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Pathfinders: Under the Ground and Over the Moon

ONE WAY for the capitalist class to prevent any future repetition of miners’ strikes, in any country, is the thrilling idea of not digging coal out of the ground but setting fire to it in situ and sucking the choking but exploitable gasses out through frackstyle L-shaped tubes (New Scientist, 15 February). Anti-frackers will probably be aghast at the idea of lighting the fires of hell under our collective feet, and there are all sorts of predictable questions about 1100 degrees of heat fracturing erstwhile impermeable layers and subsequent leaching of benzene and toluene into water boreholes, as happened at one UGC site in Queensland, Australia. But it’s worse than that.

Running Commentary: ''Communism' on the Stock Exchange'; 'Ronald Reagan'; ''Reforms' in China'; 'Redundancies in the Soviet Union'

'Communism' on the stock exchange

Among other effects of the coup in Poland was the sudden change in various prices in the West. Shares of various companies which had connections in Poland suddenly fluctuated. The dollar and the mark fell drastically on international currency exchange markets. Various metals, particularly copper, rose in price, some to all-time high spots.

"Gold", one financial commentator said, "was expected to shoot up in price in the event of anything like this happening in Poland, but surprisingly its price has not changed by anything like what everyone expected."

What can be concluded from this? Firstly, it demonstrates how capitalism is an interlinked, worldwide system, the various countries being components within it. It is not the case that each country has a separate economy, only superficially connected with other national economies.

Sting in the Tail

China's destiny

In an interesting article on China in the Guardian (18 March) John Gittings  considered, among other things, where Deng's economic reforms are heading and why Mao's policies failed. He asked:

    "What is meant by Mr Deng's famous phrase, used to justify his economic innovations, of 'socialism with Chinese Characteristics'? It is simply code , many suggest, for 'capitalism under the Chinese party rule.'"

Of course, what "many suggest" is spot-on, and Gittings adds that ordinary Chinese understand where Mao went wrong. They say: "Marx said that capitalism was a necessary stage, but Mao tried to skip it."

Marx expressed his view in his preface to Capital where he pointed out that a nation "can neither clear by bold leaps nor remove by legal enactments the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development."

Material World: North Korea - Is the Crisis Real?

Material World

It is hard to tell what is real in the ongoing Korean ‘crisis’ and what is contrived. Up to a point – after all, it is in no one’s interest to frighten the markets too badly – it suits both sides to foster a sense of crisis. For Kim Jong-un and his generals a crisis atmosphere is a way to exert pressure for full admission to the nuclear club. For the American rulers and their allies it is also a way to exert pressure – and push North Korea firmly out of the club.

Of course, a good external scare always comes in handy on the domestic front, especially at times when mass misery might otherwise fuel rebellion. It provides an excuse for deteriorating conditions of life, redirects discontent outward and rallies the populace around national leaders.

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