Monday, 23 April 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 26

Marx quotes the following statement by Ricardo to show that he does consider value and price of production to be the same thing. 

““Mr. Malthus appears to think that it is a part of my doctrine, that the cost and value of a thing should be the same;—it is, if he means by cost, ‘cost of production’ including profits” (l.c., p. 46, note).” (Note * p 393) 

Ricardo admits that, in practice, there may be no portion of land that pays no rent, but argues that some of the capital employed on the land pays no rent. The basis of this is that if a farmer rents an area of land from a landlord this may hide the fact that actually only three-quarters of the area produces a rent. So, although say 4 hectares are rented, at a rental of £75 per year, this hides the fact that the rent is £25 per hectare on 3 hectares, with the fourth being rent free. But, this does not help Ricardo's argument, Marx says. 

“The one fact is as irrelevant to the theory as the other. The real question is this: Do the products of these lands or of this capital regulate the market-value? Or must they not rather sell their products below their value, because their additional supply is only saleable at, not above, this market-value which is regulated without them.” (p 393) 

In other words, the market value is determined by production on other lands. All producers have to sell their output at this market value, which is below the individual value of the product of these lands that produce no rent. So, they must sell this output below its individual value. 

“So far as the portion of capital is concerned, the matter is simple, because for the farmer who invests an additional amount of capital landed property does not exist and as a capitalist he is only concerned with the cost-price; if he possesses the additional capital, it is more advantageous for him to invest it on his farm, even below the average profit, than to lend it out and to receive only interest and no profit. So far as the land is concerned, those portions of land which do not pay a rent form component parts of estates that pay rent and are not separable from the estates with which they are let; they cannot however be let in isolation from the rest to a capitalist farmer (but perhaps to a cottager or to a small capitalist).” (p 394) 

A farmer that is already renting out an area of land, is not confronting landed property, in relation to any additional capital they seek to invest, because their rent is already set for the duration of their lease. So, as Marx described earlier, in opposition to Ricardo, a farmer who seeks to invest an additional £1,000 of capital is led to do so, even if it produces a lower rate of profit than they currently enjoy, or below the average rate of profit. They do so because they cannot easily invest it in a separate farm, or other line of business, and even a lower rate of profit is likely to bring them a higher rate of return than were they to simply lend the capital as money-capital in return for interest. 

As set out earlier, some small pieces of land that cannot sustain rent can be let out to capitalist farmers as part of a larger area of land. The advantage to a landlord may not be only that it acts as an inducement to the farmer to take on the larger rented area, but the farmer may subsequently undertake improvements of that land, so that, in future, it sustains a rent. Some smallholders may be allowed to take on such areas rent free, or be given rent free periods, in return for undertaking such improvements of the land, so that it becomes cultivable, rent producing land in future. Some councils who rent out allotments do this. They will often make a charge for clearing a piece of land, before a new allotment holder takes it on, or they will give the allotment holder a year's free rent, if they undertake the initial clearance work. 

In addition to these options, a small peasant producer may sell their output at the market value, but below the individual value, whilst also paying a rent. The rent then eats into the profit, and often even into the wages of the producer. Small producers can continue on this basis, where they are also the landowner, particularly as they are reluctant to give up that ownership, and the independence that comes with it, in order to turn themselves into wage workers. As Marx pointed out, in relation to workers moving to the U.S., whenever they could, they proceeded in the opposite direction, saving their wages, so as to buy a piece of land and become a peasant producer. 

“The situation would be different in a country in which the composition of the agricultural capital was equal to the average composition of the non-agricultural capital, which presupposes a high level of development in agriculture or a low level of development in industry. In this case the value of the agricultural produce would be equal to its cost-price. Only differential rent could be paid then. The land which yields no differential rent but only an agricultural rent, could then pay no rent. For if the farmer sells the agricultural produce at its value, it only covers its cost-price. He therefore pays no rent. The landowner must then cultivate the land himself, or the so-called rent collected by him is a part of his tenant’s profit or even of his wages.” (p 394) 

Marx also refers to conditions where industry is at a low level of development, and consequently capitalist production in industry is poorly developed. In these cases, the categories of capitalist rent, of absolute and differential rent, do not exist, and other economic and social relations, for example of corvee, or share-cropping, and so on may exist. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 25

Suppose, as a result of improvements, Marx says, the composition rises from 60:40 to 66.6:33.3. In other words, more machinery is introduced to replace labour. This might be induced by a rise in agricultural wages due to “emigration, war, discovery of new markets, prosperity in the non-agricultural industry”, which Marx also cites in “Value, Price and Profit”, between 1849-59. Or, it could be, he says, that competition from imported grain forces domestic producers to seek to raise productivity. However, these are different circumstances that Marx does not distinguish. So, he says, 

“... the same circumstances could continue to operate after the introduction of the improvement and wages therefore might not fall despite the improvement).” (p 393) 

If its import competition that provokes the introduction of machines, wages would not have risen to begin with. On the other hand, if agricultural wages rise, for the reasons described, then it would be expected that industrial wages would also have risen, so the rate of surplus value, and rate of profit would have fallen. 

Marx assumes that the value of the agricultural product falls, as a result of the reduction in the variable capital, and no change in the rate of surplus value. In other words, c rises by 6.66, whilst v falls by 6.66, and s falls by 3.33, so that the total value falls by 3.33. At the same time, he assumes that the general annual rate of profit remains 10%, so that, on £100 of capital, the price of production remains £110. On £100 of capital, the value of output is now £116.66, so that the rent falls from £10 to £6.66. However, if wages in general rise, that would have meant that the general annual rate of profit would fall, with a consequent effect on the price of production of agricultural output. But, also, as Marx and Engels describe, in Capital III, capitalists only introduce machinery where its value is less than the value of the paid labour it replaces, so as to increase profits. That is one of the inducements, not only to develop machines that are ever more efficient, but also to produce those machines themselves more efficiently, and thereby reduce their value. 

“The absolute rent may rise because the general rate of profit falls, owing to new advances in industry. The rate of profit may fall due to a rise in rent, because of an increase in the value of agricultural produce which is accompanied by an increase in the difference between its value and its cost-price. (At the same time, the rate of profit falls because wages rise.)” (p 393) 

So, advances in industry may raise social productivity so that a given mass of labour processes a larger mass of material, which causes the organic composition of capital to rise, and the rate of profit to fall. But, this assumes that this does not reduce the value of constant capital – both of the processed material, and a moral depreciation of the fixed capital stock – or raise the rate of surplus value, thereby causing the general rate of profit to rise. And, it assumes that the rise in productivity does not raise the rate of turnover of capital, and thereby the general annual rate of profit. 

A rise in the value of agricultural products may raise the value of labour-power, because of higher food prices, which thereby reduces the rate of surplus value, and rate of profit. An increased value of agricultural output, at the same time as a lower rate of profit, and so lower prices of production, increases the difference between the price of production and value of agricultural output, and so causes rent to rise. 

“The absolute rent can fall, because the value of agricultural produce falls and the general rate of profit rises. It can fall, because the value of the agricultural produce falls as a result of a fundamental change in the organic composition of capital, without the rate of profit rising. It can disappear completely, as soon as the value of the agricultural produce becomes equal to the cost-price, in other words when the agricultural capital has the same composition as the non-agricultural, average capital.” (p 393) 

But, as I've discussed elsewhere, there is no reason why landowners would lease their land for free, and nor would all of them wish to farm or mine it themselves. Land would, therefore, tend to be simply withheld. Prices of agricultural and mineral products would then rise as a consequence of inadequate supply, so that prices rose above exchange-values, and prices of production, to a level where rents acceptable to landlords could be paid. What would constitute “acceptable” would depend on what yields could be obtained on alternative revenue producing assets, such as bonds or shares. 

Landowners may sell land where higher yields are available elsewhere, so reducing land prices, until available rents provided equivalent yields. However, as seen recently, landowners, as well as owners of financial assets may hold on to them, even at zero or even negative yields, if they believe that potential gains from rises in the price of those assets, underpinned by central banks, and state activity, more than offset the lack of revenue. 

The absolute rent, in this case, arises because landed property is able to prevent capital being employed. The surplus profit arises not because the value of output exceeds its price of production, but because the output is sold at a monopoly price above the value. This represents a draining of surplus value from industry, as a consequence of these monopoly prices. It is then not technically rent, but a portion of profit, in the economic sense. 

“Ricardo’s proposition would only be correct if expressed like this : When the value of agricultural produce equals its cost-price, then there is no absolute rent. But he is wrong because he says: There is no absolute rent because value and cost-price are altogether identical, both in industry and in agriculture. On the contrary, agriculture would belong to an exceptional class of industry, if its value and cost-price were identical.” (p 393) 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 24

Ricardo says, 

““I hope I have made it sufficiently clear, that until a country is cultivated in every part, and up to the highest degree, there is always a portion of capital employed on the land which yields no rent, and” (!) “that it is this portion of capital, the result of which, as in manufactures, is divided between profits and wages that regulates the price of corn. The price of corn, then, which does not afford a rent, being influenced by the expenses of its production, those expenses cannot be paid out of rent. The consequence therefore of those expenses increasing, is a higher price, and not a lower rent” (l.c., p. 293).” (p 392) 

But, Marx points out that absolute rent is equal to the excess of the exchange-value of the agricultural product over its price of production. So, whatever reduces the total quantity of labour (dead labour and living labour) required for corn production, reduces the rent, because it reduces the value. The price of production consists of the cost of production, k, (c + v) plus average profit. Marx comments, 

“In so far as the price of production consists of expenses, its fall is identical and goes hand in hand with the fall in value.” (p 392) 

This is only where less labour is required. If v falls because wages fall that is not the case. If the value of c falls, then the value of c + v falls, and consequently c + v + p falls. However, if the value of the variable capital falls, because the value of labour-power (wages) falls, (c +v), k, + p, i.e. the price of production falls, but c + v + s, the value, does not, because s rises by the same amount as the fall in v. 

“But in so far as the price of production (or the expenses) is equal to the capital advanced plus the average profit, the very reverse is the case. The market-value of the product falls, but that part of it, which is equal to the price of production, rises, if the general rate of profit rises as a result of the fall in the market-value of corn. The rent, therefore, falls, because the expenses in this sense rise—and this is how Ricardo takes expenses elsewhere, when he speaks of cost of production.” (p 392) 

However, as shown earlier, this is only the case if the rise in p is greater than the fall in k. 

“Improvements in agriculture, which bring about an increase in constant capital as compared with variable, would reduce rent considerably, even if the total quantity of labour employed fell only slightly, or so slightly that it did not influence wages (surplus-value, directly) at all.” (p 392) 

But, given that agriculture and mineral extraction forms a significant element in the input costs of wage goods, it's hard to see how an improvement in efficiency in the production does not reduce the value of wage goods, and thereby in the value of labour-power, thereby, so raising the rate of surplus value. Moreover, in both agriculture and mineral extraction, a large part of the organic composition is determined by the introduction of fixed capital, as neither involve the processing of raw material, in the way that occurs in manufacturing. In mineral extraction, as Marx already pointed out, there is only a minimal amount of circulating constant capital, in the form of auxiliary materials. The organic composition is affected by the introduction of machines to replace labour, but, as described in Capital III, new machines are only introduced where their value, i.e. the labour they represent, is less than the paid labour they replace. In the case of agriculture that also applies, but in addition a large element of the circulating constant capital in corn production is seeds. But, if a rise in efficiency reduces the value of corn, it thereby also reduces the value of the seeds, which are themselves replaced in kind from the production. 

Northern Soul Classics - A Case of Love - The Sequins

Great Torch classic that came up on random play in the car a few days back.


Friday, 20 April 2018

Friday Night Disco - Its So Hard Being A Loser - The Contours

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 23

Marx then turns to the point raised earlier, which is that not only is the agricultural profit increased, as a result of the rise in the general annual rate of profit, but it is also directly raised as a result of the initial rise in agricultural efficiency, which sparked the sequence of events. 

“As we have seen above, the farmer’s rate of profit would rise, in any case, if, as a result of the lower price of corn, the general rate of profit of the non-agricultural capital increased. The question is whether his rate of profit would rise directly, and this appears to depend on the nature of the improvements.” (p 391) 

I have set out two variants of that earlier. A third variant would be where there is no change in agricultural/mineral productivity, but the value of constant capital employed in agriculture falls. 

Marx argues, 

“If the improvements were of such a kind that the capital laid out in wages decreased considerably compared with that laid out in machinery, etc., then his rate of profit need not necessarily rise directly. If, for example, it was such that he required one-quarter less workers, then instead of his original outlay of £40 in wages, he would now pay only £30. Thus his capital would be £60 c + £30 v, or on £100 it would be £66⅔ c + £33⅓ v. And since the labour costing £40 [provides a surplus-value of] £20, the labour costing £30 provides £15. And £16⅔ [surplus-value is derived] from the labour costing £33⅓. Thus the organic composition would approach that of the non-agricultural capital.” (p 391) 

That is correct, although Marx doesn't take into consideration here the consequence that the fall in grain prices also leads to a 25% fall in the value of labour-power, which thereby raises the rate of surplus value, and rate of profit. So, previously, £40 was paid in wages, creating £20 of surplus value, i.e. £60 of new value. But, if wages fell to £30, surplus value rises to £30. Similarly, if the improvement in agricultural efficiency results in less labour being employed, so that where 4 workers were employed, at a total wage of £30, and surplus value of £30, now 3 workers are employed, at a total wage of £22.50, with a surplus value of £22.50. Therefore, although, as Marx says, this further fall in the value of the variable capital, relative to the constant capital, causes the organic composition of capital to come closer to that in industry, and thereby to bring the rate of profit in the former closer to that in the latter, the rise in the rate of surplus value, in agriculture and industry, from 50% to 100%, causes the rate of profit in agriculture also to rise, counteracting the rise in the organic composition. 

