Friday, October 28, 2005

New Word

: : .

OK, pre-empting a review to come when I have time to finiosh the book. Been reading Charles Stross' Accelerando (Note: I'm reading the dead tree version, that's the free online version - relevence will become clear shortly).

It introduced a new word to me: AGALMIC.

Now, according to this essay states:
agalmics (uh-GAL-miks), n. [Gr. "agalma", "a pleasing gift"]
The study and practice of the production and allocation of non-scarce goods.
. This makes me happy - a new word that sums up what some of us want from socialism - a post-scarcity (as I believe Murray Bookchin called it) society. One that would require a new discipline of understanding it, different from the current economic models.

Economics itself is of course a word that has shifted meaning over the years. OED has it as 1. a. Pertaining to the management of a household, or to the ordering of private affairs (obs.). b. Relating to private income and expenditure. - certainly that's what it was whejn the greeks first started using it way back when. Artistotle contrasted it with Chrematistic adj. Of, pertaining to, or engaged in the acquisition of wealth.

When we get behind the blind of the everyday meaning, we find there is room for an agalmic - neither household management not acquisitive accumulation of wealth, but the advancement of a post scracity society.

IIRC Georges Bataille in his The Accursed Share suggested that we never have had scarcity - never. We have always had the extreme wealth of the sun - pouring goods down on us - we have only ever had our limitations to catching and using that wealth. Every society has spectacularly squandered its wealth because it could not use it.

An Agalmist Party, anyone?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


: : : .

History repeats itself.

I've mentioned the 'orrible demise of the WRP before from taking funding from "bourgoise middle eastern regimes" - but it seems Galloway is bang to rights. The Money shot:
The evidence gathered by the Subcommittee, however, suggests that Galloway was well aware that Zureikat was conducting oil transactions on his behalf. The IIS Letter, dated January 2000 and authenticated by Tariq Aziz, indicates that Galloway and Zureikat met with an officer on December 26, 1999 to discuss, among other subjects, a request to increase the amount of oil that had been allocated to them by Aziz. Galloway has confirmed that Zureikat acted his representative in Iraq for all matters relating to the Mariam Appeal. Aziz verified Zureikat was Galloway`s business representative in Iraq and conducted oil transactions for purpose of raising funds for the Mariam Appeal. Zureikat`s commercial activities relating to oil allocations granted to Galloway stretched from 2000 through 2003. A significant number Zureikat`s commercial activities resulted in large payments to both Galloway`s wife (approximately $150,000) as well as his political campaign, the Mariam Appeal ($446,000).
Forget the crap about his wife, what we have here is a clear prima facia case of political corruption - Galloway was an active agent for the Iraqi dictatorship. His career. His prominence. Everything he is and has today comes from the regimes preparedness to stump up the readies for him to campaign on its behalf.

He is no tribune of the people, no voice of the oppressed, agent of the working class, Herald of socialism or anything of the sort. Whatever you think ogf the sanctions and what they did, it must be clear to anyone of good conscience that to take money from the hand of the Iraqi dictatorship would invalidate any good motive.

Galloway obfuscates:
Galloway added that the fact that the Mariam Appeal, a political campaign, had received more than $446,000 from Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat "cannot be news to anyone. The Charity Commission investigated the Mariam Appeal, it scrutinised every penny in and every penny out and totally exonerated me from benefiting financially through the campaign."
Money may have no smell, but he took it through close collaboration and with conscious connivance.

The SWP have sacrificed everything they ever had on supporting this man and, whatever you think of their policies, they have sucked most of the people who are willing to be active for change into their orbit and into his.

I think this tragedy arisies from the absence of a movement, of any genuine general struggle, which means radicals orientate to anyone who looks like a challenge, who looks like their taking on the state. Anyone with a slight grasp of history will know that radicals have been led up the garden path by charlatons before. How far the leftists are willing to keep going is a matter for debate. Anyone would think they were doing it deliberately to discredit socialism - time for planet ICC anyone?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Being nice to Tories

: : : .

One of my colleagues - well, one of my minions, actually - chortled to himself the other day. All will be clear. You see, I was ranting about how much I hate the lib-dems "If I had a Tory, and a Lib Dem, and one bullet, if I couldn't persuade them to put their heads together, I'd pop the Lib-Dem." Quothe I, 'tis an old routine, "The Tories are scum, but at least their honest scum." My minion is training to be a barrister - one day he will earn triple my salary and vote Tory. I'll allow him his chuckle.

