[Marxism] Political, Social and Economic Consequences of the Corona Virus Epidemic

2020-03-08 Thread John A Imani via Marxism
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Marxian economics finds its fulcrum--so as to lever economic
understanding--in its fundamental postulate that all new value comes into
existence only with the labors of humans, i.e. the workforce.(1)
<#m_4426030999311900811_sdfootnote1sym>This new value added by human
labor(2) is divided, in capitalism, into the products of necessary labor
and those of surplus labor with the former being the amount of time it
takes for the average worker to produce items which recreate the value of
his wage; while the latter is the time worked after that with the value of
the products produced during that time being that which remains with the
capitalist after the workers wage has been paid.

After the value of the wage has been resurrected, it must be seen that all
new net value is born into this world as surplus-value which, all things
being equal, becomes the capitalist’s profit. Without this latter portion
of the workday, in capitalism, then the necessary labor portion would cease
for “As every child knows” the prime motivation of capitalist production is
not employment but profit. Sans this there would be no industry.

The corona virus has wrought devastation upon wealthier nations with China,
South Korea, Japan and Italy having to quarantine workers in their millions
crippling wide swaths of many sectors of their economies. We will leave for
later the horrendous near future to be suffered by the more economically
underdeveloped areas of the world.

But within those more developed areas there are industries which are
relatively self-contained and those which occupy this or that rung on a
national or international supply chain. The quarantined self-contained
business would cease or drastically cut back on its workforce but being
self-contained the damage that it does to industry as a whole is only to
itself as cloistered company and the others who being local to this
production depend greatly upon the expenditure of at least part of the
revenues in the forms of wages and profits of the workers and the
capitalists of the stalled behemoth. In addition those vendors further away
would feel the loss of the expended purchasing power they previously
absorbed.


Those industries which are links in the supply chain can either be active
and passive or even participate as both. Further their activities in this
movement of production could be national or international or, again, both.
The active elements are the downstream producers of the components of
further upstream production; the upstream passive ones are the receivers of
those components produced downstream. If the downstream element cannot
produce then neither can those upstream sans those components. On the other
hand, if the upstream producer cannot sell on its products then it must
cease to be able to purchase those downstream elements. A break in a link
anywhere and the repercussions pancake themselves up and down on each other
with a failure of this one leading to that of the other leading to…

And the capitalist producers find themselves in the vise of a ‘scissors’ of
decreased effective demand and decreased supply. And if no work then no
value is created. No wages replicated, no profits created so as to be
realized.


This is the threat to developed countries. Countries that are struggling to
correctly respond to this disease and their health facilities are vastly
superior both in quality and scale to those of what used to be called ‘The
Third World'. (3) <#m_4426030999311900811_sdfootnote3sym>Therefore to
economic and war-avoidance refugees attempting to flee to more developed
areas will be joined by those shocked into fear by the massive massive
amounts of those who will be infected with the virus. The more developed
nations will face tremendous resistance to allowing admittance of all refugees
and their right wing anti-immigration activists will be joined by not only
those formerly neutral on the issue but also by some formerly of the
left-wing pro-migrant forces.


The only long-term solution to the migrant problem might be called a
‘reverse Rodney (4) <#m_4426030999311900811_sdfootnote4sym>where the
developed world will commit the resources so as to redevelop 3rd World
economies deformed by Western colonization and neocolonialism and now
Chinese neocolonialism into single-crop and/or raw material production
designed for export to the developed countries. Such a redevelopment ought
recreate a ‘natural’ economy’ where production is done for local
consumption and hence must include many raw material mines, crops, and
animals. Only, and to a lesser extent, would commodities be produced for
export to and trade with countries where items are produced 

[Marxism] Thomas Piketty Turns Marx on His Head

2020-03-08 Thread Louis Proyect via Marxism

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(I'll stick with the original Capital, thank you very much.)

NY Times Sunday Book Review, March 8, 2020
Thomas Piketty Turns Marx on His Head
By Paul Krugman

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY
By Thomas Piketty
Translated By Arthur Goldhammer
1,093 pp. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. $39.95.

Seven years ago the French economist Thomas Piketty released “Capital in 
the Twenty-First Century,” a magnum opus on income inequality. 
Economists already knew and admired Piketty’s scholarly work, and many — 
myself included — offered the book high praise. Remarkably, the book 
also became a huge international best seller.


