Tag Archive: cwi

Ukraine Fraudsters Again – A Message from the LRP

League for the Revolutionary party
April 2014

Reports on the events in Ukraine in recent months have mentioned three activists whose names some readers may recall: Oleg (Oleh) Vernik and Zakhar Popovych in Ukraine and Ilya Budraitskis in Russia. In the early 2000s, while members of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), they conspired to assume multiple fake personal identities as representatives of several fictitious socialist groups in Ukraine. Under these disguises they posed as supporters of a number of far-left groups in North America and Europe, from whom they stole funds, time and other resources. Their crimes further corrupted the reputation of a socialist movement already burdened by mistaken association with the heinous crimes of Stalinism.

We reported on this political and financial scam in CWI Group Guilty of Ukraine Fraud (Proletarian Revolution No. 69, Winter 2004), and we posted personal identifying information at Photos of the Perpetrators on this website. A list of many other articles on the affair at the time is at Statements from various sources on the Ukrainian fraud (wwww.bolshevik.org). A summary of the fraud, the CWI’s response and the current activities of these perpetrators was recently posted on the website of the Greek organization Communist Revolutionary Action. See Maidan and Ukranian Story of a Lasting Fraud.

The perpetrators of the fraud have not to our knowledge ever issued any explanation of, or apology for, their political, personal and financial dishonesty. Today Vernyk is chairman of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Labor Defence). See tradeunion.org.ua. Budraitskis belongs to the Socialist Movement of Russia, which is affiliated with the organization long known as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec). See for example his article Ukrainians fighting for a better society.

Popovych belongs to “Left Opposition” in Ukraine whose views are also disseminated by the Usec’s magazine International Viewpoint. See A mass revolt for democracy. He also made a widely reported visit to London where he spoke about the Ukrainian events. See for example Russian and Ukrainian socialists speak out. A video of Popovych speaking at a public meeting at the House of Commons is at Crisis in the Ukraine (House of Commons Meeting) – Videos. By comparing this video with the photos of Popovych in the original articles about the fraud, one can see that today’s activist is the same person as yesterday’s fraudster.

We warn the left in Ukraine and around the world: these people are not to be trusted in their political, organizational and financial adventures.

SF Logo2The Marxist theory of the state:
Deformed and Degenerated Workers’ States and Capitalist States

From Socialist Fight (British Section, Liaison Committee for the Fourth International) 
The post WWII debate in the Fourth International of the late 1940s and early 1950s on the class character of the ‘Buffer States’ in Eastern Europe was resurrected in 1989-92 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR following the Yanayev coup and Yeltsin’s counter-coup of August 1991. We will see from the struggles we have outlined below that the Stalinist bureaucracies became divided into three camps following the defeat of the Brezhnevites by Gorbachev in 1989; those Gorbechevites on the left who wished to retain the degenerate and deformed workers’ states by opening up the economic plan by glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), those in the middle (Yanayev and Deng in China) who sought the restoration of capitalism by slow, planned measures, maintaining the Stalinist bureaucracy as the vehicle of restoration and those on the right like Yeltsin who sought a rapid capitulation to western Imperialism and their own enrichment by plundering the state assets in alliance with western transnational corporations. We can observe at least elements of these three tendencies in most of the counter-revolutionary overturns of 1989-92.

The first debate on the nature of the East European countries behind the ‘iron curtain’ in the FI in the late 1940s eventually resulted in the correct conclusion that they were deformed workers’ states, but much confusion remained. We will look at the position again as it emerged in the debate over the class character of Cuba in the early 1960s and the debate about the class character of Cambodia in the late 1970s following the invasion by Vietnam on 25 December 1978. And of course, as we have mentioned, the debate following the victory of the counter-revolutionary restoration of capitalism in Eastern European and Asian states in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading

capitalist crises mike brooksThe debate on the causes of the Great Recession

Mick Brooks, Author of Capitalist Crisis: Theory and Practice, comments here on the debate within the Committee For a Workers’ International on The Causes of the Great Recession and Capitalist Crisis.

Mick Brooks, September 2013
Since the outbreak of the Great Recession Marxists have debated its cause. This is a vital theoretical issue for understanding the world around us.

The debate centres around the issue as to whether the present crisis is caused by falling profits as explained by Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (LTFRP), dealt with in chapters 13-15 of ‘Capital Volume III’. Others argue that the crisis can be explained as one of underconsumption.

