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Cooking the Books

Cooking the Books: The 'Engels pause'

'Engels pause' is the name given by an economic historian, Robert C. Allen, to the period in Britain when Engels wrote his Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. It was brought up by David Smith, the Economics Editor of the Sunday Times, in an article in the Times (4 October) discussing the flurry of defences of private enterprise capitalism provoked by Corbyn's speech at the Labour Party Conference.

Cooking the Books: The Wages Trap

In June we commented on a claim made by novelist Fay Weldon that women going out to work had halved the male wage (which she mistakenly blamed on feminism). We noted that, while this was a wild exaggeration, once married women going out to work became the norm this was bound to have some effect on male wages. Married women bringing in an income would mean that employers would no longer need to include in a man's wages an element to cover maintaining a wife at home.

Under the headline 'Single-earner families sliding into poverty as wages stagnate', the Times (10 July) reported on a study which lent some substance to this:

Cooking the Books: Answer on a Postcard (to Lord Finkelstein)

Lord Finkelstein, in your column in the Times (30 August) entitled ‘True socialism always ends with the Stasi’, you invited readers to send you a postcard correcting any misunderstandings on your part. Unfortunately, a postcard is not large enough.

You do correctly understand that in socialism ‘market exchange is replaced by friendly, voluntary co-operation and free provision’. Your misunderstandings begin when you say that, reading Paul Mason’s book Postcapitalism, you wondered ‘how he might get someone, for instance, to clean station platforms or do any extra shift without being paid’.

You describe as ‘preposterous’ the idea that people would be prepared to work at such jobs, or any job, ‘for nothing’.

Cooking the Books: Crises and Consciousness

Socialists have often speculated on what might spark off the emergence of the majority desire for socialism that is an essential prerequisite for its establishment. One school of thought has been that it will be a final, catastrophic economic crisis. There have been various theories as to what might provoke this – the rate of profit falling too low, external markets becoming exhausted, the banking system collapsing. In other words, that the capitalist economic system will break down mechanically forcing people to realise that socialism is the only way out.

Although these theories of final collapse are flawed and don't stand up to economic analysis, capitalism is a system characterised by regular economic downturns, some large, some small. So we can get some idea of how people react in a big economic slump, as in the 1930s and after the Great Crash of 2008.

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