Monday, 17 January 2011

Cameron's Speech On Public Services

I've only just listened to Cameron's speech on reforming the Public Services, so this post is only a general response to the soundbites, not a detailed analysis of every point of what Cameron said.
What struck me was the extent to which the general points made by Cameron echoed the ideas that the Far Left itself had made during the 1960's and 1970's. Cameron claimed that what he was proposing was Progressive, and on an abstract level, much of what he was arguing WAS progressive. But, as they say, the devil is in the detail. What is wrong with what Cameron has to say is not that State Capitalism is above criticism, not that it already provides workers inside the Public Sector with some kind of workers paradise of employment, or that for workers dependent upon its services that it is the ultimate in efficiency and quality, not that workers should aspire to something better by establishing their own Co-operatives as the best way of developing the efficiency, quality, and responsiveness we need, and which can only come through direct workers ownership of the means of production, but that, in reality, the Tories proposals will fail to address any of these issues, and will instead simply lead to a step backwards to private ownership, and probably increased bureaucracy and inefficiency. In the short term, as a massive restructuring, driven from the top down, they are likely to provoke hostility, and already appear to be leading towards chaos.

In the 1960's, 70's, and early 80's, the Left spent considerable time analysing the State, and developing its attitude towards it.
The conclusions of that were pretty clear, though the strategies that flowed from that conclusion were not. Across a wide spectrum of Left academics the notion developed by Marx and Engels, and extended by Lenin and others of the State as a class state, and of the Capitalist State, as an instrument of the Capitalist Class, was refined. The idea contained at the heart of Marx's analysis of Capital, of the main function of the State being to reproduce social relations i.e. to ensure the conditions under which the ruling class, and the oppressed classes are reproduced was developed considerably. On that basis was developed the analysis and tactics, to be developed towards that State, and upon it, as indeed had been the case, in terms of the division between Lenin and reformists, such as Kautsky and Bernstein, rested the division between revolutionary socialism, and reformism. In the case of the Left, this was most marked in the differing strategies of the revolutionaries (mostly Trotskyists), and the reformists of various stripes i.e. the Stalinists, and those like the Militant, who argued that essentially the State could be captured,
and used in workers interests.

Yet, even here the different tactics and strategies did not mean that a shared analysis and critique of the existing Capitalist State did not exist.
As well as a broad agreement within Left Academic circles on the nature of the Capitalist State, as being oppressive, inefficient and bureaucratic, detailed and specialised analysis by groups of Marxists working in the State itself reinforced that analysis through praxis. A range of specialist publications such as State Research arose that analysed current developments within the State. Groups of socialists in Health and Education, and Social Services etc. began to detail the actual working of those arms of the State, and their role in ensuring the reproduction of Labour Power, and developed strategies such as “In and Against The State.”

The clearest example of the division of attitude towards the State between the revolutionary perspective, and the reformist perspective was in relation to State Bans against the fascists.
The reformists frequently called for the Local State i.e. the local Council, or the local police to ban marches and meetings by the National Front. The revolutionaries correctly opposed such demands, arguing on the basis of the analysis of what the Capitalist State is, that even were that State to effectively ban the fascists, it would do so for its own reasons, and in the interests of Capital, not in the interests of workers or ethnic communities. Moreover, calling on the Capitalist State to take action was a dangerous precedent, because precisely as a Capitalist State, it would always use those precedents to act against workers, unions, and socialists far more than it would ever use them against the fascists, who ultimately were the agents of the bosses whose interests that State represented. Finally, socialism can only be created by the self-activity of the working-class, and socialists should not raise demands for the Capitalist State, which is their greatest enemy, to do things, which are the responsibility of workers themselves to carry out.

But, a similar attitude could be seen in relation to other areas. For example, in relation to the serious economic problems of the time, the reformists, particularly the left reformists again basically placed their faith in that Capitalist State to look after workers interests. It meant asking workers to tie their interests to those of the British Capitalists through the medium of the State. So, the Alternative Economic Strategy, believed that workers and bosses interests could be advanced by an industrial policy of large scale investment, into which workers would be incorporated, forgoing their independence and limiting their demands for pay etc. in return for a say on how Capital could best continue to exploit them. And this investment strategy would be directed and facilitated by that Capitalist State in a model that if anything resembled the Economic Council established by Hitler and the Nazis in Germany. To top off what was in reality a National Socialist strategy, this investment would be undertaken under cover of Import Controls, which would, of course, have the same effect of conveying to workers the idea that they had a common interest with the bosses against foreign workers. The revolutionaries set out these criticisms of this policy, and argued instead that workers should refuse to pay for the bosses crisis, and should form an international alliance with their fellow workers abroad.
The problem with this strategy was that it was being advanced by small revolutionary groups with no real support within the class, and could only have succeeded in a revolutionary situation. It was tantamount to calling for Socialism Now, and not surprisingly such a perspective was totally removed from the existing level of consciousness of workers.

