Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The Rule of Unelected Ruling Class Judges - Part 8 - Two Bonapartes (4)

Two Bonapartes (4) 

What is the nature of Bonapartism? The state, as Marx describes, is the executive committee of the ruling class. It is there to pursue the interests of that ruling class, and to defend it against other classes. The ruling class, like every class, is not homogeneous, and so this Executive Committee, like every such committee, reflects these divergent interests amongst ruling class fractions. As Marx says, in The Critique of the Gotha Programme, the state rests upon the existing civil society, and the domination of that society by the ideas, culture and norms of the ruling class. A ruling class that is secure in its domination of society, via its domination of these ideas and culture, which itself arises because its particular mode of production, and its reproduction becomes stable and seen as normal and eternal, is able to rest upon those elements of its state, the ideological arms comprised within the churches, schools and universities, and, for modern capitalism, its welfare state, rather than on the bodies of armed men that are the ultimate power of the state, used to protect the ruling class. The more homogeneous the ruling class, the more the Executive Committee can speak with one voice. 

One manifestation of this, under capitalism, is the establishment of the bourgeois parliamentary democracy as the normal form of bourgeois political regime. As Lenin puts it, in State and Revolution, 

“Another reason why the omnipotence of “wealth” is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.” 

The state itself, in fact, begins to reflect the interests of the ruling class, even before the ruling class's social dictatorship is reflected in its control of the political regime. In Britain, capitalism became the mode of production by the middle of the 18th century, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The British state began to represent the interests of this capitalist mode of production, long before the bourgeoisie themselves took hold of the political regime. It is forced to do this for several simple reasons. Firstly, the fortunes of the state itself depend upon the fortunes of the mode of production. As soon as the capitalist mode of production becomes dominant, the fortunes of Britain becomes dependent upon its success. It is that which provides the revenues for the state to be able to build armies and navies, and to sustain a large permanent state machinery of civil service bureaucrats, of military top brass, of universities, of the churches and so on. It is the success of this British capital which ensures that Britain's products are globally competitive, and can be exported, bringing in large amounts of foreign currency and gold, and so on. 

Lenin makes the same point in his polemics against the Narodniks. The Narodniks believed that the Russian state could be used to cultivate a specifically Russian path of development based upon its established mode of production based upon village production. But, Lenin points out that, even by the 1880's, the Russian State was a capitalist state, irrespective of the fact that Russia's Tsarist political regime was based upon the landed aristocracy. Lenin makes this same point that the Russian state was a capitalist state, because, faced with the growing power of Britain, France, Germany, Japan et al, Russia's future depended upon the rapid development of capitalism. The same had been true in Germany. Bismark arose as the representative of the Junkers, but Bismark's state, like that of Louis Bonaparte in France, was forced to ensure the most rapid development of capitalism, as the only means by which the fortunes of the state could be advanced. 

The other reason that the state acts to represent the interests of the new mode of production, and the forms of property that arise from it, is that the state itself is comprised of real human beings, and the ideas in the heads of these real human beings are themselves conditioned by the new ideas and culture that the new mode of production engenders, and makes appear normal and eternal. The University professors reflect the new ideas in science, philosophy, law and economics that arise from the new mode of production. Indeed, many of them may be the children of members of this new ruling class that emerges on the back of the new property relations created by the new mode of production. The ideas that they develop are, in turn, disseminated to their students, who become the next generation of professors, teachers, clergy, civil servants, judges, and generals. To take the latter as an example, it does not take much for a general, or an admiral, to recognise that, in an age of industrial production, the ships, and guns they require are most effectively produced by a rapid development of capitalist production, and the application of science and technology it brings with it. 

The British state was a capitalist state long before Britain was a bourgeois parliamentary democracy, just as Russia had a capitalist state even whilst it suffered under the tyranny of a medieval Tsarist autocracy. In Britain, at the time of the Peterloo Massacre, in 1819, only 3% of the population had the vote, meaning that the vast majority of the bourgeoisie were excluded from parliamentary representation, especially as the existence of rotten boroughs, and lack of representation for urban areas meant that parliament was heavily dominated by the old landed aristocracy. Even at the time of Marx's Inaugural Address, in 1864, he notes the words of Lord Palmerston, 

“The House of Commons, cried he, is a house of landed proprietors.” 

