Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is Constantin Gurdgiev Ireland's Economic Rasputin?

The following comments by Constantin Gurdgiev, leading figure of the right, is taken from his blog:

"To summarize, there is no hope of growing out of the debt crisis we face when the expected growth this economy can achieve in the next decade or so is roughly ten times smaller than the debt repayments we have to finance for the combined public and private non-financial debt. Once we rule out sovereign debt restructuring, the only solution to our crisis will require reducing the private sector debt overhang."

Within the framework of capitalism growth is the only solution to Irish economic recovery. This growth has a global character. But the economy of the Irish Republic cannot grow independently of world growth. As capitalist economic growth such growth is exclusively derived from the profitability of industrial capital and cannot be sustained on a platform of expanding debt. This means that only  stronger capitals can sustain economic growth. Weaker capitals have to be eliminated. The latter are largely enterprises that have been sustained by debt --bubble companies. Under these conditions the productivity of industrial capital must be enormously increased. Under such conditions total surplus value compensates for the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall. Big increases in the intensity of labour is another must. State spending must be minimised. The outcome is a shrunken world economy with a much more impoverished working class. This is the only kind of capitalist economic recovery possible today. It is a reovery that is unacceptable to the working class. But it is capitalism's nature to maximise profit not to serve the interests of the working class. Successful capitalism is capitalism that advances the interests of the capitalist class. Benefits accruing to the working class under capitalism are, at most, merely the means to guarantee profitability. If the forgoing prescriptions are not realised then civilisation will either collapse into chaos or else a global social revolution will happen whereby capitalism is replaced by communism.

By contrast Gurdgiev's programme is a call for an idealist utopia that has no basis in history. He couches his programme in fancy "economeese" in order to fool the working class. It is merely a programme to disarm the working class thereby rendering it vulnerable to a defeat leading to its subjection to the kind of naked capitalism indicated above. State spending and bank capital don't produce value nor surplus value. Value and surplus value are created from within the production process. Consequently the slimming down of state spending can at most reduce the volume of value being "wasted". But the state cannot, however trim it becomes,  create value. Neither are banks value producers. They can only, at most, more efficiently guarantee and assist in the circulation and realisation of exchange value and ultimately the accumulation of capital.

The only real alternative for the working class is communism. Under communist society the law of value and the other related social laws of capitalism will have been abolished. Consequently profitability is no longer the driving force, and limit, to the expansion of wealth.

Gurdgiev is mistaken when he claims that massive slashing of state spending together with the creation of an effective banking system largely constitutes the platform from which recovery can take off. He omits the ultimate source of the problem --the capitalist production process.The lack of productivity within the process of production is the principal cause of the sustained capitalist crisis. There must be a transformation of the technological basis of production entailing large increases in the rate of exploitation of labour power if recovery, albeit only temporarily, is to establish itself. But enormous technological development is not something that can be developed at will. Technological change (and thereby large productivity increases) cannot be introduced to the labour process at will. Consequently adequate productivity of labour increases are highly unlikely although not impossible. This being so it is highly unlikely that authentic economic recovery can be achieved.

Gurdgiev  argues that public service spending must be savagely cut. Along with this he calls for radical reform of the public service and indeed the capitalist political system itself. The implication of this programme of his is that a massive cut in public service expenditure together with a radical transformation of the public sector together with the political system can result in a society that serves the interests of the Irish citizenry. He suggests too that the Irish banking system must be radically reformed. He attacks any attempts to increase taxation. He claims that the latter only dampen down effective demand or consumption. The foreging prescriptions form part of Gurdgiev's idealist utopian programme. It is idealist because it is not grounded in the process of production which must constitute the materialst basis of any valid programme. His prescriptions apply to circulation and not production. The former cannot create value which is the way out of the contradiction. In so far as he makes references to the labour process it is only on the unestablished assumption that if the Irish economy follows his instructions global production will have picked up in such a way that the Irish economy will be able to benefit from this change. Given the global situation this assumption cannot be made especially when a massive spike in productivity is the requirement if there is to be recovery.        
The Irish economic crisis is a manifestation of the global crisis that has beset contemporary capitalism. The recent property bubble is an expression of the world economic crisis. To identify the crisis being suffered in Ireland as  nationalist is to misunderstand the entire character of capitalism. The recent role played by the Irish banks in contributing to the property bubble was also an extension of the global crisis. Many commentators, from both right and left,  position the source of the the problem hitting Ireland in reverse order. They mistakenly posit how the crisis appears as the cause of the crisis.

Gurdgiev argues that that there must be a massive reduction in state spending on a scale that makes past and present governments' reductions look lilliputian. He shows here his failure to understand the nature and function of state spending under capitalism. He is unable to grasp that state spending has been undertaken to shore up capitalism and to pacify both the working class and middle class. Contrary to his thinking the state was not established and expanded as part of a formal rationalism originating originating in the European Enlightenment. The capitalist economic system is incapable of providing permanent full employment and enhanced living standards for the masses. Consequently the state steps in to fill the gap. This political intervention forms part of a necessary strategy to discourage the working class from challenging capitalism. The upshot is a burgeoning debt sustained social democracy.

Capitalism in the West sought to overcome this problem by increasing state spending. This led to, among othe things, improvements in the infrastructure together with improved working and living conditions. However state enlargement could only be provided chiefly by deductions from total surplus value while leaving less exchange value available for private capital formation. Clearly the reduction of surplus value accruing directly to industrial capitalism is correspondingly less. This shortfall could be compensated for by increasing the productivity of labour and thereby the exploitation of labour power. The result of increased productivity is a massive transformation in technology.

Now the conditions that enabled this process to occur were massive state spending on infrastructure and state iniated industry. The capitalist class were not in a position, for reasons which I shant go into now, to engage in such undertakings at the time. The basis for these developments, as alluded to above, were the following. The victory of one group of monopoly capitalists over another as a result of the two world wars along with economic depression from 1929 to 1939. Defeats suffered by the world working class in France, Spain, Britain and elsewhere. These changes helped bring about a large scale recovery in the general rate of profit. This was due to the destruction and devalorisation of capital.eant the continued burgeoning of state expenditure eventually culminating in empires of debt. This development enabled many weak entrepreneurs to stay in business. The debt empires sustained a burgeoning demand for commodities --the mass consumer society. Because of the growth and perpetuation of weaker capitals and the increasing debt, total surplus value increasingly failed to compensate for the falling rate of profit. The gap continually widened forcing the system to create even further debt. This helps explain thecauses underlying  recent financial crises such as the Asian, Russian and Mexican crises. Now these crises were "artificiallly" resolved by futher debt expansion. But this was no real solution and merely kicked judgement day into the future. The situation has now reached such an enormous size that capitalism can no longer offer debt based solutions to economic disturbances. The problem is not a European problem but a world problem.

Gurdgiev never makes clear the philosophy that underlies his nationalist model for Irish economic recovery. His philosophy is based on extreme right wing assumptions. It is these that really need to be expounded by Gurdgiev in order to render his conception of economics more intelligible. Another problem is his use of obscurantist language both in his writing and his public utterancesn --highly jargonised language.(Not meaning to offend personal sensibility. His mode of speaking renders it more difficult to comprehend what his verbalisations). There is no need for much of what he writes to be enveloped within a vast cloud of jargon. Its effect is to lend his outpourings an all knowing mystique.
It is highly unlikely that bourgeois representative democratic institutions are capable of bringing about capitalist economic recovery given the scale of the sustained attack that must be mounted by the bourgeoisie against the working class. It is very likely that naked bourgeois dictatorship may become the order of the day. Even now such tendencies have been surfacing. We see this in relation to the conduct of Merkel and Sarkhozy with regard to Greece. Just as the capitalist economy  has been reaching its limits so too may its representative democracy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Can the current economic crisis save captialism?

The Euro Crisis

The Euro crisis is a manifestation of the current global crisis. The latter is a crisis of profitability generated by the over-production of capital with respect to the existing rate of surplus value. The Euro crisis, a form of over-accumulation of debt by Eurozone countries, is a product of this profitability crisis. The profitability crisis, a manifestation of the law of the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall, is capitalism's periodic way of solving its fundamental problems.This law is the regulator of capitalist development. Without it capitalism would have collapsed long ago and ceased to exist. The law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is the central force that maintains capitalism in business. Ironically the bourgeoisie have sought to suppress and even eliminate it. Commentators like Constantin Gurdgiev claim that excess debt is the cause of the problem. Constantin claims that if total debt burden is reduced significantly then economic growth will recover. He, in effect, views excess debt as the source of the problem. He fails to see that excess debt rather than being the source of the problem is a manifestation of the crisis.There is excessive debt accumulation within the world capitalist system. This debt is excessive with respect to the the amount of surplus value being produced. Insufficient surplus value is being produced to allow for the excess debt dissolution. This accumulation of debt instead of promoting the development of the production process is in fact hindering it. Consequently if capitalism is not to self-destruct it must expunge this excess debt by means of enormous technological change. Growing investor distrust in the surplus debt based financial system is a symptom of this. Bear markets and trading volatility are some of the results of this. The over-accumulation of debt distorts and further obscures the real character of capitalism.

