Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The America Timebomb

Last night on BBC’s “This World” there was a showing of “The American Timebomb” a film made by the former US Comptroller David Walker originally under the title “I.O.U.S.A.” (I think you will be able shortly to see this at Tiscali).

It is a film based on the Book “Empire of Debt” by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin, and the film was produced by Bonner’s publishing Company Agora, which publishes a number of journals in Britain including, “Money Week”, “The Fleet Street Letter” (currently Edited by Lord Rees-Mogg, but whose one time Editor was a certain Kim Philby), and International Living amongst others. They also produce a number of E-Newsletters, including the “Daily Reckoning” .

Bonner is a Libertarian and an adherent of the so called “Austrian School” of economics, so named after the original location of the school of Karl Menger and later Bohm-Bawerk, but which in reality has come to mean the anti-socialist school of Von Mises, and Frederick Hayek. The take on the crisis of the US economy is naturally slanted to that point of view, and form of economic analysis. Having said that, I have been reading Bonner’s views for some time, and the views of some of the Austrian economists such as Kurt Richebacher, and it has to be said that they were probably analysing the credit bubble developing within the US economy, and its underlying weakness quite some time, before most Marxist economists like Brenner began to talk about Bubbleonomics. One of the other refreshing things about their writing – which is actually also quite amusing and entertaining – was the critique of US imperialism, its war in Iraq and so on, and their critique of the neo-cons and neo-liberals.

But, the Libertarians, more accurately anarcho-capitalists, are precisely that. Whilst they often repeat the idea that nothing lasts forever, that things go through a lifecycle, and in that context speak of US “late” or degenerate capitalism, they can, of course have no concept of historical development wherein that very lifecycle means that Capitalism dies, and socialism is born just as Capitalism was born out of feudalism. Rather, they see some new “Libertarian” capitalism arising out of the ashes. As an economist I found some enjoyment for a couple of years demolishing the ideas of the Austrian School on the DR Discussion Board, along with some of their more reactionary political positions. A not altogether fruitless endeavour. Lenin in “What is to be Done?” advised that it was necessary to be able to take on such bourgeois ideas at their source. In the process a number of people – nearly all contributors are based in the US – mailed me to say that although they had never even contemplated socialist ideas, they had found themselves agreeing with me. I even got an e-mail from the ACLU following one lengthy debate thanking me for taking on some of the reactionary ideas being put forward. If you want some light entertainment, and to sharpen your ideas its worth having a go.

That is the background to the message of this film. Basically, the message is the US is “going to hell in a hand cart” to use a common Bonner expression. The reason, that expounded long ago by Mises and Hayek, and also the former Trotskyist James Burnham. That is, Capitalism has moved away from its “true form” based on the free market. It has become “socialistic”. The bureaucratic State has grown to such proportions that it corrupts society and the free market. It promotes special interests connected to the State at the expense of the individual. The corruption of the free market by the State has enabled these special interests be they Big Business or the Trade Unions, to exert monopoly power, which in turn enables them to exert political pressure on the State. The anarcho-capitalists point to the US Constitution, and its desire for a Minarchist State, and point to the fact that the State in the US now accounts for around 50% of all economic activity, and to other facts which demonstrate that the Constitution has been undermined if not abandoned. They are keen to point out that the US is a Republic not a Democracy, and quote Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep arguing over what is for dinner. Liberty is a heavily armed sheep.” It is not surprising that many “Libertarians”, favour as the best form of Government a “benevolent despot”. Failing that many would like to see voting based on how much tax you pay! The consequence, is that they see a State, which as a result of democracy, which has to meet the needs of a majority who have nothing, combined with a bureaucracy based both within the State itself, and within the Boardrooms of US Business, creating a dysfunctional Mercantilist economy, which operates not in the interests of individuals either as consumers, or as shareholders, but in the interests of that bureaucracy. Supporters of the Bureaucratic Collectivist theory of Burnham in respect of the USSR might recognise this.

The State responds to these varying needs, and maintains itself in place, enhancing its Empire essentially, by attempting to avoid any kind of economic crisis. It does so through State intervention. The good thing about the Libertarians is that they were never taken in by all of the Neo-Liberal guff about the absence of State intervention. They recognised that over the last 20 years the State had been intervening the fuck out of the economy by monetary policy, and in accordance with Misean theory of the “Crack-Up Boom”, this was bound eventually to lead to a Bust.

The symbol of that State intervention was the extent of the US Government Deficit, which grew throughout the 1980’s, whilst going into reverse for just a few years under Clinton, before doubling under Bush, and now standing at over $10 trillion. But, in fact as Walker set out this figure is a gross underestimation of just how bankrupt the US is.

As Comptroller, Walker’s job was to Audit the Nation’s Books, and sign them off. He began to use his position in combination with others to campaign against the burgeoning fiscal crisis. On the one hand the “Austrians” do dig out some useful data, for example the work that Richebacher did in exposing the fraudulent nature of US Productivity, and GDP Growth statistics due to the use of hedonic pricing was very useful. On the other they can be rather sloppy in their approach. Partly, that is due to their methodology. Where Marxists begin by collecting the facts, sorting the facts, analysing them, fitting them into a whole, and then working back again, building their theory on the solid basis of reality, the Austrians begin with a theory, a view of the world, and from that theory logically deduce how the world should be. Mises was well known for hating to do any factual research. For the Miseans facts tend to be inconvenient, if they do not fit the theory then the facts must be wrong. Such an approach cannot but lead to sloppiness. On a number of occasions I have debated with Austrians who have put up statistics and data to prove their argument, only for an examination of it to actually disprove the point they were trying to make.

There were a number of such pieces of sloppiness in the film, for example giving Alan Greenspan’s period of tenure as being 1993-2007, whereas it was in fact 1987-2006. That’s not altogether irrelevant. Greenspan is a hate figure for the Libertarians. He is to them something of a traitor, a one time student of Ayn Rand, a supporter of Gold Money as opposed to paper currency, and opponent of easy money, he became the devil incarnate that spawned his successor “Helicopter Ben” Bernanke.

But, the main thrust of the statistics that Walker set out are not in doubt. In reality, even the period of budget surpluses of he 1990’s are not all they appear. Some of that surplus is accounted for by the Social Security surplus, that is the money paid in by US citizens to cover Social Security costs such as Pensions, Medicare and Medicaid. However, the changing demographics of the US mean that rather than a Social Security surplus the US will face a rapidly growing deficit as the Baby Boomer generation retires, stops paying into the Fund, and begins to draw its Pensions and other Benefits. As these Baby Boomers retire over the next 5 years this deficit is set to balloon massively, dwarfing the current $10 trillion deficit. In fact, the deficit could rise to more like $80 trillion.

This is not a problem that has just arisen. It is a symptom of the underlying structural weakness of the US economy that has been developing over the last 20-30 years, and of which the current financial crisis is merely a symptom. It is a problem of epic proportions for the US as a wide variety of commentators spelled out throughout the film. The problem the US could face, and indeed is already close to facing is this, as I think it was Warren Buffett set out in the film; in order to finance this deficit the US Government has to borrow money. In the past Government’s have borrowed money from their own citizens – companies have profits, which they do not always use up, Capitalists use some of their dividends and Capital Gains to buy Government Bonds, individuals save money, which is accrued in Banks, which in turn buy Government Bonds. But, for a long time the US has had either a very low savings rate, or even a negative savings rate. By contrast, some Chinese workers were shown who despite earning only $10 a day each, lived on one person’s wage and saved the other. So the US has borrowed the money it needed – both for the Government and for individuals who made up their negative savings by borrowing too - from foreigners. It has become dependent for its livelihood on “the kindness of strangers”.

All well and good if at some point you can pay it back at some point. But, as the film pointed out. In 1956, the US blackmailed Britain and France into withdrawing their troops from Suez by threatening to call in its loans effectively ending British and French Colonialism. China now has such economic influence through its ownership of US debt that it could begin to apply similar pressure – though I think there is little evidence that it is doing so, or that the US would respond.

But, the economic problem is more real. Like every other borrower the Government has to pay interest on all of that debt. Let us suppose that the interest to foreigners on that debt amounts to 3% of GDP. In effect then, unless the US economy grows by more than 3% it experiences no real domestic growth at all. All of the growth that takes place goes not to enhance the US Capital stock, not to enhance wage levels and so on, but simply to pay out its foreign debtors. If it grows by less than that 3%, then in reality the economy is shrinking, becoming poorer, and thereby even less able to meet its obligations. Its like someone who gets a £10 wage rise, but finds themselves worse off, because they have contracted a debt which requires them to pay £12 in interest. The US is close to that point already when its debt rises from $10 trillion to $80 trillion it will be pushed way beyond it.

The only way out of such a situation is the one that Governments have adopted in the past. Usually, in modern economies the Money Supply is increased not by actually printing more money, but by enabling the financial institutions to create more credit. But, credit itself entails borrowing. Faced with huge debt obligations to foreigners Governments can instead of raising the money to pay these debts from their citizens through higher taxes pay them off by simply printing more money. That is what the Weimar Republic in Germany did as a means of paying off Germany’s Debts under the Versailles Treaty, it is what Argentina did in the late 1980’s, and what Zimbabwe is doing today. The consequences in all the above cases, and in every other case I am aware of is hyperinflation.

Its interesting to note that today the US Federal Reserve has announced a further package of measures and intervention worth around $800 billion. There has been no legislative approval of a further package to cover this money, that is it is not money that is being raised by taxation or borrowing. In short, the Central Bank has simply printed another $800 billion.

The end of an Empire? Maybe.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Marxists, The State and War

Yesterday, I wrote a short blog about the utter confusion of the AWL in relation to the Financial Crisis and how Marxists should respond to it. See: Wonderful Logic . The confusion arose out of their statist Lassallean politics, which in place of attempting to mobilise working class self-activity to resolve workers problems can only see the bourgeois state as the means of effecting solutions. There was more utter confusion in the article in the ludicrous economic theory presented there e.g. the idea that the needs of workers could be met by that State if it simply printed more money! That, of course is not the economics of Marx or even Lassalle, but the economics of John Law or Isaac Pereire, described in Capital by Marx as shysters.

