In a recent article, the AWL attack the Marxist strategy for developing worker-owned Co-operatives, and instead argue for the Lassallean demand for nationalisation by the Capitalist State, which was adopted by the reformists of the Second International, and later by the Stalinists. Marx's strategy of building Co-ops was both revolutionary and internationalist. Revolutionary, because it relies on the self-activity of the workers themselves, and immediately transforms Capitalist property relations, and internationalist because Co-operatives, and Co-operative Federations, can be built across national borders by workers acting in solidarity with each other. The demand for Nation-alisation, by contrast, is both reformist and nationalist. It is reformist because rather than transforming Capitalist property relations, it accepts their continuation explicitly, and restricts itself within them, as well as being based upon action to be taken, not by the workers themselves, but by the Capitalist State, which is their main enemy! It is a Nationalistic demand, by its very nature, because it involves the taking over of Capital, or a fraction of Capital, by the existing Capitalist State, and the existing Capitalist State is a Nation State. It is not surprising that such a demand fits comfortably with the Stalinist politics of the AWL, because Stalinism is characterised both by its reformism, and by its nationalism.
That is why back in the 1970's, the demand for Nation-alisation was a central plank of the Stalinists of the British Communist Party, and their fellow travellers, as part of the Alternative Economic Strategy. But, it was also a central plank of the Programme of the reformists of the Militant Tendency. In fact, at the time, the AWL's predecessors used to point to these demands as evidence of the reformist nature of both organisations. Where the AWL today raise the demand for Nation-alisation only on a piecemeal basis, as a means of bailing out failed private Capitalist businesses, the Militant, at least, used to argue for “Nationalising the 200 Top Monopolies”, which was more radical only in so far as it was more extensive, but which was no less reformist, no less nationalistic.
The Nationalistic rather than socialistic nature of the demand for Nation-alisation is shown by the fact, not only that it is a demand addressed to the existing Capitalist Nation State, but by the fact that it was also raised, and implemented by the Nazis. And, as Trotsky points out, in relation to Mexico, it is a measure that has been adopted by radical nationalist regimes, attempting to build “State Capitalism In One Country”. As in Mexico, some of these regimes have even been prepared to follow the other advice of the AWL, and include the gloss of “Workers' Control” in order to incorporate the working-class, and enlist it as an ally against external enemies – once again emphasising the Nationalist nature of the demand. In the case of economies like Mexico, described by Trotsky, which were under threat from Imperialism, the measure, introduced by such regimes, could have a certain progressive nature, which means that although Marxists would not advocate it, nor would they oppose it, instead attempting to drive the working-class beyond it, and all the time pointing out its true class nature. But, in Imperialist countries, like Britain, it can have no such progressive nature.
Take the example the AWL describe of Vestas. Vestas is an international company. As such, it is quite possible for workers within it, whichever country they are in, to unite in an attempt to take over the means of production and establish a Worker Owned Co-operative, acting similarly on an international basis – which is a precondition for Marxists in establishing Socialism, which can only be established on an international basis. But, the demand for nation-alisation could only ever be raised on a national basis, thereby immediately dividing the Vestas workers in Britain, from those employed in other countries. It is so, because it is a demand for the British Capitalist Nation State to act, to defend its national fraction of the Vestas Capital against its foreign competitors, including the other national fractions of Vestas Capital! That is why, in the past, even Conservative Governments, like that of Ted Heath, have been happy to nation-alise important sections of national Capital, as they did with Rolls Royce in the 1970's. It is why even the arch Neo-Liberals in the US, under George Bush, were happy to nationalise the Banks when they got into trouble.
But, as Trotsky points out, not only is it a “deception” of the working-class to suggest, as the Stalinists like the AWL do, that the road to Socialism can run through such nationalisation by the Capitalist State, rather than the revolutionary action of the workers themselves, but the demand for “Workers Control” is also a deception, which represents a trap for the workers. As Trotsky points out, it is only possible for workers to establish real Workers Control in revolutionary conditions, where a situation of Dual Power already exists in society at large. As Trotsky, says, such conditions themselves can only be short lived, because the question of who rules has to be decided one way or another very quickly. Outside a situation of dual power, there is no way that Capitalists, be they private Capitalists, or a more powerful State Capitalist, will concede real Workers Control. Instead, what they will introduce will be a measure of class collaboration in the name of “Workers Control”, which will be an alliance between the bosses and the Trade Union bureaucrats, whose real purpose will be to ensure the more efficient exploitation of the workers.
Imagine that the Capitalist State had nation-alised Vestas, or as some demanded, Bombardier, and had introduced such a form of “Workers Control”. How much more difficult, would it then have been for revolutionaries to oppose further nationalistic demands for Import Controls, and other such measures to protect this National Capital against foreign competition? Its no wonder that the BNP can support such nationalistic demands.
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