Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The Rule of Unelected Ruling Class Judges - Part 5 - Two Bonapartes (1)

Two Bonapartes (1)

Why are the forces of progressive social-democracy and of socialism so weak? Part of the reason was given in Part 4. Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme, kept secret, for many years, from the majority of party members, but echoed in similar warnings from Engels, after Marx's death, was an indication that the majority of so called Marxists were nothing of the kind. These Lassallean, statist ideas continued to dominate the Social-Democratic parties of the Second International, and were inherited by the Third International, as Draper describes in The Two Souls of Socialism. Following the creation of the Third International, the Second International, which was always a confederation of national parties, rather than a real International, became, at best, a talking shop, with its constituent national parties, moving steadily rightwards, becoming nothing more than social-democratic, reformist parties seeking to simply run capitalism more efficiently. At the same time, the Third International degenerated into Stalinism, itself a reactionary form of social-democratic reformism, which, based upon the theory of Socialism In One Country, was itself highly nationalistic, bureaucratic and authoritarian. The forces of Marxism, were confined to the small groups of Trotskyists scattered across the globe, themselves suffering from the statist conceptions of Lassalleanism that the Third International had inherited, plus an even smaller number of independent Marxists that found themselves outside any of these organised groupings. 

Other factors came into play. In the post-war period, the forces of social-democracy expanded along with the post-war, long-wave uptrend, which saw a massive expansion of capital. That expansion of capital, now clearly seen as an expansion of socialised capital, and its mature form as multinational capital, in the form of the multinational corporation, required a similar extension of the role of social democracy, and of the social-democratic state. It required that state to intervene even more aggressively to plan the macro-economy, to provide a level playing field, to establish conditions of long-term stability for capital investment, to expand the role of the welfare state, and incorporate the organisations of the working-class, such as the trades unions even more. And, as this growth of capital was manifest in a further expansion and integration of the global economy, and of the global reach of multinational companies, so it required the same kinds of role of the national social-democratic state to be extended internationally. It was manifest in the global para state bodies arising from the Bretton Woods Conference. Imperialism, the form of capitalism that arises on the back of the dominance of industrial capital, is a system based upon a hierarchy of states, and the implementation of a rules based system designed to ensure that each of those states abides by those rules, designed to enable capital accumulation, and the protection of capitalist property rights across the globe. 

“Imperialism” does not intervene, militarily, in the Falkland Isles, Afghanistan, Iraq etc., for the individual economic interest of the intervening powers, but to enforce those rules by which all states are commanded to obey, in order that the laws of capitalist property rights, and the ability of global capital to operate on the same set of rules are enforced. It is, in fact, an extension of those principles outlined by the US at the end of WWII, when it required the dismantling of the British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese colonial empires. A further manifestation of this growth in social-democracy is seen in the development of the EEC, which also reflects an acknowledgement that the days of the nation state are over, except for the very large states like the US, which are themselves federations of states. In the decades since the creation of the EEC/EU similar such economic/political blocs have developed across the globe such as with ASEAN, or MERCOSUR, and the latest of which is the African Continental Free Trade Area, bringing together 1.3 billion people.  (See also: What you should know about Africa’s massive, 54-country trade bloc

This growth of social-democracy, in the post-war period, proceeded in tandem with the accumulation of capital, and the growing dominance of large-scale socialised capital within it. The natural dynamic of this process not only meant that all of the features of greater planning and regulation, and the extension of that on an international scale become more apparent, but also that the concomitant absorption of the working-class, via a rise in corporatism, also proceeded, including proposals for increased industrial democracy, at least within bounds. The Frankfurt Parliament in 1848, had introduced co-determination laws, giving workers a right to sit on boards. After WWII, that was incorporated into German law, giving workers a right, in large companies to elect 50% of the members of supervisory boards. Given that far from this undermining German capital, in the post war period, but that German capital, particularly its manufacturing sector, grew and became a world leader in productivity, it became obvious, to the ruling-class, that such industrial democracy was not inherently contradictory to their interests. The more productive the industry, the more profits it produced, the more it could pay out dividends to shareholders. 

Moreover, the fundamental basis upon which social-democracy rests is the idea that there is no fundamental contradiction between the interests of labour and capital, and in the age of socialised capital this is interpreted as no contradiction with the interests of shareholders. If capital accumulates, the demand for labour-power rises, wages rise, as productivity rises, living standards rise alongside profits, as profits rise, so dividends and other forms of interest payments rise. All is well. In the post-war period, this is reflected in the growth of industry-wide collective bargaining between large industrial unions and employers confederations. It is manifest in the creation of mutuality agreements, whereby groups of workers agree to annual targets and improvements in productivity, brought about by their agreement to the introduction of new technologies, in return for annual increases in wages. 

