Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 2, 2014

The Hong Kong protests and the conspiracist left

Filed under: China,conspiracism — louisproyect @ 8:56 pm

As predictably as day follows night, the conspiracist left has taken the side of the Chinese government against the Hong Kong protests. As the purest expression of this sort of Mad Magazine spy-versus-spy comic strip mentality, Moon of Alabama’s Berhard told his readers:

The (NED Financed) Hong Kong Riots

Some organized “student groups” in Hong Kong tried to occupy government buildings and blocked some streets. The police did what it does everywhere when such things happen. It used anti-riot squads, pepper spray and tear gas to prevent occupations and to clear the streets.

The “western” media are making some issue about this as if “western” governments would behave any differently.

So lets look up the usual source of such exquisite fragrance. The 2012 annual report of the U.S. government financed National Endowment of Democracy, aka the CCA – Central Color-Revolution Agency, includes three grants for Hong Kong one of which is new for 2012 and not mentioned in earlier annual reports:

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs – $460,000

To foster awareness regarding Hong Kong’s political institutions and constitutional reform process and to develop the capacity of citizens – particularly university students – to more effectively participate in the public debate on political reform, NDI will work with civil society organizations on parliamentary monitoring, a survey, and development of an Internet portal, allowing students and citizens to explore possible reforms leading to universal suffrage.

Moon of Alabama is an old hand at this, virtually writing the same sort of “follow the money” methodology for a decade. If you want another example of this kind of addled conspiracism, check out Tony Cartalucci’s article on Mint Press, an online newspaper that was in the middle of a controversy over a report on East Ghouta in the name of a reporter who subsequently disavowed the article and Mint Press entirely.

Titled “US Role In Occupy Central Exposed”, treats Hong Kong protesters as puppets whose strings are pulled by Washington:

If democracy is characterized by self-rule, than an “Occupy Central” movement in which every prominent figure is the benefactor of and beholden to foreign cash, support, and a foreign-driven agenda, has nothing at all to do with democracy. It does have, however, everything to do with abusing democracy to undermine Beijing’s control over Hong Kong, and open the door to candidates that clearly serve foreign interests, not those of China, or even the people of Hong Kong.

What is more telling is the illegal referendum “Occupy Central” conducted earlier this year in an attempt to justify impending, planned chaos in Hong Kong’s streets. The referendum focused on the US State Department’s goal of implementing “universal suffrage” – however, only a fifth of Hong Kong’s electorate participated in the referendum, and of those that did participate, no alternative was given beyond US-backed organizations and their respective proposals to undermine Beijing.

Keep in mind that Cartalucci has written the same exact article on every protest movement that has taken place for a number of years, always looking for the footprints of the NED, the State Department, the CIA, or any other American government agency or NGO. It has led him not only to condemn the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong but the Arab Spring that he applied the same idiotic litmus test to:

In January of 2011, we were told that “spontaneous,” “indigenous” uprising had begun sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, including Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, in what was hailed as the “Arab Spring.” It would be almost four months before the corporate-media would admit that the US had been behind the uprisings and that they were anything but “spontaneous,” or “indigenous.” In an April 2011 article published by the New York Times titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” it was stated:

“A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington.”

The article would also add, regarding the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED):

“The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department. ”

It is really quite extraordinary that Cartalucci never wrote a single article calling attention to the $1.7 billion per year that the USA was doling out to Mubarak but only got his balls in an uproar over a couple of hundred thousand dollars channeled to young people risking their lives in Tahrir Square against his dictatorship. People like him deserve to be taken out and horsewhipped.

The problem with this analysis is obvious. There’s hardly a country in the world where the NED does not ladle out money to influence a grass roots movement. If you go to http://www.ned.org/where-we-work and click Latin America and Caribbean, you’ll see a list of nations where the NED mucks about:

Argentina
Bolivia
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Guatemala
Haiti
Honduras
Mexico
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Venezuela

That’s what happens when you have a budget of $118 million per year. Spending $460,000 to influence the Hong Kong movement barely scratches the surface. For that matter, the real issue is whether or not it serves American interests to have elections in Hong Kong rather than have the Chinese appoint someone. I guess that Cartalucci and Bernhard are in favor of Chinese control, a kind of “anti-imperialism” that makes a mockery of the term.

