[Marxism] A new spectre haunts the WSJ,

S. Artesian sartesian at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 19 13:20:00 MST 2010

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "DW" <dwaltersmia at gmail.com>=

DW: S. Artesian, so, basically, since the French burn almost no coal for
energy, the Eurostar/Chunnel tracks can haul almost all freight anyway?
Makes sense.

SA:  No, Eurostar  allows only limited freight-- limited in all respects;
and it can only do this because Eurostar HSR service is restricted to slow
speed through the tunnel
DW: The point is not to look at any rail or transport system in a
micro-economic  form. That's capitalist thinking. It's not if the transport
system makes a  surplus (profit under capitalism, surplus under socialism,
say) but if what  the transport system *brings* to the larger political
economy. Does it open  up development? Does expand other inustrial forms of
productivity? That sort  of thing.

SA:  That's kind of idealist thinking, Dave.  We were discussing
China and China's "real recovery investment program" as opposed to the
"fictitious one" in the US.  Exactly how are we to look at the rail or
transport system  OUTSIDE the social relations of production that define the
purpose, the function, the VALUE of the system?

DW: That the eventual 8,000 or more miles of HSR in China can alleviate
passanger traffic on lines used for freight as well...does this have some
sort of pay off? And, if so, for how long?

SA:  Payoff for WHOM?  The bourgeoisie?  Indeed, look at US railroads, how
tickled pink they were to abandon passenger service, and listen to them moan
about handling two Amtrak trains a day. Pay-off is the right word.  Who's
making the money?

DW:  Part of the speculative nature of residential growth in China was the 
result  of the same sort of bubble we saw in the west. But the diference is 
that there is still a huge housing shortage in China.
additionally, there are  as part of their 5 Year Plans a huge persepctive to 
develop the interior of  China. Most of the vacant housing exist in these 
new and expanded cities  in  the interior. If real development of productive 
forces occurs in these  areas, then those apartments becaome less a function 
of speculation but more  one of housinng. A lot of 'ifs' granted. But China 
today is not the US  today and building up their industries, and with it 
this sort of joint  state-private capitalist class, requries *real*, not 
speculative Imperialist  growth. This is why banking is so restrictive, the 
stock market plays such  a small role there,and why the gov't there is so 
concerned about a social  explosion if they can't meet the needs of the 

SA:  I think you've gone from idealist thinking to downright magical 
thinking.  First, the building of housing in China, as is the case with the 
building of housing in the US has nothing to do with a housing shortage.  In 
both countries it has everything to do with accumulation of value.

Secondly, no doubt China has wonderful and elaborate 5 year plans, but so 
what?  Did their five year plan in 2005 anticipate the closing of thousands 
of factories in the Guangdong in 2008?  Did the five year plan 1995 
anticipate the bankruptcy and near complete collapse of the banking system 
in 1999-2000?

Third, I'm not so sure that "most" of the new housing that is being put up 
is in the "planned growth areas."  I do know that real estate is where the 
flows of hot money are directed, and hot money does not have a 5 year plan. 
It's in there to get what it can now and get out by tomorrow if not 
yesterday.  Think you'll find on close examination that much of the 
construction is in the established metropolitan centers and it's intended to 
attract the established elites, the rising upper middle class, the 
professionals, and not intended for HSR maintenance of way workers. But even 
if the construction is in the more inland areas where growth is anticipated, 
how does that differ the slightest from the building of developments outside 
Los Angeles, in the Valley, in the 60s, 70s; around Houston during the oil 
boom of the 80s; or the building of new office buildings and complexes in 
San Bernadino, in Riverside, in "anticipation of growth" between 2005-2008? 
The construction is being undertaken with, by, and for the aggrandizement of 
profit. It's being financed by a massive expansion of debt.  Is debt any 
less "demanding" in China because the the investors have cards that say 
"Member, Communist Party of China"?

As for banking being restrictive... are you kidding me?  They doubled the 
amount of money lent in 2009 over 2008.  That's restrictive?  The banks have 
over Rmb 2 trillion in "off-balance sheet" loans to account for. Banking's 
"restriction" is that half the population is tied to rural production with 
annual incomes of less than $1000 and to access that money, dispossesson of 
the rural population must occur, driving them off their ability to subsist 
on direct production.
DW:  I think this latter point is key, and what guides the policies of the 
PRC  today. They have to keep a kind of 'popularist/Bonapartist' 
state-capitalism going or it all ends, rather violently.

SA: I don't know of a "popularist Bonapartist" state that 1) has met the 
"peoples needs" and 2) has not ended violently.  What the CPC intends, 
plans, wants etc etc is one thing.  What the economic forces unleashed by 
those policies PRODUCE is something else completely.


More information about the Marxism mailing list