Tag Archives: crisis

INTERVIEW WITH STAVROS MAVROUDEAS ON THE PANDEMIC AND ITS CONSEQUENCES ON THE ECONOMY AND WORK – Bollettino Culturale

The italian website Bollettino Culturale hosted the following interview with Stavros Mavroudeas on the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences on the economy and labour

1. How do you judge the management of the pandemic in the European Union?

I have argued elsewhere (https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com/2021/02/11/the-economic-and-political-consequences-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-ope-l-lecture/ , https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com/2021/02/04/the-economic-and-political-consequences-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-by-s-mavroudeas-international-critical-thought/ ) that the COVID-19 pandemic is a twin crisis. The economic crisis was already simmering (because capitalism failed to devalorise adequately capitals after the 2008 crisis) and the coronavirus triggered and aggravated this crisis.

EU’s response was similar to that of the US but with a marked difference in policy ‘firepower’. As after the 2008 crisis, US and the EU embarked on social-liberal policies (hence, non-neoliberal policies) dictated by the now dominant New Keynesian Macroeconomic Consensus. These policies involve typical Keynesian measures: expansive fiscal policy and accommodating monetary policy. They also involve an insult to neoliberalism: discreet industrial policy. However, and contrary to the myopic and reformist anti-neoliberal ‘Left’, these policies are neoconservative and not in favour of labour and the working class. They share with neoliberalism putting the burden on labour but they radically depart from neoliberalism by actively using the public sector to buttress capitalist profitability.

As I already said, EU followed this path. But the ‘ammunition’ used (that is fiscal and monetary expansion) is markedly lower than that employed by the US. This derives from two factors:

  • Germany (and the ‘prudent’ block around it) do not want to expand these packages very much as they carry the main burden for their financing.
  • The US has more policy room for maneuvers because of the dominant role of the dollar as the main world reserve currency

2. Do you think that the NGEU money represents a potential radical change in European economic policies or will the emergency be used for a transition to a worse model of society than the pre-Covid one?

As I already argued, these social-liberal neoconservative policies won’t ameliorate the position of labour. The NGEU is a tool for restructuring European capitalisms in the face of the US and China antagonisms. Its priorities favour specific sectoral interests (grossly dictated by the main EU conglomerates) and following an industrial strategy aspiring to enhance their position vis-à-vis their US and Chinese counterparts.

The NGEU obeys the directive of creating ‘European champions’ (that is big European multinational conglomerates capable of confronting US and Chinese competitors). Therefore, it will lead to the increased concentration and centralization of capital (that is oligopolisation and monopolization). This will hit hard peripheral and Mediterranean capitalisms that are characterized by a huge layer of mid-size enterprises. Regarding labour, there is no commitment to increase wages. On the contrary, the planned recovery is based on keeping wage costs low. Of course, capitalism may make plans, but it is also riddled with contradictions. Thus, because of this violent capitalist restructuring, there appears nowadays – at least regarding specialized labour – a lack of labour supply which results in increasing wages in these sectors.

3. For the post-pandemic future, do you think the Green New Deal is a strategy to support? In recent months there have been many discussions within the unions in Italy on the use of this type of economic policies to create well-paid jobs for graduates, to foster a situation of full employment to be associated with «job guarantee» policies. What do you think about it?

The Green New Deal is part and parcel of these neoconservative social-liberal capitalist restructuring. It has been promoted as the Keynesian New Deal of our times. And the myopic and reformist majority of the Western ‘Left’ immediately jumped upon it and acted as the best marketing advertisers of capitalism. The Green New Deal is to great extent a crypto-protectionist industrial strategy that aims to support Western capitals against the challenge from China and the emerging markets.

It is green only in name as it oscillates between (a) fending off competitors (with worse green credentials) and (b) not hurting the vested interests of Western capitals (by imposing to harsh green restrictions). Recent regulatory tugs-of-war regarding energy and shipping are exemplary cases.

It does not envisage increasing wages. This is a fantasy of the majority of the reformist Western ‘Left’. On the contrary, because of the capitalist restructuring that it entails, many gobs will be lost. In Greece there is a typical example with the abrupt ending of lignite electricity factories. This has increased the electrical energy costs for the Greek economy (which trickle down to consumers’ bills and increase energy poverty) and is devastating the regions with lignite (causing increased unemployment and poverty). Of course, on the other hand, it favours specific entrepreneurial interests with huge influence on Greek governments (SYRIZA included).

There is no full employment and increased wages in the fairytale of the Green New Deal. Trade unions that play this game are simply pawns of capital. If one has a look at mainstream environmental literature he will discover that one of its stylized facts is that the existence of trade-unions is anti-environmental because they favour wages over green policies. The conclusion is that these two are contradictory.

4. The pandemic has demonstrated the shortcomings of welfare in Europe due to the austerity policies of past decades. Do you think this experience can be used to reform welfare for the better? Some communist organizations have proposed a universal basic income to solve the problems related to the lack of income created by the lockdown. Do you think it is a viable solution and with which to solve the problem of unemployment in Europe or rather that it represents a resignation towards the high unemployment rates in our countries?

In the short-run and in the mid-run there is an increase in funding the public health sector because it is the only one capable of confronting the pandemic. However, the more profitable areas (vaccines, drugs etc.) have been kept for the private sector and subsidized with public money. I expect that, once the pandemic has ebbed, to reverse at least some of the expansion of the public health sector and reinvigorated the share of the private health sector.