In other words the over-production of capital is producing a corresponding over-production of debt. At "the height" of this crisis, 2008, there was an overproduction of capital in the form of an overproduction of commodities (stockpiles of houses, household commodities, cars etc.) together with debt stockpiles. The over-production of debt is a device used by the capitalist class to obstruct the operation of the law of value in the form of the law of the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall. Up to a point debt creation acts as a counter-tendency to this law. The ruling class ironically attempt to prevent capitalism from regulating itself through periodic crises. But it turns into its opposite becoming increasingly an obstcle to the development of capitalism. The contradictions of capitalism now become so antagonistic that the debt mountain constitutes the polar opposite to the law of value. This expresses itself in the form of economic and even political crises. There are only two solutions to this contradiction: A reconstituted capitalism or social revolution.

To resolve the debt problem the rate of surplus value must be increased to such a degree that the amount of surplus value produced is large enough to allow this debt to be wiped out. To achieve this gargantuan task there has ultimately to be enormous technological change entailing a huge spike in the productivity of labour and consequently in the rate of surplus value. Such a revolution entails the meltdown of the production process. This means that "bubble" businesses dissolve leading to the centralisation of capital on an unprecedented scale. Successful capitalist producers are the entrepreneurs who introduce technological advances into the labour process in order in order to make themselves more competitive. This transformation from within capitalism must squeeze excess debt out of the system by eliminating the weaker capitalist enterprises including financial institutions that have, what I might call, a quasi-parasitic character. They are a past and present product of the "financialisation" of the growing contradictory nature of capitalist production. Many of these companies were sustainable because of continuous life-support from excessive credit expansion.

There must be increases in the worker's workload together with large scale cutbacks in public spending. Indeed the cutbacks in public spending are an added device by which many of the weaker businesses are forced out of the market. This,in itself, helps increase the technical composition of capital and thereby the organic composition.The result is an increase in the rate of surplus value and thereby the total surplus value produced.

It is the law of the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall that constitutes the principal underlying dynamic. It tends to effect a revolution in the forces of production. Competition is not the cause of changes in the conditions of production. Competition is the form by which the law of value asserts itself.

The problem is that the bourgeoisie have been endeavouring to neutralise the fall in total surplus value by the excessive expansion of debt. In this way it has succeedeed in sustaining businesses that would either have gone to the wall or never existed. This hinders the development of the forces of production by retarding the development of technology. Competition is the principal form by which this adjustement is achieved. By drowning the economy in debt competition is modified --even neutralised. This "artificial" neutralisation retards the capitalist competitive dynamic that leads to the further development of the productive forces. Consequently a caulron of inflationary bubbles are generated rendering prices higher than they would otherwise be.

The ultimate consequence of the oversupply of debt is a interruption of the organic composition of capital. As debt accumulates and total surplus value production is held back a situation is reached whereby the conditions for dissolving the accumulating debt is diminished. The upshot is a growing debt mountain only dissolvable by the most radical means. The capitalist class is facing precisely this situation now. Consequently the solution to the debt crisis is not simply a matter of manipulating excess debt through it redistribution and restructuring.

Currently the debt problem is being tackled by manipulating the circulation process as opposed to the production process. This mistakenly suggests that the source of the problem is located in the circulation sphere. Movements are afoot to restructure banking and the financial system generally. Banks, interest rates, some money forms, money printing and taxes are forms that function within the circulation process of capital. They have nothing directly to do with the regulation of the global process of production. The relationship between circulation and production is of a reified nature. Furthermore under conditions of debt mountains production and circulation tend to become increasingly divorced from each other. This brings about an unexpected interruption in the process of reproduction of capital. The result: economic and political crises.

The circulation of debt cannot solve capitalist crises. This is because the problem is located within the heart of capitalism itself -the process of production. Consequently the source of the solution is contained within the production process. The illusion that the crisis can be solved by the circulation of debt just means that the solution is mistakenly seen to be located within the process of circulation as opposed to the process of production. But the circulation process is the form by which exchange-value in the form of capital is circulated. Plans to solve the euro crisis through tinkering with the circulation process are doomed to failure because circulation in contrast to production cannot generate value. Playing about with debt within the process of circulation can add nothing to value since, as I indicated, value cannot be generated by the circulation of capital.

Most political interests, including much of mainstream marxism leninism, advocate solutions from within the circulation process. Much of mainstream marxism calls for increased public spending as a way of inflating demand and thereby dissolving the crisis. But this fetishisation of spending, an under-consumptionist economic philosophy, is a utopian demand. It mistakenly suggests that capitalism can be saved from itself by increased spending. This means that no capitalist crisis is ever possible since increases in demand through increased public spending can sort the problem out. This notion is a Keynesian prescription. Ironically this then means that capitalism is not obsolescent since there are no destructive tendencies within it. Such utopian reformism by much of marxism-leninism constitutes an abject apology for capitalism. Much of mainstream marxism and bourgeois politics share a fundamental commonality: serving the interests of capitalism.

These marxist-leninist apologists for capitalism fail to explain where all this increased public spending is to come from. It cannot be just sucked out of the thumb of Zeus. Arbitrarily increased public spending can only mean the use of debt to get rid of debt. This misconception highlightsprecisely why capitalism is besieged by debt crisis. This form of marxism-leninism is nothing less than a form of mysticism involving a superstitious belief in the capitalist state.

It is this very remedy that has been the source of the problem --eliminating the debt crisis by further attempting to increase and redistribute debt. The advocacy of such false solutions highlights an essential ignorance of the nature of capitalist relations. Even if these conditions are realised by the bourgeoisie global economic crises will eventually break out again. Capitalism, especially in its later stages, has an inherent tendency to periodically produce economic crises.

Ultimately capitalist economic crises can only be permanently eliminated by the replacement of capitalism with communism. This entails the abolition of the production process as a valorisation process. Consequently the law of value, a socio-historical law, ceases to exist. In the final analysis communist (not Stalinist) society is the only authentic solution to the problem of economic crises.

Printing money, currency devaluation, changing interest rates, debt accumulation and public works involve tinkering with circulation.Manipulating the circulation of capital constitutes a superficial remedy that,in the long run, solve nothing while making things worse. The appearances of capitalism (such as the circulation of capital) are mistaken for its essence. The market disguises the real nature of capitalism.

Bourgeois experts inform us that the debt crisis can be solved if we use this or that method. Yet none of these offerings directly locate the source of the problem -the production of commodity capital itself. There are almost as many economists as there are proposed bourgeois solutions. Proposed solutions can include fiscal change; monetary reform; banking reform and budgetary change. The current capitalist slow-down is a result not of the inaccessibility of credit but of the falling rate of profit. It is the falling rate of profit that has led to the drying up of credit. The lack of banking activity is not the cause of the crisis.Instead it is the crisis that is the cause of banking activity. The result of the problem is ironically viewed by its apologists as its cause.

Finally given that the source of the contradiction lies within the capitalist production process it is nevertheless the case that modifications to aspects of the circulation can play a subordinate role in the solution to the problem of declining profitability. However the solution is principally found within valorisation itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Production Process Is The Key

Given the state of world capitalism today especially in the immediate wake of the recent world economic and financial depression the current situation is as follows.

There exist only two solutions to the capitalist crisis. The capitalist solution or the communist solution.

The capitalist solution constitutes a drastioc anti-working class solution. Even at that it will not serve as a permanent solution. But it is the only solution available within capitalism if it is not to experience growing and periodic problems of the sort it experienced recently.

Since the source of the problem exists within the production process it is there that the solution will be found. This means that the labour process will have to be revolutionisied if a capitalist solution is to be realised.

This solution involves the enormous and unprecedented upgrading of the productive power of society. In this way the technical composition of capital will have been increased to such a degree that it will lead to an increase in the organic composition of capital. In that way the rate of surplus value will have increased to such a degree that the total surplus value produced will more than compensate for the the falling rate of profit.

Such an enormous development in the forces of production will lead to a radical reconfiguration of capital. Weaker capitals will generally have been wiped out on a par with the K-T extinction. Much larger, more concentrated and centralised capital will predominate. The working class will suffer increased workload and will be more disciplined.

