Thursday, 31 May 2012

Why Higher Bond Yields Don't Matter - Part 1

The Government has placed huge emphasis on the need to keep yields on UK Government Bonds (interest rates) at low levels. This, they say, is why there is no alternative (TINA) to the draconian austerity measures. If they pulled back from austerity they claim that the markets would punish them, rapidly sending UK Gilt yields up to those of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. It is, of course, nonsense.

Simply look at the facts. UK Gilt Yields far from being on the verge of soaring to record high levels, they are at record low levels. They have barely been at such levels at any time in the last 100 years! In fact, this phenomena is referred to as financial repression (though no actual repression is required by Government to force money hoarders to accept such low returns). As I have pointed out previously, and as the FT's Martin Wolf wrote again recently, these record low levels are nothing to do with the Government's austerity measures or investors confidence in their economic management. They are the result of a combination of factors.

Global Financial Repression. Financial Repression is a condition which exists when creditors face negative real returns on their lending. In the last decade, in particular, a rising Rate of Profit for capital has combined with a huge global boom (of all the goods and services produced in Man's entire history, almost a quarter have been produced in just the last ten years) to produce a vast quantity of profit. The money form of these profits sits as cash balances on the books of the big corporations, and in sovereign wealth funds. With the Financial Meltdown of 2008, and the political and economic uncertainty that followed it, there has been an understandable reluctance of companies to invest in new production because they cannot be sure of sufficient demand for an increased or new output. For the same reasons, the holders of Money Capital (Banks, Financial Institutions – fictitious capital) are reluctant to lend to those who might want/need to borrow, particularly small firms, and home buyers. They might not get their Capital back. In fact, with tighter bank rules, as a result of Basle III, the banks are cutting back their lending further.

This is not, as some have suggested, an example of a 'crisis of overproduction'. In Marx's analysis, in a crisis of overproduction of Capital, Surplus Value has moved through the Money form back into production. It has been used to buy more Constant and Variable Capital. The crisis arises because the circuit from this point forward cannot be completed. The output cannot be sold at prices that enable the Capital consumed to be reproduced. No such situation exists. Economic growth continues in the vast majority of the global economy, and at a rapid pace in parts of it. The US is growing, and so is the core of Europe. Where economies are not growing, in the UK and peripheral Europe, this is a consequence of deliberate government policy – Austerian economics. What we have is not a crisis of overproduction, but a condition of money hoarding. Money that is not converted into Capital. In fact, it is an indication of what Engels describes in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme, where he says that with the development of the huge Capitalist enterprises, the Trusts etc. the element of 'planlessness' within Capitalism comes to an end.

It is this money hoarding which creates, under current conditions, the financial repression.

Money which does not re-enter the Circuit of Capital does not simply disappear. If it sits simply in Bank deposits then the increased Supply (especially with reduced money demand) causes interest rates to fall – which is why savers find it impossible to get any meaningful return on their money. What is more, the fact that the money is spent does not destroy it either because whoever spends the money does so by buying from someone else who then deposits the payment in their Bank. This is illustrated in the diagram below, which shows the way that money that is not productively invested, remains within a circuit of money, which can create fictitious Capital, chasing after a limited number of assets – shares, bonds, houses etc.

So, for example, hoarding Gold does not reduce the amount of money on deposit or in circulation because if I buy £100,000 of gold coins, bars, or shares in a Gold ETF, my £100,000 goes into the sellers bank account. The same is true of other forms of financial asset. Suppose I decide to become a Landlord. If rents provide a 5% return on the Money invested, with the average price of rental property at £100,000, then if that price rises to £200,000, the return will fall to 2.5%. But, it is precisely the added demand for property to Rent which will and has increased property prices. As with any other investment, at some point, these falling returns alongside the risk of losing your Money, as the bubble in property prices bursts, will cause such investors to sell their property, which will then burst the bubble.

The same is true with Bonds and Shares. Companies pay a dividend on shares out of the profits they make, and Governments/Bond Issuers pay a fixed amount of interest (Coupon) on the Bonds they issue. In both cases the amount paid out remains constant. If a share or a Bond costs £100, and pays a dividend/coupon of £10, then the yield is 10%. However, if Money is attracted to these financial assets, (which tends to happen when there is monetary easing) increasing the demand for them in the secondary markets, the price of the share/bond will rise. If the price rises to £200, then the £10 dividend/coupon will now represent a yield of only 5%. This process of the creation of fictitious capital, whose extension through the operation of the credit multiplier I will elaborate later, is one area of confusion for those economists like Andrew Kliman who advocate the “Historic Pricing of Capital”, as opposed to its valuation according to its cost of reproduction, as Marx advocated.

Kliman advocates a model in which although commodities are valued according to their current reproduction costs, the Capital which was used to produce those commodities is valued according to the money price that was originally paid for it. The obvious problem with this is that, if this Capital is revalued, so as to become more valuable, then the produced commodities will include this higher value (Capital Gain). It means that even though the living labour-power used to produce those commodities remains the same, and the rate of exploitation of that labour-power remains the same, the difference can only be made up by increasing the amount of Surplus Value produced! This introduces a source of Surplus Value (Capital) in addition to the living labour-power. It undermines the whole basis of Marx's economic theory, and the theory of Capitalist exploitation, and class struggle that flows from it. To illustrate:

C 1000 + V 1000 + S 1000 = K 3000.

Assume now that the Value of the Constant Capital rises to 2000. This 2000 is transferred into the value of the final commodities produced, but because the Capitalist has already paid out the £1000 for the C, the historic pricing model values it at this price for the purpose of calculation of the Rate of Profit. We then have:

C 1000 + V 1000 + S 2000 = K 4000

In one of his comments, in a recent debate, Andrew Kliman shows exactly this confusion in failing to distinguish between fictitious and real capital, and Capital Gain/Loss with Profit. He writes,

“It means exactly what it says. You buy a bond for $10,000. Your investment is $10,000. You get $500 interest at the end of 1 year. But meanwhile, the price of the bond has fallen to $500. Your rate of return isn’t $50/$50(sic) = 100%. It’s -90%. In other words, your assets (bond + interest) are worth only 10% of the value that you invested.”

(Michael Roberts Blog comment of January 19th 2012, 11:57 a.m.)

This is of course, the classic viewpoint of the speculator. That can be witnessed by the fact that even in terms of a framework of fictitious capital it is extremely limited. In fact, it suffers from exactly the same problem as his approach in relation to the valuation of productive capital i.e. it is an exercise in comparative statics, taking merely a snapshot rather than analysing a process. As I pointed out to him in that debate,

“So now we have moved entirely away from Marx’s theory based on commodity production, to the favoured ground of the Neo-Classical economist, that of the Stock and Bond Markets.