Buried deep inside a NY Times article, you get an indication of what is driving people into the streets:

Polls conducted by academic institutions over the past year have indicated that the most disaffected and potentially volatile sector of Hong Kong society is not the students, the middle-aged or even the elderly activists who have sustained the democracy movement here for decades. Instead, the most strident calls for greater democracy — and often for greater economic populism, as well — have come from people in their 20s and early 30s who have struggled to find well-paying jobs as the local manufacturing sector has withered away, and as banks and other service industries have increasingly hired mainland Chinese instead of local college graduates.

I doubt that the NED has any interest in paying such people to go out and protest. My guess is that it has much more of an affinity with the professor that Anthony Bourdain had dinner with in the first episode of the new season of his CNN show that was shot in Shanghai. As was the case with just about everybody he dined with, I was put off by the smug attitude of the professor who was tickled pink about the dynamism of the Chinese economy, all the while smirking over the irony that it was taking place under “communism”. Here’s an exchange between the two that sheds light on the discontent in Hong Kong that China’s ruling class worries might become contagious:

BOURDAIN: If you love in Manhattan like I do and you think you live in the center of the world, this place, Shanghai, will confront you with a very different reality. Turn down a side street, it’s an ancient culture. A century’s old mix of culinary traditions, smells, flavors. A block away, this. An ultra-modern, ever clanging cash register, levels of wealth, of luxury, a sheer volume of things and services unimagined by the greediest most bushwa of capitalist imperialist.

China has a population of around 1.2 billion people, and the number of them who were joining an explosive middle class, demanding their share of all that good stuff, infrastructure, the clothes, the cars, the gas to fuel them, his wealth, it’s the engine that might well drive the whole world.

ZHOU LIN: Do you like Chinese food?

BOURDAIN: Very much, yes.

ZHOU LIN: OK. What do you want?

BOURDAIN: Of course, yes some — dumplings.

ZHOU LIN: (speaking in a foreign language)

BOURDAIN: Professor Zhou Lin is an economist and current dean of the College of Economics and Management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I saw many people who live here who’s Chinese but was educated in American universities. Has had taught at Yale, Duke, and Arizona State.

BOURDAIN: So you — forgive me. Economics are not my area of expertise, I wallow in ignorance but China looks different every time I come. It’s changing so, so, so quickly. How did that happen?

ZHOU LIN: China enjoy, you know, this long period of peace. No serious enemy, no major wars.

BOURDAIN: Right.

ZHOU LIN: So the manufacturing industry really took off. Internally is reformed an open door policy, every country willing to trade with China.

BOURDAIN: There’s certainly no doubt that at this point, we — our destinies are inextricably bound up. We are hopelessly — our economies are hopelessly intermingled. If one fails, the effect would be disastrous.

ZHOU LIN: Global impact.

ZHOU LIN (on camera): So I really believe that the world is converging and China will again, will be privatizing more and more.

BOURDAIN: Right.

ZHOU LIN: But the difference — nowadays, it’s just the technology is so advanced, we don’t really need that many people. So too things that many use to do in which the population, 7 billion people, there was probably, doesn’t need that many people working…

BOURDAIN: Right.

ZHOU LIN: So the question is that what should human beings doing, you know? How can you let them not doing anything and then still living a good life?

BOURDAIN: Right.

ZHOU LIN: I don’t know. It’s going to be a big issue at the face of the whole world.

* * * *

So too things that many use to do in which the population, 7 billion people, there was probably, doesn’t need that many people working…

That’s the real explanation of Chinese unrest, not NED handouts.

22 Comments »

  1. “ZHOU LIN: But the difference — nowadays, it’s just the technology is so advanced, we don’t really meet that many people. So too things that many use to do in which the population, 7 billion people, there was probably, doesn’t need that many people working…

    BOURDAIN: Right.

    ZHOU LIN: So the question is that what should human beings doing, you know? How can you let them not doing anything and then still living a good life?

    BOURDAIN: Right.

