Tuesday, 7 July 2015

IMF Exposes Dogmatic Marxism - Part 1 of 2

There is a tendency amongst sections of the left to view things through the prism of a capital-logic, that is deterministic if not fatalistic. It leads to an understanding of the nexus between material class interest and politics as being similarly mechanistic. The consequence is that, in place of the rich and complex analysis of these relations, that Marx provides, for example, in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, we are left with a rather simplistic explanation of political action as conspiracy.

In other words, in Britain, for example, the Tories are the party of capital, so whatever policy the Tories propose, must be the policy that capital not only wishes it to pursue, but which this capital-logic forces capital to require the Tories to pursue, on its behalf. Labour is the second choice party of capital, and so whatever the Labour leadership proposes must likewise be in the interests of capital, and is forced upon that leadership by the same capital-logic, driving material interest.

The contradictions that arise from such a crude theory are fairly obvious, and have to be continually reconciled by various explanations. So, for example, this analysis runs into a contradiction when one section of the Tory Party back Heathrow expansion, whilst another vehemently oppose it, whilst the Labour leadership swaps sides on the issue on the basis quite plainly of what causes most division within the Tories.

Even more of a contradiction arises when half of the Tory Parliamentary Party, and a bigger proportion of its grass roots, are vehemently in favour of EU withdrawal, whilst the other half want to stay in with varying degrees of enthusiasm. That most clearly demonstrates a contradiction, because the interests not only of global capital, but also of the most powerful sections of British capital, are most certainly to remain firmly within the EU, and even for some of the remaining restrictions on that membership to be lifted, as opposed to Cameron's request for yet more restrictions and opt-outs to be imposed.

It is quite clearly the case, on this most important issue, that it is not the supposed first choice party of capital, whose policy reflects the interests of capital, but the policy of its supposed second choice party!

A similar example arose a few years ago, in relation to the rise of the Tea Party in the US. The Weekly Worker's US contributor, Jim Creegan wrote,

“Paladino’s anger, like that of all Tea Partiers, is directed at politicians, not the capitalists they now serve more openly than at any time since the gilded age that followed the civil war.” 

The rise of the Tea Party is explained, by Jim, as a consequence of the recession, and the sharpening of antagonisms, so that this capital-logic, once again necessarily drives the need for a more extreme right-wing party to “now serve more openly” the interests of the US ruling class. I wrote to the Weekly Worker, in response pointing out the obvious weakness in this position.

“Jim Creegan writes of Paladino: “The ‘ruling class’ of his victory speech was not the one familiar to Marxists; he was referring instead to the politicians in the state capital at Albany, to whom he has threatened, figuratively, ‘to take a baseball bat’.” 

But, surely, these politicians are the representatives of that ruling class familiar to Marxists! If not, who do these politicians, be they Republican or Democrat, represent - the workers? I don’t think so. Which then begs the question about the validity of Jim’s further statement that “Paladino’s anger, like that of all Tea Partiers, is directed at politicians, not the capitalists they now serve more openly than at any time since the gilded age that followed the civil war.”

In actual fact, all the evidence is that the majority of that capitalist class, certainly its upper reaches, in so far as it is represented in the Republican party, rather than the Democrats (which tends to represent big capital and its more liberal wing), has been trying to do all in its power to stop the Tea Partiers getting elected over the more mainstream candidates. The Tea Partiers do represent a kind of revolution against capital - a revolution by plebeian elements. It is a right wing populist movement that brings together the libertarian right, which draws a lot of its support from those involved in the financial markets as traders, from small capital, from sections of the middle class and from backward sections of the working class. It is a more virulent form of rightwing populism than that seen in Britain, with the current Tories, and in parts of Europe.

And, of course, the argument that Jim was putting forward was nonsense. In a further reply on 14th October 2010, Jim was led to dig an even deeper hole in trying to reconcile the contradictions of his position, by insisting that the Republican establishment were not trying to thwart the Tea Party, that Obama and the Democrats were imposing austerity, despite the fact that they were, in fact, introducing huge amounts of fiscal stimulus, and so on. In fact, as I pointed out, George Bush and the Republicans had also introduced huge amounts of fiscal stimulus in 2008/9, as a result of the financial crisis, and capital, far from supporting the kind of small state policies the Tea Party were advocating, was demanding almost unending amounts of state intervention, to bail it out.

