Saturday, 25 February 2012

Northern Soul Classics - Don't Stop Doing What You're Doing - Bunny Sigler

Also known as "I only Get This Feeling", and also done by the great Big Dee Irwin, as well as Chuck Jackson. I remember this on many good occasions from the early Torch, as well as played in front rooms with some of my mates. Great track from the fantastic Bunny Sigler who also brought us "Let The Good Times Roll", and the other Northern classic "Follow Your Heart".

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Phoney Jobs - At Best

The wheels have been coming off many of the Tories plans in the last week. The Health Reform Bill is causing them considerable trouble, with the Liberals facing a rebellion from the grass roots. In the last few days it has been their Workfare scheme that has run into trouble.

The Tories measures put forward udner the guise of "Work Experience" for the unemployed, came in for attack after Tesco advertised a job that paid only JSA. In other words a company that produces billions of pounds of profits for its share holders each year was employing workers at the taxpayers expense. Of course, these kinds of McJobs are different from the kind of unpaid internships that the well heeled can afford to place their kids in, so that they get an advantage over others in jobs that ultimately pay above average wages. The idea that anyone is getting any kind of real training, from filling super market shelves over night is laughable.

Then yesterday, it was reported in the press that one of the companies that has been advising the Liberal-Tories on these schemes has seen four people arrested on charges of fraud! The scheme, like the Health Bill has become so toxic that no one now wants to touch it. All of the Health bodies have distanced themselves from the Health Bill, now Tesco and many more companies are distancing themselves from the Liberal-Tory workfare scheme.

As during the 1980's, all of these kinds of schemes are a sham, and provide far more opportunities for State bureaucrats to provide themselves with jobs, and various businesses to make profits from providing "training", "work experience" and so on, than provide anything useful for the unemployed, who want real jobs, at proper rates of pay.

A couple of weeks ago I had the misfortune of having to go into the City Centre. I happened by a private Job Agency, and had a look in their window. They had a range of very low paid jobs, but interspeersed amongst them were a number of better paid jobs, for Managers, Supervisors and Administrators, most of which required the applicant to be able to speak a foreign language. One of them particularly took my attention. It required someone who could speak Swiss. I thought of going in to enquire about it, and to say I could speak Swiss better than anyone in the world. That would have been true, for the simple reason that there is no Swiss language! Switzerland has three official languages - German, French and Italian, but not a single "Swiss" language.

What kind of firm, I wondered required someone who spoke a non-existent language? Well none, I concluded. What they were really advertising was not a job for someone to speak a non-existent language, but a non-existent job, designed to get people through the door.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Northern Soul Classics - Someday We're Gonna Love Again - Barbara Lewis

I thought I'd have a few weeks of featuring stuff from the Torch from the late 60's, early 70's, before the all-nighters. Where better to start than with this classic from Barbara Lewis.

Friday, 17 February 2012

History Repeating As Farce - Part 8

Big Capital failed to carry through its own revolution consistently, particularly in Britain, and instead of confronting these ideas openly, that permeate the whole of society, and which would, therefore, require it to confront them within the ranks of its own class, it preferred to proceed bureaucratically. Instead of waging an open political struggle against these ideas, it chose police methods, attempting instead to outlaw such ideas through legislation such as Race Relations and other such laws, which have, and could only have, the opposite effect to that which was intended. The classic manifestation of that is in relation to the EU, where, rather than waging an open struggle, for the establishment of a new democratic EU State, it has proceeded by the same kind of bureaucratic methods, attempting to establish such a state by stealth.

These struggles are also playing out in a similar, behind the scenes, manner within the Tory Party itself, which is why it periodically breaks out in open warfare over Europe. The outcome of these struggles will no doubt illuminate the complex web that ties sections of the gutter press, to sections of the Tory Party and their co-thinkers within UKIP, to sections of Money Capital based in the City, to sections of the State, in the same way that such links were exposed over phone hacking.

This has echoes itself of the situation that Marx was describing in the 18th Brumaire. After, the French Revolution, as part of the land reforms, which broke up the power of the old feudal aristocracy, the peasants were encouraged to also borrow large amounts of money to develop their new properties. Having done so, they were to find later that, having increased output, food prices fell, meanwhile the mortgages on their properties increased. Instead of being exploited by the old Aristocracy in the form of Rent, they were now being cruelly exploited by the Aristocracy of Finance in the form of Interest. Marx writes,

“After the first Revolution had transformed the semi-feudal peasants into freeholders, Napoleon confirmed and regulated the conditions in which they could exploit undisturbed the soil of France which they had only just acquired, and could slake their youthful passion for property. But what is now ruining the French peasant is his small holding itself, the division of the land and the soil, the property form which Napoleon consolidated in France. It is exactly these material conditions which made the feudal peasant a small-holding peasant and Napoleon an emperor. Two generations sufficed to produce the unavoidable result: progressive deterioration of agriculture and progressive indebtedness of the agriculturist. The “Napoleonic” property form, which at the beginning of the nineteenth century was the condition of the emancipation and enrichment of the French countryfolk, has developed in the course of this century into the law of their enslavement and their pauperism. And just this law is the first of the “Napoleonic ideas” which the second Bonaparte has to uphold. If he still shares with the peasants the illusion that the cause of their ruin is to be sought not in the small holdings themselves but outside them – in the influence of secondary circumstances – his experiments will shatter like soap bubbles when they come in contact with the relations of production.

The economic development of small-holding property has radically changed the peasants’ relations with the other social classes. Under Napoleon the fragmentation of the land in the countryside supplemented free competition and the beginning of big industry in the towns. The peasant class was the ubiquitous protest against the recently overthrown landed aristocracy. The roots that small-holding property struck in French soil deprived feudalism of all nourishment. The landmarks of this property formed the natural fortification of the bourgeoisie against any surprise attack by its old overlords. But in the course of the nineteenth century the urban usurer replaced the feudal one, the mortgage replaced the feudal obligation, bourgeois capital replaced aristocratic landed property. The peasant’s small holding is now only the pretext that allows the capitalist to draw profits, interest, and rent from the soil, while leaving it to the agriculturist himself to see to it how he can extract his wages. The mortgage debt burdening the soil of France imposes on the French peasantry an amount of interest equal to the annual interest on the entire British national debt. Small-holding property, in this enslavement by capital toward which its development pushes it unavoidably, has transformed the mass of the French nation into troglodytes. Sixteen million peasants (including women and children) dwell in caves, a large number of which have but one opening, others only two and the most favored only three. Windows are to a house what the five senses are to the head. The bourgeois order, which at the beginning of the century set the state to stand guard over the newly emerged small holdings and fertilized them with laurels, has become a vampire that sucks the blood from their hearts and brains and casts them into the alchemist’s caldron of capital. The Code Napoléon is now nothing but the codex of distraints, of forced sales and compulsory auctions. To the four million (including children, etc.) officially recognized paupers, vagabonds, criminals, and prostitutes in France must be added another five million who hover on the margin of existence and either have their haunts in the countryside itself or, with their rags and their children, continually desert the countryside for the towns and the towns for the countryside. Therefore the interests of the peasants are no longer, as under Napoleon, in accord with, but are now in opposition to bourgeois interests, to capital. Hence they find their natural ally and leader in the urban proletariat, whose task it is to overthrow the bourgeois order. But “strong and unlimited government” - and this is the second “Napoleonic idea” that the second Napoleon has to carry out – is called upon to defend this “material order” by force. This “material order” also serves, in all Bonaparte’s proclamations, as the slogan against the rebellious peasants. 
In addition to the mortgage which capital imposes on it, the small holding is burdened by taxes. Taxes are the life source of the bureaucracy, the army, the priests, and the court – in short, of the entire apparatus of the executive power. Strong government and heavy taxes are identical. By its very nature, small-holding property forms a basis for an all-powerful and numberless bureaucracy. It creates a uniform level of personal and economic relationships over the whole extent of the country. Hence it also permits uniform action from a supreme centre on all points of this uniform mass. It destroys the aristocratic intermediate steps between the mass of the people and the power of the state. On all sides, therefore, it calls forth the direct intrusion of this state power and the interposition of its immediate organs. Finally, it produces an unemployed surplus population which can find no place either on the land or in the towns and which perforce reaches out for state offices as a sort of respectable alms, and provokes the creation of additional state positions. By the new markets which he opened with bayonets, and by the plundering of the Continent, Napoleon repaid the compulsory taxes with interest. These taxes were a spur to the industry of the peasant, whereas now they rob his industry of its last resources and complete his defenselessness against pauperism. An enormous bureaucracy, well gallooned and well fed, is the “Napoleonic idea” which is most congenial to the second Bonaparte. How could it be otherwise, considering that alongside the actual classes of society, he is forced to create an artificial caste for which the maintenance of his regime becomes a bread-and-butter question? Hence one of his first financial operations was the raising of officials’ salaries to their old level and the creation of new sinecures.”

I have included this lengthy description in full, because it is so clearly a parallel for what we see today. For Napoleon read Thatcher, for the nephew read Cameron. For the old feudal property read Council Housing and large scale manufacturing employment, and for the new peasant property read owner occupation, self-employment, and the encouragement of small businesses, buy-to let, and a host of other enterprises whose existence are dependent upon unsustainable levels of private debt, and unsustainably low interest rates. And increasingly, those that lose their jobs are being encouraged to go into debt, and to imperil any money they have, through self-employment. As the unsustainable levels of interest threaten to collapse into a new Credit Crunch, as we see the reality of private debt, and the real level of interest rates being manifest in the return of the usurers offering Pay Day Loans with an interest rate of up to 4000% p.a., we see the beginning once again of “distraints, of forced sales, and compulsory auctions.” Many of those things have already occurred in the US, in Ireland and Spain, and must happen here too before too long. Already, as the property site Property Snake shows, even asking prices for houses are down by as much as 50%, and selling prices are on average 40% below average asking prices!

But, its upon this social strata, of the petit-bourgeoisie, of the aspiring Middle Class, particularly its more reactionary sections that Cameron is based, just as was Louis Bonaparte.

Over the last 30 years large sections of the population were encouraged to become home owners, and to take on huge amounts of debt to achieve it. They have given up a certain amount of security as tenants, for the insecurity arising from the possibility of being unable to pay their mortgage. They have exchanged the exploitation of the landlord, for the exploitation of the Bank. In fact, many, like the French peasants, described here, are really in a position not of home owners, but of tenants of the Bank or Building Society. Moreover, the Tory ideology also continually stresses the idea that everyone can simply become some kind of self-employed petit-bourgeois, despite the fact that all the evidence shows that the vast majority of such enterprises fail within just a few years, usually owing large amounts again to the Bank.

If it is not investment in such puny Capitals, it is the idea of investing in “human Capital”, an idea which chimes with the aspirations of the Middle Class, whose children then also become enmeshed in a web of unending debt to cover Tuition Fees, and other expenses. The irony being that the very policies of austerity that the Government is pursuing will be the very policies that lead to the unemployment that will make those debts impossible to repay, and which will then lead to personal defaults on debt, and which will in turn cause a tremendous crash in the prices of property.

The question here then is whether, under such conditions, Cameron will find himself pushed aside by some Crapulinsky, whether the bourgeoisie will find themselves the subject of attacks by an army of those “scum, offal and refuse” that comprise the lumpen proletariat. As Marx points out above, the conditions that created the ruin of the small holding peasants were conditions which made them the natural allies of the urban proletariat. But, the politicians of that proletariat, be they the official leaders within the Labour Party, or their would be replacements in the various left sects have tied themselves too closely to the ideas of statism, and the high taxation policies that go with it, and which were criticised by Marx above, to be able to win over these social groups. Far more likely that they will be pushed even further to the Right under such conditions.

Marxists have to offer workers, and their natural allies within these intermediate classes, an alternative.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

History Repeating As Farce - Part 7

“But it is precisely with the maintenance of that extensive state machine in its numerous ramifications that the material interests of the French bourgeoisie are interwoven in the closest fashion. Here it finds posts for its surplus population and makes up in the form of state salaries for what it cannot pocket in the form of profit, interest, rents, and honorariums. On the other hand, its political interests compelled it to increase daily the repressive measures and therefore the resources and the personnel of the state power, while at the same time it had to wage an uninterrupted war against public opinion and mistrustfully mutilate, cripple, the independent organs of the social movement, where it did not succeed in amputating them entirely. Thus the French bourgeoisie was compelled by its class position to annihilate, on the one hand, the vital conditions of all parliamentary power, and therefore, likewise, of its own, and to render irresistible, on the other hand, the executive power hostile to it.” (ibid Chapter 4)

Here is a clear statement of Marx's view of the Capitalist State, and its function. In fact, as stated above, today, in addition to this description, of that State, would be added those elements of Social Democracy that enable Capital not only to maintain itself in power, but also to ensure the necessary reproduction of Labour Power i.e. the modern Welfare State. The operation of this State is always a matter of leaning at one time on the former repressive means, and at others on the latter, sometimes a mixture of the two at the same time.

So, Cameron's shift from “hug a hoody”, to gaol a looter shows a willingness to speak in terms of social conscience, whilst being prepared to resort to repressive state measures. The latter was no doubt founded not just upon an attempt to crush such action, but also a populist appeal to those reactionary elements across society that form the electoral base of the Tories. Yet, the currently dominant section of the Tories represent the biggest looters, the Money Capitalists, whose actions have thrown millions into severe debt, and came close to collapsing the global financial system. They are the same Money Capitalists, who are still paying themselves millions of pounds in salaries and bonuses and dividends. The same political stance can be seen in the Tories position on Immigration, which is designed to appeal to those same reactionary elements. In doing so, it cuts some of the ground from beneath forces to their Right such as UKIP, and the BNP. They are policies that appeal to the “scum, offal refuse of all classes” as Marx describes the lumpen proletariat. Yet, daily, representatives of Capital declare how these policies are undermining its need to recruit suitable Labour Power.

In France, the Party of Order was comprised of Orleanists and Legitimists, representatives of the two Royal Houses, the former representing Money Capital, and the latter representing Landed Property. Today, the Tory Party is made up of elements who represent the Aristocracy of Finance and of Landed Property, as well as representatives of industrial capital. The latter are, in effect, those elements who would in the 19th Century have been represented within the Liberal Party. The Tories Liberal partners, are comprised of Orange Book Liberals, (representatives also of Industrial Capital), and more openly Social Democratic elements, whose positions are determined by the need to win votes in more working-class areas. They reflect the essentially schizophrenic nature of the Liberals, seeking here to win the votes of workers and the Liberal intelligentsia.

Campo, Foggy Osbourne & Cleggy
In France, the divisions split apart the Party of Order, which had relied on a a coalition with bourgeois Republicans, and the Social Democrats of the Montagne. Unable to control events, the Party of Order allowed itself to be controlled by events. As Marx put it, it became subject to the “mere power of the calendar.” The Liberals find themselves similarly in alliance with a Party of Order, and trapped by it, unable to control events, and thereby allowing events to control them. The only thing they can do is to watch the Calendar as the days to their own “complete disintegration” are ticked off.

“The parliamentary party was not only dissolved into its two great factions, each of these factions was not only split up within itself, but the party of Order in parliament had fallen out with the party of Order outside parliament. The spokesmen and scribes of the bourgeoisie, its platform and its press — in short, the ideologists of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie itself, the representatives and the represented — faced one another in estrangement and no longer understood one another.” (ibid Chapter 6)

As yet, this conflict, within the ranks of Capital, has not broken out into open warfare, but proceeds along diplomatic channels. The austerity measures being pursued by Cameron – and by like minded right-wing populists elsewhere – are increasingly recognised as counter-productive to the interests of Big Industrial Capital. The US, which has used Keynesian intervention on a large scale for the last three years, has managed to grow its economy, and create jobs, despite the drag that European austerity and recession has exerted on it. The ideologists and managers of international Capitalism, in the IMF, in the OECD, in Standard & Poor's, and in national bodies such as the NIESR, all openly proclaim that austerity is killing the patient, but they will not openly attack any individual country's policy, or tell them to change course. In Britain, even the City, whose interests Cameron sought to defend, in his walk-out from the EU, told him that his actions, in isolating Britain, were counter-productive. Big business repeatedly warns that the Tories Immigration policies are damaging their interests, because they cannot recruit the labour-power they need. But, as yet, this is all low key. If the current measures continue, and threaten the interests of Big Capital it may not remain that way.