The AWL’s politics in this as in pretty much everything nowadays was really bad, but in reality not much worse than most of the rest of the Left. Permanent Revolution tends to have a better grasp of economic theory, and a better understanding of the crisis, but they too are in thrall to Lassallean statism as much as the AWL. They too have nothing to say to workers, for example, in danger of losing their homes or unable to obtain homes, other than to recommend them to petition the bourgeois State to carry out good works on their behalf. See: Here .

I want to contrast the positions of both groups in the light of this Lassalleanism also in relation to the question of War. Take the AWL’s position above in relation to the Banks, and its method of arguing in relation to Iraq. In Iraq it says, “Marxists cannot demand that the Capitalist State (Imperialism) leave because, absent a sufficiently strong working class, the consequence of such a demand being fulfilled will be, in practice, the destruction of the Iraqi Labour movement.”

So, when the AWL raise the demand for the Banks and finance houses to be nationalised, do they assume then that in Britain, here and now a strong enough Labour Movement exists, and is mobilised, to ensure not only that such nationalisation occurs, but occurs in such a way as to benefit workers, that these institutions are placed under workers control and so on!!!!! If they do, then they really are flying around the cosmos with Posadas looking for extraterrestrials. But, if they do not – and from everything else they say they clearly don’t – believe that to be the case, then how, using the same argument they apply to Troops Out of Iraq, can they raise a demand, the consequence of which they KNOW must have the opposite consequence of that they seek???? In other words the only way that nationalisation of the Banks etc will occur here and now is for the purposes, and on the basis on which it has ALREADY occurred, that of serving the interests of the Capitalist class. For a Marxist as opposed to a Lassallean that comes as no surprise, because contrary to what the AWL now appear to believe about the nature of “democratic imperialism” and its good works, the function of the Capitalist State is precisely to do that to act in the interests of the Capitalists, not the workers!

The reality is the AWL know this, but having given up on the working class they raise these demands not as demands placed in front of the working class, but as recommendations to the bourgeoisie on whose actions they have now come to rely. They cove themselves with Leftish verbiage and demands they know the bourgeoisie will not implement simply as a cordon sanitaire so that they can say at some future point, well we didn’t ask them to do this, or we said they should do the other as well, but they didn’t.

The AWL’s position in Iraq really means relying on the the bourgeois state on “democratic imperialism” to fight the workers battles, because they have no faith in the workers being able to do that. Permanent Revolution, however, do call on the workers in Iraq to fight their own battles, and reject the idea that imperialism can do that for them, or that it is a lesser evil compared with the workers clerical-fascist opponents. But, as my debates with them recently – see link above – have shown their Lassalleanism shows through in the question of War as much as in their calls to the bourgeois state to resolve workers housing problems.

In one of those discussions Bill Jefferies commented, in response to my point that their demand for the State to intervene over the housing question was no different from the AWL’s reliance on the bourgeois State in Iraq,

“Was it "unlikely" in fact "highly unlikely" in fact "so unlikely that it was virtually inconceivable" that the bosses would drop their plans to attack Iraq.

It was.

Should we have refused to campaign against the war? Or stated on every leaflet, "although we oppose the war, there's really very little chance of success, we don't think there's anyway the capitalist state will alter its essence and halt the attack, sorry to shatter your illusions. By the way we want street blockades and strikes which could get you arrested and sacked."

The utter confusion of the Lassallean statism is exposed here as clearly as in the AWL’s demands in relation to the financial crisis. On the one hand we are told that although PR start by knowing that the bourgeois state will not accede to its demands the purpose is really not to obtain its accession to them anyway. It is in reality all just a pantomime through, which the working class can see that bouregois State exposed because it does not accede to them! Yet, they object to beginning that process with what ought to be the very obvious action for anyone wanting to so expose that State on that basis, that is to pointing out from the very beginning precisely the fact that it was “so unlikely that it was virtually inconceivable" that the bosses would drop their plans to attack Iraq.” They feared raising such propaganda for fear of “shattering the illusions” of those who might take part. The very illusions the whole pantomime they tell us was to be staged to bring about!!!!

So, in reality in calling for “Troops Out” in Britain what PR are left with is similarly a demand addressed not to workers, but to the bosses. For a Marxist a demand for “Troops Out” addressed to workers in Britain could only mean a demand that those workers engage in a campaign of strikes and other measures to frustrate Britain’s war drive, and thereby assist their Iraqi comrades fighting that Occupation. In other words all those kinds of actions, like those of the US dockworkers, which Bill thinks workers in Britain should not be called upon to undertake,

“By the way we want street blockades and strikes which could get you arrested and sacked."

as he put it sarcastically.

In other words, PR are left with nothing more than bourgeois pacifism in Britain, pointless demonstrations to call on the bourgeois State to do things it will not do, and they know it will not do, just like the demonstrations the pacifists organised before WWI, or the pacificists, Stalinists, and Social Democrats organised prior to WWII. It has nothing to do with Marxism.

For a Marxist the demand “Troops Out” addressed to Iraqi workers is a demand for those workers to build factory committees, workers defence squads and so on in order to build the necessary infrastructure for a revolutionary war against the Occupation. For a Marxist the demand “Troops Out” in either country can never be a demand let alone a request made to the bourgeoisie. It is a demand addressed to workers NOT to rely on the bourgeois State to recognise it as their enemy, and to take matters directly into their own hands.

The Lassalleanism of the Left has led them into all of the same pacifistic mistakes of the Left in the past. Prior to WWI only a few Marxists avoided that mistake. The Zimmerwald Left refused to get drawn along behind all of that pacifistic nonsense of calling on the bourgeois State not to go to War. They knew that that was precisely what the Capitalist States were going to do whether they demanded otherwise or not, whether they held huge demonstrations against War or not. The task of Marxists was to oppose the War by direct working class action, by socialist Parliamentarians refusing to support War Credits and so on, but knowing, and saying so openly, that War could not be prevented short of an overthrow of the bourgeois state, by turning the guns on your own ruling class. That was precisely what revolutionary defeatism meant, and nothing more.

The idea that workers can control the foreign policy or the military policy of the capitalist state is dangerous nonsense as Trotsky outlined. He wrote,

"Where and when has an oppressed proletariat “controlled” the foreign policy of the bourgeoisie and the activities of its arm? How can it achieve this when the entire power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie? In order to lead the army, it is necessary to overthrow the bourgeoisie and seize power. There is no other road. But the new policy of the Communist International implies the renunciation of this only road.”

See Here

Yet, this is what the Lasalleanism of both the AWL and PR leads to. PR want to “control” British foreign policy by street demonstrations, and so on to persuade the British State to withdraw the troops. The AWL wants to control British foreign policy by demanding that it act “progressively” in Iraq.

Whilst, independent working class action in Iraq CAN force the withdrawal of imperialist troops, especially if supported by the international working class, it can only do so by smashing the State structures created by imperialism, and replacing them with new state structures not tied to imperialism. In Britain, workers cannot force the withdrawal of British troops against the will of the British State, similarly, without smashing the British State, as Trotsky outlines above. They can engage in actions such as strikes and so on to undermine the British State’s role in Iraq, but it will not be their actions which cause a withdrawal. Rather it will be the actions of Iraqi workers. Imperialist forces will leave for one of three reasons. Either they are militarily deafeated and forced out, or else the economic, military and political cost becomes too high, or imperialism has acheieved its objectives.

The position Trotsky took prior to WWII in his advice to revolutionaries compares starkly with the statism and pacificsm of those who call themselves Marxists today. His position was this. Just as with WWI the War was coming and inevitable. It could not be stopped by pacifistic demonstrations and conferences such as those the Stalinists were supporting which attempted to control the foreign policy of the capitalists states – see quote above. War could only be stopped by revolution, and revolution nearly always came after War had begun. Rather then, he argued, that when the bosses State called for military training workers should accept that call on the basis of it providing the necessary training to turn the guns on the bosses. Just as Marxists should seek to be the most conscientious, most skilled workers in a plant in order to gain the respect of other workers, Marxists in the armed forces should seek to be the most skilled, the most brave for the same reason. That way in both cases they are more likely to be listened to, and although, he says, that when the Marxists forewarn the other workers, fighting alongside them, of what is to come, of how the bosses State will betray them, they will not be listened to, when their words come to pass the workers will begin to listen to them, they will be able to begin to form a nucleus of worker soldiers around them, and that is how the guns do come to be turned on the bosses. That is how revolutions begin. They do not begin by making appeals to the bouregois State, like Oliver Twist asking “Can I have some more please.”

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Wonderful Logic

I had promised myself I wouldn't do it, but in a slack moment I decided to have a look at what the AWL were saying about the current financial crisis. Oh dear, what utter confusion. One simple example will suffice.

They write,

"But on the whole Government-supported or even Government-owned banks are run in just the same way, by the same sort of people, as the pre-crash privately-owned banks.

Ron Sandler, put in by the Government to run Northern Rock, gets £90,000 per month - £1,080,000 per year - actually higher than the £690,000 basic salary of Northern Rock's previous chief executive, Adam Applegarth.

Sandler's deputy, Ann Godbehere, is on £75,000 a month. Meanwhile, Northern Rock workers lose their jobs and Northern Rock mortgage-holders have their homes repossessed."

See: The Bailouts .

What then do our faux Marxists conclude from this fact, the nature of which anyone could have forewarned them, and some of us did, beforehand. Did they arrive at the obvious and logical conclusion that there is nothing progressive in demands for nationalisation by the Capitalist State as Marx had pointed out long ago in his Critique of the Gotha Programme? Did they follow Marx in advising workers to palce no reliance in it, but instead to establish and develop their own Co-operative enterprises? Aftre all, the AWL are "Third campists" who believe in "independent working class action", don't you know. But, no.

In a separate piece they provide us with a Workers plan for the crisis in which we find as the first solution -

" 1. Take control of the banks"

By which they do not, of course mean that workers should use their resources to strengthen the Co-op, Unity Trust and so on and take over these Banks. Oh no what they mean is that the same Capitalist State which, "run(s) (the banks)in just the same way, by the same sort of people, as the pre-crash privately-owned banks." should take them over!!!

Priceless. As Marx once put it, "If this is Marxism then I am no Marxist."

Of course, just as their teachers, the Lassalleans, did they cover their shame, or what for any self-respecting Marxist should be shame in making such cringeing requests of the bourgeois State, by adding in that the bosses State in carrying through this request, should also be so kind as to give the workers control over this property!!!! It would be hilarious were it not so criminal.

And to top it off their Christmas wish list includes a request for a Workers Government!!!! This from people who not only do not beleive that we are in a revolutionary epoch, but who are totally defeatist about the working class in general, who have declared the only rewal Workers Party that exists - the Labour Party - dead, believe the Trade Unions are in not much better shape, and so on, and yet with a supposedly straight face raise the demand for a Workers Government - made up of who exactly - that will take serious measures against the bosses - without of course, having control of the State apparatus, and thereby even were it likely to happen provoking the kind of backlash that Allende provoked in Chile, and with the same consequences for the working class.

These are seriously deranged people. The only thing that is required now in their evolution is for them to top of this list of demands with the request for Posadas' flying saucers to come down to save us.

What Happened in Pictures

Further, to my recent blogs, on the Economic Crisis, about how things got to where we are, and where they are going, I thought it would be useful to try to portray the movements that occurred in pictures.

Fig 1.

What I am trying to show, in Figure 1., is the relative movement of values, between different aspects of the economy, over the Long Period. Beginning at the bottom. The individual Exchange Values, of commodities, taken as a whole, always fall over time. The reason for that is simple. Over time, the development of technique brings about improvements in the productivity of Labour. Less labour-time is required for the production of every type of commodity – with some exceptions I will come to later – and so the individual exchange value of those commodities falls. It will be objected that rarely do we see periods of deflation. I will deal with that point again later.

Similarly, we see the exchange-value of Labour-power falling over time. Again this is not surprising. The Exchange-value of Labour power as for any other commodity is the labour-time required for its production. In essence, this means all the Labour-time, required to produce the necessities, for ensuring that the workers and their families can survive, and be reproduced as workers. As we have seen the exchange-value of all these other commodities falling, then, it is clear that the cost of reproducing Labour-power itself must fall. But, we also see that the rate of fall for Labour-power is less than that for commodities in general. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, over-time the requirements of Capitalists of what they want from workers changes. The more technological work becomes, the more complicated all other aspects of life become for the worker the more the Capitalist requires workers with a basic level – at least – of education. Particularly, when workers begin to learn to control their family size, and when Capitalists require some degree of continuity, it is important for them to have relatively healthy workforces, so that they do not have to continually recruit, and train new workers. An inherent aspect of the production of Labour-power, then, becomes the increasing need to include within its cost of production these needs for education, health and so on. Secondly, as Marx sets out in the Grundrisse, workers form a major and growing part of all consumers. Although, Capital exists to produce profit it can only do so if it along the way produces commodities that can be sold. But, as the prices of these commodities fall over time, as we have seen, workers can buy more of them. Yet, there is a limit to how many sausages a worker can eat. At some point, they will be more interested in spending some of their wages on some other commodity. The Capitalists, then, cannot continue producing sausages ad infinitum without regard for the potential market. At some point, they too must allocate some of their Capital to producing other commodities for the worker to consume.

Marx calls this the “civilising mission of Capital”. It is forced to steadily increase the range of commodities available to the worker for their consumption, to continually expand his horizons. These commodities do not have to be restrained to sausages or coats, but can be other types of commodities in the form of services, of education, of culture and so on. And as Marx says, it is all this which ultimately provides the worker with the basic tools by which to become himself the ruler of society.

I have included Gold because it has for a long time acted as the stable form of Value as a measure between the relations between other values. Clearly, that is not true in terms of its price, which varies greatly, but this can be explained by that price itself being determined partly by the fluctuations in those relative values, by the representation of Value by price set in terms of widely fluctuating paper currencies, and by the short-term fluctuations in price resulting from changes in its Supply and Demand.

Next, is Capital which we see rising in Value. The reason for that is clear as Marx set out. Apart from short periods of time, Capitalist economies grow. This growth involves an accumulation of Capital. Surplus Value, created by workers is partly consumed by Capitalists as unproductive consumption, but another large part is used productively as investment in new Capacity – new machines, new buildings, additional materials to be worked up, additional workers to work them up. Every £1,000 that the Capitalists invested now has a value of say £1,200. If this Capital is represented by a certain number of shares then clearly the value of these shares rises by 20%. Because the line for the value of Capital rises whilst the line for the Value of Labour-power falls a growing gulf necessarily opens between Capital and labour.

"Capital as not-Labour" and "Labour as Not-Capital"

Again, Marx explains the relevance of this in the Grundrisse, and its something on which many Marxists have fallen into confusion adopting not the position of Marx, but the position of Lassalle and his “Iron Law of Wages”, much criticised by Marx. Many Marxists quote Marx to the effect that he predicted that Capitalism would create a growing pool of misery and poverty. In fact, Roman Rosdolsky, who carried out, perhaps, the most exhaustive study, of Marx’s Capital, concluded that in over 1,000 references there was only one passage that could be interpreted in this way. The immiseration theory is not Marx’s, it is Lassalle’s. In order to understand what Marx is saying, and to understand the diagram above, it is necessary to turn again to what Marx says in the Grundrisse, and to understand the way he uses the term “poverty” and its opposite “affluence”. What Marx says, appears contradictory, if we take the usual meaning of these terms, but, Marx often uses terms in a more precise way than in normal usage – take his usage of the term Capital for instance. Logically, it is impossible for Marx to talk about the “Civilising Mission of Capital” as he does, as continually raising workers living standards and horizons, if he had an immiseration theory. In fact, what Marx says is that no matter how “affluent” workers might become i.e. how much their quantity and quality of consumption might rise, they continually become “poorer” in so far as they are continually deprived of the means of production, which move further and further from their reach as workers. They are consumption “rich”, and Capital “poor”. Indeed, the more their consumption needs expand, and the more they are deprived of Capital, the more they are dependent upon selling their Labour-power, the more actual wage slaves they become, the more tied to and dependent on Capital do they become.

As Marx puts it on p206 “purely subjective existence of labour, stripped of an objectivity. Labour as absolute poverty”, but Marx does not mean poverty in the normal sense here the worker might be rich in income terms what Marx means is then outlined, “poverty not as shortage, but as total exclusion of objective wealth.”

Some time ago in order to make the point I quoted a Chris Rock comedy routine I heard one evening.

The routine went something like this. “There are no wealthy black Americans. There are some RICH black Americans, but they aren’t WEALTHY. Bill Cosby is RICH from all the shit he does, but he ain’t wealthy. Now the white mother-fucker who writes the cheque to pay him for all that shit he does, NOW HE’s WEALTHY.” He went on in similar vein, before “The reason we ain’t wealthy is we spend all our money on rims. We might have the worst car on the block as long as its got good rims. Shit if we hadn’t got a car we’d put rims on our toaster. Now Bill Gates he ain’t got no rims, but he owns Microsoft.”

This is precisely the point that Marx makes. Workers can have high incomes (relatively), but if all that income is spent on consumption then the worker cannot become (WEALTHY) because they can’t accrue CAPITAL. But as Marx points out (though he bends the stick) workers wages are usually so low they can’t save, when they are raised they take the opportunity to expand the sphere of consumption and culture, and, to the extent they do save, the Savings Banks pay them low interest and lend it to Capitalists who use it to make much more money etc. It is only possible to break out of this if instead the savings become Capital.

He says, "… if the worker’s savings are not to remain merely the product of circulation - saved up money , which can be realised only by being converted sooner or later into the substantial content of wealth, pleasures etc. – then the saved up money would itself have to become capital, i.e. buy labour, relate to labour as use-value. It thus pre-supposes labour, which is not capital, and presupposes that labour has become its opposite – not labour. In order to become capital, it itself presupposes labour as not-capital as against Capital; hence it presupposes the establishment at another point of the contradiction it is supposed to overcome. If, then, in the original relation itself, the object and the product of the worker’s exchange – as product of mere exchange, it can be no other – were not use value, subsistence, satisfaction of direct needs, withdrawal from circulation of the equivalent put into it in order to be destroyed by consumption – then labour would confront capital not as labour, not as not-capital, but as capital. But capital, too, cannot confront capital if capital does not confront labour, since capital is only capital as not-labour; in this contradictory relation. Thus the concept and the relation of capital itself would be destroyed.”

And this concept of Labour which is not Labour, Capital which is not Capital is precisely the solution that Marx gives to the problem. He has here subverted the starting point of the Ideal Labour and the Ideal Capital by standing them on their head and relating them not to the Ideal but the material realities. The worker cannot get out of his situation, cannot but be reproduced as Labour through saving, but only through ownership of Capital. How does the worker become the owner of Capital rather than mere savings, precisely in the way Marx refers to in Capital III, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, and in his Address to the First International, by the setting up of Co-operatives which by their nature are transitional forms because within them Labour is at the same time not-Labour, and Capital is at the same time not-Capital.

Finally, we see the Value of Land/property rising. The reason for this is simple. Although, Land has no Exchange-Value as such – because it has no cost of production – it is bought and sold, does have a price. This price Marx explains is derived from the Capitalisation of the Rent that the land would earn. Because, over time, the total volume of Surplus Value rises, whilst the quantity of land available is fixed the rent – which is merely paid as a portion of the Surplus Value to the landlord by the Capitalist – must rise.