The laws that determine the prices of Stocks and Bonds are quite different to those determining commodity production, so this example is absurd. What Marxist analysis is concerned with is the process of Capital formation and reproduction. That is with the production of Surplus Value, and its re-investment in on going productive activity. That is quite different from the concern with looking at discrete periods of production as though this reflected the true nature of Capitalism.

But, even were we to take the example given it does not entirely fit the requirement AK wants of it. If we look at the position in the way a Marxist rather than a neo-classicist would then for Capital as a whole, we would find that a fall in the price of the Bond from $10,000 to $500 provides them with an excellent investing opportunity. Now each Capitalist will make a 100% return on each $500 investment they make in these now much cheaper Bonds, and so the overall “Rate of profit” on such investments will soar!

If we take the instance even of the original investor, then if their intention is to generate income – which is more in tune with the purpose of capitalist production – rather than Capital Gain, then over time, they will also be able to utilise their $50 (sic) Yield, to each year buy an additional Bond, which previously would have cost them $10,000. That may well be the case for a Pension Fund, for instance. If we take a 40 year investment period, then this may well mean that overall returns are much higher than had the price of the Bond and the Yield on it remained unchanged!”

(Comment of 19th January 2012, 3:23 p.m.)

It is this process of a squeeze on new productive investment, combined with an increase in the value of fictitious capital, which drives down yields, and results in Financial Repression. What Kliman and speculators see as “Profit” (or in the case above Loss) and, therefore a driver for further “investment”/speculation, is in fact an illusion a fiction. But, in an economy where Money Capital (Banks and Financial Institutions) form a significant sector of economic activity, and make their own profits from lending to such ”investors” (including other Banks and Financial Institutions), then the huge amounts of such “profits” generated by this activity form a powerful basis upon, which to make loans, create credit money, and thereby create the very conditions, which ensure that these increases in fictitious capital continue!

A large amount of hoarded money, instead of entering the Circuit of Capital, and thereby expanding production and real wealth, remains in the Circuit of Money, and creates increasing amounts of fictitious capital through the Credit Multiplier, as every deposit acts as the basis for an ever larger amount of credit, or as fictitious capital assets, for example bubbled up property, provide an expanded Capital base upon which the Banks issue credit.

Forward To Part 2

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The First Casualty Of War

Truth is always the first casualty of war. It is a point previously made by Channel 4 News', Alex Thompson, that I have cited previously in relation to the war against Libya. Thompson cited several instances of where claims made by the Libyan 'rebels' were clearly false, and yet had been accepted as good coin by western governments, and some sections of the media. Similar instances have already been demonstrated in relation to the Civil War in Libya, with it being demonstrated that video footage released by the rebels was clearly falsified. As with Libya that does not change the brutal and vile nature of the regime. But, socialists should not simply transform their hostility towards these regimes into a blind acceptance of what their opponents say, let alone do so out of some misguided belief that our enemies enemy is our friend. We are not just against various reactionary forces we are positively for Socialism.

No one can fail to be appalled at the latest pictures coming out of Syria, and in particular the massacre in Houla. The UN is still in the process of investigating that event. Yet, Britain and other western powers have rushed to blame the regime for the massacre, and on the back of it have expelled Syrian diplomats from their respective countries. But, there seems to be considerable reason to doubt that it was the regime that was responsible. An RT report quotes several inhabitants who state that the massacre was committed by armed gangs who came in, and killed Syrian troops prior to the massacre. They are reported to have threatened inhabitants that unless they help them kill the soldiers and police they too would be killed. Of course, we should not take these reports at face value either. Russia itself has its own interests to further in the Middle East, as much as the West. However, the other aspect of RT's report does add weight to this account. Former British Intelligence Officer, Alistair Crooke, told them that the methods of the killings, beheadings and throat cutting, were not typical of the Levant.

The RT report says,

“This type of killing, beheadings, slitting of throats (of children too), and of this mutilation of bodies, has been a characteristic not of Levantine Islam, not of Syria, not of Lebanon, but what happened in the Anbar province of Iraq. And so it seems to point very much in the direction of groups that have been associated with the war in Iraq against the United States who have perhaps returned to Syria, or perhaps Iraqis who have come up from Anbar to take part in it,” he says.

Crooke believes the Al-Qaeda connection is misleading, as the massacre has its tactical and ideological roots in the Iraq war.

“I think the attack is more close to Musab al-Zarqawi [who declared an all out war on Shia in Iraq], than Al-Qaeda as we know it, in the sense that Zarqawi and Iraq gave birth to this very strong, bigoted, anti-Shia, anti-Iranian rhetoric. Much of that came into Syria when fighters from Anbar returned to their homes around Homs and Hama.

“So yes, we’re talking about Al-Qaeda like groups that are at the very end of the spectrum of the opposition. They may be a minority in terms of the numbers of the overall opposition, but they are defining the war,” Crooke maintains.”

Yet, there is little of this analysis within the British media. In fact, given criticisms of the media over recent years, it might be thought that they would be very careful about accepting reports from so called “citizen journalists”. That clearly was not the case in relation to the BBC, which showed pictures of dead children that were claimed to be in Syria, but who it turned out were in Iraq! Photographer Marco di Lauro who took the shot grabbed by the BBC says he nearly “fell off his chair” after finding the picture on the network’s website.

The BBC have apologised for the 'mistake' when it was raised, but this kind of activity lends support to the idea that the west is once again building a wave of propaganda to justify another war such as those it launched against Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. All the while, the reactionary feudal monarchies in the Gulf, such as that in Bahrain, continue to murder their own people, with little condemnation, and even in the case of Bahrain, the US continues to provide them with substantial amounts of arms!

There is a good documentary covering the long term effects of the West's War against Iraq. Entitled - “Fallujah, The Lost Generation” - it looks at the consequences of the use of depleted Uranium munitions during the War. Those effects, whilst having a devastating effect on the current and future generations of Iraqis, particularly in and around Fallujah, where they were used extensively, are also having an effect on the soldiers sent to fight in that War, because the DU was made airborne in the dust created in the explosions.

Of course, it was widely reported that the Imperialist forces used DU munitions in the more than 20,000 bombing runs they launched on Libya, in the recent war which caused more than 30,000 civilian deaths, a huge number for a country with such a small population. DU, not only enters the atmosphere, but also enters the water courses, water table, and from there the soil, and food chain, causing horrific illnesses, cancers and birth defects for decades to come. It is a more potent, long term killer than was the use of dioxin in Agent Orange used by the US to defoliate areas during the Vietnam War.

Wherever, Imperialism has intervened in the name of humanitarianism, or democracy, it has instead brought inhumanity, devastation, and chaos, disorder and repression. In Kosovo, it has acted to replace repression of the Albanian Kosovans (some at least of which was a response to the attacks that the KLA, backed by the CIA was launching against Kosovan Serbs), with its reverse. Now, it has brought about an ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo, and serious division and on going violence, which makes any real democracy impossible.

