Why the new posts, useful links and a letter to Freedom

Well, the current crisis of capitalism rumbles on. Of the options I listed in Capitalism in crisis, again!, Brown has went for the Swedish option and nationalised banks (as, ironically, demanded in the 1983 Labour Party manifesto). Rest assured, though, Brown has said the people who got us into this mess with be punished - no big bonuses for them! Only getting a small bonus will teach them...

Will the US state follow Brown's lead? Probably, if things continue to get worse - when push comes to shove, the capitalist class have always been happy to utilise nationalisation when it suits them. After all, it was not socialists who started state ownership and, from an anarchist perspective, changing the boss from a capitalist to the state is no great improvement (although, within private/market capitalism, it does tend to avoid the excesses associated with neo-liberalism).

Talking of which, this is a good article explaining why the right-wing assertion that "the left" (i.e., Clinton!) is really responsible for this crisis is nonsense. But it is nice to see the party of individual responsibility is refusing to take any responsibility for the current problems! As would be expected, private enterprise could not resist ploughing into a market and turning it into a bubble... Stability is destabilising, after all!

There is now a Portuguese translation of Capitalism in crisis, again! if anyone is interested. And it goes without saying that I'm happy to have my articles translated and posted/printed elsewhere. Just mention where it came from (and let me know of the link if translated). All my work is copyleft anyway, like AFAQ.

I've decided to post a few new articles so that people can have something to read while waiting for the next panic headlines to appear.

First off, there is a reply to a particularly moronic attempt by an "anarcho"-capitalist to steal the word syndicalism for the "free market lexicon"! If he were more aware of the socialist tradition, he would know that his suggestion has been known as co-operativism for over 150 years. And that neither Proudhon nor Marx considered it as capitalist! I've made a few changes, and added relevant links. If only they had not tried to steal the word anarchism to describe their hierarchical private-state capitalism!

Then there is an old article provoked by a Trotskyist attack on the UK anti-globalisation movement. As the SWP and its kind will be trying to utilise the current crisis to keep their long-dead ideology going, it is useful to remember how terrible the Leninist tradition is.

Lastly, two reviews.

The first is a joint review of a book about labour struggles in the 1930s (which seems more relevant now than when it was written!) and Naomi Klein's collection of articles on the anti-globalisation movement (I'm going to have to finish my review of her excellent new book, The Shock Doctrine).

The second is of Doug Henwood's After the New Economy, which is very good. Have people seen his "Wall Street"? It is extremely good and worth reading, particularly as we are going through a financial crisis of epic proportions (it is available on-line). Also, his journal is worth reading (lots of good articles on-line).

Henwood knows what he is talking about in terms of finance capital, with a good grasp of Marx, Keynes and post-Keynesian economics. The same can be said of Steve Keen, whose blog is worth reading. Keen is the author of Debunking Economics (a review of which I posted recently).

There are a few interesting articles and blogs around. The Chomskynator on the current crisis (The Financial Crisis of 2008 and Anti-democratic nature of US capitalism is being exposed).

Two more interesting webpages, one by socialist economists (The Sandwichman's posts are very good) and the essential Dean
Baker
(who cuts through the rubbish usually associated with the business pages of the UA newspapers).

Finally, another letter in reply to Peter Gibson about Kropotkin's Mutual Aid (provoked by my review of Steve Jones' new book). I do dislike having to waste my time on him.

Dear Freedom

During his usual distortions of my argument, Peter Gibson proclaims himself a “mad bad boy.” (letters, vol. 69, no. 17). This seems correct as his letter is a rant (mad) and inaccurate (bad)!

Apparently he has “rehabilitated the sociobiologists” whom, he claims, are “now the good guys”. Rehabilitated for whom? The world? Anarchists? Freedom readers? Me? Not the last, as my reading of sociobiologists predates his letters. Not to mention that his increasingly bizarre letters were provoked by my review of a sociobiologist who got Kropotkin wrong. So just like any group of experts, sociobiologists can be wrong and, more importantly, unthinkingly reflect the biases of the dominant culture while proclaiming their scientific impartiality.