Regarding the welfare system in general, social liberalism is no better than neoliberalism. Social liberalism wants also to curb public expenses; particularly in the aging Western economies. However, it is cleverer than neoliberalism and comprehends that the public sector has to be the backbone of the system and bear the main costs. Also, that strict regulation by the state or para-statal bodies (like the infamous independent supervisory authorities) is required or else private capitals will cause a havoc.

I totally disagree with the idea of the universal basic income. It is a neoconservative proposal mouthed initially by M.Friedman. It is being considered by social liberals and neoliberals alike as a low safety net to prevent social upheavals and revolutions. It will also work as a disincentive to struggles for increasing wages. It reminds Roman empire’s policy of ‘bread and circuses’ in order to keep the Roman proletariat subdued.

5. The working day in Greece was recently extended to ten hours. Can you explain to us what restructuring plan of Greek capitalism is behind this political choice?

This is part and parcel of the neoconservative labour flexibility policies (which again the majority of the myopic and reformist Western ‘Left’ espoused and touted). It will extend the actual working time at the expense of growing unemployment. It will increase also the rate of surplus-value (that is labour exploitation) as overtime is practically abolished (which was paid higher) and extra work-time is not paid but rewarded with additional vacations (!!!). Greek capitalism’s plan is to suppress further wage costs.

6. In Italy we are discussing in these days about the end of the ban on redundancies. The unions have opposed the idea of a selective end of this measure based on the situation of each individual sector, proposing a reform of the social safety nets. Are there similar discussions in Greece?

There is a general governmental declaration that the public budget is exhausted and that, once the pandemic has ebbed, these employment protection measures will be withdrawn. In Greece, firms that took subsidies and support against the pandemic where required not to fire their workers. On the other hand, their workers, once put in employment suspension (that is worked less) were paid only a fraction of their normal wage. Nowadays, many entrepreneurial mouthpieces (particularly from the disgracefully uninhibited tourist sector) tout that these employment protection schemes are disastrous as workers prefer to take these subsidies instead of working for meagre wages in other places from their residence.

There is another complication. These employment schemes have facilitated statistical tricks with the unemployment rate and thus kept it artificially low. This is necessary for the right-wing New Democracy government as it tries to engineer a double-election plan probably in autumn (banking upon SYRIZA’s dismal performance). Increased unemployment is not good for this electoral strategy. Thus, the government shies away for the time being from shedding these employment protection schemes. But in the end, elections or no elections, it will abolish them.

Official trade-unions (GSEE etc.) in Greece are mainly government’s and capital’s stooges. So no serious discussions on these issues takes place and the public does not pay, in any case, attention to them.

7. In this phase of economic recovery, Italian entrepreneurs are criticizing citizen’s basic income (a form of workfare still not functioning). Young people prefer to receive this income rather than very low wages for many hours of work in the tourism or catering sector. Instead of raising wages, they are demanding the cancellation of citizen’s basic income. This story makes a problem glaring: many workers are poor even though they work because of very low wages. In my opinion, it is a problem linked to the Italian production system specializing in low added value products. As a result, many companies can stay on the market either with public money or by lowering wages and canceling workers’ rights. Will these problems be exacerbated by the consequences of the pandemic? How should a political force that defends the workers intervene on these problems?

I have already replied to this in previous questions. Let me codify my view. Bankruptcies and redundancies will increase after the removal of the protection schemes. This is the natural course of a capitalist crisis. Bourgeois governments intervene in this cycle by trying to defer some of the brunt of the crisis mainly on individual capitals but also on labour. They do so because they fear that if the crisis takes place without restraints then the system will face economic collapse and social revolution. However, once the zenith of the crisis has been surpassed then the costs of these policies have to be paid. There is no free lunch in capitalism and the essentially Keynesian Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is totally wrong (for a critique see https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/modern-monetary-theory-part-1-chartalism-and-marx/ ).

The Communist movement and the Left (that is worthy of its name) should pursue class politics against capitalism and at the same time fight so as the burden of the crisis is paid by capital and not labour.

The system belongs to capital and, hence, it is capital (and not labour) that must pay for its twin (health cum economic) crisis.

But the Left and the Communist movement must see clearly who the real adversary is. The lachrymose anti-neoliberalists and the pleas for more state interventionism do not challenge the capitalist policies. They simply support the change of the system’s administrators. Neoliberalism has died and the bourgeois state – which has never left on crucial issues – has already returned. But today’s social-liberal Orthodoxy simply promises to the working class some aspirins as cure for the socio-economic cancers that the system creates. It is this returning state interventionism that generously supports capital and seeks to pass the burden on workers. And it is the dominant neo-Keynesian policies that are the vehicle of this change today. The Left and the Communist movement must fight against all forms of capitalist restructuring; neoliberal and social liberal and propose socialism as the only credible alternative.

In terms of transitional demands, communists and the labour movement must strive for the de-commodification of key areas of economic activity and the provision of their products and services through public systems. The case of health case is today the perfect case in point. The establishment of public health systems (with strong funding and staffing and without indirect forms of privatization) is an urgent need; especially given the frequency of contemporary major epidemics. The financing of these schemes must be based on robust progressive taxation systems hitting capital.

Additionally, they must stand firmly against the ‘new normality’ that capital is trying to impose. The weakening of labour protection laws must not be tolerated and the latter must be further strengthened. Particular attention must be paid to the intended change in employment relations through telework and the new forms of control and intensification of work that the capital seeks to impose.

Last but not least. The coronavirus pandemic and the imposed ‘social distancing’ have severely restricted political and social rights. It is already evident that the system is experimenting with these limitations both for their general application and for new forms of ideological manipulation of the people. The Left and the Communist movement must firmly repulse these efforts.

8. One form of work that has spread rapidly due to the pandemic is smartworking. Its spread has led to many discussions in trade unions in Italy. Personally, I associated this form of work with domestic industry analyzed by Marx in Chapter 13 of Capital. It seems that the contemporary labor landscape is moving towards what Ricardo Antunes calls the «uberization» of work – an unstoppable entrepreneurial modus operandi, which seeks profit and the increase in the value of capital through forms of precarious labor expanding on a global scale. Therefore, this «uberization» of work, added to the legislative gaps and their possible harmful consequences, favors the emergence of a series of difficulties related to remote work: individualization of tasks, social isolation, loss of collective action, increased load of work … with consequences on the physical and mental health of the worker. Do you think this form of work can still expand or will it decline sharply as soon as the pandemic is over?

I have already referred to this in the previous questions.

I would like to add a few points.

As part of its restructuring policies capital attempts again to subcontract several jobs that are amenable to this. In the current socio-political climate, this subcontracting minimizes capital’s costs and shift them to precarious workers (branding them ‘entrepreneurs of themselves’ and trying to instill to them this reactionary ideology).

However, there are contradictions in this policy as capital may minimize its costs but it loses its ability to control and direct these workers. The factory system was created with capitalism because only through this the managerial prerogative of the capitalist could be really established (real subsumption of labour by capital) and continuous increases in labour productivity achieved. ‘Uberization’ poses the danger of losing capital’s ability to efficiently direct and control labour. In order to avoid this possible loss, additional costs of supervision and control (cameras, applications etc.) are incurred. The ultimate balance is far from sure. The same holds for its ideological impact.

9. The pandemic has shown how central work still is. It blatantly denied all the analyzes on the end of the work that emerged in the last forty years. Is this further evidence for the validity of Marx’s labor theory of value?

Marx’s Labour Theory of Value holds in any case. Today’s twin crisis, once again, verifies the centrality of labour. However, capital and its mouthpieces have, even before the crisis, touted the end of labour through the marketing of the non-existent 4th industrial revolution (for a critique see https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/4th-industrial-revolution-myth-or-reality/ ). The turn towards automation during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased this ideological attack. After all, it is always capitalism’s fantasy a world without the annoying presence of labour. The problem is, as Marxism very appositely shows, that if there are no workers then there is no capital.

Interview in PressTV News (1-12-2018) on the G20 Buenos Aires summit

This is another G20 summit in the current era of global turbulence

The roots of this global turbulence lay in the shaking foundations of especially Western capitalism: a severe crisis in 2008, a weak recovery, low profitability, increased exploitation of workers and middle strata

The shaking foundations of Western capitalism endanger the position of its dominant superpower, the US.

The latter proceeds aggressively to buttress its dominance: unilateralism, international aggression, protectionism and de-globalisation.

Globalisation, which was the vehicle for Western supremacy at the end of the 20th century, is no longer useful and has to be replaced.

The economic weakness and US aggression triggers similar reactions from the other Western powers but also from the new emerging poles of the world system.

G20 summits, a product of globalization, cannot paper out these conflicts. They seem, more and more, a relic of the past.

The G20 summit in Buenos Aires is characteristic. It takes place in a devastated by Western imperialism country, with a new authoritarian neoliberal government that threw again the country into the arms of its butcher, the IMF.

The G20’s agenda covers issues fraught with conflicts. Its start is marred with problems (cancellation of the Putin-Trump meeting, the Western hypocrisy regarding the murderous Saudi regime etc.). It offers a façade but cannot resolve the deep differences and conflicts.

 

 

 

 

The Political Economy of the EU: an imperialist project in crisis’, IIPPE 2016

This is the presentation of my paper in IIPPE‘s (International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy) 7th Annual Conference (ISEG, Lisbon) on the nature and the crisis of the European Union.

 

IIPPE’s 7th Annual Conference in Political Economy, Lisbon, Portugal 7-9 September

IIPPE International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy

507348-2863-42

IIPPE’s 7th Annual Conference in Political Economy is nearing. It will be held at the School of Economics & Management (Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, ISEG) in Lisbon, Portugal from the 7th till the 9th of September.

The broad theme of the 7th Conference is ‘Political Economy: International Trends and National Differences’. The economic crisis that has been unfolding since 2007 has had a severely asymmetric impact both within and between countries. The main schools of political economy have examined the crisis and its implications in detail. Those studies have offered valuable insights supporting further academic analyses and, most importantly, informing political action. The Seventh Annual Conference in Political Economy will review the development of political economy in response to the crisis, and the emergence and renewal of political economy in different countries and regions.

The Conference’s Venue is the School of Economics & Management (Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, ISEG) in Lisbon, Portugal. To see its exact location in Lisbon, just type ‘ISEG, Lisbon’ into Google Maps. The ISGE complex is essentially three connected buildings, and signs will indicate the registration room when you arrive.

 

There are a number of sessions and also several independent presentations that are of particular interest for Greece:

 

7th Sep, Program Committee stream, Session 2, 11:30 – 1:30, room 308

European Union

  • ‘The Political Economy of the EU: an imperialist project in crisis’, Stavros Mavroudeas
  • ‘The Depression in the Euro South: Comparing Greece and Portugal’, Nikos Stravelakis
  • ‘The Effect of Labour Share Divergence in the Eurozone’, Ricardo Molero-Simarro
  • ‘Power asymmetries behind Eurozone dynamics: the role of Germany’ Maria Gavris
  • ‘The Eurozone: a core-tailored suit or a comfortable straitjacket for all?’, Valentina Curcetti

 

 

8th Sep, Neoliberalism Working Group, Session 4, 9:00 – 11:00, Auditorium 3

Neoliberalism and the Crisis in Greece 1

  • The legacy of a fractured Eurozone: The Greek dra(ch)ma. John Hatgioannides
  • Neoliberal Eurozone framework – defeat of the Keynesian Syriza programme in Greece. Zoltan Pogatsa
  • Fictitious capital and the current crisis of Greek capitalism. Demophanes Papadatos

 

 

8th Sep, Neoliberalism Working Group, Session 5 11:30 – 1:30, Auditorium 3

Neoliberalism and the Crisis in Greece 2

  • ‘Real unemployment rate in Greece. Who to blame for?’, Alexis Ioannides
  • ‘An econometric approach of the alternative strategies for Greece’, Ioannis Vardalachakis
  • ‘Regional industrial mix, specialization & underemployment across Greek regions’, Stelios Gialis
  • ‘Unequal exchange or absolute advantage in the trade between Germany and Greece?’, Christina Paraskevopoulou

 

 

8th Sep, Financialization Working Group Session 6 2:30 – 4:30, Novo Banco

Greece: Aspects Of Financialization And Problems Of Development

  • ‘Capital controls in the Eurozone: first it’s Cyprus, then it’s Greece’, George Labrinidis
  • ‘Appropriating natural resources and conditions in the time of crisis: Greece’, Andriana Vlachou & Georgios Pandelias
  • ‘Capital, economic growth, and socio-ecological crisis: a critical perspective’, George Liodakis

 

 

7th Sept, Marxist Political Economy WG, Session 1, 9:00 – 11:00, Amphitheater 3

Rate of Profit and the Trajectories of the Economy

  • Aggregate output – the US, UK and Greece: a value theory approach. Victor Kasper
  • Panel data analysis of persistence of profit rate differentials: Turkish economy. Benan Eres
  • A class rate of profit for the US economy, 1948-2012. Simon Mohun

 

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A short presentation of ‘The Great Financial Meltdown’ by M.Roberts

https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-great-financial-meltdown/

 

The Great Financial Meltdown

The Great Financial Meltdown: systemic, conjunctural or policy created? edited by Turan Subasat.

This book started from a seminar on the causes of crises hosted by the University of Izmir, Turkey back in October 2014.  Many of the top radical and Marxist economists were present.

At that seminar, distinguished Marxist, David Harvey delivered a paper criticising those Marxist economists who support the view that Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (LTRPF) is the underlying or main cause of crises in the capitalist mode of production.  In particular, Harvey singled out my work to attack.  I replied to his critique on my blog and he kindly posted that reply on his popular website.  After that, there was a further exchange of views, including a strong intervention by Andrew Kliman in support of Marx’s law.

Turan Subasat has superbly brought together all the papers submitted by leading Marxist and radical scholars at that seminar nearly two years ago in this book.  He kindly invited me to present my reply to Harvey which now also appears in the book.  But there are many other interesting and relevant papers in the book by leading Marxist economists (contributors: E. Bakir, R. Bellofiore, A. Campbell, R. Desai, B. Fine, D. Fouskas, A. Freeman, D. Harvey, A. Kaltenbrunner, E. Karacimen, D. Kotz, S. Mavroudeas, S. Mohun, O. Orhangazi, M. Roberts, T. Subasat, J. Toporowski, J. Weeks.)

Unfortunately, the book is very expensive, as is the wont of academic publishers, so that only the rich and those able to get a good library will be able to read it, so I thought I would give a flavour of the ideas presented in the book by various authors, of course, through my own particular taste buds.

Turan provides an excellent introduction and summary of the combined views of these top Marxist scholars.  He argues that the causes of crises under capitalism and, in particular, the recent global financial crash and subsequent Great Recession, can be considered from three angles: is there a systemic underlying cause of crises (the falling rate of profit or underconsumption); or is it conjunctural (each crisis has a different cause); or is it the result of policy decisions (eg the neoliberal agenda, financial deregulation etc)?

On the first theme, apart from my own paper, Alan Freeman, a longstanding supporter of the LTRPF, offers a “vigorous defence” (Subasat) of Marx’s law.  Like me, Freeman reckons that we must separate the underlying cause of crises (falling profitability) from the immediate causes (financial crash).  Some conjunctural phenomena like ‘financialisation’ in the last 30 years or neoliberal policy regimes may seem to be the cause of crises but they are not alternative causes but are “themselves explained by the LTRPF.”

In contrast, John Weeks, in his paper, reckons that the LTRPF “fails to get out to the starting gate as a candidate for generating cross-country crises”.  Weeks reckons that the organic composition of capital (OCC), argued by Marx as the main driver of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, has not risen to critical levels to justify the LTRPF as the main cause and, anyway, falling profitability does not lead to crises but just to a slowdown in the rate of accumulation (investment).

Now I have looked at Week’s arguments before.  But actually Marx himself dealt with that argument.  For him, the fall in the rate of profit eventually leads to a fall in the mass of profit.  At that point, capitalist investment will not just slow, it will start to contract sharply, leading to job losses and income falls and the start of a slump.  The causal connection between the falling rate of profit, the mass of profit and investment has been outlined and investigated empirically by several authors, including G Carchedi, Jose Tapia and Peter Jones.

In his paper, Weeks argues that there is no precise separation by Marxist economists between mild downturns in economic growth and full-blown crises under capitalism.  For him, there have been only three crises under capitalism: in the late 19th century, the 1930s and now.  Now I agree that there is an important difference between regular and recurrent recessions every 8-10 years under capitalism and what I have called ‘depressions’ that last longer and go deeper.  Indeed, that has been the main theme of my new book, The Long Depression, now belatedly available to readers.

It’s true that many financial crises are not accompanied by a slump or economic recession, as in the stock market crash of 1987, cited by Weeks as an example. But in that case, profitability in the major economies including the US was on the rise. So the crash was short-lived and quickly reversed. But that was not the case in 1974-5, the first worldwide simultaneous slump, triggered by the oil price jump, but after a decade or more of a profitability slide; or in 1980-2, again triggered by energy prices, but again after another decline in profitability.

In another paper, Simon Mohun argues that when profits are measured properly according to ‘class’ i.e. profits from ownership of capital, and not by official measures, then profitability, at least in the US, did not fall until just before the Great Recession, and so the LTRPF cannot be the cause.  Again I have looked Mohun’s thesis of several occasions and I found that, even on Mohun’s own measures, corporate profitability peaked in the late 1990s and then fell.  .

Both Weeks and Mohun look for other explanations than the LTRPF.  Weeks argues that it was the breakdown in the circuit of capital and the realisation of money that was the problem and had nothing to do with the accumulation of value in the production process, as advocated by the ‘falling rate of profit’ theorists.  Similarly, Mohun in his paper concentrates on the financial aspects of the crisis, arguing that crises are the result of breakdowns in the money circuit.

Other authors in the book also downplay the role of the LTRPF because they see a rise in profitability and little or no rise in the organic composition of capital due to the devaluation effects of technical innovation in the 1990s during the neoliberal period and, in the case of Ricardo Bellofiore, argue that we should instead look for crises in the private sector explosion of debt (‘privatised Keynesianism’), similar to the position of post-Keynesian economist, Steve Keen.

Radhika Desai, in her paper, goes even further and argues that the current crisis (and all crises) is really the result of chronic underconsumption, Keynesian style.  See John Weeks for a formidable refutation of that view (http://marx2mao.com/PDFs/JW82.pdf).

Both Subasat and Desai seem to move towards the post-Keynesian view that cause of crises is to be found in the distribution of wages and profits, Ricardo-style, and not in the production for profit, Marxist style.  Similarly, Mohun concludes that reducing the inequality of incomes and the grotesque levels of top incomes would begin to solve recurrent crises: “unless the issue of soaring top incomes is addressed, the neoliberal financial system remains crisis prone”.

As for financialisation, however defined, that was a response to the falling rate of profit in the major economies in the 1970s; a counteracting factor, as Al Campbell and Erdogan Bakir show in their paper, and also expanded on by Freeman in his. Campbell and Bakir argue that the Great Recession was not caused by Marx’s law of profitability but was caused by the collapse of the neoliberal response to the profitability crisis of the 1970s. The policies of the ruling class in the major economies to hold down wages, allow deregulation, promote privatisation and introduce financialisation, eventually turned profitability round, but only at the expense of opening up a new underconsumption or financial crisis with a falling wage share in income and reckless credit-fuelled bubbles in housing that eventually burst.  This approach is similar to the paper by David Kotz. 

In another paper, Turan Subasat himself is keen to emphasise that the actual policies adopted under the neoliberal era were an important factor in creating the financial crash of 2008 – in effect the third strand of possible causes beyond the systemic and conjunctural.  So we have alternative explanations of the Great Recession offered in the book:  from financial deregulation (Toporowski), financialisation (Orhangazi) and overaccumulation of financial assets, to neoliberal policies (Subasat, Ben Fine).

Yet, also in the book, we have the case study of Greece, the biggest victim of the current capitalist crisis.  And here Stavros Mavroudeas, convincingly in my view, shows how the LTRPF is the best explanation of the Greek tragedy. Mavroudeas: “First, it is argued that 2007-8 economic crisis is a crisis a-laM arx (i.e. stemming from the tendency of the profit rate to fall – TRPF) and not a primarily financial crisis and this represents the ‘internal’ cause of the Greek crisis. Second, it is shown that there is also an ‘external’ cause. This comes from the relations of imperialist exploitation (i.e. unequal exchange) that exist within the EU and which divide it between North (euro-core) and South (euro-periphery) economies.”

John Weeks sums up the papers in the book.  He makes the point that, while there are substantial differences about the causes and the nature of the current crisis among the authors (the LTRPF versus poor demand or low wages; neoliberal policies; instability of finance), the most common factor among the papers was an attempt to analyse theory with empirical evidence and not just quote Marx etc.

It is interesting to compare the collection of radical economic explanations of the current crisis in this book with the explanations on the causes of the Great Recession offered by leading mainstream economists at an IMF conference more or less at the same time.

Back in 2013, at the IMF conference on the crisis, Christine Romer, head of Obama’s economic council, concluded that I think the right conclusion to draw is that financial shocks are likely to be both frequent and hard to predict – not just in their timing but in their form.”  Very little empirical evidence at the IMF conference was presented to explain the global financial crash and the subsequent slump.  It apparently remained a mystery.

Later this year, G Carchedi and I will publish a book (The World in Crisis) similar to Subasat’s, a collection of papers by young Marxist economists internationally, that will provide more comprehensive evidence to back the view that Marx’s LTRPF remains, as Alan Freeman says, “the only credible competitor left in the contest to explain what is going wrong with capitalism”.

‘Alternative Strategies for exiting the Greek crisis’ – 12th HM conference, SOAS 6-11-2015

HM 15 final large

The journal Historical Materialism is holding its 12th annual conference, ‘Austerity and Socialist Strategy, in central London on Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 November 2015.

The venue is the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Russell Square Campus, Thornhaugh Street, London, WC1H 0XG. Additional details about the conference can be found here.

The conference covers a wide range of topics, with 14 sessions over the 4 days, each with up to 12 different discussions, plus three plenary sessions.

For those interested, I will be presenting a paper in the workshop ‘Greek Strategies of Exit’. My presentation is entitled ‘Alternative Strategies for exiting the Greek crisis’. The other speakers of the workshop Nikos Stravelakis (‘The Economic Policy of GREXIT’) and Theofanis Papageorgiou, Iason Rousopoulos and Sotiris Koskoletos (‘IMF in Greece: Between Default and Suffocation’).

The workshop is scheduled for Friday 6 November, from 14.15 – 16.00 (Session F). The room is yet to be confirmed.

 

SYRIZA betrays the resounding NO vote of the Greek people and signs a 3rd troika austerity program

SYRIZA betrays the resounding NO vote of the Greek people and signs a 3rd troika austerity program

The Left should create a popular front against the EU

meimatsip

In the 5th of July 2015 the huge majority of the Greek people (61%) rejected the insolent demands of the EU for the extension and deepening of the austerity and pro-capital restructuring policies in Greece. These demands were codified in the so-called Juncker Plan for Greece that set barbaric terms for the extension of the previous austerity program (the 2nd Economic Adjustment Program for Greece) in exchange for releasing much delayed tranches of the troika loans to Greece. These tranches were urgently needed for repaying instalments of previous loans by the troika. As I have argued in a previous note (‘The Greek referendum and the tasks of the Left’) SYRIZA was led unwillingly to call this referendum because of the failure of its unrealistic program for a ‘decent compromise’ with the EU and for ‘staying in the Eurozone at any cost’. Moreover, the whole affair proved beyond any doubt that EU is a capitalist and imperialist integration that cannot be reformed towards serving peoples’ needs.

The referendum’s victory with such huge margin was unexpected even for the NO supporters. In the short one-week campaign the Greek economic and political elites unleashed a blatant terror and misinformation campaign through their mass media purporting that a NO vote would destroy Greece and that EU’s terms should be unconditionally accepted. In this unconcealed blackmail the Greek politico-economic elite was directed and abetted by the EU with direct interventions by J.C.Juncker, the German government and the rest of EU’s high priesthood. Moreover, the EU proceeded to literally slowly strangle the Greek economy by curtailing, through the ECB, the injection of liquidity to the moribund – because of the troika policies – Greek banking sector. This led the SYRIZA government – on top of foolishly (?) emptying the state coffers for paying previous troika installments – to impose capital controls the very day that pensions were going to be paid. This alienated significant portions of the middle and lower strata and turned the previously almost sure NO victory to a gamble.

On top of that, SYRIZA for almost half the campaign week dragged its feet; flirting with canceling the referendum, revoking its support for NO and with several of its prominent members and ministers covertly helping the YES coalition. Only the last two days SYRIZA actually threw its support behind the NO campaign. Last but not the least, the Communist Party also facilitated the elite’s assault by campaigning for a null vote or abstention; a move that cost it dearly in its electoral support. Only the independent and extra-parliamentary Left and grass-roots initiatives and movements fought from the very beginning for NO.

Despite all these adversities, the NO ended winning by a landslide. It was a silent landslide because in the mass media and the public debate there was a suppressing dominance of the YES instigated by the Greek politico-economic elite and by the incompetent acts of SYRIZA (particularly the banking ‘holiday’, the capital controls and the problems in paying pensions and wages). It was also a class landslide in that the working people, the peasants, the lower middle strata and overwhelmingly the unemployed youth voted for No whereas the bourgeoisie and the upper middle strata voted for YES (see http://www.publicissue.gr/en/2837/greek-referendum-2015-no-voter-demographics/).

It is now evident that SYRIZA’s leadership and systemic centers did not welcome this landslide. They expected the win of NO or YES to be by a small margin that would facilitate them to argue that there is no popular support for a confrontation with the EU and thus proceed to an agreement with EU’s high priesthood. As all evidence suggests the NO landslide caused panic not only to the politico-economic establishment and the EU but also to the SYRIZA leadership. Thus, immediately the day after SYRIZA threw away the referendum result and its clear message for a confrontation with the EU despite the financial strangulation by the EU and the pain already felt by ordinary people. A.Tsipras convened a meeting of the leaders of parliamentary political parties (excluding the neo-nazi Golden Dawn) which had either openly (New Democracy, PASOK, River) or implicitly (Communist Party) opposed the NO vote. In this meeting they all agreed – with the exception of the Communist Party – to field a new proposal to the EU that was exactly on the same lines of the rejected in the referendum ‘Juncker plan for Greece’. Moreover, after a few initial skirmishes, SYRIZA accommodated itself again with the systemic mass media that have implemented the terror campaign for YES.

