Thursday, 31 March 2022

Paul Mason Strains on a Gnat, But Swallows A Camel - Swallowing A Camel (5 of 8)

Paul, on the one hand, wants to deny the existence of virtually any Nazis in Ukraine, because he wants to justify giving his support to the Ukrainian regime in its war with Russia, which would sit oddly with his current concern at the growth of fascism worldwide. At the same time, he has to admit that the Ukrainian government has formed an alliance with Nazi paramilitaries and enabled them to create their own Azov Battalion, which is financed, trained and armed with the latest NATO military hardware! To reconcile that, he has to refer to the Azov Battalion as “far right” rather than describing them as what they are, self-admitted, “Nazis”, and to claim that the alliance with the government is simply a means of “controlling them”!

But, it is, then, a very strange form of control. The equivalent would be if the US state were to form an alliance with the Ku Klux Klan, or the Proud Boys, inviting them to form their own battalions within the US armed forces, and then allowing them to operate with their own commanders, decking out their military vehicles in white supremacist regalia, and then to launch attacks on non-white areas of the US. It would be as if, in order to “control” these white supremacists, the US state had then financed and trained them, and provided them with the latest military equipment. The same would be the case if, for example, the British state approached Column 88 or other British paramilitaries to be “controlled” by forming their own battalions within the British Army, so long as they agreed to be financed, trained and provided with the latest NATO weaponry!

That is the kind of situation that would have been required if Paul's narrative about the January 6th abortive coup were to have any traction, and, yet, the reality is that on that occasion, the US state far from forming an alliance with the Nazis, quickly crushed them, and has been continuing to break up their organisation ever since, even though Biden and the Democrat establishment has singularly failed to confront them, and defeat them politically, and, has, in fact, created conditions that facilitate their resurgence!

Of course, as stated earlier, armed forces, always contained a disproportionate number of racists, nationalists and fascists, and so, in the US, there will be a significant number of supporters of the Klan and the Proud Boys in its armed forces, just as there are a significant number of BNP supporters, and even supporters of fascist paramilitary groups in the British armed forces, and police. But, they do not have their own separate organisation as the Azov Battalion has, in Ukraine, They are actually contained and controlled within the overall hierarchical structure of the US and UK military, whose function, currently, is to suppress the aspirations of the fascists, which are a threat to the ruling class, as opposed to the situation in Ukraine, where the ruling class and its state is quite happy to utilise these fascist gangs to promote its interests, particularly in Russian majority areas such as the Donbass.

Paul himself admits that, since 2014, the time when the Azov Battalion was created, and from when Ukraine should have recognised and provided autonomy for the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics, under the terms of the Minsk Agreements, there have been 14,000 deaths in those regions. That is not deaths caused by Russia, or Russian militia, who are seeking to actually implement that autonomy, but is deaths caused by the actions of the Azov Battalion, and its allies within the Ukrainian army that have been shelling it, and undertaking ground offensives ever since, as they have tried to suppress the right of these Republics to even exercise the autonomy the government had previously conceded, on paper. That is not Russian propaganda, as Paul would have us believe, in his narrative that increasingly has seemed like it comes from the Ukrainian Ministry of Information, but is the findings of international bodies such as the OSCE and Human Rights Watch, on the ground in those regions. And, indeed, they have reported a quadrupling of the shelling by the Ukrainian forces in recent days and weeks, preceding the Russian invasion.

And, here, Paul's positions are contradictory. In 2014, Paul was an advocate of Scottish independence, seeing the nationalists as being part of some vague progressive coalition. In his reporting from Spain, Paul has also seemed sympathetic to the separatist sentiments of the Catalans. But, for Marxists all such separatist tendencies are reactionary. If the existing bourgeois nation states have represented a fetter on the rational development of capital for more than a century, let alone the creation of Socialism, then the dismemberment of those existing nation states into even smaller units represents an even greater fetter, and reactionary development.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

The Heritage We Renounce - Section I - One Representative Of The “Heritage” (3/5)

As a liberal, Skaldin was an opponent of all those legal ties imposed by the community over its members that restricted their freedom, and particularly, therefore, their freedom of movement. As a parallel with recent such issues, in respect to the withdrawal of freedoms, and requirements for “vaccine passports” and so on, Lenin describes Skaldin's “opposition to the passport system” (p 498) One of the reasons he opposed collective responsibility was that, as peasants were dispossessed of their land, maintaining them fell upon the community, and this burden both held back its own economic development, as well as tying peasants to the land and their community. Marx describes a similar process in Capital, in relation to the Parish Relief in England.

Lenin quotes Skaldin's comment,

““Can people placed in such a position be called free citizens? Are they not the same old glebae adscripti?”” (p 499)

That is the condition of peasants in the Roman Empire bound to given plots of land, which they could not abandon, no matter how unprofitable cultivation might be. Lenin continues to give numerous quotes from Skaldin which set out the reactionary nature of this lack of free movement, and the tying of the peasant to the community and the land.

“Skaldin, consequently, regards these aspects of peasant life from the purely bourgeois standpoint, but in spite of that (and, perhaps, because of it), his assessment of the harm caused to all social development and to the peasants themselves by the fact that the latter are tied down is very accurate.” (p 500)

Worst affected were the poorer peasants who also had difficulty even being able to escape temporarily to engage in wage labour. The position would be improved if the peasant could simply dispose of their land, Skaldin says, but, of course, that was an idea the Narodniks totally opposed.

“There has been ample evidence since then to show that Skaldin was perfectly right: the fact that the peasant remains tied to the land, and that the peasant community is an exclusive social estate only worsens the position of the rural proletariat and retards the country’s economic development, while being unable in any degree to protect the “settled proletarian” from the worst forms of bondage and subjection, or from the decline of his wages and living standards to the very lowest level.” (p 500)

But, Skaldin, also, did not call for this communal land tenure to be forcibly broken up, arguing from the perspective of the interests of the peasant, that it should be up to them when they brought that about.

“Consequently, Skaldin is opposed to the village community only for the reason that it hampers economic development, prevents the peasant from withdrawing from the community and giving up his land, that is, for the same reason that the “Russian disciples” are opposed to it today; this hostility has nothing in common with defence of the selfish interests of the landlords, with defence of the survivals and the spirit of serfdom, with advocacy of interference in the life of the peasants. It is very important to note this difference, because the present-day. Narodniks, who are accustomed to seeing enemies of the village community only in the camp of Moskovskiye Vedomosti and the like, very willingly pretend to be oblivious to any other kind of hostility to the village community.” (p 501-2)

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Paul Mason Strains on a Gnat, But Swallows A Camel - Swallowing A Camel (4 of 8)

As Trotsky put it, in relation to the Popular Front in Spain, it was an alliance not with the bourgeoisie against fascism, but merely with liberal bourgeois politicians who, in reality, no longer represented anything, because the class whose interests they purported to represent had already put its weight behind Franco and the fascists. The liberal politicians were simply representatives of a ghost class. Paul sees no way of defeating Putin other than via the military of the Ukrainian state, and of NATO standing behind it. So, he is led to propose a Popular Front with the Ukrainian bourgeoisie and its state, and with NATO. As with the Stalinists in Spain – and they adopted the same position in WWII, when they proposed a Popular Front with the “democratic imperialists” - that involves suppressing any class antagonism between the interests of Ukrainian workers, and capitalists, and whitewashing the nature of the Ukrainian regime itself. In fact, Paul does that to a degree that is simply unbelievable, and so undermines his whole narrative.

Paul is right, of course, to reject the Putin propaganda that all Ukrainians are Nazis, but he goes way beyond that, to basically claim that there are no Ukrainian fascists, or very few of them. He says,

“The maximum support for far-right parties in Ukraine has been 3% — and 6%. America and Britain probably have more actual fascists than Ukraine. What’s true — and a problem — is that Ukraine absorbed a far right militia group into its own armed forces in order to keep it under control.”

This is entirely reminiscent of Trotsky's critique of Russian liberals such as Miliukov, who, during the Balkan Wars, would only publish accounts of Ottoman atrocities denying and censoring any reports of atrocities by the Ottoman's opponents. It is simply unbelievable to the extent of discrediting the narrative that Paul presents. The history of Eastern Europe, particularly of all of those countries that were contained within the Tsarist Empire, the greatest prison house of nations, as Lenin described it, is one that necessarily led to the growth of ultra-nationalist ideas and movements, as those held captive sought escape from it. It was something that Lenin and the Bolsheviks both sought to use to their advantage, in building opposition to Tsarism, but with which they also had to contend, in trying to construct a unified workers state, in place of it. It is why, although they argued against separation, and national self-self determination – because they sought to build as large a single unified state as possible, based upon a unified proletariat – they argued that the Russian Bolsheviks should emphasise the right to free secession, whilst the Marxists in the smaller nations should argue vehemently for the right to integrate.

