Saturday, 3 July 2010

Chinese Workers And The State - Part 6

The Socialist Revolution

The successful bourgeois revolution, and industrialisation in Britain, had forced other states to industrialise and become bourgeois themselves on pain of economic annihilation. Would a successful socialist transformation in Britain, France or Germany have led at some point to a similar transformation in the Stalinist States. It is impossible to say. My belief is not. The dynamics of the two revolutions, the requirements for their success are completely different. One requires only that a fairly small, already privileged and educated class pursue its own interests to get rich, and to develop its class consciousness on that basis. The other requires that a massive social class, coming from a condition of relative poverty, acquire the understanding that its individual interests can only be advanced via collective, co-operative action and forms of property. For this revolution to succeed then as Marx put it the Battle of Democracy really does have to be won. The working class in its vast majority has to be fully conscious of its interests, its goals, and its mission.

That cannot be brought about from on high, by a bureaucratic state, or by a state under the control of some elite vanguard party. Ultimately, that was why the revolutions in Russia and China had to fail. The material conditions did not exist in which a working class formed the majority of society. The working class was too small, too weak, too poor to have established the kinds of Co-operative property that could exist in opposition to Capitalist property, and through which that class could learn the need to extend such collective, co-operative property, and the need for it to act as a class in such a collective, co-operative fashion to assert its interests as against those of the bourgeoisie. Having overthrown the political power of the bourgeoisie, and Landlords, and gone on to destroy the economic and social foundations from which those classes sprung and were reproduced, the workers and peasants were not yet ready to exercise political power themselves, and those to whom they were led to cede that power to exercise on their behalf rather than hand power back to the old ruling classes, were unable given the conditions to bring about the economic and social transformation. At best they could prevent the return of the old ruling classes. But societies cannot exist in such a limbo. They have to move forwards, or else they will ultimately move back. Both have moved back.

Fortunately, the history of those previous revolutions is that although the initial premature political revolutions were defeated, and restorations occurred – indeed in England rather like in Russia, there was little or no opposition from the masses to the Stuart restoration – lessons were learned from them. They established the fact, not at all accepted at the time, that a people cut kill a King, and that societies could function without them. The Russian and Chinese Revolutions established the fact that workers, even when they are a minority, can overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie, and societies can function without the rule of Capital. The real work of those revolutions took place over the following 200 years, not in such grand events, but almost behind men's backs, as the economic and social power of the bourgeoisie grew, and as Marx says in the Manifesto,

“Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune(4): here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

And as Marx also says, in the Grundrisse,

“"As the system of bourgeois economy has developed for us only by degrees so too its negation, which is its ultimate result." p712.”

Capitalism will not be replaced by a Socialism arising from some single big, political revolutionary event as the Leninists believe, but will be replaced by a Socialism that develops gradually within its midst, “by degrees”, just as Feudalism succumbed to a capitalism that proved its historical superiority from within the old society, and upon which arose the economic and social power of the bourgeoisie, and out of which arose its class consciousness, its political institutions, and its own state forms. It will be replaced when that process is transformed from quantity into quality, and the working class recognising its real economic and social power, simply says, “We are many, you are few”, and sweeps the bourgeoisie from history once and for all. For the last 100 years, the number of Co-operatives throughout the world has continued to grow. More people today are employed around the globe by Co-operatives than are employed by Multinational companies. Even the Tories have been forced to recognise the superiority of Co-operatives to private Capitalist ownership, and no wonder, last year, Worker owned enterprises outperformed the FTSE 100 companies by 10%. Housing Co-operatives have been shown to be the most efficient means of housing provision.

The Co-operative Mode of Production against tremendous odds is demonstrating its superiority, demonstrating that it is the future, just as Capitalism once did. Marxists should stop chasing after romantic fantasies of a repeat of the 1917 Revolution, and begin to analyse and understand the transformations in the productive and social relations already taking place, and base themselves upon them as Marx did.

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