The bourgeoisie, as a whole, obtained enfranchisement in the 1832 Reform Act, but, as Engels notes, sections of the bourgeoisie, such as the merchant-capitalists and the money-lending capitalists had long been associated with the interests of the old landed aristocracy. It was that association that characterised the period of Mercantilism, when these sections of the bourgeoisie acted as the pioneers of those interests, by opening new trade routes, establishing colonies and overseas markets, as well as overseas, plantations, mines and so on. Only in 1848 does the industrial bourgeoisie exert its dominance over these antediluvian forms of capital, with the aid of the industrial proletariat, in repealing the Corn Laws. But, as Engels says, it is this fact that illustrates to the industrial bourgeoisie, itself small in numbers, that it can only exert its control over the political regime via that support from the working-class. It must move beyond liberal parliamentary democracy to social-democracy, by extending the franchise to that working-class. 

It turned “the English working class, politically, into the tail of the ‘great Liberal Party’, the party led by the manufacturers. This advantage, once gained, had to be perpetuated. And the manufacturing capitalists, from the Chartist opposition, not to Free Trade, but to the transformation of Free Trade into the one vital national question, had learnt, and were learning more and more, that the middle class can never obtain full social and political power over the nation except by the help of the working class. Thus a gradual change came over the relations between both classes.” 

(Engels, The Condition of The Working Class in England) 

Bonapartism arises, therefore, in conditions where the balance of class forces, in society, is more or less evenly matched. Under such conditions, the Bonapartist regime rests upon the middle-class, which most obviously represents this stalemate between the classes. This is spelled out by Marx in his analysis in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. It is why such figures that lead military coups etc. are always drawn from that layer of society, the colonels rather than the generals. But, as Marx also describes there, the middle class is itself characterised by its heterogeneous nature. It can never itself become the ruling class for that reason. The Bonapartist regime, therefore, comes to power based upon these disparate middle class forces, usually supported by the declassed and lumpen elements of society, that are its shock troops,  but when in power, must itself align itself with the interests of the ruling-class, as determined by the dominant mode of production.

Listen here, to Marx's description, and the similarity to the support for Johnson, and for Brexit.

"This society (Society of December 10) dates from the year 1849. On the pretext of founding a benevolent society, the lumpen proletariat of Paris had been organized into secret sections, each section led by Bonapartist agents, with a Bonapartist general at the head of the whole. Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème; from this kindred element Bonaparte formed the core of the Society of December 10. A "benevolent society" - insofar as, like Bonaparte, all its members felt the need of benefiting themselves at the expense of the labouring nation. This Bonaparte, who constitutes himself chief of the lumpenproletariat, who here alone rediscovers in mass form the interests which he personally pursues, who recognises in this scum, offal, refuse of all classes the only class upon which he can base himself unconditionally, is the real Bonaparte, the Bonaparte sans phrase. An old, crafty roué, he conceives the historical life of the nations and their performances of state as comedy in the most vulgar sense, as a masquerade in which the grand costumes, words, and postures merely serve to mask the pettiest knavery. Thus his expedition to Strasbourg, where the trained Swiss vulture played the part of the Napoleonic eagle. For his irruption into Boulogne he puts some London lackeys into French uniforms. They represent the army. In his Society of December 10 he assembles ten thousand rascals who are to play the part of the people as Nick Bottom [A character in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. - Ed.] that of the lion. At a moment when the bourgeoisie itself played the most complete comedy, but in the most serious manner in the world, without infringing any of the pedantic conditions of French dramatic etiquette, and was itself half deceived, half convinced of the solemnity of its own performance of state, the adventurer, who took the comedy as plain comedy, was bound to win. Only when he has eliminated his solemn opponent, when he himself now takes his imperial role seriously and under the Napoleonic mask imagines he is the real Napoleon, does he become the victim of his own conception of the world, the serious buffoon who no longer takes world history for a comedy but his comedy for world history. What the national ateliers were for the socialist workers, what the Gardes mobile were for the bourgeois republicans, the Society of December 10 was for Bonaparte, the party fighting force peculiar to him. On his journeys the detachments of this society packing the railways had to improvise a public for him, stage popular enthusiasm, roar Vive l'Empereur, insult and thrash republicans, under police protection, of course. On his return journeys to Paris they had to form the advance guard, forestall counter-demonstrations or disperse them. The Society of December 10 belonged to him, it was his work, his very own idea. Whatever else he appropriates is put into his hands by the force of circumstances; whatever else he does, the circumstances do for him or he is content to copy from the deeds of others. But Bonaparte with official phrases about order, religion, family, and property in public, before the citizens, and with the secret society of the Schufterles and Spiegelbergs, the society of disorder, prostitution, and theft, behind him — that is Bonaparte himself as the original author, and the history of the Society of December 10 is his own history."