The deep seated ultra-nationalism of all those nations across Eastern and Central Europe, fermented by the history not just of Tsarism, but also of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a history of small nations, and what Marx and Engels called “non-historic peoples”, who had been unable to raise themselves up to the level of statehood, and who were consequently always looking to one large imperial power or another, to champion their cause, has continued into the world we have today. In a world in which the nation state became an impediment to the accumulation of large scale capital more than a century ago, ultra nationalism, sovereigntism, and the demand for “national self-determination” are simply the reactionary slogans of the petty-bourgeoisie that seeks to turn the hands of time backwards, and consequently fit perfectly with the ideas of fascism, which bases itself on the mobilisation of the petty-bourgeoisie.

Even on that basis, Paul's claim that there are probably more fascists in Britain or America than in Ukraine simply sounds ludicrous. But, Paul's own argument itself disproves it. He admits that “Ukraine absorbed a far right militia group into its own armed forces”. He apparently can't even allow himself to refer to them as fascists or neo-Nazis, despite the fact that that is what everyone knows they are, who individually cover themselves in Nazi regalia and tattoos, and whose military equipment is also decked out in it. But, if they are so insignificant, as Paul claims, why did the Ukrainian government see the need to accommodate them, by incorporating them into the state's armed forces? Why not just disarm and disband such small numbers? And, what does it say about the politics of the government itself that it is close enough to those of the Nazis that it could conceive and achieve such a fusion of forces?

The Weekly Worker had a useful account of the influence of Nazis, and ultra-nationalists on the Ukrainian government.  It also had this account of the history of CIA and ultra-nationalist Ukrainian involvement with some of those involved in the Popular Frontist Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign.   I do not know the provenance of the second of these accounts, but you would expect that supporters of the USC would respond to it with a vigorous and detailed rebuttal.  When, instead supporters of the USC respond with obscure allusions to a 1970's pop song by the Wurzels, as part of simply throwing muck back at the WW, or else with hysterical lies against anyone suggesting that a more reasoned rebuttal is called for, it only acts to call into question the credibility of those behind the USC, whose politics were highly dubious to begin with.

As can be seen with the first of these articles, its not just Paul who is denying the extent of the involvement and role of Nazis and ultra-nationalists in Ukraine, "for the duration".  Bourgeois media outlets that previously set out the extent of that involvement are now rushing to deny it, as they seek to "stand with" the Ukrainian ruling class, and its Nazi supporters.  This is an example of "idiot anti-imperialism", of applying the principle of "my enemy's enemy is my friend", if ever there was one.  Facebook has even dropped its rules so as to enable contributors to praise the Nazis of the Azov Battalion!

And, now as always happens in such cases of a Popular Front, as happened in China in 1927, in France in 1934, and Spain in 1936, the ruling class waits for the appropriate moment to turn on the useful idiots that have "stood with" it.  Zelensky's reactionary government has now banned 11 leftist parties in Ukraine, and that comes after he has also closed down media sites.

Paul's statement that the Ukrainian Nazis have only achieved 6% of the vote, is an illustration again of his parliamentary cretinism, unable to see politics on any grander scale than parliamentary representation, which is odd when considered against his arguments in relation to the January 6th coup attempt in the US. But, even here, Paul's argument fails. For example, the biggest share of the vote in a General Election, obtained by the fascists of the BNP, in Britain, is just 1.9%. In fact, even that was an anomaly, with their vote share being as close to zero as you can get, in nearly all General Elections. One reason the fascist vote moves up and down is the existence of other right-wing parties. For example, the support for both the National Front, and later the BNP, dropped significantly, when right-wing Tory parties simply stole their clothes, and picked up that racist and nationalist vote. The existence of large hard-right parties in many Eastern and Central European countries is itself an obstacle to openly Nazi parties gathering large votes, particularly as, for many of those parties, parliamentary activity is not their prime objective.

To compare the votes obtained by fascist candidates in elections with the fact that, in Ukraine, we have a sizeable neo-Nazi militia, and one that is now financed, trained and armed with the latest NATO weaponry, is bizarre! Paul's other response to this is also bizarre claiming that they can't be anti-Russian nationalists, because many of them speak Russian! Of course, many speak Russian, as do millions of people across Eastern Europe. It is a consequence of the fact that the Rus, the people who originally migrated to that part of Europe established Russian as the language, and the fact that the Tsarist Empire enforced Russian as the state language. Kyiv was at one time, the capital of Rus itself! In the British Empire, many serving in India learned local languages, in Northern Ireland, there are Irish speakers and Catholics who were members of the RUC, did that mean that Indians in India were not oppressed by British Imperialism, or that Northern Ireland was not an oppressive sectarian state?

Monday, 28 March 2022

Bond Rout and Yield Inversion

Across the globe, markets are in full retreat. Bond prices are collapsing by proportions last seen in 2006/7, meaning that yields on those bonds are rising sharply. They are rising most sharply for the shorter duration bonds, meaning that, in a number of cases, now, there is yield inversion, i.e. yields are higher on short dated bonds than for longer dated bonds. Traditionally, this is an indication of a recession a year or so ahead. Today, it isn't. Here's why.

Bond prices and yields are pretty meaningless in a world in which there has been a decade and a half of QE from central banks on an astronomical scale, and in which, for more than a decade before that, central banks were pumping liquidity into financial markets on a huge scale every time asset prices began to fall. Bond prices are a fiction, with central banks, in many countries, owning around 30-40% of the country's sovereign bonds, which they have bought with newly printed money tokens, and which was the reason that trillions of Dollars worth of sovereign bonds, until recently had negative nominal yields, and even larger negative real yields, i.e. the nominal yield minus the rate of inflation. Even, now, as interest rates across the globe surge, and bond prices crash, the large majority of sovereign bonds have negative real yields, because of soaring rates of inflation.

As Marx said in Capital, if you want to look at the rate of interest, it is the actual market rate of interest paid by average borrowers, or charged by businesses that you need to look at, not these massively rigged bond yields, or the policy rates set by central banks. That market rate of interest is rising, for all the reasons I have set out in the past, which is that, as global economic activity rises, particularly in conditions where rising wages prevents large increases in the rate of profit, firms need to either use a larger proportion of their profits to finance investment, rather than paying dividends, or putting the money profits into the money markets, or they must even go into those money markets and borrow money to finance investment, either via bank loans, or by issuing new bonds and shares.

The rate of interest is determined by the interaction of the demand for and supply of money-capital, and so these two factors – demand for money-capital rising as investment increases, and supply of money-capital from profits declining, as profits are used to finance investment, rather than being thrown into money markets – causes market rates of interest to rise. To prevent that rise in interest rates crashing asset prices, states have used fiscal austerity to slow economic growth, and so slow the demand for labour rising to a point where wages rise, and to slow investment so as to slow the demand for money-capital to finance it.

Even that failed to prevent the underlying dynamic of the economy from causing economic growth to break through, and so wages and interest rates to rise, which again threatened to cause asset prices to crash. As the ruling class, now, owns all of its wealth, and derives its political power from the ownership of these paper assets, rather than the ownership of real capital, the state, which acts on behalf of that ruling class, and the system of states – imperialism – which acts on behalf of what is now a global ruling class, could not allow that to happen, which is why they have coordinated attempts to slow global growth, and to inflate asset prices via QE.

When imposing further austerity could no longer be justified, other ways of slowing global growth was found, for example, global trade wars, such as those imposed on China, or US trade wars against the EU, not to mention the array of sanctions and so on imposed by the US on various states across the globe, most notably, now, in relation to Russia. All of the lockdowns implemented, across the globe, from 2020 onwards, were a more direct means of restricting global growth. There was no rational basis for lockdowns to begin with, as Professor Mark Woolhouse and many others have described, but in a world where 95% of people have immunity either natural or from vaccination, no possible reason for any restrictions can be made, credibly.

As economies opened up, therefore, an avalanche of revenge spending occurred, with all of the liquidity produced by central banks now flooding into the demand for commodities, which in turn led firms to have to raise investment so as not to lose out on market share to their competitors. Not only demand and investment rose sharply, but so did inflation, which, in turn, encourages consumers to want to buy before prices rise further, causing demand to be further front loaded.

