Archive for ‘Global’

May 6, 2011

The Malthusians who masquerade as Marxists [Daniel Ben-Ami]

From Spiked:

Both radical and mainstream authors now frequently attack ‘neo-liberalism’ and ‘free-market fundamentalism’. But their alternative to these largely mythical creeds would be far, far worse.

One of the great puzzles of contemporary political debate is what exactly critics of Western governments mean by the term ‘neo-liberalism’. Typically, the concept is associated with the ideas propagated by a familiar cast of conservative villains, including Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Behind the scenes, pulling the strings, are said to be the financial powers of Wall Street and the City of London. But this will not do as a definition. It is rarely made clear whether the ultimate object of their attack is a theory, a set of policies, a phase of capitalism, or something else.

The mystery deepens when it comes to David Harvey, one of the most sophisticated exponents of the concept of neo-liberalism. In the current intellectual climate, it would probably come as a surprise to many to learn that the work of a 75-year-old professor of anthropology and self-proclaimed Marxist is so popular. Yet his 2010 YouTube lecture on the crises of capitalism has received over one million hits. Other critics of neo-liberalism also widely cite Harvey’s many books as authorities on the subject.

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September 29, 2010

In a complex world…

The Propagandist features China’s rising hard power with a fascinating video.

Another aspect of the multipolar world whose contours are becoming increasingly visible is the rise of the so-called “Moscow-Ankara-Rome” axis. Volvbilis has been covering this well, for instance in this piece, originally from the Strategic Culture foundation.

Female garment workers in sit-down demonstrationOne of the key labour disputes of our times that of the garment workers in Bangladesh, which Libcom has been covering well. For more news from a trade union perspective, see LabourStart.

Daniel Ben-Ami in Spiked has a great piece about Vince Cable as an example of the reactionary, misanthropic anti-capitalism sweeping the world. David Osler describes Cable as a “populist not a Marxist“, while Carl Packman calls him “capitalism’s posterboy“.

Also from the UK, Chris Dillow punctures the immigration orthodoxies in new Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s speech.

From the archives: Modern Times magazine in the 1980s on austerity, in an article all too relevant today.

July 7, 2010

The enigma of capital

[Via AGT]

Read this post by Resonance, and then watch the video (embedded below the fold).

“The crisis reveals its true face, we are drowning in excess capital, in our own alienated labour.”

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June 20, 2010

The last superpower

In Europe, the economy continues to implode. In the UK, analysis by the FT shows, unsurprisingly, that it is the lowest paid who, as ever, will bear the brunt of the economic downturn – while companies like Ernst and Young, which aided and abetted Lehman Brothers in its misdemeanours, go on and on.

Although the big business lobby likes to blame public sector profligacy for the so-called PIGS crisis (and therefore prescribe public sector austerity as the cure), the private sector bears the main responsibility – most clearly in Spain, where the national debt stock stands at about 53 per cent of GDP – among the lowest in the eurozone – while private sector debt stands at a staggering 178 per cent.

Meanwhile, in the USA, as the oil spreads through the Gulf, so do conspiracy theories. The finance sector, however, continues on, despite wave after wave of shameful incidents, the latest culprit being Litton Loans, the sub-prime arm of Goldman Sachs, “America’s foreclosure king”, specialising in loans to (and repossessions from) the US’s poorest home-owners. And America’s global power is declining; it has already lost its hegemony in the Middle East.

The disaster in the Gulf and the crisis in Europe are good indicators of a totally transforming geography of power in the world today. The centre of gravity is no longer the old Atlantic.

As Stephen Walt writes,

Asia’s share of world GDP already exceeds that of the United States or Europe, and arecent IMF study suggests it will be greater than the United States and Europe combined by 2030. Europe has already become a rather hollow military power, and the current economic crisis is going to force European states-and especially the United Kingdom — to cut those capabilities even more. Needless to say, hopes that the euro might one day supplant the dollar look rather hollow today. Politics within many European countries is likely to get nasty as austerity kicks in, and there will inevitably be less money and less support for Europe’s various philanthropic projects in Africa, Central Asia, or the Middle East. Such activities won’t disappear entirely, but it’s hard to see how they can continue at anywhere near their current levels.

China in particular continues to rise. This article analyses China’s strategic interests in Latin America, in the US’s back yard. This article describes its strategy in Africa. China is also on the move in crisis-torn Europe, with the Vice Premier Zhang in Greece this week to grease the rusting wheels of Greek capitalism.

To be sure, China is a new form of global superpower, but that does not mean it is fundamentally different from the old imperialist powers.

While China’s public pronouncements may at times appear mercurial, they are more likely part of a well-conceived strategy. On one hand, China seeks to leverage benefits consistent with being a developing country, plays upon the west’s historical guilt over colonialism, and exploits the west’s continued belief that economic development will inexorably lead to pluralism. On the other hand, it does not hesitate to attempt to parlay its growing power into influence whenever and wherever it can. This Janus-like strategy gives China leeway and flexibility in crafting its international political and economic policy.

And despite occasional posturing from American liberals and conservatives, China and the US remain tied together in an intimate web of shared interests.

However, in China itself, the workforce is getting restive. In a highly unusual move, the prime minister has acknowledged worker grievances.Following the Honda strikes in Guangdong, a Toyota parts manufacturer in Tianjin is now out.  This excellent article shows how the wildcat strike at Honda sheds new light on the suicides at Foxconn, suggesting Chinese labor is reaching a tipping point.

And, along with the China, the new global geometry of power continues to tip towards the oil producing states, especially in the Persian Gulf region, as the BP disaster seems to be doing little to encourage us to break our dependency on petroleum. Global spare capacity is around 6 million barrels per day, nearly all of which is in OPEC countries (around 4.2 million barrels per day of this is in Saudi Arabia) – and these countries are reaping the benefits of a weak Euro caused by the PIGS crisis. Jadwa, one of Dubai’s biggest companies, has just bought one of the largest new office complexes on the Southern edge of London’s financial district, at a serious bargain price.

In turn, the Arab oil states and China are increasingly drawing together:

As Washington’s influence in the world and the Middle East wanes, Gulf countries are weaning themselves from their traditional orientation toward and dependence on the United States. America’s post-war political and economic supremacy in the region is now threatened as a result of its own foreign policy, but equally so by the rise in importance of the emerging powers. No country has capitalized on the shifting landscape more thanChina, which has, consistent with its actions globally, moved assertively to strengthen its ties with the Gulf region generally and in particular with its most important economic and political power, Saudi Arabia.

However, critical voices are in denial about the new geometry of power, and continue to act as if America and its close allies, including insignificant Israel, remain the geopolitical driving forces. Time to wake up.

May 19, 2010

Global news and analysis

In this issue: the bailout, the Greek uprising, the Louisiana oil spill, the oil lobby, Chinese interests in the Middle East, and the age of peak everything.

read more »

May 10, 2010

History notes: America, India and the ice trade in the 19th century

The Forgotten American Ice Trade

A Frozen Journey

April 18, 2010

ANALYSIS: Structural Crisis [Immanuel Wallerstein]

A maquiladora-factory in Mexico

Image via Wikipedia

The term ‘crisis’ played a central role in many national political debates during the 1970s, although definitions of it varied widely. Towards the end of the century it had largely been replaced by another, more optimistic term, ‘globalization’.  Since 2008, however, the tone has turned sombre again, and the notion of ‘crisis’ has abruptly resurfaced; but its usage is just as loose as ever. The questions of how to define a crisis, and how to explain its origins, have once again come to the fore.

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April 15, 2010

BIG OIL

NEWS:

Shareholders Press Big Oil for Risk Information [The Environment Report]

The major risks with tar sand include dealing with pollution, and with lawsuits from native tribes that live near the oil sands.

Several investors’ groups want four major oil companies to reveal the risks of getting oil from Canadian tar sands. Rebecca Williams reports shareholders will be considering this at BP’s general meeting this week.

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Think-tanks take oil money and use it to fund climate deniers [Jonathan Owen and Paul Bignell]

An orchestrated campaign is being waged against climate change science to undermine public acceptance of man-made global warming, environment experts claimed last night.

The attack against scientists supportive of the idea of man-made climate change has grown in ferocity since the leak of thousands of documents on the subject from the University of East Anglia (UEA) on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit last December.

Free-market, anti-climate change think-tanks such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in the US and the International Policy Network in the UK have received grants totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds from the multinational energy company ExxonMobil. Both organisations have funded international seminars pulling together climate change deniers from across the globe.

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Chinese Purchase of Oil Sands Stake Could Revalue Resource [OilPrice.com]

The acquisition of a 9% stake in the Syncrude oil sands venture by China’s Sinopec for $4.65 billion – substantially more than expected – could pave the way for a revaluation of Canada’s vast deposits of a resource that is environmentally controversial.

Canadian Oil Sands Trust, the biggest stakeholder in Syncrude with 36%, led energy stocks higher in Toronto Stock Exchange trading after the Chinese company paid a hefty premium for the stake held by ConocoPhillips. Part of the stock’s gain was due to relief that Canadian Oil Sands would not be selling new shares to acquire the stake itself.

The investment is the largest so far by a Chinese company in a North American energy project as China continues to scour the globe for energy resources.

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ANALYSIS:

Big Oil Does the Math, Proposes a New Tax on Itself [Chris Morrison]

// //

A snowflake may have just fallen in Hell: Several large oil companies, including Shell and BP, have reportedly helped design a new gas tax for the United States that would add a significant cost to fuel for consumers and businesses.

But as with every move from Big Oil, there’s a logical reason for the support. They consider the tax as the lesser of two evils: though it might slightly dent demand for fuel, a gas tax would probably be better for business than taking a hit at their refineries.

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COMMENT:

You Can’t Always Get What You Want [Matthew Philips]

President Obama’s March 30 decision to open up vast tracts of the Atlantic Ocean to oil and natural-gas exploration triggered the predictable range of responses: drilling advocates, including Republican lawmakers, offered tepid approval, while environmentalists complained. But lost amid the political debates—did Obama secure conservative Democrats’ support for energy legislation? Could Republicans still run on “Drill, Baby, Drill?”—was a question with more practical impact: What’s down there?

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Fox News: 4th Largest Owner of Shares is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia: Will Big Oil Buy Our Next Election? [Julia Bodeeb]

Fox “news” is owned by the parent company News Corp. The four top shareholders of News Corp are the Murdoch family, Liberty Media, Fidelity Management & Research Company, and Prince Alwaleed bin Talan.

DC Bureau reports that Prince Alwaleed bin Talan, a nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia, “has personally donated huge amounts of money to the families of the Palestinian suicide bombers.” He also released a statement after 9/11 blaming the attacks on the U.S.: “not on the 15 airline hijackers from Saudi Arabia—but on the United States’ support of Israel.”

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April 14, 2010

ANALYSIS: The Origins of the Next Crisis [Naked Capitalism]

View of a building by Mario Botta, currently b...

Image via Wikipedia

William White, the former chief economist at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) gave an important speech at George Soros’ Inaugural Institute of New Economic Thinking (INET) conference in Cambridge.  While everyone is casting about for the one magic bullet solution which would have prevented this and future crises, he placed the blame for the credit crisis on short-termism, pointing the finger most notably at economists and their models. White said that the models almost all economists use are ‘flow’ models which leave no room for ’stocks’ and thus completely miss unsustainable secular trends.

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April 13, 2010

ANALYSIS: When labor becomes a commodity [Martin Hutchison]

The extraordinary rise in commodity prices, at the beginning of a global cyclical upswing, is beginning to reorder the pecking order of the world economy. Together with the advances made by China and India in the last decade, it is producing an entirely new world order, which many will find uncomfortable. In it, commodities, derided for decades as unimportant, have become scarce resources, to be guarded and managed with the utmost care. Conversely human labor and skill, on the basis of which the glories of human civilization were built, is entering into a state of gigantic glut.

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