This debate is bubbling under within the ranks of the CWI. The leadership of the CWI (as of the IMT) take what I would characterise as an underconsumptionist position. Already two blogs are circulating inside the ranks of the CWI that advocate the LTFRP explanation, in addition to an excellent short film, and debates are beginning to take place in the localities. Signs of intelligent life? It looks like it. Check out:
Marx returns from the Grave,
Socialism is Crucial, http://socialismiscrucial.wordpress.com/

It should be explained at the outset that all parties agree that a crisis of capitalism takes theform of overproduction, of unsold goods, as it says in the ‘Communist Manifesto’. Overproduction and crisis, however, are not permanent features of capitalist production. It remains to be explained why capitalism dips into crisis when it does.

The leadership, reacting to criticism, has resorted to an ‘underconsumptionist’ explanation of the cause of crisis. The crisis is caused, according to a quote from Chapter 30 of ‘Capital Volume III’ by “the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses.” (As one of the bloggers, CrucialSteve, points out this was actually a bracketed note added by Engels into the original text.)

The problem with the underconsumptionist explanation is that there is a permanent tendency for capitalism to restrict the purchasing power of the working class, because it is a system based on profit. Underconsumptionism therefore has no explanatory power as an explanation of crisis.

In any case not all commodities are produced for workers – pallet trucks and computer numerically controlled machine tools are capital goods bought by capitalists. There are also luxury goods consumed only by capitalists such as yachts and private jets. Why should there be a specific outbreak of overproduction of consumer goods intended for workers’ consumption such as jumpers rather than pallet trucks or yachts? Empirically crises of overproduction usually break out in the capital goods industries. Investment is the most volatile element in national income.

The opposition bloggers within the CWI have a powerful argument in their favour – the rate and mass of profit in the major capitalist countries fell sharply prior to the onset of crisis in 2007. Marx’s theory is confirmed! To take the case of the USA: “The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that in the 3rd quarter of 2006 the mass of profits peaked at $1,865bn. By the 4th quarter of 2008 it bottomed out at $861bn.” (Brooks – Capitalist crisis; theory and practice, p.32)

The facts confirm Marx’s analysis of the LTFRP as the fundamental cause of crisis. Why should this cause surprise, since we all agree that capitalism is a system of production of profit? The school of Marxian economists who support this analysis view the falling rate and also mass of profit only as an underlying cause of crisis. Essentially the argument is about levels of causation in the crisis. What about the financial aspect of the crisis – the housing bubble, crazy loans and collapsing banks? Of course this was all very important. These specific factors profoundly influence the depth and nature of the downturn. Every crisis is a unique event with its own characteristics. But, with or without a ‘financial crisis’ the fact that the mass of profits in the USA, the most important capitalist country, halved over two years would have provoked a big collapse of output in any case.

How does the leadership of the CWI deal with the detailed criticisms of their approach thrown up by the advocates of the importance of the LTFRP as an explanation of crisis? Lynn Walsh argues in ‘Socialism Today’ that profit and investment have become disconnected in recent decades. “Despite the staggering increase in the share of income taken by the top 1% in the US, investment declined.”(‘Socialism Today’, November 2012) So profits (with the share of the top 1% as a proxy) are supposed have soared at the expense of working people, but this has not translated into productive investment. Walsh concludes, “This factual data, in our view confirms the analysis of a crisis in capital accumulation put forward in ‘Socialism Today’ over many years” (ibid.).

If true, this is not an explanation for a pattern of booms and slumps. It presents a stagnationist perspective for the future of capitalism, a permanent slowing down of the rate of accumulation. Is the CWI serious about decades of stagnation? How do they explain the present crisis, where investment fell as a result of the fall in profits?

In fact there is a simple explanation for this alleged disjunction between profits and investment: the profit figures quoted are wrong. Michael Roberts has meticulously chronicled the rate of profit since the Second World War in his blog. Nobody has challenged his figures, which attempt to look beneath conventional statistics to work out a Marxian rate of profit.

Roberts concludes: first that there has been no return to the fabulous profits enjoyed by capitalists during the golden years of the post-War boom; and secondly that the rate of profit today in 2013 remains below that of 2007 before the onset of the great Recession. Andrew Kliman also carefully shows (in ‘The failure of capitalist production’) that the reason for lower investment in the years since 1974 is lower profits. There is just less to invest. Simples.

