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 Post subject: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 6:47 pm 
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Hands Down, Part 1
I hate writing book reviews. I'll do almost anything to avoid writing one, including not reading the book. I hate reviewing books so much, I don't even try to flog the undeniable, worldwide, global, inter-galactic, cosmic, popularity and acclaim of TWR to publishers to convince them to send me review copies, which of course I would then never review. But........

Introduction, the Conclusion

Who could argue with John Smith's Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism's Final Crisis (Monthly Review Press, 2016)?

Who would want to argue with John Smith when he writes:
The vast wave of outsourcing of production process to low-wage countries, enabled by the fortuitous arrival of ICT and rapid advances in transportation technology, was a strategic response to the twin crises of declining profitability and overproduction that resurfaced in the 1970s in the form of stagflation and synchronized global recession.

Show of hands anybody? I know of at least one hand not clapping for this. I know of at least one hand, arm, head, trunk, etc that argues the "fortuitous arrival" of ICT and transportation technology (by which Mr. Smith means containerization of maritime merchandise traffic) was not fortuitous, and moreover could not have been both "fortuitous" and strategic-- ("adj. Latin, fortuitus, from forte, by chance, from fors chance, luck + ous: That is due to or produced by chance, accidental, casual." OED); that both had been a long time coming, a long time in the making, and had been part of the very process of declining profitability and overproduction.

The "strategy," such as it was, such as it ever is and can only be with the bourgeoisie in charge, was to drive down costs, to reduce the proportion of living labor engaged in and by the "advanced" countries, to restrict the amount of money paid in wages in relation to the mass of capital values created, transported and realized; and that creation, transportation, and realization took place, in the main, in the advanced countries themselves. Dreams of a world of maquiladoras, of off-shored, "floating," capitalism were not the force behind containerization and digital technologies. The only strategy was profit. The tactic was cost-reduction. Put those two together and you're half a heartbeat away from the the truth of "economics." That truth is class struggle, with them as the ruling class maintaining themselves as the ruling class.

I know of a least one hand that thinks the accelerated application of these technologies, changing the technical and value compositions of capital, changing the relations between the living and objectified, accumulated, elements of production, required an initial, and then sustained assault on the working conditions, employment levels, and living standards of workers in the advanced countries.

Who can argue with Mr. Smith when he contends:
This course was conditioned by imperialists' reluctance to reverse the expensive concessions that helped convert the workers of the Global North into passive bystanders, or even accomplices, to their subjugation of the rest of the world.

Hands up? Hands not clapping? Heads not nodding in agreement? Voices not raised singing the praises of this "new" theory of imperialism that boils itself down to the same-old same-old conclusions of the 40 year old, 50 year old, 100 year old "theories" of imperialism; the same-old, same-old conclusion from the same-old, same-old theories that says workers in advanced countries are accomplices of the bourgeoisie in the exploitation of workers, subsistence producers, small capitalists, peasants, in less advanced countries?

Who would want to be so disagreeable as to argue that in fact the history of advanced capitalism over the last 40 years has been exactly the opposite of what Mr. Smith claims: that in fact that history is the history of the reverses to the "expensive concessions" awarded to the workers of the "Global North"? Hands up.

Who could be so disagreeable as to deny that Thatcher, and Reagan were positively reluctant to confront the workers of "their" advanced capitalisms; hesitant, stumbling, equivocating in opposing and dismantling regulatory agencies and requirements designed to protect the privileged status of workers in the Global North? Hands up.

Who can doubt that the bourgeoisie positively trembled when liquidating, privatizing, de-regulating, free-marketing their way away from the "city on the hill" and back to the gated communities that are the pride and joy of this modern world? Hands up.

Who can doubt that outsourcing has produced greater benefits and higher standards of living for workers in advanced countries? That defined benefit pensions aren't better funded, more secure, more widespread, covering more workers with greater benefits than they were 20 or 30 years ago? Hands up.

Who can deny that poverty rates have declined in the US since 1979, since Deng's 4 Reforms, since the proliferation of the "special enterprise zones" throughout the world? Hands up.

Who can doubt that workers real wages have annually increased and are higher than ever? Hands up.

Who would disagree that Thatcher caved in the face of the miners' strike in the UK? Ran away from the confrontation? Refused to target unions during her wishy-washy equivocating decade in office?

Who would be so churlish to argue that "equality"-- that is to say shares of national income-- in the advanced countries hasn't improved over the last 40 years, and that improvement is the direct result of outsourcing? Hands up.

