Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Red Tories?

There has recently been discussion of, what has been termed, “Red Toryism”; the idea that, at least some, sections of the Tory Party have adopted ideas more commonly associated with the Left. I have even heard the guru of this “Red Toryism”, Phillip Blond, of the Think Tank Respublica, described as a “Marxist”! Blond, who is an adviser to Cameron, is no doubt the driving force behind the latest example of this, the Tories advocacy of Worker Co-operatives in the Public Sector. But, as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the Sun.

The first thing I want to say is that I think it is important, for a Marxist, to distance themselves from the tendency to disparage the motives of politicians, even bourgeois politicians. There is no reason for us to argue that such people do not believe, sincerely, in the ideas they put forward. Our argument with them is not that they are all a bunch of liars and hypocrites, on the whole, though some clearly are, but that their politics flow from the interests of the class whose representatives they are - the Capitalist Class. It is entirely consistent with Marxist theory, which states that ideas are a function of material conditions, and class consciousness is a function of social position and social relations, to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely, sincere in their belief that the ideas they put forward are not just for the benefit of that class, but for society as a whole, because for them there is no difference between the two sets of interest, “L’etat, c’est moi.” The tendency to argue otherwise, which is very easy during a time like the present, when people’s confidence, in politicians of all sorts, is at an all-time low, due to the expenses scandal, is actually very dangerous. It is to encourage the worst kind of nihilism, and rejection of politics without providing any kind of real alternative. Our job is to encourage greater involvement in political activity not to discourage it. The main beneficiaries of such nihilism will not be the Left, but the fascists, and petit-bourgeois forces such as the Anarchists. We should use the Expenses Scandal, and other such things, to encourage ordinary workers to become involved in politics themselves, to drive forward a democratic struggle that pushes bourgeois democracy to its very limits and beyond, and to encourage workers to become involved in a more direct form of democracy in their communities and workplaces.

From that perspective, I welcome the Tories conversion to the idea of worker-owned Co-operatives, an idea that I have been putting forward for some time, and which was a central part of the economic, social, and political strategy of Marx and Engels. I welcome it, because it means that they have opened a Pandora’s Box that they will not so easily close. I welcome it also, because of what it represents. What, in fact, it represents, at least in part, is that aspect, identified by Lenin, of the necessary conditions that lead up to social revolution; that the rulers find that they cannot simply go on ruling in the old way. Every old Mode of Production, finds itself having to borrow from the methods and forms of the Mode of Production that is to replace it.

Feudalism found itself coming up against barriers to its own expansion. Within it was arising the forces of Mercantilism, which represents a stepping-stone to Capitalism. The Mercantilists, the Merchant “Capitalists”, were not really Capitalists at all. As Marx explains, Capital is a social relationship; it is the relationship between Capital and Wage Labour. Only in this relationship, whereby Labour Power is exchanged, as a commodity, with Capital, is Surplus Value produced - as opposed to all previous Modes of Production where a Surplus Product is produced - and without Surplus Value there can be no Capital, in its physical form of congealed Surplus Value, self-expanding value. But, the Merchants were not owners of Capital. They did not exchange their Money as Capital with Wage Labour. This money certainly acted LIKE Capital, in the exchange, Money - Commodity - Money1, they certainly see the Money they receive back increase from that they laid out, but it is not an increase resulting from the creation of Surplus Value, as occurs under Capitalist production. On the contrary, it is an increase resulting from buying low and selling high, a process, which if driven to its extreme, actually results in a destruction of productive capacity, as happened in the Mediterranean City states, where the usurpation of the merchants drove the peasants into destitution. The class interests of the Mercantilists are quite different from those of the Capitalist class. It is not surprising that under Feudalism the interests of the Mercantilists, and the feudal aristocracy became seriously intertwined. The old Feudal regime was able to utilise the Mercantilists as a means of extending its own life and fortunes. To the extent that these Mercantilists conducted their trading activities on a global scale, and in the process, acting under Royal or Aristocratic patronage, helped extend the feudal realm ever wider, they brought back for their Feudal partners vast riches, as well as the large number of new commodities upon which this wealth could be expended. In the process, the aristocracy itself began to be involved in this Mercantilism, usually in the form of Banking.

The same is true today. History moves on regardless of the actions of individuals. In the last century, Marxists have been singularly unsuccessful in pushing forward their agenda. Nevertheless, significant changes in the Mode of Production have continued to occur without them. The hallmark of Capitalism, the thing that makes it progressive, vis a vis all previous Modes of Production, and which drives ever faster development and innovation, is competition. But, in the 19th Century competition gave way to Monopoly, as the small firms became swallowed up by ever larger, ever more efficient firms. But, ever-larger firms meant ever-larger amounts of Capital that had to be laid out, with consequently ever larger risks. One of the features of Capitalism over the last 100 years has been the drive to reduce, and where possible remove that risk. One of the first steps in that direction was the introduction of legislation to establish the principle of limited liability. That meant that the owners of Capital could combine their resources in single ventures, over which they did not necessarily exercise day-to-day control - which was increasingly the role of professional managers - without risking the whole of their fortunes, as opposed to that portion invested in the Company. But, even very large companies were susceptible to large-scale market changes. As Monopoly gave way to Monopolistic competition, and Oligopoly, what these firms were keen to avoid was any reduction in overall price levels. As Sweezy shows, if one Oligopolist raises prices, their competitors will not necessarily follow, but if one cuts prices, the others WILL follow suit, introducing a price war, and a consequent fall in profits for them all. The creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 was part of an overall introduction of macro-economic management within Capitalist economies designed to protect these large firms, by acting to prevent such falls in the general price level, by means of printing paper money.

