Thursday, 7 August 2008

How Long Will We Put Up With This?

Yesterday according to BBC News yesterday &0% of NHS hospitals have suffered with pest infestations ranging from rats, to bed bugs and other insects. This is on top of the continuing problem with people going into hospital to be cured, and instead contracting MRSA or C-Difficile. Today, it is reported that NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has ruled that drugs that could give up to 14 months of extra life to patients with kidney cancer cannot be bought on the NHS. That again comes on top of similar decisions in the past to deny breat cancer sufferers the necessary drugs. There can be litle excuse of a hospital being dirty let alone pest infested. As far as I am aware there has been no cases of MRSA in private hospitals. The argument of NICE comes down to one simply of money, they are not prepared to pay the cost of these drugs in return for saving human life.

For Marxists such a ituation should come as no surprise, but what I do find surprising is not just that the Labour mvoement continues to put up with this situation, but that most of the people on the left, including hose that call themselves Marxists have no real programme for addressing this situation so crucial to the working class. The Left continues to sow illusions in the miracles it hopes the bouregois State will undertake, investng the main source of workers oppression with some mystical power when it comes to it owning the means of production or the mans of saving life; a mystical pwoer that somehow turns it into an institution with workers best interests at heart!!! The consensus approach to the NHS is to go to that bourgeois State like a modern day Oliver Twist begging bowl in hand and ask, "Can we have some more please?"

The fact is that the bouregois State only has an interest in providing health care for workers up to a certain point. Capitalism today requires a reasonably healthy workforce, more so as birth rates decline. A semblance of a "democratic" or "Peoples Health Service plays into the bourgeois ideology of a caring capitalist society free of serious class divisions. But, as the recent NICE demonstrate the Capitalists will only fill the workers begging bowl so much, and so often. The cash nexus will determine the actions of the capitalists' state. Marxists can call on workers to simply keep going to the State begging bowl in hand, can encourage them to engage in all kinds of action designed to pressurise the capitalists into coughing up, but such actions are no better than the actions of workers repeadly to try to protect their wages and conditions through strike action, they may be necessary to prevent an immediate detrioration of the workers condition, but they are by no means sufficient to deal with the real problem - the workers lack of ownership and control of the means of production.

Marx elucidated the point in respect to Education, when the Lassalleans called for that same bouregois State to provide Eual Elementary Education. Such demands are Utopian he says, because,

“Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.”

Critique of the Gotha Programme.

“"Equal elementary education"? What idea lies behind these words? Is it believed that in present-day society (and it is only with this one has to deal) education can be equal for all classes? Or is it demanded that the upper classes also shall be compulsorily reduced to the modicum of education — the elementary school — that alone is compatible with the economic conditions not only of the wage-workers but of the peasants as well?"


Demanding that the bourgeois State provide equal health care for workers to that of the bouregoisie is as utopian as demanding that it provide equal education, and Marxists that pretend to the working class that it can or will are no Marxists at all. They simply mislead the working class into a view of the State s being some non-class body impartial between the classes, and as Marx put it their appeals to this State simply demonstrate not only the fact that their socialism is skin-deep, but that in so far as the working class goes along with such Oliver Twist cringeing, demonstrates that it has not yet got up off its knees, lacks a basic pride, and self-respect let alone the class conscioussness to create a new society.

“The German Workers' party — at least if it adopts the program — shows that its socialist ideas are not even skin-deep; in that, instead of treating existing society (and this holds good for any future one) as the basis of the existing state (or of the future state in the case of future society), it treats the state rather as an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.”

"And particularly in the case of a toiling people which, through these demands that it puts to the state, expresses its full consciousness that it neither rules nor is ripe for ruling! …."

But, as I have said before Marx does set out what Marxists should be calling for as the immediate solutions to these problms that confront the workers be they problems in relation to their jobs, or problems in realation to the need for decent Education, Housing and Healthcare. Marx argues that workers get up off their knees and instead of calling on the capitalist State to come to their rescue instead, rescues itself, provides for itself, and thereby demonstrates that it can do so better than any Capitalist or Caitalist state can do. Just as his Historical materialist method led him to observe the actions of the real working class, and thereby idetify it as the revolutionary agent, just as he observed the actions of the Paris Workers and gleened from their practice the basic nature of the form of the new form of Workers State, the Commune State, so too he observed the actions of workers in establishing their own Co-operative enterprises through their own direct, self activity, and recognised it as the meas of their liberation,of them transforming the economic and social relations in society, and transforming themselves into the new ruling class i.e. the basis of the Social revolution.

He writes,

“The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour. They show how a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production and of the corresponding forms of social production have reached a particular stage. Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises. into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.” (emphasis added)

(Capital Vol III pp441-2)

And to emphasise the point he writes in the Critique of the Gotha Programme,

“But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”

Later Engels himself was to write that both he and Marx saw the use of Co-operatives on a wide scale as central to the process of transformation.