EU’s high priesthood replied to SYRIZA’s new overtures by toughening its position and demanding even more austerity and anti-popular measures and threatening with the immediate strangulation of the Greek banking sector and even a Grexit. In front of this assault SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras capitulated unconditionally and they themselves proposed a new 3rd austerity and restructuring troika program for Greece. This was a complete somersault the extent of which was unexpected even by most of SYRIZA’s harsher critics. It denotes that SYRIZA’s leadership aimed from the very beginning for a deal with the EU which they knew that it would be barbaric and they simply played for time in order to consolidate their power and their position in Greek politics. The EU played along but also indicated – and the SYRIZA leadership was fully aware of it – that a delayed deal would be more costly. In a nutshell the SYRIZA leadership delayed in order to gain ‘political capital’ at the expense of ‘economic capital’. Its last gamble was the referendum. Once this trick back-fired the SYRIZA leadership blinked and retreated in panic. It proposed not simply an extension of the previous troika austerity program under the conditions of the ‘Juncker plan for Greece’ but a new 3-year program in exchange for either a debt haircut or a debt reprofiling, a new loan and some funds for development aid.

On the other side of the fence, the EU had its own internal antagonisms. While all of them were united in blackmailing Greece to capitulate they were divided in how much pain they were to inflict after the capitulation. The French and the Italians, reminiscent of their own economic problems and the fact that their turn might come soon, were keen on milder terms. They were supported in this by the distant but non-negligible pressures by the US. The latter does not actually care about the Greek case as such but it uses it as a lever to weaken German hegemony and the ability of the EU to dispute its economic supremacy. One of the major issues of disagreement between the US (and the IMF) and Germany is whether the Greek program would involve a debt haircut or not; the former press for it and the latter bitterly oppose it.

In the end, a very onerous (for Greece) provisional deal was struck. First, in order to ‘regain the debtors’ trust’, the SYRIZA government should revoke all legislation contradicting the troika austerity program and also legislate through fast track procedures (that violate parliamentary rules) deep cuts in pensions and wages, extensive privatizations and the transfer of public property worth 50bn euros to an independent company (that initially was humiliatingly suggested to be based in Luxemburg but afterwards agreed to be in Athens). This first move essentially means that the conditions of the 5th review of the old troika austerity program should be fulfilled. Second, once this done, the EU and the ECB should slowly restore liquidity to the Greek banking sector and release some of the due funds in the form of a bridge-loan. Third, only after the legislation of several other austerity measures new negotiations would begin negotiations for a new 53bn euros loan. This new loan would comprise by old tranches, some new funds from the ESM and a 35bn euros very dodgy development plan. This last item is supposed to comprise of already available National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds that were not actually absorbed because of the deep recession of the Greek economy and the lack of proposals and supplementary national funding. Of course, all these would be under strict conditionality and a return of the despised troika in Athens for close scrutiny and control. In these future negotiations there is a vague reference that some alleviation of the Greek total debt (through either reprofiling or haircut) would be considered.

The new austerity measures are extremely recessionary and anti-labor. They cost more than 13bn euros only for the 2015-6 period that would worsen the crisis of the Greek economy. Moreover, they would be paid by the working people and the lower middle strata. Several other pro-capital structural reforms are included (e.g. mass firings, semi-automatic mechanisms for fiscal cuts if the public budget is derailed). The new 3rd austerity and restructuring program would push Greek economy and society further down towards impoverishment and Balkanization. They will definitely foment popular discontent as already shown from the current popular mobilizations.

This grave situation poses a serious challenge for the Greek Left. One futile course is followed by the SYRIZA left. They voted against the deal but support the government and refuse to leave the party. This will expose them to popular wrath as willing or unwilling accomplices to the new austerity. The second futile course is that of the Communist Party that preaches the coming of socialism as a solution to everything while at the same time recognizing that this is not on the current agenda. At the same time refuses to fight against the EU because it considers this as intra-capital antagonism. This alienates it from and rank and file communists and the working people as it does not offer a solution to the immediate popular problems and a transitional program for social change. If these two dead alleys prevail then only the extreme Right would remain as the receiver of popular discontent and wrath against the EU and its austerity.

It is of paramount importance for the Left not to leave the field free to the extreme Right as it had happened in West Europe. A Left popular front against the EU should be urgently organized. This should involve political forces and grassroots popular organizations, fight austerity and capitalist restructuring and strive for the total disengagement of Greece from EU (that is for a popular Grexit involving leaving the whole structure and not solely the monetary union). It is the task of the independent and militant Left and the combatant forces of labor to instigate this front.