In place of outright competition, therefore, Capitalism was forced to borrow from the ideas about economic planning and Management of the future socialist society. Moreover, at an individual enterprise level, the changes in productive relations forced similar approaches on Capital. Huge investments of Capital cannot be made simply on a whim, risking losing all. Capital was forced to adopt, again, the principles of Socialist Society, of producing the Use Values that consumers required, and to identify these not by retrospective responses to price movements, but by pro-active means such as Market Research, demographic analysis and so on, indeed many of the methods pioneered in the USSR were taken up by Capitalist firms in the West. Not only does Capitalism create those basic conditions of Co-operation, identified by Marx, that comprise the Division of Labour, but, it increasingly adopts many of the forms of socialist society, such as the large integrated enterprise, the use of economic planning at an enterprise and macro-economic level.

Indeed, in Europe, many other aspects of that socialist society have been adopted in the form of socialised healthcare, education, and so on. The European Capitalists did so, because of the conditions that confronted them, and because these socialised systems offered them a more efficient means of providing such necessary services than could private Capitalist provision. The US, faced with different conditions followed a different path, though it should not be forgotten that the US too has socialised healthcare in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as socialised education. Capital in the US, has now been forced to consider extending socialised healthcare, as the cost of private healthcare has risen inexorably. But, in Britain, in particular, the fact that healthcare and other aspects of the Welfare State have grown way beyond what Capital originally envisaged has led to its own problems and contradictions. As the experience in Eastern Europe demonstrated, State provision without any kind of real democratic control on a day to day basis leads to the inevitable rise of a State bureaucracy whose interests become a large determinant in the way these organisations function. Though everyone looks back to the economic barbarism of the Thatcher era with a view of its programme of Public Spending cuts, and privatisation, the reality is that, even under Thatcher, the Sir Humphrey’s still got their way, and the size of the State continued to rise. Vast sums are being poured into these Public Services without the consequent improvement in outputs. And every day we see examples of failure in the NHS in even providing a basically decent service. The Tories are right that, in large part, the reason for this is a lack of ownership and control over those services by the workers who work in them, resulting in what Marx called “The Alienation of Labour” .The facts are clear, worker-owned enterprises outperformed privately owned FTSE companies by 10 % last year.

Capital introduced the Welfare State and socialised services because it was the most cost effective means of it reproducing Labour Power that was fit for the purposes of 20th Century economies. But, everything changes, and what was most effective then is not today. Capital is looking for new ways to reduce that cost. The Tories are no doubt sincere in believing that Worker Co-operatives might be one way of providing those services more effectively, and more efficiently - I believe they are right in that - but the motivating factor here is the need to resolve this problem in a way that reduces the overhead costs for Capital. That should not be a reason for socialists to oppose it. What is in the interests of Capital is not necessarily against the interests of workers. However, what is clear is that where any such new development occurs Capital will seek to maximise its own benefit from it. The job of Marxists is not then to oppose such development, but to push forward workers interests within it.

That is clear from what can be seen from the Tories proposals on such Co-operatives. The Tories speak of the State setting a budget for these services, which the Co-operatives would have to adhere to. The benefit for workers within the Co-operative would be that if they deliver the service to the required standard within this budget, they can keep the surplus either to invest in their Co-operative or to share out amongst themselves. Such an approach is consistent with the Tories overall ideology. Co-operatives on this basis are reduced to nothing more than Capitalist enterprises that just happen to be owned by workers. For the Tories and the bourgeoisie in general Capitalism represents the “End of History”. Simply turning workers into Capitalists is an aspect of that. For the Tories and bourgeois, Co-operatives, which simply turn workers into Capitalists are the end of the story; for Marxists they are just the start of the story – a means to an end. As Marx put it,

“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. ... 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.”

Capital Vol III

But, Marx, Engels and their supporters in the First International, like Ernest Jones, recognised that what this signified was the continuing role of class struggle. They viewed the social revolution, by which these basic property relations were transformed, not as some single event as Leninists view the 1917 Revolution, but was a process that lasted for many decades. It was a struggle that had to be conducted on many fronts, and hence for them becomes central the question of the Workers Party, and of Marxists within it. Where Capitalism can take an existing individualist ideology existing within class society, and whereby the desire to increase individual wealth can easily be translated into a desire to accumulate Capital – every peasant is a potential Capitalist – the same is not true of Co-operative society. It is not immediately apparent that advancing collective interests best furthers the interests of each worker. On the contrary the very working of Capitalism conveys the opposite message. That is why it is very difficult even to persuade workers to put aside their individual interests just to join a Trade Union. And, where they do combine to form Co-operatives, there will be a strong tendency to see themselves purely as owners of Capital. Only if the lessons of Co-operation can be extended to the idea of Co-operating outside the single enterprise to the need to Co-operate between Co-operatives, and with other workers generally, can their interests be furthered in the longer term, and that requires a degree of consciousness higher than that simple desire to own your own firm – especially where that desire often arises in response to a threat of that firms closure.

