About Me and This Blog

On February 20, 2004, Ben Bernanke, then a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, delivered a speech, entitled “The Great Moderation,” to the Eastern Economic Association. His topic was whether the reduction in the amplitude of cyclical fluctuations that had marked the U.S. economy since the middle of the 1980s would continue. While somewhat hedging his bets, Bernanke indicated that he was optimistic it would:

“I have argued today,” Bernanke concluded, “that improved monetary policy has likely made an important contribution not only to the reduced volatility of inflation (which is not particularly controversial) but to the reduced volatility of output as well. … This conclusion on my part makes me optimistic for the future, because I am confident that monetary policymakers will not forget the lessons of the 1970s.”

As everybody now knows, Bernanke would get the answer to the question of whether the “Great Moderation” with its relatively mild recessions would continue in the face of the Federal Reserve System’s “improved monetary policy” in a little less than five years. By then, Bernanke had risen to the chairmanship of the Board of Governors. Everybody now knows the answer that Bernanke got, and it was not the answer that he—and, of course, the many hundreds of millions of victims of the crisis worldwide as well—was hoping for. But it is the answer we must all live with, however unpleasant.

In the light of the universal economic meltdown that swept the globe in the fall of 2008, the subject of the periodic economic crises that are part and parcel of the capitalist system has once again become a central concern of virtually everybody who lives on this planet. It is this question that this blog intends to explore from a Marxist perspective. Unlike the various schools of “orthodox” or “bourgeois” economics, Marx put the periodic economic crises that have marked the capitalist mode of production since the end of the first quarter of the 19th century at the very center of his analysis of capitalist society and its ultimate fate.

Origins of this blog

This blog is not a rush reaction to the current global economic crisis, though I will admit that the timetable for opening the blog has been rather rudely speeded up by the current crisis. On the contrary. The origins of the blog are rooted in prosperity, not crisis. This needs some explanation.

The roots of this blog go back decades, long before there were blogs or indeed the Internet in anything like its current form. I am a member of the so-called “baby boom” generation, itself a product of an earlier economic crisis, the Great Depression, and World War II, which in large measure grew out of the Depression. In an almost literal sense, members of my generation are the children of the Depression.

Growing up in the 1960s, I like many others of my generation was radicalized by the vast protest movement against the war in Vietnam, as well as the Black Liberation movement that was making a transition from the Civil Rights movement against legal Jim Crow segregation in the U.S. South to the Black Power movement. I took part—though not in a leadership role—in many of the demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and licked up my share of envelopes for mailings—e-mails were far in the future. My only regrets are that I didn’t wear out more shoe leather and lick more envelopes and postage stamps! And in the end, the people of Vietnam were victorious!

In the course of this activity, I became a socialist and gradually a Marxist. But I was bothered by one thing. The U.S. and world capitalist economies were passing through a powerful boom in the 1960s of a scope that has not been seen since in the imperialist countries of the United States, Western Europe and Japan. Indeed, a whole generation has now grown up that has never experienced the kind of economic prosperity that reigned in the sixties of the last century.

Early questions

The economic experts and textbooks of the day explained that capitalist governments had, with the help of the work of the British economist John Maynard Keynes, largely figured out how to control the business cycle, eliminating or a least greatly moderating periodic economic crises that had led to the Great Depression. If the government could keep the capitalist prosperity going through timely interventions, how could a revolutionary situation ever develop in rich countries such as the United States?

Unlike some other young radicals, I didn’t think the revolution was “just around the corner.” It was clear to me even then that the U.S. working class, as a class, was far from being in a revolutionary mood, notwithstanding the widespread spirit of rebellion that was certainly affecting considerable portions of the working class, especially but not only its African American component. But the U.S. working class—and this was true more or less of the working class of other imperialist countries, was far from being in a revolutionary mood, notwithstanding the events of May-June 1968 in France. It was very far from being on the verge of moving to overturn the capitalist system. And without a class-conscious working-class movement determined to overthrow capitalism, how could a socialist revolution ever occur? Would “Keynesian”-supported capitalist prosperity forever bar the door to a working-class radicalization and socialist revolution where the material conditions were otherwise most favorable for socialism?

