A message to Pakistan…

Below we are republishing a letter sent to the leadership of a large Pakistani socialist organization — Revolutionary Struggle. They have subscribed to The Socialist Network and became its affiliate. This is a letter of solidarity written by one of TSN’s political organizers — Jonathan Clyne. We decided to reproduce it on our website and make it public especially due to the fact that the author makes a few important points regarding not only the reality around us, but the way current and historical events have influenced socialist organizations around the world. Please, do not hesitate to comment on it. Either here, below the entry or on our facebook page

Dear Comrades,

My warmest greetings to your CC meeting!

The year 2008 was not only the year in which the deepest and longest economic downturn since the thirties began. It also marks a year, just like 1968 or 1989, in which there was a fundamental shift in consciousness worldwide. I am not referring to consciousness in the sense of ?let us go out and fight now? or ?we need a new government?, but in a much more fundamental, but at the same time more everyday sense. In the sense of how people in their daily thinking look upon the world. In 1968 a shift of consciousness occurred in the advanced capitalist countries from ?we accept the system, because we can improve our political and economic situation bit by bit? to ?we can no longer tolerate dictatorship in the work places; we can no longer accept simply being a cogwheel in the machine?. This had far ranging implications and brought some countries to the brink of revolution. In 1989, this process was reversed. After numerous defeats, broad swathes of the working class resigned themselves to thinking ?capitalism is the only possible system; if we are going to improve our lot we must focus on working harder and finding individual solutions?.

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The story of inequality

The 15th conference of the Association of Heterodox Economists took place last week.  The keynote theme of this gathering of economists who are not of the mainstream was inequality.  The world?s greatest economic expert on inequality of wealth and income is Tony Atkinson, or should I say, Sir Anthony Atkinson.  Atkinson is senior research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford and a distinguished econometrician.

Atkinson?s address was entitled ?Where is inequality headed??.  Inequality is back on the economic agenda after being ignored for decades by mainstream economics.  But official spokespeople and mainstream economists everywhere are now looking at the subject, after the financial crash and the revelation that the top 1% (bankers and top corporate executives) have been stacking up their ?earnings? while the 99% have been stuck with unmoving real incomes for years.

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The revolutionary implications in understanding capitalist crisis ? part 3

The law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall

Initially, as they use the advantage they have from their innovation, they sell more toasters. More toasters sold, even at a lower price, means the mass of their profit grows. Meanwhile, the effect of accumulating new technology increases the productivity of labour and the mass of profits grow even more. With more machines to do the work, less workers are needed so, to further increase their profit margin, unnecessary workers are made redundant and let go. Of course, other competing capitalists are always starting up something brand new or breaking into an already established market so, some of the newly unemployed workers will find work elsewhere as the mass of production increases.

About here is where things start to go pear shaped. This is because as capitalists use more of their profits to invest in those speedy and efficient new machines that increase workers productivity, they accumulate more and more fixed or constant capital. Not only do they now own many more toasters which they must sell, they also own more machines that are continueing to produce with relatively less workers. The result of this is less variable capital in relation to constant capital and it causes the rate of profit to fall.

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Egypt: Critical masses

The Egyptian revolution recalled former President Mohamed Morsi on July 4 after the Tamaroud (rebel) movement collected 22 million signatures supporting this demand. They mobilized millions of Egyptians onto the streets in what was perhaps the largest protest demonstration in world history. The masses are enraged at poverty and insecurity and the military could not have been used to defend Morsi as the majority of soldiers support the revolution. So, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of Egypt?s armed forces and Morsi?s defense minister, abandoned him ? gaining breathing space in which to attempt to reform the system of political power and protect the socio-economic system as a whole.

The generals have appointed Adly Mahmud Mansour, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, as interim president until new elections are held. On the street, millions celebrated this coup as an act of revolutionary justice ? the realization of popular consciousness. They were unwilling to be constricted by the formal rules of democracy, which they feel are designed to ensure that corrupt elites and hated politicians remain in power. The revolution of 2011 overthrew Hosni Mubarak and called a semi-democracy into being. The second revolution claimed its right to sweep away this form of democracy and create another. What is a percentage of votes compared to 17 million people on the streets demanding change?

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“Changing society is more difficult than doing your laundry” — an interview with Jarosław Przęczek, a Polish union leader

Boyan Stanislavski of The Socialist Network speaks with Jarosław Tomasz Przęczek, a local union leader in Poland who’s recently been in the center of a major campaign after getting illegally fired for — as he describes it — “being a pain in the ass” of the management in a furniture factory belonging to a leading manufacturer. He explains his story and makes many general conclusions about politics and the atmosphere in Poland. 

 

How does it feel to be the most famous labor leader in Poland?