As Ernest Jones put it in his letter to the Co-operative Movement,

“Then what is the only salutary basis for co-operative industry? A NATIONAL one. All co-operation should be founded, not on isolated efforts, absorbing, if successful, vast riches to themselves, but on a national union which should distribute the national wealth. To make these associations secure and beneficial, you must make it their interest to assist each other, instead of competing with each other—you must give them UNITY OF ACTION, AND IDENTITY OF INTEREST.

To effect this, every local association should be the branch of a national one, and all profits, beyond a certain amount, should be paid into a national fund, for the purpose of opening fresh branches, and enabling the poorest to obtain land, establish stores, and otherwise apply their labour power, not only to their own advantage, but to that of the general body.

This is the vital point: are the profits to accumulate in the hands of isolated clubs, or are they to be devoted to the elevation of the entire people? Is the wealth to gather around local centres, or is it to be diffused by a distributive agency?”

And, as Marx pointed out. The Co-operatives would not be allowed to simply go their own way. They would face all kinds of opposition from the bourgeoisie, and its State,

“At the same time the experience of the period from 1848 to 1864 has proved beyond doubt that, however, excellent in principle and however useful in practice, co-operative labour, if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of private workmen, will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even to perceptibly lighten the burden of their miseries. It is perhaps for this very reason that plausible noblemen, philanthropic middle-class spouters, and even kept political economists have all at once turned nauseously complimentary to the very co-operative labour system they had vainly tried to nip in the bud by deriding it as the utopia of the dreamer, or stigmatising it as the sacrilege of the socialist. To save the industrious masses, co-operative labour ought to be developed to national dimensions, and, consequently, to be fostered by national means. Yet the lords of the land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defence and perpetuation of their economic monopolies. So far from promoting, they will continue to lay every possible impediment in the way of the emancipation of labour. Remember the sneer with which, last session, Lord Palmerston put down the advocated of the Irish Tenants’ Right Bill. The House of Commons, cried he, is a house of landed proprietors. To conquer political power has, therefore, become the great duty of the working classes. They seem to have comprehended this, for in England, Germany, Italy, and France, there have taken place simultaneous revivals, and simultaneous efforts are being made at the political organization of the workingmen’s party.”

Address to The First International

As we see here, there is nothing new in the Tories advocacy of Co-operatives by the bourgeoisie, provided, of course, those Co-ops are kept within certain limits. We see that in what the Tories have to say about them. They want these Public Sector Co-ops to be simply providers of services contracted out by the Capitalist State, and the budget for which will be tightly controlled by that State. But, if they had truly been converted to the idea of workers having such control over their own lives, why impose such limits? Why should not workers, at a local or other level, establish their own purchasing Co-ops for these services, and allow these workers to define for themselves how much they wish to spend to acquire them? In the same proportion they should demand a reduction in the taxes taken from them by the Capitalist State. In this way, the two sets of Workers Co-ops, the Consumer Co-op, procuring the service, and the producer Co-ops supplying it, would have every incentive to co-operate, and to ensure that what was provided was both of high quality, and was provided in the most efficient means. The Tories will not adopt such a strategy, precisely because its logic is to remove control from Capitalist hands, and transfer it to the hands of the working class. Even if the Tories did adopt some form of such a strategy it would be constrained in such a way as to make it neutered, and the Capitalist State, would, whatever the Tories or any other Government proposed, frustrate it by all means possible. As Marx said in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, the Co-operative society cannot be created from the State downwards, but only by the conscious actions of the workers upwards.

I believe that this solution of two sets of Co-ops – Consumer co-ops procuring services, and producer Co-ops supplying them, is better than the proposals made by the Co-op Party in response to the Tories announcements, of mixed Co-ops, or Consumer Co-ops pure and simple. I have set out the reason elsewhere. In a Consumer Co-op there is no immediate dynamic, which leads its members to participate in decision making about how production should be organised. On the contrary, the tendency can tend to be to look to cut prices or costs, by imposing on the conditions of the workers in the Co-op. But, workers in a Producer Co-op, are led to participate in decision making at all levels within the enterprise on a day to day basis. This dual structure acts both to provide protection for workers interests in production, whilst creating the conditions for engendering direct co-operation of workers as consumers and producers.

And this is the revolutionary role of Co-ops as identified by Marx in the quote above from Capital. It is the means by which Competitive Capitalist Production is replaced by Co-operative socialist production. As stated above, the historically revolutionary role played by Competition lies precisely in the fact that it was a negation of all of that static, bureaucratic, statised, rigid and monopoly production that characterised feudal society. Not only does it continue to play that role, but as Marx says in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, for as long as human society is limited in its production potential so as to have to make choices about how to allocate resources, it must continue to play that role. As Marx puts it bourgeois Right will continue. The fact that open market competition might be replaced by some other means of deciding on what allocation should take place does not mean that competition has ceased, only that its form has changed. In the USSR, it took the form of competition between the various Ministries, the bureaucracy of each putting forward their own demands for resources. Look today in Local Government, and you will see the same thing. Each Chief Officer, looks to defend and where possible increase the size of their Department at the expense of others. The same is true of Civil Service Departments.

