Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Left And Vestas

The dispute at Vestas on the Isle of Wight is, perhaps, the most important in Britain for many years. There have been a series of other disputes recently such as at Visteon that have raised similar issues, and led to similar tactics such as the sit-in, not seen for many years in British industrial relations. There have been disputes involving larger, more organised groups of workers. But Vestas has not only demonstrated that an underlying militancy and class consciousness has begun to re-emerge in the British working-class, submerged for the last two and a half decades, brought together a number of issues that pose questions for the Left, its politics and strategy. The fact, that it takes place in an industry that will be in the forefront of western industrial development in the period ahead – alternative energy – not only comes as no surprise to me, because it is something I have been theorising for the last twenty odd years, but also enriches the lessons to be learned, because of the way it has involved the Environmentalist movement too, and because it also poses questions about how the Left should develop its strategy in relation to Environmental issues. As on many other issues, I believe that it has demonstrated the weakness of the ideas and strategy of most of the Left.

The main reason for that weakness is I believe that which I have argued many times in the past; it is the fact, that the Left’s politics is dominated by a debilitating reliance on statism. Even those groups whose politics have historically been based on essentially syndicalist principles, such as the SWP, and whose solution to any industrial problem has come down to “more militancy”, have relied for the object of this militancy to be nothing more radical than that the bourgeois state take over the running and exploitation of the workers in place of the less effective exploitation by private capitalist owners. If the political programme of such organisations amounts to nothing more than a crude Economism, then the political programme of the other main “Trotskyist” organisation, formerly the Militant, now transformed into the Socialist Party, has only transcended this crudity in order to make the adulation of the power of nationalisation and the bourgeois state into its own fetish, in demands for “Nationalising The Commanding Heights”, or the passing of “Enabling Acts”, through Parliament, so that this bourgeois state becomes the means of creating socialism! In other words, on the one hand crude Economism, on the other crude Parliamentary cretinism and reformism. Both strands are forced into such positions, because neither can come up with anything in between existing Capitalist relations, and the socialist revolution, no strategy that relies on the working class resolving its problems by relying on its own strength and organisation, and developing its own property, and productive relations within existing Capitalist society.

In reality both stand on what is the old Minimum and Maximum programmes of Social Democracy. Both have a view of socialism arising via a socialist revolution similar to Russia in 1917, but arrived at by different roads. For the Luxemburgists of the SWP that road, amounts to repeated mass strikes, each more militant than the last, through which new layers of workers are radicalised, pushing on and/or replacing the vanguard. Demands such as nationalisation are not really seen as solutions in themselves, but only demands, which act to mobilise workers for some higher goal, requiring more militant action, and if possible direct conflict with the State. This approach to demands for nationalisation is common to many of the “Trotskyist” groups who see it in that light as a “Transitional” demand, not realising that according to Trotsky such demands can only have this “Transitional” character under certain historical conditions – essentially conditions of widespread class action, such as existed in 1917, or say in Italy in 1920, that is when the question of dual power is being posed. Outside such conditions, these demands amount to nothing more than either simple reformist demands, or else are utopian and reactionary. Frequently, in defence of such demands you will hear the argument put forward that its necessary to raise them in order to divorce workers from their belief in the socialist credentials of the Labour Government!!! That was the defence of such demands put forward by Bill Jeffries of Permanent Revolution in a discussion I had with him some months ago over the question of the housing crisis.

See: Northern Rock & Manchester Housing .

But, this same ridiculous argument about exposing the nature of the Capitalist State or of a Labour Government is not the preserve of PR, it is common to nearly all the “Trotskyist” groups. Yet, as I said in that discussion such “solutions”, are no solutions for workers at all. They amount to nothing more than petit-bourgeois games by the revolutionaries. The task of Marxists is not to play these games with workers for the very dubious, and limited goal of “exposing” the bourgeois state – dubious because its not clear workers will draw that conclusion, and because its just as likely that the lesson workers will draw, from revolutionaries putting forward such demands, is that they too expect the State to respond to them, to act in workers interests!! – but to actually provide workers with workable solutions here and now. Petit-bourgeois dilettantes may have time for such infantile games, workers do not. If you do not believe that the bourgeois state will act progressively – and no Marxist has reason to believe it will – then you should not raise such demands, and your duty is to expose such demands for what they are. No Marxist, would for example, raise the demand that workers take a dispute to some bourgeois Arbitration Service, rather than rely on their own, immediate strength in the workplace, simply in order to disabuse workers in the idea that such institutions are impartial! If a worker decided to adopt such a course of action, a Marxist would advise against it, saying exactly why i.e. that such institutions are NOT impartial, and so on. If the worker insisted the Marxist would give every assistance to the worker, and wait for their advice to be vindicated by the worker’s experience.

