Author Topic: The modern keepers of the vault  (Read 2055 times)


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The modern keepers of the vault
« on: February 12, 2017, 12:26:39 pm »
The modern keepers of the vault
By Sam Marcy
Once upon a time there was a young prince who was deeply concerned
that his father, the king, was in failing health and was rapidly
deteriorating. Worried about the heavy burden that would fall upon
him, he soon became obsessed with the magnitude of his tasks.
Not much later the king passed away and the young prince was
proclaimed king. Preparations began for the coronation, which, the
new king decided, should be of such splendor and magnificence as to
reach the outermost parts of the world. He would invite all the
foreign princes and make the coronation the most luxurious and
elegant they had ever seen. All who came would learn to respect and
honor his kingdom.
Soon enough all the royal advisers were upon him, but his eye and
mind were fixed on the keeper of the royal vault. "May I have a
word with you?" he signalled to the royal keeper of the vault and
thereafter the two disappeared into the basement.
"Tell me," said the prince to the royal keeper, "how much do we
have in the royal vault?"
"I cannot tell you exactly at the moment, but I can show you
something of interest in planning the coronation. This small
vault," he pointed to one, "was full when your father ascended to
the throne. Now it is empty. With your divine wisdom and youthful
mind you will, I'm sure, succeed in refilling it."
Astonished, the prince became pensive. Then suddenly the prince
picked up a coin from the stack of gold coins and asked, "How much
gold is in this coin?"
Again the royal keeper of the vault said, "I do not know. My
eyesight is not what it used to be and my hands are no longer as
sensitive, either. But I will call in the royal goldsmith who has
travelled far and wide throughout the world and understands the
mysteries and magical qualities of this precious metal."
When the goldsmith came in, the prince asked him, holding up the
coin: "How do you assess it?"
"Your Highness, this is about a troy ounce and should have 480
grains of gold in it," the goldsmith answered.
"Tell me, goldsmith, can you replace a mere 40 or 50 grains of gold
from this coin with lead?"
"Oh certainly, your royal Highness," said the goldsmith.
"And can anybody, besides you, tell the difference?"
"I dare say no," said the goldsmith, "not if it is skillfully and
correctly done."
"You see this empty vault?" said the prince. "I hope to fill it in
the early period of my reign. And I do not wish even so much as to
touch the royal vault. But what I want most of all is a splendid
coronation for all the world to see. And it shall be an inspiration
to all in our realm. How can this be done? We shall purchase all
our needs for the coronation with the debased metal and, as you
say, no one shall know except the three of us. The secret we shall
take to our graves."
Thus the deal was struck and the most elegant and most luxurious of
coronations in the ancient world took place.
The prince bought the best and finest of what was available for the
coronation and a great time was had by all. None of the merchants
from whom so much was bought showed the slightest suspicion that
the gold was indeed debased. It was not until months and months
later that the keeper of the royal vault called in his royal
Highness, the king, and advised him that all the debased coins he
had used to pay for purchases had now been returned in the form of
Appalled, the king exclaimed, "We have thereby gained nothing?"
"No," replied the keeper of the gold, "we have not. We have much to
make up for. We cannot raise taxes; our nobles will not stand for
it. We cannot squeeze the peasants; they are already burning the
estates of the landlords. We are in a time of trouble. And the
merchants and traders are becoming more arrogant and rude every
day. There is talk in the marketplace that the peasants will soon
march on the palace."
Descendants of the vault keeper
It is not quite a century and a half since Karl Marx dealt
precisely with the point of this story. He did so in a book called
"The Poverty of Philosophy," a celebrated polemic against Pierre
Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), a French anarchist economist. 
Proudhon wrote: "Money is born of sovereign consecration: the
sovereigns took possession of gold and silver and affixed their
seal to them."
Marx asked in reply: "Was it the sovereign who took possession of
gold and silver to make them the universal agents of exchange by
affixing his seal to them? Or was it not, rather, these universal
agents of exchange [the gold and silver] which took possession of
the sovereign and forced him to affix his seal to them and thus
give them a political consecration?"
Marx continued: "It has been proved times without number, that if
a prince takes into his head to debase the currency, it is he who
loses. What he gains once at the first issue he loses every time
the falsified coinage returns to him in the form of taxes, etc."
The worldwide financial crisis that has been wracking Europe should
have brought this point forward for honest public discussion. Such
is not the case. Instead, there was a well-hidden meeting of 172
central bankers and finance ministers in Washington on Sept. 24. It
would be generous of us to merely describe them as the descendants
of the keeper of the vault and the goldsmith. In truth, they are
among the most ruthless and predatory exploiters the world has
known. There is no crime they will not commit to uphold the social
system whose creatures they are.
Apparently the point made by Marx and the experience of the prince
had not the slightest affect on them. Yet this is not altogether
These bankers and finance ministers included Alan Greenspan,
chairperson of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, and Nicolas Brady,
Secretary of the Treasury. Their hurried, nervous meeting, without
the fanfare and glare of big-time television, speaks volumes.
After meeting secretly and issuing no report, these keepers of the
vault have "gone their 172 separate ways," as a New York Times
report on Sept. 25 aptly remarks. There was no meeting of the
minds, there was no agreement. Why? Because each is concerned with
debasing their coins in their own way, for the salvation of their
own ruling class.
The capitalist currency crisis reflects the inability of the
central bankers and finance ministers to do more than the ancient
keepers of the vault. Today's goldsmiths have the unhappy task of
advising them that the clipping of the coins has become a world
capitalist scandal.
No longer `good as gold'
There was a time when anybody who had paper money in some quantity
could go to the U.S. Treasury, for instance, and get gold in
return, as it said on the paper money. But today all the U.S. paper
money, which used to say "Exchangeable for gold," now merely says
"In God We Trust."
Governments throughout the capitalist world no longer pay in gold
except by specific special agreement. The currencies in the
capitalist world today reflect not so much the amount of gold a
government has in its treasury as the economic stability of the
social system. Of course, it's the Gross National Product that is
the main determining factor over a period of time. But that in turn
is dependent on the stability of capitalist relations--the
stability of the relationship between the exploiter and the
In times of capitalist overproduction, instability has become so
excessive that even artificial stimulants, like military
expenditures and imperialist wars, are unable to lift the depressed
economy out of its morass.
The keepers of the vault, their goldsmiths and their politicians
have proven their utter inability to master the situation. If the
current crisis demonstrates anything, it is the correctness of the
Marxist analysis of the capitalist mode of production. The bankers
and politicians do not manage the economy; the capitalist nature of
the economy manages them.
It has been almost a century and a half since Marx explained to
leading anarchist economists that it is not the will of the king
that determines the value of his coins, but rather it is the coins
that determine the will of the king.
If one thinks, for instance, that a meeting of the 172 bankers and
ministers is perhaps too clumsy and too large to determine such
delicate matters as the value of the dollar, the mark or the franc,
let us remember that only last week that tiny little club of the
seven largest imperialist robbers--the United States, Japan,
Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada--also met in private and
were unable to accomplish anything. If they did anything at all to
dam the flood of economic "bad news," they have kept it secret. Any
overt manifestation that the deepening of the financial crisis has
been arrested is utterly lacking.
Agreement on the franc
The agreement between Paris and Bonn to prevent a free fall of the
franc is actually designed to be a weapon in the psychological war
between these two larger imperialist powers and the smaller ones.
It is an attempt to club the latter into a European straitjacket
where French and German capital will be able to dominate them. The
effort to unify capitalist Europe can only create a mechanism for
boxing in the capitalist contradictions.
The inevitable inter-imperialist rivalries are due not to some
misunderstandings, not to a lack of technical knowledge of market
conditions, nor to the productive forces having stopped growing.
No, the fundamental obstacle to a coordinated, cooperative union of
the European states is the preservation of private property in the
means of production.
That means the only solution is socialism. All the maneuvers, all
the hurried meetings, all the arming and talk of disarming, cannot
obviate the fact that the means of production are owned by
ever-growing predatory monopolies. This private ownership stands as
the fundamental, insurmountable obstacle to a stable solution of
the current crisis.
Apparently standing aloof are the Wall Street bankers and their top
politicians. They are engaged, one would say completely consumed,
by the presidential elections. It's not because the elections will
cause one wing of the capitalist class to be battered or lose its
control over the finances of the capitalist state to another
capitalist group. The electoral struggle is over which group of
politicians should manage the capitalist state on behalf of the
whole ruling class. What's involved is the substitution of one
managerial group by another, but both serve the common good and
welfare of the exploiters and the oppressors.
As far as the masses are concerned, their view must be to look
beyond the elections. Once aroused, the invincible might of the
working class is the only force capable of dealing with the
monstrous growth of poverty, hunger, unemployment and all the other
ills of capitalist imperialism.
(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if
source is cited. For more info contact Workers World,46 W. 21 St.,
New York, NY 10010; "[email protected]".)

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