In the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx sets this out. Competition necessarily leads to inequality. He gives a simple example. In the first stage of socialism the rule would be that each worker is entitled to receive out of the general store of society’s production, goods whose production require the same amount of labour time, as that put in by that worker, less that deducted to cover the overall running of society etc. But, this apparent equality MUST lead to inequality. If two workers work for 10 hours each at the same level of intensity, in actual fact one worker will have expended more effort than the other, precisely because the two workers are themselves not equal. They have different levels of skill, strength etc. Put another way as Marx sets it out, if 10 hours labour is set equal to 100 units of a particular product then in order to be able to withdraw 10 hours worth of products from the store, each worker would have to produce 100 units. But, for the reasons set out above this might take one worker 12 hours, and the other only 8. This inequality is a direct result of the necessity of competition in the allocation of society’s production. Only, if society raised its productive capacity to such a level that there was a general abundance could this situation end. Then it would no longe rbe a question of competing demands for resources – guns or butter – because both guns and butter could be produced in sufficient quantity to meet all needs. Then the principle “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”, could be established, and with it true equality. But, as Marx pointed out it is not at all clear that such a state of affairs could ever actually exist, and given the increase in production required even to achieve that in the developed world, let alone that required to raise the billions of people in the rest of the world to that level, it seems doubtful that without some huge leap in technology that sufficient resources exist to bring about such a condition.

Yet, Marx was not phased by such a prospect. He saw the advance that even the first stage of Socialism could bring as being historically progressive, in the transformation of production and social relations it would bring. And, after all, though this competition implies continuing inequality, it is qualitatively different from that which exists under Capitalism, or other class societies. The reason for that is simple, it is not competition per se, under Capitalism, which creates such inequality. The cause of the inequality stems not from competition i.e. distribution, but from disparities in the ownership of the means of production. It is precisely for that reason that Marx places such a high importance on establishing Co-operatives, and very little time on fetishising planning or replacing competition. He says,

“If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one. Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution. After the real relation has long been made clear, why retrogress again?”

It is inevitable, then, that Producer Co-ops will have to compete in order that such benefits of competition are acquired by the Co-operative sector. But, such competition can also incorporate Co-operation, and this Co-operative aspect should on the basis of class struggle increase. In short, whilst competition was the negation of feudal monopoly, co-operation becomes itself the negation of that negation.

Of course, the Tories proposals will be welcomed by those on the Left who are hostile to the idea of Co-operatives in general. Again there is nothing new under the sun. The fact that sections of bourgeois argued for them did not stop Marx and the First International from continuing to place them centrally within their strategy. It is unfortunately, the case that large sections of the Left, rather than thinking for themselves, and developing their own programme, allow their political agenda to be determined for them by the bourgeoisie, on the basis that, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, or else by simply placing a plus sign, wherever their opponents place a minus.

By raising the idea of Co-operatives, the Tories have opened a whole ideological door for the working class, the idea that they can and should have control over aspects of their lives, rather than simply having to work for the greater glory of some private or State Capitalist boss, or that their democratic role extends no further than placing a cross on a piece of paper every few years, for what greater democratic right is there than the democratic right to own and control your work place. Of, course, the Tories want to limit that to the Public Sector, and to limit that further by keeping control of the purse strings. But, having opened that door how can they deny the right of workers to establish such Co-operatives in other areas of their lives – to control their communities, and their workplaces. How can they deny workers the right to control the vast sums that exist in their Pension Funds – enough to buy up more than half the companies in the FTSE 100 – and to use those funds to further their own interests rather than the interests of Capital.

Red Toryism is a nonsense, but it would be a tragedy if Marxists did not utilise the opening that the Tories proposals on Co-operatives provide, to popularise in the consciousness of workers the idea that they can have real change here and now, that they can and should demand to own their own means of production, and those basic services on which they all depend.


opmas said...

First thing, these are NOT worker owned co-ops but worker managed co-ops and I doubt they will even be that.

Second thing, I tend to agree with your view of cooperatives and how vital hey are to the movement.

I tend to think the Tories have unearthed their super evil computer from deep within their headquarters to come up with this proposal. I think they have calculated that this could be a way to undermine the last remaining trade union ‘strongholds’. They may have miscalculated but I think that is on their agenda here. They see this has the final triumph of the bourgeois over the proletariat.
Again they may have severely miscalculated because if these ‘worker co-ops’ are to function in any way that resembles sanity then they will have to forge close links with the consumers of these services and ordinary folk being ordinary folk they will want to see this happen anyway. (Only the well off don’t give a shit about the end results deep down).

As for dividing up surpluses, these are rare things these days. Deficits are definitely the thing. And it will be interesting to see how new legislation impacts on these organisations. As a result of the Baby P fallout councils were obliged to reorganise their entire Child services provision with a budget burden going into the millions. How will workers decide to address these problems?

Therefore the Tory proposals will not end up being anything remotely to do with Worker co-ops but some corporatist dystopia.

So without wishing to invite you distance yourself from my questioning the motives of politicians stance I think you really underestimate what real shitbags these Tories are. (By the way Marx himself was not afraid to use a few colourful adjectives to describe the Whigs).

Anonymous said...

Will there be any articles on the BA strike or does your unswerving loyalty to New Labour prevent such a thing?

And nothing on the protests in Thailand? Are they less important than Iranians?

Jacob said...

