Friday, March 13, 2009

*From The Archives- Marx vs. Keynes- A Guest Commentary

Click on title to link to archival article about the current "hot" topic of Keynesian economic policy and a Marxist response (from history) to its re-emergence as a bourgeois panacea, of sorts.

*From The Archives Of "Workers Vanguard"- Marx vs. Keynes

Markin comment:

As almost always these historical articles and polemics are purposefully helpful to clarify the issues in the struggle against world imperialism, particularly the “monster” here in America.

Workers Vanguard No. 932
13 March 2009

From the Archives of Workers Vanguard

Fiscal Fiddling Can’t Stop Depression

Marx vs. Keynes

By Joseph Seymour

The deepening economic crisis has meant the loss of jobs, homes and savings for millions of working people. It has also demonstrated the utter fallacy of the economic doctrine of monetarism, which maintained that economic crises could be minimized, if not eliminated, by adjusting the amount of money in the banking system along with interest rates. Monetarism was the gospel for bourgeois economists in the right-wing climate marked by the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 and the attendant “death of communism” triumphalism in the western imperialist countries, centrally the U.S., put more wind in the sails of the “free market” ideologues of monetarism.

Today, with the monetarist myth in tatters, bourgeois economists have rushed to embrace the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, championed the notion that capitalist economic crises could be overcome through government deficit spending. That is the idea behind President Barack Obama’s “stimulus” package, an expenditure of almost $800 billion financed by government borrowing that is supposed to “jump start” the economy. In reality, Keynesian economic schemes, no less than monetarist ones, run up against the destructive irrationality of the capitalist system, analyzed and explained by Karl Marx and highlighted by the boom-and-bust cycle.

The article reprinted below, first published in WV No. 64, 14 March 1975, presents a Marxist critique of Keynes’s economic theory.

The current extremely sharp economic downturn has produced a wave of pessimism extending from the Stock Exchange and White House to the academic redoubts of bourgeois economics. While President Ford proclaims that unemployment will not drop below 8 percent again for another two years, the president of the American Economics Association, Robert A. Gordon, declares: “I don’t think we have a body of economic theory that is of great help to use in today’s world” (Wall Street Journal, 30 December 1974).

During most of the 1960s U.S. government economic policy was dominated by Kennedyesque “whiz kids” who claimed to be able to simultaneously hold down prices and stimulate investment through adroit manipulation of fiscal “levers.” Now, however, with the onset of double-digit inflation and a slump of depression proportions, these claims are rapidly being debunked.

It was predictable that a world depression would lead to the collapse of optimism concerning Keynesian economic policies. The anti-Keynesian right (well represented in the Ford administration by the Ayn Randite Alan Greenspan and by former Wall Street bond dealer William Simon) had argued for years that government deficits must generate ever-increasing inflation, and now claims vindication.

Even the Keynesian liberals appear unsure of themselves, observing that the “trade-off” between inflation and unemployment has become most painful. Thus Sir John Hicks, one of the original architects of the “Keynesian Revolution,” has recently brought out a book entitled, significantly, The Crisis of Keynesian Economics. And revisionist Marxists who had earlier written about the “relative stability of neo-capitalism” are now dusting off their copies of Capital and asserting that its venerable truths still haunt the capitalist world.

We are witnessing a notable intellectual convergence ranging from bourgeois reactionaries (Milton Friedman) to ostensible Marxists (Ernest Mandel), and including a number of liberals (John K. Galbraith, John Hicks, Abba Lerner): Keynesian economics, which supposedly “worked” for a generation, has now been overcome, they agree, by unprecedented global inflation and the worst crisis since 1929. Despite its widespread acceptance, however, this thesis is false. Keynesian fiscal policies never did, and never could, stop the cyclical crises of overproduction which are inherent in the capitalist system.

A major world slump as severe as the present one has been possible at least since the world recession of 1958. That such a slump did not occur before 1974 is due to contingent factors and not to the effectiveness of Keynesian countermeasures. For example, in 1967 the U.S. would have had a recession except for the expansion of the Vietnam War. Output actually did fall in the first quarter of that year and there was a 1967 recession in West Germany, then the second-largest capitalist economy. Without the sudden escalation of the Vietnam War, this conjuncture would undoubtedly have caused a world economic crisis, possibly quite severe. Only an idiot objectivist could deny this historic possibility.

The fact that a major world slump did not occur in the 20 years preceding 1974 is not due to credit inflation, an ever-increasing arms budget, Keynesian stabilization policies or any other deliberate government policy. There has been no fundamental change in the structure of postwar capitalism that would justify the various labels popular in liberal and revisionist Marxist theorizing—e.g., neo-capitalism, the mixed economy, the permanent war economy, etc.

Myths of the “Keynesian Revolution”

John Maynard Keynes was not responsible for developing or even for popularizing the policy that capitalist governments should increase their expenditures during an economic downturn, financing this through borrowing rather than increased taxation. This bourgeois reform measure has a long and respectable history going back to at least the 1890s.

Thus the minority report of the English Poor Law Commission of 1909 stated, “We think that the Government can do a great deal to regularize the aggregate demand for labour as between one year and another, by a deliberate arrangement of its work of a capital nature.” In 1921 President Harding’s Conference on Unemployment recommended expanded public works during the postwar downturn, a recommendation endorsed by such conservative organizations as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Moreover, in 1930 a bill was introduced into the U.S. Senate (No. 3059) calling for “advanced planning and regulated construction of certain public works, for the stabilization of industry, and for the prevention of unemployment during periods of business depression.” This principle was incorporated into the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, a half decade before the popularization of Keynesian economics.

What, then, is the significance of Keynesianism—why all the hullabaloo? While practical politicians had advocated and partly attempted expanded government expenditure during economic downturns, orthodox bourgeois economic theory (particularly in English-speaking countries) still held that slumps were easily self-correcting through a fall in the rate of interest. According to the textbooks, government policy during a downturn should be to expand bank reserves and run a balanced budget.

What Keynes did was to provide a theoretical justification, within the framework of bourgeois economic doctrine, for the deficit spending which most capitalist governments practiced in the 1930s, as well as in earlier slumps. The “Keynesian Revolution” was a revolution in university economics departments, in the writing of textbooks, not in actual government policy.

In the post-World War II period, capitalist politicians have claimed that the relative economic stability has been due to their effective use of Keynesian stabilization policies. This assertion—that capitalist governments can and do control the economy for the benefit of “the people”—is partly bourgeois propaganda and partly bourgeois false consciousness.