The Two Points

I said I would deal with two points from earlier. Firstly, on the question of the falling exchange-values of commodities. Orthodox economics has as one of its central themes the concept of diminishing returns. It is argued that, at a certain point, the economies and efficiencies, that can be gained from increasing scale, turn into their opposite, and that, at this point, the marginal cost of producing a further unit of output begins to rise. In reality, there is no evidence that capitalist industry reaches this point. If it does in relation to a particular plant then the answer is simple – to build an additional, separate plant. All the evidence we have demonstrates that as production volumes rise, marginal costs fall. However, there are clearly some commodities for which this is not true, and there are periods of time for some commodities during which this is not true. For example, if the world really has, as many oil experts believe, reached “Peak Oil” i.e. the world cannot expand its total output from current levels, then, from here on in, the cost of producing each marginal barrel of oil will rise. It will require more labour-time to discover each new exploitable oil-field, more labour-time to develop the new types of technique and of machine required to extract oil from ever more difficult sources and so on.

The same can be true, for a time, even of similar resources that are not immediately in danger of running out, but which nevertheless require exploration to find them, and long drawn out periods of investment before production can begin e.g. the discovery and operation of new copper mines.

Secondly, I referred to the fact that although Exchange-Values of commodities fall over time we only rarely see periods of deflation i.e. of such falls in the general price level. The first things to say about that is that obviously the general price level covers a whole range of prices, and within it we do frequently see the prices of some types of products falling. But, this is not the real explanation. The real explanation is to look not at absolute price levels manifested in the ticket price of goods, but to look at their relative price level. The reality is that a fundamental requirement of a modern Capitalist economy is not stable prices, but modestly rising prices, which is why the MPC is told to target inflation not at zero, but at 2%. Those rising prices do not reflect real rises in the exchange values of commodities, but only a relative price rise measured in terms of the paper currency in which they are priced. In reality, it is not that the values of the commodities is rising, but that the value of the paper currency in which those prices are denominated is falling.

Why The Capitalist Economy Requires Inflation

I have set out previously how Marx’s theory explains the recent rise in the price of Gold, and in the same blog how Marx demonstrates the nature of Gold as real money, and the inverse relation to it which paper or other money tokens have dependent upon the quantity of them produced. See: Gold

The reason the Capitalist economy requires this steady devaluation of the currency is rooted in the way modern Capitalism works. In the model of the free, Capitalist Market, taught in school, all firms have to take the market price for their products. If one firm tries to charge a higher price it will find its customers abandon it for its competitors. Because no firm is very big, its output can easily be accommodated by other suppliers. But, if this has ever been a realistic picture of the way Capitalism worked, it certainly has not been so for more than a hundred years. In place of these multitude of tiny producers, production has been dominated by a small number of very large producers – oligopolists.

The US economist, Paul Sweezy, explained the consequence of this with his theory of the so called “kinked demand curve”. See: Kinked demand Curve

The consequence is that, where a firm needs to raise prices, to cover costs, in order to maintain its profits, it will be prepared to do so even if this means it might lose some market share. In reality, it will hope that its use of branding and other advertising techniques will minimise if not prevent such loss, because consumers will not see its competitors’ products as a direct substitute for its own. However, an oligopolist firm will NOT reduce its prices for the purpose of securing a greater market share over its rivals, because it can be confident that its competitors will follow suit, and so will begin a destructive price war, which will reduce the profits of all concerned. As David Laidler in his standard texbook on Economics, “An Introduction to Microeconomics”, says, this behaviour can, in fact, be observed through empirical study. So Monopoly Capitalism has a vested interest in avoiding such falls in nominal prices, especially at a global level where they can have the consequence, now associated with deflation, whereby consumers hold off spending in the knowledge that prices will be lower in the future, thereby sparking a downward spiral of economic activity and prices.

When the age of Monopoly Capitalism dawned then, at the end of the 19th Century, one of the things that these Monopolies required was a State institution such as a Central Bank whose task it was to so manage the issue of paper currency so as to ensure that nominal prices did not fall. We see the Federal Reserve, established in 1913, which from the beginning undertakes this function. There is another reason for having a Central Bank issue sufficient money tokens to devalue them when necessary. Falling commodity values, relative to the Value of Labour Power, are all well and good during periods in which Capital is expanding, and the volume and rate of Surplus Value is increasing. But, during periods when that is not the case, it is not as easy to push down wages as it is commodity values. Not only has a certain level of consumption become enshrined in the cost of production of Labour-Power, but workers will resist nominal wage cuts, even where the prices of commodities are falling. Keynes and other economists theorised this “stickiness” of wages in a downwards direction. If commodity prices fall, whilst wages rise, during such periods, the consequence is a squeeze on profits, and on the Rate of Profit. Capital found that the trick was to use what Keynes called “Money Illusion”. Workers will resist nominal wage cuts far more than real wage cuts. If Money wages rise, but rise by less than prices, or, more precisely, if unit labour costs rise less rapidly than prices, then Capital can continue to maintain the Rate of Profit. This is what Mises and Schumpeter euphemistically referred to as “forced saving”.

In fact, that is what has been witnessed over the last 25 years. In the US and UK, in particular, real wages were stagnant or falling even though nominal wages were rising. Commodity prices were falling too, in fact quite sharply, as a result of the new production from China and Asia. Both were not apparent, because during that time a huge amount of liquidity was pumped into the economy, vast quantities of money tokens and credit oozed out devaluing the money against these other prices giving them the appearance of stability or rising money prices.

Fig. 2 Shows the difference over this period.

The picture appears similar, but rather than values shows prices. It is really a question of degree. The main feature is that the rate of rise of Capital and of Land and Property is steeper. Why? The reason is to do with the liquidity. The liquidity pumped into the market enables the money illusion to be pulled off, for real wages to fall whilst nominal wages rise thereby enabling the Rate of Profit to be maintained or even to rise. So the diagram shows nominal wages rising slightly, whilst commodity prices rise slightly faster. But, the excess liquidity pumped into the system has another consequence. It is not all used for consumption – productive or unproductive – a large proportion of this liquidity finds its way into speculation. So, speculation in shares pushes up share prices way beyond what the underlying Capital Values actually justifies. Similar speculation in Land and property brings about a similar rise in its price.

Moreover, the picture becomes even more complicated. Marx argued that the only way for workers to break out of their condition was for them to cease being “Labour”, and to become also “Not-Labour” as set out above. That meant not just accumulating savings, but accumulating Capital. He most notably argued that that should be effected by the setting up of Co-operatives, but in Capital he also proclaimed that the Joint Stock Company was also a transitional form of enterprise to the new socialist society, precisely because its ownership could become diffuse. The modern equivalent is the Public Limited Company, and today millions of workers do own shares in these companies either directly, or through a Unit Trust, or else through their Pension Scheme. During the last period, as this huge quantity of liquidity pushed up residential property prices, even workers, through these various channels, participated in the speculation that drove not just property, but also share prices higher.

But, this bubble in asset prices was just as much a money illusion as that which enabled Capital to maintain and increase the Rate of Profit, by bringing about falling real wages. And as capitalist traders know there is always, at some point, a reversion to the mean. The Bubble had to be followed by a bust.

That is the process underway. It will inevitably see those asset prices which were inflated, Shares and Property, fall significantly – probably by more than they need to before coming back. The other main form of Capitalist Property – Bonds – are also likely to fall. Bonds are issued by companies and governments against debt. In risky times the price they can sell these Bonds for falls, and hence the Interest paid on them rises. At the moment Government Bonds are selling for high prices, paradoxically, for the simple reason that investors do not want to put their money anywhere else, because the risk is too great. If some governments begin to default on this debt – for example as Russia and some Latin American countries did in the 1990’s – then investors will begin to rush out of Bonds too, forcing their prices down, and interest rates up, leaving the poor Joe Public who has been sold some Unit Trust Bond Fund nursing huge Capital losses. Already, they are likely to suffer those kind of Capital losses on such Bonds and Funds issued by some of the large, but bankrupt companies like GM and Ford. In the meantime, the smart money will have got out and bought as much Gold as it can get its hands on.

The other danger, for anyone holding such Bonds, is that once the measures being taken to stave off recession begin to take effect then the huge volumes of liquidity pumped into the world economy can have no other consequence, but to cause inflation. In every such situation in the past where Government’s have accumulated huge debts – and this is the answer to the Tories arguments about how Brown’s borrowing will be repaid – they have cleared them by effectively paying back their creditors with funny money, with currency that has been seriously devalued through inflation. The smart money understands that and already has been concentrating its purchases of Bonds not on the long term Bonds, but on the short term Bonds of 3 month duration to minimise this risk. Again it will be Joe Public, or even Joe the Plumber, who will get screwed, left holding the long bonds in his Unit Trust and Pension Scheme.

Ultimately, this Casino, like every other, is rigged in the interests of the Casino owners, in this case the Capitalist class. Workers cannot compete in that Casino on the same basis as the capitalists as things stand. But, they can establish their own card school. They can set up Co-operatives that function not in accordance with the principles of gambling, but on the firm foundation of producing real wealth, the ownership of which, being in the hands of the workers that produce it, is not available for the Capitalist jackals to bet on. Instead of gambling their own money away, in a bet on whether this piece of fictitious Capital, represented by a share certificate, Bond certificate or property deed, might go up or down in price tomorrow, they can instead invest their money in such Co-operative enterprises, in buying real machinery, real materials and hiring real workers to produce real wealth to be shared out amongst them, strengthening their economic and social position compared to the capitalists.

Let, the Capitalists gamble away their wealth if they choose. Workers should instead begin to invest their Labour-power, and their savings in their own Co-operative enterprises, in Co-operative production, and banking, and services, in the establishment of a multiplicity of forms such as Credit Unions to meet the specific needs and requirements of workers in every specific situation, proving that there is a rational, credible alternative to the lunacy of the Capitalist Casino.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Should BNP Members Be Sacked?

The publication of the list of names of members of the BNP has raised the question in the media - "Should BNP members be sacked?". In some areas of employment such as the police or prison service membership of the BNP is prohibited. The question has also been raised about the fitness of people who hold racist views for other jobs such as teaching. The question a Marxist has to ask is - "Who would be doing the sacking?" The fact is that the sacking would be done by the Capitalist State, or in some cases individual Capitalists. Such action would in fact, be no different from a State ban on the BNP. Marxists are opposed to the State having the power of banning or censoring anything, because we know that such a ban or act of censorship, if not now then in the future will be used far more against workers and socialists. So, for a Marxist the answer has to be no we are not in favour of calling for the sacking of BNP members.

