Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why Syriza Cannot Buckle - Part 7 of 7

The idea put forward by some that such Keynesian policies are doomed to failure is also based upon the repetition of mantras rather than analysis of the current situation. It confuses the long-term with the short-term. For Marxists, of course, its true that there can be no crisis-free capitalism, and ultimately, therefore, Keynesian intervention cannot resolve, or even cut short such crises. But, as Keynes himself said, “In the long run we are all dead.” The fact, that Keynesian intervention cannot create a crisis-free capitalism, does not at all mean that under specific conditions, it cannot cut short such crises, as indeed it did between 1947-74, and did again after 2008.

To oppose such intervention on the basis that it is not a socialist solution, is just as much an ultra-left position as to oppose a strike on the same basis, and because, therefore, to use Marx's words, “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.” (Value, Price and Profit). The same thing applies to the election of social-democratic governments. Such governments, like the Labour governments of 1945-51, 1964-70, 1974-79, 1997-2010, are not governments that represent the interests of workers, and so the warning given by Engels, about a class party assuming power prematurely does not apply. Those governments, as with similar Democrat governments in the US, were never elected as some kind of Workers Government. Social democratic parties are bourgeois parties, that represent the interests of big industrial capital, but that rely on the support of industrial workers.

Those parties, as with all social-democratic parties, are a crystallisation of the ideology that is the basis of the bourgeois social-democratic state. That is that they represent the interests not of workers but of big industrial capital. The interests of workers are only seen as being advanced as a consequence of the advance of big industrial capital itself, and so the interests of workers must always be subordinated to that goal. After more than 100 years experience of social democracy, big industrial capital is well aware of that fact, and so there is no reason why it should see such governments as a threat. On the contrary, they are the means of its interests being pursued! The fact that, at times, such governments appear more “left” than at others is only a reflection of the material conditions, in which they operate, including the political realities that exist within a bourgeois social democracy, that revolve around the need to win a sufficient number of votes from workers.

The politics of Roosevelt's “New Deal” were driven by the needs of big US industrial capital at the time, just as much as the turn away from Keynesian intervention by Callaghan's Labour Government, towards Monetarism in the 1970's, was driven by the same interests, in conditions when Keynesian intervention alone could no longer meet those needs. In fact, the policies of left social democracy, at that time, represented by the Alternative Economic Strategy, were probably more in tune with the interests of big industrial capital than was the policy of Callaghan. 

The main and decisive weakness of the AES, from this perspective, for big industrial capital, was the nationalistic nature of the programme, centred around protectionism, import controls and exit from the EU.   It was on this basis that division within the LP developed, so that the pursuance of the truly social democratic elements of the programme were thrown out alongside the conservative, nationalistic elements.  The timidity of the Labour Party, in failing to pursue the social-democratic elements of the programme, as for example happened in Germany, opened the door to the forces of conservatism, whose emphasis was most certainly not the interests of big industrial capital, large swathes of which they saw physically destroyed, in order to build up huge mountains of fictitious capital, thereby pursuing the interests of interest-bearing capital, which is one of the foundations of their support.

Ironically, the AES opened a division within the Labour Party, because of its conservative, nationalistic core, which prevented the adoption of the social-democratic ideas contained within it. That ultimately led to the election of Thatcher, which itself opened the door to the kind of conservative, nationalistic ideology that undermined the further development of the EU.  The development of the EU, as an increasingly centralised, single state, was fundamentally in the interests of big industrial capital. The frustration, over the last 25-30 years, of that development, due to the rise of conservative forces, has significantly weakened the position of EU industrial capital, both vis a vis US industrial capital, and Asian industrial capital.   That fact is demonstrated by the poor economic performance of the EU, compared to other parts of the global economy, and most manifest in the lack of global competitiveness by the peripheral economies.  It is also the basis of the political crisis in the EU, which in turn has caused the debt crisis, which further inhibits the accumulation of EU capital.

Marx himself argued that such fiscal intervention, funded by debt could be a powerful source of capital accumulation.

The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation.”

(Capital I, Chapter 31)

That view is backed up by the extent of the UK debt to GDP ratio of 250% that existed in 1800, and far from being an impediment to growth in the following period, was a requirement of it. The same can be seen with the similar figure for debt to GDP in the UK in 1945, which again was not an impediment to the expansion of the economy in the following period, but was again an integral part of the required capital investment in social capital, in relation to the rationalisation of core industries in coal, steel and so on, and the establishment of a welfare state to provide the labour-power that a modern industrialised capitalist economy required.

None of that means that such social-democratic policies will not face political opposition, just as Obama's social-democratic policies in the US have faced opposition from the Tea Party, but it is important to understand the lines of battle. The opposition to Obamacare, for example, was not an opposition based on the interests of big industrial capital. On the contrary, the representatives of the major US industrial corporations, for example the car companies, had complained for years that they faced a huge competitive problem, because they had to fund expensive private health care insurance, for their workers, whereas their European competitors did not, as they benefited from socialised healthcare systems that bore that cost.

The opposition to the kinds of social-democratic programme that Syriza is proposing does not come from big industrial capital, which ultimately is the dominant form of capital, because it is the producer of nearly all surplus value, including that siphoned off by interest-bearing capital, it comes from those conservative forces that represent the interests of the more backward sections of capital, and those associated with it, as well as those whose interests are directly threatened – the interests of interest-bearing capital, whose mountain of fictitious capital is likely to be vaporised, and of landed property, whose value is inextricably linked to that build up of fictitious capital.

Once those battle lines are drawn, setting out a strategy for dealing with the opposition is an easier task.

Back To Part 6

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