Who could argue that incomes and wealth hasn't "flattened" in the advanced countries with more equitable distributions of both throughout the population? Hands up.

Hands up, because the decertification and decline of unions apparently did not precede, accompany, or occur during the "new imperialism."

Hands up because the decline in real wages can't have taken place as the bourgeoisie utilized outsourcing to avoid challenging the concessions made at home, and in fact use outsourcing to maintain those concessions.

Hands up, because apparently the reductions in medical coverage, the attacks on medical coverage for poor and workers launched at the corporate and the state levels, haven't really happened.

Who could disagree with Mr. Smith, with this from the conclusion into his investigation into the new imperialism of super-exploitation:
...profits, prosperity, and social peace in the imperialist countries have become qualitatively more dependent upon the proceeds of super-exploitation of living labor in countries like Vietnam, Mexico...

So hands up if you think any of this, this real world we live in now, this real world of high-wage capitalism and low-wage capitalism, feels anything or anywhere like "prosperity" and social peace?

How about you young unemployed people of Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Britain? You digging the prosperity you have captured as accomplices to your bourgeoisie?

How about you young employed people in the United States, so lucky to earn almost enough to not quite be the working poor, and not always need food stamps and other supplements? Grooving on the prosperity that is so synonymous with my-country-tis-of-thee?

How about you, all you workers, white collar, blue collar, teachers, mechanics, laid off, dismissed terminated let-go to find jobs, if you're lucky, that will pay you 25-30 percent less, and which will never pay you enough to overcome that gap, to recuperate to the level of your previous earnings? How's being an accomplice working out for you? Good, you think? Prosperous are you? Hands up.

Do all you still living at home with your parents, or forced to return home, are you feeling just the least bit guilty about enjoying those concessions allotted you from the super-exploitation of workers in Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil? Hands up.

Hands up, indeed, and up against the wall. Someone, somebody, some bodies, some class has just been robbed of the last 40 years of its real history.

Hands up if you think I'm being unfair to Mr. Smith. Maybe he's exaggerating for effect. Maybe he's overstating a truth. Maybe he means, workers in the advanced countries are in general still much better off than workers in low-wage countries. Maybe, but no one has ever denied that. No one has ever claimed that's not the case. Maybe he means the living standards, working environments, social conditions are worse for workers in low-wage countries than in advanced countries. Maybe, but again, no one has ever claimed anything else. Maybe he means the toll taken of workers not just in workplace accidents but in the demands made upon those workers in low-wage countries is greater than the toll taken on workers in advanced countries. Maybe, but again no one has ever claimed anything to the contrary.

Maybe he means that "things" would be worse for workers in advanced countries if the bourgeoisie didn't super-exploit low wage labor in the 'Global South.' Maybe. Except there's no material basis in the needs, mechanisms of accumulation for such speculation. The bourgeoisie do what they do to reproduce themselves as the bourgeoisie, as capitalists, as the ruling class. The bourgeoisie could not have dispersed production globally simply through technical means. Capital is not a technology, a technique, an advance in the means of transportation. It is a social means. It could not have transferred assets to low-wage countries without first confronting, and repeatedly defeating the workers in the advanced countries.

The "things would be worse" argument isn't really that without access to low-wage labor, capital would have imposed harsher conditions on labor in the "Global North." The argument is actually claiming that if the workers had not be pushed back, had not had their wages reduced, had not lost benefits, didn't experience greater unemployment, did not suffer reductions in the labor force in some sectors measuring more than 50 percent, then things would have been worse.

Maybe we just take him at his word. Maybe we just accept that he means what he says, and he meant to say it.

Maybe there's much more to his book than the conclusion. Indeed there is, there's a lot more. There is a lot in the book that is really, really good. Really thought provoking. But, we are dealing with the conclusion he draws from all the previous investigations that make up the book; we're supposed to be dealing with the result, the condensed expression of everything that has gone before. The conclusion is supposed to be, as Marx made clear in his own critiques of capital, that moment of transition, of transformation, where the unveiling of the "economics" of things exposes the relations of classes, exposes the actual history of the conditions of labor. That history is lost here, in Smith's book, sacrificed once again to an ideology.

But we're only at the beginning with these conclusions, and there's a lot more to be done. Count on it.

Hands down, we're only at the beginning.