The agricultural capital, of 60 c + 22.50 v, is equal to a capital of 100 divided 72.73 c + 27.27.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Its Time For The Blair-rights To Put Up Or Shut Up

Yet again we have seen the Blair-right make scandalous accusations against the Labour Party, against supporters of Momentum, and against Marxists within the Labour.  They have done so under cover of parliamentary privilege, which prevents them from being sued for their unsubstantiated accusations.

If any member of the Labour Party is subject to racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic or any other kind of abuse they deserve our full support and sympathy, and our best endeavours to find the culprit responsible for the abuse, and for action to be taken against them.  But, it really will not do for members of the Blair-right to simply throw out accusations that every such instance of abuse is the action of some Labour Party member, supporter of Momentum, or Marxist.  That kind of blanket, unsubstantiated blaming of a group of people is, in reality, not different than the mentality that lies behind anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry.

The speeches given by Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and others in Parliament were very moving, but also illustrated the point.  The correct approach to instances of abuse was illustrated by Luciana Berger, who reported that 4 people who had been tracked down by the police, for having abused her online had been charged.  Three of them had been convicted.  But, none of these three convicted people were members of the Labour Party, Momentum, or were Marxists.  On the contrary, all of them were members of far right groups.

If the Blair-rights truly are interested in stamping out abuse of all kinds then rather than throwing out scatter-gun accusations without any substantiation against certain members of the Labour Party, which has all of the hallmarks of anti-Marxist bigotry, they would be joining with all members of the Labour Party, including all those on the Left, and particularly the Marxists, who have a proud history going back more than a century in opposing all forms of bigotry, to track down the real culprits, and to deal with them.

Simply, saying that some twitter troll used this or that hashtag, or made a comment in this or that Facebook group, simply is not good enough, because the Blair-rights must know that anyone can assign to themselves whatever identity they like on the Interweb, and that is what trolls do all the time.  Those of us who have received abuse and hatred from trolls know that they can present themselves as a supporter of the BNP one day, and as a supporter of the SWP tomorrow, and a libertarian the day after that.  Just because a few trolls, or one troll using several sock puppets posts a series of hate filled comments in a Facebook group, or some other forum, does not give the Blair-rights the right to paint everyone in that forum as being tolerant of, or in some way in agreement with those comments, any more than someone who comments in the Daily Mail, can be made responsible for the racist, xenophobic and generally bigoted views which appear there.

The Blair-rights might get away with such lazy methods of arguing amongst some older members of the public unfamiliar with the way social media works, and the way trolls operate, throwing out abuse of all sorts simply to provoke flame wars for their own entertainment, but they cannot get away with it, with younger people, which is why, like the Tories, they are seeing their support amongst the young and middle aged disappear into thin air, and which is why they are so desperate to throw out any old muck in the hope it will stick.  It is why we see, as in Parliament in recent days that open alignment between the Blair-rights and the Tories, with Theresa May at the end of PMQ's openly acknowledging her debt to them, for getting her off the hook over the disgraceful treatment of the Windrush generation, by providing her with a useful diversion, in their attacks on Corbyn.

The truth is that nearly every case of a troll that has been tracked down and brought to court for online abuse, or for other actual threats have been found to be people who are socially inadequate, suffering from some form of psychological or personality disorder, or as in the case of Joe Cox's killer, or Luciana Berger's abusers, members of extreme right-wing groups.  As far as I am aware, there has been not one single case of someone from the Left of the Labour Party, not one single Marxist who has been brought into court charged with such abuse.  Yet listen to the combined voice of the Blair-rights and the Tories, and you would believe the very opposite to be the case.

And, indeed, we all know why the case of Ken Livingstone has taken so long to go through the Labour Party's internal disciplinary procedure.  It is that if Livingstone was expelled, he would undoubtedly take the case to court, and would undoubtedly get his expulsion overturned, because there would be no shortage of Jewish members of the Labour Party, like Walter Wolfgang, to speak in his defence, and no shortage of historians who would be able to testify in court that in terms of facts, what Livingstone actually said, was substantially true, which is that the Nazis did establish the Ha'avara Agreement with Zionists, which was intended to encourage Jews to move to Palestine.  Moreover, it is also true that there were other connections between important sections of Zionism and both the Nazis and Mussolini's fascistsThe Stern Gang also known as the Lehi Group, whose leading members included Israeli prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, sought to ally with the Nazis against Britain, because thy felt the former were a lesser evil compared to the latter.

The Lehi Group's members were commemorated in 1980, by the Israeli government with the introduction of the Lehi Ribbon.  The Stern Gang committed declared that it would establish a Jewish state based upon "nationalist and totalitarian principles".

So, its no wonder that socialist Jews, such as those of the Jewish Voice for Labour, or Jewdas do not want to be associated with those sentiments that are entrenched within the ideology of Zionism.  Yet for the Blair-rights, such opposition makes these socialist Jews the wrong kind of Jews, Jews who as in the case of Moshe Machover, or Tony Greenstein, it is quite right to expel from the party for expressing their opposition to Zionism, and with whom Jeremy Corbyn should not have links, or break bread.

Real opposition to anti-Semitism involves tracking down those who are actually guilty of it, and bringing them to account, it does not involve simply using it as a weapon to attack anybody in the party, without substantiation, simply because you disagree with their views, but find yourself on the losing side of the argument.  No serious person would want the police to just pick up the usual suspects in the case of a murder, rather than seeking out the actual murderer.  Nor should anyone serious about tackling anti-Semitism or other forms of bigotry be happy with certain sections of the Labour Party simply throwing out unsubstantiated allegations against other members of the party, simply for their own short term political advantage, when they find themselves on the losing side of debates and votes within the party.  The Blair-rights are simply using anti-Semitism as a weapon with which to attack Jeremy Corbyn, and his supporters within the party, and in doing so they are doing our Jewish brothers and sisters inside and outside the party a great disservice.  They are treating them merely as pawns in their own political games to hold on to their own cushy positions now they are under threat from democracy.  They are undermining the real struggle against anti-Semitism, by letting the real ant-Semites off the hook, not least all of those anti-Semites and other racists and xenophobes in the Tory Party, with whom the Blair-rights now seem to be in open alliance in parliament!

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 22

Marx then turns to those further complexities that arise from the fact that not all of the capital advanced enters into the value of the product, and that what is being calculated as a rate of profit is actually the annual rate of profit, and this is affected, as stated above, by the rate of turnover of the capital. An advanced capital of £100 that turns over five times a year produces five times as much profit as one that turns over once a year, and thereby produces a rate of of profit five times that of the latter.

