Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What even, er, Tories think about the Tory government

The government is led by a clique of toffs who have neither respect for their colleagues, nor empathy with the average voter. Their born-to-rule mentality means they have a greatly over-inflated view of their own capabilities, which deafens their ears to the advice and warnings of others who might actually know better. They are nothing like as good at governing as they think they are. And this...is now inflicting serious harm on the country...
Andrew Rawnsley on how Tory MPs regard Cameron et al

Being myself a southern, public-school, Oxbridge person, I do not feel patronised by this milieu, but even I, as I watched the Budget on television and saw the “Quad” of Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander all in a self-congratulatory, Oxford Union row, did get that “What do they know about anything?” feeling...
Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

There has never been a better time to fight to kick out this corrupt, useless 'government of the rich by the rich for the rich' - roll on the May Day marches, the May elections and most critically the mass strike on 10 May - March together - and strike together!

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jim Wolfreys on the French Election

You tube video here - see also his commentary here

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

One old film that could do with a remake...

As it currently stands, it seems the rich get richer and the poor get jail...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

John Molyneux on Marxism and Trade Unionism

John Molyneux - editor of the new Irish Marxist Review, has put a new article of his on Marxism and Trade Unionism online on his blog. Those who like John's writing might also note the embryonic internet archive of his writings at the MIA.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marxists on Desert Island Discs

Karl Marx himself famously discussed Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe' in a number of places, most usually to critique the likes of bourgeois political economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo who began everything theoretically with the rational atomised individual rather than understanding humans as social animals who have to co-operate together through work to survive. I am grateful therefore to Maps for alerting me to the online archive of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, which has re-imagined the Robinson Crusoe scenario with a number of celebrities since the 1940s. A brief search through the 1,000 or so of the 'great and good' can be found a smattering of Marxists including Tariq Ali, Stuart Hall, Eric Hobsbawm, Michael Rosen and perhaps most remarkably EP Thompson. There are plenty of other lefties (and plenty more ex-lefties) who would doubtless also be worth a listen, including John Pilger, Tony Benn, Bill Morris, Joan Baez, Michael Foot, Glenda Jackson, Barbara Castle, Dennis Skinner, Raymond Postgate, Arthur Scargill, T Dan Smith...it is highly likely that my cursory search for socialists missed out some remarkable people so have a look for yourself...

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Luddite Bicentenary

Blogging was designed for the creation of sites like this - a fantastic resource

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Guest post: Elaine Hirsch on Karl Polanyi and Haute Finance

[This blog is open to guest posts (contact histomat@hotmail.co.uk but prepare to be very patient), and Elaine Hirsch (elainehi86@gmail.com) has got in touch with a timely post about Karl Polanyi, author of among other works The Great Transformation (for more on Polanyi see the recent work of Gareth Dale - reviewed here) and Polanyi's theories about how "haute finance" is subordinating society.]
Haute Finance and the Post-Financial Crisis Economy
Elaine Hirsch

In the first half of the 20th century, philosopher/economist Karl Polanyi began charting economic progress and financial growth since the Industrial Age, especially focused on the laissez faire market conditions of the early 1900s and the impact they had on the world. It seemed to Polanyi that a mysterious, international force had developed during this time, an intangible yet powerful institution that called no single organization or government home, but existed more in the minds and emotions of financiers or investors across the first world. This system subordinated traditional society in the name of financial and economic growth, a process which Polanyi viewed as backwards. He called this force haute finance(high finance), a name that stuck through the ages.
So much for economic history. But haute finance began to take on a new meaning in a much closer era – the vibrant and often over-optimistic markets seen in the 1990s (perhaps stretching back to the 50s) and 2000s. While Polanyi's haute finance mechanisms was ended via the Great Depression and second World War, this new period of haute finance came crashing down through the financial crisis of 2007. Although this has resulted in growing attention in accredited MBA programs in sustainability, the vast majority of the “haute finance” mindset remains unchanged, leaving the world to wonder: If haute finance keeps failing, is it really such a valuable institution?

World Peace
Polanyi felt haute finance was a primary force for peace, since it focused primarily on financial gain across the board. Because war imbalanced financial gain and disrupted the status quo of the day, he believed the haute finance would always work against war and promote equality. Unfortunately, the lengthy wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, even after Polanyi's work was published, counter this particular argument. War with certain countries has become less likely through trade and greater financial reliance, but if this is haute finance it has proved a fickle creature, focusing only on markets with the most immediate benefit (Brazil, China, India…) and leaving other markets to fend for themselves or suffer (Iran, Iraq, Cuba…).
The start of the 21st century, with its move toward online trading and international corporations, punctured a hole in the haute finance theory. Looking back, we see that Polanyi's hopeful "Balance of Power" existed only on the sides that had financial power. Far from being ultimately flexible, haute finance conditions proved ultimately rigid. The dot-com bust and real estate market collapse in the 2000s proved that: a full-on pursuit of wealth creates problems, not peace.

