Posts Tagged ‘economics’

The Purpose of Business

August 14, 2017

The purpose of business is profit.
(keep costs low and charge as high as possible)

Profit means survival.

If something is profitable, then it will be done.

If it is destructive to others, or hurts others, and profitable then it will be done.

If it looks like high level executives will make a greater profit and their actions destroy the business, then it will be done.

If business can use government to share its costs with taxpayers, or alleviate its responsibilities for harm, and that action increases profit, then it will be done.

If its beneficial to others and costs, then it won’t be done.

If it costs the high level executives, then it probably won’t be done.

If a business can appear to be doing good, while doing nothing to affect profit or increase cost, then that can be done, but it might not.

Economics and public discourse

August 6, 2017

Because there appears to be no provision for Comment on Jessica Irvine’s article in the Australian SMH today, about the benefits of economic ‘reforms’ and the decline of economics in schools along with public discourse, here it is….

It is certainly true that people often have a great ignorance of economic history and Jessica Irvine has revealed she is one of them.

Before the “great economic reforms”, even the right wing Coalition party could tend to govern on behalf of everyone, not just the wealthy corporate sector. Wages rose steadily above inflation. Social mobility was real. People born into poverty could work and make it into the middle class, something almost impossible now. Education was largely free to help the mobility and, under Whitlam, became generally available to all adults as well. People could afford houses. Homelessness was rare or voluntary. People could drop out to explore life or art or science or politics or business without fear of being disadvantaged for the rest of their lives. Strong Unions gave people security and clout. People extended their participation in government and so on.

This did cause some fear amongst the establishment; it was something to be curbed – as the ‘proper elites’ were being challenged. People who had previously been quiet about their suppression were becoming economically secure enough to make noise.

Despite Irvine’s claims, we were largely insulated from “international contagions” until the 70s oil shock when the multinational oil companies made a fortune out of crisis, and started funding free market think tanks to promote the power of their class. Since then we have suffered from overseas shocks routinely, the last major one originating in the corruption and stupidity of the dominant players in the US financial and housing market, and which penalised ordinary Americans, not them. Nowadays even the most conservative commentators wonder how we will survive a downturn in even one overseas market (China). Jobs have been exported. Manufacturing has declined. We largely cannot make our own products. Minerals are routinely given away to miners. We ignore, or even encourage ecological collapse if it makes money for the wealthy. Major financial institutions appear to continually suffer from corruption, fraud and scandals, which, before ‘reform’, were rare and penalised. Wages are no longer increasing, and the wealth of society is being redistributed back to the financial elite.

Whatever the intentions of those involved, the ‘great reforms’ have led to an economy in which Plutocracy flourishes, and the rich are nannied and treasured, while ordinary people are abandoned. It is not an improvement, and its success requires that economics is not thought about, that economic history remains distorted and that public discourse becomes trivial. Economics has to mark an ‘unconscious’, as real thinking about the subject, might lead to radical politics and the overturn of ‘free market reforms’. Ignorance is inculcated by dominance.

It is no surprise, in this situation, that real economics is not taught in high school, and it is no surprise that business studies replaces it. Business is were you get wealth and status. Business is, we are told, the important thing, the privileged thing. Naturally students are attracted to it. Naturally subjects based in dispassionate knowledge decline. That is the result of the reforms. We breakdown in an ignorance that supports power, but which leads to breakdown.

The Right and Climate Change

July 28, 2017

Not all people who identify with the mainstream right refuse to be persuaded by the evidence that climate change is real, or that its humanly generated, or that crisis may be coming. Not all climate scientists are left of centre for one, and I’ve met, and heard of plenty of people on the right who wish their party would do a little more. And, in the US, some Republicans have been getting angry about the way that established powers try to stop them from using cheaper renewable energy and so on. Admittedly you rarely see this news in the corporately owned and controlled media, but you can find it if you bother to search.

So the question might be “why is the right party elite so opposed to recognizing climate change, and why are the committed deniers so committed to ignoring the evidence, or saying things like ‘climate changes all the time’, as if this was something climate scientists were not aware of?”

Most obviously, we have a problem in that the build up to climate change is, in human terms slow – its taken at least 50 years (since the 1970s) to get to where we are now. However, when the system changes state it will probably do this in a fairly short period of time, after years of building up. That’s how complex systems behave.

So until it is too late, it is relatively easy to pretend that its all normal, and the continuing series of hottest years ever recorded, glaciers melting and so on, are not doing that much harm, or are just normal, or just freaky weather events. We also get used to things being different, so people can say “we were snowed out, and thus there is no climate change”, when thirty years ago they would have spent a lot more time being snowed out. We can also spend a lot more on artificial snow for ski resorts that don’t really have the falls they used to – but it looks the same.

There is another problem that arises, because specific predictions in a complex system are really difficult. Thus we can say the weather will probably become wilder, and significantly different, but we may not quite know in what way. So people get frustrated with some failed predictions (the general trend is more reasonably accurate, if more disturbing than expected) and assume all predictions are worthless. Especially if they are really defending something else….

Cynics could say that the US Republican Party, or the Australian Liberal Party’s resistance arises because some of their elite are so committed to the liberty of established wealth and power. Anything which might compromise that liberty, or give ordinary people a chance, must be repelled. Indeed we can see members of that elite cheer when corporations are given more freedom to stamp on ordinary people, exploit them, maim or injure them and so on. They cheer when corporations are given extra permission to freeload on others by polluting and poisoning the world. That was almost the first thing the Republicans did when they got a President. They gave corporations more liberty to hurt people. So that position is pretty basic. We have had close to 40 years of praising free markets and corporate power and business competence, and very little has improved, unless you were wealthy to begin with, or thought more corporate power was a good thing. The mainstream right are unashamedly neoliberal in their policies.

For these people, the problem is that it would seem that the fairly easy actions we could take to lessen the risk of rapid climate change and ecological crisis, might affect the profitability of some established powers in the sacred corporate sector. Personally, I might think they would primarily be affected if they were stupid – but that is the sort of thing you cannot say as the common sense is that business knows best.

Parties today require funding, and so funding is important, and those established people can spend lots of money (money is power) supporting political deniers, providing dubious research, arguments from principle, or casting doubt on whatever seems real. Their allies in the media can report as if climate change was undecided, or not a threat and so on. The media can more or less ignore it as a problem, as they generally do.

Members of the establishment probably reckon that if they keep getting wealthy at everyone else’s expense, then they will be able to survive easily enough; wealth remains power when its concentrated. So they don’t have to worry, so what if other people get hurt? They might have more to worry about personally if coal was discontinued for example. Hence we hear Exxon and members of the electricity generating industry have been aware of the evidence for global warming for decades, but did not allow it to get in the way of profit. And profit is the real god.

For this elite, affecting profit negatively is bad. Lots of people will support this position to be on side, or to make the others evil. Hence nothing will be done, until those who currently control mainstream right parties and their media propaganda decide that profit is not everything, and that it might be nice if normal Americans or Australians had a chance, for a change…

Neoliberalism: again

July 22, 2017

Neoliberalism has always been about pork barreling the private sector, and public/private collaborations are at the heart of the neoliberal project. They are justified by the idea that the ‘market’ does it better, as it supposedly always does everything better, but as usual the technique insulates corporations and the wealthy from facing competition, or ‘market discipline’ which is just for the workers.

Public/private partnerships have the following advantages from the neoliberal point of view:

1) They hand over taxpayer’s money to corporations. (This is good by neoliberal standards)

2) Commercial in confidence means that the money cannot be accounted for, and accounting for inefficiency or stupidity is lost. Cost blowouts are normal, and cannot be contained, while the company makes still more profits. (This is good by neoliberal standards)

3) It seems the builders cannot be replaced – no matter how bad they are, and the law often gets changed to accommodate their failures, making the law less restrictive on other abusive businesses. (This is good by neoliberal standards)

4) The products of this public money, remain in private hands. (This is good by neoliberal standards)

5) The public gets charged to use the new services/products, and the public makes no money out of them. Indeed they end up paying for the product twice; once to build and once to use. (This is good by neoliberal standards)

6) Wealthy people get even more wealthy, and the public loses public service. (This is wonderful by neoliberal standards)

Neoliberalism, and free market talk, is absolutely the problem and public private “partnerships” simply make it worse.

What is ‘Neoliberalism’?

July 17, 2017

I keep facing people who ask me what neoliberalism is, or who argue that as no-one calls themselves neoliberal, it is just a meaningless slur.

One definition is that neoliberalism is the corporately sponsored philosophy that makes ‘the market’ (not the economy) the only important function in society. And the market should, ideally, be ‘free’. Nothing else really counts.

The idea of free markets, in practice, means that governments should support and pander to business, as business is the only worthwhile activity. This becomes a moral imperative: if something cannot make a profit, then it should not exist. Everything should be administered as if it was a business, with profit coming before pleasure or effectiveness.

Furthermore, the free market idea means that government has to look after business by breaking unions whenever possible and lowering wages and working conditions to let business be ‘flexible’ and ‘responsive’ – although it is the workers who always suffer the discipline. As part of this process, government tries to reduce welfare spending, so that people are forced into working for low wages – but it always fails because governments simply spend more on bribing the prosperous middle class or in providing subsidies to business.

The free markets idea is used to argues for tax cuts for business, and wealthy individuals as they are the virtuous and they earned that money supposedly without any help from anyone, or without any history of theft.

It claims that these activities are all about getting the government off your back, which it does if you are wealthy and wish to pollute as part of your business, but the government is necessary to stop ordinary people from protesting or organising, and prevent them from taking power.

Neoliberalism has proven completely incapable of dealing with ecological despoliation and climate change, because as far as it can see, if nature or the environment is not owned by someone then it is simply an externality and a cost. It cannot effectively be factored into the ‘free market’ model. All costs should be minimized.

Few people would actually vote for this mish-mash – hence no one calls themselves neoliberal and neoliberals pretend they are about liberty, and something called ‘values’. These ‘values’ are used to hit dissenters, but are rarely important if there is a clash between values and established profit. Hence the promotion of the supposed ‘culture wars’ by neoliberals, as a distraction, as a way of recruiting conservatives to their cause, and as a way of getting government back on your backs, more stringently than before.

In the English speaking world we have had neoliberalism as the dominant ideology since the late seventies or early eighties of the last century (with Thatcher, Reagan and Keating), so we have had nearly 40 years of it. We know what it produces. It is not a mystery.

Neoliberalism uses “free market talk” to support and entrench corporate power.

Why are experts less respected?

July 6, 2017

There seems to be some general argument that experts are now no longer valued because all opinions are held to be equal, and because of “the rise of popularism,” rage, or “anti-estabishmentism”. These positions both beg the question of whether these are separate conditions, whether anyone actually thinks that someone else’s opinion is as good as theirs and which ignore analysis of the question of the socio-psychological basis for these views.

It seems to me that people judge information by information they already hold, which is backed up by the groups they are in allegiance with. This is the socially reinforced aspect of what is known as “confirmation bias” (where a person seeks evidence and opinions which agrees with their existing opinions), or of “belief bias” (where people first of all accept a conclusion as correct and then are largely uncritical of the arguments leading to that conclusion, or engineer arguments for the conclusion.)

People who seem to be good members of groups that other people see themselves as allied with (ingroups) are always more persuasive than people who seem to be exemplary members of groups they are opposed to (outgroups). The more groups can be made to separate, and the more people can fear exile from their groups, then the more this group bias occurs. Communication and reasoning are more about group bonding than about the nature of the world. During our evolution, group bonding, cooperation with our ingroup and maintaining a good reputation, was probably far more important to human survival than anything else.

Since the end of communism, we have had experts in one group (largely privately sponsored) claiming that free markets will produce liberty and meaning, which they don’t; in practice they produce corporate domination, distribution of wealth away from most people, unemployment, inflation of the economy to the be all and end all of life, and a less useful and participatory State. These results produce massive discontent, and thus risks disturbing actions.

In self-defense, the elite of this group seem to have made a very determined attempt to use the above ‘facts’ about human communication to attack those experts who dispute the virtues of privatizing everything or who dispute the universal beneficial consequences of such policies: they do not belong to our group; they are politically biased; they are immoral unlike us; they are sick; they are engaged in socialist conspiracies to thwart human freedom; they are an elite with nothing in common with us; they are out of touch; they want to take your money, and so on.

The aim of the process seems to be to separate groups and stop members of each group from talking to each other, and to stop trust in experts, by upping the abuse levels (see the Murdoch media), suggesting that talking with these outgroup experts means you are not really one of us (RINOs) and by engaging in largely distractionary “culture wars” – although the culture wars help reinforce the idea that the other groups are immoral and not worth listening to on anything. If there are other social processes reinforcing the separation of social groups into physically separate enclaves or conversational groups, then this move is easier.

The more fantastical the propositions being defended, ie ‘free markets’ produce liberty, corporate power is always good, coal is great for ecological and public health, then the more this kind of process becomes the best way of winning arguments, and supporting established power – until it breaks down and violence becomes more necessary to enforce the order being defended.

This movement against ‘experts’ is not an anti-establishment movement, it is a movement which is tied to an establishment which contradicts known things about social and ecological dynamics in the support of its power, even if it eventually leads to break down of that establishment.

Attacks on experts are socially motivated and proposed solutions have to bear this in mind. Simply defending expertise or attacking the groups attacking the experts will not persuade them of the experts virtues, it will likely do the opposite.

On consensus: scientific and otherwise

July 4, 2017

It is always useful to point out that scientific consensus is an agreement amongst scientists in the field about what the evidence implies. So the consensus on climate change means that by far the great majority of climate scientists are persuaded by the evidence that climate change is real and that this real climate change is humanly caused. There is also a theoretical back drop which explains how and why this climate change is occurring, and there is no obvious contradiction or failings in the theory which is leading it to be challenged. Scientists may later modify their positions if the evidence changes. However, it is unlikely they will modify their position to the extent that they argue climate change is not happening, and is not going to produce massive disruption.

We might compare this with the consensus amongst right wing people that free markets are wonderful.

There is no empirical evidence for free market theory – indeed one school of free market theory says no evidence is needed. There is no agreement amongst economists or social theorists that free markets always work or deliver what is promised by their advocates. When applied the theory does not appear to deliver the results promised. It does appear to deliver what cynics say it is meant to deliver (that is more corporate power and more plutocracy). There is no empirical or theoretical consensus. There used to be no political consensus either, Conservatives were well aware that capitalism destroyed all values and traditional social institutions that got in the way of profit. Such real conservatives are no longer common.

Yet the right insist that free markets are the fundamental truth of governance, liberty and prosperity.

Usually the problems with free market theory and its lack of acceptance by independent economists or social theorists is explained away as “left wing bias”, or even “communism” or “conspiracy”. Sometimes it is explained away by saying free market theory is never applied, but in that case we cannot know it will result in goodness when it is applied in full purity. The point is that when it is applied, in the way that it is applied, we get political situations like the present one.

A change in speech away from consensus to persuaded by the evidence, is important because in right wing speak, consensus simply means that people gathered around a table and decided on a position, usually for political reasons as in “there was a consensus amongst Republicans that Obamacare was evil” or “the general consensus amongst evangelical Christians is that the Pope is the anti-Christ” or “the consensus amongst business people is that capitalism is good”. etc.

