Archive for March, 2012

Was I crying about loss after loss, defeat upon defeat, murder after murder, war after war, injustice piled for as long as I can remember?

March 29, 2012 1 comment

Conceived in Massachusetts and born during the June of 1949 in Los Angeles, I was brought home to a house on the corner of 90th and Normandie, a spot called South Central by the L.A.P.D. The area is now the heart-beat of the black community; it is where the movie, “Boyz in the Hood” was shot. The area known as Watts was four blocks away. My father told me his story of stopping many times to sit and chat and drink home made wine with the Italian fellow who was building what became known as “The Watts Towers.“ In 1949 no one cared about the color of their neighbor’s skin, least of all an infant and a single mother with two older toddlers from another father who remained at sea…forever.

“Kid” Ory, who was one of the originators of Dixieland Jazz at the beginning of the century, then lived a few houses over from us. When my father, a second generation Dixieland Jazz drummer arrived six months after my birth and four years after his War, one of his first gigs was to play with “Kid” Ory in a nightclub across town. “Baby Dodds in New Orleans to Howie Gibeault in L.A. The torch had been passed.

In 1951, the city of Lakewood, California was built, seemingly over-night, over the flat, irrigated bean fields twenty miles to the south -southwest of Los Angeles and it was there that my mother pointed to a plot in the dirt and, taking my father by the hand, walked him through the G.I. Loan process that purchased the yellow, three bedroom house in the middle of the block that would become, 5942 Deerfield Street.

At the height of the Baby Boom, Lakewood held a population of 84,000 people. There seemed to be five children in every house. I do not know how many of my former neighborhood families followed my mother’s lead and moved into the newly constructed homes of this post modern version of a suburb, but I do know this: not a single black family followed us, nor, could they. Lakewood was, by design and purpose, a de facto segregated city, just as South Central was destined by design to become the de facto area of segregation for black folks. “Tomorrow’s City, Today,” Lakewood’s motto that was announced in print as you entered the city had no intention of introducing any black family or individual to tomorrow’s city today or any other day in any near future. My brothers, my sisters and I, along with the entire Baby Boom generation of Lakewood experienced our entire public education, Kindergarten through High School, without seeing one black classmate or neighbor. Mexican’s and American Indian’s were another matter because, well, they had always been there; we had stolen the land from them fair and square. They were given a pass. There were six Elementary Schools, three Junior High Schools and two High Schools serving the city of Lakewood. My graduating class of 1967 at Lakewood High School produced 1,200 students, none of whom bore the claim of being black.

That was a torch that had not been passed.

I did not know the story of Emmett Till in real time for two obvious reasons: All of the above for starts and the fact that I was only six years old when he was murdered. To tell the truth, I do not know if the story of Emmett Till made it to the West coast as a news story in 1955. What is known is that due to the policy of the Otis and Chandler families who had owned the paper since the 1860‘s, the story received no coverage in the Los Angeles Times. A small story buried in the Long Beach Press-Telegram of September 28th, 1955 printed the AP story of the verdict along with a picture of the loving white couple at home kissing, the man who had killed him and the woman who had accused him. “Southern Chivalry Lives,” it seemed to say while whispering Emmett Till is dead.

In January of 1956, Look Magazine, which, along with Life Magazine, arrived at the home of nearly other house in Lakewood on a weekly basis, was, I imagine, the first time the white world of “Tomorrow’s City, Today” learned of the fourteen year existence and fate of a black child from Chicago named Emmet Till. Inside the magazine was a story on the two white men who having been found not guilty in either the kidnapping or murder of young Emmet could not face trial ever again on those charges decided to sell their story to Look for the sum of $4,000. Prefaced by an Editor’s Note, modest in it’s tone of condemnation towards, “…the long history of man’s inhumanity to man…,” the writer of the story, one W.B. Huie introduces the white main actors in the context of and comparison with Colonial Africa: ”…In relation to the Negroes, they are somewhat like white traders in portions of Africa today; and they are determined to resist the revolt of colored men against white rule.”