Organisationally and politically it will be much weaker than it even was. In this way the source of the capitalist crisis, its process of production, will have been revolutionised in such a way as to have eliminated the crisis for the time being. Furthermore the struggle that led to this transformation within the labour process will have resulted in a general and devastating defeat for the working class. This will be manifested in a fall in working conditions and living standards. It will have meant severe cutbacks in social spending on health, education and the other welfare benefits that the working class has, in the West, taken for granted. In short it will be living in a new era. The character and culture of the working class will have changed drastically.

In contrast much of the radical Left falsely posit the source of the current capitalist contradictions as existing within the process of circulation of capital. This is why they persistently confine themselves to solutions that are grounded in the process of circulation of capital. They focus on money, credit, spending, taxation and commodities. Each one of these forgoing forms are necessarily confined to the sphere of circulation. Consequently they cannot provide the key to the solution of the the current world capitalist crises.

It does not understand that the central contradiction of capitalism is located within the process of production.

The the production process is a dual process. It is a labour process and a valorisation process. We must disconnect the valorisation process from the labour process. This entails the abolition of valorisation. The production process, then, is transformed into a unitary process that simply produces use-values and not exchange values in the form of commodities. Use-values are now just products and no longer commodities. Only communism can effect this change.

Generally debate surrounding the solution to Ireland's economic and financial problems centre around issues such as bailouts, bondholders, deficits and debt forgiveness. These are notions stuck within the process of circulation of capital. Consequently they can never provide the key to the solution of the problem either for capitalists or workers. Thereby debate must assume a qualitatively different form.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gurdgiev and Lucey misunderstand Euro Debt Crisis

Much of the radical Left/Right falsely posit the source of the current
capitalist contradictions as existing within the process of circulation of
capital. This is why they persistently confine themselves to solutions that
are grounded in the process of circulation of capital. They focus on money,
credit, spending, taxation and commodities. Each one of these forgoing
forms are necessarily confined to the sphere of circulation. Consequently
they cannot provide the key to the solution of the Euro crisis let alone the
Current world capitalist crises. Much of the the radical Left/Right are the present day King Canutes. The crisis of capitalism is the crisis of the radical Left. It is also a crisis of consciousness, organisation and leadership within the (if today I can suggest such a phenomenon) working class movement.

The Euro crisis, today, has found its extreme expression, economically and
politically, in Greece. The Greek social system is enormously indebted to
such a degree, that it cannot sell government bonds to acquire credit with which to meet the cost of running the state. Consequently the Greek ruling class is being forced to seek loans from the EU under extremely strict conditions that will, in the short term at least, further hinder growth. These austere conditions involve enormous privatisation of state companies and large cut-backs in state spending. Much of this austerity package will entail job losses, diminished incomes and reduced welfare benefits. Even this forthcoming Euro loan will not go near getting Greece out of its financial and economic problems. At most it may merely temporarily alleviate the financial problem. This punctuated policy amounts to death by a thousand cuts.

Some commentators mistakenly argue, Constantin Gurdgiev and Brian Lucey,
that the better approach is a comprehensive deal now that sorts out Greece's
problems once and for all.This, they claim, must involve debt forgiveness
and presumably economic restructuring. They argue that a piecemeal approach
can only but prolong the crisis leading in the future to an even more devastating situation. This, they claim, can only intensify the problem thereby rendering the collapse of the Euro more likely. This event will have widespread ramifications.

The EU tops, and their subalterns, argue that their punctuated policy is the best policy in the circumstances. By staging financial help to Greece accompanied by the imposition of belt-tightening it appears that the EU hopes to protect the Euro.The overall fear among the European bourgeoisie is the collapse of the Euro and the ensuing fallout. Neither policy can solve the crisis. The Euro crisis is the result of a much deeper dynamic.

The problem has its source in the failure of capitalism to produce sufficient absolute surplus value to compensate for the falling general rate of profit --the regulator of the capitalist economic system. Resisting this ongoing falling volume of surplus value will not be sorted out by throwing more debt (paper) at the problem. At most this just postpones the crisis leading consequently to an even more devastating crash.

The solution has to be the production of more surplus value. This economic problem is lodged within the production process --not in the circulation process. This means that transformation must take place within the process
of production.Consequently this leaves only two options open. The capitalist solution: A massive development and investment of technology on an unprecedented scale leading to an enormous increase in the rate of surplus
value and thereby a corresponding enormous increase the volume of total
surplus value produced.

The communist solution: A revolutionary transformation of the production
process involving the abolition of capital and thereby the valorisation process. Under these conditions the production process will exist to serve the needs of the people. It is then no more than the production of use-values --profitability is longer the driving force.

Throwing more debt, in the short or long run, at the problem will not solve the problem. This is precisely because the source of the problem does not lie within the process of circulation of capital (i.e. money and credit ). It is contained within the production process.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alienation and the Materialist Conceptioan of History

Marx by producing the materialist conception of history was also producing the materialist conception of alienation. The materialist conception of history is the only genuine, comprehensive and consistent materialism. It laid the basis for identifying the real nature of capitalist alienation together with the historical process that dissolves it. Hegel never succeeded in finding the limits preventing humanity from transcending its alienation. Hegel shares this fundamental inability to understand both the nature of alienation and the means whereby it can be abolished with the Young Hegelians; Feuerbach; the philosophical materialism of the Enlightenment and the Classical School of Political Economy.
Despite individual differences obtaining between them they are bound by a common metaphysical limitation. Marx overcame these socio-ontological limitations in the form of the materialist conception of history which is inseparably grounded in revolutionary material praxis. The seeds of the materialist conception of Marx are located in his 1844 Manuscripts. Here the concept of social relations of production| “had its first and decisive elaboration.” Marx’s new and revolutionary materialism constitutes a radical break with the metaphysical materialism of Feuerbach and the Enlightenment. The materialist conception has a dual nature as both social ontology and methodology.

Hegel was the first modern philosopher to explicitly and systematically present the problem of alienation as a central socio-ontological question for philosophy. By placing the ontology of man’s social being at the centre of the philosophical stage the entire character of philosophy was revolutionised. This is to call into question the very existence of philosophy as the medium for a solution. After Hegel further solutions to the problem of man’s alienation were sought both by the Young Hegelians and Feuerbach. But all these thinkers were the prisoners of idealism since each in his own way, understood the problem as one to be solved ideologically and not historically thereby entailing praxis. By thus confining solutions to the ideological sphere reform, not revolution, was their moderate programme. Such ideological prescriptions amounted to a denial that alienation is a necessary feature of capital requiring the surgical process of revolution for its elimination and instead assumed that alienated society can be liberated from alienation. Correct philosophy, not social revolution, was their prescription.

The philosophical materialism of the European Enlightenment bore an idealist character. This limited it as a basis for explaining alienated existence. Attempts to represent Marx’s materialism as merely a development of traditional materialism is to imprison his conception within metaphysical limits thereby turning it into another variant of ideology. French naturalist materialism, notwithstanding its revolutionary characteristics, was essentially a disguised form of idealism that never succeeded in systematically concerning itself with the real concrete facts and instead got enveloped in the dense fog of ideology.
Metaphysical materialism conceives the rational as standing in an external relation to men, determining and regulating human existence. “For the Enlightenment, reason was the ultimate principle of the being and becoming of nature and society. The task of philosophy is to discover and elaborate this principle, so that society will correspond to the eternal and unchanging laws of nature (Lukacs: Hegel; p. 35).” By thus misconceiving the meaning of nature, French materialism was positing a notion as determinant of society instead of concrete social forces. This is tantamount to claiming that conceptual abstractions determine human existence which is to assume that man is nothing but an idea. In this way the factor of consciousness is regarded as the specific characteristic of men. “It follows that analysis cannot engage with a real object, but only with an ideal objectivity. The relation between the theory and its object contracts, due to the ideal character of the latter, into a mere relation of idea to idea, an internal monologue within thought itself. The object of analysis thus slips through our fingers; it is, as Lenin pointed out, impossible for us to undertake any study of the facts, of social processes, precisely because we are no longer confronting a society, a real object, but only the idea of society, society in general. (Colletti: From Rousseau to Lenin; p. 3)”.