Determined to explore this vital question, I became increasingly interested, and at times, I must admit, even obsessed, with economics, especially the question of the capitalist economy’s periodic crises. Was it really true that the capitalists governments could even out the business cycle and keep the economy in a state of “permanent quasi-boom” such as Keynes thought it could and advocated in his famous “General Theory.” And if not, why not?

Early studies

These were the years when “everybody was a Keynesian,” and even Marxists had come to respect Keynes and his work. I read the works of the major Marxist economists of the day, such as Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran’s “Monopoly Capital” and Ernest Mandel’s two-volume “Marxist Economic Theory,” as well as the writings of Victor Perlo and many others.

Still dissatisfied, I began to read Marx himself, and even plowed through the three volumes of “Capital.” I then read some of the classics of bourgeois political economy, such as Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” and David Ricardo’s “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation,” which had so influenced Marx.

During the decade of the 1970s, I spent many hours at the 40th Street Library in New York City—one of the great libraries of the world—reading many works by economists of all types, ranging from Marxist revolutionaries to what today would be called neoliberal reactionaries. While I was interested in all aspects of the capitalist economy—crises cannot be studied in a vacuum—the question of the periodic economic crises and the ultimate fate of the capitalist economy and modern society was never far from my mind.

As the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, the capitalist world economy was entering into a period of growing instability and crises, marked especially by what was dubbed “stagflation.” The U.S. and world economies passed through two major crises, the world recession of 1974-75 and the crisis of 1979-82, as well as the lesser recession of 1969-70. Unlike the case with pre-World War II economic crises, these crises were accompanied by continuing inflation as opposed to falling prices—deflation. Each of these crises began with soaring inflation and ended with slumping industrial production and mass layoffs. As production turned sharply downward, inflation did ease somewhat, but it did not stop.

Crisis of Keynesianism

This brought Keynesian economics, which had dominated official economics for a generation, to a crisis. Keynesians believed that you could have recession and mass unemployment or inflation but not both at the same time. On the right, the influence of the anti-Keynesian University of Chicago professor Milton Friedman was growing. Unlike the Keynesians, he had an explanation for the coexistence of high inflation and mass unemployment.

In these postings, I will examine from a Marxists perspective the economics of Keynes and Friedman, who are considered the two most influential bourgeois economists of the last century.

The second of the back-to-back economic crises of 1974-75 and 1979-82 led to the collapse of much of basic industry in the United States and Britain. Unlike the case with even the Great Depression, most of the factories in the industrial districts that were closed down as a result of the crisis never reopened, giving birth to the “rust belt.”

The growing economic crises of the decade of the 1970s led to expectations in the small and divided but increasingly hopeful U.S. socialist movement that it was about to enter into a period of massive growth as the workers responded to the growing hardships. The U.S. socialist movement, though still very small, had experienced a period  of growth coming out of the Civil Rights movement, the sixties rebellions, and the anti-war movement. Wouldn’t the new era of worsening economic crises give it a further boost by removing what had often been viewed as the main obstacle to its growth—America’s capitalist prosperity?

In the United States, the Depression of the 1930s had led to the growth of the workers’ movement, not only the trade unions but the political parties. Though the U.S. Communist Party and the other working-class parties had remained relatively small, they were still much larger than has been the case since. It had also, however, led to the triumph of fascism and other forms of right-wing dictatorship in Germany, Spain and other European countries, indicating that economic crises can push politics to the right as well as to the left.

It was in this period that I met my friend and collaborator Jon Britton. With his help and encouragement, I began to write articles for the socialist press, though under a different name. Our study of the “stagflation” of the 1970s opened up new areas of inquiry that had largely been missed by the Marxist economists of the time.

Period of reaction

Unfortunately, the crises of those years did not create the hoped-for radicalization of the working class. Instead, due in part to the corruption and degeneration of the working-class leadership during the prolonged period of prosperity that had preceded the 1970s crisis, it opened up a decades-long era of retreat for the working class. Instead of pushing politics to the left, or at least leading to an increased polarization between right and left, politics swung far to the right, not only in the United States and the other rich imperialist powers but in virtually all countries of the world.

The effect on the workers’ movement throughout the world was devastating. As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, we saw the rise of leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Deng Xiaoping, who were soon joined by Mikhail Gorbachev followed by Boris Yeltsin at the end of the decade. Though these leaders varied greatly among themselves, as did the societies that produced them, they had one thing in common. Thatcher and Reagan sang the praises of the “free market” and private property, and increasingly they were seconded by Deng, Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

This was not so surprising in conservative imperialist countries like the United States and Britain, but it was absolutely shocking in what had been revolutionary China and the Soviet Union. Everywhere, privatization was the order of the day, and the planned economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were completely dismantled, giving way to widespread capitalist chaos and the impoverishment of the great majority of the population, combined with the vast enrichment of a small capitalist minority. Everywhere, the rights and living standards of the workers came under attack. The resistance of the workers, though not completely absent, was scattered, confused, ineffective and largely leaderless.

Here in the United States, the ruling class and its economists could not contain their glee. Marx was finished once and for all! Socialism, whether the term referred to the planned economies of the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies, Tito’s Yugoslavia, China under Mao Zedong, or simply the “welfare states” of Western Europe, or even the reforms of the New Deal, was declared to be finished. Milton Friedman, the “neoliberal” economics professor, began to eclipse John Maynard Keynes as the leading economist of the ruling class. Capitalist ideologues increasingly assigned Keynes to the scrap heap along with Karl Marx.

This was not a good time to be a socialist, and indeed many socialists of the younger generation who had been minted during the rebellious sixties, and even some of the older generation, gave up the struggle, convinced that Marxism and socialism had finally proven unworkable in life. The argument was that capitalism may not be pretty, and it may not be moral or just, but through its use of the meanest human emotions, the desire for self-enrichment at the expense of others, it is the only system that delivers the goods.

To make matters worse for the increasingly besieged critics of capitalism, the world capitalist economy during the 1980s entered into a period of increased stability, which, as already indicated, bourgeois economists later dubbed “the Great Moderation.” True, growth rates did not reach the levels—in most countries—of the “great boom” that followed the Great Depression and World War II and rates of unemployment remained at generally higher levels than those that prevailed before the 1970s stagflation crisis. But though cyclical recessions continued to occur, they were milder than they had been in the 1970s and early 1980s.

In addition, inflation rates fell, though the upward march of prices never completely stopped, and the capitalist monetary systems became more stable. The economists of capitalist reaction, now increasingly dominated by the theories of Milton Friedman, claimed that though the business cycle continued, its ups and downs had definitely been leveled out, mostly through the greatly improved monetary policies of the central banks inspired by the work of Milton Friedman. Even many of the increasingly few remaining Marxists were accepting the prospect that severe economic crises were unlikely in the future. The governments, and especially the central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve System, it was claimed had finally learned how to control the business cycle, if not quite make it disappear.

‘The Project’

Back in the 1970s, Jon and I had conceived what we dubbed “The Project.” Tired of the need to popularize when writing for the socialist press, we decided that I would, with Jon’s assistance, criticisms and editing, write down a book-length manuscript of our joint ideas on crises. Originally, I had hoped that with the growth of the movement, it might be published by a socialist publishing house in some form. But as the reactionary trend of world politics became increasingly clear, and the socialist organizations became smaller, more isolated and more impoverished financially, this prospect receded. The beginning of the “Great Moderation” in the 1980s made publication of “The Project” even less likely.

Still, during the early years of the “Great Moderation,” and against the background of growing worldwide reaction, we relocated to the West Coast, and I started to write up the “The Project.” But the times were not ripe. Today, I also realize that our ideas were still unripe. They were leading in the right direction, but they weren’t there yet. Today I am glad that my first attempt at “The Project” never saw the light of day.

While the 1980s proved to be a completely counterrevolutionary decade in politics, a revolution was beginning in another field, the fields of electronics, computing and communications, which we were able to watch closely from our new location on the West Coast. This technological revolution climaxed with the rise of the World Wide Web, the graphical Internet, beginning in 1993.

A whole new medium of publication and communications was opening up, creating the possibility of publishing “on-line,” undreamed of when “The Project” was first conceived. Slowly the worst of the worldwide reaction began to relent. The so-called “anti-globlization” movement arose,  with its defiant if unsure slogan “a better world is possible.” This was a challenge to “there is no alternative,” the “TINA” slogan of the champions of what was at first called “monetarism,” the popular name for Milton Friedman’s theories, which then  for reasons we will be exploring in these postings became known as “neoliberalism.”

