Thursday, 6 July 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 121

Reflecting the views of this still revolutionary bourgeoisie, Smith writes,

““The labour of some of the most respectable orders in the society is, like that of menial servants, unproductive of any value,” “and does not fix or realise itself in any permanent subject, or vendible commodity. The sovereign, for example, with all the officers both of justice and war who serve under him, the whole army and navy, are unproductive labourers. They are the servants of the public, and are maintained by a part of the annual produce of the industry of other people… In the same class must be ranked…churchmen, lawyers, physicians, men of letters of all kinds; players, buffoons, musicians, opera-singers, opera-dancers, etc.” (l.c., pp. 94-95).” (p 300)

But, Marx points out that once the bourgeoisie has secured itself in power, an in part come to an accommodation with the old ruling class, when the state functionaries are now drawn from its own social ranks, and imbued with the same ideas and values, when the bourgeoisie's wealth has risen to a level where it can now concern itself more with its own enjoyment of leisure and culture, than just productive activity, and particularly when it is confronted by a working-class, which in turn points out that it only enjoys these things because it also lives on the product of others industry, the bourgeoisie's attitude to the state changes.

“... the bourgeoisie tries to justify “economically”, from its own standpoint, what at an earlier stage it had criticised and fought against. Its spokesmen and conscience-salvers in this line are the Garniers, etc. In addition to this, these economists, who themselves are priests, professors, etc., are eager to prove their “productive” usefulness, to justify their wages “economically”.” (p 301)

But, the same thing can be seen in relation to the working-class too, or specifically in relation to those of its layers whose existence itself depends upon a continuation of the status quo. The revolutionary perspective of the working-class is given by Marx and Engels in their hostility to the state, and to those such as the Lassalleans and Fabians who wanted to make an accommodation with it.

As Engels sets out, in his Preface to The Conditions of the Working Class, by the second half of the 19th century, the big industrial capitalists found themselves at odds not just with landed property, but also with money-lending capital, and the smaller private capitals. They could only maintain political power with the support of the industrial working-class. And so, the period of liberal bourgeois democracy passed into history to be replaced by modern bourgeois social democracy. An accommodation between the working-class and big industrial capital, which itself took the form of socialised capital, was reached, first in the form of an increased role of the labour bureaucracy within the old Liberal Party, and then in the form of specifically social democratic parties.

But, all of these social-democratic parties were now characterised by this same kind of transformed attitude towards the state that had previously occurred with the bourgeoisie. Where, for Marx and Engels, high levels of tax were to be opposed, because they undermined workers' self-government, for the social-democratic parties it was to be supported, because of its supposed powers of redistribution.

Where all forms of “state-socialism”, to use Engels phrase, in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme, were to be opposed, for the social democrats the height of their aspiration can be seen in the welfare state, and in demands for nationalisation. The growth of such a state, is, in turn, the material foundation upon which these bourgeois ideas are spread.

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