not even reformist. Reformists claim that it is possible to incrementally turn capitalism into socialism by means of reforms. This Left’s call for socialism is at most aspirational. It does not dialectically tie it in with its Utilitarian Action Programmes. It's political philosophy is a vulgar version of Utilitarianism. It is not even aware of the Utilitarian moral assumptions underlying its political outlook.

Utilitarianism is a reductionist moral philosophy. For it the unit of society is the individual. Consequently it ignores class division and advocates cross class policies as does much of the Irish Left. It's active leadership of the anti-property tax and anti-water rates campaigns are an example of this. It's support for electoralism is another. The latter means the support of the atomisation of the working class though elections under representative democracy. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sinn Fein Is A Failure Appearing As A Success.

The current Sinn Fein leadership has failed in its principal long standing aim of achieving a 32 county Irish republic. This is because achievement of national self-determination of the Irish people is impossible under capitalism. It supported the IRA's capitulation to the forces of British imperialism. Sinn Fein has returned to the position taken many years ago by what is today called the Workers Party. It has also effectively accepted the same deal, the Good Friday Agreement, as was accepted by the SDLP many years ago in the form of the Sunningdale Agreement.

Following this surrender its popular and electoral strength has ironically grown enormously over the years. Accordingly the electoral success of Sinn Fein, North and South of the border, has been on the basis of defeat, failure and surrender. In a sense failure appears as success to much of the Irish working class.

Ironically the Irish citizenry are apparently fooled by this political charade. It rewards failure and surrender at the ballot box. Logically, if anything, Sinn Fein should have suffered wipe-out at the ballot box. Ironically the SDLP was the successful party in the North since it was essentially its programme that SF submitted to with its acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement. Yet the SDLP suffered electoral slaughter at the hustings in the North.

The Irish citizenry suffers from a (schizoid) contradiction. There is an absence of logic in their political consciousness. Its morality is venal. Sinn Fein, within the context of the Irish republic, make many promises. Promises that they cannot support given that it supports capitalism as a social system. Its programme is unrealisable under capitalism. Given its abject and opportunist abandonment of the national struggle their is no guarantee that it will not blithely abandon its current programme too when its political circumstances change. Yet the public apear to learn nothing. The Official Republican camp did the same. By abandoning its original aim -- the achievement of a 32 Irish Republic- its popular support increased eventually giving it seats in the Dail. DeValera and his comrades did the same. This led to their growing popularity and electoral successs culminating in its forming the first Fianna Fail government. In Ireland failure and abandonment of politial principles spells success.

Clearly this is a serious problem that reflects the current character of the modern working class in Ireland. Its an indication of the venal nature of the Irish working class. It has no interest in principled politics. It is merely concerned with supporting elements within society that it believes will "protect", even appear to increase its economic benefits. It has the hallmarks of what Lenin and elements within the German radical Left in the first quarter of the 20th century termed "the labour aristocracy". The real poor in Irish society are a marginal group that is largely ignored. The Irish electorate within the state south of the border is merely concerned with maintaining its living standards even if that means voting for a party that supported bombings and killings for a cause that it later abandoned. Its principle is its pocket. The venal Irish working class is not concerned with eliminating the systemic exploitation of labour power once it has money in its pocket. It does not care as to the blood stained nature of any bourgeois party once it believes it will protect its holidays abroad. It is a working class infected by the acquisitiveness of capitalist morality. In the Marcusean sense it is a bourgeois working class.

A radically fundamental change ( a paradigm shift) in the culture of the working class is necessary if it is to become a revolutionary force. As a revolutionary force it must adhere to principled libetarian politics. Effecting such a coomprehensive transformation is a long and arduous process. It will not necessarily occur in the short term and it has to be realised by the class itself. There cannot be any substitutionism.

The anti-water charges campaign has little or nothing to do with class politics. This populist campaign has not become a force because the working class is moving to the Left. It is simply an opportunist campaign that simply wants a return to the status quo ante. It is a venal response to growing hardship caused by the austerity measures imposed by the state. It is not anti-statist nor anti-capitalist campaign. The diverse elements that constitute it merely want a return to previous living standards. They are not engaged in challenging the class nature of Irish society and the need for its replacement with communism.

Consequently parties such as the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party are merely accommodating this opportunism by their involvement in the anti-water charges campaign. Indeed the Irish working class have shown its first signs of vitality over the water charges issue. Yet this mass mobilisation is being mounted at a time when the Irish capitalist class have recovered from the shock and collapse in confidence suffered by it in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007/8. This earlier period would have been a politically more correct period for mass mobilisation. But again the reactionary Irish working class get it wrong. Questions need to be raised concerning the nature of the Irish working class. Romanticising the working class as undertaken by the radical left merely holds back any chances of authentic political development. It is almost a taboo among this Left to make any serious criticisms of this working class. Left communists are not obliged to pander to a working class that has been backward for so long.

In order to stand a chance of assisting in the revolutionising of the consciousness of the working class it is necessary that communists struggle to raise the consciousness of the most class conscious elements within the working class. Its aim is the raising of class consciousness as opposed to appealing to the less politically conscious strata within the working class by coming down to its level through the medium of the anti-water charges campaign.

The Yes Vote Is Not A Victory For The Workers

The outcome of the same sex referendum in the Irish Republic shows a clear majority in favour of it.

Many people see this outcome as a manifestation of progress. However this is far from the case. The popular vote in favour of same sex marriage merely means that the electorate support the widening of the institution of marriage in Ireland. But the issue is that marriage is an oppressive institution that sustains the nuclear family. Marriage today is predominantly an institution of the state and the Christian churches.In the course of human history the family has assumed different forms. The present prevailing family form in the West is a bourgeois form that plays a key role in inculcating bourgeois morality and ideology into the working class.

Much of the radical Left and the gay rights movement by calling for a yes vote were promoting nothing but the fortification of the bourgeois marriage institution at a time when the working class have been increasingly shifting away from it. Instead of calling for a yes vote the call for the abolition of marriage should have been the demand. The very ironical fact that many of those that promoted and voted a yes vote are members of the Catholic Church illustrates the bourgeois nature of the yes campaign. Furthermore the fact that the major parliamentary parties actively supported a yes vote is more evidence of the bourgeois basis of the campaign.