These rational laws of economics are endowed with a reality which transcends history and are construed as having an existence not confined to a specific concrete economic system. In this way these abstract historical laws are conceived as absolute abstractions which is to misapprehend their specific nature. Construed as such their meaning is misunderstood and consequently instead of their being recognised as real specific economic laws of history with limited scope they are dissolved into abstractions of the mind. This reduces political economy to ideology. This is how Pilling can make the following observation:

"... Marx was to centre his entire critique of political economy on what he considered its decisive weakness –its tendency to view society ahistorically, or, more specifically, its inclination to treat capitalist economy as one working directly in accordance with the laws of nature. All Marx’s detailed criticisms of political economy’s categories of value, money, capital etc., which fill the pages of Capital and even more so of Theories of Surplus Value, rest finally upon this, his basic criticism." (ibid., Pilling; p. 10)

Marx by centring his attention on classical economy’s ahistoricism, its metaphysical nature, was able to reveal its inability to demonstrate the historical and transitory nature of capitalist society and the need to go beyond it in the form of socialist society. By this means he indicated the classical  economy’s inability to concern itself  with a real concrete object, a particular society, and instead concentrate on consciousness. Consequently Marx ends up by going beyond these economists by producing his revolutionary new analysis of both political economy and the capitalist economic system. Through the medium of such analysis the conditions (or programme) for the elimination of alienation are being outlined. The condition for Marx’s transcending the ideology of the classical economists with his new powerful tool of the materialist conception of history is being outlined. Classical economy by contrast was rooted  in a naturalist materialism the origin of which can be traced back to Locke. This materialism naturalises social phenomena by subjecting them to the Midas touch. Social phenomena are thereupon posited as the immediately  given of empiricism. Consequently there is no need to trace the mediating links that connect economic phenomena to their corresponding essence since under materialist empiricism phenomena are conceived as immediately identical with their essence. This explains how Ricardo immediately identified value with price failing to comprehend that the phenomena, price, by its very nature, deviates from value.

Marx, on the other hand, proceeded in the opposite direction: Like the materialists he accepted the argument that all phenomena including social phenomena were natural. This is to say that they were grounded in nature. But he did not stop at that since he went one step ahead thereupon revolutionising the entire character of materialism by ‘socialising’ all phenomena whether natural or social. In this way nature was conceived as a social category So all phenomena are natural and social. By this means Marx’s materialist conception subordinates the natural to the social; natural objects are situated within a social context. The outcome is that no phenomena can be conceived independently of society. Since phenomena must be conceived from a social standpoint it follows that to preserve facticity they must be investigated from the context of a particular society i.e. particular social relations. To acknowledge that all phenomena are social i.e. are socially constituted means to grasp the nature of their sociality if they are to be made intelligible. And this obviously entails apprehending how they are socially constituted. But this is to seek to apprehend how they are ‘manufactured’. This means going beyond their ‘thereness’ as empirically given and tracing their historical nature. And thus we have the materialist conception of history. Thereupon the materialist conception, as method, destroys with one blow the reductive analysis of materialist empiricism and thereby the method of Ricardo.
It was the materialist conception of history, a new conception of materialism that formed the basis of a correct theory of alienation. Marx’s materialist conception went beyond philosophical materialism by broadening the foundation on which materialism had been constructed to include such objective constituents as the objects of nature; the material activity of labour; manufactured objects; social relations of production. This is a materialism that put man at the centre while nature was now only significant within social dimensions. No longer could abstractions be posited as determinants of human existence: the process of consciousness is no longer mistaken as the real concrete process. Instead men are conceived as engaged in a socially mediated dialogue with nature involving the use of man-made use values. In this way concrete men are explained from themselves, from their foundation without any recourse to any metaphysical principles. Man is the source of man; man is free. Marx’s materialism is not simply ontological in character and that it is also a methodology. It is a method by which the nature of capitalism and alienation is conceived.

This piece was written many years ago by me. My conception has shifted since then. However I still think that the piece still retains interest.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The May 2011 Royal Visit to Ireland

The recent official visit by the British Queen to the Republic of Ireland led to many temporary restrictions on the freedom of Irish workers and the loss of income to many of them due to the disruption it caused in Dublin and other places in Ireland.
Among other things it intensified alienation by the exclusion of the vast majority of citizenry from the various public events staged in Ireland for the British Queen. Only a small elite can be be trusted, in such contexts, by the Irish state.

The royal visit demonstrates the anti-democratic nature of contemporary society. The royalist events in Ireland are a way of informing the worker of his place in class society. Despite the existence of the vote we are being reminded that some people are worth more than others. This is the real value system that formal democracy hides from us.

Then there were the funds spent on the visit. Such funds are a product of the exploitation of the labour power of the worker. The Irish worker sweats to pay for this recent extravagance.

It has been said repeatedly in the Irish capitalist mass media that Elizabeth is a great lady "for her age" (ageism again) and that she exhibited great strength and dignity. So what! Such personal attributes have nothing,as such, to do with her royal status. There was also the view that she paid homage to Irish culture, politics and the dead patriots executed by British imperialism. But this is just an imperialist ploy to win the hearts and minds of the Irish masses --to control them. It is intended to fool and cajole the Irish working class into accepting British oppresssion.

But none of this pomp and cermony can mean anything substantive in terms of the improvement of the conditions of the Irish and British working class. What does it matter should Queen Elizabeth show respect for such patriots killed in their struggle against British imperialism many years ago? What matters is the historical significance of the events themselves.In fact Elizabeth, as head of the British state, is using the very anti-imperialist deeds of these Irish insurrectionists to promote the class interests of British imperialism (the very imperialism it was combatting) by winning the popular support of the Irish populace. There is no way this class or indeed the British working class.

The craven indigenous bourgeoisie are happy with any such development because the pacification of the Irish and British working class can only but enhanceits class interests. Because the visit leads to increased stability between Ireland and Britain the conditions for improved commercial relations may be enhanced. At a time of acute international economic crises in the West this development can only but be helpful to Irish, UK and US capitalism.

The official visit made by Barack Obama, President of the USA, has the same character, (with modifications) as that of the British Queen's official visit. Obama is probably hoping to pick up some votes by making the visit while the royal family is hoping to use the visit to justify its existence in the face of republican opposition.

The Irish capitalist class were all for it too. They dont mind paying homage to a relic of the Middle Ages if there are goodies in it for them. Especially today during downturn. Anything that leads to greater cooperation in the interests of profit is hailed. And as for betraying the dead patriots well that was done a long time ago.

There is a big lesson to be drawn from these visits by the political representatives of imperialist states. The popular support for the visits was much greater than the popular opposition shown against the substantial cutbacks in the living standards of the working class. The turnout for Obama at College Green was much greater than any rallies against the cutbacks in living standards. Lets face it we have, at present, in Ireland a passive and conservative working class. At the moment the capitalist class have little to worry about when it comes to the Irish working class.

Monday, May 16, 2011

John McGahren


It appears to me that in John McGahren's last novel flounders mid way through. Consequently the character of the novel shifts somewhat to lend it an extended life. This is why the character of Robert Booth is introduced. He is meeley inserted into the book to allow it to have an end as well as a beginning. Around the same time the character of Joe Ruttledge changes. He becomes more talkative and decisive.The relationship between the Joe and Kate is rather curious. Little conversation seems to take place between them. You would wonder why they are together at all.

This is a flaw in the book.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vincent Browne versus SWP

Below are some written comments of mine on a piece published on the website. It is called, Reply to Vincent Browne attack on left. It was published on 8th May 2011. Its position is so crassly reactionary that I felt obliged to promptly draft a hasty response to it.‎10 ‎May ‎2011

SWP: The Left has no difficulty with the latter point and indeed goes further. In common with Vincent Browne, we favour higher rates of taxes on incomes over €80,000 as a means of re-distribution. More broadly, we favour progressive taxes rather than regressive indirect taxes which hit the poor disproportionately.

Hackett: "...hit the poor disproportionately." The Socialist Workers Party call themselves marxist (at least they did in the past) and yet ironically they support progressive taxation. Even progressive taxation adversely hits the working class. The poor! The SWP dont even pretend to seriously represent the interests of the working class anymore. Like Father Mc Verygood they represent the interests of the poor. Perhaps the SWP dont understand that sections of the working class can be quite cultured and affluent. Workers dont just live in Ballyfermot. They can live in Foxrock and Templelogue too.

SWP: But why focus solely on income? Why not get to the root of the problem of inequality by also taxing wealth and capital? And why focus just on Irish incomes rather than on wealth generated in Ireland?

Take a simple paradox. In 2008, at the start of the crisis the shortfall in government spending was €11.5 billion. But after three years of ‘deficit reduction’ it has actually increased to more than €18 billion. Why should this be so?

Hackett: The state deficit is caused by falling profitability and not by falls in spending. Spending is, in a sense, a function of profitability. The greater the profit the greater the spending. Spending on capital and consumer goods. The reason for the recent dramatic deficits in the Irish Republic is because of falling profitability which is reflected in falling spending.

SWP: First, ironically, government cuts. The more the government cuts its spending, the less money there is to go around and so there is less work and less taxes raised. If, for example, you cut the wages of public sector workers, fewer people will use barbers or restaurants and so are fewer people employed in these outlets. The problem for ‘deficit hawks’, therefore, is that instead of solving the capitalist crisis, they often make it worse.