The consequences of this approach were demonstrated a few years ago when I had a debate with comrades from the AWL on precisely this point, and where the “Letting The State Off The Hook” argument was explicitly stated. The consequence was that in one of her responses, Janine Booth, commented,

“I work for London Underground (a state-owned enterprise). It doesn't always run the most reliable, safe, accessible, value-for-money Tube service that I think people are entitled to expect (understatement). So what should London's working-class communities do? Come on, show some self-reliance - dig your own tunnels and run your own underground railway?!!"

See: Shoplifting, Prison and Drugs .

But, the implication of this comment is not only that Socialism is impossible, viewed as a society in which workers own and control the means of production, because it implies they are incapable of performing such a function absent some Capitalist or Stalinist Manager overseeing and directing their actions, but that here and now, it is not workers on London Underground and elsewhere, who are ALREADY, the ones who are digging the tunnels and running the railways!!! This is the real anti-socialist nature of such statist notions.

There is another part of that discussion which I think is relevant here. In response to the idea that workers have certain “Rights” under Capitalism, such as the “Right” to “free” healthcare, or “free” education I replied,

“In short we cannot simply say that rights we believe ought to accrue to workers and which are appropriate to socialism actually exist now under capitalism. Capitalism has its own set of rules, which are different from those for socialism just as the rules for football are different from the rules for rugby. There is no point telling people playing football that they have a right to pick up the ball and run with it as they would have a right to do if they were playing rugby. They can do it, but they will be penalised.

In a way if you get free healthcare you get penalised some other way too under capitalism. As Marxists we believe in the idea that over a period labour-power as a commodity is sold at its value. True that value has an historical component, but in a globalised market it is the value of labour-power on a global scale that is icnreasingly determinant. Just as the MG workers who lost their jobs because MG are now produced in Nanjing by workers earning a tenth of the wages. Free healthcare - and this applies also to the health insurance provided by employers to US workers - forms part of the wage, part of the price of labour-power as a commodity. If that social wage is high then the money wage must be reduced, or alternatively as with the MG workers or the US workers that have lost jobs by the tens of thousands, Capital will simply refuse to pay over the odds for labour-power as a commodity and move to where it can buy it at the market rate. The only "right" in this regard that workers have under capitalism is that which belongs to the seller of any other commodity to receive the value of the commodity they are selling.

Trying to tell workers any different as I said before amounts to either saying Capitalism should dissolve itself - Socialism Now - or else it is complete reformism putting over the idea that capitalism can simply set aside all of the economic laws under which it functions and accomodate the interests of the working class.”

It should not be necessary to explain this to another Marxist, because it is a basic truth of Marxism. In his Critique of The Gotha Programme, Marx wrote,

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

He was speaking here of the limitations that would exist for the first stage of a socialist society, still limited in what it could do, by the inadequacy of the productive forces, in going beyond “bourgeois right”, let alone going beyond bourgeois right within the confines of Capitalism! He goes on,

“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

The important words, in this context, here being “only then”. Furthermore, in Value, Price and Profit , Marx in demonstrating that Capital will force down wages to the Value of Labour Power says,

“Take, for example, the rise in England of agricultural wages from 1849 to 1859. What was its consequence? The farmers could not, as our friend Weston would have advised them, raise the value of wheat, nor even its market prices. They had, on the contrary, to submit to their fall. But during these eleven years they introduced machinery of all sorts, adopted more scientific methods, converted part of arable land into pasture, increased the size of farms, and with this the scale of production, and by these and other processes diminishing the demand for labour by increasing its productive power, made the agricultural population again relatively redundant. This is the general method in which a reaction, quicker or slower, of capital against a rise of wages takes place in old, settled countries. Ricardo has justly remarked that machinery is in constant competition with labour, and can often be only introduced when the price of labour has reached a certain height, but the appliance of machinery is but one of the many methods for increasing the productive powers of labour. The very same development which makes common labour relatively redundant simplifies, on the other hand, skilled labour, and thus depreciates it.”

He goes on, rightly to say that this does not mean that workers should simply curl up and die rather than resisting, but makes the important point,

“At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!"

After this very long and, I fear, tedious exposition, which I was obliged to enter into to do some justice to the subject matter, I shall conclude by proposing the following resolutions:

Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.
Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages.