    ZHOU LIN: I don’t know. It’s going to be a big issue at the face of the whole world.”

    At risk of being my own kind of conspiracy theorist, I have been worried about this for quite awhile. Genocide is, of course, a capitalist answer (there is no need for people who do not consume, do not use credit and do not facilitate the accumulaton of capital), but one that doesn’t get anyone’s hands dirty. Deaths through disease, climate change, displacement, the destruction of state structures of support and stability. Look at what happened to life expectancy in the Russian Republic in the 1990s after the collapse of the USSR as to how this might play out over a longer term.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 2, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  2. Richard wrote:

    “At risk of being my own kind of conspiracy theorist”

    Too late! (And you usually come off so well, too . . . .)

    “Genocide is, of course, a capitalist answer (there is no need for people who do not consume, do not use credit and do not facilitate the accumulaton of capital)”

    Reserve army of labour . . . ?

    Do you really think bourgeois leaders will bestir themselves to spend money simply to kill people for no reason other than “They’re unemployed and don’t buy things”? That would’ve happened a _long_ time ago.

    Comment by Todd — October 2, 2014 @ 10:46 pm

  3. Without in the least supporting this guy his comment on the UK Government’s current attempt to dispose of Human Rights Legislation is apt:

    jamie k @jkbloodtreasure
    Conservatives have bascially adopted Beijing’s position that human rights are subject to national sovereignty.

    Comment by Derek Bryant — October 2, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

  4. These “anti-imperialists” haven’t seen a popular uprising since the turn of the century in which the people weren’t puppets of NATO. I hate them even more than those Anthony Bourdain “Isn’t this suppose to be communist China” commercials.

    Comment by Clay Claiborne — October 3, 2014 @ 12:34 am

  5. “Do you really think bourgeois leaders will bestir themselves to spend money simply to kill people for no reason other than “They’re unemployed and don’t buy things”? That would’ve happened a _long_ time ago.”

    I’ve thought about this. No, they wouldn’t deliberately kill them for this reason, but they would allow them to die because of the absence of the necessities of life, an absence driven by the refusal to pay for them because they are considered a drag on capital accumulation, hence structural adjustment, privatization and austerity.

    Recall the IMF’s Lagarde when asked whether she had any sympathy for the suffering of the people of Greece as a result of the EU/IMF program:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/25/christine-lagarde-imf-euro

    “”So when she studies the Greek balance sheet and demands measures she knows may mean women won’t have access to a midwife when they give birth, and patients won’t get life-saving drugs, and the elderly will die alone for lack of care – does she block all of that out and just look at the sums?

    “No, I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.” She breaks off for a pointedly meaningful pause, before leaning forward.

    “Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”

    Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services? “I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively.” How? “By all paying their tax. Yeah.”

    It sounds as if she’s essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you’ve had a nice time and now it’s payback time.

    “That’s right.” She nods calmly. “Yeah.”

    And what about their children, who can’t conceivably be held responsible? “Well, hey, parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their tax.””

    So, the children must starve so that the IMF can be repaid through tax payments. In a moment of candor, Lagarde revealed that there is no limit to the cruelty of capitalism in its current form.

    Could it go so far as to undermine the purpose of the reserve army of labor? Yes, I believe that it could. This is a contradiction of contemporary capitalism, the tension between the Fordist philosophy of enabling the workers to buy the cars that came off the assembly line as a growth strategy versus the measurement of every aspect of life, including life itself, by the need to attain the maximum possible immediate accumulation of capital.

    If capitalists are willing to destroy the environment, which is necessary for the long term preservation of capitalism, what is to prevent them from destroying the reserve army of labor as well?

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 3, 2014 @ 12:53 am

  6. “ZHOU LIN: But the difference — nowadays, it’s just the technology is so advanced, we don’t really meet that many people…..

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    That smug professor actually said:”,,,we don’t really NEED that many people…” Not “meet” but rather “need”.

    I too happened to watch this show and was floored by the conclusion of that particular conversation as I thought to myself exactly what Lou wrote: “That’s the real explanation of Chinese unrest.”

