Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Debt Crisis - Part 2

Its sometimes said, by people on the Left, that all Capitalists want to see Government spending reduced because that means that taxes can be cut, and according to Marx all taxes are a deduction from Surplus Value.
But, this is a misreading of Marx. For Marx, as he makes clear in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, taxes are the basis of funding for the administration of the State, and nothing more. They are the means by which Capital pays for the overheads of its rule. He says,

“Taxes are the economic basis of the government machinery and of nothing else.”

It is no surprise, Marx says then that the “Liverpool financial reformers — bourgeois headed by Gladstone's brother — are putting forward the same demand as the program”, for a single progressive Income Tax. A portion of Surplus Value does indeed go in taxes for this purpose. It represents the “faux frais” of production of Capitalism as a system. But, this is far from the case in relation to other forms of Government Expenditure. What is Surplus Value? It is the Exchange Value of the unpaid part of workers' labour. That is, it is the Exchange Value of that part of workers' output over and above what is required to reproduce their Labour Power i.e. the Value of Labour Power, which constitutes Variable Capital. But, in a modern economy, particularly, a part of this cost of reproducing Labour Power does consist of commodities, which are frequently provided by the State Capitalist.
Education and Healthcare, along with Social Care, the provision of Leisure facilities, childcare, and even an element of things such as roads, railways, airports etc. are just as necessary commodities in the reproduction of Labour Power as are food, clothing and shelter. These costs, the allocation of social labour-time to produce these commodities, therefore, come under the heading of Variable Capital, they form a part of the value of Labour Power, and consequently never do form a part of Surplus Value. The fact, that payment for these commodities produced and distributed by State Capitalism, frequently takes the form of “taxes” is besides the point, that is mere appearance, once again hiding the actual reality.

Indeed, it does not matter whether payment for all of these things is done on an individual basis by workers paying at the point of purchase – as they do with opticians or dental charges etc. - or by private health insurance, and tuition fees, or via some form of social insurance, or through taxes. For Capital, the only real issue here is one of economic efficiency i.e. which of these different methods, ensures that a sufficient quantity and quality of healthcare, education etc. is provided at the least cost. Only if the actual cost of providing these things by the State was higher than it need be would the difference be a deduction from Surplus Value. That is why, as well as for historical reasons the methods chosen are different in different economies, but also why these methods are constantly reviewed. The way Capitalism usually ensures that commodities are produced so as to raise quality, whilst using the minimum necessary social labour-time is by competition.
Its why we have seen huge improvements in the range and quality of goods and services available, whilst the prices of those goods and services have continually fallen. But, an effective State Monopoly of provision, undermines this method of ensuring efficient production. That is not to say that State provision is necessarily less efficient. In the US, for instance, socialised healthcare provided via Medicare is around ten times more efficient than via private insurance. That is simply due to the innate efficiency of a single, nationally administered insurance scheme. The actual provision of healthcare itself continues to be provided, as in the socialised healthcare systems of most of Europe, via private or co-operatively run hospitals etc. This is the reason that the Democrats, representing the interests of Big Capital, which has been suffering in international competition, due to the high costs it incurs, through the health insurance schemes, it pays for for its workers, has been trying to introduce health insurance reforms.

In China, with vast reserves of Labour Power, there is less need for a State run Health syste, so workers are left to provide for themselves. The US too has been able to rely on large numbers of immigrants to swell the ranks of its labour force, and has been able to draw in the high skilled labour it required from other countries, through a brain drain. Within Britain itself we see how this plays out even through a State run socialised Health, Education, and Social Care system. In more deprived areas, the standard of education and healthcare is lower than in more affluent areas. That is not entirely due to some Government conspiracy in the allocation of funds, but flows from the mechanisms of Capitalism itself. In more deprived areas, there is a lower tax base, and so Local Authorities have less money to spend on various services, but higher needs for that spending to meet. In addition, GP's, prefer to work in more affluent areas, which has resulted in shortages in more deprived areas. But, this fits the needs of Capital. In more deprived areas, there is less demand for highly skilled or educated workers, so low education levels are less of a problem. They also suffer higher unemployment, so there is less need for good quality healthcare, because a reserve army of unskilled labour always exists for Capital to draw on. The opposite is true in more affluent areas. It is also why, the worst areas of provision are for the elderly, who no longer serve a purpose for Capital, and who indeed, represent for it, a drain on resources.