Thirdly. Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”

This is not the place to go into what Marx means here in terms of relative and absolute levels of wages, and how this fits with his statements about the “Civilising Mission” of Capital to raise workers living standards, but it does make the point that within the confines of Capitalism what “Rights” can be established is heavily circumscribed by the needs of Capital accumulation, and that in a world where a global Labour and capital Market has been established the ability of Capital to locate and purchase Labour anywhere in the world, makes Marx’s argument here all that much more relevant.

His comments in relation to Trade Unions also bring us back to the specific issue of Vestas.

A look at the attitude of the Left in relation to Vestas, and the demands it has raised once again expose the weakness that flows from its Statism.
Socialist Worker has rightly stated that its important for there to be industrial action.

“There needs to be a strong industrial element at the heart of this campaign.

That means not only raising funds and giving full support to Wednesday’s day of action, but also pulling together a plan to stop the wind turbine blades and other machinery being moved out of the Newport site.

In order for this to be successful it will need solidarity action from workers on barges, canals, ferries and lorries as well as a blockade of the site.”

This view is also expressed by many others on the Left. It is of course, necessary, but in and of itself inadequate. At the end of the day Vestas, whose main business is in Scandinavia, and who have already set up a plant in the US to meet the orders previously manufactured in the Isle of Wight, could probably just walk away from its stock and equipment, waiting for an opportune time, to repossess it. In the meantime the Vestas workers are without work, and potentially useful production of alternative energy equipment that could benefit the environment is being lost! The only solution to this offered by SW as stated above is appeals to tbe bourgeois state to intervene.

“Action so far has forced the government to talk about what is happening at Vestas. The RMT union and two Vestas workers last week met with climate change minister Joan Ruddock. She claimed that the government had tried to buy Vestas but the company refused to sell.

She also claimed to be working on better redundancy terms for the workers.
While this may just be government hot air, it nevertheless shows that ministers do not want to be exposed as hypocrites over their talk of a green economy.”

And, if the bourgeois state DOES intervene, DOES nationalise Vestas, what lesson does that provide for workers? Surely, then rather than leading workers to learn the lesson that the Capitalist State is a class state opposed to their interests, it will mean that the “Marxists” have led the workers into a belief that the Capitalist State is their friend!!!! And, of course, there is no reason why the Capitalist State WILL NOT nationalise Vestas. The Heath Tory Government nationalised Rolls Royce, Tory Governments failed to denationalise most of the industries nationalised by Attlee’s Government until the 1980’s, even the Tories are today “defending” the State Capitalist NHS against attacks by rabid Republicans in the US. Brown’s Government nationalised Northern Rock, and its first act, as has been the case with all previous nationalisations was to decimate the workforce!!! This is the “solution” that the Left is offering to Vestas workers.

SW does note even accompany its demand, that the exploitation of the Vestas workers by private Capitalists be replaced by exploitation by an even more powerful Capitalist State, with a face-saving call for Workers Control as do many others on the Left.

The Socialist Party in similar vein write,

“The best solution to save jobs and the environment is nationalisation.”

Why is it? As said above every other nationalisation has been accompanied by massive redundancies and attacks on workers. Thatcher was not the first politician to attack Miners Jobs. Pits were closed on a massive scale under the Nationalisation of Attlee, and many more were closed by Tony Benn as Minister of Energy. It wasn’t a private Capitalist that forced Miners into the twelve month long strike of 1984, but the British State Capitalist owner! Nor has state ownership of industry by the Capitalist state any great record on protecting the environment either!!! The job of Marxists is to expose the class nature of the Capitalist State not sing its praises!!

They go on,

“At present, there isn't a mass political party in Britain that stands in workers' interests. Rather, New Labour helped push through the pro-market employment laws that make it legal for Vestas to dump workers in the Isle of Wight and move to the United States without so much as a by-your-leave.

When it comes to the next elections, why shouldn't one of the Vestas workers consider standing? A workers' councillor or MP on the island would be an important step towards a working class party that could play a decisive role in struggles like this one in the future.”

The implication is clear, if the strike wins that will be great, but in any event the potential arises for new recruits to the “Party”. I’m not attacking the Socialist Party specifically for that approach, because that kind of mindset is also what stands behind the idea of raising demands like nationalisation. At the back if not the front of the mind of all these organisations is the potential for “building the Party”, and in order to do that what is needed is to win over a few militants by “exposing” the Government, exposing the LP, exposing the union leaders. In fact, it extends to inter group rivalry by exposing each other. It is classic sectarianism, putting the interests of building your own organisation above the objective interests of the class.

