Sunday, 22 January 2017

Labour Should Take Nuttall Seriously

Labour should win in Stoke Central. At the last General Election, Labour won 12,220 votes (39.3%), nearly double the 7,041 votes (22.7%) taken by UKIP, and the 7,008 votes (22.5%) for the Tories. In fact, Labour's vote share was 0.5% higher than it had been in 2010. To win then UKIP would need prima facie to double its vote, at a time when both nationally and locally it has been moving backwards. Whatever the pundits say about Labour's popularity nationally, according to the latest national polls they are still standing at more than double the UKIP rating. 

But, it would be a big mistake for Labour to fail to take the challenge from Paul Nuttall, in the Stoke Central by-election, seriously. Nuttall, a seasoned campaigner, and accomplished media performer, already has a significant first mover advantage over Labour. Indeed, it has to be said that in terms of acting as a disciplined and professional organisation, it is UKIP that has demonstrated its edge, not Labour. It has dismissed all sentimentality about needing to select an amateur, anonymous local candidate, and gone straight for the jugular by appointing its most accomplished politician to take the immediate fight to Labour.

Nuttall, not a newcomer to media presentation, has already had an article printed in the Sunday papers (though not many Stokies are likely to be readers of the Sunday Telegraph), followed up by lengthy interviews on Peston on Sunday, and other Sunday politics programmes, including the Midlands version of the Sunday Politics. All that before Labour is even out of the blocks to draw up a shortlist, let alone select a candidate!

Moreover, UKIP has a relatively easy task. Like Trump, and like its Brexit campaign it only has to keep repeating, its all the fault of foreigners and immigration. As previous by-elections have shown, its in such low polls that this simple tactic pays off, because the fanatics who swallow that line are far more likely to turn out to vote than are more informed voters, who do turn out in General Elections. By contrast, Labour has to not only counter that simple set of sound-bites with something that offers local voters a reason to turn out, but it has to have a candidate capable of delivering that message in a clear and confident manner, in the full glare of international media attention. At present, I have to say, I do not even myself know exactly what Labour's message on Brexit, immigration, free movement and so on is let alone be confident that any local candidate is going to be able to formulate that message in a way that drowns out the attention the media will, and already are giving to Nuttall.

Moreover, although Nuttall nominally has to double the UKIP vote that is not entirely the whole matter. Turnout in the 2015 election was a pitiful 49.9%, or about 30,000 votes. If turnout drops to just 40%, or around 24,000 votes, UKIP could win theoretically without picking up any additional votes. It would just need the 6,000 fewer votes cast to come more or less from Labour voters not turning out to vote. Given that Stoke voted around 65% in favour of Leave, Nuttall's simple “blame the foreigners” mantra is likely to be a fairly solid core vote.

In the meantime, Labour seems to be repeating the mistakes of the past. Corbyn has rightly criticised Miliband for putting forward a Tory-lite policy on austerity, that enthused no Labour voters in 2015, but today, Corbyn's Labour is putting forward a UKIP-lite policy on immigration, free movement, and Brexit that can enthuse no progressive Labour voters, and which will not win over any Tory or UKIP voters either, who will simply vote for the real thing. By trying to rise two horses to reconcile an irreconcilable electoral dilemma, Labour is simply setting itself up to be torn apart at the groin, as the horses race away in opposite directions.

That used to be the problem for the Tories, and when the Brexit negotiations get properly udnerway, it will be again. But, the immediate issue is the Stoke Central by-election, and not what happens several months from now. In the here and now, and with Nuttall already having a head start, the Tories who have no chance of winning in Stoke, are likely to pick their own nonentity to stand, thereby giving Nuttall a clear run, without officially having done so. That means that on top of the advantage that UKIP will obtain from any low poll, they have the potential to pick up the 7,000 Tory votes, as Tory voters in the area, will be quick enough to understand that they have a perfect opportunity to kick Labour, and in the process to further undermine the position of Jeremy Corbyn.

A 40% poll, in which the UKIP core vote holds up, in the aftermath of the referendum, together with a large chunk of tactical voting from the Tories would take them comfortably over the winning line. Labour might pick up the 1,000 or so votes that former Labour supporter, Jan Zablocki, polled for the Greens in 2015, but that would hardly compensate.

As I wrote recently, the eyes of the international media will be on Stoke Central in coming weeks. Nuttall's high profile in this weekend's media is just the tip of the iceberg to what will come in the next few weeks. A hostile Tory media, out to get Labour, and particularly out to get Corbyn, will grill and challenge everything that every Labour spokesperson, and particularly the Labour candidate says. Every contradiction, every mistake, every mumbled response will be picked up and amplified, whilst a grinning Nuttall looks on like the Cheshire Cat. Anyone who thinks that does not matter has learned nothing from Brexit or from Trump's victory.