But, we have to be opposed to such demands for another reason. Not only, do Marxists oppose calls for the Capitalist State to act or for the Capitalist class to act in this way, because we know it will be used against us, we oppose such demands, because once again they encourage the working class to rely upon, and have illusions in that very Capitalist class, and its State rather than in its own direct self-activity. It is one thing to say that fascists should not be sacked, it is another to say that workers themselves should not hound them out, isolate them, shame them, expose them for the vermin they are, that parents and students should not organise boycotts of classes taught by fascist teachers and lecturers providing them with no platform from which to spew their filth.

This ought to be common ground for all Marxists, and for most it is. Yet, the vast Majority of the Left, including that section, which claims to be Marxist, finds itself in a contradiction here. For, more than a hundred years going back to Marx's time, the majority of the Left has been bound hand and foot to bourgeois ideology. That is as true for those that called and call themselves Marxists or even Revolutionary Marxists - as though in truth their could be any other - to distinguish themselves from the reformists, as for all the other variety of socialists. As the Amercian socialist Hal Draper, put it in his, "The Two Souls of Socialism", the German SPD, which at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th Century was the well-spring from which modern Marxism sprang, was in fact a poisoned well, infected with Lassallean Statism more than Marxist Libertarianism. Time and again we see so called Marxists basing themselves not on the principle of such self-activity, but on the basis of demands placed on that very bourgeois State to act.

Two related recent discussions I was having with comrades from permanent Revolution demonstrates the point. See: Manchester and Lewisham illustrate the point nicely.

Permanent Revolution adopts the traditional Trotskyist position of opposing state bans against fascists. Quite correct. It explains that position in the same terms I have used myself above. But, how can they square this with their position in the two other discussions. Exactly, the same argument applies. Let us examine it.

1. They say that it is necessary that demands to act be placed on the bourgeois State so that it cannot be allowed to get off the hook. Why is it not letting the bourgeois State off the hook demanding it act in Manchester or Lewisham, yet it can be allowed off the same hook by NOT demanding it act against fascists????

2. They say that although they know that demanding the Capitalist State will not provide solutions for workers in relation to their housing problems, it is necessary to demand it does in order that workers learn that the Capitalist State will not act in their interests. But, then why not raise the demand for the State to act against the fascists for the same reason???

3. They say that raising a demand for the State to act in relation to Housing mobilises the masses to create a movement that can bring about change. But, the same could be said about a raising a demand for the State to act against the fascists, not because we believe they will, but merely in order to mobilise the masses around such a demand, to "BUILD a MOVEMENT."

The reality is that there is NO difference in any of these cases. I don't want to pick out PR here. I am just using a recent discussion to demonstrate the point that modern Marxism is hopelessly confused and finds itself in contradictory positions like this, because, in fact it has abandoned Marx's teachings on the need to build working class self-reliance and self-activity, and his outright hostility to demands placed on the bourgeois State as expressed most clearly in his Critique of the Gotha Programme.

The sooner the Left engages in a serious self-criticism and gets back to Marx, and away from the statism and Leninism that has crippled it during the 20th century the better. The sooner can it begin to see more clearly, and the sooner can it begin to focus on raising demands that can provide real solutions to workers problems here and now through their own hands, rather than on playing games with the class, raising demands on the bourgeois State it knows can never be implemented by it, demands raised not to solve workers problems, but for the ridiculously minimal purpose of exposing the State once again in front of the workers. The reality is that workers hae already learned not to expect much from the Capitalist State just as Srfs expected little from their Lord and Master. They continue to turn to it no out of any real belief in its munificence, but simply out of the lack of any real demonstrable alternative being provided to them.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Chance of a Lifetime

I was watching an old 1950's film on Film 4 the other day The Chance of a Lifetime . Its a mild comedy about a factory making and maintaining agricultural implements in post-war Britain. A review and opportunity to see the film is given at the above link, but as a short summary the film goes something like this.

There is a dispute a the factory. Workers in the post-war environment are feeling more militant. They object to the Management style of a new manager brought in, and the main worker's spokesman is fired for challenging Management. The workers immediately down tools demanding his reinstatement. In response, the factory owner gives the workers a lecture about the long hours he works, and the responsibility he bears. They should try doing his job he says, and offers them the chance. The workers take him up on the offer much to his amazement and chagrin. Convinced they will soon fail and backed into a corner on his offer, he agrees to lease the firm to the workers at a rental of 5% of the Capital value.

The workers agree, and qickly elect two new Factor Managers, and a production manager played by Kenneth More. There are a number of well-known actors in the film including Hattie Jacques who plays the part of a production workers who scolds one or two of the more Bolshy male workers for being hypocritical and lazy both before and after the workers take over the factory.

At this point you are of course expecting that the workers begin to fall out amongst themselves that they are proved incapable, and need the boss to come back. The Secretary decides her place is alongside the Boss and walks out, but the firm's bookkeeper says he can't afford to quit. The new management at this ask him how much he's paid. "£8 a week", he replies. "We thought you suit and tie blokes were on at least £20," say the new bosses, "We'll have to see about giving you a rise." But, I was pleasantly surprised. This is not one of those comedies of the time like, for example, the pretty appalling "I'm Alright Jack", starring peterSellers and Ian Carmichael, which was a parody of class relations, and a charicature of workers and Trade Unions. More true to life we see the factory owner having a get together with the Company Secretary, the firms bank manager, and others discussing what to do. The are all convinced the experiement will fail, and decide to simply wait, for the owner to go on holiday in the meantime.

The Company Secretary, on this basis comes back to work, but clearly looks down her nose at the new bosses, being unhelpful when they want to dictate letters etc. But, the workers quickly set about sprucing up the factory, which like much of post-war Britain was in a run-down state. They tidy work areas, paint the building, and refurbish the firm's vehicle fleet. They bring in new ideas, and do well.

But, again, true to life in the experience workers have had in such situations, the firm's Bank and its suppliers withdraw Credit. The Bank will only advance Credit if the workers provide collateral. In response the workers have a whip round to raise the money. This provides the first conflict with some of those workers who were the most Bolshy under the old management continuing to view the running of the firm in the same terms. This was interesting. In many ways the way the firm was being run, WAS the same as before. The vision of workers management portrayed was not one of a functioning workers democracy. It was a mix of Leninism and bouregos democracy. The workers had elected new Managers - by a process we never actually witnessed - and now these managers acted as the old bosses making decisions on behalf of all the workers - a combination of representative democracy, and Leninist centralism and leadership. The only time we see the workers themselves actually being consulted over an issue is here when they are being asked to cough up Capital, and when changes in work practices mean that some workers will lose out on bonuses.

Both situations are fairly quickly resolved, which was unrealstic, but probably inevitable if the film wasn't to be an epic. On the bonus issue the union bureaucrats are brought in to suggest that those affected simply suck it up. But, that isn't really the solution. The solution to this and the other problem is effectively resolved through the medium of Hattie Jacques who shames the dissenters into accepting.

The firm had developed a new type of plough which the workers begin to put into production. Its seen by a trade delegation from Zenobia, who get a demonstration, and decide to buy a large quantity. This causes a further problem. Fulfilling this contract will secure the firm, but doing so will mean retooling and reconfiguring the plant to concentratesolely on producing the new plough. One of the managers objects arguing that not only would it mean putting all their eggs in one basket, but it would mean abandoning all of their existing customers on whom the business had been built. Again the decision isn't put to the workers, but is resolved simply within the management. Kenneth More gets his way, and the dissenting Manager returns to his old job in the fitting shop.

At this point the firm's steel supplier holds up deliveries so that production has to stop, and workers face being laid off. Enter the old boss. He had been responsible for the design of the new plough,and seeing the success of the workers objects to the wrecking tactics of the steel company. Was this unrealistic? Taken as a whole probably, but not altogether. There have been such instances. Indeed, were it not for sections of the bourgeoisie having a glimpse of the future society we would not have had Marx and Engels. The Co-operative at Ralahine was only possible because the Landlord leased the farm to the workers, and even in Russia some foreign Capitalists such as Armand Hammer of Occidental petroleum were prepared to collaborate with lenin in trying to develop the economy. Given the fact, that the boss was getting a 5% whack from the workers, and that longer-term he would have no incentive to see what was still technically his firm go bust, its not that unrealistic. He threatens to go to the press to expose the steel supplier for damaging Britain's export potential. The steel arrives.

But, then an economic crisis means that Zenobia stops all imports,and the contract gives no protection against such a withdrawal to the workers. Again the boss comes in to help out, using his foreign contacts and knowledge he is able to find new markets for the ploughs that areen route to Zenobia, or waiting to be shipped. All is well, he returns, but Kenneth More takes the big Chair in his place.

I wouldn't recommend you go out of your way to see the film, but if its on one rainy afternoon its worth watching. It gives an antidote to the usual propaganda that workers can't exist without bosses. But, it hedges its bets. It is really a film about class collaboration. What it is really saying it seems to me is "Look, workers are brighter more capable than they are given credit for. If they are allowed to have a say and put in their input they can make a great contribution. But, wouldn't it be nice if bosses recognised that, and they combined their effort."

Of course, on a class wide scale that is never going to happen. Nor did the film give us a vision of how a workers Co-operative could function now or in the transition to socialism as a functioning workers democracy. There are, of course, questions that socialists have to raise about that themselves. We have had experience of workers co-operatives, and democracy does not always serve the interests of efficiency and effective decision making. Nor do democratic decisions always provide the best outcomes. It may be possible to undertake such experiements in a trasnition to socialism, but under conditions of Capitalism workers will need to ensure that the decisions they take are based on sound commercial principles rather than being carried away with the idea that within their own little encalve they can go straight away to the kind of egalitarian society that will only be possible under Communism.

