Thursday, 20 April 2017

Social-Democracy, Bonapartism and Permanent Revolution - Chapter 10 – Bonapartism (1)

Chapter 10 – Bonapartism

Part 1

Trotsky talks about two types of Bonapartism. Bonapartism arises in conditions where the old ruling class can no longer control the state, via the political regime, but where the new ruling class is too weak to control the political regime. Bonapartism can then reflect a situation where it acts to develop the productive forces required by the new mode of production, and thereby objectively strengthens the position of the revolutionary class, or conversely where it acts to bolster the economic and social relations of the old regime, and to hold back the advance of the revolutionary class, and thereby undermines the productive forces and relations of the new society.

The first form reflects a mode of production in advance, the second in decline. In both cases, Bonapartism is a state phenomenon. It is the state itself rising up above society, and taking hold itself of the political regime. But, as Marx says, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, it is “existing society” that is “the basis of the existing state (or of the future state in the case of future society),”and the state is not “an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.”

The state, as a state, is forced to base itself on some set of economic and social relations, and objectively, it is forced thereby to protect and advance those relations, in order for the economy of the society to develop, and in order to ensure its own existence, and survival. It does not choose which set of economic and social relations to defend and promote arbitrarily, but is forced to do so, on the basis of which are dominant, which provide the basis for its own survival, and growth.

On this basis, the regimes of Cromwell, Napoleon, Louis Bonaparte, Bismark, Bolivar along with the regimes of Nasser, Assad etc. are of the first form. In the same vein, would come the regimes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc. except that these regimes were attempting not only to complete the bourgeois revolution, but to base themselves on the productive relations of the future society. By, contrast the regimes of Mussolini, Hitler, Franco were of the second type, attempting to hold back the advance of the revolutionary class, in order to protect the old bourgeois ruling class. However, its interesting to note here that the means by which these regimes attempt to protect the old ruling class, is not by a return to the ideas of liberal bourgeois democracy, of the early 19th century, but by basing themselves upon socialised capital, by high levels of planning and regulation, and corporatist structures. In other words, they are forced to recognise the dominance of socialised capital, and the social-democratic economic and social relations that go with it. It is a social-democratic state, without the democracy!

As Marx sets out, in Capital I, human beings are merely the representatives of economic forces. The class struggle is a struggle between different forms of property, that simply appears as a struggle between the owners of those different forms of property, and most of the time takes merely the appearance of a distributional struggle over revenues, whilst being confined within the existing system. Reformists and syndicalists confuse the distributional struggle, for example, over higher wages at the expense of profits, and vice versa for the class struggle. But, as Lenin notes, these kinds of distributional struggle, haggling over wages are not class struggles, but usually only sectional struggles that can as easily pit workers in one factory against those in another, one type of worker against another, one country against another. A class struggle only arises when workers as a whole act in concert to assert their class interest, and to defend and promote their form of property as against capital.

As Marx put it in “Value, Price and Profit”

“At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!" 

To view it in another way, some time ago, I wrote that human beings are merely the end result – at least for now – of matter going from a disorganised state to an organised state, of the universe itself thereby becoming conscious. It is a formulation that Professor Brian Cox has used in some of his recent TV programmes. In Marx's phrase, from The Poverty of Philosophy, “Time is everything, Man is nothing, he is at the most time's carcase.”

In an era where the dominant form of capital is socialised capital, which has increasingly replaced and pushed out privately owned capital, the personification of this socialised capital – the functioning capitalist – or professional manager, represents the revolutionary class. But, this revolutionary class represents only a transitional form of property between capitalist property and the co-operative commonwealth.

“The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour. They show how a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production and of the corresponding forms of social production have reached a particular stage. Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. 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.”

Capital III, Chapter 27

It is a middle class, rather like the merchant class under Mercantilism, which represents a similar transitional form of society between feudalism and capitalism. In both cases, the middle class has a foot in both class camps. The old merchant class, under Mercantilism, had a symbiotic relation with the old feudal class. It worked with it to establish colonial empires, for example. But, as a bourgeois class, it also developed bourgeois concepts of liberty, particularly of free trade, and free movement, which eventually became the dominant ideas ruling society, which undermined all of those old feudal restrictions on the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. It undermined all of those old feudal monopolies that also underpinned commercial monopolies and colonialism, and thereby opened the door for capitalism proper, in the form of the industrial capitalist, and capitalist production. As Marx puts it in 

The Poverty of Philosophy,

“In practical life we find not only competition, monopoly and the antagonism between them, but also the synthesis of the two, which is not a formula, but a movement. Monopoly produces competition, competition produces monopoly. Monopolists are made from competition; competitors become monopolists. If the monopolists restrict their mutual competition by means of partial associations, competition increases among the workers; and the more the mass of the proletarians grows as against the monopolists of one nation, the more desperate competition becomes between the monopolists of different nations. The synthesis is of such a character that monopoly can only maintain itself by continually entering into the struggle of competition.”

In the case of the modern middle class, it is largely drawn from the ranks of the working-class itself. It consists of huge armies of managers, technicians, and administrators. But, as a middle class its position is contradictory, like the transitional form of property it represents. As Marx points out, even in a worker-owned co-operative, the function of these personnel is to make the capitalist machine work as effectively as possible, so as to maximise the production of surplus value, so that capital can be accumulated, at a faster pace. The same is true of the first stage of communism, prior to the creation of relative abundance.

“...after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, but still retaining social production, the determination of value continues to prevail in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among the various production groups, ultimately the book-keeping encompassing all this, become more essential than ever.”

Capital III, Chapter 49

It is why Lenin, Gramsci and others saw the importance of Taylorism, as a means of developing the forces of production, as quickly as possible, by maximising the production of surplus value by driving forward productive efficiency.

And, in those forms of socialised capital, where Boards of Directors acting on behalf of shareholders, i.e. the representatives of fictitious capital, of the old ruling class, in turn appoint the actual functioning capitalists, and stand guard over them, rather than the workers in a co-operative, that middle-class is also under pressure to meet the requirements of its overlords, even where it contradicts the needs of the socialised capital they represent.

“On the basis of capitalist production a new swindle develops in stock enterprises with respect to wages of management, in that boards of numerous managers or directors are placed above the actual director, for whom supervision and management serve only as a pretext to plunder the stockholders and amass wealth.”

Capital III, Chapter 23

No comments: