My Term Comes to an End

In 20 days, I will no longer be General Secretary of the Connolly Youth Movement. I am stepping down for a number of reasons, but the first and most important one is that when I first ran three years ago, I told myself that I would never be one of those people we hear of in other organisations who sit on positions for decades, who, instead of recognising when they’ve contributed all they can and step aside, instead rot in their seats, holding onto the last vestiges of power.

I actually think it’s a sign of success if one comrade steps down from a senior position as in my case, there are a number of candidates and capable comrades willing to step up. I am not the only senior Ard Chomhairle member to step aside, there will also be a change in the National Chairperson and no doubt many other candidates running. This indicates to me that comrades who are passionate are desiring to contribute more to our movement and step up to the plate. This indicates to the health of our movement, and nothing else.

In September, I’ll be 7 years a member. Time for reflection, but more importantly a long break from all activity to gather my thoughts. We are no longer affiliated to the Communist Party, which many of us felt would be the party we would graduate into. That deserves a significant amount of thought alone, but for now, my reflections will be of the time spent in the Connolly Youth. For the better part of those 7 years I put a huge amount of personal time and resources into growing the organisation and it fills me with great pride to see the organisation where it is at today.

Most members know the story already. Five years ago there was less than a dozen members nationally. Five years later the organisation is in triple digits. No point retelling it at this stage, everybody who ought to know, knows.

The fact is, the Connolly Youth Movement is going to keep on growing. We don’t need elected representatives to help with that growth or multi-million euro state funding. We don’t need much, because in a revolutionary situation, equipment and resources come second. What comes first is a well disciplined, well organised army of organisers, revolutionaries and militants. We have seen this as far back as 1798 – the battles of Wexford were fought with pikes because the people believed in the Republic and although they didn’t win – they came close. We have seen this in 1916, when a hugely outnumbered group of republicans, trade unionists and socialists held Dublin for a week and if it weren’t for the horrible betrayal of Eoin MacNeil, might have ushered in the Republic of 1916, rather than the partitioned failed Free State.

I am a firm believer in the Revolution and I believe so are my comrades. I reject cynicism and pessimism. If the revolutionary Party and movement are ready; then they’re ready and that has always been our mission under our slogan of AGITATE, EDUCATE, ORGANISE – to get ready for a revolutionary crisis and seize it.

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Black Lives Matter in Ireland

The recent shooting of George Nkencho has re-started the debate regarding Black Lives Matter, racism, the role of the Gardaí and all lives / white lives.  The Connolly Youth Movement has had a few members attend the recent solidarity vigils and many of us have posted extensively on social media on the subject already.  In writing this slightly extended piece, commentary will be provided on a few pertinent subjects that have arisen. 

  1. The Garda are not friends of the working class. 

From Shell to Sea, to baton charging students, to arresting water charge activists to the century long anti-Republican campaigns, the Garda are the police force of the Fine Gael-Fianna Fail establishment. They are stacked with obedient servants that are handpicked based on allegiance. Their role in relation to politics has always been to smash any organisation of the working class.  As I write this, the head of the Garda is an MI5 asset. Go figure.

  1. Even in a liberal democracy, due process is still required. 

It is horrible that somebody was injured by George, but the fact is that a broken nose doesn’t carry the death sentence in Ireland. Wielding a knife doesn’t either and the point is that it’s for a Judge and if applicable a jury to determine guilt and sentencing.  Shooting at somebody fatally should be a final and last resort so the very legitimate question of excessive force has been raised here. Conflicting accounts of the incident cast aspersions on the narrative portrayed by the Garda. Beyond that, we should question what happened anyway

The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act of 1997 outlines the offences and punishments for assaulting somebody or causing them injury.  Fines and imprisonment are the punishments, as opposed to capital punishment. 

In fact, capital punishment was abolished in 1990. Which means that there is no punishment which can lead to death. The point of outlining this is to state that the death of somebody, be they a criminally convicted or not – is truly a final and last resort. 

  1. The investigation will determine the truth… 

We have seen how the State investigates itself. The investigation into the shooting, like into other questionable incidents revolving around Garda conduct will either acquit those who performed the shooting or see somebody sacrificed, but structurally, the Garda will remain the same.  They will keep stopping and searching young people in working class estates. They’ll continue actively harassing members of the travelling community and their reputation will continue to deteriorate in the eyes of many communities in Ireland.  

Unless pressure is applied through protest, petition and social media, then the investigation will go away like many other internal investigations.

  1. The far right has flooded social media. 

Whether you trust the police or the judges, whether you see yourself in a certain political entity, the fact is far right misinformation has flooded social media. Fake accounts, which seem to be largely American have come onto Irish social media and begun, in a co-ordinated fashion to spin the exact same narrative that they spin in America. 

“He had it coming” 

“He was a criminal”  

“The response of his friends and community is over the top” 

On and on it goes.  

The image purporting to show criminal convictions has been pulled out of thin air yet shared around as if it’s true. It has no sources, so it’s basically completely unverifiable. 

Even if he had prior convictions, this does not translate into an automatic death sentence. There are plenty of people on social media sharing the image around / supporting the Garda who have prior convictions, should they be shot dead in their next encounter with the Garda? 

The response of his friends, family and community is completely reasonable.

  1. It’s both a working-class issue and a racial issue 

Chief among the arguments being peddled is that this is not a racial issue. That the Garda would have shot George if he was a white man.   Examples of the Garda not shooting people in situations that were markedly worse exist. The two chief ones that are worth noting is when all Citywest was put under lockdown when a man went on a rampage with a machine gun. The second one is when a young man charged into the Dáil with a sword, claiming he wanted to start a one man uprising. Both are still alive, and the situation was resolved on both occasions. In fact, there are hundreds of articles out there showing examples where the situation was resolved without having to shoot somebody dead. 

