Monday, March 23, 2009

Derivatives and the Overproduction of Capital

So, what is a quadrillion? It’s a thousand trillion, or one million billion. A bit later in this article, I’ll direct you to an amazing series of graphics that tries to give some sense to these terms.

For the moment, let us just note that the Bank of International Settlements has recently reported that global outstanding derivatives have reached 1.14 quadrillion dollars. Most of which doesn’t exist. It’s fictitious. And most of it is in the process of getting wiped out – written off as bad debt. To hell with it too, except that somewhere back along the food chain there are certain assets that this fictitious capital claims some connection with, and that’s why one of my friends said he lost $300,000 from his superannuation fund last year. Others report similar losses.

Let’s look at some fundamental questions of the capitalist economy.

Lenin characterized imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, as capitalism in its decadent, moribund final phase.

It was that stage of capitalism in which finance capital, which had arisen from the merger of industrial and bank capital, had created a financial oligarchy within the bourgeoisie. These finance capitalists had assumed the leading role, the strongest and loudest voice among the component parts of the capitalist class.

The export of capital from the centres of advanced industrial production to the colonial periphery had played the major part “in creating the international network of dependence on and connections of finance capital” (All quotes from Lenin are from Section 3, “Finance Capital and the Financial Oligarchy” in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.)

The publication of Lenin’s work was a creative development of Marxism, drawing together all the threads and all the newly developing phenomena in the capitalist economies since Marx’s theoretical studies of the “laws of motion of modern capitalism” in his 3-volume Capital. In the final volume of that work, Marx had noted that the endless pursuit of the accumulation of capital had accelerated the usurious and speculative practices by bankers and financiers on the stock market. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall in conventional industries created an attraction for the owners of finance capital to speculate in financial markets. There had already been precursors to today’s sub-prime crisis and credit crash, for example the South Sea Bubble of 1720, and Marx was well aware that such speculations caused fictitious capital to be created and destroyed in great cycles of financial melt-down.

By Lenin’s time, the concentration of production in great monopolies was accompanied by a growing separation of banking and industrial capital from finance capital. Today, the term “real economy” is still used to refer to that part of the productive process associated with the manufacture and sale of goods and services, as opposed to the speculative and parasitic world of the financiers.

Lenin wrote, “It is characteristic of capitalism in general that the ownership of capital is separated from the application of capital to production, that money capital is separated from industrial or productive capital, and that the rentier who lives entirely on income obtained from money capital, is separated from the entrepreneur and from all who are directly concerned in the management of capital. Imperialism, or the domination of finance capital, is that highest stage of capitalism in which this separation reaches vast proportions. The supremacy of finance capital over all other forms of capital means the predominance of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy; it means that a small number of financially “powerful” states stand out among all the rest. The extent to which this process is going on may be judged from the statistics on emissions, i.e., the issue of all kinds of securities.”

In fact Lenin was only touching the surface of what would emerge from the creativity of the “best and brightest” of this financial oligarchy. He might never have guessed how limited and infantile his phrase “all kinds of securities” might appear from the vantage point of the 1970s and onwards.

A finance vocabulary has come into existence since the 1970s that would have sounded like gobbledegook to an earlier generation of economists. Structured investment vehicles (SIVs) collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), CDOs of CDOs, credit default swaps (CDS), hedge funds, private equity firms, funds of funds, and so it goes on.

Just what are derivatives? According to Ellen Brown, author of the book Web of Debt, “Until recently, most people had never even heard of derivatives; but in terms of money traded, these investments represent the biggest financial market in the world. Derivatives are financial instruments that have no intrinsic value but derive their value from something else. Basically, they are just bets. You can "hedge your bet" that something you own will go up by placing a side bet that it will go down. "Hedge funds" hedge bets in the derivatives market. Bets can be placed on anything, from the price of tea in China to the movements of specific markets.”

In other words, unlike investments in the “real economy”, derivatives create nothing but the demand from banks for extensions of vast of amounts of credit that constitute fictitious amounts of capital.

The scale of this fictitious capital is almost beyond our ability to see how big it really is.

The Gross Domestic Product of all the countries in the world prior to the current collapse stood at about $US60 trillion. The amount gambled in the big derivatives casino stands at $US1.1 quadrillion. Given that a quadrillion is 1000 trillion we can start to appreciate the fantastic (as in “fantasy”, “not based in reality”) scale of this speculative and parasitic overproduction of finance capital.