“For in our calculation, above, we assumed that the whole of the constant capital which has been advanced, enters into the product, i.e., that it contains only the wear and tear of the fixed capital, for one year, for example (since we have to calculate the profit for the year). The values of the total product would otherwise be very different, whereas here they only change with the variable capital. Secondly, with a constant rate of surplus-value but varying periods of circulation, there would be greater differences in the amount of surplus-value created, relatively to the capital advanced. Leaving out of account any differences in variable capital, the amounts of the surplus-values would be proportionate to the amounts of the values created by the same capitals. The rate of profit would be even lower where a relatively large part of the constant capital consisted of fixed capital and considerably higher, where a relatively large part of the capital consisted of circulating capital. It would be highest where the variable capital was relatively large as compared with the constant capital and where the fixed portion of the latter was at the same time relatively small. If the ratio of circulating to fixed capital in the constant capital were the same in the different capitals, then the only determining factor would be the difference between variable and constant capital. If the ratio of variable to constant capital were the same, then it would be the difference between fixed and circulating capital, that is, only the difference within the constant capital itself.” (p 391) 

This fact that the average profit to be added to the cost of production is actually the average annual profit, calculated on the whole of the advanced capital (fixed and circulating) is often overlooked. An advanced capital that consists of a proportionately large amount of fixed capital will attract a proportionally large mass of profits relative to the cost of production compared to one that employs proportionally less fixed capital, as Marx discusses in Capital III

Suppose we take two capitals both of £10,000. 
Capital I

Fixed Capital
Materials
Variable Capital
Profit 10%
8000
1000
1000
1000
If the fixed capital suffers 10% wear and tear, the cost of production is 800 d + 1,000 c + 1,000 v = £2,800. The profit to be added is £1,000, which is 10% on the advanced capital of £10,000. But, this £1,000 of profit represents a rate of profit of 35.71%, on the £2,800 of capital laid-out, i.e. on the cost of production.
Capital II
Fixed Capital
Materials
Variable Capital
Profit 10%
2000
4000
4000
1000

Now, the cost of production is 200 d + 4000 c + 4000 v = £8,200. Adding the profit of £1,000 now gives a price of production of £9,200. The rate of profit on the advanced capital of £10,000 remains 10%, but the rate of profit/profit margin on the laid out capital is now 12.20%. 

Clearly, the capital that has a high proportion of fixed capital sees its price of production increased by much more than the capital with a lower proportion of fixed capital, and that is clearly because a large portion of the value of the fixed capital is not turned over. This, however, only examines the situation on the basis of comparative statics, and does not take account of the role of the fixed capital in raising productivity, and thereby itself bringing about a rise in the rate of turnover of the circulating capital, upon which the annual rate of profit is based. It's quite likely that a capital with a high proportion of fixed capital may have a high rate of turnover of capital, because the fixed capital may represent high levels of machinery, which raise levels of labour productivity. That means that the value of advanced circulating constant capital may remain constant, or even fall, whilst the value of the laid-out constant capital will rise sharply, as a result of being turned over many more times. And, as Marx sets out, in Capital III, the unit value of machines and other forms of fixed capital tends to fall proportionately more than does the value of materials, whilst this same rise in productivity, as a result of technological development, means that one machine may replace two older machines, and this new machine will not only be cheaper, but will also process two or more times as much material as previously was processed by the two older machines. Consequently, the value of fixed capital, and of wear and tear will progressively fall as a proportion of total output value, whilst the value of materials will progressively increase. 

Engels set out a number of such examples, in Capital III, where such capitals with more fixed capital result in higher productivity, and rates of turnover. Suppose we take the first example, but assume that the circulating capital turns over five times during the year. The advanced capital remains £10,000, and thereby produces the average profit of £1,000 as before. So, now the total cost of production is £800 wear and tear, £1,000 x 5 = £5,000 materials, and £1,000 x 5 variable capital = £10,800. Adding the profit of £1,000 gives a price of production of £11,800, and now the rate of profit/profit margin is 9.26%. 

If the output originally was 2,800 units, the price per unit was £1. Now output is 14,000 units and the price per unit is £0.84 per unit. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

UK Wages Start To Squeeze Profits

Even in the UK's sclerotic, low-wage, low productivity, debt ridden economy, wages increases have started to exceed price increases, which means that profits are getting squeezed. In the last quarter wages rose 2.8%, whilst prices rose 2.5%.  As I have described previously, this squeeze on profits arises for two reasons. Firstly, as the demand for labour-power rises, and the supplies of labour-power start to get used up, competition between firms pushes up wages. Secondly, where productivity growth is slow, the total wage bill rises more, because not only do wages rise, but proportionally more labour is employed to generate a given level of output. As the wage bill rises faster than the growth of profits, profits are increasingly squeezed, causing the rate of profit to diminish.  This is the basis for the theory of the falling rate of profit described by Adam Smith, as opposed to the Law of The Tendency For the Rate of Profit to Fall, developed by Marx.

As I have previously described, we are now at that stage of the long wave cycle. In fact, it is only because of the imposition of large scale austerity, and massive amounts of money printing and other monetary measures, to divert potential money-capital into financial speculation, in bond, stock and property markets, and away from the accumulation of real capital, over the last eight years, that global economic growth was constrained during that period, and this demand for labour-power did not develop sooner. What we are seeing across the globe is the power of the current long-wave boom, and the inability of that austerity and money printing to constrain economic growth any longer. Across the globe, the kind of rapid economic growth seen in the period 1999-2008 is resuming. 

As I have set out elsewhere, that economic growth, and the demand for labour-power, which is now causing wages to rise, and profits to get squeezed, sets in place a dynamic the opposite of what has been seen over the last 30 years. As wages rise, workers have more revenue to spend on wage goods. It might be sensible, in such periods, to use any disposable income to pay down debt, but in debt soaked economies like the UK's, with low wages, and large numbers of people reliant on borrowing, the tendency is to utilise any higher wages to lever up even further, so as to buy all of those consumer goods that previously could not be afforded. In other words, consumer debt rises further, though it may shift away from the usurious lenders, towards more bank credit, which itself has further consequences. Small businesses, for example, tend not to use payday lenders to raise money-capital, but if workers turn away from the latter, and towards bank credit, that increased demand for bank credit, may cause the rates charged also to business borrowers to rise. 

The increased demand for wage goods resulting from higher wages, and from more workers in employment, inflated further by credit, causes firms to seek to meet this increased demand, goaded on by the requirements of competition. Consequently, they must employ more workers, buy in more materials, employ additional machines, move to larger premises, or open additional premises, and so on. This multiplier effect causes demand to rise even further, setting in an upward spiral. But, with wages rising and squeezing profits, in order to finance this real capital accumulation, firms need to borrow more money-capital. Consequently, alongside rising demand for bank credit from workers to finance additional consumption, goes additional business borrowing to finance expansion. At the same time, workers feeling more confident save less, and the supply of money-capital is reduced, because realised profits fall relatively, as profits are squeezed by rising wage bills, and potentially by other higher input costs. The demand for money-capital rises sharply relative to the supply of money-capital, and consequently market rates of interest rise sharply. 