S.Artesian
August 29, 2016


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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:45 pm 
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Let us be materialist and ask ourselves how on earth can someone who apparently seems educated come to the conclusions you've quoted in light of all the very obvious evidence you've listed?

Well, because understanding that the working class in the global north is under attack requires you to be part of the working class. Actually I'm lying, you don't have to be part of the working class to know that it is under attack, but for someone who presumably identifies as a Marxist it is quite easy to identify the interests of the working class as your interests given that Marxists tend to be interested in liberating the working class and such. On the other hand, this is only subjectively true, this guy is a Ph. D not exactly what I'd call working class, as such his material , objective, interests and conditions are something different from the working class. Not just something different, but something better than theirs. But we're still caught in the trap of directly identifying our interests and conditions with those of the working class even when our objective interests diverge. The conclusion is simple to come to that since I'm living well, and my interests and conditions are the same as the working class, and I live in the global north, that the working class must also be doing pretty dandy up here. But how? and why? Well it must be at the expense of the working class in the third world, I hear they're doing pretty badly down there.

From there all sorts of poor attempts at Marxism result with the conclusion that the working class and capitalists in the first world are colluding together to keep the working class and capitalists in the third world down, and so our analysis has shifted from class dynamics to national dynamics. The calls for austerity for the working class in the first world are translated to calls for improving the living conditions in the third world. The calls for imperialism are translated to calls for "spreading democracy."

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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 9:49 am 
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The only things I know about John Smith are from the blurb advertising the book, and that he's a lecturer at a school in the UK. Don't know his class origins, or what advanced degrees he has if any. I think it's better to leave all those questions aside when dealing with the individual effort, and the specific content that makes up a book-- now if we're talking about an institution, like the so-called "Left Forum"-- then "pedigree" of the members of the institution, which serve to REPRODUCE that institution, are in fact valid issues.

Anyway, there's a lot more to be said in response to Smith's book, and "in for a penny, in for a pound," so as much as hate reviewing books, there are parts 2.....n to come.


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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:34 am 
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Part 2

The Parable of the T-shirt

Mr. Smith starts his explorations into Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism's Final Crisis (Monthly Review Press, 2016) with the story of a T-shirt, a story taken from the pages of Tony Norfield's The China Price:

In The China Price Tony Norfield recounts the story of a T-shirt made in Bangladesh and sold in Germany for €4.95 by the Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M). H&M pays the Bangladeshi manufacturer €1.35 for each T-shirt, 28 percent of the final sale price, 40¢of which covers the cost of 400g of cotton raw material imported form the United States; shipping to Hamburg adds another 6¢ per shirt. Thus €0.95 of the final sale price remains in Bangladesh, to be shared between the factory owner, the workers, the suppliers of inputs and services and the Bangladeshi government, expanding Bangladesh'a GDP by this amount. The remaining €3.54 counts toward the GDP of Germany, the country where the T-shirt is consumed, and is broken down as follows: €2.05 provides for the costs and profits of German transporters, wholesalers, retailers, advertisers, etc., (some of which will revert to the state through various taxes); H&M makes a 60¢ profit per shirt; the German state captures 79¢ through VAT at 19 percent; 16¢ covers sundry "other items." Thus in Norfield's words, " a large chunk of the revenue from the selling prices goes to the state in taxes and to a wide range of workers, executives, landlords, and businesses in Germany. The cheap T-shirts, and a wide range of other imported goods, are both affordable for consumers and an important source of income for the states and for all the people in the richer countries."

Short version? Astounding news-- merchandisers buy low to sell high.

First things first: "to be shared between the factory owner, the workers, the suppliers of inputs..." Shared? Between the factory owner and the workers? Capitalists don't share profits with workers, not in Bangladesh, not in Germany, not in China, not in the US. They don't "share" even when they call compensation "profit sharing."

Capitalists appropriate surplus value, unpaid labor-time, from workers. Arguing that capitalists "share" profit from workers with workers is like arguing that muggers "share" profits from mugging with their victims when they leave one victim $2.75 for a single-ride Metrocard.

Capitalists may appropriate a larger or smaller portion of the surplus value, a portion dependent upon the level of organization of the working class, market conditions, but the appropriation is always an appropriation, an equal exchange that is in fact, unequal. "Sharing" is the mythology flogged by the bourgeoisie to veil the relations between the value of labor-power and the value that labor-power produces.

Second short version? Advanced capitalist countries have developed extensive networks of transportation, communication, marketing, advertising not just for the purposes of realizing the value embedded in the goods, but to actually hype the the goods even, especially, above their value. Another shocker.

