Author Archives: Harry Stoneman

Explaining Economics Part 2- Labour Theory of Value and Commodities

The labour theory of value

The labour theory of value is the very basis and foundation upon which economics can be understood. It is the key that Marx and Engels found through their studies and is the basis of understanding exploitation in capitalist society.

The scientific method of studying economics begins with the manner in which all things are created. Marx and Engels continued the study of classical economists by starting their analysis at the beginning, how we produce everything.
What creates everything around us? What gives value to otherwise useless matter? Labour, work, creates all value. The apple on the tree comes from nature but as a valuable object it is useless until picked from the tree by someone’s labour. Labour alone creates value. It is the application of our strength, tools, know how to material that creates food, objects, art, culture, etc. etc.

What is the common social substance of all commodities? It is labour. To produce a commodity a certain amount of labour must be bestowed upon it, or worked upon on it.    —Karl Marx, “Value, Price and Profit” (1865)                                                                                             
If labour produces all value, then it is only those who labour that create worth. It is those who work that create what we need. It is workers who grow the food we eat, it is bus drivers who provide the service we need, etc. Those bosses, capitalists, who employ us, who pay for our labour through wages, don’t actually create value themselves. They just own us who do.
. . . The working class alone produce all values.    -F. Engels, “Introduction to Wage-Labour and Capital” (1891)

Commodities and labour

We have said above that labour creates all value. It is only through labour that we can create commodities. What, then, are commodities? Commodities are anything that can be bought and sold to create more wealth, more capital. Commodities, as such, have not always existed, just as capital as we know it has not always existed. It is the capitalist method of ownership, production and exchange that creates commodities, and the production and sale of commodities expands the system.

The labour theory of value not only says that labour creates value, it also shows how labour is the measure of value. That is when we ask the question, how much does something cost, we could be asking how much labour went into the production. The more labour that goes into creating something the more it costs.

The value of a commodity is determined by the total quantity of labour contained in it.-K. Marx, “Value, Price and Profit” (1865)

Compare that of an apple and gold. Which one is more expensive, which one requires more labour? In forthcoming editions we will have to look at “prices” of commodities, because other factors of course play a role too. But labour is the dominant determining factor in the cost of commodities. It is the comparison of labour time spent in the creation of commodities that is reflected in their differing prices.

A commodity has a value, because it is a crystallisation 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 . . . The relative values of commodities are, therefore, determined by their respective quantities or amounts of labour, worked up, realised, fixed in them. –K. Marx, “Value, Price and Profit” (1865)

Labour too, however, is a commodity. It is the vital ingredient in the production of goods and services, and ultimately capital. Labour is the vital commodity.

Labour-power, then, is a commodity, no more, no less so than is the sugar. The first is measured by the clock, the other by the scales.-K. Marx, “Wage-Labour and Capital” (1847)

Labour is used by those who own capital to create more capital. Those who do not have the resources to buy and pay for the factory or office, the material resources, the training and education and most importantly the labour have only their labour to sell. They are forced by circumstances to sell their labour-power to the boss.

What they [workers] actually sell to the capitalist for money is their labour-power.-K. Marx, “Wage-Labour and Capital” (1847) …Precisely from the fact that labour depends on nature it follows that the man who possesses no other property than his labour power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the objective conditions of labour. He can work only with their permission, hence live only with their permission.-K. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875)

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The Irish Connection: From Kabul to Dublin

From issue 9 of Forward

“The drugs problem is a symptom of a deeper disease…” stated the British Ambassador to Afghanistan recently and he could not be more correct. The drugs problem, whether it is drug production in the east or drug consumption in the west, is a symptom of a deeper disease, a disease that has inflicted untold tragedies upon entire nations and peoples, a disease that has caused misery, death and famine for centuries, the disease of imperialism. The British Ambassador, however, is incorrect when he continued “…and as we tackle instability, tackle disorder and the insurgency, we are facing some very big challenges on all those fronts, but as we tackle them we will see poppy production go down.”