Perhaps instead of sending the ERU to confront somebody that was highly distressed and agitated they could have sent negotiators. Perhaps George could still be alive and if he did indeed perform criminal acts, he would go before a court and be tried as anybody should. But we’ll never know, because the Garda fired five times and fatally wounded him.  

The issue of racialized policing is not as accentuated as it is in America, because Ireland, unlike America, was not founded by slave owners and slave traders. Nevertheless, polling regarding how Garda feel about the travelling community reveals deep discriminatory beliefs and views.   What would polling reveal if questions about the Black Irish community were asked? What kind of views do Garda have on young black men in Ireland?  Where is the justice for other young men like Terrence-Wheelock?

  1. What about white lives? Don’t’ all lives matter? 

Of course, they do, but the activists who support or advocate for #BlackLivesMatter aren’t suggesting otherwise. What they are doing is highlighting the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of racism, institutional and cultural towards their communities and that this racism must be actively challenged by everybody.  

My observation on the ‘All Lives Matter’ crowd is that they do fuck all for the homeless, for the hungry and for those being oppressed by the state. That they only seem to manifest themselves as a contrarian force engaging in doublethink. They say ‘all lives matter’ but that isn’t true, because if it was, the ‘all lives matter’ types would be engaged with activism that helps people.  

In a conversation with a relative, she pointed out how Eastern European were sex trafficked and why nobody was discussing this subject and only discussing Black Lives Matter. The point I made in response and the point I’ll make here is straightforward. The All Lives Matter people will never lift a finger to help people who are trafficked, because they are not there to help, they are there to attack other groups such as Black Lives Matters and secondly, the politicisation of certain issues and their entering into the mainstream means that people engage with certain subjects more than others at any given time. Finally, that most individuals are considered about a plethora of overlapping and cross connected issues, to care for something does not exclude interest or care in another subject. 

Conclusion 

As outlined by my comrade in a previous piece on cym.ie https://cym.ie/2020/09/05/to-protect-and-serve/ the role of the police in a capitalist – colonial setting is to crush all dissent; in whatever way it manifests. The criminalisation of young men in working class communities takes on a racial element when these young men are not white. This is done because it allows for the skewering of the narrative along Yankee lines and this is how the far right have been trying to frame the debate here in Ireland. It’s not even subtle.  

It is ironic to see, those claiming the Garda didn’t do what they did because of race, to then turn around and talk of deporting all the African gangs and go on long winded rants about asylum seekers taking their jobs and getting social welfare. Makes it all obvious enough that it is a racial issue for many of the people behind the fake profiles. 

Finally – much has been said of George’s brother giving a speech about finding the Garda that shot his brother. In my opinion, this is a reasonable response to having your brother shot dead by the police. 

P.S The closure of Blanchardstown shopping center for a short while because of a protest isn’t as big a deal as it’s made out to be. Get over it. 

Principal Lessons of the American Presidential Election 2020

The world eagerly watches as the count narrows down between Joe Biden & Donald Trump. Both men, have over a dozen each sexual assault allegations and both men, represent two political parties that have ruthlessly overseen the pillaging of the world and the destitution of the American working class.

Liberals all over are falling over themselves to justify ‘lesser evil’ politics and they are being assisted by certain sections of Communists. Other Communists, with an alternative train of thought, have argued that playing mudgaurd for the Democratic Party is a huge mistake, and only feeds into approving electoral politics in practice, even if ‘theoretically’ they may be opposed to it.

This is the school of thought that I find myself in as well and will outline some of the key lessons that we must learn.

  1. Organisations that play mudguard to social democratic formations (Democratic Party, Labour, Sinn Fein, Melenchon, SYRIZA, Podemos) undermine the strength of their own organisation. How? In practical terms, the lending of support through parties that are specifically not socialist, we lend our reputation, credibility and resources to amplifying an inherently anti-socialist programme. We might defend this activity by stating that this will open up breathing room, that this will benefit other organisations and so on – but what is occurring in reality is that we are, in the eyes of the working class and public outlining that socialism can be achieved through electoral politics and re-enforcing a false analysis of politics & society.
  2. Electoral periods regularly put Communist organisations without fielding their own candidates in a strict strategy into a form of paralysis. In Ireland, there have been 3 elections in the last 12 months and we have been unable to engage productively with the electoral period because the spotlight & emphasis was on electoral politics. Our responsibility as Communists is to engage in a limited and strict manner with electoral politics. To advertise and put forward our programme and use electoral politics to build up and strengthen our organisation. Importantly that is the message we must convey to our class, that voting for us and electing Communist Councillors isn’t going to usher in Socialism, neither will voting for anybody else for that matter. Socialism must be built from the mass working class organisations – and if those organisations don’t exist, then we must build them.
  3. The primary focus for Communists, is to build the Communist movement & Parties in our respective countries. Canvassing, promoting and shilling for social democratic parties directly contravenes that. Those whose interests in social democracy expires or develops, will come to us regardless because material conditions will demand it so. The politicisation of a new generation of young communists has not occurred because of a few people like Bernie Sanders & Jeremy Corbyn, it has occurred, as other rapid moments of politicisation have occurred; the material conditions of capitalism and the crisis it is hurtling itself into.

If we can accept these lessons and learn from them, then the electoral cycles coming up in Ireland for the Parliament, Councils/EU and Presidency will not have a place of primacy to the political strategy. Building a muscular, influential and well entrenched, working class led Communist organisation will take primacy. The stronger the Communist movement is in any given country, the further left the social democrats will clamber to become. The stronger the Communist movement is, the stronger the working class is.