The notion that the proportion of government expenditure has increased greatly since World War II is so widespread that it is taken as a matter of course by virtually all political tendencies, including bourgeois reaction, Keynesian liberalism, social-democratic and Stalinist reformism, and revisionist “Marxism” à la Mandel. In truth, the supposed expanded role of state expenditure is the greatest of all myths of the “Keynesian Revolution.”

It can be easily disproved by a few statistics which indicate government expenditure as a percentage of gross national product for the major capitalist powers during the interwar period (1920-39) and during the 1961-70 decade:

Country 1921-1939 1961-1970
France 14% 13%
Germany1 18% 16%
Great Britain2 21% 19%
Japan 10% 8%
United States 11% 20%

Sources: OECD, National Accounts, 1961-1972; U.S. Department of Commerce, Long-Term Economic Growth, 1860-1970; Mitchell, Abstract of British Historical Statistics; Stolper, The German Economy, 1870-1940; Maddison, Economic Growth in the West; Ohkawa and Rosovsky, Japanese Economic Growth.

1German interwar figures only cover 1925-39.

2British figures are based on national product net of depreciation, giving them a slight upward bias relative to the other countries.

These few figures utterly destroy the notion of a “Keynesian Revolution” involving major structural changes in the capitalist system following World War II. Only in the United States was there a significant rise in the level of government expenditure. In all other major capitalist countries, the weight of the state budget in the economy declined slightly. And the expanded role of the state budget in the U.S. is entirely accounted for by the greatly increased military expenditure required by the emergence of American imperialism as world gendarme in the postwar period.

Moreover, the relative weight of military expenditure in the U.S. has been steadily declining since the Korean War, except for the Vietnam War years. In 1954 (the year following the end of the Korean War) the military budget accounted for 11 percent of the U.S. gross national product (GNP); by 1965 (the year before the Vietnam buildup) the figure had fallen to 7 percent; and in 1973 military spending accounted for only 6 percent of GNP (Economic Report of the President, 1974). So much for the “permanent war economy” theory!

Marxism vs. Keynesianism

Before undertaking a Marxist criticism of Keynesianism it is necessary to indicate more precisely what it is that the latter asserts. According to the pre-Keynesian orthodoxy of bourgeois economics, a fall in the volume of investment that precipitated a slump would also free money capital, which in turn would enter the loan market and drive down the rate of interest. This fall in interest rates would then stimulate investment to the point that full employment of resources was restored. All the government had to do was to see that the crisis did not disorganize the banking system, i.e., to ensure that the mechanisms of credit expansion remained functioning.

Keynes accepted the theory that a sufficient fall of interest rates would restore a full-employment level of investment in a slump. His major work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, is an attempt to explain why such a sufficient fall of interest rates does not occur. Keynes asserted that rentiers held some notion of a normal rate of interest. If the rate falls much below this, lenders will expect it to rise again, thereby producing a capital loss on bonds purchased at the lower rates. In a general sense, Keynesianism holds that at some abnormally low rate of interest (termed the “liquidity trap”) lenders will hoard money in anticipation of higher rates in the future. This is less an explanatory theory than a description of the monetary aspect of a crisis/slump.

From these premises Keynes argued that government efforts to expand money and credit during a slump would be ineffective, producing simply money hoards and/or excess bank reserves. Therefore, he argued that increased state expenditures would have to substitute for inadequate capital investment. This, in a nutshell, was the “Keynesian Revolution.”

In order to understand the difference between Marxist and bourgeois (including Keynesian) analyses of economic cycles, it is necessary to take account of a fundamental difference concerning the role played by the rate of interest. In bourgeois economics the level of investment is determined by the difference between the rate of interest on borrowed money capital and the rate of profit on the physical means of production. As long as the interest rate is substantially below the profit rate entrepreneurs will presumably borrow and invest until this gap is eliminated. A historical tendency for the rate of profit to fall, projected by many bourgeois economists (including Keynes), is not viewed as a fundamental barrier to expanded production. As long as the rate of interest is sufficiently low, a full-employment level of investment is supposedly assured.

In contrast, for Marx the level of investment is determined by the rate of profit on the privately owned means of production. The interest rate is part of and governed by the profit rate on the real means of production. During a slump, despite abnormally low rates of interest, loanable capital remains unused. Thus Marx referred to “the phase of the industrial cycle immediately after a crisis, when loanable capital lies idle in great masses” (Capital, Vol. III, Chapter 30).

The validity of the Marxist position was demonstrated during the late 1930s when excess bank reserves (an index of the difference between actual loans and the legally authorized lending capacity) were at the highest level in U.S. history, in spite of the unusually low interest rates. The exact same phenomenon is occurring in the present depression. Bank deposits in the U.S. are now declining at an annual rate of 0.6 percent as bank loans fall, although the falling interest rates are now even lower than the rate of inflation (International Herald Tribune, 15-16 February). The expansion and contraction of credit is a passive result, not a cause, of changes in production.

Underlying the analytical difference over the role of credit and interest between bourgeois and Marxist economics is the concept of class. In bourgeois economics there is no capitalist class. Instead, atomized non-capitalist entrepreneurs borrow from equally atomized rentiers, using the funds to establish productive enterprises. Entrepreneurs and rentiers are linked solely through the rate of interest.

According to Marxism, however, the capitalist class is a definite concrete group composed of those who own and have a monopoly over the means of production (including loanable capital). The capitalist class is bound together by innumerable personal, familial and organizational filiations; the atomized non-capitalist entrepreneur—the central figure of bourgeois economic theory—is a fiction. The capacity to borrow is strictly limited by one’s ownership of the capital assets required for security against loans. In reality, credit under capitalism is always rationed, on the basis of specific monopoly complexes involving financial, industrial and commercial capitalists. The clearest example of this is the Japanese zaibatsu system, but the same phenomenon holds throughout the capitalist world.

From the Marxist standpoint the fundamental fallacy of Keynesian economics is the assertion that the expansion of the government sector will leave the rate of profit, and therefore the level of private investment, unchanged. Whether financed through borrowing or taxation, government expenditure constitutes overhead costs of the capitalist system—a part of the total social capital expended and replaced, denoted by “constant capital” in Marx’s equation for the components of the commodity product. (For a fuller discussion of this question, see “Myth of Neo-Capitalism,” RCY Newsletter No. 10, January-February 1972.)

Assuming, as Marx did, that the share of wages of productive workers (variable capital) is determined in the labor market, then an increase in government overhead costs (constant capital) must reduce the potential surplus value and therefore the rate of profit as well. A constantly expanding government sector would tend to drive down the rate of profit, progressively arresting private capitalist investment.

The Limits of Mattick’s “Mixed Economy”

Published in 1969, Paul Mattick’s book Marx and Keynes, which carries the more indicative subtitle, The Limits of the Mixed Economy, accepts the common revisionist/reformist/liberal view that for a certain historic period Keynesianism produced “prosperity”:

“Government induced production may even bolster the rate of economic growth. Conditions of ‘prosperity’ more impressive than those brought forth under laissez-faire conditions may arise.... At any rate, recent economic history has demonstrated the possibility of a ‘prosperous’ development of a mixed economy.”

However, Mattick at least makes a serious attempt to develop the internal contradictions of Keynesian economic policy and holds that increased government expenditure must eventually destroy capitalist stability:

“Once non-profit production becomes an institutionalized part of the economy, a vicious circle begins to operate. Government production is begun because private capital accumulation is diminishing. Using this method diminishes private capital accumulation even more; so non-profit production is increased.... The limits of private capital production are thus, finally, the limits of government induced production.”

The most orthodox of the various revisionist theoreticians of postwar capitalism (e.g., Mandel, Paul Sweezy, Michael Kidron), Mattick is the most grudging in giving ground before the claims of Keynesianism. In contrast to Mandel and Sweezy, Mattick’s work has the virtue of recognizing that expanded government expenditure drives down the rate of profit on private capital and therefore inhibits productive investment. However, Mattick would have been more consistent with Marxist economics if instead of treating government expenditure as a non-profit component of surplus value he treated it as a subtraction from the gross value of output, in the form of constant capital expended and replaced.

Mattick’s work is a partially correct explanation of why those capitalist countries bearing a heavy burden of government expenditure (the U.S., Great Britain) have grown much slower than those economies with a relatively limited state sector (Japan, France). Yet his theory cannot explain the onset of a major world depression, nor does Mattick project such a development. The logic of his theoretical model is for progressive stagnation, not a general world slump.

According to Mattick’s model, a sharp fall in private investment such as occurred in 1974 should have been preceded and caused by a sharp rise in the share of government expenditure. But this did not at all happen during the 1972-73 boom. The share of government outlays in the advanced capitalist countries remained virtually unchanged during that period, as can be seen from the following figures:

Government Expenditures as Percentage of GNP

Country 1971 1973
France 12% 12%
Japan 9% 9%
United States 22% 22%
West Germany 17% 18%

Source: OECD, Economic Outlook, December 1972 and December 1974.

Thus even at the empirical level it is indisputable that the current world economic crisis cannot be attributed to the limits of Keynesianism, at least not in the sense of intolerably large government expenditure relative to private capitalist production.

The Mandelian School of Falsification

In “The Generalized Recession of the International Capitalist Economy” (Inprecor, 16 January 1975) Ernest Mandel, theoretician-leader of the pseudo-Trotskyist United Secretariat, attempts a major analysis of the world conjuncture. The article begins with a statement of self-praise to the effect that the author, unlike many others, always rejected the idea that Keynesian economic policies could stabilize capitalist industrial cycles:

“While the recession may be a surprise to all those in bourgeois and petty-bourgeois circles and in the workers movement who had been taken in by the claim that the governments of Capital endowed with neo-Keynesian techniques would henceforth be in a position to ‘control the cycle,’ it was foreseen and predicted by our movement, almost to the date.”

And who are these unnamed figures in the workers movement who believed—oh, how naively—that “neo-Keynesian techniques” could “control the cycle”? Perhaps Mandel is referring to the author of the following excerpts from a well-known book on Marxist economics published in 1962:

“Since the Second World War, capitalism has experienced four marked recessions: in 1948-49, 1953-54, 1957-58, and 1960-61. It has had no grave crisis, and certainly nothing of the dimensions of 1929 or of 1938. Have we here a new phenomenon in the history of capitalism? We do not think it necessary to deny this, as certain Marxist theoreticians do.... The origins of the phenomenon are connected with all the features of the phase of capitalist decline which we have listed. The capitalist economy of this phase tends to ensure greater stability both of consumption and of investment than in the era of free competition, or than during the first phase of monopoly capitalism; it tends toward a reduction in cyclical fluctuations, resulting above all from the increasing intervention of the state in economic life.” [emphasis in original]

What is this supposedly Marxist work which claims that state intervention has ensured “greater stability” and “a reduction of cyclical fluctuations”? It is entitled Marxist Economic Theory (the excerpts are from Chapter 14) and is written by one Ernest Mandel.

To be fair to Mandel, it should be noted that he always hedges his bets. He has not completely rejected the efficacy of Keynesian countercyclical measures. Buried in the Inprecor article is a statement that governmental intervention can arrest and reverse the present world economic crisis:

“The recession is precisely a crisis of overproduction whose breadth and duration are limited by an injection of inflationary buying power. Thus, if the economy is refloated by means of such injections—first of all in West Germany, then in the United States and Japan—the international capitalist economy will avert a grave depression this time.”

If this were possible, one wonders why the capitalist governments have let things go so far.

Despite his usual fine-print escape clauses, Mandel’s latest contribution is a dishonest repudiation of the analysis of contemporary capitalism expressed in his principal writings during the 1960s. Having served its purpose as an impressionistic justification for opportunist policies of adaptation to the labor bureaucracy, “neocapitalism” has now been discreetly removed from the Mandelian vocabulary.

A Professional Impressionist Views the Conjuncture

Having “disappeared” his belief in the efficacy of Keynesian stabilization policies, Mandel resorts to various ad hoc theories to explain the present conjuncture. His central theme is why there is a world crisis now, whereas during the past 20 years the various national slumps (sometimes severe) were largely isolated in time from one another. As Mandel puts it:

“The generalized recession will be the most serious recession in the post-war period, precisely because it is generalized. The lack of synchronization of the industrial cycle during the 1948-68 period reduced the breadth of recessions.”

It is an indisputable empirical fact that since the 1958 recession (not since 1948 as Mandel contends), the various national economic downturns have not reinforced and have partly offset each other. This statement can be transformed from an empirical description into a causal theory only if it is asserted that the absence of conjunctural synchronization was not due to contingent factors, but rather was inherent in the structure of postwar capitalism (at least until recently). This is precisely what Mandel now seeks to demonstrate:

“This synchronization is not an accidental feature. It results from deeper economic transformations that occurred during the long period of expansion that preceded the recession.”