Labour's main advantages are its half million members, and the fact that, in the end, Stoke is a working-class area, with a traditional affinity to the values of Labour. Nuttall by contrast for all of his scouse accent, is a right-wing, Thatcherite Tory, who stood several times in the past in elections under Tory colours, and put forward the most vicious right-wing, anti-working class agenda, including his policies for privatising the NHS, and undermining workers rights. Labour needs to get out all of his past statements and record, and use those half million members, not on phone banks, but to walk the streets of every estate in Stoke Central, holding meetings in every community centre, and any other platform to expose him for what he really is.

Anyone who watched the tens of millions of people, who marched on Saturday across the globe against Trump, and what he stands for, should take heart from the fact that from adversity can spring the drive for our own action, and increased solidarity. Nothing succeeds like success, and it has been a mantra of the Labour Movement that our strength lies in our numbers. Its time for those half million members to be mobilised on the streets, and in every community. It is that which will give others the motivation to come out of their isolation, and join us.

In the end, UKIP, Trump, Brexit and indeed the Tories and the Republicans are on the wrong side of history, and the same is true for the nationalist right in Europe. The tide is moving against them, but even as the tide goes out, individual waves may lap closer to the shore. In the short term, we have to deal with each wave as it comes. We have to push back the challenge from Nuttall, just as we have to push back the challenge from LePen, Fillon, Wilders, and the AfD. This should represent the high-point of those reactionary forces, and the beginning of the rise of an internationalist, forward looking, European working-class.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 3 - Part 11

What Smith has proved is precisely that the capitalist has obtained their profit from the fact that a proportion of the value of the commodity they sell has been created by labour, but for which the capitalist has not paid.

“We shall see how further on Adam Smith even more explicitly derives profit from the labour performed by the workman over and above the quantity of labour with which he pays for his wages, that is to say, replaces it by an equivalent. Thereby he has recognised the true origin of surplus-value. At the same time he has expressly stated that it does not arise from the advanced funds, whose value —however useful they may be in the real labour-process —merely reappears in the product; but that it arises exclusively from the new labour which the workmen add to the materials in the new process of production, in which those funds figure as means of labour or instruments of labour.” (p 80)

If the capitalist sells a commodity, the profit they obtain does not stem from the sale. It arises in production, from the fact that they have bought labour-power at its value, and that labour-power has created a greater value. The sale of the commodity, which represents this greater value, only thereby realises this surplus value, i.e. it realises the fact that the capitalist is obtaining from the sale not a greater sum of value than the commodity represents, but a greater sum of value than they have paid for.

“Adam Smith therefore must not put the exchange either for money or for other goods on the same footing as the exchange of the complete manufacture for labour. For in the first exchange the surplus-value originates from the fact that the commodities are exchanged at their value, for the labour-time contained in them, which however is in part unpaid for. Here it is assumed that the capitalist does not exchange an equal quantity of past labour for an equal quantity of living labour; that the quantity of living labour appropriated by him is greater than the quantity of living labour he has paid for.” (p 80) 

In other words, the commodity they sell possesses the same value as the commodity they obtain in return, be it money or other commodities. The surplus value does not arise from any unequal exchange, but from the fact that the value of labour-power is less than the value of the product of that labour.

“Otherwise the workman’s wage would be equal to the value of his product.” (p 80)

If we take any commodity, therefore, it has a value equal to the value of the material used in its production (including the value of the wear and tear of fixed capital), and an additional value equal to the new value created by living labour, which processes this material.

“Adam Smith rightly points out that only the part of the labour (value) which the workman newly adds to the material resolves itself into wages and profit, that is to say, the newly-created surplus-value in itself has nothing to do with the part of the capital which has been advanced (as materials and instruments).” (p 81)

One of the apologist justifications of this appropriation is that the capitalist undertakes the labour of supervision etc. But, Smith refutes this apologism, and the idea that the profit appropriated by capital is nothing more than a wage received for this labour. It is quite clear that, in every enterprise, where a developed system of division of labour exists, some labour is required to perform this function of organisation and superintendence. In early capitalist production, it is the small capitalist producer that undertakes it. But, even as private capitalist production develops, and becomes much bigger, the individual capitalist is forced to pass on this function to a stratum of professional managers, administrators and technicians, who are paid a wage for doing so.

