Friday, 7 June 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 21 - Part 15

Unfortunately, as the crisis began to materialise, in the 1970's, the strengthening of conservative and even reactionary ideas was not confined to the class enemies of the working-class. In fact, quite the opposite was often the case. Those sections of the bourgeoisie that reflected the interests of this large-scale, often multinational capital, generally adopted a more progressive internationalist outlook that recognised that society had moved on, beyond the limitations of national borders. It was those sections of the bourgeoisie, still clinging to the past, all of the plethora of small capitalists, still dependent upon state protectionism, of one sort or another – most notably in exemptions from minimum labour standards, and low wages, made possible by the subsidies provided to them, directly or indirectly, by a large and rapidly growing welfare and benefits system – that had no desire to see their existence put under further jeopardy by greater competition, at the same time as facing the need to pay higher wages, and meet more civilised standards for working conditions and consumer and environmental protection. 

These elements found their champions amongst the National Front and other fascist groups, just as they had done in the 1920's and 30's. It was dramatised, at the time, by David Edgar's play “Destiny”. But, it also had its reflection in the reactionary wing of the Tory Party, represented by such people as Enoch Powell. This reflected the division of the Tory Party into a reactionary wing that looked back to nationalism, protectionism and Empire, as opposed to its conservative, social-democratic wing represented, at the time by Heath. That wing was social-democratic, in that it rested upon all those developments in capitalism that had arisen in the 20th century, and recognised the requirement for planning and regulation on an expanding scale, particularly an expanding geographic scale, if the advantages were to continue. It was conservative, in the sense that, in so far as the logic of that process, of planning and regulation was concerned, in relation to its intensification, via an extension of industrial democracy, it said, “this far, and no further.” 

Ultimately, this conservative social-democracy is unable to disentangle its view of the interests of society, and, thereby, of the large scale, socialised capital that dominates economic activity, from the interests of the dominant section of the ruling class, in other words, of those large shareholders that exercise control over that socialised capital via their ownership of loanable money-capital. By contrast, progressive social-democracy recognises that this process of increased planning and regulation has to be both extended and intensified. The need for more intensive planning and regulation stems from the requirement of this productive, socialised capital to optimise the conditions for its own accumulation, as opposed to the interests of loanable money-capital to maximise shareholder value, in the form of higher dividends, capital gains and so on. The logic drives towards greater industrial democracy for that reason, so that the associated producers (workers and managers) in the firm, and across the economy, act so as to maximise the production of surplus value, and realisation of profit, so as to maximise capital accumulation and economic growth. Then, the owners of loanable money-capital are able to obtain the market rate of interest on the money-capital they lend, and nothing more, but, for that very reason, they use their political power to prevent their control over society's capital and resources being taken away from them. 

But, in the 1970's, as in the 1920's and 30's, those workers who felt most exposed to the changed conditions, also were driven by this increased competition into ideas of individualism, sectionalism, and nationalism, along with the various forms of protectionism, be it via the introduction of import and immigration controls, or demands for the capitalist state to intervene to bail out failed capitalist enterprises, via nationalisation. It was manifest in the 1975 Common Market referendum, where it resulted in the grotesque spectacle of representatives of the working-class being allied with the worst enemies of that class, from the National Front, and the right-wing of the Tory Party, in order to persuade British workers to favour British capital over European capital, and to make common cause with reactionary sections of British capital rather than with European workers. A pale reflection of that appeared in the 2016 EU Referendum, but today, the large majority of the advanced sections of the working-class - around 70-75% of Labour voters – recognise the importance of the EU, and reject a return to Little Englander nationalism

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