[Marxism] Another review of Heinrich

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Tue May 28 17:35:43 MDT 2013

Louis Proyect wrote

"One major consequence of Kliman's consistent application of Marxist 
economics is the emphasis on opposing purely distributional responses 
--- all these Marxo-Keynesian attempts to 'stimulate' by redistributing 
wealth, or restoring the welfare state, or calling for nationalizations 
and public investment works. Instead, as Kliman shows, the contradiction 
of capital means you have to choose between one of two evils: either 
ameliorate the crisis now by emergency measures of that kind, and suffer 
a worse one soon, or ride out the storm, with all the attendant 
unemployment, immiseration, and unfreedom we have seen in the Great 
Depression and the Victorian age. Neither option is desirable: that's 
exactly why capitalism itself is the problem, and must be overthrown."

Maybe Matthijs should be on Social Security like me before he decides 
that Marxists should oppose "purely distributional responses".


Lou, as I understand Kliman's point, and I assume from what he says that 
Matthijs Krul understands it this way as well, is that there are two 
options for economic recovery, when the system is in crisis: one, the 
Keynesian (whatever else are its shortcomings), may temporarily avert 
crisis, and therefore sustain profitability - for a time; but this 
results merely in what Kliman calls "kicking the can down the road" - as 
to your observation about benefits he explains, "... working people's 
gains are not compatible with the continued functioning of the 
capitalist system. The reason why they are not compatible is that 
capitalism is a profit-driven system. So what is good for capitalism - 
good for the system - as distinguished from what is good for a majority 
of people living under it - is high profits, not low profits. Higher pay 
for workers cuts into profits, as do increases in corporate income taxes 
to fund social programs [social security, obviously  rj], a shorter work 
week, health and safety regulations in the workplace and so on. There is 
no solution to this dilemma within the confines of the capitalist 
system." (pp. 201-202, The Failure of Capitalist Production.) I have 
also seen a statistical demonstration that looked pretty convincing 
that, historically, public infrastructure expenditure of governments has 
never gone above 14% of the system's measurable profits.

The other alternative - and there are only two within the capitalist 
framework, according to Kliman's description - is the Austrian school's 
endorsed position - let the system bottom out, so that all excess 
capital is squeezed out of the system and a floor is laid for 
regeneration of the system's claimed, economically viable, inexorable 
propensity to reproduce profitable investment of capital and its 
re-expansion. Well, the first few years of the Roosevelt administration, 
when that was tried, resulted in a total debacle, as Kliman points out - 
but the Austrians would abide the cost, (given their class position, 
belief in successful containment of working class response, and assuming 
inevitable ultimate retrenchment).

Kliman is certainly not advocating either, nor is Krul. The intention 
here is to describe the available options, within the capitalist system, 
and the ineluctable consequences - not that "Marxists should oppose 
"purely distributional responses", plainly.

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