Yet, even when this function is undertaken by these professional workers, the owner of the business continues to receive a profit. The situation is most clear in the case of the worker-owned co-operatives where these managers are employed by the workers themselves, and where, after all these wages have been paid, a surplus value remains. In the case of the joint stock companies, even after the wages of the professional managers have been paid out, and even after the exorbitant stipends paid to the directors, who sit above them, have been deducted, a large surplus still remains, out of which is funded not only the accumulation of productive-capital, but also the interest paid to shareholders, as dividends, and to bondholders and other money lenders.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 3 - Part 10

Adam Smith, when he comes to look at the exchange between wage labour and capital, recognises that fundamental to this exchange is a condition where we no longer have individual commodity producers, exchanging their commodities, but one in which we have a group of people who only have their labour-power to sell, and who confront another group of people who own land and means of production. But, he does not ask how this situation comes about. Smith writes,

““As soon as stock has accumulated in the hands of particular persons, some of them will naturally employ it in setting to work industrious people, whom they will supply with materials and subsistence, in order to make a profit by the sale of their work, or by what their labour adds to the value of the materials” ([ibid., p. 53], [Garnier] l.c., p. 96).” (p 78)

Marx notes,

“If we strip Smith’s statement of its naïve phrasing, it means nothing more than: capitalist production begins from the moment when the conditions of labour belong to one class, and another class has at its disposal only labour-power. This separation of labour from the conditions of labour is the precondition of capitalist production.” (p 78)

But, also, this profit that Smith refers to here, can come from only one of two places. Either that profit comes from the sale of the commodity above its value, which is Steuart's “Profit On Alienation” which is only a relative profit, or else it has arisen in production.

However, if it arises in production, and yet sells at its value, on the basis of Smith's argument, this profit can only be the result of the labourer being cheated.

““The value,” Adam continues immediately, “which the workmen add to the materials, therefore, resolves itself in this case” (when capitalist production has begun) “into two parts, of which the one pays their wages, the other the profits of their employer upon the whole stock of materials and wages which he advanced ([ibid., p. 53], [Garnier] l.c., pp. 96–97).” (p 79)

So its clear here that the worker produces value of one amount, but does not receive back an equivalent amount of value in exchange. A part of that value is appropriated by capital. Smith justified this appropriation by claiming that,

“...something must be given for the profits of the undertaker of the work, who hazards his stock in this adventure” ([ibid., p. 53], [Garnier], l.c.).” (p 79) 

But, however, this appropriation may be justified, it is clear that the worker has created one amount of value, and been paid a smaller amount of value in exchange for having done so. In other words, by the expenditure of their labour, the workers create a quantity of new value, and this divides into two parts. A quantity of this new value is returned to the worker as wages, to reproduce their labour-power. The second part constituting the surplus value is appropriated by capital.

“If therefore he sells the commodity at its value, that is, for the labour-time contained in it, in other words if he exchanges it for other commodities in accordance with the law of value, then his profit originates from the fact that he has not paid for a part of the labour contained in the commodity, but has nevertheless sold it. Adam Smith has thereby himself refuted the idea that the circumstance that the whole product of his labour no longer belongs to the labourer, that he is obliged to share it or its value with the owner of capital, invalidates the law that the proportion in which commodities exchange for each other, or their exchange-value, is determined by the quantity of labour-time materialised in them.” (p 79-80)

Northern Soul Classics - I'm The One To Do It - Lavern Baker

Great floater, also more associated with Jackie Wilson.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Friday Night Disco - Harlem Shuffle - Bob & Earl

And if you want to see the roots of Northern Soul dancing watch this video of the fast version, and the dancing of the Nicholas Brothers.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 3 - Part 9

[2. Contradictions in the System of the Physiocrats: the Feudal Shell of the System and Its Bourgeois Essence; the Twofold Treatment of Surplus-Value]

The idea that commodities exchange at their values, and that these values are determined by the labour-time required for their production, or what appears to Smith as the same thing, the amount of labour these commodities can command, is fine so long as commodities are merely produced and exchanged by individual producers. But, as soon as Smith then came to analyse the actual situation under capitalism, where the exchange is between wage labour and capital, this seems to him to break down. It appears to him that the commodity the workers sells to capital, labour, is not paid its full price, and it is from this fact that surplus value arises.

Marx quotes Smith, to establish his starting position.

““In that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labour necessary for acquiring different objects, seems to be the only circumstance which can afford any rule for exchanging them for one another… It is natural that what is usually the produce of two days’ or two hours’ labour, should be worth double of what is usually the produce of one day’s or one hour’s labour” ([ibid., p. 52] t. I, ch. VI. pp. 94–95, Garnier).” (p 78)

So, it is labour-time which determines the proportions in which commodities exchange, their exchange value.