I was reminded of soemthing that Gramsci wrote,

"The working masses must take adequate measures to acquire complete self-government, and the first step along this road consists in disciplining themselves, inside the workshop, in the strictest possible, yet autonomous, spontaneous and unconstrained manner. Nor can it be denied that the discipline which will be established along with the new system will lead to an improvement in production - but this is nothing but the confirmation of one of the theses of socialism: the more the productive forces acquire consciousness, liberate themselves from the slavery to which capitalism would have liked to condemn them forever, the better does their mode of utilization become - a man will aways work better than a slave. So to those who object that by this method we are collaboraing with our opponents, with the owners of the factories, we reply that on the contrary this is the only means of letting them know in concrete terms that the end of their domination is at hand, since the working class is now aware of the possibility of doing things itself, and doing them well. Indeed from one day to the next it is acquiring an ever clearer certainty that it alone can save the entire world from ruin and desolation. Hence every action that you undertake, every battle that is waged under your leadership, will be illuminated by the light of that ultimate goal which is in all of your minds and intentions."

"To the Workshop Delegates of the Fiat Centro and Brevetti Plants" September 1919

Gramsci here was talking about the Workers Councils springing up across Italy at a time of heightened class struggle that were demanding some degree of workers control and workers inspection. Ultimately, as I have written elsewhere the demand for Workers Control of Capitalist property is utopian outside such periods i.e. periods in which a situation of dual power is effectively developing within society as a whole. The bourgeoisie will not cede control of its property other than if it is forced to do so, and it is only during such periods that workers can mobilise such force. But, Gramsci's words do have significance outside that. On the one hand the real means for workers to obtain control over the means of production is for workers to actually own them by setting up Workers Co-operatives. They will face the same kind of obstruction and problems the workers in the film faced and more, which is one of the reasons we do not see more workers co-operatives in existence. But, then for centuries Capitalist enterprises were few and far between they faced similar problems against the entrenched monopolies of the guild system, obsruction by the feudal state and so on. History does not make the birth of new modes of production easy. Any new mode first has to prove ist superiority as against the old in the face of such adversity if it is to be accepted by the majority of socity and become adopted. That is what the Leninists fail to understand in thinking theyc an short-cut that process by carrying out the political revolution before the social revolution reversing the whole of Marx's teaching.

But, that does not mean either than workers should not seek where possible to exercise some control over the work-process even where they do not own the means of production. Undertaking such struggles can demonstrate to workers why such control can work, but can only work properly if the workers own the means of production. After all, the bosses to a certain degree have taken on the message set out above. The whole "After Japan" techniques that British leyland and others adopted in the 1980's was precisely about harnessing the ideas and creativity of workers in Quality Circles and so on. If we follow Gramsci here it would mean taking such initiatives of the bosses and running with them, pursuing their logic to the fullest extent against the inevitable resistance of the bosses to accept that logic.

For more than 100 years Leninism has been taken as actually being Marxism. It isn't, and it has singularly failed along with its two offspring - Stalinism and Trotskyism. Not only has it failed, but it has failed disastrously. The workers movement is much further back now than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. It is time to reject the idea that such a shortcut is possible, to return to the historical materialism of Marx, to the knowledge that ideas spring from and depend upon the material world, that workers cannot come to accept the idea of a socialist organisation of society unless they see icnreasingly, in practice, socialistic production being more effective than Capitalist production. The statism of both Leninism and of Social democracy over the last 100 years has resulted in the very opposite, of State Capitalist enterprises created by Social Democracy, and of inefficient bureaucratic enterprises created by Leninism - the bureaucratisation of the state and enterprises in Russia began immediately under Lenin, it cannot be passed off as Stalin's responsibility, Stalin was only possible because of it, and because he was its representative in Chief. It is no wonder that workers require some convincing.

Until Marxists begin to show in practice that workers have an alternative to relying on the bosses andtheir State, that will continue to be the case

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

What If The AWL Quoted Trotsky Correctly?

Before I went away Llin Davies contacted me to say that the posts she had made to the AWL website in relation to the debate over “What if Israel Bombs Iran?” had all been deleted. Nothing new there then as this seems to now be the way that the AWL deal with debate – either shout down your opponent, censor their views, or of they are a member of their organisation demand an oath of allegiance in front of a star chamber. Llin posted me to ask if she could post her comments here as an article and I agreed, but it was difficult while I was away, and for a period unable to get an Internet access to arrange the details. Llin’s post is given below.

The main reason I posted a comment on the AWL site, in respect of the debate over an Israeli attack on Iran, was a comment by Mark Osborn, which was so blatantly a falsification of Trotsky’s position in relation to the Second World War that I didn’t think it should be left to go unchallenged. I have since seen many more instances where the AWL completely misrepresent the views of Trotsky, and do so in a way that means that they must understand that they are misrepresenting him, that this is no longer a question of simple mistakes but an indication of a systematic distortion for their own sectarian ends.

Mark Osborn wrote,

“Nevertheless, the Trotskyists who followed Trotsky’s lead on this clearly recognised that, while they could not support the Allies, there was a real difference between, for example, German Nazi imperialism and the imperialism of the US.”

See: Here .

Ironically, his comment was titled “sects and lying sects”. Is this true? Did Trotsky, make such a distinction between “Fascist” imperialism, and “Democratic” Imperialism? No, it is not at all true. In fact, the very opposite is the case. I wrote back to say so, and as evidence quoted Trotsky’s criticism of the Palestinian Trotskyists, a criticism levelled for the very reason that the Palestinians WERE making the very distinction that Mark osborn attributes to Trotsky!

Trotsky, wrote,

“We maintain that in the quarter of a century that has elapsed since the outbreak of the last war, imperialism has come to rule even more despotically over the world; its hand weighs more heavily on events during peacetime as well as wartime; and finally, that under all of its political masks, it has assumed an even more reactionary character. In consequence, all the fundamental rules of proletarian “defeatist” policy in relation to imperialist war retain their full force today. This is our point of departure, and all the conclusions that follow are determined by it…..

Monarchist reaction in the last war, they state, was not of an aggressive historical character, it was rather a survival, whereas fascism nowadays represents a direct and immediate threat to the whole civilized world. The struggle is therefore the task of the international proletariat as a whole in peacetime as well as wartime. It is only natural if we become suspiciously wary: such a narrowing down of revolutionary tasks – replacing imperialism by one of its political masks, that of Fascism – is a patent concession to the Comintern, a patent indulgence of social-patriots of the “democratic” countries….

They focus their attention on fascism, as the immediate threat to the world working class and the oppressed nationalities. They hold that a “defeatist” policy is not applicable in those countries which may be at war with fascist countries. Again, such reasoning over-simplifies the problem, for it depicts the case as if the fascist countries will necessarily be found on one side of the trenches while the democratic or semi-democratic are on the other. In point of fact, there is absolutely no guarantee for this “convenient” grouping. Italy and Germany may, in the coming war as in the last, be found in opposing camps. This is by no means excluded. What are we to do in that case? Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to classify countries in accordance with purely political features : Where would we assign Poland, Rumania, present-day Czechoslovakia, and a number of other second-rate and third-rate powers?

The main tendency of the authors of this document is apparently the following: to hold that “defeatism” is obligatory for the leading fascist countries (Germany, Italy), whereas it is necessary to renounce defeatism in countries even of doubtful democratic virtue, but which are at war with the leading fascist countries. That is approximately how the main idea of the document may be worded. In this form, too, it remains false, and an obvious lapse into social-patriotism….

They do not take sufficiently into account the fact that in the epoch of decaying capitalism shifts and semi-shifts of political regimes occur quite suddenly and frequently without altering the social foundation, without checking capitalist decline. On which of these two processes must our policy be based in such a fundamental question as war: on the shifts of political regimes, or on the social foundation of imperialism, common to all political regimes and unfailingly uniting them against the revolutionary proletariat? The fundamental strategic question is our attitude toward war, which it is impermissible to subordinate to episodic tactical considerations and speculations….

But even from the purely episodic standpoint, the above-cited idea of the document is incorrect. A victory over the armies of Hitler and Mussolini implies in itself only the military defeat of Germany and Italy, and not at all the collapse of fascism. Our authors admit that fascism is the inevitable product of decaying capitalism, in so far as the proletariat does not replace bourgeois democracy in time. Just how is a military victory of decaying democracies over Germany and Italy capable of liquidating fascism, even if only for a limited period? If there were any grounds for believing that a new victory of the familiar and slightly senile Entente (minus Italy) can work such miraculous results, i.e., those counter to socio-historical laws, then it is necessary not only to “desire” this victory but to do everything in our power to bring it about. Then the Anglo-French social-patriots would be correct. As a matter of fact they are far less correct today than they were 25 years ago, or to put it more correctly, they are playing today an infinitely more reactionary and infamous role….

If there are chances (and there indubitably are) that the defeat of Germany and Italy – provided there is a revolutionary movement – may lead to the collapse of fascism, then, on the other hand, there are more proximate and immediate chances that the victory of France may deal the final blow to corroded democracy, especially if this victory is gained with the political support of the French proletariat. The entrenchment of French and British imperialism, the victory of French military-fascist reaction, the strengthening of the rule of Great Britain over India and other colonies, will in turn provide support for blackest reaction in Germany and Italy. In the event of victory, France and England will do everything to save Hitler and Mussolini, and stave off “chaos”. The proletarian revolution can of course rectify all this. But the revolution must be helped and not hindered. It is impossible to help revolution in Germany otherwise than by applying in action the principles of revolutionary internationalism in the countries warring against her….
But the Czech working class did not have the slightest right to entrust the leadership of a war “against fascism” to Messrs. Capitalists who, within a few days so safely changed their coloration and became themselves fascists and sub-fascists. Transformations and recolorations of this kind on the part of the ruling classes will be on the order of the day in wartime in all “democracies”. That is why the proletariat would ruin itself if it were to determine its main line of policy by the formal and unstable labels of “for fascism” and “against fascism”….

