SESSION 2. The Banks and Their New Role

Session 2.

Discussing Chapter 2 “The Banks and Their New Role” and Chapter 3 “Finance Capital and Financial Oligarchy”.

Moderator: Gregory Sholette.

dear reading Lenin group,

I enjoyed last evening very much. Just a reminder, for tomorrow’s discussion I asked you to think about the following things when you read chapter’s 2 & 3.

1. note the various metaphors that Lenin uses to help the reader picture what he is describing – how have these influenced our cultural imagination and are they still valid in any way?

2. how does Lenin’s description of banks and their central role in early 20th Century capitalism hold up today in the deregulated world of neoliberallism ?

3. in what ways, if any, have laws been enacted that successfully buffer the negative effects of monopolies and cartels, and is perhaps a “world” legal system a hope in avoiding some new imperialist global war, or will the powerful countries (economically and militarily) always use such legal mechanisms for their own benefit anyway?

4. Lenin focuses a great deal on the unfair distribution (concentration) of socially-produced wealth – this is really his biggest issue with capitalism (after all, he is not calling for some Arcadian or nostalgic return to pre-capitalism, but he wants to plow forwards through and then past capitalist industrialization to a world of post-capitalist communism) One thing that Lenin sees as blocking a more just distribution of wealth is control over the means of production by fewer and fewer industrialists, or corporations. We might call this control the inter-locking directorates of power (someone from Exxon sits on the board of BP who sits on the board of Chase). But in an age of widespread stock investment (especially through amassed retirement funds), and when it seems consumers have a new ability to force companies to change based on their demands or dislikes (the greening of automobiles was suggested last night), has an entirely new and unexpected governing mechanism (at least for Lenin) arisen that gives capitalism a decentralized and “human face”? Or, is all this, like the “new networked economy,” really just a far subtler form of control (through marketing perhaps?) that appears to provide a means of democratic participation, while in reality it just reinforces the same oligarchy behind the scenes?

Please, please also write down your own questions. As we discovered yesterday this was a very helpful way to engage the material and make it “our own.”

In addition, if anyone has time to dig up some answers or stats on things raised last night that would be great, I mean for example whether or not neoliberalism (the post welfare state, “free market ” policies of Reagan/Thatcher/Milton Friedman) have actually elevated living standards for most people, or just a greater number but still the minority of people in places like the US, Chile, China and so forth.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

best regards,
gregory

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