The strategy of “In And Against The State” started from the critique of the Capitalist State as being bureaucratic, oppressive and inefficient, but recognised that it existed as a significant force, often providing services, which were important for millions of workers.
But, essentially it accepted the notion of being able to capture the State from the inside. If the revolutionary strategy of Socialism Now, was unachievable because, despite the use of “Transitional Demands” trotted out as though they had some magical power, it was removed from workers existing consciousness, the reformist strategy was unachievable for all the reasons that revolutionaries had previously cited about the impossibly of disarming the Capitalist Tiger “claw by claw”. When it came to translating the analysis of the State into practice when dealing with the fascists, the revolutionaries had no problem, the answer was the self-activity of the workers, the building of workers organisations to fight the fascists independent of the State and the bosses. But, when it came to applying that logic in the economic sphere, the revolutionaries were lost, because what it really meant was not simply limiting workers to sporadic, sectional industrial struggles, but building independent workers solutions to the economic crisis i.e. developing the idea of an independent, workers, co-operative sector. The revolutionaries shied away from such a strategy, because they wrongly interpreted Marx and Engels' position on that, and were led astray by the ideas of Luxembourg.

It was not really a problem for the Reformists, because the Reformists never sought to actually create Socialism, but only to reform Capitalism, to smooth its rough edges. It was the revolutionaries who had the real problem here. The Revolutionaries did not seek a bigger share of the pie for the workers as the reformists did, nor even the pie itself. The revolutionaries wanted to take over the Bakery, so that they had control over how big the pie was, how it was made, and what flavour it had. Yet, for so long as the workers continued to believe that the Bakery had to be run by either a private or state capitalist that was not going to happen. In the end, the revolutionaries strategy amounted to nothing more than Left reformism and syndicalism, able to stretch no further than calling on the workers to take more militant industrial action – simply more militant bargaining within the system – or calls for some form of Left Labour or Workers Government to materialise from the ether, with the maximum demands for Socialism tagged on to the “What We Stand For” columns of their papers as an afterthought. And as such, like the strategies of the Left Reformists, these approaches were if anything less intelligent than the reformist strategies of the Labour Right. After all, if the main thing is to win better pay and conditions for workers whilst continuing to be WITHIN the confines of Capitalism, then it is better to secure a bigger slice of pie for the workers, by ensuring a much bigger pie, rather than risking shrinking the pie, by only focussing on the share of the existing pie. The best example of that was Germany.
After WWII, German Social Democracy built a modern economy by incorporating the workers and their Trades Unions into the system. Trades Unions had seats on the Workers Councils of each major firm. They helped develop the strategy of the company, drawing on the workers' knowledge and experience to introduce changes that enhanced efficiency. In addition, the unions acted to ensure that these changes were introduced smoothly, and that working practices changed accordingly, and jobs were lost to raise productivity. As Trotsky describes it,

“If the participation of the workers in the management of production is to be lasting, stable, “normal,” it must rest upon class collaboration, and not upon class struggle.
Such a class collaboration can be realized only through the upper strata of the trade unions and the capitalist associations. There have been not a few such experiments: in Germany (“economic democracy”), in Britain (“Mondism”), etc. Yet, in all these instances, it was not a case of workers’ control over capital, but of the subserviency of the labor bureaucracy to capital. Such subserviency, as experience shows, can last for a long time: depending on the patience of the proletariat.”

That was in contrast to Britain, where large battles were fought during the 1960's and 70's, to defend jobs by resisting technological change, and changes to working practices.
The print industry was a classic example. In Germany, the higher levels of productivity created a more dynamic economy, and the growth that resulted facilitated higher wages, and better conditions, including better healthcare, pensions etc. for workers than in Britain. In the end, in Britain the lack of productivity, led to a sclerotic economy that was uncompetitive, and when change came it was drastic and destructive.