In Iraq, the US hoped to use sections of the Shia bourgeoisie, and its representatives, to establish a compliant regime, and attempted to portray figures like Sistani as bourgeois constitutionalists. But, the Iraqi Shia found their natural allies within the Shia of Iran. In place of the Bonapartist regime of Saddam, Iraq ended up with a clerical-fascist regime, closely tied to the Iranian Mullahs. The instability of that regime is apparent, as increasingly, the proxy war between the US and other Western powers, against Russia and China, plays out in conflicts between Sunni and Shia across the region. It is manifest in the increasing level of violence once more in Iraq.

In Afghanistan, the West is now already engaged in its longest ever War. That War has brought nothing but further devastation and misery, and when the foreign troops pull out, no one doubts that the Taliban will move back in, bringing even further misery to the people of that blighted country.

In Libya, the terrible regime of Gaddafi has been destroyed, but if anything the situation now is worse than before. Tens of thousands have died. Thousands more will die as a consequence of the War, and of the Civil War that is simmering, as the predicted conflicts between competing tribes, regions, and other interest groups erupts. With Sunni clerical fascist regimes being established in Libya, supported by Sunni Feudal Monarchies in the Gulf, who are themselves backed by the US and other western powers, and other clerical-fascist regimes emerging in Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa, whilst on the other hand Shia clerical fascist regimes persist in Iran, and Iraq (which have much larger populations than the Gulf States), and which are backing revolts by Shia majorities in Bahrain and elsewhere, the stage is set for what could be a period of serious convulsion within the region. Socialists should be very wary of simply accepting the propaganda put out by either side within these conflicts.

Our task remains to support the workers, even where they are only an embryonic force, within these countries, to promote them as an independent force, and to caution against them being simply sucked in behind other larger forces, who are fighting for their own immediate interests. The interests of the workers of the Middle East and North Africa remains to build the greatest possible unity across borders, across religious and other divides, and those interests are not those of the bourgeoisie whether it fights under the cloak of democracy or fascism.

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 10


The AWL's claim that the Zanon workers have demanded the State take over their factory is false. See: Fasinpat. Even the AWL themselves recognised that back in 2009 when they wrote,

“Workers at Zanon, the occupied ceramics factory in Argentina, won a significant victory last week. The regional council administration agreed that the factory is now the legal property of the cooperative that runs it.”

Victory at Zanon - workers' control entrenched.

The example of Zanon, and the way they linked up with the wider community and class struggle is precisely the kind of example of how Co-operatives can integrate with, and be a fundamental aspect of class struggle. In fact, a reading of the experience of Zanon shows that the Capitalist State that the AWL want workers to place their faith in, was one of the main enemies of Zanon workers. Had they followed the example of the Stalinists of the AWL and simply handed the factory back to the ownership of the Capitalist State, then it is almost certain that now, not only would the workers there have no Workers Control, but that they probably would have no jobs either. That has been the experience of all nation-alisations.

What the AWL advocate is the same Stalinist policy that Jimmy Reid, and the Stalinists at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders put forward in the 1970's, when the workers there had occupied the shipyard. They too argued for the workers to give up their achievement in having seized ownership of the means of production, and to hand it back to the Capitalist State. That meant necessarily reducing the struggle to a sectional issue. See: Lessons Of UCS. The same approach was adopted by the French Stalinists in 1968, who advised the workers to hand back the factories they had seized. It is no surprise that the Stalinists of the AWL follow in this well worn path of class betrayal. In a war, had soldiers fought a hard battle to seize territory from the enemy, only to be told by some armchair general to hand it back to the enemy, the troops would know how to quickly deal with such advice. Nor would they be taken in by the idea that they should simply hand the territory back lest they might lose it!

But, this is consistent with the Menshevik “Stages Theory” that was adopted by Stalin, and is now used by the AWL. According to the “Stages Theory”, it was not possible to wage a struggle for Socialism until society had gone through a period of Bourgeois Democracy. The AWL apply this today in their approach to large parts of the world, such as in Iraq. They use it as the basis of arguing in favour of the progressive role of Imperialism. Having lost faith in the working-class, it is “Democratic Imperialism” they see as the vehicle for bringing bourgeois democracy, which they see as having to continue for some time, before a struggle for Socialism is possible. That is why they were opposed to demands for the Iraqi working-class to engage in its own self-activity to oppose the Occupation, as a means of winning the leadership of society, and seeking to transform it in a socialist direction. In other words, they have no conception of the idea of Permanent Revolution, or its associated concept of Combined and Uneven Development. The latter indicates that there is no reason whatsoever why workers who are in advance of other workers should not seek to push forward their advantage, where the possibility arises. If it is possible to develop a more advanced set of productive relations, and social relations based upon them, then it is their duty to do so, and that applies whether we are talking here about a group of workers in a particular enterprise or sector, or workers in a particular state.

This is no different than the argument over Socialism In One Country. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky did not believe that Socialism was possible on anything less than an extensive international scale, but that did not at all mean that they believed workers had to wait until they could make a revolution everywhere simultaneously. That would never happen! All of the arguments the AWL raise against the idea of workers establishing Co-ops can be equally raised against them carrying through a Revolution to establish a Workers State. See: Proletarian Strategy. The argument is rather about ensuring that each of these bridgeheads is secured, and used to facilitate the workers struggle on a broader front.

What is the logic of the AWL's argument that the workers “do not want to operate in the market”? It is that workers producing goods that no one wants should respond by demanding that the State should pay them. But, what that really means is that other workers should pay them out of their taxes! It is a recipe not for forging unity between workers, but driving a wedge between them. In other words, workers could not be persuaded to voluntarily pay for these goods in the market, so the Capitalist State is asked to intervene to forcibly demand payment through the deduction of taxes. This is one reason that State Socialism has completely failed, and why so many workers completely reject it, whether it is in the form put forward by Stalinist States, or in its Social-Democratic guise. It is, in fact, why we see the current division between workers in the Private Capitalist and State Capitalist sectors.  That phenomenon was clearly visible in Sweden, the country which for decades had, under the cover of the Long Wave Boom, built a large State Capitalist sector. If there was anywhere where the kind of approach the AWL advocate could have had traction it was Sweden. But, here too workers in the private Capitalist sector turned on the State Capitalist sector, when it became clear their taxes were continually rising to sustain it. Nor was it right-wing, or reactionary elements that were responsible for this. Rehn & Viklund wrote,

The unions in private industry – mainly the Metalworkers Union – from having been the leaders of social reform inside the labour movement now appear as more self-centred and 'red-necked'. They play no role in the uphill fight for equal opportunity between the sexes, which many consider the most important issue in the labour market: they have come to accept employer proposals for higher wage differentials; and they have joined the liberal criticism of the public sector, using a rather tough language against their fellow workers.”