Syriza Cannot Solve The Problems Of The Greek Working Class

The referendum is a decision made by the Syriza government because it has run out of road. Syriza lacking strategic vision is entrapped in a political cul de sac. Its politics have reached their limits. After approximately five months of negotiating with the EU leadership the abject result is capitulation to austerity. The recent draft deal would have meant the acceptance of even more austerity. Accepting such a deal would have split Syriza and alienated much of its popular support. Rather than face this it fell back on the referendum tactic. But this forthcoming referendum can only add to the confusion and further demoralisation of the Greek working class. This is because the referendum is ambiguous. It is not clear as to what it is about. It is not clear as to whether it concerns a vote for or against the Euro and even EU membership. The brevity of the campaign and the surrounding financial conditions entailing bank holidays, capital controls and cash withdrawal restrictions may not help debate. The referendum, as it stands, is a manifestation of the political bankruptcy of Syriza.

Should the public vote yes in this forthcoming referendum it will mean the transfer of political power back to the previous conservative Greek forces. In that way Syriza will have, in effect, surrendered power to these conservative forces thereby missing a golden opportunity to actively participate in the radicalisation of the Greek and European masses towards the seizure of popular power and the establishment of communism. But Syriza's very nature prevented it from such an achievement. Its function is the disarming of the Greek working class.

The Greek crisis is an acute and concrete manifestation of the limits of capitalism. The Greek crisis can only be resolved on a European and global basis through the popular democratic establishment of communist society. It is not a choice between being in or outside of the Euro. Both choices are capitalist I character entailing austerity. Anti-austerity is only realizable through a popular based social revolution that transcends the limits and contradictions of capitalism.

The various programmes advanced by much of the radical left are lodged within the limits of capitalism. But it is these very limits that the Greek financial crisis is manifesting. Leftists proposing the limits of capitalism to solve those very limits is a contradiction.

The principal problem, then, is not the bourgeoisie. The principal problem is the failure of the working class to recognise through its experience the Greek situation as a manifestion of the limits of capitalism. This is not, as such, an objective problem but a subjective one. It is a problem of the consciousness of the Greek and European working class --class consciousness. Capitalism in the form of the Greek crisis is telling the working class that it, capitalism, has limits and thereby cannot satisfy the needs of the workers. Yet the working class resist this thereby persisting in the maintenance of the deluded image of a capitalism that can overcome its own limits.

No Anti-Austerity Campaign Can Be Successful Under Capitalism

The Greek working class have no option but the promotion of European communist insurrection to abolish the EU and the capitalism that it supports. The Greek working class cannot achieve communist on a national basis. A revolution confined to Greece would be strangled at the hands of European and US capitalism. Greek society is too weak to successfully transform itself on a nationalist basis. Communism in one country is an impossibility.

Staying in or out of the Euro is not an option for the Greek working class since both options will involve austerity for it. Only communism precludes austerity. Syriza's anti-austerity platform is based on the false view that an austerity free membership of the capitalist Eurozone is possible for the Greek working class. Events are verifying the pro-austerity nature of Syriza. Even if Syriza was to take the working class out of the Euro austerity will still face it.

Consequently the entire debate as to whether Greece should stay within the Euro or not is a bourgeois debate of no real relevance to the working class. It is an option presenting itself within the limits of capital. Indeed present conditions concerning Greece are acutely manifesting capital's limits and the need to transcend them in the form of communism. Much of the Left, such as the Irish Socialist Party, show solidarity with Syriza in its pseudo anti-austerity campaign. In this way it is promoting capitalism and deceiving workers. Of course in Ireland the active politics of the Socialist Party suggest that anti-austerity is possible under Irish capitalism.

State Budgets Never Serve The Class Interests Of Workers

The annual budget statement is a bourgeois matter. It is the obligation of communists to highlight the latter rather than getting exclusively immersed in its details. No matter how popularly appealing a budget appears it can never serve the class interests of workers. Sections of the Left relate to state budgets as if they are pliable and can consequently meet workers' needs. In this way they seek to delude the working class and thereby promote capitalism. The state budget cannot, by its very nature, transcend the limits of capitalism. No government can transcend these limits through the medium of the budget.

It is not a subjective matter. It is an objective matter determined by the laws of capital. Conservative bourgeois governments do not introduce annual budgets that fail to meet the needs of the working class because of their immoral nature. Capitalist constraints prevent this just as the law of gravity and the second law of thermodynamics impose objective constraints on the physical world. The nature of budgets is not a moral question.

Consequently arguments made by the radical Left as to how adverse the substance of a particular budget is amounts to no more than mere political rhetoric designed to obstruct the development of class consciousness. Such delusional rhetoric is designed to suggest that capitalism is a progressively rational system capable of serving working class needs. It falsely suggests too that bourgeois governments fail to meet the needs of workers for morally subjective reasons. This assumes that such governments consist of "bad people".

In the light of the foregoing it is clear that it is not the obligation of communists to evaluate budget details in themselves. To do so is to base a budget on the false assumption that it can serve the interests of workers. At most the content of a budget must be discussed as evidence of the inherent inability of budgets to meet the needs of workers.

Having said this I am not claiming that all budgets, although bourgeois, are of equal value. Some budgets may more adequately serve the class interests of capitalists than others. Analogously some bourgeois governments are better than others at representing the interests of capitalism. Bourgeois governments can vary in competence.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Election Candidates and Sinn Fein

Capitalism cannot solve the problems of the working class.This why a social revolution is historically necessary.The working class must achieve communist revolution.No amount of tinkering with the system can convert it into a system that satisfies the class interests of the working class. Reformism can never serve the class interests of the working class.Consequently the realisation of radical demands to the benefit the working class is impossible under capitalism. The claim that a programme of such demands is realisable under capitalism is a utopian claim. It constitutes an idealisation of capitalism and thereby its defence. It,therefore, promotes the sowing or reinforcing of illusions in capitalism. If such a programme is realisable then the struggle for communism is unnecessary.

The reason the recent austerity offensive against the working class has been mounted in Ireland and elsewhere by the capitalist class is because capitalism cannot meet the class needs of the modern worker. The recent global recession was an objective, not a subjective, event.

This means that it was not caused by capitalist greed, a nasty government or any other such subjective factor. It was due to the objective characteristics of the capitalist economic system that it broke out. This being so it follows that capitalism as an inherently obsolescent system must be replaced by a new objective system --communism. It is only by this dramatic revolutionary transformation of objectivity that the needs of the masses can be met. The only way that the inevitable problems manifested by the recession can be solved within capitalism (provisionally) is by an attack on the working class through strategies involving austerity. Radical demands advanced by the radical left, if realisable, would only deepen recessionary conditions thereby rendering working
class conditions even more severe. In that sense these radical demands, instead of benefiting the working class,would tend to worsen for the latter. This is because, as I have been arguing, capitalism cannot solve the problems of the working class.

