Monday, 31 August 2020

What The Friends of The People Are, Part III - Part 37

Lenin describes some of the reformist measures that the Narodniks proposed, as set out by Krivenko. And, again, Lenin sets out the difference between the Marxist position and the petty-bourgeois moralists, “anti-capitalists”, and “anti-imperialists”. 

“All this, of course, is very lofty, humane and liberal—“liberal,” because it will free the bourgeois economic system from all its medieval handicaps and thus make it easier for the worker to fight the system itself, which, of course, will be strengthened rather than hurt by such measures” (p 257) 

In other words, Marxists had no reason to oppose such liberal measures per se, because they strengthened bourgeois society and weakened feudal society. In doing so, it not only strengthened the position of workers to fight Tsarist absolutism, but it also placed them directly in opposition to capital and the bourgeoisie. It clarified for them the field of battle, as society divided into two great class camps. 

Lenin describes the failure of the Narodniks in terms I described earlier that in all their talk about “the people” they fail to distinguish that the “people” are divided into antagonistic classes. And having failed to do so, they fail to establish that “the People's state” is, in fact, a class state whose purpose is to defend and promote the interests of the bourgeoisie. 

“... and when the class character of the modern state is not understood, it is only one step from political radicalism to political opportunism.” (p 258) 

Talk of “the people” is also the stock in trade of Stalinists and other social-democrats, and the opportunism that Lenin talks of, here, runs like a yellow thread through the ideology and programmes of such reformists. It can be seen in the programmatic demands for the state to involve itself with ever greater areas of everyday life, the development of welfare states being totemic of such programmes. It can be seen in the Utopian and subjectivist demands that “the state” nationalise this or that industry, or in a crisis, this or that business. The “Marxists” amongst such political opportunists only seek to hide their shame in raising such demands by tagging on to them the demand that it should be also “under workers control”, and so completely forgetting that this state to which it submits these pleas is a capitalist state, and so only has interest in nationalisation if it is in the interests of capital, as a whole, and so has absolutely no interest, whatsoever, in also granting workers' control over it! 

A good example of this opportunism and the petty-bourgeois moralistic nature of the Narodniks and their modern equivalents is their demand that the state should protect the economically weak against the economically strong. Today, this comes in all kinds of forms from the welfare state itself to the reformist demands for redistribution via the tax and benefits system etc. It can be seen in the appeals of Stalinists and reformists for weak nations to be defended against strong nations via a beefed up United Nations, which was a favourite demand of Tony Benn. It can be seen in the demands from the same quarters for an “anti-monopoly alliance”, and for the state to follow the reactionary line of breaking up monopolies. 

Lenin notes that such policies and appeals are nonsense. 

“It is nonsense because the strength of the “economically strong” lies, among other things, in his possession of political power. Without it he could not maintain his economic rule.” (Note *, p 258) 

Lenin quotes Yuzhakov from Russkoye Bogatsvo, to illustrate the identity of this petty-bourgeois liberal reformism with the same trends in Western Europe. 

“Gladstone’s Land Bills, Bismarck’s workers’ insurance, factory inspection, the idea of our Peasants’ Bank, the organisation of migration, measures against the kulak—all these are attempts to apply this same principle of state interference for the protection of the economically weak.” 

Note here too the inclusion of the demand for control of migration, which is also reflected in the demand for immigration controls by these same reformists today. Yuzhakov, here, openly states that he accepts the continuation of the existing system, but seeks to simply tinker around with it. That is also the position of the western liberal reformists, including those that call themselves social-democrats, democratic socialists, or even just socialists – including Stalinists. 

“In complete harmony with this, their fundamental theoretical tenet, is the fact that they regard as an instrument of reform an organ which has its basis in this present-day society and protects the interests of its ruling classes—the state. They positively believe the state to be omnipotent and above all classes, and expect that it will not only “assist” the working people, but create a real and proper system as we have heard from Mr. Krivenko). But then, of course, nothing else is to be expected of them, dyed-in-the-wool petty-bourgeois ideologists that they are. For it is one of the fundamental and characteristic features of the petty bourgeoisie—one, incidentally, which makes it a reactionary class—that the petty producers, disunited and isolated by the very conditions of production and tied down to a definite place and to a definite exploiter, cannot understand the class character of the exploitation and oppression from which they suffer, and suffer sometimes no less than the proletarian; they can not understand that in bourgeois society the state too is bound to be a class state.” (p 259)

Labour, The Left, and The Working Class – A Response To Paul Mason - The Political Situation (6)

The Political Situation (6/14) 

In the period ahead, the conservatives will seek to develop large-scale capital, including the use of government spending on infrastructure etc., when required to do so, in the same way that Hitler developed the National Economic Council, and built autobahns etc. In the 1930's, in Britain, it was Oswald Mosely, when he was a Fabian Labour MP, and just before establishing his New Party, who put forward his Mosely Manifesto, supported by Nye Bevan amongst others, that was a Keynesian, 1930's equivalent of the Alternative Economic Strategy. They will do so whilst pressing down on the organised workers, the features of which can be seen in the measures proposed variously by Johnson in Britain, Orban in Hungary, and similar measures in Poland and elsewhere. In Britain, the conservatives erstwhile Brexit allies amongst the Libertarians will become their opponents, as they argue against this extension of the role of the corporatist state. 

In order to understand this, its necessary to again consider the economic conjuncture. We are not in the same position that existed in the 1920's/30's, or the 1970's/80's. That is we are not at a stage in the long wave cycle where capital has proceeded to a stage where the social working-day cannot be expanded further, or where the rate of surplus value cannot be expanded. We are certainly not at a point where the accumulation of capital has resulted in the demand for labour reaching levels where the rate of surplus value is being seriously reduced by rising wages. In short, we are not facing a crisis of overproduction. There is, then, no current requirement for capital to address such a crisis via a restructuring of capital, a new technological revolution, and replacement of labour with fixed capital, over and above the usual gradual process by which that occurs (extensive accumulation rather than intensive accumulation). There is no requirement to resort to fascism or Bonapartism to achieve such a result. The problem that the dominant section of the ruling class, i.e. the top 0.01% that owns the fictitious capital, faces is quite different. It is how to avoid a repetition of the 2008 crisis, and, thereby, the destruction of its paper wealth. The problem is not the absence of plentiful opportunities to employ productive-capital very profitably, but the fact that, if it is, the more rapid economic growth does begin to cause wages to rise, and interest rates to rise, and the latter once more causes asset prices to crash, as happened in 2008. 