“Changes in the Swedish Model” - in G. Baglioni and C. Crouch (Eds) “European Industrial Relations: The Challenge of Flexibility”

But, if we continued the AWL's logic, then what we get is an economy where the production of goods, that no one wants, is generalised, with those producing them remaining content in the knowledge that the State will pay them anyway! It is Welfarism in the extreme, or to put it in its proper historical place, it is the economic system that we saw throughout the Stalinist States of Eastern Europe. Because, if the State will pay you anyway, why would you be bothered whether anyone wants what you produce, why would you be bothered what quality it was. After all, you would have no more connection to the workers, who were the end consumers of what you produce, than you do now. As for your relation to the boss, it would be no different than it is today. Anyone who doubts that should just look at the ubiquitous reports, now available, on workers in the area where, if anywhere, there should be some human connection – in the NHS. Every day we see reports of, particularly elderly, people treated with not even the most basic human dignity. And, why would you if your wage was being paid anyway? It is a well documented phenomena that economists, including Marx, have analysed wherever such monopolistic situations arise, that of rent-seeking.

What the AWL put forward is not Marxism but Idealism, a belief that workers can be something other than what the current society, the current set of property and productive relations makes them. It is not possible to replace these market relations, and the alienation that goes with them, with relations based on our common humanity until we have built new property relations, and new social relations. Even then as Marx sets out the transformation of human beings would be far from automatic, let alone immediate. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme, referring not even to the period of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, but the first stage of Communism, Marx writes,

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges...

But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

In the meantime, it will absolutely be necessary to learn to work with the Market, and to utilise it for our own purposes. Lenin himself recognised that in his comments on the role of Co-operatives in the USSR. He wrote,

“We went too far when we reintroduced NEP, but not because we attached too much importance to the principal of free enterprise and trade — we want too far because we lost sight of the cooperatives, because we now underrate cooperatives, because we are already beginning to forget the vast importance of the cooperatives from the above two points of view...

Strictly speaking, there is “only” one thing we have left to do and that is to make our people so “enlightened” that they understand all the advantages of everybody participating in the work of the cooperatives, and organizes participation... There are now no other devices needed to advance to socialism. But to achieve this “only", there must be a veritable revolution—the entire people must go through a period of cultural development... In this respect NEP is an advance, because it is adjustable to the level of the most ordinary peasant and does not demand anything higher of him. But it will take a whole historical epoch to get the entire population into the work of the cooperatives through NEP... The thing now is to learn to combine the wide revolutionary range of action, the revolutionary enthusiasm which we have displayed, and displayed abundantly, and crowned with complete success—to learn to combine this with (I'm almost inclined to say) the ability to be an efficient and capable trader, which is quite enough to be a good cooperator. By ability to be a trader I mean the ability to be a cultured trader. Let those Russians, or peasants, who imagine that since they trade they are good traders, get that well into their heads. This does not follow at all. They do trade, but that is far from being cultured traders. They now trade in an Asiatic manner, but to be a good trader one must trade in the European manner. They are a whole epoch behind in that.”

Clearly, Lenin understood in order to progress to Socialism, even with the benefit of a Workers State behind you, it would not do for workers or peasants to simply feel that they “do not want to operate in the market”! That is all the more the case given the nature of the Market under modern day Capitalism. To listen to the AWL version you would think that the Market today is the same as that of the early 19th Century. That is the vision that the Neo-Classical economists portray not Marxists. As Engels says in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme,

“I am familiar with capitalist production as a social form, or an economic phase; capitalist private production being a phenomenon which in one form or another is encountered in that phase. What is capitalist private production? Production by separate entrepreneurs, which is increasingly becoming an exception. Capitalist production by joint-stock companies is no longer private production but production on behalf of many associated people. And when we pass on from joint-stock companies to trusts, which dominate and monopolise whole branches of industry, this puts an end not only to private production but also to planlessness.”

As Simon Clarke says, in the article referred to earlier,

“Indeed it would be fair to say that the sphere of planning in capitalism is much more extensive than it is in the command economies of the soviet bloc. The scope and scale of planning in giant corporations like Ford, Toyota, GEC or ICI dwarfs that of most, if not all, of the Soviet Ministries. The extent of co-ordination through cartels, trade associations, national governments and international organisations makes Gosplan look like an amateur in the planning game. The scale of the information flows which underpin the stock control and ordering of a single Western retail chain are probably greater than those which support the entire Soviet planning system.”

Moreover, the fact that the Market is abolished does not mean that the Law of Value itself ceases to operate. So long as relative scarcity continues, the value of goods produced, as Marx sets out in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, will continue to be determined by the amount of Labour-time required for their production, and this will mean that choices about how to distribute those goods will have to be arrived at accordingly - “Bourgeois Right” will continue. In other words, abolishing the market does not abolish the competition, which stands behind it. It only changes the form of that Competition. In place of the open competition over the allocation of resources that takes place in the market, what takes its place is hidden competition based upon competing claims by powerful groups – Ministries, powerful industrial groups etc. all of which encourage the rising up of a powerful State apparatus to arbitrate between these competing centres of power. Rather than democratic planning emerging gradually from the ground up, out of the organic links between groups of workers as producers and consumers, what we have is top down, bureaucratic planning – Stalinism.

Some time ago, I was questioned about a comment I had made over at Poumista, where I described the AWL as Stalinist. It is a description I have used in several concrete examples of the AWL's politics over the last few years, particularly in relation to their Popular Frontism. The description of the AWL as a Stalinist sect, as I hope I have demonstrated here, is not just a matter of that Popular Frontism, or their nature as a rather nasty and bureaucratic organisation. The description of Stalinism reflects the nature of the AWL itself, that stems from its sociological base, its weltenshauung, and from that the petit-bourgeois, bureaucratic-centrist politics, which in turn drive its organisational and political methods.

Back To Part 9
Back To Part 1

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Northern Soul Classics - Breakout - Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels

massive bit of blue eyed soul from Michigan. You can feel the seat rolling off, even now from doing your stuff to this.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 9

Telling The Truth To The Workers

Trotsky, wisely said that Marxists should always tell the truth to the class, even when it was not pleasant. But, let us look at what the AWL would really have had to say to the Vestas workers had it told the truth, and compare it with what a Marxist can say. Were the AWL to have spoken the truth to the Vestas workers they would have said,

“Look, we don't really believe there is a hope in hell of David Cameron nation-alising your company. In fact, we don't believe there is any more chance that Ed Miliband would do so, were he Prime Minister. Still less do we think that even were they to nation-alise your company they would do so, for your benefit. Every Capitalist Government, including Attlee's, that has nation-alised companies has done so to bail-out the Capitalists, and for the benefit of the Capitalist economy, not for the workers. We recognise that Trotsky was right when he said, ' a bourgeoisie that feels it is firmly in the saddle will never tolerate dual power in its enterprises', and no one can doubt that the bourgeoisie certainly does feel it is firmly in the saddle. In fact, for the reasons Kautsky spelled out that, ' As an exploiter of labour, the state is superior to any private capitalist', we understand that if Cameron DID nation-alise your company, you would be in an even weaker position than you are confronting your current bosses! But, we do not ask you to spend your time and energy struggling for this demand because we think it has any chance of success, or that it could resolve your problems.