That policy which attempts to place upon the proletariat the unsolvable task of warding off all dangers engendered by the bourgeoisie and its policy of war is vain, false, mortally dangerous. “But fascism might be victorious!” “But the USSR is menaced!” “But Hitler’s invasion would signify the slaughter of workers!” And so on, without end. Of course, the dangers are many, very many. It is impossible not only to ward them all off, but even to foresee all of them. Should the proletariat attempt at the expense of the clarity and irreconcilability of its fundamental policy to chase after each episodic danger separately, it will unfailingly prove itself a bankrupt. In time of war, the frontiers will be altered, military victories and defeats will alternate with each other, political regimes will shift. The workers will be able to profit to the full from this monstrous chaos only if they occupy themselves not with acting as supervisors of the historical process but by engaging in the class struggle. Only the growth of their international offensive will put an end not alone to episodic “dangers” but also to their main source: the class society.”

See: Bulletin of the Russian Opposition

Could Trotsky’s words be any clearer here in affirming that there could be NO question of making a distinction between imperialism in its “fascist” mask as opposed to its “democratic” mask? No, there could be none. Yet, in reply, Sean Matgamna tried to quote back this very piece to prove that Trotsky here WAS arguing for such a position. He quoted, one passage from the above,

“If there were any grounds for believing that a new victory of the familiar and slightly senile Entente (minus Italy) can work such miraculous results, i.e., those counter to socio-historical laws, then it is necessary not only to “desire” this victory but to do everything in our power to bring it about. Then the Anglo-French social-patriots would be correct.”

To suggest that because eventually democracy was established in Germany and Italy Trotsky WAS arguing for such a distinction. But, of course, in 1939, Trotsky did not know that such an occurrence would happen so he could hardly be basing his opinion on an event he did not know would occur! Far from it, he believed the opposite would be the case.

Is it just an accident that Sean in trying to make this argument left out the very next sentence of Trotsky from that quote, which says,

“As a matter of fact they are far less correct today than they were 25 years ago, or to put it more correctly, they are playing today an infinitely more reactionary and infamous role….”,

and thereby completely reverses the meaning which he wants to attribute to Trotsky’s words?

You will not find that post of Sean, because it, along with my original post to which it was replying, have simply been deleted, clearly because they are so damning to the AWL’s position.

Sean also tried to argue that because Trotsky had been wrong about democracy not being established in Germany and Italy that meant that it was necessary to rethink Trotsky’s position, but then the AWL cannot have it both ways, either Trotsky’s position was what they claimed it was, in which case no re-evaluation is necessary, or else when they claimed that Trotsky distinguished between “fascist” imperialism and “democratic” imperialism they were blatantly misrepresenting him in order to claim him for their position. In order to further muddy the waters, and misrepresent Trotsky, Sean also referred to Trotsky’s writings in relation to the Third Period.

The reply to that line of argument is really three-fold. Firstly, to establish beyond doubt what Trotsky’s position was in relation to the Two Masks of Imperialism, Secondly, to distinguish between what Trotsky said in relation to the Third Period, where he was talking about relations WITHIN a particular State, and what he says in relation to imperialist war between states, and finally to look at what the actual experience of the period after WWII was.

Again all of the posts on both sides relating to this have been deleted, so I can only provide here the points I made in relation to the argument.

I responded to the first point by providing a long list of quotes from Trotsky just from his writings for 1938-9, some of which even use the term “the two masks” in describing imperialism in its “fascist” or “democratic” form, as identical. As Trotsky makes clear time and again, what is important is not the superficial political regime which acts as a mask, but the economic and social base on which that regime stands. Time and again the AWL, as adherents of the Third Camp, fall into that trap of basing themselves on that superficial analysis of the political regime rather than the class nature of the State.

The list is given below.

1. Page 18 of Writings 1938-9 is all about this synonymy.

2. "Fascism is a form of despair in the petit-bourgeois masses, who carry away with them over the precipice a part of the proletariat as well. Despair as is known, takes hold when all roads of salvation are cut off. The triple bankruptcy of democracy, Social Democracy and the Comintern was the prerequisite for fascism. All three have tied their fate to the fate of imperialism. All three bring nothing to the masses but despair and by this assure the triumph of fascism." (p19)

3. "Three hundred fifty million Indians must reconcile themselves to their slavery in order to support British democracy, the rulers of which at this very time, together with the slaveholders of “democratic” France, are delivering the Spanish people into Franco’s bondage. People of Latin America must tolerate with gratitude the foot of Anglo-Saxon imperialism on their neck only because this foot is dressed in a suede democratic boot. Disgrace, shame, cynicism – without end!" (p20)

4. The following quote could be used completely in relation to an attack by Israel on Iran.

"The democracies of the Versailles Entente helped the victory of Hitler by their vile oppression of defeated Germany. Now the lackeys of democratic imperialism of the Second and Third Internationals are helping with all their might the further strengthening of Hitler’s regime. Really, what would a military bloc of imperialist democracies against Hitler mean? A new edition of the Versailles chains, even more heavy, bloody and intolerable. Naturally, not a single German worker wants this. To throw off Hitler by revolution is one thing; to strangle Germany by an imperialist war is quite another. The howling of the “pacifist” jackals of democratic imperialism is therefore the best accompaniment to Hitler’s speeches. “You see,” he says to the German people, “even socialists and Communists of all enemy countries support their army and their diplomacy; if you will not rally around me, your leader, you are threatened with doom!” Stalin, the lackey of democratic imperialism, and all the lackeys of Stalin – Jouhaux, Toledano, and Company – are the best aides in deceiving, lulling, and intimidating the German workers." (p21)

Virtually nothing has to be changed here other than the names of Ahmedinejad for Hitler, and Matgamna for Stalin.

5. "The Czechoslovakian crisis revealed with remarkable clarity that fascism does not exist as an independent factor. It is only one of the tools of imperialism. “Democracy” is another of its tools. Imperialism rises above them both. It sets them in motion according to need, at times counterposing them to one another, at times amicably combining them. To fight against fascism in an alliance with imperialism, is the same as to fight in an alliance with the devil against his claws or horns." (p21)

6. The following quote sets out what Trotsky believes should be the position adopted towards the agents of “democratic” imperialism in the workers movement such as the AWL.

"The struggle against fascism demands above all the expulsion of the agents of “democratic” imperialism from the ranks of the working class. Only the revolutionary proletariat of France, Great Britain, America, and the USSR, declaring a life and death struggle against their own imperialism and its agency, the Moscow bureaucracy, is capable of arousing revolutionary hopes in the hearts of the German and Italian workers, and at the same time of rallying around itself hundreds of millions of slaves and semi slaves of imperialism in the entire world. In order to guarantee peace among peoples we must overthrow imperialism under all its masks. Only the proletarian revolution can accomplish this." (p21)

All the above from “Phrases and Reality”

7. "And what does democracy signify in Great Britain? The maintenance of what exists, that is above all the maintenance of rule of the metropolis over the colonies. The same is true in relation to France. The banner of democracy covers here the imperialist hegemony of the privileged minority over the oppressed majority.

In the same manner we cannot speak of fascism “in general”. In Germany, Italy, and Japan, fascism and militarism are the weapons of a greedy, hungry and therefore aggressive imperialism. In the Latin American countries fascism is the expression of the most slavish dependence on foreign imperialism. We must be able to discover under the political form the economic and social content."

8. "In certain circles of the intelligentsia at present the idea of the “unification of all democratic states” against fascism enjoys popularity. I consider this idea fantastic, chimerical, capable only of deceiving the masses, especially the weak and oppressed peoples. Really, can one believe for even a single moment that Chamberlain, Daladier, or Roosevelt are capable of carrying on a war for the sake of the abstract principle of “ democracy”? Had the British government loved democracy so much, it would have given freedom to India. The same is true of France. Great Britain prefers the dictatorship of Franco in Spain to the political rule of the workers and peasants, because Franco would be a much more pliant and reliable agent of British imperialism. England and France have given Austria to Hitler without resistance although war would be inevitable if he so much as dared touch their colonies.

The conclusion is that it is impossible to fight against fascism without fighting against imperialism. The colonial and semi-colonial countries must fight first of all against that imperialist country which directly oppresses them, irrespective of whether it bears the mask of fascism or democracy."

9. "This bureaucracy does not trust the masses but fears them. It seeks rapprochement with the ruling classes, especially with “democratic” imperialists. To prove this reliability, Stalin is ready to play the role of policeman throughout the entire world." (p27)

That seems to sum up the AWL position in Iraq and elsewhere, though without Stalin’s ability to actually play a significant role.

The above quotes from “Fight Imperialism to Fight fascism”

10. "In order to understand correctly the nature of the coming events we must first of all reject the false and thoroughly erroneous theory that the coming war will be a war between fascism and “democracy.” Nothing is more false and foolish than this idea. Imperialist “democracies” are divided by the contradictions of their interests in all parts of the world. Fascist Italy can easily find herself in one camp with Great Britain and France if she should lose faith in the victory of Hitler. Semi fascist Poland may join one or the other of the camps depending upon the advantages offered. In the course of war the French bourgeoisie may substitute fascism for its “democracy” in order to keep its workers in submission and force them to fight “to the end.” Fascist France, like “democratic” France would equally defend its colonies with weapons in hand. The new war will have a much more openly rapacious imperialist character than the war of 1914-18. Imperialists do not fight for political principles but for markets, colonies, raw materials, for hegemony over the world and its wealth." (p32)

11. "In wartime all differences between imperialist “democracy” and fascism will disappear." (p32)

12. "Those working class “leaders” who want to chain the proletariat to the war chariot of imperialism, covered by the mask of “democracy,” are now the worst enemies and the direct traitors of the toilers. We must teach the workers to hate and despise the agents of imperialism, since they poison the consciousness of the toilers; we must explain to the workers that fascism is only one of the forms of imperialism, that we must fight not against the external symptoms of the disease but against its organic causes, that is, against capitalism." (p32)

13. "I am not sufficiently acquainted with the life of the individual Latin American countries to permit myself a concrete answer on the questions you pose. It is clear to me at any rate that the internal tasks of these countries cannot be solved without a simultaneous revolutionary struggle against imperialism. The agents of the United States, England, France (Lewis, Jouhaux, Toledano, the Stalinists) try to substitute the struggle against fascism for the struggle against imperialism. We have observed their criminal efforts at the recent congress against war and fascism. In the countries of Latin America the agents of “democratic” imperialism are especially dangerous, since they are more capable of fooling the masses than the open agents of fascist bandits.