Cromwell's state had to promote the interests of Mercantilism, of the merchant bourgeoisie, and financial oligarchy, as well as of the landed aristocracy connected to it, for example in expanding trade and overseas colonies, but so too did the restoration monarchy of Charles II. Napoleon Bonaparte, and the restoration in France undertake a similar function, whereas Louis Bonaparte and Bismark illustrate the dominance of industrial capital by that stage, and the need to promote its interests. The same applies to the Tsarist state, and to the Japanese state, both of whose political regimes rested upon the old landlord class, but which are forced to promote the interests of industrial capital so as to rapidly industrialise. Stalin's regime rests upon the then dominance of large-scale socialised capital, and is forced thereby to promote its interests, for capital accumulation, and so on. 

Bonapartism, can then be either progressive or conservative, and this depends upon the extent to which the new mode of production has already exerted its dominance over the old, and the extent, thereby that the forms of property and resultant social classes have consolidated on the basis of it. Bonapartism can never be reactionary, at least not sustainably, because that it implies an actual reversion of the mode of production to some previous more primitive condition, which itself is not economically sustainable.  Cromwell's regime and that of Napoleon are progressive in that they promote the interests of a new mode of production arising within the pores of the old. But, this initially takes the form not of the forms of property associated with this new mode of production, but of forms of property antecedent to it, and the basis of it - transitional forms.  In other words, it represents a transitional stage between feudalism and capitalism – Mercantilism – in which the antediluvian forms of capital expand, and, given the new conditions of production, now bring about the development of productive-capital itself. Merchant capital and money-lending capital now destroys the small private producers, but, now, instead of them being turned into slaves or serfs, as happened previously, it means that their means of production become concentrated and centralised as capital, and the producers themselves become wage labourers. Marx describes, in detail, how this happened in France, in the period after the Revolution, when, following the redistribution of the land, peasant producers were enticed into large-scale borrowing, and became debt slaves, meaning that their land could be taken over by capitalists, and they could be turned into wage labourers. A similar process occurs in Russia, following the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861. 

The Bonapartist regimes of Louis Bonaparte and Bismark are progressive because they promote, now, fully the interests of industrial capital. These regimes arise because, in the specific conditions, the industrial bourgeoisie itself is not strong enough to directly exert control over the state via the political regime without the support of the working-class. But, the industrial bourgeoisie is not powerful enough to prevent that working-class from simply exerting its own interests by this stage, and carrying through a permanent revolution, that carries through beyond, the bourgeois revolution to the socialist revolution, sweeping away capitalist property itself, and erecting socialist property in its place, on the back of the now dominant form of capital as large-scale socialised capital. 

By contrast, the Bonapartist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini are conservative. Large-scale, socialised, industrial capital had already become dominant in Germany and Italy. It was not a question of utilising state power to bring about such a process of industrialisation. This large-scale socialised capital, in both countries had also created a large working-class on the back of it, and the nature of socialised capital as a form of property engenders the corresponding ideas, that such property is most naturally controlled collectively by the workers themselves. But, this revolutionary class is not yet strong enough to exert this power. That is true also in Russia, where it has overthrown the old ruling classes, but not been able to exercise control over the political regime in its own name, resulting in the Bonapartist regime of Stalin. 

The contrast is this. Stalin's Bonapartism is progressive, because it acts to revolutionise the mode of production and to develop this large-scale socialised industrial capital. But, Hitler and Mussolini's Bonapartism is conservative, because its aim is not to revolutionise the mode of production, but to conserve it. Its aim is to prevent the working-class from developing the existent transitional forms of property, as socialised capital, and transforming them into fully social property, initially as capital under the control of the workers, and then ultimately into socially owned means of production, used for the production of human needs, and not for profit

In Part 9, I will look at how the period of the 1980's and 1990's, fits into this analysis, and creates the conditions under which progressive social democracy is replaced by conservative social-democracy, and how it in turn destroys itself, leading to the conditions we have today.

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