Deflation

Nicholas Siemensma nsiemensma at yahoo.com.au
Sun Jul 13 03:00:23 MDT 2003


Jurriaan, you have some interesting and important
things to say, nonetheless I disagreed with much of
your post.  Unfortunately I don't have time to tackle
the specific points, but neither did you engage with
my simple remarks, but instead invoked a miserable
caricature of "Neanderthal and Fundamentalist
Marxists": in short, you created an army of strawmen. 
Nothing I wrote suggests any belief in "Say's Law". 
By trivialising your interlocutors you devalue the
importance of your own message, and that's a pity.
  
I'd also rather steer clear of discussing Marxist
crisis-theory, because it often ends up in useless
value-primers that are patronising and waste time. 
That said, you can't pretend that there's an identity
between the overproduction of commodities and the
overproduction of capital, "because commodities are
just a form that capital takes".  In fact the
overproduction of commodities can be a form of
appearance of the underproduction of capital.  I think
we should begin by assuming that in Marx's theory of
crisis/equilibrium he was talking about overproduction
of capital.  

Anyhow, it's pointless to short the breeze about this
stuff in the near-absence of facts etc.  There is a
powerful argument from both value theory and empirical
analysis to show that there is a desperate capital
shortage or famine at the heart of the world crisis. 
This coheres with the obvious lack of social
infrastructure, mass poverty and squalor which cruelly
frustrate any residual hopes of "development"
entertained by around 4 billion people.  Attempts to
base Marxism on theories of overproduction have
failed, IMHO, from the time of Hilferding and
Luxemburg, while great thinkers like Ernest Mandel and
Paul Sweezy did not understand overproduction. 
Theories which ignore the reality of capital famine
also cannot relate and interconnect with the problem
of energy crisis and fundamental unsustainability.  As
Henryk Grossmann pointed out, there is a simultaneous
process of under-accumulation and over-accumulation of
capital.  This process is endemic and visible in every
sphere of production, linking together the materiality
of the world with the process of social reproduction
under capitalism.  Only a higher rate of exploitation
and accumulation would have overcome the latent
overproduction of unproductive capital, and this
longstanding under-production of surplus-value
explains the inability to transform the technical
composition of capital and leapfrog bottlenecks.  In
this light I strongly disagree with your
techno-optimism.

In any case, it is not just a matter of there being no
political will to implement Keynesian policies based
on accepting a need for more social justice or
restoring profitability.  We can't put things down to
wilful perversity.  There are more fundamental
reasons: the emergence of radical constraints blocking
the accumulation process.  If enlightened Keynesian
policies were applied on a global scale and with the
intention of uplifting the global economy and creating
new prosperity and stimulated growth in the global
South, the only possible result would be a still more
serious inflationary slump, and where would you find
the necessary resources, energy and additional
ecosphere to externalise the costs of this mass
consumption (eg additional GHGs)?  

Tot mails,

Nick Siemensma
Paleo-Marxist


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