However, the contested “election” of George W. Bush as U.S. president in 2000, followed by the events of 9/11, led to widespread fears of a new witch hunt that could last for decades. In the days following the 9/11 attacks, the “anti-globalization” movement came to an apparent halt. Bush and his far-right supporters were in their element, launching  a so-called global war against “terrorism,” undermining civil liberties with the so-called “Patriot Act” and other measures, and spreading fear of Arabs and Muslims.

But the mass reaction against the impending unprovoked U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, both in the United States and abroad, soon made clear that it would not be so easy for the ruling class to conduct a new witch hunt, this time against Muslims, Arabs, so-called “terrorists” and their sympathizers. President George W. Bush saw his poll numbers decline from the astronomical heights they reached in the days after 9/11 to the point where he is leaving office as one of the most hated and reviled presidents in U.S. history.

Work on ‘The Project’ resumes

About four years ago, in the light of these developments, along with the fact that we weren’t getting any younger—the laws of biology will not permit us to wait for another 20 years—Jon and I decided that it was time to resume work on “The Project.” In the light of the development of our ideas arrived at in oral discussions over the years, we saw indications that the “Great Moderation” was approaching its end and that a new era of much sharper capitalist economic crises was coming, though there was no way of knowing in advance the exact speed and timing of it. The arrival of the current crisis, therefore, was not completely out of line with our expectations.

The essays posted on this blog will center on the branch of Marxist theory called crisis theory. Crises in this context do not refer to all the types of crises that affect capitalist society but rather the periodic economic crises that mark the downturns of the capitalist business cycle. The essays will spotlight these periodic crises that have, with varying degrees of intensity, affected the capitalist world market since 1825, and the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production that make them inevitable.

A note on terminology

One final note on terminology. For purposes of this blog, I define as a Marxist any person who so describes her or himself, or is generally considered to be a Marxist. There are many groups of people who consider themselves to be Marxists but consider other groups of people who consider themselves to be Marxists not to be Marxists at all! During my 40 years in the “movement,” I have certainly experienced much of this type of thing and have engaged in it myself.

On the basis of my long experience, I don’t believe that all self-described Marxists can get together in one big political party despite vast differences on such questions as the nature and fate of the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Cuban Revolution; completely counterposed views on popular fronts, united fronts, the theory of “permanent revolution” versus the possibility or necessity of achieving “socialism in one country”; the possibility or desirability of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”; the chances of peaceful democratic transitions to socialism versus the inevitably of violence and civil war in the struggle for socialism; and the many other lesser differences that exist among people who consider themselves to be in one sense or another followers of Karl Marx.

However, if we get into a discussion of who among the writers we will be examining, some obscure and some very famous—or to some infamous—were really Marxists and who were traitors or imposters, there will be no end to it! So for purposes solely of this blog, all people  who considered themselves to be Marxists, or are widely considered to have been Marxists, will be defined as Marxists. I will examine their economic ideas on their merits, and their views and contributions to crisis theory and related areas such as long cycles, or long waves, and breakdown theories, regardless of my own opinions or those of others about their general role in the workers’ struggle for liberation, and whether or not they were in fact “real Marxists.”

Sam Williams

January 5, 2009

49 Responses to “About Me and This Blog”

  1. Warren Greer Says:

    Bless you, you are doing what I hoped to do as a 20 year old veteran of
    the War, saved by the atom bomb from a statistically-probable death while attempting invasion of the Japanese home islands, and studying the Dismal Science at Univ. of Texas. I retired some years ago as a union machinist after a life of struggle and expectation, and putting my
    hope in the Kondratiev Curve.

  2. Jeffrey Curtis Says:

    Since you are doing crisis theory, I just wanted to ask whether you will also cover methods of preventing crisis once you present your own interpretation of the sourc of economic crisis? It seems very important right now as crisis hasve been held back by various means (credit bubbles, imperialism, state intervention etc.) that a deep analysis of these methods should be present. How they hold back crisis and their internal limits in doing so will be necessary to keep potential revolutionaries from turing towards other political orientations (Neoconservatives and imperialism/wars, Stalinists/Keynesians and extreme/moderate state intervention etc.).

  3. Mike Treen Says:

    FYI: Some useful stats and commentary on UK

    http://www.scottishsocialistparty.co.uk/new_pdfs/economy/TheStateoftheUKEconomy2.pdf

  4. juliohuato Says:

    I’ll just say, Thank you, Sam!

  5. Lionel vida Says:

    Clear, critical, explanatory, coherent and analytical this account not only does justice to marx’s life-time work but undermines and strips bare the sham intellectual authority of modern day capitalist economic theories of market.

    Keep up the good work and continue the critique.

    More on Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth

    and the Austrian so called critique of Centralised Socialist State Planning

  6. Tennessee-Chavizta Says:

    Hello all: Wow what a great blogger. I just have a simple question. How and when do you think that a Socialist Party can rise to government power in USA and change USA from capitalism to a socialist workers state. Because to tell you the truth i am damn tired of capitalist-America, of Mcdonalds, Burger Kings, Wendies, and KFC all over the place, of big hulking smelly SUVs and big trucks spending gas like there is no tomorrow. Of constant dollar devaluations (which lowers our personal liberty), of constant wars which also leads to poverty here at home, and of lack of personal-satisfaction and progress because who can progress and move foward in a capitalist american system where you have to be rich to join a College, and where every thing is literally banned and prohibited.

    Capitalist-America is literally a jail for the majority of US citizens, it is a death-penalty impossed by force on all americans.

    It is time to have a socialist system like Venezuela in the USA

    Thanx

    .

  7. Ezequiel Says:

    To have found this blog is simply thrilling, there´s not much like this effort in Spanish language, so i´ve had a hard time looking for discussions of theoretical problems of marxism.
    Thanks a lot, maybe (with your permission) i´ll find time to translate some of this material for the benefit of my fellow spanish-americans.

  8. CKALAS Says:

    Excellent !
    ATHENS OF GREESE

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  13. Alan Says:

    Minor error in one of the closing paragraphs:

    “On the basis of my long experience, I don’t believe that all self-described Marxists can get together in one big political party despite vast differences…”

    Should be: “BECAUSE vast differences…”

  14. Amador Ibañez Says:

    Muchas gracias, hemos publicado una traducción de su trabajo “El problema del valor y el precio en Marx” en http://www.marxismo.cl/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=1862,

    Tenemos unos talleres de estudio del método en el Capital y haré uso de su texto, me parece un buen punto de partida para la profundización sobre estos temas críticos, no solo desde el punto de vista académico, sino “prácticos”. Para la acción política transformadora del actual sistema de dominación capitalista a superar históricamente.

    Un abrazo
    Amador
    http://www.marxismo.cl
    “¡Estudiamos para vencer!”

  15. Will Says:

    Sam-

    I have an annoying question. I was trying to remember whether Marx himself claimed he had “turned Hegel on his head” or whether Engels used the phrase, or perhaps reported that Marx had said this. Do you recall what the original source of the phrase is?

    Thanks.

    • Calum Says:

      Marx & the semi-somersaulting Hegel:
      “The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive & conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell”
      (Marx, ‘Postface’ (dated 24 Jan 1873) to the 2nd German edition of Capital [v.1] – Penguin, 1988, p.103)

  16. Allan Says:

    Your blog is an incredibly valuable reference. Keep up the outstanding work.

    Have you considered (self?) publishing the posts on your blog? Marxist economist Michael Roberts published the posts from his blog http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com . I think publishing yours would serve as a terrific resource for those trying to understand the crisis.

  17. lisa Says:

    When will you be on Twitter, so I can track your new posts there? That is all. Otherwise, love the blog.

  18. OpressedCreature Says:

    Excellent blog/ web page. Thanks for all your work.

  19. wottcha Says:

    Hi Sam came across your site by accident as is the way on the internet. I have to say I have a profoundly ambiguous attitude towards the net, as I believe it leads to a lot of superficial and lazy thought. However although I am suspicious of a lot of blogs (a lot of them seem to me to be nothing more than vanity projects), your blog is so erudite and obviously so informed that I will be visiting you again to deepen my knowledge of marxian economics. As a British trade unionist and shop steward, I am striving to educate my members as well as myself in the complexities and lies of capitalist economics; your blog should be a great help in combating the bosses attacks on our pay and conditions. Good luck with the project!

