Sunday, 30 October 2011

AWL Apologism Sinks To New Low On Libya

Clive Bradley is a skilled writer, but not even his skills are able to turn the sow's ear that is the AWL's politics on Libya, into any kind of purse, let alone a silk one.
Clive uses an article by Seamus Milne in the Guardian, as the means by which to try to square some of the circles of the AWL's position, in his own article.

Clive begins by saying “... the Libyan revolution has now succeeded and Gaddafi has been overthrown.” This, however, begs the question of exactly what revolution it is that has succeeded! For Marxists, a revolution is something more than just that one figurehead has replaced another. We distinguish between different kinds of revolution, for example. So, a social revolution, is where the fundamental productive relations in society are overturned, and the social relations springing from them are transformed accordingly.
For Marx and Engels, as set out in their writings explaining the basis of their theory of Historical Materialism, it was this revolution that is fundamental, and which explains historical development, and its more visible representation in the political superstructure, that comes about, subsequently, via a Political Revolution, whereby the new ruling class asserts its right to exercise political, as well as social hegemony.

So, Clive should tell us, if the revolution he is speaking of, is this kind of social revolution. Clearly it is not. In fact, one of the things that Gaddafi did achieve was the establishment of a form of State Capitalism in Libya, one of whose functions was to ensure that Libyan Oil resources remained in Libyan hands, rather than coming under the ownership and control of foreign Oil companies.
In fact, all the information we have, is that the leaders of the TNC – though not necessarily the Islamists who have real power in the streets – are neo-Liberals (many from within the ranks of Gaddafi's regime) that European Imperialism has been cultivating for some years. They are openly advocating the privatisation of State owned resources, and that will, almost inevitably, mean them being bought up by foreign multinational Capital. Of course, those kinds of policies are not the kinds of policy that even the AWL would, usually, designate as “revolutionary”. In Britain, they have no problem in identifying the proponents of neo-liberalism, and privatisation policies as reactionaries. But, this is the way in which, the abandonment of dialectics, and adoption of formal logic by the AWL, and other supporters of Third Campism, forces them to continually zig-zag from one position to its opposite, depending upon the lesser-evil it is choosing to back at the particular time, and to make words mean the opposite of what they should mean, to suit their purposes in doing so.

For, a Marxist, as Engels sets out in “Anti-Duhring”, State Capitalism is not Socialism, it is merely a more, perhaps the most, mature form of Capitalism, just as Monopoly is more mature than small scale, free market Capitalism. Marxists do not demand State Capitalism – though the AWL frequently do, by calling upon the British Capitalist State to nationalise everything under the Sun! - any more than we demand the establishment of any other kind of Monopoly.
But, as Lenin set out in “Imperialism”, we do defend State Capitalism and Monopoly against reactionary attempts to turn the clock back, by arguments in favour of a return to small-scale, free market Capitalism. It is, in fact, the same argument that Trotsky used in arguing that had the Kaiser succeeded in establishing a single European State, Marxists would not have argued for it to be broken up into separate states again. It is the same argument, he used in relation to Poland, when he argued against the Stalinist invasion, but argued that after it had overthrown the Landlords and Bourgeoisie, Marxists should defend it against a return of those exploiting classes.

So, if anything, on the facts we know, the coming to power of forces committed to a reactionary overturn of the existing productive and social relations, would have to be described not as a revolution, but as a counter-revolution, and those bringing it about described not as revolutionaries, but as reactionaries or counter-revolutionaries.

But, let us be generous to Clive, and the AWL and assume that no reactionary change in the productive and social relations result from this “revolution”. Could we then describe it as a revolution, on that other basis, that of being a Political Revolution? For Marxists, a Political Revolution occurs when a ruling class becomes strong enough to bring the Political regime into accordance with the actual productive and social relations existing within society. Sometimes Political Revolutions occur, before that has come to fruition e.g. the Peasant War in Germany, the Civil War in England, the Great French Revolution, the October Revolution in Russia.
In all these cases, the revolutionary class is either defeated completely, or else, without the adequate development of the productive and social relations, it is incapable of exercising political power in its own right, and entirely for its own interests. It is forced to cede power to some bureaucracy or elite, from within its own ranks, that exercises power, in society, by its own control of the State. That was the case in relation to Cromwell, to Bonaparte and some subsequent Bonapartist leaders in France up to the establishment of the Third Republic, in numerous other Bonapartist regimes, in developing and industrialising economies, such as in Latin America and the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and was also the case in relation to the Bolsheviks in Russia, and subsequently to the Stalinist bureaucracy that arose out of them, and the State they created.

In parts of Latin America and Asia, Political Revolutions have occurred, which have seen new powerful bourgeois classes able, often with the support of Imperialism, to replace existing Bonapartist regimes that had arisen for the reasons set out above, and be able to create new bourgeois political regimes based upon Bourgeois Democracy.
If, the generals in Egypt are ultimately replaced, and something of this kind transpires, this will be a further example of this kind of Political Revolution. In economies that are industrialising and modernising, this kind of Political Revolution, to establish a more secure bourgeois political rule, based upon bourgeois democracy, is needed by Capital for the reason that Lenin set out in “State and Revolution”, because it is “the best possible political shell for capitalism”.

But, is this the case in Libya? The truth is we do not know yet, but the chances of it being the case are pretty remote, as I set out in my blog Where Now For Libya?. The political regime in Libya under Gaddafi was a Bourgeois Bonapartism. It was a brutal regime, but if we analyse it in Marxist rather than Moralistic terms, then we would have to characterise it as being of that first type described by Trotsky, when he talked about two kinds of Bonapartism.
That is, it is of that type thrown up in order to bring about some kind of industrialisation and modernisation of a previously feudal economy, rather than one whose function is only to prevent the rise of a powerful working-class. On what basis does Clive, and the AWL claim that some new kind of bourgeois political regime has been established in Libya? So far, all that has happened, rather like in Egypt, is that the Bonapartist regime of Gaddafi, has been replaced by a Bonapartist regime of the TNC! The main difference is that 50,000 Libyans have died in the process, and much of Libya's infrastructure has been destroyed by massive Imperialist bombing to bring it about, and without which the “revolutionaries” clearly lacked the support within the country to have succeeded. Indeed, many accounts now talk about the fact that, at any one time, the number of revolutionary fighters only ever amounted to a few hundred people! That, of course is the answer to Clive's question,

"Why do you think it took so long for Tripoli to throw him off?)",

for which there is no reason to beleive Clive's argument that it is because of the military power of Gaddafi, any more than the greater military power of Assad, and his viciousness, is preventing the continued opposition, and unfolding Civil War in Syria.

On what grounds does Clive and the AWL claim that these forces are likely to bring about some kind of stable bourgeois democracy in Libya – not even Clive and the fantasists, moralists, and utopians of the AWL believe that what is likely is any kind of socialist revolution – let alone that it has already been achieved? They can provide absolutely no grounds, let alone the kind of grounds that a Marxist would require, to make such a claim. The material conditions in Egypt and Tunisia are far more conducive to the establishment of bourgeois democracy, yet even there we see the Islamists being dominant in the one, and the Generals continuing to be dominant in the other.
The leaders of the TNC, as even the AWL now concede, are largely ex-members of Gaddafi's regime itself, or else they are reactionary tribal leaders hoping to obtain some boons for their own tribe, region or town, or else they are Jihadists. In fact, many, if not most of the fighters from the East were the same jihadists who had previously been fighting in Iraq, and who the AWL had decried in the most virulent terms as clerical-fascists. Now, the AWL are happy to describe them as “revolutionaries” upon whom we can be happy to place our faith in their bourgeois democratic and progressive credentials!!! Talk about “Newspeak”.

In fact, given the productive and social relations existing in Libya, given the lack of any kind of real support for the more liberal elements of the TNC in the country, given the fact that real power lies in the hands of the jihadists, on the streets, the leader of whom is the military leader in Tripoli, and whose forces murdered the TNC General Younes – no wonder the TNC leaders are staying in Benghazi rather than moving to Tripoli – the only way in which the Jihadists are likely to be prevented from taking power, and establishing some new Islamist, Bonapartism, is if what exists of the Libyan bourgeoisie, and its representatives on the TNC are able to bring in the forces of Imperialism to disarm the militias.
At the least that implies some kind of internal repression such as that used to disarm the Sadrists in Iraq, more likely it would involve a new Civil War, and the regime arising from it would be very far from any kind of genuine bourgeois democracy. Of course, that might NOT happen. Nothing in history is precluded. But, the job of a Marxist is to analyse things as they are, and tell the truth. To assess what is most likely based upon the existing reality, and our understanding of the laws of motion of history based upon our theory of Historical Materialism, and on that basis to plot our course, and advise the workers accordingly.

If we do that, rather than make things up as we go along, to fit our own moral imperatives, our own utopian dreams, and the hopes that other forces might bring them about for us, then we would have to conclude the opposite of what Clive and the AWL want us to accept. That does not in any way cause us to mourn the defeat of Gaddafi and his regime, but it should cause us not to simply assume that what has replaced him is likely to be historically more progressive, or even morally superior.

The AWL, are led to make this argument, because as they have done elsewhere, they have abandoned faith in the working-class, and have hitched their wagon to that of “Democratic Imperialism”, and that means also to those forces, who, in any particular case, are the allies of it. In other words, not just, “My Enemy's Enemy Is My Friend”, but also “My Friend's Friend IS My Friend”. They have adopted that position no matter how reactionary those other friends of that Democratic Imperialism have been.

But, Clive is also led to make this argument for another reason. The AWL's position from the beginning was driven by Moralism rather than Marxism. They justified their decision not to oppose the Imperialist War against Libya, on the basis that we were opposed to the massacre of civilians, and so if the Imperialist intervention achieved that, on what basis would it be rational to oppose it. It is, of course, a crass, formalistic not dialectical argument, of the kind you would expect from Third Campists.
It fails to locate this one event within any kind of wider context, any concept of process. It sees each event as discrete, to be analysed and dealt with by “practical politics” i.e. Opportunism, rather than seeing it as merely a moment within a process of class struggle across the globe, and over time. Within that context, as Lenin pointed out, the interests of the part have to be subordinate to the interests of the whole. As, Marxists our task is to put the interests of the whole working class, and other oppressed masses above the interests of any particular group. On that basis it is inexcusable for any Marxist to fail to oppose the aggression of Imperialism, wherever, and whenever it occurs, and no matter what lying pretext they use to justify it. Our task is to oppose the attempts by Imperialism to assert its right to stride like a Collossus across the globe, and instead to build an independent, working class alternative to it. It is in that original sense spoken of by Lenin and Trotsky that we put forward the concept of the independent “Third Camp” of the Working-Class, opposing our enemies in the camp of the Bourgeoisie, whatever political mask they wear, be it democratic, fascist, clerical, or authoritarian. But, in every instance, the AWL do not propose such a Third Camp.
Instead, they adopt the position that Trotsky correctly said all such “Third Campists” are led into, a Third Camp of Petit-Bourgeois Moralists, who are inevitably drawn into support for the Camp of Imperialism.

The extent of this is shown in Clive's comment,

“But neither we - nor the Seamas Milnes of the world - do see the world simply in those humanitarian terms. It's also about sides in a revolution.” So much for the Third Camp of the independent working-class then! And, of course, in justifying the intervention of Imperialism, the AWL HAD originally spoken solely in humanitarian terms!

Clive has to adopt this position now in order to justify the AWL's position after the event, given the atrocities being committed in the name of the “revolution”, he claims to have occurred. How else can you go from justifying Imperialist intervention to prevent a potential massacre in Benghazi, to explaining your tacit acceptance of the actual massacre in Sirte, by those you claim to be “revolutionaries”, with the assistance of their allies within NATO??? On what basis could you justify misusing Trotsky's quote,

“An individual, a group, a party, or a class that ‘objectively’ picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive”.

To justify Imperialism's intervention in the one case, whilst not recognising that, at least some of, your more alert supporters might notice the contradiction of saying nothing when those you have supported do exactly the same thing! Of course, as usual, the AWL could only use this quote in the first place by misrepresenting what Trotsky was saying, by chopping off the rest of what he says,

“On the other hand, a party or the class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury – such a party or class is sound of heart. Protest against the outrages in the Balkans cleanses the social atmosphere in our own country, heightens the level of moral awareness among our own people… Therefore an uncompromising protest against atrocities serves not only the purpose of moral self-defence on the personal and party level but also the purpose of politically safeguarding the people against adventurism concealed under the flag of ‘liberation’.”

Had they included this part of his quote the nature of their support for the particular “adventurism” under the flag of “liberation” in Libya, would have taken on a significantly different hue. But, then the AWL have made a profession, even writing a book, Bowdlerising Trotsky's Writings in relation to the Third Camp positions. Epigones in the full sense of the word.

Now instead, Clive “comes to praise” such atrocities “not to bury them” under a heap of righteous condemnation, “for after all” these are now “honourable” deeds, carried out by revolutionaries (See Shakespeare's Julius Caesar). The only reason that the civilians were massacred you see, in Sirte, was because, Gaddafi refused to give up power!

“The fundamental reason there have been so many deaths in Sirte - and elsewhere - is that a brutal dictator hung on to power. Assessing the humanitarian consequences of a revolutionary movement finally defeating him simply is not - except on terms too woolly for most woolly liberals - the same thing as assessing those consequences if the dictator enters a city with the expressed intention of massacring his opponents.”

Has anyone spotted the obvious mistake here??? The reason Gaddafi was hiding in Sirte was because he had already LOST power!!!!

Two months before, massive Imperialist bombing of the country, including the devastation of much of its infrastructure, the repeated heavy bombing of Tripoli, and attempts by Imperialism to kill Gaddafi and his family, along with the intervention of Special Forces from Britain, France and elsewhere, on the ground, eventually dislodged Gaddafi from power, enabling rebel forces to move into Tripoli. At that point, Gaddafi had already lost power, so on what basis can you claim that two months later, he still had it, and was refusing to give it up? At that point, he was in a much weaker position than were the rebels at the time of the potential attack on Benghazi. In Benghazi, not only did the rebels have their own military forces, that had defected from the Army, including some of their own aircraft, but they had the overwhelming might of Imperialism standing behind them. When Imperialism massacred the people of Sirte, with its two month long bombing campaign, and when the forces of the new Libyan State assisted them using the high-tech weapons Imperialsm had provided them with, Gaddafi's forces had little, in comparison, to defend themselves with, and the civilians of Sirte, less still. Yet, still the AWL remained silent whilst this massacre continued!

If they truly believed what they were saying when they used that quote from Trotsky, rather than using it cynically, as they use all the other misquotes they employ, to justify their latest piece of opportunism, then they would be deeply ashamed. Instead, they simply perform another piece of logical and verbal acrobatics to try to cover their inadequacies.

That is further illustrated in the extent to which they are prepared to justify the crimes and claims of the rebels, and of Imperialism.
Clive accepts at face value the claims of the rebels and of Imperialism that a massacre was about to occur in Benghazi. He has no more proof that it was than anyone else has that it wasn't. Given the brutal nature of Gaddafi's regime, we might well believe it to be a possibility, but the chances of it happening also depend upon the extent to which he would have been capable of carrying it out. In fact, much of the military had already gone over to the rebels in Benghazi. It is not as though they were defenceless themselves. In fact, as far as I am aware, the only aircraft actually shot down during the “No Fly Zone”, was not one of Gaddafi's, but was one belonging to the rebels themselves, in Benghazi, that they shot down by mistake!!!!

Moreover, RT in this video challenged the claims made by Imperialism and by the rebels, which were used to justify the establishment of the “No Fly Zone”.

And, as Channel 4 News have reported,

“Now both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say they’ve found no evidence in Libya to back up allegations used widely by politicians to justify the war.”

It was not the only lies told by the rebels and by Imperialism as Alex Thompson set out, and as I described in my blog Victory To Libya, Down With Gaddafi.
In fact, if we look at the decision of Gaddafi to allow the families of Benghazians to leave Tripoli to return to Benghazi, we have reason to question some of the claims about the likelihood of a massacre that the rebels were portraying, just as Alex Thompson's reports from Misrata give us reason to question what Clive has to say about that. Thompson reported,

“It’s war, people lie. In Benghazi Libyan rebels will tell you beseiged Misrata is running short of food. You go there. The shops are open, reasonably well-stocked. The butchers’ stalls hung with freshly-slaughtered goats.

The Misratan rebels will tell you government forces have been issued with gas masks because they’re preparing to use chemical weapons. Again – lies, propaganda and rumour. No journalist in Misrata bothered to report this junk, even with appropriate attribition and caveats. We could see it for the paranoia it was.”