The root of drug production in Afghanistan, as in Columbia and elsewhere, is the global economic and political system that forces farmers, of all sizes, to grow drugs ahead of bananas or grains. Drug production for consumption in the west is profitable. When you add to this the political dimension of war lords, criminal gangs and CIA led sponsorship you get instead of what we call ‘banana republics’ ‘heroin dictatorship’, drugs as always then becomes an issue of control and usury. No war on terror or counter insurgency measures can change this only a direct assault on the economic environment that creates this situation can bring about change. And this is a matter of urgency as will be seen.

But who will conduct this assault? Not the current elite for they profit off drug production directly and also indirectly through the degradation of working class communities and cultures. Let us not forget it was the CIA that introduced heroin to black communities in the US to destroy the militant movements that Malcolm X had helped build. It is also this system based upon inequality that causes such mass alienation and depression among young people that drugs becomes an attractive option to escape reality for just a short while. Drugs is the easy escape however it is nothing even close to freedom as it further and deeper enslaves you in the system of misery.

A recent UN report cited Afghanistan as the number one opium producing country in the world, producing a whopping 93% of the world’s opiates. 2006 and so far in 2007 has seen record harvests for Afghanistan with 193,000 hectares of opium poppies being grown. These undisputable facts show up the farce that is the government in Kabul and condemn the US led invasion and occupation as another humanitarian disaster. Imperialism, however, is happy for the US got what they wanted, linking oil in the Caspian Sea to gas reserves in Asia. From the elites point of view Afghanistan is a success!

Some Irish people may not care about the US led ‘war on terror’, may not oppose the use of Shannon or Shell’s control of energy resources off Mayo but if you care about heroin destroying communities, families and lives and are serious about tackling this epidemic you must listen and study seriously the system that forces this crisis upon us. In Dublin alone there are 13,000 heroin addicts and the waiting list for methadone clinics is measured in years not weeks like most countries. Over 90% of the heroin in Ireland is from Afghanistan. The ease of production and distribution is enabled by the US and their allies there.

Governments create and capitalize off decreasing working class consciousness and increasing disillusionment with politics. Drugs and suicide are just two of the most serious symptoms of the alienation capitalism creates. Successive Irish Governments have condemned many young people to the horrors of heroin addiction and condemned many communities to the terrors of drug gangs and drug feuds. It is time we connected all the dots and throw out this system that is rotten to the core. This is a matter of urgency and truly is a question of socialism or barbarism.

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Interview with Hans Heinz Holts

From Issue 10 of Forward

For our readers who might not know you would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

After the 2nd world war I started with being a journalist because it was then absolutely impossible for a Marxist to make a career in the university. I first worked for our party newspapers until the prohibition of the party in 1956 and afterwards as a free lance journalist first in Germany and after 1960 in Switzerland. When the student movement at the end of the 60’s developed there came the demand for Marxism at the university’s and with the support of the student movement and student unions in Germany I was nominated as a professor of philosophy at the University of Malburg and later on at the University of Honing. I stayed 8 years in Malburg and 18 in Honing years teaching philosophy but always engaged and involved with politics, naturally. After the re-foundation of the Communist Party in Western Germany I was engaged in politics there. I would say the main point of my work is Marxist theory though in the last 15 years after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe I have done much base work in the party with the committee for a new party program.

When did you first get involved in politics?

When I was 16, that was in 1943, we were already in the fascist era in Germany I formed a little resistance movement in my school. This was not for political reasons but for moral reasons, against the immorality of the fascist system. I was imprisoned in 1943 and it was there I met in the same cell a young communist worker. It was he who introduced me to Marxism, the elementary points of Marxism. That was my first commitment in politics.

How long did you spend in prison?

Until the end of the war, 2 years.

That must have been extremely hard for a 16 year old?

Yes, well it was a fascist era. Fascism is a very hard thing!