All for One…
This "permanent" and "most elastic" agency of haute finance also begins to falter when looking at the investment markets leading up to the Great Recession. Analysts noted the rise of several major firms during this time period, including Lehman Brothers, Ernst & Young, Merrill Lynch, and others. They were haute finance in motion, nearly as tangible as an intangible force can get. But the drive to wealth, and concentrated wealth at that, served the purpose of no nation, no company, and in the end no individual. Lehman Brother's crashed to the dirt with its blindness and over-reliance on real estate. Other firms barely survived through mergers and bailouts. Corporations proved how greedy they were, and how that greed kept little peace and encouraged no stability.
The post-crisis market was left reeling from decades of an haute finance mentality, raising key criticism: Does the haute finance mechanism ever work, or should it always be looked at with suspicion? Free market capitalism is a discussion for the Ayn Rand battlefields, but here the overarching spirit and attitude are the key factor. Should the United States attempt to change its financial zeitgeist? Will this help avoid or diminish inevitable market cycles? As business becomes more global and a new haute finance oligarchy forms, perhaps a look to the past will serve as a useful reminder of what happens with too much wealth obsession.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

David Harvey and George Galloway to speak in London at Marxism 2012

From the Marxism team:

We are proud to announce that David Harvey, probably the world’s pre-eminent Marxist thinker, will be speaking at Marxism 2012.

Harvey’s work has helped create a whole new field of radical and Marxist geography. He is the most cited academic geographer of all time and 18th most cited intellectual of all time in the humanities.

His Youtube lecture series on reading Marx’s Capital has introduced a whole new generation to Marxist ideas and books like The Enigma of Capital have popularised the idea that Marxism can explain the current crisis.

David will be delivering two meetings at Marxism:
· The urbanisation of class struggle
· And a panel on Marx’s Capital, with Alex Callinicos

George Galloway MP to speak at Marxism opening rally

Galloway’s magnificent by-election victory in Bradford West shocked the political establishment. He trounced Labour and won an overall majority of votes cast.

The result sums up the anger at the pro-austerity consensus of the three main parties. As Galloway put it: “who would have thought a backside could have three cheeks?”

We are very proud to announce that he will be speaking at the opening rally of Marxism 2012, helping to give the event a flavour of how resistance can break through

Edited to add: The provisional timetable for Marxism 2012 is online now


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Capitalism Kills - Kill Capitalism

“[Greek] Pensions have been cut by around a quarter since the crisis first hit in 2008. And the government has pledged to cut pensions further this summer. This is what causes the levels of desperation that have led to this latest suicide. People are forced to rely on their families if they can. There has been a huge increase in those turning to the churches for food. Even the United Nations now describes the situation in Greece as a humanitarian crisis.”
Panos Garganas on the recent suicide of a Greek pensioner

“Don’t let capitalism kill us!”
—protest outside the Greek embassy in London, 6pm, Thursday 5 April, at Greek Embassy, 1A Holland Park, W11 3TP

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Celebrate the Bradford Spring

'No party to the left of Labour has ever taken a Labour seat in a period when Labour has been in the opposition' George Galloway noted about Respect's historic electoral breakthrough victory in Bradford West, a victory which continues to reverberate in a quite humourous manner as bourgeois commentators who had previously gleefully thought they had successfully consigned the spectre of a left-of-Labour alternative to the dustbin of history got a rather rude awakening. Many had previously dismissed Galloway as a 'celebrity' buffoon, but now one reads regularly about how of course Galloway was always going to always win, apparently precisely because of his celebrity status. As Jonathan Freedland put in The Guardian, 'few politicians could go head to head with Galloway and win'. I can't remember many commentators telling us this fact before last Thursday.

Anyway, the good people over at Philosophy Football have marked the 'Bradford Spring' by doing what they do best - producing a T-shirt - which will doubtless bring a smile to the face of everyone fighting for an alternative to what Respect leader Salma Yaqoob called the 'austerity' agenda of Cameron and Clegg and the 'austerity-lite' politics of Ed Miliband. And as Alex Callinicos notes, 'a radical and revolutionary left that plans to have a future has to start by acknowledging the achievement of Galloway and Respect. They have re-opened an electoral space to the left of Labour. We now have all to work together to ensure that this great second chance isn’t wasted.'


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Musical interlude

Not remotely political, but to some - including me - possibly the greatest
piece of music to be found on You Tube.