Of course, during such Civil Wars lies are told on all sides. I have no doubt that Lenin and Trotsky told many such during the Civil War in Russia. As Marxists, we have to be aware of that likelihood in making our judgements, and we have to be more prepared to accept the need for them when used by proletarian revolutionaries under such conditions. But, the rebels in Libya, were NOT proletarian revolutionaries, they were as much our class enemies as Gaddafi!!!! The whole basis of an independent, working-class position should have been to expose them as much as to expose Gaddafi, and Imperialism as our enemies, and to have maintained as strict a political, organisational and ideological separation from them as possible.
In fact, what the AWL's position amounted to was a Popular Front with Imperialism and its Libyan allies. They claimed previously to have learned that lesson from the disastrous failure of Workers Action to distance itself from the "Revolution" undertaken by Khomeini in Iran in 1979. Clearly, they have not!

That is the nature of the AWL's “Third Campism”. It is not the Third Camp of an independent working-class in revolutionary opposition to its class enemies. It is the Third Campism that Trotsky described, speaking of Burnham and Shachtman and their gang, when he wrote,

“And so, a new great slogan: Muddlers and pacifists of the world, all ye suffering from the pin-pricks of fate, rally to the “third” camp!”

It is the Third Camp of the petit-bourgeois moralists, who inevitably as the AWL have done, end up in the Camp of Imperialism. Not even the skilful fiction writing of Clive can change that reality.

P.S. I just read this comment by Paul Hampton on the AWL's site on this issue.

"Libyans did not have “ownership of their own future” under Gaddafi. What they had was the complete absence of liberty and the miserable prospect of more repression. They were not even “independent” of the Western powers since Gaddafi was brought back into the fold by Tony Blair. Nor was Libya free of the multinational corporations – look at the energy firms and the arms dealers who were knee-deep in contracts with his regime.

Milne utterly misunderstood events in Libya, because his politics are focused on the negative (opposing whatever some of the big power do), rather than on what working people actually do to improve their lives. The Libyan fighters are just as much a part of the Arab spring as the great protesters in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and elsewhere – and they even managed to topple the dictator. Genuine socialists should rejoice in Gaddafi's downfall."

This again demonstrates the nature of the AWL's apologism, and the extent to which it will chop its position to suit. The argument put forward here, is of course, the argument that the "idiot anti-imperialists" put forward, and which the AWL, and Hampton are usually the most virulent opponents of.   But, here, Hampton is prepared to adopt the arguments of the idiot anti-imperialists for the sake of making another point. Of course, Libyans did not have ownership of their future. They do not have such now either, nor would they under a bourgeois democracy. They would only have such under Socialism.   Nor, was Libya "independent of the western powers" or the "multinational corporations."   But, whenever the idiot anti-imperialists have made that argument to claim that some country is not truly free, the AWL have, in the past, correctly pointed out that this lack of freedom is not the same as it not having won Political independence. The argument that has previously been put to the idiot anti-imperialists, and which is correct, is that complete freedom can only be achieved via a Socialist Revolution, not by an anti-imperialist/colonialist struggle. Hampton here is prepared to ditch that argument and jump into bed with the idiot anti-imperialists in order, opportunistically, to make his point against Milne. Of course, Libya, and Libyans was not truly free, but that is not to deny that the nationalisation of the Oil assets was a progressive step forward compared with their domination and ownership by foreign Capital, in just the same way that Trotsky argued that case in relation to the nationalisation of the British Oil assets, in Mexico, by the Cardenas regime.   Of course, the Libyan people were not truly free, but nor will they be truly free even if bourgeois democracy is established in Libya, for the simple reason that all Marxists have always argued that Bourgeois Democracy is merely a mask that hides the Dictatorship of Capital, and hides the reality that the Working Class is a Slave Class under Capitalism whatever the nature of the political regime!

Genuine socialists should rejoice at Gaddafi's downfall, but they should not join the AWL in rejoicing at the fact that the Libyan working class have merely exchanged one set of gaolers for another!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Northern Soul Classics - Concerto For Young Jazz Lovers - Sonny Stitt

Absolutely top groove. Another sound reminding me of the Top Rank around 1971. Vocal version done by the Toys as "A Lovers Concerto". Sonny Stitt - top man.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Eurozone Debt Deal – Still Not Enough

The Eurozone have come up with a deal, which will stave off the markets for a few days. Indeed, the markets, led by the Banks, whose shares have soared, has risen very sharply on the news. But, as I have set out previously, the measures announced, and sums of money involved, are nowhere near enough to actually deal with the problem.
The main reason the markets seem to have rallied is that, at least, the core Eurozone politicians appear to have begun to act in, something approaching, a co-ordinated manner, and the main idea, that what is required is the establishment of European fiscal and political union, seems to have been taken on board, and is being discussed openly. The markets realise they cannot bring it about immediately, but seem prepared to give them breathing space, provided this is seen as the first step along the road to it, and the solutions actually required.

The general terms of the deal had been well signalled in advance. There is €450 billion in the EFSF bail-out fund. However, after what has already been committed, only €250 billion of this remains. This is not even adequate to bail-out all of Greece's debt, let alone the debt of Spain and Italy, who are the main concern for EU leaders, fearful that contagion could spread to them.
€2 trillion would be required to cover all of Italy's debt alone. So, what is proposed is to use this €250 billion, essentially as security, against which to borrow additional funds on the world market. Some of the additional borrowing will be provided by EU Government's, but with this security essentially being backed by Germany, the idea is to borrow large sums of money from investors such as China's Sovereign Wealth Fund. There are some weaknesses with this, which I will come to later.

The second part of the plan is for the private Banks and Finance Houses, that lent irresponsibly to Greece, to have to pay the cost for their bad decisions. They have agreed – after Merkel threatened them with losing all their money via a complete collapse of Greece – to write off 50% of the money they lent to Greece, and have also agreed to do this “voluntarily”, thereby not triggering a “credit event”, which would have meant that claims against Credit Default Swap insurance would be made. Although, the Banks, that made the loans, would be able to claim, against any CDS they had taken out, there is an incentive for them not to do so, and to agree to a voluntary haircut. That is because, as was seen with the Sub-Prime Crisis, these CDS are bundled into other investment vehicles, which are traded on Capital Markets.
Indeed, it is possible to buy a CDS even against loans you have not made. In other words to gamble that someone else's loan will go bad, just like betting on a horse race. Consequently, no one really knows what the total value of these CDS, and related derivatives is, who owns them, who will be liable for paying out on them, and so on. So, any Bank or Financial House that has been involved in trading these derivatives could find that it has counter-party risk, or that the Bank that might be due to pay it, will be driven out of business itself. Although, the amount of money written off by the Banks seems astronomical to most people, it is not that large – for Deutsche Bank, equal to only half its profits for last year – and certainly not worth the risks that a full blown global financial crisis would represent. There are also problems with this part of the plan that I will return to later.

The Third part of the plan is that European Banks have to recapitalise themselves, that is they have to increase the ratio of their assets to the amount of loans they make. It is intended that the Banks will do this by selling more of their shares in the market to raise additional capital. They have to raise the amount of their Tier 1 Capital to 9%. Some of the Banks have said they will do this by reinvesting some of their huge profits rather than paying them out as dividends to shareholders. However, it seems that many Banks will achieve the same result not by increasing their Capital, but by reducing the size of their Loan Book i.e. lending less money, and calling some of their existing loans in. This is particularly likely in the case of small Banks such as the Spanish Cajas, or Regional Banks. That is because they do not find it easy to raise Capital by selling shares, and they have already had their credit ratings downgraded. The Spanish Government is trying to bring about mergers amongst the Cajas, but largely without great success. It has also tried to get the Spanish Banks to take them over. The Big Spanish Banks have an incentive to do so, because the Cajas have borrowed large sums from those Banks with which to finance their activities.
The problem is that those activities have almost exclusively been to finance the huge Spanish property and construction bubble of the last 20 years! If the properties, against which these loans were made, were valued at realistic prices, many, if not most, of the Cajas would be insolvent, and the crash in the Spanish property market, so far, would seem like just a small blip, as loans were called in, and properties foreclosed upon. That would then hit the Spanish Banks who were the originators of the finance to the Cajas. So, the Spanish Banks will have an incentive to take over the Cajas if necessary, in order to try to keep that bubble in the air for a while longer.