As Marx describes, the quantity of money in the economy does not determine the rate of interest, but it does determine the level of prices, and so also inflation – a movement from one price level to another. Anyone lending money, therefore, does not just look at the price level now, in determining what level of interest they require, but also what they expect the price level to be at the point the loan is repaid. If I think that between now and when the money I lend is repaid, inflation will be 10%, then what that means is that every £1,000 I lend, will be worth only £900 when its repaid. So, I will generally want to factor that into the annual interest I expect to be paid, so that over the duration of the loan, I get more back than I lent. That is why, generally speaking, the yield on longer dated bonds is higher than that on shorter dated bonds. When yields invert, that is usually because, speculators think that a recession is likely that will cause future interest rates to be lower, and so bond prices higher.

But, none of that is really relevant, in relation to the current inversion of yields. The real reason that yields on short dated bonds have risen so much is that central banks are way behind the curve in terms of having to withdraw from QE, and raise their policy rates. I predicted this would happen more than a year ago, and now its happening with a vengeance. Even within the last year, the pundits were saying that central banks would not be raising their policy rates until at least 2023, or 2024, and the messages coming out of those central banks in their press conferences, dot plots and so on reinforced that view, as did the coordinated claims that inflation was only “transitory”. A year later that transitory inflation is not only still here but is rising by the day.  The US Federal Reserve is now talking about raising rates at every one of its meetings, and by half points and more at each one; the ECB is now forecast to increase its rates 4 times over the next year; the bank of England has already been raising rates since last year, and is likely to have to raise them at each meeting, and at an increased pace.  All of them are being force to withdraw QE, and begin actually tightening by selling bonds.

The rise in short term yields is a reflection that central banks are scrambling to raise their policy rates, and those policy rates, always relate to short-term interest rates, the rates that the central banks lend to the commercial banks. At the same time, the central banks still own vast amounts of bonds, as a result of their policy of QE. They tend to want to prevent longer-term bond yields from rising, because its those yields that are used when it comes to banks lending for things like mortgages. Sharply rising mortgage rates, mean that property buyers quickly find themselves in negative equity, as rising interest rates also cause land and property prices to fall as a result of capitalisation. Collapsing land and property markets frequently accompany collapses in other asset prices, as each acts as a substitute for another.

So, sharply rising short term yields, resulting in yield inversion, as long-term yields do not rise so fast – though they are still rising fast, just not as fast – is not at all an indication, in current conditions, of an impending recession. On the contrary, all the indications are that as lockdowns and other restrictions are lifted, economic activity is set to rise sharply, again, across the globe. It is doing so in conditions of sharply rising inflation, of labour shortages, causing wages to rise sharply, which are not yet squeezing profits, but certainly limiting their rapid expansion, and it is doing so in conditions where the economic war launched by US imperialism against China and Russia, which is the foothills of a developing WWIII, is causing primary product prices, for energy, food and raw materials also to soar, requiring firms to borrow even more to finance their expansion, causing interest rates to rise at an increasing rate.

The sharp rises in inflation, along with rapidly growing demand for commodities, means that firms see rising money profits. Speculators seeing rising money profits, see the potential for increased dividends from shares, and the potential, thereby, of higher share prices, giving them at least paper capital gains, whereas ownership of bonds, whilst it offers higher nominal yields, still is not offering higher real yields, and comes with large capital losses as bond prices collapse. There, is, therefore, an inevitable switch from bonds to shares in the portfolio allocations of speculators.

But, that can't last. As bond prices collapse, and share prices rise, firms needing to raise large amounts of money capital to finance investment, will be led to issue more shares, rather than bonds, because they will need to issue fewer higher priced shares, than they would lower priced bonds. An increased supply of shares, means that share prices will also then fall. But, they will fall for another reason, which is that, although money profits will rise as a result of inflation, real profits, i.e. after inflation will grow much more slowly, and may even contract. The rate of profit will certainly not grow so quickly, and may begin to get squeezed, as a result of changes in the value composition of capital, as wages rise, and the cost of constant capital rises, also causing a tie-up of capital.

All of that points to a crash in asset prices, reversing what has been seen over the last 30 years, but it is a crash in asset prices that also releases potential money-capital for real investment, of a kind that, again, has not been seen in more than 30 years. Marx describes, in Capital, how a capitalist farmer, who comes to buy land to farm, must first lay out money-capital to buy the land. Yet, this money-capital does not actually function as money-capital for the farmer. It does nothing to provide him with farm equipment, with seed or materials, or labour-power. On the contrary, the more he must pay for the land, before he can start farming, the less capital he has to actually employ productively in all these other forms.

And, the same is true in relation to asset prices. The higher asset prices are, then, as speculator use available potential money-capital to buy up these existing assets, the less of it is available to be used for actual productive investment, or, indeed, simply to fund consumption. In a world, in which everyone has become a speculator of one kind or another, the idea that you can obtain wealth – and by realising some of that wealth by selling bits of it, a revenue – means that people divert revenues from consumption to such speculation. Even those with very little income speculate in lottery tickets, scratch cards and so on, whilst others speculate that house prices will rise, and so pay extortionate prices for them, and even become buy-to-let landlords, and so on. Other speculate in meme stocks, or simply in mutual funds.

All of that is money that is sucked out of general circulation, and so slows economic activity. But, the most obvious manifestation is where firms use profits to buy back shares, rather than to invest in real productive capacity. Not only does that reduce investment, but it also inflates share prices, creating a further incentive to speculate in that paper, further reducing the flow of potential money-capital into real investment. Recently, I heard one pundit on one of the financial speculation channels comment to the effect “where would you invest your money other than in shares”, which, of course, illustrates this point that it confuses investment with simply speculation. The implication was that, even if share prices fall, if you have money to invest, you still have to put it in shares, in conditions when bond prices, property prices and so on are falling.

But, that is not true, and shows just how far the capitalist system itself has become deluded by this speculation. As Marx describes in Theories of Surplus Value, if I have say, £1 million, I could buy say,1 million shares, with a current price of £1. They might provide interest of £0.05 per share in the form of dividends of £50,000. But, if the share price falls to £0.80, I will have lost £200,000, meaning, net, I will have lost £150,000.  However, I could, instead, use the £1 million for the purpose of actual investment rather than speculation. That is, I might rent a factory, and spend £750,000 on machines and materials, and the other £250,000 employing labour-power. If the annual rate of profit is 30%, then I will make £300,000 profit, as against the net loss of £150,000 made from speculating in shares! So, as asset prices crash leading to speculators making large capital losses, and as economies expand, creating the potential for significant profits from actual investment, the focus inevitably shifts from speculation to real investment, which, in turn, crates conditions for greater economic activity, expansion, investment, higher wages and interest rates, and further falls in asset prices.

These are the conditions now being created, and forms the backdrop to the current rout in bond markets, but also the desperate search, by states, to find ways of slowing global economic growth, to avoid it, including the fermenting of war hysteria.

The Heritage We Renounce - Section I - One Representative Of The “Heritage” (2/5)

Skaldin's criticism of the consequences of the Reform, therefore, were new at that time.

“What first of all strikes the contemporary reader, who is accustomed to the Narodniks’ sickly gushing over the peasant Reform, is the extreme sobriety of Skaldin’s views on the subject. He looks at the Reform without any illusions or idealisation; he sees it as a transaction between two parties, the landlords and the peasants, who until then had used the land in common on definite terms and now had divided it, the division being accompanied by a change in the legal status of both parties. The factor which determined the mode of division and the size of the share of each party was their respective interests. These interests determined the ambitions of both parties, while the fact that one of them was able to have a direct hand in the Reform itself, and in the practical working-out of the various questions connected with its implementation, determined, among other things, that party’s dominant position.” (p 495-6)

Unlike the Narodniks, Skaldin did not talk about “land poverty”, but, rather, focused on the excessive amounts of land that was cut off from the peasants' allotments. It is a common feature, as seen with the English Enclosures, that former common land, used for grazing, hunting and wood collection, becomes cut off from the use of peasants. Skaldin notes the comments of peasants to this effect.