Let’s learn our lessons now and not mysteriously forget them come the next election.

Lets build a Communist movement which has it’s focus the dictatorship of the proletariat — and not the abolition of this law, or the introduction of this law. Let us struggle for a 32 County Socialist Republic in the spirit of James Connolly and not his Labour Party successor sell outs.

Radical Origins of Republicanism in 3 Minutes

Republicanism is an ideological development inspired by the 1776 and 1781 events in America and France. Both events were centered around the abolition of the monarchy. The American system created a Presidential Monarchy (executive power with the president) and began pillaging the world like their former colonial master. The French revolution temporarily established the “Commune”, the first “socialist” revolution. From this revolution, and with the help of revolutionary France, Wolfe Tone drew his central ideals, which he argued for in the Society United Irish Men.

Marxists would say that ‘Republicanism’ as a phenomena, comes from the ‘base’ which is colonial-imperialism. It is a contradictory development to colonial-imperialism that unifies the people of Ireland for a sovereign republic and the democratic ownership of resources.


Wolfe Tone, the spiritual and symbolic representative of Irish Republicanism, wrote extensively on the misery inflicted on Ireland by the English. He also made commentary about how the wealthy were responsible and how the English system, upheld the wealthy.


5 years later the remains of the Society led an abortive Rising in 1803, led by Robert Emmett, who was immortalized by his speech on the gallows. He too, talked about the wealthy being the parasites of society and he took, argued that the solution was some form of greater input from those who worked.
Fast forward to just after the famine, and we have Fintan Lalor who spoke of the necessity of unity between small farmers and the urban workers in the cities. He understood that they held economic power over Ireland, and they if they came together, they would be able to have a revolution. Around the era of Fintan Lalor, the International Working Mens’ Association (the creation of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and other Marxist thinkers) tied in with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The first IRB proclamation is a socialist document, that speaks of ownership of resources as a means to political power. It is a radical document, inspired by the First International and by the ideas of an egalitarian society based on wealth-resource distribution.


Fast forward to the 1916 Rising. Commandant James Connolly, who read Marx&Engels and applied their scientific analysis to Ireland. He understood that the working class of Ireland were the “sole incorruptible inheritors of Ireland” and that Republicanism, i.e the ideology passed from the Society of United Irishmen to the 1916 Rebels, was framed on the desire for a more just, equal and radically democratic society with economic democracy at the heart of it.


The counter-revolution of 1922 decimated the Republican movement, but it remained alive through a variety of organisatons and groupings, no doubt including the Communist Party of Ireland. The Republican Congress was the resurrection of a co-ordinated effort to ensure that the Republicanism that was carefully advocated by James Connolly, returned, but due to the rampant Catholicism and anti-Communism prevalent in Ireland, efforts were obstructed.


In the latter part of the 20th century virtually every Republican organisation and their split, made some sort of acknowledge or recognition of Socialism as an objective that they strive to.


So when you ask whether ‘Republicanism is Left or Right’? Remember that Republicanism was founded on principles of national sovereignty, wealth re-distribution and radical democracy which places Republicanism firmly into every definition that is associated to “the left”.

Capitalism: UFC Edition

As somebody who occasionally tunes in to UFC fights, or more appropriately, watches them after they’ve happened in the morning, I have always paid close attention to the disgruntled views of the fighters. “Sure they earn loads!” I thought to myself and brushed it under the rug.

No doubt many who follow the UFC probably think the same. The fighters are loaded, so no worries. From time to time though we see an insight into an alternative world regarding the pay scales and wages of fighters.

As recently as June, megastar Jon ‘Bones’ Jones highlighted how the wages he was getting didn’t match the work he put in, the concussions he received and health risks he took. Contrast this to Dana White’s luxury lifestyle choices.

Jon Jones isn’t the only one to have made comments like this. In fact, scores of fighters across the years have repeatedly pointed out that them getting mashed in the cage for the money they’re getting isn’t worth it, but because it is their trade and only income, they have to sell their fighting skills, their labour, for a wage from the UFC.

Attempts to Unionise

An article dated 2016 from the Guardian, highlighted that there were attempts to begin a ‘workers association / union’ that would “fight for the rights of MMA fighters and force UFC’s ownership to dramatically alter the company’s decade plus outrageous treatment of its athletes”.

The advocates for this association were equally very high profile and included superstar George St. Pierre, Cain Velasquez, TJ Dillashaw, Tim Kennedy and Donald Cerrone. They watched the huge profitability of the UFC and compared this to the wages they were being paid to smash each other up for other peoples amusement, and they took a stand.

The former President of Bellator commented that the goal is to drive up what the fighters are earning from over-all revenue from 8%, to about 50%. These stark numbers might give you a but a glimpse of the wealth distribution inside the UFC.

The last and most recent article I could obtain on fresh organising efforts was dated 2018, that unveiled “Project Spearhead”, which would once more take up the fight for pay, conditions and a greater input from the fighters into the process of the UFC.

The primary obstacle to unionising efforts that was raised in 2018, was an issue we will have heard of, but not through the UFC. We would have heard of this issue through Uber or Deliveroo. Are UFC fighters independent contractors, or are they employees?

Despite the evidence for Deliveroo riders being employees of Deliveroo, the High Court in England ruled otherwise and outlined that they do not fact have an employee-employer relationship.

