Daily Archives: August 6, 2011

Karl

And now Ladies and Germs, The Man of The Hour.

“Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, sociologist, economic historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist who developed the socio-political theory of Marxism. His ideas have since played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement. He published various books during his lifetime, with the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital (1867–1894), many of which were co-written with his friend, the fellow German revolutionary socialist Friedrich Engels.
Born into a wealthy middle class family in Trier, Prussia, Marx went on to study at both the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. In 1836, he became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, marrying her in 1843. Following the completion of his studies, he became a journalist in Cologne, writing for a radical newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung, where he began to use Hegelian concepts of dialectical materialism to influence his ideas on socialism. Moving to Paris in 1843, he began writing for other radical newspapers, the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher and Vorwärts!, as well as writing a series of books, several of which were co-written with Engels. Exiled to Brussels in Belgium in 1845, he became a leading figure of the Communist League, before moving back to Cologne, where he founded his own newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Exiled once more, in 1849 he moved to London together with his wife Jenny and their children. In London, where the family was reduced to poverty, Marx continued writing and formulating his theories about the nature of society and how he believed it could be improved, as well as campaigning for socialism and becoming a significant figure in the International Workingmen’s Association.”

IOW, Scott Walker would have had him thrown out of Wisconsin.

“Marx’s theories about society, economics and politics, which are collectively known as Marxism, hold that all societies progress through the dialectic of class struggle. He was heavily critical of the current socio-economic form of society, capitalism, which he called the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”, believing it to be run by the wealthy middle and upper classes purely for their own benefit, and predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, it would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system, socialism. Under socialism, he argued that society would be governed by the working class in what he called the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the “workers state” or “workers’ democracy”. He believed that socialism would, in its turn, eventually be replaced by a stateless, classless society called pure communism. Along with believing in the inevitability of socialism and communism, Marx actively fought for the former’s implementation, arguing that both social theorists and underprivileged people should carry out organized revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic change.”

Not an unfamilair refrain.

“While Marx remained a relatively unknown figure in his own lifetime, his ideas and the ideology of Marxism began to exert a major influence on socialist movements shortly after his death. Revolutionary socialist governments following Marxist concepts took power in a variety of countries in the 20th century, leading to the formation of such socialist states as the Soviet Union in 1922 and the People’s Republic of China in 1949, whilst various theoretical variants, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism and Maoism, were developed. Marx is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science. Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and in a 1999 BBC poll was voted the “thinker of the millennium” by people from around the world.”

IOW, Johnny Depp with brains.

Now let’s get down to cases, shall we?

“Marx’s view of capitalism was two sided. On one hand, Marx, in the 19th century’s deepest critique of the dehumanizing aspects of this system, noted that defining features of capitalism include alienation, exploitation and reoccurring, cyclical depressions leading to mass unemployment; on the other hand capitalism is also characterised by “revolutionizing, industrializing and universalizing qualities of development, growth and progressivity” (by which Marx meant industrialization, urbanization, technological progress, increased productivity and growth, rationality and scientific revolution), that are responsible for progress. Marx considered the capitalist class to be one of the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly improved the means of production, more so than any other class in history, and was responsible for the overthrow of feudalism and its transition to capitalism. Capitalism can stimulate considerable growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies and capital equipment.
According to Marx capitalists take advantage of the difference between the labour market and the market for whatever commodity the capitalist can produce. Marx observed that in practically every successful industry input unit-costs are lower than output unit-prices. Marx called the difference “surplus value” and argued that this surplus value had its source in surplus labor, the difference between what it costs to keep workers alive and what they can produce. Marx’s dual view of capitalism can be seen in his description of the capitalists: he refers to them as to vampires sucking worker’s blood, but at the same time, he notes that drawing profit is “by no means an injustice” and that capitalists simply cannot go against the system. The true problem lies with the “cancerous cell” of capital, understood not as property or equipment, but the relations between workers and owners – the economic system in general.
At the same time, Marx stressed that capitalism was unstable, and prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labour. Since Marx believed that surplus value appropriated from labour is the source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew. Marx believed that increasingly severe crises would punctuate this cycle of growth, collapse, and more growth. Moreover, he believed that in the long-term this process would necessarily enrich and empower the capitalist class and impoverish the proletariat. In section one of The Communist Manifesto Marx describes feudalism, capitalism, and the role internal social contradictions play in the historical process:

