Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Bertie Bubble

Concerning the “deal between the Irish Government and the ECB/EU/IMF troika” Constantin Gurdgiev argues in the Sunday Independent, December 5th 2010, that far “from providing a resolution to Ireland’s financial and fiscal crises, it made the restructuring of our banks’ debt inevitable, no matter what the conditions underlying the deal says.” Gurdgiev has been one of the those analysts stridently calling for a large and significant part of the total surplus value owed by the Irish state and banks to be transferred abroad. There appear to be three kinds of economic commentator occupying the public stage in Ireland at the moment.
The first kind might fit into the neo-liberal group: They are of the view that the total exchange value foisted onto the state, and thereby the working class, is on such a scale that it may prevent the Irish Republic’s economy from recovering from the adverse effects of global economic downswing. Such a situation, many of them would hold, can but lead to political instability and even class warfare. These bourgeois intellectuals see the writing on the wall. They realise the dangers for capital regarding the character of the so called bail out. The vast amount of exchange value that must be extracted from the Irish economy now and into the future will leave little or no capital to maintain and extend the reproduction of capital in the country itself. The effect of this massive transfer of its wealth abroad will transform the country into an economic and social wasteland. Consequently European capital may be forced to tolerate an Irish default. However because of the belated nature of this default there are is a greater probability that the default will do more economic harm than a controlled and regulated default undertaken now. Constantin Gurdgiev, Jim Power and Brian Lucey.

This group overstates the power of the Irish government to radically renegotiate a deal with the troika. The Irish economy is too minuscule and dependent on imperialism to be in a position to determine how it deals with the economic crisis that it has been enduring. If it were as strong as this group suggests then there would never have been a crisis in the first place.

The second type of economic commentator essentially goes along with the Irish government. It bases its economics on the Micawber Principle. These doughty ideologues are claiming that the economy should be able to recover from the huge debt burden being imposed on it. They don’t see any possibility of renegotiating the deal done with the international troika. Underlying their claims is the assumption that the expansion of the valorisation process will increase to and beyond the minimum rate necessary to make repayment possible. This suggests that the reproduction process will start to produce exchange value on a scale that allows Ireland to both produce enough surplus value to maintain and increase the accumulation of capital and leave surplus value over for distribution towards welfare and debt obligations. Ironically there is no evidence to support this Quixotic prediction.

This second group of bourgeois analysts based in Ireland are, largely speaking, the very group that mistakenly claimed that the Irish economy was in for, at worst, a soft-landing in the aftermath of the Bertie Bubble. These are commentators such as Brendan Keenan from the Irish Independent and John Fitzgerald from the ESRI.

Then there is the third type. They are of the view that the Irish government are not compelled to lie on the procrustean bed offered by the international troika. However they mistakenly believe that the state can and should engage in more spending rather than less. They say that more spending will stimulate the Irish economy and bring about recovery. This group are the infamous Underconsumptionists. For them economic crisis are caused by deflated demand. What they don’t understand is that by its very nature demand is always deflated under capitalism. This is why there has always been poverty under capitalism. If the solution were as simple as one of increasing demand then there would never have to be economic crises under capitalism. Once demand was artificially increased to a sufficient degree the entire population, generally speaking, would be made affluent. Indeed the years of the Bertie Bubble were, in a sense, just that. Demand was “artificially” increased leading to the Bertie Bubble. People like Michael Taft, Kieran Allen and Joe Higgins are exponents of Underconsumptionism. They patriotically wish to save Irish capitalism from destruction by a programme of public investment

The real future is that the Irish Republic will be forced into default or else be turned into an economic wasteland. The latter scenario may lead to the further centralisation and concentration of European capital to the advantage of its core imperialist economies. Now European imperialism has less need of bombs and guns. It can destroy and colonise a country by subjecting it to financial attack. Hopefully in the meantime the European working class, becoming class conscious, will have mounted a struggle to seize power from the hands of the European bourgeoisiie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Underconsumptionism of Molyneux and Taft

Below is a response to an article written by John Molyneux who is a leading member of the British Socialist Workers Party. It was published on the website on October 10th 2010.

My piece endeavours to show that there is no essential difference between the politics of John Molyneux and Michael Taft from the Labour Party. Both view the current Irish economic situation from a utopian underconsumptionist reformist perspective as a means of containing the workers through deception.
Michael Taft and the SWP have been both promoting the patriotic defence of the Irish capitalist economy by calling for more state spending in order to save capitalism. They form part of a broad alliance extending from elements within the media (David McWilliams), much of the trade union leadership, Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (Ireland). Indeed virtually the entire “left” leadership of the Irish working class are calling for increased state spending. What chance has the Irish working class in the face of a leadership that waves this exclusively bourgeois programme in its face. With the exception of the odd isolated voice there is no revolutionary alternative being offered in Ireland.

“..., Keynes (and Taft) only grasps one aspect of the crisis of capitalism, namely the problem of over-production, or ‘lack of effective demand’ (which Marx, incidentally, had analysed as early as The Communist Manifesto of 1848) and not the problem of the ‘falling rate of profit’.”

But the above remarks of Molyneux indicate his identification of overproduction with ‘lack of effective demand’. This is an indication that he does not understand the nature of the law of the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall. This law creates a tendency within capitalism to periodically overproduce capital and commodities. The problem then centres around overproduction and not ‘lack of effective demand’ or underconsumptionism. In this respect there is no difference betweenTaft and Molyneux.

“In Capital Vol. 3 Marx shows that capitalism, a system based on production for profit, nonetheless generates a tendency for the rate of profit to fall. This is because all profits derive from the ‘surplus value’ extracted from labour (‘surplus value’ is the technical term used by Marx to refer to the gap between the wages paid to workers and the value of what they produce).However, each individual capitalist tries to increase their share of the total profits in society by investing more and more in labour-saving machinery. This has the effect of reducing labour as a proportion of total outlay and thus reducing the overall rate of profit (the proportion of profit to total investment). When the rate of profit falls capitalists become reluctant to invest.”

Again Molyneux demonstrates in the above piece his inability to grasp the nature of Marx’s Capital. The falling rate of profit is not, as he claims, the problem. The problem emerges when capital fails to generate enough total surplus value to compensate for the fall in the rate of profit.

“Keynes’s ideas were generally not accepted in the thirties (though Roosevelt’s New Deal in America could be seen as a kind of partial, and not very successful, Keynesianism) and the Depression was only brought to an end by the Second World War which ‘stimulated’ economy activity and ‘restored full employment’ by slaughtering 50 million people.”

The above remark of Molyneux’s suggests that the slaughtering of 50 million people was the underlying cause of post-economic recovery and full employment. According to this crazy logic the solution, then, to the current Irish economic downturn is the decimation of the Irish people.

It was the massive defeats suffered by the working class from, let us say, 1914 onwards, the enormous destruction/devalorisation of capital caused by world war and the stimulus provided to the US economy by the Second World War itself that provided the basis for post-war economic recovery lasting intol the early seventies. The post-war mixed economy was introduced to placate the western working class. In that way capitalism hoped to create a pacific working class that would not threaten a capitalist system that had been shaken to an unprecedented degree by both economic and political events.

“When a Keynesian economist like Michael Taft, Political & Economic Researcher with Unite union, says: “Expand demand – more spending, not less, is what the economy needs to maintain and expand business activity... You can’t cut-and-tax your way out of a recession – you spend”, it is a breath of fresh air compared to Cowen and Lenihan’s cuts.”

Further evidence of the underconsumptionist ideology that Molyneux shares with Taft is the following quotation from his piece. The only distinction is that he does not think that Taft is radical enough in his demand raising action programme:

“And when Taft demands, ‘A flat-rate base pay increase between €25 and €30 per week,’ and says “Re-introduce pay-related unemployment benefit’ [quotations from his article of November 2008 Towards a New Economic Narrative] the workers’ movement should certainly agree.

