Is now the time to buy gold?

28 Feb

A few days and two years ago a communist with comrades in Western Ukraine berated me for defending Russia’s SMO. In doing so, he fumed – I’ll omit the more colourful of his epithets – I was “abandoning revolutionary principles in favour of realpolitik”.

Guilty as charged. I long ago ceased to take seriously those who believe or purport to believe that capitalist regimes armed to the teeth, and with surveillance and counterinsurgency powers beyond the wildest dreams of the 20th century totalitarianisms, can be overthrown by armed bodies of workers’ militia. Least of all in the West. Its outsourcing of manufacturing, and full-on embrace of rentier  forms of profit, not only raise the question of whether we are now, as Yanis Varoufakis and other avowed Marxists claim (and yet others dispute) living not under capitalism but techno-feudalism. 1

That same outsourcing of industry – both cause and effect of our FIRE dominated economies – also erodes, I say fatally, the conditions which led Marx to see the industrial proletariat as the only force with both the incentive and the means to effect such an overthrow. 2

I still see with a Marxist eye but it’s the Marxism of political economists like Michael Hudson, Radhika Desai and Richard Wolff rather than ‘orthodoxies’ of academic or ‘revolutionary’ stripe. At the same time my focus on Russia, China and the Middle East/Western Asia – in the context of a global order whose deeper shifts have been accelerated by Ukraine and Gaza – has led me to see in political realism a more reliable guide than anything on offer from the Left. In practical terms I’m more Martyanov, Mearsheimer and Mercouris – with a soupcon  of Sachs, Orlov and Korybko – than In Defence of Marxism  or Wiz-Woz. 3

So what has this to do with the price of gold? Glad you asked. I hope it’s clear from what I write that my major concerns are for those with problems far removed from where best to stash their ill-gotten. Nevertheless, alongside the heavyweights I’ve mentioned, thinkers for whom political realism is a raison d’etre, I look also to men and women who view major events simply in terms of what they might signify for the canny investor. Men and women whose gaze, at its best, has a clarity of focus unencumbered by any inclination to see things in a predetermined way.

I mean the short and snappy podcasts of a Lena Petrova – no, not just  because she’s easy on the eye! – and the full on analyses, comparable in depth and scope to those of a Jeffrey Sachs or John Mearsheimer, of British investment advisor Alastair Macleod.

Say what you like about his drivers, here’s a man with skin in the game.

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  1. Evidence for the claim that capitalism has, in the West at least, given way to new forms of expropriation more akin to feudalism is beyond the scope of this post, though the claim itself is simple enough. What Mr Varoufakis and others argue is that profits accruing from renting out monopoly assets – real estate, insurance, money or copyrights and patents – are akin to feudalism’s appropriations on the basis of non productive land ownership. At issue is an empirical question: whether and to what extent does rentier  capital in the West have an existence independent of the extraction – through the offshore production of t-shirts, phones and all the other stuff – of surplus values elsewhere in a world whose capital-labour relations of wealth creation have for decades been globalised?
  2. I recall with some amusement an altercation, in the run up to the Brexit Referendum of 2016, with one of the Socialist Equality Party’s lesser theoretic talents outside Sheffield’s central library. When I opined that an industrial proletariat with the muscle to paralyse Britain’s economy no longer existed – then took my leave – he chased me down Surrey Street, crying repeatedly, “what about the call centre workers?”  I still frequently consult SEP’s WSWS site, by far the best funded Trotskyite organ, as a source not only of factual information but of intelligent comment too. (The cultural section of Wiz-Woz – see this on Beethoven and this on Sinead O’Connor – is outstanding.) But even its best articles have a way of pulling, like a rabbit from a hat in the concluding paragraph or two, that obligatory call for worldwide revolution as a magic bullet for each and every very real and usually well articulated problem.
  3. I seek to move beyond denunciations of the US-led West as an evil empire. Not that it isn’t, mind! But such a stance has limited power to grasp what’s going on, how it might end, and where it might lead us. I’m reading Glenn Diesen’s newly released, Ukraine War & the Eurasian World Order. Though I know from his appearances at Duran and other forums that Norwegian Glenn (I feel a song coming on) is hugely critical of Washington’s appetite for destructive chaos and endless suffering, his approach is to compare two competing frameworks: a balance of power aspired to by, inter alia, Westphalia Treaty and Concert of Europe (both of which followed, as is usually the case, major conflict); and the ‘benign hegemony’ both of Pax Romana  at its zenith, and a Pax Americana  imagined by some geo-theorists (not all of them tainted by venality, crazy bedfellows and/or plain hubris) but whose briefly shining star is already flickering. Since that opposition reflects one deeper still and long central to my own thinking, that of materialist versus idealist worldviews, a review will appear in due course.

2 Replies to “Is now the time to buy gold?

  1. Am really pleased that you are reading Glenn’s latest book and am looking forward to your review. I have been debating with myself whether to do likewise and despite its undoubted importance whether doing so constitutes a good use of precious time. I feel Glenn has already outlined its key themes and arguments in a number of lengthy interviews. This feels a little unfair on him …… but no doubt you can guide me on this!

    • Hard for me to say, Bryan. In my viewings online, Glenn has almost always been content – a good thing for the most part – to let others do the talking. Which makes this book my first meaningful exposure to his thinking. What I can say, now I’m four chapters in, that this is a stimulating and well structured read. A few minor proofing errors aside, I’m not disappointed.

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