the historical limits of capitalism

15 02 2012

Just as feudalism was historically limited, so too capitalism, writes duvinrouge.

The rise of capitalists and their taking power from the nobility was a reflection of the changing economic conditions as manufacturing became more important than agriculture. Looking back, it’s quite easy to understand how the increasingly economically powerful capitalists seized power. The case for the workers taking power isn’t so obvious though. Many seem to think that capitalism will continue forever unless a political party can persuade working people of a better alternative. Such a subjectivist position shows a lack of understanding of how capitalism works and what Marx was getting at in Volume III of Das Kapital.

‘The Law of the Tendential Fall in the Rate of Profit’ is part three of Volume III. To understand the importance of this requires a good understanding of how capitalism works, what value is and in particular, the difference between absolute and relative surplus value. Value is essentially labour time. Not necessarily the sum of all actual labour time that has gone into all commodities produced, but the market-determined ‘socially necessarily’ labour time; not all commodities taken to market are bought at prices that cover their costs and return a profit because the capitalist has to anticipate demand. (Don’t worry if you don’t fully grasp ‘socially necessary’ labour time, the key point is values (prices) reflect labour time).

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euro crisis is more than a euro crisis

26 10 2011

Even if there was no Euro, or even if there was the Euro and political union, there would still be a crisis. Why? Because the crisis is a crisis of value, says duvinrouge.

That’s not to understate the problem of trying to get economic convergence of divergent economies through monetary union. It cannot be done without a political union that is prepared to use regional policy and the consequent transfer of wealth from north to south. Even without the backdrop of world capitalist crisis the Euro‘s future would be in doubt. But it is the recurrent capitalist crises that bring such problems to a head. And still it is left to Marxists to explain why capitalism is crisis.

Say’s law (supply creates its own demand) does not hold because production is commodity production – things are produced to be exchanged for money, furthermore a monetary amount greater than the original outlay. This increase in value occurs in production – the amount paid to labour in wages is less than the value created by the labourer. But it’s not just about increasing value in production; there’s also the need for the effective demand – money – to be there.

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marxist crisis theory – cyclical and breakdown

22 09 2011

duvinrouge attempts to explain cyclical crises and longer term trends

A lot of Marxists seem confused about economic crises. Some evoke the fall in the rate of profit to explain cyclical crises, some underconsumption, some forget the law of value and sound like establishment economists,  while some just forget the materialist foundations of Marx and drift into a world of subjective will powering the class struggle. So here’s an attempt to explain the nature of an abstract cyclical crisis and how it differs from breakdown.

A cyclical crisis is just over-production. An overproduction of commodities relative to the commodity that acts as the universal equivalent – money. In otherwords, production runs ahead of the market. There is a problem realising surplus value. As the law of value asserts itself commodity production falls, i.e. there’s a recession.

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a beginner’s guide to marx’s capital

15 08 2011

Whilst England has been rioting, capitalism’s crisis continues. duvinrouge offers an insight into Marx’s study of capital.

“A critique of political economy” was the subtitle of Marx’s book Capital. The political economists portrayed profit, rent & wages as the just returns for the three factors of production: land, labour & capital. Marx argued that such surface level appearances were seriously misleading. That both profit & rent actually came from value created by workers. Furthermore, that capitalism was actually just the latest mode of production & that because of its contradictions would be replaced by a higher form called communism.

Marx’s book on capital was part of a wider plan. He also intended to write books on landed property, wage labour, the state, international trade & the world market. As it turned out he only managed to publish volume I of Capital with volumes II & III being published after his death. Volume I looks at the production of capital, volume II at the circulation of capital & III considers capital as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »





marx, bakunin and the question of authoritarianism

14 09 2010

David Adam casts doubt on the traditional narrative regarding the question of authoritarianism in the Marx-Bakunin conflict

Historically, Bakunin’s criticism of Marx’s “authoritarian” aims has tended to overshadow Marx’s critique of Bakunin’s “authoritarian” aims. This is in large part due to the fact that mainstream anarchism and Marxism have been polarized over a myth—that of Marx’s authoritarian statism—which they both share.1

Thus, the conflict in the First International is directly identified with a disagreement over anti-authoritarian principles, and Marx’s hostility toward Bakunin is said to stem from his rejection of these principles, his vanguardism, etc. Anarchism, not without justification, posits itself as the “libertarian” alternative to the “authoritarianism” of mainstream Marxism. Because of this, nothing could be easier than to see the famous conflict between the pioneering theorists of these movements—Bakunin and Marx—as a conflict between absolute liberty and authoritarianism. This essay will bring this narrative into question. It will not do this by making grand pronouncements about Anarchism and Marxism in the abstract, but simply by assembling some often neglected evidence. Bakunin’s ideas about revolutionary organization lie at the heart of this investigation. Read the rest of this entry »





is marxism just too abstract?