Mandel advances three reasons to support this thesis. The first is that the world economy in the l950s-1960s was not sufficiently integrated (!) to permit a generalized crisis. But during that period, the world economy became sufficiently integrated, particularly due to the expansion of multinational firms:

“Internationalization of production took new leaps forward, marked by advances in the international division of labor among all the imperialist countries. From the standpoint of the organization of capital, this reflected itself in the rise of multinational firms which produced surplus value in a great number of countries simultaneously....”

Apparently it really is necessary to point out to Mandel that the world economy has been sufficiently integrated to generate international crises/slumps for more than a century! The principal basis of that integration is world commodity trade and its associated complex of financial claims. The principal “multinational firms” which extract surplus value in a “great number of countries simultaneously” are today, as they have been for centuries, the great banks, not industrial corporations.

World crises are marked and intensified above all by major bank failures: the Austrian Credit-Anstalt in 1931, Bankhaus Herstatt in West Germany and Franklin National Bank in the U.S. in 1974. The partial displacement of banks by industrial firms in financing international trade and investment has a certain effect on present-day capitalism. But it certainly does not qualitatively raise the level of international economic integration, permitting world economic crises for the first time.

Mandel’s second reason is that the displacement of the dollar exchange standard by managed fluctuating rates in 1971 has prevented competitive devaluation, thus requiring simultaneous deflationary policies:

“ soon as the collapse of the international monetary system led to the system of floating exchange rates, that is, as soon as it became impossible to resort to sharp devaluations to boost exports, all governments were obliged by interimperialist competition to apply an antiinflationary policy simultaneously.” [emphasis in original]

This argument is simply false, totally wrong. The fixed exchange rate system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944 was deflationary and acted as a limit to deficit spending. Several prominent British Keynesians, such as Roy Harrod and James Meade, long advocated fluctuating exchange rates in order to pursue more expansionary monetary and fiscal policies.

Before August 1971 competitive devaluation was exceptional, to be used only in extremis; today it is the rule. During the 1950s and 1960s governments often resorted to deflationary measures to protect an overvalued exchange rate (for instance, the policies of the second Eisenhower administration, the austerity program of the early Gaullist regime and the “stop-go” policies of various British governments before the 1968 devaluation of the pound).

Mandel’s third reason is that since periods of national economic slump are becoming longer they are more likely to overlap with recessions in other countries:

“The phases of stagnation, and even recession, are beginning to be longer. Obviously, this leads to synchronization. When they occur in a dozen countries at once, recessions that last six months are less easily surmounted than recessions that last two years.”

This is, of course, a statistical truism. However, since the prolongation of an economic crisis in one country is strongly influenced by simultaneous slumps in the rest of the world, Mandel’s reasoning is completely circular. Thus his third “reason” is no reason at all but simply another way of describing a general world downturn.

In short, of Mandel’s three reasons why a general world slump is occurring now but was not possible in the preceding period, the first is irrelevant, the second is false and the third is meaningless.

Is Inflation the Achilles Heel of Keynesianism?

Virtually all liberal bourgeois, reformist and revisionist economists maintain that the only obstacle to effective Keynesian policies is inflation. Expanded government expenditure can always produce full employment, they say, but sometimes only at the cost of intolerable rates of inflation. From bourgeois reactionaries like Milton Friedman to the pseudo-Marxist Ernest Mandel there is agreement that Keynesian policies must generate ever-higher levels of inflation. Is this contention valid?

The accelerated inflation of the past few years is an indisputable empirical fact. In the period 1961-71 consumer prices in the advanced capitalist countries increased at an annual rate of 3.7 percent; in 1972 this rose to 4.7 percent, in 1973 to 7.7 percent and in 1974 to 14.1 percent (OECD, Economic Outlook, December 1974)! Is this accelerated inflation an inevitable result of 20 years of Keynesian policies?

Earlier in this article it was pointed out that the share of government expenditure did not increase during the 1972-73 boom. Thus the price explosion during the past few years cannot be attributed to ever-greater budget deficits to finance ever-greater government spending. The very sharpness of the price increases since 1971 argues against the theory that it is an organic, inevitable outcome of a generation of deficit spending.

What then is the cause of the increased inflation of the past three years? One major cause has already been touched on. The dollar exchange standard, which collapsed in August 1971, had an effect partially similar to the pre-World War I gold standard. The maintenance of a fixed exchange rate served as an external limit to the expansion of domestic money and credit. Since 1971 capitalist governments have taken the “easy way” out of balance-of-payments deficits by allowing their currencies to depreciate. Exchange-rate devaluation further feeds domestic inflation, producing a vicious spiral. Britain and Italy are the clearest examples of this process.

The second reason for the accelerated inflation is that the sharp 1972-73 world boom had an effect on agricultural and raw material supplies similar to that of a major war. From the Korean War through 1971 the terms of trade for agricultural products/raw materials had deteriorated relative to manufactures, producing a fundamental imbalance in global productive capacity. During 1972 when industrial output in the advanced capitalist countries increased by 8 percent, global food production actually fell slightly (OECD, Economic Outlook, December 1973). These physical shortages quickly generated speculation, hoarding and cartel manipulation. Between 1971 and 1973 the index of world raw material prices increased by over 80 percent, as did the price of internationally traded food products (OECD, Economic Outlook, December 1974). Thus two factors—the widespread resort to competitive devaluation after 1971 and the effect of the 1972-73 boom on agricultural and raw material supplies—account for the price explosion of the last few years.

Even discounting the fact that it is empirically false, the argument that Keynesianism is now ineffective because it leads to intolerable inflation is not a fundamental but rather a temporary, conjunctural one. As an attempted objective analysis it is similar to the present position of certain right-wing Keynesians, such as Federal Reserve Board chairman Arthur F. Burns and Ford’s economic adviser William Fellner, who contend that a few years of high-unemployment slump are needed to drain the inflationary pressures out of the world capitalist system. After that, they contend, Keynesian policies can again produce 10 or 20 years of low-inflation, mild-recession expansion.

If there is no major war nor a mass revolutionary upheaval in West Europe during the next few years (both are genuine possibilities), the world depression should deepen this year, giving way to high-unemployment stagnation lasting at least through 1976. If this occurs, in two years the rate of inflation will be greatly reduced; it already shows numerous signs of slowing. Those leftists whose central argument against bourgeois economic reformism is that it leads to ever-accelerating inflation will then find themselves theoretically defenseless against the claims of resurgent Keynesianism.

