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If you’ve followed American media in recent times, you will have probably heard that meddling in affairs of foreign nations is a bad thing — but it seems that view changes dramatically when the US is the one doing the meddling.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was reelected in May in what Washington wrote-off as a “sham” election. In response, the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on the South American country and seemingly won’t be happy until Maduro and his socialist regime packs up and disappears.

Confirming that it’s Washington’s way or the highway, a former US official who worked as assistant administrator for Latin America at the US Agency for International Development, under the Bush administration, has openly called for a military coup — and Foreign Policy magazine has obligingly published his thoughts.


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China workshop: challenging the misconceptions

The recent workshop on China organised by the China Workshop (poster and programme_05062018) in London asked all the questions, even if it did not resolve them.  What are the reasons for China’s phenomenal growth in the last 40 years and can it last?  What is the nature of the Chinese economy: is it capitalist or not?  What explains under Xi the new emphasis on studying Marxism in China’s universities?  Is China’s export and investment expansion abroad imperialist or not?  How will the trade war between the US and China pan out?

In the opening session, Dr Dic Lo, Reader in Economics at SOAS, London University and Zhu Andong, Vice Dean at the School of Marxism at Tsinghua University, Beijing (representing a delegation from various Chinese universities) were at pains to argue that China is misrepresented in the so-called West and not just through mainstream capitalist views but also from the left.

All the talk from the left, said Lo, was about political repression, labour exploitation, inequality or Chinese ‘imperialism’. But then how to explain China’s phenomenal growth and success in taking over 850m people out of poverty (as defined by the World Bank) and reaching national output second only to the US.  China doubles real living standards every 13 years. It now takes the US and Europe 50 years and Japan even longer.  Is this just fake or illusory and if not, how can this ‘capitalist’ and ‘imperialist’ economy have bucked the trend, when the record of all other capitalist economies (advanced or ‘emerging’) can show no such success? “How can it be possible, in our times, for a late-developing nation to move up the world political-economic hierarchy to become imperialist? Can anyone on the left answer this question?


Dic Lo criticised the majority view of left political economists that China could be characterised as “neoliberal capitalist”, the so-called “Foxconn Model” of labour exploitation. This view was pioneered by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett, made most influential by David Harvey, most systematic by Minqi Li; and politically correct by Pun Ngai.  But were they right?

Zhu Andong also critiqued what he considered was this Western view.  In contrast, far from a Marxist critique disappearing in China, there was growing official support for the study of Marxism in Chinese universities, both in special departments and even increasingly in economics departments, which up to recently had been dominated by mainstream neoclassical economics influenced by Western universities.

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Who Says Labor Laws Are “Luxuries”?

A standard recommendation given to late-industrializing economies by the economic advisors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has been to refrain from imposing regulations on the labor market, or if such regulations are already in place, to abolish them.

If you are a policymaker in a late-industrializing country, chances are you’ve been told that your problem, what is really holding your economy back, is excessive labor regulation – it is making your exports uncompetitive and chasing away capital. Laws “created to help workers often hurt them,” stated the 2008 World Bank’s Doing Business Report. To avoid any misunderstandings about the Bank’s reckoning with ten years of crises, the working draft of the 2019 edition advocates for cutting minimum wages, facilitating dismissals and removing other labor regulations in order to favor employment and economic development. The Washington-hired advisors, themselves enjoying many employment-related benefits, may have developing nations’ best interest on their mind. After all, the (enduring) Washington Consensus is clear: in developing countries as in all countries, minimum wages, employment protection, regulated working conditions and collective bargaining will prematurely raise labor costs harming businesses’ ability to compete on international markets. Exports will suffer, profits and investment will fall, and the very jobs these laws are designed to protect, formal-sector jobs, will be destroyed.

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New Cockshott article on Abstract Labor and Socialism. Well worth a read.


Allin and I have at times been criticised for proposing the use of labour time accounting in Towards a New Socialism . Surely, people have said, you can not use abstract labour in a socialist economy since abstract labour is a specific historical phenomenon of capitalism?

The idea that under socialism there is no abstract labour, only concrete labour, has become common among English speaking Marxists in recent years. This is probably due to the influence of the work of Rubin whose book on the Marxist theory of value was translated from the Russian over forty years ago.

I have long thought that the concept of abstract labour presented in Rubin is mistaken and unscientific. I published, in the journal Critique, a critique of Heinrich’s very similar account of abstract labour.  What I did not know at the time was that there were old Soviet critiques of Rubin on this very topic. I am reproducing one below  from 1926 that essentially adopts the same position on the topic as Allin and I did when we wrote TNS. It is clear from reading Dashkovskij that the concepts of labour time accounting we deploy were actively being debated by some economists in the 1920s. Unfortunately very little of this literature has been translated.

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  • JakeHolman changed the title to JOE BIDEN'S DYSTOPIAN STATES OF AMERIKA ...

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