Sunday, 26 July 2015

Ukraine Becomes Libya

The Nazis of the Ukrainian Right Sector, are now focussing their attention on overthrowing the already right-wing Ukrainian government. Watching the Newsnight report from Gabriel Gatehouse, on Wednesday, it reminded me just how much the situation resembles that in Libya, and how the consequence of liberal intervention has been the same in both cases. In fact, the role of the EU in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, and now in Greece, seems to reflect a sort of death wish.

What is the commonality of all these cases? It is actually that the EU is currently dominated by conservative politicians, alongside conservative regimes in many of the member states, whose world view almost necessarily results in such a situation. Their view of bourgeois democracy is a conservative one, which is closer to the kind of liberal democracy that was dominant in the 18th and early 19th century, as opposed to the social democracy that became dominant in the latter part of the 19th century, and is the basis of all modern industrial societies.

If we look at many of the states that industrialised in the 19th century, the state played a significant role. In Germany, it was the Bonapartist regime of Bismark that modernised and industrialised the economy, and in the process created a large working-class and bourgeoisie; in France the same thing was carried through most clearly by the Bonapartist regime of Louis Bonaparte. Even in the US, its Presidential system is a sort of Bonapartism, and the industrialisation was driven forward by that State, one aspect of which was the Civil War, which established both the dominance of the central state, and of the industrial bourgeoisie.

It was this process of industrialisation, and the creation simultaneously of the dominance of big industrial capital (socialised capital in the form of the joint stock companies), together with the creation of a huge working-class, that creates the basis of the modern bourgeois social-democratic state. The process, as Marx and Engels describe, involves the separation of the private owners of productive-capital from that capital, and from their role in production. The largest of these become instead, merely the providers of loanable money-capital, owners of fictitious capital in the shape of shares, bonds and so on. As such, they continue to reflect the ideas and interests of the old oligarchies of finance and landed property.

Their place in the productive process is taken by professional managers, who themselves are increasingly drawn from the ranks of the working-class, and middle class. A separation of interest thereby develops between these latter who represent the interests of the now socialised productive-capital, and the financial and landed oligarchies, who seek to leach surplus value from capital, in the form of interest payments and rent. As this conflict develops, the owners of fictitious capital seek to defend their interests against the personification of productive-capital, by appointing tiers of management above them, in the shape of Boards of Directors, Chief Executive Officers and so on.

It becomes reflected in a political division, conservative parties being based upon and representing the interests of the old oligarchies and of this fictitious capital, and liberal parties representing the interests of big industrial capital that is increasingly in the form of socialised capital. As Engels puts it, at the start of the 19th century, the struggle had been between the bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy, but by the latter part of the century, it was a struggle waged by this big industrial capital, against the rest, and it could only win that struggle, if it carried with it, the social mass of the working-class.

“The Reform Bill of 1831 had been the victory of the whole capitalist class over the landed aristocracy. The repeal of the Corn Laws was the victory of the manufacturing capitalist not only over the landed aristocracy, but over those sections of capitalists, too, whose interests were more or less bound up with the landed interest-bankers, stockjobbers, fundholders, etc... Everything was made subordinate to one end, but that end of the utmost importance to the manufacturing capitalist: the cheapening of all raw produce, and especially of the means of living of the working class; the reduction of the cost of raw material, and the keeping down – if not as yet the bringing down - of wages... 

“Chartism was dying out. The revival of commercial prosperity, natural after the revulsion of 1847 had spent itself, was put down altogether to the credit of Free Trade. Both these circumstances had turned the English working class, politically, into the tail of the ‘great Liberal Party’, the party led by the manufacturers. This advantage, once gained, had to be perpetuated. And the manufacturing capitalists, from the Chartist opposition, not to Free Trade, but to the transformation of Free Trade into the one vital national question, had learnt, and were learning more and more, that the middle class can never obtain full social and political power over the nation except by the help of the working class.”

Engels goes on to describe how this leads to a change in the view of this big industrial capital, which then scraps all of the old penny-pinching means of exploitation required by small-scale capital. This is the basis of the modern bourgeois social democratic state, a compromise and modus vivendi between this socialised capital, and the working-class, which also becomes reflected in the fact that this large-working class gets the vote. The logical conclusion of that, almost everywhere, is that appearance and reality is brought into alignment. It is this large working-class that has the weight of numbers both socially and electorally. It makes up the mass of membership of the Liberal parties. In place of an openly bourgeois party comprised largely of workers, therefore, new parties, like the Labour Party, are established openly as workers parties, but ideologically committed to the same bourgeois principles as the old Liberal parties, i.e. to bourgeois social democracy.