    Just imagine if the “one child policy” had never been implemented? Of course nowadays there’s all kinds of loopholes for the neo-rich that undermine that policy, but still.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 3, 2014 @ 1:07 am

  7. Thanks to Karl for the crucial catch.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 3, 2014 @ 1:26 am

  8. I don’t know that there is a “real reason” behind the protests. There are probably many. This has been unraveling since 1997. Universal suffrage is one reason. China’s heavy-handed influence, its interference with education in Hong Kong, bribes that have corrupted a previously clean civil service, favoritism toward billionaires have all been mentioned by students in interviews.What’s more I’ve been hearing these complaints since the handover. Censorship from China has hung over Hong Kong libraries for instance. China has also been accused of making Shanghai its “model city” at Hong Kong’s expense. Students have much to protest.
    The universities of Hong Kong involved are considered world class, students and faculty. Many students and faculty probably have at least one great-grandparent or two from Mainland China who fled the holocaust-like famine and the cultural revolution. The majority of those refugees were cantonese peasants. To see these students slandered by some pro-China, pro-Russia lowlifes with a grudge against this NED-thing, which nobody in Hong Kong has ever heard of before, is outrageous. Claims of “foreign interference” in a city of immigrants that was a British colony for 155 years, a famous cosmopolitan gateway to China and home to many billionaires (some originally from Shanghai families) is laughable. The city is filled with “influences” , as were many Chinese cities, until war and xenophobia and explosively bad politics got in the way.What these conspiracy theorists don’t point out is that _more_ money than anyone can possibly account for probably goes under the table, by _way of Mainland China_, which by the way is communist mostly in name, IMHO. That sort of corruption eventually destroys infrastructure and whatever social services are left.

    Comment by Mui — October 3, 2014 @ 1:30 am

  9. Btw. Hong Kong under the British was the sort of place where a granny could get the kind of knee operation that would cost thousands of dollars in the US for a copay of about 5 dollars. What that system is like now, I do not know, but for those posing this crisis as “capitalism” vs. “communism,” it’s completely inappropriate. Hong Kong has always been divided over imperialism. Because of the historical and personal distrust of China, Britain was considered a better option before the hand over.

    Comment by mui — October 3, 2014 @ 1:50 am

  10. The most accurate sociological definition of the former USSR was most concisely summed up by Trotsky who said it was essentially “a giant trade union that seized state power.”

    Thus it was no accident that the beginning of the end of the US trade union movement was circa 89-91 when the world’s “actually existing” socialist bloc began to implode. Willy nilly the US trade unions drew a certain amount of strength, even though they’d never admit nor even understood it, from the existence of a giant trade union that seized state power.

    Perhaps the most bizarre & disturbing phenom since the collapse of the USSR is how twisted the distinction between right & left, reactionary & progressive, in terms of politics, the world has become. The sharing of ideas between writers at CounterPunch.org & PrisonPlanet.com is a case in point.

    US Now Admits it is Funding “Occupy Central”

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/us-now-admits-it-is-funding-occupy-central.html

    Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” is US-backed Sedition

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/hong-kongs-occupy-central-is-us-backed-sedition.html

    Both sites publish articles like this at least once a week by guys like Paul Craig Roberts: “Will Russia and China Hold Their Fire Until War Is the Only Alternative?”

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/will-russia-and-china-hold-their-fire-until-war-is-the-only-alternative.html

    Both sites also routinely conjure up Estes’ scenario of a looming government engineered genocide in the works, from FEMA camps on the right to wiping out the surplus labor army on the left. Aids & Ebola, they figure, were hatched in secret government laboratories underneath Virginia to wipe out undesirables. Louis Farrakand is even on that bandwagon.

    There’s something deeply reactionary about much of the conspiracist libertarian vibe going on at Prison Planet. Half the commentors are white, male, petite bourgeois Doomsday Prepper types who are convinced the WTC was controlled demolition. The other half believe in Z.O.G. (Zionist Occupied Government). If it weren’t for the influence of A. Cockburn I’d wager a third of the CP readers would subscribe to the same nonsense.