Mr. Smith citing Mr. Norfield explains:
...low wages in Bangladesh help explain "why the richer countries can have lots of shop assistants, delivery drivers, managers and administrators, accountants, advertising and a wide range of welfare payments and much else besides."

Really? The richer countries had lots of shop assistants, delivery drivers, managers, administrators, accountants and an ever wider range of welfare payments before Bangladesh became a contract producer for H&M; before China gained full membership in the WTO in 2001; before the MFA (Multi-Fiber Agreement, or Multi-Fibre Accordance) expired in 2005 and China doubled its portion of global clothing exports.

Smith/Norfield continues:
...oppression of workers in the poorer countries is a direct economic benefit for the mass of people in the richer countries.

Fecking brilliant, ain't it?

Let's start with the cotton. Workers in the United States, utilizing hand and machinery, pick and process the cotton. These workers are paid X wages, articulated as an hourly rate paid for the entire working day Y. In reality, the workers reproduce the value equivalent to X in Y minus Z hours, the remaining time being surplus time, surplus value, belonging to the owner of the means of production, the property, that becomes the cotton. The cotton workers are paid lower wages than other workers.

That cotton gets loaded into a truck, operated by a truck driver who makes a greater hourly rate than the cotton workers, but still reproduces the value of his own wage in less than the complete time of working day, yielding the employer of the driver a surplus value.

The truck is driven to a port, where the cotton in bales, maybe in containers, is unloaded from the truck by cranes manned by crane operators who definitely get paid more than the truck driver or the cotton workers, but again reproduce a value equivalent to that wage in less than the full working day.

The container containing the cotton bales is loaded onto a container ship, built in the shipyards of South Korea, by workers receiving an hourly wage lower than the crane operator but above that of the cotton workers. The shipyard workers still reproduce the value of their own wage in less than the entire working day, week, month, year.

The ship is owned by Maersk, carries 12,000 containers and is crewed by a staff of....14 including approximately 7 officers. Get that? 12,000/14/7. And a few more numbers: length, 366 meters; beam, 49 meters; crew, still 14. By the way, container fleet size, measured in deadweight tons (dwt) has increased by a factor of 15 in the last 35 years.

So clearly in our daisy chain of sequential, and layered, exploitation, the lower wage rates paid to the cotton workers are essential to the entire network that circulates the capital. All additional steps simply "pile on" and participate in the distribution of the surplus-value extracted from the cotton workers, even that labor of the shipyard workers in South Korea, who wouldn't have any jobs if it wasn't for the lower wages of the cotton workers, not to mention the still lower wage rates for the Bangladeshi workers.

Right? Not right? Nonsense, you say?

So do I.

That, the above, is clearly nonsense, but no less clear, and no more nonsense than Smith/Norfield's conclusion. The point being that production of the t-shirts in Bangladesh, like the production of soybeans in Brazil, machine tools in Germany, cotton in the US, automobiles in France, is a circuit of capital that is itself part of, and made up of, other linked, continuous, but discreet circuits. The production of any one of these commodities can be made to appear as supporting a network of communications and transportation offering services and products the total price of which far exceeds the value generated in the "original" or "base" commodity, but that fee, those prices, for those services and products do not constitute increased or intensified -exploitation of the labor power of the workers producing the original commodity.

The owner of the truck(s) is exploiting the labor, and capturing a portion of the surplus value thrown into the entire circuit of capital, which includes the surplus value created by the truck driver(s). The port is capturing a portion of the surplus value thrown into the entire circuit of capital by the cotton producers, the truck drivers, the crane operators, and that thrown into the circuit by the shipping line crews. All this is accomplished through exchange and by price. Price not only represents the value of the service of the object in monetary terms, but also represents the size, efficiency, development, of the capital.

So...for example, if the trucking company raises its price for hauling the baled cotton to port, that is an attempt to change the distribution, the allocation, of the available surplus value. The price increase does not amount to additional exploitation of the cotton workers. The owners of the cotton enterprise may attempt to offset that additional cost by increasing the exploitation of the workers, but nothing in that additional exploitation, as nothing in the hauling rate increase, amounts to a "benefit" to the truck drivers, or the crane operators, or the port's drayage employees, or the ship's crew.