I don?t know. I?m not one. The top leaders of the biggest confederations are still much more recognizable than I am. Although, it?s a fact, the campaign after what happened in the factory where I worked became a major industrial dispute in Poland.

What happened?

I have been illegally fired.

That sounds like a pretty popular practice to fire people illegally. At least in Poland and Eastern Europe. What makes your illegal firing special?

A few things. Number one — I am a trade union leader. According to the Polish Labor Code and other legal acts regulating industrial disputes three main organizers pointed by the union cannot be sacked, they enjoy a particular kind of legal protection. To be more accurate, they can be sacked, but an employer who is willing to do it is obliged to get an approval from the union this person belongs to. In practice — it is impossible to obtain one. In my case the unions firmly said no and it?s evident. I mean the rejection of the employers request is available in a written form. Then comes a whole row of legal infringements, I guess it?s rather boring.

Number two — they fired me, and they stated it, for contributing an article to a newly established Polish left-wing daily paper — ?Dziennik Trybuna?. In this article I have described in details the reasons for which my employer won a kind of non-official competition organized by one anarchist group in the internet for the title of the ?worst employer of the year?. The article was actually pretty soft and revealed just the top of the iceberg, but my bosses obviously freaked out having read it. Since it all kind of went through this daily paper I mentioned it quickly became a scandalous story, even some mainstream media noted it.

And the internet exploded — here we come to the number three. Maybe it?s not so nice to boast about oneself the way I will do it now, but I?m not a typical Polish local union leader. I consider myself a class fighter and to be a successful one I joined the union back in 2009 and I’ve been struggling intensely since then. I use all kinds of modern technologies, internet platforms, social networks and so on in my work. You probably know it even better than I how untypical this is for an average Polish unionist. Since I?m pretty active in the virtual world I?m known there and this is one of the reasons things spread so fast.

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Brazil: The carnival is over!

The mass protests, demonstrations and actions that have shaken and still are shaking the pro-capitalist governments of Turkey, Brazil and Egypt show that the key emerging capitalist economies are not immune from the slump that has engulfed the advanced capitalist economies. The advanced economies still contribute some 55-60% of world GDP (depending on how you measure it). They remain the dominant influence over the world capitalist economy.

The Great Recession and the subsequent weak recovery have led to a significant fall in trade and investment flows to the emerging economies, particularly to the largest so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa). Their growth rates have also begun to fall away. In addition, the largest by far of the BRICS, China, is experiencing a 2-3% pt fall in its super-fast growth rate and that has been enough to cause sharp drop in the demand for commodities (agricultural and raw materials), the main exports of other emerging economies. So the crisis is a world-wide one.

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Remodeling Marx

The closing statement of the recent 8th conference of the World Association of Political Economy held in Brazil in May, states: “There is no way of overcoming capitalism without the global political, economic, cultural and scientific action of the forces inspired by Marx.”

But how is one to inspire Marxist thought? Marxism is a compulsory subject in China’s schools and colleges, with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulating that the state should “educate the people in patriotism, collectivism, internationalism and communism and in dialectical and historical materialism.” However, it must be admitted that many decades of officially sponsored Marxist education have not always produced the hoped for results.

For example, in the USSR the following story was told: A man sent his wife to attend night school to improve her cooking skills. After the first week, she burnt the food; after the second, it was too salty; after the third week, she burnt the the food again. Her husband complained: “Three weeks at cookery school and you still can’t cook!” “It’s not my fault,” she replied. “We’ve only gotten as far as the October Revolution!” Too much Marxism can certainly have an alienating effect.

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Fairer Sex

There?s been a lot of handwringing lately over what is or is not feminist. Notable bones of contention include: ladyblogs, working in finance, doulas, ?having it all,? housewifing, rioting, protesting, protesting in lingerie, getting married, watching ?Girls.? Essays in publications ranging from mass-circulation glossies like the Atlantic to small literary magazines like n+1 have appealed to a widespread fascination with the confused meaning of the term. The narcissism underlying the debate is parodied by the blog ?Is This Feminist?? featuring stock photos of people shaking hands, walking the dog, and doing laundry. The pictures are rated as either ?representing feminism? or ?problematic.?

With no sense of what feminism is, these writers turn to personal experience. With each step and gesture, they wonder what they?re contributing to feminism. Is navel-gazing feminist?

Let us borrow a definition from bell hooks: Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression.

It cannot be about this or that group of women?s ability to have careers or about individual moments of empowerment while doing laundry. Feminist movements have long suffered from the disconnect between white middle-class feminism, often focused myopically on certain careers and lifestyle choices, and the goals of working-class women. The ?Wages for Housework? demands of 1970s Marxist feminists sought to make women?s uncompensated labor under capitalism visible whether the woman was a bourgeois housewife, a factory worker, or a poor mother. Since capital requires the housewife to reproduce the worker, they argued, this need dictates the role of women up and down the class system.

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