But, the fact that Capital is forced to pay the costs of inefficient state provision out of Surplus Value is not a reason for jubilation by workers either. The Surplus Value used for this purpose is essentially wasted. It could otherwise have been used for accumulation, thereby increasing economic growth and the demand for labour power, bringing with it higher wages, and living standards.
If Capital, as opposed to individual politicians, seeks to socialise in one instance, or to privatise provision in another, it is not for ideological reasons, but for reasons of reducing the Value of Labour Power, by improving the efficiency of the provision of an important element in the reproduction of Labour Power. Individual politicians, of course, may indeed be driven purely by ideological considerations, and by purely electoral concerns of seeking to align themselves with the views of those whose votes they seek to garner. When Capital sought to overturn the Corn Laws in the middle of the 19th Century, it was partly motivated by a desire to break the power of the politically dominant Landlord Class, but its prime concern was to reduce the price of food, thereby reducing the Value of Labour Power, facilitating an increase in relative Surplus Value. Its motivation in trying to raise the efficiency of provision of healthcare, and other such services is driven by the same concern.

But, things look different from the perspective of small capital, and the perspective of the Middle Classes. Small Capital does not have the same concerns as Big Capital.
Because it does not employ labour-power on the vast scale that Big Capital does, it is less bothered by the need to retain workers. In fact, to the extent that Big Capital pays to train workers, small Capital benefits when a recession or some other change, which means that those workers are made redundant, and it can pick them up ready trained. For similar reasons it is less concerned about the need for a healthy workforce. If workers are ill, they can be sacked and replaced. For similar reasons, the small Capitalist will see no role for interfering Trades Unions, because the small size of the workforce means that workers can be negotiated with individually, and thereby more easily controlled. The small capitalist is largely concerned with meeting the needs of local markets, and so the impact of global economics appears remote to their daily concerns. They are driven by the need to keep wages low, extract Absolute Surplus Value and minimise their costs, of which the payment of tax, appears to be just one additional unnecessary burden.

For, the Big Capitalist, success, and the receipt of income is more readily seen as having nothing to do with individual ability. If you happen to be born to billionaire parents, you do not have to be a genius, your money can buy such for you. All you have to do is sit back on your yacht, sipping champagne, and watch the additional millions roll in through dividends, yields, and Capital Gains. For the small capitalist and the Middle Classes, things look different. For them, success appears to be solely down to individual merit, and character. That is why the most important things appear to be access to a good education etc.
But, within this perspective the more that is deducted in taxes appears to be a reduction in the disposable income available to live in an area with good schools, to pay for school fees, and so on. Moreover, although the payment for commodities like education and healthcare, provided by the State Capitalist, are not deductions from Capital, from Surplus Value, that does not mean that these costs are deducted evenly from Labour either. Indeed, Welfarism has been described by some Marxists as amounting to “Socialism In One Class”, because in reality what it does is to take money from one section of the working class and redistribute it at great cost to other sections of the working class. As, this Fabian, redistributive Socialism, has necessarily sought to do this by taking larger amounts from the middle class, and the better off workers, and redistribute it to the worst off workers and the under class, it has necessarily provoked hostility from the Middle Classes, and from the better off workers, thereby providing a ready made electoral base for right-wing, populist parties such as the Tories, and the Republicans.

And the ideological representation for this view is provided by Neo-Classical and Austrian economics. For the former, in particular, the existence of Monopoly and oligopoly is a deviation from the norm. Read the ideologues of the latter, such as Mises and Hayek, and it is clear that for them, Big Capital, the existence of huge corporations is as much anathema as is the role of the State.
In fact, they frequently see the existence of these companies as in some way being a reflection of the role of the State in distorting the market, in preventing bankruptcies etc. (See Chapter IV, of Hayek's "The Road To Serfdom") Not surprisingly, many of them favoured allowing the Banks to simply collapse, along with the big motor monopolies such as GM. Thatcher who came to power with the help of a clique around Hayek, and based here early policies on his ideas, before shifting to the ideas of Monetarism, to restart the economy, via loose money, was emblematic of this given her own origins as a shopkeeper's daughter.