At a national level, it sees the introduction of National Economic planning bodies such as NEDO, and also sees the representatives of organised labour and big socialised capital, from the TUC and CBI, brought together, on a regular basis, for beer and sandwiches in Downing Street. That, of course, meant that the millions of small capitalists were frozen out of proceedings during all of this period, belonging neither to the ranks of organised labour nor big socialised capital. This very fact, and the social tension it creates is itself reflected politically, as these excluded small capitalists seek political representation for their interests from the far right of the Tory Party, such as The Monday Club, and in fringe organisations associated with the Tory Right such as the National Association For Freedom, as well as from the fascist groups such as the National Front, as dramatised in David Edgar's play “Destiny”.   There has always been an open valve system between the Tory Party and these kinds of fascist parties.

The millions of small capitalists find themselves squeezed from both sides. In so far as they are in competition with these large capitals, they cannot effectively compete other than by trying to screw down their workers more aggressively, and by taking lower than average profits for themselves. As the economy grows, their own workers are able to simply take up employment in the larger companies which pay higher wages, provide better conditions, including education and training etc. In the larger small private capitals, workers are themselves able to join unions, and to demand higher wages. In so far as the small private capitals, rather than being in competition with big capital live from work sub-contracted to them by it, they find themselves completely subordinated to it. The larger capitals are able to dictate prices and terms to them, the larger firm often delays payments to them and so on. Finally, the very smallest private capitalists engage in those activities that it is simply not worthwhile the large capitals engaging in. These are the window cleaners, the gardening service businesses and so on. In most of these, the small private capitalist is a labourer in all but name, their profits are really just an equivalent of wages, and often these are less than the wages of actual wage labourers. 

All of this means that this class of small private capitalists is in antagonistic opposition both to organised labour and to large, socialised capital. 

By the late 1960's, there were signs that the post war long wave uptrend was coming to an end. The period from the 1950's saw wages and living standards rise substantially. Capital accumulated rapidly, but the social working-day expanded along with it, as married women and migrants were brought into the labour force. That meant that the mass of surplus value could expand rapidly too. By the early 1960's, this period of extensive accumulation begins to use up all of this available labour supply. There is less scope to bring in additional married women, though this is offset, to an extent, by the first generation of baby boomers entering the labour market. Increased immigration has seen racists encourage bigotry that already existed, having been inherited from Britain's colonial past. It sees the first immigration controls introduced since the introduction of the 1905 Aliens Act, brought in, similarly, following racist provocation to stop the migration of Jews escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe. 

The social working-day stopped increasing so rapidly because the workforce stopped growing so quickly, and because, with higher living standards, workers who had previously depended on working large amounts of overtime, could now begin to reduce the number of hours they worked, on the basis of enjoying a higher basic hourly wage. As the length of the social working-day stopped increasing so much, so the increase in the mass of new value produced, and so of surplus value began to slow down. And, as wages themselves rose, due to this relative shortage in the supply of labour-power, so this produces an actual squeeze on surplus value and profits, as described by Glynn and Sutcliffe. It creates the conditions for the period of crises of overproduction that runs from 1974 to 1987. 

This period of crises means that the conditions that underpinned social-democracy, and its forward moving dynamic ceased to operate. Social-democracy is a permanent, institutionalised popular front. In the period from the 1950's through to the 1980's, the all sections of the ruling class associated themselves with the Tory Party, even though it was the Labour Party that most accurately represented the interests of big socialised capital, and thereby also of shareholders, because, during this period, the Tory Party itself is a social-democratic party that maintains and extends the welfare state, only partly reverses some of the nationalisation programme of the Attlee government, and so on. It is the period of Buttskellism. We are frequently told today that part of the cause of Brexit is that people feel that their vote does not count, or change anything. But, in fact, this is nothing new. In this post-war period, 90% of the legislation of outgoing governments was simply taken over and implemented by the incoming government of a different colour. The majority of people regularly reported in surveys that they felt their vote did not change anything.   A February 1973 Gallup Poll, found that 71% of people thought that they did not have enough say in how the government runs the country, as against 23% who thought they did.  Sayings like “If voting ever changed anything they would abolish it”, go back decades. 

In the 1970's, we see the Wilson government set up the Bullock Committee into industrial democracy, which proposes to introduce a similar system of codetermination for British companies as existed in Germany. The EU, creates its Draft 5th Company Law Directive that similarly seeks to introduce this principle into company law for the whole of the EU. It represents the high point for this period of development towards progressive social-democracy, and as the period of crisis develops, so the nature of this social-democracy as a popular front manifests itself. Like all popular fronts, it sees the working-class thrown under the bus in the service of the interests of capital. 

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