On the irrationality of modern capitalism


Many on the left still seem to be trapped in the strange concept of ?human nature? as something solid, rigid and fixed. And to justify this ? rather having little to do with science ? approach they claim that in fact, ?human nature? is predisposed for socialism which many aspects of today?s capitalist decay show. Such a reasoning can only be described as utopian.

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No matter what social and economic transformation in history we take it has never been based on any kind of shifts in human nature, but on conditions around the people, that is around the ?humans? and their ?nature?. And no matter how important the latter is it can hardly have any priority before the first. What we should be looking for is not socialist traits in human nature but processes within capitalism that exhaust its possibilities and render existing relations among human beings obsolete.

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Peer-to-peer production and the coming of the commons

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or ? this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms ? with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. 

Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

New words expressing new concepts usually indicate stirrings at other levels of reality. So when we read of widespread ?peer-to-peer? activity (sharing without central authorities) and the spread of ?open source? (the mutuality of creativity), or come across seemingly paradoxical concepts such as ?produsers? (users producing value as they use), or entirely new concepts such as ?phyles? (transnational networks of small companies in which the values of the commons are predominant), we should find out about the innovations that old language does not capture.

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What science knows and business doesn?t — Leading world economists? scientific experiments prove socialist concepts correct

Modern psychology, anthropology and behavioral economics as well as other social and human sciences provide us hundreds of other examples that not only contradict the ruling ideology of the free market, but confirm socialist ideas.

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For instance, Daniel Kahneman, the Israeli-American psychologist and expert in behavioral economics, who won the Nobel Prize Economics in 2002, did a large Gallup survey on happiness amongst 600.000 Americans. The most interesting result — he never expected to get by the way — was the following. His team examined how feelings of happiness vary with income. It turned out that below an income of 60.000 dollars a year, people got progressively unhappier the poorer they got. But above that income, extra income did not make any difference for the so-called experiencing self. But for the remembering self, there was no limit like the more money you make, the more satisfaction you get.

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SYRIZA opens a window

SYRIZA's logo (source: WikiMedia)
SYRIZA’s logo (source: WikiMedia)

Referring to Greece, the Canadian left-wing activist John Riddell has theorized about different forms of workers? governments. There are possibilities, he claims, to actually be in government and at the same time challenge capitalist state institutions ?from within?. This can be done by dissolving those parts of the state that are hindering the growth of the workers? movement, and at the same time, outside of parliament, assisting the same movement.

In that way, workers councils and other working class organisations can co-exist during a time while a parliamentary governing party is trying to transfer as much power as possible to working people. This road offers a complement to Marxists who have traditionally not wanted to have anything to do with the state. These Marxists have at stretch been prepared to ?critically support? some party in elections, but never thought that they themselves would do anything but overthrowing the state immediately.

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What should today?s Communist Manifesto look like? Modern working class and its program

modern-workersIt has been repeated many times that the traditional industrial working class in the West has been declining over the last decades. Nevertheless, it is still a substantial minority. On a world scale the traditional working class is actually growing.

What we see developing in Western Europe, North America, Australia and many parts of Asia, is the so called knowledge society, where cognitive and creative skills are becoming more and more important and where the old methods of the stick and the carrot do not work anymore. On the other hand, more and more work in the service sector becomes also routine-based and is exported to the countries of the underdeveloped world: certain kinds of accountancy, computer programming, etc.

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Peer-to-peer revolution — Challenging traditional capitalist business models

ID-10018651One could have long arguments over the exact definition of socialism if it?s posed as an abstract future-construction. However such a discussion will acquire different quality if we are to base it upon real processes which we can observe in the present reality which are already undermining and (or even outplacing in certain conditions) the established models.

Why not start with Wikipedia and other examples of so-called peer production that are challenging traditional hierarchical capitalist business models? Wikipedia is a profoundly anti-capitalist and even communist way of producing and distributing knowledge. It is based on the principle to each according to need, from each according to ability. The contributors or editors are not paid and the users are not charged, which again flies in the face of all capitalist logic. Furthermore, Wikipedia is egalitarian produced on the basis of horizontal reciprocities rather than hierarchical control.

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Which road for Greece? (part 1)

SYRIZA-logoPublished: 13 Feb 2013
Author: Pat Byrne

In many EU countries, the economic debt crisis and the austerity measures introduced by the main parties have provoked large scale strikes, mass street protests and significant shifts in electoral support. In particular, the tendency of the social democratic parties to go along with the shifting of the debts of the banks on to working people has opened up a vacuum to the left. Thus we have seen rising support for the Left Bloc of Portugal, the Front Gauche of France and most dramatically for the Coalition of the Radical Left in Greece, more commonly known by its initials SYRIZA.

The following is a two-part examination of this Greek phenomenon and its potential. Part 1 examines how the crisis has helped the rise of SYRIZA. Part Two looks more closely at SYRIZA?s programme and organisation and discusses what measures are needed to overcome the crisis in Greece in favour of working people.

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What future for Greece and Cyprus?

The Euro was bound to be a disaster for the weaker economies of the Eurozone. Without the ability to control their own fiscal policies these economies were catastrophically exposed to the vagaries of the world economic situation. As long as the going was good heavy borrowing could sustain their economies and provide a reasonable growth rate. This in turn provided near-full employment and a rising standard of living for the general population.

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Peer(-to-peer) review of Marxism

Marxists and peer-to-peer activists discuss about the new society.

The following is a revised transcript of a discussion that took place on May 3, 2012 between Michel Bauwens, Jonathan Clyne, Alex Dirmeier, Lena Hanno and Jean Lievens on peer-to-peer and Marxism.

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