But, international Capital markets are not completely stupid, which is why the Spanish Banks have themselves been downgraded by the ratings agencies. If they took over a load of bankrupt Cajas, they would see their Credit Rating reduced to junk, and that would inevitably mean the State having to come in to nationalise them. But, Spain has had its credit rating reduced several times. Even with the ECB stepping in several times over recent weeks, to buy up Spanish and Italian Debt, the Spanish 10 Year Bond Yield has risen again to 5.5%, and Italy to 6%. This is where the other problems with the plan become important.

Firstly, France had wanted to ensure that, where any national Banks needed bailing-out, as described above, then the money, to do this, would come from the EFSF directly. France also wanted to ensure that if the EFSF could not raise the necessary funds on international markets, then the ECB could step in to simply print money to cover the difference i.e. Quantitative Easing of the kind already undertaken by the Federal Reserve in the US, and Bank of England.
Germany opposed this. So, the deal currently requires national states to bail-out their own banks, and then, if this state requires a bail-out, the EFSF will provide the funds to the State. You only have to understand the consequence of this to see, why Germany wanted this course.

Most of the Banks, that are likely to need bail-outs, are in countries that themselves are in a weak position. Although, this means primarily Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Italy, it also now seems likely to include some very big French Banks, that lent on a large scale to Greece. The problem for France is that for several months the credit rating agencies have been looking at the possibility of withdrawing its Triple A rating.
If it had to bail out one or more of its major banks, it would probably tip it over the edge, causing its sovereign debt to be downgraded. That is not to say that it would be placed in the same position as Greece, or any of the other peripheral economies, but it would mean it had to pay more for its own borrowing – the Yield on the 10 year OAT has already risen sharply – and it would mean that France's standing in the world would be diminished. With a determined move towards a greater centralisation of power within a core Europe, on the way to the establishment of a United States of Europe, this would further strengthen the position of Germany.

But, although its clear why this is in Germany's interest, in the short term, it is not in the interest of providing a longer-term solution for the Eurozone, and, therefore, is not in Germany's longer term interest either. Ultimately, Germany is the back-stop for all this funding, so it is in its interests that the immediate costs of financing are kept to the lowest possible.
Having each country continue to raise money, in the Capital Markets, with the EFSF only acting as a guarantor, does not achieve that. The real solution is for the issuing of Eurobonds, by a central European Debt Management Office, as every other state does. It can then dispense these funds to the member states accordingly. Because this debt would be issued by the whole Eurozone – i.e. directly rather than proximately backed by Germany – the interest rate on it would be much lower than any of the other individual countries could borrow at.

Germany will not currently agree to this for two reasons. Firstly, Merkel might get such a proposal through the Bundestag – because the SDP and Greens support Eurobonds - even if some of her own Party and Coalition partners would vote against it – but would probably face a backlash from the conservative supporters of the Government at the up coming elections. Eurobonds, will be introduced, and Germany will support it, but, she will let the next Government push it through. Secondly, it would be stupid, and very bad negotiating tactics to simply offer it up to other EU countries at the present time. If a new United States of Europe is to be set up, Germany wants to ensure it has a major role within it. Italy is in a weak position, and has a joke for Prime Minister. France remains strong, and has for the last couple of decades been drawing closer to Germany, but it remains in competition. But, France's economy is not as strong as Germany, and if its credit rating is downgraded it will be in a weaker position still. Germany is in the driving seat. Britain, of course, as I wrote the other day, has excluded itself from the proceedings, and is heading towards irrelevance, as even the UK media seems to be recognising.

Germany wants a United States of Europe, and will settle for some measure of fiscal and political union as a step towards that. But, it wants it on its terms, and “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. A small part of the agreement increases the extent to which each country will now oversee, and control the Budgets of other countries. That is an essential element of the conditions that Germany will want. If ultimately, it will produce the deficit funding for a European State, it will want to have control over those Budgets, and to have some say in how the money is used for investment to increase growth in each country, so that the need for such deficit funding is removed.

The basic ideas of the plan have been seen before in some elements. In the 1980's, as the Asian Tigers grew their economies rapidly, they borrowed huge sums of money from western banks and finance houses. So long as they could continue expanding and selling their output, this could continue. Moreover, alongside the economic boom, went a property boom, as easy money went into blowing up asset price bubbles. In fact, the experience of Ireland has been probably closest to this.
When the crisis blew up, the IMF stepped in to provide financing. The Asian economies then used this to clear their debts to the western banks – which was the real reason the IMF had intervened in the first place. Then they pulled out, sending the economies into a major deflationary downturn. However, and again Ireland is similar here, the money that had gone into these economies had not, by any means, all gone into property and other asset bubbles. Real investment, and productive capacity had been created, which then laid the basis for those economies to grow strongly on a sounder financial basis.

That is largely what has happened here. Over the last year or so, large chunks of Greek debt have been transferred out of the hands of private banks, and into the hands of state bodies, including the ECB. That is why the Banks can be persuaded to exchange their worthless Greek Debt for other debt provided to them with only half the face value. In fact, as far as Greece is concerned, the deal goes nowhere near dealing with its problems either in the short or the long term. Even with this write-off, of its debt, its debt to GDP ratio will only fall to 120%, which is impossible to sustain. But, for that reason, it does absolutely nothing to deal with its larger problem, which is the need to restructure its economy, so as to be able to pay its way.

What is required for that is for measures to be undertaken, which are the opposite of austerity, measures which create growth, and encourage investment. But, the measures, demanding the recapitalisation of the Banks, are the opposite of that. At the very least, it means Capital being drawn in to finance the Banks rather than to finance productive investment. Worse, if Banks cut back their lending, it will mean that Capital will become more scarce, the cost of Capital will rise, investment will fall, and economic growth will be reduced. At a time when we are already entering a new Credit Squeeze, which could be worse than 2008/9; that is the opposite of what is required.

In fact, there has been lots of talk about the need for a growth strategy in Europe, but currently, the policies proposed by the right-wing populist parties, in control of much of Europe, are headed in the opposite direction. Under current conditions, you cannot get growth without confidence; confidence of consumers to consume, confidence of businesses to invest. That requires that workers have to be confident that their jobs are safe. It will require additional large scale borrowing. The current measures will paper over the cracks for a few more weeks, and allow the current debts to be covered, but they will do nothing to cover the future debts, or to create the conditions by which economic growth is sufficient to meet the costs of borrowing internally.

As I wrote in my blog Greek Fudge, I estimate the real cost of dealing with the Greek situation would be something of the order of €750 billion over a ten year period.
That would not just cover the cost of financing existing debts, but would enable on going deficits to be covered, whilst a process of investment and restructuring was undertaken to modernise the Greek economy. Applying this across Europe ,to those economies that need a similar restructuring, I estimate that a figure of something like €15 trillion would be required.

For now, this problem can be left on hold, and markets appear happy that some more definitive move has been made to deal with the immediate problem, but EU politicians will need to get ahead of the curve, or the markets will have them scurrying to the next set of crisis meetings before they know it.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Demise Of Britain

The Eurozone Debt Crisis that has rumbled on for the last 18 months has focussed attention on the future of Europe. But, in fact, what has also been revealed over that period, and particularly displayed in recent weeks, is the extent to which Britain appears now to have been placed on a course to become a third or fourth rate power within the next two decades.
The way in which Cameron was completely dismissed by Sarkozy and other EU leaders, and the problems the Tories have with the majority of Eurosceptics in their ranks, not to mention its right-wing flank outside in the BNP and UKIP, are a symptom of that.

“You missed a good opportunity to keep your mouth shut!”

Sarkozy to Cameron

The Tories have been arguing, since before the election, that they would use every opportunity to renegotiate their relation with Europe, and to repatriate powers to Britain from the EU. The problem is, as the above dismissive rebuke to Cameron shows, Britain has no leverage to bring about such changes, even with the current Eurozone debt crisis. Just as Britain's clinging to the idea of Empire in the 1950's led to it remaining outside the EEC, only to have to join later on less advantageous terms, so the decision to remain outside the Eurozone, and to seek opt-outs from various other EU legislation, has placed Britain in a similarly disadvantageous position. As Sarkozy also said to Cameron, according to the Telegraph,

“We’re sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the Euro, you didn’t want to join and now you want to interfere in our meetings,”

This is the root of Britain's problem. As the saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” At every opportunity, Britain has chosen to penny-pinch in its relation to Europe, seeking to excuse itself from contributing to EU collective funds. Its a bit like those people who always never seem to have their wallet with them, when they are in the pub! In fact, China, outside the EU, probably has more ability to influence EU decision making, than does Britain, because ultimately, if the EU begins to issue EU Bonds, backed by Germany, China will be more than willing to buy them on a large scale, as a means of diversifying its Bond purchases away from US Treasuries. Britain, is neither contributing within the EU, nor in a position to be a substantial purchaser of EU Bonds, in the way that China and other cash rich economies are.

