‘The Greek Crisis: Causes and Alternative Strategies’ by Stavros Mavroudeas in ‘Crisis, Movement, Strategy: The Greek Experience’, Brill 2018

Brill is publishing a collective volume (edited by P.Sotiris) in its Historical Materialism Book Series.

I have contributed a chapter titled ‘The Greek Crisis: Causes and Alternative Strategies’.

The chapter surveys the competing explanations of the Greek crisis and the alternative strategies (associated with these explanations) proposed in order to surpass this crisis. The competing explanations are categorized in three main groups (Mainstream, Radical and Marxist). It is argued that the Marxist explanations can grasp better the deep structural character of the Greek crisis.

Two basic alternative economic strategies are recognized and each one is further subdivided in two versions. The first main alternative proposes restructuring the Greek economy within the European integration. It is subdivided in (a) the strategy of the IMF-EU-ECB Economic Adjustment Programmes (EAPs) and (b) the strategy of renegotiation of the EAPs towards a less pro-cyclical and less austere policy mix. It is argued that the first version is an overambitious bourgeois strategy that endangers the politico-economic stability of the system. The second version is an incoherent and unreliable strategy because it depends upon the partial success of the first version. The second main alternative proposes restructuring of the Greek economy outside (partially or totally) the European integration. It is subdivided in two versions: (a) a strategy of restructuring outside the European Monetary Union (EMU) but within the European Union (EU) and (b) a strategy of restructuring through complete disengagement from the EU. It is argued that the first version is a middle-of-the-road approach that disregards the deeply structural character of the Greek crisis. On the contrary, the second version offers a coherent alternative strategy answering the problem of the crisis from the perspective of the working class.

 

The volume’s link, containing additional information, is the following:

https://brill.com/view/title/26716?format=HC

 

 

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‘The Financialisation Hypothesis and Marxism: a positive contribution or a Trojan Horse?’ – S.Mavroudeas, 2nd World Congress on Marxism, Peking University, 5-6 May 2018

The paper of my contribution (‘The Financialisation Hypothesis and Marxism: a positive contribution or a Trojan Horse?’) in the 2nd World Congress on Marxism (Peking University, 5-6 May 2018) follows below.

Alternatively, it can be downloaded from:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325038293_%27The_Financialisation_Hypothesis_and_Marxism_a_positive_contribution_or_a_Trojan_Horse%27

https://www.academia.edu/36594283/SECOND_WORLD_CONGRESS_ON_MARXISM_Marxism_and_the_current_world_and_China

 

https://www.scribd.com/document/378694807/The-Financialisation-Hypothesis-and-Marxism-a-positive-contribution-or-a-Trojan-Horse

 

 

 

 

SECOND WORLD CONGRESS ON MARXISM
‘Marxism and the current world and China’
Peking University, 5-6 May 2018

 

 

 

‘The Financialisation Hypothesis and Marxism:

 a positive contribution or a Trojan Horse?’

 

 

Stavros D. Mavroudeas

Professor (Political Economy)

Dept. of Economics

University of Macedonia

156 Egnatia

54006 Thessaloniki

Greece

e-mail: smavro@uom.edu.gr

 

 

ABSTRACT

The Financialisation Hypothesis is a popular trend in contemporary Radical Political Economy. It maintains that capitalism has nowadays entered a new stage where money capital dominates the whole circuit of capital dethroning productive capital. More ambitious versions of the Financialisation Hypothesis uphold that money capital becomes totally independent from productive capital (as it can directly exploit labour through usury) and it remoulds the other fractions of capital according to its prerogatives. This paper argues that the Financialisation Hypothesis is a false turn for Marxist analysis. It misrepresents contemporary developments in capitalism and in particular it fails to understand the function of fictitious capital in times of prolonged crisis and stagnation. Moreover, it deforms Marxist economic analysis by adopting post-Keynesian arguments that lead to the abandonment of the Labour Theory of Value and the associated with-it theory of money. This paper argues that the classical Marxist economic and monetary analysis has better explanatory power than the Financialisation Hypothesis and thus can grasp more realistically developments in contemporary capitalism.

 

 

  1. Introduction

 The Financialisation Hypothesis (FH) is a popular argument in contemporary Heterodox Economics, Marxist Political Economy but also in Mainstream Economics. Its basic thesis is that modern capitalism has undergone a radical transformation during the last three decades. The financial system, through a series of innovative mechanisms, has conquered capitalism’s commanding heights, became independent from productive capital and has transformed the whole system according to its own prerogatives. This new financialized (or financial or finance-dominated or fiduciary) capitalism operates completely different from traditional capitalism.

The FH proposes four stylised facts as its factual basis:

  • The increased weight of the financial sector in contemporary advanced capitalist economies (share in GDP, profits, new complex financial instruments).
  • Corporate sector’s recent trend to finance itself through retained earnings, capital markets and ‘shadow banking’.
  • The adoption by firms of shareholders’ value maximization policies and the related prominence of institutional investors.
  • The increased indebtedness of working and middle-class households in several advanced capitalist economies.

 

The combined result of these processes is that (a) productive capital depends totally upon money capital and transforms its modus operandi according to the latter’s requirements and (b) working -class depends directly upon money capital, which exploits it through usury.

This new finance-dominated capitalism is crisis-prone because of its inherent financial instability. Concomitantly, the 2008 global capitalist crisis is considered as a financialisation crisis, caused by financial bubbles and without roots in real accumulation (which was only subsequently affected by finance’s deleveraging).

FH’s shot to prominence made it a leitmotif at the cost of analytical coherence.

This paper discusses the Marxist and Marxisant versions of the FH and argues that they misconceive the actual workings of modern capitalism leading to an explanatory blind alley. The spectacular ballooning of the financial system during the recent decades of weak profitability and accumulation does not constitute a new epoch, let alone a new capitalism. Instead it constitutes a well-known capitalist reaction in periods of weak profitability. This does not preclude the proliferation of new financial instruments which give new special forms of appearance to a usual capitalist process. Contrary to the FH, it will be argued that the Classical Marxist theory of crisis and fictitious capital offers an analytically and empirically superior understanding of this process.

Τhe FH autonomises completely money-capital (that is the fraction of capital that operates in the financial system) from productive-capital and, furthermore, superimposes it on the latter. On top of that the FH maintains that money-capital acquires also means of existence and operation totally independent from productive-capital. This FH argument creates no problems for Mainstream financialisation theory as Neoclassical economics consider the financial system as an independent creator of wealth. However, it is a big leap for those FH currents that ascribe to Political Economy. Political Economy – both Classical and Marxist – considers productive-capital (that is capital engaged in the sphere of production) as the locus of surplus-value creation. The other two main capitalist fractions (money and commercial-capital) operate in the sphere of circulation. They do not produce surplus-value but reap parts of the surplus-value created under productive-capital as payment for their necessary functions. The FH, by rejecting this perspective, actually signifies not a new epoch of capitalism but a new capitalism with different classes and different functions. This is a scenario far removed from reality.

 

 

  1. The FH and its Marxist and Marxisant versions

The notion that there was some structural break in capitalism’s historical evolution after which the financial system conquers the system’s commanding heights is not new. Hilferding’s (1910 (1981)) seminal work contemplated the idea about a new strategic importance of the financial system for capitalist reproduction. He argued that because of the increased concentration and centralization of capital and the augmented financial requirements a new hybrid form of capital (finance capital) has emerged. This is the fusion of productive-capital with banking-capital (a section of money-capital) under the dominance of the latter. Implicitly, Hilferding considered this as a new era of capitalism; although he never ventured to state it explicitly. With the emergence of finance capital, finance has dethroned productive-capital from its dominant position in the total circuit of capital. There are well known deficiencies of Hilferding’s finance capital thesis. First, he implicitly side-steps the Marxian Labour Theory of Value (LTV) and proceeds with a problematic theory of monopoly pricing. Second, the empirical validity of the finance capital concept has been disproved (Bond (2010), Harris (1988)). This fusion of productive with banking capital materialized only in a minority segment of the advanced capitalist world. Indicatively, it did not materialise in several crucial Anglo-Saxon economies where the stock exchange rather than the banking system constitutes the main source of finance for private enterprises.

Hilferding’s thesis was re-launched later by Sweezy (1942). However, it should be noted that neither of them broke from the classical Marxist relationship between surplus-value and interest. For Marxist analysis, surplus-value is extracted by productive-capital at the sphere of production and then it is redistributed between profits (accruing to productive-capital), interest (accruing to money-capital) and commercial profit (accruing to commercial-capital). Hence, money-capital may dominate strategically productive-capital but it cannot live independently of the latter.