““‘Our land has been so trimmed down by him’” (author’s italics) “‘that we can’t live without this cut-off land; he has surrounded us on all sides with his fields and we have nowhere to pasture our cattle; so you have to pay for your allotment, and on top of that you have to pay for the cut-off land, just as much as he asks.’” “‘How does that better us?’ said one literate arid experienced muzhik, a former quit-renter. ‘We are paying the same quit-rent as before, though our land has been trimmed down.’”” (Note *, p 496)

Skaldin also set out the effects of the redemption payments, “supports his statements with many facts. “Inordinate taxation,” reads a sub-title to the third essay (1867), “is the chief cause of their” (the peasants’) “poverty,” and Skaldin shows that taxation is higher than the peasants returns from the land, and he cites from the Proceedings of the Commission on Taxation data relative to the incidence of taxation of the upper and lower classes in Russia which show that 76% of the taxation falls on the lower classes and 17% on the upper, whereas in Western Europe the correlation is everywhere incomparably more favourable to the lower classes.” (p 496-7)

Again, these consequences of land reform, as part of every bourgeois revolution, can be seen as peasants need money to pay taxes and interest, and, in order to obtain money, they must become commodity producers, producing for the market, which sets in an inevitable process of competition, accumulation, and development of capital in agriculture, just as these same factors had previously led to the development of capital in the towns. Lenin notes,

“We cite these excerpts—which, in themselves, are of little interest and are in part out-of-date—in order to show how energetically the peasants’ interests were defended by a writer who was hostile to the village community and whose opinions on a whole number of questions were those of a true member of the Manchester School. It is very instructive to note that nearly all the useful and non-reactionary precepts of Narodism fully coincide with those of this Mancunian. It goes without saying that, such being Skaldin’s opinion of the Reform, he could not possibly sentimentally idealise it in the way the Narodniks did, and still do, when they say that it sanctioned people’s production, that it was superior to the West-European peasant reforms, that it made a tabula rasa of Russia, and so on.” (p 497-8)

Indeed, rather than seeing land reform, in Russia, as something special, and advantageous, Skaldin saw it as less advantageous than it was for peasants in the West. In the West, for example, Germany, the land was considered to be their property, and redemption payments only “redemption of their compulsory service to landlords.” (p 498)

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Paul Mason Strains on a Gnat, But Swallows A Camel - Swallowing A Camel (3 of 8)

Paul does not just want to oppose Putin, and the Russian invasion, he also wants to support the Ukrainian government, and the NATO imperialists that stand behind it. That is because he has adopted the Stalinist position of the 1920's, and later 1930's, of the Popular Front, which subordinates the interests of the working-class to the interests of the ruling class, and its state, which is seen as the only means of actually defeating fascism. Rejecting the Marxist position of an independent working-class, and workers' militia, Paul makes no bones about that, arguing that its only Ukrainian government tanks, and so on, that could offer protection, as though a workers militia could not itself utilise tanks and the latest military equipment. If the rag-tag militia of the Afghan Mujahedin can do that, an advanced, European industrial proletariat certainly can. The Bolshevik Red Guards, in 1917, put a halt to the advance of Kornilov and his regular troops, and acted to carry through the revolution, in the face of opposition from 18 imperialist armies.

As I have set out previously, this is simply an extension of the argument Paul put forward for tactics inside the Labour Party, which suggested that the Left should form a Popular Front with the “Centre”, to support Starmer, so as to oppose the Right. That is the same line that the soft left put in the 1980's, in support of backing Kinnock, and for the Left to simply keep its head down and stay quiet. It was disastrous then, and so was going to be predictably disastrous when repeated now.

Starmer, as could be expected, had no interest in allying with Paul or the Left, even on a watered down soft-left agenda, and embarked, straight away, on a scorched earth policy of attacking the Left, and all of the party rank and file, expelling members, and closing down party organisations in a bureaucratic cleansing of any opposition, reminiscent of the 1980's and 90's. It was the same process, though, obviously, without the bloodshed, that had resulted from the application of the Popular Front strategy in China in the 1920's, and Spain in the 1930's. Paul responded, predictably, not by expressing any kind of mia culpa, for his, inevitably failed strategy, but by moving even further to the Right, in pursuit of Starmer, and the ephemeral centre.

But, a consideration of fascism, particularly as manifest in the 1920's and 30's, shows how insane the approach of Paul is. Fascism was successful in Italy in the 1920's, in Germany and in Spain, in the 1930's, precisely because the ruling class, at that time, needed fascism as an adjunct to its state to put down revolutionary working-class movements. So, the idea that you can, then, form an alliance with the ruling class against fascism, when that ruling class has called it into being in the first place, is deluded to the degree of insanity.

Let's assume that such an alliance, as it causes workers to subordinate their interests to those of the bourgeoisie, leads the bourgeoisie to pull back from the brink, and turn away from the fascists. The situation is temporarily assuaged, as capital goes about its business extracting more profits from a subordinated proletariat. But, the whole point is that, in these conditions, the very reality that led to workers raising wages, and so on, which, in turn, squeezed profits, creating a crisis for capital, simply emerges again, and in intensified form.

The rise in wages was not some inexplicable phenomenon, but was due to the phase of the long wave cycle, a period of extensive accumulation, during which the demand for labour rises faster than the increase in the social working day, meaning absolute surplus value cannot increase, and relative surplus value is reduced as wages rise.  The bourgeoisie must again attempt to slap down the workers, and, in conditions where the workers are now stronger than ever, the only means by which the ruling class can do that is via a violent attack on the organised workers by the state, and paramilitary gangs.

That is what happened with the Popular Front in France, for example, in the 1930's. You can delude yourself that fascism is merely something that arises from thin air, as a result of these ideas simply entering the heads of certain individuals in society, but, the whole point of Marx's materialist analysis is to show that ideas are a function of material conditions, and it is because those material conditions change, that shifts in ideas arise. The material basis of fascism is entirely discernible on the basis of a Marxist class analysis, and the reason why it is enabled to succeed at some times and not at others is equally discernible by it.

Fascist ideas are always present within the reactionary petty-bourgeoisie, as it rails against the organised working-class that squeezes it from one side, and against the bourgeoisie which squeezes it from the other. It coincides with its desire to forcibly turn the clock of social development backwards to the time at which it was small private capital, and rampant individualism that dominated, and with the fact that, as an heterogeneous class, it knows what it is against, but cannot agree on what it is for, requiring a strong, charismatic leader to impose unity upon it. But, it can never dominate unless the ruling class needs it, and, then, as soon as it has succeeded, all of its “anti-capitalist”, petty-bourgeois ambitions have to be vanquished, as they conflict with the needs of the ruling class.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

The Heritage We Renounce - Section I - One Representative Of The “Heritage” (1/5)

The first of these essayists examined is Skaldin, whose writings in Otechestvenniye Zapiski were also collated in a book, “In The Backwoods and In The Capital”. The essays appeared between 1867-9, and the book in 1870. It is instructive, Lenin says, in terms of “the relation in which the representatives of the “heritage” stand to the Narodniks and the “Russian disciples.”” (p 494) In fact, rather than dealing with conditions in the capital, the book deals with the attitude of the capital to the countryside, and sets out a series of descriptions of the prevailing socio-economic conditions there. Given the conditions under which Skaldin was writing, of Tsarist absolutism, he made the usual proviso that “I will not write as I may, and may not write as I will”. (p 495)

Lenin then sets out a summary of Skaldin's views. He starts with the pre-eminent issue, which was the Reform. Land reform is a central plank of all bourgeois liberal revolutions. It strikes at the heart of the old aristocratic, land-owning ruling class. In every such revolution, therefore, criticism of such land reform is treated with great suspicion and hostility, because it is seen as being merely an attempt to prevent it, and, thereby, to protect the interests of the old ruling class, in Russia, a preservation of serfdom. In a similar way, as Marx describes, in The Communist Manifesto, conservative and aristocratic socialism is reactionary, because it makes criticism of the horrors of industrial capitalism from the standpoint of the old ruling class, omitting to mention the horrors associated with that previous mode of production.

Skaldin wrote, not only as a bourgeois-liberal proponent of the Reform, but on the basis of living experience of it. And, so, his criticism of the reality of the Reform, as it affected both peasants and landlords, was of great significance. Skaldin described the widespread poverty of the peasants that was the actual consequence of the Reform, at a time when the liberal-bourgeoisie were highly resistant to the idea of any such result. The reason for the widespread poverty of the peasants, following the Reform, a poverty that, for many, was even greater than under serfdom, has been elaborated in all of this series of posts dealing with Lenin's arguments against economic romanticism, moral and petty bourgeois socialism.

Firstly, the Reform did not simply give land to the peasants, but required them to compensate the landlords for it, via redemption payments. Those payments priced the land at twice its market price. To afford the payments, the peasants had to a) borrow money, and so pay interest on the loan, and b) produce for the market, rather than their own consumption, so as to obtain money, c) engage in wage labour to supplement this money income.