Of course, the Eurozone crisis has led politicians of all sides to argue that Britain was right not to have joined the Euro, but this argument is crass.
Firstly, it is to assume that what has transpired with the Euro would have been exactly the same had a large economy such as Britain been part of it. It is also to fail to ask what would have happened with the British economy during the last 12 years had it been a member of the Euozone. But, more importantly it is to try to divorce Economics from Politics. The Euro is not simply a monetary project, but a political project, inextricably linked to the development of the EU itself. It is the fact that Britain is outside this development that means that its influence is necessarily diminished, and that its influence must necessarily become even less as time goes on.

The Tories themselves now argue that the Eurozone can only resolve its current problems if it brings about fiscal and political union. They say they have no objection to such a development provided they can remain outside it. But this is nonsensical. If the EU core, inside the Eurozone – and then those other EU economies outside the Euro, but who want to join – bring about fiscal and political union, then this means essentially the establishment of a new EU State, a United States of Europe. At best, that would leave Britain in the position of the Confederate States prior to the US Civil War.

The idea that Britain could simply renegotiate its relation to this EU state, in a way that would benefit Britain, is farcical. The EU was established as a means of European Capital being able to obtain for itself some of the same kinds of advantages of size that US Capital enjoyed from the US State. Europe may well have been in alliance with the US in the post war period, largely bound together in opposition to the USSR, but that did not change the fact that European Capital was in competition with US capital, and subsequently with Japanese, Chinese etc Capital.
That competition can be witnessed in the repeated conflicts over trade between Europe and these other economic blocs, the existence of external tarriffs on goods etc. The basic role of the State is to act to facilitate the reproduction of Capital within its borders.

If Britain was on the outside of such a State, then it could not expect to be treated any differently to the US, or China, or Japan. It would be a competitor, and therefore a threat to the EU State, and would be treated accordingly. The idea, put forward by some of the Eurosceptics and nationalists, that Britain could have the same kind of relation to the EU that Switzerland or Norway have is facile. Norway has a population of just over 4 million, or less than half the population of London. Its GDP, is $255 billion, ranking it 47th in the world.
Switzerland's population is 7.6 million, and its GDP $324 billion, ranking it 38th in the world. By comparison, the UK has a population of 62 million, and a GDP of $2.2 Trillion, ranking it 8th in the world. Not only would this make the UK a competitor to the EU, in the way that Norway and Switzerland are not, but it also means that the kinds of economic policies that can be adopted by countries with very small populations, are simply not practical for an economy the size of the UK.

Big Capital needs a single European State, but if it cannot win a majority of British people to that idea, then, as the rest of Europe, or at least its most important economies, move inevitably towards it, then Big Capital will simply give up on Britain, and relocate into that large EU State sitting on its borders.
Even those things that Britain gains from, at the moment, such as its role as a financial centre, would be destroyed, because there is no reason that an EU State would simply allow London to continue to play that role. Almost inevitably a new European financial hub would be established in Frankfurt, and London would be sidelined.

The consequence of that would be that the tendencies established in the UK economy, and which have always played a role within it would be accentuated, and, as they were, the consequences would be for an acceleration in the deterioration of the UK economy, and an increase in social conflict, as UK living standards fell precipitously. The French “Regulation School”, of Marxist economists, such as Aglietta and Lipietz, refer to “regimes of accumulation”.
They differentiate between what they term “intensive” and “extensive” regimes. The former essentially relates to economies where the production of Relative Surplus Value predominates, whereas the latter relate to economies where Absolute Surplus Value predominates. Absolute Surplus Value is created where Capitalists seek to squeeze more Surplus Value by extending the length of the working day, week, year or lifetime, or by increasing the intensity of work via speed-up. Relative Surplus Value is created when new methods and means of production are introduced that raise labour productivity, or reduce the Value of Labour Power by reducing the prices of wage goods.

Absolute Surplus value tends to be associated with economies that are at a lower level of development. Because wages are relatively low, the rate of growth is held back, because the scope for increasing consumption is limited by the inability of workers to increase their consumption. Growth instead comes from the reinvestment of profits into Capital goods. Relative Surplus Value arises, because the more Capital can reduce the price of wage goods, by higher productivity, by being able to access cheaper food etc. from abroad – as happened with the Abolition of the Corn Laws – workers can be paid less in money wages to still have the same real standard of living, which leaves a greater proportion of the working day, as free labour provided to the Capitalist. This opens the door to both an increasing standard of living of workers alongside rising profits. Because, workers become a more important market for consumer goods, the previous restrictions on growth of Department II, consumer goods, is relaxed, which opens the door to much higher rates of economic growth.
The classic manifestation of this is Fordism, which introduced much higher wages, and better conditions for workers as a quid pro quo for the routine and monotony of the production line, and which at the same time provided workers with the incomes with which to buy this increased volume of consumer goods. At a macro-economic level it is demonstrated by the establishment of the Welfare State. In the post-war period it was also manifest in the establishment of the idea of annual wage increases, which were linked to productivity improvements.

In fact, Relative and Absolute Surplus Value production have always operated alongside each other. Whilst, large companies in Britain, largely rely on the extraction of relative surplus value, there are still plenty of small companies that rely on the penny-pinching measures of Absolute Surplus Value, and even at a macro-economic level, Tory Governments, in particular, have been keen to protect small capital from the restrictions imposed by the EU, as well as more general measures such as the lengthening of the working day, the increase in the retirement age and so on.

What the Tory and Eurosceptic position reflect is that Britain has always sought to use various forms of Protectionism to defend inefficient British Capital against foreign competition. That is what lies behind the desire to opt out of the measures introduced in Europe that provide some minimum standards of workers protection. As I wrote the other day, Robert Winston, argued, at the weekend, on TV, that the Working time Directive had been disastrous for medical training in Britain.
But, this is a clear example. In truth, if the NHS is so bureaucratic and inefficient that it cannot manage to effectively train new doctors without them having to work 70 hours a week, then it is clearly time that a more efficient form of health service took its place! The same is true of all those other British enterprises, which cannot compete without paying British workers low wages, requiring them to work long hours, have fewer holidays, receive poorer if any Pensions, and so on, than their European counterparts. In short it is a demand by the Tories, and other bourgeois politicians such as Tony Blair, to protect inefficient British Capitalists by making British workers pay the cost.

The more that kind of Protectionism continues, the more British Capitalists will continue to sit back and make their profits in that way – not by investing, and raising productivity, but simply by squeezing British workers harder. It is a recipe for rapidly falling living standards, for increased social tension, and for the consequent falling even further behind of the UK economy. In just the same way that economies like India and China have developed quickly over a period of just 20 years to overtake Britain, so such a process of decline could see the British economy outside Europe become reduced to a third or fourth rate power over a similar time period.
It would inevitably intensify the desire of Scotland to seek the Norway type solution, by separating from the rest of Britain, and using what is left of North Sea Oil and Gas reserves, to finance its own development, and that in turn would further turn the screw on the English economy, once deprived of those resources.

Yet, the degree of nationalism within the Tory Party, and within large sections of the British population, including sections of the Labour Movement, its continued adherence to a “Little Englander” mentality, seems at present bound to drive the UK down this cul de sac to oblivion and irrelevance. Its not inevitable, but it definitely seems likely, unless a major change in attitudes is brought about. A large part, of this mentality is driven by the tabloid press, which in turn pumps out this reactionary nationalist crap, for its own economic reasons. It knows its audience of small minded people. Its aim is to sell papers, and if that means spewing out vile racist and nationalist garbage, claiming people were prevented from being deported because they owned a cat, and other such fabrications, then it will do so, just as it will organise campaigns against paedophiles, or hack into people's phones in order to solicit salacious stories.

