Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 6

So, under feudalism, the unpaid labour stemmed from the division of society by rank. At the top stands God, and hence the payment of tithes to the church, and then there is the monarch, who rules by Divine Right, and beneath them the various orders of aristocracy. Under the Asiatic Mode of Production, the state is in the hands, not of a ruling class, but of a bureaucratic caste. It exacts tribute by control, rather than ownership, of the means of production, via its control of the state.

Without the normal regulators of class society, that ensure the continuance of the ruling class, by inherited property, such a bureaucratic collectivist society can only be reproduced by strict taboos, laws, and rules that determine who can be a part of the ruling caste. This is the basis of the Indian caste system, and of the dynastic systems in China, Japan, ancient Egypt and so on.

“Should the direct producers not be confronted by a private landowner, but rather, as in Asia, under direct subordination to a state which stands over them as their landlord and simultaneously as sovereign, then rent and taxes coincide, or rather, there exists no tax which differs from this form of ground-rent. Under such circumstances, there need exist no stronger political or economic pressure than that common to all subjection to that state. The state is then the supreme lord. Sovereignty here consists in the ownership of land concentrated on a national scale. But, on the other hand, no private ownership of land exists, although there is both private and common possession and use of land.” (p 791)

This is an illustration of Marx’s Theory of Historical Materialism, in practice. The property relations develop out of the historic development of the technical conditions of production. These technical conditions are themselves the product of a whole series of prior circumstances, some natural and some themselves social and political.

For example, as Marx sets out, in a number of his writings, the Asiatic Mode of Production arises because natural conditions, in the regimes where it develops, necessitate the undertaking of large hydraulic works for drainage and irrigation.

Marx sets out that, under communism, the state withers away, because the need for a ruling class to sustain itself in power, against its class enemies, disappears, along with the division of society into classes. Yet, such a society still needs a means of administration. In the same way, in society prior to the development of classes, there is a similar need for some means of administration. In neither case is such a purely administrative body a state, in the Marxist sense, of being an instrument of class rule.

Given the scale of operation of this administrative body, in undertaking these large scale works, and the need for those undertaking such administrative work to be those with the most developed skills, it can easily be seen how those occupying these functions can, over time, develop into a bureaucratic elite. In all of these societies, there were exacting examinations that had to be undertaken to gain entry into the bureaucracy. It was quite common for wealthy families to adopt bright young children from peasant families, on the basis of them thereby being able to pass those exams and gain entry into the state bureaucracy.

Given the central economic and political role of this administrative body, therefore, and the increasingly cohesive nature of the bureaucracy, developed over centuries, it can be seen how this bureaucracy thereby introduces all of the various laws, and taboos that restrict entry into its ranks, and transform the bureaucracy into a ruling caste, and in a similar manner to Bonapartism, allow the state itself to rise up above society and to be the state not of a ruling class, but of the bureaucracy as a ruling caste. It can also be seen why such a process that requires centuries to complete, in these societies, could hardly be likely to have been completed in the USSR, in a matter of just a few years, and why, therefore, the idea that it was a new form of bureaucratic collectivist mode of production, ruled by a new bureaucratic ruling caste, is rather absurd.

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