I will take the most simple and obvious example. In Brazil there now reigns a semi fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!"

All the above from “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is key to Liberation”

See: here

14. "The United States only exists as a “guardian of liberty” for Haya de la Torre: we see in that country the most immediate danger and, in a historical sense the most threatening." (p101)

15. "to base a strategical calculation upon the idea that the United States is a permanent defender is something else. We consider the opportunist position not only erroneous but also profoundly dangerous because it creates a false perspective and hinders what is the real task, the revolutionary education of the people." (p101)

16. "Can it be that Haya de la Torre simply proceeds from the premise that the imperialist domination of the United States is a “lesser evil”….The “democracy” of the United States at the present time is nothing more than one expression of its imperialism." (p102)

17. "It is self-evident that one who considers the North American imperialist bourgeoisie the “guardian” of the colonial peoples liberty cannot seek an alliance with the North American workers." (p102-3)

All the above from “Haya de la Torre and Democracy”

18. "The attempt to represent this brawl of interests and appetites as a struggle between “democracy” and “fascism” can only dupe the working class." (p233)

19. "The Social Democracy and the Comintern are concluding deals with democratic imperialism “against fascism” and “against war”. But their “lesser evil” inescapably retreats before a greater evil." (p342)

The above from “Ten Years”.

Those quotes, just from one volume, should I think prove the point. No wonder the AWL deleted such an indictment of its method and its politics.

Having done that, what of the argument about Trotsky’s articles during the Third Period? In fact, what they have done is to misrepresent things as much as they did with the above quote, which turned Trotsky upside down by leaving out the vital last sentence from the quote. Of course, Trotsky distinguished in Germany between fascism and social democracy arguing they were not twins. But, that argument has nothing to do with distinguishing between “fascist” imperialism and “democratic” imperialism in a conflict BETWEEN states as the above quotes show. And Trotsky was talking here of the difference not between fascism and democracy, but between the Nazis and the Social-Democrats.

If we take the argument about fascism and democracy itself, for example in relation to Spain, then again the AWL’s argument is not that of Trotsky but that of Stalin and the Popular Front. In telling workers that “fascism” is a “greater evil” than “democracy” as opposed to two different masks for the same class oppression they drive the workers towards an alliance with the bourgeoisie as surely as did Stalin in Spain. Trotsky in Spain as much as in France for example in the “Action Programme” does not tell workers to fight for bourgeois democracy as a “lesser evil”. In fact, if you read what he says he is not actually arguing for a defence of bourgeois democracy at all; he is arguing for socialist revolution under cover of an inclusive struggle for bourgeois democratic freedoms. How could he do otherwise, the whole basis of Permanent Revolution is that, in the age of imperialism, bourgeois democracy can only be secured via proletarian, rather than bourgeois, revolution. Nothing of what he says either in relation to Spain or France is about defending bourgeois democracy per se. He does not speak about the struggle for bourgeois democracy being via alliances with the bourgeoisie, as the AWL end up with in terms of Israel/Iran, or imperialism in Iraq, or with Yeltsin in Russia, or Imperialism in Serbia, in Tibet and so on, but in violent opposition to that bourgeoisie, which will, even in its Liberal democratic form, tomorrow throw off that mask in favour of the fascist mask. He does not speak of waging that fight through bourgeois democratic means such as through Parliaments, but through the establishment of Factory Committees, Peasant Committees, and Workers Militia. He speaks, particularly in Spain, of a struggle for bourgeois democratic freedoms by the workers seizing the factories and property of the bourgeoisie!

The Action Programme for France

Again Trotsky stands on the opposite side of the barricades to the AWL.

Turning to their argument that we have all the experience of the period after the War which Trotsky’s writings could not address. They say Trotsky was wrong in his prognostication to the Palestinians. True, but was the general thrust of his argument correct? In Germany, the post war regime was hardly democratic was it? It was stuffed to the gills with former Nazis!!! They occupied prominent places not just as politicians but as high ranking Civil Servants and judges with the full approval of the imperialists! Whilst accommodating Nazis there were laws against socialists, which, for example, legally blacklisted them from various jobs, and that law remained in force as late as the 1970’s, it also covered censorship of various socialist ideas.

See Here

Or as its put here:

“Simpson, Christopher. The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. New York: Grove Press, 1993. 399 pages. Reprinted in 1996 by Common Courage Press, Box 702, Monroe ME 04951, Tel: 800-497-3207.

It's common to read biographies of men who waged war during the first half of the century, when issues were clear and warriors could be heroes. So when Christopher Simpson takes a look at two cases of genocide -- the slaughter of Armenians in World War I and Hitler's holocaust -- it's a surprise to discover that things are not so simple. Allen Dulles, for example, helped a number of Nazis to escape, and worked for the greater glory of postwar Germany, which also meant a better bottom line for the German industrialists he represented before the war. While later claiming to be unwilling victims of the Nazis, these industrialists were happy to contract with the SS for forced labor from concentration camps, because it was profitable. They got off easy at Nuremberg; the Allies felt that rapid reconstruction would be a hedge against revolution in war-ravaged Europe.

The larger point of this well-documented book is that complicity in genocide ranged far and wide, on both sides of the front in both wars. When it came time for accountability, international tribunals were stymied by the same machinations of privilege and power that started the problem in the first place. The structure of international law is weak, and easily overruled by elites who simply want to "get on with business."”

We also have as late as the late 1960's the attempt assassinate the student leader Rudi Dutschke because of his role alongside the Trade Unions to oppose the Emergency Laws which withdrew basic consitutional rights.

In France, the post war regime of De Gaulle was hardly a model of democracy nor its continued role in Algeria and other colonies. Let’s not forget DeGaulle’s Coup D’Etat in 1959 either. Nor was Britain a model of democracy in relation to its colonies and its tactics in Aden or against the Mau Mau. Japan has had a corrupt one Party state effectively under the rule of the LDP, for the last 60 years nearly.
Sean himself has written of the fact that in Britain what we have is an elected Dictatorship as opposed to bourgeois democracy. I seem to recall having read one of his articles somewhere where he also described De Gaulle’s regime as Bonapartist, and one of their comrades I have a vague recollection of claiming that Bonapartism was a normal condition for capitalism. Bonapartism might not be fascism, but its not bourgeois democracy either!

So, which version do the AWL want to have us believe; the version that “democratic imperialism” spreads bourgeois democracy and sweetness and light, or the version that Bonapartism and a decay of bourgeois democracy are endemic.

Finally, let us do what Sean asks and look at the experience of imperialism in the post war period and see how much “democracy” it has spread.

1940’s – handed over millions of people in Eastern Europe to Stalinist totalitarianism.

1950’s – supported corrupt and brutal military dictatorships in Korea and Vietnam and elsewhere. Overthrows democratic regime of Mossadegh in Iran, and installs Dictatorship of the Shah. In Latin America overthrows nationalist governments that challenge interests of US big business, and installs and supports corrupt military and semi-fascist dictators. British and French imperialism in conjunction with Israel launch invasion of Egypt, not for any democratic reason, but purely for profit and control of the Suez Canal.

1960’s - US imperialism takes over from French Imperialism in supporting military Dictatorship in South Vietnam, drops more bombs on Vietnamese than whole of Second World War, bombs non-combatant nations in Cambodia and Laos, paving the way for Pol Pot’s murderous regime in Cambodia. US having for a long time supported the corrupt Batista Dictatorship in Cuba, tries to put him back in power when Castro overthrows him. US continues to interfere in Latin America and support a range of fascistic and military regimes. France continues its less than democratic policy in Algeria and other colonies. Various imperialist powers support a range of fascistic and militaristic regimes in Africa from Haille Salassie to Idi Amin to Mobutu.

1970’s – US imperialism threatens to “destabilise” Italy if its people elect “Communist” government in democratic elections. Britain dismisses “democratically” elected Gough Whitlam Labour Government in Australia. US continues its less than democratic support for the military regime in South Vietnam, and its even less than democratic bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. (Of course, the AWL’s mentor Max Shachtman supported that action, whilst the ideological creator of the “Third Camp” – James Burnham - had by that time gone the whole hog, and was supporting fascistic politics.) US continues to support Dictatorship of the Shah until he’s overthrown. US continues to intervene in Latin America. British imperialism introduces the not very democratic system of “internment” read concentration camps in Northern Ireland, a part of the State which hardly qualified as meeting basic bourgeois democratic norms for the Catholic population to begin with.

1980’s – US actively supports Dictatorship of Saddam Hussein including provision of conventional and chemical weapons in order that he can conduct a proxy war against Iran who whilst hardly qualifying as bourgeois democratic does unlike Iraq at least hold elections with competing parties. US does deal with Iran in Iran-Contra scandal in order to provide arms to the extreme right-wing and murderous contras in Nicaragua. US supports the semi-fascist regime, Death Squads and all in El Salvador. US invades Grenada because it doesn’t like the government there. Makes films about its great wartime success there to cover its defeat in Vietnam. US imperialism through its ally the military Dictatorship in Pakistan provides arms, and assistance to the clerical-fascist gangs in Afghanistan that seek to overthrow a Soviet backed modernising regime, and put in its place a medieval theocratic regime that murders and rapes gays and women. Creates its own Frankenstein in the form of Bin Laden. Imperialism in general continues to support militarist and fascistic Dictatorships around the world for example in Saudi Arabia, and other undemocratic regimes such as Jordan, Kuwait and other Sunni Arab oil states.

1990’s – Imperialism invades Iraq. Its long running active support for Apartheid in South Africa, however, does come to an end.

Yes, they are right we should take all that into consideration of the experience of “democratic” imperialism over the last 6o years, in assessing the two masks of imperialism – the democratic and the fascist.

Llin Davies