Immediately after the war I began to study the texts of the classic Marxism. Especially I was influenced by works like ‘State and Revolution’ by Lenin and I would say also by the Hegel texts of Lenin, and also by the small works of Stalin in dialectical and historical Marxism. And naturally the text of ‘State and Revolution’ brought in the question of the October Revolution. I immediately understood this was the change of an era, change of the world going over to a new formation of society. Then followed an intense study of Marx and Lenin and the question of revolution at that time was being actualized by the Chinese Revolution in 1949 and the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Revolution accompanied my life!

What were the challenges that faced building socialism after the October Revolution?

The special situation of the Russian revolution was that it was not prepared by a long development of capitalism. The transition of feudalism to capitalism in the French Revolution was prepared by 200 years of early capitalism that was not the case in the Soviet Union. That means the revolution was not just a transition of power but it had to build that what capitalist society should have built up before. That was one of the situations. The second was, a great part of the population in Russia was still illiterate and you can’t develop participatory democracy without an educated people. There was an immense and huge education program for the first decades of the Soviet Union. This was the first step to build up a socialist democracy it was not possible to have this social democracy in the first stage and this brought forth special contradictions in the first phase, that socialism could not be build up by the broad masses but had to be built up by the minority of the working class which was a very small minority compared to the peasants and also by the party. The party had to be a leading power in developing ideas but also administratively and that naturally had the consequence of developing a special form of party bureaucracy. This was not due to any bad will of persons but was from objective conditions.

What were the achievements of the early soviet state?

First the educational problems, second the social problems that meant a better provision of medical treatment, the overcoming of unemployment, there was no unemployment in the Soviet Union and I would stress the development of all cultural potentiality of man. I was in the soviet union in the 50’s and 60’s and it was stupendous the the worker in the plants were engaged in cultural activities like the fine arts, sociology and philosophy that they were really engaged in these subjects and all this stuff that we have not in western world. And a great freedom in conditions of doing what they did in the plants, the worker in the soviet union and the socialist countries had much more personal rights than any worker here in the western world. It is a legend that there was no freedom. There were other structures in the decision making and administration with problems but in daily life the freedom of the worker was much greater than here.

Why did you write your book ‘Downfall and Future of Socialism’ in 1992?

It appeared in 1991 in German and 1992 in English. It was a situation when all leftists were depressed by the collapse. I felt it necessary at that moment to say that the defeat did not mean that there was no future for socialism. I needed to say what was the theoretical background, what were the achievements and also the faults which were done so they wont be repeated next time.

You listed 3 main reasons for the collapse they were the immaturity of economic conditions to begin with, the subsequent development of the corrupt bureaucracy, and finally the impoverishment of theory. Can you comment on these 15 years later?

I would say for the checklist of reasons all three reasons are still very decisive but after 15 years of study I would add many more. I think even more than I stressed in the book the impoverishment of theory was one of the main points because it made an open gate for the infiltration of western ideas, the revisionism as we say. And with the 20th party congress of the Soviet Union, not so much with the moralistic incrimination of Stalinism that was not the right historical view point, but the decisive thing was Khrushchev made as criteria for the development of the Soviet Union the living standards of the United States. The living standards of the United States is the living standard of a capitalist country with imperialist expansion, and a living standard that only touches half of the population the other half live in poverty. This should not be an aim. It set a target for all those who were still coming out of the old society with its old ideas and America was a symbol for them. This was the decisive break in of a non-socialist idea. This expanded because the theory was so poor. And the theory began to become poor I would say after Stalin. During the period of Stalin’s power there were a lot of intense theoretical discussion in the scientific magazines and it is not true that Stalin was the cause of the impoverishment of theory. It was after him.

Do you think this made way for Gorbachev’s reforms?

It was I would say a straight consequential line from Khrushchev to Gorbachev. At any moment at this time it had been possible to counter act but it wasn’t done.

You wrote, ‘Whoever would learn from history must reflect upon it, what must we reflect upon now?

