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Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

The Cost of Money

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The following isn’t Russia related, at least not directly.  I’m reading David Harvey’s A Companion to Marx’s Capital, which anyone interested in getting through Marx’s opus should pick up.  Harvey has transformed his lectures on Capital into book form.  Anyway, I’m going through the chapter on money and a question popped into my head regarding its dual nature as a measurement between things and its existence as a commodity.  Harvey writes:

We would obviously prefer the quantitative representation of value to be a stable standard of measurement.  Gold is a specific commodity, though; its value is given by the socially necessary labor-time embodied in it, and this is not, as we have seen, constant. Fluctuations in the concrete conditions of production affect the value of gold (or any other money commodity).  Since, however, such changes affect “all commodities simultaneously,” then “other things being equal . . . the mutual relations between their values [are] unaltered, although those values are now all expressed in higher or lower gold-prices than before” (57)

Gold no longer plays the role as the universal equivalent between commodities.  The power of money as a universal equivalent is based as much on faith as it is on the control of its quantity in circulation.  However, money, either as paper or coin, is still a physical commodity produced somewhere out of something by someone.  The material it’s made of, the machines that shape it, the ink used to imprint the faces of dead presidents, and the transportation systems that send it into its virginal circulation are part and parcel to any commodity. Human labor is behind all these processes used to create the money commodity.

Hence my question: If money is a commodity, does the cost of producing it factor into its value?  Or, to put it in another way, what is the cost of money?