Hilferding’s idea of this strategic dominance was taken up by both friends and foes within the Marxist tradition. It was Lenin (1917), in his Imperialism, that took up this and recast it within a formal theory of capitalist stages. He argued that a new stage of capitalism, monopoly capitalism, has emerged. One of its main features is this strategic dominance as he adopted Hilferding’s problematic concept. Nevertheless, Lenin followed the Marxian LTV and always considered money-capital an appendage of productive-capital; as interest is part of the surplus-value and money-capital has no independent source of wealth. On the other hand, Lenin’s theory of stages – despite some shortcomings and ambiguities – offers a coherent and valuable toolbox through which Marxist analysis can conceive transformations in capitalism.

Summarising, Marxist Political Economy within its theory of stages argued that during monopoly capitalism the financial system acquired strategic dominance over the total circuit of capital but also never ceased to depend economically upon productive-capital. In a nutshell it was a dominant and also necessary parasite. This, conception – despite problematic aspects like finance capital – has both realism and analytical coherence.

The theoretical landscape changed once again after the 1973 global crisis that signified the exhaustion of the monopoly capitalism stage. The 1973 global economic crisis and its falling profitability which caused several waves of capitalist restructuring succeeded only partially in restoring capital’s profitability. In other words, the profit rate never managed to reach its prior 1973 levels. This incomplete capitalist recovery led to a flight ahead: the system vigorously employed fictitious capital’s operations in order to sustain and invigorate capital accumulation. The rapid deregulation and internationalization of finance during the 1990s started the process of what has been termed financialisation. Capitals that were over-accumulated in the productive sectors of the economy shifted their activities towards fictitious capital operations in order to improve their profitability. These developments have led to interpretations according to which a new epoch for capitalism arise, where the financial capital is released from the governance of productive-capital and, taking an autonomous course, now dominates the whole of the capitalist economy. These significant changes that took place during the last decades of the 20th century influenced crucially the views on the role of the financial system as well as the ongoing debate regarding the relationship between productive-capital and finance.

The very term ‘financialisation’ was firstly coined by the Monthly Review (MR) school. Sweezy (1994, 1997), in his last papers referred to ‘the financialisation of the capital accumulation process’ as one of the three tendencies at the turn of the century (the other two being, monopoly power and stagnation). Financialisation as such was inaugurated in a collective volume edited by Epstein (2005) that included a paper by Krippner (2005). The latter introduced the term ‘financialisation’ as the trade-mark of recent transformations in the capitalist system. Notwithstanding, Krippner (2005, p.199) had reservations whether financialisation constitutes a new phase of capitalism; arguing that it neither necessarily ‘represents an entirely novel phase of capitalism … [nor] do these data allow us to draw any conclusions regarding the permanency of the trends documented here’.

However, it was not the MR school but the Post-Keynesians those who energetically adopted the term and seldom treated it as their exclusive property.

The incorporation of the term in Marxist and Marxisant analyses followed a bit later. Τhere are four FH versions in Marxist literature. The two of them keep within the Marxist analytical framework (B.Fine, MR) whereas the other two have a rather Marxisant flavour in the sense that they abandon the former and flirt with post-Keynesianism (Lapavitsas, Bryan).

Fine (2009, 2010) considers the growth of finance and the new financial forms of the last thirty years as a special phase of neoliberalism (which he defines more as a policy trend rather than as a stage per se). He theorises this new phase through the Marxian LTV and its theory of money. Financialisation occurs when the accumulation of interest-bearing capital (IBC – to be defined below) in the economy becomes extensive and intensive. ‘Intensive’ growth and proliferation of financial assets signifies their increasing distance from production, while ‘extensive’ means the extension of IBC to new areas of economic and social life in hybrid forms of capital (Fine (2013-2014), p.55). Under such conditions finance can acquire a dominant position as regards capital accumulation only in the structured environment of ‘shadow banking’. In the context of the latter, exchange can be facilitated by the intermediation and dominant presence of fictitious capital. For Fine finance cannot acquire autonomous channels of exploitation of the working class. New forms of operation of money capital and novel institutional arrangements are policies that are used by capital in order to surpass its problems and contradictions. In a nutshell, Fine follows the Marxian logic of relating finance to the sphere of production and considering financial profit as part of the surplus-value. What is missing from his analysis is how the current emergence of financialisation relates to profitability.

The MR, although financialisation was initiated under its auspices, was a latecomer in adopting it (e.g. Foster (2010)). Engulfed in its Marxo-Keynesian underconsumptionism, it strived to prove the latter in the face of overtly negative empirical evidence (as the 2008 crisis was not accompanied with underconsumptionist signs). It adopted financialisation in conjunction with the arguments that (a) increasing income inequalities lead to the increasing indebtedness of private households (which is a form of covert underconsumption) and (b) that increased financial leverage and speculation is part of the neoliberal era of deregulation. It identifies the latter as a new stage of capitalism, branded as Neoliberalism, or Globalisation or later as Financial Globalisation. However, neither the MR argues that financial profit has become independent from surplus-value. The Social Structures of Accumulation (SSA) approach follows a similar to the MR path identifying financialisation with the Neoliberal SSA (Tabb (2010)) and adding their own emphasis on institutions.

Bryan et.al (2009) argue since the early 1980s finance has become commodified through several financial innovations (securitization, derivatives etc.). Although Bryan (2010) avoids to characterise this as a new capitalist stage, he essentially implies so. He claims that (a) increased leverage and derivatives and (b) workers’ financial exploitation through usurious loans change radically capitalism’s functions and class structure. They argue that the wage relationship (i.e. labour-time) and its relationship to money have ceased to be related but separate and that the latter has subsumed the former. Concomitantly, labour became a form of capital as the reproduction of labour is now a source of surplus-value transfer in the form of interest-payments and the ‘financialisation of daily life’. In their very peculiar formulation, behind the Marxist terminology (surplus-value etc.) exploitation is not confined to unpaid labour-time but extends to usury. Moreover, the argument that labour is now a form of capital implies directly a new class structure different from typical capitalism.

Lapavitsas (2008), adopted finacialisation directly from post-Keynesianism. He argues, in the spirit of ‘shadow banking’, that typical banking is almost redundant and that the financial system is becoming totally stock-exchange based. Fictitious capital is a redundant concept and new financial developments do not relate, even distantly, to the sphere of production and have to be analysed independently. Thus, the LTV and its money theory are essentially discarded. He introduces the vague concept of ‘finance’ as the new master of the system. To avoid criticisms of proposing two separate capitalist classes he argues that ‘finance’ subsumes and reshapes productive-capital according to its prerogatives. Consequently, there is no meaningful distinction between them. Additionally, ‘finance’ acquires a channel of direct exploitation of workers through the provision of usurious loans: ‘These practices are reminiscent of the age-old tradition of usury, but they are now performed by the formal financial system’ (Lapavitsas (2009)). He initially branded this new source of financial profit as ‘financial exploitation’. After criticism (e.g. Fine (2009)) for confusing capitalist exploitation with the pre-capitalist exploitation of usury, he made an inconsequential facelift and changed the term to ‘financial expropriation’. He argues that this enables financial institutions to boost their profits independently of surplus-value and possibly to exploit ‘us all’ (Lapavitsas (2014), alluding to other social strata apart from labour. For him this new structure constitutes a new stage of capitalism (or a new ‘social order’ as he brands in more graphical but less theoretically coherent terms). Furthermore, he argues that there is no general theory of crisis (as Marxism argues) but each crisis is historically specific. He maintains that the 2008 crisis was a financialisation crisis with no relations whatsoever to profitability (as the latter remained constant (Lapavitsas & Kouvelakis (2012)).

The Marxisant and Marxo-Keynesian FH, essentially adopt the post-Keynesian endogenous money theory which is highly problematic as its cannot define coherently what is ‘capital’ and, consequently, misconceive the relation between interest and profit. Essentially, their approach is akin to that of the old Banking School and faces similar problems. Thus, the Marxisant and Marxo-Keynesian FH sacrifice – or deform beyond recognition – the crucial Marxian concept of fictitious capital and end up with the same with the Mainstreamers and the post-Keynesian argument: the monetary sector dominates the real sector and has independent from the latter sources of profit. But what strikes exceptionally is the Marxisant FH’s essential confluence with the Post-Keynesian theory of classes. As already analysed, Keynesian and Post-Keynesian thought inherits the notion of the rentier from Classical Political Economy but it actually deforms it. For the former rentiers (in the version of landowners, that is a transformed remnant of feudalism) were a separate class, not doing business but appropriating rent that was subtracted from entrepreneurial profits and, thus, diminished investment. This conflict that characterised capitalism during A.Smith’s and D.Ricardo’s years has long ceased to exist. Landowning has been assimilated into the capitalist class and lost its independent existence and function. Keynesianism redefined this distinction between industrialists and financiers, essentially seen as separate classes. Keynesianism does not have analytical problems with this as it argues that other factors affect savings and other investment. However, Marxism conceives money and productive capital as forms of total capital that both take part in the formation of the general rate of profit (which among others is a process unifying the bourgeoisie against the proletariat). Because interest is part of surplus-value and financial profits depend upon the general rate of profit, Marxism does not elevate the distinctiveness of money and productive-capital to the point of being separate classes.