To really “see” the scale of this fraud we’ll use the following graphics sourced from here (they are bigger and easier to see in the original).

We start with a $US100 bill.

One hundred of these is half an inch thick and can fit in your pocket. That’s $US10,000.

One hundred packets of these could comfortably fit into a backpack. That’s $US1 million.

One hundred of these would fit onto a standard-sized pallet ($US100 million)...
...and ten pallets would represent 1000 million dollars, or $US1 billion.

A trillion is one thousand billion, so we multiply our ten pallets one thousand times…and it's getting hard to see our human figure at the bottom left hand corner of the pallets, now double-stacked to keep within the frame.

You’ll have to do the next bit yourself. A quadrillion is one thousand times the last image.

And don’t forget, our unit of measurement was a $US100 note, so we’d need one hundred lots of our quadrillion to see what a quadrillion $US1 notes look like!

And all of this money has created nothing (but non-existent values of itself) and will collapse back to nothing unless the banks and financial institutions that have underwritten this gambling idiocy are bailed out by taxpayers.

"Too big to collapse?" You bet! (It's a safer bet than derivatives trading!)

Lenin was unaware of the potential for the overproduction of finance capital (ie the creation of fictitious capital) on this scale through derivatives trading, but he was aware that in the imperialist era, it would be this sector of capital that would require the whole of society to pay for its speculations. He wrote, “Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and ever-increasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., strengthens the domination of the financial oligarchy and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolists” (emphasis added).

At the moment a social-democratic wind has emerged in the aftermath of the super typhoon of the credit collapse prompted by the sub-prime crisis. Australia’s Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has written a lengthy piece attacking neo-liberalism and declaring that “Not for the first time in history, the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself” (The Monthly, February 2009). US Democrats President Barak Obama states, “We need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy” (Global Viewpoint, March 2009).

Suddenly it is fashionable for servants of capitalism to talk like socialists, even if it’s for the purpose of further service to capitalism and the capitalists!

Our task is to rebuild the revolutionary movement of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist elements under working class direction and leadership and to create a sustainable, collective, planned and regulated economy that meets the needs of the people.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Li Minqi and The Rise of China

Li Minqi’s book The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy (Monthly Review Press 2008) is an important contributor to discussion about the relationship between that sector of the Chinese economy that is capitalist and the greater world capitalist economy.

In particular, Li reaffirms again and again in his book, often through extensive statistical evidence, that the capitalist system of production for profit in pursuit of an endless accumulation of capital for its own sake is simply unsustainable. In a masterful final chapter he shows how the insatiable demand by capital that it have its own value reproduced over and over again is in conflict with environmental sustainability and life-sustaining climatic parameters. There can be no disagreement with his conclusion that “humanity must work for the overthrow of the global capitalist system as soon as possible” (p. 187).

Equally convincing is his analysis of the emergence and victory of the restorationists within the Chinese Communist Party. As he did in his earlier online study, Capitalist Development and Class Struggle in China written between 1993-96, Li traces the emergence of the restorationists to an urban, intellectual elite that formed as a new bureaucratic class through their membership of the CCP not long after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In Li’s view, this class survived the mass mobilization of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution because Mao Zedong and other Marxist-Leninists failed to grasp the need to form a new Party of the proletariat to carry forward the revolution under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Li even disputes the existence of a proletarian dictatorship arguing that such can only exist when workers have complete control over production unmediated by government and Party cadres.

Nevertherless, he is entirely supportive of the economic gains of the so-called “Maoist” period and the new book’s second chapter Accumulation, Basic Needs and Class Struggle: the Rise of Modern China is an essential companion piece to Mobo Gao’s The Battle for China’s Past and Han Dongping’s The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Educational Reforms and Their Impact on China's Rural Development, 1966-1976 (East Asia (New York, N.Y.).)

For a book that is looking at the world system of capitalism, written by a self-described “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist” (Intro p. xiv), it is unfortunate that the Leninist analysis of imperialism as “moribund capitalism” is totally ignored in favour of Wallerstein’s “world systems” approach. If a “Leninist” (as Li claims to be, or perhaps he grew out of that when he started reading Wallerstein in 2001)) prefers a systems theory approach to analyse trends in capitalism to the approach used by Lenin then I would at least expect some comparative analysis of the two and some justification for preferring Wallerstein to Lenin. But there is none. You will look in vain for Lenin’s name in the index, and the term “imperialism”, which is mentioned in passing three times, is also excluded from the index.