We need to reflect upon the contradictory development of each historical process and we need to reflect upon the specificity of each contradiction in itself, a contradiction of Russia. So today we need to reflect upon the specific contradiction in China and as our Cuban comrade said yesterday we need to reflect upon the contradiction which are in the development of Cuba. That is the point of reflection so we can learn from history what reasons are for the generation of these contradictions for the solutions of these so we can learn how not to do it again. I think we can realize that there are certain features and constant traits in history. If you read some of the ancient historians, Thucydides, you find very similar structures even in quite other social formations and if you are keeping in mind that history has only a certain range of possibilities because there are anthropological traits that are in mankind than you can learn from history. I think it is a strategy of late capitalism and even of the social democrats to destroy our relation with history, to be anti-historical or a-historical. We Marxists have the task to develop the historical understanding.

What do you draw inspiration from today?

I think for me socialism, or better to say communism, is the logical as well as the historically only alternative to the capitalist system, for reasons of dialectical logic. I would say one state of time of society can only be overcome by its determinate negation. It is not that we have capitalism or a utopian idea of society. We have to ask what are the main characteristics of capitalism? Private property in the production means and the accumulation of capital profit of surplus an alternative society must overcome these main traits of capitalism and therefore socialism is the logical result. The historical reason is within in the capitalist system as a necessary moment in the system developed the working class and the working class is the only class which is not part of the profits of the surplus in so far as the working class and the revolutionary movement of the working class is the historical reason why communism is the only alternative to capitalist system. But that does not mean that it comes of itself we can also have the negative chance of barbarism even of the end of humanity. Therefore we must develop the consciousness of the working class. The working class now has other structures than of the 19th century class therefore we must analyze these latest developments not on the question of whether there is no working class but upon the changes within the working class and we must have ideas of how to mobilize the working class and develop political insight and class consciousness and therefore the impulse to change society. That is my hope and my life work. I am 60 years in the communist movement. It is my whole life to work in this direction to help prepare the minds of men. As Lenin always said, without consciousness we will have no revolutionary moment. It is an important part of the movement to develop and spread the theory among the people. It is no only a question of academic development, but you must have that to have a good popularization. But the popularization is always necessary that is why I always write for newspapers and not only am writing academic pieces or books. In my academic work I have written 3 volumes on the history of dialectics since the renaissance and 3 volumes on aesthetic problems. That is the academic level upon which you elaborate ideas but then they must be brought and adopted by the masses. That is a large question for trade unions, the educational work of trade unions.

Would you comment on Venezuela today?

Venezuela is not yet socialism and if you look back to the Cuban revolution it was not socialism in the beginning but it developed out of its internal reasons. I see one danger in the development of Venezuela there is much influence of utopian socialism, that Marxism for the 21st century, the books of Diderik I don’t know if you have heard of him. Well he is an advisor of Chavez otherwise he would just be an intellectual. In this function he has a lot of ‘queer’ ideas influenced by American human rights ideas and if Chavez follows this counsel, he is not the only one, that might be a dubious thing. I spoke with Cuban comrades who were disquieted by the influence Diderik has in Latin America.

Who is this Diderik?

He is a German who taught at the University of Mexico. He visited Chavez in jail and had interviews with him and from then he has had contact with him and know he is traveling the world propagating his ideas.

In this respect it is absolutely necessary to elaborate theory and strengthen theoretical discourse.

What about the positives of Venezuela?

I think there are very many positives from the fact that this country resists American Imperialism and this has huge influence even in the bourgeois leftist circles, for example in Argentine, Brazil although Lula is a separate question, also in Ecuador in Bolivia. It is a positive influence and I hope that under the influence of the real situation in the country Chavez will develop more and more in the socialist direction and as I understand he has great respect for Fidel Castro and Fidel will be of great good I think. I admire Castro. He is one of the very great men of the last century.

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Football, Capitalism And The Fight Back By Fans


From issue 10 of Forward

It has been called soccer and footy; some call it the foreign game; others the garrison game more call it the beautiful game and the workingman’s game. But for most of us it’s just plain old football. And football has been at the centre of the cultural life of the working class throughout the world ever since the modern game first emerged from the grotty industrial cities of Victorian England. Indeed without the victory of the labour movement for the five-day week in Britain, workers would simply have had no time for football. And without workers we would no players and no fans.