As market rates of interest rise sharply, the capitalised value of financial assets and land falls sharply. The incentive for speculation in stocks, bonds and property that falling interest rates has provided, underpinned by central banks, over the last 30 years, disappears, as capital gains are replaced by significant and extended capital losses, and with extremely low yields on stocks, bonds and property, the incentive is created instead to invest in real capital, where the rate of profit is much higher, even though falling. 

That is the condition which causes the crash of those financial and property markets, and large amounts of liquidity flows out of them, and into real capital accumulation, and into commodity circulation, providing yet a further economic stimulus. It means the end of the temporary though prolonged period of dominance for fictitious capital, and the reassertion of the dominance of large-scale socialised capital, and of the social-democracy that is its corollary.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 21


Marx then sets out the situation resulting from a 25% fall in wages. The results are summarised in the following table.

Rate of profit
%

[the price of the] product [must be:]
Difference between cost-price and value
I. 84.21 c + 15.79 v
15.79
In order
116 (value = 115.79)
+0.21
II. 66.66 c + 33.33 v
33.33
to sell at
116 (value = 113.33)
-17.33
III. 88.31 c + 11.69 v
11.69
the same
116 (value = 111.69)
+4.31
IV. 96.20 c + 3.80 v
3.80
cost-prices
116 (value = 103.82)
+12.20
Total 400
64 (to the nearest whole number)

The amounts are adjusted to take account, as before, of the capital advanced continuing to be £100, so that the fall in wages releases capital to be used to employ additional means of production and labour-power

“This makes 16 per cent. More exactly, a little more than 16 1/7 per cent. The calculation is not quite correct because we have disregarded, not taken into account a fraction of the average profit; this makes the negative difference in II appear a little too large and [the positive] in 1,111, IV a little too small. But it can be seen that otherwise the positive and negative differences would cancel out; further, it can be seen that on the one hand the sale of II below its value and of III and particularly of IV above their value would increase considerably. True, the addition to or reduction of the price would not be so great for the individual product as might appear here, since in all four categories more labour is employed and hence more constant capital (raw materials and machinery) is transformed into product. The increase or reduction in price would thus be spread over a larger volume of commodities. Nevertheless it would still be considerable.” (p 390) 

This is the point that Marx sets out in Capital III, Chapter 12. It shows that a rise in wages that causes a fall in the rate of profit, results in the price of production for those spheres with high organic compositions to fall, and vice versa, whilst the price of production for those capitals with the average composition is unchanged. Again, the implication is that the former sees an influx of capital, to push down prices, whilst those spheres with lower compositions see an outflow of capital to cause their prices to rise. 

“It is thus evident that a fall in wages would cause a rise in the cost-prices of I, III, IV, in fact a very considerable rise in the cost-price of IV. It is the same law as that developed by Ricardo in relation to the difference between circulating and fixed capital, but he did not by any means prove, nor could he have proved, that this is reconcilable with the law of value and that the value of the products remains the same for the total capital.” (p 390) 

Although, in fact, the divergence in Ricardo's example, relating to fixed and circulating capital, also stems from the different rates of turnover of capital, so that those capitals that turnover faster than the average produce proportionately more surplus value, and have a higher annual rate of profit, and vice versa. Capital then flows to these higher profit areas, reducing prices, and vice versa. Correspondingly, when wages rise, and the average rate of profit falls, capital flows in the other direction.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Bankruptcy of the Blair-rights

By going to war in Syria without parliamentary approval, Theresa May provided the Blair-rights with a perfect way of getting themselves off the hook, if they chose to take it. Even if they really did feel morally bound to support liberal intervention in Syria, in the debate yesterday, they had the opportunity to display party unity, and party loyalty, by focussing their attack on the undemocratic, authoritarian nature of the government's total disregard of parliament. Instead, it was obvious that, rather than seeing May's action as a means of getting them off the hook, they saw it as a stab in the back, because it denied them, once again, of the opportunity to focus their ire on Jeremy Corbyn, rather than the government. But, the bankrupt Blair-rights hatred of Corbyn and of the party he leads, meant they could not help themselves. Instead of focussing their attack on the Tories authoritarian, and undemocratic actions – as even the Liberals and SNP were able to do – the Blair-rights still used the opportunity to attack Corbyn and the Labour Party. Some of them even went beyond attacking Corbyn over the principle of engaging in yet another illegal war, and eagerly jumped into bed with their ideological soulmates of the Tory Party, to also justify the government's undemocratic action of ignoring parliament. 

How these people ever found themselves stumbling into the Labour Party in the first place is, at first sight, hard to fathom. However, as my old friend Mick Williams, long ago, described such people, who shared a position with him as Labour Councillors on Stoke City Council, they are people who treat politics in the same way they treat catching a bus. It really doesn't matter to them whether they catch a red bus or a blue bus. The only thing determining their decision is which bus takes them, personally, to where they want to be going, faster and more cheaply. It is, in fact, why such people so easily move from a red bus of Labour to a pink bus of the SDP, or a yellow bus of the Liberals, and indeed why they move from a blue bus of the Tories to the red bus of Labour, and vice versa, if it suits their personal career prospects. It's why such people are again talking up the prospect of joining with their Tory and Liberal soulmates about creating yet another centre party, with the backing of multi-millionaires, and the Tory media. 

Well, to mix metaphors, and what is a metaphor if it can't be mixed, it's time we told these parasites that their free ride on the gravy train is over. If they want to waste their time, and millionaires money, on a doomed experiment in creating a new centre party, the sooner they go the better. It will do little better than the existing centre party – the Liberals – whose fortunes have been in steady decline since 2010, and in even more rapid decline since Corbyn became Labour Leader, and began to offer British workers a clear alternative. But, it's clear that the Blair-rights like Chris Leslie and Mike Gapes et al, who could not help themselves, yesterday, in venting their spleen at Corbyn, rather than the Tories, are an openly organised party within a party, operating inside the PLP. Its time party members told them to go, and go now. We should not do what the old right did, when their authoritarian, bureaucratic politics led them to expel party members, via the party machine, rather than confront them in ideological debate; we should simply exercise the principle of basic democracy to deselect these wreckers. Past experience shows that that will be enough, because such careerists, once they no longer are provided with their free lunch, will quickly move to fresh pastures, in search of other suckers to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed. 

The actual debate in parliament was abysmal, as was to be expected for a debate that was as useful as any other example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Whilst the Blair-rights simply used the opportunity to attack Corbyn rather than the Tories, the Tories themselves simply stood up one after another to repeat the same few words, only occasionally arranged in a different order, to slap the government on the back. All such comments whether from the Blair-rights, or from the Tories – and the two were mostly indistinguishable – were marked by total vacuity, and a sickening lack of any critical thought about what they were supposed to be analysing or responding to. All of their comments were so rigidly adherent to the idea that there could be no alternative possibility but that the vile Assad regime was responsible for a chemical attack in Douma, and that the only possible response to it, was to bomb Syria, that they could have been speeches given by North Korean Deputies, in some other context. 