I find the world systems approach to be static and mechanistic and question some of the conclusions that Li draws by using this approach. It is central to Li’s argument that the hegemony of the United States, now in decline, can not be rivalled or replaced. A continent-sized rival hegemon is required (size does matter!) and neither Brazil, Russia, China, or India (the so-called BRIC states) can mount the challenge and still maintain a sustainable world capitalist economy.

Li argues, “To the extent that the existing world-system has exhausted its ability to renew and restructure itself through the construction of a new hegemonic power, it has reached its own historical limit” (p. 23). This might be hoped-for news, but I don’t think it exhausts all the possibilities that materialist dialectics reveals: the movement of things towards their opposites; one divides into two, and so on. If imperialism is on the verge of collapse, then it is not for lack of jostling for position and rivalry between contending capitalisms.

Li even hints at a Leninist perspective on inter-imperialist rivalry when he observes that “capitalism is a world economy without a world government that can effectively represent the collective interests of global capitalists as a whole. Instead, individual capitalist states are motivated primarily to maximise their national rates of accumulation in order to prevail in global competition” (p. 144). However, he takes this analysis no further.

Similarly, for Wallerstein, it is not the models of proletarian revolutionary seizures of power that count, but rather the example of the large, powerful and militant Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil. All power to the comrades in the MST, but the force at the core leading our cause forward must be a Marxist-Leninist Party, imho.

Wallerstein’s remedy for the current ills of capitalism were articulated recently in an article in The Nation (and reproduced here on a comrade’s very useful Political Economy Research website).

He asks “What can we do?” and replies, “First of all we must be clear what the battle is all about. It is the battle between the spirit of Davos (for a new system that is not capitalism but is nonetheless hierarchical, exploitative and polarizing) and the spirit of Porto Alegre (a new system that is relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian). No lesser evil here. It’s one or the other.”

What are the battle tasks? “The primary thing to do is to encourage the decommodification of as much as we can decommodify. The second is to experiment with all kinds of new structures that make better sense in terms of social justice and ecological sanity. And the third thing we must do is to encourage sober optimism.”

This is an eclectic and confused scenario, and I divert from directly discussing Li Minqi’s book only because of the heavy reliance he places upon Wallerstein’s approach for his own conclusions.

Li’s book is a study in the unequal exchange of values between the core advanced capitalist economies and the periphery and semi-periphery. He establishes beyond doubt that there is a massive transfer of surplus value from the proletariat in the latter two zones to the owners of capital in the core. This is a tremendously useful study (although I’d like to see some of the graphs that generally finish around 2006 with the economic information of the last couple of years added. Going south anyone?)

It can be argued that the concentration on this exchange of unequal values, however, has led Li to ignore the moribund and parasitic over-production of finance capital in its fictitious bubble form. I don’t mean to say that he should have predicted the detail and timeline of the events that have unfolded since the sub-prime crisis first occurred, but he hints at something of this in a discussion of “mobile financial capital” (p. 114) and then leaves it alone. The fact that the global derivatives market has been estimated recently at $US1.1 quadrillion (that’s 10 to the power of 15, or $1000,000,000,000,000!) and that most of this just don’t exist is testimony to the parasitic and moribund state of imperialism (and it is just one of the forms, and one of the values, of fictitious capital currently disappearing before our eyes).

Li Minqi has written a very good book (in fact one of three “good books” on China that have appeared in the last year or two, together with The Battle for China’s Past and The Unknown Cultural Revolution.)

His work should be widely read by all seeking an understanding of contemporary China and the current crisis of capitalism.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Whoever opposes Chairman Mao is an enemy of the people

The following is my translation of a poem posted on the Chinese language “China Red Travel” website on February 26, 2009. The broad masses of the Chinese people love Chairman Mao and revere his memory. With the restorationists having the upper hand, the masses who have lost the right to free education and health care, and who are suffering as a result of China’s integration into the crisis-ridden system of world capitalism, are increasingly voicing their anger at the new system.

The original poem has a strict seven character per line structure which is impossible to replicate in English, and difficult to translate from as it jettisons conventional grammar. If any Chinese speaker would like to correct my translation, I would very much appreciate it so that my learning of Chinese improves.