In reality, such a dispute is no different to any dispute between a group of workers and their employer. Without the fighters, there would be no UFC. They create the headlines, the drama, the anticipation. They are the reason people pay per view, buy tickets and travel to see the fights. They, therefore, are the ultimate creators of all of the wealth that goes through the accounts of the UFC and its President, and as a result, they deserve a significantly greater proportion of wealth than what they get.

The struggle for better wages, conditions and democratic ownership of industry happens everywhere, high or low, because the relationship between an employer and employee is the same everywhere, regardless of the size of your wages.

Era of New Unionism

As the main trade unions in the Anglo-American world continue to decline in density and membership, the question many on the left are attempting to dissect and deal with is what the reason for that decline is.  There are a number of reasons that pre-date the October Revolution and have always existed, as well as many new reasons, relevant to the contemporary phenomena stemming from capitalism. I have no intention of pondering on all of them, but will be raising a few for consideration.

 

From the day the Trade Union movement developed, it had within it different and competing interests. For syndicalists, the trade union movement would assume political power when everything was unionised. For social democrats and reformists, the union movement was a balancing mechanism to the worst evils of capitalism. For communists and revolutionaries, it was one pillar among many others that played an integral role to the overthrow of capitalist power. To corporations and fascists, unions that displayed any deviation from the line were eliminated, while yellow unions were tolerated.

 

From these competing interests arose different models of organisation and engagement. When trade unions were most radical and had within them radical figures subscribed to Marxism, they were the most dangerous and energetic — because it was not just a few pounds they were after, but the entirety of the rotten capitalist system. That radicalism which was built up particularly in the pre-war and immediate post-war period has been eliminated. It has been eliminated by anti-communist belly achers and social democrats who peddle cold war myths in order to avoid the resounding political contradiction within the trade union movement: is it an instrument to balance wages out and tail inflation, or does the trade union movement possess revolutionary characteristics?

 

The social democratic and liberal participative model is the model that the vast majority of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have accepted. The unions function like a service that’s provided to people for a monthly fee. Officials among the ICTU unions enjoy large salaries, pensions and a permanency of work that other workers can only dream of.  To a worker on minimum wage or low wages, the extraordinary financial position of some union officials might appear to be ridiculous and indefensible. Anecdotally, somebody once commented how all of the workers had called on their official to discuss a struggle for a wage and were met by a suit clad representative driving a new looking mercedes. 

 

Yet this is not just a question of wages, pensions and permanency. It’s a question of what model the trade union movement has adopted in relation to the working class and the continued decline in density. If we can understand both of those questions, we can undo the decline and rebuild the union movement into the militant mass working class movement it was not so long ago.  I would suggest that the model the trade union movement has assumed is a class collaborator model.  

 

In this model, negotiation with bosses and the state take primacy over the political organisation and education of the membership of unions. Instead of emancipatory approaches to rank and file union members and shop stewards, the central role of decision making is slowly conferred among paid employees of the Union. Legislation such as the 1991 Industrial Relations Act then further entrenches this model, because it essentially creates a legal and illegal withdrawal of labour and defers the negotiation process to so-called third party institutions.   Some trade unions, notably SIPTU and FORSA function as appendages to the Labour Party both directly and indirectly. The Labour Party has been in coalition several times and on each occasion brought in ruthless austerity. As a result of the influence of the Labour Party, both of those unions are extremely amenable to this model of class collaboration. Both unions have openly and quietly intervened against other militant unions, by either undermining strike action directly or by cutting deals that undermine the strike action of other unions.   

 

The net result of this behaviour and the integration of the union movement with questionable political identities such as the Labour Party is the continued decline in density and the absence of any trade union consciousness among today’s youth. While ICTU is absolutely proportionally responsible for the decline in union members, other factors such as the anti-working class education curriculum and economic model of the two failed statelets North and South must also be considered and are definitely taken into consideration. The reason I touch on the union movement more than the other factors is because I am interested in rectifying the terminal decline of density and therefore choose to examine the problems, with the hope of identifying solutions.

 

In the last decade, an era of new unionism has emerged in America, Britain and in the Global South. This new unionism is new only in relative terms, because the model of organising that it promotes existed in the 1920s and 1930s and assisted in building the largest most industrially powerful trade unions.  This ‘new unionism’ has been pioneered by smaller, more radical and aggressive unions, often including the more radical members of large unions, who, fed up of the slow approach to unionising and organising opted to experiment themselves. 

 

These experiments drew on organising tactics from the past I’ve mentioned before. These tactics include foregoing building or maintaining service unions where an official deals with everything, but transforming the unionising process into a member led model that addresses the fundamental contradiction: capital versus labour. As a result, the unions that have adopted this method of organising tend to be more confrontational, opt to use strike action and are crucially, much less tied up in bureaucracy and officialdom.   

 

This new unionism has yet to infect Ireland, but you will observe that https://catuireland.org/ a community-tenant union has initiated the process.  The old has yet to replace the new everywhere else, and especially ICTU, but the process has certainly already begun. Organising, must become a tool every worker and tenant can use in one form or another. Organising and unionising shouldn’t be limited or wired to union officials and organisers, but it should be spread out horizontally so that every worker is able to tell their co-workers in an old or new place, the merits of a union. 

 

At the root of this much needed shift into new unionism is the need for endless political education. Political education allows for us to explore radical ideas in the context of our struggle against capital. We have to ask ourselves whether our unions are fighting the bosses or cutting deals with them. We have to ask ourselves how much direction we have over the unions we are in. If we are unsatisfied with that, we should strive to improve them, make initiatives and lead by example.  We must initiate political education, we must make a clear cut case that a solid footing in class politics in conjunction with a re-imagined approach to organising can lead to the revival of an energetic, combative and militant union movement.   We must do all of the above because if we do not, our conditions in work and life will continue to deteriorate. The capitalist parasitic class will take everything it can and give as little back.  