Permanent Revolution comment,

“We have to keep the fight firmly focused on the demand for Labour to nationalise the firm, keep the jobs in place and undertake whatever re-engineering is necessary (for example to make offshore wind turbines) that will give Britain’s renewable energy industry the kick start it needs.”

They are right to say that maintaining the Occupation was important, because it provided workers with a bargaining chip, but if as the Socialist Party stated Vestas have basically decided to mothball the plant, then just Occupation is not sufficient. The real solution revolves around restarting production at the plant under workers control, and developing the idea put forward by PR here of looking at what other production could be undertaken from the plant that would be viable, such as land based turbines. That was the lesson that French workers learned in 1968 when they occupied the factories. At some point those factories have to be put back to work, and for a Marxist the obvious demand is for them to begin work again under the control of workers. At that point the question of ownership of the means of production is immediately posed. Even if the Capitalist State does intervene then to nationalise the plant it is dealing with workers who are already in control of production. Once production has restarted under these conditions it opens the possibility of bringing in other forces, such as the environmental movement, the Co-operative Movement, and the Trade Union Movement, as well as left academics to discuss what to produce, how to produce, and how this production can be linked with other Co-operative production etc.

The Weekly Worker adopt a similar stance,

“There ought to be nationalisation without compensation and the whole enterprise placed under workers’ control - the best “option” for the working class as a whole and, of course, the 625 Vestas workers.”

They too add in the demand for Workers Control, and upbraid Bob Crow for not adding the phrase to his demands, pointing out that it is not in his usual lexicon. Again its not explained why replacing exploitation by private Capitalists with more effective exploitation by State capitalists is the best option for the working class as a whole or for the Vestas workers. Its simply assumed in the same way that having got so used to reading the liturgy for so long Catholic Priests take it for granted as being inherently true. But, whilst a case could be made at least for any Vestas workers who kept a job under State Capitalist ownership that this was a lesser evil to no job at all, it is not at all the case that strengthening the power of the Capitalist State through such actions, is in the interests of the working class as a whole. Quite the opposite is the case. As for the possible rejoinder to this objection that this is the function of adding “Under Workers Control”, I have dealt with that previously in my blog Nationalisation and Workers Control , and I will come back to it later.

The issue was also raised by the AWL who reported,

“At the 6pm rally on Friday 31 July outside the occupied Vestas factory in Newport, Isle of Wight, a letter of support was read out from the Danish Red-Green Alliance.
Once nationalised, the letter said, the wind turbine blade factory should be run under workers' control.

The call for workers' control brought loud applause from the whole crowd.”

Now make no mistake, the fact that workers begin to recognise not only that they could control production, but that it would be a good thing is indeed a progressive development. But, the task of Marxists is not just to hang on to the coat-tails of workers as they make such advances in conscioussness, it is to be leading the way, showing how such advances can be put into practice. But, the fact is as set out in the post given in the link above states that nationalisation by the Capitalist State is certainly not the means by which Workers Control can be effected, certainly not in present conditions.

“No one hands over control of their property unless they are forced to do so. To say, when we call for nationalisation what we mean is nationalisation under workers control, is simply as Marx put it to cover your shame with mealy-mouthed words that can have no real meaning. Under certain circumstances it may be possible to force a weak employer to concede a measure of workers control, a real Workers Government might introduce Workers Control, but the full force of the Capitalist State is NEVER going to concede Workers Control over State property. Either the demand for workers control under these conditions means either mealy-mouthed words used to cover the demand for nationalisation with some pseudo radicalism, or else it is effectively a demand for revolution NOW, for the overthrow of the Capitalist State and its replacement with a Workers Government, or a Workers State.”

It is essentially that same kind of utopianism, and phrase-mongering for which Trotsky denounced the Stalinist Third International when it spoke about “controlling” the military actions of the bourgeois state. 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.

When a working class party proclaims that in the event of war it is prepared to “control” (i.e., to support) its national militarism and not to overthrow it, it transforms itself by this very thing into the domestic beast of capital. There is not the slightest ground for fearing such a party: it is not a revolutionary tiger but a trained donkey. It may be kept in starvation, flogged, spat upon it – it will nevertheless carry the cargo of patriotism. Perhaps only from time to time it will piteously bray: “For God’s sake, disarm the Fascist leagues.” In reply to its braying it will receive an additional blow of the whip. And deservingly so!"

See: Trotsky .