Last but not the least, the Marxisant FH currents have a weak theory of crisis. They do not offer a general theory of capitalist crisis but instead opt for a conjunctural one. Each historical epoch and each particular crisis has its own specificities. But essentially, as Tome (2011) clearly shows, FH ultimately ascribes to a Keynesian possibility theory of crisis. This a very insubstantial theory of crisis especially from those FH currents that refer even in passim to Marxism. Lapavitsas (2014: 37) is again a typical example. He states that the development of financialisation has nothing to do with Marx’s tendency of the profit rate to fall. Moreover, he asserts that falling profitability in capitalist production was never a key factor behind the rise of finance.

 

 

III. Classical Marxism versus the FH

The FH purports that it offers a superior analytical framework in order to comprehend the economic transformations of the recent decades. The empirical side of the FH is beyond the scope of this paper; although there is compelling evidence that real accumulation continues to be the centre of the capitalist system and that falling profitability a-la-Marx is at the core of the 2008 crisis (e.g. Shaikh (2010), Mavroudeas & Paitaridis (2015)). There are also forceful rejections of FH’s empirical applicability for specific economies (e.g. Mavroudeas (2015)). This section offers an alternative to FH analysis of the recent developments in capitalism that is based on the Classical Marxist perspective.

Classical Marxism analyses the relationship between monetary and real accumulation through the lenses of the total capital circuit which reveals the modus operandi of the various forms of capital, in unity in the context of real accumulation. This unified exposition is absent both from the Mainstream and post-Keynesian perspectives and gives Marxism a superior understanding of the relationship between finance and production, where the sphere of production has a structural (and historically permanent) primacy over finance. This viewpoint enables Marxism not to fall prey to questionable stylized facts that create false impressions about new stages and, at the same time, to be able to analyze new phenomena within the contours of the fundamental mechanisms of operation of the capitalist system.

The Marxian total capital circuit presents how capital operates and assumes different forms in order to extract surplus-value:

     C …. P ……C’    M’

↓                   ↓

c+v             c+v+s

 

where  M: money

C: commodities (means of production (c) and labour-power (v))

P: production process

C’: commodities of greater value produced (via the inclusion of surplus-value (s))

M’: increased money return (in the form of profit) for the C’

 

The circuit begins with circulation (the advancement of M for buying C) and ends with circulation (the payment of M’ for C’). Between C and C’ takes place the production process where circulation is interrupted and surplus-value is extracted. The three fundamental forms of capital (money-capital, productive-capital and commercial-capital) function differently but are also entwined in this circuit. Money and commercial-capital, that operate in the sphere of circulation, operate in the beginning and the end. Productive-capital operates at the centre. The sphere of production (and thus productive-capital) has primacy over the others as surplus-value (the aim of the capitalist system) is extracted under its auspices (Fine & Harris (1979)). This surplus-value is subsequently redistributed between productive, money and commercial capital because the former needs the support of the two others.

Money plays a crucial role in this circuit. It is the most mobile element of the circuit. When it represents value (it has not become capital), it has its most fluidity. However, when it enters the production process and becomes capital (which is necessary for claiming surplus-value) becomes less fluid. Capital regains its fluidity when the commodities produced are sold in exchange for M’. Part of that money is reinvested in the production process, becoming less fluid capital whilst another part is consumed or hoarded by the money owner.

There is tension between money’s inherent mobility and its necessary bound in the production process. The money owner views it as a process that takes time and is risky. This makes it undesirable and would only be undertaken if the expected returns are likely to be significantly greater than those of other capitalists involved in the process who retained flexibility, such as money-capital who operates at the M stage or commercial-capital who functions at the C stage. As each capitalist sees himself as a free-rider of the system (that is he tries to leave to its peers the costs for the functional operation of the capitalist system), he seldom tries to disentangle himself from the bounds of production. There are phases of the economic cycles that this tendency becomes stronger and phases that it becomes weaker. For example, greater returns to productive-capital were evident throughout much of the 19th century. But, particularly after the 1873 crisis, this changed and the tendency to fluidity returned. Transferable shares and their commodification became the dominant means through which capitalists tried to reduce the risk of their involvement in the production process.

Marxism grasps the unity and the internal strife of capital and the complex functions of money-capital through the distinction between the use of money as credit and the use of money as capital. Borrowing and use of money as capital is different because money is then used not just to buy a good or to meet a payment but in order to make more money. From the perspective of capitalist production, this occurs when money is borrowed in order to expand accumulation with the expectation of a future profit. Marx distinguishes carefully between money-capital’s functions. Money involved in the lending and borrowing activities of the capitalist financial system, is defined as loanable money capital (LMC). LMC is sub-divided in two generic forms: money-dealing capital (MDC) and interest-bearing capital (IBC). MDC advances credit in general for buying and selling in the sphere of circulation. IBC uses credit relations to advance money capital in order to appropriate surplus-value.

Traditionally the capitalist financial system collects idle funds and channels them to investment through the credit and the capital markets (which operate differently). Credit markets involves both MDC and IBC. Capital markets involve solely IBC. The novelty of recent hybrid forms (such as ‘shadow banking’) is that they combine in complex ways the operation of both banking and capital markets. Hence, they combine MDC and IBC.

The credit system begins with trade credit, which arises through trade relations mostly tied to similar and/or related sectors and geographical proximity. Next comes Banking credit (collection and advance of LMC by banks), which arises in the discounting of trade bills and is based on the collection of idle money from several sources and thus overcomes some of the particularities of trade credit. By collecting idle money from several sources in the economy, banks partly homogenize credit and begin to give it a less individual character. The next instance is the money market (where LMC is traded among banks). The top of the credit system is the central bank (the leading bank of the money market).

The capital market accompaniments the credit system. Contrary to the latter, it mobilises idle money on the basis of property (equity) rather than credit (debt). Nevertheless, the credit market is connected with the stock market, as both draw funds from the same pool of LMC and as lending by the former sustains the operations in the latter.

Because IBC is money-capital traded as a commodity commanding interest, it has a dual character in the context of the total circuit. On the one hand it is immediately related to the sphere of real accumulation for interest payment and on the other hand it is immediately related to the form of credit-money. Hence, it has certain degrees of freedom towards the sphere of real accumulation, as the interest rate which determines IBC is formed outside the total circuit by the supply and demand for LMC. This gives to IBC a second duality. First, because it is a relationship between a capitalist possessing money (‘monied’ capitalist) and a capitalist possessing an investment project (‘functioning’ capitalist) it can give rise to speculation (i.e. rent-seeking). Secondly, IBC comes out from the generation of sums of money in the turnover of total social capital, which are transformed subsequently into LMC by the credit system.

IBC differs from productive-capital because its owner through lending claims part of the surplus-value (in the form of interest) without any direct involvement in production. In cases of unwelcomed developments (conflicts between labour and capital in production and distribution, falling profitability etc.) IBC’s lender withdraws it and invests in other sectors instead of having to intervene directly in the industry. This characteristic of IBC is crucial for money-capital (banks) because it enhances the liquidity of their liabilities. Their deposits, which (for commercial banks at least) form the basis of their money-dealing operations are highly liquid since depositors are not tied to any particular bank. In well-developed banking systems personal knowledge and trust do not enter the relation so that deposits and other monetary instruments are non-specific and anonymous forms in which capital can be held. The money-dealing that banks carry out, and competition within banking facilitates this distancing of money and deposits from specific ties. However, IBC’s freedom has limits because by lending directly to industry it cannot be totally indifferent to the latter’s outcomes.

Fictitious capital is a form of IBC. IBC is already defined as money-capital which is loaned in order to be used in the sphere of production for extracting surplus-value, in contrast to the simple loan of money (money as such) which simply facilitates transactions in general. However, since there is an obligation to repay a loan (which takes the form of debt), it is possible for this debt to acquire a life of its own. Consequently, the obligation (which takes the form of securities, e.g. shares, bonds), can autonomously be bought and sold at some money value, which might or might not correspond to the ability of its sum of money (if used as capital in the production sphere) to realize enough surplus-value. This autonomous circulation of IBC in the form of securities is called by Marx fictitious capital. ‘Fictitious’ does not imply that it does not exist or it is artificially created. It denotes that its circulation is distinct from the circulation or the yield of capital which it represents (Fine (2013-2014), pp.49-50). Therefore, fictitious capital is related to the financial activities of capital in general and becomes more crucial when the financial system becomes more complex.

