Monday, 5 January 2015

Labour's Immigration Policy Is A Mess - Part 4

For the reasons set out at the end of Part 2, no one should be deluded into believing that reactionary views are solely a reflection of poor conditions, or even just backwardness. In order to defeat bigoted ideas, it is necessary to confront them head on. Unfortunately, Labour is poorly placed to carry out such a task. Tackling racist ideas cannot be undertaken without tackling nationalism as an ideology itself. But, the collapse of social-democratic parties, like the Labour Party, into nationalism, with the outbreak of World War I, showed that when it came to it, they were not up to that task.

One of the weaknesses of the Second International was its adoption of, what Lenin and Trotsky described as, “diplomatic” arrangements, between its different national sections, whereby each agreed to keep out of the affairs of the other. That meant that instead of building a single international workers' organisation, in which political differences were the main lines of debate, what was created was a federation of national parties. We see the same thing today, with the discussion over giving the Scottish Labour Party autonomy from the rest of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom. It is a move, which must lead to increased division, and weakness in the workers' movement. It comes down to a desire to court electoral favour, by presenting a different face in Scotland to that in England, which is reminiscent of the populist and opportunist politics of the Liberals in the past, and of UKIP currently. In place of an open and honest political debate, within the party, what we get instead is an avoidance of such a debate, in favour of a diplomatic manoeuvre. Even worse, for the solidarity of the working-class, was the same kind of fudge that led to the adoption of devolution, and which is now threatening the unity of the state, by offering various concessions to Scotland over tax raising and so on.

The inevitable consequence of these moves is to weaken the existing state, and to drive towards its break-up. Instead of driving towards internationalism, breaking down walls, and joining hands across the seas, as Curran proposed, it leads to the building up of new additional walls, and thereby makes it all the harder for workers to join hands. It suggests that the problems faced by workers, in Scotland, are not problems arising from capitalism, but problems arising from England, and thereby different problems to those faced by English workers. The logic of that is to suggest that English workers need a similar set of solutions, to be found in the establishment of their own English Parliament, and so on, rather than a combined attack by English and Scottish workers, along with Welsh and Irish, and other EU workers on the foundations of capital itself. If the Labour Party cannot even show the backbone to oppose nationalism within the borders of Britain, but gives way, in the face of a challenge from the SNP, how on Earth could it be expected to show the necessary resolve to adopt an internationalist position, in relation to Europe, faced with the nationalist opposition of UKIP and the Tory Right?

Marx and Engels would probably have been amazed that social democracy could show this level of incompetence. In Capital, Marx sets out the way that the process of development of capital leads to the “expropriation of the expropriators”. The individual large private capitalists become first removed from the practical functions, as professional managers take on the functions of bringing together the forces of production, and supervising the production process. These day to day managers become more and more just another class of worker, particularly as capitalism extends public education, so that members of the working-class themselves are trained to take on these functions. This is one reason, the actual capitalists, who are then reduced to being money-capitalists, who simply own shares and bonds, are led to establish additional Boards of Directors, above the actual managers, to supervise them. Engels, in his later writings, foresaw that, as the workers' parties developed beyond a certain level, they would be able to absorb these professional and technical workers, who would be vital for the process of creating a socialist economy.

And, in fact, in the period after WWII, there was evidence that this could be the case. Some of the most radical unions, and backbone of the left-wing of the Labour Party were those unions that organised these day to day managers. Some like TASS were even led by people whose allegiance was to the Communist Party, which itself was simply a left social-democratic party. On many issues, as Engels had set out towards the end of his life, there was a shared interest between workers and big industrial capital, and it was this that was the basis of social democracy.

At times, when capitalism was growing rapidly, as it was in the post-war period, moving forward on the basis of those shared interests was fairly straightforward. To win votes, even conservative parties had to adopt social-democratic policies. But, when the long-wave boom came to an end, in the mid-1970's, things became tougher for social-democracy. In part, that was because of the welfarist policies that social democracy adopted, which themselves flowed from the basic contradiction of bourgeois social democracy.

In Capital III, Marx sets out that the process of the “expropriation of the expropriators” takes place by two different forms of socialised capital. One form is that of the huge joint stock company, or limited liability company of today. The other is in the form of the worker owned co-operative. It is this that Marx alludes to in “Value, Price and Profit”, when he writes,

“At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.” 

More developed forms of social-democracy, such as in Germany, have pursued one side of that logic. They have encouraged this unity of interest between the organised working-class and big industrial capital, by promoting the idea of industrial democracy, incorporating workers into the boardroom and so on. Yet, in Britain, when such measures were proposed, by left social-democrats, as a means of rescuing British capital, they were looked upon as being tantamount to calls for immediate socialist revolution.

This timidity on the part of social-democracy is one reason that the backward sections of capital, that Marx thought would be rapidly consigned to history, by the natural process of the centralisation and concentration of capital, by the supremacy of socialised capital over private capital, continue to linger on, and why they in turn impact the continuation of conservative ideologies, such as nationalism, which threaten the further development of capital itself. The process of opposing nationalism and racism, goes hand in hand with the struggle of social-democracy against conservatism.

No comments: