Marx in the 21st century

November 25, 2008

Talk given by Tim Bowron at a public forum at the Christchurch WEA in November 2008 organised by the Workers Party.

karl_marx

It seems as though these days the only time you are likely to hear the name of Karl Marx mentioned is when he is being dismissed as the proponent of some outlandish utopian ideology which had marginal relevance in nineteenth century Europe but none at all now (the view of most standard history texts) or as a the prophet of capitalist globalisation who also had some rather funny ideas about workers and exploitation with which we need not concern ourselves too much (the view of more sophisticated bourgeois pundits such as the writers for The Economist).

It is indeed true that the idea that the working class of which Marx wrote so volubly is rapidly vanishing from the stage of history has some material basis (at least in first world countries like New Zealand).  However while the number of workers directly engaged in the creation of surplus value in areas such as manufacturing and raw material extraction has certainly decreased in New Zealand over the past few decades, the amount of exploitation i.e. the mass of surplus value created by workers in these sectors and expropriated by the capitalists has not.

In addition, although the largest occupational group as measured in the 2006 New Zealand census were labelled as “professionals” (18.85%) followed by “managers” (17.14%), the relationship of these individuals to the means of production is clearly shown in the “status in employment” category where we learn that over 75% of the population are still dependent on selling their labour power in order to earn a living.

The real problem here then is not the absence of class but rather the collapse of working class consciousness (such that a supermarket checkout supervisor may now well consider themselves a “manager”, and various politicians can proclaim that we are “all middle class now”).

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Go Harvey Norman, go!

November 25, 2008

Retailing billionaire Gerry Harvey has lamented that Australian charity is being wasted on “no-hopers”. Asked in a new book about his community role, Mr Harvey said giving to people who “are not putting anything back into the community” is like “helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”.

A whole heap of no-hoper homeless
Why  on earth should we help them survive?
They don’t buy our chairs or appliances
When their dole payments arrive
Even if we display them on special
The homeless won’t buy a tv
They say they’ve got nowhere to plug the thing in
They’re plainly not like you and me.
They don’t have 600 race horses
Or a hundred and sixty odd stores
Or a fortune of one point six billion
And they’re probably covered in sores.
Survival should be for the fittest
Those who get up and get to the goal
Like the beast in the depths of a jungle drought
Who governs the water hole.

Don Franks


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