Practically, fictitious capital represents an uncertain bet on surplus-value that might be extracted in the future but which it is being discounted in the present. Its operation is closely related to the expansion of joint-stock companies, the negotiation of their assets in the stock exchange and the expansion of credit-money (that facilitates to a great extent their transactions and their valuations). Periods of economic euphoria usually foment high expectations about the future and, thus, can engineer waves of robust economic growth (as they influence positively investment). These expectations-led booms have usually the tendency to overshoot; that is to create increasingly over-optimistic future expectations. But as soon as the ‘real economy’ cannot keep pace with those expectations (i.e. investment does not lead to the expected profits) then its growth starts faltering. In other words, the so-called ‘fundamentals’ recall to reality the unsustainable growth engineered by fictitious capital. The busts that follow have also the tendency to overshoot; but this time to the downside. These usually lead to the eruption of an economic crisis because of the burst of the so-called ‘bubble’.

This role has been recognized long ago by Marxist economists. H.Grossmann (1929, p.158) showed that “among the factors that counteract the breakdown Marx includes the fact the progressively larger part of social capital takes the form of share capital:

‘…these capitals, although invested in large productive enterprises, yield only large or small amounts of interest, so-called dividends, once costs have been deducted … These do not therefore go into levelling the rate of profit, because they yield a lower than average rate of profit. If they did not enter into it, the general rate of profit would fall much lower. (1959, p.240)’

 

This pinpoints the credit system’s ability to continue making profits when real accumulation starts facing difficulties in a way which delays the fall of the general profit rate. However, despite the relative autonomy of the credit system, ultimately, its operations broadly comply with the essential motion of capitalist accumulation. Thus, the crisis phase of capitalist business cycle typically begins with the collapse of speculation in stockpiled commodities by wholesale merchants, and the rise of the interest rate which affects the debt structure at some point causing its collapse, bringing the crisis phase to be followed by depression.

Itoh (1988, pp.303-342), following the Uno school of Japanese Marxism, embedded this function within the phases of economic cycles. He argued that towards the upswing’s end and in the beginning of over-accumulation the profit rate declines and commodity prices tend to rise. Then, speculative trading and stockpiling of commodities take place in expectation of further price rises. Speculative trading also appears in the stock exchange as the share prices of some industries begin to rise in response to the increase in their commodity prices.

Summarising, Classical Marxism has a coherent and sophisticated framework to grasp the phenomenon of prolonged financial euphoria without separating it from real accumulation. This framework can also explain satisfactorily the recent financial innovations.

The most dramatic cotemporary change is that the bill of exchange (with its direct links to the financing of production and trade) is substituted as the dominant financial asset by the ‘repo’ (‘sale and repurchase agreement’). In a repo, a borrower of cash sells a bundle of securities for an amount of money to a lender with the agreement that the former will repurchase the securities for another amount of money after a fixed period. The securities thereby act as collateral for the cash loan. In the event that the cash borrower defaults on repayment, the cash lender owns the securities to keep, sell or use again as collateral. In this context institutional developments led to the notion of ‘bank’ to become elastic and the phenomenon of ‘shadow banking’ emerged.

This trend tends to merge the two pillars of the financial system (credit and capital markets) mainly through securitization. However, securitization transforms property into tradable financial assets against a promise for repayment; that is into fictitious capital. In this way the contemporary financial system became more unstable as traditional institutional mechanisms and trust were disturbed.

All this contemporary financial house of cards depends upon the extraction of surplus-value in the sphere of production. In the aftermath of the 1973 profitability crisis, the subsequent waves of capitalist restructuring failed to resolve the overaccumulation crisis. Despite the dramatic increase of labour exploitation (that is the increase of the rate of surplus-value), they shied away from a decisive destruction of unviable capitals. Thus, profitability never recovered sufficiently. The last trick, together with the ‘globalisation’ (that never extinguished the national economy but increased pressure on both labour and unviable capitals), was the expansion of fictitious capital operations. Nevertheless, as argued above, this stratagem has definite limits. Expansion through financial doping soon met its limits set by the real accumulation. Thus, the 2008 crisis erupted. The financial collapse was strictly geared to the problems of the real accumulation.

With regards to the other pillar of the Marxisant FH currents, namely that finance acquires an independent from surplus-value mechanism of ‘direct exploitation’ through usury, there is a robust rejection. Fine (2009) argued accurately that it misinterprets the Marxist analytical framework. The financial revenues from loans given to workers can be (a) an additional appropriation of a part of the value of their labour-power or (b) a part of the value of their labour-power that is being expended for the acquisition of socially necessary commodities. In the first case, if this appropriation becomes permanent, then it will lead to a new lower value of labour-power. In the second case, the current value of labour-power is actually lower than what it appears. In both cases there are no extra – and moreover independent from surplus-value – financial profits. To argue otherwise means that these Marxisant FH currents propose a different theory of the determination of the labour-power and of the operation of the labour market than that of Marxism. In such a theory, direct power relations instead of indirect economic mechanisms are the only mechanism that can enable the financial system to garner extra profits. Again, this view misinterprets capitalism as a pre-capitalist system.

 

Conclusions

 

The Marxist and Marxisant FH currents, with the notable exception of B.Fine’s rather peculiar interpretation, err on five counts.

First, they interpret short-run and conjunctural phenomena as long-run structural changes. In methodological terms, the FH is a middle-range theory (for a critique of this methodology see Mavroudeas (2012), Ch.3).

Second, they promote the false perception that the post-1990s financial expansion was a totally new phenomenon without any previous historical precedent.

Third, their argument about the financial system’s novel ‘direct exploitation’ mechanism equates unwarrantedly capitalism with the pre-capitalist era of transition from feudalism to capitalism.

Fourth, they propose an unrealistic class analysis.

Fifth, they lead to unjustified analytical fuzziness as they obscure the understanding of capitalism’s fundamental economic and social processes.

In a nutshell, FH’s grandiose proposition about a new stage of capitalism or even a new brand of capitalism fails to account both analytically and empirically for the evolution of contemporary capitalism. On the contrary, Classical Marxism offers a superior analytical and empirical perspective.

 

REFERENCES

Bond, P. (2010), ‘A century since Hilferding’s ‘Finanz Kapital’ – again, apparently, a banker’s world?’, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, November 19.

Bryan D., Martin R. & Mike Rafferty M. (2009), ‘Financialization and Marx: Giving labor and capital a financial makeover’, Review of Radical Political Economics vol.41 no.4.

 Bryan, D. (2010), ‘The Duality of Labour and the Financial Crisis’, Economic and Labour Relations Review, vol.20 no.2.

 Fine, B. (2009), ‘Financialisation, the Value of Labour Power, the Degree of Separation, and Exploitation by Banking’, SOAS Research Students, Summer Seminar Series.

 Fine, B. (2010), ‘Locating financialization’, Historical Materialism vol.18 no.2.

Fine, B. (1985-1986), ‘Banking Capital and the Theory of Interest’, Science and Society vol.40 no.4.

Fine, B. (2013-2014), ‘Financialization from a Marxist Perspective’, International Journal of Political Economy vol.42 no.4.

Fine, B. & Harris, L. (1979), Rereading Capital. London: Macmilan.

Foster, J.B. (2010), ‘The Financialization of Accumulation’, Monthly Review vol.62 no.5.

Harris, L. (1988), ‘Alternative Perspectives on the Financial System’, in L.Harris, J.Coakley, M.Groasdale & T.Evans (eds), New Perspectives on the Financial System, London: Croom Helm.

Hilferding, R. (1910 (1981)), Finance Capital, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Itoh, M. (1988), The Basic Theory of Capitalism, London: Macmillan.

Itoh, M. (1988), The Basic Theory of Capitalism, London: Macmillan.

Grossmann, H. (1929), The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System, Leipzig: Hirschfeld.

Krippner, G. (2005), ‘The financialization of the American economy’, Socio-economic Review vol.3 no.2.

Lapavitsas, C. (2008) ‘Financialised capitalism: direct exploitation and periodic bubbles’, SOAS.

Lapavitsas C. (2009), ‘Financialised Capitalism: Crisis and Financial Expropriation’, Historical Materialism vol.17 no.2.

Lapavitsas C. & Kouvelakis St. (2012), Crisis and Left Vent, Athens: Livanis [in Greek].

Lapavitsas, C. (2014), Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All, London: Verso.

Lenin, V.I. (1917 (1948)), Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Mavroudeas, S. (2012), ‘The Limits of Regulation: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Development’, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Mavroudeas, S. (2015), ‘‘Financialisation’ and the Greek case’ in Mavroudeas S. (ed.), Greek capitalism in crisis: Marxist Analyses, London: Routledge.

Mavroudea,s S. & Paitaridis, D. (2015), ‘The Greek crisis: a dual crisis of overaccumulation and imperialist exploitation’ in Mavroudeas S. (ed.), Greek capitalism in crisis: Marxist Analyses, London: Routledge.