Anyway, this report (PDF) from the admittedly pro-PR Electoral Reform Society suggests that the current electoral system is biased against the Tories - the twin evils of first past the post - geographic lumpiness (concetntrations of votes in certain areas) and differential turn-out conspire to mean the Tories need an over 10% swing just to get back in.

This is, frankly, ridiculous. In some seats less than half the votes the average Tory requires to win a seat marginally turns into a safe seat fo Labour (see Liverpool, passim). Perhaps if the Tories win enough votes to mean Labour loses overall majority they might well have the sense to go into coalition with the Lib-Dems and reluctantly (!) give the Lib-Dems the PR they crave.

I remember thinking the Tories were onto a great crack winning the whole hearted support of 40% of the population in Southern England, great divide and rule tactic. it seems, though, that Labour has outdone them. Paul Boetang's infamous 'Its not the electoral system, its about getting the right result' doesn't just apply to Labour's internal elections, they really are hell bent of clinging onto power by fair means or foul.

Their heartland vote can continue to wither on the vine - they have by far more seats where they lead by double the second party's vote than any other party. Their aim is hegemonic, a dominant party state, they failed to do that through big tent deals with the Lib-Dems, so they'll cling on regardless.;

Kick it till it breaks? Maybe.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Monetary Calculation II

: :

Thanks to Kevin for his reply below. Just some additional thoughts.

The thrust of my arg8ment is that teh market is not an efficient resource allocator. My point about comparative market advantage and organic composition was solely to show that over a given period a capital may find it profitable to use relatively expensive and inefficient methods.

Market efficiency, especially with the Labour Theory of Value, merely reflects how well current productive practices are geared up to attaining certain ends. For example, if we were to sit down and design an energy distribution system from scratch, we could discover that - and we're pretending here - solar power is more efficient on all points than coal. At the moment though, there are not enough solar pannel production plants and power production is geared towards coal-fire stations, so on a cost basis, coal comes out as by far cheaper.

I'd add, further, that Kevin provides me with another example of how the market may be counter-intuitive. See, when someone has built a mass transport system it becomes more efficient from a market perspective to carry goods over long distances - because the train or boat is going there anyway, so we might as well fill the bugger up. We might not, as a point of logic, start from that sort of practice, but once it's there, the market will use it.

Finally, on knowing your contribution. I have a regular example - Bill's Cricket Ball Factory. One worker cuts and dyes leather. One worker sews the leather, another shapes the cork, another embosses with gold leaf and anotehr shoves the ball in the box. All of these jobs are essential to the productive process, we cannot have the process without any one of them. Together, they add the marketable value. How can any one of them - given their mutual essential roles - be said to add more value than the others. Some of them will certainly command higher wages, but that reflects the cost of their type of skill on the market - not their specific contribution to the process. How available is their labour?

Now, Marx's great discovery was that in fact we do get the full value of our product. Our product, though, is not the thing we make, but our labour power, our skill, our ability to work. We are paid that full market price for that. We are not paid at all for the things we produce, and our wages do not relate to the things we produce.

Tomorrow - Tories!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Monetary Calculation

: :

Had an interesting discussion in the comments over at Kevin Carson's place regarding the market's capacity to regulate environmental efficiency (pollution and resource usage and the like).

Just two points to continue (rather than filling up room at mutualist blog). Large firms may prefer relatively expensive inputs because they may promote productivity - our old friend the organic composition of capital says that capitalism rewards capital, not efficiency. Profits would flow to the firm using the capital intensive methods of production away from more eco-friendly firms (possibly). This could be further exacerbated by the possibility of capital using productivity to turn over rapidly on a lower per unit profitability to achieve a higher annualised rate of profit.

The point is, is that money prices do not contain the full value of a good. In a misty past they may have once - when one person could produce a good from inputs and there was no doubt as to their contribution, they could receive the full value - the muythical table maker that people always bring up in conversations about abolishing money (as if table makers don't have mates and apprentices helping them out). However, once you reach social production, this isn't the case.

I'll take the classic example. Diamonds. They formed the bedrock of Adam Smith's case for the Labour theory of value (in short, Water - essential to life but cheap, diamonds, virtually useless but expensive, whole utility cannot be the source of their value, so we need to look elsewhere, eventually, to Labour).