The CWI leadership buttress their ‘explanation’ as to why investment has been lower with recourse to the notion of financialisation. As Lynn Walsh argues in the same article, more and more funds have been gobbled up by financial shenanigans in preference to investing in industry. There is no mystery here. In so far as more “profits disappeared into the financial sector” (ibid.), that is a response to lower pickings to be made in production – because of the LTFRP itself.

Increasing exploitation of the workers over recent decades has not led to increasing rates of accumulation because of financialisation, it is asserted. This is part of the analysis of a whole school of thought, regarding itself as Marxian, which sees the current crisis as one of the neoliberal form of capitalism rather than capitalism as a whole. In fact this is the conventional wisdom of the majority of academic Marxist economists. A whole new stage of capitalism is supposed to have developed since about 1980, buttressed by the holy trinity of globalisation, neoliberalism and financialisation.

Dumenil and Levy’s book – ‘The crisis of neoliberalism’, 2011 – is an example. Phil Hearse writing in Socialist Resistance, the publishing house of the so-called Fourth international, also refers to “a neoliberal ‘regime of accumulation’”. The logic of this approach seems to be that neoliberalism should be destroyed rather the capitalist system overthrown. As we see, the CWI leadership has swallowed this analysis whole. By accepting the interpretation of this school the CWI is on a slippery slope indeed. We’re with the opposition within their ranks on this one.Socialist Fight

Join-The-SWPThe Socialist Party Debates: The Tendency For The Rate Of Profit To Fall Vs Underconsumptionism.

The VOAG can’t help but notice the growing debate inside the Socialist Party (SP). The VOAG’s inbox had just quietened down following an avalanche of emails during the recent SWP splits. Now it seems it’s the Socialist Party’s turn to spam the living daylights out of us all.

The VOAG has already heard rumours of people being banned from the Socialist Party’s International Summer School, now I understand the SP’s NC is removing members from the SP Facebook group and banning all discussion relating to Marxist economics. (1)

As Bruce Wallace, one of the leading dissidents put it: “Under the pretext of agreeing to comradely debate, the critical material of oppositionists is being censored and repressed while public attacks on us are made by the leadership”. How SWP. (2)

And just like the SWP debacle, the argument is being conflated with a general dissatisfaction with internal party democracy. One dissident quotes Lenin: “Criticism within the limits of the principles of the Party Programme must be quite free, not only at Party meetings, but also at public meetings. Such criticism, or such “agitation” (for criticism is inseparable from agitation) cannot be prohibited”

What’s it all about.
 At the root of the argument are different perspectives regarding the relative importance in Crisis Theory (why capitalism goes into cyclical recessions) of “The Tendancy For The Rate Of Profit To Fall” (TRPF) and “Overacculation /Underconsumption”. Another SP dissident, calling himself Crucial Steve, writes on his blog:

“According to Lyn Walsh [editor of the SP’s monthly Socialism Today], the current crisis is one of over accumulation and lack of demand. Peter Taaffe writes in issue number 157 “The capitalists refuse to invest because there is no ‘profitable outlet’. In this sense, it is a crisis of ‘profitability’. Not because profits have dropped or there is a ‘tendency’ for the rate of profit to decline. Both the rate and the absolute amount of profit have increased it seems, even during this terrible crisis”.” (3)

Crucial Steve (Steve Dobbs) counters: “Marx was very clear that the accumulation of capital and the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall were in fact “two expressions of the same process”. As capital accumulates, the organic composition [fixed capital over variable capital] rises and the rate of profit tends to fall. Thus to speak of over accumulation without reference to the rate of profit is somewhat “one-sided”, shall we say.

Cde. Crucial sets out his stall: “According to the statistics, the rate and the absolute amount of profit have not increased as the SP would have it. As anyone who has worked with management in the private sector will tell you, capitalists are concerned with the rate of return. So naturally, the projected rate of profit will determine investment. A fall in return and a subsequent fall in investment can also lead to a drop in the mass of profits. We can see empirically that the fall in the mass of profits precedes a fall in investment prior to a recession”.

