15 Feb 2014

On the Reproduction of Capitalism, draft of my book review.

Verso have just published the English translation of the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser’s book On the Reproduction of Capitalism.  Althusser, who was the Marxist philosopher, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is perhaps best known for his essay on Ideological and Repressive State Apparatus. However his work on ISAs and RSAs was just a fragment of a much larger book that was unseen in his lifetime.  On the Reproduction of Capitalism, will change perspectives on Althusser, as profoundly as the publication long after his death of Marx’s Grundrisse or Paris Manuscripts, transformed understanding of Marx’s work.

Written in the immediate aftermath of the 1968 French student rebellion, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, is bathed in the glow of the Algerian uprising against France and the Viet Cong’s battles against first the French and then the US forces.  While it is written by a philosopher, whose work rightly or wrongly is often viewed as opaque, it asks a simple question and is directed not at philosophers but at workers and peasants fighting for liberation.  The question is as is evident from the title, how does capitalism reproduce the conditions necessary for its own existence.  How does capitalism mould us to serve a system which rests upon our exploitation?  Althusser asked this question so as to further the struggle to destroy capitalism and to produce a new social system.  Althusser was widely seen to have been destroyed, both personally by severe mental illness and politically/philosophically over thirty years ago, yet the text is fresh and relevant to those of us who seek to challenge capitalism today.  While On the Reproduction of Capitalism, is both flawed and unfinished, I believe that it will, eventually, be referenced as widely on the left as The Communist Manifesto, Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth or Lenin’s State and Revolution. Reading it is an unsettling experience, it is a dangerous text, but lucid and relevant.

Althusser, born in 1918, was originally a Catholic, imprisoned by the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War, he became a Marxist.  He joined the French Communist Party and sought to fight a philosophical war, in his eyes, on behalf of Marxism and the working class. He collaborated with close associates on books such as Reading Capital, Lenin and Philosophy and For Marx.  He was known as a structuralist, an anti-humanist and anti-Hegelian thinker. He rejected the idea that humans have an intrinsic unchanging essence, so felt that so called ‘humanist Marxist’ critiques in the 1950s and 1960s of Stalin, were inappropriate.  He felt that we had no fixed identity and humanism was anti-Marxist.  He was seen as a structuralist, arguing that underlying processes shaped society and human subjectivity.  He sought to understand Marx’s work as a form of science, arguing that there was a break between the works of the younger Marx, such as the Paris Manuscripts, and the mature Marx who wrote Das Kapital.  The younger Marx was a Hegelian thinker, while the mature Marx rejected any idea of historical ‘stages’, historical inevitability or other Hegelian inspired ideas.

Cynics argued that he was a Stalinist, in Britain his supporters like Paul Hirst were seen as preparing the way for Tony Blair’s right wing New Labour project.  Described as anti-humanist, hostile to the study of history and opposing human freedom with his functionalist and structuralist approach, Althusser was widely attacked in print by both former students such as Jacques Rancière and other Marxists such as Britain’s E.P. Thompson.

Plagued by severe mental illness for much of his life, he killed his wife and was placed in an institution.  His ideas, dominant at least on the French Marxist left in the 1960s and 70s, were discarded.  It is however clear that the thought of prominent post Marxist, post modernist and post structuralist thinkers including his friend Derrida, his former student Foucault and Laclau and Mouffe, were shaped by much of his work.  The tragedy of Althusser was reinforced, when Nicos Poultzans, who applied his work to the study of the state, committed suicide.  Althusser in works of biting self-criticism, attacked his own work and on his death in 1990 appeared likely to have disappeared other than as tragic and politically bankrupt figure.

In the last decade or so, a new Althusser has emerged, huge quantities of previously unpublished material has appeared, showing that Althusser in his later work traced the origins of a new materialism from Greek philosophers and Spinoza on to Marx.  Althusser’s work on Machiavelli has also attracted the attention of many on the left and recently the literary critic Warran Montag has produced an impressive reassessment of Althusser’s work.