But, there is no more reason to believe that the working class can control bourgeois property in the hands of such a state, than that it can control the military!!!!

Where Trotsky DOES speak about raising a demand for Nationalisation under workers control in the Transitional Programme, he is clear to delineate precisely the conditions under which such a demand can be raised. He says,

“However, the stateisation of the banks will produce these favourable results only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”

In short the demand is utopian unless seen as part of the series of Transitional Demands as a whole, and thereby outside effectively a struggle for power by the working class. To raise such a demand outside such conditions is meaningless if not reactionary.

Now, Martin Thomas in one article writes,

“As he came out, I said to one of the occupiers, Mark Smith, that he and the other occupiers had done what Hugh Latimer famously claimed to have done in 1555: "light such a fire in England as shall never be extinguished".”

But, back on Planet Earth, it is clear that, much as the dispute might be termed a Black Swan Vestas moment (using the terminology of Nicholas Taleb) the Peasants are not revolting. It is possibly a Black Swan moment because just as the discovery of a Black Swan overturned the established truth that “All Swans Are White”, the dispute is challenging the established truth valid for the last quarter century about the hegemony of Capital, and the “End of History”. But, marxists should not get carried away with that, this is not in any shape or form the beginning of some pre-revolutionary situation, of the kind described by Trotsky as the conditions under which “Transitional Demands” can be utilised.

The fact remains that the best option for the Vestas workers under current conditions remains that put forward by Marx and Engels, to take over the factory and its production themselves, and to establish a Workers Co-operative. By all means demand the same kind of treatment and financial support for such a Co-operative that the bourgeois state has offered Vestas and other Capitalists, provided that such demands imply no controls by the bourgeois state, but do not base your strategy around such support being given.

See: For A Vestas Co-op .

This idea was developed by US Comrades actively involved in attempting to build such Co-operative solutions. See: here . The US comrades have been in contact with me over this following my initial blog. A number of points I think arise from it.

The Government says it is committed to the establishment of land based wind farms, and has changed Planning Laws to speed up their establishment. The Government blames NIMBYISM, and some of the Green groups, also have made similar comments, though they also tend to blame the Government, which has to be viewed from the perspective of political point scoring too, to some extent. Meanwhile, various residents groups say, "No, we are not opposed to wind farms, but we are opposed to them in inappropriate places." Of course, the inappropriate places are always where those opposing them actually live. Given the nature of wind farms, these sites will be in rural areas, and there is a history of opposition from such areas to any kind of development. Partly, that is because the middle classes that have moved there from Urban Areas, do not want their monopoly of the countryside infringed by development, and partly because Agricultural Capital does not want development that might create competition for its current supply of cheap labour. This has manifested itself in Planning terms by a view that if there is any development that produces any kind of shit or pollution then even if it could be situated in the countryside so as to be away from major populations and minimise the effects, it should still be situated in an urban area, because people in those areas - workers - already live with a load of shit so a bit more won't make any difference! Unfortunately, the demands of the Environmental Movement have tended to support such views - no doubt partly because most active environmentalists, certainly the opinion formers are themselves middle class!

My feeling is that in order to overcome this, once again Co-operatives are a good solution. One of the reasons that people oppose the siting of wind farms is the actually positive attitude of opposing things being imposed on them. A look at people's attitudes where they own a bit of land, and have the potential to make money from a phone mast being sited on it, is completely different! A Co-operative community would have positive incentives to develop their own alternative energy production and distribution, because it would be theirs, under their control, and directly providing benefits to them. As the US comrades rightly state, the Co-op in Britain is a large organisation with considerable resources, some of which it already allocates for Community Development projects. The merger of the Co-op Bank with Britannia has now created an organisation with £75 billion of assets. We desperately need a radical vision of how these resources could be mobilised to encourage the development of such local Co-operative communities that could begin to develop their own energy systems - and other types of Co-operative production. Unfortunately, at the moment the Co-operative Movement as largely a consumer Co-op lacks the necessary democratic structures in practice, and the dynamic to develop in such a direction of producer Co-ops, and the forces that could change that - the Left, and the Trade Unions - either are removed from the Co-op Movement, or in the case of large sections of the Left, hostile towards it.

As the current debate over healthcare in the US shows, the dominance of bourgeois property forms, and bourgeois ideology always put workers on the back foot. The natural response to the attacks on the NHS by right-wing Republican backwoodsmen is to come to its defence. But, why? It is a lesser evil than the privatised healthcare systems that dominate the US, but the job of Marxists is not to advocate lesser-evils.