On the contrary, we ask you to struggle for this demand, precisely so that you can discover that it is NOT achievable, that you can shed the illusions you might have in the Capitalist State, and in politicians like Ed Miliband. We hope that in that process one or two of you might join our tiny sect, or at least buy some papers from us. We understand that the price of that is that all of you will likely lose your jobs, but that is a price we are happy for you to pay, in order for us to possibly build our sect.”

On the other hand the Marxist can tell the truth, and say,

“Look, we are not going to pretend that there are any easy solutions to your problems. Your bosses are wanting to close the factory for their own economic reasons, and that can't be ignored if you want to save your jobs. As Marxists we believe in dealing with reality, as the starting point for changing it. Your bosses want to close the factory, we suggest that you take it over yourselves and run it as a Co-op. The first question then is, are the statements made by your union leaders about the Company being profitable, about there being plenty of demand for your products true? If they are, then that is a good starting point. We have confidence that you as workers will be able to develop that, more efficiently than your bosses, or the State, and that as owners you will have an incentive to do so.

But, if the statements by your leaders are not true, then that reality has to be addressed too. It does not mean the end of the line. More than 30 years ago, workers at Lucas Aerospace, showed that they could draw up their own plans of products they could produce, instead of weapons, which they could sell profitably. There are lots of useful products, which are required, and which we are sure you have the skills to produce. A start would be to enlist the support of other workers to draw up such plans, to investigate what needs you could meet, and so on.

Again, we do not pretend that is easy or without dangers. So long as the capitalist system continues, there are potential pitfalls due to unforeseen crises, which could cause a recession and so on. But, that is true whether you work for yourselves, or whether you work for a private Capitalist or the Capitalist State. Look at what happened to the Miners, and Steelworkers, look at what is happening to Local Government and NHS workers. Being employed by the Capitalist State is no security for workers. Working for yourselves, you can at least prepare for that, you can make your own decisions about how to deal with such situations, and will do so more fairly than any Capitalist employer would impose on you.

But, your best safeguard against that is to pool your resources with other workers in a Co-operative Federation, and as the workers who have set up the Argentinian Co-ops have done, by uniting your Co-ops with the local communities to help meet their needs.

We don't seek to win you to our organisation as part of making these arguments to you, because instead, what we want is for you to realise the need for you to create your own mass Workers Party, which will pursue the political struggle that will be needed to defend your Co-ops, your Trades Unions, and the other organisations you create, from the attacks of the bosses and their State. And, as in your day to day struggles in the workplaces, and in the communities, our aim within this Workers Party, is once again to only provide you with our advice. On that basis we hope you will find our advice proves correct, and on that basis we will win your respect, so that you may be inclined to take our advice in future.”

The AWL's statement that the Tories are putting forward the idea of Co-ops as a cover for Cuts may well be true, but so what? Why would that mean that we should then not argue for Co-ops for our own reasons? If socialists develop their demands and their programs based not on what they believe is necessary, but by placing a plus everywhere that the bosses place a minus, then it will mean boycotting our own politics. Thatcher argued for Trades Union democracy as a cover for attacking the Unions, but that in no way meant that Socialists had to drop their own demands for greater democracy within the unions. In Trotsky's words,

“The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat.”

Learn To Think.

But, the AWL do not seem to have noticed, when they advise workers to look to the Capitalist State rather than their own Co-operative organisations, for solutions, that it is that very same Capitalist State that is carrying out the attacks! It is the Capitalist State, which is attacking workers pensions; it is the Capitalist State which is sacking tens of thousands of workers; it is the Capitalist State which is cutting billions from welfare programmes; it is the Capitalist State, which is the workers main enemy, its class enemy incarnate. It is this Capitalist State the AWL tell the workers to place their faith in at home and abroad, rather than in their own actions, their own organisations, their own self-government!

Aldous Huxley understood the ideas that the AWL put forward, as he set out in “Brave New World”. He recognised the way in which Fordism in production was being applied at a State level in the form of the Welfare State, whose function was to subdue the working-class. He saw its obvious manifestation in the State power of Totalitarianism, but as others such as Chomsky have set out, the ideological power of the modern bourgeois democratic state (what is sometimes referred to as soft power) is far more effective than any totalitarian propaganda machine.

In the Foreword to the book, Huxley writes that the really efficient state of the future would not need to rely on coercion because Fordism would have become 'second nature'. The state's role would be controlling “a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers. The task of making people love their servitude was to be the task of an army of scientists through a “deep, personal revolution in human minds and bodies”. They would use, amongst other things, improved techniques of suggestion, through infant conditioning and drugs. It is achieved today through an all embracing Welfare State, which, especially as in the case of the NHS, we are told to “love”, and via the myriad of ideological strings, by which it is connected through the mass media, and all the panoply of a consumerist society to lead us not only to accept our current condition of servitude, but to love it. It is that condition that the AWL seek to perpetuate. They have become like the Lotus Eaters.

Back To Part 8
Forward To Part 10

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 8

Opportunism & Adventurism

Lions Led By Donkeys
This approach, described in Part 7, which combines delusion with adventurism, and ultra-leftism, with the most crass opportunism, in a thoroughly rancid cocktail, is also typical of Stalinism, and can be seen elsewhere in the AWL's politics. For example, the AWL, an organisation with less than 100 members, have launched, with tiny forces, adventurist assaults on fascists at EDL demonstrations. It is not just typical studentist politics, but is clearly a part of an attempt to obtain publicity for themselves by such actions. But, having placed themselves, and anyone foolish enough to follow them, in such adventures, in danger of getting their heads kicked in, the AWL are quick to use the consequences of such tactics to justify their Opportunist politics elsewhere. They argue that, having placed themselves in such a position, then, of course, why would they demand that the Capitalist State police refrain from protecting them. Having done so, they then use this argument to justify similar adventurism in Libya, on the basis that “never mind Imperialism can come to the rescue!” According to the AWL, the rebel forces in Libya, they allied themselves with, amounted to no more than about 13,000. That is about 0.3% of the population, or about the same amount of support that the sects obtain in UK elections. It is no wonder then that they failed to make any progress, and were reduced to being merely a cover for the Imperialists, who destroyed Libya with their massive bombing campaign, and with the thousands of Special Forces troops, which they and their allies from the Feudal Sunni Monarchies in the Gulf sent in.