But, politics has its own dynamics.
Just as the sabre rattling by Galtieri and Thatcher in 1982, was originally intended as merely that, and a means of distracting restless populations in their respective countries from mounting economic and social chaos, and yet inexorably led to war, so the rhetoric of the Tories in relation to the deficit has trapped them in a position where they have little room for a Plan B. Having whipped up a similar mood in the US, and created the Tea Party Monster, the Republicans are trapped in a similar cul de sac.
According to the latest news, whilst writing this, it looks as though the Republicans in the Senate may have a deal with the Democrats, but it is not at all clear that any such deal will get the approval of Republicans in the House of Representatives, given the role of the Tea Party, and the threat they have made of removing any Republican Congressmen thought not to be Conservative enough.

It is more than possible then that the world could stumble into chaos. But, it is far from certain. The deadline for the debt ceiling has continually been pushed back. It was supposed to have been this time last week, in order to allow the necessary legislation to pass. Now it seems right up to Tuesday is possible. And, in fact, long before the US stopped paying interest on its debts, it would be able to stop paying other domestic bills, continuing to pay certain other bills out of its massive revenues. There have undoubtedly been many arrangements made behind the scenes to ensure that things can be stretched out for some considerable time, and on CNBC last week, it was suggested that the US has considerable assets that it could sell quickly to raise money.
It could, for instance, sell some of the huge store of Gold it has sitting in various depositories around the country such as Fort Knox. Some commenters even jokingly talked about selling Alaska back to the Russians, or Louisiana back to the French.

Even if the US does resolve the issue of raising the debt ceiling there remains the question of whether the ratings agencies will downgrade its debt from its current Triple A status. That is likely to be a matter of putting pressure on legislators to come to a resolution. But, it could happen. Ironically, the main losers from that will not be the US. The huge Bond Funds around the world have to put their vast investments somewhere, and currently the US is the only place where that can go. Whether it is downgraded or not, the fact will remain that the possibility of the US actually rather than technically defaulting will remain close to zero. However, Bond Funds are based on degrees of risk. So they are sold as high, medium or low risk. They all contain a proportion of each category, but the risk is based on the average for the Fund as a whole. As a result, a downgrade of US debt will have the effect of making all such funds higher risk. For the low, and medium risk Funds, into which most Pension Funds etc. invest their money, the consequence will be that, because most of the money will be invested in US debt, the higher risk debt will have to be ditched in order to restore the average risk profile of the Fund.
That means that countries such as Spain, Italy, and so on, will see their debt being sold from these funds with a consequent effect on the price of their Bonds, and on interest rates.

But, the biggest threat continues to come not from the US – assuming that a deal over the debt ceiling is reached some time soon – but from Europe. As stated at the beginning, the fudge over Greece has not resolved the situation. Now Italy has seen the Yield on its 10 year Bonds rise to nearly 6%, whilst that for Spain is already over 6%. Somewhere between 6% and 7%, is where the interest charges become unsustainable, and countries need to seek a bail-out.
With, a stagnant economy due to the austerity measures already introduced, with unemployment at 20% - 40% for youth unemployment – and rising, with more than 1.5 million unsold properties, and a banking system still based on a fiction of what those properties are actually worth, and with those Spanish Banks now being downgraded themselves, Spain is a disaster waiting to happen. When that happens, the option of fudge to kick the can down the road will disappear. Europe will have to decide whether to give up on its project – not just of the Euro, but of creating a European market and state – or to take the bull by the horns and do what is necessary.

I recently calculated that to solve the problem in Greece would require around €750 billion over 10 years. To recapitalise all of the banks in Europe, to restructure Capital across the Eurozone so that it becomes globally competitive on a similar basis to Germany would require anything from ten to twenty times that amount. In other words, it would require a modern day Marshall Plan. Such a course is not at all impossible to achieve given the political will. It could go hand in hand with a similar Plan for MENA that would draw it in as a new Southern periphery of Europe. The question is whether the political will exists to do that, and whether the political realities of Europe can be overcome to bring it about.

