Book Review

Work Without the Worker: Labour in the Age of Platform Capitalism

Phil Jones

Verso, London, 2021. 144 pp., £10.99 hb
ISBN 9781839760433

Reviewed by Katjo Buissink

Imagine a factory, employing hundreds or even thousands of workers, suddenly disappearing overnight. Its employees would find themselves without their next expected pay cheque and with zero right of appeal to a manager or HR representative. Even the most malfeasant industrialist would struggle to accomplish this. Yet for those working within the platform economy, completing many small digital tasks for often anonymised companies in exchange for subsistence level piece wages, the disappearance of an ‘employer’ along with promised wages is not as fantastic. It simply requires the corporation to delete their account on the platform within which a worker was hired.

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The Danger of Fossil Fascism

Understanding the growing combination of racism, climate science denial, and fossil fuel promotion

Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective
WHITE SKIN, BLACK FUEL
On the Danger of Fossil Fascism

Verso Books, 2021

reviewed by Martin Empson

Climate and Capitalism | March 26, 2022

As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I think that Andreas Malm, even where I disagree with key points of his argument, is one of the most stimulating Marxist authors on environmental politics. So it was with eager anticipation that I looked forward to this new publication “one the dangers of fossil fascism” that Malm has co-authored with the network the Zetkin Collective, a group of scholars and activists “working on the political ecology of the far right.”

The book does multiple things. It opens with a study of the far-right and fascist movements and looks at their “anti-climate politics” and asks “what would it mean to live in a world both hotter and further to the right” than it is today. It argues that the far-right’s fixation with anti-climate views is closely tied to its anti-immigration perspective and the way that developing capitalism associated technology (and particularly fossil fuel technologies) with white supremacy. The authors argue in the introduction:

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Yet Another Contradiction of Capitalism

Prabhat Patnaik

IN the United States there are still four million persons who remain unemployed compared to before the pandemic; and yet the Biden administration’s attempt to stimulate the economy has already run into a crisis with the re-emergence of inflation not just in that country but elsewhere in the capitalist world as well. The Federal Reserve Board (the equivalent of the US central bank) is planning soon to raise interest rates (that are currently close to zero), and even the fiscal expansion will be difficult to sustain in the face of inflation. All this will truncate the recovery that has been taking place. In other words, the ability of the State even in the leading capitalist country of the world, whose currency is “as good as gold” and which should therefore have no fears of any debilitating capital flight, to stimulate activity within its own borders, has become seriously constrained.

This is a new basic contradiction that has emerged in world capitalism and deserves serious attention. The prognostication of John Maynard Keynes, the most important bourgeois economist of the twentieth century, that even though capitalism in its spontaneity was a flawed system that kept large masses of workers unemployed, State intervention could fix this flaw, had already been negated by the globalisation of finance. Facing a nation-State, globalised finance had enfeebled that State sufficiently to prevent its intervention for overcoming the deficiency of aggregate demand. But the one State that still appeared to have the capacity to intervene was the US State because its currency was considered even by globalised finance to be “as good as gold” and hence intervention by it would not trigger any serious exodus of finance. But now, it seems, even that prospect has vanished. Let us see why.

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Debate: A critique of degrowth

An ecosocialist perspective in the context of a global Green New Deal

David Schwartzman

Climate and Capitalism | January 05, 2022

Ecosocialist responses to “degrowth” analysis and proposals have ranged from full support to total rejection. The author of the following critical commentary is an emeritus professor of biology at Howard University, and co-author of The Earth is Not for Sale (World Scientific, 2019). We encourage respectful responses in the comments, and hope to publish other views in future.

See also: Ecosocialism and degrowth: A reply, by Simon Butler

The positive contributions of the degrowth proponents should be recognized, in particular, their rethinking of economic growth under capitalism, critiquing its measure, the GNP/GDP, as well as pointing to capitalism’s unsustainable use of natural resources, in particular fossil fuels in its production of commodities for profit generation regardless of their impact on the health of people and the environment. Further, they wisely critique eco-modernists who claim that simply substituting the right technology into the present political economy of capitalism will be sufficient to meet human and nature’s needs.

But the degrowth solutions offered are highly flawed and their brand is not likely to be welcomed by the global working class, even as it attracts sections of the professional class.[1] Degrowth proponents commonly fail to unpack the qualitative aspects of economic growth, lumping all in one basket; i.e., sustainable/addressing essential needs of humans and nature versus unsustainable, leaving the majority of humanity in poverty or worse. Degrowthers point to the relatively privileged status of workers in the global North compared to those in the global South as a big part of the problem, instead of recognizing that the transnational working class will not only benefit from growth of sectors that meet its needs in both the global North and South but must be the leading force to defeat fossil capital.[1, 2, 3]

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From Feudalism to Capitalism

Social and Political Change in Castile and Western Europe, 1250–1520

Series: Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume: 252

Author: Carlos Astarita Translator: David Broder

BRILL

Cover From Feudalism to Capitalism

Carlos Astarita’s From Feudalism to Capitalism: Social and Political Change in Castile and Western Europe, 1250–1520 presents for an English-speaking readership a major intervention in a number of debates in Marxist historiography. The work has four thematic nuclei: the socio-political evolution that led to the feudal state, the genesis of capitalist rural production, the class struggle and the relationship of these factors with the commercial flow between regions. Received interpretations are revaluated through a series of original case studies that greatly enrich our understanding of theoretical terms, and suggest new interpretations of the absolutist state, the temporal validity of the law of value and the origins of capitalism.