Hackett: The question of government spending cuts is not an independent variable. State spending is again a product of profitability. The greater is total profit the more the capitalist state can spend. As profit falls state spending is objectively constrained. The Irish government cut spending and increased taxation because of falling profits. Had the Irish state continued to spend and tax at the levels that existed before the economic collapse the deficit would have grown even greater bringing the Irish economy into an even worse situation. Reduced state spending and increased taxation, at most, leads to a redistribution of profit. It does not necessarily bring about a fall in the amount of money spent. It merely brings about a change in the way that money is spent. If the economy is shrinking as a function of falling profitability then it is necessary for the capitalist state to correspondingly cut back on unproductive spending in order to seek to slow down the falling rate of profit. Marx made this point very clear in his work on the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. By slowing the rate at which profit falls then a corresponding fall in  capital investment tends to take place. In that way the rate of falling unemployment tends to be slowed down somewhat.

Neither can a government (much less a governement representing a minuscule economy such as the economy of the Irish Republic) simply increase spending at will to supposedly prevent an economic depression. To do so just results in galloping inflation. But the Irish government could not even do that because it no longer even owns its own currency. We are forced to use a foreign currency called the Euro. The SWP and the Socialist Party rant on about the launching of public works as forming a key ingredient in the national solution to the economic crisis. However significant public works require large quantities capital. Given that the Irish economy has been suffering from steadily falling profitability there does not exist the profit necessary to provide the necessary capital for such works. Taxing Irish and foreign capitalists to pay for such public investment merely reduces their already falling profits --the fountainhead of the economic crisis. So calling for major public works, even a la Trotsky, makes no sense.

SWP: Third, and this is the crucial point, Ireland is currently experiencing an investment strike by the Irish capitalist class. Capital is the life blood of the current economy and its flow is driven by a desire for profit. When owners of capital decide not to invest, the whole economy seizes up.

Hackett: To claim that there is "an investment strike" inflicting the Irish economy is to misunderstand the very nature of capitalism. Capitalists can only exist by the expansion of capital through the productive investment of its profit as capital. This is the dynamic underlying capitalist investment. It is this dialectical dynamic that drives the capitalist economic system. Now capitalism cannot, even if it wants to, subjectively refuse to invest in industrial capital. To do that is to undermine its very existence.

There is no evidence to support the absurd SWP claim that the Irish capitalist class is gone on strike. Irish capitalism has nothing to gain by such egregious behaviour. Many substantial Irish capitalists, are going to the wall because of the absence of capital investment in Ireland. And there will probably be more such collisions. It makes no sense to suggest that prominent capitalists, some of whom are celeb business people, would deliberately commit commercial suicide. If capitalists are not investing in the Irish economy to the degree that they were it is because of the unavoidable diminution in profit available in Ireland. To maintain and even increase their capital they are compelled to instead invest in China or wherever. They will send their capital anywhere that currently returns a profit under relatively secure conditions. These conditions dont exist, as they did, in Ireland. Fugitive capital will only tend to return to the Irish Republic as indigenous profitability conditions show improvement.  In other words when the Irish economic system hits bottom and can then take off then investment will begin to recover. Whether that actually happens in the forseeable future in another matter.

SWP: Some capital has been wiped out in the crash – but not all of it. Figures from the Central Statistics Office indicate that private savings for 2009 amount to €37 billion. (This figure is based on gross saving minus the public sector deficit) ‘Savings’, however, is not simply composed of the extra money PAYE workers have in bank accounts – mainly it includes the additional income accruing to the rich. In addition, there has been a huge capital flight. In 2010, €100 billion was withdrawn from Irish banks and 73% of those withdrawals came from corporations.

So the rich have plenty of money – but they have chosen to stage an investment strike. Their aim is to re-configure Ireland as a low-wage tax haven and only AFTER that has occurred, might they re-start the engine of capitalist accumulation.

Hackett: The above SWP conspiracy theory is so obviously naive and threadbare. If the Irish capitalist class was staging an investment strike then why would it stage one now? Why would it stage one at a time when the economy was said to have been undergoing unprecedented expansion? The motive for an investment strike makes little sense since capitalism generally seeks to perenially keep the price of labour power down so that it can sustain maximum profit. Why would a low wage economy be something capitalism would seek for Ireland now than say at other times? Marx has shown in his work, Capital, that the accelerated accumulation of capital is not the result of subjective factors such as the decisions of the capitalist class. It is an objective process driven by the prevailing objective conditions --profit conditions. The accumulation process is independent of the intentions of the Irish capitalist class.

SWP: Irish society will not be going back to a Celtic Tiger-style normality because the economic model of development based on low corporation taxes and de-regulation has run its course. We shall either live in a society that is permanently ravaged by emigration and poverty – or we can re-organise the economy on socialist lines where control over accumulated resources is in the hands of the majority and subject to the needs of society as a whole.

Hackett: The above piece contradicts Kieran Allen's claim, a leading figure in the SWP, that there has been a "corporate takeover of Ireland". In his book The Corpoate Takeover of Ireland he claims that "the corporations also wants a state that reduces overall taxation." In his book he never, as I understand it, argued that the then "economic model of development based on low corporation taxes and de-regulation had run its course." In fact he seemed to be suggesting the very opposite. If "the Irish capitalist class" have mounted an investment strike in Ireland, as the SWP claim, while multinational corporate investment appear to be faring relatively well in Ireland then surely there is a conflict between indigenous capital and global corporations from abroad. This apparent dichotomy between the two forms of capital must mean that there has been no "corporate takeover of Ireland" with the help of Irish foreign policy and the indigenous bourgeoisie or certainly significant sections of it?

SWP: However, the Left advocates a more radical approach. It is to get to the root of the issue by increasingly taking control over capital and depriving the wealthy of their ability to sabotage the economy.

Hackett: To call for the need "to increasingly take control over capital" amounts to no better than an oxymoron. Capital by its very nature denotes the absence of popular control. It is a reified social relation of production. By virtue of that very fact, expounded by Marx, it is not possible to exert popular support over capital. However I take it that by increasingly taking control over capital the SWP are advocating, in a disguised way, some version of reformism. Nowhere in the world has capitalism been reformed out of existence. Nor can it be. The SWP apparently claims to be  Marxist, indeed a Trotskyist organisation, yet it has been stridently and publicly espousing reformist politics. For it a nationalist capitalist solution, and not world social revolution, is the answer.

Its leadership has been publicly espousing a national solution to the Irish economic crisis. A minuscule capitalist economy, such as is the Irish one, certainly cannot realise a reformist programme. An Irish workers' republic in which the wealth is owned and controlled by the state or even by "the people" would be crushed in no time by ambient imperialism. The solution to the economic crisis afflicting Ireland is only possible on the basis of a European revolution spreading out from core countries such as France, Germany or Britain. Given the international character of capitalism the solution has to be international --world revolution.

The SWP and the Socialist Party publicly maintain that there is an Irish solution to Irish economic crises. These false pronouncements are nothing but attempts to fool and mislead the working class. The probable outcome of parties such as the SP and the SWP gaining significant influence over the working class is significant sustained deep-seated economic and political instability involving enormous popular pain and suffering.  However there is also, on the other hand, the distinct liklihood that  parties, such as the SP and SWP, will instead opportunistically capitulate to capitalism a la Rabbitte and de Rossa should their electoral strength grow. This is on the assumption that a revolutionary communist movement fails to emerge and grow into a competing force culminating in social revolution. Communism means European and world social revolution together with the elimination of the state in all its diverse oppresssive forms.

And yes, then, in a perverse way, I do think Vincent Browne has a point. In the short term there is no way out other than, more or less, what is being officially advocated by the establishment i.e. outside of revolution. At present neither Ireland nor Western Europe have the popular culture nor organised forms to develop social revolution into communism. In the absence of these conditions Europe can secure no other than the model of a chaotic present day Iraq on a European scale --nihilism. This is why the building of a communist movement is such a necessity.
Ah sure I think I'll read McCarthy's novel 'The Road' again!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Adams and the Peace Processs

A response to Gerry Adam's article published in the Irish Times on 12-2-96

It was the absence of negotiations and the consequent failure to address and resolve the causes of conflict which made the re-occurrence of conflict inevitable.

The absence of negotiations are not what make the re-occurrence of conflict inevitable. What make the re-occurrence of conflict possible is the deep-seated contradictions inherent in six county society and indeed in Irish capitalist society as a whole. To suggest the absence of negotiations as cause is to mistakenly confine to surface phenomena the cause of conflict. Again negotiations don’t necessarily resolve the causes of conflict. It is the struggle between social classes that can lead to the resolution of conflict. Furthermore it is simplistic to suggest that the ending of the ceasefire meant a re-occurrence of the conflict. Even during the so called Provo ceasefire conflict continues under other forms. Furthermore the character of negotiations is no more than a reflection of the relationship of power between the classes. Gerry Adams, not recognizing this fact, fetishes negotiations.