Huie is remarkably uncritical of the rational and reason, even the behavior of the white men and women of this story. After reading the story today one can be sure that Look Magazine offended no white reader in the south who consumed that week’s edition. Though the shear brutality of what those men did to that young boy may cause the present day reader to sit there stunned to wordlessness, more terrifying is matter-of-fact manner the writer reports their actions and lives before, during and after the murder of Emmet Till. There is something else in the nuance of Huie’s writing, something sinister and chilling. The murderers admit or claim that they never intended to kill, “this…nigger… Their intention was to “just whip him… and scare some sense into him…”We were never able to scare him. They had just filled him so full of that poison that he was hopeless.” That poison the murderer was referring to was their claim that Emmett Till refused to be intimidated by the men’s words or deeds, even defying their beating with the claim that he had been with many white women and that his grandmother was white. Huie lends just enough non-judgmental narrative as to almost justify the insane behavior of these two Huie described war heroes of the Ante-bellum south.

Emmet Till and the story of his short, unhappy life along with his picture of a Fedora donned smiling young boy has been in the news a lot lately and I have to say the first image and words out of my mouth when the story of Trayvon Martin’s death first broke were to my wife, “It‘s Emmett Till all over again,” I whispered, and I began to cry.

I have spent the last three days writing and wondering about my reaction. The thing is, I don’t remember how or when I learned of Emmett Till, I only know he has been with me forever. I became politically aware and politically active when I was seventeen, the same age Trayvon Martin was when he was murdered. Was I crying about lost youth, both Trayvon’s and mine? Was I crying about loss after loss, defeat upon defeat, murder after murder, war after war, injustice piled for as long as I can remember? All I can say is this about that: As a nation and a people we had better turn to one another and begin a truthful and meaningful dialog on matters of justice that should or very well could consume us all.


Categories: Threecrow

Marxist Academic Error 101: “A term is undefined and has no properties”

March 29, 2012 1 comment

As part of my continuing occupation of the Marxist Academy, I have been looking at various Marxist theories of the crisis of neoliberalism. This is the final part of my critique of Andrew Kliman’s “Neoliberalism, Financialization, and the Underlying Crisis of Capitalist Production” (PDF).


As can be seen in the chart above, most bourgeois economists look at fascist state economic data and conclude we are experiencing nothing like the sort of economic event that occurred in the Great Depression. The Great Depression was just that — a depression — while what we are experiencing is perhaps a more severe than normal recession generated in the aftermath of a financial crisis. For the bourgeois economist this description of the situation may or may not be entirely satisfactory.

For anyone attempting to understand the fascist state economic data using Marx’s theory of the capitalist mode of production it is less than worthless — it can turn Marx’s theory into a useless glob of shit that describes nothing — least of all what is occurring within the capitalist mode of production.

Read more…

Marxist Theories of the Current Crisis: Andrew Kliman and the curious case of the missing Capitalist Boom

March 27, 2012 3 comments

Next up in my survey of academic Marxist theories of the current crisis is Kliman’s “Neoliberalism, Financialization, and the Underlying Crisis of Capitalist Production” (PDF).

Kliman’s argument is by far the most interesting explanation for the present crisis I have read so far. Far from seeking to merely explain the present crash, Kliman is essentially asking another and for more provacative question:

“What the fuck happened to the capitalist boom period after the last crisis?”

Read more…

The Law of Economics: As of 2008 More Work for the State than in Industry

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

In 2008 the United States registered a milestone that was little discussed nor acclaimed by the Bush, or incoming Obama, administration. In that year, for the first time in the data series we have access to, going back to 1939, more folks worked for the government than in the goods-producing sector of the economy. The chart below is compiled based on data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source, BLS data series id: CEU0600000001 and CEU9000000001

There is reason to believe our finding is actually understating the problem here. If you think about it, the fascist state is not just the largest single employer in the United States, it is also the largest single customer for the output of industry.