Yet there lies the paradox. Like everything else in a capitalist society the bosses own football created by workers. As soon as capitalists realised that they could charge people into watch football matches they have placed themselves in the position of club owners, ‘chairmen’, ´board members’, ‘directors’ and ‘investors’. Turning a cultural item, which rightful belongs to the people into a ‘profitable industry’ for the bosses.

Today after well over a century of professional Football we can clearly see the price fans have paid for the role capitalism has played in the game. Corruption is wide spread and the very credulity of the game now hangs in the balance.

Football Clubs like Manchester United and Bayern Munich have become giant faceless corporate brand names with the ubiquity of McDonald and Coca-Cola. Increasingly alienating even toward their own traditional fan base. In Britain, the home of football or so we are told the problem has become almost unbearable. Although creepy capitalists have always been there in the background of the English game they are now it the process of ruining the game they pretend to manage.

In the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster back in 1989, the “Taylor Report” on football supporter safety, which recommended all-seated facilities, club owners seized on the opportunity to justify jacking up prices. Prices went from under 10s to 25s and beyond. The top clubs of the English 1st Division rebelled because the some of the money they generated was being used to develop the game in the lower divisions. These clubs would go on to form the English Premiership. English fans would suffer further at the hand of the corporate vultures such as media mogul Rupert Murdock who’s Sky Sports Channel bought up the ‘rights’ to show weekday and Sunday matches. Today Sky Sports has almost a monopoly on the ‘rights’ to show English and Scottish Football. The ordinary fans have all but lost the chance to see their own game on terrestrial television.

To add insult to injury English Football fans have the gloomy prospect of having their beloved local club bought over by a Multi-millionaire. Some might think this is a good thing. In practice however the reality is a little different. Since the Russian Mafia Oligarch Roman Abramovich has taken over at Chelsea Football Club he has invested an estimated $440 million. Yet ticket prices have risen over 70%. It is also widely believed that Abramovich’s spending spree has over heated the players transfer market.

Fearing the worst, rebel Manchester United supporters have decided to go it alone as American billionaire Martin Glazer; the owner of the New York Yankees took over at the Club. The renegade fans fed up with years of being ripped off by their own club with ticket prices, needless replica jersey changes and general poor treatment of the fans have decided to form their own breakaway FC United of Manchester. The new club now plays in the semi-professional Northern Premiership and has won promotion for two consecutive years since the clubs foundation three years ago.

This is following a pattern of rebellion amongst fans. The owners of Wimbledon FC had threatened to move out of South London after years of having to rent Selhurst Park from rivals Crystal Palace. The clubs onetime millionaire chairman Sam Hammam had made plans to move Wimbledon FC to Dublin. This prompted fierce opposition from both Wimbledon FC fans and National League fans who fear if English Premiership games where played in Dublin this would undermine the domestic game. Sam Hammam left Wimbledon for Cardiff City and new club owners moved to Milton Keynes renaming the club MK Dons FC. Wimbledon fans have rejected the move and have formed their own AFC Wimbledon and are now playing Football in regional semi-professional Football.

Red Bull; the “energy drinks” firm bought out Austria Salzburg and changed the clubs name to Red Bull Salzburg along with the club colours from their traditional Violet and White to red. However a large section of rebel fans have joined their fellow renegades in Manchester and Wimbledon in forming their own club this time retaining the original name and colours.

Domestic football in Ireland may be far removed from the glamour and multi million Euro transfers but money talks here just the same. Two of Dublin’s largest football clubs Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne FC have faced major financial troubles in the last few years. Despite a massive protest by KRAM (Keep Rovers at Milltown) Shamrock Rover have been without a permanent home since 1989 when the clubs owners, the Kilcoyne family sold their ground at Glenmalure Park, Milltown. The club was intended to move to Tolka Park but so far away from the traditional home on the south side of the city the move proved to be a disaster. The club have been moving from stadium to stadium ever since.