Whoever Opposes Chairman Mao is an Enemy of the People


The clowns who oppose Mao must be struck down
Their hatred of communism has not disappeared
Monsters and demons want to overturn the heavens[1]
The moneybags and landlords want to stage a comeback


Capitalist-roaders have emerged from within the Party
An evil wind rises to oppose Lord Mao[2]
Lord Mao conquered the world for the people
And restored the cool breeze to Heaven with his hands


Lord Mao held power for thirty years
The workers and peasants of the whole country beamed with joy
Everybody had a bowl of rice
And you didn’t need money to go to school or to a doctor


The workers and peasants managed things and were the masters of the house
From that time on, they had the right to speak
The broad masses of the people supported Chairman Mao
Capital and Self have given us the Word of Deng[3]

[1] Literally “Cow monsters and snake demons”, a traditional epithet used widely for counter-revolutionaries and capitalist-roaders during the Cultural Revolution.
[2] The Chinese original has a strict 7-character per line structure. Referring to Mao as “Lord Mao” (2 characters) rather than “Chairman Mao” or “Mao Zedong” (both three characters) allows greater flexibility within the line. The character for the feudal term “lord” or “duke” has passed into common parlance as an indication of respect or reverence for an elderly male. Mao is more often referred to as “laorenjia” (a bit like “the old man”) in everyday speech, which has the same meaning, but the more formal term of reverence is appropriate to the poetic form.
[3] Deng Xiaoping eventually succeeded Chairman Mao. Deng’s reforms, centering on a “socialist market economy” have opened the door for the reemergence of capitalist economic practices and capitalist relations of production in China.

China needs more leaders like Shi Zongyuan

(Comrade Shi Zongyuan, above, at the March 2009 National Peoples Congress)
China needs more Shi Zongyuans

Shi Zongyuan is the Party Secretary of south-west China’s Guizhou Province. Last year he personally intervened in the Weng’an Incident after the masses had attacked local government offices and set cars and buildings on fire. The Weng’an Incident was a very complicated affair. I covered it in a post here, and, as far as one can from a distance, judged Shi Zongyuan’s actions as having been very much in the mould of the true leader. I was impressed by his statement that “You cannot impose the dictatorship of the people onto the people themselves”.

I was therefore intrigued to see an interview with Shi on the Caijing website in which he explains how he uses the internet to monitor and respond to people’s complaints and difficulties.

China needs more honest Party leaders like Shi Zongyuan. The efforts of the working class and peasants to keep China on the socialist road require the Communist Party to be composed of communists.

The interview follows:

A Chat with Webaholic Shi Zongyuan
03-12 17:05 Caijing comments( 0 )
The party secretary of Guizhou has directly handled more than 600 cases based on opinions posted on the comment board on the internet.
By Editor Hu Shuli

( On the eighth day of the National People’s Congress, I had a chance to dine with Shi Zongyuan, secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Party Committee. How he surfs the Internet interests me most.

A former head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, Shi is a kind of “webaholic.” The first thing he does every day is surf the net. He usually turns on the computer at about half past seven. “I do odds and ends when the computer is powering up. After the program starts, I read the web.”

He spends about an hour on the Internet. His most visited sites are, and Generally, he first visits the People site. Apart from important news, he never misses reading a comment board for local authorities on the People site. He opens his ears to the Guizhou public. Some people leave messages with an IP address but no other contact information. Others, however, provide contact details that allow him to take note of messages and reply when there is any important news.

“I don’t give feedback on the comment board,” he said. “But I try to take real action in response.” This is the principle Shi follows. He said he has directly handled more than 600 cases based on opinions posted on the board. “I have done as much as I can do.”

I later visited Shi’s comment board on the People site and found 1,038 messages on his pages through March 11, 2009.

Shi told me he usually visits the news page of Sina for international news and then domestic news to try to grasp the breadth and depth of current issues.

In fact, Shi’s history of listening can be traced back to five years ago when he was head of the General Administration of Press and Publication. After that, less attention was paid after he was appointed secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Party Committee in December 2005. But in responding to a special event in Weng An County last August, Shi’s speedy management and frank manner won him a great deal of support from the general public. That event shifted my attention toward him and now, like many people, I feel he is a good boss.

The Weng An case was triggered by a girl’s death last June 21. The girl, Li Shufen, after having dinner with her boyfriend and other friends, jumped into a river and drowned. Local police conducted a postmortem examination, but the girl’s relatives refused to accept the results and claimed she had been killed. The incident aroused a great deal of attention from the local public.