 

In short, in order to combat austerity we have to completely break with the service-negotiation style model of trade unionism and embrace the construction of an era of new unionism. What that new unionism can look like is for us to decide.

Other interesting links:

https://www.ellabakerorganising.org.uk/

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The Two-fold Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities

  • At first examination, commodities seem to only two qualities: use value (a utilitarian application) and exchange value (a trading value that’s real, or imagined),
  • Labour also possess a use value (immediate use) and an exchange one, because labour is infused into commodity production and therefore can be traded
  • Example: A coat and 10 yards of linen, one coat is worth 20 yards of linen
  • The coat is a use value that satisfies a particular want, it exists because of a special sort of productivity, the nature of which is determined by its aim, mode of operation, subject means, and result.
  • We call labour that contributes to the usefulness of the coat, useful labour because we consider its useful effect i.e the wearing of a coat
  • The coat and linen are qualitatively different (they serve two different functions)
  • The labour that produces linen and coats, is also different (tailoring versus weaving)
  • If the two items were not produced by labour they would be incomparable, but they are
  • To all the different items of use that there exist, exist as many different kinds of labour processes used to manufacture and create them
  • This division of labour (different workers producing different things) is necessary for the production of commodities
  • However, this does not mean that the production of commodities is a necessary reason to divide labour
  • An example is given where primitive Indian communities enjoyed a social division of labour but did not produce any commodities
  • Another example is that in a factory, there is a system to divide labour, but this division is there in order to transform the products collectively into a commodity
  • Whether the tailor or the customer wear the coat, it’s irrelevant, it still has a use value as a coat
  • The relationship between the coat and the labour is not altered even if tailoring has become a trade and independent branch of the division of labour
  • Humans have always created clothes for wear, but coats and linen, like every other element of material wealth that is not the spontaneous produce of Nature; must invariably owe their existence to a special productive activity: work and labour
  • The activity takes what nature provides and repurposes them to human wants
  • Labour therefore also creates use value as it transforms items that exist in nature into items that we can use, if we can use them then we can also exchange them
  • This is a natural sequence of events, if labour does not transform items from nature into those with use value then humanity cannot continue
  • Commodities are combinations of two elements: matter and labour.
  • If labour is taken away from this combination, a material combination is left that was provided by nature
  • Nature also changes the material substance that it produces from time to time which means that labour itself is not the only source of wealth
  • William Petty: Labour is its father and the earth is its mother
  • Coats and linen are objective expressions of identical labour, but tailoring and weaving are qualitatively different kinds of labour
  • There are instances where the same worker does both weaving and tailoring  – these are modifications of the labour of the same individual
  • Human labour according to capitalist demand is varied
  • Productive activity is the expenditure of human labour power
  • Even though tailoring and weaving are qualitatively different productive activities but ultimately entail the same brains, nerves, muscles and amount to the same process: human labour
  • The value of commodities represents human labour in the abstract, the expenditure of human labour in general
  • Average labour power varies from country to country and place to place, but is ultimately the same process
  • Skilled labour counts only as labour intensified or as multiplied simple labour
  • i.e the more skilled you are the more you produce
  • A different quantity of productive activity (greater) is considered skilled and a lesser quantity is known as unskilled
  • A social process done behind the backs of workers and consequently seems to appear as ‘custom’
  • All labour will be referred to as unskilled
  • As we abstract from the different use values of coat and linen,  the same we do wit the labour represented by those use values; we disregard the difference between weaving and tailoring
  • Despite tailoring and weaving being necessary factors in the creation of use values, coat and linen, but are ultimately determined as being products of expended human labour power
  • Coats and linen are not merely values, of values of definite magnitude, and according to the assumption above, the coat is worth twice as much as the ten yards of linen.
  • The difference is that the linen contains only half as much labour as the coat and therefore twice as much labour power was expended for the production of the coat
  • Labour contained in a commodity counts only qualitatively, with reference to value it counts quantitatively and must be reduced to human labour
  • In the case of use value, its a matter of How and What, in the case of exchange value, How much and How long a time?
  • Magnitude of the value of a commodity only represents the quantity of labour embodied in it
  • It follows then that in certain proportions all commodities are equal
  • If the quality of labour has remained the same, and the coat remains the same in terms of use value, but assume that the amount of quantity of labour for the production of a coat has halved or doubled,
  • An increase in the quantity of coats is an increase in material wealth, but it is also a decrease in the cost of the coat itself
  • The contradiction is that if human labour output increases the quantity of the use values it decreases the ‘cost’ of the use values if the amount of labour time expended is shortened, and vice versa
  • The more you produce something / bulk production the cheaper it has to be sold as the more efficient your production of it is

Austerity has no place in the Workers Republic

 

Ireland

 

For the Western Axis of Imperialism and Capitalism, this is one of the greatest crises that has ever occurred. Economies are grinding to a halt as self-isolation and quarantine become necessary means of halting the spread of COVID-19. Huge state backed financial aid programmes are being introduced in Ireland at this moment. What is interesting though is the reluctance and slowness of these measures, it is as if the State is tailing the capitalists in shuttering things and providing security measures.

 

Workers in Ireland who lose their employment due to COVID-19 or are infected will be covered by basic payments of either 203 euro per week or 305 euro per week if infected. All of this money comes from the coffers of the Irish State and nowhere else. The coffers of the Irish State are gathered through direct and indirect taxation. It is a well established fact that the multinational software companies, which depend on Ireland to function as a state, as well as the insurance firms, the banks and the vulture avoid contributing as much via taxation as possible.