Marx warned the Paris Workers in 1870
against a premature rebellion
This is a million miles away from the tactical approach of Lenin and Trotsky, or of Marx who advised the Paris Workers in 1870 against coming out in revolt. It is not the politics and tactics of Lenin who had to minimise the damage of adventurism by Russian workers in the July days of 1917, or of Trotsky who repeatedly warned against the adventurist tactics of the German Stalinists in calling out the workers for General Strikes that were doomed to fail. One of the main responsibilities of Marxists is to help the workers learn the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them, and that includes the lessons of adventurism. These great Marxist thinkers frequently refer to the fact of War being the continuation of politics by other means, and refer back to the military thinkers such as Clausewitz. They could as easily refer to Sun Tzu, who wrote in the “Art Of War”,

“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won..”

For all their talk about working class action it is the last thing on the AWL's mind, which is why they oppose demands for such independent working-class action, whether it is for workers to take over the means of production and establish Co-ops, or to struggle to kick out the Imperialist Occupation in Iraq, or to mobilise an international working-class force to intervene on behalf of workers against atrocities in the Balkans, in Libya, in Syria, and elsewhere. Instead, in all these instances they tell the workers to rely on the Capitalist State. I came across a good description of it recently, provided by John Lovering in Capital & Class 42. Lovering was discussing “New Realism”, a concept which itself emanated from the petit-bourgeois circles of Stalinist intellectuals around Marxism Today during the late 1980's. He writes,

“New Realists cannot conceive of socialism as other than a reformed version of what we are used to. It can only think of politics in terms of 'policy'; to be delivered by governments which resemble the Starship Enterprise, beaming-in when required to redistribute resources and right wrongs.”

That is exactly the AWL approach. Working-class politics reduced to nothing more than militant Trade Unionism at the level of the workplace (Economism), demands for Redistributive Socialism (Fabianism) at the level of the State, and what Marx called “a democratic belief in miracles” in its demands for the Capitalist State to act on behalf of the workers (Lassalleanism). And, of course, this view extends to its view of that same Capitalist State “beaming-in” to Iraq, or Libya, or wherever to fulfil the same functions. In other words the AWL are content to remain secure in the bosom of the Capitalist State. Unfortunately for them, it has no desire to suckle this Socialist child, which it sees more in the role of Damien than the Son of God.

Ultimately, their view of Socialism, in so far as they have not given up on it entirely, relies on a revolution from above, carried through by an elitist vanguard party. And like every other sect they see themselves as the embryo of this Party, and everything else is subordinated, therefore, to the goal of “Building The Party”, of recruiting to their own organisation ready for this great day. They are not bothered whether their policies provide any actual solutions for workers in the near term because their goal is only to build the Party. In other words true sectarianism, putting their own narrow interests above that of the class. The problem for the AWL, more than any of the other sects is that in the more than 40 years of its existence, it has succeeded in going absolutely nowhere in adding to its numbers. Certainly, it has no hope, even if it had the desire, of attracting workers to its banner – in the last General Election, it secured just 75 votes!!!!  With results as abysmal as that you should question not just your politics, but your interpersonal skills, and maybe even your deodorant! It would be a bad result even for the real Monster Raving Loonies.  The AWL can only survive, because it manages to just about recruit enough young, impressionable students each year to replenish those it has worn out, or who have found themselves a nice middle class job.

An excellent analysis of this kind of Statist Socialism was provided more than 20 years ago by Simon Clarke in an article “Crisis of Socialism Or Crisis Of the State?”, in Capital & Class 42, Winter 1990. He writes,

“The social base of state socialism lies in the stratum of intellectual workers, including such groups as managers, administrators, scientists, technicians, engineers, social workers and teachers as well as the intelligentsia more narrowly defined.” These groups believe that the key to a more just society lies “in their mobilisation of their technical, administrative and intellectual expertise... The ability of this stratum to achieve its rationalist ambitions depends on its having access to positions of social and political power.”

“For the working-class the Party is a means of mobilising and generalising its opposition to Capital and its State, and of building autonomous forms of collective organisation, while for the intellectual stratum it is a means of achieving power over capital and the state... As soon as the party has secured state power, by whatever means, it has fulfilled its positive role as far as the intellectual stratum is concerned. The latter's task is now to consolidate and exploit its position of power to secure the implementation of the Party's programme in the interests of the 'working class'. Once the Party has seized power, any opposition it encounters from the working class is immediately identified as sectional or factional opposition to the interests of the working class as a whole, the latter being identified with the Party as its self-conscious representative.”

Clarke echoes the view expressed by Draper saying,

“The distinction between the Bolshevik and social democratic variants of state socialism should not be ignored, but it is more a matter of degree than of substance. The 'degeneration' of the Russian Revolution was not a matter of Lenin's intolerance, nor of Trotsky's militarism, nor of Stalin's personality, nor of the economic backwardness nor of the relatively small size of the Russian working class, nor of the autocratic character of the Russian State, nor of the embattled position of the revolutionary regime, although all these factors played their part in determining the extent of the degeneration. The degeneration was already inherent in the class character of the revolution which underlay the statist conception of socialism which it adopted as its project.”

Guesde - Revolutionary Phrasemonger
That can be witnessed in the other odd aspect of the AWL position. In raising the demand for nation-alisation, the question is who will implement it? After all, they admit that, in respect of Vestas, Ed Miliband showed no inclination to do so. In that case, even the AWL must recognise that there is even less chance of persuading Cameron to implement such a policy! So, if its known that no existing parties have any intention of implementing this policy, and given that there is even less indication of the AWL's even more ludicrous demand for a “Workers' Government” having any basis in reality, it is clear that the demand is pissing in the wind. So, what is the real purpose of raising it? In fact, it is raised for purely sectarian reasons again. The AWL know there is no chance of it being implemented, but they see it as merely a means of posturing in front of workers, in the hope of winning the odd one to their sect. It is what Marx called “Revolutionary Phrasemongering” when this method was adopted by Guesde and the French Socialists.

“After the programme was agreed, however, a clash between Marx and his French supporters arose over the purpose of the minimum section. Whereas Marx saw this as a practical means of agitation around demands that were achievable within the framework of capitalism, Guesde took a very different view: “Discounting the possibility of obtaining these reforms from the bourgeoisie, Guesde regarded them not as a practical programme of struggle, but simply ... as bait with which to lure the workers from Radicalism.” The rejection of these reforms would, Guesde believed, “free the proletariat of its last reformist illusions and convince it of the impossibility of avoiding a workers ’89.” Accusing Guesde and Lafargue of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggles, Marx made his famous remark that, if their politics represented Marxism, “ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (“what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist”)”

Programme of the French Socialists

Back To Part 7
Forward To Part 9

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Northern Soul Classics - The Urge Keeps Coming - Jo Armstead Band

Instrumental to "I Feel An Urge Coming On" by Joshie Jo Armstead. Classic Torch dancer.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 7

Statism and Class Collaboration

Defend State Capitalist Stafford Hospital?
That Popular Frontist approach can be seen in relation to the AWL's position on nation-alisation too. It is by definition a cross-class demand which covers the fact that it is a measure for the benefit of the ruling class. It used to be the case that the AWL's predecessors always linked the demand with the demand for Workers Control, but in the case of the NHS, the AWL do not now even do that. In fact, they do not even raise the demand for it be democratically controlled. In other words they have simply joined a cross-class alliance with the NHS bureaucrats.