If workers want to eliminate te need to periodically have to pit their strength against the bosses just in order to gain a decent wage, if they want to avoid the repeated danger of losing their livelihood every time the capitalist economy enters one of its downturns, if they want to have decent healthcare, housing and education they cannot entrust thee things to capitalists or to the capitalists stat, they have to take responsibility for these things themselves, and provide them for themselves. They have to begin to take the means of production back into their hands by establishing co-perative ventures on a wide scale across all aspects of workers lives. For, the last 80 years or more the Leninists have rejected such an approach because they beleived that socialism could only come through some political revolution like that of 1917. In doing so they reject Marx, and his belief in the necessity of the self-activity of the working class itself to change society, reject his historical materialsm in favour of a return to the Hegelian dialectic, whereby the Idea manifested to some elitist group - in this case the Bolshevik Party - unfolds from above, from the actions of a State under the control of that elitist group. It is in essence no different from that same elitist and statist conception of the reformists of the Second International, who simply beleived that this process could be implemented piecemeal. Th one resulted in the continuance and strengthening of bouregois demcoracy, the other resulted in Stalinism, and an even greater strengthening of bouregois democracy.

Yet, the fact is that workers have tremendous strength if they choose to use it. IN Britain alone something like £500 billion is invested in wokers Pension funds. That is equivalent to the value of at least half the companies in th FTSE 100. If you consider the money that worker have paid through taxation into funds controlled by the Capitalist State, for retirement, unemployment and healthcare the sums as staggering. Yet, workers calmly hand over these huge sums to a Capitalist State which is their mortal enemy. What is worse socialists, inluding some who call themselves Marxists encourage them to do so, to bring forward schemes whose prime aim is to increase the range and power of that very institution, which Marx and Engels showed us is the very institution by which class rule is maintained!! If someone from Mars came down and witnessed this lunacy they would be sure that the entire Marxist and socialist movement had been taken over by agents of the bosses themselves.

Fortunately, there are still some of us that recognise that Marx's teachings have been buried uner a mountain of Leninist and Stalinist shit for 80 years. The task is to remove that shit and uncoer the true writings of Marx, and begin the process of returning some sense of pride and esteem to the working class, which 80 years of statism in its reformist and Leninist forms has sucked dry. In that respect I was glad to see this comment by Dick Bryan in an interview with Martin Thomas,

"But I think what finance shows us is actually how powerful labour potentially is. In part this shows through the capacity of low income mortgage borrowers to bring down some big financial institutions. Alternatively, the global pool of superannuation funds – labour’s capital – shows how critical labour is to the funding of investment. The broad political task is to move this beyond labour as capital (failed capital, in the case of the sub-prime market) and frame it as the financial form of labour’s capacity to mobilise and transform the world of capital for itself."

Quite true, but the way to do this is quite straightforward. Some years ago in Sweden a scheme was established to create a Workers Pension Fund that required companies to desposit shares into the Fund each year. Within a short time the Fund ccounted for around 7% of the value of the Swedish Stock Market. here were it seems to me a number of things wrong with this scheme. Firstly, it was a scheme which was still dependent on the bouregois State. When there was a change of Governemnt the scheme was scrapped. If workers had simply created their own Pension Scheme that could not have happened. Workers have that capability. The TU European Fund, which was a UNit Trust run by the Union Bank Unity Trust, was some years agothe best performig Unit Trust. In addition to Unity Trust, the Co-operative bank and Co-op Insurance Services have more than enough financial expertise that can be tapped by the labour Mvoement because they already provide such funds and services. Secondly, taking shares from individual companies is not the best means of achieving the goal. Some companies might be bad investments for workers to put thier funds into, and issuing share capital dilutes the value of the shares. It is better for workers instead to simply have hold of a pot of money, and use it effectively.

If workers demanded the right to have control over the vast amount of money in their pension funds on what basis would they be denied that basic democratic right to dispose of their collective property, a fundamental right even under capitalism? If a campaign were launched for such a demand, and the bosses refused the basic underlying ideology of capitalism and its supposed respect for the right of property would be shatttered, showing that it is only capitalist property that is sacrosanct. But, were such a campaign to be succesful it would provide a great infusion for a growth of democracy within the Labour Movement. Nothing motivates people more than the thought of money, even workers, and given that it would be necessary to organise a range of democratic methods of workers discussing how to utilise such vasts sums worker participation would flourish. That in itself should be welcomed by Marxists and socialists of all kinds a the means of workers discussing the wider political and economic issues that must arise in such deliberations. What better means then to encourage the same kind of democratic discussion and involvement that would be required in utilising these funds to buy up important sections of industry, and convert them into powerful workers co-operatives, combined acroiss the whole economy with other co-operatives as the basis of developing an increasing power base for the working class, and transforming society. And in so doing these funds could also be used to establish a Workers Health Service no longer at the mercy of the bouregois state, no longer ripped off by high paid Tory NHS bureaucrats, but one ownd and controlled by workers themselves, and no longer ripped off by large pharmaceutical companies for its drugs, but one which worked in tandem with similar worker owned pharmaceutical co-operatives providing drugs on the basis of need not profit, and instead using its position to squeeze remaining private hospitals and healthcare in the way the rich have previously squeezed the workers.

Such a transformation will not be easy. Even the vast sums in these pension funds are small compared to the vast resources of the Capitalists, and the Capitalists will use every means to prevent the onward march of the workers even by such peaceful and democratic means. But, the working class is large in number, and has the power to squeeze the Capitalists under the right conditions. The more economic power the workers have through their own enterprises, the less the capitalists can divide the workers and squeeze their wages and conditions. The more powerful the workers become economically the greater their confidence and combativity will become as they see that a new better society is possible. Once the huge mass of the workers begins to move as a class as Engels told us was our goal nothing could stand in the way of such a juggernaut. As Del Boy used to say, "He Who Dares Wins."


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