But as the game has suffered at the hand of capitalist it has created vibrant fighting fans. Bray Wanderers Supporters Club alongside the people of Bray fought and won the battle to keep their stadium, the Carlisle Ground in the town centre. Bray Urban District Council wanted to sell off the property to developers who wanted to build a Supermarket and car park on the site. However after a lengthy battle with the fans and the towns people the Wanderers where granted a 100 year lease on the site.

Donegal club, Finn Harps FC, has for many years now been run as a Co-operative by the fans and local business people and the club remains hugely popular in the Northwest.

Supporters clubs seeing the danger of corporate interests in game have become far more than just organising bus and rail travel for away games. In Germany and Italy fan clubs have kept ticket prices low and defended the right to have standing room terraces despite pressure from both the European Union and the club owners to enforce all-seated stadiums.

Capitalism has given Football fans a number of stark choices for the future. Will Football be something, which distracts people from their own conditions and cements division and sectarianism? Will football be just another way for advertisers to reach consumers? Will football be simply another product to be bought and sold? Will football be something only the wealthy few can afford to enjoy? Or will fans fight so football can be something which will unite people, build community spirit, celebrate sportsmanship, athleticism and will enrich the lives of working people? The future is in our own hands it seems.

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The Clash and the Punk Revolution

“There’s a million reasons why the hippies failed,” Joe Strummer would lament. A comment that would pretty much some up the feelings of England’s disenfranchised youth in the early days of punk.

Despite popular belief the punk movement did not begin in England with the Sex Pistols but in the USA with an ‘New Wave’ of underground groups like MC5, Iggy and the Stooges and a bit later New York bands like the New York Dolls, Dictators and the Ramones. Collectively these groups had become known as “Punk Rockers”. Punk literally means scum but is used in American slag to means a waster.

Back in London these group’s records would find there way on to the turntables of a hand full of teenagers who had rejected the static and bland music scene of the mid-seventies. Thus becoming a sort of sound track to a pop culture rebellion.

A group of such teenagers inspired by the American “New Wave” scene formed ‘London SS’. This band did live long enough to even play a live concert let alone get anything down on vinyl. But from its ashes two members would become the founding members of the punk movement’s most successful and arguably most influential group.

Around the same time four other young Londoners also inspired by the “New Wave” would form there own group under the guidance (or rather misguidance) of megalomaniac manager Malcolm McLaren. The group featured a shy London Irish teenager named John Lydon (later known as Johnny Rotten) who go on to called themselves the Sex Pistols.

It was the Sex Pistols short bursts of glorious 3-minute trashy guitars; bizarre clothing style and provocative stage act would provide the vital spark that ignited the punk movement.

Ex- London SS members Paul Simonon and Mick Jones went along to see this new group who where supporting the 101ers, London’s rising stars of the pub rock circuit. The 101er’s then lead singer Woody Mellor would later remark “Three seconds in to their [Sex Pistols] set I knew we [101ers] were yesterdays papers.”

Woody become increasing disillusioned with pub rock and his seemly obsolete group the 101ers. Not surprising then that Woody left his group after Paul and Mick approached him to sing in their new group. Woody would change his name to Joe Strummer and together with Simonon and Jones they became The Clash.

For all the Sex Pistol’s anti-monarchy sentiments and talk of “Anarchy in the UK”, they saw “No Future”. The Clash on the other hand were less pessimistic. In film maker Don Letts’s documentary on the group ‘West way to the World’, Strummer explained The Clash “were groping at a socialist future.”

It would seem Strummer was deeply influenced by the so-called ‘New Left’, George Orwell, the Neo-Marxists like the Frankfort School and the Student rebellion of 1968. “It was a great time to come of age” said Strummer “Paris, Vietnam, Governor Square*, it was all happening”.

