Monday, 30 May 2011

AWL Up To Their Misrepresentation Again - Part 4

In Part 3, I showed how the AWL's attempt to portray Marx as an opponent of the idea of building Co-operatives and Workers Self-Government here and now, flows from their Stalinist politics. The nature of those politics can be seen both in domestic and foreign arenas. At home, their programme amounts to nothing more than left-wing reformism, and radical Liberalism. At an international level they have arrived at an accommodation with democratic Imperialism, which they are happy to see intervene on a global scale in the USSR, in Iraq, Libya etc. rather than build an independent working-class solution to both that Imperialism, and to the other enemies of the working-class in these places.
In reality, that flows from the state of peaceful co-existence they have accepted with bourgeois democracy at home. It is the application of the Popular Front on the basis of seeing bourgeois democracy as a lesser-evil. They attempt to cover the fact of their reformism, and Economism by the use of revolutionary rhetoric, and drama.

So, for example, they employ all of the kinds of measures that Lenin, and the Bolsheviks employed in Russia, justifying this on the basis of Lenin's “What IS To be Done?”, and a misrepresentation of what he said their about the revolutionary Party. They use “secret” Party names and so on, even though, they also use their own names, so everyone knows who they are!!!
Partly, the reason for this is that like most of these sects, they are composed of petit-bourgeois playing at being revolutionaries. Another reason, is that it gives the aura of being in something exciting, and clandestine to all the impressionable young kids, they have to recruit at every Freshers Fair to replenish the other members they have burned out and lost. But, like the demands for the establishment of a Workers Government, for Soviets and so on, of their Maximum Programme, around which they hang regular articles in their paper and magazines, and which make up the agendas of Summer Schools, they are there to cover the fact that in day to day practice they are nothing more than left-reformists, who, like the old British Communist Party, can only justify their separate existence, and endless attempts to build their own organisation, by claiming that although they are fighting for reforms now, their real goal is Revolution. Unfortunately, organisations of 100 people do not lead revolutions. And, in the last election, the AWL was able to garner the votes of just 75 people, so it is clear that, they are having no effect whatsoever on even taking a handful of workers closer to a revolutionary consciousness.

When Lenin wrote “What Is To be Done?”, he was writing in a Tsarist police state, in revolutionary times. He and other revolutionaries were regularly arrested by the police, gaoled, and exiled. There was no freedom of the press, or other bourgeois freedoms. It is not surprising that under those conditions, he recognised the importance of undertaking certain measures required to be able to at least continue certain basic functions such as producing a newspaper, and so on.
But, in “What Is To be Done?”, Lenin also sets out his idea of what a professional revolutionary party should be like. It is not some small, self-selecting organisation, but is the kind of Party that the German SPD was at the time. By professional, Lenin had in mind the ability to intervene in Parliament, or any other sphere of political activity on an equal basis with the bourgeois parties, to understand, and be able to address the issues concerning all spheres and layers of society. He makes clear that his argument for the establishment of a core, clandestine organisation is merely that a core organisation of dedicated revolutionaries, capable of undertaking those basic functions without being continually arrested. He also makes clear that this proposal is not to be taken out of its context, and that he is only making it in relation to the specific conditions that applied in Russia at the time.

Lenin's argument later against Kautsky and the reformists of the Second International was not that they were not revolutionaries because they did not have this kind of small, revolutionary Party, but because the actual practice of the Second International was like that of the AWL reformist, despite the fact that they claimed to be Marxists, and continued to have in their Maximum Programme the goal of socialist revolution.
And, it is no coincidence that, when it comes to the question of the State, Lenin points out that what marked the Second International's reformism, was the extent to which they denuded the revolutionary content of Marx's ideas by misrepresenting and denying just how much Marx had in common in that regard with Proudhon and Bakunin.

In State & Revolution, Lenin writes,

“Marx agreed with Proudhon in that they both stood for the “smashing” of the modern state machine. Neither the opportunists nor the Kautskyites wish to see the similarity of views on this point between Marxism and anarchism (both Proudhon and Bakunin) because this is where they have departed from Marxism.”

In State & Revolution, Lenin also goes on to discuss how Marx and Engels on the basis of the experience of the Paris Commune had found the answer to the question of what was to replace the bourgeois state. The Communes themselves would act as both legislative and executive bodies, and would join together on a national basis to create a centralised state apparatus. Of course, the question still arises of exactly how these Communes would arise.
For Lenin, in Tsarist Russia, where the bourgeois revolution of 1905, had already thrown up Soviets, the answer was clear. Certainly, it was clear for Trotsky, who on the basis of the Theory of Permanent Revolution, posited the idea that such bourgeois revolutions would inevitably have to continue into proletarian revolutions. But, in a world in which Capitalist relations were already well developed in many countries, and were rapidly extending to other countries, the Bourgeois Revolution was already overdue. The same could not be said of those countries such as Britain, France, the US, and Germany where the Bourgeois Revolution was already history. In these countries where what is being discussed is the Proletarian Revolution itself, it is quite clear that a repetition of 1917, or of China in 1949, or Cuba in 1959 and so on is not on the agenda, no matter how much the sects wish to fantasise about it.

The question then arises of how to build these revolutionary Communes within our existing society, and what relationship this should have to the need to continue to deal with the immediate concerns and needs of the working-class. In other words, what is the relation between the kind of revolutionary transformation of productive and social relations that Marx discussed, and the political struggle of the working-class for hegemony? Here too the AWL misrepresent the view of Marx, but they also misrepresent the view of Lenin and other revolutionary Marxists too.

Martin Thomas, says,

“Three: that the working class must engage in political action (battles for reforms made by law, and electoral action) as well as economic struggle.”

On its own this statement is innocuous enough. But, it has to be taken in the context both of what has been said in the previous two statements, and in the context of the AWL's own political practice. In other words, what they mean by a battle for reforms, and electoral action. What it means for the AWL is this. The Revolution is viewed as some repetition of 1917. Out of the blue, perhaps on the back of some economic crisis leading to extended industrial action, the working-class or a significant section of it, develops a revolutionary consciousness, and decides to establish Workers Councils, or else it votes in a Workers Government, which is pushed by external working-class action to break with the bourgeoisie, and to implement Transitional Demands. In the meantime, as there is no prospect of such a development, all that is possible is for miniscule sects such as the AWL, to focus on “Building The Party” ready for the Great Day. The way to “Build The Party” is to engage in individual sectional struggles that remain within the confines of Capitalism – be they economic struggles in the workplace, or political struggles for reforms or Government action.
On this basis individual workers, it is hoped will be attracted to the Party on the basis of its hard work and rhetoric. Rather than building workers self-activity, and self-Government i.e. those revolutionary Communes, this perspective instead relies on a continual Sisyphean labour for these reforms and to prevent the condition of the workers being further reduced, alongside demands raised for the State to do this that or the other on workers behalf, in the hope that this will somehow cause workers to lose their illusions in the nature of that State. This is often phrased as “not letting the State off the hook.”