The “theory” that for a generation capitalist governments were able to prevent major crises and stimulate exceptional economic expansion has an implacable revisionist logic. Whatever the subjective attitudes of its proponents this view leads straight to the conclusion that we have been living in an epoch of capitalist economic stability. Such arguments have nothing in common with Marxism. On the contrary, the Transitional Program of the Fourth International has as its corner-stone the Leninist theory of imperialism as the highest (last) stage of capitalism, its epoch of decay and a period of wars and revolutions. This must be our perspective.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

*The Revolutionary Ebb- Christopher Hill's English Revolution

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for James Harrington one of the republican theorists (and founder of the Rota Club) mentioned by Christopher Hill in the book reviewed below.

Book Review

The Experience Of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries, Penguin Books, New York, 1984

The first two paragraphs here have been used elsewhere in reviews of Professor Hill’s work.

The name and work of the late British Marxist historian Christopher Hill should be fairly well known to readers of this space who follow my reviews on the subject of the 17th century English Revolution that has legitimately been described as the first one of the modern era and that has had profound repercussions, especially on the American Revolution and later events on this continent. Christopher Hill started his research in the 1930’s under the tremendous influence of Karl Marx on the sociology of revolution, the actuality of the Soviet experience in Russia and world events such as the Great Depression of that period and the lead up to World War II.

Although Hill was an ardent Stalinist, seemingly to the end, his works since they were not as subjected to the conforming pressures of the Soviet political line that he adhered to are less influenced by that distorting pressure. More importantly, along the way Professor Hill almost single-handedly brought to life the under classes that formed the backbone of the plebeian efforts during that revolution. We would, surely know far less about Ranters, panters, Shakers, Quakers and fakers without the sharp eye of the good professor. All to the tune of, and in the spirit of John Milton’s "Paradise Lost", except instead of trying to explain the ways of god to man the Professor tried to explain ways of our earlier plebeian brothers and sisters to us.

In a sense this is a companion book to Hill’s earlier work on Milton’s role in the English Revolution and its aftermath that I have previously reviewed in this space (“Milton And The English Revolution”). However, the question posed by Hill has larger implications for radicals today. We have become, if we are in any way familiar with the trajectories of subsequent revolutions, especially the French and the Russian, painfully aware that revolutions flow and ebb. Not all the way back to the old regime, for the most part, but far enough back to cause anguish and demoralization in those who stood in the forefront of the revolution when it counted.

Not everyone, however, reacted to the new political realities in the same way. Some welcomed the new ‘conservative’ regimes, some stood on the side lines and some pondered what to do next. Thus we have such counterposed representative figures as Babeuf and Talleyrand in the French revolution or Trotsky and Molotov in the Russian. Needless to say, this phenomenon takes on a life of its own. However, as Professor Hill argues for the English Revolution and we should argue today this is no reason to give up on revolutions. Rather it is more necessary to learn to do a better job next time, if one gets the chance.

As for the English Revolution itself Professor Hill goes through his paces in pointing out the reactions of various factions and grouping within English society as the revolutionary events unfolded. Certainly the period just prior to the restoration was significantly difference from that early euphoria in the days of the military fight against the king. Thus for those religious radicals who thought that 1640 meant ‘Second Coming’ their reactions, most notably that of the Quakers after 1960, were to become quiet and inward-looking. For those like James Harrington and the Rota Club the restoration was more of a return to equilibrium and thus their reactions were mixed. Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, is the ideal representative of this trend. The former Milton associate the poet Dryden can be taken as more extreme abject apologist.

For those intimately identified with the execution of Charles I the choices were grimmer. The executioner’s ax or flight. For those who were disturbed by the excess of the lower orders, like the clergyman Baxter, the restoration represented divine retribution against the ‘ungodly’. And for the literary lights like Milton it was time to reflect on the struggle and how to drive it forward even if this was a more circumspect propaganda effort than his previous work of behalf of the Commonwealth. Once again, for those familiar with Professor Hill’s work he has, like his muse Milton, tried to explain the ways of the English Revolution to today’s plebes. Kudos.


If John Milton was the literary muse of the English Revolution then the Diggers and their leader, Gerrard Winstanley, were the political muses.

The World Turned Upside Down

We will not worship the God they serve, a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve.
In 1649 to St. George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs.
We come in peace, they said, to dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common and make the waste
ground grow

This earth divided we will make whole
So it may be a common treasury for all "**
The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy or sell the earth for private gain

By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command
They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven, or they damn us into hell

We will not worship the God they serve,
a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve
We work and eat together, we need no swords
We will not bow to masters, nor pay rent to the lords

Still we are free, though we are poor
Ye Diggers all, stand up for glory, stand up now!
From the men of property the orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers'

Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed - only the vision lingers on
Ye poor take courage, ye rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
They came in peace - the order came to cut them down


*Poet's Corner- John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud"

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Julian Glover Reciting John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud".


There is no accounting for tastes sometimes but I have always liked John Donne's poem "Death Be Not Proud". The recent past has been one where deaths have occurred in my family and among some close friends and so naturally I have thought of this poem. Yes, I know Donne was one of those metaphysical poets that were always harping on the "divided heart" or "two heart" literary tropes associated with that poetic style. Still that last line always seems right to me concerning the vagaries of our attitudes toward death.

Death, as the noted Marxist historian and biographer of Leon Trotsky Issac Deutscher once noted, is still one of the three great tragedies of life that that we face (sex and hunger being the other two, the last of which Marxists have focused their struggles on eliminating). Maybe in a more just future we will be able to cope with its terrors better. I note, as well, that the early 17th century when clergyman Donne wrote his poems and epistles is still considered the great age of meditation on the theme of death in the English-speaking world. But enough- here is his poem.

Guest Commentary

John Donne

"Death be not proud, though some have called thee"

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, 5
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, 10
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

*Poet's Corner- Andrew Marvell's "Upon The Death Of Oliver Cromwell

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for Andrew Marvell.

A Poem upon the Death of O.C.- Andrew Marvell

That Providence which had so long the care
Of Cromwell's head, and numbred ev'ry hair,
Now in its self (the Glass where all appears)
Had seen the period of his golden Years:
And thenceforth onely did attend to trace,
What death might least so sair a Life deface.
The People, which what most they fear esteem,
Death when more horrid so more noble deem;
And blame the last Act, like Spectators vain,
Unless the Prince whom they applaud be slain.
Nor Fate indeed can well refuse that right
To those that liv'd in War, to dye in Fight.
But long his Valour none had left that could
Indanger him, or Clemency that would.
And he whom Nature all for Peace had made,
But angry Heaven unto War had sway'd,
And so less useful where he most desir'd,
For what he least affected was admir'd,
Deserved yet an End whose ev'ry part
Should speak the wondrous softness of his Heart.
To Love and Grief the fatal Writ was sign'd;
(Those nobler weaknesses of humane Mind,
From which those Powers that issu'd the Decree,
Although immortal, found they were not free.)
That they, to whom his Breast still open lyes,
In gentle Passions should his Death disguise:
And leave succeeding Ages cause to mourn,
As long as Grief shall weep, or Love shall burn.
Streight does a slow and languishing Disease
Eliza, Natures and his darling, seize.
Her when an infant, taken with her Charms,
He oft would flourish in his mighty Arms;



And, lest their force the tender burthen wrong,
Slacken the vigour of his Muscles strong;
Then to the Mothers brest her softly move,
Which while she drain'd of Milk she fill'd with Love:
But as with riper Years her Virtue grew,
And ev'ry minute adds a Lustre new;
When with meridian height her Beauty shin'd,
And thorough that sparkled her fairer Mind;
When She with Smiles serene and Words discreet
His hidden Soul at ev'ry turn could meet;
Then might y' ha' daily his Affection spy'd,
Doubling that knot which Destiny had ty'd:
While they by sence, not knowing, comprehend
How on each other both their Fates depend.
With her each day the pleasing Hours he shares,
And at her Aspect calms her growing Cares;
Or with a Grandsire's joy her Children sees
Hanging about her neck or at his knees.
Hold fast dear Infants, hold them both or none;
This will not stay when once the other's gone.
A silent fire now wasts those Limbs of Wax,
And him with his tortur'd Image racks.
So the Flowr with'ring which the Garden crown'd,
The sad Root pines in secret under ground.
Each Groan he doubled and each Sigh he sigh'd,
Repeated over to the restless Night.
No trembling String compos'd to numbers new,
Answers the touch in Notes more sad more true.
She lest He grieve hides what She can her pains,
And He to lessen hers his Sorrow feigns:
Yet both perceiv'd, yet both conceal'd their Skills,
And so diminishing increast their ills:
That whether by each others grief they fell,
Or on their own redoubled, none can tell.
And now Eliza's purple Locks were shorn,
Where she so long her Fathers fate had worn:
And frequent lightning to her Soul that flyes,
Devides the Air, and opens all the Skyes:



And now his Life, suspended by her breath,
Ran out impetuously to hasting Death.
Like polish'd Mirrours, so his steely Brest
Had ev'ry figure of her woes exprest;
And with the damp of her last Gasps obscur'd,
Had drawn such staines as were not to be cur'd.
Fate could not either reach with single stroke,
But the dear Image fled the Mirrour broke.
Who now shall tell us more of mournful Swans,
Of Halcyons kind, or bleeding Pelicans?
No downy breast did ere so gently beat,
Or fan with airy plumes so soft an heat.
For he no duty by his height excus'd,
Nor though a Prince to be a Man refus'd:
But rather then in his Eliza's pain
Not love, not grieve, would neither live nor reign.
And in himself so oft immortal try'd,
Yet in compassion of another dy'd.
So have I seen a Vine, whose lasting Age
Of many a Winter hath surviv'd the rage.
Under whose shady tent Men ev'ry year
At its rich bloods expence their Sorrows chear,
If some dear branch where it extends its life
Chance to be prun'd by an untimely knife,
The Parent-Tree unto the Grief succeeds,
And through the Wound its vital humour bleeds;
Trickling in watry drops, whose flowing shape
Weeps that it falls ere fix'd into a Grape.
So the dry Stock, no more that spreading Vine,
Frustrates the Autumn and the hopes of Wine.
A secret Cause does sure those Signs ordain
Fore boding Princes falls, and seldom vain.
Whether some Kinder Pow'rs, that wish us well,
What they above cannot prevent, foretell;
Or the great World do by consent presage,
As hollow Seas with future Tempests rage:
Or rather Heav'n, which us so long fore sees,
Their fun'rals celebrate while it decrees.



But never yet was any humane Fate
By nature solemniz'd with so much state.
He unconcern'd the dreadful passage crost;
But oh what pangs that Death did Nature cost!
First the great Thunder was shot off, and sent
The Signal from the starry Battlement.
The Winds receive it, and its force out-do,
As practising how they could thunder too:
Out of the Binders Hand the Sheaves they tore,
And thrash'd the Harvest in the airy floore;
Or of huge Trees, whose growth with his did rise,
The deep foundations open'd to the Skyes.
Then heavy Showres the winged Tempests dead,
And pour the Deluge ore the Chaos head.
The Race of warlike Horses at his Tomb
Offer themselves in many an Hecatomb;
With pensive head towards the ground they fall,
And helpless languish at the tainted Stall.
Numbers of Men decrease with pains unknown,
And hasten not to see his Death their own.
Such Tortures all the Elements unfix'd,
Troubled to part where so exactly mix'd.
And as through Air his wasting Spirits flow'd,
The Universe labour'd beneath their load.
Nature it seem'd with him would Nature vye;
He with Eliza, It with him would dye.
He without noise still travell'd to his End,
As silent Suns to meet the Night descend.
The Stars that for him fought had only pow'r
Left to determine now his fatal Hour,
Which, since they might not hinder, yet they cast
To chuse it worthy of his Glories past.
No part of time but bore his mark away
Of honour; all the Year was Cromwell's day
But this, of all the most auspicious found,
Twice had in open field him Victor crown'd
When up the armed Mountains of Dunbar
He march'd, and through deep Severn ending war.