Shaikh, A. (2010), ‘The first Great Depression of the 21st century’, Socialist Register 2011.

 Sweezy, P. (1942), The Theory of Capitalist Development, New York and London: Monthly Review.

Sweezy P. (1994), ‘The Triumph of Financial Capital’, Monthly Review vol.46 no.2.

Sweezy, P. (1997), ‘More (or Less) on Globalization’, Monthly Review vol.49 no.4.

Tabb, W. (2010), ‘Financialization in the contemporary social structure of accumulation’, in Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises: Social Structure of Accumulation Theory for the 21st Century, edited by McDonough, T., Reich, M. & Kotz, D., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tomé, J.P. (2011), ‘Financialization as a Theory of Crisis in a Historical Perspective: Nothing New under the Sun’, Working Paper Series 262, PERI.

 

 

Ηχογράφηση ομιλίας στην εκδήλωση της Ταξικής Κίνησης για τις εξελίξεις στην Αν. Μεσόγειο και το ενδεχόμενο του πολέμου

Στο ακόλουθο βίντεο υπάρχει η ηχογράφηση της ομιλίας μου στην Εκδήλωση της Ταξικής Κίνησης για τις εξελίξεις στην Ανατολική Μεσόγειο και το ενδεχόμενο του πολέμου (27/4/2018)

«Το Εργατικό Κίνημα μπροστά στις εξελίξεις στην Ανατολική Μεσόγειο και το ενδεχόμενο του πολέμου. Η πάλη για Ειρήνη είναι υπόθεση της Εργατικής Τάξης» – Πανελλαδική Ανεξάρτητη Ταξική Εργατική Κίνηση, 27 Απρίλη, 7 μ.μ. Τζωρτζ 10

Εκδήλωση-Ανοιχτή Συζήτηση της Ταξικής Κίνησης για τις εξελίξεις στην Ανατολική Μεσόγειο και το ενδεχόμενο του πολέμου

Η Πανελλαδική Ανεξάρτητη Ταξική Εργατική Κίνηση διοργανώνει ανοιχτή συζήτηση:

«Το Εργατικό Κίνημα μπροστά στις εξελίξεις στην Ανατολική Μεσόγειο και το ενδεχόμενο του πολέμου. Η πάλη για Ειρήνη είναι υπόθεση της Εργατικής Τάξης»

 

Θα μιλήσουν:

Σταύρος Μαυρουδέας, πανεπιστημιακός

Κώστας Γούσης, μέλος αντιπολεμικών αποστολών σε Ουκρανία και Συρία

Δημήτρης Γαρδικλής, εκ μέρους της Γραμματείας της Κίνησης, νοσηλευτής, μέλος του ΔΣ του σωματείου εργαζομένων νοσοκομείου Ασκληπιείο Βούλας

Θα ακολουθήσει συζήτηση

Παρασκευή 27 Απρίλη, 7 μ.μ. στα νέα μας γραφεία Τζωρτζ 10

πλ. Κάνιγγος, 5ος όροφος

Screenshot_4

(Σκίτσο του Βραζιλιάνου σκιτσογράφου Κάρλος Λατούφ για την επίθεση ΗΠΑ – Μ. Βρετανίας – Γαλλίας στη Συρία).

Ανταγωνιστικές ερμηνείες και στρατηγικές για την ελληνική κρίση και το πρόβλημα του παραγωγικού μοντέλου – Στ.Μαυρουδέας

Σταύρος Μαυρουδέας. (Συγγραφέας κεφ. 5 στην έκδοση Greece In the 21st Century. The politics and Economics of a Crisis, Routledge Books): Ανταγωνιστικές ερμηνείες και στρατηγικές για την ελληνική κρίση και το πρόβλημα του παραγωγικού μοντέλου

Η ηχογράφηση της παρέμβασης μου στην βιβλιοπαρουσίαση του Greece In the 21st Century. The politics and Economics of a Crisis, Routledge Books, 17 Απρίλη 2018 ώρα: 18.30-21.00, Αμφιθέατρο Σάκη Καράγιωργα ΙΙ, Πάντειο Πανεπιστήμιο

 

 

Οι κομμουνιστές απέναντι στον πόλεμο – Σταύρος Μαυρουδέας

Οι κομμουνιστές απέναντι στον πόλεμο

 

Σταύρος Μαυρουδέας

Απρίλιος 2018

 

Τα τελευταία χρόνια έχουν πυκνώσει τα σύννεφα του πολέμου πάνω από την ευρύτερη περιοχή της χώρας μας. Εκτός από την μονίμως αιμάσουσα Μέση Ανατολή, την Βόρεια Αφρική, τα Βαλκάνια, τις συγκρούσεις στο μαλακό υπογάστριο της πρώην Σοβιετικής Ένωσης έρχεται να προστεθεί και η νέα όξυνση των ελληνοτουρκικών σχέσεων και οι πιθανότητες θερμού επεισοδίου.

Ο καπιταλισμός δείχνει για άλλη μία φορά το αποτρόπαιο πρόσωπο του. Έχει δείξει αιώνες πλέον ότι, αντίθετα με τις ψευδαισθήσεις του κλασσικού φιλελευθερισμού αλλά και των σύγχρονων ιεροκηρύκων του, το κεφάλαιο τα πάει πολύ καλά με τον πόλεμο καθώς ο τελευταίος αποτελεί μία εξαιρετικά επικερδή επιχείρηση. Επιπλέον, το διεθνές σύστημα του καπιταλισμού, ο ιμπεριαλισμός, λειτουργεί επεκτείνοντας την εκμετάλλευση ανθρώπου από άνθρωπο στην εκμετάλλευση χωρών από άλλες χώρες. Και ο πόλεμος είναι άσφαλτο εργαλείο για την τελευταία.

Αντίθετα με τους δεξιούς αλλά και τους κοσμοπολίτες ψευδοαριστερούς κήρυκες της παγκοσμιοποίησης, η τελευταία αντί για ένα πιο ενωμένο και ειρηνικό κόσμο έφερε έναν ακόμη μεγαλύτερο κατακερματισμό και οξύτερες συγκρούσεις. Άλλωστε τα μακροχρόνια προβλήματα της καπιταλιστικής κερδοφορίας και ιδιαίτερα η τελευταία μεγάλη παγκόσμια καπιταλιστική κρίση όξυναν τους ιμπεριαλιστικούς αναταγωνισμούς και φέρνουν πιο κοντά τις πολεμικές περιπέτειες. Αποτέλεσμα αυτών των εντεινόμενων ιμπεριαλιστικών ανταγωνισμών είναι η δημιουργία ή η αναζωπύρωση μίας σειράς εθνικών ζητημάτων. Οι μεγάλες ιμπεριαλιστικές δυνάμεις καταπατούν εθνικά κυριαρχικά δικαιώματα (η χώρα μας είναι μία χαρακτηριστική περίπτωση μειωμένης εθνικής κυριαρχίας) αλλά και αναζωπυρώνουν υπαρκτά είτε ανύπαρκτα εθνικά ζητήματα με σκοπό τον τεμαχισμό χωρών και την αναδιάταξη του γεωπολιτικού σκηνικού.

Οι λαοί δεν έχουν κανένα συμφέρον από τους ανταγωνισμούς και τις πολεμικές συγκρούσεις των αστικών τάξεων των χωρών τους. Άλλωστε είναι αυτοί που θα θυσιαστούν σαν φθηνό κρέας για τα κανόνια, όταν τα παιδιά της αστικής τάξης θα κρύβονται σε πρόσφορους «παραδείσους», έτσι ώστε να διαμορφωθούν οι νέοι συσχετισμοί δύναμης και οι νέοι συμβιβασμοί μεταξύ των αστικών τάξεων.

Οι κομμουνιστές είναι σταθερά αντίθετοι στους πολέμους που γεννά ο καπιταλιστικός ιμπεριαλισμός. Παλεύουν για την ειρήνη και την φιλία των λαών ενάντια στις αστικές τάξεις τους. Η πάλη για την ειρήνη είναι αναπόσπαστο στοιχείο του αγώνα για τον σοσιαλισμό.

Στην δική μας γωνιά του κόσμου η χώρα και ο λαός μας έχουν πληρώσει πολλές φορές και πολύ ακριβά τις πολεμοκάπηλους τυχοδιωκτισμούς της ελληνικής αστικής τάξης. Οι «μεγάλες ιδέες» της τελευταίας είναι πληρωμένες ακριβά με το αίμα των παιδιών του λαού και έχουν οδηγήσει σε τεράστιες εθνικές καταστροφές. Ιδιαίτερα ο μακρόχρονος ανταγωνισμός ανάμεσα στον ελληνικό και τον τουρκικό υπο-ιμπεριαλισμό για την ηγεμονία στην ευρύτερη περιφέρεια έχει αιματοκυλήσει επανειλημμένα την περιοχή.