The fact that it is not in the interests of Big Capital to go down this road, may be one reason that the biggest player in that market, the Murdoch Press, has come in for a sustained attack, and why it seems possible that other papers, such as the Daily Mail, may be next in the firing line. But, there is no absolute “Capital Logic”, which determines that this will be the case, just because it is what the dominant section of Capital requires. To argue that, which is what much of the Left tends to do, is functionalism not Marxism. How it plays out will depend upon class struggle, including class struggle within sections of Capital itself, as each jockeys for position.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Vote Yes For An EU Referendum

Tomorrow, Parliament will be voting on whether to hold a referendum on EU membership. Were I an MP, I would vote Yes. I would do so for several reasons. Firstly, opinion polls show around two-thirds of people want one. As a consistent democrat, I believe that British people have as much right to self-determination as anyone else. If they wish to exercise that right by voting on whether to be in or out of the EU, I support them. Secondly, Britain's membership of the EU – and that of most other member states – has always been based upon a false prospectus.
It was always claimed that all Britain was signing up to was a Common Market. In reality, as most of the original members states knew, it was always much more than that. It was established for political reasons. But, because that was never spelled out openly, the EEC, and then EU developed on the basis of bureaucratic manipulation. Thirdly, and following on from that, the current Eurozone Crisis shows why that kind of fudge cannot continue. If the EU is to continue, the crisis of the Eurozone has to be resolved, which can only be done via Fiscal and Political Union, and if fiscal and political union is to be brought about and be sustainable, it can only be on an EU wide basis. There can be no two-speed Europe, for anything other than a very short period.

In his writings on Self-Determination, Lenin was quite clear, and in my opinion correct. Lenin had no truck with the bourgeois-liberal notions about self-determination, which underpin the positions of organisations such as the AWL, or the SWP today.
For Lenin, it was not an absolute principle that Marxists had to advocate come what may. It is, in the end, merely a bourgeois democratic demand, not a socialist demand. Like all other bourgeois democratic demands, Marxists support it, only in so far as it assists the working-class in its struggle for Socialism. As Trotsky put it,

“But the formulae of democracy (freedom of press, the right to unionize, etc.) mean for us only incidental or episodic slogans in the independent movement of the proletariat and not a democratic noose fastened to the neck of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie’s agents (Spain!).”

The Transitional Programme

Lenin, followed Marx and Engels in believing that the small states were an impediment to historical development.
Just as the concentration and centralisation of Capital into monopolies was historically progressive, so too was the merging together of these small states into larger federations, or single states. On this basis, Lenin argued that Marxists should defend the RIGHT of nationalities to independence, but should argue AGAINST that right being used to establish new bourgeois democratic states, which would be historically reactionary, and lead to a division of the working-class. So, in just the same way that I would defend the Right of Scots to self-determination, as a Marxist, I would campaign against the separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom, because it would be a reactionary step. In the same way, I support the right of UK citizens to self-determination in relation to the EU, but I would campaign vigorously against the UK leaving the EU, because it too would be a reactionary step. In just the same way that Marxists do not advocate a return to a free market, and small industry as an alternative to monopoly and oligopoly, but instead argue for a move forward to workers' ownership of the means of production, so too we do not argue for a step backwards from larger states to smaller nation states, but argue for a move forwards to a more consistently democratic, and ultimately socialist United States of Europe.

The EEC, and then EU was established for two basic reasons. Firstly, the rise of the USA demonstrated to European Capital that if it was to compete on a global scale it needed the same kind of economic and political advantages that came with the size of a single state such as the USA. The USA had originally developed as a loose federation of states, such as the EU is.
But, as the US industrialised, it became obvious to US industrial Capital that it required a single centralised state. It was on that basis that the Civil War was fought to bring that about, and assert its dominance over the rights of the individual states. Had Napoleon or Hitler succeeded in their ambitions, a single European State would have been established in the same way. In reality, the export and interpenetration of Capital that occurred from the latter part of the 19th Century, meant that there already was in large part, a distinct European Capital. But, Big Capital, in particular, recognised that the continuation of national economies, national interests and so on hindered this development. It always threatened to break out into renewed conflict, which would further strengthen the US.

The EEC was a pragmatic response by Big Capital. It aimed at creating a single European State, but without the kind of Civil War that the US had undertaken, and without any one single country imposing its will militarily upon the others. But, herein lay the problem. By nature of the historical conditions under which the project took place, large sections of national capital had vested interests in continuing the protection they had, or sought from their own nation state. For, countries like Britain, and France with long Imperial histories the idea of ceding political power to a European State, was never going to be one they adopted gladly. And, with national identities, and cultural differences being fairly entrenched, it would require a considerable campaign by Big Capital to convince populations that they should support such a single state.

To have done so would have meant that Big Capital would have to have come out in open conflict against those within its own class, who were still in thrall to the ideas of nation, and Empire and all of the reactionary crap that goes along with it. For the small Capitalists, in particular, there were very real economic motivations for those ideas.
The Big Capitalists already operated across borders, whereas the small capitalists, often inefficient and reliant upon penny pinching measures, to stay in business, had their horizons set no further than the national market, and the protection they obtained from the nation state. The Big Capitalists had incorporated the Trades Unions via Fordism, and it was no problem for them to accept ideas of equality, free movement of labour and so on – the problems that women workers had in obtaining equal pay and status were frequently as much to do with the attitudes of male Trades Unionists as those of management in big companies – but for the penny pinching small capitalist, racism and sexism played an important part in dividing workers, so as to oppose Trades Unions and so on.

Engels described it well when he said,

“Thus the truck system was suppressed, the Ten Hours’ Bill [2] was enacted, and a number of other secondary reforms introduced — much against the spirit of Free Trade and unbridled competition, but quite as much in favour of the giant-capitalist in his competition with his less favoured brother.
Moreover, the larger the concern, and with it the number of hands, the greater the loss and inconvenience caused by every conflict between master and men; and thus a new spirit came over the masters, especially the large ones, which taught them to avoid unnecessary squabbles, to acquiesce in the existence and power of Trades’ Unions, and finally even to discover in strikes — at opportune times — a powerful means to serve their own ends. The largest manufacturers, formerly the leaders of the war against the working-class, were now the foremost to preach peace and harmony. And for a very good reason. The fact is that all these concessions to justice and philanthropy were nothing else but means to accelerate the concentration of capital in the hands of the few, for whom the niggardly extra extortions of former years had lost all importance and had become actual nuisances; and to crush all the quicker and all the safer their smaller competitors, who could not make both ends meet without such perquisites.”

Engels – The Condition of The Working Class in England

But, although the interests of Big Capital and Small Capital diverge in this way, and whilst Big Capital is happy to screw over its smaller brethren, it is still a part of that class, of whom the smaller Capitalists make up the larger proportion. It is one thing to screw them by what appear to be means of purely economic competition, or via bureaucratic means via access to the levers of the State, it is another to openly break the United Front that Capital seeks to present towards its class enemies. In the conditions of the Long Wave Boom, of the 1950's and 60's, the EEC could largely ignore these issues. It could proceed as a Common Market, with limited political intervention, whose major goal was to address the needs of Big Capital, and of those sections of the population where opposition might arise. The European Coal and Steel Community, was established not just as a means of promoting economic growth, but also of controlling those industries, which had been fundamental to the ability to wage war. The Common Agricultural Policy was a deliberate piece of regional policy aimed at the farmers, and peasants of Southern Europe. The development of Atomic Energy in Europe, was done so as to create the kinds of size of market, and economies of scale that would enable competition with the US.

But, economic competition within a single market necessarily implies that some level playing field exists for those doing the competing. When the Long Wave Boom came to an end, and competition becomes more sharp, the necessity for such common rules likewise becomes intensified. The establishment of those common rules requires some kind of centralised political decision making body to bring that about.
Without it, the kind of bickering, and demands for opt outs, such as those insisted on by the UK over the last 30 years, become inevitable. Big Capital needs a single European State, but the political dynamics make arguing for it difficult. Only a major political campaign waged by Big Capital, which would mean confronting some of the reactionary, nationalist prejudices that continue to dominate small capital, sections of the middle class, and the more backwards sections of the working-class would be capable of overcoming those difficulties, and winning a majority for the idea of a United States of Europe. I favour a referendum, precisely because it would force Big Capital to make that choice, to break with the small Capitalists, and the other reactionaries and nationalists.