James Burnham,The Father of Third Campism
Once again the irony here is inescapable. The defining break between the Third Campists and Trotsky was over the question of defence of the USSR. A section of the Third Campists, as with a section of the AWL, and their co-thinkers in the SWP, argued that the USSR was State Capitalist. They argued that this meant that it was no more deserving of defence against Imperialism than any other Capitalist State. But, as Trotsky pointed out, even were it the case that the USSR was State Capitalist – which it was not – then, for the reasons that Engels sets out, that would still be more progressive than less mature forms of free enterprise Capitalism, and, therefore should be defended against any attempt at restoration. Yet, whilst the AWL OPPOSED defence of the USSR, and OPPOSE defence of Cuba, where private Capitalists and Landlords had been liquidated as a class, with property nation-alised as they advocate, the AWL not only argue FOR the defence of actual State Capitalism in the hands of a very real, very powerful British Capitalist State, but actively argue in favour of it, argue that workers should place their faith in it at home and abroad, should hand over property they have seized from private owners to it!!!!

They describe this Popular Frontist approach in relation to demanding “Public Ownership” and “Public Control”, as Socialist. If your definition of Socialism is the Stalinist, or Reformist idea of something imposed from the State down, which, as Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Pannakoek and Trotsky rightly say, can only ever result in the more effective exploitation of the workers, that may be so, but it has nothing to do with the Marxist vision of Socialism.

In the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx was scathing of the idea that workers should place demands on the State even for “State Aid” let alone for nation-alisation. And he was even more scathing of those he described as tagging on the demand for “Democratic Control” out of a sense of shame for having done so. He writes,

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

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

“Second, "democratic" means in German "Volksherrschaftlich" [by the rule of the people]. But what does "control by the rule of the toiling people" mean? And particularly in the case of a toiling people which, through these demands that it puts to the state, expresses its full consciousness that it neither rules nor is ripe for ruling! ….”

“The German Workers' party — at least if it adopts the program — shows that its socialist ideas are not even skin-deep; in that, instead of treating existing society (and this holds good for any future one) as the basis of the existing state (or of the future state in the case of future society), it treats the state rather as an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.”

Critique Of The Gotha Programme

And Engels re-emphasised these points in a subsequent letter to Bebel, where he wrote opposing the kind of demand for state intervention put forward by the AWL,

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

But, Engels was even more clear in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme where he wrote opposing not just such nation-alisation, but opposing State Capitalism in the form of National Insurance. He writes,

“8 and 9. Here I want to draw attention to the following: These points demand that the following should be taken over by the state: (1) the bar, (2) medical services, (3) pharmaceutics, dentistry, midwifery, nursing, etc., etc., and later the demand is advanced that workers’ insurance become a state concern. Can all this be entrusted to Mr. von Caprivi? And is it compatible with the rejection of all state socialism, as stated above?”

Critique Of The Erfurt Programme. But, of course, the AWL Stalinists with their Popular Frontist politics are more than happy to tell the workers to place their trust in the Von Caprivi's, and all the other bourgeois politicians and representatives of the Capitalist State!!!

Trotsky wrote,

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

Nationalisation and Workers Control

But, it is precisely this deception that the AWL Stalinists seek to perpetrate upon the workers. Nor can they, to use Marx's phrase, cover themselves “out of a sense of shame” by adding on the demand for “Public Control” still less “Workers Control”. As Trotsky argues,

“If the participation of the workers in the management of production is to be lasting, stable, “normal,” it must rest upon class collaboration, and not upon class struggle. Such a class collaboration can be realized only through the upper strata of the trade unions and the capitalist associations. There have been not a few such experiments: in Germany (“economic democracy”), in Britain (“Mondism”), etc. Yet, in all these instances, it was not a case of workers’ control over capital, but of the subserviency of the labour bureaucracy to capital.”

That is precisely the kind of Workers Control the AWL's demand amounts to. It could never be anything other, under the current conditions, because as Trotsky continues,

Failure of the Italian Workers Councils led to Fascism
“What state regime corresponds to workers’ control of production? It is obvious that the power is not yet in the hands of the proletariat, otherwise we would have not workers’ control of production but the control of production by the workers’ state as an introduction to a regime of state production on the foundations of nationalization. What we are talking about is workers’ control under the capitalist regime, under the power of the bourgeoisie. However, a bourgeoisie that feels it is firmly in the saddle will never tolerate dual power in its enterprises. workers’ control consequently, can be carried out only under the condition of an abrupt change in the relationship of forces unfavourable to the bourgeoisie and its state. Control can be imposed only by force upon the bourgeoisie, by a proletariat on the road to the moment of taking power from them, and then also ownership of the means of production. Thus the regime of workers’ control, a provisional transitional regime by its very essence, can correspond only to the period of the convulsing of the bourgeois state, the proletarian offensive, and the failing back of the bourgeoisie, that is, to the period of the proletarian revolution in the fullest sense of the word.”

And, the only way the AWL could present the demand for Workers Control in any other way than as a purely reformist demand, for a Stalinist stitch up, between the union bureaucrats and the bosses state, is if they present this further delusion that we are currently in some kind of “Dual Power”, “Pre-Revolutionary” situation, a delusion that is also required for their other ridiculous demand for a Workers Government, which under current conditions could be none other than a right-wing Miliband Government!!!

Back To Part 6
Forward To Part 8

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 6

Moral Socialism v Marxism

Reformism be it of the Social Democratic or Stalinist variety is based on Idealism and Moralism. This “Petit-Bourgeois Socialism”, or Moral Socialism has its roots in the ideology of the petit-bourgeoisie as Marx sets out in The Communist Manifesto. Where the Petit-bourgeois socialists of the Sismondist type, in Marx's day, were characterised by their attempts,

“either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian”,

in short protecting the old feudal monopolies and the paternalism that went with them, the AWL are characterised by their defence of the bureaucratic, 'feudal', state capitalist monopolies, and the paternalism that goes with them.