    The point is there’s a fascinating dovetailing of the conspiracist right & left when it comes to siding with the pathetic Chinese Government against protestors, the masses in the streets.

    What’s notably missing from both camps is the sense that the biggest crisis facing the toilers, as Trotsky said, is a profound lack of proletarian leadership and the idea that the masses can thwart the worst, if not all, of the ruling classes’ designs.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 3, 2014 @ 2:31 am

  11. Richard wrote:

    “No, they wouldn’t deliberately kill them for this reason, but they would allow them to die because of the absence of the necessities of life, an absence driven by the refusal to pay for them because they are considered a drag on capital accumulation, hence structural adjustment, privatization and austerity.”

    Mmm. This is certainly a better idea than your previous one, but it’s hardly a big secret, no? It’s the way capitalism operated before the “hiccup” that was The Post-War years.

    “In a moment of candor, Lagarde revealed that there is no limit to the cruelty of capitalism in its current form.”

    Cruelty implies an excess, though. All the lender nations who channel money through the IMF just want their money back with interest, like any banker; they don’t necessarily, from what I’ve seen, want to bloody people’s noses just for the hell of being able to do it (maybe something might be done to “set an example”, but I can’t see pre-meditated, wholesale slaughter as being a prominent part of it). Absolutely, there’s a cold, unfeeling calculation that cares only for the bourgeois justice of getting “what’s owed” without worrying about the consequences (or too much about the niceties of the procedures taken to get the money). (What was it Marx wrote about the notion of the Devil taking the hindmost?)

    “If capitalists are willing to destroy the environment, which is necessary for the long term preservation of capitalism, what is to prevent them from destroying the reserve army of labor as well?”

    The rising cost of labour would do it, sooner or later (pace to all those who would go down before this golden moment). Capital _is_ it’s own barrier at least some of the time.

    I think you’re putting this at much too personal a level. It’s not so much that they’re willing to destroy the environment, like some Snively No-Goodnik in a black hat with a dark mustache, as they simply care more about getting their money first (and likely figure they personally can escape catastrophe or that someone else will take care of the problem) so they won’t have to eat the shit sandwich without all the bread like most of us do.

    Comment by Todd — October 3, 2014 @ 2:54 am

  12. “Both sites also routinely conjure up Estes’ scenario of a looming government engineered genocide in the works, from FEMA camps on the right to wiping out the surplus labor army on the left. Aids & Ebola, they figure, were hatched in secret government laboratories underneath Virginia to wipe out undesirables. Louis Farrakand is even on that bandwagon.”

    The scary thing is, there’s no need for government engineering, hence I don’t spend anytime reading about FEMA camps or diseases purportedly released from government laboratories or any other such nonsense at Prison Planet. I can honestly say that I’ve never even visited the site. Karl’s demographic evaluation of the participants on sites like Prison Planet rings true to me.

    All that is necessary is the continued intensification of the structural adjustment programs that have impoverished people for the last 4 decades. You don’t need to manufacture Andromeda strains to kill people when pneumonia, dysentery, malaria and the lack of medical care will do. The same diseases that killed sailors off the coast of African in the 17th and 18th centuries are sufficient. For now, the birth rate has surpassed the death rate, we shouldn’t assume that will always be true, especially if future structural adjustments are even more severe than the ones people have already experienced. The Ukraine may be a test case in this regard.

    There’s no need for pre-mediation, it can be rationalized as the invariable operation of the socioeconomic system, with the victims blamed for their own demise, much what happened during the 19th Century famine in India profiled by Mike Davis. Workhouses accelerated the deaths of people, but this was not the acknowledged purpose of them, rather, they were justified on the ground of requiring aid recipients to earn it to avoid the immorality of sloth. Current structural adjustment programs rely upon similar kinds of bourgeois morality (note Lagarde’s emphasis upon the laziness, excessive consumption and inability of the Greeks to earn their way, thus the need for “payback” in her words, regardless of the real world consequences).

    The rising cost of labor is the Marxist brake here, but can it always be relied upon to work? Climate change is, of course, something that could cause the brake line to fail, it is a meteorological phenomenon, and, if the weather effects become too severe, they cannot be reversed, resulting in catastrophic consequences in 40 to 50 years (if not sooner) if immediate remedial measures are not taken. The resources required to prevent an enormous loss of life in the lesser developed world would be, at this point, staggering, beyond the ability of people to marshal.