Σήμερα, στον απόηχο της όξυνσης των ιμπεριαλιστικών συγκρούσεων και της καπιταλιστικής κρίσης, ο ανταγωνισμός αυτός οξύνεται επικίνδυνα. Οι συγκρούσεις των μεγάλων ιμπεριαλιστικών δυνάμεων (της Ρωσίας συμπεριλαμβανόμενης) αυξάνουν στην περιοχή τόσο για γεωπολιτικές όσο και για οικονομικές σφαίρες επιρροής. Στα πλαίσια αυτά η τουρκική αστική τάξη επιδεικνύει σήμερα αυξημένη επιθετικότητα καθώς είναι πιο ισχυρή οικονομικά από τον καταβεβλημένο από την κρίση ελληνικό καπιταλισμό και ταυτόχρονα πιο αυτοτελής από τα μεγάλα ιμπεριαλιστικά κέντρα. Επιδιώκει να εκμεταλλευθεί την υπεροχή της αναδιατάσσοντας ακόμη και τα σύνορα. Από την πλευρά της η ελληνική αστική τάξη αδυνατεί να την παρακολουθήσει, όχι γιατί δεν θα το ήθελε αλλά γιατί δεν μπορεί επί του παρόντος να το κάνει. Έτσι επιλέγει, ιδιαίτερα με την κυβέρνηση ΣΥΡΙΖΑ-ΑΝΕΛ, να γίνει το πιο πιστό σκυλί του Δυτικού και κυρίως του αμερικανικού ιμπεριαλισμού. Η κυβέρνηση Τσίπρα έχει ξεπεράσει σε εθελοδουλεία ακόμη και την κυβέρνηση Γ.Παπανδρέου και έχει δώσει τα πάντα στις ΗΠΑ και στους Ισραηλινούς συμμάχους τους κάνοντας την χώρα ένα ξέφραγο αμπέλι. Έχουν την ψευδαίσθηση ότι έτσι αποκτούν πλάτες στον ανταγωνισμό τους με την τουρκική αστική τάξη. Ξεχνούν ότι τα πιστά σκυλιά εύκολα γίνονται αναλώσιμα θύματα στους ανταγωνισμούς των μεγάλων. Ξεχνούν ακόμη και την όχι πολύ μακρινή εμπειρία της Μικρασιατικής καταστροφής. Άλλωστε η σημερινή «ευρωπαϊκή Μεγάλη Ιδέα» της ελληνικής αστικής τάξης όχι μόνο έχει καταστρέψει την χώρα και τον λαό αλλά, έδωσε και περιθώρια στην ανάπτυξη της επιθετικότητας της αστικής τάξης και έκανε την χώρα παίγνιο στα χέρια των μεγάλων ιμπεριαλιστικών δυνάμεων. Στα πλαίσια αυτά η ένταξη της πολυβασανισμένης Κύπρου στην ΕΕ αντί να διώξει έφερε πιο κοντά τον κίνδυνο του πολέμου κάνοντας την ένα νατοϊκό αεροπλανοφόρο αλλά και ένα πεδίο σκυλίσιων ανταγωνισμών για την οικονομική εκμετάλλευση ιδιαίτερα ενεργειακών αποθεμάτων.

Έτσι το σύνολο της αστικής τάξης στοιχίζεται πίσω από τις ΗΠΑ και την ΕΕ στο παιχνίδι αντιπαράθεσης και συμβιβασμού που παίζουν αυτές με την τουρκική αστική τάξη. Ιδιαίτερα οι ΗΠΑ στην αρχή προσπάθησαν να ενσωματώσουν στους σχεδιασμούς τους τα νέα ερντογανικά τζάκια της τουρκικής αστικής τάξης. Στη συνέχεια προσπάθησαν να ανατρέψουν τον Ερντογάν με το πρόσφατο αποτυχημένο πραξικόπημα όταν είδαν ότι ο τελευταίος αποκτά επικίνδυνη αυτονομία. Τώρα, τόσο οι ΗΠΑ όσο και η ΕΕ, παίζουν ένα παιχνίδι γάτας και ποντικιού με την Τουρκική αστική τάξη προβάλλοντας ταυτόχρονα συμφωνίες και απειλές με σκοπό να επαναδεσμεύσουν την τουρκική αστική τάξη στο άρμα τους. Στο παιχνίδι αυτό σέρνεται από πίσω δουλικά και άκριτα η ελληνική αστική τάξη και ιδιαίτερα η βαθύτατα αμερικανόδουλη κυβέρνηση ΣΥΡΙΖΑ. Η τελευταία αρχικά «έγλειψε» βλακωδώς τον Ερντογάν με την εντελώς άστοχη επίσκεψη του στην Αθήνα και συνέχισε την ήδη ενισχυμένη από την προηγούμενη κυβέρνηση ΝΔ-ΠΑΣΟΚ συνεργασία στην καταστολή τουρκικών αριστερών οργανώσεων. Όταν βρέθηκε στο στόχαστρο των διεκδικήσεων της τουρκικής αστικής τάξης πέρασε σπασμωδικά, και κατά αμερικανική εντολή, στην αντίπερα όχθη των εθνικιστικών παροξυσμών και των ανόητων λεονταρισμών. Ελπίζει ότι έτσι θα προστατευθεί και ενδεχομένως θα λάβει κάποιο «κοκαλάκι» από τους μεγάλους ιμπεριαλιστές πάτρωνες. Ξεχνά ότι έτσι ξεκίνησε η τραγωδία της Κύπρου με την αμερικανοκίνητη χούντα Ιωαννίδη και το αιματοβαμμένο πραξικόπημα της στην Κύπρο.

Οι κομμουνιστές είναι σταθερά αντίθετοι σε όλους αυτούς τους τυχοδιωκτισμούς. Η φιλία του ελληνικού και του τουρκικού λαού και η συνεργασία των επαναστατικών και κομμουνιστικών ρευμάτων τους ενάντια στις αστικές τάξεις τους είναι βασική συντεταγμένη της δράσης τους. Η απεμπλοκή της Ελλάδας από διακρατικούς ιμπεριαλιστικούς οργανισμούς, όπως το ΝΑΤΟ, το διώξιμο των στρατιωτικών βάσεων και η μη-συμμετοχή σε πολεμοκάπηλες ιμπεριαλιστικές επεμβάσεις σε άλλες χώρες είναι βασικοί άμεσοι στόχοι τους. Αντίθετα με ότι μηρυκάζει η ελληνική αστική τάξη, καμία προστασία της εθνικής κυριαρχίας δεν δίνουν όλοι αυτοί οι ιμπεριαλιστές μαστροποί. Δεν έδωσε στο παρελθόν και δεν πρόκειται να δώσει και τώρα. Γι’ αυτό οι κομμουνιστές οφείλουν να είναι σταθερά αντίθετοι σε κάθε πολεμικό τυχοδιωκτισμό της ελληνικής αστικής τάξης και να πείσουν την ελληνική εργατική τάξη και τα λαϊκά στρώματα για το ότι πρέπει να αντιταχθεί και να αποτρέψει κάθε τέτοιο εγχείρημα.

Ταυτόχρονα όμως οι κομμουνιστές δεν χαρίζουν το ζήτημα της πατρίδας στην αστική τάξη. Οι εργαζόμενοι έχουν τόπο, το κεφάλαιο δεν έχει πατρίδα. Οι εργαζόμενοι αγαπούν την πατρίδα τους ακριβώς γιατί σέβονται όλες τις πατρίδες. Η αστική τάξη και τα εθνικιστικά τσιράκια της δεν έχουν κανένα πατριωτισμό και το έχουν αποδείξει πολλές φορές στο παρελθόν όταν έγιναν τα πιστά τσιράκια ξένων κατακτητών αιματοκυλώντας με τα τάγματα αλητείας τους την χώρα και τον λαό για να μπορέσουν να διατηρήσουν, πάντα υπό ξένη επικυριαρχία, την εξουσία τους επάνω στην χώρα. Ο εργατικός και λαϊκός πατριωτισμός είναι ο μόνος που υπεράσπισε την χώρα όχι για να κατακτήσει άλλες χώρες και λαούς αλλά για να εξασφαλίσει το αναφαίρετο δικαίωμα όλων των λαών να ζουν ειρηνικά, ελεύθεροι και ανεξάρτητοι στον τόπο τους. Σ’ αυτή την υπεράσπιση της πατρίδας των εργαζομένων οι έλληνες κομμουνιστές έχουν δώσει ανυπολόγιστες και ανιδιοτελείς θυσίες που έχουν μείνει βαθιά χαραγμένες στη λαϊκή μνήμη.