Whats more the solutions to the problems of the working class cannot be solved within a nationalist framework.The solution,social revolution,is only achievable on a global basis beginning in the most advanced capitalist countries such as the U.S. Given this there can be no social revolution on the island of Ireland independently of Western Europe.

Even if the working class achieved concessions prior to the
global recession, that broke out in 2007/8, they would have contributed to the emergence of the economic and financial upheaval itself. This, as I have been arguing,is because capitalism cannot solve the problems of the working class.

In view of this the rhetoric by  Sinn Fein, the Anti Austerity Alliance and the People Before Profit Alliance featuring on  RTE's Prime Time programme amounts to nothing but illusion. Their election candidates showed no understanding of the need for revolution. Their rhetoric suggested that capitalism can be managed or reformed to the benefit of the working class by effectively taxing the rich and not the working class. Indeed the entire show confined itself to suggestions as to how to reform capitalism in one way or another. In that way the participants sought to effectively defend the capitalist system. Essentially all contributors were essentially advocating bourgeois politics. If the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers  Party are genuinely revolutionary they would have challenged RTE and its other contributors by advocating the need for revolution.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vincent Browne and The People's Debate

I watched with interest the programme called The People's Debate on TV3 chaired by Vincent Browne on Wednesday night October 1st.

Not surprisingly each of the contributors, with one exception, based their comments on the assumption that all solutions to the problems of the Irish working class are solvable within the framework of capitalism.They do not see capitalism as the cause of the problems experienced by the Irish working class. They do not see that the only solution to the problems of the working class is social revolution involving the replacement of capitalist society with communist society.

Many, if not most, of the contributors, were advocating the reforming of capitalism in one way or another. They failed to make clear that the problem is not the way capitalism is structured but capitalism itself. It is an obsolescent system that cannot meet the needs of the working class.

People from the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profits featured prominently on the show in suggesting capitalist solutions to working class problems. They want to save capitalism from itself. Both these organisations are fronts for The Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party respectively.Yet as radical socialist, even Marxist, parties, they support capitaltism while pretending to be against it.

Parties such as the SP, SWP and Sinn Fein are essentially no different from each other nor from Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fail. They are all bourgeois nationalist parties competing for power within the capitalist system. Reformism is still alive and well and embedded within the Irish working class movement.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Call For Nationalisation Is A Bourgeois Demand

State expenditure is largely unproductive expenditure. It thereby does not produce value. This means it constitutes a deduction as opposed to an increment in total surplus value. This involves a corresponding fall in the rate of accumulation of capital. The latter tends to ultimately manifest itself in the form of a fall off in industrial growth.

As valorisation becomes increasingly difficult capitalism is compelled to reduce state expenditure. To counteract this it engages in increasing privitisation of its assets --denationalisation. It becomes increasingly impossible, then, for the state to extend nationalisation. The government does not privatise its state assets because it enjoys hurting the working class. Because of the specific nature of the objective conditions it is forced to privatise.

Under these circumstances calls for nationalisation and increased state spending are utopian and idealistic.These calls fail to correspond with objective reality. These calls then amount to no more than the deception and misleadership of the working class. By reinforcing illusions in the working class concerning capitalism reformism obstructs the working class from moving towards a realistic programme of communist revolution.

Because of monopoly capitalism's growing limits it must seek to minimise the state. On the other hand with a few exceptions it needs to eliminate or cut welfarism and related spending. To achieve this it may even need to abolish the formal democracy obtaining in the West.

However savage cut-backs by the state can only lead to sharpened class struggle. Under these conditions the emergence of class consciousness may make itself felt among the working class leading to the birth of a communist movement. Under these circumstances reformism will grow less plausible and influential within the working class. In view of this it is reactionary for reformism to make calls for nationalisation and increased spending by the state.

Despite the 2008 financial crash there has been no visible shift by the working class to a class conscious political paradigm. The working class is still dominated by reformism in one form or another. Even the Greek working class, despite its militancy, is still imprisoned within reformist ideology. The working class of the world still supports the capitalist system in one form or another.

Privatisation programmes undertaken by capitalist states must be combatted by the working class fighting for the control and ownership of these state assets. This revolutionary seizure of state assets is only possible within the context of a sustained attack on the capitalist state itself. This entails a class struggle for the abolition of the state and the capitalist system. The seizure of state assets such as health care services is only possible within the framework of a revolutionary struggle to destroy the capitalist state. The proletarian seizure of health care will bear a popular democratic character. Health will no longer be based on profit nor on a political strategy designed to serve the class interests of capitalism.

Health care is simultaneously a necessary reproduction and repair of labour power.Much of nationalised health care forms part of the value of labour power. But much of it is unproductive too. This means it is a drain on surplus value. In that sense it directly contributes to the fall in the general rate of profit together with a corresponding decline in the economy.

Much of health care, whether private or public, serves to maintain the value of labour power by ensuring that the latter is preserved in a healthy condition. The health of the working class serves the interests of capital. This is because the health of the working class is of concern to the capitalist class with regard to the valorisation process. An unhealthy working class is not going to be as available for exploitation in the prodiction process.

Nationalisation was introduced as a strategy designed to help pacify the working class in the interests of capitalist stability. It was also designed to support the economy. But nationalisation has contributed to falling profitability which has interfered with the rate of capital accumulation. Because of this capitalism seeks to increasingly privatise health care especially in a period, such as this, when the profitability of capital is a growing problem.

Calls for the continuation and extension of health care nationalisation are bourgeois demands. Instead the call must be for the ownership and control of health care by the working class. This can only be achieved by the abolition of the state and its capitalist basis. Under these conditions the criterion of profitability no longer exists.

A part of the health service maintains the health of the active working class. Consequently it maintains and even increases the value of labour power which leads to a reduction in profit. Although the above is true it tends to be counteracted by health care maintaining and even improving the condition of labour power thereby maintaining and even increasing its capacity to provide labour within the production process. In that sense it cannot be simply regarded as unproductive activity. However the part of the health service that does not maintain and increase the present and future value of the working class is unproductive. This constitutes a direct deduction from surplus value and thereby contributes to the decline in economic growth. Clearly state health care, overall, tends to adversely affect the growth rate.