    Disease is another possibility. Prior to the vaccines of the 20th Century, plagues wreaked enormous losses of life around the world (the deaths in India and China in the late 19th Century being just one example). There is nothing to prevent plagues on this scale from happening again as the Keynesian social welfare system shrinks. In any event, there is no need to characterize the threat as a conspiracy on the level of “Three Days of the Condor” or “Dr. Strangelove”. Instead, it is interwoven throughout capitalist society in the form of hierarchical value system that is difficult to challenge without a working class rebellion beyond transpired in the early 20 Century.

    P. S. The characterization of the Hong Kong movement as a US funded color coded revolution is tiresome in the extreme. Such a perspective, as I have said in the past, denies the historical agency of the populace to make their own decisions about their lives and how to improve them. In a non-European context, it is the reverse side of the imperialist/colonialist coin, as both sides have an implicitly racist perspective about the people involved.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 3, 2014 @ 5:22 am

  13. From somebody in Hong Kong:

    “So too things that many use to do in which the population, 7 billion people, there was probably, doesn’t need that many people working…

    That’s the real explanation of Chinese unrest, not NED handouts.”

    Sorry but that’s horseshit. Hongkongers want the level of autonomy and democracy promised them in 1984. Hong Kong is a very different society to mainland China. Unemployment is not an issue here. There’s no one holding banners up asking for anything but more democracy, And as I’m typing this some of them are getting their heads kicked in by pro-Beijing thugs.

    Comment by Russell Grinker (@grinker1) — October 3, 2014 @ 9:32 am

  14. A more subtle apologetic attidude (and quite popular amongst more subtle apologetes on social networks) towards the Chinese regime is to be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/30/china-hong-kong-future-protesters-cry-democracy. And of course through The Guardian he reaches a mass readership and a measure of “respectability”.
    Jacques used to be a leader of the “eurocommunist” rightwing of the CPGB before becoming a “China-specialist”. Perry Anderson wrote an interesting critique of one of his main books: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n02/perry-anderson/sinomania

    Comment by Thomas Weyts — October 3, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

  15. Richard wrote:

    “All that is necessary is the continued intensification of the structural adjustment programs that have impoverished people for the last 4 decades.”

    So you believe this was done and will continue to be done simply to kill workers, for the lip-smacking relish of some group of nameless big-shots and/or bureaucrats, do I have that right?

    “The rising cost of labor is the Marxist brake here, but can it always be relied upon to work?”

    I’m sure you don’t believe it will as profits don’t seem to play anywhere near as big a part in this as do individual psychoses and character quirks.

    ” In any event, there is no need to characterize the threat as a conspiracy on the level of ‘Three Days of the Condor’ or ‘Dr. Strangelove’.”

    And yet here you are doing just that.

    More structure, please.

    Comment by Todd — October 5, 2014 @ 3:27 am

  16. “More structure, please.”

    And, yet, there is none is your response.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 5, 2014 @ 5:48 am

  17. Russell @ 13. You missed the main point of the exchange between the Professor & the Chef.

    If technology, according to the Professor, is advancing so fast that there’s “no need” for a billion Chinese workers then “heads getting kicked in” could become the new norm for if the New Chinese Aristocracy keeps it up unabated — heads will roll.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 5, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

  18. “If technology, according to the Professor, is advancing so fast that there’s “no need” for a billion Chinese workers then “heads getting kicked in” could become the new norm for if the New Chinese Aristocracy keeps it up unabated — heads will roll.”

    And, a much smaller number of workers are needed to maintain a reserve army of labor, something recognized as a consequence of technological development going back to anarchists like Murray Bookchin in the 1960s. It is a point that Todd either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to acknowledge.

    The relish of bureaucrats and corporate executives has nothing to do with it. Structural adjustment merely needs to proceed to withdraw more and more social assistance from people so that they are killed over time through global warming, disease or starvation or some combination of the three. There are plenty of “moral” explanations around to enable the privileged to distance themselves from the victims, they are lazy, they are violent, they are self-indulgent. We’ve heard them all before.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 6, 2014 @ 12:16 am

  19. “And, a much smaller number of workers are needed to maintain a reserve army of labor, something recognized as a consequence of technological development going back to anarchists like Murray Bookchin in the 1960s. It is a point that Todd either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to acknowledge.”

    Given the changes that have happened since the 60s, I’d have hesitated to invoke someone who was writing so fervently about post-scarcity at that time, but do what you will . . . . (And I’d really like to see the quote for technology permanently decreasing the RAoL. I’d like a belly-laugh today.)

    “Structural adjustment merely needs to proceed to withdraw more and more social assistance from people so that they are killed over time through global warming, disease or starvation or some combination of the three.”

    Why does this happen, though? From what you’ve written, it seems to be because somebody or somebodies with political power just want to kill poor people.

    Comment by Todd — October 6, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

  20. “Why does this happen, though? From what you’ve written, it seems to be because somebody or somebodies with political power just want to kill poor people.”

    It happens for reasons that are straightforward and non-conspiratorial. Social democratic assistance programs are a drag on capital accumulation, particularly when it is directed towards people who aren’t needed as workers, aren’t needed to maintain labor discipline and keep costs down and lack the ability to consume within the formal economy, through, for example, access to credit. If faced with a choice between channeling more and more wealth upwards or paying for assistance programs for such people, capitalists will choose the former over the latter, hence the current emphasis upon structural adjustment and past historical episodes of indifference to famines in the lesser developed world

    This is not a new concern. Daniel Hamerquist of the Sojourner Truth Organization speculated about this in 1983, concluding that, as capitalism becomes more dependent upon technology, actual living workers and their labor become less central to the process of production. He had “come to view this process through a dark lens, speculating about possibilities of genocide (to reduce the number of superfluous workers) and impending barbarism or fascism, should the revolutionary left fail to transform itself into mass insurgent opposition to capitalism.” (Truth and Revolution: A History of the Sojourner Truth Organization: 1969-1986) Of course, one could say that the last 30 years have proved him wrong, but the troubling alternative, based upon the intensification of neoliberal structural adjustment, is that the process has just begun.

    “And I’d really like to see the quote for technology permanently decreasing the RAoL. I’d like a belly-laugh today.”

    It would nice if it turned out like this, it would be preferable. But there has always been a tension within capitalism between providing the necessary support for the workforce and the accumulation of capital. Silvia Frederici and Peter LInebaugh have addressed this subject in depth in their scholarship. To assume that the increases and decreases within the reserve army of labor will always prevent genocidal losses of life is analogous to past left efforts to impose their ideology as a form of science, especially when technology is reducing the number of workers required to produce cars, televisions, computers, just about anything that is mass produced. Or, perhaps, the more apt analogy is the use of quantification theory by hedge fund investors. The formulas work . . . until they don’t, with disastrous consequences, as with Long Term Capital Management in 1998.

    Currently, the birth rate is greater than the death rate, so that is a strong argument on your side. But will it continue to do so in a world of austerity and global warming (think, for a moment, about the trillions needed to protect impoverished people from the ravages of famine and coastal storms in low lying areas, will the 1% pay for that)? The left should recognize this possibility in its analysis and program. People around the world may soon find that confronting capitalism is a necessary for them to survive.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 6, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

  21. “It happens for reasons that are straightforward and non-conspiratorial.”

    There! See how easy that was? I only had to kick your ass a few times (and you’re far from one of the worst conspiracy-minded around here).

    “To assume that the increases and decreases within the reserve army of labor will always prevent genocidal losses of life”

    Nice straw-man! Getting ready for Halloween already, eh?

    Comment by Todd — October 7, 2014 @ 11:48 pm

  22. According to this recent article in “Computer World” – 1 in 3 jobs will be eliminated by either software or robots by 2025.

    http://www.computerworld.com/article/2691607/one-in-three-jobs-will-be-taken-by-software-or-robots-by-2025.html

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 8, 2014 @ 3:47 pm


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