Απέναντι σε κάθε επιβουλή της εδαφικής ακεραιότητας μέσα στα πλαίσια των ιμπεριαλιστικών ανταγωνισμών είναι προφανές ότι η θέση των κομμουνιστών είναι στην πρώτη γραμμή στην πάλη για την αποτροπή της. Αυτό σημαίνει πάλη για την ειρήνη και την φιλία των λαών, πάλη για την αποτροπή των πολεμοκάπηλων τυχοδιωκτισμών των αστικών τάξεων και για την ανατροπή των τελευταίων, πάλη για την εθνική ανεξαρτησία από ιμπεριαλιστικές κηδεμονίες, πάλη για το απαραβίαστο των συνόρων και την αποτροπή εισβολών και κατακτήσεων. Βασικός οδηγός στην πάλη αυτή πρέπει να είναι η αυτονομία της κομμουνιστικής πολιτικής από αστικούς σχεδιασμούς και ψεύτικα και εχθρικά διλήμματα.  Στην υπεράσπιση της πατρίδας οι κομμουνιστές και οι εργαζόμενοι δεν πρέπει ποτέ να ξεχνούν ότι «εκείνος που για τον εχθρό μιλάει είναι ο ίδιος τους ο εχθρός». Ιδιαίτερα στην περίπτωση της χώρας μας οι Έλληνες κομμουνιστές μαζί με την υπεράσπιση της εδαφικής ακεραιότητας θα πρέπει να δείξουν ότι είναι τα βρώμικα παιχνίδια της ελληνικής αστικής τάξης που την θέτουν σε κίνδυνο (αφού άλλωστε έχουν ήδη εκποιήσει την εθνική ανεξαρτησία στην τρόικα). Ο μόνος τρόπος για να ζήσει ο λαός μας ελεύθερος, κυρίαρχος και με αξιοπρέπεια σ’ αυτή την γωνιά του κόσμου είναι εν τέλει να ξεφορτωθεί την ελληνική ολιγαρχία που πάντα αντιμετώπιζε τον λαό και την χώρα σαν ένα αναλώσιμο στην κυνήγι της συσσώρευσης πλούτου στα δικά της χέρια.

 

David Harvey and Marxism – an incompatible relationship

David Harvey and Marxism – an incompatible relationship

 

There is a very clever definition about the poseur (in more derogatory plain English the popinjay). The definition goes as follows: a poseur is someone that is good in one thing which he underestimates because he thinks that he is very good in something else in which he is totally useless.

David Harvey is a typical example of such a poseur. He was a very competent economic geographer but he chose to abandon his field of expertise for becoming a self and media-proclaimed doyen in Marxist Political Economy. Since this turn he went from one blunder to the other but each time achieving a tremendous publicity by the media of the frivolous softy Western Left. He endeavoured in economic analysis making absurd and lousy arguments which discredited Marxism (and were easily disparaged by Mainstreamers like Brad DeLong). He then took on to explain Marx and rectify Marxism with equal incompetence.

He meddled with the theory of imperialism proposing his ‘New Imperialism’ thesis. The latter argues that modern imperialism is based on (violent) direct extraction (expropriation) rather than on indirect economic exploitation. In this way he unwarrantedly equated capitalist imperialism with pre-capitalist imperialism. Pre-capitalist imperialism operated within pre-capitalist modes of production. The latter were systems of exploitation based on relations of violence and power; that is on the direct forceful obligation of the exploited classes. A serf was not asked if he wanted to be one; he was obliged to be. On the contrary, capitalism is a system of exploitation based on the economy; that is on indirect economic exploitation. No capitalist obliges a labourer to become his employee (and thus be exploited by the capitalist). The only thing that obliges the latter is his inability to sustain himself otherwise. Harvey’s ‘New Imperialism’ inspired several other equally superficial theorists (for example some Marxisant proponents of ‘financialisation’) in following his utterly erroneous path.

Harvey also endeavoured in Marxist crisis theory with equally dismal results. He argued that Marx had not a theory of falling profit rate and advanced his own caricature of a crisis explanation. His first argument – very popular within the softy pinky Western Left – has been vigorously refuted by many Marxist economists. His own explanation of the recent crisis is equally absurd. He actually maintains that modern capitalism is in permanent crisis but this crisis is shifting from one geographical location to the other. Of course, he is totally unable to define a causal mechanism of the crisis and to offer convincing empirical evidence (apart from descriptive simplicities).

It appears that Harvey’s last endeavour is to make the grandiose declaration that Marx did not ascribed to the Labour Theory of Value. The following excellent piece by P.Cockshott offers a very accurate refutation of Harvey’s new publicity stand.

Being a poseur attracts publicity – and support from dubious centres – and Harvey basks in this. However, it does not advance neither Marxism nor the cause of the Left.

https://paulcockshott.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/did-marx-have-a-labour-theory-of-value/

 

political economy

Did Marx have a labour theory of value?

Paul Cockshott

 

It seems absurd that one has to answer this question.

It was so thoroughly answered by previous generations of economists in the affirmative[12], that it would seem unnecessary even to examine the issue. But David Harvey has recently posted a short article[6] claiming that Marx was an opponent of the labour theory

It is widely believed that Marx adapted the labour theory of value from Ricardo as a founding concept for his studies of capital accumulation.  Since the labour theory of value has been generally discredited, it is then often authoritatively stated that Marx s theories are worthless. But nowhere, in fact, did Marx declare his allegiance to the labour theory of value.  That theory belonged to Ricardo, who recognized that it was deeply problematic even as he insisted that the question of value was critical to the study of political economy.  On the few occasions where Marx comments directly on this matter,1 he refers to value theory and not to the labour theory of value.  So what, then, was Marx s distinctive value theory and how does it differ from the labour theory of value?( [6])

It is difficult to take this seriously but as Mike Roberts has done a reply, I probably should do likewise and type a brief response.

Harvey claims that the labour theory of value is generally discredited. But in what sense?

It is correct to say that the theory is not viewed with favour in economics departments, but that is for political reasons – the labour theory of value came, since Gray and Marx, came to be associated with socialism. Since academic economists, in general, did not want to be tainted with the socialist label they were at pains to distance themselves from the theory. But none of them ever adduced any empirical evidence to refute it. It was socially discredited but not empirically refuted.

If one wants to refute a theory about the world you have to show that the theory makes incorrect empirical predictions. Eratosthenes refuted the theory that the Earth was flat and confirmed the theory that it is round by observing that when the sun was overhead in Syene it was at an angle of 7°12′ to the vertical in Alexandria, implying that the earth was curved with a circumference of 25,000 miles. If the earth had been flat the angle of the sun would not have varied as you went north.

The labour theory of value predicts that the prices of commodities will vary proportionately with their labour content. Refuting this should be easy, just show that in fact their prices do not vary with labour content in this way. Did the economists opposed to the labour theory of value do this?

Did they hell, they did not even bother to collect the data to do the tests. So for a century after Marx, the theory was ‘discredited’, but never empirically refuted.

As soon as economists started to collect data to test the theory, which depended on reasonably good economic statistics of whole economies, what did they find?

They found the Ricardo and Marx had been right all along. A whole bunch of studies[18,17,5,13,15,19,1,4,2] since the 1980s have shown that the labour theory of value is very good at predicting prices. Far from being refuted by the evidence, it has been confirmed.

Harvey is like a flat-earther after Erastosthenes, denying the Earth is round on theological grounds.

Harvey next complains that Marx nowhere declares his allegiance to the labour theory of value. True enough, since at the time Marx was writing, that was the only theory going. It simply was the theory of value. It was only afterwards that the alternative marginal utility or neo-classical theory of value was established. After Jevons[8] economists distinguished between the classical or labour theory of value and the neoclassical or marginalist theory of value. But it is ridiculous to expect Marx to have taken sides in a debate that only started after Capital was published(1867). At the time he was writing it was widely accepted that labour was the source of value. Even Jevons the founder of marginalism still accepted that prices were proportional to labour1, thinking that his marginal utility theory gave further support to this time honoured assumption.

Harvey promises to explain what Marx’s theory of value actually is, but nowhere in his article does he do this. That is because it would be impossible to do this without revealing that the theory of value in Marx is identical in all major predictions to that of Ricardo.

What did Ricardo’s theory say?

Did Marx agree with him?

When comparing theorists, especially ones who originally wrote in distinct languages, you should not pay too much attention to the precise vocabulary that they use. What is important is the relations between the concepts they deploy and the relationships that the theorists predict will hold in the real world. When you look at this you see that Marx followed Ricardo’s value theory very closely.

There are 4 key components to their value theory on which both authors agree:

  1. The exchangeable value of commodities varies with their direct labour content2,3.
  2. The indirect labour used to make raw materials and equipment also contribute proportionately to the exchange value4,5.
  3. It is the labour actually expended not the level of pay of the workers that determines value6,7.
  4. The variation of price with labour will be modified by the formation of an equal rate of profit on stock.8,9

The theories are therefore substantially identical in the empirical predictions they make, differing only slightly in terminology. Points 1,2,3 are validated by the empirical data in the studies cited earlier. Point 4 is poorly supported by or refuted by the empirical data [5,19,3] . Marx and Ricardo say the same thing where they are both right and say the same thing where they are both wrong.