Smith continues.

““In this state of things, the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer; and the quantity of labour commonly employed in acquiring or producing any commodity, is the only circumstance which can regulate the quantity of labour which it ought commonly to purchase, command, or exchange for” ([ibid., p. 53], [Garnier] l.c., p. 96).” (p 78)

The situation here is that the labourer does not sell their labour-power as a commodity. What they sell is only the product of their labour. The value of that product is determined by the labour-time required for its production, which is necessarily different to the value of the labour-power used in its production.

Similarly, therefore, the amount of labour this commodity can command is different to the labour used in its production, because here, labour-power is bought as a commodity, in exchange for this commodity. The exchange value of the commodity, labour-power, is determined in the same way as the value of the commodity given in exchange for it. That is, on the basis of the labour-time required for its production. But, this quantity of labour-time is in no way the same as, or determinant of, the quantity of labour that this labour-power then performs, after it has been bought. That is a function of a series of other conditions, which determine the length and intensity of the normal working day.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 3 - Part 8

On the one hand, the value of labour-power increases, as a consequence of the quantity and range of the use values required for the reproduction of the labourer increasing over time, and at any one time from country to country, and between one type of concrete labour and another. On the other hand, the value of labour-power is reduced as the level of social productivity rises, so that continually less social labour-time is required to produce all of those products required for the reproduction of the labourer.

What does not vary is the fact that one hour of socially necessary labour-time produces one hour of new value. Though here what has to be recognised is that what changes is the quantity of use values which represent this quantity of value. If a hand-loom weaver produces ten metres of cloth in ten hours, this ten metres has a value equal to ten hours, or each metre has a value equal to one hour of labour-time. If power looms are introduced, so that a worker can produce one hundred metres of cloth in ten hours, this ten hours of value is now represented by ten times as many use values, or put another way, each metre of cloth only has a value of 0.10 hours of labour-time (ignoring the value of constant capital). Moreover, the value of the ten metres of cloth produced by the hand-loom weaver has also fallen to a tenth its previous value. These ten metres now also have a value of only one hour (0.10 hours per metre), because their value is determined not by the ten hours of concrete, hand loom labour embodied in their production (which continues to determine the individual value of these ten metres, however), but by the one hour of socially necessary labour-time currently required for their reproduction.

“What is true of labour itself and consequently of its measure, labour-time —that the value of commodities is always proportionate to the labour-time realised in them, no matter how the value of labour may change —is here claimed for this changing value of labour itself.” (p 77)

So long as Smith is examining an exchange of commodities, by commodity owners, who exchange commodities that are themselves the product of their labour, this contradiction does not manifest itself.

“The quantity of social labour which they command is therefore equal to the quantity of labour contained in the commodity with which they themselves make the purchase.” (p 77)

It is only when the exchange is between materialised labour and living labour, between capital and wage labour, that this contradiction becomes apparent, and leads Smith to conclude that,

“... the value of the commodity is now no longer determined by the quantity of labour it itself contains, but by the quantity —which is different from this —of living labour of others which it can command, i.e., buy...” (p 77)

But, this does not mean, therefore, that what Smith is saying is that the commodities do not exchange at their values, i.e. equal amounts of labour-time. If capital exchanges ten hours of labour-time, in the form of wage goods, and thereby obtains twelve hours of value, in the form of labour performed by a wage labourer, the value of the commodity produced by this wage labourer would then still be equal to twelve hours, and would exchange with other commodities on that basis. 

It is only here that capital and wage labour appear to break this rule, because it appears that capital has handed over only ten hours of value in order to obtain a commodity worth twelve hours of value in return. What Smith is actually saying here is that,

“...the increase of the value contained in the commodity, and the extent of this increase, depends upon the greater or less quantity of living labour which the materialised labour sets in motion. And put in this way it is correct. Smith, however, remains unclear on this point.” (p 77)

By conflating labour and labour-power this notion that capital hands over ten hours of value, in order to obtain a commodity worth twelve hours of value, leads to the false conclusion, however, that surplus value arises because of workers being cheated on their wages. That is wrong, as demonstrated earlier. The surplus value arises because the product of labour has a higher value than the value of labour-power, and that is true in all modes of production.

Without that being the case, there is no potential for accumulation of this surplus value, and consequently of social progress. Wages are merely the phenomenal form of the value of labour-power, under capitalism. The workers are not exploited as a result of being cheated on their wages, i.e. of being underpaid, paid less than the value of their labour-power. They are exploited because the surplus value produced by their labour is appropriated by another class, rather than by themselves.