Categories: economics

Dumenil, Levy and FDR’s Fascist Revolution

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

As part of my continuing occupation of the Marxist Academy, I have been looking at various Marxist theories of the crisis of neoliberalism. This is the final part of my critique of “The Crisis of Neoliberalism” (PDF) by Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy,  first published in 2009. I am using the 2011 version of the book.

Since I am getting bored with Dumenil and Levy, this will be the last post on them.

I tried to show in my last post (Speculation, Greed and Chart Porn for Fun and Profit) even based on their own data Dumenil and Levy can’t explain how the 1930s is similar to today’s crisis. They argue the Great Depression, like the present one, resulted from causes other than a fall in the rate of profit. But, the chart they offer clearly shows a pronounced fall in the rate of profit even exceeding that leading into the depression of the 1890s.

The data is not mine — it is theirs. And it shows the profit rate, as they calculate it, fell from about 15-20 percent to about 2 percent. The fall in the profit rate to 2 percent is more severe even than the fall to 9 percent that occurred in the 1890s depression. Further, if you look at the data series back to 1870 there is a clear down slope both in terms of highs and lows in the profit rate. A series high is established in 1880 and the series low is established in 1933. Fluctuations in the rate of profit are a succession of lower highs and lower lows between 1880 and 1933. Any day trader would argue the series up to 1933 shows a clear downward trend in the profit rate.

Read more…

Speculation, Greed and Chart Porn for Fun and Profit

March 16, 2012 1 comment

As part of my continuing occupation of the Marxist Academy, I have been looking at various Marxist theories of the crisis of neoliberalism. In this current post I will be spending some time critiquing “The Crisis of Neoliberalism” by Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy, first published, it appears, in 2009. I am using the 2011 version of the book. This is part two of my critique.

Dumenil and Levy open Part VIII of their book, “The Crisis of Neoliberalism” (PDF) by asserting a striking similarity between the Great Depression and the present crisis:

If there is a precedent to the contemporary crisis, it is, unquestionably, the Great Depression.

The core proposition of the book is that an historical pattern is being played out in this crisis similar to that experienced in the period beginning with the Great Depression and ending with World War II. Moreover, the writers go on to argue this pattern is part of an even larger historical pattern beginning more or less with the depression of the 1890s and ending with the emergence of neoliberalism by the end of the 1970s. The larger pattern is the emergence of a financial hegemony which dominates society until its twin social determinants — the owners of capital and their management team — bring themselves to ruin in an orgy of speculation and greed. At the end of this outbreak of license, the state is forced to step in, regulate the financial oligarchy, repair the inequalities generated by the excessive greed, and assume management of the macro-economy.

I will show in this post how Dumenil and Levy are offering an argument that is not only significantly at odds with Marx’s labor theory of value, and a mere rehash of the sort of pop culture economics you might find on CNN, FOX News and MSNBC, but also, how even by their own standards, their argument is questionable and at odds with their own data.

Read more…

At best it sometimes rhymes: Dumenil’s and Levy’s “The Crisis of Neoliberalism”

March 14, 2012 2 comments

As part of my continuing occupation of the Marxist Academy, I have been looking at various Marxist theories of the crisis of neoliberalism. In this current post I will be spending some time critiquing “The Crisis of Neoliberalism” by Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy, first published, it appears, in 2009. I am using the 2011 version of the book. This is part one of my critique.

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

André Gide

In part one of their book, “The Crisis of Neoliberalism”, Dumenil and Levy argue neoliberalism is a new phase in the evolution of capitalism. So what is a phase of capitalism? I am not altogether clear on this, but, apparently, neoliberalism is the third such phase of capitalism in the 20th Century. These three “social orders” “jointly constitute modern capitalism, that is, capitalism since the turn of the twentieth century.”

Each phase is dated by a major crisis.