“Far more fateful and decisive was the breach of the commercial bourgeoisie with its politicians. It reproached them not as the Legitimists reproached theirs, with having abandoned their principles, but on the contrary, with clinging to principles that had become useless.” (ibid)

Big Capital is content with Labour Governments. They most closely represent the ideas of the Social-Democratic consensus. It is merely a political form of the compromise it has reached with the Trades Unions, which act as a safety valve, for the working-class, in one direction, and a conduit of bourgeois ideas in the other. But, Big Capital, although economically and politically strong, in the sense that it can use its resources and connections and ideologists, to shape the actions of States, is weak, precisely because of its tiny size, comprising perhaps just one hundredth of a percent of the population. It was precisely for that reason it needed the working-class electorally. Its problem with bourgeois democracy is that it cannot, even then, guarantee to win. Its further problem is that its smaller brethren, are more numerous, and more able, therefore, to exert political influence upon the natural Party of Capital.

“The French bourgeoisie balked at the domination of the working proletariat; it has brought the lumpen proletariat to domination, with the Chief of the Society of December 10 at the head.”(Chapter 7)

Bonaparte represented the small holding peasants. Cameron represents their modern equivalent. He represents the small capitalists, the middle class, and backward sections of workers. It is their ideas that are reflected in the Tories policies, it is they who make up the bulk of the Tory Party members, and its electoral base. And, just as Bonaparte represented not the revolutionary elements within the peasantry, but the reactionary elements, it is not the Guardian reading petit-bourgeois that Cameron attracts, but the reactionary Mail and Express reading middle class.

“The bourgeoisie, in truth, is bound to fear the stupidity of the masses so long as they remain conservative, and the insight of the masses as soon as they become revolutionary.” (ibid)

Of course, a major reason for the stupidity of the masses, is the failure of Big Capital to carry through its own revolution to a conclusion. Big Capital has means of disseminating its ideas through its own house journals, such as the FT, The Economist and their equivalents. It is able to develop its ideas through its Universities. But, at the same time, the very functioning of Capitalism, and the search for profit, means that, alongside this, exists the gutter press, which garners readers by appealing to the basest instincts. Not only do these vile organs promote the most crass individualism, but they promote all of those ideas that are the very antipathy of the ideas of “Egalite, Fraternite, and Liberte”, that were the slogans under which the bourgeois revolution was fought. Instead, they promote bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other shit of ages that the bourgeois revolution should have swept away forever.

Back To Part 6

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

History Repeating As Farce - Part 6

Marx's description wonderfully illustrates the complex dialectical dynamics that operate within the political superstructure. He writes,

“The period that we have before us comprises the most motley mixture of crying contradictions: constitutionalists who conspire openly against the constitution; revolutionists who are confessedly constitutional; a National Assembly that wants to be omnipotent and always remains parliamentary; a Montagne that finds its vocation in patience and counters its present defeats by prophesying future victories; royalists who form the patres conscripti [elders] of the republic and are forced by the situation to keep the hostile royal houses they adhere to abroad, and the republic, which they hate, in France; an executive power that finds its strength in its very weakness and its respectability in the contempt that it calls forth; a republic that is nothing but the combined infamy of two monarchies, the Restoration and the July Monarchy, with an imperial label – alliances whose first proviso is separation; struggles whose first law is indecision; wild, inane agitation in the name of tranquillity, most solemn preaching of tranquillity in the name of revolution – passions without truth, truths without passion; heroes without heroic deeds, history without events..”

Could there be a more poetic refutation of those Marxists who operate with a purely mechanistic, and economic determinist method, and who see in the words of bourgeois politicians the mere reflection of the interests of the bourgeoisie, or of some Capital logic?

“Upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence, rises an entire superstructure of distinct and peculiarly formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought, and views of life. The entire class creates and forms them out of its material foundations and out of the corresponding social relations. The single individual, who derives them through tradition and upbringing, may imagine that they form the real motives and the starting point of his activity. While each faction, Orleanists and Legitimists, sought to make itself and the other believe that it was loyalty to the two royal houses which separated them, facts later proved that it was rather their divided interests which forbade the uniting of the two royal houses. And as in private life one differentiates between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does, so in historical struggles one must distinguish still more the phrases and fancies of parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality.”

Marx also correctly identifies the nature of Social-Democracy, not in terms of specific parties, but as an ideological strand. Here, Marx identifies the ideas that lie behind Social-Democracy with the petit-bourgeoisie, with the particular interests of a social strata that stands between Capital and Labour, and for whom the idea of progress outside the class struggle, or avoiding class struggle seems natural. But, as Engels pointed out in his Prefaces to the Condition of the Working Class, written near the end of his life, what Social Democracy actually became was a form of bourgeois democracy, in which this was institutionalised. It represented an historic compromise between Big Industrial Capital and Labour, manifest in Fordism in production, and Welfarism in the State. As such, for so long as the needs of Capital Accumulation facilitated it, politicians, in all parties, could advance the ideas enshrined within Social Democracy. Those ideas could as easily be advanced by the US Democrats, as German Social Democrats, by French Gaullists as British Labourists. They were manifest in what became known as “Buttskillism” in Britain; the combination of R.A. Butler and Hugh Gaitskill, the former a Tory, the latter Labour Leader, both of whose parties, after WWII, were committed to the ideas of full employment, Keynesian intervention, the Welfare State, and so on that characterise that Social Democratic consensus.

“The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labour, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. Only one must not get the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within whose frame alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven and earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.”

The French bourgeoisie sought to smash the petit-bourgeoisie, and its representatives. It needed to force it out, and provoked it by the bombardment of Rome by French troops. That act contravened Article 5 of the Constitution. Given the Tories War against Libya, their forcing through of the rise in Tuition Fees, Cameron's campaign against AV, and his walk-out from the EU talks, the reckless pursuit of the Health Service reforms, which even Tory Ministers we learn oppose, and consider to possibly have a similar consequence as the Poll Tax had for Thatcher, the question arises of whether he too has learned this lesson from history. The history of all these alliances is that when the stronger partner feels sufficient ground beneath their feet, they create the conditions by which their ally is left with no choice but to jump. But, the other lesson from the coup of Louis Bonaparte is that, Cameron may find that having freed himself of forces to his Left, he is isolated himself with no one to defend him from forces to his Right! The more he relies on Right-Wing populism, which appeals to all of those reactionary prejudices which drive the small business class, reactionary sections of the middle class, and backward sections of workers, the more he is tied to the representatives, in his own Party, of the worst of these elements, the more he is tied to the loony neo-fascist, anti-semitic elements in Europe, the more he strengthens those elements, and weakens his own position.

Of course, the worst thing that Labour could do under such conditions, given the experience of France, described by Marx, would be to provide the Liberals, and Social-Democratic Tories with a home, or to in any way associate itself with them.

Back To Part 5

Forward To Part 7

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Moral Cripples Of The AWL

In recent weeks, a range of humanitarian organisations have expressed concern at the deteriorating situation in Libya. One of the most respected organisations, Medicins Frontiers, whose bravery in going into war torn areas, to provide medical relief, is unsurpassed, has recently pulled out of Misrata, because they were finding that they were being asked to patch up hundreds of political prisoners, who had been brutally tortured, only in order for their captors, in the new regime, to continue torturing them further!

As, the Telegraph report, above, details, they are not the only ones. Amnesty International have also detailed extensive torture by the new regime, particularly of Sub-Saharan and Black Africans. For socialists, the argument, put forward by the new regime, that its political prisoners are supporters of the old regime, should be of particular concern, because our priority is the defence of the working-class.

In Libya, as a State Capitalist regime, that was very badly developed industrially, a large proportion of the working-class, which was itself tiny, was employed by the State. They were particularly employed in Tripoli, and, as with other such situations, that gave those workers very considerable material interest in, if not defending, at least not opposing, the State, which was their means of subsistence. They had a particular reason to do so given that the "rebels", particularly those elements from Benghazi who had built up a relationship with European Imperialism, had already declared their intention of privatising State enterprises and services. It is no doubt many of these workers, along with the Black Africans, who now languish in the gaols of the new Libyan State, suffering torture that cannot be distinguished from that of its predecessor.

The Telegraph quote Amnesty,

""After all the promises to get detention centres under control, it is horrifying to find that there has been no progress to stop the use of torture," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty Libya adviser. "We are not aware of any proper investigations into cases of torture, and neither the survivors or relatives of those who have died in detention have had any recourse to justice or redress for what they have suffered.""

Christopher Stokes of Medicins Frontieres told them,

"We have protested and in some cases they have said they will stop but in other cases they say it happens everywhere, like Abu Ghraib. If anything, the number of cases has been accelerating."


"Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, said she had serious concerns over the fate of the 8,500 prisoners held in around 60 centres by revolutionary forces that were not accountable to a national government."