Monday, March 09, 2009

More Western media lies about Tibet

An Agence France Presse photo and accompanying caption that have been widely copied (Yahoo, Wall Street Journal etc) have revealed again the way that facts are distorted to suit the prejudices of anti-Chinese forces in the West.
In the report below, a visitor to a Beijing exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of democratic reforms carried out in 1959 in Tibet is described as looking "at guns used by Chinese soldiers". (The 1959 reforms followed an uprising by senior monks and upper class Tibetans and freed the region from its feudal theocratic system. As the head of that system the Dalai Lama, who had pretended to cooperate with Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party, chose to side with the reaction and fled to India.)

Before we look again at this picture and its caption, one might well ask, "What else was on display here? What other exhibits might there be about either the system that was replaced, or the new way of life that emerged in Tibet after 1959? Why was this the only image chosen to represent the exhibition? Are the Chinese so blood-thirsty that they would really display the guns that they had used to 'suppress' the Tibetans? Are they boasting about their 'invasion' and 'dictatorship'?"

But the truth will out! The labels on the exhibition reveal a different reality to that dreamed up by Agence France Presse reporter Peter Parks, and gleefully replicated by other anti-China media.

The label closest to the front actually reads (in Chinese and English) "A Bren machine gun used by rebels in 1959".

The second label, on the bottom of the wall at the rear of the display case actually reads "An M1A1 Thompson machine gun used by rebels in 1959."

The Chinese captions additionally reveal that both weapons were manufactured in England, hinting at connections between the Tibetan reactionary ruling class and the imperialists.
We have seen this sort of deliberate falsehood before: Nepalese police of the old regime attacking Tibetan exiles in Kathmandu being passed off as Chinese police "attacking innocent Tibetan civilians in Lhasa" during last March's shameful campaign against the international passage of the Olympic torch.
Caught out once again, the capitalist press must always be regarded with suspicion as a source of misinformation about workers' struggles, liberation politics of any kind.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"Behind the scenes" with Marathon

Senior South Australian Liberal Party figurehead, Federal Senator Nick Minchin, has said that “revelations about the rather intriguing and complex background to Black Pearl Global Opportunity Fund, now a substantial shareholder of Marathon Resources…should be of considerable interest to all South Australians, given Marathon’s thoroughly undesirable proposal to open a uranium mine in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.”

In a letter published in the current edition of Adelaide newspaper The Independent Weekly, Minchin continues, “If Marathon is to become the plaything of international hedge fund operators operating out of the Cayman Islands, then I for one am even more convinced that the Rann Government should not allow Marathon to renew its controversial test-drilling program at Arkaroola, and should announce that it will never allow a uranium mine to be established in a part of SA that is simply too precious to mine.”

Minchin’s long-standing personal opposition to the Marathon venture is very welcome, although probably not by his old Senatorial sparring partner, Labor’s (former) Senator Chris Schacht.

Schacht has just added to his shareholding in the company by taking up some of his entitlements as a Director under a rights issue. He’s increased his holdings from 45,000 to 63,000 shares whilst CEO Peter Williams has increased his from 684,000 to 817,600.

These acquisitions occurred on December 10, 2008. However, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) was only notified on March 3, 2009 despite a rule that requires notification within 5 business days.

When the ASX sent Marathon a “please explain”, the best Marathon could do was to plead “inadvertent administrative error and the fact that the holiday period followed the issue and allotment date”.

Pretty bloody sloppy, and the ASX must be getting sick and tired of sending this mob “please explains”.

The real “please explain”, however, should be why Williams and Schacht are buying further into a company that does not yet have its exploration program reinstated and whilst State Parliament is yet to vote on Greens Senator Mark Parnell’s private members Bill to ban mining at Arkaroola.

And why, for that matter, Ken Talbot, former CEO of Macarthur Mining, whom the kiddies in the chatroom are convinced is “a very smart man” has gone on a buying spree starting January 20, 2009 and increased family company Talbot Group Holding’s stake from 13.7 million shares or 18.1%, to 14.5 million shares or 19.1% of Marathon Resources with on-market purchases. The shares were acquired at between 34 cents to 40 cents per share.

One of my chatroom readers (g’day “lazyguns”) believes that Talbot is “patiently waiting for the smaller holders to sell down in to them due to the DOW panic etc. IMO they seem to be putting a lid on the price at 40c to soak up as many shares as they can in the mid 30s range….he seems to be a man who knows what is going on behind the scene.”

Talbot and Chinese investment giant CITIC formerly had a Memorandum of Understanding to act as associates in Marathon (as they have in several other ventures), but dissolved that partnership on January 15.

Did CITIC not want to waste more of its money on Marathon?

Did the MOU have to go to free Talbot’s hand?