Persuaded by the evidence takes us back to arguing about the evidence. This is more productive if people are well intentioned, and don’t keep returning to evidence which has been refuted. However in our day, people are being encouraged not to be persuaded by evidence.

Communism AND Capitalism

June 22, 2017

The problem is that, usually, communism and capitalism are considered in purely abstract terms. Thus communism is supposed to be a state-free, large scale organization, which is organised around anarcho-democratic principles. Everyone is supposed to have the same rights, and is automatically allocated food, housing etc and helps produce everything for everyone else. The ideal is co-operative. Capitalism is supposed to allocate resources perfectly through the purely unintended economic consequences of selfishness. It can ideally have a state or not have a state depending on who you read. Supposedly ‘free markets’ are vital and bring liberty.

The problem is that though the defenders of each system are well-intentioned, neither works as perfectly as predicted, or has the consequences which are expected. This is quite obvious when you considered how they are formed and that humans are as co-operative as they are selfish and competitive. We are not one or the other. Consequently those who are successful in capitalism co-operate to prevent challenge to their power over the markets and other’s lives, and some people compete in communism to establish their own power and security at the cost of others. Furthermore, freedom is usually associated with plurality of organisations, but both systems tend to crush plurality in favour of their ideal.

The ideal societies, that people usually discuss, do not exist and probably cannot exist.

What we call ‘communism’, so far, has been born in revolution. Consequently there are always active players inside, and outside, the country aiming to get what they consider their rightful power and wealth back. Consequently communists have to use the State and repression to defend themselves, the new society and produce stability for transformation into the new society. They usually end up using the old apparatus which is the one they know, and is already in place. They justify this in terms of transition; its always supposedly temporary. Of course, some people succeed in this framework and gain power and privilege and don’t particularly care about the ordinary people who can be seen as obstacles to the progress of the State and its ideals. Mao appears to have tried to appeal directly to the people to destroy the State mechanisms and the ingrained bureaucrats. This was a dangerous policy it produced the cultural revolution, which was not a great time (to put it very mildly) and the State came back to produce stability and protect those in power. It is also relatively easy for a dictator to take over when you have a strong State, no other organisations which can challenge it, and an external threat.

The problem with capitalism is that it is born in theft and in impoverishment of some people, and leaves them behind to maintain that theft. In the US we have theft of native American lands, and theft of people’s lives in slavery, amongst other things, that create the basis of private property and its inequitable distribution – the stolen wealth does not go entirely to the victorious group. Wealthy people team up to keep the wealth for themselves, and to keep it coming and soon try to take over the State, or start a State, and use that State to defend their privilege and keep ordinary people in their place. They use the State and their own economic power to destroy open non-capitalist markets which could challenge them. The processes they implement consolidate property and shift people into wage labor and dependency. The more important the leaders of business become, the more everything has to be organized as a business, and anything that is not profitable business is automatically classed as not worthwhile. Similarly, everything that adds to business cost, like wages or looking after the ecology we depend upon, is to be destroyed or run down. There are many other problems with capitalism, but the main one is that it ends up being a self-destructive plutocracy – and the more capitalist it becomes, the more this eventuates.

After the second world war, many countries embraced what they called either a ‘mixed economy’ or ‘socialism’ (communists usually insist this is not ‘real socialism’). There were state funded business ventures and private funded ventures. They both kept each other in check. Business could not lower wages too much and accumulated too much profit, and State business had to look to what people wanted to buy. The State and big business were further kept in check by the people and by other flourishing organisations such as Churches, small business associations, unions, universities, legal bodies, the judiciary, returned services organisations, science bodies and so on (I’m sure other people can think of more such organisations which organized themselves in many different ways). This spread power about, so no one faction dominated and people generally prospered. There was a large and growing involvement with ‘people power’. To some extent this arose because some capitalists feared the possibility of communist revolution and thought it better to share some of the wealth they had extracted from the community around to keep them safe.