  20. Red Clydeside Says:

    Excellent site! Have recently read for the first time Vol.1 of Capital. Couldn’t have made it to the end without the guidance of these lectures:

    http://davidharvey.org/reading-capital/

    There is much in your blog that augments the discussion in these lectures and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and analyses.

    Thanks again!

  21. Red Clydeside Says:

    Here in Britain our Prime Minister is pushing a concept called,”The Big Society”. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about what the motivation behind this idea is given that the Conservatives are largely following the principles of Neoliberalism with it’s emphasis on the individual at the expense of society. What’s going on here?

    • minglingmike Says:

      There’s an excellent book specifically about the British system “Where does money come from?” (nef)
      I am helping out a group called “Banks need Boundaries” which has a petition at change.org, quote
      “It’s a waste of time to debate monetary policy without taking into account how money is created.”

  22. Brutal Truth Says:

    Excellent blog Sam! Please keep up the good work. I find myself somewhere between socialism and anarcho-syndicalism, seeing pros and cons of each and envisioning the future of the world as being a fusion of the best points of socialism and anarcho-syndicalism.

    As is pretty clear, capitalism is an abomination and has no future. Capitalism simply wouldn’t be able to function without a huge difference between the value added by a worker’s labor and the wage he or she is actually paid for that same labor, in other words it requires the exploitation and ripping off of everyone without capital. Any economic model that cannot survive without the mass exploitation of the vast majority of its workers on a daily and hourly basis doesn’t deserve to exist and must be consigned to the ash heap of history. Capitalism belongs in a museum, the sooner the better.

  23. ingo Says:

    i go on commenting cause i cant find the email function (which is of no good). i like how u state the beginning of this blog in 2004. therefor u start analysing it thereafter. u may wanna check out this site iamthewitness.com the articles which are good are countless. no need to sa im neither faacist nor in anyyy kind ascotiated to violence at all.

    love & peace

  24. Lynn Henderson Says:

    Hi Sam — Is there an email address that I could something to for you? Thanks for this resource. Lynn Henderson Stillwater MN

  25. Nathanael Says:

    I believe that there’s a supercycle related to social equality. I’m going to state this in very general terms, beyojnd any Marxist or classical or similar framework.

    High inequality leads to societal damage, particularly for the people on the poorer side. Let’s take that as a given. Let’s also assume that inequality is a bad thing — most theories of utility conclude that it is, though theories of God-appointed “stations of life” don’t agree.

    Now, here’s the supercycle. We start with a society with high and rising inequality. This makes people angier and more politicized. Eventually, when a tiny minority has most of the power and money, people will *force* a change in government and create a more equal society. In some cases, the new government will merely constitute a new elite, just as extractive as the last one… but if so there will be more violence and more overthrow, over and over, as in the repeated South American putsches, until populists get into power. In other cases, enlightened self-interest will prevail among members of the elite (Earl Grey in the UK, FDR in the US) and they will force the rest of the elite to accept a modest redistribution of wealth and power.

    So the populists will reduce inequality. They probably won’t reduce it as much as we might like. If they reduce it only a little, then there will be another round of populism and improvement later (there were several rounds in the US).

    But if inequality gets reduced to a certain level, then people start feeling comfortable. You may say, great! People are happy, we have our utopia!…

    The problem is, after two generations (or less), people forget why inequality was a problem. There are always rapacious short-term-thinker greedheads, and once people forget why inequality was a problem, they will remove the restrictions which prevented those people from accumulating arbitrary amounts of wealth. Those people will then do so, they will use their wealth to change the political system to create yet more inequality, and eventually we’ll be back where we started.

    This is what happened in the US. I see no way out in the long run except for establishing a concerted educational program, explaining why *large wealth inequality is bad* from elementary school students on up — probably with in-class “pretend you live in this kingdom for a week” experiments to show them why it’s bad, since people tune out words. People have to experience it to understand it.

    (Note that wealth/power inequality is not merely a feature of capitalism. The misimplementation of Marxism by the Soviets in Russia and the Maoists in China also included embedded and self-reinforcing wealth/power inequalities, and so did the pre-capitalist medieval feudal system in Europe, and so did the imperial system in China, and so on and so on….)