In a further response, on 14th October 2010, I set out why that was the case, setting out also the failure of this kind of mechanistic Marxism to even distinguish between the capitalist state and capitalist governments. Gone from such analysis is any kind of nuance, any kind of flexibility of thought that allows for the fact that, as Engels sets out, in his letter to Bloch, that the ideas that fill individuals heads – including those that comprise social classes and political parties – are the result of a vast array of forces, which impact upon their consciousness.

“In the second place, however, history is made in such a way that the final result always arises from conflicts between many individual wills, of which each in turn has been made what it is by a host of particular conditions of life. Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant — the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition.”

Gone from such analysis is the reality, described by Marx and Engels, and recognised by Lenin and Trotsky, and others, that capital is not some homogeneous block, but is itself comprised of competing class fractions, of many kinds. Capital, as Marx sets out in the final parts of Capital III, is not just characterised by the competition of one capital with another, for market share and so on. It is also marked by its division into money-lending capital, seeking to maximise its revenue at the expense of productive and merchant capital, as well as the conflicting interest of capitalist landed property seeking to maximise rent.

In addition, as Marx sets out in Capital III, and as Engels emphasises more in his Supplement on the Stock Exchange, after 1865, the growth of socialised capital, in the form of the limited liability, joint stock company, took off, and its interests were in conflict with the remnants of the monopoly of private capital, which Marx, in Capital I, had described as representing a fetter on production that had to be burst asunder.

“The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” (Capital I, p 714-5) 

“The capital, which in itself rests on a social mode of production and presupposes a social concentration of means of production and labour-power, is here directly endowed with the form of social capital (capital of directly associated individuals) as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings assume the form of social undertakings as distinct from private undertakings. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the framework of capitalist production itself.” 

(Capital III)

In reality, as Engels describes, in his later Prefaces to his Condition of the Working Class, it is the Lib-Labs – the old Liberal Party, infused with, and trailing behind it, the workers, via the Trade Union leaders, that represented the interests of this big industrial capital, whereas the Tories represented the interests of landed property, of the money-lending capital, and of the small capitalists, the remnants of the monopoly of private capital.

The Labour Party emerges as merely the bringing together of appearance and reality, of social democracy. The Liberal Party as an openly bourgeois party, that relied on the support of the working class, simply metamorphosed into a party that openly relied upon the support of the working-class, whilst retaining the same bourgeois ideology, couched in suitably social-democratic terms. The shell of the Liberal Party remained, whilst its previous content filled the more rational shell of the Labour Party.

On top of this can be layered the competing interests of multinational capital, usually linked to one of the main economic blocs in North America, Europe, or Asia, as against the interests of those sections of capital whose interests remain largely within national boundaries. That is before we consider the competing interests of nationally based permanent state bureaucracies, the need for nationally based political parties to secure electoral majorities and so on.

With all of these competing, and often contradictory interests, how on Earth can there be a single capital-logic, which drives the political decisions of politicians? There cannot. Which is why, for example, in 2013, Jim Creegan had to belatedly accept the points I had made in 2010, that far from the Tea Party representing the interests of the most dominant sections of capital, what they actually represented was the interests of the radical, right-wing petit-bourgeoisie. Yet, even then Jim seemed unable to accept reality.

“A fundamental question has run throughout our coverage of the Tea Party over the last four years: is it an Igor-like servant of the big bourgeoisie, deformed but dutiful? Or is it rather a Frankenstein’s monster - a petty bourgeois rabble that has escaped the control of a ruling class that nurtured and encouraged it? The recent government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis have now supplied a definitive answer: a Frankenstein’s monster.” 

In other words, rather than accept that the original analysis of the Tea Party as the true voice of US capital was wrong, we are treated to the normal rigmarole of contorted explanations of how the Tea Party had been the creature of US Capital, but had become deformed and so on. In fact, the analysis of the nature of the Tea Party I gave back in 2010, holds as well today as it did then, without need of any amendment. Moreover, the analysis made then of the similarity of the Tea Party with other such formations in Europe, such as UKIP and sections of the Tory Right, equally holds if not more so, today. Similarly, as set out back then, the Republicans represent those same social forces that the Tories represent in the UK, just as the Democrats represent the same interests of big industrial capital that the Labour Party represents in Britain.

The representation of those interests is not at all mechanical or conspiratorial, precisely because it is real human beings not robots that are involved. Those individuals, as well as those parties as a whole, have a multitude of other social pressures, not least the pressure of trying to get elected, impacting their thought processes.

The events in Greece provide another example of this. Once again we see analysis of events, and the explanation of political actions driven by this same capital-logic. But, as I will discuss in Part 2, tomorrow, it didn't take long for that analysis to be disproved by events.

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