The only aspect of the revolutionary strategy that flowed from the Marxist analysis of the State, which they applied was the idea of demanding Workers Control, but in a way, and under conditions where the chance of winning that demand was zero. But, in individual instances the logic of that fed through. For example, in Education, socialists opposing the rigidities and bureaucracy of State Education, argued for much greater independence and control for teachers within the school and within the classroom, echoed in Cameron's comments today. Some significant struggles, such as that at William Tyndale School in London occurred over such issues. It is an indication of the success of the Capitalist State in incorporating large sections of the Left, of infecting the Labour movement with bourgeois ideology, and determining the agenda because the Left has allowed itself to be only “anti” things, rather than “pro” Socialism, that today it is Cameron standing on this ground, and in large part the Left defending a conservative, bureaucratic and oppressive status quo. In the same way that some on the Left translated their “Anti-Imperialism” into an unthinking support of some of the most reactionary organisations and states, including those in Eastern Europe, and “Anti-Capitalism” was translated into a similarly unthinking, neo-Luddism of opposition to modernisation, so “anti-privatisation” was translated into a similarly unthinking defence of that State Capitalism, in the form of the Public Sector, which only 30-40 years earlier the Left had correctly analysed and identified, as part of the oppressive, bureaucratic Capitalist State, which was their main enemy!!!

Today, much of the Left in opposing privatisation fails even to raise the demand for Workers Control, or does so as an afterthought, tagged on like a fig-leaf to cover their shame at becoming advocates for the Capitalist State. But, of course, in a sense they are right not to bother raising what is, under current conditions, a meaningless demand. The reality is that, although the Trotskyist Left has, since WWII, used Transitional Demands, such as Workers Control, as though they had some magical power to transform the class struggle, and workers consciousness, the same demand that is at one instance Transitional or Revolutionary, is at another purely reformist or reactionary. As Lenin put it, the truth is always concrete.

Trotsky makes this clear in particular reference to the demand for Workers Control. In his article Workers Control Of Production, written in 1931, Trotsky says,

"What state regime corresponds to workers’ control of production? It is obvious that the power is not yet in the hands of the proletariat, otherwise we would have not workers’ control of production but the control of production by the workers’ state as an introduction to a regime of state production on the foundations of nationalization. What we are talking about is workers’ control under the capitalist regime, under the power of the bourgeoisie.
However, a bourgeoisie that feels it is firmly in the saddle will never tolerate dual power in its enterprises. workers’ control consequently, can be carried out only under the condition of an abrupt change in the relationship of forces unfavourable to the bourgeoisie and its state. Control can be imposed only by force upon the bourgeoisie, by a proletariat on the road to the moment of taking power from them, and then also ownership of the means of production. Thus the regime of workers’ control, a provisional transitional regime by its very essence, can correspond only to the period of the convulsing of the bourgeois state, the proletarian offensive, and the failing back of the bourgeoisie, that is, to the period of the proletarian revolution in the fullest sense of the word.

If the bourgeois is already no longer the master, that is, not entirely the master, in his factory, then it follows that he is also no longer completely the master in his state. This means that to the regime of dual power in the factories corresponds the regime of dual power in the state."

Yet, not even the most deluded ultra-Leftist could believe that any such situation has existed in Britain over the last 150 years!!! Similarly, in the Transitional Programme, Trotsky emphasises this point, this time in relation to the demand for Nationalisation itself. He writes,

“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.”

Of course, a look at the operation of such statised Banks over the last couple of years, is adequate proof of Trotsky's point.
But, what applies to statised Banks, or other areas of the Capitalist Economy applies equally, to those areas most vital to Capital in ensuring the reproduction of Labour Power i.e Health and Education. Yet, in what Marx would have called an example of fetishism, the very nature of these areas of capitalist production have become for much of the Left, totems, as though they represented in some way, the Socialism we are striving to achieve! The Left might rightly criticise the sons of Ralph Miliband, but in reality that Left is just as guilty of abandoning the the analysis of the Capitalist State, and its implications, developed by him and others.

