May 6, 2018

Crisis: Eyeglasses, Marx in Trier, Marx & the Gig Economy, Marx Unreadable, Marx´s Relevance


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 6, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 6, 2018.

Today may be slightly different from other days simply because Karl Marx was born 200 years ago on May 5, 1818, and I get the sites for May 5 only the next day. Four out of five bits today are about Marx, directly or indirectly. And I pay attention to him because I did have a real Marxist education by really Marxist parents (for 45 years, both), although I gave up Marx and Marxism in 1970, for what still seem to be quite sound reasons (though I am still a - real - leftist).

Also, I am a bit sorry that the articles I selected today are poor in intellectual content. It could have been somewhat different, but this is the best that I found today.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 6, 2018
1. A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses
2. Marx's Hometown Unveils Huge Statue on His 200th Birthday
3. Some Say the Gig Economy is Capitalism's Final Victory — But Maybe
     It's Not

4. The Spirit of 1968 Is Inextinguishable —Even 50 Years Later
5. Marx's Relevance in Today's World: A Reflection on His 200th Birthday
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses

This article is by Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times. This is from near the beginning of the article:

More than a billion people around the world need eyeglasses but don’t have them, researchers say, an affliction long overlooked on lists of public health priorities. Some estimates put that figure closer to 2.5 billion people. They include thousands of nearsighted Nigerian truck drivers who strain to see pedestrians darting across the road and middle-aged coffee farmers in Bolivia whose inability to see objects up close makes it hard to spot ripe beans for harvest.

Then there are the tens of millions of children like Shivam across the world whose families cannot afford an eye exam or the prescription eyeglasses that would help them excel in school.

“Many of these kids are classified as poor learners or just dumb and therefore don’t progress at school,” said Kovin Naidoo, global director of Our Children’s Vision, an organization that provides free or inexpensive eyeglasses across Africa. “That just adds another hurdle to countries struggling to break the cycle of poverty.”

I say, and I do so because I had no idea. Then again, I have glasses since I was 10 (nearly 60 years now) and this worked OK for me since 57 years, but lately got totally out of hand, as I will briefly explain after the last bit I quote from this article:

In an era when millions of people still perish from preventable or treatable illness, many major donors devote their largess to combating killers like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In 2015, only $37 million was spent on delivering eyeglasses to people in the developing world, less than one percent of resources devoted to global health issues, according to EYElliance, a nonprofit group trying to raise money and bring attention to the problem of uncorrected vision.

So far, the group’s own fund-raising has yielded only a few million dollars, according to its organizers.
In fact, I am quite willing to believe this, but I should add that I have been suffering from what has been declared to be ¨a serious chronic disease¨ for nearly 40 years now, just as my ex did and does, but that ¨serious chronic disease¨ has been declared NOT to exist by 99.9% of all Dutch ¨medical doctors¨, of whom 90% (27 out of the 30 ¨medical doctors¨ my ex and I saw since 1979) declared we were ¨psychosomatizers¨ (living on study loans, trying to become psychologists, in which both of us succeeded but NOT thanks to the help of any Dutch medical person, but simply because we were both considerably more intelligent, with IQs above 140, than the average Dutch university student, that had an IQ of 115 in 1984, since when it seems not to have been measured again. It probably is around 105 now.)

From the above I see that medical doctors, worldwide, are not even capable of providing people who need glasses - some 2 billion of them, indeed - with glasses.

Well... if my ex and I had NOT been ill and discriminated for nearly 40 years because we were supposed to be crazy liars by 9 out of 10 of the Dutch medical doctors, I would probably have been very angry.

Now I am not, and remark instead the following:

I have been wearing the very same model of glasses since 1975. They were always completely free for those who had medical insurance, as I did all my life - until some years ago, and half a year ago I found that for the very same glasses I have worn for free for 43 years now should be paid.... 800 euros (over 1700 guilders), which is 4/5th of my monthly income.

The explanation seems to be that the Mafia - yes: the Mafia - has taken over all frames for glasses in all of Europe, and now asks 800 euros for three bits of metal weighing 3 grams, and 2 bits of plastic. Also, for 800 euros I can buy two second-hand computers, and can feed myself for 3 to 4 months.

With that sick and greedy utter degeneracy, I do not expect there is much hope for those who live on onetenth of what I get each month (which is less than anybody else gets in Holland).

2. Marx's Hometown Unveils Huge Statue on His 200th Birthday

This article is by Kristen Grieshaber on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
A larger than life statue of communist philosopher Karl Marx was unveiled Saturday on the 200th anniversary of his birth in the western German town of Trier.

The celebratory uncovering of the 4.4-meter (14-foot) bronze statue of Marx, donated by China, sparked criticism by some who blame Marx for crimes committed by social revolutionaries in Russia, China and elsewhere in the name of communism.