19 08 2010

by Nathan Coombs

The following commentary is in response to a forum organized by The Commune and the Marxist-Humanist Initiative, held in London on July 5, 2010.  This involved a talk by Anne Jaclard, “You Can’t Change the Mode of Production with a Political Agenda,” followed by a talk by Andrew Kliman, “The Transformation of Capitalism into Communism in the Critique of the Gotha Program.” Both talks can be read here.

In 1965 Louis Althusser opened his famous paean For Marx with a withering reflection on French theoretical culture at the time. He bemoaned the fact that ‘we have spent the best part of our time in agitation when we would have been better employed in the defence of our right and duty to know’.[i] The result of which was ‘the stubborn, profound absence of any theoretical culture’; whereas, he claimed, ‘Marxism should not be simply a political doctrine, a ‘method’ of analysis and action, but also, over and above the rest, the theoretical domain of fundamental investigation’.[ii] For this task Althusser saw as indispensable the role of intellectuals committed to necessary theoretical work.

Plato: an 'abstract' proto-communist?

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david harvey: the enigma of capital

5 05 2010

Sharon Borthwick reports on Marxist geographer David Harvey’s recent talk in London

The Great Hall at King’s College London was packed to capacity and beyond on 28th April, with people standing at the sides and sitting in the aisles. It put me in mind of Nathan Coombs surmising on where all the numbers of the left attending academic conferences were the rest of the time.

How can we, maybe, capture and utilise the level of interest shown on these occasions? This particular audience was made up of SWPers and Kings College and other students. The usual papers were sold outside. Read the rest of this entry »





the communist manifesto: an overview

5 04 2010

A presentation given to a recent London meeting of The Commune.  The original Communist Manifesto can be read here.

by Sharon Borthwick

In 1847 Marx and Engels joined The League of The Just, a working men’s association made up initially of exclusively German workers, the majority membership being tailors and woodcutters. This was “unavoidably a secret society” according to the political conditions before 1848, as Engels tells us in his preface to the 1888 English edition. This edition was translated by Samuel Moore and approved by Engels. It continues to be the English translation most read to date and we’ll use it here for this overview. The first English translation of the Manifesto, by Helen Macfarlane, was published in the Chartist journal, The Red Republican in 1850.

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sheffield communist discussion group, 14th april: alienation

21 03 2010

The next Sheffield Communist Discussion Group meeting will be held at 6:30pm, Wednesday 14th April in The Rutland Arms. The topic of the discussion is “Alienation”.

Below is a reading list to give you a general introduction to the topic, but by all means also look elsewhere for further information to enrich the discussion. All welcome, email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





bristol reading group on state socialism, sunday 28th march

10 03 2010

The third Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 28th March at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.

The session will discuss state socialism and its critics. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





the london commune: introduction to marx’s communism

26 02 2010

This spring The Commune in London will be holding a series of educational discussions on the communism of Karl Marx as part of our organising meetings.

On each of the following Mondays (separated by three week intervals) we will have an hour’s discussion on a theme or text followed by an hour of planning for movement events and organising in the capital. See below for the list of dates and texts. Read the rest of this entry »





what is a city? cycles, structure, strategy

9 02 2010

Sean Bonney presents the first of three papers to be discussed at Sunday’s Communist Theory Forum

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess, among other things consciousness, and therefore think.” Read the rest of this entry »





bristol communist discussion group, this sunday

23 01 2010

The first of The Commune’s Bristol reading group sessions will be on Sunday 24th January at 6pm in Cafe Kino on Ninetree Hill, Bristol.

The series of sessions is entitled “Alternatives to capitalism”. The first session is called “Capital and capitalism”. A brief look at the features of capitalism. Capital, wage-labour, profit, capital accumulation and its effect on our lives.This first session sets the scene and will allow us to contast proposed alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »





what will communist society look like?

18 01 2010

The first of a series of communist discussion meetings in Sheffield. From 7pm on Tuesday 19th January at The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street, Sheffield S1 2BS.

Recommended reading for the meeting includes: William Morris - News From Nowhere chapters xii, xv and xvii; Cornelius Castoriadis – On the content of socialism; Karl Marx – Critique of the Gotha Programme parts iii and iv, as well as The Paris Commune from Civil War in France.

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