The way that the Tory MP's swerved around the idea that their hostility, and claim to be acting to provide humanitarian relief was hollow, given their failure to act in the same way against the humanitarian disaster created by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, or by Israel in Gaza, indeed that they have provided the weapons and military advisors for Saudi Arabia, was sickening. They claimed that the situations were different because Saudi Arabia and Israel were slaughtering and maiming men, women and children with the massive use of conventional weapons, not chemical weapons! In actual fact Saudi Arabia and Israel have also used white phosphorus munitions too, but the point is that the Tories distinction between chemical weapons and the massive use of conventional weapons shows that the argument in relation to chemical weapons is merely a pretext. 

In fact, the Tories allies in the various Jihadist groups such as Al Nusra have also been shown to use chemical weapons including chlorine gas. So much for the idea that it can only be used by someone who has helicopters or aircraft. And, we were asked to accept without question that any chemical attack in Douma had, in fact, been made from the air.  But, the fact that these jihadist groups have used chemical weapons has not stopped the US and UK continuing to support them, as their agents against Assad. Indeed, in the past, both the US and UK not only supported Saddam Hussein, and his use of chemical weapons against Iran, in the Iran-Iraq War, but they provided him with the chemical weapons for him to use, and advised him of how best to use them! 

It was, after all the Tory icon, Winston Churchill, who in relation to the rebel Afghans said, 


And the depleted uranium munitions that Britain and the other NATO powers use, continue to reside in the soil and water courses for decades after they have been used, causing grotesque mutations and deformations of babies, just as did the hundreds of tons of Agent Orange dropped by the US on Vietnam. 

Depleted Uranium as used in the munitions used by NATO
stays in the soil and water courses for decades, resulting in
grotesque genetic defects, and abnormalities in babies for
decades after its use.
Any real humanitarian would be equally appalled at these actions and sentiments expressed by the liberal interventionists of democratic imperialism, as they are at the actions of vile dictators such as Assad or Putin. But, the Tories and their soulmates amongst the Blair-rights cannot express such hostility, and basis humanitarian concern, because for them, their fake sentimentalism and moralism is nothing more than a pretext for them to engage in yet another illegal war, to promote the global strategic interests of British imperialism, as it clings to the apron strings of Trump, and US imperialism. 

They, of course, have no concept that the real answer to dictators such as Assad or Putin comes not from their bombs and bullets, which act only to consolidate such people in their position, by giving them an external threat against which to rally their people, but is to forge a link between the workers of Britain, France, the United States and elsewhere with the workers in Russia, Syria, Iran and so on, for a common struggle to overthrow all of our leaders, and the oppression of capitalism that those leaders impose on us. When the Stalinists and Social-Democrats sought to support democratic imperialism against Hitler prior to World War II, Trotsky wrote, 

"Fascism is a form of despair in the petit-bourgeois masses, who carry away with them over the precipice a part of the proletariat as well. Despair as is known, takes hold when all roads of salvation are cut off. The triple bankruptcy of democracy, Social Democracy and the Comintern was the prerequisite for fascism. All three have tied their fate to the fate of imperialism. All three bring nothing to the masses but despair and by this assure the triumph of fascism.... 

"The democracies of the Versailles Entente helped the victory of Hitler by their vile oppression of defeated Germany. Now the lackeys of democratic imperialism of the Second and Third Internationals are helping with all their might the further strengthening of Hitler’s regime. Really, what would a military bloc of imperialist democracies against Hitler mean? A new edition of the Versailles chains, even more heavy, bloody and intolerable. Naturally, not a single German worker wants this. To throw off Hitler by revolution is one thing; to strangle Germany by an imperialist war is quite another. The howling of the “pacifist” jackals of democratic imperialism is therefore the best accompaniment to Hitler’s speeches. “You see,” he says to the German people, “even socialists and Communists of all enemy countries support their army and their diplomacy; if you will not rally around me, your leader, you are threatened with doom!” Stalin, the lackey of democratic imperialism, and all the lackeys of Stalin – Jouhaux, Toledano, and Company – are the best aides in deceiving, lulling, and intimidating the German workers... 

"The Czechoslovakian crisis revealed with remarkable clarity that fascism does not exist as an independent factor. It is only one of the tools of imperialism. “Democracy” is another of its tools. Imperialism rises above them both. It sets them in motion according to need, at times counterposing them to one another, at times amicably combining them. To fight against fascism in an alliance with imperialism, is the same as to fight in an alliance with the devil against his claws or horns... 

"The struggle against fascism demands above all the expulsion of the agents of “democratic” imperialism from the ranks of the working class. Only the revolutionary proletariat of France, Great Britain, America, and the USSR, declaring a life and death struggle against their own imperialism and its agency, the Moscow bureaucracy, is capable of arousing revolutionary hopes in the hearts of the German and Italian workers, and at the same time of rallying around itself hundreds of millions of slaves and semi slaves of imperialism in the entire world. In order to guarantee peace among peoples we must overthrow imperialism under all its masks. Only the proletarian revolution can accomplish this." 

(Phrases and Reality, Writings 1938-9) 

And as the heads of the Commonwealth meet in London, the sentimental outpourings of the Tories, and their Blair-right sycophants is even more sickening. It is the same British imperialism that kept millions of the people in those commonwealth countries in chains for centuries, and inflicted gruesome torture and suffering on them. Only a few decades ago it did the same thing in its brutal suppression of the Mau-Mau in Kenya. Ironically, even minutes before the “debate” on the war inflicted on Syria, parliament was discussing the plight inflicted on people of the Windrush generation, who have been put into British concentration camps, awaiting deportation to the Caribbean, simply for not having the right papers to prove they have a right to be here. We have the way the people of the Chagos Islands have been treated by British imperialism in its desire to assuage the needs of US imperialism, but which the media will have little time for in the next few weeks, and which the Tories will no doubt be anxious to avoid having discussed. 

No doubt, as the Tories seek to establish the British Empire 2.0, as they disastrously take Britain out of the EU, they will also be keen to have those former colonial slaves forget about the torture and indignity inflicted upon them by Britain, and its Tory rulers, including Britain's military action to prevent even peaceful protest to bring about that end. It was after all, once again that Tory icon Winston Churchill, who not only advocated the use of poison gas, but who also proposed rounding up the supporters of Gandhi and machine gunning them, and whose proposals for Gandhi himself was that he, 

"ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.". 

It was Churchill who, as well as Hitler, proclaimed 

"the Aryan stock is bound to triumph". 

It was Churchill, who when 14,000 black Africans died in British concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War, wrote only 

“of his "irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men" . 

It was Churchill who said, 

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion”, 

and when 3 million Bengalis were starving to death, and British officials begged Churchill to send food supplies to the area, Churchill refused. He complained that it was their own fault for "breeding like rabbits", and also said the plague was "merrily" culling the population. That same attitude had been taken by the British Tory government which refused to allow food supplies donated by British workers to be distributed freely during the Irish famine, because they said to do so would undermine the free market! 