Hi Arthur,

It's good you're starting to catch up on some stuff. Cooperative movement is, alas, squat without "non-selective encouragement... usage of eminent domain... and unconditional economic assistance (both technical and financial)."

Venezuela exercised eminent domain over a number of capitalists (but compensated them somewhat in the back alley) to transform their businesses into coops.

Jacob Richter said...

Welcome back!

Maybe something's wrong with that e-mail account of mine, but I see two key problems with Red Toryism besides the lack of the "state aid" (eminent domain in particular):

1) Aside from these coops having to operate in market conditions, this is an attempt at stealth privatization. It's one thing to suggest coops for enterprises once publicly owned but privatized under Thatcher-Major and Blair-Brown (even on market-condition terms), but it's quite another to do the same thing to current public services.

2) Their attitude toward policy is an hourglass. They want to concentrate further high-end national policy in the hands of the capitalists, but are OK with devolving more localized issues (where to build playgrounds, when to clean streets, and so on).

Simeon said...

“It is entirely consistent with Marxist theory, which states that ideas are a function of material conditions, and class consciousness is a function of social position and social relations, to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely, sincere in their belief that the ideas they put forward are not just for the benefit of that class, but for society as a whole”

It’s like the 1980’s just never happened for you isn’t it.

DrunkenDuncan said...

“The first thing I want to say is that I think it is important, for a Marxist, to distance themselves from the tendency to disparage the motives of politicians, even bourgeois politicians. There is no reason for us to argue that such people do not believe, sincerely, in the ideas they put forward. Our argument with them is not that they are all a bunch of liars and hypocrites, on the whole, though some clearly are, but that their politics flow from the interests of the class whose representatives they are - the Capitalist Class. It is entirely consistent with Marxist theory, which states that ideas are a function of material conditions, and class consciousness is a function of social position and social relations, to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely, sincere in their belief that the ideas they put forward are not just for the benefit of that class, but for society as a whole”

Does this apply to the BNP and if it doesn’t then what conclusions should we draw from that?

Naivity Nelson said...

“It is entirely consistent with Marxist theory, which states that ideas are a function of material conditions, and class consciousness is a function of social position and social relations, to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely, sincere in their belief that the ideas they put forward are not just for the benefit of that class, but for society as a whole”

Yes I think the Tories believe that by smashing trade union power everyone will be a winner. They are naïve like that aren’t they. Bless their little cotton socks!

Comrade Ade said...

“It is entirely consistent with Marxist theory, which states that ideas are a function of material conditions, and class consciousness is a function of social position and social relations, to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely, sincere in their belief that the ideas they put forward are not just for the benefit of that class, but for society as a whole”

Well coming from a FORMER mining community I can only say that this is complete poppycock.

Sally said NO said...

“It is entirely consistent with Marxist theory, which states that ideas are a function of material conditions, and class consciousness is a function of social position and social relations, to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely, sincere in their belief that the ideas they put forward are not just for the benefit of that class, but for society as a whole”

It is neither consistent nor inconsistent with Marxist theory. You could equally say it is entirely consistent with Marxist theory to believe that the representatives of the bourgeoisie are entirely calculating in attacking workers to enrich themselves.
Your co-operative ideas do not need to rely on this level of idiocy. Get a grip.

Jocky said...

Just watching Phillip Blond on sky news, he's an interesting character no doubt but there isn't a chance in hell of the old Etonians picking up these ideas.

Arthur Bough said...

Sorry I can't reply to these comments at the moment, and for the delay in them being posted. I should have had Internet access set up on 15th March, but we have been completely messed about by SKY, so I am having to use a Library PC, which I only get down to use every few weeks.

Arthur Bough said...

A brief response on the "Sincerity" issue. Firstly, I did say that some bourgeois politicians were only interested in furthering their own ends. I simply don't think that basing yourself on this is very useful. On the contrary by feeding the "all politicians are crooks" idea, it only leads to nihilism.

Many Tories probably DO beleive that in restricting the actions of Trade Unions they facilitate the best interests of society as a whole, precisely because their liberal ideology, based on individualism leads to such conclusions. No one is saying they are right only that their class position and the ideas that flow from it, lead them to the conclusion that what is good for capital is good for society.

And, the problem is let's face it that most workers themselves agree with that idea. The Trade Union s themselves base tehir actions on the idea that the interests of Capital cannot be damaged for fear of damaging workers longer term interests. That is why the BA workers themselves offered to pay cuts, and so on. It is the very basis of reformist ideology as the dominant bourgeois ideology in the labour movement itself.

Are we to say that not just the Tories or Labour politicians who hold such views, but worejkrs themselves are being deliberately deceitful? That's why we have to be clear that our argument is not that it is a matter of deceitful politicians, but of incorrect ideas. We have to challenge those ideas whoever puts them forward whether they put them forqward in good faith or not. More importantly we have to put forward alternative ideas. In particular the idea that workers can never progress by simply seeking reforms or higher wages, which as Marx points out makes Socialism purely a theory of Distribution, but that it is only in the realm of production that workers can find a solution. That by taking over the means of production themselves by establishing Co-operatives they automatically change the relations of Distribution too.

Arthur Bough said...