The careful reader of the Smith/Norfield parable will notice that in the advanced countries, the various players (state, executives, advertisers, retail merchandisers) are all sharing, not in the profit of the Bangladesh based t-shirt manufacturer, but in the mark-up of the t-shirt price when it reaches Germany. That mark-up is based, in part, on the value accruing to the commodities through the labor performed in parts of the circulation process.

The mark-up is also a form of arbitrage of the individual value, the necessary time to produce these particular t-shirts in relation to the socially necessary time to reproduce the general commodity "t-shirts." The t-shirts are sold above their value, the labor time of production, embedded in them, but below the social value, the time necessary to produce t-shirts.

While we're on the subject of surplus-value and exploitation, it's a bit of a gob-smack that in discussing the exploitation of the Bangladeshi factory workers, Mr. Smith doesn't take the time to give us an indicator of how great the magnitude and rate of surplus value, how intense the exploitation really is. He gives us some numbers that I think we can use, but he doesn't make the effort to tease out an index to the exploitation.

I took a shot at it, believing that we can get an indication of those magnitudes and rates, establish a calculus- an approximation by accepting price as a proxy for value.

So let's see, according to Smith/Norfield, the worker at the factory earns €1.36 per day (just about the initial price of the t-shirt), for a 12 hour day, producing 250 shirts per hour, or 3000 shirts per working day. At €1.35 per shirt, the value of the wage is reproduced in 14.4 seconds. Now 40 cents of each shirt price represents the cotton, and although we don't know the cost of the inputs like electricity, machinery, maintaining the work place, security to intimidate the workers, etc. we can ignore that cost completely (as Marx does in Capital, setting it to zero), or select an amount arbitrarily. I'll arbitrarily assign a cost equal to the price of the cotton to represent all other input costs, another 40 cents per shirt.

In a workday, then 3000 shirts are produced at a cost of €2401.36 but with a value of €4050. The mass of surplus value appropriated is €1646.64, and the rate a cool 1212: 1.

Now Mr. Smith calls this rate, or something like this rate, "super-exploitation." I do not disagree. I think the identification of super-rates of surplus value extraction is a critical component to apprehending, and overthrowing, the domination of capital, the accumulation of human time as the property of others.

I think the identification of super rates of surplus value extraction forces us to review what and why Marx did not grapple with super-exploitation in the abstract in his theoretical expositions of surplus value in Capital, while Marx most certainly did produce examples of super rates of surplus value extraction in his practical discussions of the demands imposed by valorization process.

I think we need to understand why Marx's "default" condition, was the condition where labor power was compensated at its value, at its cost of reproduction, and why the actual compensation of labor always, like the price of all commodities, oscillates, deviates from its value.

I do not agree that this super-exploitation amounts to a "benefit" to workers in advanced countries; or that capitalists in the advanced countries "share" the profits of super-exploitation with workers.

Part 3 to come.

S.Artesian
September 2, 2016


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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:04 pm 
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What exactly are we defining as "super-exploitation?" I think it should be something qualitatively different from regular capitalist exploitation.

Should it be the point at which the wage paid is insufficient to reproduce the individual worker? In this event capital can use super-exploitation to quickly disintegrate unneeded population as per the current discussion of the 1844 manuscripts where Marx quotes Buret as saying.

“We are convinced ... as are the commissioners charged with the inquiry into the condition of the hand-loom weavers, that the large industrial towns would in a short time lose their population of workers if they were not all the time receiving from the neighbouring rural areas constant recruitments of healthy men, a constant flow of fresh blood.”

It also calls to mind Bordiga's Auschwitz when he says.

"In “normal’ times, and when it’s a matter of a small number, capitalism can allow those it ejects from the productive process to die on their own. But it was impossible for it to do this in the middle of the war and for millions of men. Such “disorder” would have paralyzed everything. Capitalism had to organize their death.

And it didn’t kill them immediately. To begin with, it removed them from circulation; it gathered them together, concentrated them. And it made them work while under-nourishing them, i.e., in super-exploiting them to death. Killing a man at work is an old method of capital’s. Marx wrote in 1844: “To be led with success, the industrial struggle demands large armies they can concentrate at one point and decimate copiously.” These men had to meet their living costs as long as they were alive, and then those of their death. And they had to produce surplus value as long as they’re capable of it. For capitalism doesn’t execute the men it has condemned unless it profits by that very putting to death. "

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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:58 pm 
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I think you have to keep in mind that "labor power compensated at its value"--like all value is a reference point, an axis, a black hole, more or less of immense gravity, around which real wages, expressed in money, as a price, rotates. And like all co-incidents of value and price, they are just that coincidence.