Unfortunately neither Keynes analysis nor Taft’s proposals go nearly far enough to solve the crisis or point a way forward for the working class. The problem with Michael Taft’s understanding is not one of his proposals not going “nearly far enough to solve the crisis or point a way forward for the working class.”

The above piece shows too, which is not unrelated to Molyneux’s radical underconsumptionism, that for both of them the problem is merely one of quantity as opposed to quality (not going “nearly far enough”). Michael Taft’s proposals suggest that the problem is merely a distributive one. To sort the problem out, all that is needed, for Taft, is a change in income distribution in favour of the working class and its lumpen edges. In other words a revolutionary change in the character of society is not necessary merely a radical adjustment within the capitalist mode of production.

“You can’t cut-and-tax your way out of a recession – you spend.”

But the capitalist class can just do that. As John Molyneux in his piece observes “Whenever there is a serious economic crisis, as there obviously is at the moment, ... the ruling class responds, as it always does, with vicious cuts and mass unemployment...” This is because it is the only course open to the bourgeoisie. It does not engage in such an offensive out of malevolence. Indeed such an offensive poses risks for the ruling class itself. When profitability falls dramatically leading to a serious international economic crisis. To restore profitability and create the conditions for real recovery the general rate of profit must be restored by means of devalorisation of capital (including constant and variable capital), destruction of capital and an increase in the rate of surplus value. The latter, the rate of exploitation, must increase to such a degree that total surplus value produced compensates for the insufficient rise in the general rate of profit. This means that the technical composition of capital must increase significantly leading to big increases in the productivity of labour power. Tied in with this is the need for significant increases in the centralisation and concentration of capital. So the capitalist state’s offensive against the working class also involves a reconfiguration of capital itself whereby weaker capitals go to the wall. The result is a leaner meaner capitalist social system with numerically (proportionally speaking) less but bigger capitals. This is why it so absurd to hear puny shows like Frontline and Prime Time run programmes that discuss the issue of these bad Irish banks that will not give loans to poor Irish businesses. The reason these loans are not advanced to them is largely because they are weak and thereby unreliable investments. These bubble businesses need to be crowded out so as to open up space for the more powerful businesses to expand capital. You don’t solve an economic problem by artificially increasing demand to save these businesses when it is these very bubble businesses with their bubble jobs that are, in a sense, the source of the profitability problem.

Indeed the very problem facing the Irish economy is the fact that the banks supported by the Irish state have been providing, in a sense, enormous artificial stimulus to the economy. This is what led to the burgeoning of bubble businesses in one form or another. The Irish state was spending in a most generous way. Yet Taft and Molyneux want a continuation of Ahern’s generosity by other means. Yet he has been be among the first to attack that very government liberalism –and that of former finance minister McCreevy. Right now the state is doing precisely what Taft seeks spending beyond its means. This in itself is a form of economic stimulus that Taft advocates. And John Molyneux wants this too.

The Irish state does not have as its function the well being of the working class. It exists to serve the interests of capitalism. And capital is not immediately concerned over issues such as unemployment, the living standards and well being of the working class. It exists solely to serve the interests of the ruling class. If it can do this under conditions in which the working class have a standard of living that is very low There is really social force concerned with the living standards of the working class and that is the working class. So John is right when he says: “First it must be understood that when Taft says ‘We’ should expand, there is no ‘We’.”

Cutting taxes imposed on the working class and increasing state spending by a capitalist state cannot serve as a proletarian solution to the present economic crisis (heading towards a political crisis too). At best it can only amount to a capitalist solution. Yet the Left insists on making such patriotic calls to rescue capitalism. Revolutionaries are not in the business of rescuing capitalism. Their business is the destruction of capital along with its state. Apart from this their bourgeois action programmes are no more than mere attempts to engage in populism in the hope that they can win votes at the hustings and thereby ultimately become a new capitalist government. But an underconsumptionist programme that includes increased public and private spending is not a solution to the problem either from a left or right perspective. Underconsumption is not the cause of the crisis and has never been. The economic crisis is a crisis of the over-production of capital. Under capitalism commodities are not produced simply to provide use-values. They are primarily produced to increase surplus value. Use-value production is merely a medium for the production of surplus value in the form of profit. When the capitalist production of use-values increasingly fails to produce and realise surplus value as profit then it correspondingly discontinues its use-value production. This leads to the existence of unsalable commodities such as houses and other properties along with household goods. These use-values loose their value as commodities. In effect they cease to be commodities or forms of capital. The greater the fall in the general rate of profit the greater is the over-accumulation of capital in the form of commodities.

Declining economic activity persists until the conditions for profitable production are restored. This happens under conditions in which capital has been both destroyed and significantly devalued. The price of labour power will have fallen too –even below its old value. Capital will by then have become more centralised and concentrated. Under these conditions there is a takeoff will tend to take place. However there is no guarantee of this. It depends on a number of factors including the character of the political situation –whether or not an acute political crisis obtains. It is only under these circumstances that the state can effectively provide economic stimulus leading to a takeoff. However to launch an economic stimulus prematurely can only compound problems either in the short or long run making economic conditions ultimately even worse. People like Michael Taft and John Molyneux are guilty of making premature calls for government induced stimulus. Do they think the Fianna Fail government want to get up people’s backs by increasing taxes and cutting spending? Such measures neither please the working class, the middle class nor even some of the weakest sections of the capitalist class. The current government is serving the class interests of the bourgeoisie by adopting tax raising/cost cutting measures because they have no choice. This is what capital, in general, requires if capital is to recover. This is how the economic crisis acquires an increasingly political character. This too is why the principal bourgeois parties don’t substantively differ with the government as to what needs to be done. Sinn Fein, The Socialist Party and the SWP can call for as much spending as they like because they stand little chance of becoming the next government.

“This is why, going beyond anything Keynes would have proposed, we need demands that challenge capitalist control of the economy such as demands for one publicly-owned bank which serves the people, and for seizing the assets of the rich. Ultimately we need a workers’ movement to take control of the government and the state, that is, we need socialism.”

The comments above contain a paradox. To seize the assets of the rich (presumably this is Molyneux’s euphemism for capitalist class) the capitalist state must be destroyed by the working class. There cannot exist a capitalist free society alongside an Irish capitalist state whether apparently controlled by the workers’ movement or not. It is a contradiction. The indigenous state must be eliminated and replaced by the organised and democratic workers power. But the biggest problem is that a such a form of political power is not possible under world capitalism. A relatively powerless country such as that of Ireland would prove too weak to defend itself against world capitalism. A capitalist free Ireland would be encircled by imperialism. Consequently it would not be too long before the power of the indigenous working class would ignominiously collapse. The likely bloodbath entailed would not make the effort worth it. Revolution has to break out first in imperialist countries such as the US, West European countries such as France or Germany. From these powerful centres it spreads to weak countries such as Ireland. Notwithstanding the utopian contradictory claim that ”ultimately we need a workers’ movement to take control of the government and the state” Molyneux, as we above, still advocates an interim underconsumptionist programme.

Given that revolution cannot be consolidated in Ireland communists must be all the more internationalist in their perspective and politics. They must have transcended narrow nationalism substituting it with internationalism. Those that seek an Irish revolution are essentially seeking to achieve 19th century national self determination under the guise of being communists. Their nationalism is a form of Stalinism that can only but arrest the world revolution. They misrepresent the nature of both capitalism and revolution. In the light of this there is no place for the official programme of the SWP and the Socialist Party in Ireland.

“If public spending, wages and employment are increased, as the Keynesians and socialists both want, the capitalists will likely respond with an investment strike which, if they are left in control, will again plunge the system into crisis and throw workers on the dole.

On the one hand avoiding the need for the massive cuts and job losses being imposed by the likes of Fianna Fail or the British Tories, and on the other avoiding the need for major working class struggle or – God forbid! – revolution. Keynes also appeals to some quite radical people who either think his ideas were more radical than they really were or simply doubt the possibility of a real anti- capitalist struggle.”

The above comments of John Molyneux’s make sense. Taft advocates Keynesian policies as a means of diverting the Irish working class away from major struggles against capitalism. As a bourgeois ideologue he see underconsumptionist ideology as a device for containing struggle and saving capitalism by deceiving the working class.

“This was because, it was claimed, the laws of the market, left to themselves, would produce the best possible allocation of resources and indeed make any prolonged period of mass unemployment or recession impossible. Government intervention in the economy was not only unnecessary, but positively harmful as it would upset the spontaneous and inevitable restoration of balance and equilibrium.”

But, in a sense, the neo-liberal remedy outlined by John Molyneux above is correct. Keynesian type spending today can only store up the very economic and financial problem that devastatingly manifested itself in the West over the last two or so years. Increasing interventionism by imperialist states to mitigate recession and maintain equilibrium since the early seventies have ironically led to the very economic difficulties that are becoming increasingly unavoidable. Increasingly it is becoming impossible to continue this interventionism because it is rendering future problems even more acute. Because the capitalist class fears the mass popular mobilisation of the world’s working class that it is reluctant to engage in any full frontal attack on the working class. An attempt to radically reconfigure capitalism is full of danger –even dangers from elements within the bourgeoisie itself leading to splits within it.

“What was required was to increase, not cut, public spending so as to raise the purchasing power of the population (what economists call ‘effective demand’) and thus stimulate demand for goods which would in turn generate more production and more employment in an ongoing upward spiral (a ‘virtuous’, as opposed to a ‘vicious’ circle).”

To the objection, heard then as now, that such an increase could not be afforded, Keynes argued that governments should run a deficit i.e. borrow so as to spend above their income for a period, on the assumption that as the economy expanded so the government’s income from taxation would increase and the deficit would be eliminated.”

In the aftermath of the war governments did largely follow the policy referred to above. But rather than reinforcing stability it led to hyperinflation and stagnation.

There are only two solution to the current international economic crisis: social revolution or reconfiguration of capitalism at the expense of the working class. The latter will entail the a defeated and demoralised working class forced to work for wages less than the value of labour under conditions that are much worse than they have been. There can be no solution, contrary to Taft, in which the price of labour power of living and conditions of work improve within capitalism.

Both Michael Taft and John Molyneux are prisoners of an underconsumptionist reformist ideology designed to disarm the working class. The chief distinction between them is that the latter presents a more radical underconsumptionist programme with utopian rhetoric opportunistically tacked on to it. Both programmes are designed to diarm the working class in the face of an onslaught by the bourgeoisie.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

McWilliams is a Utopian Underconsumptionist!

Underconsumptionism is rife within the working class

"Why not freeze all mortgage payments for two years? Nobody makes any
payment on their mortgage until November 2012. If we assume a conservative
multiplier of only 1.4, Ireland would get € 20 bn worth of stimulus without
upsetting our EU leaders rules at all."
David Mc Williams

In a piece published in The Irish Independent, 20th October 2010, David
McWilliams wrote:

"Why not freeze all mortgage payments for two years? Nobody makes any
payment on their mortgage until November 2012. If we assume a conservative
multiplier of only 1.4, Ireland would get € 20 bn worth of stimulus without
upsetting our EU leaders rules at all."

This is an absurd and utopian suggestion. There is already a de facto freeze
on mortgage payments in the form of mortgage payments failing to paid. Yet
this failure is not assisting the expansion of the Irish economy. This is
because the failure to make the payments is a symptom of the economic
crisis. Then there is the problem of many customers not willing to
participate in the freeze because they can, in a sense, afford to meet their
mortgage obligations. Then there are those borrowers who will struggle to
pay because they desire to eliminate this obligation, for a variety of
reasons, as soon as they can.

The other factor is that if a "freeze" is possible for two years then why
not have one for three or four years. Indeed why not freeze such payments
anytime the economy is facing difficulties. Then there is the question of
the bondholders. The failure to pay these bondholders would, using David's
logic, constitute a deduction from the alleged €20bn stimulus package.

David, like much of the Irish labour movement, is an underconsumptionist. He
sees a demand deficit as the cause of the economic crisis. Consequently he
mistakenly believes that if demand is increased, in one way or another, it
will lead to increased growth. But the problem is caused by the very
opposite: The overaccumulation of capital and thereby commodities, such as
houses and household goods, leads to businesses contracting or even going to
the wall and unemployment correspondingly rising. The source of the problem
is located within the process of production and not as, David and his
radical left allies mistakenly believe, in the process of circulation. David
seeks to rescue a system while the historical necessity is the overthrow of
the system.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Darwin, Marx and Nietzsche

Humanity is the product of evolution through natural selection.

Our minds, egos, self-esteem, consciousness, belief in an afterlife, conscience, guilt etc are fictions created by our evolutionary development. As Nietzsche argued there is no such thing as mind, consciousness, the self. They are, in a sense, illusions created by evolution to produce what is known as humanity. Humanity minus these fictions would not be human. Humans cannot exist without the existence of these illusions. These fictions are necessary illusions manufactured by men.

The body and brain that we possess today are products of the Stone Age. These bodies and brains have hardly evolved since the Stone Age. Consequently they are, in a sense, unsuitable for modern conditions. This is why human beings can act in such irrational ways and why we have psychopaths and other individuals with serious malfunctioning problems. To simply attribute all human problems to capitalism is trite. Nature will be always inscribed on us. We can never escape the limitations imposed upon us by nature.

Humanity evolved these illusions as devices whereby we are more motivated to improve both ourselves and our surrounding conditions. For instance without a sense of self-esteem we would not feel important. Consequently we would not see any meaning in undertaking many activities. If we had never believed in an afterlife we would not found much meaning to life. Consequently there are many things we would not want to do. This is true of the other fundamental illusions that envelope us. Without them there would have been no incentive for the species that evolved into homo sapiens sapiens to socially develop. Consequently there would never have existed human civilization.
In a sense, then, there is a relationship between these three 19th century intellectual figures --Darwin, Marx and Nietzsche.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Radical Left wants to help capitalism.

Subscribers on this site fail to understand the elements of communist thought. They consider themselves left or radical left. Yet they continue to suggest to the Government and the working class how they have a better recipe as to how the Irish capitalist economy can be restored to a healthy state. But this is not the job of revolutionaries. It is not the job of revolutionaries to suggest how to improve or manage capitalism. People like Joe Higgins, Kieran Allen, Michael Taft et al constantly criticise the incompetent Irish government concerning the progress of the Irish economy. They suggest that it is this incompetence that has led to the fall in Irish economic growth. They fail to make clear that the capitalist economy is inherently contradictory and limited. It is this internal character of capitalism that has led to the global financial crisis --not greedy or morally depraved capitalists or even befuddled governments.

The SWM calls itself a marxist party yet it calls for increased state spending by the capitalist state as the way out of the crisis. For the SWM it is not social revolution that is the solution but increased spending.

Paddy Hackett

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Has Sinn Fein morphed into the Workers' Party?

Sinn Fein rejected the Workers' Party stagist theory involving the call for
a six county democratised state. Its view appeared to be that the six county
sectarian state was a form of institutionalised sectarianism that is
irreformable. Consequently this state had to be smashed as had the state
south of the border. These states were to be replaced by a 32 county
democratic socialist republic.