‘e see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged … the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder. Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class. A similar movement is going on before our own eyes … The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring order into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property.’/strong>
—Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Marx believed that those structural contradictions within capitalism necessitate its end, giving way to socialism, or a post-capitalistic, communist society:

‘The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.’
—Karl Marx and Frederic Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Thanks to various processes overseen by capitalism, such as urbanisation, the working class, the proletariat, should grow in numbers and develop a class consciousness, in time realising that they have to change the system. Marx believed that if the proletariat were to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, abolishing exploiting class, and introduce a system of production less vulnerable to cyclical crises. Marx argued that capitalism will end through the organised actions of an international working class:

“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.’
—Karl Marx, The German Ideology

In this new society the self-alienation would end, and humans would be free to act without being bound by the labour market. It would be a democratic society, enfranchising the entire population. In such a utopian world there would also be little if any need for a state, which goal was to enforce the alienation. He theorised that between capitalism and the establishment of a socialist/communist system, a dictatorship of the proletariat—a period where the working class holds political power and forcibly socialises the means of production—would exist. As he wrote in his “Critique of the Gotha Program”, “between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” While he allowed for the possibility of peaceful transition in some countries with strong democratic institutional structures (such as Britain, the US and the Netherlands), he suggested that in other countries with strong centralized state-oriented traditions, like France and Germany, the “lever of our revolution must be force.” ‘

But then the lever shifted, and China — a formerly Communist country — became the Biggest Capitalist Enterprise The World Has Ever Known.

Surely the facts are not in dispute.

“SHANGHAI — China, the largest foreign holder of United States debt, said Saturday that Washington needed to “cure its addiction to debts” and “live within its means,” just hours after the rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s long-term debt.
The harshly worded commentary, which was released by China’s official Xinhua news agency, was Beijing’s latest attempt to express its displeasure with Washington.
Though Beijing has few options other than to continue to purchase United States Treasury bonds, Chinese officials are clearly concerned that China’s substantial holdings of American debt, worth at least $1.1 trillion, is being devalued.
“The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone,” read the commentary, which was published in Chinese newspapers.
Beijing, which did not release any other official statement on the downgrade, called on Washington to make substantial cuts to its “gigantic military expenditure” and its “bloated social welfare” programs.
The commentary serves as a sharp illustration of how America’s standing in the world is sliding and that China now views itself as ascendant.
While Washington wrangles over its debt and deficit problems and the European Union struggles to deal with its own debt issues, China is sitting on the world’s largest foreign exchange holdings and its economy is growing at close to 9 percent. The country is also once again racking up huge trade surpluses with the rest of the world.
Beijing does have its own worries, such as soaring inflation and housing prices and trying to cool off an over-heating economy. Policy makers are also trying to deal with the accumulation of huge foreign exchange holdings tied to its trade and current account surpluses.
Beijing policy makers are discussing ways to diversify the country’s foreign exchange holdings away from dollars and also how to encourage Chinese companies to invest some of the foreign reserves overseas.
But because China has about $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, there are few places big enough to safely invest those holdings outside of United States Treasuries, even though its looks like they may lose value.
Analysts say that if China pulls back from purchasing Treasuries, the dollar would weaken and America’s borrowing costs would rise sharply, but that would also hurt China’s existing holdings.
And so until China can find a way to slow its accumulation of dollars or find alternatives, it is likely to be the largest buyer of Treasuries.
Still, government leaders here increasingly sound like they are losing confidence.
“International supervision over the issue of U.S. dollars should be introduced and a new stable and secured global reserve currency may also be an option to avert a catastrophe caused by any single country,” the Xinhua commentary said.”

China to the U.S.: “Loooooceeee — you got a lot of ‘splanin’ to do!”

Yes folks the noted Communist was one of Capitalism’s most famous success stories.

Liza

Liza and Joel will sing us out.