The authors tell us dating the emergence of the neoliberal social order is all very very complex:

Neoliberalism is a multifaceted phenomenon, the outcome of a whole set of converging historical determinants, and it is difficult to precisely determine its beginnings. Actually, the earliest expressions of the new trends were evident from the end of World War II when the basic features of the postwar society and economy were defined. Various developments surrounding the crisis of the dollar in the early 1970s, such as the floatation of exchange rates, or the policies enacted during the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s, can be considered early manifestations. Simplifying to some extent, one can contend, however, that neoliberalism was first established in the United States and the United Kingdom at the end of the 1970s, a crisis decade, a few years later in continental Europe, and then around the globe. The year 1979, when the Federal Reserve decided to raise interest rates to any level allegedly required to curb inflation, is emblematic of the entrance into the new period.

Okay so the dating thing may be a little shaky, so let’s switch back to the definition thingy:

…the overall dynamics of capitalism under neoliberalism, both nationally and internationally, were determined by new class objectives that worked to the benefit of the highest income brackets, capitalist owners, and the upper fractions of management. The greater concentration of income in favor of a privileged minority was a crucial achievement of the new social order. Income statement data make this apparent. In this respect, a social order is also a power configuration, and implicit in this latter notion is “class” power. National accounting frameworks add to this observation that a large and increasing fraction of U.S. capital income comes from outside of the United States. Not only class relations are involved, but also imperial hierarchies, a permanent feature of capitalism.

Yes, that’s it, “new class objectives”. Mo’ money for the rich and well-to-do was “a crucial achievement of the new social order.” And, we can prove this with our chart porn — the rich got richer! This just goes to demonstrate neoliberalism is also a “power configuration“. (Yes, that sounds all dialectical and shit.) And, implicit in this “power configuration” is “Class power.” And, don’t ya’ know, more and more of this increased income comes from outside the United States. So not only is “class power” involved here, “but also imperial hierarchies, a permanent feature of capitalism.”

Okay, so sometime between the end of World War II and Reagan’s elections we experienced the birth of a new social order” which was a power configuration involving class power and imperial hierarchies, producing “mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money” for rich folks. In addition to the above well stated thesis we must add the US was running everything not flying a red flag — then the Soviet Bloc died. So, somehow, the upshot of all this is the dollar is the world reserve currency. Thus globalization was imposed throughout the world at the cost of severe crises using economic violence, corruption, subversion and war.

Well, I don’t know about you folks but I am pretty much all learned up after reading this.

Read more…

Theories of the Current Crisis: David Harvey and the Left’s search for a new master

March 4, 2012 1 comment

I have been reading David Harvey’s “Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist Transition” (2010). Harvey’s theory of the current crisis differs somewhat from the other Marxists I have been following. I actually rather enjoyed reading Harvey because he is simple to read without being simplistic like Wolff’s and Resnick’s piece. Harvey gave this originally as a talk to the World Social Forum in 2010,

Harvey opens his talk by stating boldly:

The historical geography of capitalist development is at a key inflexion point in which the geographical configurations of power are rapidly shifting at the very moment when the temporal dynamic is facing very serious constraints.  Three percent compound growth (generally considered the minimum satisfactory growth rate for a healthy capitalist economy) is becoming less and less feasible to sustain without resort to all manner of fictions (such as those that have characterized asset markets and financial affairs over the last two decades). There are good reasons to believe that there is no alternative to a new global order of governance that will eventually have to manage the transition to a zero growth economy.

I liked his argument here, but, I think, he could have clarified things by explaining what he meant by “three percent compound growth…” Growth is one of those terms from bourgeois economics that has been adopted into the lexicon of Marxism as a category without critical examination. When Harvey then proposes that “compound growth” must sooner or later give way to “zero growth”, he unwittingly injures his own argument.

Read more…

March 4, 2012 Leave a comment

An interesting interview with two market anarchists about their vision of a market-based voluntary cooperative society.

Categories: Uncategorized