Given Sinn Fein's acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement it is clear that
the party has abandoned this position falling back on the position of the
Workers Party --the stagist democratised sectarian-free six county state.
The abandonment of this position was made in the absence of any real
discussion and debate. Instead the retreat was made by the backdoor --by
sleight of hand. Rejecting the Eire Nua Programme as drafted by the old O
Bradaigh/O Connell leadership formed a part of this process.

If, as the present Sinn Fein leadership now assume, the six county state is
reformable then the basis for an all-island Irish democratic socialist
republic dissolves. This means that the Long War, involving death, injury
and destruction was an aberration --the politics of illusion. So too was the
conflict between the Provo IRA and the Officials.

The working class, north and south of the border, should call for and
undertake a public inquiry into the real nature of this war as led by the Sinn
Fein/IRA. This people's inquiry must cover the dirty aspect of the war
which formed a decisive part of it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is There A Difference Between Left And Right?

Essentially there is no real difference between the radical left and the
right in general.

The radical left call for more and more state spending as the means towards
the solution of the problems of the working class. In other words it calls
for the growing expansion of the capitalist state as the solution to social
problems. In other words the radical left wants a stronger more
all-embracing capitalist state. This is precisely the corporatism that
European fascism sought and largely achieved. Its references to a
non-capitalist society that they more than times than not call socialism.
They dont like to use the term communism, too strong. It also views
socialism as more a more ambiguous term that implies for them some form of
nanny state. But you cannot have a post-capitalist society that implies a
political state.

Today in the West the capitalist state has been in continuous growth. Even
the Irish state has been subsidising much of the working class through the
expansion in welfarism of one kind or another. It has subsidised capitalists
too through what is called "corporate dole". This takes many forms such as
the state creation of industrial estates, roads, grants, tax breaks etc.

One of the chief reasons the working class has failed to come in behind the
radical left in any significant way is because capitalism has stolen the
clothes of the left. It has been increasingly doling out diverse assistance
to the working class and so called lumpenproletariat.

What is needed is not a "bigger" radical left since it essentially supports
the capitalist state. Indeed to support the radical left is to support
capitalism. What is needed is a communist movement that challenges and
opposes both capitalism and its state. Instead of calling on Cowan to
increase state spending, as the Socialist Party and the SWP do, communists
call on the working class to destroy the state and capitalism.

Indeed the radical left is largely a left counter-revolutionary force whose
political function is the prevention of the working class from becoming
communist. As its popular support grows it correspondingly tends to shift
further to the right. This is what happened to the old Workers' Party as led
by figures such as Rabbitte and de Rossa. Much of this party was absorbed
into the right wing Labour Party. This same process may take place if
support for the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party grows.
Indeed there may be evidence of this process being already underway.
Figures like Joe Higgins and Kieran Allen then end up as respectable figures
of the right. It happend to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, in a sense,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Irish Economy

It is being said that the Irish economy is performing excellently. We are informed of considerable economic growth and the unemployment has been falling.

However this improved economic performance is a result of international conditons rather than simple domestic conditons. The international economy is experiencing an upturn led by the US which was first to experience it.

These prosperous conditions are domestically based on a reduced and flexible waged economy. It has also been the product of the massive multiplier effect generated by the large doses of revneue poured into this country by the EU.

The buoyancy experienced at the fiscal level is a result of the reduced interest rates. Indeed it is an exercise in criminality that the government has not reduced income tax substantially in view of this development.

It is a sad reflection on the conditon of the labour movement that it has failed to force the government's hand in this regard.

This failure is due to the changing character of the composition of the working class or as it is fashionably called the recomposition of the working class. The core of the working class movement has atrophied which means that the tradtional source of labour militnace and resistance has been seriously weakened in this respect. Then there is a substantial fall off in union membership as new forms of enterprise open up that exclude the existence of unions.

On tip of that there is the growing indebtedness of the working class which makes it less nethusiastic about stirking work. There is also the sustained implementation of the corportatist strategy which entails the surrender of militnant action in return for corporatist agreements over wages and working conditons. In this way the militancy of the working class is bought off against concessions of one sort or another.

As wekll as this there the working class in Irealnd have suffered significant defeats of one sort or another: the Aer Lingus workers and some others. However it is true that there have been no major defeats. Perhaps the nearest thing to a major defeat was the failure of the anti-income tax marches.

The restructuring of working conditons and the recompositon of the working class have been major factors in the increased passivity of the working class.

It is not insignificant that in all the talk about the oppression of this or that oppressed group and the need for greater political correctness there is hardly andy discussion of the increasingly harsh workign conditions under which workers work.

A British General Election

There has been very recently a general election in the UK in which the British Labour Party won an enormous majority in the House of Commons and now forms the current government there. In the Irish Republic an election will more than likely take place sometime in June of this year. Some reflection on the character of these elections is opportune:

The general elections are a fight for the floating vote. The election is generally fought and won over a minority of the electorate: the floating electorate. This element within the electorate tends to be fickle. It tends to vote this way or that for the most fickle of reasons such as the facial features of candidates or some such superficial characteristic. It is this element within the electorate to which the party political image industry has most impact. The image and showbiz characteristic of modern elections is, in a sense, a function of the need to win over this element within the electorate.

Since it is among the least political element of the voting electorate the floating electorate makes or breaks governments on the basis of secondary and superficial matters. This tends to give election campaigns a more superficial character.

The elections are won or loss in the marginal constituencies. And these marginals are won or loss on the basis of the how the floating vote turns. In short a small minority of the electorate, in a sense, dictate the kind of government and even society we are to have. It is to this minority that the official politicians direct most of their attention. This minority increasingly determines the character of politics during the campaign and the character of media coverage during it.

The floating vote appears to be increasing and is becoming a bigger element in elections for a number of reasons. The shift of the main parties to what is questionably called the centre is a factor in this. If there exists little difference between the principal political actors on the electoral stage then clearly their success at the polls will tend to be a product of secondary superficial factors such as image, style and personality. Since the differences between the contestants are marginal the contest tends to be grounded increasingly on marketing, on creating the illusion of real difference. As a result of this the election is fought and won on the basis of superficial issues. This means that election campaigns are increasingly trivialised so that debate turns around superficial and derivative matters while the fundamental issues tend to be increasingly submerged under a mountain of trivia such as Tony Blair’s football skills in relation to Kevin Keegan (the logic being that if you are good a football you are politically good). Instead of the election contributing to the increased politicisation of the populace the opposite dynamic takes place. Consequently politics tends to turn around superficial issues. People increasingly begin to think that superficial issues is the meaning of politics. As the fundamental issues retreat into the background superficial issues are, in a sense, transformed into their opposite, fundamental issues. On the other hand fundamental issues are turned into their opposite, superficial issues. This is why it almost considered Neanderthal and even kitsch to raise issues such as the need to eliminate market relations. Politics then turns into anti-politics. Politics looses becomes meaningless: the postmodernist’s dream (buckets of wee signifiers emancipated from signification!). What is called politics is no longer politics. Consequently the politicians elected into government are less and less politicians but theatrical figures from puppitry. As this trend develops the real politics increasingly takes place behind the backs of the people. The invisible figures in upper echelons of the state and certain other capitalist institutions makes the real politics.

Consequently the difference between the political parties continuously diminishes since they are constrained by the politics as prescribed by the invisible cliques such as the invisible administrators of the state and parastatal bodies such as the European Commission which are an expression of the objective necessities of world capitalism. The official politicians are the “frontmen” there to distract our attention while the significant activity takes place behind the world stage curtain.

In short the election campaigns rather than contributing towards increased politicisation forms part of a depoliticisation process: a retreat form the Enlightenment tradition.