About 200 guests, including a delegation from China, applauded during the anniversary celebrations, when a bright red cover was lifted from the statue which depicts Marx with a frock and his signature bushy beard.

Marx laid the philosophical foundations for communism, an ideology that aims for shared ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes. He explained his thoughts in two famous works, the “Communist Manifesto” and “Das Kapital.”

The ceremony and speeches in Trier were at times disturbed by the shouting and whistling of different groups of nearby protesters.

I say. This is probably correct. Speaking  for myself - as a formerly Marxist son of truly Marxist parents - I am neither strongly for Marx, which also covers putting up statues for him, nor strongly against Marx, and my main reasons are that I have really read him.

And I also believed since I was 20 (in 1970) that he was mistaken but quite sincere; that he was a serious social philosopher; and that it is quite silly to blame Marx for what diverse followers of Marx made out of his teachings, long after he died.

Here is the second and last bit that I quote from this article:

When Germany was divided after the end of World War II, the eastern part was under Communist rule from 1949 until the country’s reunification in 1990. Some East Germans say they still suffer from the long-term effects of the Communist regime’s suppression and violence against its critics.

In China, on the other hand, President Xi Jinping hailed Karl Marx as “the greatest thinker of modern times.”

Well... this (like the previous quoted bit) is again more or less correct. I add that in case the East Germans blame Karl Marx (who died in 1883) they are mistaken. I do not know from the above whether they did (and they would have been correct if they blamed Ulbricht, Honecker and other leaders of East Germany).

3. Some Say the Gig Economy is Capitalism's Final Victory — But Maybe It's Not

This article is by Carlo Morelli on AlterNet, and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:

It is remarkable for an economic thinker and political activist that 200 years after their birth, millions are still avidly discussing their work. Yet Karl Marx’s Capital continues to influence every new generation.

In an era of anti-globalisation protests and the movement against the 1%, Marx’s analysis continues to be relevant – he explains how the capitalist system goes hand in hand with aggressive competition and innovation, and why this leads to poverty, crisis and eventually revolution. He brilliantly describes growing wealth, the worsening conditions of labour and the necessity for a different society.

These insights apply as much to the 21st century as the 19th. We see the same capitalist landscape of old incumbents constantly under pressure from new challengers – and also the same destructiveness.

No, I am sorry: This is mostly misleading, at least for Western Europe and the USA: ¨We¨ do NOT ¨see the same capitalist landscape of old incumbents constantly under pressure from new challengers¨ as ¨we¨ did in - say - the 1870ies.

In the 1870ies, children had to work at age 6 or 8; adults had to work 12, 14 or 16 hours a day; and most who worked got barely enough to eat and possibly buy a shirt, every two years. (In case you happen to read Dutch, read this idea by the Dutch writer Multatuli, which does sketch the life of over 90% of the Dutch in the 1860ies and 1870ies: It really was very different from what the lives of socially similar people were like in the 1970ies in Holland.)

I will not criticize more in the above bit, and turn to the next:

Some political scientists argue that the internet and particularly the gig economy have fundamentally changed the nature of work. Capitalism has become so dominant over labour, they argue, that old bonds between workers such as class and solidarity are increasingly meaningless.

On this analysis, worker action and revolution are off the agenda.
Well... probably this is correct. But while I do not believe myself strongly in ¨classes¨ or ¨class solidarity¨, I totally fail to see why the poor should not protest against the rich, if only because close to 90% of the non-rich have been growing poorer since 1980, while the 1% of the rich have been growing a whole lot richer. (I know this is probably not Marxistic in a classical sense, but even so.)

Then there is this:
Like the classic economists of his time, Marx believed in a labour theory of value – the idea that the value of a product should be based on the amount of labour that has gone into it. The more the capitalists sought to protect their profitability, the more they undermined the value of the products they were creating with labour power.
I disagree with the second statement, and I insist about the first statement that the best economical reinterpretation of Marx was by Piero Sraffa, which also is explained by
Steedman in his ¨Marx after Sraffa¨, which I recommend (to all intelligent persons with some mathematics).

Finally, I quote this bit from this article:

I would argue that the lasting legacy of Marx 200 years after his birth comes from the conclusion he and Friedrich Engels drew in their 1848 publication The Communist Manfesto:

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries unite.

No, I am sorry: At least in Western Europe and in the USA the ¨proletarians¨ have (or until recently had: it changes for the poorest in the USA) a lot more to lose than their chains. If you want to know more, see here.

4. The Spirit of 1968 Is Inextinguishable —Even 50 Years Later

This article is by Hilary Wainwright on Common Dreams, and originally on This starts as follows:

Capitalist adventurer Richard Branson and cultural and political rebel Tariq Ali were both shaped by the experiences of 1968 – and, significantly, the years that preceded and followed it. These rebellious years shaped a generation but produced ways of thinking that, in retrospect, have turned out to be complex and ambivalent.

Out of this period came women’s liberation movements; politicised, grassroots workers’ organisations; the convergence of ‘single issue’ campaigns to address systemic issues such as military power, imperialism and the nature of the state. But this era also paved the way for capitalism’s renewal – with a new, flexible, decentralised, unregulated spirit.

Generational changes may produce a circulation of elites – the young coming to the rescue of the exhausted old.
I am sorry, but for me much of the above, and nearly all of the whole article, is straight bullshit by someone who was not in Paris in 1968 and does not know Marx.

Here is more nonsense:
The women’s liberation movement upset fundamental social relations, established cultural and material orders, including one of their pillars: the idealised ‘nuclear family,’ dominated by the male breadwinner and serviced by the dependent woman, bringing up children in the isolation of her home.

This movement did not come from nowhere or from some essential moral female force. Feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham, for example, is clear that many of its ideas grew out of “the left movements and culture of the time,” including the “heady utopianism” of ‘68, which she describes as a “springboard for women’s liberation.”
And more nonsense:

Some directly rejected the paternalism of the welfare state and state-defined socialism. They advocated and initiated participatory alternatives, including autonomous education projects, squats, communes and cooperative housing initiatives, women-centred health care, community-controlled nurseries and independent media.

Many of these alternatives were more practical than theoretical, with an unfinished, experimental character. Rather than systematic and ‘complete,’ they were scattered seeds of what had the potential to become a democracy-driven process of change.

And more nonsense:

Women’s shared experiences of subordination inspired further challenges to the dominant mentalities of the time – of individuals as atomised and separated from each other, and the collective as above the individual, solid and thing-like, as if social relations between individuals were of no significance.

They challenged both bureaucratic collectivism and the hyped-up individualism of the consumer boom, with a ‘relational’ view of society that assumed relatively enduring but transformable relations between individuals.

I am sorry: I listed it and said what it is in my eyes, but I have read FAR too much of this level of bullshit in the last 50 years to be willing to criticize it seriously. All I say is this is bullshit.

5. Marx's Relevance in Today's World: A Reflection on His 200th Birthday

This article is by Jean Batou on Truthout and originally on Le Courier. It starts as follows:

Several months before his death, Karl Marx is said to have declared: "All I know is that I am not a Marxist." Friedrich Engels gave his interpretation of this in a letter to Conrad Schmidt on August 2, 1890. Whereas Engels called for "restudying all history," an "imminently vast domain," he deplored that "the empty sentences about historic materialism … serve only to produce … relatively thin historical knowledge … an artificial systematic construction, and to allow people to believe themselves endowed with great minds."

Out of deference toward his deceased companion, in a letter on August 27 to Paul Lafargue, Engels returned to the surprising disdain of the elderly Marx for "Marxism," recalling the disabused remark of the German writer Heinrich Heine: "I sowed dragons and reaped fleas."
Yes, this is correct: Marx did insist - rather late in his life - that he was ¨not a Marxist¨. And in fact I do agree with Engels´s complaints about historical materialism (and I did not know this quotation from Engels).

Then again, I never thought this was something to criticize Marx for, if only because Marx´s ideas were far more complicated than nearly all Marxists of Marx´s own time realized. In fact, there is also this bit in this article:
Marx's thought constantly raised objections to which he proposed provisional responses. To grasp the scope of them, one must move beyond his early drafts and work plans. For example, the second edition of the Complete Works of Marx-Engels contains the preparatory work, the outlines and the successive versions of Capital: they fill 15 volumes comprising some 24,000 pages! Volume I represents only a small fraction of this corpus. On this basis, can one consider it, with its companion Volumes II and III, published by Engels on the basis of unfinished manuscripts, a final work?
No, one clearly cannot - but then I have seen very many ¨Marxists¨ (of many different kinds) in my life, but I absolutely never met anyone who has read all of the three volumes of Capital, and indeed, while I still have them, neither did I (although I read more of Marx than anyone I´ve met).

And I would not know who would plough through 15 volumes, though there may be a few.

Then again, having read more of Marx than most, and indeed having found myself the difficulties in Marx´s economics that were also - and better - exposed by Ian Steedman in his ¨Marx after Sraffa¨, I can recommend people with a serious interest in economics and in Marx, and with sufficient linear algebra, to check out the last book (which is not thick): It is decent economics, and it is, to my knowledge at least, the best reinterpretation of Marx that has been devised since Marx died, and it is by a very capable and intelligent economist.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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