On the Reproduction of Capitalism provides a new perspective on the old Althusser but rather than being a work of philosophical or literary interest, is one that can inform struggles for socialism in the 21st century.  I

Stalin to Tony Blair



Class Struggle

Relations of Production versus the forces of production

Economic democracy, democratic ownership

Law of value, law of law

Neither plan nor market

ISA product of ruling class warfare

Critique of Stalin

Class warfare

14 Feb 2014

'ten measures to improve the country’s flood resilience in future'

Green Party response to floods, cut the carbon and implement the Pitt Review, no more Owen Patterson and no more building on flood plains!

The UK’s response to the flooding crisis must centre on a long-term strategy to address climate change the Green Party says today, as it recommends a series of ten measures to improve the country’s flood resilience in future.
It says sustained political action on climate change is crucial to reducing the risk of severe flooding happening again.
The Party is calling for Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to be sacked and for the Prime Minister to remove Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change (1). The Met Office has said (2) all the evidence points to climate change contributing to these extraordinary floods.
“Politicians who ride roughshod over the painstaking findings of climate scientists (3), sometimes motivated by their inappropriately close links to fossil fuel big business, endanger our future and our children’s future”, said Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett.
“It’s a crying shame more of the recommendations made by the The Pitt Review into the 2007 floods (4) haven’t been taken seriously by Labour, the Tories, and their Coalition government lackeys in the Lib Dem Party. But it is not too late for action.”
 Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
“Across the country, homes and businesses are being devastated by the floods, and our hearts go out to everyone whose life is being turned upside down.  Nature is giving us another wake-up call.
In addition to making sure everything possible is done to help people affected by the immediate crisis, we need a credible long term strategy to tackle the risk of flooding and extreme weather to people's homes and liveilihoods in the futrue.” 
The call to government urges ministers to adopt the recommendations of a major independent cross sector coalition[1]  for  a Cabinet-level committee on infrastructure and climate change resilience and a Royal Commission on the long-term impacts of climate change on land.
The Green Party is also calling for all staff cuts at the Environment Agency to be cancelled, planning rules to be strengthened to prevent further development on flood plains, and for increased levels of spending on flood defences to a level in line with expert recommendations from the Environment Agency and the Climate Change Committee.
And it is supporting the call of campaigners for  the billions of UK fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks to be used to help the victims of flooding[2].
“This redirection will address the underspend and assist the victims of flooding, as well as putting a halt to public money exacerbating the problem of climate change that is making the floods so much worse”, noted Bennett.
For more information, please contact the Green Party press office on 020 7549 0315 or email press@greenparty.org.uk
1)    International Panel on Climate Change Climate Change 2013 Report http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/#.UvuRuf3RozU
4)    Pitt Report on floods: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7472813.stm
-          Green Party spokespeople are available for comment
-          More information on Green Party spokespeople can be found at http://greenparty.org.uk/people/spokespeople.html
-          Green Party of England and Wales’ policy can be found at http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/complete-pss

[1] The Planning and Climate Change Coalition http://www.tcpa.org.uk/resources.php?action=resource&id=1182
[2] https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/cut-fossil-fuel-subsidies-not-foreign-aid-for-flood-victims-relief

13 Feb 2014

Super-exploitation and the climate crisis in Bangladesh

Meeting hosted by London Socialist Resistance

Super-exploitation and the climate crisis in Bangladesh

Tuesday 4 March, 7:30pm
Community Centre, 62 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AB
Kings Cross and Russell Square tubes


BADRUL ALAM, President of Bangladesh Krishok Federation, the largest peasant federation in Bangladesh.

ASHOK KUMAR, researcher, socialist, and recently Labor Organizer for the International Union League for Brand Responsibility in Bangalore, India.

DEREK WALL, founder of the Ecosocialist International and Green Left, and International Coordinator of the Green Party.

Bangladesh is one of the areas of the world most vulnerable to climate change, with sea levels rising faster than the global rate. Estimates suggest that up to 20 million Bangladeshis in low-lying areas could lose their homes by 2050.