The above are but tentative observations on general elections in Ireland, Gt. Britain and possibly elsewhere.

Humanism etc.

KARL: Hello Andrew. I read your message with some interest.

ANDREW: The object and the subject are in dialectical unity.

KARL: There exist thousands of what may be called objects and subjects: rocks, beer cans, mountains, stars, artists, actors and transvestites. Which
subject and which object do you have in mind Andrew? It is only when
you have selected your particular pair that you can begin to outline the particular relation they may have to each other. However I have my doubts as to whether a dynamic relationship of dialectical pirouetting will emerge as a possible relationship between the pair. But then Andrew I am not a humanist.

ANDREW: Humanism is the essential epistemological frame through which a world made by humans for humans--a social relational ontology--is to be grasped.

KARL: As I have already indicated humanism is a philosophy that deifies humanity, attributing to it transcendental absolute powers: powers that transcend history. In the above remarks you provide evidence of the validity of this definition when you make the false claim that "a world made by humans for humans" exists. The point is that there has been no world made by humans. The ability of human beings to create a world is the ability of Hegelian gods. Human beings are by nature limited beings which is why they cannot escape history. A being that is absolute, such as god, is history free. It is transcendental and therefore an abstract hypothesis.

Again you posit an abstract philosophy, humanism, as the
necessary and universal form by which we understand and experience
reality. In this way you posit abstract transhistorical notions as
the necessary conceptual forms by which we can understand history.
This being so the nature of capitalist society can be analysed and
valildly expressed by means of transhistorical categories. If transcendental concepts and categories are the necessary transcendental forms by which a specific society, capitalism, can be adequately analysed and descrtibed
then it follows that this society is a correspondingly absolute society that transcends all historicity. This being the possibility of social revolution is a no no.

ANDREW: Humans beings create god and stick it in
the sky. To it they give all their goodness, all their love, all their
power of creation, all their forgiveness, all their law; and for
themselves, humans leave only an evil, sinful, hateful, wretched, weak,
*created* shell. Eventually they forget they created this god. They have
rendered themselves powerless before their own creation! Should we, in
Marxism, similarly deny the human agency that built the structures that we
now struggle under? Is this not self-defeating? Those structures that rule
us, like the faith some give false idols, rule us in large measure because
we legitimate them, and this legitimation is born in the separation of
subject and object--alienation. To recognize the power of our own
self-creativity, and of the collective power that created the structures
that now ensnare us, is to realize those structures are, in fact, not
legitimate, not void of human agency, they are the alienated structures of
our own alienation. And this recognition is crucial in the step toward
cultivating mass revolutionary consciousness.

KARL: This, in many ways, constitutes the kernal of your humanist philosophy. Human beings invest god with absolute creativity. Yet it is they that create that god and attribute to it this absolute creativity. For humanism, Feuerbach and you the task is to return these absolute attributes to humanity or "man". The task is the transformation of a limited humanity into a humanity all-powerful and all creative: the deification of humanity. This is you religious mission. Humanity is no longer a limited historical form of being but is instead the universal absolute being: the Hegelian Geist.

For you social revolution is no longer the decisive historical necessity. Instead we simply need to, as you claim, "recognize the power of our own self-creativity". No longer is revolutionary practical activity (entailing a somatic dimension) decisive. The decisive condition for redemtion is to "RECOGNIZE" our absolute power. We must all become bona fide humanists: join the one true churc. Noetic action is all that is now required. There is now no need to change society instead we merely have to think (fantasise) the change, to critique and all is heaven. This is idealism as stand-up comedy. Incidentally it was essentially the conception of Bruno and Edgar Bauer about whom Marx had no few things to say. Needless to say it was Fueuerbach's too.

ANDREW: You purge Marx completely of idealism. Marx did not deny the power of ideas, or the ability to see patterns in world history. Yes, of course,
his theory was the product of his epoch; this follows from the tenets of
historical materialist method. However, within this method lies the key
out of the trap of historicity; for Marx, by creating a method which could
subject itself, as a historical category, to its own internal logic of
critique, constructed a method that could be transformed through each
subsequent sociohistorical ordering.

KARL: History is not, as you claim, a "trap" but the form by which society develops. Marxism does not seek to escape from history, as you again claim, but to contribute to its development. Again you suggest, as I indicated in my previous posting, that marxism as critique transcends history. This being so marxism is now liberated from history to be turned into a transcendental, transhisotrical theory. This is but a shabby and vain attempt to reduce marxism to humanism.

In conclusion I want to make it clear that the criticism contained in my last posting still stands unchallenged by you. Your current response rather than presenting itself as a challenge amounts to little more than a slight defensive shift in ground poorly concealed behind a smokescreen of wordy obfuscations.

Incidentally I am not nor ever was an Althusserian.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement

Given the sectarian character of the six county capitalist state in th enorth of Ireland it is clear that full civil rights cannot be achieved without the dynamic of the industrial working class. Given conditions as they existed in 1968 it was just as clear then that the industrial working class would not be available to provide the necessary dynamic that would make full civil rights achievable. In short the industrial working class lacked the necessary class consciousness and corresponding political character to offer itself as this dynamic.

To organise a civil rights campaign, under these circumstances, constituted a utopian venture designed to delude the Catholic masses and thereby obstruct the development of their political consciousness. The civil rights campaign was a form by which the development of the unity of the six county working class was to be obstructed. In this way the leadership of that campaign promoted a submerged sectarian agenda. Given the inability of this campaign to achieve civil rights in the absence of the support of the industrial working class the achievement of civil rights within the context of the six county state was impossible. As I intimated the civil rights leadership was petty bourgeois, utopian and sectarian in its politics. The unfolding of events verifies the correctness of this thesis.

Given the inability of the civil rights movement to achieve civil rights when confronted by the full resources of the sectarian capitalist state supported by the unionist and loyalist para- and extra- statal forces the only options left open was abject retreat or the development of the civl rights movement into the national struggle. The latter was the course taken. Consequently the leadership of the mass upsurge of the Catholic masses was taken over by the PIRA. The very fluid situation among the Catholic masses led to the replacement of one leadership by another --the civil rights leadership by the PIRA.

Since the civil rights leadership was verified by history as politically bankrupt it was replaced by a different leadership --the IRA. Given the failure of the industrial working class (predominantly Protestant) in the six counties to support civil rights the only other alternative was to broaden and deepen the struggle to a new level thereby transforming the civil rights movement into the national struggle. In this way it was hoped that the dynamic underlying the national struggle would serve as a substitute for the absent industrial working class. This was an admission that the Catholic masses were not immanently powerful enough to force through civil rights. The development of the civil rights struggle into the national struggle was an expression of the inherent weakness of the Catholic masses and the necessity of the industrial working as the driving force for any such struggle. The existence of the national struggle constituted a further turning away from the industrial working class by the leadership of the Catholic masses. Such a further shift away from the industrial working class constituted a programme for increased polarisation between Catholic and Protestant worker. Instead of taking the Catholic section of the working class towards the Protestant section of the working class thereby forging a revolutionary unity of the six county working class the former’s leadership lead it in the opposite direction thereby promoting sectarianism and guaranteeing that civil rights and the needs of the Catholic masses were never going to be met.

The national struggle was to prove essentially just as weak as the civil rights struggle. The national struggle proved inherently weak because again the industrial working class was absent as its driving force. Consequently, in so far as it can justifiably be deemed a national struggle, it assumed the form of a narrow petty bourgeois movement generating all kinds of stratagems, gimmicks etc as substitutes for the central and necessary dynamic --the industrial working class north and south. Because of its inherent weakness and the inherent weakness of the Catholic masses as a driving force the struggle assumed an elitist character in the form of a guerrilla force that was essentially private in character and independent of the masses.