Of course, like its predecessor, the new Libyan State denies all knowledge of any torture taking place.

And, how do the Stalinists of the AWL respond to this regime of torture, being carried out by those who, just months ago, they were giving uncritical support to?

In an article ironically entitled Back Our Eniemies Enemies, they write,criticising Lyndsey German's opposition to Imperialist intervention in Syria,

"Still avoiding any criticism of the Syrian murderers, German ignores the concrete progress that has been made in Libya - the ousting of a murderous regime - as a result of a anti-regime uprising aided by Western bombing.

The root of the problem is that these 'leftists' have lost any sense of what they are for.

We must return liberty and freedom to the heart and soul of the Marxist project."

In other words, they continue the morally bankrupt position they held during the War itself! They are worse than the kind of apologists of the George Bernard Shaw variety, who failed to notice the extent of the show trials, and repression taking place in the USSR under Stalin, and could also only talk about the "progress" that was being made! Worse, because Stalin's propaganda machine was extensive. But, today, their is extensive media exposing such brutality.

The AWL's title for this article is ironic, it would be hilarious were it not so tragic, because the AWL continually base their politics on the concept of "My Enemy's enemy is my friend". In fact, they take it one step further. They go so far in Iraq, in Libya, in Kosovo, in South Ossetia, of saying "My enemy's enemy's friend, is also my friend." That is why they now have to adopt the position of the three monkeys "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", when it comes to their "friends" amongst the clerical-fascists, and neo-liberals of the new Libyan regime, who they uncritically supported, because they were the allies of their primary friends - the Imperialists. It is a similar course, which led the SWP and others, to act as apologists for the Iranian Mullahs, after they were unable to admit they dropped a bollock in uncritically supporting them during the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

And, of course, the article itself is ridiculous when it talks about, "as a result of a anti-regime uprising aided by Western bombing", because everyone knows that what actually happened was an Imperialist War against Libya, with massive bombing - around 20,000 bombing missions, including the use of Depleted Uranium munitions! - as well as the use of significant numbers of Special Forces troops, from Britain, France, and Qatar - with a rag tag band of a few thousand rebels, who could only move forward when the outside forces had cleared the way for them.

And, as I predicted at the time, the Liberal politicians from Benghazi, had, and have no social base within the country. Their support comes from outside, from the Imperialists. As a result, real control is in the hands, as it had to be, of the Islamist militias, and increasingly it seems elements of Al Qaeda with whom the Libyan Jihadists have long had connections, including during the time they were fighting in Iraq. The only way the bourgeois Liberal politicians will be able to govern will be with the assistance of outside intervention by Imperialism.

During the Balkan Wars, Trotsky described the kind of Opportunist politics of people like the AWL, when he criticised, those such as Miliukov, who cherry picked, which atrocities to be outraged about, as a means of furthering wider political goals. Trotsky wrote,

"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".

"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'."

The AWL were happy to criticise the atrocities of Gaddafi, as a means of justifying the intervention of their friends the Imperialists in Libya ("adventurism concealed under the flag of 'liberation'."), just as they criticised those of Milosevic in Kosovo, or of Russia against Georgia. But, when it comes to criticising the atrocities of the new Libyan regime, or of criticising the atrocities of Kosovan Albanians against Kosovan Serbs, under the protection of the Imperialist occupation, or of criticising the atrocities committed by Georgia against the South Ossetians, the AWL "'objectively' picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people".

Like every Opportunist and Stalinist gang before it, the AWL has no moral compass. It cannot admit it was wrong. That would challenge the infallibility of the gerontocratic leadership, which has held power for longer than their North Korean equivalents, or Gaddafi himself. So, instead it is forced to deny reality. All the more it is forced to do that now, in order to justify committing the same mistake again in Syria, in support of an intervention by its Imperialist friends once again.

During the Vietnam War, which was supported by the AWL's mentor, the renegade Shachtman, it was said by one US General that it was necessary to destroy a village in order to save its people! It was the basis of the slogan "better dead than red". When it comes to Libya and other such instances, the AWL clearly believe that entire nations have to be destroyed by the power of Imperialist military might, in order to save their people. Perhaps, they could put "Better dead than not a friend of Imperialism", on the masthead of their paper.

History Repeating As Farce - Part 5

It would be wrong to describe Cameron's coming to power as the same as the coup of Louis Bonaparte. But, Cameron does not have a democratic mandate. No one voted for a Coalition Government. In fact, many of those who voted for the Liberals probably would not have done so had they known what the consequence would be, and that is shown in the, almost total, collapse of Liberal support, and the number of Liberal members who have defected to Labour. In the same way that Marx describes the continual giving ground of parties to their Right, in the Eighteenth Brumaire, so the Liberals have done precisely that in their coalition with the Tories. They have reneged on all their election pledges of note; on liberty, on sleaze, on corruption, on recall of MP's, on Europe, on War etc.

“The bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe can be followed only by a bourgeois republic; that is to say, whereas a limited section of the bourgeoisie ruled in the name of the king, the whole of the bourgeoisie will now rule in the name of the people.”

Under Thatcher and her heirs a tiny section of the bourgeoisie, the Money Capitalists ruled. Now its rule is being challenged by the rest of the bourgeoisie, and it is being challenged on the basis of populism. The organised Labour Movement having been driven back essentially into those workers employed by the Capitalist State, made a stand. Their demands were labelled as utopian nonsense, in rejecting the idea that they should pay for the crisis caused by the Bankers. But, of course, from the perspective of the Big Industrial capitalists, this is not such utopian nonsense. These workers are not only the consumers of their products, but the more these workers are asked to bail-out the bankers, the more they are likely to demand higher wages, to cover the costs of the additional taxes they have to pay, to cover the cost of the previously “free” services they enjoyed, which they now have to buy and so on. As Marx, put it in the Grundrisse,

“It is clear, first of all, that the wage paid by the spinner to his workmen must be high enough to buy the necessary bushel of wheat, regardless of what profit for the farmer may be included in the price of the bushel of wheat; but that, likewise, on the other side, the wage which the farmer pays his workers must be high enough to procure for them the necessary quantity of clothing, regardless of what profit for the weaver and the spinner may be included in the price of these articles of clothing."

In the short term, however, Capital will follow the course of least resistance. The Big Capitalists may not like the solutions being pursued by the Tories, which favour the Money Capitalists on the one hand, and the Small Capitalists on the other, but, they have no intention of breaking ranks and allowing the workers to advance their own solutions.

“The demands of the Paris proletariat are utopian nonsense, to which an end must be put. To this declaration of the Constituent National Assembly the Paris proletariat replied with the June insurrection, the most colossal event in the history of European civil wars. The bourgeois republic triumphed. On its side stood the aristocracy of finance, the industrial bourgeoisie, the middle class, the petty bourgeois, the army, the lumpen proletariat organized as the Mobile Guard, the intellectual lights, the clergy, and the rural population. On the side of the Paris proletariat stood none but itself.” (Eighteenth Brumaire, Chapter 1)

The consequence is that a steady rightward march is set in motion.

“During the June days all classes and parties had united in the party of Order against the proletarian class as the party of anarchy, of socialism, of communism. They had “saved” society from “the enemies of society.” They had given out the watchwords of the old society, “property, family, religion, order,” to their army as passwords and had proclaimed to the counterrevolutionary crusaders: “In this sign thou shalt conquer!” From that moment, as soon as one of the numerous parties which gathered under this sign against the June insurgents seeks to hold the revolutionary battlefield in its own class interest, it goes down before the cry: “property, family, religion, order.” Society is saved just as often as the circle of its rulers contracts, as a more exclusive interest is maintained against a wider one. Every demand of the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary liberalism, of the most formal republicanism, of the most shallow democracy, is simultaneously castigated as an “attempt on society” and stigmatized as “socialism.” And finally the high priests of “religion and order” themselves are driven with kicks from their Pythian tripods, hauled out of their beds in the darkness of night, put in prison vans, thrown into dungeons or sent into exile; their temple is razed to the ground, their mouths are sealed, their pens broken, their law torn to pieces in the name of religion, of property, of the family, of order. Bourgeois fanatics for order are shot down on their balconies by mobs of drunken soldiers, their domestic sanctuaries profaned, their houses bombarded for amusement – in the name of property, of the family, of religion, and of order. Finally, the scum of bourgeois society forms the holy phalanx of order and the hero Crapulinski [a character from Heine’s poem “The Two Knights,” a dissolute aristocrat.] installs himself in the Tuileries as the “savior of society.””