There is something of a problem with expanding the social working-day, and, thereby, absolute surplus value, and that explains some of the current political situation. The problem is this. When the long wave uptrend began, the pace of economic expansion did cause a rapid increase in employment, particularly for some types of labour. There was a sharp increase in demand, in Britain, for example for skilled tradespeople, such as plumbers. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that, in the 1980's, Thatcher had got rid of apprenticeships, and of training for many of these skills. So, home-grown potential workers for these trades did not exist. Prices for plumbing work rose sharply, teachers began to retrain as plumbers, but the real answer was to simply import all those unemployed, and underemployed skilled workers from Eastern Europe that the collapse of Stalinism had created. In addition to these skilled workers, there was also a demand for unskilled workers to work in agricultural work, to work in social care and so on. Similar requirements for imported labour were seen across Europe, and in North America. 

The free movement of labour is as vital for large-scale capital as the free movement of goods, services and capital. It is one reason it is led to drive towards ever larger single markets, like the EU. And, because it is vital for this large-scale capital, as a means of producing surplus value, and realising it as profits, it is also vital to the owners of fictitious-capital, whose interest/dividends are paid out of those profits. It is why the middle-class bureaucrats whose wages are dependent upon the success of this large-scale capital, and the shareholders, are both opponents of Brexit, along with the large majority of workers employed by this large-scale socialised capital. And, the same is true in North America in relation to NAFTA etc. However, the fact that this free movement of labour, across artificial, and, in essence, meaningless borders, within what have become single markets, is fodder for the propaganda of nationalist and fascist bigots, is a problem for this big socialised capital.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Commercial Capital - Part 2 of 3

In the same way that the circuit of productive-capital is P … P, so the circuit of commodity-capital is C` - C`. In the former, a quantity of productive-capital is reproduced as an equal quantity of productive-capital, and in the latter a quantity of commodity-capital is reproduced as an equal quantity of commodity-capital. This is the basis of simple reproduction, and out of the surplus value, m, then arises the potential for accumulation, and expanded reproduction. This is true whether this commodity-capital is that of the producer or the merchant

Commodity-capital takes on an independent existence as merchant capital, because, for the producer, it is not productive, i.e. it does not produce additional surplus value. For them, it is simply a necessary cost which must be endured, in order to realise the value of their product, and, thereby, the surplus value embodied within it. The merchant offers to them the potential to reduce these costs, and thereby, to increase the mass of realised profit. The merchant is able to reduce these costs, because they specialise in this function, but also, because each merchant takes over the commodity-capital of many different producers, they can operate on a much larger scale than any individual producer, thereby obtaining economies of scale. 

Of course, if the merchant paid producers the full value of their output, including the surplus value, the merchant themselves would not be able to make a profit, unless they sold commodities at prices above their exchange-value. In order to make it worthwhile, the merchant capitalist must be able to make the average industrial profit, the same as the productive-capitalist. The productive-capital in calculating the average industrial profit must themselves take into consideration all of the capital they advance, including that advanced as part of the circulation period. So, the fact that this capital takes on independent form does not really change this condition. Marx sets out in Capital III, Chapter 17, the way that when all of this capital is included in the denominator in calculating the average industrial profit, it is necessarily a much lower percentage than where just the advanced productive-capital is taken into consideration. But, on this basis, the productive capital sells their output to the merchant at its cost of production plus this average profit (price of production), whilst the merchant buys the commodities at this price, and then adds the average rate of profit to its own advanced capital, to give their own final selling price to the consumer. 

Marx gives the following example. He assumes a total advanced social capital of £900 million. Comprising £720 million c and £180 million v. By this means he avoids the problem of distinguishing exchange-values and prices of production. He assumes a rate of surplus value of 100%, giving total profit of $180 million, and rate of profit of 20%. The total value of the commodity-capital is then £1,080 million. However, he then assumes that there is an additional £100 million of merchant capital, giving a total advanced social capital of £1,000 million. In that case, the average annual rate of profit cannot be 20%, but must fall to 18%. Its important to note, here, that this £100 million of additional capital is not for commercial expenses such as shops, storage, wages etc.(i.e. constant and variable capital) but is only the capital the merchant advances for the purchase of commodities from producers. In other words, if they advance £100 million, and buy all of the output of the producers, their capital must turn over several times during the year. 

“It is possible that additional costs (costs of circulation) may enter into the commodities after their purchase and before their sale, and it is also possible that this may not happen. If such costs should occur, it is plain that the excess of the selling price over the purchase price would not be all profit. To simplify the analysis, we shall assume at this point that no such costs occur.” 

(Capital III, Chapter 17) 

As Marx says, the productive-capital, commodity-capital and money-capital are not separate capitals, but the same industrial capital existing simultaneously in these different forms. On the basis of Marx's example, he starts with an assumption of no circulation time, no time when the capital exists as commodity-capital or money-capital, but goes straight from being productive-capital to being metamorphosed back into productive-capital. He then introduces a circulation period, when the capital exists as commodity-capital. This circulation time equals a tenth of the total turnover period for the capital, the production time consisting of nine-tenths of the turnover time. One way of looking at this, therefore, is to consider that if £900 million represents the capital advanced for 90% of the turnover period, then the capital advanced for the whole turnover period must be £1,000 million. However, neither money-capital nor commodity-capital produce additional value or surplus value. It is only the £900 million of productive-capital that constitutes the cost of production of the output, and which produces surplus value. Put another way, the annual rate of profit, which is what determines the general rate of industrial profit, has been reduced from 20% to 18%, i.e. by a tenth, because the actual turnover period of the industrial capital has risen, because now the output must spend a period of time as commodity-capital, during which it produces no additional surplus value. It is similar to if the production time rises, because the length of time that products like wine require to ferment and so on, is increased. 

The merchant capital simply takes on this function, equal to where the productive-capitalist must hold a portion of their total capital as unproductive commodity-capital or money-capital, during the circulation period. This merchant capital also will not be advanced unless it obtains the average rate of profit. If, however, we take the total social advanced capital of £1,000 million, then the available £180 million of profit represents an 18% rate of profit. So, if the productive-capital adds 18% to its cost of production, that equals profit of £162 million, and that gives a price of production for its output of £1,062 million. It sells these commodities to the merchant capitalist. The merchant now adds 18% profit to the £100 million capital they have advanced, equals £18 million, so that they now sell the commodities for £1,062 + £18 million = £1.080 million. As the merchant capitalist advances £100 million of capital, its clear that their capital must turn over 10.62 times during the year. Later Marx demonstrates that, because the merchant capital must take the industrial profit and rate of profit as given, the more times their capital turns over, the lower the profit margin/rate of profit obtained, and so the lower the unit selling price of commodities, in order to obtain the average annual rate of profit.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

What The Friends of The People Are, Part III - Part 36

1984-5 showed that "The People" actually
meant only the capitalist class and its state.
The same kind of nonsense about “the people” is seen today, and has been enhanced by the development of welfare states, which form a powerful ideological weapon in the hands of the bourgeoisie. They help create the delusion that the state is a “people's state” and so class neutral, rather than what it is, which is a capitalist state, there to protect and enhance the interests of the capitalist class. It could be seen in he signs erected at collieries when they were nationalised after WWII, which spoke of them being acquired on behalf of the people, when nothing could have been further from the truth. It can be seen in the claptrap when people talk about “Our NHS”, when again it is nothing of the kind, and if it were, ought to be a source of shame for “us”

Lenin notes, 

“Yes, gentlemen, that’s how he puts them, side by side: “science” and “commission agencies.”. . . The time to study the “friends of the people” is not when they are fighting the Social-Democrats, because on such occasions they don a uniform sewn from tatters of their “fathers’ ideals,” but in their everyday clothes, when they are discussing in detail the affairs of daily life. Then you get the full colour and flavour of these petty-bourgeois ideologists.” (p 254-5) 

The Narodniks presented this vision of society from the perspective entirely of the condition and experience of the petty-bourgeoisie. In all of it, they failed to mention that what was actually happening, in the countryside, and had been happening since 1861, was that vast numbers of peasants were being impoverished and dispossessed, and for whom all such ideas about employing technicians and modern equipment were simply fantasies. 

“One would think that, even apart from an analysis of our rural economy, it is enough to observe this striking fact in our modern economic history—namely, the generally-noted progress in peasant farming, parallel to the tremendous expropriation of the “peasantry”—to become convinced of the absurdity of picturing the “peasantry” as a single harmonious and homogeneous whole, to become convinced of the bourgeois character of all this progress! But the “friends of the people” remain deaf to all this. Having lost the good features of the old Russian social-revolutionary Narodism, they cling tightly to one of its grave errors—its failure to understand the class antagonism within the peasantry.” (p 255) 

Lenin refers to the work of Hourwich, who, in turn, notes that, back in the 1870's, it was also Gleb Uspensky who had noticed that “individualism had become the basis of economic relations, not only as between the usurer and the debtor, but among the peasants at large. Cf. his article “Casting in One Mould” (Ravneniye pod odno), Russkaya Mysl, 1882, No. 1.” (Op. cit., p. 106.)” That the Narodniks, in that period, in the 1860's and 70's, should have failed to notice the differentiation of the peasantry was excusable, Lenin says, because it was at an early stage, and accurate information about the countryside was not available, but no such excuse existed for the Narodniks of the 1890's. 

Vorontsov had even written a book stuffed with economic data showing that the technical development of the peasantry was occurring at a pace. Lenin notes, 

“The reason the search for new methods of cultivation” is becoming “feverish” that the enterprising muzhik has to run a larger farm, and cannot cope with it by the old methods; that he is compelled by competition to seek new methods, inasmuch as agriculture is increasingly acquiring a commodity, bourgeois character.” (Note *, p 256) 

But, Vorontsov fails to state that, alongside the technical development, undertaken by the richer peasants, vast number of poorer peasants were dispossessed. 

“They bury their heads in the sand like ostriches so as to avoid looking facts in the face, so as not to notice that they are witnessing the process of the transformation into capital of the land from which the peasant is being separated, the process of creation of a home market.” (p 256)

Northern Soul Classics - I Need Help - Detroit Land Apples

Friday, 28 August 2020

Friday Night Disco - You Can Ring My Bell - Anita Ward

Commercial Capital - Part 1 of 3

Commercial capital is part of industrial capital alongside productive-capital. Commercial capital consists of that capital employed in the sphere of circulation required to realise the exchange value, including the surplus value produced by productive-capital, and to metamorphose this realised value back into productive-capital. For any individual producer, it consists of commodity-capital, and money-capital, but it also consists of the capital required for offices, office equipment, and commercial workers, involved in the functions of buying and selling, and in the payment and receipt of money, and the corresponding keeping of records of these transactions, in other words, constant capital and variable-capital. This constant capital and variable-capital, however, does not produce any additional surplus value, but is a necessary cost, required to realise the produced value and surplus-value. It forms a part, therefore, of the calculation of the average industrial profit. 

As Marx sets out in Capital II, Chapter 3, the circuit of commodity capital is C`... M`.M – C... P ...C`. It does not begin with C, the commodities that the producer buys, which forms their productive-capital. These commodities, in respect of means of production, are commodity-capital for some other producer, the result of their own production. As soon as these commodities are bought by another producer, they constitute not commodity-capital, but productive-capital. C, here, is just a transitory moment. The circuit of the commodity capital begins with C`. The producer starts with this commodity-capital, which already contains the surplus value created in production, and which they then realise as M`. However, M` is also only a transitory moment in this circuit, it is not the goal of the producer. They seek to realise the value of C` as M`, only in order to immediately metamorphose M back into productive-capital, so as to physically replace the commodities consumed in production, and, thereby to continue production on the same scale. As Marx says, this simple reproduction is always the foundation of the expanded reproduction that is characteristic of capitalism.
In order to accumulate capital, it is first necessary to at least reproduce the physical capital consumed in production, simple reproduction. In other words C must be replaced with C out of C`, and consequently M, the money equivalent of the value of the commodities comprising C, must be reproduced out of M`. But, the capitalist (and so the capitalist class when looking at the total social capital) must be able to reproduce itself, and so to finance its unproductive consumption, which it also does out of M`. The circuit of the money-capital can never then start with M`, because as soon as it is realised, this M` divides into M, which is metamorphosed into C, which replaces the original C, and m, the surplus value, part of which is is not accumulated as capital at all, but forms only money in the hands of the capitalist, required for their unproductive consumption. The circuit of money-capital always starts with M and ends with M`, even where this M is, in fact, greater than the original M, it is, in reality M2, which expands into M2`, which becomes M3 which expands into M3`, and so on. 

The productive-capitalist always seeks to expand the commodity-capital (output), because in doing so, they expand the potential to accumulate additional productive-capital, and so to produce additional surplus value. This becomes even more obvious when commodity-capital takes on an independent existence of its own as merchant capital. The merchant takes the commodity-capital of the producer, and takes on the function of selling the commodities of which it is comprised. In so doing, they take on this commodity-capital, which already comprises the surplus value created in production. Unlike the producer, who must always accumulate additional productive-capital, and so labour, so as to produce additional surplus value, the merchant does not engage in production. Their only means of increasing their capital is to continually increase the size of their commodity-capital. They begin with C`, which includes surplus value, and they metamorphose it into M`. The merchant capitalist too must reproduce themselves, and so this M` divides into M and m, a portion of m being used for their own reproduction, and the other being used for accumulation in the form of additional commodity-capital.

Labour, The Left, and The Working Class – A Response To Paul Mason - The Political Situation (5)

The Political Situation (5/14) 

The real forces of reaction are not the fascists, but those who want to “hold back”, or even “turn back” the current development of the productive forces, brought about by capitalism. They are the forces that represent the interests of the small capitalists, who now have to be distinguished from the petty-bourgeoisie as a whole, because much of the latter occupies a position within the social-democratic bureaucratic stratum, and should, to distinguish it, perhaps, be called the middle-class. As such, it too is, generally, conservative, rather than reactionary. The reactionaries are those that represent these interests of the small capitalists, in the way described by Marx in relation to Sismondi and Proudhon. They are the Narodniks, as described by Lenin, and, today, they are the “anti-capitalists” and “anti-imperialists”, who similarly want to hold back or even turn back capitalist productive relations, as manifest in the form of big capital, and multinational capital. As with Sismondi, Proudhon and the Narodniks, these elements proclaim their “anti-capitalism/imperialism” in the name of the oppressed, but, in the absence of any existing or immediate socialist alternative to those relations, the effect of their “anti-capitalism/imperialism”, is simply Utopianism, a pious wish for reality to be different, so that the only practical outcome of their “anti-capitalism/imperialism”, is not to push development forward but to turn it back. It is reactionaryAn example of it is presented by Yanis Varoufakis in his new novel, which describes a society based upon commodity production and exchange without capital. In other words, exactly the impossible Utopia, put forward by Proudhon 150 years ago, and ridiculed by Marx.

Although the Narodniks presented themselves as advocates of the ordinary working people, the working-people they meant were these independent small producers, the equivalent of today's “white van man”, or the Gilets Jaunes. And, for these small producers, the organised industrial proletariat, able to use its organisation to win higher wages, is as much an enemy as is big capital. The petty-bourgeoisie lack the leverage to do that, and as employers of labour themselves, these higher wages squeeze their profits. That is why the heterogeneous rabble of the petty-bourgeoisie has always been the source of the footsoldiers of reaction. The Bonapartists and fascists have always been able to mobilise it, pointing it at big capital in one direction, and at organised labour in the other, and, because this petty-bourgeois rabble has no homogeneity of class interest within it, it can only be organised from above by some charismatic leader that provides it with the direction it lacks itself as a class. But, the fascists and Bonapartists that mobilise it, for their ends, of course, have no intention of actually carrying through any of the anti-capitalist measures the petty-bourgeoisie seek, which are, in fact, only measures against big capital. 

Fascism represents the interests of the money-lending class, the financial oligarchy. It represents the interests of that tiny class of shareholders who exert control over the majority of shares, and through which they exercise control over the real capital – socialised capital – they do not own. But, fascism becomes the actual representative of those interests only at specific times. They do not like resorting to fascism, because it means they have to give up the more direct control over the political regime they exercise via bourgeois democracy. Generally, the normal functioning of social-democracy protects the interests of shareholders as ruling class. During those periods when the demand for money-capital, relative to supply, is strong, interest rates, and, thereby, dividend and bond yields, are high and/or rising. The money lenders wealth and power flows from these large revenues. During such periods, the strong economic growth and rising capital accumulation produces the increasing profits out of which these rising revenues from interest are paid. To finance the expansion, more bonds and shares are issued, and this increased supply reduces the prices of financial assets. In periods when economic growth is slower, and the demand for money-capital falls relative to supply, as for example happened from the 1980's onwards, interest rates fall, and with it dividend and bond yields, but with these falling yields goes a concomitant rise in asset prices. Now, this section of the ruling class obtains its wealth and power from these rising asset prices that inflate its paper wealth. When it has become dependent on these high asset prices, as in the 1990's and 2000's, whenever they fall, the state intervenes with QE to boost them again, even if it has to damage the real economy to do so. 

So, generally, progressive and conservative social democracy in alternating periods of the long wave cycle, acts to protect the dominant section of the ruling class, which now owns its wealth almost exclusively in the form of fictitious capital. But, the danger to this ruling class comes when it can depend on neither rising revenues from rising interest rates, nor rising asset prices from falling interest rates, but when it also faces the potential of workers challenging its control over the socialised capital itself. Such was the condition in the 1920's and 30's. Its at this point that fascism becomes the active representatives of this class of money-lending capitalists. 

However, this class is tiny. They represent less than 0.01% of the population. To mobilise in their interests a much wider mass is required. So, the fascists mobilise the petty-bourgeoisie, and, in doing so, they mobilise all of that other social rabble that is in close proximity to them, those whose small business dealings shade over from the unethical to the illegal, the outright criminals, and other anti-social elements. They mobilise around attacks on big-capital, often combining those attacks, as on the attack on organised workers, with conspiracy theories about foreign control and influence, which also, thereby, utilises appeals not only to nationalism, but also to outright racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and so on. 

But, the real aim of the fascists is the destruction of the organised labour movement, which threatens the control over the socialised capital by shareholders. As soon as that goal is achieved, the true nature of fascism is exposed as the anti-capitalist elements within it are exterminated, as Hitler did in the night of the long knives. And, that has to be the case, because the fascists themselves know that the modern economy is one based upon large-scale socialised capital. Fascism, like Stalinism, rests upon this large-scale, socialised capital, as a transitional form of property. It is social-democracy sans democracy. The fate of the state itself depends upon the fortunes of that capital. The idea that such a state could revert to an economy in which the large-scale socialised capital could be subordinated to the interests of the petty-bourgeoisie, and its small scale capital, is simply a reactionary delusion. That is why fascism should properly be described as conservative rather than reactionary. In Britain, today, the Libertarians/Anarcho-capitalists, like Rees-Mogg, the followers of Mises and Hayek, who truly do want to go back to the days of the mythical past, in which small scale capital, and all out competition reigned, are the reactionaries. Those that have used them as foot soldiers, in the Brexit campaign, but who seek a more authoritarian means of promoting large-scale capital, and, thereby the interests of shareholders, are conservatives.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Interview With A Socialist Epidemiologist

Recently, Jim Denham, on his Shiraz Socialist blog, carried an interview, by Martin Thomas of the AWL, with Professor George Davey Smith, who is Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Bristol University. Professor Smith is also a socialist. The interview first appeared in the AWL's paper “Solidarity”. In the interview, he confirms many of the arguments I have put forward since the start of the COVID19 panic. That Jim Denham should carry the interview then is in some ways surprising, because, back in April, he also carried, as a series of guest posts, without qualification, the rants of David Ashcroft, which led me to write my replies to him that appeared on my blog shortly afterwards

In the early days of the COVID outbreak, Denham carried the following post setting out the AWL's line. The interesting thing, here, is that the AWL were not following the general drift of the Left, unthinkingly supporting the calls for lockdown. They called for “Make the labour movement fight for public scrutiny and workers’ control!” I was even moved to post a comment to Denham's blog stating, “I am glad to see that you and the AWL are promoting workers control rather than the extension of the state that others are championing. There may just be hope for you yet.” 