In retrospect, however, what professionals saw in “Capital” wasn’t the 
same thing the broader audience saw. Economists already knew about 
rising income inequality. What excited them was Piketty’s novel 
hypothesis about the growing importance of disparities in wealth, 
especially inherited wealth, as opposed to earnings. We are, Piketty 
suggested, returning to the kind of dynastic, “patrimonial” capitalism 
that prevailed in the late 19th century.


But for the book-buying public, the big revelation of “Capital” was 
simply the fact of soaring inequality. This perceived revelation made it 
a book that people who wanted to be well informed felt they had to have.


To have, but maybe not to read. Like Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History 
of Time,” “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” seems to have been an 
“event” book that many buyers didn’t stick with; an analysis of Kindle 
highlights suggested that the typical reader got through only around 26 
of its 700 pages. Still, Piketty was undaunted.


His new book, “Capital and Ideology,” weighs in at more than 1,000 
pages. There is, of course, nothing necessarily wrong with writing a 
large book to propound important ideas: Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin 
of Species” was a pretty big book too (although only half as long as 
Piketty’s latest). The problem is that the length of “Capital and 
Ideology” seems, at least to me, to reflect in part a lack of focus.


To be fair, the book does advance at least the outline of a grand theory 
of inequality, which might be described as Marx on his head. In Marxian 
dogma, a society’s class structure is determined by underlying, 
impersonal forces, technology and the modes of production that 
technology dictates. Piketty, however, sees inequality as a social 
phenomenon, driven by human institutions. Institutional change, in turn, 
reflects the ideology that dominates society: “Inequality is neither 
economic nor technological; it is ideological and political.”


But where does ideology come from? At any given moment a society’s 
ideology may seem immutable, but Piketty argues that history is full of 
“ruptures” that create “switch points,” when the actions of a few people 
can cause a lasting change in a society’s trajectory.


To make that case, Piketty provides what amounts to a history of the 
world viewed through the lens of inequality. The book’s archetypal case 
study is French society over the past two and a half centuries. But 
Piketty ranges very far afield, telling us about everything from the 
composition of modern Swedish corporate boards to the role of Brahmins 
in the pre-colonial Hindu kingdom of Pudukkottai.


He describes four broad inequality regimes, obviously inspired by French 
history but, he argues, of more general relevance. First are “ternary” 
societies divided into functional classes — clergy, nobility and 
everyone else. Second are “ownership” societies, in which it’s not who 
you are that matters but what you have legal title to. Then come the 
social democracies that emerged in the 20th century, which granted 
considerable power and privilege to workers, ranging from union 
representation to government-provided social benefits. Finally, there’s 
the current era of “hypercapitalism,” which is sort of an ownership 
society on steroids.


Piketty tries to apply this schema to many societies across time and 
space. His discussion is punctuated by many charts and tables: Using a 
combination of extrapolation and guesswork to produce quantitative 
estimates for eras that predate modern data collection is a Piketty 
trademark, and it’s a technique he applies extensively here, I’d say to 
very good effect. It is, for example, startling to see evidence that 
France on the eve of World War I was, if anything, more unequal than it 
was before the French Revolution.


But while there is a definite Francocentric feel to “Capital and 
Ideology,” for me, at least, the vast amount of ground it covers raises 
a couple of awkward questions.


The first is whether Piketty is 

[Marxism] The Rich Are Preparing for Coronavirus Differently

2020-03-08 Thread Louis Proyect via Marxism

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NY Times, March 8, 2020
The Rich Are Preparing for Coronavirus Differently
By Alex Williams and Jonah Engel Bromwich

The new coronavirus knows no national borders or social boundaries. That 
doesn’t mean that social boundaries don’t exist.


“En route to Paris,” Gwyneth Paltrow wrote on Instagram last week, 
beneath a shot of herself on an airplane heading to Paris Fashion Week 
and wearing a black face mask. “I’ve already been in this movie,” she 
added, referring to her role in the 2011 disease thriller “Contagion.” 
“Stay safe.”


Ms. Paltrow did not pose with just any mask, unlike, say, Kate Hudson 
and Bella Hadid, who also recently posted selfies wearing cheaper, 
disposable masks. The Goop founder and influencer of influencers instead 
opted for a sleek “urban air mask” by a Swedish company, Airinum, which 
features five layers of filtration and an “ultrasmooth and skin-friendly 
finish.”