That march is seen in the gradual rise of the Tory Right, the support for the narrow interests of the City, the EU walkout, Cameron's use of the Church and Christianity – even the Catholic Blair did not do that saying “We do not do God”. Most recently it is seen in the Tories rapid announcement that they would legislate to allow the continuation of the medieval practice of beginning Council meetings with Christian Prayers, after the Secular Society succeeded in getting the Courts to rule the practice as discriminatory. In an unprecedented move, the Tory Government has sent seven M.P.'s to Rome for consultations with the Pope, and Baroness Warsi has come out with the most hilarious comment that Britain is under threat from a “militant secularism”. That ties in with the attempts of Christian groups to ridiculously claim that they are being persecuted. It is seen in the move from “hug a hoody” to gaol a rioter, in the proposals to restrict even further the right to strike and so on. It is seen in the attempts to free the State from even the most basic requirements of the Rule of Law in relation to the right of trial by Jury, and attempt to free it from the requirements of meeting basic Human Rights as determined by the European Convention and Court. And all the time Cameron looks over his shoulder to the blond haired, dishevelled Crapulinsky in his London fortress.

As I said in my post High Pay, Capital And The Tories, they are several parties merged into one. The historic Tories are the Party of the Aristocracy, and the Aristocracy of Finance. But, as the Aristocracy became Capitalist itself, and as the Liberals attempt to ride both horses – representing the interests of Capital and Labour at the same time – could only be sustained so long as both classes had a common enemy, in the old ruling class, and was destroyed when workers created the Labour Party, to push their independent interests, the Tories became the natural party of the bourgeoisie, particularly the nationally based bourgeoisie. This is played out in the right-wing populism of the Tories.

“The history of the Constituent National Assembly since the June days is the history of the domination and the disintegration of the republican faction of the bourgeoisie, of the faction known by the names of tricolor republicans, pure republicans, political republicans, formalist republicans, etc.

Under the bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe it had formed the official republican opposition and consequently a recognized component part of the political world of the day. It had its representatives in the Chambers and a considerable sphere of influence in the press. Its Paris organ, the National, was considered just as respectable in its way as the Journal des Débats. Its character corresponded to this position under the constitutional monarchy. It was not a faction of the bourgeoisie held together by great common interests and marked off by specific conditions of production. It was a clique of republican-minded bourgeois, writers, lawyers, officers, and officials that owed its influence to the personal antipathies of the country to Louis Philippe, to memories of the old republic, to the republican faith of a number of enthusiasts, above all, however, to French nationalism, whose hatred of the Vienna treaties and of the alliance with England it stirred up perpetually. A large part of the following the National had under Louis Philippe was due to this concealed imperialism, which could consequently confront it later, under the republic, as a deadly rival in the person of Louis Bonaparte. It fought the aristocracy of finance, as did all the rest of the bourgeois opposition. Polemics against the budget, which in France were closely connected with fighting the aristocracy of finance, procured popularity too cheaply and material for puritanical leading articles too plentifully not to be exploited. The industrial bourgeoisie was grateful to it for its slavish defense of the French protectionist system, which it accepted, however, more on national grounds than on grounds of national economy; the bourgeoisie as a whole, for its vicious denunciation of communism and socialism.” (ibid Chapter 2)

We can see, within the sections of the Liberals, and within those sections of the Tories, more aligned with Industrial Capital than Money Capital, elements of the same traits described here by Marx. The main difference here would be that, today, these elements are more likely to be advocates of Free Trade than Protectionism, and more inclined to be Europhiles than Little Englander nationalists. But, that is because today the interests of Industrial Capital are served by such policies. It was to protect Money Capital in the City that Cameron flounced out of the EU Summit, as well as to placate the right-wing, Eurosceptic wing of his Party. It is perhaps, an indication of the way the Civil War between the Money Capitalists and Industrial Capitalists is ebbing and flowing that he has now retreated significantly from his earlier position.

“They did not succumb; they passed out of existence. Their history has come to an end forever, and, both inside and outside the Assembly, they figure in the following period only as memories, memories that seem to regain life whenever the mere name republic is once more the issue and as often as the revolutionary conflict threatens to sink down to the lowest level. I may remark in passing that the journal which gave its name to this party, the National, was converted to socialism in the following period.”

We have yet to see the conclusion of this process. Will Industrial Capital defeat Money Capital in the battle for dominance? Will that be achieved within the political confines of the Coalition? Will it require some kind of political realignment, in the same way that the onset of the Long Wave downturn, and the class struggles around it, led to the creation of the SDP? We have already seen the effective destruction of the Liberals as a political force. That in itself makes them hostage to the Tories, because if they bring down the Government, and cause an election, then their annihilation in that election is guaranteed. But, they may be annihilated on a piecemeal basis, as they lose their base at succeeding local government elections, and as the Left of their membership continues to drift into the LP. Speaking of the election of December 10th, Marx wrote,

“ It is sufficient to remark here that it was a reaction of the peasants, who had had to pay the costs of the February Revolution, against the remaining classes of the nation...”

And, of course, that is precisely what the election of 2010 was, except for peasants read, the small capitalists, the petit-bourgeois, the middle classes. They saw in the saving of the Banks, a great burden of taxation heading their way. Of course, they would vote for a Party that talked in populist terms about reducing the size of the State, balancing the Budget and other such nonsense, even if that Party had been advocating at least as much spending as had been its opponents up until just months before the election!

Back To Part 4

Forward To Part 6

Monday, 13 February 2012

History Repeating As Farce - Part 4

In 2008, there was a catastrophic illustration of the chaotic and contradiction riddled nature of Capitalism, as the recklessness of the financial markets – which had been stimulated by the policies of Thatcher and Reagan, and their successors, (deregulation, monetarist stimulation etc.) – erupted into the Global Financial Meltdown, which threatened to bring what had been, until then, a reasonably healthy, growing global economy to its knees.

It led to massive state intervention to bail-out the Banks. In fact, it illustrated the truth about Neo-Liberalism. It had nothing to do with shrinking the size of the State. Neo-Liberalism was merely the ideological representation of the interests of Money Capital as against Industrial Capital. The State remained as central as it had always been, but its intervention was now based upon Monetary Intervention, rather than Fiscal Intervention, and that, in turn, was dictated by the needs of Money Capital rather than Industrial Capital. When that Money Capital needed to be bailed-out, the State was there to do it, even if the longer term cost, to pay for it, would be aimed once again at Industrial Capital. But, as I wrote at the time - Where We're Going - it transferred the problem from US and UK and European Banks to the US, UK and European States, whose own sovereign debts and creditworthiness were called into question. That was to manifest itself in the printing of money in the US and UK to cover these debts, and in the peripheral Eurozone crisis for those economies that did not have that option.

The US and UK were left with huge debts to repay. Under such conditions, the question becomes who will pay? In the early 1980's, Thatcherism arose, in large part, because, on the back of the strength that workers had built up, during the Long Wave Boom, from 1949 to 1974, they had been able to resist the demands of Capital, when that boom ended. It was fought out in the great class battles of the early 1980's, culminating in the Miners Strike of 1984-5. It might have been that this was played out once again; the workers and their natural allies amongst the middle class insisting that the Bankers pay for the crisis they had caused. But, as Marx says in the Eighteenth Brumaire,

“The nation feels like the mad Englishman in Bedlam who thinks he is living in the time of the old Pharaohs and daily bewails the hard labour he must perform in the Ethiopian gold mines, immured in this subterranean prison, a pale lamp fastened to his head, the overseer of the slaves behind him with a long whip, and at the exits a confused welter of barbarian war slaves who understand neither the forced labourers nor each other, since they speak no common language. “And all this,” sighs the mad Englishman, “is expected of me, a freeborn Briton, in order to make gold for the Pharaohs.” “In order to pay the debts of the Bonaparte family,” sighs the French nation. The Englishman, so long as he was not in his right mind, could not get rid of his idée fixé of mining gold. The French, so long as they were engaged in revolution, could not get rid of the memory of Napoleon, as the election of December 10 [1848, when Louis Bonaparte was elected President of the French Republic by plebiscite.] was proved. They longed to return from the perils of revolution to the fleshpots of Egypt , and December 2, 1851 [The date of the coup d’état by Louis Bonaparte], was the answer. Now they have not only a caricature of the old Napoleon, but the old Napoleon himself, caricatured as he would have to be in the middle of the nineteenth century.”