 

What we can identify is the obvious: If there is no functioning Irish state with all the legal, military and judicial mechanisms to enforce itself with, there is no place for many of these parasites to nest in and accumulate wealth. They need the Irish State, yet their contributions to it’s maintenance are minimalistic. In fact, you can expect that the many corporations which find themselves registered in Ireland for various financial benefits will seek not merely to contribute nothing, but request funds for their own upkeep under one set of auspices or another. Their relationship to us is parasitic.

 

This is not a new phenomenon in the West, the Irish state simply follows the cue of other states. To avoid the meltdown of large private financial firms, the State steps in. This is then sold to us by media pundits and journalists as ‘fiscal maturity’ and ‘necessary measures’. What it is in practice, is the working class of every nation bailing out unreliable and detestable private companies that exist only to make a profit. Libertarians opining for a freer market, take note!

 

This model of the working class playing as the wealth guarantors of the wealthy by bailing them out is precisely the model that we saw when Wall Street imploded in 2007/08. COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst in slowing down the productive economy (tangible measures of wealth such as rent, debt repayment, manufacturing, industry) and as a result, we have inevitably entered the next financial crisis. The speculative bubble that has been building since 2008 was going to explode, sooner or later and now COVID-19 has burst it. Immediately we see state money flowing into private hands, just like we did in 2008.

 

Do any of us think, for a moment, that the gallant state officials have requested even a cent from the corporations they’re bailing out in tackling COVID-19? Have the salaries of the CEOs of these companies been reduced? Do you earnestly believe that they won’t receive their payouts as shareholders or dividends?

 

The burden of bailing out unproductive, virtual money laden, speculative boosted companies and corporations will fall back on our shoulders. We will be their beasts of burden, in precarious hours and precarious living conditions and we will make them richer yet again. Their wealth will flow in from the labour we give on low wages, the high rent we pay and the indirect and direct taxation that’s introduced as ’emergency’ taxation. We will be stripped from every angle and they – comrades, will continue to party lavishly, drink the finest champagnes, sniff the best cocaine and enjoy all the ‘high life’ benefits that come with being a successful ‘entrepreneurs’.

 

This moment of our international crisis should be a moment of awakening for those sitting on the fence about their political place in the world. When budget day arrives in Leinster House, what sort of measures do you think will be introduced to cover the cost of the virus and who will cover the cost? Ask yourself this as you watch the messages, videos, podcasts and informative posts go up all over social media and as you engage with your friends and family members. Ask yourself what sort of health service and housing situation we had before the virus and what it will look after, but most importantly, what do you want it to look like?

 

The social democratic state that operates from Leinster House will not seek any meaningful support from the multinationals and corporations that it has for so long facilitated. The cost of saving Ireland will fall to the working people of Ireland. If we possessed all of the industries and financial institutions, that would be fine, but we don’t. We are bailing out useless parasites that contribute nothing!

 

It would be a common Communist view that private banks, insurance firms, speculators are not needed in society. That the professions which stem from the privatization of health, education, housing etc are also totally unnecessary elements to society. We do not need property agents if we build public housing. We do not need 17 motor tax insurance firms raking in over 200 million euro if we have one state insurance firm for motorists. We do not need vulture funds, if the state has a public housing programme for us all. We do not need fast food chains that ruin our health through a mixture of subliminal and direct propaganda plastered everywhere.

 

In fact, what COVID-19 demonstrates is how much useless garbage capitalism produces for us to consume, for us to be distracted by, for us to put in ourselves, for us to watch. Distract the working class and then send them off to a hard weeks labour!

 

This moment of self isolation is the moment that we can serious political questions.

Is the political organisation of Ireland suitable?

Is the economic organisation of Ireland suitable?

Why is the HSE struggling?

Why do hospitals require ‘gofundme’ pages for help?

 

These issues are the consequences of political decisions made in Leinster and Stormont to uphold free market capitalism. The two institutions are designed and regulated to implement, continue and strengthen the practical and ideological roots of free market capitalism. That is why it must all go.

 

When the inevitable budget day comes, and the Blueshirts, in coalition with Fianna Fail, Labour, Greens, Social Democrats or whoever, address the nation and tell us how we all suffered from COVID-19 and how we must all now contribute to rebuild ‘our economy’, ask yourself precisely what part of this is plural. The giant multinationals who contribute nothing and make billions in Ireland are only certainly part of ‘our’ economy by name only. The giant vulture funds who evict people in conjunction with bailed out banks certainly don’t see themselves as part of ‘our’ economy.

 

They are not part of our economy. They do not answer to anybody but their shareholders. They exist here as parasites, feeding on the host that is the Irish people and when they are done, they will move on to another compliant state and feed off another nation of downtrodden working class people.

 

So when the inevitable October budget day comes and they demand payment from us for the maintenance of these private “entrepreneurs” we must with one resounding voice refuse one cent. We must refuse all austerity measures. We must refuse the wealth that we create and generate, being handed over to the laziest parasites in society. Let the capitalists rot, they need us and we do not need them!

 

The question might then arise as to how precisely we can resist these austerity measures. Are they inevitable? Should we march? Should we occupy financial institutions receiving our money? Should we blockade streets? Should we destroy the property of financial institutions?

 

The answer to all of the above is a thousand times YES. Nobody will fight austerity for us. The many corporations, vulture funds, landlords and huge employers aren’t going to readily hand over their ill accrued wealth because we ask politely. They will not contribute because they have a sense of moral justice or fairness. They must be beaten into submission by the power of the proletariat, the power of the working class, our power.