What day should him eternize but the same
That had before immortaliz'd his Name?
That so who ere would at his Death have joy'd,
In their own Griefs might find themselves imploy'd;
But those that sadly his departure griev'd,
Yet joy'd remembring what he once atcheiv'd.
And the last minute his victorious Ghost
Gave chase to Ligny on the Belgick Coast.
Here ended all his mortal toyles: He lay'd
And slept in Peace under the Lawrel Shade.
O Cromwell, Heavens Favourite! To none
Have such high honours from above been shown:
For whom the Elements we Mourners see,
And Heav'n it self would the great Herald be;
Which with more Care set forth his Obsequies
Then those of Moses hid from humane Eyes;
As jealous only here lest all be less,
That we could to his Memory express.
Then let us to our course of Mourning keep:
Where Heaven leads, 'tis Piety to weep.
Stand back ye Seas, and shrunk beneath the vail
Of your Abysse, with cover'd Head bewail
Your Monarch: We demand not your supplies
To compass in our Isle; our Tears suffice;
Since him away the dismal Tempest rent,
Who once more joyn'd us to the Continent;
Who planted England on the Flandrick shoar,
And stretch'd our frontire to the Indian Ore;
Whose greater Truths obscure the Fables old,
Whether of British Saints or Worthy's told;
And in a valour less'ning Arthur's deeds,
For Holyness the Confessor exceeds.
He first put Armes into Religions hand,
And tim'rous Conscience unto Courage man'd:
The Souldier taught that inward Mail to wear,
And fearing God how they should nothing fear.
Those Strokes he said will pierce through all below
Where those that strike from Heaven fetch their Blow.
Note: The remainder is supplied from Ms Eng.poet.d.49



Astonish'd armyes did their flight prepare:
And Cityes strong were stormed by his prayer.
Of that for ever Prestons field shall tell
The Story, and impregnable Clonmell.
And where the sandy mountain Fenwick scald
The Sea between yet henee his pray'r prevail'd.
What man was ever so in Heav'n obey'd
Since the commanded Sun ore Gibeon stayd.
In all his warrs needs must he triumph, when
He conquer'd God still ere he fought with men.
Hence though in battle none so brave or fierce
Yet him the adverse steel could never pierce:
Pitty it seem'd to hurt him more that felt
Each wound himself which he to others delt,
Danger it self refusing to offend
So loose an enemy so fast a freind.
Friendship that sacred versue long das claime
The first foundation of his house and name.
But within one its narrow limitts fall
His tendernesse extended unto all:
And that deep soule through every chanell flows
Where kindly nature loves it self to lose.
More strong affections never reason serv'd
Yet still affected most what best deservd.
If he Eliza lov'd to that degree
(Though who more worstly to be lov'd then she)
If so indulgent to his own, how deare
To him the children of the Highest were?



For her he once did natures tribute pay:
For these his life adventur'd every day.
And it would be found could we his thoughts have
Their griefs struck deepest if Eliza's last.
What prudence more then humane did he need
To keep so deare, so diff'ring mindes agreed?
The worser sort as conscious of their ill,
Lye weak and easy to the rulers will:
But to the good (too many or too few).
All law is uselesse all reward is due.
Oh ill advis'd if not for love for shame.
Spare yet your own if you neglect his fame.
Least others dare to think your reale a maske
And you to govern only Heavens taske.
Valour, Religion, Friendship, Prudence dy'd
At once with him and all that's good beside:
And rue deaths refuse natures dreg's confin'd
To loathsome life Alas are left behinde:
Where we (so once we us'd) shall now no more
To fetch day presse about his chamber door;
From which he issu'd with that awfull state
It seem'd Mars broke through Janus double gate:
Yet alwayes temper'd with an Aire so mild
No Aprill suns that ere so gently smil'd:
No more shall heare that powerfull language charm.
Whose force oft spar'd the labour of his arm:



No more shall follow where he spent the dayes
In warres in counsell, or in pray'r, and praise,
Whose meanest acts he would himself advance
As ungirt David to the Arks did dance.
All All is gone of ours or his delight
In horses fierce wild deer or armour bright.
Francisca faire can nothing now but weep
Nor with soft notes shall sing his cares asleep.
I saw him dead, a leaden slumber lyes
And mortall sleep over those wakefull eys:
Those gentle Rayes under the lidds were fled
Which through his lookes that piercing sweetnesse she
That port which so Majestique was and strong,
Loose and depriv'd of vigour stretch'd along:
All wither'd, all discolour'd, pale and wan,
How much another thing, no more thatman?
Oh humane glory vaine, Oh death, Oh wings,
Oh worthlesse worth. Oh transitory things.
Yet dwelt that greatnesse in his shape decay'd
That still though dead greater than death he lay'd.
And in his alter'd face you something faigne
That threatens death he yet will live againe.
Not much unlike the saired Oake which shoots
To heav'n its branches and through earth its roots:
Whose spacious boughs are hung with Trophees row
And honour'd wreaths have oft the Victour crown
When angry Jove darts lightning through the Aire
At mortalls sins, nor his own plant will spare



(It groanes and bruses all below that stood
So many yeares the shelter of the wood)
The tree ere while foreshorten'd to our view
When foln shews taller yet then as it grew.
So shall his praise to after times increase
When truth shall be allow'd and faction cease.
And his own shadow with him fall. The Eye
Detracts from objects then it selfe more high:
But when death takes them from that envy'd seate
Seing how little we confesse how greate.
Thee many ages hence in martiall verse
Shall th' English souldier ere he charge rehearse:
Singing of thee influme themselves to fight
And with the name of Cromwell armyes fright.
As long as rivers to the seas shall runne.
As long as Cynthia shall relieve the sunne,
While staggs shall fly unto the forests thick,
While sheep delight the grassy downs to pick,
As long as future time succeeds the past,
Always thy honour, praise and name shall last.
Thou in a pitch how farre, beyond the sphere
Of humane glory towr'st, and raigning there
Despoyld of mortall robes, in seas of cliyse
Plunging dost bathe, and tread the bright Abysse:
There thy greate soule yet once a world das see
Spacious enough and pure enough for thee.
How soon thou Moses hast and Josua found
And David for the Sword, and harpe renown'd?



How streight canst to each happy Mansion goe?
(Farr Better known above then here below)
And in those joyes dost spend the endlesse day
Which in expressing we our selves betray.
For we since thou art gone with heavy doome
Wander like ghosts about thy loved tombe:
And lost in tears have neither sight nor minde
To guide us upward through this Region blinde
Since thou art gone who best that way could'st fearn
Onely our sighs perhaps may thither reach.
And Richard yet where his great Parent led
Beats on the rugged track: He vertue dead
Revives, and by his milder beams assures;
And yet how much of them his griefe obscures?
He as his rather long was kept from sight
In private to be view'd by better light:
But open'd once, what splendour dos he throw
A Cromwell in an houre a Prince will grow.
How he becomes that seat, how strongly streins
How gently winds at once the ruling Reins?
Heav'n to this choise prepar'd a Diadem
Richer then any Eastern silk or gemme:
A pearly rainbow; where the Sun inchas'd
His brows like an Imperiall Jewell grac'd.
We find already what those Omens mean.
Earth nere more glad, nor Heaven more serene:
Cease now our griefs, Calme peace succeeds a war
Rainbows to storms, Richard to Oliver.