So yes Marx has a labour theory of value as Ricardo had. The greater part of this theory is not refuted by the evidence, it is confirmed by it.

This does not mean that Marx made no contributions. Major innovations in his thought were:

  • The point that labour only gets represented as exchange value in societies with private ownership and atomised production. Marx says exchange was absent in traditional Indian communities or the communism of the Incas. The prior economists had assumed that all societies produce commodities.
  • The distinction between labour and labour power.
  • The introduction of the concept of surplus value as something functionally prior to the division of surplus value between profit, interest and rent.
  • A new theory to explain the falling rate of profit.
  • A repudiation of Say’s law.
  • The concept of absolute ground rent.
  • The introduction of more modes of production than the ones Adam Smith recognised.
  • The idea that the class struggle leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

These are all significant innovations that did distinguish him from his predecessors. There is no need to pretend innovation by Marx in value theory, a topic where he just rigorously used Ricardo’s concepts.

But what about abstract/concrete labour?

Was this distinction not an innovation on Marx’s part?

Well the specific phrase ‘concrete labour’ was different, but the relevant conceptual distinction between the two was present in Adam Smith’s work.

Smith simply uses the term ‘labour’ unqualified where Marx sometimes says abstract labour10. Smith specifically says that when he is talking of labour in this way he is talking of labour in the abstract11. When Smith discusses the division of labour, he is discussing the division of the abstract labour into what he terms ‘varieties’ of labour12 or ‘sorts’ of labour13. This is the same distinction that Marx is making when, using the slightly different term, he talks of abstracting from concrete labours or kinds of labour14.

In tabular form we have:

Smith Marx
variety, kind, palpable kind, concrete
labour, abstract abstract-labour

The same conceptual distinction is being made here between the different kinds of activities into which the labour is divided, and labour in the abstract, or the abstract notion of labour.

References

[1]

W Paul Cockshott, A Cottrell, and GJ Michaelson. Testing Labour Value Theory with input/output tables. Department of Computer Science, University of Strathclyde, 1993.

[2]

W Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrell. The scientific status of the labour theory of value. IWGVT conference at the Eastern Economic Association meeting, in April, 1997.

[3]

W Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrell. Does marx need to transform. Marxian economics: A reappraisal, 2:70-85, 1998.

[4]

W Paul Cockshott and Allin F Cottrell. Labour time versus alternative value bases: a research note. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 21(4):545-549, 1997.

[5]

Nils Fröhlich. Labour values, prices of production and the missing equalisation tendency of profit rates: evidence from the german economy. Cambridge journal of economics, 37(5):1107-1126, 2013.

[6]

David Harvey. Marx’s refusal of the labour theory of value, 2018.

[7]

William S. Jevons. Theory of Political Economy. Sentry Press, 1871.

[8]

William Stanley Jevons. Brief account of a general mathematical theory of political economy, by william stanley jevons journal of the royal statistical society, london, xxix (june 1866), pp. 282-87.Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 29:282-87, 1866.

[9]

Karl Marx. Value, price, and profit. CH Kerr & Company, 1910.

[10]

Karl Marx. Capital, volume 1. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1954. Original English edition published in 1887.

[11]

Karl Marx. Capital, volume 3. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971.

[12]

Ronald L Meek. Studies in the labor theory of value, volume 428. NYU Press, 1956.

[13]

  1. Petrovic. The deviation of production prices from labour values: some methodolog and empirical evidence. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 11:197-210, 1987.

[14]

David Ricardo. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. In P. Sraffa, editor, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, volume 1. Cambridge, 1951.

[15]

  1. M. Shaikh. The empirical strength of the labour theory of value. In R. Bellofiore, editor, Marxian Economics: A Reappraisal, volume 2, pages 225-251. Macmillan, 1998.

[16]

Adam Smith. The Wealth of Nations. 1974.

[17]

Lefteris Tsoulfidis and Dimitris Paitaridis. Monetary expressions of labor time and market prices: Theory and evidence from china, japan and korea. Review of Political Economy, 2016.

[18]

David Zachariah. Testing the labor theory of value in Sweden. http://reality.gn.apc.org/econ/DZ_article1.pdf, 2004.

[19]

David Zachariah. Labour Value and Equalisation of Profit Rates. Indian Development Review, 4(1):1-21, 2006.

Footnotes:

1

“thus we have proved that commodities will exchange in any market in the ratio of the quantities produced by the same quantity of labour.” ([7]page 187)

2“If the quantity of labour realized in commodities, regulate their exchangeable value, every increase of the quantity of labour must augment the value of that commodity on which it is exercised, as every diminution must lower it.” [14]Chap. 1 , Sec. 1

3“If we consider commodities as values, we consider them exclusively under the single aspect of realized, fixed, or, if you like, crystallized social labour. In this respect they can differ only by representing greater or smaller quantities of labour, as, for example, a greater amount of labour may be worked up in a silken handkerchief than in a brick. But how does one measure quantities of labour? By the time the labour lasts, in measuring the labour by the hour, the day, etc. Of course, to apply this measure, all sorts of labour are reduced to average or simple labour as their unit. We arrive, therefore, at this conclusion. A commodity has a value, because it is a crystallization of social labour. The greatness of its value, or its relative value, depends upon the greater or less amount of that social substance contained in it; that is to say, on the relative mass of labour necessary for its production. The relative values of commodities are, therefore, determined by the respective quantities or amounts of labour, worked up, realized, fixed in them. The correlative quantities of commodities which can be produced in the same time of labour are equal. Or the value of one commodity is to the value of another commodity as the quantity of labour fixed in the one is to the quantity of labour fixed in the other.” ([9], Sec. VI)

4“Not only the labour applied immediately to commodities affect their value, but the labour also which is bestowed on the implements, tools, and buildings, with which much labour is assisted”[14]Chap. 1 Sec. 2

5“In calculating the exchangeable value of a commodity we must add to the quantity of labour previously worked up in the raw material of the commodity, and the labour bestowed on the implements, tools, machinery, and buildings, with which such labour is assisted.”(Marx op. cit)

6See Ricardo’s criticism of Adam Smith for confusing the labour content of commodities for the labour that a commodity will exchange against.

7The whole argument of [9] is devoted to showing that trades unions can raise wages and raise the wage share and that such rises in wages will not simply result in higher prices.

8[14]Chap. 1, Sec. 4

9[11] Part II

10

“A use value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialised in it. How, then, is the magnitude of this value to be measured? Plainly, by the quantity of the value-creating substance, the labour, contained in the article. The quantity of labour, however, is measured by its duration, and labour time in its turn finds its standard in weeks, days, and hours.”([10], page 23 MIA pdf version)

11

“The greater part of people, too, understand what is means by a quantity of a particular commodity, than by a quantity of labour. The one is a plain palpable object; the other an abstract notion, which though it can be made sufficiently intelligible, is not altogether so natural and obvious.” ([16], page 23 Kindle edition)

12

“What a variety of labour, too, is necessary in order to produce the tools of the meanest of theose workmen! To say nothing of such compicated machines as the ship of the sailr, the mill of the fuller, or even the loom of the weaver, let us consider only what a variety of labour is requisite in order to form tat very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool. The miner, the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore, the feller of the timber, the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brickmaker, the bricklayer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the millwright, the forger the smith, must all of them join their different arts in order to produce them.” .([16], page 12-13 Kindle edition)

13

“The spinner is almost always a distinct person from the weaver; but the ploughman, the harrower, the sower of the seed, and the reaper of the corn, are often the same. The occasions for those different sorts of labour returning with the different seasons of the year, it is impossible that one man should be constantly employed in any one of them. This impossibility of making so complet and entire a separation of all the different branches of labour employed in agriculture, is perhaps the reason why the improvement of the productive powers of labour, in this art, does not always keep pace with their improvement in manufactures.”[16], page 9-10 Kindle edition)

14“If then we leave out of consideration the use value of commodities, they have only one common property left, that of being products of labour. But even the product of labour itself has undergone a change in our hands. If we make abstraction from its use value, we make abstraction at the same time from the material elements and shapes that make the product a use value; we see in it no longer a table, a house, yarn, or any other useful thing. Its existence as a material thing is put out of sight. Neither can it any longer be regarded as the product of the labour of the joiner, the mason, the spinner, or of any other definite kind of productive labour. Along with the useful qualities of the products themselves, we put out of sight both the useful character of the various kinds of labour embodied in them, and the concrete forms of that labour; there is nothing left but what is common to them all; all are reduced to one and the same sort of labour, human labour in the abstract.”([10], page 28 MIA pdf version)