The nationalised section of health care is funded by the state effectively through taxation which is a revenue drawn from value. This is a deduction both from surplus value and the value accruing to the working class. It represents a transfer of value away from the consumption of the active working class and the accumulation of capital.

Education plays a similar role to health within capitalism. A part of it involves the training of labour power in the interests of the capitalist reproduction process. This heightens the value of labour power while improving the capacity of the worker to provide labour. The result is upskilling of labour power. Overall this aspect of education may more or less prove to neutral in ughrelation to capital accumulation. Research contributes to increasing the productivity of labour by promoting technological progress. However the residual part constitutes a deduction from surplus value without any change in the value of labour power. Much of this aspect of education is ideological. It is designed to maintain and even increase citizen support for the capitalist system through false consciousness. This feature of education obviously contributes to the contraction of growth.

The armed forces, the police and much of the state bureaucracy constitute significant deductions from surplus value. They constitute an unproductive expenditure. Thereby they lead to a fall in the rate of profit which further constrains the expansion of capital. This is why governments seek to reduce the cost of these state features.

State expenditure, as a whole, constitutes an enormous deduction from total surplus value. This largely unproductive spending involves an enormous contraction in the accumulation of capital. It is a deduction that has been growing significantly in the aftermath of the 2nd World War. In the present period of growing problems, regarding the accumulation of capital, there have been continuing feeble attempts to shrink the state or at least reduce the annual rate of state spending.

The contradiction is that burgeoning state spending was undertaken to compensate for the inherent limits of capital entailing mass unemployment and many other problems.Yet this spending paradoxically leads in turn to the reinforcement of these limits. Indeed much of the entire state constitutes a deduction from total surplus value because it constitutes unproductive expenditure. This is why there have been attempts, not very successfully, to shrink the size of the modern state. In this way capitalism is its own grave digger.

Capitalism, because of its growing limits, is decreasingly able to fund welfare and other expenditure. Capitalism is unable to meet the demands being made by left reformists such as the SP/SWP and other political organisations. Consequently reformism deceives and misleads the working class by suggesting that capitalism is manageable in such a way as to solve the problems of the working class.

If capitalism can solve the problems of the working class then it is superfluous and misleading for communists to call for social revolution.

Why Reform the Gardai in Ireland?

The whistle blower controversy concerning the Gardai is a non-issue concerning the class interests of the working class.

The gardai, as a security force, forms an essential arm of the Irish capitalist state. Consequently its function is to serve the class interests of the capitalist class --not the working class. Therefore calls for the improvement of this security force by "leftists" suggests that the Gardai in some way represents the class interests of the working class or is an apparatus of a state that stands independent of the capitalist class.

The Gardai can never serve the interests of the working class despite the degree to which it is reformed. Any reforms undertaken are, at most, made to deceive workers into believing that the Irish state exists to serve the interests of the wage worker.

The more a police force appears to serve the class interests of the working class the more successful it may be in fooling the working class.

All this stuff about misconduct within the Gardai has no real relevance for workers. At most its so called misconduct merely exposes the bourgeois nature of the force. Parliamentarians like Clare Daly, Mike Wallace and Ming Flanagan by tub thumping in relation to the Gardai are merely engaging in populism designed to fool the working class. Sinn Fein, not to be outdone, has been engaged in a similar exercise.

Calling for the resignation of Allen Shatter, as Justice Minister, is of no significance. It does not matter politically whether he resigns or not.He will be simply replaced by another politician from the parties in coalition government. By calling for his resignation the appearance is created that his replacement by another politician from a bourgeois party will make a difference.

The calling for the jailing of white collar crime is another issue that is not the business of the working class. Prisons are oppressive bourgeois institutions.

The only correct call, from the standpoint of the wage worker, is the call for the abolition of the Gardai.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Gerry Adams Arrest

Sinn Fein claim that the recent arrest of Gerry Adams by the PSNI had a political character designed to damage Sinn Fein. It claims that there is a dark element within the PSNI. It also slanders Dolores Price and Ivor Bell.

The above claims are a further reinforcement of the reactionary nature of this political party. Its claims suggest that the PSNI as a necessary part of the British imperialist state is non-political. As an organic part of the capitalist state the PSNI is of necessity political. When the latter intervenes in demonstrations organised by nationalists or loyalists it is acting politically. Ironically for Gerry Adams and the stalinist like Sinn Fein the six county police are only political when they arrest Gerry. It is not being political when they arrest a "dissident" Republican but when they arrest Gerry it is. The point is that when Sinn Fein opportunistically accepted the establishment of the PSNI it was, ipso facto, accepting the entire force. Sinn Fein cynically want to see the PSNI like the parson's egg.

The essential point is that Sinn Fein/IRA betrayed its core principles many years ago when it officially accepted the existence of political partition and its two reactionary states on both sides of the border. This means it accepts the validity of the imperialist domination of the island of Ireland.

Furthermore it is highly unlikely that the arrest of Gerry was undertaken without the consent of the British government. Sinn Fein knows this but seeks to reduce the arrest to the level of an aberration caused by a cabal within the police service. This is because Sinn Fein supports both British and Irish capitalism. And this is why its opportunist economic program in the South is based on the absurd assumption that economic and social problems are solvable within capitalism. This assumption and the programme built on it means that Sinn Fein is not an anti-capitalist formation. Neither is its success largely due to its performance. It is due largely to the recent world crash and the consequent exposure of Fianna Fail, the Green Party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Sinn Fein is inherently a bourgeois opportunist party.

The party's denigration of Dolours Price, Brendan Hughes and others is an indication as to the degree to which Sinn Fein has descended into the mire. Incidentally it is an indication of the journalistic cowardice to which Ed Moloney has descended as evidenced by his comments on the recent arrest of Gerry Adams. In the interview on American radio he effectively accepted that the interviews with Price and Hughes had a dubious character.

Concerning the abduction, killing and disappearance of Jean McConville by the IRA let me say this: If Gerry Adams was seriously suspected of being directly involved in her killing then why did the British government, the Irish government, Fianna Fail, the PDs, Fine Gael and the Labour party negotiate with him or support such negotiations leading to the GFA? The British and Irish governments were prepared to negotiate an agreement with a political leader who was understood to be a leading member of the IRA and thereby responsible for killings and bombings including the McConville killing.

Given the establishment of the GFA it makes no sense to punish individuals who were members of the IRA. It makes no sense to hound them on the question as to whether they were IRA members. This problem should have been sorted out during the GFA negotiations. I would have thought that secret diplomacy by the involved parties would have covered this. Again the opportunism of Sinn Fein/IRA is again exposed if there was no settlement concerning this in this regard. It is now being hoisted by its own petard.