As previous posts have elaborated, the allocation of land to peasant households was not of an adequate size to be farmed efficiently, so as to provide an adequate level of income. This fact was seized upon by the Narodniks as the main defect that required correction. However, Lenin has shown that, in fact, this was not a defect from the perspective of those that designed the Reform, but also was not the actual cause of the poverty of the majority of peasants. The actual allocation of land was largely irrelevant, because land was bought and rented by richer peasants, meaning that they had farms many times the size of even the average, let alone that of the allocated plots. These larger farms meant that the richer peasants could dominate the market. The result was that the poorer peasants and many of the middle peasants, were then led to either sell, or rent out, their land to richer peasants, increasingly turning the poorer peasants, thereby, into landless wage labourers.

Marx had described a similar process in France where the Revolution brought land reform, and the peasants were encouraged to borrow money to develop their farms, to meet the needs of an expanding market. But, then, at the same time that all this expanding supply reduced agricultural prices, the state increased taxes, and the banks raised interest rates on the peasants' mortgages. As Marx describes, the peasants were reduced to being troglodytes, now exchanging their exploitation by the landlord for exploitation by the mortgage holder.

The liberals, of course, do not want to hear this reality, because their ideology is based on the fantasy of a property owning democracy, as the basis of the prosperity of all. Yet, the reality of such a society is inevitably that of market competition, in which the vast majority must be losers, and so dispossessed of that property, in order that a tiny minority can be winners, and who, thereby, monopolise this property in their hands.

Northern Soul Classics - Heartache Souvenirs - William Powell


Friday, 25 March 2022

Friday Night Disco - I Like What You Give - Nolan Porter


Paul Mason Strains on a Gnat, But Swallows A Camel - Swallowing A Camel (2 of 8)

Let's take some of the statements Paul makes in relation to the Ukrainian government. He says that, in 2014, the people of Ukraine staged a “revolution” against “a pro-Russian puppet government”. Well, you don't have to take Putin's narrative on this as an alternative view. You can read what Wikipedia has to say.

Wikipedia is not some Putin mouthpiece, nor even some lefty, anti-US/anti-NATO website, but a liberal-bourgeois source of information. Anyone trying to claim that citing what it says is somehow acting as an agent of Putin, is clearly lying, and betraying their own position of acting as apologists for NATO. It sets out the history of how the pro-Russian Yanukovich was elected in 2004, in what was widely held to be a rigged election, and who was replaced by the heavily western backed and financed Yuschenko and Tymoschenko. It is Tymoschenko who a Washington Post article cites, from a leaked phone call, calling for all Russians to be killed and wiped out with nuclear weapons!

In the election of, 2010, Yanukovich won against Tymoshenko, in an election that was closely monitored by international observers from the OSCE, EU and other bodies and found to be a “fair and an accurate reflection of voters' intentions by all international agencies observing the election including the OSCE and PACE.” It was this freely elected government that Paul then describes as “a pro-Russian puppet government”.

The revolution that Paul talks about has many similarities with the January 6th coup that Paul opposed in the US. The difference is that the coup in Ukraine, was actually heavily backed by the US state, and was successful, whereas the fascists in the US were opposed by the US state, and failed. In recent weeks, the western media has had lots of reports of supposed Russian plans to install a puppet government in Kyiv. But, the plans of the US State Department, including its listing of names of Ukrainian politicians it wanted in different jobs, have been public knowledge since the 2014 coup was undertaken. Wikipedia cites the phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

“Nuland: "I don't think Klitsch (Klitschko) should go into the government. I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's a good idea."

Pyatt: "Just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff."

Nuland: "I think Yats (Yatsenyuk) is the guy who's got the economic experience the governing experience. I just think Klitsch going in… he's going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it's just not going to work. We want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing."

Nuland was also recorded in the same conversation saying, "F... the EU". Dismissively referring to slow-moving European efforts to address political paralysis and a looming fiscal crisis in Ukraine.”

So much for the US and NATO respect for Ukraine's independence and self-determination, as they determined, to the smallest details, who should be ministers in their Ukrainian puppet government!

The fact is that, given his idealist and subjectivist analysis, Paul is led to side with Ukraine, in order to oppose the greater evil of Putin and Russia. Of course, its possible to oppose Putin and Russia, without siding with Ukraine. That was the point that Trotsky made in relation to the Balkan Wars. It was not necessary to deny the atrocities committed by the Ottomans, but opposing them, did not require socialists to then support the Russian liberal interventionists, or to deny the atrocities committed by those liberal interventionists, or by the Bulgars and others fighting against the Ottomans.

As socialists we do not have to choose sides in that way, we do not have to view the world in purely stylised black and white terms, making my enemy's enemy my friend, or choosing to side with a bunch of reactionaries only because, in the particular instance, they are not quite as reactionary as their opponents! In a war between bourgeois states, Marxists do not have to side with one bourgeois camp or the other, because we are opponents of both, and partisans of the independent, third camp of the proletariat.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

The Heritage We Renounce - Introduction

The Narodniks claimed lineage to the Russian liberals of the 1860's and 70's, who were revolutionary in respect of their opposition to Tsarism, but also in respect of the fact that, in opposition to it, they advocated a full throated development of Russian capitalism, and bourgeois democracy. In this article, Lenin sets out, again, to demonstrate that, in fact, the Narodniks did not represent the heritage of that earlier revolutionary liberalism, but rather a reactionary, petty-bourgeois perversion of it.

As Lenin set out, in the previous article, compared with the petty-bourgeois, moral socialists, who seek to hold back rational capitalist development, the bourgeoisie are progressive. In so far as the Russian Marxists did not want to hold back the rational and rapid development of capitalism, seeing in it the necessary foundations of the Socialism that would develop out of it, it was they who more legitimately could could clam the heritage of the earlier Russian liberals, not the Narodniks.

The Narodniks, however, argued that the Marxists did not acknowledge any continuity with the earlier revolutionaries. In this article, written by Lenin in exile, in 1897, he takes apart these Narodnik arguments. In doing so, he also provides the analysis which demonstrates the reactionary nature of today's petty-bourgeois, moral socialists, manifest in various forms, be it of “anti-imperialism”, and “anti-capitalism”, as well as in moralising social chauvinism and social imperialism, all of which demonstrate an abandonment of Marxism, and of the independent agency of the working-class, and a descent into mere cheerleading of contending bourgeois camps, or even worse, for reactionary petty-bourgeois nationalism.

Lenin notes,

“The further the “disciples” developed their views in Russian literature, the more minutely and thoroughly they set forth their opinions on a number of issues, both theoretical and practical, the more rarely did one find the hostile press objecting in substance to the fundamental tenets of the new trend, to the view that Russian capitalism is progressive, that the Narodnik idealisation of the small producer is absurd, that the explanation of trends of social thought and of legal and political institutions must be sought in the material interests of the various classes of Russian society. These fundamental tenets were hushed up, it was—and still is—thought best to say nothing about them, but fabrications to discredit the new trend were concocted with all the greater fertility. One of these fabrications—”shabby fabrications”—-is the modish phrase that “the Russian disciples renounce the heritage,” that they have broken with the best traditions of the best, the most progressive section of Russian society, that they have severed the democratic thread, etc., etc., and all the many other ways in which this is expressed.” (p 493-4)

This lie is what prompts Lenin to set out his detailed refutation of it. In order to do so, Lenin says, his response will focus on the writing of two “essayists on the countryside”, dealing only with socio-economic questions.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Paul Mason Strains on a Gnat, But Swallows A Camel - Swallowing A Camel (1 of 8)

Because Paul has tied himself to his idealist and subjectivist analysis of fascism, he was then led to exaggerate considerably the strength and potential of the fascists standing behind Trump. It is the straining at a gnat. Now let us look at how, by comparison, he swallows a camel when it comes to his description of events in Ukraine. In almost any other scenario you can imagine, other than the one we have, now, of Ukraine being invaded by Putin's Russia, Paul would have been describing the regime in Kyiv, the association of it with openly fascist (Neo-Nazi) paramilitaries, in similar tones to that he has used to describe the government in Hungary and elsewhere. Indeed, keep everything in Ukraine the same, but transport it geographically into Western Europe, and Paul would be apoplectic about the right-wing, nationalist nature of the government, and even more the fact that its nature enabled it to enter into an open alliance with Neo-Nazi paramilitaries, even providing them with their own section of the armed force, and so providing them with money and finance, and the latest NATO military hardware!!!