 

There’s a moment here, where we can envision a Republic that is not partitioned, that is not enslaved to the European Union, the British State or the American Chamber of Commerce. We need to fight against the indentured slavery that is austerity. We need to fight for our collective liberation from wage slavery and precarious living. We need to fight for a way of organising society that places human need at the center and you and I, at the heart of the decision making process.

 

To place ourselves at the heart of the decision making process, to give governance of Ireland to the working class, we will have to fight for it. The leeches and parasites that constitute the vulture funds, banking cartels and insurance fund gangsters aren’t going to hand over power peacefully or amicably.  This is the order in Ireland that suits and enriches them. This is their order.

 

Their luxury and joy comes at our expense and misery.   Our task is to reverse this state of being.   Their dictatorship of capital and the free market, must be replaced by our dictatorship our dictatorship of the majority, of the working class, otherwise known as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 

Take this time to make a decision. Will you fight against austerity and for the Workers Republic or will you shrug your shoulders and condemn generations of people to indentured slavery?

 

 

 

 

Two factors of a commodity: Use-value and value (substance of value and magnitude of value)

Notes from Das Kapital. I will be going through each section and chapter and taking notes on them. Feel free to ask questions at any stage. This is for learning purposes – for me and for anybody else who desires to engage. 

 

Section 1. The Two Factors of a Commodity: Use-value and Value (the Substance of Value and the Magnitude of Value)

 

  • Commodities are objects outside us 
  • Irrelevant whether it is for satisfying a need from your stomach or from ‘fancy’ such as a luxury item is irrelevant
  • The utility of a ‘thing’ makes it a use-value  (such as a hammer, use value)
  • Physical properties limit a commodity, that is to say it does not exist outside of those properties (such as a tree, a precious metal, etc) 
  • Labour appropriates the useful qualities of a commodity and therefore gives it a new value 
  • Use values only become reality by use or consumption
  • Commodities also constitute the ‘substance of all wealth, depending on social factors
  • Exchange value is a “quantitative” relation, how much of X can be traded for Y
  • Exchange value is a fluctuating and relative value of commodities, it can also be contradictory because what people trade for one item or another can be artificially inflated)
  • Use value is determined by another variable among commodities 
  • If for example corn and iron are traded, besides an ‘intrinsic’ value to these items, what else contributes to determining why a proportion of corn is equated and exchanged for a proportion of iron 
  • This common value that gives proportion to the commodities and therefore meaning to exchange value cannot be chemical, physical or geometrical as this third and common value does not affect the utility of those items 
  • If you have 1 quarter of corn 1 quarter of iron, how do you determine their value? There is a third common denominator at play: the process of labour that went into extraction and exchange and it is the only common denominator between the two items
  • The product of labour has made the commodity undergo a change in our hands and arguably (relatively to conditions) an increase or decrease in value 
  • Useful productive labour is abstract from the production of commodities because there is an abstraction from the material elements and shapes the product 
  • Human labour becomes abstract as a result 
  • Labour-power (human labour) is expended in the production of all commodities and products 
  • Exchange value is something that is independent of use-value, it takes place totally abstract from by a total abstraction from use value 
  • A use value, or a useful commodity-article, has value because human labour has been input into it. 
  • How is the magnitude of its value measured? By the quantity of the value-creating substance, the labour, contained in the commodity-article 
  • It might be thought that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour but less skilled labour would and often does produce more valuable commodities 
  • Labour-power is homogeneous, comprising all the individual units of society
  • The total labour power of society is embodied in the sum total of the values of all commodities produced by that society. For example, virtual wealth exceeds 10 times all commodities ever produced by humans, so where does it come from?
  • Each of these units is the same as any other so far as it has the character of the average labour-power of society and takes effect as such – as it takes no more time than average or socially necessary 
  • The labour-time socially necessary is that required to produce an article under the normal conditions of production, and with the average degree of skill and intensity relevant to the time 
  • Industrialization changes this subjective amount of socially necessary time and intensity for ex. Power-looms reduced by one half the amount of labour required to weave linen 
  • The value of an article-commodity is determined therefore by the amount of socially necessary labour for production 
  • As ‘values’ all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour-time i.e determined by the amount of labour-power input into them 
  • If labour-time required for production of a commodity remained constant, its value would remain constant 

“all are reduced to one and the same sort of labour, human labour in the abstract”

  • But the labour-time is not constant and changes by various circumstances, average skill of workers, scientific development, degree of practical application (industrialization, mechanization, etc) social organisation of production (collectivization of farms for example increases output and efficiency alongside industrialization and mechanization)
  • Example; 8 bushels of corn are acquired faster in good season / harvest while only 4 are acquired in poor harvest / bad season   
  • Same labour extracts more metal from rich mines than from poor mines 
  • For example, diamonds are harder to find therefore their discovery costs a greater deal of labour time therefore more labour is represented 
  • Example, in 1823, 80 years of diamond digging had not realised a year and a half worth of sugar-coffee plantations of the same country (Brazil) 
  • With richer Diamond mines, the same quantity of labour would yield more diamonds, therefore their quantity would be expected to fall 
  • In general, the more productive labour is, the less labour there is in an article-commodity therefore the value is expected to fall 
  • This also works vice versa,   the less labour is productive, the greater is the labour-time required for the production of an article and the greatest is its value expected to be
  • The value of a commodity therefore, varies directly as the quantity and inversely as the productiveness, of the labour incorporated in it 
  • A thing can be a use value without having ‘value’ this is the case where the utility to man is not due to labour input 
  • Whoever satisfies his wants with the produce of his own labour, creates, use values but not commodities 
  • In order to produce commodities, he must produce use-values for others, social use values. 
  • Nothing can have value without being an object of utility, if the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it, the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value 

 

Progressive Patriotism

Rebecca Long-Bailey, candidate for Leader of the Labour Party in Britain has made use of the term ‘progressive patriotism’ inviting a barrage of commentary, criticism and moaning. One can interpret the term in a multitude of ways, but if one is a Marxist, culture and ideology must be understood as phenomena reproduced from a) the productive forces and b) the existing relations of production. In a capitalist society, the productive forces and social relations are run by the bourgeoisie. Culture and ideas are therefore linked to the interests of the bourgeoisie.