The AWL's call for workers' control was reminiscent of when they were a much healthier organisation, back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, when they traded under the name Socialist Organiser, the public face of the International Communist League and subsequently Workers Socialist League. Back then, when nearly all of the Left was calling for a blanket ban on nuclear power, they refused to join in this Sismondist demand, and instead pointed out that nuclear power could be a great boon for the working-class if it was safe, and the way to determine such safety was via workers control of the nuclear power industry. Even during the Miners Strike when there was even greater pressure to support a ban on nuclear power, the organisation stuck to its principles. 

No such luck today. It is a feature of opportunist organisations that they bend to public opinion, particularly the public opinion of the milieu in which they swim. The AWL, today, is most certainly an opportunist organisation that bends to such public opinion, in its chosen milieu, leading to its positions zigging and zagging. The start of the path to that condition was its decision to abandon Marxism, and to adopt the petty-bourgeois socialism of the Third Camp, and its subjective sociological methodology. 

It didn't take long as all of the moral panic surrounding COVID developed for the AWL to drop the emphasis on workers' control, and instead to join in the general clamour for a government imposed lockdown. In March, we see them carry a number of stories about insisting on Workers Control, on how we cannot trust the government, how its necessary to utilise self-help groups, and so on, but by May, all that is gone, and instead, we have the AWL in full statist mode calling on that government we should not trust to implement the lockdown, to take away civil liberties on a grand scale, more harsh than even in wartime, and we see them putting full faith in the capitalist state. In another post on Denham's blog we see them putting forward as the solution to the large scale deaths already apparent in care homes, the idea that this same state should take them into public ownership

The demand for workers control in selected workplaces, at certain times, is a valid demand, because in the given conditions, it is something that workers' can organise around, and impose on individual employers, from a position of strength, as a temporary measure, as a condition for providing their labour. It is not a demand that can be raised as a long-term solution, for the reasons Trotsky spells out. No employer, particularly the most powerful employer, i.e. the capitalist state is going to voluntarily agree to real workers control. Raising the demand outside a condition of dual power is just revolutionary phrasemongering. But, that is just what the AWL did. At the same time that the capitalist state, via the NHS, is seeing large numbers of vulnerable people contract COVID after they have gone into hospital for other other conditions, after that same NHS fails to introduce adequate isolation protocols to stop the spread of the virus, after it fails even to provide its workers with adequate PPE, after it wastes huge amounts on a publicity stunt in opening Nightingale Hospitals that remain almost entirely empty for the duration of the crisis, and many hospitals up and down the country see occupancy rates drop to around 40%, at the same time that this same NHS sends elderly people, infected with COVID, back to care homes, where they can infect other residents as well as care staff, the AWL decides as its position that it would like this same capitalist state to take over control also of the care homes!!! Out of a sense of shame, it tags on the demand for “democratic public ownership” whatever that is supposed to mean, as opposed to workers control. 

So, in a way, I am not surprised that having zigged and then zagged, the AWL appear to be engaged in another zig, or are at least preparing the ground for such another change of position. After all, its becoming clear that the lockdown was not just a disaster, but was also ineffective even in its own terms. The global economy has been sent into the worst economic slowdown in 300 years. That has caused the deaths of millions of people around the globe; it has led to half a billion more people being driven into poverty. The long-term consequences of the lockdown will be far more damaging than would COVID even if it had been allowed to run unconstrained, which no one has proposed allowing to happen. But, the lockdowns have not worked, as soon as they are relaxed infection rates increase again, and because the vulnerable 20% are still vulnerable, unless they are isolated, as should have happened from the start, they will face the same prospects of death and serious illness. No herd immunity has been created, and so the virus is able to spread rapidly once more. 

The lockdown was supposed to buy time to build up resources, to prevent hospitals being overrun, but hospitals, other than in one or two cases, never were  overrun. On the contrary, hospital occupancy rates fell to as low as 40%! The Nightingale hospital in London's Excel centre treated just over 50 people! No doubt faith was placed on a vaccine being developed so as to produce herd immunity artificially. It looks like a vaccine may be available next year, but already its been found that the COVID19 virus has developed a new strain, so that one person infected with the previous strain, and who developed antibodies, has been infected again, though they are asymptomatic. That means that any vaccine may be useless, because, as with the flu vaccine, unless you are vaccinated against the strain of virus that infects you, will not have the antibodies required to provide immunity. Again, this shows why it was necessary to have allowed herd immunity to develop as quickly as possible so as to try to prevent the virus being at large for a prolonged period during which it could mutate. 

So, with the strategy they had zagged towards now falling apart, as unemployment rises rapidly, its not surprising that the AWL, are preparing the ground for another zig away from it, so as to avoid being tarred with blame for its consequences. So let's have a look at what Professor Smith says, compared to what I have said, and also look at what the AWL had to say in the interview. 

Highlighting this point, but also the point I have made from the start that COVID19 is not something unprecedented, Professor Smith says, 

“An important thing that’s becoming clear is that this is very likely going to become the fifth endemic coronavirus. There are four seasonal coronaviruses (sCoVs) that cause symptoms of the common cold and occasionally more serious illness, and might even bring forward deaths among the elderly. 

That the four previous coronaviruses are endemic doesn’t mean that they are prevalent all the time. They tend to arrive seasonally. Levels of infection go up and down. There are levels of immunity and cross-immunity [immunity from one particular sCoV that provides some protection against another], so infection rates from any particular one can remain low for several years, until increasing again.” 

He sets out why it is likely to become endemic, pointing, as I have also done from the start, that even the information from China, from the start, showed that 80% of those infected are asymptomatic or suffer only very mild symptoms. 

“One of the first scientific papers on this virus, coming out of China at the end of February, showed that 80% of infections were not being picked up as cases, being asymptomatic or being accompanied by mild common symptoms that would not reach medical attention. With that level of asymptomatic transmission it is extremely difficult to eliminate a virus.” 

The next question from Martin Thomas is phrased in a way that I found hilarious. He says, 

“There has been talk of ‘shielding’ old and frail people through the pandemic until they are protected by chains of infection in the wider population becoming short and rare.” 

Well I don't know exactly who else but me has talked about “shielding” the 20% at risk, but there you go. But, it was the last part of the sentence that I had to laugh at. What this convoluted chain of words means can be stated in just three words “protected by herd immunity”. But, clearly Martin dare not speak its name, because the morons seized upon the optics of the term “herd immunity” from the beginning as an easy weapon with which to beat Johnson and Cummings. The truth is that herd immunity is a perfectly well established scientific term for the process by which members of a population acquire immunity either through natural infection or via vaccination, so that they can no longer be infected, meaning that a virus cannot find hosts to infect, and so cannot spread, thereby, dying out. But, the morons lay waste, like a retreating army engaged in a strategy of scorched earth. They are unconcerned by what damage their strategy might cause in the longer-term, just so long as they can score short-term political victories over their opponents. So, the perfectly rational strategy of “herd immunity” was demonised, and all sorts of weird explanations of it, such as Social Darwinism, were flung into the pot. 