Even, in the worst cases of any alliance between conservatives and fascists, for example, with the Freedom Party in Austria, it has only amounted to a political alliance between political parties, not a military alliance with fascist paramilitaries. In any other conditions, Paul would see the military alliance between a hard line, right-wing nationalist government, such as that in Ukraine, as nothing short of a threat to European bourgeois democracy, with a sizeable Neo-Nazi paramilitary organisation as the tip of a spear aimed directly at its heart.  It is the necessary result of subjectivism and moralism, manifest as lesser-evilism.

Paul has Putin in his sites, as the main target, the Russian equivalent of Trump (and not without reason, because, as I have set out before, a large amount of the financing and other support for the nationalist movements behind Trump, Le Pen, and the Brexiters in Britain, does indeed emanate from Moscow).  In his stylised narrative of good and evil, of white hats and black hats, Putin is now the clear representative of the black hat, and so, absent any class analysis, and independent class perspective, Ukraine's government must be the white hats, even though, in any other scenario, he would have them as the black hats!

It is the classic result of lesser-evilism and “my enemy's enemy is my friend”. The concomitant of this is that, having grossly enlarged the actual significance of the fascists in the US, on January 6th, Paul is led to make the most ridiculous comments in support of the right-wing, corrupt Ukrainian government, and its association with the heavily armed Neo-Nazi thugs, and their attacks on the pro-Russian communities in Ukraine, in general, and in the Donestk and Lugansk Republics in particular.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Gems of Narodnik Project Mongering - Part 18 of 18

Section VII

Lenin turns to a discussion of education, as against the question solely of schools. Had Yuzhakov dealt with educational problems, Lenin says, he would have had to discuss the role that capitalist development, in Russia, played in the education of the labouring masses. That question had been taken up by Mikhailovsky in Russkoye Bogatsvo. He was responding to a statement by Struve that “Marx did not fear, and rightly so, to speak of the “idiocy of rural life,” and considered it one of the merits of capitalism and of the bourgeoisie that they had “rescued” a considerable part of the population from this “idiocy.”” (p 486)

Mikhailovsky, showing his lack of knowledge of Marx's writing, says that he did not know where Marx had “used this coarse expression”. He goes on to accuse Marx of being careless in his language, saying,

“And if the generation that worried so much, along with Mr. Zlatovratsky, over the intricate problems of rural life suffered much woe in vain, no less—though different—is the woe of the generation being educated in a spirit of contempt for the “idiocy of rural life’” (p. 139)....” (p 487)

Lenin responds,

“These words of Marx are no boutade, but an expression of one of the most cardinal and fundamental features of his whole outlook, both theoretical and practical. These words clearly express a recognition of the progressive nature of the diversion of the population from agriculture to industry, from country to town, one of the most characteristic features of capitalist development, that is to be observed both in the West and in Russia.” (p 487)

He refers to his article “A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism” in which he dealt with these ideas in more detail. This view of Marx about the progressive nature of capitalism, Lenin says, is one of the most important aspects of his writing, and one adopted by all his followers, “and how sharply contradictory it is to absolutely all romantic theories, ranging from those of old Sismondi to those of Mr. N. —on. There I pointed out (p. 39) that this view is also quite definitely expressed by Marx in Das Kapital (I. Band,2-te Aufl, S. 527-28), and by Engels in his Condition of the Working Class in England. To this might be added Marx’s Der Achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte (Hamb. 1885. Cf. S. 98).” (p 487)

The number of occasions that Marx and Engels set out this view of the progressive nature of capitalism meant that only those unfamiliar with their writing could be unaware of it, Lenin notes.

“Lastly, Mr. Mikhailovsky might also have recalled the fact that all these writers’ followers have expressed themselves on a large number of practical issues in the spirit of this doctrine, advocating, for example, complete freedom of movement, and protesting against plans to endow the worker with a plot of land or a house of his own, and the like.” (p 488)

As I have described previously, the modern equivalent of such proposals is the UBI, which is argued for on the basis of enabling citizens to turn themselves into individual, petty-bourgeois producers, as well as things like Brexit, which is a petty-bourgeois venture to hold back capitalist development within dwarfish limits, inside defunct national borders, in the interests of the same petty-bourgeois producers. Mikhailovsky accuses the Marxists of contempt for the rural inhabitants afflicted by such “idiocy”, but, Lenin says, the charge is without foundation. Rather than contempt for those rural inhabitants, the Marxists sympathise with them, and show the way out of their condition.

“While speaking of the “idiocy of rural life,” the disciples at the same time point the way out of this state of affairs opened up by the development of capitalism. Let us repeat what we said above in the article on economic romanticism: ’if the predominance of the town is necessarily so, only the attraction of the population to the towns can neutralise (and, as history shows, does in fact neutralise) the one-sided character of this predominance. If the town necessarily gains for itself a privileged position, only the influx of the village population into the towns, only this mingling and merging of the agricultural with the non-agricultural population can lift the rural population out of its helplessness. Therefore, in reply to the reactionary complaints and lamentations of the romanticists, the modern theory indicates exactly how this narrowing of the gap between the conditions of life of the agricultural and of the non-agricultural population creates the conditions for eliminating the distinction between town and country.”” (p 488)

The only contempt displayed, Lenin says, is that for the reactionaries and romantics “"who recommend “seeking paths for the fatherland,” instead of seeking a way out along the existing path and its further course."” (p 489)

The difference between the Marxists and the Narodniks, and other reactionaries is the recognition of the progressive nature of capitalism, and its further rational development.

“The “disciples” naturally insist on the need for abolishing all the antiquated restrictions on peasant travel and migration from the countryside to the towns, whereas the Narodniks either openly uphold these restrictions, or cautiously avoid the subject altogether (which in practice amounts to the same thing). This example, too, might have helped Mr. Manuilov to understand the, to him, astonishing fact that the “disciples” express their solidarity with spokesmen of the bourgeoisie. A consistent bourgeois will always stand for the abolition of these restrictions on movement—and as far as the worker is concerned, his most vital interests demand their abolition. Hence, solidarity between them is quite natural and inevitable. On the other hand, the agrarians (big and small, down to the enterprising muzhik inclusive) find this process of diversion of population to industry a disadvantage, and zealously try to retard it, having Narodnik theories to back them.” (p 489)

And the same division continues, today, with the reactionaries attempting to hold back the further rational development of capitalism with their proposals for “anti-monopoly alliances”, attempts to oppose the rational scrapping of outdated national borders, with their proposals for Brexit, for import and immigration controls, their opposition to the development of a global economy, their “anti-globalisation” and “anti-imperialist” movements, not to mention the reactionary nature of “anti-capitalism” itself.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Paul Mason Strains on a Gnat, But Swallows A Camel - Straining On A Gnat (4 of 4)

So, when Paul comes to deal with “fascism”, his narrative is unanchored, and relies upon these ephemeral concepts such as “elite”, the actual content of this elite being left to be filled on each occasion according to the particular role it is to play in explaining the actions of the mass. As Lenin described, the Narodniks did a similar thing, but using "estate" where Paul uses "elite".  When Paul explains the January 6th. abortive coup attempt, it is connected to the elite as represented by Trump, but, then, for the reasons set out above, its not even clear who else constitutes this Trumpian elite, other than a few other similar mavericks. By denying the role of class (which itself seems odd for anyone wanting to continue to describe themselves as a Marxist, even if not a Leninist) Paul avoids the awkward question of explaining any connection between this elite and the state. But, in doing so, he, again, removes any analytical power from his hypothesis. Paul may have done with the Marxist class analysis of the state, but the class nature of the state has not done with Paul.

If the elite, mobilising and manipulating the mass, is not the ruling class, then it is obviously some other elite, and, as not ruling class, it does not have at its disposal the state, because the state is the state of the ruling class. It exists to serve the interests of the ruling class. Now, of course, that does not mean that there are not individuals occupying positions within that state apparatus who are not themselves sympathetic to the views of this mobilised reactionary mass. There always are, but they tend to occupy the lower ranks. Police and armed forces always have a disproportionate number of racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, xenophobes, sexists and even outright fascists, which is partly down to the nature and role of these organisations, and the type of people they recruit to them.

Bonapartism is always a phenomenon that is based upon the petty-bourgeoisie or the middle class - which of these intermediate classes again depending upon whether the particular Bonapartism is looking forward or looking backwards. The upper reaches, however, tend to be recruited from the universities, and the same social strata, at least, as the professional middle class, and even the ruling class itself. These upper layers of the state only become active instruments of fascism, when that ruling class itself requires fascism as an adjunct of the state, to beat down, and violently disperse, a revolutionary proletariat. The role of the reactionary elements within these state institutions, which are also characterised by a powerful hierarchical structure, is always massively subordinated to the function of these bodies as instruments of the ruling class.