Overall the McConville issue is being venally exploited by sections of the bourgeois media and the political establishment to damage Sinn Fein. The foregoing no more care about Mrs McConville than they do the victims of HSE incompetence. To conclude: The Adams arrest may have been carried out as part of a plan to get an agreement on past actions of individuals from both the Republican and Loyalist camps. Such an agreement might bring to an end the arrest, trial and imprisonment of activists for their previous actions. This makes me wonder whether these recent events were choreographed by Sinn Fein and the British government. Gerry looked well for a guy kept in detention for four days and subjected to continuous questioning especially as he had not eaten for the first two days of his detention.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Reformism of Maurice Coakley

Below is a piece from me criticising the interview with Maurice Coakely concerning his recently published book   Ireland in the World Order: A History of Uneven Development? The interview was published on the website on March 28th 2013.

Maurice: It argued that the Irish capitalist class had been shaped by this structural underdevelopment and showed no inclination to develop an independent industrial base. From the 1960s onwards it sought to insert Ireland into transnational networks – above all by making it a conduit for US capital investment orientated towards the European market. Some of this was manufacturing industry that created real employment but much of it was fraudulent, with the Irish state becoming complicit with tax evasion on a massive scale. While the country significantly increased its average standard of living, it also made itself deeply dependent upon foreign capital.

Paddy: Maurice’s above use of the concept “underdevelopment” is questionable. This is because in the course of his interview he suggests that a sufficiently strong popular resistance movement can create conditions within Ireland that liberate the Irish people from conditions of oppression. Since such liberation from oppression, in its very nature, means an end to “underdevelopment”, for Maurice then, the latter is not necessarily a socio-economic condition that prevents independent development. For Maurice too the creation of these conditions does not involve the abolition of capitalism. Given this his concept of “underdevelopment” is of no historic significance.

Maurice: The radical left has long argued for greater workers’ control at the level of manufacturing industry but we also need to think through what needs to be done in other sectors of the social order. The workings of government and its many institutions should be transparent to the citizens and should be subject to democratic supervision. That would necessarily involve participation and consultation not only with the workers in any given institution, but also with citizens involved with them, like patients, commuters, residents etc.

The minimum measures necessary to defend popular living standards and the welfare state will face fierce opposition from the ruling elites. If a pro-worker government is to succeed in these very modest goals, it would need to achieve a deep popular mobilisation, and a politicisation of the populace.

Paddy: The above indicates his conception is tantamount to suggesting “structural underdevelopment” can be significantly modified or even dissolved within the framework of imperialism. But the notion of “underdevelopment” is based on the assumption that it is a necessary and unavoidable aspect of world capitalism. Consequently  “underdevelopment” can only be eliminated by eliminating capitalism. This being so there is no room for Maurice’s  brand of reformism within this theory.

To claim that this Irish capitalist class  showed no inclination to develop an independent industrial base” suggests that this indigenous class has had choice as to how the Irish economy was to be structured. This then means that, for Maurice, “underdevelopment” is not an inevitable outcome of world capitalist development but a product of the subjective choices of the Irish capitalist class. This then suggests that the Irish capitalist class is not  dominated by imperialist capital (British capitalism). But this must is evidence that Maurice is contradicting the very nature of “underdevelopment”.  This implies that the Irish bourgeoisie has been a subjectively lazy or unenterprising class. Laziness, then, not “underdevelopment” or foreign capital,  is mistakenly the ultimate source of the problem for Maurice.

The economic development of Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War was largely determined by US capitalism. These Western economies were in an extremely dependent state. Yet it would make little sense to describe Britain, France and Germany as in a state of “underdevelopment” as a consequence of its then subordinate relationship to US capitalism. Even today there obtains a relationship of subordination between US imperialism and Western Europe. Indeed Maurice’s claim that the capitalist world is composed of a hierarchal state system suggests that there different degrees of structural development with regard to individual states.

To historically link social resistance in Ireland to a striving for national independence makes little sense. If Ireland’s condition was that of “underdevelopment” then there obtained no possibility of national independence been achieved. However the conditions existed for the realisation of social rights or reforms within “underdevelopment”. Catholic Emancipation was, in a sense, realised within the context of underdevelopment as was the land question. Yet these movements of social resistance were not necessarily linked “to a striving for national independence.” The conditions of nationality entails the existence of an emerging indigenous bourgeoisie free from conditions of “underdevelopment”.  Given Maurice’s perspective such an Irish bourgeoisie must be non-existent because of underdevelopment.

The character of the Irish economy in relation to global capitalism is not a result, as Maurice implies, of the subjective actions of its capitalist class. The Irish capitalist class cannot subjectively determine Ireland’s economic structure. If it could it would then constitute an independent capitalist class involving an independent nation state.

Maurice resorts to petit bourgeois morality when he claims that much of US investment has “a fraudulent nature”.  It is no more fraudulent than the exploitation of labour power. Collapsing economic and political phenomena into morality merely obfuscates reality and obscures the way forward.

The Southern Irish state did not make itself dependent on foreign capital. The objective processes inherent in world capitalism made it dependent on foreign capital. All capital is ultimately dependent. Dependent on the industrial working class as the source of value (capital). Neither foreign nor indigenous capital are morally better than each other. One is as bad or good as the other. The point is that they are both sources for the extraction of surplus value from the modern worker.

Maurice: At a more general level the book argues that uneven development is intrinsic to the capitalist system. This is not just a matter of the laws of the capitalism system working themselves out unevenly - though there is an element of that - but also that patterns of development are heavily shaped by politics. Global capitalism is a hierarchal system, and states play a central role in moulding that hierarchy,

Paddy: Maurice’s claim that “global capitalism is a hierarchal system” is a questionable  and rather undialectical claim. The USA was originally a British colony and then in the 18th century was a relatively weak nation state. Yet it was to eventually become the strongest capitalist state in the world. Germany was slow to emerge into an independent state. Yet today  Germany is, arguably, the strongest state within the EMU. We see then that the strength and weakness of states is a somewhat fluid matter.

Maurice: The failure to the Irish state to pursue a course of independent economic development has made the Irish economy exceptionally vulnerable in the event of crisis. The Irish state found itself with very limited leverage to negotiate with the institutions of global and regional governance.