What, Martin's long winded phraseology demonstrates is precisely the opportunism referred to earlier. He cannot bring himself to use the term “herd immunity”, because he knows what the connotations surrounding it have become. A principled socialist would take the morons on, and confront them and their crude methods. They would use the term herd immunity boldly so as to confront the moronic attempts to demonise the term, and thereby to prevent rational discussion around it. 

But, again, the response to the question is illuminating. Professor Smith, again confirms a point I have made from the beginning. He says, 

“One of the things we know about the virus is that it is extremely selective as regards the people who become sickest, with age being the strongest influence by far. The average age of deaths is over 80. In the early days in Britain there was extreme anxiety about personal risk across all age groups.” 

In other words, exactly as I have said from the start, 80% of the population are not at serious risk from this virus, despite the narrative that has been conveyed by the media. Only 20% of the population are at serious risk of death or serious illness, and, of these, by far the greatest factor is age, with more than half those dying being aged over 80, and 92% of all those dying being aged over 60. Of the rest, 7% are people with underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, respiratory conditions, diabetes etc. But, not only did the media spread a message of moral panic that everyone was at equal risk, they also hyped the possibility that huge numbers of people were going to die, using from early on the figures of half a million UK deaths that the Imperial Study had suggested would be a worst case scenario, but which there was very little chance of ever occurring. 

“Figures were reported as if they were definite — such as the oft-repeated prediction there would be 510,000 deaths from Covid — when there was (and remains) considerable uncertainty.” 

The government has a clear motive in wanting to present COVID19 as something exceptional. It has closed down the economy causing the worst economic slowdown in 300 years; it has led to large numbers of deaths amongst people who were deprived of medical treatment as resources were diverted to COVID19; it has closed down schools causing millions of children to lose most of a year's education, and causing chaos in their exams, and as a consequence future potential earnings and employment capacity. If you are going to do all those things, you had better have had a rock solid reason for having done so. But, as professor Smith sets out, there is nothing particularly exceptional about COVID19, even compared to bad years for the flu. 

“Seasonal influenzas have on occasion led to more deaths than Covid in younger age groups, and even with the four previous endemic coronaviruses there have been outbreaks associated with deaths in care homes. Boris Johnson and others have conveyed that this is the worst health crisis of anyone’s lifetime; but the 1968 flu epidemic (let alone the 1951 or 1957 outbreaks) was more deadly if you make allowance for the fact that life expectancy has increased greatly since then and there are many more frail 90-year olds today.” 

Indeed, Professor Smith says, the fact that last year was a relatively good year for flu deaths, could mean that more elderly people survived, only to then be targets for COVID itself. And, again this points to the idiocy of the strategy that was adopted, which failed to take account of the fact that the virus is highly age specific in its targets, and so required that it was primarily the old that needed to be isolated from it. To have done that in care homes you would have thought would have been obvious and relatively easy to achieve. But, nowhere seems to have done so, including Sweden, which explains why, although it did enable herd immunity to develop amongst its general population, and appears, thereby, to have stopped the further spread of the virus, it suffered, early on, a large number of deaths of old people, primarily in its large, concentrated care home sector. 

“The tragedy with the care homes in Britain was that by 23 March it was well known how age-selective the virus is. The shielding of institutions where a large proportion of people are susceptible should have been done properly. Indeed, the predictors of which care homes have done badly are the obvious ones: casualised staff, inadequate PPE, and so on. 

Germany has done better, and one factor there is that care homes are better in Germany, and a higher proportion of people at any particular age are living in them. In the USA, one of the reason why the Bronx has done terribly is that on the East Coast of the USA, if you want a cheap care home, the Bronx is the place to look.” 

Its interesting to note that Professor Smith does not come to the crude statist conclusion that the AWL previously put forward that its all about the capitalist state having ownership and control of the care homes, but simply is a question of the quality of the homes. In fact, if we look back at the outbreaks of MRSA and C-Diff in Britain that also killed significant numbers of people, who were infected with them after going into hospital, that was limited almost entirely to NHS hospitals. There were no cases in private hospitals. 

And the same is true, here. 

“Hospital-acquired infection has also been important. People have died who acquired their infection with the virus in hospital.” 

Professor Smith also confirms the point I made early on that given the high levels of infections, its unlikely that a strategy of test and trace can work, even setting aside the governments' incompetence in implementing such strategies, because its impossible to trace people fast enough. 

“Testing, tracing, and isolation is very difficult to make complete when we have such a high level of asymptomatic infection.” 

According to the government, and various groups, infections have probably only occurred in around 5% of the population, other surveys show infection rates around 15% amongst certain groups. However, the existing tests for anti-bodies do not appear reliable, and it assumes that you have tested the right sample of people. With such a high level of asymptomatic infection, its highly likely that more people have been infected than those samples indicate. There is also the fact of other forms of immunity besides the existence of antibodies, such as cell mediated immunity. The tests for current infections are next to useless, because they do not show who has immunity, and nor do they show, who might be infected an hour after having been tested. 

“We don’t know, but the general consensus is that in Britain, for example, the proportion who have responded to an infection is likely to be higher than the 5% estimated from antibody tests. Other aspects of immunity — known as cell-mediated immunity — can provide some protection in the absence of detectable antibodies. In the largest serology study in the world, in Spain, individuals who had clearly been infected did not have detectable antibodies at a later date. The crucial question is the extent to which there may be varying levels of susceptibility due to pre-existing sCoVs and prior SARS-CoV-2 exposure.” 

Professor Smith also sets out why the decision to close schools was wrong. 

“The Independent SAGE proposal of a “zero Covid” aim is, in my view, unrealistic. On 14 July David King, the chair of Independent SAGE, said: “I don’t believe schools should be reopened until we’re reached zero Covid”. This completely fails to recognise the huge and lasting adverse consequences of interrupted education, especially for the poorest in society. 

The Independent SAGE model is New Zealand. But that’s two remote islands where you could have literally no one arriving on a plane for a while. And even there the long-term sustainability of “zero Covid” is not certain... 

Camilla Stoltenberg, the director of the National Public Health Institute in Norway, says that the decision to shut the schools there was probably wrong. Studies have consistently shown that children, as well as being much less likely to suffer badly, appear not to transmit the virus as much as adults. Given all the bad consequences of a long period with schools closed, I don’t think the schools should have been shut in Britain. But once they’re shut you can’t easily undo that.” 

If this interview conducted by the AWL, and replicated by Jim Denham on his blog is an indication of the AWL again changing its position that, at least, is a positive sign. That it arrived at it only after several zigs and zags is not.