But, let me be clear. Should the worst happen, should the US not resolve the issue of the debt ceiling, should a default in Europe lead to a new global Credit Crunch, should the political dynamics of right-wing populism in the US and Europe, prevent the scrapping of the current policies being pursued by the “right-wing nutters”, “Tea Party Taliban” and so on and lead to a serious crisis, this will not be the same as the Great Depression of the 1920's and 30's. It will not be so, because this is not the 1920's or 30's. The Depression then arose under conditions of a Long Wave decline. Even a Depression today – 25% fall in GDP, 20% unemployment, and falls in output lasting up to 40 months – would not have the same consequences.
That is because today, we are in a Long Wave Boom. A global Depression would be serious for those who lost their jobs, their houses and so on. But, even in the 1930's in Britain, the average period of unemployment was only seven months – which masked the fact that in those areas where Capital most needed to be restructured away from old no longer competitive industries such as the North East, unemployment and poverty was chronic and long lasting – and during that period whole new industries were created in motors, electronics, chemicals etc., which paid higher wages, and also went along with the building of new housing in those areas etc.

As I pointed out in my blog A Momentous Change, the consequence of a Depression within the context of a Long Wave Boom, would be to bring about a fast but brutal restructuring of Capital. Living standards would fall precipitously, unemployment would rise sharply, and many businesses would go bust, particularly in areas such as retail. Asset prices such as shares (meaning also Pension Funds) and house prices would fall by as much as 90%, as they did in Japan in 1987, and as they did during the 1930's. But, this crisis would then create the conditions for a much higher rate of profit.
Coming suddenly and under conditions where the working class is weak, disorganised and largely leaderless it would not likely create conditions under which workers could seriously challenge Capital. On this basis, Capitalism would as it has done many times in the past resolve the contradictions that beset it. It would do so at great cost both to workers, and to the very productive forces upon which development is based. But, the conditions of the Long Wave Boom, would likely make the ascent from this collapse spectacular, particularly considering the huge potential that the new productive forces, which would replace those destroyed, now possess.

But, such a prospect, despite the ultimate benefits it would present to workers would still represent a defeat for the working-class. It would be one more unnecessary crisis endured. It would be one more crisis resolved at the expense of workers, and at the expense of the destruction of productive power that we could have utilised. It will be one more crisis that Capitalism will have shown it can recover from, and for which we had no adequate response. As stated earlier there is no reason why Big Capital should want to experience such a crisis either. The task of restructuring can be undertaken far more effectively, and safely over the longer term, by continuing to finance it through debt. But, we cannot simply depend upon Big Capital imposing its will on the politicians. We have to take responsibility for our future ourselves.

During, the Financial Crisis of 2009/9, there were very few Co-operative or Mutual Banks that got into trouble. Indeed, the International Co-operative Alliance, wrote to the G20

“At the same time, those same world’s citizens know that there is an alternative secure, stable and sustainable model of business owned and controlled by 800 million people worldwide. It is true to its global values and principles of self-help, sustainability, community ownership and control, democratic participation, fairness and transparency.
It is a model of business that is not at the mercy of stock markets because it relies instead on member funds for its value; and is not subject to executive manipulation and greed because it is controlled by local people for local people. It is a business where the profits are not just distributed to its shareholders,but are returned to those who trade with the business, thus keeping the wealth generated by local businesses in the local community for the good of the local environment and families.

This is the co-operative sector of the global economy which employs 100 million people worldwide. It is no coincidence that the world’s most successful and stable economies generally also happen to have the world’s most co-operative economies.

It is also no coincidence, that those co-operative businesses that have stayed faithful to cooperative values and principles, are the same businesses that in recent weeks have benefited from the flight of deposits and bank accounts from the failing and collapsing investment houses and banks – an acknowledgement of the continuing trust with which they are endowed by the general public.”

A co-operative sector of the economy cannot insulate itself from the vagaries of a Capitalist market environment. But, a Workers State also cannot insulate itself from the global Capitalist economy that would surround it. That would not be a reason for not attempting to establish such a Workers State, to use it as a bulwark, a resource for workers to use as part of the global class struggle, and a shining beacon on a hill, towards they could set their own sights. Our answer to the contradictions facing Capitalism, now and in the future, is to develop our own workers alternative. Services that the Capitalist State attempts to close down, we should occupy and operate as Co-ops under democratic Workers Control.
We should do the same with any enterprises that Capital closes, where necessary organising the production of alternative products. We should ensure that all worker owned Co-operative property is integrated throughout the globe, in order that we can begin to co-ordinate production and investment, the better to be able to act counter-cyclically to capitalist crises. And, we should build our own political forces to defend andpromote the interests of this worker owned, co-operative property, enlisting the support of the Trades Unions for that purpose, and in return providing financial and physical support to those Trades Unions when they are in dispute with private capitalist employers.

We cannot wait for a Political Revolution like 1917 to save us from the crises that are an inherent aspect of Capitalism. We have to build the socialist future ourselves now, and in doing so we will better create the conditions for that revolution itself.

Back To Part 1


Jacob Richter said...

Since you briefly mentioned trade unions in your blog, I was wondering if you could do a blog at some point on comrade Paul Cockshott's call for union control of immigration:

"The issuing of work permits to foreign workers to be the responsibility of the TUC and local Trades Councils rather than the state, and that a prior condition for getting a work permit should be that the incoming worker joins the appropriate trades union."

To which I linked a thread of mine in opposition to the closed shop model:

"Incoming workers should, however, pay agency fees equivalent to union dues if they don't join."

Then he wrote:

"I understand the reservations about the TUC but the key point is that immigration be under working class control via the unions in some way. A pre entry closed shop policy protects immigrant workers from excess exploitation."

To which I responded:

"Don't agency fees do the same thing? My point is that immigration can be under working-class control via the unions through universal mandatory agency shop fees. Now, it's also possible that the same unions can control immigration by filtering out technically less qualified applicants, but that's another story."

"You forget one aspect to worry about, as well, about closed-shop-controlled immigration. At best, it would reinvigorate craft unionism over more industry-based unionism, especially with the rhetoric of promoting the immigration of skilled workers."

[There was no further debate, alas.]

Boffy said...

As I oppose Immigration Controls under Capitalism I have no interest in whether that is done by the Capitalist State, or by Trades Unions acting disgracefully as stooges for that State in implementing its policies. The Closed Shop generally worked in the interests of the TU bureaucracy, and against the interests of rank and file members. At worst it could be a way of disciplining militants. At best, it encouraged cosy deals between the bureaucracy and management, and meant they did not have to go out to actually win workers support for the union.

The idea of union administered Immigration Controls, loike union administered any other Capitalist policy is typical of the kind of class-collaborationist policies that the Stalinists like Paul Cockshott have been advocating for the last 50 years or more. They are a continuation of the Popular front policies of the 1930's.

In reality, all these attempts at "Workers Control" within the context of a stable Capitalism have as Trotsky points out - Here, have always led to the kind of class collaboration that was seen with Mondism etc. It means the alliance and class collaboration of the union bureaucracy with the bosses against the workers.

Our answer is as Marx and the First International argued to build workers unity across borders. During the LOR dispute, the unions did the right thing, following the example of Marx, they contacted the Italian Trades Unions for support. We have to build effective European wide Trade Union organisation, and demand Europe wide, common Trade UNion rates of pay, benefits etc. It is also why we need a European, as opposed to nationally based Workers Parties, and to demand the establishment of a Federal Europe, with full legislative powers for the EU Parliament, so that these common policies can be fought for and introduced. Of course, we do so, in the context of arguing that our real goal here is a Socialist United States of Europe.

Within each state, our answer is not to support Immigration Controls, but to fight for the removal of all Immigration Controls so that all workers coming in to the country can do so legally, and immediately have full legal rights to join a Trade Union, and so on. We demand that all work done, whoever does it, be done at Trade Union rates of pay.

However, I come back to the points I have made repeatedly, and that Marx made. All of this Trade Union struggle can only ever be defensive. Capital will always have the whip hand to undermine wages and conditions with, or without immigration controls. That is why workers, if they want to address these problems have to take ownership of the means of production - here and now via Co-ops, ultimately by a Socialist Revolution.

I'd also point out in relation to your argument with Cockshott, that we have had a lot of experience of this kind of Trade Union control. It used to operate in the car industry, and was often reactionary. It meant jobs were kept within families, or close groups, and frequently meant black workers were excluded.

Jacob Richter said...

"The idea of union administered Immigration Controls, like union administered any other Capitalist policy is typical of the kind of class-collaborationist policies that the Stalinists like Paul Cockshott have been advocating for the last 50 years or more. They are a continuation of the Popular front policies of the 1930's."

Actually, in that thread a Spart "historian" posted this:

Be it noted that this means if an Italian construction worker is a member of an Italian construction union, no English construction workers would have the right to demand he not be hired on the basis that he is not a member of an English union.

In the time of Karl Marx, when state immigration controls basically did not exist, the idea of union control over immigration and emigration made some sense, the First International did in fact think along those lines.

Comrade Cockshott is inspired by Marx's time, not by Popular Frontism at all.

I, on the other hand, stated my case in favour of a more Agency Shop version of his proposal, rather than his Closed Shop version, which I've linked in the past with anti-immigration sentiments.

Anonymous said...

"We have to build effective European wide Trade Union organisation, and demand Europe wide, common Trade UNion rates of pay, benefits etc. It is also why we need a European, as opposed to nationally based Workers Parties, and to demand the establishment of a Federal Europe, with full legislative powers for the EU Parliament, so that these common policies can be fought for and introduced. Of course, we do so, in the context of arguing that our real goal here is a Socialist United States of Europe."
I agree with this.

Boffy said...

It would not matter if a worker was a member of an Italian or British Trade Union if we built European Trades Unions, and if we had common EU wide union rates. But, the point is, and this is what the FI argued rather than control over immigration and emigration, that the union should organise to insist that work done be at the appropriate rates applying within the particular country i.e. that they cannot be undermined. In fact, Immigration Controls are contrary to that, because they encourage illegal immigration, and the employment of non-unionised workers, particularly in the black economy.

If you look at what Marx writes in Capital on the opposition by the bosses to British Workers Emigration Societies, and so on, he is scathing. He recognised, that in the conditions of high unemployment in Britain at the time, workers Emigration to the US was a means of them escaping that, and also of reducing the supply of Labour available to British Capital. It was not the solution we would choose, but it was one we should not deny workers the right to choose. Moreover, can you imagine Marx, opposing the right of Irish workers and peasants to leave ireland, and come to Britain or go to the US etc. in order to avoid almost certain death during the Famine?

Paul Cockshott's positions, as I have understood them, are a continuation of the kind of "British Road" policies we have seen advocated for the last 40 years, and which stood behind the AES. They are reformist, and class collaborationist.

Jacob Richter said...

How is the comrade's combination of Bordigism, DeLeonism, and Maoism "a continuation of the kind of "British Road" policies we have seen advocated for the last 40 years"?

Boffy said...

Because it is essentially reformist in nature, and like the AES thinks that it is possible to capture the State. Just because reformism takes the form of syndicalism does not mean it is not reformism.

It amounts to trying to propose schemes for partial advances by winning concessions from the Capitalist State, that involve the workers being incorporated into it. The proposal you have discussed is an example of that. The AES assumed that it was possible to cajole British Capitalists into doing things that the AES proponents thought would benefit workers, by proposing to offer compromise and conciliation with them - the above proposal is entirely within that tradition.

Jacob Richter said...

For some reason I just don't see any conciliation here.

"I'd also point out in relation to your argument with Cockshott, that we have had a lot of experience of this kind of Trade Union control. It used to operate in the car industry, and was often reactionary. It meant jobs were kept within families, or close groups, and frequently meant black workers were excluded."

Yes, but that's because of localization problems. It's the same kind of problem shared by craft unionism, "municipal socialism," and of course cooperative fetishes (ranging from credit unions to Mondragon's exploitation of Polish workers).

How about an EU-wide labour union with sole authority over immigration? Paul already stated agreement with EU-level organization.

Boffy said...

I don't deny that in organisations such as Co-ops there are, and will be problems of the kind you speak of. In fact, I've made the point in arguments with other comrades that there is no reason to beleive that a Workers State - even a democratic Workers State - will come into existence free of the majority of workes within it continuing to hold many of these kinds of reactionary ideas. Rosdolsky describes the reactionary, even Black Hundredist views that many Bolsheviks had even during Lenin's time, in their relations with Ukrainians, for example.

As lenin says, we ahev to deal with the workers we have, as they emerge from Capitalism, not those we would like to have. That is one of the criticisms I'd have of the petit-bouregois socialists, of the third Camp, who turned away from the USSR because it did not fit their pristine vision of what a Workers State should look like.

But, there is still a difference here, in combatting these views, and essentially encouraging them, by suggesting that they are somehow okay, so long as we negotiate with the bosses over how they are implemented. That is like negotiating with the bosses over how they will introduce anti-union laws etc. Its like the discussions that the AES supporters put forward about discussing Pay Policy with Government, as part and parcel of planning the economy.

I have no interest in helping plan the bosses economy so as to enable the bosses to better exploit workers. That does not change by simply raising the level to that of the EU, as opposed to the nation state. In any case, I'd suggest that we should concentrate on trying to build an EU wide Labour Movement first, before we start thinking about what tasks it might perform for the bosses!

Jacob Richter said...


So, not only should there be a Public Monopoly on Private-Sector Collective Bargaining Representation, grabbed away from scummy yellow trade unions but outsources from more militant ones, but there is the possibility of those same scummy yellow unions lingering on with other roles, such as immigration regulation, and with a law enforcement presence (not just police) to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

"The kind of schema mongering that Marx criticised, and which typifies your approach"

Even on the level of reforms there needs to be concrete policies, not cheap slogans. Otherwise, "you don't have an alternative" will still prevail.

Boffy said...

I don't understand what you are trying to say here. You seem to be echoing, prcisely those kinds of ideas about co-operation with the Capitalist State that ran through the British Road type formulations. They too wanted the Trades Unions to concede a State Monopoly over wage bargaining in return for TU involvement in what they saw as a national plan for wages. But, of course, this kind of nationbal planning under Capitalism and the dominance of a Capitalist State, ends up just as class collaboration to control wages in order to boost profits!

As for this non-police enforcement, why do you think the Capitalist State would agree to that. Look now as Workers set up defence squads to protect their communities gainst the thugs in Britain. The Police have come in to try to break up the Workers defence! When a 3 young Asian man were killed defending their Community, the Police who had been absent from the streets, turned up in force outside the hospital!!!

Your schemas for these kinds of strategies are precisely the kind of thing that Marx opposed. As for actual proposals I've put forward many, including for the establishment of defence Squads, which currently thousands of workes across Britain are now in the process of establishing.

Jacob Richter said...

"I don't understand what you are trying to say here. You seem to be echoing, prcisely those kinds of ideas about co-operation with the Capitalist State that ran through the British Road type formulations. They too wanted the Trades Unions to concede a State Monopoly over wage bargaining in return for TU involvement in what they saw as a national plan for wages."

Any sources on this? I like that.

The reasons I call for this:

1) Breaking further any illusions in the class nature of the state (Guesde)
2) Allows unions - red, orange, and yellow - to do more important things (Guesde *and Marx*)
3) Simply put, there has never been "universal unionization" even with the best of yellow union efforts (a la Scandinavia), at least outside of official Communist states

"As for this non-police enforcement, why do you think the Capitalist State would agree to that."

That's a different topic. It's about immigration controls. It would be tough for yellow unions with a heavy law enforcement presence to have racist, sexist, etc. immigration policies.

A RevLeft poster posted the problem of racism re. Cockshott's proposal in the first link way above in my first comment.

Boffy said...

For sources, see my series of posts Politics Of The Ghetto. There is also lots of background in back issues of Capital & Class on criticisms of the AES.

I don't think collaborating with the Capitalist State to ensure a more efficient exploitation of workers, is what Marx had in mind when he spoke about the workers doing more important things than taking up all theri time with Trade Union struggle!