This book was originally published in Spanish as Del feudalismo al capitalismo/i> by Publicacions Universitat de València (PUV), 2005, 978-84-370-6206-8.

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WFTU NEW YEAR 2022 MESSAGE

World Federation of Trade Unions | December 27, 2021

Dear colleagues,

Another year is coming to an end. Another year is added to the history of the WFTU and the world class-oriented movement. Another year made us cry and laugh, without losing not even for a moment our optimism for the best days to come for our class, thanks to our struggle and our firm political perception.

Making a brief assessment, as is usual at the end of each year, we will see that some things are repeated monotonously, but also new things are born, filling us with optimism for the future of the working class and popular strata.

In 2021, the inadequacy of this system to provide a solution to vital issues of humanity was revealed even more strongly. It was revealed that no matter how tearful the speeches of the political servants of the great multinationals are, they are not at all interested in the life and prosperity of the poor, the workers and the peasants, the women and the youth.

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U.S.: When Thousands Are Evicted Each Day in A Land of Fabled Riches

Bharat Dogra

Countercurrents | January 02, 2022

Recently on December 15 Eli Saslow wrote a very important feature in The Washington Post on the daily routine life of an elderly police constable Lennie who has been charged with the responsibility of evicting those families or persons from their homes who have not been able to pay their rent.

Essentially his daily duty during the last two decades has been to go from house to house, based on a list of those households who have lagged behind in rent payment, carrying a gun as well as handcuffs, and evict them. Astonishingly, this single police constable has evicted 20,000 Arizonans from their homes over a period of 2 decades, or 1000 per year, or about 3 per day.

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Against Doomsday Scenarios: What Is to Be Done Now?

John Bellamy Foster, John Molyneux and Owen McCormack

Monthly Review | 2021Volume 73, Number 7 (December 2021)

Fist with windmill

John Molyneux and Owen McCormack: Given the extreme summer weather and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, just how bad are things now? What do you believe the time scale is for catastrophe and what do you think that catastrophe will look like? Are things worse than the IPCC report claims? Some, including Michael Mann, have warned against “doomsday scenarios” that might deter people from acting. In your view, are doomsday scenarios the truth that needs to be told?

John Bellamy Foster: We should of course avoid promoting “doomsday scenarios” in the sense of offering a fatalistic worldview. In fact, the environmental movement in general and ecosocialism in particular are all about combating the current trend toward ecological destruction. As UN general secretary António Guterres recently declared with respect to climate change, it is now “code red for humanity.” This is not a doomsday forecast but a call to action.

Still, the word catastrophe is scarcely adequate in the present age of catastrophe capitalism. Catastrophes are now ubiquitous, since extending to the scale of the planet itself. We are experiencing throughout the globe a series of extreme weather events due in large part to climate change, each of which rank as “catastrophic” by historical precedents, sometimes lying outside the range of what was previously thought to be physically possible. The extreme conditions experienced this summer in the Northern Hemisphere—including floods in Europe; Hurricane Ida in the United States, which not only devastated New Orleans, but also ended up killing people in floods in New York and New Jersey; and the worsening drought and wildfires in California and the entire Pacific Coast of the United States—clearly represent something qualitatively new.

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The Triumph of Financial Capital

Paul M. Sweezy

Monthly Review | June 01, 1994

U.S. stocks dive anew on fear of coronavirus
Image credit: “U.S. stocks dive anew on fear of coronavirus,” China Daily, March 6, 2020.

This article was originally a lecture presented at a conference organized by the Association of Graduates of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Istanbul, Turkey, on April 21, 1994.

The announced subject of this conference is “New Trends in Turkey and the World.” I shall not try to say anything about new trends in Turkey, partly because of my ignorance but more importantly because Turkey is very much part of the world, and in this period the mother of all new trends is global in nature. To understand what is happening in any part of the world, one must start from what is happening in the whole world. Never has Hegel’s dictum “The Truth is in the Whole” been as true and relevant as it is today.

In an oft-quoted passage written in 1936, John Maynard Keynes said:

Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a byproduct of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.

Keynes was presumably alluding to the situation that existed in the late 1920s in the United States, the world’s most advanced capitalist country. Today it has the ominous sound of a prophecy that was to be fully realized more than half a century later, in the 1980s and 1990s—not only in the United States but in the whole world.

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USA: “Four Meals from Anarchy”: Rising Food Prices Could Spark Famine, War, and Revolution in 2022

Alan Macleod

MintPress News | December 17, 2021

Food Prices Feature photo

WASHINGTON – Already dealing with the economic fallout from a protracted pandemic, the rapidly rising prices of food and other key commodities have many fearing that unprecedented political and social instability could be just around the corner next year.

With the clock ticking on student loan and rent debts, the price of a standard cart of food has jumped 6.4% in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the cost of eating out in a restaurant similarly spiking, by 5.8% since November 2020.

The most notable change has been in the price of meat, with beef costing 26.2% more than it did last year, pork 19.2% more and chicken 14.8% more. Bacon prices have reached historic levels, and are now 36% higher than in 1980, even after adjusting for inflation. And with new animal welfare laws coming into effect soon regarding the minimum space required for pigs, some have predicted widespread shortages of bacon and a further price increase of up to 60%.

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