Now, objectors to LTV oft times bring up diamonds to try and show how rarity is the cause of value - after all, it can't be labour because there's bugger all labour in picking up a diamond from some desert sand, yeah?

Supporters of LTV in fact find in diamonds (and gold) as a startling proof of the theory - the value of the diamond is not reflected merely in the labour of the one person (say) who finds it, but in the total social effort that goes into looking for and extracting diamonds. Many hours of fruitless search are needed to find one good diamond.

That is, the value of the diamond is not internalised to the agent who discovers it, but is spread across a whole system and concretised in one diamond. The lucky finder soaks up everyone elses hard labour.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Ol' Virginy

: : : : .

Last night I got a chance to watch Matewan (Pronounced seemingly Mayt wan). As the synopsis says, a film about a Miners' strike in 1920's Wester Virginia, in Mingo County. I seem to recall a certain Ingrate raving about this film, and justly so.

It is, I think, a many layered film, wherein the Preacher boy's line draw your own conclusions is applicable. Yes, the Brady Agency men are depiicted as unrelenting despicable (except the greenhorn spared at the end), but even that is given life and they don't strike as pure charicature - the story of the trench seems to carry some pain as well as gratuitous pleasure.

The miners have a common indentity and meaning that holds them together against all outsiders - mine owners, negroes, Italians or unions. So much so common for strike movies.

What I think is significant that had it been a British strike movie, it would have ended with miners winning and going on to build the Labour party. In this film, though, the strike breaks down into a gun battle - a splandidly and clearly self-consciously western style shoot out, beautifully shot.

It seems the gun wielding hillbillies who make a brief appearance are included as a sort of spirit of America, the underlying consciousness of a few men and their guns standing up for themselves, that foreshadows the eventual ending of the film.

John Sayles seems dedicated to producing films about America beyond California and New York, and I think this one succeeds. Definitely worth seeing, if only for the haunting singing.

p.s. please follow the links to get some of the history of the story, it's worth knowing. There is power in a union.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blue Meanie

: : : : .

OK, call me a blue meanie if you will. I took a quick look at the Norman Geras article linked to by Stuart in comments below, re: Utopia.

I intend to answer tangentally.

Firstly, I have just finished reading a bob-awfeul 20's thriller by John Buchan The Three Hostages. An Bullshot story if ever I read one - with what were once distinct High Tory views proudly on display: the sort of casual elitism and racism that now would be completely unacceptable in polite society.

I consider it, though, worth reading as a form of literary archaeology (OK, I'm justifying reading a book I found in a pile in my room for some reason). It reveals a lot of interesting features of the genre, and shares not a few characteristics with Dracula.

The relevence here, I think, is that it allows us to remember what was once thought, how people thought differently. It also allows us to do so by understanding how people thought - ISTR Althusser suggested that in literature we can see ideology rather than experience it.

I'd suggest that the process involved is one of un-othering the past. Whilst we see differences between how people thought, felt and acted in the past and in other societies, what we are looking for or through is the core humanity that remains the same: that's the only way we can understand and appreciate history.

So, to Norm. The key quote is this:
it remains true that from the outset socialism was utopian. It was a distant land, another moral universe. It was radically other vis-a-vis the order of things it aspired to replace.
Now, I do not believe Socialism is an other radically different from capitalism. It is not its opposite, it is its continuation, its outgrowth. Capitalism produces combined labour, breaks the gift relationship and replaces it with a generalised duty, spreads unownership. Ultimate unownership is common ownership. Ultimate co-operation is the death of the gift relation.

The genuine other of capitalism has been romantic anti-capitalism of the return to small shopkeepers or medievalism kind.

I think Norm's explanatation places socialist utopia (his maximum utopia) in a position of being an ideological fantasy support - an unobtainable impossible; a kind of social eros. I think the minimum utopia is maximal enough, in un-othering this future, via reference to our present. We have to build on existing ideas. Our notions of socialism come not from an ideal or a blue print but from our own day-to-day experience here and now.

Update Damn - I had meant to also cunningly weave in a mention to this post which links to a fascinating discussion paper which I also think is relevent - what could be more utopian than having people play act a participatory democracy? I've said before, Stalin was the ultimate utopian.