But, its already been shown what is wrong with this strategy. In order for the State not to be “let off the hook”, the demands placed upon it, have to be ones that it cannot concede. That was not the approach of Marx, but of Guesde! Guesde argued, that the rejection of these reforms would, “free the proletariat of its last reformist illusions and convince it of the impossibility of avoiding a workers ’89.”

Accusing Guesde and Lafargue of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggles, Marx made his famous remark that, if their politics represented Marxism, “ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (“what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist”).
Trotsky makes a similar point in his Open Letter To French Workers, where he attacks the Stalinists for suggesting that workers could control the foreign policy of the bourgeois state, by such demands and pressure. He writes,

“Where and when has an oppressed proletariat “controlled” the foreign policy of the bourgeoisie and the activities of its arm? How can it achieve this when the entire power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie? In order to lead the army, it is necessary to overthrow the bourgeoisie and seize power. There is no other road. But the new policy of the Communist International implies the renunciation of this only road.

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

In other words, demands that the State cannot agree to are either revolutionary phrase-mongering, or else they are calls for Revolution Now. But, if they are demands that the State CAN concede, then how can these demands in any way be said to be not letting it off the hook, in what way do they act to shed workers of their illusions in the nature of this State? On the contrary, one of the most powerful ideological weapons that the bourgeoisie have unleashed is precisely the extension of the role of the State into the provision of Welfare and so on, which acts to convince workers of the neutrality of that State, the idea that it is there to provide protection for all within society!
That is why Bismark as part of the modernisation of the German economy in the 19th Century introduced a National Insurance scheme in order to establish such a Welfare State, and why every developed Capitalist State has followed suit.

Marx was well aware of the danger of this for the working-class. That is why he argued that, “"Elementary education by the state" is altogether objectionable.” It is why, in the Programme of the First International, he set out clearly his objection to an extension of the role of the State, because it would undermine workers self-government, writing,

“Because indirect taxes conceal from an individual what he is paying to the state, whereas a direct tax is undisguised, unsophisticated, and not to be misunderstood by the meanest capacity. Direct taxation prompts therefore every individual to control the governing powers while indirect taxation destroys all tendency to self-government.”

It is why he and the First International demanded that the State keep its hands off the workers Friendly Societies, which were the means by which the workers themselves, by their own self-government provided for their own welfare independent of the State.
It is also why at the beginning of the twentieth century, communists such as within the Plebs League set up their own Labour Colleges, and so on, in order to maintain independence from the Capitalist State, and in order to build independent, working-class self-activity, and self-government. It is why the First International set out in its proposals for developing Co-operatives, said,

“We recommend to all co-operative societies to convert one part of their joint income into a fund for propagating their principles by example as well as by precept, in other words, by promoting the establishment by teaching and preaching.”

In fact, the many Co-operative societies that workers did establish throughout the country, DID set aside a portion of their funds for education, and for a long time provided, above each store, libraries, reading rooms and schools long before the Capitalist State intervened to stop this revolutionary development of independent working-class education, and bring it safely into the fold of a transmission belt of bourgeois ideas via the State education factories.
Yet, for the reformists of the AWL, this idea that workers should provide their own independent education rather than calling on the Capitalist State to provide it, would be to let that State “off the hook”. But, of course, when asked the Capitalist State says, “Of course, come on in,” in the same way that the spider did to the fly.

When the AWL talk about “engag(ing) in political action (battles for reforms made by law, and electoral action) as well as economic struggle.” it is precisely these kinds of reforms it has in mind, which is the very opposite of the kind of reforms that Marx was in favour of pursuing, whose aim was to facilitate the working-class freeing itself from dependence upon the Capitalist State, and enabling it all the better to undermine it, and to build its own self-government in opposition to it!
The kind of development that Marx envisaged, even preceding his view about the way the revolutionary Communes could join together, was highlighted in relation to the development of Co-operatives. He argued that the Co-operatives needed to be combined in a national organisation. This point was spelled out by Ernest Jones, who was Marx and Engels' closest collaborator in England, who wrote, in a letter to the Co-operative Societies,

“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?”

Of course, its on this basis that Marx could also speak in his Inaugural Address in the same tone about how limited the Co-ops would be if they remained as single enterprises, it is why he can speak in Capital about the role of Credit as “the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale.”
But, it is also why he can set out in the Inaugural Address the nature of the political struggle he foresees as necessary, because to stop the growth of the Co-operatives,

“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.”

For so long as the bourgeoisie held State power, therefore, and so long as the laws continued to be made in bourgeois parliaments, workers would need to organise themselves politically, and intervene in those arenas in order to achieve those laws, which enabled them to build their own independent organisations, and to create their own self-government as the pre-condition for their self-emancipation. But, self emancipation does not flow from tying yourself to that Capitalist State, and a reliance upon its provision, but the very opposite! As Lenin says, in “The State and Revolution”, bourgeois democracy is merely a cover for the actual Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie.

“Another reason why the omnipotence of “wealth” is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.

We must also note that Engels is most explicit in calling universal suffrage as well an instrument of bourgeois rule.
Universal suffrage, he says, obviously taking account of the long experience of German Social-Democracy, is

“the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state."

The petty-bourgeois democrats, such as our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, and also their twin brothers, all the social-chauvinists and opportunists of Western Europe, expect just this “more” from universal suffrage. They themselves share, and instil into the minds of the people, the false notion that universal suffrage “in the present-day state" is really capable of revealing the will of the majority of the working people and of securing its realization.”

We could add to Lenin's list the AWL as one of those expecting just this “more” from bourgeois democracy. And, in fact, Lenin himself in Left-wing Communism, sets out just what the political activity in these bourgeois-democratic forums should consist of.

“Even if only a fairly large minority of the industrial workers, and not "millions" and "legions", follow the lead of the Catholic clergy—and a similar minority of rural workers follow the landowners and kulaks (Grossbauern)—it undoubtedly signifies that parliamentarianism in Germany has not yet politically outlived itself, that participation in parliamentary elections and in the struggle on the parliamentary rostrum is obligatory on the party of the revolutionary proletariat specifically for the purpose of educating the backward strata of its own class, and for the purpose of awakening and enlightening the undeveloped, downtrodden and ignorant rural masses. Whilst you lack the strength to do away with bourgeois parliaments and every other type of reactionary institution, you must work within them because it is there that you will still find workers who are duped by the priests and stultified by the conditions of rural life; otherwise you risk turning into nothing but windbags...

Communists, adherents of the Third International in all countries, exist for the purpose of changing — all along the line, in all spheres of life—the old socialist, trade unionist, syndicalist, and parliamentary type of work into a new type of work, the communist. In Russia, too, there was always an abundance of opportunism, purely bourgeois sharp practices and capitalist rigging in the elections. In Western Europe and in America, the Communist must learn to create a new, uncustomary, non-opportunist, and non-careerist parliamentarianism; the Communist parties must issue their slogans; true proletarians, with the help of the unorganised and downtrodden poor, should distribute leaflets, canvass workers’ houses and cottages of the rural proletarians and peasants in the remote villages (fortunately there are many times fewer remote villages in Europe than in Russia, and in Britain the number is very small); they should go into the public houses, penetrate into unions, societies and chance gatherings of the common people, and speak to the people, not in learned (or very parliamentary) language, they should not at all strive to "get seats" in parliament, but should everywhere try to get people to think, and draw the masses into the struggle, to take the bourgeoisie at its word and utilise the machinery it has set up, the elections it has appointed, and the appeals it has made to the people; they should try to explain to the people what Bolshevism is, in a way that was never possible (under bourgeois rule) outside of election times (exclusive, of course, of times of big strikes, when in Russia a similar apparatus for widespread popular agitation worked even more intensively). It is very difficult to do this in Western Europe and extremely difficult in America, but it can and must be done, for the objectives of communism cannot be achieved without effort. We must work to accomplish practical tasks, ever more varied and ever more closely connected with all branches of social life, winning branch after branch, and sphere after sphere from the bourgeoisie.”

Lenin also sets out the way in which Communists in the Parliamentary chamber do not act as Parliamentarians, but act so as at every stage to expose the fraudulent nature of bourgeois democracy, and at the same time to use the position to advocate the cause of the workers and their independent struggle, and organisations. And, of course, given this conception of what bourgeois Parliaments are, and how Communists should work in them, the only means by which Lenin's statement “We must work to accomplish practical tasks, ever more varied and ever more closely connected with all branches of social life, winning branch after branch, and sphere after sphere from the bourgeoisie.” can be understood, is precisely if this is achieved OUTSIDE Parliament, by independent working class activity and self-government rather than merely being a result of Laws and reforms introduced in Parliament.

In reality, the AWL have just turned themselves into Left-Wing reformists, who are not even capable of getting themselves elected, but whose day to day activity is also incapable of raising workers above a Trade Union consciousness.
There are, in fact many workers organisations that COULD be brought together to begin the task of building the revolutionary Communes. In addition to the existing Co-operatives – both the Workers Producer Co-ops, and the various Consumer Co-ops – organisations as disparate as the Trades Councils, Tenants and Residents Associations, Neighbourhood Watch Schemes, and all the various ad hoc campaigns such as against the Cuts have this potential.
But, what is necessary is that the aims of such organisations are revolutionary and transformative, rather than being simply combative and episodic. A Co-operative that simply sees itself as an alternative form of enterprise, content to accept the conditions imposed upon it by Capitalism is neither revolutionary nor transformative. A Co-operative that sees its role as also being to expand its model on a national and international basis, that recognises that it is in combat against Capital, and must expand to survive, and which, therefore ties itself to the class struggle of the workers in general is revolutionary and transformative. A Tenants and Residents Association that sees its function as nothing more than to represent Tenants views, and to bargain for reforms and improvement from the local Council is nothing more than a pressure group, a Trade Union for Tenants. But, a TRA that demands the right to manage the affairs of the estate, that seeks the transfer of property out of the hands of the Capitalist State into the hands of the workers living on the estate is revolutionary and transformative.
A Neighbourhood Watch Scheme that sees its function as being merely to safeguard private property, and to pressure the local Police to increase patrols etc. is useless, but one that established its own neighbourhood patrols, that connects with the TRA, and so on demanding the right to self-policing, is a step towards the establishment of a Workers Militia, and the dismantling of the Police as a weapon of the Capitalist State. A Campaign against the Cuts, which remains on the terrain of simply demanding that the State does not worsen the existing level of provision, is no different than a Trade Union resisting attempts to reduce workers conditions, but conent to accept a less severe exploitation.
But , a Campaign that seeks to demand democratic control over those services, and recognises that only by transferring ownership of them into the hands of the workers themselves can such control be won, engages in a revolutionary and transformative activity. A Trades Council, which acts as merely a forum for Trade Union politics, constrains the working class within bourgeois limits, reinforcing the dominant ideas of present society. But, a Trades Council that acts to link together these various other organisations of workers self-government, that acts to provide Trade Union support for such acts of self-government, begins itself to be transformed into a local Workers Parliament.

And, the more this workers self activity, and self-government develops, the more the bourgeoisie will, as Marx set out, be forced to act more openly to oppose it, thereby exposing the real class nature of its state. The more the workers will see the need to develop their own Party to fight for their interests, until ultimately, they recognise the need to counterpose their own Parliaments, their own organisations, and their own forms of property to those of the bourgeoisie. This is the true message of Marx, and not the statist approach of the AWL.

Back To Part 3

Sunday, 29 May 2011

AWL Up To Their Misrepresentation Again - Part 3

In Part 2, I demonstrated that the AWL's attempt to misrepresent Marx's views on workers establishing Co-operatives, attempting to turn him into an opponent rather than a supporter of them, and the attempt to portray him as advocating instead “Public Ownership”, is an extension of their attempt to turn him into a proponent of Economistic/Reformist struggle based in the realm of Distribution. That is the very opposite of Marx's actual position.
The AWL are led to attempt this misrepresentation for the same reason that they are led to misrepresent the ideas of Trotsky. That is that their only legitimacy flows from a claim to be in the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. In reality, as a Stalinist sect, they are in the tradition of Lassalle, the Fabians, and Stalin. Like Stalin, in order to maintain the fiction, they are forced to misquote, and distort the views of those they claim to follow. With no bridge between the immediate Minimum Programme they put forward, of Economistic struggle for reforms and bargaining within the system, and the Maximum Programme of Political Revolution, they are necessarily left with just a politics of Reformism.
Although, they speak in their propaganda about “Workers Self-Activity”, this is denuded of all the revolutionary content to which Marx gave it, because for the AWL, this “self-activity” amounts to nothing more than Economistic struggle for reforms, whereas for Marx it meant the working-class here and now establishing its own forms of property, its own organisations of government, and so on. In other words, Marx's strategy is based precisely on the kind of pre-figuring of the socialist society that the AWL rejects, and attempts to portray as Anarchism.

There is a very good reason for that. Real, revolutionary, working-class, self-activity can only be built upon direct, mass action by ordinary working-class people themselves. A Workers Co-operative even of several hundred workers, requires the daily involvement of all those workers in a real, functioning workers democracy.
But, the AWL like all Stalinists and Statists are elitists. They believe it is their function to act as a vanguard not just leading, but effectively controlling the workers organisations. Even where they speak of working in the mass organisations of the working class what they really mean is attempting to use their own discipline and organisation to exercise control over them. In the Labour Party it has meant, not an attempt to genuinely build the Workers Party – or even a serious attempt to “win the battle of democracy” within it by winning a majority of the party to their ideas – but merely a tactic to build their own Party, by individual recruitment.
In the Trades Unions, even the supposed commitment to building “Rank and File” organisations means in reality not building such organisations on the shop floor capable of engaging in direct self-activity, but means building an electoral coalition, capable of getting resolutions passed, or slates elected. In other words, the same kind of Economistic/reformist approach is once again replicated.

Of course, Marx too advocated reforms, such as those contained within the Minimum Programme part of the Programme of the French Socialists that he co-wrote with Guesde. But, Marx was clear about the nature of these reforms, insisting that they could only be such as were within the capability of Capital to concede, and which acted, therefore, in the same way that workers negotiated with individual employers, and at the same time facilitated the workers own development. But, he rejected as “revolutionary phrasemongering”, the idea of putting forward demands that Capital could not concede.
Marx's approach in this regard can best be seen by looking at what he wrote in the Programme of the First International. In the 19th century, various Factory Acts, and other such legislation had been introduced. Many of them had been introduced with the support of sections of the employers themselves, as Engels points out. Indeed, in Capital Vol I, Chapter X, Marx makes this clear. He writes,

“Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society. [81] To the out-cry as to the physical and mental degradation, the premature death, the torture of over-work, it answers: Ought these to trouble us since they increase our profits? But looking at things as a whole, all this does not, indeed, depend on the good or ill will of the individual capitalist. Free competition brings out the inherent laws of capitalist production, in the shape of external coercive laws having power over every individual capitalist. [82]”

and elaborating this in note 82, he says,

“We, therefore, find, e.g., that in the beginning of 1863, 26 firms owning extensive potteries in Staffordshire, amongst others, Josiah Wedgwood, & Sons, petition in a memorial for “some legislative enactment.” Competition with other capitalists permits them no voluntary limitation of working-time for children, &c.
“Much as we deplore the evils before mentioned, it would not be possible to prevent them by any scheme of agreement between the manufacturers. ... Taking all these points into consideration, we have come to the conviction that some legislative enactment is wanted.” (“Children’s Employment Comm.” Rep. I, 1863, p. 322.)”

Marx – Capital

They became necessary to prevent unbridled competition from destroying the very working-class that Capital was dependent upon. The Acts were really no different than each individual group of workers could have negotiated with their employer. But, once in Law, and with Inspectors to oversee their implementation, they became a tool for workers to use to insist that their particular employer complied. Not for one minute did Marx believe that the introduction of the Factory Acts were an alternative to that independent action of the working-class. He took the same approach in relation to Education.

In the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx wrote,

"Elementary education by the state" is altogether objectionable. Defining by a general law the expenditures on the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc., and, as is done in the United States, supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school.”

And in the Programme of the International Marx expands upon this, writing,

“However, the more enlightened part of the working class fully understands that the future of its class, and, therefore, of mankind, altogether depends upon the formation of the rising working generation. They know that, before everything else, the children and juvenile workers must be saved from the crushing effects of the present system. This can only be effected by converting social reason into social force, and, under given circumstances, there exists no other method of doing so, than through general laws, enforced by the power of the state. In enforcing such laws, the working class do not fortify governmental power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency. They effect by a general act what they would vainly attempt by a multitude of isolated individual efforts.”

Just how hostile Marx was to the idea of State intervention or of misleading workers into a belief in the idea that an extension of that State power was in their interests can be seen by the fact of his feeling the need to explain that the intention was not to “fortify governmental power.” And just how much he opposed the extension of the State can be seen in another part of the Programme where he writes, arguing for Direct taxation,

“Because indirect taxes conceal from an individual what he is paying to the state, whereas a direct tax is undisguised, unsophisticated, and not to be misunderstood by the meanest capacity. Direct taxation prompts therefore every individual to control the governing powers while indirect taxation destroys all tendency to self-government.”

So we see here in what Marx actually proposed, as the basis of political action and strategy for workers, the very opposite of the kind of Statism, that Martin Thomas wants to put in the mouth of Marx.
And to emphasise that, and to flatly contradict the assertion that Martin makes, although you will find little in the Programme to justify his assertion that Marx put forward the idea of “Public Ownership”, you will find him openly advocating the establishment of Workers Co-operatives. In Section 5, he writes,

“It is the business of the International Working Men's Association to combine and generalise the spontaneous movements of the working classes, but not to dictate or impose any doctrinary system whatever. The Congress should, therefore, proclaim no special system of co-operation, but limit itself to the enunciation of a few general principles.

(a) We acknowledge the co-operative movement as one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great merit is to practically show, that the present pauperising, and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers.

(b) Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wages slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts, the co-operative system will never transform capitalist society. to convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves.

(c) We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork.

(d) We recommend to all co-operative societies to convert one part of their joint income into a fund for propagating their principles by example as well as by precept, in other words, by promoting the establishment by teaching and preaching.

(e) In order to prevent co-operative societies from degenerating into ordinary middle-class joint stock companies (societes par actions), all workmen employed, whether shareholders or not, ought to share alike. As a mere temporary expedient, we are willing to allow shareholders a low rate of interest.”

And, just so that it is clear that this is Marx speaking his own words, and not those imposed upon him, we can see the same statements by both Marx and Engels in many more places. In the Grundrisse, Marx for example, discusses the way in which both Capital and Labour are dissolved once Labour becomes an owner of Capital. And in Vol.III of Capital, Marx reaffirms his view of the role of Co-operatives as precisely this transitional form to Socialist property, when he writes,

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

This description here where Marx talks about “a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one”, is precisely the kind of analysis he has produced in Capital itself about the way in which Capitalism developed naturally out of Feudalism. It does not at all support the idea put forward by Martin Thomas, of Marx rejecting the idea of Co-operatives, and of him seeing the transformation of the productive forces occurring as a result of the Lassallean/Fabian concept of “Public Ownership”. That is made clear by Marx's further comment, “The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises. into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale.” If Marx's opposition was to a gradual extension of Co-operatives then why would he make such a statement? If his view was merely that Capitalist property was to be seized after a political revolution, then why would he argue that Credit could be used to take it over, and in the meantime to extend Co-operative enterprises?

The answer is that Marx did not underestimate the fact that Capital would resist the spread of Co-operative enterprises, and the extension of the power of the working-class that goes with it, any less than the Feudalists had resisted the spread of Capitalist enterprise. But, Marx also recognised that just as the resistance of the Feudalists to Capitalist property made clear the need for a class struggle of Capital and against the Aristocracy, so the resistance of Capital to the extension of Co-operative property would lay bare the need for a class struggle against the Capitalists.
As he and Engels set out in the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie's political power developed alongside the development and spread of Capitalist property as part of that class struggle, as the bourgeoisie recognised the need to establish its own party, its own forms of democracy, its own organs of power, and own bases of class power. The workers would have to proceed along the same kind of path – hence his comments on workers “self-government”, hence his insistence on workers self activity, and the demands raised both by the International and in the Programme of the French Socialists for the Capitalist State to keep its hands off the workers Welfare organisations, the Friendly Societies.
In his Inaugural Address he sets out just how important this perspective was.

“But there was in store a still greater victory of the political economy of labour over the political economy of property (than the passing of the ten Hours Act - Boffy). We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated. By deed instead of by argument, they have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labour need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the labouring man himself; and that, like slave labour, like serf labour, hired labour is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labour plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart. In England, the seeds of the co-operative system were sown by Robert Owen; the workingmen’s experiments tried on the Continent were, in fact, the practical upshot of the theories, not invented, but loudly proclaimed, in 1848.

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 advocates 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.”

But, it is clear from this statement that Marx does not counterpose the winning of political power to the development of Co-operatives! On the contrary, the development of the Co-operatives, which “by deed instead of by argument, (they) have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labour need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the labouring man himself; and that, like slave labour, like serf labour, hired labour is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labour plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart”, are a vital part of developing the working-class economically, politically, socially, and ideologically.

There is nothing here to suggest that Marx and Engels position was for the Lassallean/Fabian strategy of Public Ownership. On the contrary, they argued the very opposite, including speaking out vociferously against those in the German Socialist Party who argued for it.

So for example, Engels in his Letter To Bebel of 1875, writes,

“Fourthly, as its one and only social demand, the programme puts forward -- Lassallean state aid in its starkest form, as stolen by Lassalle from Buchez. [10] And this, after Bracke has so ably demonstrated the sheer futility of that demand; after almost all if not all, of our party speakers have, in their struggle against the Lassalleans, been compelled to make a stand against this "state aid"! Our party could hardly demean itself further. Internationalism sunk to the level of Amand Goegg, socialism to that of the bourgeois republican Buchez, who confronted the socialists with this demand in order to supplant them!”

And, even when they do argue the need once a Workers State has been established for the Co-operative property to be held by it, they are quite specific about how limited the role of that State in its ownership of the property should be. In his Letter To Bebel of 1876, Engels writes,

“My suggestion requires the entry of the cooperatives into the existing production. One should give them land which otherwise would be exploited by capitalist means: as demanded by the Paris Commune, the workers should operate the factories shut down by the factory-owners on a cooperative basis. That is the great difference. And Marx and I never doubted that in the transition to the full communist economy we will have to use the cooperative system as an intermediate stage on a large scale. It must only be so organised that society, initially the state, retains the ownership of the means of production so that the private interests of the cooperative vis-a-vis society as a whole cannot establish themselves.”

But, this is a far cry from the EXISTING Capitalist State owning this property, which is what Martin Thomas means when he talks about “Public Ownership”. It is even a far cry from the idea that even in a post-capitalist society in transition to Socialism that such a State should exercise a controlling function over these Co-operatives.
It was only too late in 1924, with the growth of the State bureaucracy on the basis of such State Ownership and control, that Lenin realised the importance of the approach advocated by Marx and Engels. (See Lenin:On Co-operation.

As Anton Pannakoek put it in Public Ownership And Common Ownership

“The acknowledged aim of socialism is to take the means of production out of the hands of the capitalist class and place them into the hands of the workers. This aim is sometimes spoken of as public ownership, sometimes as common ownership of the production apparatus. There is, however, a marked and fundamental difference.

“Public ownership is the ownership, i.e. the right of disposal, by a public body representing society, by government, state power or some other political body. The persons forming this body, the politicians, officials, leaders, secretaries, managers, are the direct masters of the production apparatus; they direct and regulate the process of production; they command the workers. Common ownership is the right of disposal by the workers themselves; the working class itself — taken in the widest sense of all that partake in really productive work, including employees, farmers, scientists — is direct master of the production apparatus, managing, directing, and regulating the process of production which is, indeed, their common work…

“As a correction to State-managed production, sometimes workers’ control is demanded. Now, to ask control, supervision, from a superior indicates the submissive mood of helpless objects of exploitation. And then you can control another man’s business; what is your own business you do not want controlled, you do it. Productive work, social production, is the genuine business of the working class. It is the content of their life, their own activity. They themselves can take care if there is no police or State power to keep them off. They have the tools, the machines in their hands, they use and manage them. They do not need masters to command them, nor finances to control the masters.

Public ownership is the program of “friends” of the workers who for the hard exploitation of private capitalism wish to substitute a milder modernized exploitation. Common ownership is the program of the working class itself, fighting for self liberation….”

And Engels himself spelled out the revolutionary distinction between Public Ownership i.e. State Capitalism, and Workers ownership via Co-operatives. In his Prussian Military Policy and the German Workers Party, he writes,

“It seems that the most advanced workers in Germany are demanding the emancipation of the workers from the capitalists by the transfer of state capital to associations of workers, so that production can be organised, without capitalists, for general account; and as a means to the achievement of this end: the conquest of political power by universal direct suffrage.”

So here we see just how much Marx and Engels, and indeed other Marxists such as Pannakoek and Lenin were committed to the idea of Co-operatives as a means of providing that bridge between the Minimum Programme of reforms, and the Maximum Programme of Political Revolution. For Marx and Engels, as set out in their opposition to revolutionary phrase mongering of the Guesdist type, reforms are no different than the kind of Trades Union bargaining done by workers on an individual basis.
There is a limit to what Capital can concede at any one time. Workers should not then spend too much time and effort on such activity, and the kind of reforms they fight for should be ones which enable them to engage in their own self-activity. So Marxists are not indifferent to things such as Working-Time, because workers need time to educate themselves, to organise and so on. Nor are we indifferent to anti-trade union laws, because we want workers to be able to organise to defend themselves via their own actions. For the same reason we are not indifferent towards bourgeois democratic freedoms such as the right to strike, to organise, to assembly, to free speech, and so on.

But, as Marx and Engels make clear, if we are to go beyond this process of bargaining within the system, workers have to recognise the need to establish control over the means of production, which is their only guarantee of increasing their share of society's wealth, and of exercising control over those aspects of their life, and of production that are most important. Ultimately, that can only be done by taking over all the means of production, which requires the establishment of a Workers State. But, the question is, how to get from here to the political revolution that creates that state? For Marx, and Engels and other Marxists, Co-operatives have a vital function in that process. In his discussion on wages with Weston, Marx referred to the situation in America, where wages were relatively high, precisely because the abundance of land meant that workers could quickly go off, and become peasants, small property owners in their own right. Capital had to pay high wages because of the effect this had on the Supply of Labour Power. The more workers create a Co-operative sector of the economy, the more this also reduces the Supply of labour power for Capital. Moreover, as owners of Capital themselves via the Co-operative, and because of the greater efficiency of Co-operative production, workers in the Co-operative sector are able to enjoy higher wages and conditions, further pressing on private Capital, and providing an example and incentive for struggle for workers in those private companies. As Marx put it providing an example by deed rather than argument.

But, Co-operative production also requires workers to develop, and take part in their own new forms of democracy on a daily basis, and the forms and content of that democracy are extensible from within the Co-operative factory to wider structures, such as the workers communities.
They are the means of creating alternative forms of worker democracy, and workers' state organs, such as the militia etc. In other words, those very forms of workers “self-government” that Marx referred to in the Programme of the First International, as an alternative to Public Ownership, and State Capitalist provision. And, as has been seen in Argentina and elsewhere, indeed as we saw during the 1926 General Strike, these Co-ops are significant workers bastions able to provide effective support to workers in struggle.
They provide workers with a view of how a Socialist future can work, they provide workers here and now with something to defend and extend as part of a real “class struggle”, as opposed to the merely sectional, Economism involved in Trade Union struggle, and attempts to win reforms.

In the final part, I will examine the nature of this political struggle more closely as regards what it entails, and how here too, the AWL misrepresent the views of Marx.

Back To Part 2

Forward To Part 4

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Northern Soul Classics - Scratchy - Travis Wammack

Its one of those Marmite records. Either you love it or you hate it. I love it. Scratchy was a big Northern dancer at the Twisted Wheel in the late 60's, and transferred to the Torch. In the late 60's I was DJ'ing at my local Youth Club, and as well as buying records every week from Bews, I was also looking for other records that were harder to get hold of, via a string of record lists advertised in magazines such as "Blues and Soul". I eventually got hold of two copies of Scratchy. Although, the Top Rank where me and my mates went on a Saturday night was like most other discos playing Northern in 1970, it was not then really a Northern Soul venue - half way through the night the house Band, the Bob Potter Nyne would come on via a rotating stage, and lots of older folk would come on to do a bit of bopping. So when I took along a copy of Scratchy for the DJ to play, it bombed, clearing the floor. To paraphrase Marty McFly, "I guess they weren't quite ready for that yet."

Friday, 27 May 2011

AWL Up To Their Misrepresentation Again - Part 2

In Part 1, I showed that the AWL had attempted to portray Marx as some kind of Economistic, Reformist by misrepresenting his views about the possibility of workers simply being able to improve their wages and conditions by militant Trade Union struggle.
That, of course, is the very opposite of what Marx and Engels believed and argued. In essence, it removes the whole basis of Marx's analysis that such a process is impossible for two reasons. Firstly, that Capitalists do not attempt to minimise wages, and maximise profits because they are evil or greedy, but because they are forced to do so for objective reasons determined by the need to accumulate Capital in order to survive! The differences between the Capitalist Class and Working Class are not subjective, which is the implication of the AWL's argument, but are objective. The implication of the AWL's argument, therefore, is that the contradiction between the interests of Capital and of Labour are resolvable via this process of negotiation over the share of the cake. In other words, it is the basis of reformism as set out by Bernstein, and the Fabians.
Secondly, Marx shows in his arguments with Weston that workers cannot just extend their share of the cake – indeed their share has to continually fall – precisely because the share of the cake is determined not by the extent to which workers are prepared to engage in militant action, but by the laws of Supply and Demand for Labour-Power. That is why long before unions were powerful in the US, wages were relatively high reflecting, a shortage of Labour-Power. It is why in China with abundant supplies of Labour-Power wages were low, but equally why, in recent years, as Capital has accumulated rapidly, wages have also risen rapidly, despite workers being constrained in State run unions. In the end, Marx says, it is not the kind of distributional struggles that the AWL emphasise - be it for higher wages, or for redistributive taxes or other reforms introduced by the Capitalist State – which determine that share of the cake, but the productive relations. In short, if workers want a bigger share of the cake they have to own the means of production, and the only way they can do that here and now, as Marx sets out, is by establishing their own Co-operatives.

Yet, it is precisely, this position of Marx, that Martin Thomas, seeks to misrepresent in the second point.

“Two: that the working class must aim for the expropriation of the capitalists and public ownership of the means of production. (The Proudhonists traditionally looked instead to the growth of a network of workers' cooperatives linked by "fair exchange" and crowding out capitalist production rather than expropriating the capitalists. Bakunin sided with Marx on this).”

This is if anything an even greater misrepresentation. Of course, Marx was in favour of the expropriation of the means of production, though he did also write that, in England, it might be possible for the sake of a quick and peaceful resolution, to simply buy out the Capitalists. But, to read the comment here you would conclude that this revolutionary seizure of the means of production was Marx's only strategy, and that he counterposed it to the idea of establishing Co-operatives. But, it is clear from reading even these sources above that this is far from true.

So, for example, in the last quote from Marx from “Value, Price and Profit” he sets out his vision.

“They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.”

And, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, he declares openly what those social forms are – they are precisely the Worker Co-operatives! He writes,

“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.”

And elsewhere in the Critique, he makes clear just why the establishment of these Co-operatives is the means by which the revolutionary transformation of the productive relations is carried through. He writes,

“That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”

In contrast to the claims, by Martin Thomas, that what distinguishes Marx's position from that of the Anarchists, such as Proudhon, is an opposition to Co-operatives and a belief in “Public Ownership” - a term which has no meaning for a Marxist because the “Public” is in fact comprised of classes, and here and now that can only mean that “Public Ownership” means ownership by the dominant class, within that Public, i.e. ownership by the Capitalist Class via its State – Marx's position is defined, on the contrary by a disdain for the involvement of the State, even in the form of “state aid”!

He writes, criticising Lassalle's statist approach of the State setting up Co-operatives under democratic control - that is essentially the policy put forward by the AWL of "Public Ownership" under Workers Control,

“Instead of arising from the revolutionary process of transformation of society, the "socialist organization of the total labour" "arises" from the "state aid" that the state gives to the producers' co-operative societies and which the state, not the workers, "calls into being". It is worthy of Lassalle's imagination that with state loans one can build a new society just as well as a new railway!

From the remnants of a sense of shame, "state aid" has been put -- under the democratic control of the "toiling people".”

And the last sentence here tells us just what Marx would have thought of the AWL's attempt to cover its shame, by cloaking its calls for the expansion of the role of the Capitalist State, in meaningless, revolutionary verbiage about “Workers Control.”

One of the AWL's heroes is the US socialist, Hal Draper, but Draper, in his The Two Souls Of Socialism demolishes this idea, put forward by Martin, that Marx was opposed to the establishment of Co-operatives, and that he counterposed the Lassallean/Fabian notion of Public Ownership – i.e. State Capitalism to them.
Incidentally, its ironic that the AWL that emphasises its Third Camp credentials, and hostility to defending State Capitalism in the USSR, or Cuba (their definition not mine) is all to eager to promote a very real State Capitalism in Britain!!! While workers suffer at the hands of that State Capitalism at Stafford Hospital, or via the atrocious way the elderly are treated by the State Capitalist Health factories, the AWL remain silent in order to maintain their Popular Front with the State Capitalist bureaucracy.

But, the AWL want us also to believe that they are in the tradition of Trotsky, albeit, as Third Campists, anti-Trotsky Trotskyists. But, Trotsky himself set out clearly what is wrong with the reformist ideas put forward by the AWL in relation to this Fabian strategy of promoting Public Ownership. He wrote, in Nationalized Industry and Workers’ Management,

“It would of course be a disastrous error, an outright deception, to assert that the road to socialism passes, not through the proletarian revolution, but through nationalization by the bourgeois state of various branches of industry and their transfer into the hands of the workers’ organizations.”

The AWL, of course,, like the Lassalleans, attempt to “cover their shame”, as Marx put it, for raising this demand, by adding in the demand for “Workers Control” - or at least they used to do, in relation to the NHS, for instance, they do not even raise that demand now, or even “democratic control” - but Trotsky, like Marx sets out why this demand is ridiculous.
He says in, Workers Control Of Production,

“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 labour bureaucracy to capital. Such subserviency, as experience shows, can last for a long time: depending on the patience of the proletariat.

The closer it is to production, to the factory, to the shop, the less possible such a regime is, for here it is a matter of the immediate, vital interests of the workers, and the whole process unfolds under their very eyes. workers’ control through factory councils is conceivable only on the basis of sharp class struggle, not collaboration. But this really means dual power in the enterprises, in the trusts, in all the branches of industry, in the whole economy.

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 unfavorable 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.”

In other words, for Trotsky, neither Nationalisation nor Workers Control can be a strategy for advancing towards the revolution, they are only appropriate measures after, or at the most during the revolution!!
But, for them to be measures introduced during the revolution, we would have to have already the establishment of Workers Councils as an alternative state power, and a Workers Government. But, Trotsky's definition of a Workers Government is not that used by the AWL. For them, who call for it now, it appears as nothing more than just some Left-wing Government, that can be magically conjured out of thin air. They can neither tell us how a working-class that has just voted in a Liberal-Tory Government – whilst giving just 75 votes to the AWL in the General Election – is going to bring about this Government, nor who the 300 or so left-wing MP's, that would be required to establish it, are. But, for Trotsky, the Workers Government was something else, more akin to the Kerensky Government in 1917.

In The Transitional Programme, Trotsky sets this out,

“Is the creation of such a government by the traditional workers’ organizations possible? Past experience shows, as has already been stated, that this is, to say the least, highly improbable.
However, one cannot categorically deny in advance the theoretical possibility that, under the influence of completely exceptional circumstances (war, defeat, financial crash, mass revolutionary pressure, etc.), the petty bourgeois parties, including the Stalinists, may go further than they wish along the road to a break with the bourgeoisie. In any case one thing is not to be doubted: even if this highly improbable variant somewhere at some time becomes a reality and the “workers’ and farmers’ government” in the above-mentioned sense is established in fact, it would represent merely a short episode on the road to the actual dictatorship of the proletariat.”

In other words, the demand for a Workers Government, like the demand for Nationalisation under Workers Control, and all the other Transitional Demands, are only revolutionary, can only act as a bridge from the workers existing consciousness to a revolutionary consciousness, in very limited circumstances i.e. in a revolutionary situation. Outside that, they are simply reformist demands, which can only act, as Trotsky says above, as an “an outright deception,”, and which can only lead to “class collaboration” not class struggle. But, the AWL do use these Transitional Demands willy-nilly under current conditions, and therefore, as nothing other than reformist demands.
At best they can be nothing other than a demand for workers to bargain within the system. In the meantime, there is no bridge whatsoever, between the AWL's Minimum Programme of Economistic demands and their Maximum Programme, for Revolution, which consequently gets relegated to the role of being a mere totem, a piece of rhetoric to cover their actual Stalinist, reformist politics.

In part 3 I will show how it was precisely the idea of building Co-operatives, and of Workers Self Government, which Marx posited as an alternative to the kind of Fabian/Lassallean State Capitalism propagated by the AWL, which acted as his strategy for revolutionising productive relations, and workers consciousness, and acted therefore, as the necessary bridge between the Minimum and Maximum Programmes.

Back To Part 1

Forward To Part 3

Thursday, 26 May 2011

AWL Up To Their Misrepresentation Again - Part 1

The Stalinist epigones of the AWL are up to their old tricks of misrepresenting Marxist texts and principles again. In a debate with Anarchists from SolFed, Anarchism And The Commune, Martin Thomas writes,

“By patient argument within the International, Marx won a majority for three key ideas:

One: that strikes and trade unions must not only be supported, but were central to the working class organising and educating itself for emancipation.
In a long debate in the General Council with an old Owenite socialist, John Weston, Marx refuted the alleged "iron law of wages" believed by many socialists at the time, according to which capitalism inevitably reduced wages to a subsistence minimum and all battles for higher wages must be fruitless.

Two: that the working class must aim for the expropriation of the capitalists and public ownership of the means of production. (The Proudhonists traditionally looked instead to the growth of a network of workers' cooperatives linked by "fair exchange" and crowding out capitalist production rather than expropriating the capitalists. Bakunin sided with Marx on this).

Three: that the working class must engage in political action (battles for reforms made by law, and electoral action) as well as economic struggle.”

All of these claims are distortions, and some are so distorted as effectively to be lies. Let's take them in turn.

“One: that strikes and trade unions must not only be supported, but were central to the working class organising and educating itself for emancipation. In a long debate in the General Council with an old Owenite socialist, John Weston, Marx refuted the alleged "iron law of wages" believed by many socialists at the time, according to which capitalism inevitably reduced wages to a subsistence minimum and all battles for higher wages must be fruitless.”

Marx certainly did argue against Lassalle's “Iron Law of Wages”, which proposed the idea that “Capitalism causes poverty” - this is also what the AWL claim in their “What We Stand For” section of their paper.
Lassalle argued that wages would always be driven down to an absolute minimum causing immiseration. The Stalinists, and some Trotskyists remain tied to this kind of idea today, unable to accept that Capitalism remains capable of raising workers real living standards, or else arguing as the AWL do here that such increases are only possible as a result of “class struggle”, by which they mean Economistic Trade Union struggle.

In the Critique Of The Gotha Programme, Marx says of this idea,

“Since Lassalle's death, there has asserted itself in our party the scientific understanding that wages are not what they appear to be -- namely, the value, or price, of labor—but only a masked form for the value, or price, of labor power.
Thereby, the whole bourgeois conception of wages hitherto, as well as all the criticism hitherto directed against this conception, was thrown overboard once and for all. It was made clear that the wage worker has permission to work for his own subsistence—that is, to live, only insofar as he works for a certain time gratis for the capitalist (and hence also for the latter's co-consumers of surplus value); that the whole capitalist system of production turns on the increase of this gratis labor by extending the working day, or by developing the productivity—that is, increasing the intensity or labor power, etc.; that, consequently, the system of wage labor is a system of slavery, and indeed of a slavery which becomes more severe in proportion as the social productive forces of labor develop, whether the worker receives better or worse payment. And after this understanding has gained more and more ground in our party, some return to Lassalle's dogma although they must have known that Lassalle did not know what wages were, but, following in the wake of the bourgeois economists, took the appearance for the essence of the matter.

It is as if, among slaves who have at last got behind the secret of slavery and broken out in rebellion, a slave still in thrall to obsolete notions were to inscribe on the program of the rebellion: Slavery must be abolished because the feeding of slaves in the system of slavery cannot exceed a certain low maximum!”

But, the difference between Marx and the Lassalleans here is not about whether workers can simply increase wages through Economistic struggle. Marx's point is that wages are regulated by a different law – the law of Supply and Demand. Marx's argument is that wages are a price, the market price for Labour Power, and as such they are ultimately determined by the Exchange Value of Labour Power as a commodity. Like any other commodity that Value is determined by the labour time required for the production of that Labour Power. But, like every other commodity this changes over time. Increases in productivity mean that every commodity decreases in Exchange Value, because each requires less labour-time to produce it. But, also all commodities themselves change in their composition and quality.
A modern motor car is not the same commodity as a Model T Ford. Although, the modern motor car might have a much lower Exchange Value than the Model T, because of the massive increase in productivity, the modern motor car is also much superior in quality to the Model T. Had it been possible to produce a modern car back then, it would have required much more Labour-time than the Model T. In part, the fact that productivity rises itself drives the fact of improvements in the commodity, because competition means that each producer of cars has to improve quality, introduce new features in order to sell it.
As Marx sets out in the Grundrisse, Capitalism is forced to raise the living standards of workers by increasing the range of products they are offered, and which they consume, because the more workers form the majority of consumers, it is only by doing so that Capital can realise Surplus Value.

But, despite the impression Martin gives, when he says that Marx argued against the idea that “all battles for higher wages must be fruitless”, that Marx thought that workers could simply increase their living standards by Economistic, Trade Union struggle or its extension in terms of a parliamentary struggle for reforms, the exact opposite is the truth!

In his argument against the Lassalleans, Marx writes in the Critique of the Gotha Programme,

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

And he states clearly what he means by that, showing just how much he believed that workers could not simply win higher wages and better conditions.

“A general prohibition of child labor is incompatible with the existence of large-scale industry and hence an empty, pious wish. Its realization -- if it were possible -- would be reactionary, since, with a strict regulation of the working time according to the different age groups and other safety measures for the protection of children, an early combination of productive labor with education is one of the most potent means for the transformation of present-day society.”

It was only the rapid development of the productive forces in Britain and other advanced economies - essentially changing the economic structure of society - that enabled these societies to gradually remove child labour, and instead to send those children into its education factories, to be prepared to become the kind of workers that a more developed Capitalism required.
But, it is also why in less developed economies, child labour remains, and why Marx would have viewed the attempts of Liberals, and some who call themselves Marxists to abolish it with disdain.

Ultimately, this is conditioned not by the organisation or militancy of industrial action, but by the ownership of the means of production, and relations of production established by it.

“Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labor power.
If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. 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?”

And, in Value, Price And Profit, where Marx sets out those arguments against Weston that Martin Thomas refers to, Marx sets this out even more clearly as these statements demonstrate.

“I might answer by a generalization, and say that, as with all other commodities, so with labour, its market price will, in the long run, adapt itself to its value; that, therefore, despite all the ups and downs, and do what he may, the working man will, on an average, only receive the value of his labour, which resolves into the value of his labouring power, which is determined by the value of the necessaries required for its maintenance and reproduction, which value of necessaries finally is regulated by the quantity of labour wanted to produce them....

“As to the limits of the value of labour, its actual settlement always depends upon supply and demand, I mean the demand for labour on the part of capital, and the supply of labour by the working men. In colonial countries the law of supply and demand favours the working man. Hence the relatively high standard of wages in the United States...

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

“I think I have shown that their struggles for the standard of wages are incidents inseparable from the whole wages system, that in 99 cases out of 100 their efforts at raising wages are only efforts at maintaining the given value of labour, and that the necessity of debating their price with the capitalist is inherent to their condition of having to sell themselves as commodities.”

Engels was even more explicit in this regard, he wrote in The Condition Of The Working Class In England,

“The history of these Unions is a long series of defeats of the working-men, interrupted by a few isolated victories.
All these efforts naturally cannot alter the economic law according to which wages are determined by the relation between supply and demand in the labour market. Hence the Unions remain powerless against all great forces which influence this relation. In a commercial crisis the Union itself must reduce wages or dissolve wholly; and in a time of considerable increase in the demand for labour, it cannot fix the rate of wages higher than would be reached spontaneously by the competition of the capitalists among themselves.”

And so we find Marx concluding in his debate with Weston,

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

But, of course, the AWL wish to distort Marx's views on this, and to turn him into an adherent of Economism, and Trade Union struggle, because it is precisely to that form of reformism they have tied themselves.
Having effectively given up on the idea of a revolutionary transformation of society – because their view of revolution is not that of Marx, but the view of some repeat of 1917 – they have nothing left but to become reformists advocating nothing more than a version of “A Fair Day's Wage”, and of its Social Wage equivalent, covering it with revolutionary rhetoric about Workers Governments and Soviets some time in the misty future, and with no means of connecting the two together. Like other forms of Stalinism, they have essentially settled upon a state of peaceful co-existence with bourgeois democracy.

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