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Joseba Felix Tobar Arbulu > Extracts

Essay (literary and non-literary)

Marx, hasiberrientzat (XXI. mendearen hasieran) |

(Marx for Beginners at the start of the 21st Century)

Do we have to go back to Marx? Does he have to be dropped? Has he been superseded? If we were to revisit him, it is clear that we would not be dealing with an exegesis, because there are no sacred texts anywhere. So, this is no exegesis. It could not be. A desire to analyse his texts as if they were Biblical ones would run counter to Marx's position. To a certain extent one has to go beyond Marx, but once again we would have to revive the eagerness Marx had for criticising economy. This is precisely what Marxists have to be reproached for here (and elsewhere): in actual fact, for turning themselves into the exegetes of the texts, for trying to read Marx's texts as if they were the Bible, for turning Marxism into a new theology, when everyone knows that theology of any kind is a sheer waste of time.

In Marx's view, the aim of political economy (Das Kapital, vol. 1) was to establish the bases of modern society's economic laws. He worked hard, constantly and unwaveringly on that when he put surplus value at the heart of worker exploitation. But the times, conditions and even the capitalism that Marx knew have changed completely. So, he could not have predicted that the workers would not only be exploited through their wages but also through their savings. This situation is completely new and has its origins in the phenomenon of finance capital. In actual fact, Marx is responsible for the most sophisticated analysis of 19th century finance capital (Theories of Surplus Value, Part III). Indeed, he analysed the development of finance capital, when he saw that this development was infinite, depending on the rate of compound interest. But after analysing it all, he abandoned his analysis, when he proclaimed that finance capital would be under the domination of industrial capital. That development worried Marx much more than any other economist, but in the end he believed that financial capital played a subordinate role on a secondary level.

Nowadays, Marxists do not tend to concern themselves with the world of finance. And not being concerned about finance capital is tantamount to wanting to analyse fictional economy. Thus, economics is turned into fictional science, a pastime that bears no resemblance at all to reality. Theories, including orthodox Marxism, force reality. (Let us not say what somebody once proclaimed: «If the theory does not concur with the world, so much the worse for the world»).

Finance-economy is the system we live in today and that it what has to be analysed; this is the new situation that needs to be tackled. The monetary and financial system is independent of the material means of production, and it is so strong that it destroys the very means of production. Instead of finances being industrialised, industry is being financialized (if a Marxist finds this new situation too grim, so much the worse for him or her, because reality is highly intractable). And what is even worse, one has to work for the big, finance organisations in order to be able to understand the balance of payments deficit and fund flow. Indeed, as the economist Michael Hudson has explained, the functioning of international financial markets is very unintuitive.

Here follow certain significant references Hudson made during a lecture he gave to the Communist Party in Cuba in the year 2000.

A century ago Marx was in favour of globalisation as he thought that it would cause the old, reactionary institutions of Asia, the Middle East, South America and the Far East to fall, thus presenting an opportunity for the work force, the workers, to organise themselves along modern, economic lines.

But that is not what is happening today. Today's globalisation is totally different, because the economic relationships existing at the centre are not repeated in undeveloped countries. New phenomena have emerged. Today's large international corporations -and the shareholders and bankers behind them- are after profit and interest. These global companies do not receive any kind of profits in the countries where they originated, only in certain special places: on certain islands within the tax haven, in offshore banking areas. The upshot of this is that if a specific country is seeking to strike a deal with a foreign investor on some kind of profit, it could be to receive half of nothing. (These global corporations pay their profits to financial brokers in the form of interest. Likewise, they are keen to present their profits as expenses pertaining to security and other non-productive charges).

The main problem is a financial one. World industry is controlled by the financial sector. (Contrary to what Marx believed, in fact). Large, multinational corporations do not seek to exploit the workers of undeveloped countries through the surplus value phenomenon. They seek, above all, land, natural resources (mining and monopolies rights) and the public resources set up by different governments through external debts (railway and airline systems, telephone and communications monopolies, state television, oil, gas and electrical energy monopolies), so they can buy them at a low price, and then they are keen to privatise the social security savings of the work force, in order to participate in these corporations when the prices rise.

In short, global investors do not want undeveloped countries to develop and create new capital by means of the surplus-value mechanism, but to obtain capital that has already been raised. For this purpose, privatisation goes hand in hand with globalisation, because the workforce has to be reduced. Giant companies downsize their workers, reduce the workforce, privatise social security and encourage stock market speculation, they do not want to exploit the workers directly in the way exposed by Marx.

The world economy and its financial systems are planned, not through different governments, but through financial engineering. When wages are restricted, workers are encouraged to put their pension funds and social security savings on the stock market, thus inflating the financial bubble. This process is supported by the so-called IMF-International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which tell different governments that they have to sell off their public sectors.

But, as the American economist says, the financial statu quo is unstable. So, the financial system has to be regulated in some way. Faced with all this the economist Hudson has put forward a counter strategy. In a word, and to summarise a long quotation, it consists of applying, both on a national and an international level, income tax prior to payments covering interest, insurance and non-productive, parasitic charges. Likewise, something akin to a market socialism that will boost productive investment, and which has to stand up to the World Bank and the so-called IMF.

Enough of theoretical work to pursue pseudo-theories that are of no use and which are a waste of time. Let us get down to the task in hand. By going beyond Marx but with the enthusiasm for criticism that Marx had, we have to examine financial capital.
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