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


Jacob Richter said...

I've said it before (somewhere) and I'll say it again: there's a huge political and ideological difference between workers establishing "alternative culture" on a "non-profit empire" basis - spanning cultural societies, recreational clubs, funeral homes, food banks, media outlets, etc. and fetishes for either production-based worker coops (Mondragon with anti-Polish sentiments and labour subcontracting) or consumer-based worker coops (credit unions, mutual insurance, housing coops).

The former preserves political independence and encourages political action, while the latter encourages apolitical illusions. Not long ago I read the Weekly Worker's translation of a splendid Kautsky article:

[Read the insightful sections on Proudhon and Blanc.]

Things like:

- Public Monopoly on Money Supply Management (EU-speaking, this means an ECB monopoly on all financial services)
- Public Ownership and Rental Tenure over All Land
- Fully Socialized Labour Markets
- Employer of Last Resort (Minsky)
- Pro-Productive Labour, Anti-Opulence Eminent Domain
- Gradual Worker Funds Ownership (Meidner's mandatory and significant redistributions of annual business profits without allowances for net loss rebates, by private enterprises with more workers than a defined threshold, as non-tradable and superior voting shares to be held by geographically organized worker funds)
- Pro-Cooperative Eminent Domain
- Public Monopoly over Private-Sector Collective Bargaining Representation

Cannot be addressed by self-proclaimed "Self Help" cooperative movements or by most forms of labour unions, because of the intimate relationship between Politics and the State (with the accompanying State Aid).

Boffy said...

Obviously, I disagree and so did Marx. The cultural organisations are all very well and good and we should encourage them, but by and large it is they which tend towards an apolitical view, precisely because they are easily accommodated within bouregois society - just as it accommodated, then incoporporated hippy culture.

Of course, a Worker Co-op, can be imbued with bourgeois even reactionary ideas - so can a democratic Workers State, by the way, because as Marx and Engels point out it comes into being on the basis of existing human beings, not the fully formed Socialist Man - but that is true of a Trade Union, and a Workers Party. The point is what is the dynamic of such a Worker Co-operative, what is the potential for Marxists to operate within it, and to utilise that dynamic to build an independent working-class power capable, and indeed necessitating conflict with private and State Capital.

That is why Marx emphasised the need for a National Co-operative Federation, to emphasise the role of the Workers Party in defending the interests of the Workers property against attempts by the Lords of land and Capital to undermine it, and so on.

Jacob Richter said...

"The cultural organisations are all very well and good and we should encourage them, but by and large it is they which tend towards an apolitical view, precisely because they are easily accommodated within bourgeois society - just as it accommodated, then incoporporated hippy culture."

How exactly can bourgeois society incorporate such outlets when there's ample opportunity to disseminate labour history, class politics, socialist theory, etc. (other than police infiltration)? The degeneration of the SPD bureaucracy was due to the influx of tred-iunionisty, not due to any political degeneration amongst the bureaucrats running the alternative culture.

Could you please address point-by-point how exactly "Self-Help" coop movements can address each and every single one of the programmatic points I raised above?

Boffy said...

To begin with culture like everything else in class society is not class neutral, it begins life imbued with bourgeois ideology. It is an area of class struggle. Look at Workers Education. The Plebs made an attempt at defending independent workers Education, but they were up against the WEA, supported by the bourgeoisie, which also helped the WEA get the support of the TUC.

All cultural activities are under threat from simply being in competition with bourgeois alternatives. There is no dynamic that forces a class struggle between proletarian culture and bourgeois culture. And the localised, small-scale on which it takes place means it is always likely to be defeated, and absorbed. In general, the vast majority of workers prefer to go to the local Capitalist cinema to watch the latest blockbuster than go to some local, socialist theatre group.

I don't have to answer point by point the issues you raise, precisely because I have never, and nor certainly has Marx, suggested that Co-ops would, could or should, any more than Trades Unions. All of those things can only properly be addressed by a Workers State. The point is how you make the bridge from the immediate reforms needed by workers to facilitate their organisation and struggle, and the revolution. Trades Unions act as mass collectors of workers, who can then be organised and pointed by socialists towards the kinds of organisations - Co-ops, the Party - that is requires to develop the workers economic, social, and political position, which is the fundamental basis of the revolution.

Jacob Richter said...

"The Plebs made an attempt at defending independent workers Education, but they were up against the WEA, supported by the bourgeoisie, which also helped the WEA get the support of the TUC."

Unlike the British labour / Tred-Iunion movement (perhaps just Anglo-Saxon if the Scottish and Welsh sections were more radical), the German Worker-Class Movement was not born politically retarded. The German movement was not the birthplace of Tred-Iunionizm.

The "Self Help" tendencies in Germany were squashed by the more political tendencies (Lassalle, Bebel, W. Liebknecht), unlike in Mutualist France and Tred-Iunionisty.

"And the localised, small-scale on which it takes place means it is always likely to be defeated, and absorbed. In general, the vast majority of workers prefer to go to the local Capitalist cinema to watch the latest blockbuster than go to some local, socialist theatre group."

I'm not saying we start that far. We have to start somewhere, like for example Renaissance-style education on labour history, labour law, non-mainstream political economy, and basic business and sociology.

"I don't have to answer point by point the issues you raise, precisely because I have never, and nor certainly has Marx, suggested that Co-ops would, could or should, any more than Trades Unions. All of those things can only properly be addressed by a Workers State."

You contradict yourself. You say that capitalism is booming. Mainstream media spinners and chatters say that bourgeois society is dynamic. Like them, you say that far-reaching, structural, pro-labour reforms by the Bourgeois State are impossible and "can only properly be addressed by a Workers State."

Boffy said...

Could I make a suggestion. Most of your writing is pretty undecipherable, and it is not made any easier by your use of aphorism such as "Tred-lunionism", which no doubt you understand, but which mean nothing to the majority of people reading what you write, if they bother to actually try to decipher it. I'd suggest dropping the affectations.

I don't see the squashing of the Marxist bottom-up, self-activity in Germany as in any way something to cheer about. It is what created the conditions for the German Party to become just another bourgeois Party, which saw its role as bringing Socialism to the masses from on high. Its what led to the fact that although the SPD had millions of members, ist branches were populated by quite small numbers of people, and dominated by a small elite. As you sow, so shall ye reap. Its also undoubtedly what made the German Party susceptible to being taken over by the Stalinists, and subordinated to the Stalinists in the Comintern.

As for where you want to start your Labour History classes. You go ahead, and do that. But, you will not be alone in doing that. There are already many Labour History societies, and although they perform useful work, I don't think they are really challenging the basis of Capitalism just yet.

I have not contradicted myself at all. Capitalism as a global system IS booming. It is dynamic. But, WHY would such a Capitalism introduce measures designed to undermine that, and to bolster the position of its class enemy????

Capitalism is prepared to introduce reforms that benefit workers - the Welfare State is a case in point - but it does not introduce them to benefit workers, but to facilitate Capital Accumulation, to ensure the reproduction of Labour Power. It is precisely the dynamism, and prosperity of Capitalist growth that makes it possible for it to introduce such measures, just as it is temporary crises that cause it to look to cut back on this kind of provision.

Of course, the bourgeois State MIGHT itself implement some of the measures you have mentioned - just as the bourgeois state has engaged in nationalisation in the past, but it will do so for its own reasons, not in the interests of workers!

Even if we look at those kinds of reforms that I have said, following Marx, are the kinds of reform that socialists can demand, for greater democratic rights, for certain forms of protection etc. even here, the Capitalist State, at any particular time can withdraw or withhold them, if the interests of Capital Accumulation demand it, hence the anti-union laws in Britain, and the threat to tighten them by Cable.

Jacob Richter said...

Tred-iunionizm: Russian term that Lars Lih used explicitly to describe the yellowness and class collaborationism of "trade unions only ism," collective bargain-ism, business unionism, etc.

Jacob Richter said...

"Capitalism is prepared to introduce reforms that benefit workers - the Welfare State is a case in point [...] It is precisely the dynamism, and prosperity of Capitalist growth that makes it possible for it to introduce such measures"

What I suggested is thinking outside the box of cheap "welfare statism."

"But it does not introduce them to benefit workers, but to facilitate Capital Accumulation, to ensure the reproduction of Labour Power."

Of course, but there are times when they intersect. There are measures strictly for capital accumulation, measures strictly for labour empowerment, and measures that can achieve both.

My point regarding outside-the-box approaches to "state aid":

MEASURES that really, really stretch labour empowerment yet yield very little (but nonetheless capital-positive) in terms of capital accumulation.

Later on, measures strictly for labour empowerment are ones that tend to lead towards crisis unless workers take power.

Boffy said...

Not everyone had read Lars Lih. The term "Economism", or Trade Union Consciousness" is more widely understood. Usually, if I use "Economism" I provide some explanation or its explained by the context. There are many young comrades who have not read all this stuff, and our job, in part is to make it quickly accessible.

On interests of Capital and Labour intersecting. That is the basic contradiction isn't it. In reeality they always intersect, whilst at the same time being opposed. It is in the interests of TESCO to make profits by selling goods to workers, and by reducing costs through efficiency to keep prices low. It is in workers interests to be able to buy cheap food and otehr products from TESCO. It does not change the basic contradiction of interests between Capitalists and workers. As Marx put it to lassalle's supporters in regard to the Iron Law of Wages our objection is not that Capitalism reduces real wage levels - which is the cosnequence not just of falling wages but of rising prices - because in the main it does not, real wagews rise. Our objection is that, however, affluent the worker becomes he remains a slave!

And, there is the whole crux. So long as workers remain trapped by the Capital-Labour relation they continue to be slaves, and the Capital-Labour relation as Engels makes clear in Anti-Duhring is not ended - indeed it is intensified - when it is a State Monopoly Capital-Labour relation. Our job is to break that relation, and you cannot do that by encouraging workers to settle for simply being better off either by higher wages, or by State reforms.

In fact, there is a good argument for saying that even if it led to lower real wages in the short term, workers would be better to accept that as the price of breaking the Capital-Labour relation by setting up their own Co-ops. The same is true of breaking the State Monopoly Capital-Labour relationship.

Only by such measures can you really begin to build an independent working class.