Friday, 8 April 2016

Perplexed By The CPGB

I am truly perplexed by the decision of the CPGB Provisional Central Committee on Tata. The decision calls for the nationalisation of Tata's UK steel assets. It goes on to say,

“We do not call for protectionism as a solution to the problem, which would merely be to export job losses onto workers elsewhere”. 

But, these two statements are not compatible. Nationalisation, by definition, is protectionism. It is action by a nation state to protect a failing capital against competition from other more efficient capitals. The statement goes on to say,

“or for subsidies to Tata or to new private owners, which are merely an indirect form of protectionism.” 

But nationalisation itself inevitably involves providing subsidies, and thereby provides such protectionism. The only way that subsidies could be avoided would be if Tata's UK steel production suddenly became massively more efficient, as a consequence simply of nationalisation by the British capitalist state, so that it could undercut all other steel production on the global market. If Tata's UK steel production continues on the same basis, merely in the hands of the British capitalist state, what does the CPGB think will happen to all of the steel it produces that currently cannot be sold profitably?

Either a nationalised British steel company would subsidise that production, by allowing the unsold stockpiles of steel to simply sit and rust, or else, rather like the state supported Chinese steel production, it would be thrown on to global markets at a state subsidised price.

So, we now have a rather ridiculous situation whereby the CPGB calls on workers to vote for social-democratic parties like Corbyn's Labour Party, or Syriza, but then demands that when those parties are elected, they do not take office, because the social-democratic policies they were elected on are anti-capitalist, and unachievable, certainly unachievable within the confines of a single country, like Britain. Yet, the CPGB then calls on a conservative government to implement those very same social-democratic policies that the CPGB has just told us are anti-capitalist, and unachievable!

The CPGB correctly warns against supporting a takeover of Tata by other private capitals.

“we remind the movement of the ‘local business’ buyers of the old Longbridge car plant, who merely gobbled up some state aid and stripped the assets.”

But why then do they believe that a takeover by capital par excellence, in the form of the British capitalist state, especially given the existence of a conservative government, as the legislative means of introducing such nationalisation, would be any better? Have they learned nothing from the experience of British workers who lost their jobs in their tens of thousands, as part of the nationalisation programmes of the mines and so on, after WWII, implemented by Attlee, let alone what would be likely from such a policy implemented by Cameron?

Does the CPGB, not recall what happened when the British capitalist state nationalised the shipbuilding industry, and the car industry in the 1970's and 1980's, as a means of bringing in butchers like Michael Edwards to carve up the industry, sack workers, victimise union militants, and provide taxpayer funded investment that private owners had failed to provide, before selling the businesses off on the cheap?

The CPGB seem to have learned nothing from any of those experiences, or from what Kautsky had to say.

“If the modern state nationalizes certain industries, it does not do so for the purpose of restricting capitalist exploitation, but for the purpose of protecting the capitalist system and establishing it upon a firmer basis, or for the purpose of itself taking a hand in the exploitation of labour, increasing its own revenues, and thereby reducing the contributions for its own support which it would otherwise have to impose upon the capitalist class. As an exploiter of labour, the state is superior to any private capitalist. Besides the economic power of the capitalists, ii can also bring to bear upon the exploited classes the political power which it already wields.

The state has never carried on the nationalizing of industries further than the interests of the ruling classes demanded, nor will it ever go further than that. So long as the property-holding classes are the ruling ones, the nationalization of industries and capitalist functions will never be carried so far as to injure the capitalists and landlords or to restrict their opportunities for exploiting the proletariat.”

(The Erfurt Programme)

Whilst 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.”

(Nationalised Industry and Workers Management)

The truth is, of course, that the CPGB are correct when they say that the problems of the steel industry, and indeed of capital in general, cannot be resolved within the confines of a single national economy. The problems of the steel industry can probably only be resolved on a global scale, but at the very least, a solution here and now, for steel workers in Britain, and across Europe, requires an EU solution. In fact, when the EEC was being developed, as part of the growth of social-democratic ideas after WWII, it came out of the development of the European Coal and Steel Community, which sought to introduce measures of social-democratic, regulation and planning of these important industries at a European level.