It is the inherent weakness of the national struggle that also explains its leadership’s desire to ally itself with this and that petty bourgeois and even bourgeois force including the southern government and the Roman Catholic Church. It is this weakness that explains its crass opportunism and the confidence of the Unionist forces.

Indeed as the so called current peace process shows Sinn Fein is even prepared to ally itself with imperialism in the form of Washington and London. Over twenty five years on we are witnessing the truth of this in the present leadership of the struggle --its betrayal of its very own programme through its abject capitulation to the British and Irish bourgeoisie.

In the development of revolutionary politics there is never any substitute for the industrial working class as the agent of social revolution. There can only be one revolutionary vanguard --there are no shortcuts. Endless seeking of new vanguards -the Catholic masses in the north; the student movement etc can never- is a reactionary policy that betrays the class interests of the working class.

The Presidential Election 1997

The presidential race has had a decidedly political character.

The contest has been primarily between the Fianna Fail and the Fine Gael candidates. It has been reduced to a contest between two forms of bourgeois nationalism. The nationalism that places greater rhetorical emphasis on the aspiration of achieving the 32 county republic and the nationalism that supports the continuation of the thirty two county republic with improved relations between the 26 and the 6 county states. The former demonstrates a greater interest in the concerns of the Catholic population in the north. Essentially there obtains only a marginal difference between the two parties. The former laying greater emphasis on republican rhetoric and the latter less. Both are essentially happy with the status quo.

Consequently the debate has been a false one. It has been a debate centred around language or rhetoric and posturing. Even at that the former party has presented this presentation in a rather craven suppresses way. It lacks even the confidence to present its token republicanism in an explicit form. This is how little confidence it has in its own images.

Indeed in many ways its politics on the surface are that of posturing, images, hints and innuendo. In this way FF presents itself as a multifaceted populist organisation: all things to all people. In this way republican minded voters are seduced into voting for it. Less republican minded voters, on the other hand, are seduced into voting for it because of their belief that it is only mildly and thereby sufficiently and harmlessly republican.

FG, on the other hand, wants to present themselves as the party of the high moral ground. The party that express a moral disdain for anything tainted with Provoism and intolerance towards the bigoted unionists. They want to present themselves as the party that is most understanding and accommodating to unionism. The people with whom unionists can best do business. The party that can be nationalist and yet unionist at the same time. The party of the two sides. In this way they present themselves as the party that can best achieve political and institutional reconciliation of nationalism and unionism.

FG wants to present itself as the good guy. The party of the high moral ground, the party free from corruption. Conversely they seek to present FF as the amoral and corrupt party that is not concerned with the complexities of the national question.

However the point is that there is essentially no difference between the two political parties. They are both bourgeois parties that accept partition. They are each free from the high moral ground. The differences being presented to us then are one's of perception rather than policy. Difference of image, rhetoric and style.

Essentially on the national question, economics, social issues and security there no difference between them. Consequently to make themselves electable they must artificially manufacture surface differences. This is analogous to brand difference.

Both parties, in terms of their immediate interests, are merely concerned with securing political power as a means of gaining a greater share of the booty. Capitalism is essentially indifferent as to which of the parties take power. The primary function for capital is that of deceiving the public by creating the illusion of choice: a limited or false choice. As well as that the competition of the two parties keeps them, in some ways, on their toes. It makes it harder for them when in power to become so corrupt and authoritarian that the masses loose confidence in them. It also means that it anyone of the parties makes a mess of things there is in existence a government in exile waiting to step into its place. This then serves to protect the system and guarantee capital's continued existence.

The individual parties have to justify their existence by manufacturing false differences, surface difference that is not real difference at all.

In the presidential election FG led by John Bruton devised a presidential strategy designed to put Mary Banotti in the Park. The strategy was to "taint" or expose FF's candidate Mary MacAleese as a crypto terrorist. Bruton's remarks on Adam's support for McAleese formed part of this ground plan. The leaks that followed formed further links in the plan together with Banotti's xenophobic remarks about her which she latter retracted because of their conter-productive nature. They hoped that the alliance that existed between FG and elements within the media and commentators would assist in the implementation or development of this strategy. It, among other things, entailed a grandiose smear campaign against MacAleese.

In addition it entailed part of an attempt to expose McAleese as fraudulent in her claim to be similar to Robinson by exposing her nationalism and social conservatism which she sought to conceal. It was her attempt to play down her nationalism that made it easier for Bruton to launch his strategy. McAleese's strategy of presenting her as a figure of the centre made her more vulnerable to this type of strategy. It was Bruton's purpose to discredit her as a figure of the centre by establishing the perception of her as friend and supporter of Gerry Adams.

By means of this strategy Bruton and his allies hoped to polarise the political situation whereby the anti-McAleese voter would rally in behind the Banotti Presidential candidate abandoning the Nelly and Rote candidates. It may have succeeded in doing this in some measure. However not enough to overcome the hardening of FF support around the FF candidate. It, in a sense, succeeded in polarising the political situation over the presidential campaign. However it was McAleese that benefited mainly form the strategy. Bruton and his allies turned out to be McAleese best supporter.

As it turned out the entire exercise backfired. If anything the smear campaign by both Bruton and his allies in the media supported by DL and the Labour Party failed miserably may have even increased her popularity.

The significance of the anti-McAleese strategy was the massive way in which McAleese's relationship to nationalist politics and ideology was over-exaggerated and whipped up into virtual hysteria. There existed a broad front that extended right across the spectrum into the print and broadcasting media. What this event exposed was the less than innocent role of the media in influencing politics and public opinion. The so called neutral print media's objective commentators exposed their real narrow political character in the significant role they played in creating an environment hostile to the McAleese campaign. However the electorate bought none of it. This is an example of where the mass media was unsuccessful in whipping up a popular frenzy.

Having failed with this strategy there was a half baked strategy to smear McAleese as a socially conservative candidate. This has not been too successful because of the demoralisation ripping through the other camps.

Yet, as I have already said, the divisions generated over the presidential campaign is a phoney campaign since there is little essential difference between the tow candidates of the two leading political parties. And even if there are differences they will count for hardly anything within the extreme political constraints imposed by the office of the Presidency.

Ultimately the politics infusing the presidential race are a development of the political struggle between FG and FF. FG have as their strategy the ousting of the Ahern government as a means by which they can return to power either in or out of coalition. They hope to achieve this by means of the strategy of discrediting the Ahern government. By discrediting the government they hope to increase tension between the coalition partners while also encouraging tension within both parties. In this way they hope to split open the current government and at the same time weaken the coalition partners. In that way they hope to create the political conditions that will eventually make possible a FG government. In that way the mould will be broken and a new political landscape created whereby FG hope to achieve their kind of modern Ireland.

(This waw written many years ago)


The problem with the Russian revolution was just that: The fact that Lenin
was in a minority on the issue of whether to seize state power or not. This
encapsulates the very problem of the European revolution. Its very weakness.
The Russian revolution was an expression of the very weakness of the
European revolution. The events that followed including the collapse of the
Soviet Union are testimony to this.

That Lenin was bitterly opposed on this issue by the Central Committee is
not so much a testimony to Lenin's greatness, as many in their desire to
promote the cult of the individual suggest, but to the very weakness and
ambiguity of the European and specifically the Russian Revolution. The very
fact that Lenin was so bitterly opposed indicated how ideologically and
politically unprepared the Marxist movement in Russia was for social
revolution especially as leader not just of revolution in Russia but of
revolution in Europe. This ideological, political and organizational
weakness, in a sense, reflected how unsuitable the character of the
objective conditions obtaining in Russia itself were for a proletarian
revolution. The Bolshevik revolution was an expression of both the success
and failure of the European revolution.