Badrul Alam, was elected President of Bangladesh Krishok Federation (BKF), the largest peasant federation in Bangladesh. He has served on the international leadership of La Via Campesina representing the BKF. He is also a leader of a revolutionary socialist organisation in Bangladesh collaborating with the Fourth International.

The BKF are heavily involved in campaigning against climate change. They have organised a series of climate caravans to take the message out to large numbers of people both across Bangladesh itself and more widely to other parts of Asia.

Like comrades in the Philippines, a central part of that work is the promotion of food sovereignty as a sustainable alternative to agribusiness - hence their relationship with Via Campesina, the international peasants moverment.

They were also involved in work around the Rana Plazza disaster - many of the super-exploited women workers in Dhaka are climate refugees forced to leave the rural villages from which they come by rising sea levels and salinification.

This meeting is part of a tour that Badrul Allam is doing across Britain. For further information, see www.socialistresistance.org

6 Feb 2014

The earth cannot wait peoples parliament debate on 11th February



The earth cannot wait

Tuesday 11th February, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, Committee Room 9, House of Commons

Tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-earth-cannot-wait-with-george-monbiot-and-the-greenpeace-arctic-30-tickets-10185092887?ref=estw

George Monbiot (Journalist)

Frank Hewetson (Greenpeace and one of the Arctic 30)

Frank is a father of two who has worked for Greenpeace in the UK and Australia since 1989. His commitment to environmental activism is tireless, and he has taken part in many Greenpeace campaigns over the years. He was also one of the Arctic 30 who have just got back to the UK after being locked up in Prison in Russia for a protest against the destruction of the Arctic.
Jane Burston (Centre for Carbon Measurement)

Derek Wall (Green Party)

Chaired by John McDonnell MP.

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader joins anti-frack protest at Barton Moss

Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, will today join protestors at the Barton Moss site in Salford where IGas is carrying out exploratory drilling for shale gas. She will be accompanied by Nigel Woodcock, parliamentary candidate for next week's Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election. Their visit follows the announcement of two new exploratory drilling sites in the north west by energy company, Cuadrilla.
Natalie Bennett said: "The people at Barton Moss are on the frontline in the campaign against fracking. Government ministers have a fervent belief that fracking can solve all of our problems, from fuel poverty to manufacturing decline, from energy security to unemployment. Lib Dem Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Davey is hell-bent on supporting extreme energy, boasting that he "loves" shale gas. But their fervour is misguided - the evidence shows that fracking won't bring down energy bills and is not a solution to climate change. Rather than locking us into a future of fossil fuel dependence the government should be doubling its efforts to reduce energy use through home insulation and supporting the creation of renewable, clean and safe energy.”
Nigel Woodcock said: "Local people are rightly concerned about the impact that fracking will have. The same company that's drilling here at Barton Moss, IGas, has a licence for exploratory drilling which covers part of the Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency (1). Fracking is a growing threat to communities right across Greater Manchester and the north west."
Nigel continued: "The fact that so many ordinary people are willing to take direct action against drilling in their community shows how strongly they feel about shale gas extraction. Every other political party is falling over themselves to support the big energy companies and an expansion of shale gas drilling in the UK. I have tweeted my Labour opponent in this election to ask him to sign a petition against fracking in Trafford, but he has refused to respond. This leads me to conclude that Mike Kane doesn’t care about fracking in Brooklands and Sale, where iGAS has a licence to do exploratory drilling (PEDL: 193). (2)
He concluded “The Green Party represents those local people who want to make a stand against fracking. I'd urge people to show their opposition at the ballot box next week and in May's European elections."
Natalie Bennett and Nigel Woodcock are available for interview today at the site from 2pm. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Alice Taylor, Media Officer for the North West Green Party, on 07523 498970 or alice.taylor@greenparty.org.uk
Notes to editors:
1. http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06073.pdf
2. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-fracking-trafford. Tweets sent from @njw3000 on Jan 30th, Feb 4th and 6th.
3. Read more about the Green Party leader's stance on fracking here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/natalie-bennett/fracking-nightmare_b_3658736.html

Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles

Derek Wall ’s article entitled  Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles , argues that Ma...