The people of this island do have the ability to come to an agreed and democratic accommodation. The vehicle for this is democratic and inclusive dialogue and negotiations.

If the people of Ireland do have this ability then this is tantamount to falsely claiming that the struggle for national self-determination of the Irish people is superfluous since discursive activity can be substituted for this struggle. The only thing that has significance is dialogue; all else is meaningless. This is postmodernism at its most cynical. Language substitutes itself for reality. Adams fails to understand that the character of specific dialogue reflects the asymmetrical power relations that underpin it. Words on their own are meaningless. The success of a political interest participating in dialogue is a function of both its political power and the character of its relationship with the relevant different political powers. It is not a function of its debating skills. If the Provos had no political power the Irish, British and American bourgeois governments would not have given it anything like the attention it has received.

The IRA cessation was, itself, the culmination of a long process of dialogue within Irish nationalist opinion aimed at identifying a method of resolving the conflict and building a lasting political settlement.

Again for Adams dialogue produced the IRA ceasfire. Words take on the power of concrete struggle. The armed struggle of the IRA generated dialogue, words, and these words in turn generated the IRA ceasefire. Adam’s mystifies the power of words. He is the prisoner of words and images. Consequently his world is one of fantasy; an Irish Don Quixote. The real situation is that the Provos ceased their armed struggle because of concrete political considerations and not because of mere dialogue.

The very fact that the IRA found it necessary to end the ceasefire is proof of the limitations of dialogue, of language. The IRA bombing in the London docklands has already generated a modification in the political situation in a way that dialogue could not. Indeed the only reason that Sinn Fein have been allowed to even talk with the Irish government is because of the political significance of their armed campaign. If the IRA had not waged their campaign then no dialogue would have taken place. Therefore it was not, as Adams believes, language that led to language. The gun compelled the bourgeoisie to enter into talks with the Provos. The problem is that the guns of the IRA are not proving powerful enough to achieve an independent 32 county republic.

The Irish Government of that time, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and key elements of Irish America were all agreed that inclusive negotiation, without preconditions or vetoes, is the only way to resolve the conflict and secure a lasting peace. It was agreed that peace could be achieved only by replacing the failed political structures with a new political arrangement on the island, based on democratic principles of agreement and consent.

If the only way to resolve the conflict is through "inclusive negotiation" then why has it not been achieved? If a settlement, as Gerry Adams believes, is simply a matter of the different parties sitting around a table to talk then there can be no reason why all the parties would object to this. However because it is far from as simple as this the parties have not engaged in this inter-communicative exercise. It has not been achieved because words have their limits and are not as Adams believes the essence of social being. The armed conflict reflects class interests which are concrete material interests. A resolution cannot then be a simple matter of discursive reason; of the application of reason to a socio-historical problem. A problem of this kind can only be resolved through politics which entails class struggle. Social conflicts never have and never will be solved by means of discursive activity.

There was an intensive and unprecedented dialogue within Irish nationalist opinion in its broadest sense, a dialogue which required courage, imagination and a new approach on all sides, not least on the part of the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and the SDLP leader, John Hume, who, despite intense opposition, turned their backs on the failed policies of isolation and took the risk required in the building of the Irish peace process.

Whether the dialogue "required courage, imagination and a new approach" is irrelevant. Of relevance, however, is that Reynolds, Spring and Hume were simply serving their own class interests by engaging in such dialogue. They "turned their backs on the failed policies of isolation" simply because they had found another and perhaps more effective strategy to either crush, encourage the Provos to surrender or accept a compromise. Sections of the Irish bourgeoisie had changed their strategy in an attempt to further stabilise bourgeois conditions on the island. But it must be remembered that it may be "the failed policies of isolation" that played a strategic role in generating the kind of Provo leadership that is prepared to fall for what maybe a new strategy of sections of the bourgeoise.

With a clear commitment by all the major Irish nationalist parties proactively to pursue a new, negotiated and democratic political arrangement, and a public commitment by the British government to convene with the Irish Government the necessary peace talks to achieve this agreement, the Sinn Fein leadership gave an assessment to the IRA leadership of the prospects for a lasting political settlement. It was on the basis of clearly-stated commitments and agreements that the IRA announced a complete cessation of military operations on August 31st, 1994.

The above remarks suggest that the present Sinn Fein leadership accepted the word of its enemy, an enemy it had been struggling against for over twenty five years. Adams does not understand that these manoeuvres by London may have formed part of a political strategy to defeat the Provos. Adams now wants to criticize the British government because the Adamites may have made the significant political mistake of naively taking their enemy at his word. However there are those who would suggest a more sinister reason for their apparent political innocence.

In the 18 months of the IRA cessation, the British government stalled the commencement of all-party peace talks time and time again. The unilateral dumping of the Mitchell report, and the introduction of a unionist proposal for a six-county election, placed an unbearable strain on the peace process. Sinn Fein warned repeatedly of the dangers. Our warnings were treated as threats when they were intended to alert those responsible that the peace process needed to be consolidated and built upon.

Again all this simply proves that words are not a substitute for concrete reality. If it is only a matter of rational dialogue then there is no reason why Unionism, London and Dublin cannot sit around the table with the Provos to arrive at a solution. This has not happened because social problems in the six count state Ireland cannot be reduced to mere words.

The stalling, the negativity, the introduction of new preconditions was steadily undermining the position of those, myself included, who had argued that a viable peaceful way forward could be constructed.

The above remarks mean that Adams admits that his position has been undermined which can only mean that the Adamites may have played a vital part in the Provos suffering a defeat at the hands of the Tory government. Adams does not understand that this may be just what London intended as part of a possible strategy to split the Provos and make its defeat easier. This may then mean that the Adamites are John Major’s best allies.

Against this background and with consternation I, and those who had worked to put this peace process together, watched as Private Lee Clegg was released and then promoted, as David Trimble and Ian Paisley marched through the nationalist community in Garvaghy Road, as Irish prisoners were mistreated in English jails, as plastic bullets were fired at peaceful demonstrators, as nationalist homes continued to be wrecked in RUC raids. And, most fundamentally, we pointed out, with a growing sense of desperation, that there could be no negotiated peace without peace negotiations; that without peace talks there was no peace process.

Adams may be surprised to know that there is nothing new in this. This is the kind of conduct British imperialism has engaged over many years. More surprising might have been the discontinuation of this conduct by the British state. Given British imperialism’s enduringly oppressive role in Ireland it is ironical that the Adams’ leadership naively believed British imperialism’s promises. Then when the British bourgeoisie fails to meet these promises it engages in posturing that suggests surprise. Such a naive belief in British imperialism’s good intentions mistakenly suggests that imperialism can play a non-oppressive neutral role and that it is not inherently oppressive. The politics of the present Provo leadership, the Adamites, also paints American imperialism in bright colours by depicting the Clinton administration as facilitator of the struggle for Irish national self-determination. In this way it promotes the view that British and American imperialism are progressive and not essentially oppressive of other peoples. Essentially then the Adams leadership is pro-imperialist.

Attempts to isolate Sinn Fein failed in the past. The Taoiseach knows that our party is committed to dialogue, that we are not involved in armed actions and that we have a democratic mandate.

Adams declares that Sinn Fein is "committed to dialogue". This is a truism of no political significance. Many political organizations, including fascist ones, are committed to dialogue. But they are committed to many other things too. It has been known for many years that Sinn Fein have always been committed to dialogue. It has always been known that Sinn Fein, as such, are not involved in armed actions. However Sinn Fein has been under the control of the IRA leadership and the latter has been engaged in armed action. Sinn Fein has enduringly supported the armed struggle of the IRA and has been its political arm. There is also dual membership of both organizations. The only reason Sinn Fein have received more than generous media and political attention is because of this relationship to the IRA. It may also be because the Adams leadership is in the process of betraying what was the original political aim of the Provos. There is no other reason why the bourgeoisie now treat as royalty the leadership of an organization that it has so persistently sought to suppress, sometimes with great savagery, over many years.

What of those whom we represent? Are they to be discriminated against by the Irish Government in a crude attempt by that government to pressurise an organisation for which Sinn Fein and our electorate have no responsibility or control? The Taoiseach also knows that I have honoured every commitment I made. He knew how fragile the peace process was. All of us have to reflect on our stewardship of the peace process. Mr Bruton must reflect, as I must, on the lessons of the last 18 months.

Sinn Fein have a responsibility for the existence of the IRA by their failure to seriously criticise it and by their general political support for the actions of the IRA.

One thing is clear. It is not possible to make peace in Ireland unless the British government wants to make peace also. It is also very important that the Taoiseach's unilateral decision to refuse to accord Sinn Fein our democratic rights is set aside so that we can all find ways through dialogue to rescue the peace process.