However, in the mid seventies, in the English speaking world in particular, the corporate sector launched a take over, through funding think tanks, media takeovers, takeover of political units, and general promotion of ideal capitalism. Then European communism fell. There was no longer any fear of revolution, and little opposition to capitalism. The result was what we have now. Capitalism as it is….. Capitalism was to be the only solution, the only value and ordinary people lost power and prosperity. Any other organisations where to be organized along business lines and started praising business. As a result, there is now almost no challenge to big business from anyone and no non-business stories, especially as communism collapsed under its incapacities.

There is close to no question that capitalism will collapse under its incapacities as well – there is nothing challenging it. The issue is whether it takes us all with it.

Anarchism and Capitalism

June 18, 2017

Something approaching anarchist communism is the way most human societies have functioned during our evolution and prehistory. Humans co-operate and compete, live in relationship to other humans and nature, talk, produce art, engage with God and ‘science’, and try to prevent the accumulation of inequalities. So for them property is exchanged rather than accumulated. They resolve disputes by long discussions and listening, trying to reach as real a consensus as possible. If that fails then the society splits, or there some minor violence occurs. Those people who like bossing others around or displaying their wealth or who cannot relate to other people can move out and join the capitalists or Statists, where their personality traits are considered normal or even praiseworthy.

The weakness of anarcho-communist societies is obvious – State and business based societies usually slaughter them, unless they can hide in otherwise inhospitable mountains or deserts. So there is no ‘paradise’ once State and business gets going.

A fundamental difference between anarchism and capitalism is that in capitalism the fundamental relationships between people are not communitarian and consultative, they are Boss and Employee, or Servant and Master. Pro-capitalists hope to avoid the servitude they cultivate or force on others.

As well, capitalism requires a State and violence to allow the accumulation of property, and the severance of human relations that allows that accumulation. There is, and has been, no capitalism without accumulation and a State, or without forming a state. Accumulation of wealth also allows the financing of specialists in violence like a military or a police force which helps State formation. Capitalism nearly always leads to plutocracy. Indeed one can see that “anar caps” are usually keen to have proto-State apparatuses such as police, courts, prisons and lawyers when those forces are mercenary and available to the highest bidder because that means that the wealthy own both the law and the enforcers of the law, and thus make the law, and the State apparatuses, serve them. There is little anyone outside the circle of wealth can do to go against this ‘law’. Wealthier and more violent enforcers will tend to take over smaller mercenary enforcers, or severely damage them. Enforcers will routinely protect those who contribute most to their prosperity, and the law, and so ‘judicial’ decisions and laws will respect those powerful ‘customers’. The observed aim of capitalists is not to abolish the State but to abolish any part of the State that does not serve the sole interests of successful, wealthy and dominant capitalists.

Once the wealthy own the means of violence and law, then they will probably team up in their mutual interest to make them all safer in their suppression of everyone else. This is what elites do, and this give further coherence to the burgeoning State they are creating.

This process is given legitimacy as, in capitalism, wealth is the only acceptable marker of value, whereas in anarchism people may be renown for many different things.

As we said earlier, sociopaths, greedheads and exploiters will tend to migrate to capitalism where they think their personality traits may be rewarded. The wealthy may well tend to have a higher concentration of such individuals than the rest of the population. In capitalism, people without wealth, or not interested in making wealth, are naturally considered inferior and nobody worries if they get trodden on.

Consolidation of plutocracy is even more likely, because in a system of inequality and resultant shortage, wealth is a portable and transferable basis for power, and can be applied to all other sources of power. Wealth can and will buy violence. It will buy the law. It will control the information flow and propaganda, so that ‘free market’ ideologies and ideologues will be supported and counter examples and ideas repressed. Wealth can control cosmologies and religions. Wealth can command specialists, administrators and managers to further reinforce its power and boss people around. Plutocracy is the only possible result of capitalism.