So forgive me for failing to join with the utterly disgraceful Blair-rights in allowing the Tories to get away with shedding the crocodile tears, and their sickening talk about torture, chemical weapons, and their humanitarianism. 

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 20

Marx then sets out a table in which four capitals of varying organic compositions are analysed, demonstrating how an average rate of profit is calculated on the basis of an average composition, and how this then determines the price of production for each capital, and its variance with the value of the output for each capital.


[the price of the] product [must be:]
Difference between value and cost-price
I. 80 c + 20 v
In order to
110 (value = 110)
0
II. 60 c + 40 v
sell at the
110 (value = 120)
-10.00
III. 85 c + 15 v
same cost-
110 (value = 107.50)
+2.50
IV. 95 c + 5 v
prices
110 (value = 102.50)
+7.50
Thus the average capital = 80c + 20v


This is the same as the argument presented in Capital III, setting out the basis for the transformation of exchange values into prices of production. Taking the total of the four capitals, the total social capital is 400, and the surplus value is 40. So, for the total social capital the rate of profit is 10%, and this, by definition, is the average rate of profit. Any capital that receives less than this average rate would migrate to those spheres where the rate was higher than the average, so that a process is put in place whereby each capital moves closer to this average rate. The means by which this happens is that as capital moves from low profit areas to high profit areas, the supply of commodities in these latter spheres increases, so that the market prices of these commodities fall. Similarly, as capital migrates from low profit areas, the supply of commodities in these areas declines, so that market prices rise. 

So, the market prices in each sphere increasingly diverge from their exchange values. In high profit areas, prices fall below the exchange value, as supply in those areas rises. And in low profit areas, prices rise above exchange value, because supply of commodities in these areas declines. As these prices adjust, so the profit is also adjusted until each sphere produces only the average profit. In fact, as I've set out in relation to Marx's exposition, this process, described by Marx, of the way prices and profits adjust, is not reflected in this table, or some of the other tables he produces, which continue to show the mass of capital, in each sphere, remaining the same. This is clearly not possible, because the very process of transformation requires that the capital employed in spheres III and IV is reduced below 100, whereas the capital employed in sphere II, which has a higher than average rate of profit rises above 100. 

Marx's explanation of this is that the figures for the capital in each sphere are percentage figures not absolute quantities, but this use of percentages acts to hide the actual process of capital reallocation involved in the transformation of exchange values into production prices. The basis of the reallocation, and the reason that the rate of profit is higher than the average, in some sectors, is clear from the table. In Sector II, the organic composition of capital is lower than the average. It employs proportionately more labour. So, assuming a single rate of surplus value, this greater mass of labour produces proportionately more surplus value than in the other areas, and so the rate of profit is higher than in other areas. Sphere IV employs proportionately less labour than the other sectors, and so produces the least surplus value, and has the lowest rate of profit. Sphere I has an organic composition of capital equal to the average, and so employs the average proportion of surplus value, and so average rate of profit. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Pretext For War

Over the last week, the media has stepped up its propaganda campaign to support war in Syria by the US, UK and France. As with the justification for all such foreign wars, where a sovereign state is to be attacked, even though that state has undertaken no offensive action against the states launching the war against it, some other pretext for the war has to be created. Typically, that pretext has been some kind of pre-emptive action, on the basis of some secret information known only to, and which can only be made available to the states undertaking the pre-emptive strikes, or else is to assuage some supposed humanitarian crisis. 

Intervention on the latter basis is always problematic, for any state wanting to justify such a war, because, at any one time, there are always several such situations existing across the globe, equally meriting some kind of intervention, which leaves the states undertaking the military strikes having to explain why they have intervened in this particular instance rather than any of the others. Given that, it can usually also be demonstrated that the states undertaking the military strikes are themselves allied with other forces, across the globe, who are themselves guilty of creating such humanitarian crises, the use of such a pretext for war, can be easily seen to be a thinly veiled excuse, to disguise the real intention of undertaking the war. For example Trotsky that with the atrocities committed by the so called “liberal intervention” in the Balkans, or as can be seen today with the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians, or Saudi Arabia in Yemen, or indeed, the chemical weapons usage by the western backed jihadists of Al Nusra et al, in Syria. The atrocities committed by the liberal interventionists in Iraq, at Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere also illustrate the point. 

But, to use the other pretext of a pre-emptive strike, to prevent an actual attack by a foreign power, is also problematic. It is always kept as a background possibility, which is how the retention of nuclear weapons has been justified, including today as a supposed deterrent against a threat coming from say North Korea, although no one, can provide any sensible reason as to why North Korea would ever want to launch a nuclear attack against Britain, out of the blue, other than in conditions where North Korea had itself somehow been threatened, previously by Britain! The threat of such an imminent attack was used by Blair to justify the Iraq War, with his claim that Iraq was within 45 minutes of launching an attack on British forces in Cyprus; a claim that was quickly shown to be nonsense. Using this kind of pretext for an attack requires that the domestic population has been primed to feel a high degree of apprehension of a foreign threat, so that as Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan, they are prepared to relinquish their own liberty, and hand over absolute power to the sovereign, to protect them from such threats. 

The Iraq War demonstrated the problem here, which is that not only was the 45 minute claim quickly shown to be nonsense, but the further pretext for war, that Iraq had WMD, capable of being put into warheads fired with only 45 minutes warning was also shown to be completely false, despite an assurance being given by all of the intelligence services of the belligerent powers that they were 100% certain of that fact! Using the pretext of humanitarian intervention, has, therefore, become the preferred means of belligerent states justifying their wars against foreign sovereign states. But, to do so, given the experience of Iraq, and of Libya, domestic populations have to be softened up, and bombarded with propaganda to ensure that there is no doubt in their mind that what is being fed to them is an unquestionable truth. That is the reason that Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to give 100% uncritical support for the line that the government was putting out over the Salisbury poisonings, brought down an avalanche of invective against him, even though, within a matter of a week, his caution had once again been vindicated.

What Did You See?

As in the case of the Schripal's, I start from a position of intense hatred of Putin's regime in Russia, and so a propensity to accept that anything it is accused of, it is probably guilty of. Certainly, I have no reason to give Putin and the Kremlin the benefit of the doubt on anything. I start from the same attitude to the vile regime of Assad in Syria. But, just because I have no sympathy for these vile dictators, does not mean that I, therefore, have some derived sympathy for their opponents. My enemy's enemy is not my friend; often they are merely just my more immediate enemy! That is certainly the case in relation to Theresa May's government, and the same applies in relation to US workers with Trump, and quite visibly in France at the moment, with the anti-working class, Thatcherite government of Macron engaged in its attacks on French rail workers. Given the lies told to British workers by May's government, and their attempts to avoid parliamentary scrutiny to hold them account for those lies, for example, in relation to Brexit, my immediate enemy is not Assad or Putin, but May, Johnson and the rest. Whilst they complain about chlorine gas poisoning in Syria, they are quite happy to impose chlorine washed chicken on British consumers, after Brexit, to assuage their friend Trump.