What The Friends of the People Are, Part III - Part 35

Lenin notes that it is characteristic that when the Narodniks come to deal with a practical question, the facts come into conflict with their favourite assumption about the shrinkage of the home market, and consequent inability of capitalism to develop in Russia. The author compares consumption of sugar and kerosene in Russia with that in the West, and concludes that it is at a low level, in Russia, because of its lower level of culture. However, Lenin says, he never questions why the level of culture is lower, and never concludes that the reason the level of culture, in the West, is higher is precisely because of the greater degree of capitalist development. 

“But what is the material basis of this culture if not the development of capitalist technique, the growth of commodity economy and exchange, which bring people into more frequent intercourse with each other and break down the medieval isolation of the separate localities? Was not culture in France, for example, on a level no higher than ours before the Great Revolution, when the semi-medieval peasantry had still not finally split into a rural bourgeoisie and a proletariat? And if the author had examined Russian life more closely he could not have helped noticing, for example, that in localities where capitalism is developed the requirements of the peasant population are much higher than in the purely agricultural districts. This is noted unanimously by all investigators of our handicraft industries in all cases where they develop so far as to lay an industrial impress on the whole life of the population.” (p 249) 

Lenin, following Marx's comments in The Communist Manifesto, and in The Poverty of Philosophy, combines this demand for the removal of all the old feudal monopolies and constraints on bourgeois development with the recognition of the new evils that capitalism brings with it. The answer to those evils is not a continuation or protection of the old feudal monopolies and fetters on capital, but the most thorough and rapid development of capitalism itself. As the basis of hastening its own replacement by Socialism. 

“Undoubtedly, the abolition of monopolies would be beneficial to the whole “people,” because, bourgeois economy having become the basis of the economic life of the country, these survivals of the medieval system only add to the capitalist miseries still more bitter medieval miseries. Undoubtedly, they must definitely be abolished—and the quicker and more radically, the better—in order, by ridding bourgeois society of its inherited semi-feudal fetters, to untie the hands of the working class, to facilitate its struggle against the bourgeoisie.” (p 251) 

The Narodniks, however, in talking of “people's economy” invariably meant bourgeois economy, glossing over any antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat. A glaring example of that is cited by Lenin, in an article by Krivenko, in which he talks about the kind of personnel and resources required in the countryside. He lists various kinds of technicians, forestry and agricultural experts, along with warehouses, fertilisers and various pieces of equipment. But, who would be able to pay for any of these things? Not the impoverished peasants who were being reduced to having to sell their labour-power. Yet, Krivenko says, 

“These reports, which we have been able to give only in brief, make a heartening and at the same time saddening impression. . . . Heartening, because these people, impoverished, debt-laden, very many of them horseless, work with might and main, do not give way to despair, do not change their occupation, but remain true to the land, realising that in it, in the proper treatment of it, lies their future, their strength, their wealth.” (p 253-4) 

As Lenin says, its hard to believe that such obviously idiotic comments can be put down to simplicity rather than deliberate falsification. 

“Why, of course! It goes without saying that it is just the impoverished and horseless muzhik who buys phosphates, seed sorters, threshing-machines and Clydesdale oat seed! 0, sancta simplicitas! And this is not written by a ladies’ college damsel, but by a professor, a Doctor of Political Economy!” (p 254) 

Krivenko says that employment of such specialists and utilisation of equipment will reward “the people” one hundredfold. However, what he fails to state is that “the people” it will reward are those that can afford to employ such means, i.e. the bourgeoisie. It will not benefit those poor peasants, unable to buy in the specialists or equipment, and they, thereby, become even less competitive, and more rapidly dispossessed, and thrown into the ranks of the proletariat. 

Krivenko says, 

“Where is our aid to the muzhik who is striving to improve his farming? We have at our disposal science, literature, museums, warehouses, commission agencies.” (p 254)

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Commercial Capital - Summary


  • Commercial capital is that capital which operates in the sphere of circulation.
  • It is the commodity-capital and money-capital, which becomes externalised and takes on independent form, performing the functions of commercial workers employed by industrial capital.
  • Commercial capital comprises both merchant capital, and money-dealing capital, which is a specific form of merchant capital.
  • Commercial capital is a part of industrial capital. It represents capital in circulation.
  • As part of industrial capital commercial capital obtains the average annual industrial rate of profit.
  • Commercial capital does not produce additional value or surplus value, but it does reduce the costs of circulation, and increases the rate of turnover of capital. It thereby increases the amount of realised profit, and rate of realised profit. Commercial capital is an inextricable part of industrial capital, and is, thereby, part of the denominator in the calculation of the average annual rate of profit.
  • Because commercial capital does not produce value or surplus value, its increase is dependent upon an increase in value or surplus value produced by productive-capital. Industrial capital always tries to keep the amount of capital employed as commercial capital to a minimum.
    The capitalist increases the number of these labourers whenever he has more value and profits to realise. The increase of this labour is always a result, never a cause of more surplus-value...
    There is duplication, therefore. On the one hand, the functions as commodity-capital and money-capital (hence further designated as merchant's capital) are general definite forms assumed by industrial capital. On the other hand, specific capitals, and therefore specific groups of capitalists, are exclusively devoted to these functions; and these functions thus develop into specific spheres of self-expansion of capital.
    In the case of mercantile capital, the commercial functions and circulation costs are found only in individualised form. That side of industrial capital which is devoted to circulation, continuously exists not only in the shape of commodity-capital and money-capital, but also in the office alongside the workshop. But it becomes independent in the case of mercantile capital. In the latter's case, the office is its only workshop. The portion of capital employed in the form of circulation costs appears much larger in the case of the big merchant than in that of the industrialist, because besides their own offices connected with every industrial workshop, that part of capital which would have to be so applied by the entire class of industrial capitalists is concentrated in the hands of a few merchants, who in carrying out the functions of circulation also provide for the growing expenses incidental to their continuation.”
    (Capital III, Chapter 17)
  • If the annual rate of profit for commercial capital rises above that for productive-capital, capital will move from the latter to the former, and competition will then restore the average, and vice versa.
Forward To Part 1

Labour, The Left, and The Working Class – A Response To Paul Mason - The Political Situation (4/14)

The Political Situation (4/14) 

But, again, its necessary to look at what the aims of the capitalists are, here, and how it compares with the current situation. The aim, in the 1920's and 1930's, was not reactionary, in the true sense of that term. In other words, the aim was not to turn back the nature of the productive and social relations, as was the aim, for example, of the Sismondists, or the Narodniks, or as is the case today, with the anarcho-capitalists (Libertarians), and Brexiteers. Quite the opposite. The big capitalists knew that the way out of the crises of overproduction was to develop the forces of production further, to organise production on an even larger, even more rational, planned and regulated scale. Even in the 1890's, Lenin comments that capitalists in the West had recognised the need for that. 