Gibson proclaims that I consider sociobiologists to be “the defenders of altruism, cooperation and society.” Given that many of them have been studying how to explain all these in terms of evolutionary theory, this is more than my mere opinion! Richard Dawkins, for example, shows why co-operation serves an evolutionary purpose, arguing that “gene selfishness can translate itself into individual altruism” and so the selfish gene does not exclude, and in fact can encourage, what he calls “mutualistic co-operation” or the “evolution of associations of mutual benefit.”

But, apparently, our “mad bad boy” knows better than Dawkins. These are “rehabilitated sociobiologists” whose “prestigious and well paid university posts” stop them agreeing with him on what “selfish gene theory” really means! Apparently, “if sociobiologists took their ideas seriously rather than their jobs and public image, they might realise that society and selfish genes are incompatible.” In other words, Dawkins selfishness for wanting his “prestigious and well paid” job ensures he ignores his own selfish genes. Opps!

And “society” seems to be a bit of a bugbear for our “neo-crypto-sociobiologist.” If he actually read Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid he would discover that most animals, including ourselves, have always existed in groups and societies. As leading primatologist Frans de Waal notes, we “descend from a long line of group-living primates” There was never a point at which we decided to become social, we come from highly social ancestors who, as with most other creatures, lived in groups. This was not an option, such mutual aid was an essential survival strategy.

So much for Gibson’s “make believe of society”! Perhaps he should consult Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid on this? I should also point out that de Waal states that Kropotkin “rightly noted that many animals survive not through struggle, but through mutual aid.” So it appears that when Gibson proclaims that “we are like all animals, we are animals” and “we need to recognise that we behave in the same way as other animals” he excludes any co-operative and mutualistic behaviour they show!

Apparently I want “to believe” that “really deep down” that we “love each other.” Since I have continually denied this, I can only conclude that Gibson subscribes to the notion that a lie becomes the truth if repeated enough. As Kropotkin noted, “it is not love, and not even sympathy” which causes animals to assist one another, but rather a more hard-nosed recognition that it is in their own interests for survival to do so, not to mention “the joys they can find in social life.” Gibson simply cannot understand the concept of mutual aid, for if he did then he quickly realise that sociobiologists have shown how being “concerned only with number one” (in the narrow sense he subscribes to) is not a good idea. If he bothered to read the chapter “Nice guys finish first” of Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, he will discover both why animals “prosper from mutual co-operation” and why internally competitive groups “will be more likely subsequently to go extinct. There can therefore be a kind of higher-level . . . selection in favour of reciprocal altruism.” This confirms Kropotkin’s argument.

He claims that I think “that aberrant capitalists are the problem”, but in fact society “is capitalism” and “all of us [are] selfish capitalists.” The confusions in this are so obvious that they do not need refuting. As for his claim that “selfish gene theory would now appear to be very acceptable as long as it is kept out of politics”, well, I would take it more seriously if he showed even a basic understanding of that theory. Gibson clearly is still confused between the selfish gene (the replicator) and a selfish individual (the vehicle), that “selfish” in terms of genes is purely a metaphor and does not automatically equate to “selfish” individuals or actions. Selfish genes, like individuals and groups, can best flourish by means of co-operative activity by individual animals and this in line with Kropotkin’s arguments and evidence.

He ends by self-contradictorily proclaiming that “animals that have survived the longest have gabbed the least” and that “all this chatter which we see as thinking is an attempt to manipulate others for our own benefit. Language is exploitative.” Ah, you see, those animals which communicate (“manipulate others for [their] own benefit”) least have “survived the longest”, yet animals have “survived as long as they have” because “they must have been concerned only with number one”!

Gibson states “we are not thinking, our genes are talking.” I can concur that he is not thinking. I'm not sure whether it is his genes who are talking, but the noises are definitely coming from the back of his jeans!

Iain McKay

  


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