Paddy: An individual state cannot freely choose to follow a course of independent economic development.  It is not a subjective matter. It is a historical matter grounded in objective processes that transcend, albeit involve, mere subjectivity. Otherwise any state could freely choose to follow a course of independent economic development. If a country, such as Maurice claims Ireland to be, is in a condition of underdevelopment then this is even more so the case. States don’t have the power to subjectively determine the character of their economies. Furthermore capitalism is international in character which means that Irish capitalism is driven by global capitalism.

Maurice: To make matters worse the political elite has become closely interwoven with a rentier/financial oligarchy whose interests are very removed from any development project, or from the needs of the wider population. The Irish elite as a whole has become characterised by a mentality that combines dependency and fraud, a combination not uncommon across much of what is called the ‘developing’ world.

Paddy: Capitalism, including Irish capitalism, is a class based system –not an “elite”  based system. The Irish state is a capitalist state that ultimately serves the interests of the capitalist class. Thereby this system never existed, as Maurice suggests, to serve “the needs of the wider population”.  The category “wider population included all classes obtaining in a specific social formation. Neither can it be one of “mentality”,  as Maurice suggests. Psychology is not the driving force of societies. A different “mentality” cannot free Ireland from dependency and “fraud”.
Maurice: There has been a radical change in the balance of forces between capital and labour – to the detriment of labour – over the last few decades and this has been one of the defining features of contemporary capitalism. Other significant changes have also occurred.

Over the last few decades, global capitalism – especially in the North Atlantic economies – has been characterised by a massive expansion of the financial sphere, a process known as financialisation. Behind the financial upsurge are some wider changes in the global economy.

Paddy: The post-war world followed on the heels of the massive defeat of the world working class at the hands of both capitalism and Stalinism. Yet, in the aftermath of the war,  the Western working class experienced, to a large extent, radical improvements in both its working and living conditions. So Maurice’s claim that changes in the balance of forces against the working class necessarily involves falls in its living standards is not supportable by the evidence.

Maurice: One is the presence of global over-capacity in production which inhibits investment. Too many goods are chasing too few customers. Many corporations don’t see any way that they can achieve profitable returns by investing in new production lines so they are either hoarding their profits or looking for speculative fields to put their money in. In the old core zones of global capitalism, investment rates have been falling for decades.

Paddy: If the above comments  are true then the recent industrial development of  China could not have taken place on such an enormous scale. To suggest that profits are being hoarded makes no sense. Hoarding profit (surplus value) can only mean the contraction of profits. If surplus value, in the form, of profit is hoarded then it ceases to function as capital. It thereby must contract.  Even if industrial corporations invest their profits in a bank they are still not being hoarded. Banks cannot make profits by hoarding. Over-capacity in capitalist production cannot, given capitalism’s nature, constitute a sustainable process. Over-production of capital occurs at a particular stage in the business cycle. Over-production is followed by stockpiling of commodity capital and the eventual devaluation and destruction of capital itself. This entails the increased centralisation and concentration of capital. The consequent capital adjustment brings about an end to this over-accumulation of capital.  But this  cyclical process can be softened, even interrupted, by progressively increasing public expenditure. The latter ultimately constitutes a deduction from surplus value. But there is a limit to this process. This is why the 2008 crash and the Euro crisis took place.

There cannot persist in a sustained way, as Maurice is claiming, too many goods chasing too few customers. The goods, the commodities in question, then cease to be goods (commodities). Too many goods chasing too few customers is based on false underconsumptionist assumptions which conflict with Marxist political economy.

Maurice: In this context financialisation was useful because more people could buy goods on credit, but the huge debt which was built up from the 1990s ultimately became unmanageable and the financial system imploded. We are living with the consequences of that. Most of the world’s banks are underwater, and have only survived because of massive infusions of public money from governments around the world.

Paddy: Huge debts are a relative matter. The accumulation of huge debts does not necessarily, as Maurice claims, become unmanageable leading to the implosion of the financial system. The debt tolerance of capitalism is a function of the scale of surplus value produced by its valorisation process. Debt tends to cause problems when the valorisation process is producing insufficient surplus value relative to debt.

Maurice: Because workers could not afford to buy the goods produced, the credit system was vastly expanded to cope with this but it ultimately collapsed under the weight of the huge levels of debt which had accumulated. The crucial point is this: capital will not be able to resolve the crisis this time by further assaults on labour. This does not of course mean that they won’t try. But even if they are successful in their efforts, it will not end the systemic crisis. On the contrary, it will deepen it because ordinary people will be even less able to afford the goods being produced.

Paddy: Expanding credit excessively is capitalism’s  means of seeking to escape from its profitability problems. The enormous burgeoning of credit had a universal character in the West. To claim that “assaults on labour”  involving further cut-backs in the price of labour power will not help resolve the crisis is ludicrous. To claim that such a development leads to further underconsumptionism demonstrates Maurice’s ignorance of the nature of capitalism. If there obtains a sustained accelerating accumulation of capital then falling wages do not necessarily lead to falling demand.

Maurice: Marx spoke about the ‘over-accumulation’ of capital. We usually think about this as an economic process, but it is also a social one. The huge wealth and power that capital has built up over the last three decades has become an obstacle to the capitalist system itself

Paddy: But if, as Maurice claims, growth and profitability have been falling then it cannot be the huge wealth and power of capital that is the cause of the crisis.  If profitability is falling then the scale of capital is correspondingly contracting. To suggest, as Maurice does, that capital would be rational if it followed a certain programme is to misunderstand the nature of capital. The only way capital can be rational is by its self-negation.  The very nature of these aspects make such rational action impossible under capitalism.

Maurice: If capitalism was a rational system it would have imposed harsh sanctions on the bankers and the brokers, and ensured that sufficient resources went into social services and into the creation a sustainable energy system. It would also make a serious effort to ensure that the general population would be able to buy the goods being produced by capital. But capitalism is not a rational system, or rather what is rational for the individual capitalist – or the individual state – becomes irrational for the system as a whole.

Paddy: Maurice is again engaging in contradictions. If, as Maurice claims, capitalism is not rational then it is inconsistent of him to call for a programme involving the public ownership of the credit system since this would constitute a futile attempt to render capitalism more rational. Yet he has already claimed that the capitalist system is not rational.

Maurice: If a substantial popular and democratic resistance to neo-liberal polices does not emerge, we are likely to see a deepening of destructive and irrational trends, alongside more imperialist adventures, across the globe.