But, this bourgeois social democracy is premised upon the fact that the workers are prepared to accept their continued exploitation provided their living standards improve more or less continuously, and provided it can be given a modicum of social protection by the welfare states created by this social democracy. If that ceases to be the case, for any length of time, the contract is broken, and so the workers increasingly abandon their side of the bargain too. Then the social democratic parties lose votes, the conservative parties are able to return.

But, similarly, unless these conditions exist, there is no basis for creating such a bourgeois social democratic state in the first place. That is what those who think that you can simply replace Bonapartist regimes, such as that of Saddam, or Gaddafi, or Assad, and miraculously have a bourgeois democracy spring up in its place fail to grasp. However, much socialists abhor such regimes and seek to replace them, we cannot simply ignore the laws of history, as Marx has described them. Those regimes, like the regimes of Bismark, or Louis Bonaparte and others have fulfilled a necessary and progressive role, in being a means of bringing about a development of capitalist production, and of the working-class that goes with it.

Consequently, socialists should not be in favour of simply calling for opposition to such regimes, unless we have practically something more progressive and achievable to put in their place. The consequence of doing so can be seen in Libya, where the destruction of the old regime, has simply led to chaos, and the domination of political power in the streets, by a series of armed militia. The same thing is now happening in Ukraine, where again, it was attempts to overthrow the regime of Yanukovitch, which led to the present chaos.

Socialists have no reason to defend the regimes of a Yanukovitch, or an Assad, but nor should we simply be led into supporting or welcoming their opponents either, unless those opponents are themselves a means of strengthening the position of the working-class. “My enemy's enemy is my friend”, is no basis upon which socialists can formulate their strategy. But, they must also be a real basis of strengthening the position of the working-class, and not simply a phantom, based on no real, substantial social forces. Libya was a good example of that, where elements blinded by bourgeois democracy, and parliamentarism, fooled themselves into believing that just because parachuted in bourgeois politicians obtained a majority vote in Libyan elections, that they actually represented some meaningful social force! Anyone who has read Trotsky's account of the Spanish Civil War, should have realised the mistake of that approach. But, the rise of the Right Sector in Ukraine, now supplemented by Russian Nazis fighting alongside them, illustrates the point once more.

In fact, as stated in the beginning, the EU seems to have some kind of death wish. It undermined the Bonapartist regimes in the Middle East, that were bringing fairly rapid industrial development; they did a similar thing in Ukraine, and other parts of Eastern Europe, whilst drawing right-wing regimes in the Baltic directly into the EU; and they have now created a situation where Greece is being thrown into chaos through austerity, which may cause the edges of the EU to fray even more rapidly. It has caused the political centre to collapse, as Ukraine is demonstrating very clearly, but that same process is happening across Europe, a process that the conservative/Blairite politicians themselves do not seem to have grasped, which is why they cannot understand the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, and all those offering an alternative to austerity.

The reason is quite simple. Conservatism is itself based upon an illusion. The illusion is most clearly reflected in fictitious capital itself. The owners of fictitious capital believe that it produces interest out of thin air, that it is in some way an intrinsic characteristic of this capital to expand in value. Similarly, they believe that it represents real wealth, and that when the prices of this fictitious capital expands astronomically that this represents an increase in real wealth. They have no concept that real wealth can only be created by productive-capital, and that their own actions are limiting that wealth creation process.

So, they have no reason to consider that perhaps it would be a good idea to facilitate a modernisation and recapitalisation of the Greek economy, rather than simply trying to squeeze more debt repayments from them! They have no reason to believe that regimes like that of Saddam or Gaddafi, however, monstrous, were actually performing an historically progressive role in modernising and industrialising their economies, which is the precondition for a modern social democracy.

Why would they, they are not themselves social democrats.  Their ideas stem rather from the idea of liberal democracy, which is based upon the ability of small elites to rule without concern for the majority, who they simply assume will see the world in the same way that they do, or at least simply acquiesce in it. They believe that bourgeois democracy can simply exist suspended in mid-air, with no social foundations beneath it, in just the same way that their fictitious wealth exists suspended in mid air, without any productive-capital being accumulated to produce the profits out of which its interest payments and rent is paid!

So, just as with Greece, instead of a promotion of modernisation and industrialisation, they propose to provide more loans to Ukraine, so that they can repay the interest on the debts already accrued. In fact, it is the same policy of increasing private debt that these conservative regimes pursued in the US, UK, and Western Europe from the late 1980's onwards, in a belief that interest payments and rent can keep materialising out of thin air.

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