Marxists have to provide solutions for workers such as those at Vestas that are immediately achievable, and achievable by the workers themselves, not by asking them to rely on some other social force, least of all their class enemy, and its state. In doing so, those solutions should as Marx and Engels argued in the Communist Manifesto, look after the movement of tomorrow as well as dealing with today. They should lead workers forwards naturally, building up the economic and social position of the working class, and thereby strengthening its position in society, as well as creating the material conditions upon which are built the ideas of socialism. This is the true meaning of a social revolution, a transformation in the productive relations bringing them into alignment with the new productive forces, within the old society, and out of which grow the new social relations that erupt in contradiction with the old. As Marx describes it in Capital,

“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.”

See also: Save Vestas Website

They also want messages of support: email or post on the blog.


Robert Hodges said...

This is your best article to date; real events bring the best out of Marxists!

“it implies they are incapable of performing such a function absent some Capitalist or Stalinist Manager overseeing and directing their actions, but that here and now, it is not workers on London Underground and elsewhere, who are ALREADY, the ones who are digging the tunnels and running the railways!!!”

Re comment above, this really gets to the heart of what socialism is, I couldn’t think of a better illustration. This is the message that workers need to hear.

Now I understand your point about Health care and workers ‘rights’ and agree that message should be forcibly told but there are significant elements of the right who wish to dismantle the NHS here and now, this is a position of ideology and not economic calculation. I think it plausible that the NHS could be abolished even if capital could afford it, in this case do Marxists point out that this is purely ideological and how do we make those calculations?

Arthur Bough said...

But it is about economic calculation. The NHS is not an anomaly. "Socialised" healthcare exists in every developed Capitalist economy including the US in one form or another. "Socialised" education too. Why because advanced Capitalism needs reasonably healthy and educated workers! With falling birth rates, Capital needs workers who will live much longer than the average 20 years they did at the beginning of the 19th Century. Having spent huge amounts educating and training workers, the last thing it wants is for that investment to be lost and to have to do it again with a new generation of workers.

The question only becomes how to most economically provide that "socialised" healthcare. The debate in the US at the moment is not really a debate between workes and bosses, but a debate within the Capitalist class over precisely that question. One of the advantages of the large monopoly companies, for workers is that they have generally been better bases within which workers could effectively organise. A consequnce of that organisation - and of the fact that the companies' Monopoly Profits could be used to "buy off" their workers - is that in many of them workers have gained generous Health Insurance and Pension schemes. The auto companeis are a clear case in point.

But, now the Health and pension costs to these companies have become unbearable compared to their European competitors who do not have these costs because they are born by a "socialised" healthcare system. That is one reason that these section of Big Capital tend to favour soem kind of "socialised" system.

One criticism of Wal-Mart has been that it already does this. It refuses to introduce Health Insurance for its workers forcing its largely low-paid workers to rely on US "socialised" healthcare through Medicaid. But, the US still has a large number of small businesses, self-employed people and so on, who are prey to Libertarian principles, and only see "socialised" healthcare as increasing their taxes, as them paying for someone else's Healthcare.

Marxists have to oppose the iniquities of private healthcare whilst not falling into the trap of simply being cheerleaders for State Capitalist provision. Support for the principle of "Free at the point of use", yes, but recognising that has never been true of the NHS, and only a healthcare system under the ownership and control of the working class could begin to approach that ideal.

Arthur Bough said...

Incidentally, we have this silly view of the NHS version of "socialised" healthcare, but one of the reasons there has been repeated attempts at its reform is that the models of "socialised" healthcare in much of Europe are both more efficient economically, and more effective in providing healthcare.

The biggest inefficiency of private healthcare systems is the cost of insurance and its administration. In the US, Medicaid is about ten times cheaper in terms of this administration than private insurance. But, the actual provision of healthcare itself tends to be both more effective, and far less bureaucratic in private hospitals than in state run hospitals - a fact which is true of nearly all State Capitalist provision where bureaucracy is rampant. That is one reason European "socialised" healthcare which combines a "National Insurance" scheme with actual provision through private hospitals and clinics tends to be more effective. Private hospitals in Britain also tend to be both more economically efficient in terms of provision, and more effective in that provision. For example, as far as I am aware there have been no cases of MRSA in private hospitals in the UK, whereas thousands of workers have died from it in NHS hospitals.

One of the reasons for that is probably the smaller size of private hospitals compared to the enormous "factory" based model of NHS hospitals, though which huge numbers of people pass - as patients and visitors - bringing with them the attendant bacteria etc.