Is someone getting assurances that the State Government will accept Marathon’s “change of heart”, block Parnell’s Bill and restore the exploration licence “under the close supervision and monitoring of PIRSA”? (PIRSA is the SA government’s primary industries department.)

Who else knows “what is going on behind the scenes”?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Songs champion the cause of China's rural poor

(Above: migrant workers appeal for help - their slogans, written on sheets of newspaper read Wo yao hui jia or I want to go home.)
The rise and rise of China has depended to a large extent on a vast reservoir of cheap human labour: the peasantry.

Men and women, girls and boys from Anhui, Hebei, Henan and other rural provinces have come to the big coastal cities in droves since the mid-eighties. Like a blind flood, rural workers who had only known their local village became restless nomads following rumours of work on building sites, in manufacturing and in domestic service.

The market in human labour power was the condition for capital accumulation on a vast scale.

All of the ugly prejudices against the poor that Mao had tried so hard to eradicate, particularly during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, resurfaced as senior Party leaders fell in behind Deng Xiaoping and his exhortation, “It is glorious to get rich!”

Deng gave a green light to the restoration of capitalist practices with another slogan: “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”.

The colour of the cat, if you’ll excuse a mixed metaphor, was always a red herring: the real question was “for whom?”. For the use of the workers and the peasants, or for the private expropriation by, and enrichment of, an emerging capitalist class…that is the question.

The treatment of the mangliu, the migrant workers, has been scandalous.

As of 2006, the total amount of unpaid wages owed to migrant workers in mainland China amounted to 10 billion yuan. Unpaid wages in the construction industry amounted to 72.2% of the total.

New land laws have removed the one safety net that existed for most of these migrant labourers – the farms that they had walked away from in search of cash payments in the city.

In order to satisfy the demand for land for manufacturing expansion, a Chinese-style of enclosures has been visited on some villages with compensation rarely meeting the needs of farmers for relocation and rebuilding of homes.

A new form of land leasing, or renting, is now leading many peasants to sign away their rights to land so that returning migrant workers, laid off from the big factories and job sites, have no farmland to fall back on for sustenance farming.

It is estimated that 20 million rural workers have been dismissed from factories that have been faced with a crisis of overproduction following the disappearance of finance capital from world markets and the evaporation of credit that has substituted for the immediate realisation of surplus value through the sale of commodities.

Two songs have recently commented on the plight of the migrant labourers. One can be seen in a video clip here, whilst the second can be seen by following the link further down the same page (you can ignore the instructions to install a language pack)
The lyrics of the first read:

Cuihua (his wife’s name), mom and dad, I won’t go back home for the Spring Festival,
Without wages in my pocket, I cannot face you all
Son and daughter, don’t ask me where the red envelopes are
I cry to the heaven and to the earth but where can I complain?
Why does the boss himself have a luxurious life but no money to pay the wages?
He has no reason to be so proud even when he drives a BMW or Mercedes because that’s what he owes us.

Repay my wages, Repay my wages

We are thousands of miles from home
We work so hard in the cities
We are from Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Hubei and Anhui
We build the high-rise buildings but we are ironically looked down on
We are not paid and there is nothing we can do about it.
I ask myself whether there is any justice and I calm myself down
I persuade myself that I am the creditor and that’s no doubt

You owe me, You owe me…

The lyrics of the second follow:

I had a hard life in the mountain area
I needed to wait for my hen to lay eggs in exchange for cigarettes
One day I left the mountain with my uncle
I worked very hard in the construction site and earned six thousand yuan within a year
I was waiting for the pay and planned to spend the Spring Festival with my family
However, the boss said he was out of money and let me wait
After the third snow, the boss still didn’t pay me

He said he had no money to pay but he spent several thousand yuan to play Mahjong
He said he had no money to pay but he spent ten thousand yuan to get his mistress a new cell phone

People in the labor department were very warmhearted and they kept calling the boss until he powered off the cell phone
The boss said he was very angry because we sued him and he even threatened us
The Labor Department let me report it to the court
The court said it would process the case for us after New Year
We waited till then and the court did process the case
But the boss had run away with our wages
He said he had no money to pay but he spent several thousand yuan to play Mahjong
He said he had no money to pay but he spent ten thousand yuan to get his second mistress a necklace

The visuals associated with both sets of lyrics depict the cruel life and times of the migrant labourers.
At the end of the second song, the singer wields a large sword and leaves no doubt about what he would do with the laoban, or boss, should he ever catch him.

Two recent Beijing Review articles on this topic are also worth reading: