Sunday, 7 May 2017

Social-Democracy, Bonapartism and Permanent Revolution, Chapter 11 – Results and Prospects (6)

Chapter 11 – Results and Prospects

Part 6

In the same way that workers, in corporations, in capitalist states, lack the power to exert control over the socialised capital, so too in the deformed workers' states. But, in the deformed workers' state, it is the workers who form the ruling class, though one too weak to rule politically in their own name. In Russia, that was signalled not only by the numerically tiny size of the working-class, but by its own lack of development, and divisions within it. So, when the Bolsheviks won only 25% of seats in the Constituent Assembly, they closed it down. Trotsky, as Commissar of Transport, where Menshevik workers dominated, proposed the militarisation of labour, and was opposed by Lenin, in relation to his attitude towards the independence of the trades unions.

... ours is a workers’ state with a bureaucratic twist to it. We have had to mark it with this dismal, shall I say, tag. There you have the reality of the transition. Well, is it right to say that in a state that has taken this shape in practice the trade unions have nothing to protect, or that we can do without them in protecting the material and spiritual interests of the massively organised proletariat? No, this reasoning is theoretically quite wrong. It takes us into the sphere of abstraction or an ideal we shall achieve in 15 or 20 years’ time, and I am not so sure that we shall have achieved it even by then. What we actually have before us is a reality of which we have a good deal of knowledge, provided, that is, we keep our heads, and do not let ourselves be carried away by intellectualist talk or abstract reasoning, or by what may appear to be “theory” but is in fact error and misapprehension of the peculiarities of transition. We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state. Both forms of protection are achieved through the peculiar interweaving of our state measures and our agreeing or “coalescing” with our trade unions.

But, everywhere that the Bolsheviks found themselves in a minority within local soviets they either closed them down, or filled them out by other means, and thereby created the basis for a fusion of the state and governmental power, establishing the Bonapartist regime that took its final shape under Stalin.

In contrast to say the Bonapartism of Bismark, however, this was a state not attempting to revolutionise the productive forces in a bourgeois direction, but one forced to develop them in a proletarian direction, whilst attempting to preserve the control, and political power of the bureaucracy, which represented the personification of the dominant form of socialised property, and all of its inherent contradictions, as a transitional form of property. The old ruling landlord and bourgeois classes had been ripped up, and yet the bureaucracy still had to rest upon the workers and peasants, as against the threat from the global bourgeoisie. Yet, in line with the theory of Socialism In One Country, it could not mobilise the workers against that threat, for fear both of provoking a response from imperialism, and for fear that once mobilised, the workers would push forward to demand control of the means of production themselves.

In the developed capitalist economies, it is again these functioning capitalists that represent the personification of the dominant form of property – socialised capital. It is they, like the merchant capitalists under Mercantilism, that form the ruling social class, but as a middle class represent only a transient form, dependent on the support of the working-class, and at the same time, frightful of mobilising that class against the conservative representatives of the old regime, of private capital. As a middle class, like the peasantry, as Marx says, they can never form a ruling political class, on their own, because they never achieve the condition of being a class “for themselves”.

The modern state, therefore, is a social-democratic state that rests upon the dominant form of socialised capital. The dominant ideas that guide that state are the ideas of the functioning capitalists that personify the socialised capital. Those ideas are functionalist, technocratic and meritocratic, and internationalist, reflecting the need for this large-scale industrial capital, for functional efficiency, long-term stability, and a framework of planning and regulation, on a wide field, in order to ensure it.

These ideas should also be ones supported by the working class, for the reasons Lenin set out earlier, as a means of developing the productive forces at the fastest pace, and of creating the conditions for workers solidarity and organisation across borders.

“The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class.”

Donald Trump, and to an extent Theresa May, have some of the characteristics of a Bonaparte. Assorted right-wing populists, in Europe, such as Le Pen and Wilders, present a similar picture. But, Wilders was soundly defeated, in the Netherlands, with strongly pro-EU/pro-immigration candidates from D66 and the Green Left making significant advances. Le Pen is also likely to be defeated, though the main left challenge now seems to be from Melenchon, whose Stalinoid, national-socialist programme differs little from that of Le Pen, other than the latter is based on open racism and xenophobia, whereas the racism and xenophobia in the former is merely implicit.

In fact, all the signs are that the right-wing populists have already past their high watermark, in Europe. If anything, Brexit and Trump has acted to provoke a reaction from social-democratic forces, in the EU, which coupled with signs of economic growth, are likely to drive further integration and development within the bloc.

But, nor is Britain, or the US, a Bonapartist regime. There is no fusion of the state and governmental power, as there is, for example, with Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, and arguably Netanyahu in Israel, or as can be seen with a range of regimes across the Middle East. On the contrary, the election of Trump, in the US, and the vote for Brexit, in the UK, are both indications of a separation of governmental and state power, and a condition of tension between the two.

Trump, as with Brexit, simply reflects a condition in society whereby a large portion of the population are atomised and alienated. This large amorphous mass can make itself felt in acts of passive rebellion, but it is economically and socially irrelevant. Cameron proposed the EU referendum solely for internal party management purposes, in the belief that a new coalition government would save him from calling it. Had no referendum been called, there would have been no significant demand or social activity to force the issue. All polls showed that the EU and immigration were low down in voters concerns, below jobs, pay, the NHS and public services.

Brexit and Trump simply demonstrate the limitation of the governmental power compared with the state power. Trump's remit is already being heavily circumscribed by the US state machinery. The same fate will befall Brexit.  Theresa May seems to realise that, which is why she has called the General Election, and has started talking in war like terms in her opposition to the EU.  She is preparing to preempt the British and European permanent state's inevitable attempt to grind down the forces of Brexit, by saying that negotiations have failed, and then abruptly pulling Britain out within the next six months, in line with what UKIP and the Tory right have been calling for all along.  It signifies that UKIP has captured the Tory Party, and it is now firmly in the camp of reaction.

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