That is important for the working-class, because whilst a single European State is in the interests of Big Capital, it is also in the interests of workers. Indeed, as Engels suggests, from the latter part of the 19th Century, there has been a confluence of interests between workers and the Big Capitalists, which is represented by the ideology of Social Democracy. It is in workers interests that Capital develops as rapidly, and efficiently as possible, because that raises workers living standards, and creates the conditions upon which the transition to Socialism is made easier.
It is not in our interests that continued competition between nation states continues, and that the concomitant of that – a race to the bottom, of wages and conditions – is allowed to proceed. Instead of the opt outs that British Governments have sought, we need to insist that British workers obtain the same rights and benefits as other European workers.

On TV today, I had Robert Winston argue that the Working Time Directive had been disastrous for medical training of Junior Doctors in Britain. This is the same training that had seen those doctors working 70 hours a week, some of them falling asleep on the job, and resorting to stimulants to stay awake. But, what is it about British Medical Training that was so inefficient that it could not cope with doctors working reasonable hours?
France has probably the best Health Service in the world, yet it does not seem to have had trouble training its doctors whilst complying with the Working Time Directive. The Health Service in Germany, Holland, Spain and elsewhere are also not too shabby, certainly they are superior to the NHS, yet they too have not had problems training their doctors whilst complying with the WTD. Workers need a single European State, with common rules and regulations to protect them wherever they live, for precisely these reasons, to prevent penny-pinching Capitalists, and inefficient bureaucrats making up for their own inefficiency, by imposing worse conditions on their workers.

This is the other reason we need a referendum on membership of the EU. As part of that referendum, and campaign around it, we do need to renegotiate Britain's relation to the EU. That renegotiation needs to be one, however, that workers across Europe are part of. We need a United States of Europe that will meet workers needs. We need, conventions called across Europe to discuss the type of Europe, we the people of Europe, want.
Constitutional Conventions should discuss the Constitution, and basic principles upon which it should be founded. We need to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe, in order to scrap all of the existing opt outs, and to ensure that all future decision making is done by a democratically elected European Parliament, that in turn elects a European Government. The Capitalists Europe, established the power of the Brussels bureaucracy, of the proto European State in the form of the European Commission, because they were not prepared to wage a political struggle to win clear support for the establishment of a democratic European State. We the workers must now correct that democratic deficit, by calling for the scrapping of the Commission, and for a thorough democratisation of all EU institutions.

In order to bring this about, we need to build Europe wide, Labour Movement organisations – a single European Trade Union Movement, a single European Workers Party, and a single European Co-operative Federation. Such a Labour Movement, as Marx and Engels did with the First International could make considerable headway in insisting upon, and taking action to establish a Minimum Programme of demands.
Common, enforceable Trades Union rates of pay across Europe, a common retirement age for all workers, a 35 hour week across the continent, common pensions and benefits throughout Europe, common rights for Maternity and Paternity Leave, and so on. In place of a race to the bottom, a single European State facilitates a struggle for a levelling up, and a common struggle of all Europe's workers.

* Yes to an EU referendum
* Yes to a single European Labour Movement
* Yes to a United States of Europe

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Northern Soul Classics - My Baby's Coming Back To Me - Bobby Patterson

Another sound that reminds me of Saturday night at the Top Rank. Classic floater from Bobby Patterson.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Where Now For Libya?

Gaddafi is gone. Good Riddance. His demise was fitting for what had gone before. Although, he was captured and executed by Libyans, it was only made possible because his convoy was bombed using the high-tech weapons of Imperialism. So much for Imperialism only being engaged in a “No Fly Zone”. The Imperialist War against Libya was launched on the basis of preventing a massacre of civilians in Benghazi.
On that basis pro-imperialist organisations such as the AWL justified Imperialism's War. The AWL misquoted Trotsky's statement, about not standing by while blood soaked tyrants carried out atrocities, to justify their support for the blood soaked tyrants of Imperialism, and the latest massacres they were about to unleash. The War ended with that same Imperialism carrying out a two month bombing campaign against the people of Sirte, which, together with the bombardment of those civilians, by the forces of the new Libyan State, created what the Red Cross and others described as a humanitarian catastrophe. But, just as Trotsky's actual quote was a critique of those like Miliukov, who cherry picked which massacres to speak out against, the AWL said absolutely nothing about the massacre of the people of Sirte being carried out by Imperialism, and the new Libyan State.

For all the hand wringing about whether Gaddafi should have been summarily executed or not, this is not a pressing issue for socialists. He was no friend of ours, and like some bourgeois commentators said, he could have acted as a pole of attraction for his forces to have continued to fight. The bourgeoisie, and their apologists should remember that rational conclusion the next time they wish to criticise the Bolsheviks for executing that other tyrant, the Tsar of Russia, for exactly the same reason!
However, just because we can be glad he is gone does not mean that what replaces him will necessarily be better! In 1979, we could be glad that the Shah of Iran had gone, but arguably, the rule of Khomeini that replaced him was worse. The strength of Marxism is that it does not see these kinds of historical events as being some kind of accident, or of being simply the fruition of some ideal in the minds of Men.
Marxism allows us to understand that these historical processes are the working out of the material interests of competing social groups, which are themselves formed ultimately by the material conditions existing within the particular society. Socialism was just as much a desirable goal in the 17th. and 18th. Centuries, as it was in the 19th. and 20th. Centuries and is now, but Marxism provides the tools to understand why Socialism was not possible in those previous times, however much it might have been desired by the real people living then, and why, in fact, those that sought to achieve it, were merely Idealists and Utopians, who frequently ended up as reactionaries, because they failed to recognise the historically progressive role that Capitalism was playing in creating the conditions that would make Socialism possible.

What the future holds for Libya lies in the hands of real human beings, in what they do, but what those real human beings do is not unrelated to what they perceive to be their own immediate and longer term interest. What they perceive to be their interests, in turn depends upon the material conditions existing in Libya, and how this determines what class they belong to, and what class they see the potential for quickly entering.
It depends upon whether they belong to a tribe that is likely to be favoured in the new arrangements, or has been one of the tribes that was favoured by Gaddafi, and is likely, therefore, to see its benefits, at the least, removed, and at worse, is discriminated against, as other tribes benefit. It will depend also upon other factors that are immediately ideological, yet act with the power of a material force, but which themselves have roots in the material conditions. The power of the clergy has always been bound up with the low level of modernisation of a society, and the continued vestiges of Landlordism.
It is not an accident that fundamentalist religion in the United States is strong in the country areas, but weak in the big cities. It is no accident that fundamentalist religion is strongest in those parts of the Middle East, where essentially pre-Capitalist relations exist, and where the economy remains largely rent based, even if it is rent received from the extraction of oil. Even in those societies where a measure of industrialisation exists, such as Iran, the power of the clergy is based in the countryside, with its main opposition coming from within the Cities, and urban areas.

It was the fact that this clergy had its own ideology, its own social base, and its own disciplined organisation that enabled it to fill the power vacuum in Iran after the downfall of the Shah.
Given that it has been the Islamist fighters that have been the most organised group in Libya, that have most of the arms, and whose leader is now the military chief in Tripoli, and given that they have a clear ideology around which to mobilise, compared to the vague and disparate ideas of the middle class forces that make up the front of the TNC, it is likely that the same process will unfold in Libya. That is particularly likely given the support for the revolt that has been provided from outside, by other feudal, Islamist Gulf states. On the other hand, there are other material forces at work. The European Imperialist forces that pushed for this war against Libya, particularly France, did so for their own economic, political and strategic interests.
Gaddafi, at least, for forty-two years kept the Oil in Libyan hands. It now looks likely that it will be privatised and transferred to the ownership of European Capitalists. They did not build up links with those elements of the Gaddafi regime, that now sit on the Transitional National Council, for nothing. They have not spent blood and treasure fighting this war for nothing either. Plans were long ago drawn up for putting boots on the ground under cover of providing assistance for reconstruction, and the building of democracy. That would undoubtedly be the basis for a new war, presented as merely a policing action, to disarm those elements that refused to lay down their arms and submit to the power of a new state authority.
On the other hand, the imperialists may well decide to live with a new Islamist regime in Libya, depending upon its nature, in the same way that they live quite happily with the Islamist regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and so on. For so long, as they see these economies merely as sources of cheap oil, there is no need to push for the kind of modernisation, and establishment of bourgeois democracy that is required for a modern industrialised state. Libya, more than most of the Gulf states falls into that category.

As a Marxist, it is of course, very tempting to argue that what is desirable for Libya is Socialism. But, it is precisely Marxism, which enables us to see why that is not an option. At the very least, Socialism would only be possible in Libya today on the back of an Arab socialist revolution spreading across the whole region, but not only does that seem unlikely under current conditions, but it is not clear that given the reality of the current global capitalist economy, that the productive forces within those states are themselves sufficiently developed to make such a revolution possible, let alone sustainable. In reality, such a revolution could probably only succeed if it quickly obtained the support of a revolution throughout much of Europe, which again seems unlikely. It is then tempting to argue that if Socialism is not possible, then at least the establishment of some form of bourgeois democracy would be desirable. But, again, the strength of Marxism is to force us to examine the material reality and to determine not what is desirable, but what is achievable, what is likely, what offers the best conditions for the working class to advance, and thereby to make Socialism possible at some point in the future.

What this analysis, based upon consideration of the material conditions, existing within society, enables us to do, is to locate cause and effect, and to understand, on that basis, that when we see the same phenomena repeat itself, it is not due to accident or whim. If we look across the Middle East and North Africa, and see the absence of bourgeois democracy, we are able to understand why this is without resort to subjective – and often racist – explanations of why that is, such as that Arabs are not capable of it, due to their nature.
Of course, Arabs are as capable of establishing bourgeois democracy as anyone else, provided that the appropriate material conditions exist for them to do so! The reason they have not done so, is precisely because of the absence of those material conditions. It is no accident that, in those countries where the economy has been almost solely based upon pre-capitalist economic relations, that pre-capitalist forms of political regime exist. It is no accident that in a number of Arab states, where a measure of industrialisation and modernisation has been attempted, these societies have thrown up Bonapartist regimes such as those of the Shah, or of Nasser, or Saddam, or Gaddafi.

In nature, where we see something that repeats itself, it is invariably because the process of evolution has discovered that this feature is beneficial, that it is the most efficient means of achieving a given task. So, we see that once the eye developed, it was repeated across species. The reason is that the eye is extremely beneficial. It offers significant advantages to any creature that has it. That does not mean that all eyes are exactly the same, but they are all eyes. Not all Bonapartist regimes are the same, but they are all Bonapartist regimes, and they have arisen, because history has found that they are a most effective means, under certain conditions, for achieving its aims.

Trotsky analysed Bonapartism in considerable detail. He distinguished between two different types of Bonapartism. Firstly, there is that type which arises in the context of a process of development.
It arises, because the society needs to modernise, to industrialise in order to compete in a global environment. But, whilst it needs to do this, the domestic bourgeoisie is too weak to assume political leadership – itself a consequence of the lack of development – in its own right. We can see such regimes in the case of Napoleon, of Bismark, and of Louis Phillippe and Louis Bonaparte. In these instances, the State itself rises up above society, and carries through the historical task of modernisation and industrialisation.
In so doing, it necessarily creates the conditions for the development of a more powerful bourgeoisie, middle class and proletariat, which in turn establishes the conditions under which bourgeois democracy can exist. Trotsky saw the limitations of this because of the need for the bourgeoisie to rely on the support of the workers, who would press their own interests. He argued in Permanent Revolution that the workers would be forced to continue the revolution beyond the bourgeois revolution to the socialist revolution. However, what history shows is that to the extent that this occurs under conditions, where Big Capital can make concessions to the workers, through the establishment of Social Democracy, it can buy them off via higher wages, and better conditions, and through the establishment of a Welfare State. Moreover, to the extent that the Landlord Class themselves become Capitalists, their interests and those of the industrial Capitalists converge.

Trotsky argued that this kind of Bonapartism could be seen elsewhere, and under similar conditions, carrying out a similar modernising role. That is how he viewed the Cardenas regime in Mexico, for example. Because, these regimes acted to develop the productive forces, and thereby created the conditions for human progress towards Socialism, he viewed these regimes as progressive.
That did not imply any kind of subjective, moral judgement about these regimes, which could be extremely brutal. He made the same kind of analysis in relation to Stalinism. Once again, the ruling class, in this case the workers, was too weak to assume political leadership, again a consequence of the lack of development. In order to bring about that development, it was forced to cede that role to its State. In so far as it acted to develop the productive forces, and thereby to create the material conditions under which the workers could develop, and thereby take power in their own name, it was historically progressive. Again this implied no moral judgement about the nature of the regime itself, which he amply denigrated in his writings for its crudeness and brutality.

But, the second type of Bonapartism identified by Trotsky was where development had occurred, and the bourgeoisie had become strong, but where it had become relatively weak due to the rise of the workers as a revolutionary class. Here the State rises above the contending classes not due to an absolute weakness of the bourgeoisie, not in order to bring about development of the productive forces, but merely as a necessity for keeping down the revolutionary class, and its political ambitions. Such a Bonapartism is reactionary. Fascism, Trotsky says is a specific form of such Bonapartism.

If we look at the Bonapartist regimes that exist or have existed across the Middle East and North Africa, they are primarily of the first kind. They have arisen, from revolutions waged against existing feudal monarchies, such as those which exist in the Gulf States. Their goal has been to overthrow those existing feudal relations, and to bring about some form of modernisation and industrialisation. To that extent they have been progressive, however, much we might feel distaste for the methods they have adopted. We are Marxists not Moralists. The methods used by British Capitalism in the 19th Century were hardly without criticism for their brutality, yet Marx emphasised their historically progressive nature. Given the role of those feudal Gulf States in supporting the rebels, given the role of the Islamists within the revolt, given the base of the revolt in Benghazi, which has been traditionally the source of support for the old Monarchy, and the fact that the old Monarchist flag has been adopted by the rebellion, and given the fact that Libya remains largely a rent based, pre-capitalist economy, the chances that what might transpire is a counter-revolution, cannot be dismissed.

The most likely outcomes for Libya are either a return to some kind of Feudal Monarchist regime, or else the establishment of some form of Islamic State. Neither offer the Libyan workers much, if any, improvement over the horror they have faced under Gaddafi. The least likely outcome is some kind of stable bourgeois democratic regime, however, much we or the Libyan people might wish that to be the case. As Marx put it, “Man creates his own history, but under conditions not of his own choosing.” Or as Engels describes their theory in this regard, in his letter to Bloch,

“...history is made in such a way that the final result always arises from conflicts between many individual wills, of which each in turn has been made what it is by a host of particular conditions of life.
Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant — the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition. For what each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.”

And in Libya there are no shortage of such conflicting wills. Libya is wracked by what political sociologists call cross-cutting cleavages. That is, as well as the horizontal stratification of the society on the basis of class, and status divisions, it is also vertically divided by divisions along tribal, ethnic, and historic lines.
Given the lack of any established civil society, the normal means by which these divisions are managed is missing. In a society where these divisions are hardened by tradition and history, reinforced by economic advantages that are tied to them, and where they are backed up with a large number of guns it would be surprising if it were not to lead to conflict. In fact, it is precisely these kinds of conditions that tends to create the conditions for a Bonapartist regime to rise up in order to establish order. The solution to these kinds of division has traditionally arisen when the bourgeoisie has become strong enough to establish its rule securely, and has been able to smooth over the vertical divisions, by establishing a range of organs of civil society to control and manage them, and when the development of the economy has been sufficient to buy off the working-class with various reforms. But the conditions for that do not exist in Libya. There is neither a sizeable nor powerful bourgeoisie, and consequently no sizeable working-class either.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Oil accounts for 95% of Libyan Exports, 25% of GDP, and 80% of Government revenue. 60% of the population are employed in Services, many of these being employed by the State, or else are petit-bourgeois traders. A large number of workers employed in the Oil industry, and other industries, are in fact foreign nationals. This is a very narrow base upon which to try to build bourgeois democracy. Not only have these kinds of rent based economies traditionally led to a political superstructure that supports some form of feudal regime, or else some form of Bonapartist regime, but the fact that Libya has such potentially large oil revenues, and such a small population, means that these revenues provide huge power for the central State, which controls these revenues, and controls foreign investment in the oil and associated industries. Who controls the State controls the country. There will be a huge incentive for particular groups to try to monopolise that power for itself. No one has sought to deny that huge divisions exist between the many different groups within Libya, nor that the only thing that held them together was a hatred of Gaddafi. Now that glue has been liquidated, and the eruption of those divisions is almost inevitable.

The main function now for Marxists is to try to provide what assistance they can for Libyan workers for what they now face. It is essential that the Libyan workers maintain strict separation and independence from the other forces in Libya, and begin to develop their own organisations in opposition to them.