Marx uses labor-power compensated at its value because he is producing a critique of capital based on its very own "terms" or "conditions" of existence. Commodities have value; commodities are exchange according to their value; value is based on the necessary time of reproduction.

In the world of capital, as Marx certainly documents, based on his reviews of the factory reports, compensation below that cost, or below what is adequate to a life not hounded by hunger and poverty is a sometime thing, with that sometime being conspicuous in its extreme rarity.

And Marx is aware of the self-destructive aspect of this reproduction at value of labor power when he writes in the early E&P manuscripts about how the mortality rate is a + for workers.

Of course Smith never examines the history of wages in Bangladesh, or in China, what is required for the workers to be able to, not live, but simply produce-- and how that wage changes. Neither does he examine how the wage increases and the response to that increase.

It's a really Monthly Review gem, that book.


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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:47 pm 
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Right, I accept all of that, I'm positing that "super-exploitation" isn't an uncommon event in capitalism.

There's essentially three "points" of value in capitalism. The point at which wages paid would be sufficient to reproduce the entire working class (an impossibility so long as we assume the working class isn't in the middle of overthrowing capitalism), the point at which wages paid would be sufficient to reproduce the working class currently needed by capital (a possibility that sometimes actually occurs, but only with significant working class organisation and struggle), and the actual point at which wages are paid.

But even this is insufficient because there's always an excess of working class population in capitalism, so that second point mentioned above can never occur either, as capitalism can simply work men to death forever as it constantly reduces the amount of men needed by it.

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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 9:22 am 
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and women...working women to death is essential to capital.
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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 11:47 am 
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Really-Not really

Smith:In 2013, the tariffs charged by the U.S. government on its apparel imports from Bangladesh alone exceeded the total wages received by the workers who made these goods. The states uses this money, as we know, to finance foreign wars, health care, and Social Security,...

TWR: Not really. 1) The tariff imposed on these imported goods has nothing to do with increased exploitation of workers in Bangladesh. In fact, it was the opposite, the easing of tariffs under the MFA, and the final incorporation of the world garment trade under the provisions of the general agreements that facilitated the outsourcing of garment production, and in 2005, the relentless pressure put on workers everywhere by the ending of quotas on China's portion of this trade. Mr. Smith never mentions the MFA, or the subsumption of the fabric and garment sectors under the general agreements, a remarkable omission for anyone trying to apprehend the forces unleashed in the outsourcing process. 2) Tariffs are irrelevant, absolutely meaningless, as a source of revenue in the US. Tariffs as a percentage of government revenues has declined steadily since 1914. Today, tariffs represent about 1 percent of total government receipts. The tariffs imposed on garments from Bangladesh amount to 1/4000th of US government receipts. 3)Social Security in the US is not financed by tariff receipts. Social Security is exclusively funded by the payroll tax and deductions from workers, and interest received on the US government securities in which that money is invested.

Smith: Just thirty of the 13, 920 US workers [of Apple] were production workers (receiving on average $47,640 per year) 7,789 were "retail and other non-professional workers (average wages $25,580)....

TWR: Really? A worker in the US with an income level of $25,580, supporting 3 other family members has just enough income to be almost not-poor. This is the great benefit outsourcing has bestowed upon hundreds of thousands in the "advanced" countries-- the chance to be "retooled" as retail workers rather than production workers, earning half the money, and almost not-poor.

Smith: From the early 1960s, while the emerging retail giants were pioneering the outsourcing of toys, clothing, and other consumption goods, prominent electronics firms such as Cisco, Sun Microsystems, and AT&T were unleashing what was soon to become a torrent of outsourcing by hightech industry.

TWR: Not really. Sun and Cisco couldn't unleash anything from the early 1960s. They didn't exist. Sun and Cisco were founded in 1982 and 1984 respectively. Sun, headquartered in California, had two production centers for building its SPARC workstations, one in Scotland and one in Oregon.

Smith: Unlike simple commodity producers who sell in order to buy, merchants buy in order to sell. Their aim is not to acquire something they need. But to acquire money....