Tempt not his clemency to try his pow'r
He threats no Deluge, yet fore tells a showre.

Monday, March 09, 2009

*Yes- "What Have They Done To The Rain?"- The Music Of Rosalie Sorrels In Honor Of Malvina Reynolds

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Malvina Reynolds performing "No Hole In My Head"


March Is Women’s History Month

No Closing Chord: The Songs Of Malvina Reynolds, Rosalie Sorrels, Red House Records, 2000

My first association of the name Rosalie Sorrels with folk music came, many years ago now, from hearing the recently departed folk singer/storyteller/ songwriter and unrepentant Wobblie (IWW) Utah Phillips mention his long time friendship with her going back before he became known as a folksinger. I also recall that combination of Sorrels and Phillips as he performed his classic “Starlight On The Rails” and she his also classic “If I Could Be The Rain” on a PBS documentary honoring Café Lena’ s in Saratoga, New York, a place that I am also very familiar with for many personal and musical reasons. Of note here: it should be remembered that Rosalie saved, literally, many of the compositions that Utah left helter-skelter around the country in his “bumming” days.

In the same spirit, if not for the same reasons, Rosalie here “rescues” the old time protest song writer and insightful social commentator Malvina Reynolds. Of course having been immersed in the folk revival of the 1960’s I was perfectly aware of Ms. Reynolds’s work although, if pressed, I could not name a song that I associated with her name. That, alas, is the fate of many songwriters who have written indelible songs that far outlast their names and fames. In this regard, for example, I did not realize until I listened here that the classic protest song against nuclear proliferation and in favor of nuclear disarmament from the 1960’s (and later) “What Have They Done To The Rain?" is Malvina’s composition. But enough of that: you want to know what is good here, right?

Well, obviously the above-mentioned song is fit for inclusion. “The Judge Said” a righteously (and justly) indignant outcry against trivializing sexual abuse by the courts is another. “Rosie Jane” about the trials and tribulations of the pro-abortion movement early on (just before the now tenuous victory in Roe v. Wade in 1973) and what that issue looked and felt like down “on the street”. Needless to say any song like “The Money Crop” that pays homage to one of my heroes of the 17th English Revolution the Digger (also known as True Levelers) theorist and leader Gerrrard Winstanley is going to get my attention (as I am sure it would as well for the late Professor Christopher Hill who did much to “rediscover” the work and actions of this important revolutionary).

Moving on, the heartfelt rendition of “This World”, with Bonnie Raitt on slide guitar, is a little bouquet by Rosalie to Malvina. Nice work Rosalie, and nice work Bonnie. Needless to say whether Rosalie is covering Malvina, as in this compilation, or paying tribute to her influence by pushing her own work forward she does a masterful and creative job (like bringing in children as chorus on a couple of the songs at the beginning and end of the CD) that has been the hallmark of her work since the early days.

Lyrics by Malvina Reynolds

What Have They Done to the Rain?

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 as "Rain Song" then in 1964 as "What Have They Done to the Rain" by Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990. a.k.a. "Rain Song" and "Just a Little Rain." People now think of this as a song about acid rain, but it was originally written as part of a campaign to stop aboveground nuclear testing, which was putting strontium-90 in the air, where it was washed down by the rain, got into the soil and thence to the grass, which was eaten by cows. When children drank the cows’ milk the strontium-90, chemically similar to calcium but radioactive, was deposited in their bones. Mothers saved their children’s baby teeth and sent them in to be tested by scientists who indeed found elevated levels of strontium-90 in their teeth. A year after this song was written, President Kennedy signed the treaty against aboveground testing.

Just a little rain falling all around,
The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound,
Just a little rain, just a little rain,
What have they done to the rain?
Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years.
And the grass is gone,
The boy disappears,
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,

And what have they done to the rain?
Just a little breeze out of the sky,
The leaves pat their hands as the breeze blows by,
Just a little breeze with some smoke in its eye,
What have they done to the rain?
Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years.
And the grass is gone,
The boy disappears,
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,
And what have they done to the rain?

“Rosie Jane”

This song is addressed to my sisters.
Any man who is present may listen,
Any priest, any public official, any physician.
But it gives him no license to touch us,
We make the decision.
Me and Lydia, Josie and Rosie and Eve,
We handle this matter ourselves,
You'd better believe, or you better leave.

Rosie Jane, are you pregnant again?
Rosie Jane, you can hardly take care
Of the four you had before.
What in heaven's name were you thinking of!
Rosie Jane, was it love?

I had an extra shot on top of what I'd got,
In a word I was drunk, so was Bill.
At least I think it was Bill,
And I'd forgot to take my pill.
I guess it was God's will.


When that baby is a child,
It will suffer from neglect,
Be picked upon and pecked,
And run over and wrecked,
And its head will be crowned with the thorn.
But while it's inside her
It must remain intact,
And it cannot be murdered till it's born.


The Money Crop

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1966 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1994.

Well, money has its own way,
And money has to grow.
It grows on human blood and bone,
As any child would know.
It's iron stuff and paper stuff
With no life of its own,
And so it takes its growing sap
From human blood and bone.
And many a child goes hungering
Because the wage is low,
And men die on the battlefield
To make the money grow.

And those that take the money crop
Are avid without end,
They plant it in the tenements
To make it grow again.
The little that they leave for us,
It cannot be a seed.
We spend it for the shoddy clothes
And every daily need.
We spend it in a minute,
In an hour it is gone,
To find its way to grow again
On human blood and bone,
Blood and bone.

This World

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1961 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1989. a.k.a. "Love It Like a Fool."

Baby, I ain't afraid to die,
It's just that I hate to say good-bye to this world,
This world, this world.
This old world is mean and cruel,
But still I love it like a fool, this world,
This world, this world.

I'd rather go to the corner store
Than sing hosannah on that golden shore,
I'd rather live on Parker Street
Than fly around where the angels meet.
Oh, this old world is all I know,

It's dust to dust when I have to go from this world,
This world, this world.
Somebody else will take my place,
Some other hands, some other face,
Some other eyes will look around
And find the things I've never found.
Don't weep for me when I am gone,
Just keep this old world rolling on, this world,
This world, this world.