Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Social-Democracy, Bonapartism and Permanent Revolution - Synopsis

  • Modern capitalism is dominated by socialised capital.
  • Social-Democracy arises on the back of socialised capital, and represents a period of transition between capitalism and socialism, in much the same way that Mercantilism represented a period of transition between feudalism and capitalism.
  • The Middle Class managers, supervisors, technicians and administrators, i.e. the “functioning capitalists”, are the personification of the socialised capital, and their equivalents within the state are the embodiments of the ruling ideas of society, determined by the objective needs of this socialised capital. They stand in a similar position, as did the Middle Class merchants under Mercantilism.
  • The old ruling class fraction, the owners of private-capital, are now divided into the owners of small-scale private capital, i.e. small business owners, and the very large private owners of fictitious capital, i.e. the owners of shares, bonds, and other financial assets.
  • This class fraction is conservative, and provides the basis for conservative parties and conservative ideas that continue to exert considerable political sway, just as did the landed aristocracy under Mercantilism, and even into the period of capitalism proper. Even by the last half of the 19th century, the landed aristocracy retained a majority in the British Parliament, illustrating the difference between holding state power, and holding governmental power, or office.
  • At times, this conservative class fraction can utilise this governmental power to further its own ends, even at the expense of real capital, just as Marx discusses the way the landed aristocracy used its governmental office to attack industrial capital, by passing factory legislation etc.
  • Ultimately, this class fraction is, subordinated to socialised capital, because it is socialised capital that dominates the economy, and it is on its fortunes that the fortunes of the state itself depend, and upon which the rents and interest payments of the owners of fictitious capital depends.
  • The last thirty years has been one such period. In the same way that the Theory of Permanent Revolution explains that the bourgeoisie would baulk at confronting the landed aristocracy, or colonial overlords, for fear of the working-class standing behind it, so the social-democrats baulked at confronting the owners of fictitious capital, for fear of unleashing the working-class standing behind it.
  • The workers deserted the social-democratic parties, letting in conservative parties, and a period of conservative reaction – Reagan, Thatcher.
  • As electoralist parties, the social-democratic parties, in order to get elected, triangulated and adopted conservative policies themselves. Those policies continued the policies that favoured fictitious capital, and led to the blowing up of asset price bubbles at the expense of real capital, and thereby sowed the seeds of their own destruction, as objective economic reality asserted itself with the financial crash of 2008.
  • Again rather than confront the owners of fictitious capital to deal with that crisis, the social-democrats bailed them out, and imposed austerity, thereby destroying real capital to an even greater degree, and forcing the inevitable contradiction to an even sharper resolution, and bigger financial crash to come. Greece has merely showed the future to every other economy.
  • The conservative political centre-ground has, therefore, collapsed. In places like Greece, that opened the door to the more traditional social-democratic policies of Syriza, and similar trends have been seen with Podemos in Spain, with Corbyn in Britain, Hamon in France, the Left Bloc in Portugal. But, it has also been reflected in a growing support for right-wing populist forces, like Trump, for Brexit, for Le Pen, Wilders etc.
  • These right-wing populists are based upon what is actually an economically and socially insignificant section of the population, on an amorphous block of declassed elements within the context of a mass society.
  • These social forces are traditionally those associated with Bonapartist regimes, and their diffuse and contradictory nature leads to the requirement for such a regime to give them order and rationality.
  • Certain elements of that Bonapartism can be glimpsed in the increasing authoritarianism of the regimes of Trump and May.
  • The regimes of Trump and May are not, however, Bonapartist. Bonapartism requires that the ruling class is itself weak, and unable to rule in its own name, allowing the state to rise above society, and to exercise governmental as well as state power. On the contrary, the power of socialised capital is if anything stronger than ever, and to the extent that the regimes of Trump and May threaten it, the social-democratic state apparatus has confronted them, via the judiciary and other levers.
  • The right-wing populists, be it Trump, May, Le Pen, Wilders or others of that ilk across Europe are anomalies. They represent neither the interests of socialised capital, nor fictitious capital, nor, despite their claims, the workers. They do not even represent the interests of most medium sized private capitals. The programmes they pursue are, correspondingly inchoate, backward looking and doomed to failure.
  • They have provoked a reaction from social-democracy, witnessed by the growth of grass roots activism in the US, out of the Sanders campaign, by the election of Hamon as Presidential candidate for the French Socialists, by the defeat of Wilders and his party in the Netherlands, and growth of the pro-EU/pro-immigration D66, and Green Left and so on.
  • The contradiction between fictitious capital and real capital has been pushed even beyond its limits, and must result in a new even bigger financial crash, and massive destruction of fictitious capital, via a collapse in financial asset and property prices. The potential to resolve that, by further money printing, and austerity no longer exists, in the way it did in 2008.
  • Social-democracy will be forced either to resolve that crisis at the expense of fictitious capital, by allowing that destruction to occur, as the means of restoring the flow of money-capital into real productive activity, and accumulation of real capital, and by pressing forward with a strengthening of social-democracy, by introducing real measures of industrial democracy, greater economic planning and regulation, and a strengthening and integration of the EU, and other such bodies, or else it will open the door to a period of real reaction, and the establishment of Bonapartist and fascistic regimes. Again Greece shows the future for every other economy in this regard.
  • As Marx says in Capital III socialised capital is a transitional form of property.
    “The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.” (Chapter 27)
    Social-democracy resting upon these economic and social relations represents a similarly transitional phase. As Marx says, in respect of social-democracy,
    “The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labour, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony.”
    The working-class must push social-democracy to live up to its own ideology. Within that ideology, in concepts such as the role of industrial democracy, of the role of planning and regulation, and of internationalism also lie the seeds of socialist consciousness, as workers, through their own experience, recognise that bosses are no longer needed, the money-lending capitalists act as the same kind of parasitic drain on real capital accumulation as are the landlords, and that not only does capitalism itself require planning and regulation as fundamental to its own efficient operation, but that same planning and regulation can be utilised by workers themselves to run the economy to meet their needs, and not the blind needs of capital.
  • To the extent that social-democracy lives up to its own ideology, socialists should critically support it, but we should remember the lessons of 1848. Our agenda is not simply for an accommodation with capital, so as to mitigate its effects, but to replace it with socialism, with the self activity, self-determination and self-government of the working-class through the creation of the co-operative commonwealth.

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