And, in Britain, the nation remains spellbound by the ghost of Thatcher, even before she is officially dead. Politicians of all parties and their advisors proclaim, “We are all Thatcherites now!” Labour Prime Ministers invited her to Downing Street, and Hollywood makes films about her. Despite the grim reality of Thatcher's Britain, which caused Public and Private squalor, which hollowed out not just the country's economy, but its morality, the myth has been perpetuated.

Campo, Foggy Osbourne & Cleggy
No wonder then that the Thatcherite mantra about the size of the State (which itself was a deception, because it grew under Thatcher too!) and the need for austerity, to balance the family books like those of a household, appealed, and continue to appeal to a majority in a nation that has not yet exorcised the ghosts of the 1980's. They could not get rid of the ghost of Thatcher as the 2010 Election proved. And now we have Thatcher herself caricatured by Cameron, as he has to be in the second decade of the 21st Century, with Nick Clegg and the Liberals in the role of “The Wets”.

“The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.” (ibid)

In looking for a path forward, workers cannot look back to the 1970's and 80's either, any more than Cameron's harking back to then can provide a solution for Capital. The “more militancy” approach of the 1960's, 70's and early 80's proved a dead-end. It did not lead to some Luxemburgist spontaneous spill-over into revolutionary action or consciousness. It never could have done. It led only to a more militant Economism, Reformism, and Syndicalism, sometimes manifest in industrial struggle, sometimes in electoralism in the Labour Party for demands to be raised on the Capitalist State to act as the workers' benefactor. It is a far cry from Marx's analysis in relation to the State where he wrote,

“ All revolutions perfected this machine instead of breaking it. The parties, which alternately contended for domination, regarded the possession of this huge state structure as the chief spoils of the victor.

But under the absolute monarchy, during the first Revolution, and under Napoleon the bureaucracy was only the means of preparing the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Under the Restoration, under Louis Philippe, under the parliamentary republic, it was the instrument of the ruling class, however much it strove for power of its own.”

Chapter 7.

For one thing, the working-class of today, and its organisations are not those of the 1960's and 70's. The working-class is weak, disorganised and lacks leadership, rather like the workers in France in 1851. But, why would workers want to simply revisit the failed tactics and strategy of those times? Its certainly true that for Big Capital the use of Keynesian intervention, which is one aspect of Reformism, offers a better solution, under current conditions, than Misean, Neo-Austrian austerity, and for similar reasons to those which led to the historic class alliance between Big Capital and Labour, represented by the Social Democratic consensus; a better alternative for Labour too. The stark contrast between the US and the UK demonstrates that. The US, which has adopted significant Keynesian stimulus has seen growth strengthening, and unemployment falling. The UK has seen the opposite. But, a better alternative is not the same as the best alternative!

As I pointed out recently - Civil War In The Capitalist Class these different interests between Money Capital, and Industrial Capital appear to be playing themselves out in a real struggle. Within that context, the ideas that have dominated the previous period can continue to hold considerable sway. Moreover, as I also previously argued - High Pay, Capital and the Tories - we should not equate the statements and actions of some of the bureaucratic managers of Capital with the interests of Big Capital itself. These bureaucrats, rather like the Trade Union and Labour bureaucrats, have interests of their own, separate to those of the class they serve. The Bureaucrats and managers of organisations like the CBI are more akin to the small capitalists than to Big Capital. In the US, this is often more apparent than here. There, Capital is more brutal in bringing these bureaucrats to book, when they step over the line in pushing their own interests as the example of Dennis Kozlowsky and Tyco demonstrated.

Back To Part 3

Forward To Part 5

A Pyrrhic Victory

Two-thirds of the Greek Parliament last night voted for yet more austerity to be inflicted on the Greek people. Markets have risen on the news. As in the past, they are likely to fall again, sharply, when they consider exactly what the vote has achieved.

In reality, the vote was meaningless. Outside, as the Parliamentarians carried through an act of fantasy, the real world of Greece was burning. As has been the case in almost every country in Europe, where austerity has been imposed, the consequence has been to send the economy into a sharp downward spiral, which, in turn, exacerbates the problem of debt. There is not a single economist, in the world, who, currently, believes that Greece can repay its debts, and the current round of new austerity will only make that worse. In the real world, Greece has already defaulted on its debts. Greek Bondholders, many of them Greek Banks, are set to lose 70% of their investment.

Source: Wikipedia
Even if the Greek Parliamentarians could implement the policies they have now voted through, the consequence could only be further economic chaos. But, the Greek Parliamentarians are living in a fantasy world. They have completely lost the support of Greek society, which simply cannot contend with any more austerity. If the European Finance Ministers vote to give Greece the new bail-out money, based on this vote, then it means that either they are equally deluded, or else it means that they always intended to pay it in the end, after a piece of political pantomime. But, that is what we have been treated to by EU politicians for the last two years. It has been Greek theatre, alternating between tragedy and farce.

They would be deluding themselves for another reason. The latest opinion polls, show that the Governing parties have lost the support of the people, PASOK to a far greater extent than New Democracy. The polls show that the Greek Stalinists, together with the Greek Trotskyists, and others to the left of PASOK could become the largest group in Parliament. A couple of days ago, on Newsnight, Paul Mason estimated that the parties of the Left could have around 44% of seats in Parliament.

In that case, last night's vote is even more meaningless, as support for the Left is likely to rise even more between now and elections in April. Although, there are significant differences between the Stalinists, and the parties to their Left, and on past experience, the Left should treat the Stalinists as though they were a bourgeois party, because they are likely to sell-out the workers, if they feel they may be able to do some kind of bureaucratic deal, to avoid a revolutionary development, at another level, the parties of the Left should be able to establish a minimum of agreement, on the basis of overturning the proposed austerity measures.

The Stalinists, in typical nationalist fashion, seek to take Greece out of the EU. The Trotskyists and others maintain an internationalist position. But, there is no contradiction in a position that argues for continued membership of the EU, and rejection of austerity. It is precisely the kind of position that a Workers' Government should adopt. On that basis, and arguing that, like the US, the EU could adopt a different economic policy, even within the confines of Capitalism, based upon fiscal expansion, could act as a means of rallying workers across Europe, faced with similar attacks on their wages and conditions. That is not to say that, as Marxists, we have any faith in these Keynesian measures either, which can only bring temporary relief, and under other conditions, would not work, but they do show that the right-wing politicians lie, when they claim there is no alternative. Labour's Douglas Alexander at the weekend, chimed in with the many other voices, including the IMF, the OECD, S&P, who have said that the policy of austerity is not working, and is counter-productive.

Workers should not rely on Capitalist politicians implementing such policies. We should respond ourselves immediately by creating workers organisations across Europe - Europe wide Trades Unions, Workers' Parties and Co-operatives - that oppose the austerity measures on a co-ordinated basis. Businesses threatened with closure should be occupied by their workers, and turned into Co-operatives. Co-operatives should link up their activities, to form an alternative worker owned sector to the Capitalist sector. They should all be part of a Europe wide Co-op Federation, which plans and co-ordinates their action, investment and so on. The Trades Unions should take action industrially to prevent attacks on them by private Capitalists and the State, just as the Co-ops should support all workers in struggle, by providing strike funding, goods, supplies, transport etc. in the way the Co-op in Britain did during the Transport Strikes in 1920, and the General Strike in 1926. The Workers' Party should push for legislation in the European and national Parliament's to legitimate the actions of the workers and their Co-ops in taking over the private and State Capitalist businesses. In other words, they should act as a Workers' Government in waiting.

But, if the Capitalist Governments do follow the example of the US, and all those business organisations telling them to change course, then, of course, we should welcome that. In reality, what we have currently is a fight between Big Industrial Capital, and Money Capital. The latter has been top dog for the last 30 years, and its ideology of neo-Liberalism has ruled. But, its interests are not those of the Big Industrial Capitalists, that seeks to ensure that industrial production can be sustained.

The Greek Left, as such a Left anywhere else faced with the same conditions, should call the EU Finance Ministers' bluff. If Greece refused to implement the austerity measures, everyone knows that Merkozy would blink first. Merkozy, and their advisors, as well as the voices of Money Capital whispering in their ears, know that if Greece goes into a disorderly default, it would have massive repercussions for Money Capital throughout Europe, and probably the world. If the EU threw Greece out of the Euro, for defaulting, it would mean that Portugal, and Ireland would follow shortly after. The Credit Agencies at the weekend downgraded dozens more European Banks, particularly in Italy. The Credit Crunch that followed on from Greece, Portugal and Ireland defaulting would make 2008, look like a blip. It would mean that the bubbled up asset prices of stock markets, and property markets would collapse by anything up to 90%. It would mean that the attempts to prop up Spain and Italy on a sea of money printing by the ECB, in the form of the LTRO, would be doomed, and those countries would be forced to follow the road of Greece, Portugal, and Ireland. In short, it would mean the end not just of the Euro, but of the EC. That is why, Merkozy will not let it happen.

All those in massive amounts of debt, be it peripheral Eurozone countries, or the millions of people in Britain, who have £2 trillion of private debt should remember the old addage. If you owe the Bank £1,000, and can't pay, you have a problem, if you owe the bank £1 million, and can't pay, the Bank has a problem.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Friday, 10 February 2012

History Repeating As Farce - Part 3

Nothing in history repeats itself in the same way. Bonapartism was based upon the rule of an individual. The position of Prime Minister, has been described as “an elected Dictatorship”, but, Prime Minister's and Governments can only continue if they retain a majority in Parliament. In the first place, before the coup, Louis Bonaparte, ruled as an Executive, supposedly under the control of the Legislature. But, it was events, and the impotence of any of the contending classes to assert itself, which ultimately allowed Bonaparte to carry through the coup. The Monarchist parties, the Orleanists, and the Legitimists, represented the interests of the Financial Aristocracy, and the Landed Aristocracy respectively. The Tories fulfil this function today, but the Tories are more than this. They are a far more complex and contradictory formation.

The Tories, as Marx describes, began as the Party not of the bourgeoisie, but of their enemies, the old ruling Feudal Aristocracy. In fact, during the 19th century, when that class saw itself being usurped by the Bourgeoisie, a section of it, and of its Party, attempted to win over the workers to its cause. Marx describes it as Reactionary Socialism. Some of them, like the Countess of Warwick, even found their way into Hyndman's Social Democratic Federation. The Tories also, as Engels describes, even financed Keir Hardie's election campaign. It was frequently, the Tory representatives who were the ones advocating various forms of social reform, who put forward the legislation on working-time etc. It was Manchester Liberalism, which was the red in tooth and claw representative of the industrial bourgeoisie. But, rather like the workers in the Middle East today have allied with their new enemies, in the bourgeoisie, against their old enemies, in the Bonapartist State, so in the 19th Century, the British workers lined up with their new enemies, in the industrial bourgeoisie, against their old enemies, within the Feudal Aristocracy. After all, at the beginning of that century, peasant life, and the oppression, of that old ruling class, was within living memory of many workers, or for their parents or grandparents, who had been forced off the land by the Enclosure Acts, and more open robbery by that Aristocracy.

As Marx, sets out, it was not that the Tories changed their class affiliation, it was that the class they represented itself became bourgeois! That meant that all of the contradictions which go along with that became entrenched within the Tory Party. Those contradictions continue until today. They were shown vividly at the beginning of the 1960's in the division between the old Patrician Wing of the Party, and that wing represented by people like Heath and Thatcher, the embodiment of the Grammar School educated, offspring of the up and coming middle classes. It persisted when Thatcher was Prime Minister, many of her opponents coming from within the Patrician wing of the Party. Eton educated Cameron, and his cohort are part of that wing of the Party.

In the 19th century, many of the old Aristocracy, where they did not extend their family business of land-owning, into Capitalist farming or mineral extraction, or into vast Colonial estates, used their accumulated Capital to move into Banking and Finance. They saw engagement in industrial or other commercial activity as beneath them, and the function of the nouveau riche bourgeois. Not for nothing are they referred to as the Financial Aristocracy. Most of the British Banks obtained their initial Capital from the activities of the Aristocracy in the Triangle Trade, whereby they brought slaves from Africa to their plantations in the Caribbean, bringing the products of those plantations back to Britain. It is not surprising then that a section of the Tory Party have always had a close connection with this Aristocracy of Finance, as well as their continued links with the large landed estates. The Tories links with the bourgeoisie proper, the industrial bourgeoisie, developed out of the failure of the Liberals.

The contradictory nature of the Tories today reflects that. On the one hand, they are a Party whose mass base is made up of those reactionary petit-bourgeois elements, upon whom they also rely for their votes. On the other hand, as the main Party of Capital, they also represent the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie. But, by their history, and the continued role within the upper echelons of the Party, they remain tied both to landed property and to to the financial aristocracy. These irreconcilable rifts within the Party, is what leads to the division over Europe. Whilst, the necessity to pander to its electoral and party base dictates the kind of policy pronouncements it issues, the actual practice in Government has to contend with the conflicting interests of these different social groups, and in particular the interests of the dominant sections of Capital itself. Which section of Capital wins out, tends to depend itself on which is most powerful at the particular time.

Industrial Capital, which during the Long Wave, Post War Boom, proceeded on the basis of Fordism, of an accommodation with the Trades Unions and the Social-Democratic consensus, and the kind of strategy of Capitalist Accumulation that goes with it – Welfarism, Macro-Economic planning, to coincide with the enterprise planning of Big Capital etc. - is interested in the continuity of production and sale of its products, and as Engels described in his “The Condition Of The Working-Class” with the avoidance of labour disputes. Money Capital, on the other hand is interested in unimpeded circulation, particularly of currencies. It will tend towards a more Liberal, or Neo-Liberal position. (For a discussion of this division see Henk Overbeek - “Global Capitalism and Britain's Decline” - 1988 Doctoral Dissertation, University of Amsterdam , and also Kees Van Der Pijl “The Making of An Atlantic Ruling Class” - 1984.)

During the post war boom, the commitment of the Capitalist State, to a Fordist regime of accumulation, based on mass consumption and mass production, on macro-economic planning, and expansive welfarism “implied a subordination of independent bank capital and the rentier element in the bourgeoisie to an integrated, state supported finance capital” (Kees Van Der Pijl - “Neo-Liberalism vs Planned Interdependence. Concepts of control in the struggle for hegemony” - 1986.)

But, the end of the Long Wave Boom in the 1970's brought with it a crisis of Fordism too, and the kind of state structures and policies based upon it. That is not to say that Fordist regulation ceased. Just as Fordism was never an hegemonic form of Capital Accumulation, but merely represents a dominant form of regulation utilised by the more powerful fractions of Industrial Capital, so the crisis of Fordism only meant that the solutions it provided, just as with the macro-economic policies, based on Keynesianism, that went with it, were no longer capable of working in the way they had in the previous period. Capital needed to find alternative solutions, and within the Crisis of Capitalism that ensued, the fact that Money Capital was able once again to come to the fore, meant that the Neo-Liberal policies that reflected its interests were brought to the fore along with it.

The near collapse of the global financial system that followed on the decision of the US to close the Gold Window, in 1971, making the dollar no longer convertible with Gold broke down all of the forms of State, and international State forms of regulation set up at Bretton Woods, which were themselves an application on an international level of those very forms of Fordism, and Keynesianism, which advanced the cause of the huge multinational industrial Capitals, whose heartland was in the US. When the US abrogated the Bretton Woods agreement, its unintended consequence was the creation, or at least huge development, of the Eurodollar market, through which dollars were purchased via the European arms of US Banks. The breaking up of these forms of state and international state regulation meant that nation states lost control over Money Capital, in effect the international monetary system became privatised.

At the same time, freed from regulation, the Banks expanded massively overseas in search of customers, in a way that Industrial Capital had done via the MNC's. With industrial capital in decline, at home, and increasingly locating overseas, in search of cheap labour, with consumers and small businesses being encouraged to borrow to the hilt, and with them also being encouraged to buy a whole range of new financial commodities, being produced by Financial Capital, the further deregulation of Financial Services, in the 1980's, by Reagan and Thatcher, meant,the ground was set for Money Capital to become a powerful economic, social and political force. The News International phone hacking scandal, exposed the close links that existed in Britain, between sections of the media, the Police and other elements of the State, and with politicians. But, what has not been exposed as yet, is the close links of these same elements with the City, and Financial Capital. That the position of Money Capital became weakened as a result of the Financial Meltdown, may not be divorced from the fact that the News International scandal, which had been known about for years, came to prominence now. And, the consequences of the Leveson Inquiry may be to uncover other similar activities and contacts amongst the other sections of the right-wing gutter press, whose appeal to nationalism, and promotion of anti-Europeanism is against the interests of Big Industrial Capital.

Fennema and Van der Pijl described this transition.

“the disintegration of the industry trade union compromise supporting the Fordist order politically was replaced by bank power and rentier interests as the dominant group in the new configuration. Thus rentier interests in the broad sense of the word were crucial in the formation of a new power bloc which rose to power after 1975.” (“International Bank Capital and The New Liberalism” (1987).

Its not surprising that, in the light of this, Thatcherism's ideological base was provided by the high priest of Money Capital, Frederick Hayek, and the first manifestation of that was in the adoption as Van der Pijl argues of the principles of “sound money”, in order to force “sound micro-economic reasoning … upon the state and society as a whole.” (Van der Pijl - “Capitalist Class Formation At The International Level” - 1987.)

Politics, particularly bourgeois democratic politics, is always a matter of building alliances. The Tory Party is an alliance, of all these bourgeois and petit-bourgeois forces, and it is within this dynamic that its policies and actions have to be understood. Of course, the period after Thatcher was marked by a move of Labour and the Liberals on to this ground too, demonstrating the power that Money Capital exerted during the period. As Marx notes, in the process leading up to Bonaparte's coup, such situations frequently see parties giving ground to those to their Right, and the more they do so, the more they cut from beneath their feet their only real source of support within society. That ultimately was the undoing of Labour – and indeed has always been the undoing of every other Labour Government.

But, the dynamic for Labour is different from that of the Tories. It is never likely that sections of Big Capital will openly declare their support for Labour, as they do, for example, in their support for the Democrats in the US, who stand on the same ground of that Social Democratic consensus. The capitalist class understands the importance of class solidarity in a way that the working-class as yet does not. The interests of Big Capital are not those of Small Capital or of the petit-bourgeoisie and Middle Classes. As in the US, and as set out by Engels, more than 100 years ago, in fact, in many areas, there interests are more closely related to those of the workers. Indeed, its on that basis that the Social Democratic consensus, and Fordism was built. The first Minimum Wage was introduced in Britain by Winston Churchill, as President of the Board of Trade, in 1909, and echoing Engels words, Churchill said, “The good employers must be protected from the bad...” But, the Big Capitalists will not openly break from their smaller Capitalist brethren, even if they work to screw them relentlessly behind the scenes.

The Trades Unions do not exercise anything like the kind of power over Labour Governments that Capital exercises over Tory Governments. Rather the function of the Trades Unions is to act as a safety valve, controlling the actions of their members that might threaten to go beyond the limits that the requirements of the social democratic consensus determines as compatible with Capital Accumulation. But, just as the Tories have to shape their policies, and actions around the need to cater for their base and electoral support, so Labour has to shape its policies around the need to win electoral support, without alienating its own core support. It is forced by those requirements to remain firmly within the Social Democratic consensus in order to meet both the needs of its base, and the needs of Big Capital.

Cameron is attempting to mimic Thatcher, but without the basic requirements that meant her strategy could succeed. The Trades Unions and working-class have been beaten down. The consequence was that real wages flat-lined for a couple of decades. The only way that could be sustained, and profit rates rise was by encouraging workers and the middle class to go massively into debt. Of course, not all did. Those workers who had joined the workforce in the post-war period, and were able to buy a house in the 1960's or 70's, had seen the price of their house rise astronomically, and the inflation of the period meant that their mortgages were inflated away. If they were sensible, they had been able to take advantage of this situation, to build up a considerable buffer of savings and investments – the same that were channelled into the many new financial products created in the 1980's and after. If they were lucky, they may even have benefited from a company pension.

Its to elements of this section that the Tories have been able to target their attention. Its to this section that the Daily Express aims its repeated headlines that house prices are once again soaring. It provides a material base for the idea that interest rates have to be kept low to keep these asset price bubbles inflated, and which thereby provides support for the interests of Money Capital, which would be wiped out if those assets bubbles were to burst.

But, even some of these workers were not sensible, others of this generation were never lucky enough to buy a house, and instead had to pay Council House rents, usually subsidising the Rates of those in owner occupied housing, who also benefited from generous tax relief on their mortgages. Others did benefit from having bought a house before the property bubble began, but were persuaded to squander the equity they had in it, by taking out loans against it, to finance other consumption. At the same time, workers joining the workforce in the 1980's and 90's were confronted with low inflation, low wage rises, and sky-high house prices. A generation of consumerism, which persuaded everyone they should have everything immediately, ensured few of them had any savings. On the contrary, many already had large debts to cover the car they had bought, the holidays they had taken, the mountain of clothes they had stashed in their wardrobes, the plethora of electronic gizmos they had accumulated, and so on.

But, the Money Capitalists would still entice them to take out mortgages they could not afford, by allowing them to have 125% mortgages of amounts up to six times their earnings, and no check was made on whether those earnings were real or not. It was exactly the conditions that had led to the Sub-Prime crisis in the US. It was on this basis that private debt rose to account for 450% of GDP, dwarfing the 70% of GDP, which Public Debt accounted for. But, it was on this basis that attempts to encourage workers to take on even more debt to keep the economy afloat floundered. No matter how much the Government tried to tell people that their now trebled University Tuition Fees did not have to be paid for until they began to earn £21,000 a year, it didn't change the fact that people realised that they still had to be paid back, with interest! It didn't change the fact that they would have been losing potential wages during all that time, and that, in any case, there were tens of thousands of graduates who could not get ANY job, let alone a decent one! They responded with a 10% reduction in the number of people applying for University places.

Thatcher and Reagan's experiment was probably a one-off opportunity. It was made possible because of the savings the Baby Boomers had accumulated in the Post War Boom. Cameron faces its mirror image. Any attempt to repeat Thatcher and Reagan's experiment, today, can only result in mass bankruptcies by individuals, weighed down by a mountain of unsustainable debt. Over Christmas it was reported that 3.5 million people had resorted to Pay Day Loans to cover their immediate costs. Anyone resorting to these usurers, and paying the 4000% interest they demand must be in desperate conditions. But, it is not just the very poor who are in this position. Pawn Brokers are expanding, and they are expanding into middle class areas! The arrears on mortgages have been growing steadily, and it is only fear of sparking a fire sale of house prices, and the ability to sustain loans due to low interest rates, and near free money, provided by the Bank of England, which is preventing them from foreclosing on these mortgages. That situation is not likely to persist for much longer.

If there is fear, today, at the consequences of a Greek default, imagine the devastation of Money Capital that will ensue, when people begin to default on their £2 Trillion of private debt, sitting on their credit card statements, their mortgages, their Student Loans, the Store Cards and so on. But, if millions are already resorting to Pay Day Loans, and with around 20 million people estimated to run out of money around ten days before their next pay day, such defaults seem inevitable as inflation squeezes further people whose wages are effectively, if not actually, frozen, as unemployment rises inexorably towards three million, and as a growing Credit Crunch means that whatever Central Banks do, mortgage rates, and other loan rates are bound to rise sharply.

Moreover, the other solutions, adopted by Capital during the 1980's and 90's, are not likely to work either. The end of the Long Wave Boom, brought with it a crisis in the dominant Fordist method of accumulation. As In the 1930's, Capital sought to bolster the faltering ability to generate Relative Surplus Value, due to slowing increases in productivity, by a return to methods of Absolute Surplus Value. It took the form of casualisation, of intensification of labour, lengthening of the working-day by various methods, including workers being available 24 hours a day on their mobile phone, via email etc., and starting work on their lap-top during their journey into work. But, many of those changes have already been introduced. As Marx and Engels pointed out, long ago, Capital dropped the idea of Absolute Surplus Value because its functionality is limited. Amongst other things it means increased wear and tear on workers, and can be counter-productive because it can lead to lower actual productivity. The main strategy for extracting Absolute Surplus Value, today, centres around extending the working-life rather than day, through the raising of the State retirement age, but, for that very reason, the immediate benefits for Capitalist profits are slight.

In fact, attacks on wages driving them below the Value of Labour Power, whilst possible for a certain time, will as Marx sets out in Value, Price & Profit ultimately have a negative effect, because they will reduce the quantity and quality of Labour Power supplied. This may not take the form of workers refusing to work, under Capitalism, they have to work to live, but will take the form of low productivity, increased sickness absence, higher labour turnover as workers seek better paid jobs, whenever they arise, and so on. It will also mean that workers will tend to be of lower quality, as their reduced condition means they have less ability to obtain education and training, and so on. In more advanced economies, that is more significant than in economies that are reliant on large amounts of unskilled labour.

Back To Part 2

Forward To Part 4