And, so, when it came to analysing the events of January 6th 2021, Paul was all at sea. The basic thrust of his analysis of fascism is that, it does not matter that the ruling class is not faced with a revolutionary proletariat, requiring it to turn to the fascist paramilitaries as an adjunct to its state apparatus, because the basis of fascism, today, is not class conflict, but intersectionality and culture war. Let us assume that is true, the problem for Paul, then, is that, because the ruling class itself stands on the other side of the barricades to the petty-bourgeoisie, which is the main protagonist of this culture war, the fascists are then confronted by the capitalist state itself, which acts on behalf of the ruling class. That is the opposite of the conditions that existed in the 1920's, when Mussolini was met with at least tacit support from the Italian state, enabling him to come to power. To emphasise that, before the German bourgeoisie concluded it needed the fascists to break up the power of the German working-class, the German state acted to put down Hitler, for example, during the Bier Hall Putsch. It is only when the bourgeoisie came to conclude it needed the fascists that the state, as in Italy, facilitated their rise to power.

Paul's analysis required him to explain why the US state would not act to slap down the January 6th coup, indeed, why, given his abandonment of the category of class for elite, the elite, manipulating the reactionary mass, would not also mobilise the state along with it. That is the problem of abandoning the term class, and, here, ruling class, for the vague and empty concept of “elite”, because it is necessary to concretise this term “elite”, and as soon as you do, it becomes seen that it is indistinguishable from class, if it is to have any analytical meaning or reference to material reality.

The actual ruling class, had no reason to support Trump or the reactionary petty-bourgeoisie, who he acted as spokesperson for. So, the January 6th coup, no doubt intended seriously by the fascists and right-wing petty-bourgeois that stand behind Trump, was never going to be anything other than a farce. It was never going anywhere, and indeed, by allowing it to go as far as it did, the ruling class, and its state, were able to point to it, as such an attempt on democracy by Trump and his followers, all the better to then mobilise the full force of the state against them, which has continued to roll on in the year since, irrespective of the incompetent actions of Biden and his administration.

And, typical of Paul's superficial, idealist and subjectivist approach, he completely confuses and conflates government office with state power. Whether its Trump in the US, or Johnson in Britain, Paul mistakes the fact that these political forces are able to win elections, and form governments with them actually having captured state power. Again it is a symptom of his lack of class analysis, and class analysis of the state

The reality is that, even without the ruling class having to utilise its state to overthrow a government, as it did in replacing Allende, in Chile, in 1973, the ruling class has a whole panoply of measures it can mobilise against a hostile government of either Left or Right. It can organise capital strikes, attacks on the currency, and so on, as well as simply using the state bureaucracy to frustrate the measures any such government seeks to enact. But, yes, ultimately, if a radical right-wing (fascist) government representing the interests of the petty-bourgeoisie, was seriously threatening the interests of the ruling class (for example, breaking up corporations, attacking fictitious-capital, embarking upon serious measures of national autonomy, and so on) it would retain the option of simply overthrowing the government, which could be done by a number of means, including coups, or, in the US, assassinations.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Gems of Narodnik Project Mongering - Part 17 of 18

Sharapov comments,

“All summer, serfdom is practically restored—except, of course, that there is no manhandling and no floggings in the stable” (p. 29).” (p 484)

Lenin notes that this blunt admission by Sharapov simply exposes the nature of the Narodnik proposals that were only dressed up in the language of the publicist Yuzhakov.

“In both cases the whole essence lies in labour service; in both cases we have compulsion, either by the pressure of the rich men who dominate the “village community,” or the threat of being consigned to a corrective gymnasium. The reader may object that Mr. Sharapov runs his farm for profit, whereas the officials in Mr. Yuzhakov’s utopia do so from zeal for the common good. One moment. Mr. Sharapov says outright that he farms from moral motives, that he surrenders half the proceeds to the peasants, and so on; and we have neither the reason nor the right to believe him less than Mr. Yuzhakov, who, after all, also provides his utopian teachers with by no means utopian “lucrative posts.” And if some landlord follows Mr. Yuzhakov’s advice and lets his land be used as an agricultural gymnasium, and receives interest from the “students” for payment into the Nobles’ Bank (a ’gilt-edged mortgage,” in Mr. Yuzhakov’s own words), the difference will practically disappear. Of course, a tremendous difference in ’educational problems” still remains—but, heavens, would not Mr. Sergei Sharapov prefer to hire educated labourers at 50 roubles than uneducated ones at 60 roubles?” (p 485)

It was for these reasons, Lenin says, that the Russian Marxists “(and not only the Russian)”, were led to support “in the interests of labour”, “consistent bourgeois people and consistent bourgeois ideas, as against those survivals of the past which are responsible for farms like Mr. Sharapov’s and “utopias” like Mr. Yuzhakov’s”.

The petty-bourgeois socialists, reminiscent of Proudhon, sought to take what is good from here, and good from there, ignoring the fact that, in each case, the good was inseparable from the bad. Today, it means, for example, one group within the petty-bourgeois Third Camp want to take the “good” of the “anti-imperialism” of various anti-working class movements, whilst ignoring the inevitable bad that is attendant on the nature of such forces, whilst another strand within the Third Camp wants to take the “good” of imperialism, whilst ignoring the inevitable “bad” that goes with it.

In both cases, it amounts to a petty-bourgeois mindset which seeks, in practice, to deny, or at least ignore, the class nature of society, and the state, and to put forward proposals, to be implemented by society, and the state, on that basis. It is an attempt, by that petty-bourgeois mindset to rise above the actual material conditions of class society, and to put forward "non-class” ideas, simply plucked from the air, on the basis of Pure Reason, that are, thereby, the interests not of any class, but of “the people”, “society”, or “the nation”, considered in the abstract. In other words, it is petty-bourgeois idealism, as against materialism.

“To us, however, it seems that such reasoning is nothing but the Kleinbürger’s comic effort to rise superior to the definite classes that. have fully evolved in our midst and that have assumed quite a definite place in the process of historical development going on before our eyes. The “utopias” naturally and inevitably engendered by such reasoning are, however, no longer comic, but harmful, especially when they lead to utterly unbridled bureaucratic inventions. For quite understandable reasons this phenomenon is to be met with in Russia with particular frequency; but it is not confined to Russia. Not for nothing did Antonio Labriola, in his excellent book Essais sur la conception matèrialiste de I’histoire (Paris, Giard et Brière, 1897), say in reference to Prussia, that the pernicious forms of utopia against which the “teachers” fought half a century ago have now been supplemented by one other: “a bureaucratic and fiscal utopia, a utopia of cretins” (l’utopie bureaucratique et fiscale, l’utopie des crètins. Page 105, note).” (p 485-6)

Boris Is Not Quite Right

Boris Johnson has compared the war between Ukraine and Russia with Brexit. Describing Russia's military intervention as in any way comparable with the entirely friendly relations between the EU and Britain is ridiculous and insulting, showing that he really has no grip of reality. However, there is one level on which what he says was correct. Both are driven by a reactionary nationalist fervour, and both are really about attempts by exploiting classes to protect their interests. Neither offer anything positive for workers who are exploited by those classes.

In Britain, the ruling class, the bourgeoisie or capitalist class, which is now a global class of owners of fictitious-capital, in the form of shares, bonds, property and their derivatives, had no interest in Brexit. It is a global class that can live anywhere and everywhere, and does, owning homes in most of the world's capital cities, and scenic locations, as well as luxury yachts that act as mobile homes. This global ruling class has no attachment to any particular state, and its wealth, in the form of fictitious capital, is entirely fungible and mobile. At the press of a button or phone call to a broker it can sell all of its German shares and bonds, and buy French, US, or Japanese assets instead.

This global ruling class is very progressive for this vey reason, because its interests, like those of the working class, reside in demolishing existing national borders, and nation states, and creating, at least large, multinational single markets and states, across which goods, capital and labour can move freely, if not a single global market and economy, where that would be true. So, like the working-class, the global ruling class had no interest in Brexit. Both the ruling class and the working class are global classes in themselves, and the former also for itself.  Rather, in Britain, the drive for Brexit came from the petty-bourgeoisie, which is a national not a global class. That is all of those 5 million or so small businesses, and self-employed, whose conditions of life are generally even worse than those of the average skilled worker.