It bases itself upon how it would like the world to be, rather than how it is. The Moralism of the AWL and SWP is a reflection of the abandonment of Marxism. Marxism provides a scientific – historical materialist – basis for understanding social laws. It provides the basis for understanding, for example, that a society has a Bonapartist regime for reasons directly related to the material conditions in which that society exists. For example, it may have Capitalist productive forces at a low level of development, with a consequently small, weak and poorly developed bourgeoisie. That facilitates the State in such a society being able to raise itself up above society. We have seen such regimes in many places – Cromwell in Britain, Napoleon In France, Bolivarian regimes in 19th Century Latin America, and in 20th century Latin America, as well as in Asia, and the Middle East. Or there have been those societies where Capitalism has been relatively developed, but alongside it has been a relatively developed working-class, whose strength weighs in the balance against that of the bourgeoisie, making it relatively weak. Such was the case with Louis Napoleon, or with Bismark. In addition there are those societies where other social cleavages, usually along ethnic or religious lines lead to a stalemate within society that allows the State to rise above it.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
In all these instances, Marxists, who might wish to see the establishment of a bourgeois democratic polity, if not Socialism, can understand the material conditions, which stand in the way of its achievement. That should then influence the positions the Marxists adopt. It should cause us to reconcile ourselves in some conditions to simply recognising that our options are limited, until such time as material conditions change. But, for Moralists like the AWL, this is not the case. Instead, they simply see the establishment of bourgeois democracy as a Moral good, which can be advocated whatever material conditions exist. And, when the material conditions do not exist to make it possible, they are left simply resorting to an appeal to other class forces to make up for it, and with the consequent deleterious results for the longer-term.

The Results Of Stalinist Gangsterism
The result of all this is another irony. Having arisen as a moralistic, petit-bourgeois response to the Stalinist/statist deformation of the USSR, these Third Campist organisations (the AWL and SWP), have degenerated themselves into Stalinist sects. Both share a common petit-bourgeois social base. The reason for this is simple. Having abandoned Marxism, these organisations are led into numerous mistakes, just as was Stalinism in the 1920's and 30's. But, they cannot acknowledge these mistakes, or accept that they have zigged and zagged to different positions in an attempt to remedy them, or cover their tracks. Unable to defend their positions, mistakes and actions by resort to Marxist theory, and rational argument they are forced, as were the Stalinists in the 1920's and 30's, to resort to other methods, to bureaucratism, to rudeness and bullying, to bowdlerisation of Marxist texts and so on. In short to adopt all of the classic organisational and political methods of Stalinism. All of those features can be plainly witnessed in the actions of the AWL, and of the SWP. In the end it leads to outright gangsterism.

Back To Part 5
Forward To Part 7

Thursday, 10 May 2012

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 5

AWL & Popular Frontism

The Popular Front
The cross class politics of Stalinism, which the AWL perpetrate with these ideas about “Public Ownership”, and which reliance upon the intervention of the Capitalist State represents, is summed up in the Popular Front. Calls for the workers to throw in their lot with the Capitalist State, as the AWL advocate here, is just one version of that Popular Front. The Popular Front is a central part of the Stalinist politics of the AWL.

As a petit-bourgeois, studentist organisation it was not surprising that the AWL buckled in response to the Thatcherite Reaction, which set in after the Long Wave Boom ended, and which saw the start of a long period of retrenchment by the working-class. About 25 years ago that was marked by their collapse into what Trotsky called the Third Camp of the Petit-Bourgeoisie. In Their Morals And Ours, Trotsky rightly says,

“DURING AN EPOCH OF triumphant reaction, Messrs. democrats, social-democrats, anarchists, and other representatives of the “left” camp begin to exude double their usual amount of moral effluvia, similar to persons who perspire doubly in fear. Paraphrasing the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, these moralists address themselves not so much to triumphant reaction as to those revolutionists suffering under its persecution, who with their “excesses” and “amoral” principles “provoke” reaction and give it moral justification. Moreover they prescribe a simple but certain means of avoiding reaction: it is necessary only to strive and morally to regenerate oneself. Free samples of moral perfection for those desirous are furnished by all the interested editorial offices.

The class basis of this false and pompous sermon is the intellectual petty bourgeoisie. The political basis – their impotence and confusion in the face of approaching reaction. Psychological basis – their effort at overcoming the feeling of their own inferiority through masquerading in the beard of a prophet.”

That is a concise description of the course followed by the Moralists of the AWL. Their collapse into Third Campism marked an abandonment of Marxism in favour of an essentially Kantian Moralism. It meant seeing the world no longer divided into classes – hence their talk above about “Public Ownership” as opposed to Workers Ownership – but as being divided into two contending camps of Good and Evil. And, for the AWL, the main source of "Good" was now to be seen not as the working-class, in whose agency they had now lost faith, but in the bourgeois democratic state, including its international manifestation – Democratic Imperialism. It is not just to that bourgeois-democratic state, that the AWL now ask workers to place their faith, in the form of nation-alisation, but to fight their battles in a range of arenas. In other words, the workers are asked to participate in a Popular Front with the bourgeois-democratic state against its enemies in the “Evil” Camp, who are then defined as all the enemies of that bourgeois-democratic state. It is lesser-evilism, or the notion that “My Enemy's Enemy Is My Friend.”

The AWL's fellow Third Campists of the SWP applied the same method, the difference being that the SWP see “Imperialism” as being the “Evil” camp, and, therefore, see all those opposed to it including all sorts of fascists, and other reactionaries as in the “Good” camp. The SWP, in fact, provide a ready picture of the trajectory and destination of the AWL.

They are all Hezbollah Now!!!
The consequence is that the AWL, at an international level work on the basis of a Popular Front with “Democratic Imperialism”. Ironically, that means they also end up as allies of fascists themselves as happened in Libya, where they are in turn the allies of the clerical-fascist allies of Imperialism. It is what leads them to deny the reality of the atrocities committed by those forces in Libya, as I set out in my blog The Moral Cripples Of The AWL. It was also the case in Kosovo where the Popular Front with Imperialism against Serbia, placed them in the position of being allies with the fascists of the KLA. Just as the AWL apologise for the actions of the clerical-fascists today in Libya, so too they say nothing of the atrocities committed by the Kosovan Albanians against the Serbian Albanians, and the tensions and possibilities for war this creates in the area, and the division it engenders amongst Balkan workers. (See: Kosovo & The Myth Of Liberal Interventionism. The same was true of the AWL's Popular Front with Imperialism in Iraq, whereby they apologised for the clerical-fascism of the Shia politicians such as Sistani, because they were seen as the allies of Imperialism. In Tibet, the AWL's Popular Front with Imperialism puts them in alliance with all those forces allied to Imperialism against China, forces which are dominated by Clericalism and Landlordism. The extent to which the AWL are prepared to ally themselves with even such feudalists was shown in relation again to Libya, where they wrote of the role of the Qatari Monarchy in Libya as being now one of the ways in which the Bourgeois Revolution would take place!