A concrete example of this cultural hegemony is the means and ways by which British Empire and American Empire justify their imperialism. The language and the vast array of propaganda that permeates universities, media and community is designed to ensure that the interests behind the domination of other communities and countries has a basis and rationale. In the colonial period, racism and racial science was designed to ensure that the good Christian ethos of the marauding, raping Christians from Europe was not infringed upon other humans – so their humanity was stripped from them.

How is this relevant to the questions raised by RLB? It is relevant because the dominant concept of British identity is inextricably linked to Empire. It is linked to domination. It is linked to the British Army. It is linked to the British identity of monarchy, empire and destruction and dislocated from working class struggle. It is linked to all that the Communist movement considers negative and inhumane. Why is British identity linked to such things? The reason is rather simple. To co-opt, befuddle and disorganise the working class, the hegemonic ideas of Empire were spread to every corner of the British islands and abroad. British Empire therefore constitutes a very large part of British identity.

The interpretation that one can opt to take from the commentary made by Rebecca Long-Bailey is that she, alongside the left wing of the Labour Party of Britain have a desire to redesign the concept of ‘patriotism’ to reflect and represent solidarity, justice and radical social democracy. To connect British identity with the victories of the working class in Scotland, England and Wales. This is an interesting initiative, not only because the State and the many ivory towers of university thought will rally against it – but also because only the working class in Britain can ultimately dismantle British imperialism and make peace with the victims of Empire. In order to do so, any ‘progressive patriotism’ must confront monopoly capitalism, imperialism and loyalism for these have no place in the patriotism of the working class.

In order to do so, the Labour Party will have to confront it’s imperialism and participation in the carving up of the world alongside it’s evil American allies. The Labour Party will have to become the beacon of hope by disengaging from NATO and all military adventurism. London will have to cease being a center for finance capital and financial domination. Reparations to it’s former colonies will have to be made. These examples relate to the foreign policy of the British state. What of the internal cultural changes that exist in British society and need to be tackled? How will the Labour Party tackle them?

Up until now, the counter-culture of working class culture has been developed in various groups only informally connected to the Labour Party by virtue of their individual membership. Festivals such as 0161, pages such as Red London, clubs like Solstar Boxing Club, music events like Redtek, umbrella groups like Football Lads and Lasses Against Fascism are all fantastic and meaningful examples of tackling ‘imperial’ British identity. It’s important, I think, to identify who is responsible for the creation of imperial identity, who is its victim and what the synthesis is. The scientific basis of racism is colonialism and imperialism, racism is a necessity for it to exist. So what is the scientific solution for tackling phenomena such as racism? The examples I mention above link and conjoin physical activities with progressive politics, synthesizing outdated prejudices and in effect, overriding them. This is merely one set of examples, I will provide another British example. One of the first experimental tours 0161 London held in East London commented on the fact that the Communist Party organised a tenant association in the 1930s and it assisted a well known family who were members of the British Union of Fascists. They stopped the eviction and the family burnt their BUF membership cards. What can we take away from this? Concrete political work fused with political analysis and unity of the working class defeats fascism.

Truth be told, I am wary when ‘patriotism’ is a subject raised in the imperial core countries, for the only patriotism has been the hegemonic patriotism of the ruling class. However, the development of a ‘counter’ patriotism rooted in proletariat culture, working class objectives, uprisings and the struggle for the social ownership of capital can be a very positive and necessary contribution, if it’s merely a slogan, then it is worth nothing.

In Ireland, the word ‘patriot’ has largely been dominated by American style conspiracy theorists who promote ideas ranging bound up in online conspiracies ranging from outright Nazi ideas about the Great Replacement to anti semitic nonsense about George Soros. None of these conspiracy theories of course talk about capitalism or capital, but that’s a side note for another day. In Ireland, ‘patriotism’ has been ‘Republicanism’ and Republicanism, since it’s popularization by Theobald Wolfe Tone has always taken tones that draw from the French Revolution and the slogan liberte, egalite, fraternite. In Ireland, Republicanism has always been against the interests of Empire and against oppression. In Ireland, Republicanism has been linked to the many struggles taking place around the world, so through practice, it became anti-racist. The content of Irish Republicanism has also had significant input from James Connolly, who in his wisdom realised that national liberation was worth nothing without the social ownership of capital, or more precisely, socialism. He distinguished bland nationalism from socialist republicanism by contrasting ownership of land, employment, food production and financial domination between an Irish capitalist and an English capitalist and concluded that the net result would mean little change for the small farmer or urban worker.

In short, the substance of ‘patriotism’ is defined by the method of organising society and the substance of the political organisation championing such patriotism. The capitalist class has a patriotism of its own, created to suit its class interest, to suit its domination of the workers, to suit its domination of the proletariat. The patriotism of the working class, as seen all over the world in Socialist countries is emancipatory, it is one of justice, freedom, democracy and the social ownership of capital. Contrast the two, judge it on its merits.