On does this apply to the BNP. fascist parties always have to hide their real politics. They are bourgeois parties which can only come to power with the say so of Big Capital, and who in power are closely tied to that Big Capital. Their sole fucntion is to save Capital in times of crisis when worekrs have the potential to overthrow it. That is why the BNp pose no immediate threat now.

But, to fulfil their function fascist parties always have to build a base amongst the petit-bouregosiie, and the lunmpen backward sections of workers. That is why they always adopt a certain populist anti-capitalist rhetoric, and otehr populist appeals such as racism, nationalism etc. They are based fundamentally upon a lie.

But, that does niot mean that the ordinary foot soldiers of these parties udnerstand that. They can be genuinely misguided. Of course, the experience of fascist parties, particularly of the Nazis, shows that such elements like the Strasserites will always be crushed should the Party come to power. But, in the late 1920's the german Communist Party was able to win over some rank and file Nazis as a result of debates, which is why the Nazis stopped them taking place. Trotsky also argued that it would be necessary to win over workers under the spell of Mussolini's fascists.

You can't do that if you simply take the position that your opponents really don't beleive anything they say.

DrunkenDuncan said...

On the BNP,

They don't believe their policies will help "society as a whole" do they? The best you could say about them is that they believe they will help the white skinned section of society. They don't pretend any differently do they? And neither do their 'foot soldiers'.

So why would big capital keep them in their pockets if they believed they were running things for the good of the whole of society?

Arthur Bough said...


I think I said that the politics of the BNP, as with any fascist party, is based upon a lie! Your response here seems to be based on me saying that they are the same as any other bourgeois party, however.

But, also believing that you are acting in the interests of society does not mean you beleive you are acting in the interests of every single individual or group immediately. It is, in fact, quite rational - if wrong - for a Nationalist Party to argue that the interests of Minorities are best served by sticking to their "own" Nation. So, it does not require such parties to be lying when they claim that members of such Minority Nationalities do not recognise their own best long term interests - just as in fact Leninists speak of workers not recognising their own long term interests, of suffering from a "false conscioussness".

And as you say the foot soldiers of these parties make these points openly. It is not that they are lying when they make them, but that they beleive them that is the real problem here, because what they beleive is false. Its only by taking such people at their word, and challenging the fundamentally erroneous nature of those ideas that they can be changed. With a tiny group like the BNP it doesn't matter so much, but as I said when you are talking about the need to split away large numbers of workers attached to such a party as was the case in Italy in the 1920's, or Germany in the 1930's it does. You can only split them away by challenging those ideas, not by simply saying they are all liars.

Arthur Bough said...


On the why would Big Capital keep them in their pocket question, I'm sorry, but I don't know what you mean here. In general Big Capital steers clear of fascists in normal times. It will support either Conservative/Liberal parties, or the Social Democracy depending upon the conditions, and which best suits its needs.

It will only support the fascists when its very life is threatened. The fact that the bourgeois parties will throw over the facade of democracy in such conditions, does not change the fact that they beleive in doing so they are acting in the real interests of society as a whole, because as I said they are unable to distinguish between their own class interests and the interests of society. They beleive that if workers accept some other ideology they are suffering from a "false conscioussness" from which they have to be saved. In fact, a mirror image of the argument put forward by Leninists for the need for a Vanguardist Party, and for a revolution carried through by the Vanguard of the class.

Its why if Marxists are to challenge the falsity of the ideas of the bourgeois parties, they also have to avoid simply putting forward those mirror image ideas of Vanguardism, that they have to be consistent democrats.

Arthur Bough said...


Actually we don't know what such Co-ops would be, because they don't yet exist. Workers are not, or should not simply be bystanders in this process, which is the main point I was making. We do not simnply have to accept what is proposed, but have to struggle for what we want. In fact, from what I've seen the Tories proposals ARE for worker OWNED Co-ops. They see them as essentially small firms, nothing more in effect than a Partnership, but with the benefit for the State that the risk is removed from it, whilst it retains control over the prices that would be paid for provision. I agree they no doubt do see this as udnermining Trade Unionism in these spheres.

But, I agree that if such Co-ops were to be set up there would be an inevitable drive towards them having to have close links with the local community. Again that is precisely the point I was making. It opens the possibility of the local community establishing its own "Commissioning" Co-op, that contracts services from the "Worker Co-op" providing the service, and thereby demands the right to set service levels, budgets etc. taking that out of the hands of the State.

On deficits, clearly all services represent a cost to society. But, if worres can provide these services for themselves more efficiently than State Capitalism then they can argue over claiming that saving for themselves, rather than it being merely a saving for the State.

I have no illusion about the Tories being a bunch of shits, but that does not necessarily require a belief in the idea that they all really understand the superiority of Socialism, but argue for Capitalism simply out of self-interest.

Arthur Bough said...


or should I call you the Sentinel, BCFG or one of your many other aliases? You may have noted that I have been rather limited in writing any posts, let alone ones on specific issues. In fact, I have written soemthing on the BA strike, and given time and the necessary facilities there will no doubt be more.

Arthur Bough said...

Jacob (or is that V.I. Lenin),

As I have demonstrated in my series on Co-ops, the reality is that throughout the world Co-ops continue to grow without state aid. It is not at all a precondition.

Why should workers not seek to advance beyond the limits of State Capitalist provision to Co-operative production? Why can they only establish Co-operatives in areas that the State has privatised? That makes no sense to me, the whole basis of the Social Revolution is to continue that proicess of development towards its logical conclusion.