Simonon had also a socialist background. His father had served in the British army in Kenya. On his return from Kenya shocked by the horrors of British imperialism he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (known as the Communist Party of Britain today) and Paul would deliver Party leaflets around the working class council estates and tower blocks of London.

In early interview with ‘The Clash’ Simonon flippantly remarked that he “didn’t even know who the prime-minister was” would never the less remain a leftist influence along side Strummer within the Clash. Simonon travelled to the Soviet Union with his then girlfriend Caroline Coon albeit returning somewhat disappointed that he had not found the workers paradise he had come to expect.

In 1977 the Clash had been playing together for almost a year. The group went on a nation wide tour of Britain with Sex Pistols, The Damned and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers.

That year also saw their new self-titled LP was released. At time the album perhaps over shadowed by the Pistols controversial “Never Mind The Bollox” LP. However The Clash debut was arguably a far superior work featuring a thoughtful lyrical style and a blend of pop influences ranging from Reggae to Rockabilly all delivered with an authentic punk snarl.

Their debut single “White Riot” was misinterpreted as a kind of racist battle cry. The song was in truth about the Notting Hill Carnival Riots in which London’s black community fought off police in riot gear. Strummer and Simonon who had just gone to join in the Carnival somehow got caught up in the riot. Impressed with what they saw as the Black community having their say they penned the song with Jones later that day.

Following year saw the release of the bands second LP ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’. This was to be the group’s first release in the US. The Album thematically continued its Leftist leanings but more cautious than the first. The Sleeve of “The English Civil War” first single released off the album featured a still from the 1950’s ‘Animal Farm’ cartoon. This was one of many subtle nods to Strummer’s literary hero George Orwell.

But it was the “London Calling” double album release just a year later that would forever be hailed as a masterpiece by music critics and album collectors alike. ‘Roller Stone’ declared it album of the 80’s. Although Strummer pointed out to the magazine that the album was actually released in ’79.

Having become the only Punk group to crack America, The Clash released their forth album this time a triple LP which they called “Sandinista!” in tribute to the socialist government ruling Nicaragua at the time (And recently been returned to power). This was not their best work but features some outstanding tracks and excellent Dub reggae production by Jamaican legend Mickey Dread.

The Clash would release two more albums before the finally called quits in 1986. The first these albums was “Combat Rock” which featured the singles “Should I Say Or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah” which remain pop classics of the era. It also features “Know Your Rights” a sort of punk rock anti-authority anthem.

Their final album “Cut the Crap” was released and was lambasted by the music press. In the absence of the guitarist Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon both of whom had been kick out for drug abuse, the group lost its way. The only remaining original members of band Strummer and Simonon later disowned the album.

In the aftermath of the break-up the Clash’s influence is immense. Although American group MC5 pre-date the Clash in mixing punk and socialist ideas it is the Clash who remain the mother of all political punk groups there after. Every one from the Redskins, Manic Street Preachers, Specials, Billy Bragg, Attila the Stockbroker, Angelic Upstarts, Public Enemy and countless other groups site the Clash as a major political and musical influence.

Strummer remained involved in political causes right up until the end of his life. He played benefit gigs in aid of striking Fire fighters and a number of organisations such as Rock against Racism, Anti-Nazi League and a London based Anarchist group “Class War”.

The Clash were not a political party, they were after all a rock n’ roll band. The band had always been accused to being left wing posers. Other simply disliked the band either for being left wing or for being political in general. Some detractors point to Strummers middle class family background. In his defence he had been a manual labour worker for a number of years before the Clash at started and the rest of the band had all come from working family grounds. The political message was confused at times and the CYM would be at odds with much of it. The Clash were a great band who turned at lot of people on to socialist politics for that we can only be grateful. Cheers lads we owe you one!

*Governor Square is the street where the American Embassy in London is located where an infamous anti-Vietnam war riot took place in 1968.

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Explaining Economics Part 1

From Issue 11 of Forward
The Production Process

Modern economics, what is taught in schools or presented on the news, is less an actual study of economics, the way in which society creates, as much as an ideological and politically biased presentation. That is, what poses as economics today is in fact ‘bourgeois economics’. It is by and large the study of supply and demand and not the manner in which everything around us is produced. It is not a study of the production process.

