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


Jacob Richter said...

The stereotypical "dual power" situation pits the established government against prolific councils or other political organs of the working class. However, those cases where the latter organs are successful occurred because they provided social support.

Let's also consider Wilhelm's Liebknecht's slogan, "Not One Man, Not One Penny," such that the taxation system of the established government is mostly in tatters. Let's also assume that the worker organs have more institutional backbone. Would this be too much a Somalia case, with private gangs and paramilitary groups running amok? Or could this be a "Robin Hood" dual power scenario, whereby the institutional mass movement of the working class itself not only has Alternative Culture as the basis of its social support, not only has paramilitias and other armed groups, but through those groups "robs the rich to feed the poor" (fellow workers) as a substitute for the broken taxation system?

Boffy said...

I am all in favour of workers building local organs that provide social support. Its interesting that those forces - the Provos, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah - that have established such local community support organisations outside the sphere of the existing State, have been very succesful as a consequence.

The possibility exists that reactionary forces - such as the above - can fill a vaccuum and establish their own militias etc. That is true whether or not Marxists have such a perspective. Our answer to that cannot be to rely on the Capitalist State to prevent them doing so, but has to be to be earlier and better at building such organisations within workers communities.

The 1917 Revolution showed that workers who engage in such a Revolution do not immediately slough off reactionary ideas - see Rosdolsky's account of the behaviour of Bolshevik forces in Ukraine during the Civil War - it is part of the reason I beleive that Marxists as materialists have to build these Co-operative organisations now, so that the reactionary ideas that are embedded in workers heads can be dealt with by Marxists within such organisations under more favourable conditions than those which apply in Capitalist soceity in general, or even the drastic conditions that would arise under conditions of a sudden violent revolution.

Jacob Richter said...

Yes, it's good to know that you, Mitt Romney, and I share the same view about Hezbollah's otherwise impressive Alternative Culture.

BTW, there's a Politics thread on RevLeft on Greek far-right elements resorting to this social support organizing as a means of growing support, if you're interested.