Arthur Bough said...

Simeon or is it the Sentinel/BCFG et al once again? Your comment makes no sense as usual. What does hte 1980's have to do with this?

opmas said...

Maybe these will be short term teething problems but imagine a case like Baby P hits the press and the government are put under scrutiny, they will be under pressure to impose a new set of arrangements on these ‘co-ops’ and the workers in those organisations will have to accept it. Therefore the government will never just hand over control of these services to the workers, unless they calculate that the press will go after the co-ops instead of them. More likely overall control and therefore ownership will remain with the state and the ‘co-ops’ will have to manage somehow on what they are given. The pressure on workers for self sacrifice will be higher even than it is now, if that’s possible! The state will keep control of the purse strings, the workers will have some illusion of self management and be more inclined to take pay cuts etc to balance the books. That is how the super evil Tory computer sees it I am sure.

I really don’t think this idea came from a liberal concern for the good of all. Maybe the bourgeois are already planning ahead to the time when our relative wealth goes down compared to China, India etc and maybe they are preparing the ground for workers to expect lower standards of living. A kind of version of 1984, where the proles live in their world and the ‘elite’ live in theirs.

Again all this could backfire on them and lead to progressive outcomes. I just question your questioning of their motives.
Management are driven by the motto necessity is the mother of invention, I think workers will be more pro active than this. Where I work the financial systems are so outdated as to be embarrassing, only now the shit has hit the fan are management looking into new systems. I think workers in a co-op would look to have the most advanced technology and would seek to implement that technology if it saved time and money. I don’t tend to think they would wait for the shit to hit the fan. It would also be nice to imagine that as time went on management costs would get lower, pay differentials would reduce and promotion would be based purely on experience and performance.

Then again it now seems this whole idea has been firmly shot down, some elements of the bourgeois obviously agreed with you that this was a proposal too much in the spirit of their ‘liberal’ ideology!

Simeon said...

"Simeon or is it the Sentinel/BCFG et al once again?"

Whatever it is the left have missed your perspective. You are one of the few people on the left who make me question my own beliefs, even if I do not always agree with you.

Arthur Bough said...


I think you have answered your own objection. Of course, the bouregois state - irrespective of who the Government is, and what its motives are - will try to constrain and control Co-ops. They do the same with Trade Unions, but that is not an argument for curling up and saying there is no point building unions.

In the case of say a Co-op providing residential Child Care then they would no doubt insist on setting guidelines and minimum standards. Actually, I don't think there is any objection to that. Marx argued for keeping the State (bouregois or proletarian) out of the provision of Education, but saw no reason for such standards not being set. And for now so long as we have to accept the existence of the bouregois state, and bourgeois democracy we will have to fight the battle over those standards within those forums.

But, I have considerable faith that such a Co-op, made up of local workers, commissioned by other local workers to provide a service, tied in to the local community and so on would provide a service far in excess of the service provided by the bouregois state that leads to demoralisation and alienation amongst its workers. That would be the greatest safeguard against another baby Peter, and also against the kinds of tragedies we have seen such as at Stafford and many other NHS Hospitals.

It is precisely because workers in such a Co-op will have an incentive to introduce whatever systems and practics enable them to provide a quality service at the least cost, and effort for themselves rather than the tendency to introduce those systems and facilities that merely enhance the status of the top bureaucrats that will create the conditions for providing such a high quality, efficient service.

Arthur Bough said...

Simeon/Sentinel/BCFG etc,

You say I cause your to challenge your own ideas, but what ideas are they exactly??? When you write as the Sentinel you pose as a BNP'er. When you write as BCFG, "Dave", etc. you write as an opponent of the BNP, a supporter of the SWP, and even of Hamas!

One minute, you write comments like the one above that make you appear reasonable, even sympathetic, and the next write comments that are nothing but four letter expletives! You write comments attacking my son in the most vile terms, because he has Aspergers, and you write comments that are not only wholly libellour, but for anyone who actually knows me totally ludicrous, accusing me of being a Benefits cheat!

Now either you are a schizophrenic, and see no contradiction in all of these different persona you assume, and the comments they spew forth, or as others on the web have concluded, you are just a crank with nothing better to do than vomit up all of the vile, antagonistic crap you come out with.

Either way, having worked in ICT since 1985, it is not difficult for me to identify you or your comments, and both are allowed here purely on sufferance.

Simeon said...

My ideas are what you would term Statist socialism, I always believed in the idea of revolution, a single violent act that would transfer power to a state led by the proletariat and where the state would centrally control the economy in workers interests.

Your writings have made me question those beliefs and opened me up to new ideas. Whether my technique at 'testing' exactly where your views are centred offends you or makes you think I have some mental illness or wastes your time is irrelevant, at the end of the day what does matter is that you continue to write on the days events. The left need your perspective.

Whether you believe any of the above concerns me not in the slightest.

I would appreciate it if you would post my comments which were on topic. Anything off topic, you are justified in deleting. But I rarely post off topic.

P.S. I have never attacked your son or accused you of being a benefits cheat, your ICT skills should prove that fact once and for all. And if you think you have proved it your ICT skills need refreshing.

I think you have become so paranoid with my use of multiple names that you assume everyone is me! Which to be fair to you is probably understandable, BUT WRONG!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Hi Arthur, I see you're still having trouble with the mentally ill Sentinel character, his modus operandi is all to common to me I'm afraid but I find the best thing is to ignore the daft racist.

Trying to debate the very poorly chap is a waste of time, he is very sick.

All the best to you.

Arthur Bough said...


You're full of it. My IT skills do not at all need honing. I identified you behind all of the various persona you adopt, a fact you have now admitted. Given recent legal cases, I can understand why you would want to pretend you were not responsible for making libellous statements. However, given that you posted one of those statements on your own blog you can hardly claim that it was someone else, and its just my "paranoia"!

I'd suggest you start by writing a post on your blog fully retracting those libellous statements. I'd suggest you follow that by another post telling everyone that the views you express their are in fact not your real views that in fact you are after all a "revolutionary socialist", whose views have been challenged by reading my blog, as you now claim. You might then want to ensure that in future, rather than your ridiculous claim that you have to use these various persona to solicit others real views, you write your commenst in good faith.

However, given my own experience of your behaviour, and the experience of many others such as Daniel Hoffman-Gill, I doubt most of us will be holding our breath waiting for that to happen!

Arthur Bough said...


Good to hear from you again. Yes, he keeps posting in various guises on various sites, sometimes as here posing as a Leftist. Mostly, though its just posts of four letter expletives. I just post comments that can be usefully replied to.

Hope your recent ventures are going well. I was going to e-mail you some time ago to see if there would be any benefit in you talking to my son who is a freelance film cameraman, and who can also provide general media production expertise. I did have some ideas about setting up a media production Co-op, but events have rather tied me down in general over the last few months.

Perhaps you could e-mail me, if you think a discussion with him would be mutually beneficial.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Email me by all means about your son but as I am from the other angle of performance so to speak, I may not be very much use at all but yes, be nice to hear from you.

Simeon said...

I think you should apologise to me. I am NOT this Sentinel charcter, it is your unfounded assumption! If you bothered to use your ICT skills you could easily see this.

I would never ever bring someones family into any debate, that is outright disgusting. So you are the one being libellous, check your data!

The reason I use different persona is that I don't want your responses to be prejudiced by previous discussions.

I don't know who this Hoffman Gill character is.

Arthur Bough said...


As I said you are full of it. My first reply here to you began, "Simeon or is it the Sentinel/BCFG et al once again". Given that you read this blog extensively you could not help but have read the posts clearly made in the name of the Sentinel; you could not but know then his vile, racist views expressed within them. Yet you did not choose to respond by denying that you were the Sentinel, but simply said, "Whatever it is the left have missed your perspective."

When I wrote, "When you write as the Sentinel you pose as a BNP'er. When you write as BCFG, "Dave", etc. you write as an opponent of the BNP, a supporter of the SWP, and even of Hamas!" Again you did not respond by denying that you had used the persona of the Sentinel to expound the views of the BNP! Instead you respond with "Whether my technique at 'testing' exactly where your views are centred offends you ..."

Even were it the case that the computer audit trail does not show you, the Sentinel, BCFG et al all to be the same person, no rational person could read your responses here, and not come to that conclusion.

But, as usual what you are doing is creating a diversion from the actual topic of this blog post, which is why this line of discussion is now closed.

The short answer to you is quite simple. If the Sentinel is sued, you will have nothing to be worried about if you and he are two different people will you?

Arthur Bough said...


I'll e-mail you shortly. I realise that you are involved in live performace etc. My son, has mostly been involved in filming things for companies such as training films and so on, and filming events, though he did work on a feature film made in Stoke a couple of years ago.

What I had in mind was whether there might be potential for filming performances, either for promotional purposes, or to put on the web etc. In addition, even for training films and so on there is a need for actors, as well as real people. I'll e-mail you shortly.

Arthur Bough said...

Just to make it clear and emphasise the point as a final, final comment. If you try to cover your tracks by posting from two locations a couple of miles apart, its hardly effective, and not at all convincing. If in addition you are sloppy and post using both names from the same location the attempt was in any case pointless!

Jacob said...

Hi Arthur,

"As I have demonstrated in my series on Co-ops, the reality is that throughout the world Co-ops continue to grow without state aid. It is not at all a precondition."

I agree with that last sentence, actually. However, a DeLeonist enlightened me a little more on where Lassalle went wrong with his education.

State aid is supposed to imply political action, as opposed to business unions "spontaneously" forming coops.

Likewise, the intent of the Iron Law of Wages was to transform the ADAV into a political party proper, since Lassalle dismissed trade union activity.

I just wish there were an Iron Law equivalent today as a polemic against spontaneist "social movement"-isms. You know, the likes of the World Social Forum, emphasis on NGO activity, etc.

"Why should workers not seek to advance beyond the limits of State Capitalist provision to Co-operative production? Why can they only establish Co-operatives in areas that the State has privatised? That makes no sense to me, the whole basis of the Social Revolution is to continue that proicess of development towards its logical conclusion."

To only establish coops in areas that the state has privatized is perceived as being in the middle of private ownership and nationalization.

To do the reverse is perceived as stealth privatization.

For example, I don't like mutualism very much, since the whole banking system should be a public monopoly. You can't achieve that by having competing credit unions.