Crucial quotes Walsh in Socialism Today No.161: “How, as socialists, should we regard a stimulus package or programme of public works? In the face of mass unemployment and the prospect of prolonged economic stagnation, the leaders of workers’ organisations should indeed be calling for a massive programme of public works to provide jobs and stimulate growth. Effective economic stimulus would require a big increase in social spending, increasing pensions and other benefits. Tax rates for the wealthy and big corporations should be substantially increased, with a levy on the uninvested cash piles of big companies. Effective measures should be taken against tax evasion and avoidance”. (4)

The SP’s official position, that the current crisis is one of over accumulation and lack of demand, implies that the answer is to inflate the economy by increasing salaries and public spending, in order to spend ones way out of crises. In other words, classic Keynesianism. We at The VOAG reject this approach and agree with Marx, that capitalism has structural contradictions that cannot be resolved by keynesian economics or reformism.

Socialist Fight breaks it down.
To get some help understanding this argument, let’s visit the pages of this month’s Socialist Fight:
Let us first of all set out the proposition according to Marx: “The progressive tendency of the general rate of profit to fall is, therefore, just an expression peculiar to the capitalist mode of production of the progressive development of the social productivity of labour. This does not mean to say that the rate of profit may not fall temporarily for other reasons. But proceeding from the nature of the capitalist mode of production, it is thereby proved a logical necessity that in its development the general average rate of surplus-value must express itself in a falling general rate of profit. Since the mass of the employed living labour is continually on the decline as compared to the mass of materialised labour set in motion by it, i.e., to the productively consumed means of production, it follows that the portion of living labour, unpaid and congealed in surplus-value, must also be continually on the decrease compared to the amount of value represented by the invested total capital. Since the ratio of the mass of surplus-value to the value of the invested total capital forms the rate of profit, this rate must constantly fall”. Karl Marx, Capital vol. 3, chapter 13.

TFRP is the central plank of Marx’s revolutionary economic theories. He formed his theory in opposition to the closely related theories of the so-called “iron law of wages” and underconsumptionism, and sharply counter-posed TFRP to them. The Iron Law of Wages is a proposed law of economics that asserts that real wages always tend, in the long run, toward the minimum wage necessary to sustain the life of the worker. Karl Marx attribute the doctrine to Lassalle (notably in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875), but credited the idea to Thomas Malthus in his work, An Essay on the Principle of Population.

Marx did not have several theories of capitalist crisis, he had one: TFRP. Marx attacked the “iron law of wages” in two lectures to the international Working Men’s Association in 1865. The argument was that the “iron law” meant the absolute immiseration of the working class which led to a lack of demand for commodities and hence a crisis pushing prices below the value of commodities finally squeezing profits.

This is closely allied to underconsumptionism. Of course it has an immediate reformist implication; there is a Keynesian solution to the crisis of capitalism. All we need to do is raise wages and pump more money into the economy and the crisis will be solved. The underconsumptionist tells us there is plenty of money available but the capitalists just won’t invest. So implicitly all we have to do is force them to do so or get the government to do so on their behalf. It is this reformist conclusion that Bruce Wallace has correctly identified in the line of both the CWI and the CPGB. The notion that they won’t invest because the rate of profit is too low is beyond them.

The point about TFRP is that it is a revolutionary theory; capitalism is in crisis because it has these fatal structural flaws; private ownership of the means of production and a system of production for individual profit which has this inescapable tendency to fall and halt production through lack of investment. Only a rationally planned socialised economy based on production for need will overcome the ever recurring [and increasing] crises of capitalism. War on a global scale is the only thing that will temporarily solve this crisis for the capitalists; a much smaller group of monopoly capitalists will now have their profits rates restored before they fall again and the next conflagration is prepared. That is the history of the twentieth century. The same iron laws apply to the twenty-first. (6)

1. http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/is-shttp://howiescorner.blogspot.ocialist-party-heading-fo-split.html
3. http://socialismiscrucial.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/ted-grants-notes-on-marxist-economics/
4. Ibid
5. https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/socialistfightno14.pdf
6. Ibid

Acknowledgements and Thanks
Many thanks to Ray Rising for providing a selection of print-outs regarding the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall.

The VOAG would like to acknowledge Socialist Fight for their article “Ticktin, Taaffe and Underconsumption” in Socialist Fight No.14 some of which is reproduced here.

Thanks also go out to Socialist Fight for their excellent Open Meeting on the “Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall” which The VOAG attended. For details of future Socialist Fight meetings contact: Socialist_Fight@yahoo.co.uk.The Voag