This precisely supports my argument for the need to reconstruct Marxism
drawing lessons from both the mistakes and achievements of the previous
Marxist movement. The point is the working class do not want another
Russian revolution which was an expression of the failure of the European
revolution. It is only by building a powerful and richly cultured Marxist
movement that we can promote the conditions for an all-rounded social
revolution taking place in Europe. This is why we must revisit the past by
examining the texts of Marx which are a manifestation of the theory and
practice of the revolutionary movement obtaining then. This is why a Marxist
study circle is so important.

The significant fact was not Lenin's ability to recognize the need for the
Bolsheviks to seize power and to persist with this demand despite
overwhelming opposition. The significant fact is that he was overwhelmingly
and bitterly opposed by most of the Central Committee. What was significant
is not that he won the leadership over to his way of thinking but that they
had to be won over.

(The piece above was written many years ago. I have since then experienced futher development in my thought.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The working class and Habermas

The proletariat provides the socio-ontological conditions for emancipation from ideology and exploitation. This is based on the proletariat’s unique relationship to the production process as source of wealth, value and capital–the very material basis for the existence of capitalist society. This peculiar oppression of the proletariat is what gives it its truth conditioning property. Given this Jurgen Habermas mistakenly attributes this emancipating property to language or what he calls communicative action. This constitutes an idealist anti-working class stance typical of the Frankfurt critical theorists. Habermas’ centring of language in the form of communicative interaction is not as he would claim the discovery and establishment of the authentic basis for liberation from oppression. Habermas in line with Frankfurt critical theory has dismissed the working class as agent of revolution. He has employed the category or concept of communication as the conceptual means of marginalising the working class. This had the effect of conceptually undermining the concept of the working class from within its own theoretical problematic. Habermas’ ideology is intended to conceptually underpin the strategy of marginalising the working class movement. Indeed it has, in a sense, formed part of a coordinated attempt to conceptually and politically gut the working class. And to a large extent he has been successful in promoting this cause. Habermas’ theory of communicative action abstracts from the class question. It suggests that successful resistance to capitalist oppression is conceptually and socially independent of the working class. It suggests that resistance can be organised on a cross-class basis – liberal movements. No longer can there be what might be called a proletarian problematic or proletarian centred theoretical framework by which society, history and change is rendered intelligible. He centres communicative action at the heart of liberation from oppression.

The proletariat is embedded within reification. Reification by producing the proletariat within it produces within itself the source of truth, knowledge and social revolution and thereby its own demise. Reification is ultimately based on nature or matter. It is the latter that leads to natural science, together with its methodology, and then social science and sociology. An examination of Comte’s work provides evidence of this. In a sense, then, reification produces its own antithesis in the form of the modern working class --conditions that lead to the critique of political economy in the form, among other things, of Marx’s Capital. Marx’s work is a critique of reification as economics and is thereby the proletariat’s critique. Reification produces the source of both critique and its own dissolution. This process produces within itself the working class, the material source of the communist movement, and the theory of the working class. The working class, the bourgeoisie’s polar opposite, is the fountainhead of ideologically free consciousness –revolutionary class consciousness. The source of truth is the working class and the source of deception is the capitalist class. However the latter is the spawning ground of the ruling ideas –the ideas of the ruling class. Under capitalism humanity is reified by its bifurcation into the capitalist class and the working class. Habermas seeks to dissolve Marx and communism by replacing anti-reification in the form of the communist working class with reified communicative action. For Habermas distorted communicative action has within it a liberationist quality. This means that bourgeois ideology is convertible into liberation theory. Ideology does not have to be combated and dissolved. Communication, discourse or dialogue forms the basis for forming alliances with outright reactionary elements such as the Roman Catholic pope. Communicative action is now to be substituted for class struggle. Social reconciliation is realisable through conversations with the enemy to arrive at consensus. Instead of combating fascists “we” talk with them. Habermas argues that reason in its instrumental form is a form of ideology. This means that ideology, for Habermas, is a form of reason and thereby not irrational. For Habermas then ideology is not authentic ideology. It contains within itself the opposite of ideology –reason. It merely requires to be reconstructed or subjected to revision.

The source of ideology is the ruling class otherwise known as the capitalist class. Truth, on the other hand, has its source in the working class the polar opposite to the capitalist class. This perspective is what gives ideas their material basis. One form is grounded in the oppressor while the other is grounded in the oppressed. The ideas based in the working class are a form of class-consciousness. Consequently the working class is the fountainhead of revolutionary change. Diverse conceptual frameworks overlap and compete with each other within the working class movement. However the conditions for communist theory, ultimately winning out, are that the working class provides the necessary and only basis for the one conceptual framework –the communist problematic. Specific social conditions render the assimilation of communism within the working class movement more favourable than other conditions. The acceptance of the communist problematic by the working class is a complex matter and thereby not inevitably subject to prediction. However new facts can lead to a conceptual shift. This is because new facts may not make sense under the current conceptual framework. Changes are up to a point forced by the facts --by the evidence. In this sense conceptual claims do seem vulnerable to factual proof and disproof. New facts may make workers change their minds about what it makes sense for them to say about the facts. For example today’s serious changing economic conditions (or facts) may lead to a conceptual change in the consciousness of the world’s working class. Theoretical understanding involves in some measure conceptual innovation. A revolutionary confined to the vocabulary of Aristotle or Adam Smith would not be able to generate a vocabulary adequate to the description of social life as we know it.

Workers engaged in the struggle for existence under capitalism do not initially analyse and explain their own behaviour. Consequently it is the communist intelligentsia who spend their time thinking about the valorisation process and the law of the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall. The communist theoretical framework which incorporates a certain vocabulary is quite indispensable. The theoretical framework involves abstracting from the concrete detail of what everyday life looks like to the participants and instead conceptually organises their world in quite other terms than theirs. Such a process is quite essential to the communist problematic. The indispensable condition is that the account given by communists should be based on or rooted in that of the proletarian actors themselves. The conceptual system of revolutionary theory is grounded in the conditions and experience of the working class. There can be no logical objection to concepts like that of exchange value, the rate of exploitation and the fetishism of commodities. Such concepts get their meaning from the activity and experience of the workers. In the same way the communist theoretical framework gets its meaning from the day to day life of the workers. This theory is socially bound. It is socially bounded by the experience of the working class. This means that this theory cannot be understood by capitalists and their agents such as their ideologues. The inability of capitalists and their retinue to understand communist theory is not an empirical but a conceptual issue. It is conceptual because the class interest of the working class on which this conceptual paradigm is based is the polar opposite to the class interests of the capitalist class from which an opposing conceptual paradigm is constructed. Proletarian theory transcends the limits of the experience of the capitalist class.

Monday, May 10, 2010

European Central Bank and the Irish Economy

The ECB’s policy of low inflation by keeping interest rates low made easy credit readily available. Germany, as David McWilliams has repeatedly indicated, in these circumstances injected unprecedented amounts of credit into the Irish Republic inflating the economy into, what bourgeois ideologues call, external diseconomies of scale, leading to a property bubble.

It is too easy to simply place the blame on the shoulders of the banks and property developers. Such criticisms are a form of simple minded nationalism. The acute economic and financial problems currently besetting Ireland are a product of world capitalism and not of a handful of puny Irish banks and developers.