Another part of Cameron's speech keyed into that. He said that the National Health Service had effectively become a National Drug Service. That echoes the same point made by Mick Carpenter in an old edition of Capital & Class, I have previously cited.
In other words, instead of being focussed on creating the conditions for good health – a struggle, which would itself have to question major aspects of Capitalism – it focusses on providing healthcare as a commodity. Its not surprising that the main beneficiaries of that are the Pharmaceutical Companies, the suppliers of Medical Equipment, the IT Companies, and Construction companies who profit from building the large hospitals etc that go with such an approach, and indeed those high-paid bureaucrats within the NHS and Department of Health, whose empires are built around the need for a yet larger hospital etc. All of that is the very opposite of what a Socialist Health System would focus on, such as creating a healthy living environment for workers, via decent housing and communities, the provision of adequate green space and clean air, the provision of safe and healthy working conditions, the provision of sufficient, good, cheap food, the provision of large scale, efficient, Primary and Preventive Care etc. And central to such a socialist healthcare would be the immediate direct control over such a system focussed within the workers communities, a control which the Capitalist State – and certainly no private Capitalist – would concede.

If the Left is not careful it will find itself in the position it has been in in the past. Despite the Trotskyist analysis of Stalinism, and the strategy of defending workers property, against Imperialism, and a return to private Capital, whilst at the same time being the harshest critics of the oppressive, bureaucratic, and inefficient nature of Stalinism, and of the need for a thoroughgoing political revolution to remove it, by the workers, much of the Left, including the Trotskyist Left, sank into an apologism for Stalinism itself.
Indeed, how could the Trotskyist Left offer the workers of the Stalinist States a credible alternative, when much of their own economic and political strategy was itself based upon a top-down, statist programme that was only discernible from Stalinism by the fact that it talked about the need for Democracy?

But, the Left has been guilty of this many times. For decades, the Left criticised the bureaucratism of the Trades Unions. Yet, in reality, despite all of the harking back to the Minority Movement, and calls for Rank and File Movements, the Left did little to bring about democratic change within the Trades Unions, and for good reason. Much of the work of building Rank and File and Broad Left organisations within the unions had little to do with fighting for greater democracy, and less still with building effective shop-floor independent workers organisation, and self-activity. On the contrary, it was everything to do with a form of electoralism, of getting candidates elected to official positions – i.e. becoming bureaucrats themselves – and getting resolutions passed.
In the 1960's, 70's, and 80's the predominant position of the Communist Party within the unions, ensured that this kind of reformist approach would be significant, and the bureaucratic politics of Stalinism provided the basis for wrangling and manoeuvring within the Left, and within the unions themselves. But, the need to get people elected, itself encouraged an approach based on manoeuvre, wrangling and bureaucratism rather than democracy. Add into that mix, the sectarian divisions between the various sects, and it was inevitable that democracy would play little role in the main concerns of the Left in relation to the Trades Unions. But, that was precisely the conditions that enabled Thatcher
and the Tories to latch on to a very real problem within the Labour Movement, and the Left having failed to deal with it, failed to offer workers a progressive way forward, found itself fighting a rearguard action, not for the democracy it had always claimed it desired, but against Thatcher's drive to impose her version of that democracy. Its not surprising that, just as the Capitalists and Imperialists found, if not a receptive audience, amongst the workers of Eastern Europe, then one that was not straining at the leash to defend a Stalinism that oppressed them and failed to meet their basic needs, that Thatcher found a receptive audience for her proposals in relation to the Trades Unions.

It was not the only instance where Thatcher was able to steal what should have been the Left's clothes. One area that socialists had been active both theoretically and practically was around the question of housing. It was widely accepted that Council Housing was poor quality, that tenancy arrangements were oppressive, and that workers as tenants had little control of the houses let alone the estates on which they lived.
In a number of areas, work had been done to establish Tenants and Residents Associations, but the truth was and is that such organisations like a Trade Union are reformist. The role of a Trade Union is not to run the enterprise in which the workers are employed, still less to take it over, but to fight for better conditions for the workers within the context of their continued exploitation by the Capitalist. The role of a TRA is essentially to do the same, to be a responsive organisation that applies pressure collectively when some problem or other arises. But, as Trotsky sets out in the document above in relation to Workers Control, and as Marx made clear in his arguments with Weston, such bargaining within the system can never provide workers with a solution. Capital has the whip hand, and will impose its will when the opportunity arises. As Trotsky says, Workers Control is not a stable relation outside actual ownership of the means of production by the workers themselves. Workers in an enterprise can only ensure that they do not have to continually strike or struggle to defend their wages and conditions, if they themselves become the owner of those means of production; if they become the boss themselves. Tenants will only remove the need for similar continual struggle against the Landlord be it a Private or State capitalist Landlord, if they themselves become the owners of the houses and estates they live in.

But, revolutionaries failed to make that argument, believing that arguing for workers ownership and control now, for Workers Co-operatives was in some way reformist or Utopian – as though the demand for a Workers Government or Socialism Now was not!!! - and instead favoured such continual struggles for the very sectarian, in the true sense of the term, reason that they believed that out of such struggles they could benefit by recruiting the odd individual to their small sects.
In fact, when limited proposals did come forward from radical socialists active in Local Government, calling for greater democracy, the creation of Neighbourhood Offices and so on, to bring control closer to the communities themselves, this was frequently attacked, because it placed control in the hands of those Tenants, and challenged the jobs of the existing Council bureaucrats. It was an instance of Trade Union politics overriding Socialist Politics, and that is something that a Left, itself heavily tied by employment and other economic and social relations to the Capitalist State, and a form of State Labour Aristocracy, is frequently guilty of. So again, it was no surprise that the workers, who most certainly recognised all of those inadequacies, of State Capitalist Housing provision, that the Marxists had theorised, but for which they had no immediate practical solution, snapped at the chance for their own immediate solution to those problems, through their own individual ownership, when Thatcher offered them the right to buy their Council House.

Of course, in all these instances, be it Imperialism's dismantling of Stalinism, Thatcher's attack on Trades Union's lack of democracy, or her selling of Council Houses, the motivation is not to benefit the workers, but to utilise workers very real concerns in order to push forward solutions that benefit Capital. The same is true with the proposals outlined in Cameron's speech today.
As Marx said, Co-operatives are only progressive if they are the genuine product of the workers themselves, and arise from their own actions. Even in so far as Cameron proposes the establishment of such Co-operatives, for commissioning healthcare, such a solution cannot be progressive if it is simply imposed from above. On the contrary, and as the example of the dismantling of Primary Care Trusts is already illustrating, it is simply likely to lead to chaos, as the existing structure breaks apart, and nothing is there to replace it. That, of course, is precisely the kind of situation that the private healthcare commissioning firms hope for. Not only will it discredit the idea of workers co-operatives taking over this role, but the chaos will mean that GP's will be more likely to have to rush to such companies simply in order to have some system for dealing with their patients needs. But, even if GP's were able to establish some effective Co-operatives for such commissioning, it would hardly fall into the category of Worker Co-ops. A series of such Co-operatives, involving all healthcare workers not just GP's, providing primary health care is one thing, but for commissioning of healthcare to be truly democratic and under workers control would require that it be in the hands of the consumers in the particular area. Moreover, it is inconceivable that such a set up could be an effective means of meeting workers needs in each community, unless each individual Co-op were at least part of a local Co-op Federation, if not a National Workers Co-operative Health Service, that itself would need to link into Co-op Pharmaceutical Services and so on.

But, in reality, as I set out in my blog Big Society, Big Con, the Tories proposals amount to nothing more than a variation of statism, a top-down imposition, and far from the idea of ownership and control being placed in the hands of the workers and consumers of Public Services, what their proposals amount to is the same kind of decentralisation that Capital in the private sector began in the 1980's.
It means splitting up large units, and pushing the costs outwards. In the 1980's big capitalist enterprises were able to free themselves of such peripheral costs and risks, by farming the work out to a series of small companies. And, it meant that they could essentially dictate to these companies how much they would pay for the goods and services they bought from them. That is what Cameron's proposals amount to now. He seeks to transfer functions to a series of voluntary organisations, and private companies, with the State dictating to them how much they will pay for their services.

We should oppose Cameron's proposals because they are a top down imposition, and because they will be used as a cover for cost-cutting and reductions in service, and because Private Capitalism is no solution for workers to the oppressive, bureaucratic inefficiency of State Capitalism. But, history demonstrates that an effective opposition to that has to involve socialists learning once again to base their strategy and tactics on what we are for, and not what we are against.


Jacob Richter said...

Happy New Year, Boffy!

"Socialists should not raise demands for the Capitalist State, which is their greatest enemy, to do things, which are the responsibility of workers themselves to carry out."

For some time I couldn't pin your politics down, but now I've got an idea: it's some unique combination of Cooperative Party and World Socialist Movement / SPGB politics.

Re. the pie analogy, left reforms a la Post-Keynesianism should always strive for the whole pie, not slices of it.

Re. housing, there's recent news about East Berliners resisting gentrification. I commented that Die Linke and the rest of the German left need to fight for expanding resident association guarantees beyond the privilege of homeowners and towards the formation of separate tenant associations, that they need to fight for limiting all residential writs of possession and eviction for the benefit of private parties to cases of tenant neglect, and that they need to fight for establishing comprehensive tax and other financial preferences for renting over home ownership. All three demands can only be aimed at the state (i.e., "state aid").

"Today, much of the Left in opposing privatisation fails even to raise the demand for Workers Control"

There are problems with the term "workers control" in the first place, if you're interested in a paper of mine on the subject.

Boffy said...

Back atcha.

No you still haven't pinned it down. My politics have nothing in common with either the Reformism of the Co-operative Party or the ossified sectarianism of the SPGB.

I do not argue for Co-operatives on the basis that they can exist in some kind of "peaceful co-operation" with a Capitalist Sector, and Capitalist State, and that they could simply continue to expand. I argue for Co-operatives for the same reason that Marx, Engels and the First International did, which is as a part of the class struggle, indeed as the essential component of it, because a class struggle ultimately is a struggle between two contending forms of property, the classes that rest upon them, and the social relations generated by them. It involves a continuous class struggle, at the ideological, political level that mirrors that struggle at the level of the material base of society. That is a revolutionary struggle in the true Marxist sense of the term.

I do not reject the idea of an industrial and political struggle alongside this process in favour of a purely ideological propagandism within the working class as the SPGB do, because like Marx and Lenin I recognise the need to deal with the working-class we have not the one we would like to have. An integral part of success in that ideological struggle to bring about a class conscious proletariat, is precisely to acept its current level, and to work practically alongside it, to earn its confidence and respect, as a precondition for winning it away from the bourgeois ideas about the normality of bourgeois relations. But, that is precisely why we have to be extremely careful about the nature of the demands we raise, and ask the worekrs to fight for, so as not to engender a false consciousness within them, which in fact reinforces bourgeois ideas, and undermines their confidence in their own ability to create and run an alternative form of society. That is why demands that instil a belief and confidence in the Capitalist State, that call on it to do things that only the workers should and will do for themselves, and which reinforce the notion of such a top-down, statist transformation have to be avoided like the plague.

As Marx said in his Address to the FI, the establishment of Worker Co-operatives achieves in practice what a thousand texts could not achieve in showing to workers what they are capable of, and how Socialism could work. And, as he also said precisely because the Capitalist State will do everything to frustrate those Co-operatives, is why we should not sow illusions in it. The only reforms we can demand from this State are those which facilitate the self-organisation of the workers themselves to push forward their interests, and those reforms, which are capable of being accommodated by the stage of Capitalist development, and which amount to nothing more than a more rational means of negotiating with Capital as a whole those things which would otherwise have had to be negotiated with each employer individually.

Jacob Richter said...

Something came up in the course of my reading and writing that I'd like you to consider. Forgive me if my thoughts here may sound jumbled.

Right now I'm interested in the new social stratum of the proletariat that is the precariat. The first reason is to figure out how a proper worker-class party to the left of Labour can help the precariat express its views. I've been reading some stuff on the Japanese precariat, for instance, and the growing working-class youth support for the Japanese Communist Party.

The second, more incidental reason, though, is the question of "state aid" vs. "self-help." How can the precariat organize into coops when they've got part-time jobs (typical weekly part-time jobs or working one or two weeks every few or several weeks) - and perhaps multiple part-time jobs?

The party can do the job. So can its alternative culture. Not so much the coops. Hence "state aid" on the economic front: for example, only governments can directly, not indirectly via money multipliers, achieve zero unemployment cyclically and structurally on a living wage basis (Minsky).

I wrote a shorter version of this as a constructive critique of comrade Cockshott's cooperative and syndicates-based route to socialism and his critique of nationalization.

Boffy said...

Not all workers at all times will be in a position to establish Co-ops. That is why the class struggle has to continue to be fought on all fronts, including limited Trade Union struggle. However, its amazing in how many different circumstances Co-ops can be established. For example, I remember back in the 1980's, when I was involved in the setting up of an Unemployed Workers Centre, we had a Cafe and Bookshop that was established as a Co-op.

On estates and campuses a look at the problem of loan sharking for instance, shows the potential for setting up Credit Unions. My main criticism of all these would be the problem of scale, and rthe problem of them acting as "islands of socialism". But, both those issues can be resolved if each is just a unit within a large Co-op Federation. In the UK, the Co-op Bank has assets of more than £75 Billion. Even without the option of accessing funds from workers pension funds that I have previously outlined, this represents a significant amount of Capital that could be used for getting these small scale Co-ops started, and as I have previously set out also represents a practical means of expanding workers Capital.

There is no reason that any particular group of workers has to limit their vision to employment in a Co-op that they establish. A growing Co-op sector would itself provide the basis for employing many of the workers you are referring to, and in doing so could increasingly act to establish minimum standards, as indeed the Co-op did in Britain during the 19th Century - See My Weekly Worker Review for example.

The priority for workers, trades unionists and socialists should be to get involved in and democratise our existing organisations, particular the Co-op, but also our Pension Funds, in order to demand the most basic right to control our funds. That would be a far better palce to start than demanding "State Aid". The Tories discussion of the "Big Society", show exactly how dangerous it is to lead workers down the road of believing that Co-ops established under the aegis of the Capitalist State could meet their needs. Demanding that the State treat Workers Co-ops on an equal basis to private or State Capital is another matter. But, as with demands that workers in their Trades Unions be treated equally, we have to be careful to set out why in most cases the Capitalist State will not do that, and why that means we have to create an alternative Workers State.

Jacob Richter said...

Credit unions, Proudhon's mutualism, etc. don't achieve public management over the money supply like a Gosbank monopoly would. Also, basic control over pension funds is irrelevant to those in the precariat who can't save in the first place.

It's not a matter of limiting employment to self-made co-ops. Individuals in the precariat may work in multiple part-time and high turnover jobs. The higher the turnover, the less interested they are in co-op admin.

There are many aspects of "state aid" that should be considered, not the one-dimensional welfare state and labour regulation garbage. Minsky showed a direct program that went beyond Trotsky in addressing service work.

Re. the precariat and trade unions: my "good faith" demand is a key example of addressing their desire for labour rights but without the hassles of union bureaucracy.

The key to understanding my approach to "state aid" is my commentary on sovereign socioeconomic governments (each heading in my Table of Contents is linked to the section). It should be the job of the sovereign socioeconomic governments to provide the "state aid," not of what is left of the state proper.

Boffy said...

You are right a Co-op Bvank etc is not the same as a State bank under the control of a Workers State. I never said it was. But, I think the difference between us from what you have written is that I live in the real world that currently exists, and wish to relate to it in ways that enable workers to develop partial - for now - solutions to their existing problems, which enable them to increase their economic and social power en route to creating the conditions under which a general solution via social revolution becomes possible, whereas you seem content to develop a series of scenarios for how some State MIGHT act in some non-existing situation at some indeterminate time in the future.

It reminds me of Marx's comments in the Manifesto:

"Historical action is to yield to their personal inventive action; historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones; and the gradual, spontaneous class organisation of the proletariat to an organisation of society especially contrived by these inventors. Future history resolves itself, in their eyes, into the propaganda and the practical carrying out of their social plans."

Jacob Richter said...

Not at all. Even a nationalized financial monopoly under the current system would be progressive, and that is my point.

I pose that as the most radical reform re. financial services and money supply, and counterpose that to credit unions, mere "state banks" (like those created and/or maintained in US states), and "break up the Fed" (Federal Reserve) shit.

In the European context, I support an ECB monopoly over all of Europe's financial services.

Boffy said...

I believe that bourgeois democracy is also progressive compared to Feudalism or Mediaevalist Theocracy, but that doesn't prevent me from arguing that it is limited and reactionary as against a Workers Democracy!

Taken in a purely objective historical context then yes, a State Capitalist Financial Monopoly is progressive compared to private capitalism, just as in the same way that any other Monopoly is progressive vis a vis small scale private Capital. But that does not commit me to arguing in favour of the establishment of such Monopolies. It only commits me to opposing reactionary anti-Monopoly Laws, or anti-monopoly campaigns.

Your whole analysis fails to locate the State within the question of class. On the above basis the nationalised banks and other property established by the Nazis was also progressive, but that would not have committed me to support even those elements of the Nazis programme.

As Engels pointed out in relation to Germany the class conscious workers there were those demanding the transfer of State capital into the hands of the workers, and that is because for a Marxist our objective from here is not to propose one more or less historically progressive form of Capitalism, but to propose Socialism, i.e. the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers themselves, and brought about by the workers themselves.

I'd recommend reading this article by Trotsky on the question.

Nationalised Industry and Workers Management