Capitalism not only tends to produce a State it tends to produce an imperial State to gain new markets, new resources, new workers and new places to dump waste and pollution from its methods of production. If the capitalists verge onto the anarchists then the capitalists will generally not recognize the property of the anarchists – after all anarchists have no contract and their property is not registered as belonging to anyone in capitalist law. If property does not exist in capitalist bought law then it is terra nullius and ripe for the taking. Historically this is what capitalists do.

This leaves the anarchists with a problem, they could pay tribute to the capitalists to be left alone, but that implies subservience and depends on some wealthy person not taking them to capitalist bought court and challenging their lack of ownership. Anarchists may not even have currency to pay with, which of course shows they have no rights or value as people, as they have no wealth. The capitalists may decide to rule them for their own good, and use their ‘defensive’ military or police for that purpose. This then throws the anarchists off the land they don’t own (in the capitalists eyes) and forces them into wage labor and subservience to a boss – so the bosses may become still more prosperous. The conquered anarchists will no longer be seduced by ideas of communitarianism, liberty and disregard for profit, they will have to work for hire in subservience. They won’t effectively challenge capitalist power by existing free of it.

There is an inherent difference between anarchy and capitalism. Anarchists aim to maximize the amount of time that all people can use for non-economic, purely human purposes, while capitalists aim to maximize the amount of time that the vast majority have to labor to survive.

This is why pro-capitalists only ever talk of the ‘market’, or try to make the ‘market’ and economic reward the central, and deciding, part of human life. This arrangement tires people out and keeps them submissive to their bosses. Pro-capitalists may come to believe that there is nothing else in human life than economic labor, and profit, which reinforces the ideological system of power. This is also why they are always so destructive of the environment that others live in, and even their own. Anything can be destroyed if it makes profit and it does not inconvenience another person with ownership of the law.

There is a magic here; pro-capitalists appear to believe that by supporting the dominant power, and forcing others to do so, they will gain power and prosperity for themselves.

Anarchists always have to be wary of capitalists, and see them as supporting plutocracy. It is certainly arguable that largely unfettered capitalism will, with enough power allocated to business, produce a State and a society very like the one we have to day – which after 40 years of endless praise of free markets, should not be a surprise to any one.

A view of Marx: left, right or something else?

May 31, 2017

If a ‘rightist’ is a person who supports corporate dominance and plutocracy, or established chains of authority, then Marx was clearly not a rightist.

If a ‘leftist’ is a person who supports state control over everyone and everything for the common good, then Marx was not a leftist – the state was to wither away under communism.

Marx believed that oppressed people should understand the system of suppression, then organize and rebel against it, constructing their own forms of governance using their active experience (praxis). This is one reason why he did not spend much time trying to describe the systems that might arise after the revolution.

The ongoing problem has been that revolutions produce chaos, as well as resistance, so that the revolutionaries, need to establish a system of order for the new regime to survive, and they tend to use the one that is already available, and so suppression starts again. Lenin promised this suppression would be temporary, but the system is always attacked from outside, so the suppression needs to be maintained, and it becomes easy for the dictators to take over.

Paradoxically, in many ways Marx was a conservative egalitarian. He believed that capitalism corrupted virtue, destroyed relationships between people, diminished craft skills, eliminated local cultures, and produced dependency and poverty – much of the Communist Manifesto could have been written by a 19th conservative hostile to the newly emergent industrial capitalism. However, he also believed it was possible to change things for the better, if you understood what was going on.

Marx’s primary legacies are: a) the understanding that capitalism is oppressive and destructive in its very nature and not because of the vices of the dominant people themselves, and b) that economics is never independent of political struggle.

He showed that capitalism is not trade, or mutual exchange, which is normal to most societies, it is a specific political form of organizing exchange, profit, production, dependency and distribution which requires and creates inequality and state based oppression.

Finally, in Marx’s view, history is driven by the struggle between groups of people and their ways of life, survival and economic organization. In that sense the drivers of history are primarily material.