TWR: Really? Can someone point out an example of a simple commodity producer, or a system of simple commodity production? Marx did not use those terms, referring instead to simple commodity exchange. What is simple commodity production? How and when does simple commodity production exist as a dominant mode of production? Were the social organizations of the Incas and Aztecs "simple commodity production"? How about the feudal orders with their extensive grain trading networks? Simple commodity production? And this "selling to buy" vs. "buying to sell" is just a tad one-sided don't you think? The merchant also sells in order to buy, unless of course he or she makes enough in one circuit to withdraw from all future circuits, but then, if that were to be the mode of accumulation for all merchants, the system wouldn't really be a system would it? It would be a "one-off" where accumulation basically disappeared. The merchant may or may not do any number of things. The simple commodity producer may or may not exist (I vote for the latter). But the capitalist always expropriates the labor-power of others. The capitalist does this through the "mediation," the relations of.......property, the means of production as private property that not only can, but must command that labor power to valorize production. That's the critical distinction.

Smith: In contrast, "the rate of productivity growth in US manufacturing increased in the mid-1990s, greatly outpacing that in the services sector and accounting for most of the overall productivity growth in the US economy.....

TWR: Really. Word. Let's keep this in mind as we move on.

Smith: "In the case of the United States...offshore outsourcing of jobs is the functional equivalent of 'imported productivity,' as the global labor arbitrage substitutes foreign labor content for domestic labor input."

TWR: Well, that didn't last long, did it? Would love an example, wouldn't you? I mean first and foremost, we need to forget all about imported t-shirts, and coffee, and I-phones, which are marketed by retailers, and thus the make-ups, and mark-ups of these items have no impact on productivity in manufacturing or industry.

Secondly, the cost of the inputs of intermediate goods to production itself, say the production of automobiles, cannot have any impact on the productivity of labor, if we define productivity as the greater output of articles, use-values, per unit of labor-power. If improvements in productivity, in the mass of goods per hour/day/week, leave unchanged the total accumulated new value, then the cost of the intermediate inputs cannot have any impact on productivity.

If an automaker spins off as a separate entity, a "supplier," and a brigade of workers into a separate company to do the work "out of house" that used to be done in house, then in fact the automaker can show a reduction in hours needed to produce each automobile, but the total hours embodied in each automobile remain the same.

If it now takes an automaker in the US 23 hours, on average to produce, an automobile as it does, (down from 27 in 2004 as it was), and a portion of that improvement in output is due to a component that was made in-house requiring 1 hour is now outsourced and falls off the automakers production time accounting, that change makes no difference to the value of the automobile, and it does not alter the improvement in productivity the manufacturer experiences. The auto manufacturer still requires less living labor to animate the accumulated capital in the means of production and produce a greater number of automobiles.

It makes no difference to "productivity" if the seat cushions are produced in China by workers making the equivalent of $2 per hour, of if they are produced in Canada by workers making $26 per hour. It, the cost, makes a difference in the value of the product, not to how quickly the worker installs the seat cushion, or how quickly the worker reproduces the value equivalent to his/her wage.

Mr. Smith takes great pains to show how wages are not dependent upon productivity....until it comes time to assess, realistically, how gains in productivity has been made in the advanced countries, and then he tells us that the "productivity is imported."

Smith: Competition between firms in imperialist and developing countries does exist. Even in the garment sector.....

TWR: Really. Let's keep that in mind, too

Smith: The integration of the Global South into the imperialist world economy since the Second World War and especially since 1980 brings together both of these trends, the dispossession of small farmers and other small producers on the one hand and the substitution of wage labor by machinery on the other. TNCs [transnational corporations] and domestic capitalists not only exploit low-wage labor, they can can do so with advanced production processes that absorb far less living labor than those available to nineteenth-century European capitalists.

TWR: Really. Good. Really good. And we're right back in the grips of uneven and combined development, because capitalism still cannot "resolve" the "land question," cannot capitalize agriculture sufficiently without threatening the very existence of private property, of the means of production as private property.

Smith: The Feminization of Labor, and the Proletarianizaton of Women

TWR: Really. Good. Really Good. "The face of globalization is the face of the exploited young woman worker."-- participant (female) interrupting Fidel Castro, from the floor, during the first meeting on Globalization and Problems of Development, Havana, Cuba 1999 (if memory serves me).

Smith: "Global Wage Trends in the Neoliberal Era": Thus the share of national income received by the bottom 90 percent of wage-earners (84 percent of the United States economically active population) earned 42 percent of the total payroll in 1980 and just 28 percent in 2011. Thus the share of national income received by the bottom 90 percent of US employees has declined....by a staggering 33 percent.

According to the ILO's World of Work Report 2011, since the early 1990s the "share of domestic income that goes to labor...declined in nearly three-quarters of the 69 countries with available information," This decline is generally more pronounced in emerging and developing countries than in advanced ones.

TWR: Really. Agree. Completely. So much for the benefit to the workers in the advanced countries. So much for the bounty that capitalism bestows upon developing countries.

Smith: Reducing the wage bill, not through investment in labor-savings technology or through wage cuts of domestically employed workers but through outsourcing to low wage countries, has dramatically risen in importance....What is especially ironic is that instead of being a means to raise the productivity of labor, new technology is being use to lower its cost through outsourcing; and instead of replacing labor through the introduction of more advanced machinery, capitalists are using new technology to replace labor with cheaper labor..........

TWR: Really? Guess we should forget about the earlier stuff about the share of labor declining. There has been considerable investment in labor-saving technology in the advanced countries. And considerable declines in industrial employment, remember Mr. Smith? You pointed that out. I would point out that in the US employment in the steel industry has declined some 90 percent in 45 years, and the time required to produce a ton of steel has declined 80 percent. Or... I might point out that the fleet of container ships has grown fifteen fold since 1980, and 75 percent of that fleet is owned by...brokers based in Hamburg, Germany. Or that, while employment has dropped in the US rail industry, loaded ton-miles per crew hour have increased, crew sizes have declined, train lengths and weights have grown dramatically since 1980, and the capital values invested in locomotives, signal systems, communication networks, track has increased. There is nothing ironic about this. These contradictory element are the whole of capital. This is precisely how capital navigates between the rock and the hard place of increased extractions of surplus value and declining rates of profitability.

Smith: Marxists argue that this ideal state is itself absurd, pointing to the third and most fallacious assumption upon which modern trade theory and indeed the entire edifice of bourgeois economy theory is based--the conflation of value and price....

TWR: Not really. Marx produces the immanent critique to capitalism; a critique based on the internal make-up, requirements, assertions of the system itself. Marx accepts the relationship,and even, the identity of price and value in his critique. The failure of capitalism is not that price and value do not coincide. Indeed, Marx points out how any coincidence is just that, a coincidence, and is irrelevant to self-generation of the obstacles that capital only overcomes by expanding reproduction of these conflicts. The critique is of value, not of the non-correspondence between price and value.

Smith: The wage (or nominal wage) is the monetary expression of the value of labor-power; the real wage is the wage expressed in terms of purchasing power, by the size of the basket of consumption goods for which it can be exchange.

TWR: Really. So I would expect at this point Mr. Smith would investigate the real wage in Bangladesh, in Germany, in the US, in China so that we can see exactly what constitutes "super exploitation," both in quality and quantity. No such luck. Not happening. Instead we get critiques of David Harvey, Ernest Mandel; praise for the Monthly Review crew (and I thought the very rejection of value was a core principle of the Monopoly thumpers) and discussion of unequal exchange, dependency theories, "Euro-marxists," and... Marini.

Smith: For Marx, the transition from the predominance of absolute surplus-value to relative surplus-value was necessitated.....by the finite maximum length of the working day and the minimum level of consumption required for the reproduction of the labor-power...Marini argued that another factor played a crucial role in this transition: the importation of cheap foodstuffs, and other consumer goods from colonies, neo-colonies, especially from Latin America.

TWR: Really. Very important to integrate the development of capitalism in the North, with developments in the South. We should all read Marini.

Really? The "transition" to relative surplus value, the "real domination" of capital begins in the 19th century, is well underway by the middle of that century, and tears across developed and developing capitalisms in the last-third of the 19th century, the period of the "long deflation." Looking at global wheat supplies and production in the last-third, we find the US increasing its production 1867-1898 fourfold, accounting for 26 percent of global supplies in 1867 and 36 percent of world supplies by 1898. Russia accounts for 23 percent of supplies at both the beginning and end of the period. Western Europe's share declines from 37 to 25 percent. So at the beginning at end of the period, while supplies increase approximately 240%, the US, Russia, and Western Europe continue account for 84 percent. We should all read Marini. Carefully.

The end. Really? Really.

S.Artesian


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 Post subject: Re: On "New Imperialism"
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 12:08 pm 
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sartesian wrote:
and women...working women to death is essential to capital.


They usually wind up with even more work than most due to the fact that domestic labour is in no way recognised (aside from the more than occasional black eye that can be earned from failing to preform such labour)

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