Paddy: Popular and democratic resistance is not the issue. The issue is the emergence of a global communist movement that successfully overthrows capitalism. Neither is it, as Maurice suggests, a matter of mere resistance to neoliberalism but the mounting of a sustained offensive against the capitalist class. Maurice’s  antiliberalism suggests that there is a good and a bad capitalism: defeating bad capitalism in the form of neo-liberalism while restoring the previous good form of capitalism. The only way to eliminate neoliberalism is to eliminate capitalism.

Maurice: To many people, including many trade unionists, this seemed like a good deal. It is only with the global financial crisis that the downside of the deal has become more evident. Suddenly, Ireland was being demoted to the status of a ‘peripheral’ state, albeit a periphery of the world’s second major core region. One of the reasons why resistance in Ireland has been muted so far is because people are afraid that resistance could be counterproductive, that deeper confrontations could damage Ireland’s position in the global system. The EU leaders and the debt collectors are aware of these fears and use them to their advantage.

Paddy: The problem is, not simply, as Maurice suggests, the failure of the Irish working class to seriously challenge the cut backs. The problem is that the cut-backs cannot be successfully challenged within a national framework. Only the European working class, including the Irish working class, can successfully challenge the cut backs by transforming itself into a working class communist movement. On its own the Irish working class, no matter how radicalised,  is objectively too weak to destroy capitalism in Ireland.

Maurice: While many are beginning to realise that there may be a heavy price to pay for having so lightly abandoned national sovereignty, they see no easy way to regain it.

Paddy: It is ironical that Maurice should suggest that Ireland had (before the fall) national sovereignty given that he claims it has been in a state of  “underdevelopment”.  Ireland’s has been surrendering its national sovereignty over many years.  To a certain extent it has been the further loss of sovereignty, as a result of becoming part of the Eurozone, that has led to the southern Irish economy’s current disastrous economic condition.  Indeed it is questionable as to whether Ireland has  ever  been  an authentic sovereign country.

Maurice: The argument put forward by the European Commission and the European Central Bank – that cutting public spending will rejuvenate the private economy by making it more competitive – is simply not credible... It is clear that the austerity programmes are not only having a disastrous social effect, but are also damaging the capitalist economies in the affected countries. Not only are these deprivation programmes socially and economically harmful but they have also significantly eroded the position of the political establishment in these states.

Paddy: Austerity does work. Indeed an austerity programme is needed for Western capitalism as a whole. The reason as to why  the Western capitalist class has not faced up to its problems is because of fear of the working class. Divisions within that capitalist class is another reason. If widespread austerity was introduced it would lead to the demise of the weaker sections of the capitalist class. It is this component of the capitalist class that may be more sceptical concerning an austerity programme. For capitalism to recover there needs to be enormous cut backs made in the living and working conditions of the working class together with the elimination of less  productive forms of capital.

Maurice: To make matters worse, they are now forcing austerity policies on their neighbours, ignoring the evidence that these are thoroughly counter-productive. As an economic strategy, this was bound to crash because if the peripheral economies are on their knees, who then is going to buy German goods?

Paddy: Above is the false underconsumptionist rubbish repeatedly spewed out by much of the radical left. If German capital is to continue to accumulate it needs to export both commodities and capital to other parts of the EU. To achieve this it needs to maintain and increase profitability. Exporting capital is one of the chief means through which to achieve this. This means keeping costs down including both the price of the commodity labour power and social benefits. The imposition of EU wide austerity can help prevent German profits from falling. This is done by reducing the price of labour power and the elimination of weaker forms of capital. The latter is largely sustained by state spending of one sort or another. The biggest danger confronting the West European bourgeoisie, concerning this, is the potential challenge from the European working class. However because profitability conditions are so bad West European capital has no other option but to take action that may lead to historically significant challenges by the working class. However current working class weakness is encouraging it to impose radical austerity.

Maurice: More than that, it would appear that as capitalism becomes more mature, it can only be stabilised by more and more public spending. Without that, these economies go into reverse gear. This is what is happening today across the European periphery.

Paddy: The opposite is the case. Because of capitalism’s growing maturity public spending needs reduction to a necessary minimum. It is enormous public spending that largely constitutes a deduction from surplus value leaving less room for the accumulation of capital.

Maurice: One way of overcoming Europe’s debt problems would be to simply write off the debt. This happened to German debt in 1953, with the blessings of Washington. Were the European Union to do this, it would be a massive blow to the interests of financial capital, and it would probably force the European states to take public ownership and control of the credit system. Another solution would be to print money to inflate away the debt. This would damage both the interests of financial capital and also of savers, who would see the real value of their savings reduced. It is considered to be politically unacceptable to the German government. Instead, the ECB, the EC and the Berlin continued to push through austerity programmes that they know are self-defeating. This whole policy is incoherent and behind the arrogance of the European leadership one can detect more than a hint of panic.

Paddy: It is not the job of the working class to assist capital in its effort to resolve its problems. Much of the Irish radical left have been repeatedly engaged in this treacherous exercise. It is a reactionary exercise which deceives the working class. The class interests of workers is not advanced by announcing ways to save capitalism from itself.

Anyway the European Union won’t write off debts because this means a reduction in total surplus value accruing to its capital –particularly the capital of its strongest economies. It will only engage in such undertakings when left with no alternative. The other solution promoted by Maurice is “to print money to inflate away the debt.” Inflation is an anti-working class measure involving consumer price rises which tend to reduce working class income. Excessive money printing can destabilise capitalism.

Maurice: Some of the points that the Keynesians make are valid enough. There is a necessity to increase public spending in both social and physical infrastructure. We are, however, not likely to see a return to the high growth rates of earlier decades, nor is it clear that high growth would be a good thing. The Keynesians have yet to get their heads around the global ecological crisis. Endless economic growth is simply not possible, nor is it ecologically viable. The global environment is much too fragile for that. If we are to establish a viable economic model, it has to include an agenda of moving towards a sustainable energy system.

Paddy: Public spending means more debt. Excessive debt has been a key source of the problem. Calling for a “pro-worker government” under capitalism is tantamount to calling for more credit and public investment independently of its profitability. Yet more credit, contrary to what Maurice claims, only intensifies the problem.

Maurice: Given that a return to high growth rates is impractical, it is difficult to see how a social compromise between capital and labour of the sort that existed in the post-war decades could be revived. At a very immediate level, the private banking system is a massive obstacle to economic revival because it represents claims on future production. These claims are strangling investment projects. This private financial sector needs to be closed down, and the credit system should be turned into a public utility system, like electricity, water or transport. A publically owned, democratically structured credit system would enable the population to determine where investment should go and what forms it would take. Such a programme would not, in itself, abolish capitalism, but it would significantly re-structure the system and shift the balance of power from capital to labour.

Paddy: The nationalisation of credit means more debt. Given the global character of credit its nationalisation by a little Irish state is impossible. In fact the public finance that is being injected into the world banking system is a form of nationalisation by the back door. This enormous financial cost is being undertaken at the expense of the working class.  Bank nationalisation would prove an even greater burden on the working class.

If the financial system was to be made public on a popular democratic basis in such a way as to enhance the interests of the working class the capitalist class would challenge this attempted restructuring of capital.  The capitalist state then could not, by its very nature, support such nationalisation. The nationalisation of finance is just not possible under capitalism. Finance capital is by its very nature private. Capitalism cannot be managed in the way that Maurice suggests, A managed capitalism constitutes  the negation of finance capital.

Neither is capitalism going to shift what Maurice calls “the balance of power” against itself. The state is an organ of class power that cannot thereby serve the interests of the working class. Furthermore given the global character of finance capital a puny Irish state lacks the power to successfully challenge it. Neither capitalism nor its state are rational which means a rational capitalism cannot exist. Popularly determining where resources are to be invested means that profit is no longer to be capital’s driving force. This is to fly in the face of the law of value. This an historic impossibility.
Maurice: The crucial arena for establishing a modicum of self-determination is the financial one. The debt burden imposed upon the population is not only immoral, it is also impractical. It effectively condemns the state to extended stagnation, which will be accompanied by a gradual but accumulative reduction in social spending and social rights.

Paddy: The above piece makes no sense. Immorality is not the issue. Morality is not an economic policy. The category  population includes capitalists, petty capitalists, the industrial working class and lumpen elements. In this context it is a term of great ambiguity even  suggesting that Ireland is not a class society. Maurice’s conception suggests that the state is a neutral force that can be used by either working class or capitalist class.

Maurice: The details of what policies a progressive government would need to introduce would have to be worked out collectively and these would change over time depending on circumstances. In the 1930s trade policies were considered more central than they would be now, but that could change again. A lot of good work has been done by people like Michael Taft, the Anglo Not Our Debt campaign, and the Irish Left Review.

Paddy: There can be no such political institution as a progressive Irish government. If such a government were possible then there is no reason as to why Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or the Labour Party would not have formed one. These parties don’t act in a reactionary way because they sadistically enjoy punishing the working class. The point is that they cannot  function as government without being compelled to implement policies that serve the interests of the capitalist class both in its indigenous and foreign forms. Their policies are not a product of subjective factors but of objective ones. Furthermore the EU would obstruct the existence of a progressive Irish government.

Michael Taft is a reformist nationalist who sees the solution as a reformist one that is confined within the Irish national framework. This is a utopian solution.

Maurice: Any political advance towards a more just society must begin from where we are now. In the case of western Europe, a defence of social rights and the welfare state has to be the starting point for launching a political challenge to the existing order, at least for the foreseeable future.
Paddy: “A more just society!” Is this The Just Society programme promoted by the Fine Gael Party in the second half of the 20th century? It is not a matter of a defence of social rights and the welfare state. Capitalism has launched an attack on the working and living conditions of the Irish working class because it is left with no real choice. Why else would it engage in such an exercise? Why is the state currently engaged in this exercise on such a scale? The current government is not engaged in a severe austerity programme because for the pleasure of it. It does not willingly promote a programme that makes it increasingly unpopular. The point is that it has no real choice under present circumstances.

Maurice: However, a strategy that is based solely of making demands on the state and expects that the population, or the working class, will become radicalised when these demands are not met, is hardly credible. Politics has moved on over the last century and the ruling class now appeals directly to the population – mainly through the media – arguing that while certain social rights may be desirable, they cannot realistically be granted or maintained because the state cannot afford them.

Paddy: Appealing to the population mainly through the media is not to appeal directly to the population. The bourgeois mass media is a reified form. It itself forms a part of the problem.

Maurice: If the left is to defend the earlier gains achieved by workers and the wider population, it needs to explain how these social rights are to be paid for. It is not good enough to say: “that’s their problem”. It is our problem too.

Paddy: This above means that there is essentially no difference between “the left” and the two political parties currently in government. Both “the left” and the government are then arguing for policies within the narrow constraints of the national capitalist framework. The point is that the problems of the working class cannot be solved within the constraints of a national capitalist framework. Consequently the left cannot “explain how these social rights are to be paid for” under capitalism. This is because they cannot be paid for under capitalism. The bourgeois political parties are right when they make this claim. Again it has to be wondered what Maurice means by “the left”. Is this left to include the variety of different groups that are considered to be “the left”: ranging from Stalinism to Trotskyism. Is it possible for such a left to subscribe to the same programme (“socialism in one country”)?

Maurice: Re-distribution of income is only one part of a programme of transition to a more equitable society. Another crucial aspect is control over the credit system. This would involve not only having capital controls but also a publically owned credit system.

Paddy: It is questionable as to how the above programme of action can be successfully realised within the framework of the EU. The EU is not going to passively sit by while this programme is implemented. A publicly owned credit system used to benefit the working class is a contradiction. The credit system forms a necessary part of finance capitalism. It exists to serve the interests of capital as opposed to labour power. It exists to sustain and increase the exploitation of labour power. Consequently it cannot be designed to benefit the working class.

Maurice: The radical left has long argued for greater workers’ control at the level of manufacturing industry but we also need to think through what needs to be done in other sectors of the social order. The workings of government and its many institutions should be transparent to the citizens and should be subject to democratic supervision. That would necessarily involve participation and consultation not only with the workers in any given institution, but also with citizens involved with them, like patients, commuters, residents etc. This kind of project would need to be accompanied by the development of new democratic media.

Marx is often criticised for failing to outline a comprehensive plan for a socialist society, but this is arguably a strength of his position rather than a weakness. We have to begin from where we are and work from there. The minimum measures necessary to defend popular living standards and the welfare state will face fierce opposition from the ruling elites. If a pro-worker government is to succeed in these very modest goals, it would need to achieve a deep popular mobilisation, and a politicisation of the populace.
Paddy: The above piece is grossly misleading. However the problem is that many workers are deceived by such ramblings. There cannot exist a “pro-worker government” under capitalism. To argue for a “pro-worker government” is to paradoxically argue for a pro-worker (capitalist) state. Should such a society be realisable there would be no need for communist society.