Never mind that the surgeon general, Jerome M. Adams, begged people to 
refrain from indulging in mask mania on Twitter last weekend. Priced 
from $69 to $99, the Airinum mask, which has been popping up on 
Instagram stylistas, is sold out on its website until April. (The MoMA 
Design Store, which carried the mask, is also sold out.)


At C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries, a venerable pharmacy in Greenwich Village, 
N95 face masks that can filter for viruses have been sold out for weeks, 
said Justin O’Connor, who works in the store’s surgical department. 
There is a waiting list of 300 people.


“A lot of big names come into C.O. Bigelow; they’re usually pretty 
humble,” Mr. O’Connor said. Now, some people are trying to name-drop 
their way into snagging masks. “They’ll be like ‘Do you know who I work 
for?’ but we’re never impressed,” he said.


Cambridge Mask Company, a British company that uses what it calls 
“particulate filtering layers and military-grade carbon,” has seen 
demand for its $30 masks spike 20 to 30 times normal levels, said 
Christopher Dobbing, its founder.


The rich are sparing no expense when it comes to minimizing their 
experience with the coronavirus.


Why spend $3.79 on a bottle of hand sanitizer from Target when Byredo, a 
European luxury brand, makes what it calls a “rinse-free hand wash” with 
floral notes of pear and bergamot for $35 (although that, too, is sold out)?


You may have more luck with Olika, a company that makes a hand sanitizer 
shaped like a modernist baby chick and costs $14.62 for a three-pack. 
Alastair Dorward, the chief executive of Olika, said that the company is 
getting multiple orders per minute, adding, “it’s not clear how many 
more days the rest of our product will be in stock.”


Mr. Dorward said that customers were seeking to buy large batches of the 
company’s Birdie and Minnie dispensers. “The pattern of ordering has 
changed significantly, and people are looking to grab product while they 
can,” he said.


Demand has also shot up for the preparedness kits sold by Judy, a 
start-up led by Simon Huck, a publicist and noted friend of Kim 
Kardashian West. As of Monday, the company had sold out of its fanny 
pack survival kits ($50) and larger Mover bags ($150), which contain a 
first-aid kit, biohazard bag, Wet Wipes, hand sanitizer, batteries, a 
flashlight and other gear.


Flying the Virus-Free Skies

Even in the best of times, there are germs on airplanes. We scrub our 
hands in the cramped aircraft lavatories, avoid eating the Biscoff 
cookie that falls on the tray table, and if we’re really fussy, wipe the 
armrests with Wet Wipes. You know, just to be sure.


At a time when every stray cough from three rows back sounds like a 
ghostly greeting from Typhoid Mary, those who can afford it are paying 
extra to sidestep crowded security lines and jampacked planes and flying 
private — which might be an attractive option for those who wish to flee 
the teeming cities for, say, a safe house in Telluride, Colo.


Some wealthy people have told Bloomberg News that they have been staying 
in their Hamptons homes and are prepared to jet off to cabins in Idaho 
if things get worse. And The Guardian reported that executives have 
chartered jets for “evacuation flights” out of China and other affected 
areas.


For some private jet companies, fear equals opportunity. Southern Jet, a 
charter jet company in Boca Raton, Fla., recently sent out a limited 
test marketing email with the tag line: “Avoid coronavirus by flying 
private … Request a quote today!”


The company got a bounce in requests for flights (which can run about 
$20,000 for a trip on a midsize jet from Florida to New York), but also 
a couple of responses calling the campaign 

[Marxism] The OAS helped undermine, not restore, democracy in Bolivia

2020-03-08 Thread Louis Proyect via Marxism

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Washington Post, March 7, 2020 at 6:30 a.m. EST
The OAS helped undermine, not restore, democracy in Bolivia
By Gabriel Hetland

It is difficult to imagine that Evo Morales would have left office when 
and how he did — in a civic-military coup — if the Organization of 
American States had not found that Bolivia’s Oct. 20 election was 
fraudulent. To be sure, the OAS did not single-handedly bring down 
Morales. In the weeks before the coup, Morales faced large protests and 
a devastating police mutiny.


The protests did not focus solely on the election. Many were upset 
Morales was allowed to run at all after losing a 2016 referendum asking 
voters to approve his bid to seek a fourth term. The police mutiny 
centered on officers’ disgruntlement over pay and being asked to contain 
the protests. And the Bolivian right had declared that Morales could win 
the October election only through fraud for months before the vote, 
i.e., well before the OAS stepped into the fray.