As with the Schripal case, therefore, although I have no reason to give Assad the benefit of the doubt, nor am I prepared to simply accept the claims of May, Trump or Macron, let alone of the jihadists of Al Nusra, fighting Assad. Probably, like most people seeing the images on TV screens of children in distress in Douma, and absorbing the narrative of the news channel, I started from the assumption that such a chemical attack had occurred. The only question then being who was responsible. Again, I have no reason to give Assad the benefit of the doubt in such a question, even though it has been shown many times that Al Nusra have also had possession of chlorine gas, and have used it in attacks against their opponents.

However, my wife who has little interest in politics had a different impression. She was paying no attention to the background narrative, and only saw the images as she looked up from her Sudoku book. What she saw was something different; she saw a lot of people who appeared to be panicked, as a result of people rushing around them spraying them with water, and shoving Ventolin inhalers in their mouths – often inadvisably, given the age of some of those involved. Only later after I saw reports from staff at the hospital, that they were unaware of any such chemical attack, but that members of Al Nusra, who were still at that time in control of Douma, had swept into the hospital, shouting about a chemical attack, creating panic, and then dousing people with water, etc., before disappearing again, did I look at the images repeated on the news several times, with a different eye. Looking at it again, I too now see something different.  

Having suffered with asthma for more than 60 years, I am quite familiar with all of the signs that people display when then are struggling for breath, which is what would be expected where someone has suffered from a chlorine gas attack, which acts to dissolve lung tissue, which is why if you are using the most common household form of chlorine – bleach – you should ensure that you do so in well ventilated conditions. Actually, the most common form of chlorine in the home is salt – sodium chloride - but its not usually going to be emitting chlorine gas. Looking at the oft repeated TV images, I have not seen any evidence of those involved showing any indication struggling for breath, in the way asthmatics will be familiar with. Indeed, nor was their any sign of the other symptoms of chlorine, such as people rubbing their eyes and so on.

Now this could simply be that the TV images do not show the full extent of such symptoms, and the reports about hospital staff reporting that the TV images had been staged by members of Al Nusra, may itself be propaganda put out by the Assad regime, but I have no reason to believe the claims of one side or the other in that respect. And, the fact that British journalists like Robert Fisk are now uncovering a different story, strengthens my conviction that such skepticism is justified.  Certainly, as even some British military specialists have said, given that Assad has effectively won this war, and can more effectively achieve its aims by using devastating conventional weapons, that hypocritically, the West does not object to, its hard to see exactly what benefit, as opposed to the obvious costs, Assad might obtain from using chemical weapons!

What Purpose?

And, the fact that its argued that Assad used Chlorine in this attack, begs the further question of what purpose the attacks on his facilities were supposed to achieve. I heard some people who clearly were prepared to back the government without any thought this morning on the TV, assert that the bombing would seriously damage the potential to produce chemical weapons. But, every military expert knows that it will not. The whole point about chlorine is that it is readily available. It is produced from one of the most abundant compounds on Earth. It is nearly as easy to produce chlorine for use as gas, as it is to produce bleach. Of course, the claim that chlorine was used as the chemical weapon is useful for those wanting to make such a case, because its not difficult to ensure that chlorine can be found in soil samples, and given that no one knows what was actually in the inhalers that were indiscriminately being forced into people's mouths, it would not be difficult to ensure that non-lethal doses could result in blood samples subsequently providing indications of chlorine inhalation.

If the purpose of the bombing was to prevent the creation of chlorine, or to destroy chlorine stocks, it is then clearly pointless, because any facility capable of producing bleach can probably quickly produce the chlorine required to use as poison gas, and can do so in huge quantities.

But, the US, UK and France had waited a week before launching this bombing, and even then, aware that any such strike that killed Russian troops would be likely to provoke an immediate response, gave them prior notice of where the strikes would occur, so that the impact is likely to have been minimal. The real purpose here was not to deal with chemical weapons, or to provide any kind of humanitarian relief, but is merely to assert the continued right of the US, UK and their allies to intervene militarily, anywhere in the world they choose, in order to promote their global strategic interests. It is to put Russia on notice that they will not allow it, and Iran to create their own stable sphere of influence from the Gulf to the Mediterranean.

Overlapping Interest

Of course, in practice, there are many other factors involved here. Various groups with axes to grind, such as Al Nusra, who have become the vehicle for western imperialism to attack Assad, and thereby Russia, like all such forces, are able to utilise the concept of humanitarian relief to mobilise military action in their support. Because, such groups are given the impression that all they have to do is to shout “atrocity”, in order to garner a military intervention to give to them the military victory, their own forces and support within the country cannot provide, they are, of course, given an incentive to organise such false flag operations, so as to generate such intervention. With mobile phones, and modern computer software, it becomes very easy for such groups to fabricate images that appear to paint a particular scenario to support their claims, and they have repeatedly been shown to have done so. The jihadists have become extremely adept at using such methods, and to flood social media with these images, to create a groundswell of support for their claims. Where such Jihadists, as with Al Nusra are in alliance with the West, such methods become even more powerful, though it also means that their western backers lose control of their actions, which can go beyond what they might themselves want.

In the present context, we see Theresa May's government desperate to distract attention from the disaster of Brexit. That doesn't mean they created these events for that purpose, but the art of such politics is to utilise events where possible to your own ends. For May, too, with the knowledge that outside the EU, Britain is no longer as useful to the US, as it once was, there is a strong incentive to suck up to Trump in even more sycophantic style where possible, and that is what May has done from the start. Similarly, Macron notes that with Britain outside the EU it can no longer play its historic role as the US agent inside the bloc, and so that job becomes vacant. With Germany the dominant power in the EU, Macron sees, a chance to re-establish the glory of Imperial France, by supplanting Britain as the US's oldest and closest ally.

But, all of these various factors that at one time reinforce, and at another counter the coalition of interests, that are continually shifting, are simply a part of the dynamic and dialectic of war that has been seen many times in the past. It only demonstrates that we are once again treading that old path to death and destruction, and it will not be halted by simply assigning a privileged role to one set of combatants over another, to the so called liberal interventionists over the authoritarians – especially as, as always happens in such circumstances, the liberal interventionists themselves are led to become authoritarians, so as to avoid scrutiny and accountability – but only by the workers of all countries recognising their common interest, and standing up to their ruling classes, whether they wear the mask of democracy or dictatorship.

"Those working class “leaders” who want to chain the proletariat to the war chariot of imperialism, covered by the mask of “democracy,” are now the worst enemies and the direct traitors of the toilers. We must teach the workers to hate and despise the agents of imperialism, since they poison the consciousness of the toilers; we must explain to the workers that fascism is only one of the forms of imperialism, that we must fight not against the external symptoms of the disease but against its organic causes, that is, against capitalism."

(Trotsky, “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is key to Liberation”)