The petty-bourgeoisie can be summarised, in Britain as being "white van man". In France, they are the Gilets Jaunes, and in past times they were the subsistence peasants barely clinging to an existence, or people like the English hand loom weavers, who survived for years in misery, only due to the Poor Relief they obtained, as they could not compete with the new power looms introduced in the factories. They are people who exploit their own and family labour, with their own dwarf capitals. They are inefficient, because of those small capitals, compared to large-scale industry, and, to the extent they survive, its on the same kind of basis as did businesses in the early days of industrial capitalism, by cheating, cutting corners, paying low wages to any wage labourers and so on.

For this class of exploiters, whose horizons rarely rise above that of the local skyline, the EU represented only additional competition, and additional rules and regulations that made it harder for them to pay lower wages, and give lower conditions. That is why, those that owned these small businesses, and their families, together amounting to around the 15 million people that form the core vote of the Tory Party, and from which is drawn its core membership, voted for Brexit. It was petty nationalism driven by the material interest of a class that sought to have the protection of the British state to continue to exploit British workers unhindered.

But, in Ukraine, the war being fought against Russia is not just the project of the Ukrainian petty-bourgeoisie, as was the case with Brexit in Britain. The war is the project of the Ukrainian state, and so of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie itself, i.e. its ruling class. Indeed, not just of the Ukrainian ruling class, but of that class as an integral element of the global ruling class, which is why it has the full backing of NATO imperialism. The war is really about the conditions under which that global ruling class continues to exploit the workers of the world, and how the spoils of that exploitation is divided up between them. That is what all imperialist wars are really all about. That is why, as with Brexit, workers have no interest in such wars, which only determine who gets to exploit them, and how. What workers are really interested in is ending the exploitation altogether.

With Brexit, as I wrote at the time, British workers really had no interest in voting for a continuation of the EU, on its existing basis, still less the basis upon which Cameron was proposing, which would have been the worst of all worlds, continuing to subject them to the market, whilst denying them the benefit of markets, in the form of free movement to be able to sell their labour-power where they could get the highest price for it. The only reason for workers to oppose Brexit, and vote Remain, was on the basis of a struggle with their fellow workers in Europe to go beyond its present capitalist limitations, to the creation of a Workers Europe, and a Socialist United States of Europe.

Workers in Ukraine have no reason to support their corrupt government, whose members have billions stashed in offshore bank accounts, and which is as beholden to Ukrainian billionaire oligarchs as Putin's kleptocratic government is beholden to Russian billionaire oligarchs. Given that the Ukrainian state has even taken into its ranks the organised forces of the Nazis of the Azov Battalion, which it is now training and arming with the latest NATO weaponry, and that the forces of the global far right, are using the war in Ukraine for training purposes, sending thousands of NAZI mercenaries to fight alongside the Azov Battalion, in the same way that jihadists went to fight in Iraq, Syria and Libya, the Ukrainian workers certainly have no reason to ally themselves with it.

That, of course, gives them no reason to ally with Putin either, whose regime has been one of the prime movers in promoting all of the petty-bourgeois nationalist movements, and far right insurgencies across the globe, including its support for Brexit, for Trump, Wilders, le Pen and so on. The Ukrainian workers do not have to choose between Zelensky and Putin, but can instead choose to oppose both, and to ally themselves with the Russian workers, who are also the victims of Putin.

There is another connection to Brexit, and its this. Putin, and his regime was one of the promoters and financiers of the petty-bourgeois, nationalist insurgencies such as for Brexit, and for Trump. The reason for that is simple. Whilst the global ruling class would like, in the best of all possible worlds, for there to be a single global market, with a single world capitalist state presiding over it, it knows that currently that is not possible. In the US, it took a bloody civil war to bring it about in place of the independence of the states, in Western Europe, it took a series of wars in the 19th century, and a prolonged European War 1914-18:1939-45, to try to bring it about, eventually being achieved peaceably in the creation of the EU. But, as these examples show, its always the case that separate national capitals try to gain the upper hand in any such process, leading to wars between them, as they try to do so.

As with families who have internal disputes, or criminal gangs that fight over the spoils, or just with businesses that compete against each other for who gets the biggest share of the profits, whilst being united in opposing the workers getting a bigger share, its all about a squabble amongst different sections of the global ruling class, primarily the US cousins squabbling with the Russian and Chinese cousins, with the European cousins being caught in the middle.

The US and European cousins had much of the pie sown up between them, but in recent times the Chinese cousins have been getting larger spoonful's of it, and the Russian cousins also got fed up of being pushed around, and wanted some of the action. Putin saw the EU as a strategic threat, especially given its continued links with the US, and so wanted Brexit, to break up the EU, and increase Russia's influence in Europe. That is why he put resources into backing the Brexit campaign, making links with UKIP, and with the Tory Right. It meant the Russian branch of the global ruling class, allying itself not with the rest of the ruling class, but with national sections of the petty-bourgeoisie. Its a mirror image of what sections of the petty-bourgeois, “anti-imperialist” left has done, in the past, in allying themselves with various reactionary petty-bourgeois, nationalist movements. Its why, sections of that petty-bourgeois Left found it so easy to join in Red-Brown fronts emerging out of the Brexit/Lexit movements.

But, all of that is against the long-term interests of the global ruling class, particularly the dominant wings of that global ruling class, in North America, Western Europe, and Japan. Its why they opposed Brexit, and opposed Trump. For all of Paul Mason's nonsense, the US state was never going to allow the fascists standing behind Trump to carry through a coup, and were always going to begin washing them up, in the months that followed. And, as I wrote at the time, it would not stop there. They would inevitably follow through the links from organisations like Breitbart, and Cambridge Analytica etc. to the source of the money and so on, in Moscow, and back out from there, to the Brexit campaign, to the Tory Right, and their Western European equivalents. The war in Ukraine is really just a part of that washing up process of the fascists. The fact that, there are open NAZIS fighting on the side of Ukraine does not change that.

What this most certainly is not about is any concern that NATO has with the independence or self-determination of Ukraine, and nor is it about some kind of moral crusade by NATO imperialism. NATO has no interest in the concept of national self-determination. It has infringed it, at will whenever it has wanted to with its invasions of Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and numerous other places over the decades. It looks favourably upon and shields Israel which came into existence only by removing the right to self-determination of Palestinians, and maintains that by massive military force against them. Nor is NATO imperialism interested in any kind of morality, or opposition to “fascism”. It is allied with some of the worst butchers imaginable across the globe, and has actively put in place its own dictators, after having invaded various countries, as for example, it did in Chile in 1973. That is not to mention all the ones it has installed by using covert methods rather than open invasions.

No what it is about is profits. It is about the conditions in the global economy that best enable them to be produced, and about who gets access to the biggest share of them. The dominant section of the global ruling class, for decades saw gradual progress towards its dream of a kind of super-imperialism, of a single world economy and global capitalist state. Whilst large single markets were created on each continent, EU, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, and so on, and new ones like ACFTA being created all the time, as with large monopolies, although these continental single markets were in competition with each other, they were the only rational basis upon which they could reach deals with each other. And, that also created the conditions for global rules of the game, enforced by global para state bodies such as WTO, IMF, World Bank and so on.

What Russia did was to upset the monopoly board, and it was supported by China, because as increasingly China had been able to gain an increasing proportion of the available global profits, even within the existing rules of the game, so the dominant sections of the ruling class, decided to change the rules to protect their interests. But, its not just in relation to Russia and China that this applies. In the same way that Britain went into long-term relative decline in the latter part of the 19th century, as the US, Germany and Japan rose, so now the US is in long-term relative decline, not only because of the rise of China, at the heart of a new Pacific hub, but also Latin America is on the rise, the Middle East, prior to 2011, was on a rapid rise, and becoming more entwined with the EU, and Africa is also on a rapid rise, similar to that of Asia in the 1980's. But, also, the EU, as it has integrated more, now begins to pose a greater global challenge to the US.

Ukraine is really just a pawn in this great global game. It is about the dominant sections of the global ruling class demanding that the old rules of the game, and the old division of the spoils from the exploitation of the global working-class be kept as they were, whilst Russia and China are saying they want a piece of that action for themselves, and a bigger say at the global tables that determine the rules and the allocation of the spoils. The global working-class, including, and especially the workers in Russia and Ukraine have no interest in those squabbles between our exploiters. Our interest is in opposing their wars, and ending their exploitation of us.

No War – The Main Enemy Is At Home – Workers of the World Unite – Turn the Guns on The Bosses