“even the bourgeois, realises that the transition of capitalism to a new social-economic formation is inevitable. 

The socialisation of labour by capital has advanced so far that even bourgeois literature loudly proclaims the necessity of the “planned organisation of the national economy.”” 

(The Economic Content of Narodism, p 445-6) 

They recognised that the capitalist state would have to intervene in that process to an even greater degree than it had already been doing, and they also recognised that the concomitant of this was the need for a single European market. They had in their view not only the process of creating European nation states, undertaken in the 19th century, but also the US Civil War, which created a federal United States as a huge single market, in which the individual states were subordinated to the Federal State. Of course, the big capitalists, still organised, largely, on a national basis, sought to create this single European market under the domination of their own nation state, as France and Prussia had sought to do in the 19th century, and as they continued to try to do in the 20th century. Meanwhile, the global hegemon of the time, Britain, sought, as it had done during the 19th century, to protect its own dominance, by frustrating any such European union, which would quickly have eclipsed its industrial power. The creation of the multinational corporation after WWII, represents that change in material conditions which undermines this causal link between national capital and nation state

The problem for these big money-lending capitalists, however, was precisely that which Marx and Engels had outlined clearly in Capital, and in Anti-Durhing. It is that, with the development of socialised capital, the social function of the capitalist becomes redundant, as had the social function of the landlord with the advent of the capitalist farmer. Yet, the private capitalist, reduced now to the role of owner of fictitious capital, of parasitic coupon clipper, continues to exercise considerable power. The amount of fictitious capital also grows massively alongside the growth of real capital, and indeed becomes itself seen as “real capital”, whilst the real capital becomes seen as merely means of production, commodities set in motion by the entrepreneur/functioning capitalist. The state itself continues to be a capitalist state supporting the interests of these big money-lending capitalists. Even in Germany, which had introduced co-determination laws in the 19th century, giving workers right of representation on company boards, it is shareholders that dominate such decision making bodies, and by these means the interests of the shareholders are enforced. The more it becomes obvious that these capitalists have no useful role to play, the more it becomes obvious to workers that they can introduce the technological revolutions in production, all of the results of Taylorism, required to raise productivity, but also that they can do this at the same time as introducing the planning and regulation of production on a scale that goes way beyond what is possible within the confines of capitalism, which continues to organise production on the basis of production of profit, rather than on the basis of human need. 

That is what the big capitalists cannot allow, because it means the end of them as ruling class. In other words, when this ruling class fraction, in the shape of the big private money-lending capitalists resorts to fascism, or some other strong state means of suppressing the advance of the workers, it is not reactionary, but conservative. It does not seek to turn the clock back to some less mature stage of capitalist development, but seeks to protect its current stage of development, remaining within the confines of capitalism, and preventing any forward march to the next logical stage of development, which is Socialism. It is conservative not reactionary. As Lenin puts it, 

“history (which nobody, except Menshevik blockheads of the first order, ever expected to bring about “complete” socialism smoothly, gently, easily and simply) has taken such a peculiar course that it has given birth in 1918 to two unconnected halves of socialism existing side by side like two future chickens in the single shell of international imperialism. In 1918 Germany and Russia have become the most striking embodiment of the material realisation of the economic, the productive and the socio-economic conditions for socialism, on the one hand, and the political conditions, on the other... 

“. . . State-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs”” 

(Left-wing Childishness) 

The big money lending capitalists resorted to fascism in order to increase the length of the ladder, rather than allow the step on to the next rung.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part III - Part 34

The same petty-bourgeois approach criticised by Lenin can be seen in the approach of the “anti-capitalists” and “anti-imperialists” today. On their desire to oppose large-scale monopoly and imperialist capital they jump into bed with even more reactionary, small-scale capitalists, as part of an “anti-monopoly alliance”, and with even more reactionary petty-bourgeois nationalists, and even medievalist regimes and movements, as part of an “anti-imperialist” alliance. This is also the hallmark of the petty-bourgeois ideology of Stalinism, on a global basis, as it sought to create a strategic alliance with the Third Worldists, but also in its national programmes, based on the theory of Socialism In One Country which amounted to nothing more than social-democratic, reformist programmes, based on protectionism for these backward forms of small capital, defended behind high protectionist walls of import and immigration controls. 

And, the same applied to Stalinism inside the deformed workers' states themselves. As I have written elsewhere, Stalinism and National Socialism represents a form, maybe the ultimate form, of social-democracy, based on the defence and promotion of socialised capital, as a transitional form of property. It is social-democracy sans democracy. And, in these conditions, its petty-bourgeois nature is manifest in the only way it can be, not as the promotion of petty-bourgeois property – small capital – but, as Marx describes in The 18th Brumaire, the ideas that arise from that form of property. It is manifest in the promotion of the petty-bourgeois in the shape of the bureaucrat, the manager, technician and administrator, who see their functional and mediating role as synonymous with the interests of society as a whole. 

As Simon Clarke put it,

“The social base of state socialism lies in the stratum of intellectual workers, including such groups as managers, administrators, scientists, technicians, engineers, social workers and teachers as well as the intelligentsia more narrowly defined.” These groups believe that the key to a more just society lies “in their mobilisation of their technical, administrative and intellectual expertise... The ability of this stratum to achieve its rationalist ambitions depends on its having access to positions of social and political power.”

“For the working-class the Party is a means of mobilising and generalising its opposition to Capital and its State, and of building autonomous forms of collective organisation, while for the intellectual stratum it is a means of achieving power over capital and the state... As soon as the party has secured state power, by whatever means, it has fulfilled its positive role as far as the intellectual stratum is concerned. The latter's task is now to consolidate and exploit its position of power to secure the implementation of the Party's programme in the interests of the 'working class'. Once the Party has seized power, any opposition it encounters from the working class is immediately identified as sectional or factional opposition to the interests of the working class as a whole, the latter being identified with the Party as its self-conscious representative.”

(“Crisis of Socialism Or Crisis Of the State?”, in Capital & Class 42, Winter 1990)

There were, of course, monopolies that Marxists opposed, but they were the monopolies inherited from feudalism, not those that arise naturally out of the process of capitalist competition, and the centralisation and concentration of capital. But, here, too, the nature of the Narodniks was exposed. Lenin quotes from an article in Russkoye Bogatsvo, “The Chronicle of Home Affairs”, which deals with the question of monopoly. The author refers to the sugar and kerosene industries, and notes that, 

“The consumption of sugar and kerosene here is still practically in the embryo, to judge by the insignificant per capita consumption of these goods here as compared with that of other countries. It would seem that there is still a very large field for the development of these branches of industry and that they could still absorb a large amount of capital.” (p 249)