 

* Stavros Mavroudeas is a Professor of Political Economy in the Economics Department of the University of Macedonia.

e-mail: smavro@uom.edu.gr

web: https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com

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Republished in

Counterpunch

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/16/syriza-betrays-greeces-no-vote-why-the-left-should-form-a-popular-front-against-the-eu/

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Anti-imperialist Camp

http://www.antiimperialista.org/node/244741

2015-07-04_0-58-37

 

Politica&EconomiaBlog

http://politicaeconomiablog.blogspot.gr/2015/07/un-commento-dalla-grecia-in-inglese.html

2015-07-05_11-44-05

Naked Keynesianism

http://nakedkeynesianism.blogspot.gr/2015/07/syriza-betrays-resounding-no-vote-of.html

38d68-keynes

 Tendance CLAIRE (pour le Communisme, la Lutte Auto-organisée, Internationaliste et RévolutionnairE)

http://tendanceclaire.npa.free.fr/breve.php?id=13896#

BandeauTC

Lecture on ‘The Greek economic crisis’ to 5 Latin American universities, 29/4/2015 5pm

UNAM lecture

On Wednesday (29/4/2015) I will give a tele-lecture (marvelous modern technology) to five Latin American universities on ‘The Greek economic crisis’. The formal title of the presentation is ‘A Marxist explanation of the Greek crisis’.

The lecture’s presentation has been uploaded in Slideshare:

The lecture has been organised by the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) and will be simultaneously transmitted – via the kind efforts of the colleagues of UNAM – to UCA – Centro America University (at El Salvador), Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso Sul (Brazil), Universidad Central de Venezuela and Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela (whose audience would be kindly hosted at the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) – obviously a central bank far apart from central bankers’ comformist breed).

The lecture woud be uploaded in Econo Marx 21:

https://economarx21.wordpress.com/

I woud like to take the opportunity and praise the hard and excellent work done by Latin American colleagues (and especially Alejandro Vale Baeza) in promoting Marxist Political Economy. They have also several inspiring websites that are worth following (if you know or yoy can grasp a bit of Spanish):

http://crisis-economica.blogspot.gr/

https://vallebaeza.wordpress.com/

https://economarx21.wordpress.com/

http://crisis-economica.blogspot.gr/

http://asalariados-america-latina.blogspot.gr/

 

The ‘Limits of Regulation’ is available on EE’s ebook site and parts are free to download

The Limits of Regulation is available on Edward Elgar’s ebook site (Elgaronline.com), and the front matter, introduction, index and references are free to download.

The main link for the book is
http://www.elgaronline.com/abstract/9780857938633.xml

 

The Limits of Regulation

The Limits of Regulation:A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Development

Stavros Mavroudeas

This unique and original book offers a critical survey of the regulation approach, an influential theoretical school born in the 1970s and belonging to the neo-Marxist and radical political economy traditions.

A 20% discount offer for ‘GREEK CAPITALISM IN CRISIS’

Routledge is offering a 20% discount for «GREK CAPITALISM IN CRISIS’. Details follow.

——————————————————————-

20% discount with this flyer – Order online using discount code LRK69

*This 20% discount is only available on titles ordered directly from our website, until 31st December 2014, and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount.

 

Greek Capitalism in Crisis: Marxist Analyses

Edited by Stavros Mavroudeas

HB: 978-0-415-74492-8– $145.00,£85.00

With 20% Discount: $116.00, £68.00

Published: July 2014

Series: Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy

Routledge Greek Capitalism in Crisis

 

 

Despite the depth of the Greek crisis, the exorbitant burdens placed upon the working people and the massive popular resistance movement to capitalist policies, there is a definite lack of consistently Marxist analyses of the Greek problem. International debates regarding the Greek crisis have been dominated by orthodox (Neoclassical and neo-Keynesian) approaches.

The heterodox side of these debates has been occupied by Radical Political Economy approaches (usually radical post-Keynesian or Marxo-Keynesian perspectives). Moreover, they are dominated by the ‘financialisation’ thesis which is quite alien to Marxism, neglects the sphere of production and professes that the global crisis is simply a financial crisis that has nothing to do with ‘real’ accumulation and the profit rate.

This book argues that by emphasising the sphere of production and profitability, classical Marxist analysis better explains the Greek crisis than its orthodox and heterodox competitors. The contributors present critiques of the prevalent approaches and offer studies of the Greek crisis that use the methodology and the analytical and empirical tools of classical Marxist Political Economy. In particular, it is shown that the Greek crisis was caused by falling profitability and the ensuing overaccumulation crisis. The ‘broad unequal exchange’ existing between the euro-center and the euro-periphery contributed to Greek capital’s falling profitability. This book enriches the debate about the Greek economic crisis by demonstrating the insights that can be drawn by considering the Marxist alternative to the dominant mainstream and heterodox approaches.

 

 

Contents

Introduction

PART I: Critiques of mainstream and heterodox analyses of the Greek problem

1. Mainstream accounts of the Greek crisis: more heat than light?

2. Fiscal crisis in Southern Europe: Whose fault?

3. Explaining the rising wage-productivity gap in the Greek economy

4. The Memoranda: a problematic strategy for Greek capitalism

5. ‘Financialisation’ and the Greek case

PART II: Marxist explanations of the Greek crisis

1. The Law of the Falling Rate of Profit and the Greek economic crisis

2. Profitability and crisis in the Greek economy (1960-2012): an investigation

3. The Greek crisis: a dual crisis of over accumulation and imperialist exploitation

PART III: Crisis, Poverty and the Labor Market

1. Economic crisis, poverty and deprivation in Greece. The impact of neoliberal remedies

2. A comparative study of the structure of employment in Greece before and after the crisis

3.Recession and atypical employment: a focus on contemporary Greek metropolitan regions

 

 

To purchase this title: http://www.routledge.com/9780415744928/

 

For more information, contact Beth Henderson at beth.henderson@taylorandfrancis.com, (212)216-7843

*This 20% discount is only available on titles ordered directly from our website, until 31st December 2014, and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount.