Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Social-Democracy, Bonapartism and Permanent Revolution, Chapter 11 – Results and Prospects (1)

Chapter 11 – Results and Prospects

Part 1

In 1848, the revolutionary bourgeoisie, across Europe, which had pulled along a developing working-class with it, in opposition to the old feudal ruling class, took fright at the thought that this working-class might turn the bourgeois revolution into a permanent revolution, going beyond the aims of overthrowing feudal private property, and its limitations, to overthrowing all private property and its limitations.

The result was a vicious counter-revolution and the coming to power of Bonapartist regimes. Objectively, what those Bonapartist regimes did, whether it was Louis Bonaparte in France, or Bismark in Germany, was to protect the political power of the old ruling class, whilst simultaneously developing the productive forces and relations of capitalism. They achieved, across Europe, what effectively the period of liberal bourgeois democracy had achieved in Britain.

As Marx, says in relation to this role of the state,

All revolutions perfected this machine instead of breaking it. The parties, which alternately contended for domination, regarded the possession of this huge state structure as the chief spoils of the victor.

But under the absolute monarchy, during the first Revolution, and under Napoleon, the bureaucracy was only the means of preparing the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Under the Restoration, under Louis Philippe, under the parliamentary republic, it was the instrument of the ruling class, however much it strove for power of its own.”

Lenin, in his writings on Economic Romanticism, from the 1890's and early 1900's, makes a similar point, in relation to the Tsarist state, and the development of capitalism in Russia.

And, nor could it have been different. Once capitalist production has been established, in Britain, and led to its global dominance, it forced all other nations to follow suit.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”

Marx – The Communist Manifesto

Society had to pass through an historical phase of Mercantilism, before it could transition from feudalism to capitalism. Even in societies such as Russia, China, and India, as well as Egypt, where development took a different historical route, via the Asiatic Mode of Production, rather than feudalism, this was true, in the sense that these societies were first opened up to merchant capital from outside, including via colonialism, which laid the basis for a transition to capitalist production.

When asked by Vera Zaulich whether Russia could skip over the phase of capitalism, and convert its existing system of village communes and communal production into socialism, Marx responds,  diplomatically, that this is theoretically possible, in the same way that Russia skipped the earlier period of development of machines to be able to introduce the latest machinery.

...the rural commune, still established on a national scale, can gradually extricate itself from its primitive characteristics and develop directly as an element of collective production on a national scale. It is only thanks to the contemporaneity of capitalist production that it can appropriate from it all its positive acquisitions without passing through its hideous vicissitudes. Russia does not live isolated from the modern world; neither is it the prey of a foreign conqueror, like the East Indies.
If the Russian admirers of the capitalist system deny the theoretical possibility of such an evolution, I would put to them the question: In order to exploit machinery, steamships, railroads, etc., was Russia forced, like the West, to pass through a long period of incubation of machine industry? Let them further explain to me how they managed to introduce in their midst, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole mechanism of exchange (banks, credit societies, etc.), whose elaboration cost the West centuries?

Letter to Zasulich

But, as Marx also points out in his reply, the Russian village commune did not exist in a vacuum, and these external forces of capitalism operating on a global scale were not standing still, waiting for such a revolution to occur in Russia. Those very same forces were operating inside Russia, and already acting to dissolve the village commune, in the same way they had done via colonialism, more brutally, elsewhere. In the end, what Marx is saying here is that Russia could move directly from the village commune to socialism, only on condition that socialism had been established elsewhere already, and was able to facilitate that development, in the same way that the establishment of capitalism in Britain and France had facilitated the development of capitalism in India, and in the colonies via colonialism.  It is a process of combined and uneven development.

In my opinion the colonies proper, i.e. the countries occupied by a European population – Canada, the Cape, Australia – will all become independent; on the other hand, the countries inhabited by a native population, which are simply subjugated – India, Algeria, the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish possessions – must be taken over for the time being by the proletariat and led as rapidly as possible towards independence. How this process will develop is difficult to say. India will perhaps, indeed very probably, make a revolution, and as a proletariat in process of self-emancipation cannot conduct any colonial wars, it would have to be allowed to run its course; it would not pass off without all sorts of destruction, of course, but that: sort of thing is inseparable from all revolutions. The same might also take place elsewhere, e.g. in Algeria and Egypt, and would certainly be the best thing for us. We shall have enough to do at home. Once Europe is reorganised, and North America, that will furnish such colossal power and such an example that the half-civilised countries will of themselves follow in their wake; economic needs, if anything, will see to that. But as to what social and political phases these countries will then have to pass through before they likewise arrive at socialist organisation, I think we today can advance only rather idle hypotheses. One thing alone is certain: the victorious proletariat can force no blessings of any kind upon any foreign nation without undermining its own victory by so doing. Which of course by no means excludes defensive wars of various kinds.”

Engels letter to Kautsky (1882)

Similarly, it seems likely that society will need to pass through a phase of social-democracy before it can transition to socialism. Marx notes that philosophy had its origins in theology, and became its negation. Bourgeois ideology has its origins in Mercantilism, and similarly by the development of industrial capitalism, becomes the negation of Mercantilism, and thereby of feudalism, the negation of the negation. Socialised capital, and the social-democracy that arises from it, is the negation of private capital, and the liberal bourgeoisie democracy that arises from it, whilst socialism is the negation of the socialised capital, and the social-democracy.

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