This is tantamount to claiming that there cannot be a successful struggle for national self-determination by the Irish people. Political conditions in Ireland depend, according to Gerry Adams, on whether "the British government wants to make peace". No longer is it a problem of the Irish masses defeating British imperialism and thereby forcing its troops out of Ireland. Instead the masses simply wait until British imperialism wants to take its troops out of Ireland.

Contrary to what Adam claims the struggle for national self-determination of the Irish people can only achieve success through the establishment of a workers’ republic or a federation of workers’ republics supported by sections of the petit bourgeoisie. Such a workers’ republic or federation of workers’ republics can only be consolidated through the establishment of a federation of workers’ republics on both the islands of Ireland and Britain.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Common Sense Knowledge and Natural Science

Common Sense and Natural Science

The common sense beliefs of people mean that they experience things as
existing independently of themselves as individuals. What we call
commonsense belief is based on instinct and not upon a philosophical
argument that can be logically proven. This means that tables, chairs, rocks
etc. are believed to have an existence independently of humanity. This is
the instinctive knowledge that defines humanity. Instinctive knowledge is
otherwise known as common sense knowledge or folk knowledge. Yet folk
knowledge qualifies as valid knowledge. It is an instinctive form of
knowledge embedded in the human brain since the emergence of Stone Age Homo
sapiens sapiens. It forms the basis for the emergence of the physical

Now this common sense knowledge, in a sense, serves humanity well in its
quotidian struggle for existence. On the basis of these instinctual beliefs
people, according to Bertrand Russell, transform knowledge by acquaintance
into knowledge by description. Knowledge by description is, ipso facto,
social knowledge or shared knowledge. Because it necessarily transcends the
person’s private knowledge it is thereby social or public knowledge. It is
thereby shared public knowledge that is communicatively accessible.
Scientific inquiry is a more systematic form of public knowledge.

Common sense knowledge forms part of the knowledge necessary for the
struggle for survival of the human species – primarily the securing of food
and shelter. This knowledge is inherently grounded in certain forms of
action such as the use of technology in the control and manipulation of
nature. This is the original basis of the natural sciences. Socially
conscious labour is a central feature of praxis.

Nature, Society and Meaning

Humans actively engage with nature in the context of meaningful social
relations of production. They do not just investigate the physical world per
se. The physical world is scientifically investigated in the context of
meaningful social relations --however intangible the latter may be. This
being so we can claim, then, that all scientific inquiry is ultimately
meaningful. Subjecting phenomena to scientific inquiry is not necessarily to
reify and instrumentalise them, as Critical Theory (and some mainstream
Marxists) mistakenly claims, since meaning is still an integral aspect of
the entire unified process of praxis. Humanity engages in scientific
activity as part of conscious social struggle with nature which forms a
significant part of historical development. Meaning underlies all physical
and scientific action with respect to nature. It is the societal aspect of
scientific knowledge that renders it meaningful. Thereupon it cannot be said
that natural phenomena such as atomic and subatomic particles are
meaningless. Nature and history form part of an integral meaningful life

However history and nature are related to causal relations and regularities.
Atoms don’t have intentions and thought processes whereas people do.
Arguably they may have such cerebral properties when they are combined
together under specific configurations. Consequently the actions of people
are not simply circumscribed by regularity and the natural laws. Their
actions are largely caused by motivation based in purpose. The actions of
people then are a complex product of natural laws, social laws and
individual purpose.

Kantian Transcendentalism

Kant’s transcendental approach to questions of knowledge involves
investigation of the epistemological conditions that must be in place in
order to render knowledge secure. What is that makes it possible for a human
being to have knowledge of the world? Kant’s answer appealed to the way in
which the human mind processes the experiences that it receives from the
senses. Kant saw the emergence of knowledge as something that appeared in a
pure unadulterated way independently of concrete reality – a philosophical
phenomenon. By contrast the more historical (or perhaps
‘quasi-transcendental’) approach looks to the development of humanity as a
biological and cultural species driven by revolutionary praxis.

As I have heretofore indicated knowledge cannot be characterised, as Kant
mistakenly believed, as an unfiltered epistemological process. It (non
transcendentally) emerged out of concrete struggle which gave it, especially
in the initial stages, an adulterated form. Science is not a Fichtean-like
pure activity metaphysically divorced from the venal praxis of the great
unwashed masses. Rather it has its roots in the practices of industrial
workers, craftsmen and farm workers and in the practice of anybody who
solves everyday practical problems in the context of the exchange process.
The sciences are thus a distilled and disciplined aspect of the everyday
capacity that humans have for engaging in consciously social labour.


There is an hermeneutical dimension to historiography. This is because it
endeavours to make sense of use values, architecture, artefacts, texts,
institutions, social residues and social relations that orevious generations
bequeathedd to us. The methods of the natural sciences are of no direct use
to historiography. Social and historical events are also quite different
sorts of objects than those studied by the natural scientist. The natural
scientist does not ask what an atom means and what motivation it might have.
The natural scientist simply confines her/himself to pursuing the causal
relationships in which the atom is involved.

But the hermeneutics exercised by historians on objects such as books,
institutions documents and architecture consists of the physical world which
is subject to the same laws of nature. Books and other use values is a
product of the human social struggle to survive and develop. However this
struggle is paradoxically undertaken on the basis of a physical or natural
environment. This struggle is influenced, even determined, by the
regularities and properties of the physical world. For example success in
understanding the historic significance of specific buildings and other
artefacts is partly due to the ability of nature to influence buildings and
books. The degree of human success in socially and consciously struggling
with nature will demonstrate this in relation to the kind of architecture or
use-values made available. Indeed, as Foucault might argue, many
architectural constructions are incarnations of ideology. Ideology is
hardwired into them. This is what lends them their inherent hegemonic
character. Generally these functioning buildings cannot be liberated from
their oppressive character. Oppressive social relations are inscribed in
them. Artefacts, under analysis, manifest the kind of past social relations
obtaining then. We can undertake an hermeneutical exercise on such objects
precisely because it is conscious social struggle with nature that led to
the production of these artefacts. The intricacies of this struggle
generated production. The struggle implies both the discovery and
manipulation of natural laws; the social relations under which these laws
are manipulated together with the consciousness involved in this intricate
process. Each factor in the process has a bearing on what is produced and
how it is produced and to what degree. Without the production process
interpretation and understanding are impossible. The process of production
is then the basis for the materialist conception of history. It is the basis
for interpretation and understanding. It is the basis too for the discovery
of the laws of nature and for the physical sciences. The human production
process is the basis for the existence of human history. It produces
history. This history leaves behind diverse residues from the past. These
take the form of architectural objects, records, documents and diverse
texts, use-values from the past. But we must also include residual social
relations of production and institutions from the past. To understand
history we must interpret these things primarily on the basis or within the
framework of the capitalist production process. Because this has a certain
configuration we produce our understanding of history within specific
parameters. These limits prevent us from fictionalising or fantasising the

History must then follow certain structures or forms that correspond with
the specific nature of the contemporary production process. The
understanding of history then is determined by the contemporary production
process or mode of production and secondly past residual production
processes or modes of production. Both poles determine our interpretation of
history. But the outcome of the study of history cannot have a speculative
character or predetermined result since the things (and by things here I
include social production relations and institutions) of history are primary
evidence in the historical process and prescribe our capacity to understand
history. We cannot understand history without evidence. These things (this
evidence) are of critical significance in our endeavour to provide a correct
understanding of history. It is these things (evidence) that make all the
difference. Because the things (evidence) discovered in the West are
significantly different from the historical things (evidence) accessible in
the East we get different respective histories. And this is despite the fact
that the production process is the source of history. In short there is an
indispensable empirical character to the understanding of history.

Social Relations and Agency

Social science is based on the process of production. To understand social
relations and the human agency lodged in them we must understand them within
the context of the production process. The character of the production
process determines the character of the existing structure of social
relations and their human agents. Consequently to understand the existing
social relations and its corresponding agents we must understand the nature
of the mode of production. To achieve this we must analyze the use values,
architecture and the things that are involved with human agency. This
constitutes a form of reverse engineering. The creation of use-values by
concrete human labour within society entails the endowment of nature with
meaning. This signifies that nature is meaningful for human agency. This
suggests that we cannot validly claim that nature, sub-atomic particles etc
are meaningless. Divested of meaning there would be no motive to acquire
knowledge of nature. Indeed the scientific study of the building blocks of
nature such as sub-atomic and atomic particles are meaningless in the
absence of a meaningful physical nature. It follows that if physical science
is meaningless then it is unknowable and thereby nihilistic. All meaning
relates to human beings. Consequently nature must have meaning. If it was
divested of meaning we would not endeavour to acquire knowledge of nature
and then there would be no natural science.

We must examine too the specific institutions that contemporary society
produces. By studying these things within the context of the production
process we arrive at a model of the social relations and their agents. The
process of production produces these things including social relations.
Again it is production that determines the character of these social things
that explain contemporary society. These things are the evidence by which
understanding is sustained. The understanding of contemporary social being
is not predetermined in some overly deterministic fashion without the
requirement of evidence. Things that exist or are produced convey to us the
character of society. Evidence is critical here. Results must be supported
by evidence or facts.

Hypothesis Testing

The hypothesis that communists advance is that humans act on nature in a
socially conscious (purposive) mediated way. This communist hypothesis has
been repeatedly tested against the facts. Yet no relevant facts have ever
falsified it. Given this it can be regarded as a secure theory. It is a
hypothesis that is highly testable and never been falsified. Thereby
identifying it as a law of social science is valid. I call it the
fundamental principal of communism. It is a simple, coherent and credible
hypothesis. Nothing is certain. There are just degrees of probability in

The physical sciences have their context in humanity’s socially mediated
conscious action on nature. As already intimated knowledge of the natural
laws is a product of this process –the capitalist production process. The
natural sciences then are a product of the production process. This means
that the natural sciences cannot exist independently from the social
relations and thereby the social sciences. They are mediated by these
relations. The character of a society is a reflection, in a sense, of the
character of its inquiry into nature or its claims about nature. By studying
the claims about nature or natural science we can reconstruct the nature of
the capitalist production process and the society that produced it. The
aforementioned is known as reverse engineering. The claims made concerning
nature today have acquired the form of scientific knowledge. This
epistemological form has a specific character, labelled scientific,
determined by the character of the production process and society.

The critical emancipatory capacity of certain intellectual forms have their
roots embedded in common sense knowledge. When humans act consciously in a
socially mediated way on nature in their production of use values they
inevitably reflect critically upon this process. In their reflections they
may discover errors, defects and inefficiencies. As a result of this
reflective activity they can affect a more advanced way of progressing. This
more advanced way of progressing is proof of its correctness. Similarly in
reflections on the nature of society humans also reflect on its
contradictions and draw conclusions as to how these limits can be
historically transcended thereby yielding self-emancipation from the social
shackles of reality. The critical capacity, a legacy from the Stone Age, is
hardwired into our brains. It is inextricably lodged in our socially
mediated link to nature. It is what makes us Homo sapiens sapiens.

The Antinomy between subject and object

In this short critique I seek to overcome, in a sense, the antinomy between
subject and object. My piece encompassed the objective aspect of reality by
recognising the important role of nature together with its natural
scientific investigation. The subjective plane involves focusing on human
agency and meaning. Now I discussed nature and society in such a way as to
transcend the antinomy that is irreconcilably posited between the two. In
the past logical positivism focused on knowledge qua knowledge of the
objective world. It thereby focused on the physical sciences. Consequently
structures such as causality were more its concern. Matters such as morality
and meaning transcended its epistemological dimensions.

Cartesian philosophy focuses on subjectivity. Consequently it discusses such
matters as meaning and morality. This renders it impossible to make sense of
reality since there obtained an irreconcilable antinomy between these two
fundamental ontological aspects of reality. This renders accounts of both
the physical sciences and social sciences very incomplete and contradictory.
Hegel unsuccessfully sought to transcend this ontological contradiction
while Marx largely succeeded.


The brief critique is not based on claims to my having any privileged access
to reality:

“However it is based on seeking to arrive at a reasoned picture of what
there really is. The philosopher is not a god surveying and assessing human
activities and checking them off against some absolute standard of existence
and truth. The philosopher remains a human being. His only activities,
including philosophical ones, are human activities and the comparisons and
assessments he makes are bound by this fact. Philosophy differs from other
human activities not by presuming a grasp of standards higher than those
implicit in non-philosophical activities, but only in the way philosophers
reflect consciously on the standards implicit in other activities and effect
comparisons between them. The fact that we can only get at reality through
the sort of things we are inclined to say and think about it mean that part
of the work of philosophy involves examining whether a given area of
discourse --such as physics, religion, history or astrology – meets certain
minimum standards of coherence, clarity and credibility.” (Anthony O Hear, What Philosophy Is, pp 13-14).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sherlock Holmes and Colonialism

Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles is a somewhat entertaining novel. However there is more to it than meets the eye. In many ways it may form part of the debate over the relationship between science and daily life. Ironically it may be a philosophical novel.

The author applies natural scientific methodology to the business of solving crime. Although he may have stretched this methodology to such an extent that he may have successfully lent the novel a slightly comic character he still conveys the importance of science in the solving of problems outside the strictly scientific area. In this way his novel is a refutation of those who argue that natural scientific inquiry cannot apply to areas that stand outside the inferences displayed in this novel in our daily existence. As The Hound shows the activity of science and daily life are not necessarily that distant from each other. Indeed science grew out of the daily activity of people in the maintenance and development of their struggle for existence.

Clearly Arthur Conan Doyle has been heavily influenced by the Gothic genre of Edgar Allen Poe. There is in Conan Doyle’s novel a curious yet ambiguous relationship between the scientific and the supernatural. Some of the characters in the novel are of the view that the cause of the deaths in the novel have their source in the supernatural or mystical. While Sherlock Holmes does not disagree he still rigidly adheres to his customary logical methods based on the facts. Clearly Sherlock Holmes prefers to exhaust the quasi-scientific before being forced to resort to the supernatural dimension for an explanation. This is an approach that makes sense. It is one that would tend to be used by contemporary science. In The Hound what seemed to be caused by the supernatural is instead caused by natural conditions.

Now The Hound, as I already indicated, has a distinctly Gothic quality. The Gothic atmosphere adds a more mysterious character to the story. The author introduces the Gothic at a time when he was, apparently, showing a concern for the occult.

In Conan Doyle’s novel the Devonshire moor, featuring in the book, takes on a pervading mysterious presence of its own. Virtually a pantheistic quality. It is as if the moor and its weather has a being of its own that pervades the diverse aspects linked to the moor investing them with mystery -- the hound, and the residences situated near it. The city is contrasted against the moor. The former is viewed as rational and comprehensible (colonised) while the latter is viewed as irrational and incomprehensible (uncolonised and free). It is as if there is an enduring struggle between the irrational and the rational. Even so the frontline distinguishing rationality from its opposite seems, in this novel, to be fluid –even ambiguous. Even individuals, such as Watson, seeking a rational comprehension of events find the apparently irrational too much for them. Sherlock Holmes’s clear outline of events shows that the particular succession of events has a perfectly rational character. It transpires that the moor and everything associated with it is natural and rational. This leaves the reader to conclude that all reality may in general be capable of explanation from within a rationalist perspective.

This novel portrays a world consisting of tension or even conflict between the rational and the irrational or the natural and the supernatural. However it is painted by Conan Doyle as a false conflict based largely on ignorance. Yet The Hound of the Baskervilles may convey to the reader that belief in the supernatural renders reality more mysterious and thereby exciting and interesting. In a sense there is an underlying philosophical theme at work in the novel as to the meaning of being. However it is presented in a more metaphorical form – art.

The portrayal of the prehistoric architecture and its people in a mystical context adds further to the atmospherics of the novel. Yet again there is the suggestion that the prehistoric people who dwelled on the original sites had a richer and more mysterious relationship to the moor and nature generally. They represented freedom and were liberated from the alienation of the controlled city. In the novel the cultural distance between us and them is presented as vast. Yet through the novel the author may be suspected of hinting that the moor is seeking to convey to the reader the mystical nature of these prehistoric ancestors as a means of establishing a relationship with the mystical past and the modern present. This would tie in with Conan Doyle’s apparent interest in the occult around this time.

It may be that Arthur Conan Doyle in his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, in this novel, is seeking to show that there is more to life than mere science and the deployment of the scientific method to solve crimes. When Sherlock is not employing the scientific method it is as if there is nothing else for him to do that makes life meaningful. This is why he sometimes engages in trivial pursuits. After scientific inquiry there is just trivia. His use of morphine to obliterate ennui is a further example of this. The Hound Of The Baskervilles may be hinting that the mystical invests life with meaning and thereby excitement. Sherlock Holmes has become prisoner of his own logic. Outside of the world of logic Sherlock’s life is meaningless. Turning reality or problems into logic renders reality outside of this exercise meaningless. In other words a rationalised world is a world without meaning. It is a world without any motivating factors thereby generating stasis. This exposes the limited and unbalanced nature of the Holmsian version of reason. It is a narrow form of reason that requires irrationalism to maintain itself and its expansionism. It is an artistic expression of 19th century British colonialism.