  26. Nathanael Says:

    I will also add that I don’t think wealth/power inequality can be eliminated, as it seems to arise naturally from random social processes, and be reinforced by the actions of the malicious (who will always be with us). Therefore any good social system needs to have a continuous, ongoing, process of redistribution of wealth and power “back downward”. The USSR and Maoist China manifestly failed to have a continuous process of redistribution of *political power*. I would say that the US is hitting that particular failure mode at the moment too.

    Societies with a very strong social pressure towards equality and grassroots participation seem to have more stability against this failure mode (Denmark, Sweden, Norway — social democracies all — and also Switzerland come to mind.) Regardless of how you feel about them, they’re *stable* compared to most countries’ systems.

  27. billjefferies Says:

    Hi Sam, how do you get in touch direct? I would like your opinion on something I’ve written on the transformation problem. Email me if you’re interested.
    cheers
    bill

  28. Martin Jansen Says:

    This is an excellent article and has clarified much, not too mention will assist in defending my own position on the conflict between Western imperialism, the masses of the Ukraine and Russia. I will circulate widely. Martin.

  29. Lincoln's economics Says:

    Sam I’m a critic of all schools of economics, including Marxism, but always looking to improve my understanding. In short, I reject QTM and the notion of profit as a residual (i.e. subscribe to profit as a mark up–as do the Post Keynesians). But with that said, I would be interested in hearing how the notion of a subsistence wage can be maintained in a closed economy from a Marxist perspective. In other words, say workers earn 10% of GDP (say 90% profit). Where will the purchasing power come from to buy the products? Am I to believe the factory owner can buy hundreds of homes and cars for himself? As I see, it the problem is free trade because it destroys the domestic role of money which ultimately is to track labor content in industrial goods; force short term unemployment due to productivity gains, and allow for worker mobility to a superior competitor or new sector where the cost savings will be spent. Close the economy, problem solved.

  30. Mahmoud yassin Says:

    Hello Sam
    I have an idea of translating your article:”World War I—Its Causes and Consequences” in Arabic. is it possible to get in touch with you through Email to discuss this matter?

    Thanks

  31. neilcrabtree Says:

    Thanks Sam

    I have been writing an essay titled – The Folly of Economic Growth in the 21st Century – for over six months now and have just discovered your work. Wonderful stuff.

    Since I’m an Astrologer (and store my essays on my website)http://etherinform.com/mar2014_003.htm I was wondering what your birthdate was?

    neil.crabtree@internode.on.net

    The notion of equality is essential if a person wants to be free!

    Regards, Neil

  32. Prometheus Says:

    Hi Sam,

    What do you think of the theory of the markup pricing mostly propounded by post-Keynesians? Is it compatible with the labor theory of value? I wonder your thoughts.

  33. Nadeem Says:

    In your latest blog you have written: “The refugees certainly do not want to settle in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe, where capitalism was restored a quarter of a century ago…” I am very surprised that a very analytical, intelligent person like you states that those countries were socialists.

  34. Iliya Zlatev Says:

    Dear comrade Williams,

    We want to express our admiration and gratitude for the materials which you publish on your blog “Critiqueofcrisistheory”. All of them are full of creative thought and profound knowledge of Marxist-Leninist theory. We follow and analyze carefully everything that you write. We impatiently await the publication of your e-book.
    We translated in Bulgarian your material “Greece is only the tip of the iceberg” and uploaded it to our website (septemvri23.com).
    We wish You happy New year holidays, health and success in your creative endeavors in 2016!

    25.12.2015 Discussion club “September 23”
    Sofia, Bulgaria

    About us: We are a small group of Bulgarian Marxist-Leninists. Our immediate goal is to help in the creation of a revolutionary organization in our country by working on theoretical and historical topics, with the purpose of exposing and unmasking the widespread falsifications and manipulations that are disseminated by the bourgeois ideologues and the oligarchic media.

    September 23rd (1923) is the date of a mass anti-fascist uprising in our country organized by the Communist party together with the Bulgarian Agrarian Union for the establishment of workers and peasants power.

  35. Sam Swicord Says:

    FYI, from your latest article, this sentence is confusing as hell:
    “In Volumes I and II, Marx did not use a labor theory of price—prices directly proportional to values—because he believed that the labor theory of prices is the most realistic price theory. He did not. Rather, the founder of scientific socialism used a labor theory of prices in the first two volumes in order to lay bare the origins and nature of surplus value.”
    Read that sentence carefully. Did he use a labor theory of price or not? What’s up with the “He did not.” sentence.

  36. Sam Swicord Says:

    also, same article: “Shaikh’s failure to fully analysis this in “Capitalism”” *analyze

  37. Sam Swicord Says:

    also, same article: “for a a while even below the individual price of production as enterprises using the new cheaper method of production expand their production and market share.” You said “for a a while” instead of “for a while”

  38. Sam Swicord Says:

    also, same article: “The analysis of differential rent does not get us beyond the price-of-production equilibrium.” There’s a space between production and equilibrium that shouldn’t be there (at least that’s how it appears for me).

  39. Sam Swicord Says:

    also, same article: “They would never think of cutting their prices to capture a greater market share because they are already selling all the commodities they can produce..” That has two periods at the end.

  40. Sam Swicord Says:

    also, same article: “As a result, during the crisis the prices of agricultural commodities fall relatively to industrial commodities,” *relative (this is how you us the word later in the sentence

  41. Sam Swicord Says:

    also, same article: “Not so Shaikh.” *with

  42. Richard D. Vogel Says:

    It is high time for more stories from the Left that explore alternatives to the imperial narratives. El Malpaís is such a tale. And although men dominate Episodes 1, 2, 3, & 4, Rosa de la Frontera, a strong and vital woman, controls Episodes 5, 6, & 7. Her experiences and actions reflect the movement of women into the vanguard of history—a timely theme.

    EL Malpaís

    Enjoy In solidarity,

    R.D. Vogel

    combatingglobalization.com

  43. socialistfight Says:

    “On the basis of my long experience, I don’t believe that all self-described Marxists can get together in one big political party despite vast differences on such questions as the nature and fate of the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Cuban Revolution; completely counterposed views on popular fronts, united fronts, the theory of “permanent revolution” versus the possibility or necessity of achieving “socialism in one country”; the possibility or desirability of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”; the chances of peaceful democratic transitions to socialism versus the inevitably of violence and civil war in the struggle for socialism; and the many other lesser differences that exist among people who consider themselves to be in one sense or another followers of Karl Marx.”

    if socialism is ever to be established on the face of the planet we really have to sort out these questions. Lenin and Trotsky sorted them out sufficiently to make the Russian Revolution. If it failed to spread then it was because these question were not sorted out at least to a sufficient degree to enable a revolutionary party to lead a revolution; Germany up to 1923. Italy 1919-20, post WWII etc.

    Of course it is vital to understand the dynamics of capitalist accumulation and crises, the lightly outcome of the Trump presidency, which you latest article does particularly well because of all your previous work, obviously. But this article strongly suggests the necessity to get together those who agree with its implied perspectives.

    The biggest issue consuming the left internationally right now is Syria and the Liberation/Fall of Aleppo. Which is it – a revolution (funded by the CIA and its Turkish and Gulf allies) defeated or a severe blow to US-dominated world imperialism which we should celebrate, whilst knowing who Assad and Putin are and what their motivations is. Our small efforts in this regard produced a strong international response:

    The Liberation of Aleppo and the Tasks of Anti-imperialist Revolutionary Socialists

    Signed: Socialist Fight – Britain
    Workers Socialist League – USA
    Tendência Militante Bolchevique – Argentina
    Communist Revolutionary Action – Greece
    Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores – Brazil
    CEDS – Centro de Estudos e Debates Socialistas – Brazil
    Ady Mutero, Revolutionary Internationalist League – Zimbabwe
    Mohammad Basir Ul Haq Sinha, President, Inter Press Network, Dhaka – Bangladesh
    Akhar Bandyopadhyay, Bhagat Singh’s Socialist India (Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/nbshsra/)
    Frank Fitzmaurice, Liverpool – Britain 12/01/2017

    https://socialistfight.com/2017/01/06/pro-imperialist-left-rcit-lfi-lcc-flti-devastated-by-liberation-of-aleppo/

    https://socialistfight.com/2017/01/12/the-liberation-of-aleppo-and-the-tasks-of-anti-imperialist-revolutionary-socialists-12012017/

  44. Sam Swicord Says:

    “that enables you to install it on a certain number of computers.”

    Programs?

  45. Sam Swicord Says:

    nevermind

  46. Sam Swicord Says:

    ” Latinx vote ”

    *Latino

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