Paddy Hackett

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Review of Anthony Cronin’s As Dead As Doornails

Brendan Behan, Paddy Kavanagh and Brian O' Nolan.
A Review of Anthony Cronin’s As Dead As Doornails
By Paddy Hackett

As Dead As Doornails is an interesting book on the subject of literary life in Dublin during the 40s and 50s particularly in relation to Anthony’s experience of Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and Brian 0’Nolan. It is a gray work from which springs the comic and the absurd. For, in a way, the trio of writers above are inherently comic and absurd. Cronin’s book, in many ways, ought perhaps be presented as a model for works from this genre.
In his chronology Cronin displays a unique literary style. He seems to make it an aim of the book the use of language in a way that has a certain originality. Consequently his vocabulary has an unusual character unique to Anthony. Individual words frequently shine out like jewels from the pages of this book of his. But you see this too when he has contributed to discussion on radio broadcasts. Indeed Tom McGurk’s interview with him displayed these same qualities. It is a pleasure to listen to Anthony Cronin even if you don’t agree with his underlying philosophy or politics.
In his book Anthony Cronin outlines the individual character of three figures that have loomed large in modern Irish literature. His outline is realistic and unsentimental. He refused to glamorise them. Yet the comic character of their lives shines through rendering the chronology more colourful. In the book they come across as damaged and deeply troubled individuals with many limitations. Each one of them has a problem with the drink and in their ability to relate to other people. Their personalities are riddled through with contradiction. They do not even get along with each other and even end up physically attacking each other. Yet it was these very limited and damaged individuals that have been the source of Irish artistic beauty. It is sad... But in a sense this is just where art has its source –in pain, damage and turmoil. If Ireland were a happy place then art could not exist there ( the passion of Christ). Art can only exist under conditions of pain. Nor is art meant to make us happy. True artists cannot be happy people.
The conditions under which these artists emerged are aptly described by Cronin as bleak and oppressive. This was the economically backward Ireland of the forties and fifties. There was much turmoil and poverty among the masses. Pain and suffering were endemic in this oppressive Church ridden society. Yet these again were the very conditions that made possible the blossoming of Irish literature, of beauty, in the form of the work of these tragi-comic trio. Like Behan, Kavanagh and Myles the society from which they popped up was also damaged and limited. And that damage and limitation never really went away. Contemporary condition in the aftermath of the economic bubble in Ireland are evidence of this.
In a sense then limitation is what makes Irish art possible. Now many of the so-called Irish artists seek to present themselves as well balanced rounded people that constitute the successes of Irish society –part of the Irish glitterati. But are they artists?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I watched the video version of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button some weeks ago.
As a movie it is moderately entertaining and visually impressive but certainly not encaptivating. It is of excessively long duration. However much of it, even allowing for poetic licence, is implausible.

Essentially the film is about time.Its key theme is the ageing process and the way this process is a real concrete influence on the lives of people. The film drew our attention to age and the relationship between the different generations. In this way it somewhat challenges our minds concerning the matter of age and even ageism. Notwithstanding the ageism that exists in today’s world the film brings out the hard fact that age does, in a sense, get in the way. It does this by showing how Benjamin’s physical evolution from a man into a boy and later a baby cannot be a “proper” father to his child –nor "proper" lover to his female partner. Again his birth in the form of an old man in the form of a new born baby obstructs his relationships with his peer group. The reversal of the aging process in Benjamin seriously and inevitably influences his relationships with other people. This is a fact that would obtain under all social conditions. And this is because age matters in the relationship between individuals from different generations whether under capitalism or communism. However under capitalism the age question is more pronounced. And ageism under capitalism is a real and oppressive issue.

Other than that there is little more that I can say about this film. Perhaps the short story, on which the movie is loosely based and which I have not read, is more comprehensive and interesting. Surprisingly I discovered that at least one film critic suggested that this movie resembles the Forest Gump movie --because, while watching it, I had drawn a similar conclusion.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The materialist conception of science

With regard to the natural sciences it is humanity's universal interest in the technical control of nature that yields the meanings of statements made by these sciences. This cognitive interest establishes rules for the construction of these sciences' instrumental theories and for their critical testing. This is the cognitive interest that Jurgen Habermas discusses in some of his work. It is one (instrumental reason) of the three knowledge-constitutive interests that he claims exist.

The materialist assumption underlying the above conception is that humans, of necessity, act on nature in order to reproduce themselves through the provision of food, instruments of production and shelter. This is called human production. It shapes and determines the surrounding world of humanity thereby changing facts and creating new ones. This dialectical anthropological assumption is a transhistorical assumption. But human instrumental action on nature takes on different forms. These forms change over time thereby giving them a historic character. Accordingly these changes must lead to changes in the characteristics of instrumental reason --such as scientific revolutions.

This assumption provides the ontological foundation for the emergence and development of instrumental knowledge culminating in natural scientific knowledge. In other words ontology constitutes the source of epistemology. This ontological assumption precludes the justification of relativism and even empiricism.

If the scientific method is merely based on facts then it follows that these facts are experienced through a conceptual system. The system influences, if not determines, the facts perceived by humanity. This means that there obtains no criterion against which to evaluate and test these facts and their corresponding conceptual framework. Relativism is thereby facilitated. Under these conditions there can exist no truth nor knowledge. Everything is relative.

The materialist conception of science, referred to, blocks off relativistic and empiricist theories of knowledge. This materialist philosophy of science provides the natural sciences with a materialist anthropological foundation from which to render science and its development secure. It also supplies the dynamic for qualitative change in instrumental cognition by rooting it in a dialectical ontology --ontology in the form of an active historical anthropology.

The materialist philosophy of science does not constitute a denial of objective reality. The point is rather that what we know about nature is always ultimately defined by the cognitive interest in manipulating nature in order to materially sustain and develop our humanity. It is this materialist anthropological condition that informs natural scientific inquiry. In this domain our cognitive interest is fundamentally instrumental. Nature is conceived, even in the theoretical and pure sciences, in terms of our interest in controlling it. It is this that gives instrumental reason its inherent teleological character. This means, in the Kantian sense, that knowledge and theory are never pure.

The materialist conception renders the justificiation of an empiricist ontology, of an independently existing world of things, impossible. This thereby renders the correspondence theory of truth unjustifiable. This is a theory of truth in which every atom of knowledge must correspond with every atom of independently existing substance.

Now facts cannot exist independently of the observer. The facts observed are, as already indicated, determined by the conceptual system through which they are perceived. It is our universal cognitive interest in the technical control of nature that constitutes the conceptual framework by which facts are observed. This ontological context for epistemological relationships prevents the justification of the existence of a plethora of random disconnected scientific conceptual systems lacking any necessary linkage to each other. However this does not mean that just one absolute conceptual system will prevail. A series of different scientific conceptual systems may historically emerge that are necessarily linked to each other. Due to these historical and cognitive developments scientific revolutions may take place. But they cannot be, as with relativism, independent of each other in a discontinuous fashion. Their discontinuous appearance can only be justified on mystical grounds. They are still essentially based on the same cognitive interest. The diverse conceptual paradigms reflect the ontological development of this same essential cognitive interest.

Logical positivism, on the other hand, seeks to establish facts as absolute by assuming that there exists one absolute conceptual framework. I chose logical positivism because of its relative simplicity while, unlike older empiricism, it includes symbologic logic. It denies the existence of more than one conceptual system by claiming that scientific inquiry is the only valid and legitimate epistemological activity. Their opinion is that there is only one basic form of scientific inquiry and thereby one instrumental conceptual system. Other systems, non-scientific, are no more than mere nonsense. Such a philosophy of science can only but restrict human freedom and is therefore oppressive. This means that humanity does not matter and cannot count as serious in relation to identifying and analysing the facts. Consequently this allows logical positivism to disregard them. This means that we establish raw data by means of the perception of the senses. Out of these sense-data, through logical construction, scientific knowledge is produced. For positivism then, philosophy's job is to define, clarify and develop the structure and logic of the natural sciences.

The materialist conception of science and positivism fundamentally differ concerning the basis for the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Consequently there can be no common ground between them.