In the same way that the Milk Marketing Board, in Britain, and similar other such state regulation, sought to introduce social-democratic measures of regulation and planning into agriculture, the Common Agricultural Policy in the EEC, had similar objectives. A solution for steel has to be an EU wide solution. It has to not only involve the development of an EU industrial policy that covers the need for long-term planning of strategic industries like steel, but also of industries like energy production, which feed into them. It would also require an EU wide, social-democratic policy of opposition to austerity, and for the introduction of a large-scale strategy of fiscal stimulus across Europe, for capital spending on badly needed infrastructure, particularly in those parts of the EU where the economic development has lagged behind that of Germany. That in itself would create a demand for steel.

But, the CPGB cannot make the case for such a strategy, because it has already determined that such social-democratic measures to stimulate capital accumulation, are against the interests of capital, and will be opposed by capital and its conservative political representatives. Nevertheless, the CPGB still calls on those self-same conservative politicians to carry out this “anti-capitalist” policy.

The CPGB also cannot make the case for an EU wide solution, also because, at the same time, it is calling on British workers to stand aside from the most important political event, and decision affecting them in the last 30 years. It is calling on them to actively boycott the EU referendum, which is the same as calling for a vote to leave, because it is saying to British workers that they have nothing to lose by cutting themselves off from workers across the EU, just as a vote for Scotland to leave the UK, would act to cut Scottish workers off from workers in the rest of the UK.

When US steelworkers began to suffer from the closure of steel plants, the United Steelworkers Union responded by developing new means of workers in their trades unions establishing worker-owned co-operatives. They linked up with the Mondragon Co-operatives In Spain, to develop new models. The solution for steelworkers in Britain and across Europe is not to put their faith in the capitalist state, still less in a conservative government such as that of David Cameron, but to rely on their own self-activity. It is workers who today run businesses on a day to day basis, and that has been the case for a long time. As Marx put it, it is, in fact, workers themselves, “associated producers”, “from manager down to the last day-labourer” who are now objectively the representatives of socialised capital. As Kautsky put it, in “The Road To Power”,

“The corporation renders the person of the capitalist wholly superfluous for the conduct of capitalist undertakings. The exclusion of his personality from industrial life ceases to be a question of possibility or of intention. It is purely a question of POWER.”

The solution for steelworkers across the EU, is to begin to occupy the steel plants. Steel workers across the EU, need to form international combine committees, through their trades unions, and via the ETUC, to combine and co-ordinate their actions, and to prevent workers in one country being set against workers in another, including by nationalistic measures of nationalisation undertaken by capitalist nation states. Steelworkers across the EU should contact steelworkers in the United States, to draw on the lessons they learned in establishing co-operative production, as well as linking up with the Mondragon Co-operatives and other worker-owned co-operatives across the globe. To the extent that steelworkers in the EU could link up with steelworkers in North America to develop worker owned steel production, and establish long-terms plans for global steel production all the better.

The capitalist state has had no problem with providing subsidies for production, or for providing subsidies to the banks and finance houses, and indeed in printing money to inflate asset price bubbles. Having occupied the steel plants across the EU, workers should demand that the EU provide the necessary financing to keep those plants working, whilst the workers in those plants develop a long-term strategic plan for steel production. Indeed, its necessary that workers demand that the EU develop such a strategic plan and industrial policy for all industries across the EU.

Such a programme will not simply spring into existence. It will require that all of those activists that have been attracted to Syriza, to Podemos, to the Left Bloc, and to Corbyn's Labour Party, give active support to such occupations, that they engage in political struggles to demand that the state provides the necessary backing, both in terms of legalising actions, and financing them, and that the necessary structures are established, to defend and extend worker owned property.

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