Yet, the OAS actions were undoubtedly important in creating a climate 
within which a coup could not only succeed, but be applauded as a 
necessary step toward restoring Bolivian democracy, as the U.S. 
government and mainstream media did. In fact, the opposite has occurred. 
Following Morales’s ouster, Bolivia has come under the control of a 
right-wing authoritarian regime that has killed dozens of unarmed 
protesters, detained hundreds, blocked international human rights 
investigators, systematically repressed political opponents, threatened 
journalists and media outlets, embraced racism, and enacted a far-right 
agenda for which it has no electoral mandate nor constitutional legitimacy.


The question of whether the OAS was justified in declaring the October 
election fraudulent looms large. In a recent article published in The 
Post, John Curiel and Jack R. Williams, researchers with MIT’s Election 
Data and Science Lab, conclude the answer is no. Curiel and Williams 
used statistical analysis to analyze a central claim made by the OAS — 
initially in an Oct. 21, 2019, news release — that there was a “drastic 
and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results” 
following an election-night suspension of the unofficial rapid vote 
count. According to the OAS, this is one of numerous pieces of evidence 
showing fraud. Curiel and Williams unequivocally reject this, writing: 
“As specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical 
evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia’s October election.”


Curiel and Williams’s findings corroborate those of the Center for 
Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which has forcefully challenged the 
OAS’s charge of fraud since it was made. Curiel and Williams were, in 
fact, contracted by CEPR to test the organization’s own statistical 
findings that the OAS failed to prove fraud, though there is no reason 
to think CEPR influenced the MIT researchers. The OAS responded to 
Curiel and Williams by defending its work, including its statistical 
analysis. The OAS also took Curiel and Williams to task for not engaging 
with the non-statistical claims made in the OAS’s final report on election.


Does the OAS have a leg to stand on? A careful reading of the evidence 
shows that the answer is no. The OAS is entirely unjustified in its 
declarations that it has proved the existence of fraud and intentional 
manipulation of the vote. To be clear: this does not mean CEPR and 
Curiel and Williams have proven the Oct. 20 election was clean. Yet they 
have convincingly shown that the OAS’s claim of fraud is 
unsubstantiated. Through independent statistical analyses, CEPR and 
Curiel and Williams both show that there was not a drastic or 
hard-to-explain change in the voting trend. The increase in Morales’s 
vote over time can be explained based on his receiving higher support in 
votes counted late in the process. And it is not surprising that this 
would be the case, as Morales tended to do well in rural and poorer 
urban areas that typically are slower to report voting results.


It’s clear that the OAS acted in an unjustified and reckless manner in 
Bolivia, helping to undermine, not restore, democracy. Why would an 
organization publicly committed to upholding democracy do this? The 
words and actions of OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro provide a clue.


Instead of condemning Bolivia’s flagrant human-rights abuses and 
antidemocratic practices, Almagro recognized its de facto regime. 
Almagro has also made alarming, Trump-esque statements about Venezuela. 
In September of 2018, Almagro said, “With respect to a military 
intervention to overthrow 

[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Asia]: Guerin on Aso, 'Rubber and the Making of Vietnam: An Ecological History, 1897-1975'

2020-03-08 Thread Andrew Stewart via Marxism
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Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 
- - -
Subscribe to the Washington Babylon newsletter via 
https://washingtonbabylon.com/newsletter/