One example of this would be at the end of each news bulletin the reader calls out the latest figures on the ‘dow jones’ or the ‘isec index’. These represent an indication of a regions market performance based upon the top 100 companies in that region, determined by finance speculators and corporate giants. As a piece of news it is determined by and effects far less of us than say and industrial bulletin of union negotiations. The point being, the economics we are presented with are not really economics and are purposely made meaningless to our lives. This political management of our knowledge and education serves to distance us from the crucial study of economics and its everyday impact upon us.

The actual scientific study of the production process is where Marx found his philosophical progress took him. However, he certainly was not the first to approach it. Ancient Athenian scientists had tackled the question of production and more recently the political economists of Ricardo and Smith in 18th century England had examined it. Marx, with the invaluable help of Engels, was able to draw upon their analysis and experience to further the scientific study of our economic reality.

From this lengthy study and practice Marx was able to draw some certain conclusions:

We thus see that the social relations within which individuals produce, the social relations of production, are altered, transformed, with the change and development of the material means of production, of the forces of production. The relations of production in their totality constitute what is called the social relations, society, and, moreover, a society at a definite stage of historical development.
K. Marx, 1847 ‘Wage-Labour and Capital’

It is from the production process, how we produce, the technology available, the division of labour, and most importantly the ownership of the means to produce, society has its distinct forms, whether slave, feudal or capitalist.

The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labour-power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically.
K. Marx. 1875 ‘Critique of Gotha Program’

The mass of landless labourers were produced by the growth of capitalism and the disintegration of feudalism. The advancement in technology left many peasants and farm hands useless they were forces to the cities to look for work off the growing number of bosses. These workers have nothing to offer but their bodies and minds to be used where and when necessary by those who own land, factories, companies, business’s, natural resources or capital resources. These facts of life develop the world around us. They ultimately shape and form our family relations from ancient forms of communal reproduction to our current form of monogamous marriage. They dictate the type education we receive or if we receive a formal one at all. The list does go on. And as noted by Marx above and most importantly they create the consumption and wealth patterns of inequality we see all around us.

Class Definitions

Before we examine the most basic class definitions a note on capital and labour is necessary.

Capital therefore presupposes wage-labour; wage-labour presupposes capital. They condition each other; each brings the other into existence.
K. Marx. 1847 ‘Wage-Labour and Capital’

In physical science Newton declared, ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ This is true, by and large, across the sciences. Capital and wage-labour are each other’s opposite. They could not exist without the other, as Marx puts it they presuppose each other. Ones creation brought the other into existence. It is the exploitation of wage-labour by capital that recreates capital. The increase in relative strength of one is the weakness of the other.

When labour was strongest in Europe, through unions, communist parties, and the existence of the USSR, we won broad social reform and a social democratic system. Now, however, when labour is at an incredible low in Europe we have constant attacks and rolling back of these reforms, our health system, our education, our 5 day week, our retirement age, our pension schemes etc. Capital is clearly dominating wage-labour. The bosses are clearly dominating the workers.

Engels definition below is the simplest expression of who the bosses are and who the workers are:
By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern Capitalist, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour. By proletariat, the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live. F. Engels. 1848 ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’

It should be very clear now that the working class is by far the vast majority of people on this planet. Most people do not employ others. Most people (if lucky enough!) are employed. We live in a world where there are two obvious classes, and they are antagonistic, they are in conflict.

There are of course great disparity and difference within classes. There is the CEO of Nike and the man who owns the local corner shop, both capitalists. There is also the man on 200,000 a year wage and the man on 20,000 a year, both workers. This difference within wage-labourers is not like the conflict between classes, as this difference is not due to exploitation of one worker over another. We will examine this further in future editions of Forward. It is the struggle between classes that makes history and it is the victory of the majority class of workers over the minority of bosses that will ensure our futures.

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