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW 
> Date: March 8, 2020 at 10:17:53 AM EDT
> To: h-rev...@lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff 
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Asia]:  Guerin on Aso, 'Rubber and the Making of 
> Vietnam: An Ecological History, 1897-1975'
> Reply-To: h-rev...@lists.h-net.org
> 
> Michitake Aso.  Rubber and the Making of Vietnam: An Ecological 
> History, 1897-1975.  Flows, Migrations, and Exchanges Series. Chapel 
> Hill  University of North Caroline Press, 2018.  Illustrations, maps, 
> tables. 426 pp.  $32.95 (e-book), ISBN 978-1-4696-3716-7; $32.95 
> (paper), ISBN 978-1-4696-3715-0; $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 
> 978-1-4696-3714-3.
> 
> Reviewed by Mathieu Guerin (INALCO - Institut national des langues et 
> civilisations orientales)
> Published on H-Asia (March, 2020)
> Commissioned by Bradley C. Davis
> 
> Michitake Aso's book is neither a history of Vietnam nor an 
> environmental history of rubber plantations. Aso is foremost a 
> historian of technology and science in Vietnam. In large part, his 
> previous publications focus on the history of medicine, rubber, and 
> technology in Vietnam from the colonial era to the end of the Vietnam 
> War. Rubber and the Making of Vietnam is the published version of his 
> PhD dissertation, "Forests without Birds: Tropical Agriculture and 
> Medicine in French Colonial Vietnam, 1890-1954," which he defended at 
> the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2011. In Rubber and the 
> Making of Vietnam, Aso explores the relationship between technology, 
> science and the manufacturing of knowledge, capitalistic 
> exploitation, and human bodies through the lens of rubber production 
> in Vietnam from the colonial era to the reunification of Vietnam in 
> 1975. He studies how rubber production was used by successive 
> regimes--the French colonial administration, the State of Vietnam 
> (SV, which Aso calls the "Associated States of Vietnam"), the first 
> and second Republics of Vietnam (RVN), the Democratic Republic of 
> Vietnam (DRV), and finally the Socialist Republic of Vietnam 
> (SRV)--and their opponents, as a means to develop Vietnam's economy 
> and an idea on which to build a "modern" nation.  
> 
> His language skills allowed him to draw data and analysis from a 
> large collection of archives and literature in French, Vietnamese, 
> and English. To conduct his research, Aso explored archive material 
> in France, Vietnam, Cambodia, the United States, Singapore, and 
> Switzerland, and he read an amazing number of books and papers on 
> French Indochina and twentieth-century Vietnamese history. Using 
> French, American, and Vietnamese archives, as well as interviewing a 
> few witnesses, enabled him to record different sides of the history 
> of rubber in Vietnam: those of the state, plantation owners, workers, 
> and scientists of different backgrounds. 
> 
> The book is divided into seven chapters and three parts: "Red Earth, 
> Grey Earth" on the ecology of rubber in Vietnam, "Forests without 
> birds" on the rubber industry during the colonial era before the end 
> of World War II, and "Rubber Wars" on rubber production during the 
> First and Second Indochina Wars. After a promising introduction, the 
> first chapter and first part appear a bit confused. In trying to 
> explain how the introduction of the latex tree _hevea brasiliensis_, 
> and the technologies needed to grow it, have redefined the 
> relationship between human societies and the environment in Cambodia 
> and the southern part of Vietnam, it would have been useful to read 
> the work of such researchers as Nguyễn Thị Hải, who questioned 
> the perception of nature and malaria by the Vietnamese in the 
> nineteenth century.[1] A few mistakes appear during the discussion of 
> highlanders, who are not all Austroasiatic, and the treatment of 
> Khmer concepts or practices, such as _sruk_ or swidden cultivation. 
> The impressive works edited by Malcolm Cairns on swidden in Southeast 
> Asia, _Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change: Indigenous 
> People, Agriculture and Forest Conservation_ (2015) and _Shifting 
> Cultivation Policies: Balancing Environmental and Social 
> Sustainability_ (2017), would have been useful here. Nevertheless, 
> Aso can claim a very good understanding of French colonial discourse 
> on nature and disease.  
> 
> The second part focuses on the development of _hevea_ plantations 
> during the colonial era. Although Aso does not provide his own 
> account of the history of 

[Marxism] [Corrected] Greetings on International Women's Day!

2020-03-08 Thread Alan Ginsberg via Marxism
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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rising_of_us_all_-WomensMarch_-WomensMarch2018_-SenecaFalls_-NY_(25935267908).jpg

Bread And Roses
As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,A million darkened
kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,Are touched with all the radiance that
a sudden sun discloses,For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses!
Bread and Roses! As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,For
they are women’s children, and we mother them again.Our lives shall not be
sweated from birth until life closes;Hearts starve as well as bodies; give
us bread, but give us roses. As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women
deadGo crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.Small art
and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.Yes, it is bread we fight
for, but we fight for roses too. As we go marching, marching, we bring the
greater days,The rising of the women means the rising of the race.No more
the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,But a sharing of
life’s glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.Our lives shall not be
sweated from birth until life closes;Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread
and roses, bread and roses.
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[Marxism] Greetings on International Women's Day!

2020-03-08 Thread Alan Ginsberg via Marxism
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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rising_of_us_all_-WomensMarch_-WomensMarch2018_-SenecaFalls_-NY_(25935267908).jpg
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